Part of taking care of yourself, i.e. “self-care” is being able to ask for help. So maybe you’ve noticed, and if you haven’t, that’s okay too, but I’ve been absent for a little bit. Taking a break so-to-speak. This is partly due to being busy, but also partly because my anxiety has been whacked out lately.
One thing I’ve come to the conclusion in my years of dealing with an anxiety disorder while trying to work, be a mom, a wife, a friend…it’s okay for me to need help. I used to be pretty resistant to this concept. I remember in grad school one of my professors said “we live in a society where everyone wants to be independent and successful but no one becomes successful on their own, we need each other”. These words keep ringing in my ears as I remind myself it’s okay for me to ask for help. Even the help that I know is kind of silly- like asking my mom to come sit with me before I leave for work to help calm me down because I’m panicking and her presence calms me. Or texting my best friend my irrational thoughts about literally everything because I know she will understand where I’m coming from and I just need someone to “get” me. And it’s also okay for me to go to therapy.
Yes. I’m a therapist who goes to therapy. I need that unbiased guidance- that outside perspective that therapy offers- just as much as the next person. I used to feel guilty about this, and I won’t lie, I do struggle sometimes with my anxiety for this reason. Shouldn’t I “know” how to deal with anxiety? How can I treat people who have anxiety if I have trouble getting to the bottom of my own? And then I remind myself…having an anxiety disorder is a mental illness- my brain is an organ, just like my pancreas or kidneys and I wouldn’t knock a doctor who has diabetes. I’m human and despite my profession, I don’t have it all figured out unfortunately.
So with all of this said, my work towards figuring out what is causing my anxiety is still in progress. I’ve continued with a therapist, I’ve consulted with my doctor, and I’ve made myself an appointment with an integrative health doctor to assess lifestyle, diet, and alternative choices I can change to help cope. In the meantime I’ve put together this list for all of you on what is helping me RIGHT NOW:
- Ask for help. Everyone needs it…none of us “do it all alone”. I repeat NO ONE. Even the “independent woman” that our society puts on a pedestal and makes the rest of us feel shamed to not do ALL-THE-THINGS on our own gets help somewhere.
- Acknowledge feelings- this one is really important, especially for me especially when I’m experiencing irrational thoughts because of my feelings. Sometimes I just need to say it out loud to someone or to myself. Just to stop for a minute and recognize that “yes, I’m anxious right now and this feeling will pass just like other feelings pass”. My aunt said to me the other day amidst a panic attack “this too shall pass honey” and she is right.
- Use the healthy coping skills that work for YOU– just because a specific grounding exercise or song works for one person, doesn’t mean it’s going to work for me or you. We are all individual people and we aren’t one-size-fits-all.
- My Alpha-Stim. This device is AMAZING. I started using this Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation device a few months back. At first I started using it maybe a couple times a week. During this last bout of strong anxiety, I started using it every morning and wow what a difference I see. This isn’t going to be right at everyone’s fingertips, I know. First of all, they can be expensive devices and CES devices are only available in the U.S. with a prescription or when used with a licensed (and trained) provider. I will vouch however that it is something worth looking into for anyone who experiences anxiety. In the long run for me, the initial cost of the device outweighed having to deal with the loss of function anxiety can create.
- Keeping my body moving. With my anxiety, I experience a lot of restlessness. It makes sitting down on a couch or lying in bed almost intolerable. The more I move my body, the better I feel. Going for a walk, getting up and dancing, cleaning…anything that keeps me moving. And there’s something to this I think- When we are stressed or for those of us with anxiety, we often have an increase of the stress hormone Cortisol. Cortisol is a “burn off” hormone and helps stimulate our fight/flight response. So it makes sense that the more I move, the more cortisol I’m burning off. That’s my theory anyhow!
- Positive self-talk. No matter how hard I try, I cannot say this without thinking of the SNL bit with Stuart Smalley where he says “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonnit, people like me” when I say positive self-talk. But there’s something to saying kind things to myself. I remind myself I am doing all I can do to treat my anxiety and take care of myself, and when I tell myself that, I calm down.
So hopefully something I use to help myself can help you too. I want everyone out there to know, it’s okay to need help and to seek it out. Don’t be afraid to be human.
Until next time,