How I knew it was finally *time* to deal with my anxiety
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been someone who worried about everything. I honestly don’t think there was ever a day that I didn’t worry about something. My whole life, my mom had always told me that I was a worrier. I knew that she and my grandmother both worried about small things on a daily basis, but I always thought that there was something different about me. I had always convinced myself that this was just my personality—I would always be someone that worried about the little things. It wasn’t until the end of high school that I noticed my anxiety stopped being a few random negative thoughts during the day; it was starting to affect my life.
I remember sitting in Spanish class one day during my senior year of high school. No phones were allowed in class so mine was tucked away in a zippered pocket in my backpack. I glanced down at my bag during the class and noticed that my phone was lighting up. Eager to know who was texting me, I tried to reach my phone without my teacher noticing. I saw that there was a message from my mom—she hardly ever texted me during the school day. The first thoughts that popped into my head were “Was there an accident?” “Is there something wrong?” My nervousness started to build, and I could feel my body heating up from the inside out. My heart started beating faster and I could feel the weakness in my arms and legs. My teacher was now looking in my direction, so I was unable to see what it was my mom had texted me. This feeling prolonged for the next 30 minutes, until I could go check the message in the bathroom after class.
When I opened my phone, I saw that my mom had texted me to tell me that I had forgotten my lunch at home and that I was going to need to buy lunch from the cafeteria. It was in that moment that I realized my nervousness wasn’t something that I could deal with on my own. I had made myself believe that some tragic thing had happened, when in reality my mom had just texted me something that any mom would text their daughter. So many times I have worked myself up over a situation that does not require an episode of panic. I knew that my thoughts seemed far fetched and unlikely, but I still couldn’t control them. I sat in misery for long periods of time, when I could have been having fun with my friends. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about the “what if’s”, when I could have been getting a restful night’s sleep. In that moment, I knew that it was time to do something about my anxiety.
A few weeks after this realization, my mom booked me an appointment with a therapist. My pediatrician suggested a few names, and we picked from the list that they gave us. I went for a few sessions, but I realized that I only felt better for an hour after each session. Before I left for college, the therapist suggested that I try a small dosage of medication. I was torn. I knew that this medicine would help me deal with my anxiety, but I also felt like this little pill would change who I was as a person. Although my anxiety was probably my least favorite thing about myself, it still felt like it was a part of who I was. I decided to turn down the medication, and find other coping mechanisms that could help me deal with my anxiety.
1. When I start worrying that something tragic has happened to my family or friends, I think to myself, “It hasn’t happened every other day of my life, so why would it happen today?” This has really helped me deal with my anxiety on a more day-to-day basis. If my sister doesn’t respond to me for a long period of time and I start thinking that maybe she’s been kidnapped or was in a car accident, I think to myself, “why would that happen today?” Although this doesn’t relieve all of the tension I feel at the time, I definitely am able to breath a little deeper.
2. When you’re having a feeling of panic and worry, your breath often starts to increase and become heavy. Taking deep breaths can relax your body and your mind. Closing your eyes and taking deep and prolonged breaths can help you to feel more calm. I always try to focus on my breathing, which helps me to distract myself from the other thoughts I’m having.
3. My mom is the person that is always able to ease my anxiety and make me feel better about whatever I’m worrying about. If I’m feeling anxious about something, I always make sure to call her and tell her what’s going on. She always seems to know the right things to say that make me feel better. Find the person that does this for you, and give them a call or text them whenever you’re feeling anxious.
There are so many different resources to help deal with anxiety. You just have to find the one that works best for you. Some examples could be:
1. A teacher: You spend most of you days with your teachers, and you often are able to form relationships with them. These people really do care about your well being, so they are a great resource. Find a teacher that you can trust, and talk to them about how you’re feeling.
2. A therapist: Although they do cost money, they are trained to help people deal with mental illness, stress and so many other situations. Their job is to give you helpful tips and coping mechanisms, so they are a great resource.
3. Mental health websites: There are so many websites online that are aimed to help people with disorders such as anxiety. Just type Anxiety into google, and you will find so many different websites that have coping tips and tricks. Some even have a crisis support line that you can call or text if you’re feeling particularly anxious.
It’s been three years since the incident in my Spanish class, but I can't say that my anxiety is cured. I think it is something that I will live with for the rest of my life, but it’s my job to find the things that work best for me. What I’ve shared with you helps me on a daily basis, but I am still working to improve my anxiety. It takes work, and a lot of it, but conquering your anxiety is something that is achievable for everyone!
What do you do when you start to feel anxious?