How I Am Currently Keeping My Anxiety in Check

I recently got an email from WordPress that my fee to keep this blog domain was due and I thought damn I really need to write something…so here we are! This is a topic that is heavy on my heart.

If you know me well you know I have struggled on and off with anxiety. I think anxiety has become a H U G E “buzzword” for pretty much every feeling of stress, overwhelm & fear. Anxiety in the DSM is described as on going worry and anxiety that is excessive and lasts longer than 6 months. This type of diagnosable anxiety is crippling, it gets in the way of daily life activities, and truly sucks all of the fun and joy out of life…and it is very difficult to control (so telling someone with anxiety to just “calm down or chill out” is not very helpful).

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I thought after having a baby that my anxiety would rear its ugly head due to hormones and the postpartum blues but for me it didn’t (and with that I know I am a lucky one because many, many, many mothers struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety- if you are one of them PLEASE do not be fearful or feel defeated if you need to seek help, you are the true hero and warrior).

I just wanted to share a few ways in which I have been keeping my anxiety in check. Please know that I still have moments or days of anxiety and excessive worry but it has not been as debilitating to me as it used to be. I also have not needed to go back on Lexapro (an anti depressant/anti anxiety medication). I will be up front and say I am a huge proponent of using medication when it is necessary and opens you up to actually using coping skills to get through your anxiety). If you can’t even get out of bed or handle life, medication can be that vehicle to get you moving and tackle your anxiety once you are able to feel a smidge better.

Here are the ways I am keeping my anxiety in check (I say keeping “my anxiety in check” because true anxiety never completely disappears, but just like any other illness you can learn how to manage the symptoms):

#1 Meditation/Mindfulness

Have you heard of these two M words yet? I know, I know they are everywhere you look, -again another buzzword. But they are truthfully amazing strategies, easy, and cheap and accessible to everyone. I have used many apps- Calm and Headspace were my favorites. Then in February of this year I took a 15 day online meditation course with some of our extra tax return money through a program called Ziva Mediation   . It was definitely life changing in its own ways. I learned how to meditate anywhere, at any time, with nothing other than a watch or a way to keep track of time. I meditate at least once a day, although the program calls for twice a day meditation I just don’t get there most days but it is a goal.

A good place to start would be to turn off your phone, turn off your kids 😉 , and sit for 3-5 minutes in silence with your thoughts. You are not trying to stop your thoughts (this is a mediation misconception) you are just trying to sit with yourself and stop going, being, and doing. You could also count your in and out breaths up to 10 and then start over. Or try out a meditation app. I will say that making it a daily routine and practice is very helpful, start out with 2-3 days a week and go from there.

#2 Get Off of Social Media

If you are feeling bad about yourself or anxious would it be helpful for a friend to come over and tell you how amazing her vacation was and how beautiful her house, her family, and her life are? Probably not.

So why are you scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat checking out everyone’s “highlight” reel when you are already feeling anxious?

This has taken me a long time to learn and I am still learning this. Some days I do well with it when I am engrossed in a fun activity with Olivia or Andrew. Other days I do not do well with this and I feel like I am 24/7 scrolling…and on those days I notice a direct correlation with my anxiety.

It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others, but social media has zoomed this in big time for us as a culture. I think if we put our phones down and connected with one another, so many things could be solved in this world, especially anxiety and depression.

Download the Moment App and track your cell phone usage and set alerts that your “time” is up or alerts for how long you’ve been on…and when you aren’t on your phone…do yourself a favor and go do the mindfulness stuff I talked about in #1 🙂

This article from Psychology Today is a good one about “The Comparison Trap” .

#3 Limiting Alcohol

This one is hard. I have found that if I have more than 1-2 drinks I feel like crap the next day and my anxiety starts to creep in. I love a good red wine, and a delicious IPA but 1-2 is my max most nights or weekends. I have been trying not to drink on the weekdays because I find I just don’t need it. I have something else fun like Kombucha or La Croix. I feel better in the morning and in my life when I limit alcohol. Of course there are times I may drink more than 1-2 drinks (weddings, bachelorette parties, etc.)…but for the most part I have noticed my anxiety has been greatly reduced by limiting alcohol. This can be a hard one for others in your life to understand especially if they are usually your drinking partner but most people are supportive and understanding…and they get used to it.

#4 Getting Rid of Food Rules

This could be an entire post in and of itself and it might be. But for now I will leave it at, I have 0 food rules these days. Again, if you know me personally you know I have tried every.single.diet under the sun. I had read the book Intuitive Eating a few years ago but quickly after I read it I jumped back on the diet-culture bandwagon.

I went back to IE a few months after Olivia was born. It is a personal journey of mine and maybe someday I will share more but I decided instead of trying to lose the baby weight and fit back into clothes pre-baby I was going to take EXTRA special care of my mental health and my relationship with food. It is hard many days, but as I am on this journey it is getting easier.

I eat when I am hungry and stop (most of the time) when I am full (even though it is totally okay to eat until you are full sometimes- {hello delicious pizza!} ). I don’t stick to a diet, I don’t force myself to eat vegetables if my body isn’t craving them and on the flip side I don’t eat ice cram if my body isn’t craving that either…foods are not seen as bad in my eyes anymore…every food is good and serves its purpose and fits in to a healthy lifestyle.

This has truthfully reduced my anxiety two-fold. I used to have a lot of fear around food and now that I have let that go and have just been living my best life by enjoying food and not fearing it I feel SO much better.

This is hard for most of the people in this world because most of us are taught to fear foods and to expect to be a certain size and weight when that is not the way to live a full life-in my opinion…diet culture is very real and very alive. My suggestion is to unfollow anyone who promotes dieting, #fitspo, or trying to change your body…because you my friend are enough as you are.

There are also SO many wonderful anti-diet RD’s and people to follow on social media that have been super helpful to me and are leading the way in some amazing work! If you are interested in learning more just check out who I follow on instagram.

#5 Boundaries, Flow, and Learning to Say “No”

I put this one last because it is the one I am working on the most. Boundaries are the highest form of self-care, however it is one of the hardest to establish.

Saying “no” is a complete sentence, you do not need to give a reason or an explanation. Protect your time, protect yourself. If you aren’t feeling it, just. say. no.

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Texting, emailing, calling are also forms of boundary control we have to keep in check. When someone texts you and you feel you MUST text them back immediately or the Earth will burn to the ground…you need boundaries, and you need to put YOU first.

Something that truly helps is to not look at your phone first thing in the morning, it’s a hard habit to break but try it. Either keep your phone downstairs when you go to bed and use an actual alarm clock (OMG WHATS AN ALARM CLOCK!?) and then you won’t be tempted to check all the emails and text messages which are basically other people wanting a response from you and it interfers with your flow, focus, and your boundaries.

On flow- I am learning to flow through life. Having a baby has been the greatest lesson in flow. If Olivia isn’t feeling it or it conflicts with her nap time I am usually saying “no”, or committing for after naps are over because I strongly dislike feeling rushed to get home to put her down for a nap or bed. (I will sometimes be leniant on nap time and bed times on a special occasion but those nap/bed times are also my self-care and alone times that I truly need).Screen Shot 2018-07-25 at 10.40.24 AM

I had to learn flow early on as a mom because I couldn’t keep rushing, raveling, and over scheduling myself like I did pre-baby (and I truthfully didn’t want to because it didn’t feel good and wasn’t enjoyable). Learn to enjoy a weekend at home with no plans, or a day with no plans and go from there. Do what feels good when you can, and stop trying to please others. Please yourself:) (sorry that sounds bad doesn’t it?!? LOL).

Thank you for reading and being here in this space with me today.

** Disclaimer: Although I am a Licensed Graduate Professional Counselor this blog post is by no means a way to diagnose or treat a mental illness, please consult with a professional if you are struggling.

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