How I Kick Anxiety’s Ass*

March 3, 2017

*My mom doesn’t like it when I swear. Sorry, Mom.

The first time anxiety started to attack me, ten years ago, I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I didn’t put a name to it for months, and by the time I figured out what it actually was, I was completely paralyzed by it, and it took me several months to crawl out of the hole it had forced me into.

Since then, I’ve learned a lot about what triggers anxiety for me, and how I can protect myself from it. I can often feel it sneaking up on me before it fully surfaces from the murky depths, and attempts to drag me down with it. When that happens, there are a few things I’ve learned to do to kick its wretched ass back where it belongs.

I thought I’d share some of those things with you, in case it’s new for you and you feel ill-equipped. (And I’ll start by saying this: you are not ill-equipped.)

1) I get moving.

Exercise is my secret weapon, and I had no idea until about a year and a half ago. I started running again, for the first time since before I had babies, in the Fall of 2015. I ran 2-3 times a week up until November, when I ran a 10k to raise money for the homeless charity Simon leads.

I’ve just joined the gym, and now I’m mixing up running about once a week with HIIT classes and yoga and pilates and swimming. I cannot stress to you enough how much this helps knock the cobwebs out of my head.

When we feel depressed or anxious, the tendency is to stay inside on the couch, with some comfort food and a cup of tea, and generally just feel really sad about how sad we feel.

But I promise you that if you can drag yourself outside or to the gym and just spend 20 minutes getting really sweaty, you will thank yourself. And me.

Bonus: your legs will also start looking more toned and you’ll feel strong, like maybe anxiety isn’t the only ass you could kick.

2) I open the curtains.

Literally. Open them up. This is a tough one in England, especially in the winter, because the winters are loooooong and so, so grey. From October till March, it is pretty much just an endless stretch of short, grey days. In the depths of Winter, the sun is only out for about six hours, and it is torture.

(The flip-side of that is that our Summer days are my favourite thing in the world – the sun doesn’t set until about 10pm and it is THE BEST.)

Thankfully, my work is flexible and I’m not in an office all day in the winter, completely missing out on daylight. So I do the school run with the boys in the mornings, and try to take a walk around lunchtime just to see some daylight. I’ve also been thinking about investing in a SAD lamp (like this one) for the winters.

I also go around every morning and open up all the blinds in our house, even when it’s grey, just so I’m not sitting in a cave like a troll all day.

And one of the goals I set this year is to make enough money to pay for my family to go away somewhere warm and sunny for a week or two every winter, just to get a shot of Vitamin D!

3) I eat the good stuff.

The first time I dealt with anxiety 10 years ago, I had no idea how much my diet played a part. I was working in a stressful job, and eating crap. (Sorry again, Mom.)

I’d eat sausage biscuits from McDonalds for breakfast, drink 5 cups of coffee before lunch, snack on donuts in the office, eat Subway sandwiches and chug a can of Diet Coke at my desk for lunch, and then go home and cook something from a jar for dinner because I was too tired to cook from scratch (and didn’t know that it made a difference).

Even now, I sometimes feel like I’m still not eating well enough, but when I think back to that time – my diet is so different!

These are the most important changes I’ve made in my diet: less caffeine, NO refined sugar or artificial sweeteners (I only use maple syrup and honey to sweeten things now), and lots of probiotics (mine mostly come in the form of drinking milk kefir and eating sauerkraut with almost every meal).

4) I talk to a therapist.

I’m so sad about how long it took me to go to counselling.

As I mentioned before, it took me a long time to know what was happening to me the first time I faced anxiety. But once I got to the point of “I can’t live like this,” and found a counselor, things started to change really quickly.

There is something so incredibly powerful about saying out loud to someone your craziest internal thoughts and them not looking at you like you’re insane.

My counselor also gave me some great practical tools to battle anxiety attacks – things as simple as leaving my house through the front door instead of the back door. I know. Doesn’t that sound like the craziest thing ever? But, as he said, and as I’m sure you’ve heard, Insanity is defined as “doing the same things over and over and expecting different results.”

To be completely honest, I’m not in counseling right now, and I probably should be. I’ve been a couple of times for strings of about 6 months, but I think the ideal would be to go monthly in my calm, no-anxiety seasons just to keep a sort of health-check.

5) I come out of hiding.

This is so, so important. If you don’t do anything else, please do this.

TELL SOMEBODY.

I started having bad headaches and neck pain before Christmas, and I saw a doctor and an osteopath and had my eyes tested and had a massage…and everything seemed fine, and everyone said it is probably just musculoskeletal from grinding my teeth and carrying my camera around my neck and sitting at my computer.

But, here is how my thoughts went when I was at home alone during the day, in pain.

“My neck hurts. But the doctor said it’s probably muscular. But he could be wrong. He’s probably wrong. Doctors get things wrong. But I’ve also had my eyes tested and they would have seen something. But maybe they don’t know what they’re doing. But Steve (my doctor friend) said it sounded like classic teeth-grinding symptoms. But he’s in America. He can’t even look at me. And there was that story I heard one time about my friend’s aunt who had cancer for years and by the time they found it it was too late. That’s it. I have cancer. I’m dying. I’m not going to see my children grow up. What are they going to do without me? I’m dead.”

The end.

This isn’t a made-up story. These are my actual thoughts.

I told my friend Wendy about all this after church one day and she was appalled. To be honest, she was borderline mad at me.

“Don’t do this,” she said. “Don’t do this alone. Next time, text me.”

So that’s what I do now. I have a small group of friends in an iMessage group, and when my thoughts start to get away from me, I text them and tell them it’s happening. And they are awesome. They quickly jump in with TRUTH (like “We have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and a sound mind”) to combat the lies and fear. They pray for me.

Fear flourishes in the dark. But when we bring it out into the light – out into the open – we take away its power. The minute I say the scary stuff out loud, I can feel it lose some of its power.

 

Most of all, I want you to know that you’re not powerless. If you’re in the trenches, you have what it takes to climb out. You won’t be left here to die. I know it can feel like you’re beaten, but you’re not. This isn’t the end.

And if you want to leave me a comment here to tell me where you are in your fight right now, I’d love that.

 

 

 

 

 

20 responses to “How I Kick Anxiety’s Ass*”

  1. debbiemcduffie@gmail.com says:

    Again I am reminded of how wonderful you are! I’m such a proud mama! Have a great day. Get out there and keep showing the world what a special person you are!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  2. Gaye Renfrow says:

    Great article!! I also deal with anxiety, and these tips are excellent! It’s not something that just goes away, but you can learn to deal with it. Kudos to you for being brave enough to voice it.

  3. Super proud that you shared this! Your vulnerability and your honest will help others in similar shoes.

  4. Suzanne Gamble says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. A good friend passed this on to me today, and as I read the parts about feeling worried about health matters, I felt that I could have written those same words myself. For a long time I’ve been toying with getting fitter, and I know it makes sense. Thanks for the inspiration.

  5. Talmage Williams says:

    I am glad you found these keys to better physical and menial health. So proud of you for having the strength to share. Dadaddy

  6. Katie Volk says:

    This is great, Faith – really enjoyed reading about your journey with anxiety. I didn’t know you were struggling!

    As fortuitous as this post is, I myself just got back from a therapy session with a new therapist – my first one since we moved from NYC. I’ve recently fallen into a depression and have been having panic attacks and dizzy spells. It’s part low blood pressure but my trigger is always stress. Stress. Stress. Stress. I’m really stressed out and I’m not handling it well. I’m sad, I’m lonely and I feel like I have no time to deal with it or to put myself back on the list of things To-Do’s when there are so many, many, many things on that list and I’m always last.

    But I took the first step is a long road to get back on track today. My therapist is a mother of three, a feminist and a bad ass lady who point blank told me I needed to let go of a few reins I was holding onto. I couldn’t agree more. Onward and upward and good luck to you as well!

    • Faith says:

      a) You’re amazing.
      b) I am SO GLAD you commented on this.
      c) I’m so sorry you’re going through this. It really is the absolute worst. I’m so glad you’ve got a good therapist. And amen about the stress. Sometimes I think I’m not stressed because I enjoy most of the things I’m doing…but even good stress is still stress. I’ve been trying to practice more meditation lately and delegate tasks to other people.

  7. Neetu Thapar says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. My anxiety has slowly gotten worse over the past month. I know what triggers it’s off, but I’m finding it difficult to rationalise my thoughts and am over thinking everything. My moods are all over the place and I feel sometimes everyone would be happier without me here. When I’m having an episode I feel like there’s no air in the room and I can’t breathe. I think counselling would be great as I can’t talk to anyone around me. How did you find your counsellor?

    • Faith says:

      I’m so sorry Neetu! Stress makes it so much worse for me – take care of yourself! I found a counselor through my church…I can recommend a couple if you want!

  8. Suzan Needham Fontaine says:

    You go girl! Wise words! I am sharing with all my peeps!💜

  9. cheyenne65 says:

    Great post and so very helpful! I am in the fight also and need to add the exercise component. I’m so grateful for your words today.

  10. 95Annette says:

    Hi admin, i must say you have very interesting content here.
    Your page should go viral. You need initial traffic only. How to get it?

    Search for: Mertiso’s tips go viral

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