Coping With Anxiety One Day at a Time
There’s no more perfect way to begin an article on anxiety. I’ve been fretting about writing it since I decided I wanted to write about something that’s been a lifelong partner. Sometimes, the Universe let’s you off the hook.
While I could write volumes about my own experiences with anxiety, so could many others, and many have. What could I say that’s new or has a new perspective? In the process of answering that, I stumbled upon an article by Nicole Emerick, who created MsCareerGirl in 2008. How perfect! And how perfectly written! She turns anxiety on it’s head, and explains how she’s harnessed its power into something positive in her life.
Before I give her original article a new spotlight, I’ll simply add a few insights from my own experience.
Worry vs Anxiety vs Panic
We all worry. It’s part of the human condition. Yes, it’s usually a pointless exercise, but nonetheless we all do it. The issues begin to get serious when the patterns of worry turn into symptoms of anxiety. That’s when your body chemistry starts to go sideways.
Because it’s frequently a gradual slope into anxiety, it can be challenging to identify when you’ve gone too far. Once you’re there, it’s a nasty little bug to eradicate. It literally becomes a daily routine, even struggle, to keep it in check. If you sense yourself progressing to ever more frequent anxiety bouts, it may be time to intervene with counseling or even medications.
Staying self-aware is really important, because left unchecked, anxiety can progress to panic attacks. Panic attacks are physical symptoms that manifest and are experienced as reality even though they usually are not. Victims frequently believe they are having a heart attack. Panic is a perfect word.
The Power of Relaxation
In our way too hurried world, it’s easy to forget how to relax. Can you remember the last time you completely, and I mean completely, relaxed? Take this simple test.
There are over 40 muscles in your face. It takes most of them to frown, and many of them to smile. Try relaxing ALL the muscles in your face. If you take the time to do this completely, you notice layers of relaxation. As you notice more carefully, each time some are relaxed, there’s another set that are still tense.
Fully relaxing, especially the head and neck, can relieve stress and headaches and give amazing results. Try it often.
Proper Diet and Regular Exercise
Both are important to controlling anxiety because both affect the chemistry of the body. Check here for some tips on diet do’s and don’ts. As for exercise, the Anxiety Disorders Association of America says:
” . . . regular exercise works as well as medication for some people to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and the effects can be long lasting. One vigorous exercise session can help alleviate symptoms for hours, and a regular schedule may significantly reduce them over time.”
When All Else Fails
Sometimes, it simply takes a different perspective on a problem to start moving towards a solution. Nicole shows how she did that in this re-print of her May, 2010 Ms Career Girl article. Enjoy!
Wisdom From Nicole Emerick
I’ve been in a fight with my anxiety for a long time now.
I first started noticing it in high school when I was busting ass to get into the top 25% of my 800 person class , trying to rock my classes and get a decent score on the ACT. I had to get into my top choice school, Miami of Ohio, and focus was never my strong point.
I ruined every family vacation growing up thanks to my incarcerating anxiety. Whether we were shopping for a prom dress while on vacation in Florida or eating a meal at an unhealthy restaurant in South Carolina, I always found something to be anxious and worried about. God bless my family for their patience (and for still traveling with me).
College came and then, afterward, I started my career and did my stint of dating guys that weren’t right for me. My anxiety was definitely NOT my friend during these times. In fact, it started to take a staring role in my life. My days consisted of a racing heart, paranoia, shaking, lack of sleep, having to step away during work to take deep breaths among many other uncomfortable symptoms.
Thankfully, my anxiety is now under control and livable (I am forever grateful to you my dear pharmaceutical company!). But let’s be honest, it will never be totally gone. And I’m very grateful for that.
As some of you have gathered, I really like working. This runs in my family. If I don’t have a “passion project,” a book to read (or write!), a presentation to give, a class to take, a new business idea to toss around or a person to meet in addition to my day job, I’m completely lost. I don’t really watch TV- I just can’t go that long without intellectual stimulation.
Although my anxiety level is no longer the leading lady in my life, it is the engine that fuels my career.
My anxiety (or maybe we should call it energy?) keeps me working hard, meeting people, learning new skills and diversifying my experiences. This engine is my “career insurance policy,” and my career’s “portfolio diversification strategy.”Without anxiety, I’d probably be sitting on the couch every night after work with no major accomplishemnts to reflect my time. I’d also have nothing to catch me if life didn’t go according to plan.
I’m so glad I didn’t listen to the boyfriends and people who said I was “way too young to take life so seriously” or that I “work too much” and should “relax and enjoy my life.” Well people, I’m happy to report that I couldn’t be enjoying my life more than I am right now. The people I’ve met, the things I’ve learned and the opportunities ahead of me would not exist had it not been for my high “anxiety” level.
As they say, “when you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” Today I encourage you to pick one of your major weaknesses and look at it as a strength instead! Embrace the unique insanity that is you.
• What characteristic(s) did you formerly view as a hindrence but now view as a blessing? For example, maybe you started life out as calm and shy and now you realize it has made you a great observer and a serious asset in times of disaster. Maybe you were the class clown and now it makes you a top sales person.
• Was there a specific event that made you realize your “weakness” was actually a strength?
• Do you feel your teachers did a good job of developing students’ strengths?
• What did people tell you about yourself that you no longer believe is true?