What I'm Re-Learning About Anxiety
So for today's post, I'm just going to chat with you about a little issue that you may have heard of before... anxiety. No tips or tricks on beating it, no advice on how to talk to someone who may be dealing with it, no crazy, wild soapbox speech. Just me and my cup of coffee at my laptop, sharing some thoughts.
If you're a regular reader of A Tiny Traveler, you know that I often write about travel and life and food. I share occasionally about a new favorite outfit or product. Every so often though, I share little nuggets like these, bits of my heart. You can read the most recent personal post here.
I've been trying to get more into God's Word, more specifically reading at least a few verses and journaling through them every day. I've noticed that the more I do this, not only does it become habit (which is great!), it puts me in a better mood throughout the day. I started today off with reading Matthew 6:25-34 which was perfect for this post and exactly what my heart needed. For those who may not know, I have a tattoo on my left arm of a feather and the verse behind that tattoo is Matthew 6:26, "Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"
This verse serves as a reminder to me that if God is going to take care of some birds, of course He will take care of me! On those days when I get worried about paying bills, or not having enough time to get my to-do list done, or personal things that I might be holding on to a little too tightly, I know that my God will still take care of me. He'll take care of you too! Just take a look at His Word.
I've had a few things on my mind lately. Things that I try to ignore and push back to the place where I don't let my mind wander. The place where I try to control my anxiety. These things that I've been trying not to think about are starting to get restless. Excuse me, they say, we have something to you should know!
So I give in and say WHAT DO YOU WANT?! Then they tell me Oh nothing. Just wondering when the last time you heard from your friends was. They hang out all the time without you, ya know.
Did you see the picture your mom just shared on Facebook of the whole family at the lake? Didn't that look fun! Too bad you couldn't go.
Have you heard from your dad lately?
How many people forgot your birthday this year?
So I tell these thoughts to shut up and they do, but not without a quick flash of all my most recent failures and embarrassments.
Now, let me quickly explain that this isn't my brain 24/7, THANK GOD, but it happens at least once a week. Its super annoying and at times crippling. I mean, I'm trying to get my business up off the ground and maintain several long distance friendships and pay bills and be a good wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, etc. so I don't need to get attacked with thoughts that will send me to my bed, a tearful mess. Ain't nobody got time for that.
Looking back on the last couple of years I see my journey through the pit of anxiety and depression. In high school I was at my lowest. In college it was a mix of good and bad, but mostly good. Then the last year of college I was punched in the face with anxiety. Not the anxiety that people usually think of either. It wasn't like that feeling you get right before your plane touches the landing strip or the way you feel when you unexpectedly see your ex.
It was the kind that made me pull over on the side of the highway because I couldn't breathe. The type of anxiety that made me toss and turn all night long, burst into tears for no reason, or snap at someone who meant well but I took their question/comment as an attack. Through our first year of marriage, Mark and I would have a lot of talks and pray so much for me to get through it. It's tough, especially when your spouse isn't sure what to do or say to help you beat the anxiety attack.
I think I started to notice a change when I made three things a priority; spending time with Jesus every morning, getting more sleep (I relied on sleep aid at first but then could finally sleep through the night fully), and focusing on my health. Taking a nap in the afternoon, aromatherapy, journaling, listening to positive music, eating fruits and veggies, and going for walks really ended up helping! At the time, I didn't realize how much it helped but looking back I can see that I really began to improve after just a month of focusing on physical, emotional, and spiritual self care.
So all is well, right? Not quite. Time didn't totally heal my wounds. It soothed them, it distracted me from negative thoughts and worries and my wild imagination for a time. But the anxiety isn't - poof - gone. Its something that I am beginning to realize I may have to handle all my life. It's not something I can just get over or grow out of.
BUT LISTEN. I'm not going to let that "realization" stop me from trying to live my life to the fullest! I think there is a difference between having anxiety and your anxiety having you. I'm choosing to say that I have anxiety, and I'm trying to manage it and let God remain in control. When I start to try and control things in my life and only focus on what I'm missing out on or what could go wrong or how I don't measure up, I'm letting the anxiety win. (I tell myself this often because I allow it to win more than I'd like to admit). When I focus on how I didn't get the job that I was told I was a "perfect fit" for, or how I might not be asked to be my bestie's maid of honor, or how I feel after I try to make small talk and fail miserably, or how my friends seem to all be moving out of state and country at the same time I will remain crippled by my own doing.
I need to focus, WE need to focus, on the blessings in life. The beautiful summer afternoon that awaits you. The times you get to spend with family and friends, making memories that will last a life time. Your freedom in this country. The blessings that God outlines in His Word. Music. Art. Writing. Flowers. Rain. Sunshine. Bubble baths. Your favorite movie. Sunrises + sunsets. The days you get to sleep in. The days you have to wake up early for work, because to have a job is a blessing. Your home. Your spouse. Your significant other. Your best friend. Your family. Your education. The way a cool breeze feels. The way rain just lies suspended in time on your window. Coffee in the morning. Ice cream cones. Riding your bike. Reading a new book. Playing with your dog. Cuddling with your cat. Designing something beautiful. Having friends over for dinner.
I could keep going, but I think you get the idea. Focusing on the good in life, your blessings, can quiet the chaos in your mind. The anxiety won't just go away overnight for me. I know that. But I'm choosing to not let it hold me back or keep me down. I'm choosing to fight the urge to run away or cut myself off from my lifelines. I'm re-learning how panic attacks feel after not having them for months but I am also learning how to breathe through them.
I hope that you got something out of this, and if not at least can better understand where I'm at in life. I know that not everyone will like me. I know that I can't please everyone. But I also know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and that I have people in my life who love me and support me and my dreams. The same goes for you! Focus on those people and those dreams instead of the ones that bring you down. Breathe. Smile at yourself in the mirror for 10 seconds. Breathe. Be honest with yourself and focus on God's calling. Breathe. You're going to be ok, even when you're not ok. You are loved. Breathe.
Matthew 6:34 "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."