Is It Anxiety? Tips and Tricks to Recognize Signs of Anxiety, and To Deal With Them

I have a fairly normal outlook on the world:
-someone’s late coming home …so he must be dead or kidnapped.
-that person didn’t smile at me …she hates me.
-the warning light came on in the car …it will blow up before the next stoplight.
-I feel somewhat sick …yes, Google, it must be cancer.

What? That’s normal, right?

It’s not?

Photo by Pablo Varela on Unsplash

This way of thinking has hounded me for most of my life. Not until it exhibited as severe depression from how other people treated me did I know …these thoughts may not be that normal. I also didn’t realize my worries had a name: anxiety. That realization didn’t come to me overnight. It didn’t come from a counselor, although uncovering and treating it did come because of counseling sessions. My learning about anxiety –my anxiety- came after talking with a neighbor.

“I felt like I should save up money for a trip,” I told the neighbor, back in June, “But then it got cancelled because of Coronavirus. So… I guess this means I’m going to get sick and will be hospitalized.” *Sigh*

Without skipping a beat, she responded, “No, that’s called anxiety.”

Initially, I felt shocked and surprised. I then felt denial, since anxiety was not a condition I’d ever considered. Anxiety was for other relatives of mine who had experienced panic attacks or hadn’t been able to sleep with the lights off. Anxiety couldn’t affect me…

Then, the puzzle pieces fit together -answers to my racing and irrational thoughts. I brought these concerns to my video counseling session; my counselor was not as surprised as I had been. I’m just glad she’s as smart and observant as she is.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

With her help, I learned that many of my panicky thinking is anxiety. I started making a list whenever I worried about a situation. I shared the list with my more-rational husband or a good friend. I learned which voice spoke: me or anxiety. Over time, I could see the differences.

After that, I learned to answer the worries:
-someone’s late coming home …so I’m anxious.
-that person didn’t smile at me …she’s having a bad day.
-the warning light came on in the car …and that light could be anything from needing an oil change to needing more coolant.
-I feel somewhat sick …it’s probably a cold.

Once I could recognize anxieties and stop the rising panic, I was able to formulate solutions. At the very least, I got better at delaying irrational actions and stress. Which, of course, does not mean the anxiety evaporated.

Sometimes, at times of high stress, my tips and tricks do not work. In times like that, I contact my counselor. Sometimes, she suggests anti-anxiety medications. Why? Because anxiety is like other mental illnesses in that I can’t always fight it on my own.

Armed with tricks, encouragement, professional advice, and help when I need it, I’ve found anxiety to be less formidable than before. I’ve found a freedom I didn’t know before. And it’s wonderful.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

©2020 Chel Owens

12:15 AM

I was thinking about writing more poetry because its not an A-typical thing that I would do as it is the weaker area of my writing, but I have my moments. If you want to read more about my life, please consider purchasing my memoir here. It will not disappoint if you want to learn more about my life living as The Bipolar Writer with Bipolar One. In the book I explore even deeper topics than the ones written here on my blog. Here is a poem, which is also a chapter in my book.

12:15 am

It’s 12:15 am, I am in a dark room

my mind racing and

the panic rising out of nowhere.

Shallow and slow, 

I can’t catch my breath.

It happens, every night, this night— the next.

Restlessness. A feeling of unease.

“I can’t do this” I think. 

A tingling feeling engulfs my hands, 

numbness consumes my body.

I pace, take a drink of water—

then begin to pace again.

I must stay inside, “no— I can’t.”

I must go outside, “no— you can’t.”

“Fight this feeling! Please!” A different part says.

“You will never win this fight,” the anxiety answers.

My mind races faster this time, I’m running out of breath.

Helplessness, I am no longer in control of my body.

I overthink. “I am going to die!” 

“Please stop! You must fight,” my heart and brain say.

Then again, I over think! And again. 

My mind overthinks, “Is this my life?”

I feel as if I am under water trying to catch my breath,

to be the person I was before I started to drown.

Sleep, it would be divine. I reach

for this tiny white pill. It is in my hand.

My salvation.

God, I want to sleep

so much to do tomorrow.

The weight of my school obligations crushing me. 

Finally, in control— again.

Anxiety, why do you control me so?

It’s over for now, but

tomorrow is another day.

Another 12:15 am.

Always Keep Fighting

James

You can visit the author site of James Edgar Skye here.

Purchase The Bipolar Writer: A Memoir here.

My Memoir

Become a Patron of James Edgar Skye and be a part of his writing here: Become a Patron! You can get this amazing cup at a certain tier!

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Handing Anxiety and Panic Attacks- Not Just During A Crisis

Anxiety. If you have ever have increased anxiety at the best of times, it can worsen as we continue to live in a world of social isolation. Anxiety, for me, has always been a subject that I can write about from so many different angles. I have on this blog and also in my memoir.

My official diagnosis when it comes to anxiety is social anxiety and panic disorder. Right now, I am dealing with anxiety in several ways. I take a benzo, clonazepam, and I do other things that help me cope with my anxiety like breathing techniques, meditation, and writing. My ultimate de-stressor. I have not had a large number of panic attacks per week when things are good, but lately, I have dealt with them more.

It is less to do with the coronavirus and more about the stress of delays in my books and having to stop a significant book signing as a local bookstore. Add that to the weight of not knowing if agents are looking for authors. I need one because I am close to the end of editing my fantasy fiction novel. The uncertainty in life has made my anxiety more pronounced.

The Reality of Fear

If I could sum up all the fears associated with my own anxiety, those that are rational and irrational, it would be likened to drowning. Now I have never drowned, but when I was six, and at my hotel at Disneyland trip, I nearly drowned. I was saved by my sister.

Anxiety can cripple you, increase your heart rate, make it hard to breathe and make your thoughts irrational. I have thought during one of the worst panic attacks of my life that I was going to die–a very absurd idea. From what I know, you can’t die from a panic attack or anxiety. But the fear associated with it is genuine. Fear is an interesting thing because when you are in a panic attack, the fears in our lives are exponentially increased.

The fear is real at the moment, but eventually, when you can refocus, the fears become something you can change. It comes down to recognizing triggers in my experience. An example, late at night after I take my Seroquel, it can feel as if my body is shutting down, that is its job. But the fear sets in at times because anxiety and panic attacks do not let you know when it is coming. It is always at the most inopportune time, it is not? At times I hyperventilate, making the fear of not breathing seem extremely real when the reality is I am causing the increase with my irrational thinking. 

What Can You Do? Well I have a few Ideas

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Handing anxiety is not a one size fits all method. It comes down to what works for you. I have some ideas that will work. A thought journal after an increase in anxiety or panic attack, or even during if that is possible, can help you pinpoint your fears and triggers and come up with strategies to combat.

Tracking your mood several times a day in a notebook with the time, the level of anxiety with a simple scare of 1-10, and maybe a thought or two can also be effective in knowing when your anxiety is at its peak. Mine peaks around three in the afternoon and at times late at night right before bed. We are in a technological age and so CBT books or working with your therapist on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a great option. I find music is the great equalizer alongside writing.

Unpresidented Times

We are now living in unprecedented times when whole countries and states are in lockdown. The fears we now live in are a reality that we have to face when it comes to anxious feelings. With so many of us now sequestered at home, there are bound to be anxious fears about what is going on in the world.

I wish I had all the answers, but I am only the sum of my experiences with panic attacks and anxiety. One thing you can do above all else when looking for how-to solutions to handle anxiety. You can educate yourself. We have information at our fingertips and researching the technical stuff is important, but read the blogs of others. There might be something I have not talked about that could help you. Above all, anxiety is natural, and though it may feel like forever to many, it can be something that can be controlled. I have whole other posts about benzodiazepines that I will be writing in the future. These medications, if taken long term, can cause severe effects with anxiety and panic attacks. That is a post for another day with said, stay safe out there, The Bipolar Writer is thinking of you.

Always Keep Fighting

James

You can visit the author site of James Edgar Skye here.

Purchase The Bipolar Writer: A Memoir here.

Become a Patron of James Edgar Skye and be a part of his writing here: Become a Patron!

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Anxiety Controls my Mouth

I’m not sure which to blame this on, GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) or the social anxiety, but one of those has caused me some problems! This has been going on for as long as I can remember. Anxiety decides to abuse its’ power and control my mouth. What do I mean by that, you might be asking? Or maybe you’re not, but still. I have this tendency to have the urge to say something, and yet my mouth stays clamped shut and my vocal chords go into hiding.

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Does Mental Illness = Weakness?

This weekend was very difficult for me. My mental illness had me in its grip tight which kept me in bed for Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and about 75 percent of Sunday.

My boyfriend and I were butting heads which really made me anxious. I was having so many worries because of our argument that it made things worse.

He is a very introverted person so sometimes he needs an entire day to re-energize. He told me that he needed alone time this weekend to recharge and spend time with his friends who he doesn’t see very often. In true Megan fashion, I freaked out.

I plunged into my anxious thoughts so deeply that I thought I might get sick. I worried fervently about whether this was the end of our relationship. Whether he didn’t love me anymore. Whether he wanted to find somebody better than me who could meet every single need of his without fail.

My mental illness often makes me feel weak. That if I didn’t have these nagging thoughts that led me to staying in bed for hours, flipping out over a change of plans and crying a lot.

I feel like I should be stronger.

That I should be able to tackle my mental illness to the ground because I don’t fall for its bullshit anymore. That I should be able to rebound quickly or just stand strong after my intense sensitivity teams up with my anxiety to spiral me down into the arms of depression.

If I was stronger I wouldn’t lose an entire weekend because my feelings are hurt and my anxiety is making it 50 times worse.

But I can’t do those things.

I am too weak to overcome my mental illness.

I always ask for your opinion at the end so please leave me a comment! Does your mental illness make you feel weak too?

The Ups & Downs of Being Mentally Ill

I have not written on here for a while because of how up and down my mental health has been. Especially over the past week, I have had some really low days. On Saturday I couldn’t get out of bed,  shower or muster the energy to open Netflix to watch a movie to calm my anxiety.

My first post on here was about how my mental health was in a good place. For months I felt really good! I didn’t have any suicidal thoughts or urges to hurt myself in any way. I had energy, I felt that things were finally going my way.

Sure I still had my depression and anxiety but I felt that I was in control instead of them controlling me.

Then all of a sudden the tables turned (or the turn tables, if you’re a fan of The Office).

My brain decided to tell me all sorts of horrible things it knows will make me fall to my knees. It went from whispering to shouting in the last few days that the world would be better without me in it. That nobody at all would miss me but rather breathe a sigh of relief.

Writing that out makes me cringe but from reading the posts on here, I know I’m not the only person who is feeling or has felt this way.

When I’ve been doing well and then my mental illness tackles me to the ground without warning, I’m taken off guard. I have to remember how to handle these situations. How do I calm myself down when I’m shaking with anxiety? How do I stop these negative thoughts from drowning me? Why don’t I have a drop of energy?

I have my eyes looking forward to therapy today where I hope I can get myself situated again.

I hope that if you’re going through these ups and downs too, you can find peace and make it through this challenging time.

Stay strong, everyone!

What’s the Make, Model, and Year of Your Mental Health Struggle?

Hi, I’m Chelsea. I drive a minivan.

I didn’t want to drive a minivan. When people learn that I do drive one, they start assuming other things about me. They also assume: I drive slow, am distracted, have no taste in vehicles, have children, will make a bad decision whilst driving because I’m probably turned around yelling at said children, and that I shop at Costco every day.

Now…. some of those things might be true. But, guess what? am not the minivan. I just drive it. am a person. My name is Chelsea. I am not slow, distracted, tasteless, children, bad decisions, or Costco. I am a human and I am also worthwhile.

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When you go out into the world, what sort of vehicle do you drive? Van? Jeep? Truck? Bicycle? Bus? Sedan? Train?

Are you large, difficult to turn, and roomy like that van? Are you fun outside but hard on the joints over speedbumps like a Jeep? How about pushy and a bit too high off the ground like a truck? Maybe you can’t really afford much in life or are environmentally conscious like a bicycle.

Our mental health struggles are our vehicles.

Say that you go out to the workplace after a difficult morning, only to snap at someone because they echoed a mean thought your Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder chugged and chugged and chugged. That wasn’t you, though. That was the OCD you have to take to work.

What about the night that Depression was your ride? That dark interior, battered trim, and iffy transmission was only how you got to the party, not who came inside.

And let’s not forget the lunchtime meeting you had with Anxiety. Your mechanic still shakes his head over the number of ‘strange noises’ you swear it kept making, the sudden stops, and its refusal to even start when you were at a traffic light.

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Thinking about mental illness as a vehicle might make you say, “Well, then, why can’t we just get another car?” Money, mostly. Circumstance. What your insurance will cover. What you need for your size of family, parking space, parking expenses, and (again) budget.

That’s not to say you’re stuck forever in your quirky transport, nor that you can’t address some of its more-limiting issues. In fact, you really need to address them.

-If you are repeatedly blocked from getting the engine to even start

-If you are constantly arriving late

-If you cannot seem to ever get out of the seatbelt when necessary

It’s time to see a mechanic -er, a therapist or mental health doctor of some sort.

No matter the age or condition of the vehicle, they can always help. No, your car will not be the same as when you first unknowingly signed that crappy contract and drove it home -but, do you want it to be?

And, sometimes, you do get a different ride. Sometimes you have no choice. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes worse. But, the car you drive is still not you.

You are you. Most importantly, you are always the driver. Never forget that.

Photo credit:
Rodolfo Mari
Pixabay
James Sullivan

When panic attacks, this is how I regain control

My anxiety has this charming habit where it can completely derail my life when it’s in the mood, but, today I wanted to share some pretty neat ways that I calm the Anxiety Monster when it throws a tantrum.

They definitely don’t completely rid me of my panic, but, they do help me regain control over my mind, and that really speeds up the process of recovering from crippling anxiety to being able to get on with my life – because that doesn’t wait for us when our mental illnesses are having a go at us.

These are pretty effective for run-of-the-mill stress, and if you’re a pro-Worrier like me, then these are (I hope) really helpful.

If you decide to try any of these, even when you’re just feeling a little stressed, I would love to know if it helped!

The Can-and-Can’t Controllables

When faced with an immediate and triggering situation, I make lists with two columns: “Things I Cannot Control” and “Things I Can Control”

The root of all stress (a certain trigger for my anxiety) is our perception of control over a the outcome of a situation. We often don’t realize how significant our abject horror is at the fact that we can’t control everything, and how much it can exacerbate our already-prone-to-panic minds.

Today, my panic attacks were triggered by the sudden news that I have to find a new apartment in 2 weeks, so my list looked kind of this:

Things I Cannot Control

  • The price of property
  • The fact that I have to move

Things I Can Control

  • Where I will live
  • How much information I have about my options

I know it seems slightly silly, but when you have a full list of things you CAN control, highlighted with colorful lines and exclamation points reminding you to only focus on those, you also have a list of stuff on the “can’t control” list that you now recognize have no business being worried about, because – well, you can’t control them.

List of stuff you’re allowed to worry about

This is a habitual reminder. Before you label this as way-too-obvious, it’s very powerful for someone with heavy control issues like me. I am a firm believer that we can engrain stuff into our brains and make them part of our lifestyles, and this list is an attempt at just that. It lists the things in the world, my life, and my character that I am responsible for, and is stuck up next to mirror, so that every morning I read the following:

“Stuff I’m Responsible for/Can Control

  • My choices and actions
  • My attitudes and priorities
  • With whom, where, and on what I spend my time, money, labour, and resources

If the thing you’re worrying about is not on THIS list, STOP WORRYING ABOUT IT!”

I love lists – maybe a bit too much. My psychology textbook says people with over controlling, A Type tendencies (like me) are more prone to illness, and even Coronary Heart Disease (yikes).

But, even though I’m trying to lighten up on the whole totally-mortified-at-the-chaotic-consequences-of-losing-total-control thing, I also think my list-making is a way of making affirmations and it’s necessary step to regaining control over my mind when anxiety pushes it off the rails.

Maybe lists and being obsessed with what I can control can be detrimental if overdone, but, in the case of using these controllable vs. uncontrollable lists as a GPS for my brain when Generalized Anxiety throws it into the wild, I think it’s a helpful habit.

If you don’t make lists, are there any other ways that help you regain control over your mind when panic strikes? If so, I’d love to hear them!

– Steph

I’m not “too sensitive.” I’m mentally ill.

It hurts when people erase us – our struggles, our scars, our victories, our invisible battles, a part of our lives that shapes us and our paths in ways others will never comprehend.

It hurts when people erase our mental illnesses.

gabriel-762937-unsplashIt’s like being told that everything must be your fault, a result of your flaws and weaknesses and choices; that it’s inconceivable that there is an invisible destiny carved into our bones by genetics and external factors of trauma or tragedy, leaving us learning every day the forever-evolving face of our mental illness and how best to get through the new day.

How many of us have at some point been told that we can be a little “too sensitive,” “too emotional,” or “too involved” ? How many of us have felt that we’re being told that our pain, our exhaustion, our hopelessness, our control over our minds slipping through our finger tips, are our fault? Our choice, even?

For me, I’ve heard it countless times.

“You need to toughen up.” “You’re too soft for this world.” “You can’t be so sensitive and expect to be treated right.” “You shouldn’t let things affect you this much.”

And in my head, with internal hot tears of anger and hurt at the erasure of my pain, of the war I have battled without complaint or surrender for as long as I can remember, all I can think when I hear that is, “thank you! So! Much! I am cured, of my depression, of my anxiety, and finally, presented with the easy to make and simple choice of “tough” or “sensitive,” I can continue my life with contentment and joy, never again to be pestered by the whisperings of my own mind! Bless you, kind sir!”

miguel-bruna-503098-unsplashI’m a little angry about it, I guess. And I should be. Because, when I’m at rock bottom, at my wits end, my life falling apart, my mind urging me to figuratively hit “quit without saving” on my existence, when I’m crying in the shower and in the elevator and in the moments no one is watching, when my hands are shaking as I desperately count the pills from my doctor and the consequences of absence from work, from relationships, from the world, are knocking on my door demanding that I attend to responsibilities even though I can barely attend to myself –

You telling me I need to “toughen up” and not be “so sensitive,” is erasing my mental illness, and you’re erasing the victories I win every single day with them, and you’re erasing the fact that mental illness is ugly, real, and that I am so so much tougher than you could ever imagine, because I face their hideous faces every morning.

It’s not that we’re “too” anything. It’s called mental illness.

Mine are called Depression and Anxiety. Whatever yours are called, kudos to you for fighting quietly or loudly or neatly or messily. However you win your battles, even on the days you lose, you’re not too sensitive or emotional or self involved or at fault. None of it is your fault. Call it what it is, and don’t let people who don’t understand convince you to agree with the shady voice in your head that tries to convince you it’s all on you, because it’s not, and I hope this is your daily reminder of that.

–  Steph

Don’t Panic! Tips For Surviving Anxiety Attacks

Anxiety or Panic Attacks can hit you out of nowhere and can be so severe that you’re convinced you’re dying or that something is SERIOUSLY wrong. Taking steps to manage your stress and anxiety on a regular basis can help reduce the likelihood and recurrence of attacks, but what can you do if you’re already experiencing an attack?

Here are some tips for riding the wave of a panic attack and making it safely back to shore:

  1. Don’t Panic

The first thing that you need to do is recognize the signs of an attack and remember that it is TEMPORARY. During a panic attack your heart will race, you may feel dizzy or disoriented, and your mouth may feel dry, but it is important to remember that it is not as bad as it feels and it will pass.

  1. Don’t Run (if you can help it)

 

It can be very tempting to remove yourself entirely from the space or situation you are in when a panic attack hits but try to resist that urge. Running away may seem helpful, but you are training your brain to be anxious of that situation when you run away from it to feel relief. Instead, try to find relief in other ways that will help train your brain that the place or situation itself is not dangerous.

 

  1. Ground yourself

 

One of the most effective ways to get through a panic attack is to ground yourself. There are several techniques and methods for doing this. Here are some suggestions:

  • Drink some water-
  • Measured or Square breathing- Breathing in a measured pattern (for example, In for four seconds, Hold for seven seconds, Out for eight seconds) or practicing Square breathing serves the dual purpose of grounding you whilst also changing your focus from your panic attack to observing the pattern
  • The 54321 method- This method is also pattern based but focuses more on your senses to ground you. Using this method, you will name 5 things you see in the room, name 4 things you can feel, name 3 things you can hear right now, name 2 things you can smell, and name 1 good thing about yourself. Alternatively, you can choose one object nearby to touch and describe in detail.
  • Recite a mantra- Having a go-to mantra can provide a safe, familiar place for your mind to go during an anxiety attack. It should be positive and remind you that this is temporary and that you are strong enough to handle it. (EX: “I am safe, I am strong, and this feeling will pass”) You can repeat the same one over and over, or have multiples that you cycle through, but try to focus on saying them in a calm, almost monotone way.
  • Exercise your memory- Use declarative memory to ground yourself and bring you back to the present. You can try to list as many brands of candy or breeds of dog that you know or do something as simple as reciting the alphabet backwards.

If you experience chronic anxiety, it would be helpful to choose one of these or find a method that works for you and implement it.

 

  1. Give yourself time

 

Once the worst of the attack has past, make sure you give yourself ample time to feel okay again before you try to resume your daily activities or try to tackle a project or task. Make sure that you have sufficiently calmed and are able to move forward without risking a subsequent attack. Meditating for a short while can help with this.

 

  1. Recognize your triggers

 

If you can, it is helpful to recognize things that trigger your panic attacks. When you recognize what is causing your anxiety or stress to spike, you can take steps to address the underlying issue which will help avoid future episodes.

 

Anxiety attacks can be a scary thing, especially if you don’t understand why they are happening or how to deal with them, but if you use these tips and remember that it will pass, they can be much more bearable.