How I Cope With Anxiety.

I opened up the other day on social media and shared my struggles with anxiety. Struggles that I have been dealing with my entire life.

First things first – I know so many people struggle with anxiety, and it feels almost over-generalized in our society, but I truly believe that it manifests itself differently for everyone. For me, it was hyper-focused in my productivity – being exceptionally organized, being a rock star in my job, being rigid with my diet/ exercise and being insanely on top of plans… Always. The negative effects of all of that stress didn’t really rear its head until I moved away from home (Toronto — > Michigan after marriage) and got out of my comfort zone. Perhaps I was young and not as self-aware/ in touch with myself – but I didn’t really acknowledge what was going on until I had to. Once the novelty of my move had settled down, I found myself really struggling with the transition. I had taken a job that was terrible for my mental health and I just couldn’t grasp a sense of control on my life. It was hard to make friends, people kept moving, Jacob was studying 24/7 (he was in 2nd-year med school), I couldn’t keep up with working out / eating right, and I was lonely.

I had been seeing a therapist for a few months and together we decided I would try some medication to see if it could help my day to day life be a little bit easier. She assured me that medicine alone was not the answer- but a bridge/stepping stone to allow my mind to be open to other holistic modalities. Yoga, meditation, breathing, self-care, managing thought patterns etc.

Fast forward a year and a half later, I had left my corporate job, became a health coach and content creator, started and established my business and have created a life for myself where I can really thrive. What a difference! I started to treat my body better with a mix of mindful exercise (barre, yoga), strength and cardio – instead of 100% cardio. I created a name for myself in the local and virtual wellness community and made a ton of true friends through it. I took on clients who looked up to me and I was able to truly help in their lives.  All of those big things were scary and came with lots of setback and periods of self-doubt, but I got through it. And I didn’t do it alone. I had support from my family and husband. I was open about my struggles and that was one of the best things I ever did. Dialogue is huge for me. I talked through my growth, setbacks and things I learned. I was not ashamed to share the medicine was really helping me in all of this.

In September 2018, I decided I was in a good place and wanted to try tapering back on the meds. I did it slowly of course and made sure to keep in touch with how I was feeling throughout. On December 18th, 2018 I took my last pill, and now I am over 2 months off.  I would be lying if I said it was an easy transition. It has not been easy. Some days aren’t great and things don’t “roll off my back” the way they did before. I get bouts of panic more often and my thoughts are a little more crowded. BUT – I have developed the tools to manage these to a point where I feel comfortable being off the medicine. It is not debilitating like it once was and I feel a difference of night and day since before I went on them. I want to share some of these tools/mindset shifts that I use to work through these periods in the hopes that they can help some of you. This is not meant to be taken as professional advice, I am simply sharing what personally is working for me. These can be helpful for anyone – even if they are still on medication – which is nothing to be ashamed of.

MINDFUL MOVEMENT– Cardio, in excess, sparks my anxiety. I tapered down on this and incorporated more mindful movement like barre, yoga, and strength. Sometimes I crave cardio for that release and real adrenaline rush, but there is a limit for me because too much stress on the body can manifest negatively for me.  Also, more sculpt style exercises made my body lean out and got my appetite under control. That also made me feel better and less irritable, honestly.

MORNING ROUTINE – If you follow me on IG you know that I am a huge early bird and wouldn’t have it any other way. I wake up at least 2 hours before I have to leave the house. I sit on the couch in the quiet, slowly drink my coffee, sometimes do a meditation, make a list and set myself up for the day calmly. The lack of rush really allows me to ease into my day. It is life changing. Even when I travel, I try to have this quiet time. It takes time to get used to being a morning person, but it is worth it! Also, I want to acknowledge that I am aware this is not realistic for a lot of people. Maybe it’s not 2 hours, but it’s 10 minutes in the morning. A few deep breaths, a few quiet sips of your coffee (or matcha or tonic) and a chance to settle into your day –  slowly and with a clear mind.

FUEL YOUR PASSION. A lot of my anxiety in the past was fear that I wouldn’t have the time to do what I loved. I loved creating, cooking, baking healthy food and traveling. I love photography, seeing new places and creating a story through visuals. (Note – I did work in advertising before).  I ended up turning this into my job with @eatwellwithsari and I am SO grateful for it. You do not have to make your passion your job, but I would recommend that you find a way to fuel it in some way. Make it a priority. Among all the other “To do’s” make it one of them. If you love painting, take a class on Saturdays. Make time for what brings you joy and warms your heart. Take away the “I CAN’T” mentality because you actually can. If we spend all our time doing the tedious things that we “have to get done” there is no time left for what we LOVE. That balance takes time to figure out, but it’s worth it.

BREATHE – When you are having feelings of overwhelming, your mind is just telling you all the things you need to do without holding back. I feel this a lot. When I notice I am starting to feel so overwhelmed that I am losing presence, I stop and breathe. Even if it is 3 deep breaths. It is amazing how that calms the nervous system. I personally like to step away from the situation and take 10 deep breaths, call Jacob (or bring him with me) and remind myself that my thoughts do not dictate reality. Then, I either decide I am done working and do something for self-care or get back to it with a clearer mind.

BE ON YOUR OWN TEAM & GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK – I am the queen of being hard on myself and I can be SO rigid with being in control. I am literally my own worst boss. So much of the pressure we get is actually from our own rules and self imposed tasks. Ask yourself, if I didn’t do X what would happen? And then if Y happened because I didn’t do X what would happen? And if Z happened because I didn’t do Y what would happen? If the answer just isn’t that bad and can be managed with a little more ease and flexibility, then do just that. Sometimes it takes panning something out like that to realize that all of the pressure is coming from you. Ease up on yourself! For example, I get anxious when packing / preparing for a trip. I get the feeling that I need to have everything possible for every situation on the trip and I stress myself out like crazy! It makes the pre-travel anxiety pretty strong. Then I ask myself – ok If I do not have a certain pair of shoes what will really make a difference!? Saying it out loud sometimes makes you realize that it’s just your anxiety talking and you will be absolutely fine!

A FEW REMINDERS that I try to tell myself daily:

  • The “list” is never going to end. Like ever. so make sure you add in what you love, what calms you and makes you happy.
  • Things do not happen overnight. Having patience should always be above self-punishment. Frustration is normal, but have some compassion will ya!?
  • No one is perfect. No one. What you see is what is shown and we all know that’s not the whole picture. Everyone is going through sometime. Comparison is the thief of joy so there is no sense in it.
  • Presence is the currency of life. If we are not actually in moments, we aren’t living them. I have to remind myself of this a lot. I am the kinda person who plans my next trip while I am on another. What’s the point? It’ll get done regardless, so why take away from those special moments.

Thoughts are just that – thoughts. Talk to them, quiet them down and tell them they are interrupting you (s/o to my sister for that tidbit). Thoughts do not define reality, your mindset and actions do.

Thank you so much for reading. Love to all.

Sari

5 thoughts on “How I Cope With Anxiety.

  1. Thank you for writing! There are so many parallels in this for myself, I’ll most likely be saving this forever to read. I am my own harshest critic.

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