We ended up sleeping pretty well on Saturday night too and got some donuts to share with Jason's aunt and uncle before leaving to make the drive home. Jules was awesome in the car (Justin's always awesome) and slept half of the way before we stopped to get some Subway, and then she just hung out the rest of the time. I can admit I'm pretty lucky that my kids are both awesome travelers!
I meal planned in the car while Jason drove the first part of the trip and no, I haven't forgotten about doing an entire post on that sometime soon, I promise!
I would like to talk about anxiety.
Before I start, I do want to remind you all that I am not a medical professional or trained counselor or anything like that. I'm just someone who has been dealing with anxiety for a very long time and has some tricks that have worked for me that I'd like to share.
I have had anxiety for almost 20 years now and for whatever reason, people are usually surprised to find I suffer from it. I've been told "you seem so confident and put together" and they just can't believe that I deal with anxiety, so I feel it is important to share my experience.
There are tons of different types of anxiety and lots of different people can be affected by it, but what I suffer from are panic/anxiety attacks. I still remember the first time I had an anxiety attack - I was 15 years old and laying on my bedroom floor watching Les Miserables on tv when my heart started pounding out of my chest at a rapid pace and I literally thought I was going to die. I ran downstairs to my mom in a total panic and she ended up rushing me to the hospital. I underwent a myriad of testing - cardiovascular tests, MRI and CT scans, blood tests, etc. In the end, the dr said I had anxiety and gave me Paxil, which I took for a couple of days, hated, and stopped. At that point, just putting a name to what I was experiencing was enough for me to feel better, and I don't believe I had another serious episode until I hit my 30's. Then for whatever reason, my anxiety came back with a vengeance and has stuck around pretty consistently since then. Here are the symptoms I experience, along with some of the things that will set me off:
- Erratic or exaggerated heartbeats (heart palpitations, random large beats, etc); if this is happening to me you will often see me taking my heart rate to confirm it's fine - my resting heart rate is actually usually in the 50's because I'm in good shape, even while having an attack - but I always have to track my heart rate to make sure my heart is still working whenever I have an attack.
- Tunnel vision
- I'm convinced I can't swallow which leads to me actually struggling to swallow
- Breathing heavily
- Being over-tired
- Driving long-distance
- Driving through mountains
- Driving over a bridge or even a tall overpass
- Feeling constrained, like in certain roller coasters
As you can see, driving is a huge trigger for me, but I also have attacks at work on a regular basis. While I do have the attacks often while driving, I am fine while riding in the car. I find that I do better in the morning and as the day goes on, I start to have more issues. I don't have anxiety attacks every day, but I would say I have a few of them on a weekly basis, whether it's just the beginning of one that never actually comes to fruition, or sometimes giant, full-on panic where I have to excuse myself from what I'm doing or pull over if I'm driving. I also find that the frequency and severity can vary based on where I am at in my cycle - it gets really bad right before, during, and after my period.
My anxiety never comes for any reason that I can quantify. For example, if I'm in an emergency situation I am always absolutely fine - in fact, I've often been complimented on how well I maintain my composure during an emergency. However I can be sitting at work having a normal conversation with a co-worker and go into a full-scale attack for seemingly no reason.
Anxiety has no rhyme and reason and often makes no sense.
There is one place where I never seem to have any panic/anxiety attacks and that's home. So there are times when I am really suffering when I will look forward to getting home for an entire day since I know I will feel better immediately.
If you're suffering from anxiety, the first thing I want to tell you is that you're not alone. I can almost guarantee that if you ask around you will probably have a number of friends/acquaintances who suffer as well.
I would also encourage you to see your doctor first to rule out any medical issues, as there are a number of medical conditions that can cause anxiety attacks. There were a few months in 2013 where I was having constant anxiety attacks on my way home from work, where I just happened to be eating almonds for a snack each time. Turns out, I'm allergic to almonds and was experiencing anaphylaxis - yeah, really. So go to the doctor. They'll run a bunch of tests and rule out anything medical and you can also look into medication at that time if you would like, since I know a lot of people have success with medicine. Although I do have a prescription for Xanax, I use it very sparingly - I will take 1/2 a pill an average of every 2 weeks whenever I can't sleep due to my anxiety, but that's it. I've had my prescription for over 3 months and still have over half of my 30 pills left.
Other than the minimal medication I take when I need it to sleep, here are the other things I have done to help minimize my anxiety:
Reduce your caffeine intake
If I drink more than a cup of coffee (or the caffeine equivalent), I will have terrible anxiety and panic attacks all day long. If you are suffering from anxiety I highly recommend you cut out caffeine and see if it helps improve your symptoms. I do actually plan to quit caffeine completely one day in the hopes it will help my anxiety issues even more, however I have cut down my intake dramatically and it's made a definite difference so I'm okay right now keeping my one cup of coffee in the morning.
I think the benefits are two-fold for me with exercise - it's time I take for myself on a daily basis and it gets those good endorphins pumping. A word of caution though; whenever I do a seriously intense program like Insanity, my anxiety actually gets worse for a week before it settles back down. So I would recommend skipping the super intense stuff if you're really suffering.
Limit your alcohol intake
I try not to drink any alcohol during the week and really try not to drink excessively at all anymore (except for the occasional out-of-control date night with my husband or crazy girl's night out). This is just my experience, but I have found the more I drink the worse my anxiety is, even if I just have a glass of wine with my dinner.
I will be honest and let you know that I have not been meditating very often lately (or at all), BUT I have had a lot of success in the past with meditation helping my anxiety and I find that the more I do it, the more it helps. There are two apps that I've used on my phone, and when I practice I'll take 5-15 minutes after my workout in the morning to sit quietly and listen to a guided meditation. The apps I have used are Headspace and Insight Timer - the second one is actually my favorite, but I know a lot of people really like Headspace when they're starting out.