How I Deal with My Anxiety

Happy Monday, friends! I hope you all had a great weekend! 

We had a super busy weekend, beaching and beering it up in the Fort Lauderdale area. Don't tell my husband that I agree with him since I always push back whenever he says it, but I really enjoy southern Florida. Jason always talks about wanting to move there and I argue that it's too expensive and hot, but I really do enjoy it there. We just both need to make a ton more money and then I'd be okay with it. Time to play the lottery.

Before I jump into my anxiety stuff, here is some weekend stuff.

Jason has family in town at their Florida condo in Sunrise, FL, which is 10 minutes west of Fort Lauderdale, so we made the trip down to see them Friday afternoon. We didn't end up leaving until 2 or so and hit some nasty traffic on the way down, so we stopped for dinner around 6:30 to try to avoid some of the rush hour traffic. The place we stopped was an Italian joint and it was pretty good, however the average patron age was approximately 70 and that's not a joke. Since we had Jax with us we ate outside and had a grandparent of some sort stop by our table every 2 minutes or so to talk about our dog and our kids. It was actually quite amusing and made me miss my grandparents a lot - my grandparents are awesome and I wish we didn't live so far away!

I managed to get a cute kid picture but failed on the group shot... #reallife

At least Justin looks good! We still had about an hour to drive after leaving the restaurant, which is no fun, and we didn't make it to his uncle's condo until 8 or so. Jules was all amped up and ended up staying awake until 9:30 or so, which is insane because it's a solid 2 hours after her bed time. But then she ended up sleeping through the night, so I'll take it! We all actually ended up sleeping until 9:30 Saturday morning, which is super late for us. We'd planned on going to the beach early in the morning, but by the time we had breakfast and got everything together, it was closer to 1 before we got down there. Oops!

As usual, the beach was absolutely beautiful. The water was warm-ish and clear and we all had a great time. I was a bit worried, however Jules absolutely loved being in the water. We bought her this float off of Amazon last year and she didn't really enjoy it last summer but absolutely loved it this beach trip. After we eased into the water (it was a little cold for us Floridians), Jason and I set her into the seat and after a few minutes of clinging to my fingers she started kicking and squealing with joy whenever a wave would rock her around. 

We obviously kept a really tight hold onto the float the entire time as this float doesn't really provide any life preserving elements - Jules was actually pulling herself halfway out of it by the time we were all ready to get out of the water. She's an insane daredevil baby. 

Then Jules and I played in the sand for awhile - throw sand into bucket, flip over to make castle, destroy castle, and repeat. I somehow managed to forget to put any sunblock on myself, but made sure everyone else was taken care of, so I guess that was a mom-win, me-fail?

By 3 or so we were all starving and since we were in the area, we had to stop off at Funky Buddha, which is our favorite brewery of all time. This was our first time going to the actual brewery - we usually just pick up their beers at the store - and we were not disappointed. Jason and I tried a few beers and we all got some food and just hung out for awhile, which is always a great time. 

I of course got a flight (always get the flight) and I really enjoyed all of the beers I tried. Jason tried a variation on Last Snow called Last Buffalo (or something like that) which is aged in liquor barrels, meaning it was strong AF. 

Still good. Still my favorite brewery.

The picture below is the best picture out of 5 pictures that I took of all of us in front of Funky Buddha... I'm going to start making everyone wear hats and sunglasses so we can get more consistent pictures together. That's essentially my secret to looking good in pictures. Wear a hat and sunglasses and smile #photogenic 

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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:

Symptoms

  • 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
  • Vertigo
  • Light-headed
  • Breathing heavily

Triggers

  • 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
  • Heights 
  • Elevators

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. 

Exercise

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. 

Meditation

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. 

Diffusing oils

First and foremost, I'm not trying to sell you anything so don't skip through this part thinking that's what I'm doing. I had read that oil diffusing helps a lot with anxiety and after having several really bad weeks in January/February, I bought some oils and a diffuser from Amazon. First off, my diffuser is pretty and the lights are very soothing. Secondly, I love the way the oil blends I use smell and I have found that I can minimize or eliminate an attack if I feel one coming on by breathing in the anxiety blend deeply. 

Whenever I'm at work my diffuser is on and pumping. It might be a placebo effect, but my anxiety has lessened a bit since I've started using it. In fact, I like it so much I even bought one for home and use a blend that's supposed to aid with sleep and guess what...it does seem to be helping me sleep better! Here are the items I personally use for anxiety; most often at work, but if I know I'll be driving long distance I will take my oil and breath it in deeply if I'm feeling an attack festering. 

Finally, I also take some supplements for my anxiety

If you are considering supplements please discuss with your doctor first as some supplements can interact with medications - plus, you should really talk to your doctor about anything health related! Here are the supplements I use, which can also be found under my favorites page. 

This magnesium drink is the number 1 thing I recommend. Not only do I feel a difference in my level of anxiety on the days I take it, it also has the added benefit of helping you stay regular! As such, if you do decide to get this as a supplement, start of with a 1/2 teaspoon and work your way up to a full dose.

Trust me here.

I dissolve a teaspoon or so into 2 ounces of hot water before leaving for work in the morning, let it sit for a minute or two, and then swish the water around to make sure all of the powder dissolves. I also add my next supplement to the hot water, which is Inositol. 

Inositol is supposed to help with anxiety and is also supposed to help alleviate PCOS symptoms. I discussed this in another blog, but I was diagnosed with PCOS and suffer from many of the symptoms of this disorder, including anxiety. I haven't been having as many of the PCOS symptoms since having Jules, but I would prefer they don't come back and as such, continue to take this supplement in the hopes it will stay away (PCOS really sucks - look it up). 

That's all I have in regards to my anxiety and what I do to try to alleviate it - do you have any issues with anxiety and panic attacks? If so, what have you tried to fix it and/or do you have any tips for me? I am always open to more ideas since it's still something I struggle with almost daily. 

Thanks for stopping by!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a percentage of the sale if you make a purchase using the links. This does not change the price of the item (at all) and is something I have just decided to start trying since I do make recommendations on a regular basis. The opinions are still 100% my own and not at all influenced by me using the affiliate links.