Inside: Anxiety doesn’t have to define us. It’s time to acknowledge it, stop pushing it down deep inside, and it’s time to own it—patiently and gracefully, but we can do it. This is a guest by Amy Brinton. This post may contain referral links.
The colors, the feelings, the sounds—everything about my first anxiety attack is still so real.
It was Spring Break, and everyone else was at the beach (or so it felt—social media was a regrettable source of envy for me at the time), and I was loading my four girls up for a trip to the library. All four heads of hair were done in simple, yet *still*, somehow, difficult ponytails; everyone had been offered a snack to fill in the gap before lunch, and they all had two matching shoes on their feet. An exhausting accomplishment for me that day.
I began buckling the youngest into her car seat when the symptoms washed in and consumed me. I wasn’t sure what was happening, so I ran inside to the couch, and then to the bathroom. Surely I was having an odd case of the stomach flu, or a heart attack—I wasn’t sure. I just remember breathing. Breathing and trying to make sense of what was happening.
My second oldest, the ever watchful one, came into the house to check on me. I handed her the phone and asked her to stay close in case she needed to make a call. Luckily, the symptoms came and went, and I bravely got in the car and we made the trip.
That was one instance.
One instance that had been built on several years of shoving the anxiety down, pretending it wasn’t there, trying to stuff it into the corners of my soul because I didn’t know what else to do with it. I felt defective and shameful for having so many children. For following my heart, when my head said I couldn’t handle this.
What was I doing? What was wrong with me? Perhaps I wasn’t cut out for motherhood like other women were. It was self-doubt and insecurity at its finest, but thankfully, slowly and surely, a positive shift began to change the way anxiety controlled and defined me. It no longer did.
I know my situation is not unique. Maybe you’re over there having the same difficulties as me.
YOU MAY HAVE anxiety, But it isn’t who you are
You know what it feels like to be overwhelmed, stretched thin, and helpless in everyday situations. The busyness, demands, expectations, they all weigh down on you and threaten to consume you. Each and every day. It’s real.
And you and I both know that we can either let anxiety chew us up and spit us out, or we can face it. We can stop pushing it down, and slowly offer ourselves the grace and patience we need to start owning it, instead of letting it trap us in its nasty web of hopelessness.
I’ve been able to regain my life. It now feels full, happy, and manageable again. Not to say that anxiety doesn’t show up anymore, but now I’m a little wiser. More prepared.
Because I am not my anxiety, and you aren’t either.
Related: Walk in Self-Compassion Mini-Course
take hold of your Anxiety before it takes hold of you
Here are four suggestions to get your head above the water. This is no substitute for professional help, just a few suggestions from one friend to another.
1. Openly acknowledge Your Anxiety
There is evidence that shows teaching children to label their emotions is highly beneficial. The same holds true for us adult people too. A new brain imaging study by UCLA psychologists reveals why verbalizing our feelings makes our sadness, anger and pain less intense.
Don’t push it down, don’t deny it—face it, and acknowledge that it’s real and it’s there. It’s always the first step to healing.
2. Let Good Enough Be enough
I’ve done my fair share of keeping up with the Joneses and I don’t even like them.
Us women in particular like to strive for the “we’ve got it all together” look, and then once we get there—like we actually do “appear” to have it together, we worry that people are judging us FOR having it together. Pshhht. Stop it! What a worthless waste of our energy.
Slow it down, take the simpler road. We don’t have to do it all, and we don’t have to be it all. Who we are and what we have to offer right now is enough. Let it be so.
3. Care for yourself
I can drive this one home to help soothe so many difficult situations in life. It’s important.
Two of the most vital things I have done to control my anxiety have been to develop a regular writing routine (it sets me free!), and exercise. Not just a walk around the block kind of exercise, but the pounding my feet on the pavement—running my heart out kind, that leaves me sweaty and thankful to have a heartbeat.
Do what works for you, but do something.
4. Ask for help
Perhaps this is the most vital point when we’re really in the trenches of anxiety. I can’t tell you what kind of help you need, but if you listen to your heart you’ll know.
Perhaps you need a long talk with a dependable friend, you need to make that appointment to see the therapist, you need to schedule in some hours for someone to take your kids, you’re going to call in that cleaning company and have no shame.
Whatever you need, it’s okay to ask for it.
Anxiety is here to teach us something
Learn from your anxiety. What is your anxiety telling you? It can teach us that we’re stronger than we think. It can help us understand that we can do hard things. It might be forcing us to slow down and take better care of ourselves. Anxiety doesn’t have to define us, but we can use it to tune into ourselves with more self-awareness and self-compassion.
BIO: Amy is a mom to four girls, wife, and writer, who believes in living fully from the heart. She is passionate about happiness, fulfillment, and a well-balanced life. She is no longer working online.