Anxiety Survival Tips: Step by Step

Anxiety is word that gets thrown around a lot in our culture.  I’m not here to stand on a soapbox and tell you what “real” anxiety is because I can’t do that.  I know what my anxiety is but I don’t know your life, and I’m not going to stand here and tell you what it is vs. what it isn’t.  Instead, I’m here to tell you how I deal with it with the hope that my survival tips can help you too.

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with anxiety or your feel stress from time to time, we can all agree that anxiety is annoying and something that go from inconvenient to crippling very quickly.  Recently, my anxiety has been through the roof.  Starting a new job, trying to finish up my yoga certification, planning a wedding, and just existing in New York City have my nerves all sorts of screwed up.  It’s so out of control that I get anxious just trying to decide what to each for lunch, which can lead to me hiding in the bathroom contemplating if I can scale down my building to run down the street screaming.  

Needless to say, it sucks and I’m not about it.

I have a plethora of coping skills thanks you years of therapy, but when my anxiety reaches new levels it can become impossible to implement them into my life.  My beloved yoga mat goes unused, my essential oils never seem to make into my work bag, and crying in the bathroom gets really old really fast.  So what have I been doing to maintain any semblance of sanity?

I write down or think about every single step I’m going to take.

That might sound excruciatingly tedious and annoying by I swear to Mama Rupaul that it works.  So here’s what I do:

When I’m sitting at my desk, walking through my office, or even sitting on my couch I think about all the steps I need to take.  Not all the things I need to do – the physical steps I’m going to take.  For example, here’s what I’ve been writing down today:

  • At 5pm I’m going to close my laptop and put it in my purse.  Then I’ll put my headphones on and turn my music on.  
  • I’ll walk out of the office and go to stairwell because I don’t want to be near other people in an elevator or god forbid get stuck one.  I’ll walk down six flights of stairs and admire the old architecture of the building.  
  • Once I get to the bottom I’ll go through the door, not the revolving door because they make me anxious, and turn right.
  • Once I get to 6th Ave I’ll turn right and then right again at 19th St.  SoulCycle is half way down the block.

Today I needed more of a distraction from my thoughts so I got pretty specific.  Other days, it looks more like this:

  • I’ll leave my office at 5pm and walk towards 6th Ave.  I’ll turn right at 19th St. and walk to SoulCycle.
  • Once I get to SoulCycle I’ll get changed and go to my bike. After class I’ll walk to 23rd St. and take the subway from there.
  • After I get home, I’ll shower and order sushi as a reward for making it through the day.

Different approaches, similar results.  Sometimes I do a combination of these tactics and get really specific and include things I’ll see on the way to know I’m getting closer to my destination.  I vary it based on the way I feel because there is no right or wrong way to do it.

 

When even this is too much and feel too stressful, I’ll repeat a mantra over and over.  A mantra is a word, sound, or phrases repeated to aid concentration in meditation, but you can use them all the time.  Most of the times I use mantras in sanskrit that I learned through my yoga practice.  Other times I repeat simple phrases like “you’re ok”, “you’re safe”, or “I can”.  There’s something soothing and meditative about the repetition, even if you’re walking down 5th Avenue during rush hour.

 

Give it a try and post your favorite mantras in the comments, I’d love to read them!

Advertisements

Note to Self: Proofread

Today was hard.  Not just because I may somehow still be hungover after my bachelorette weekend and my body has forgotten how to sleep, but because of something I never ever thought would happen to me.

The short story is: I used a text generator at work that posted controversial text on a company site.  It’s a generator I’ve used many times without a problem, but this time it was filled with offensive language I thought I had removed.  In no way, shape, or form did I intend to upset anyone. Buuuuuuttttt that’s not what happened.

After it was brought to my attention that the text (a quote from an actor in Pulp Fiction) was offensive, I immediately took it down.  Once I was told that I had REALLY pissed someone off, I sent out an apology email.  I felt kind of like a celebrity who has to apologize on twitter when their boob pops out because it was an honest mistake.  But then I learned that it wasn’t clear that I had used a movie quote; I was accused of being culturally insensitive.

That’s a really serious accusation to throw at someone in such sensitive times, especially someone who bleeds rainbow and dreams of running a yoga studio/home for guinea pigs.  Does that sound like someone who uses offensive slurs in a technical document?  I certainly don’t think so.

It was one thing to have to send out an embarrassing apology email to an entire department, but to think that people considered that I could actually write something like that?  It was an honest mistake and it’s a known fact that I’m a terrible proofreader.  I was both bewildered and devastated.  I try to spread love, not hate.  I’m a freaking yoga teacher for pete’s sake!

It seemed like such a simple accident that blew up like an accidental fat-shaming Instagram comment.  I felt sad, humiliated, and misunderstood, like that time I didn’t realize the shirt I had worn to work was completely see-through.  Fortunately, I had plans to have lunch with my dad so I was able to remove myself from the situation (and pout in the stairwell).  I had packed my laptop in my bag, fully prepared to message my boss and tell him I needed to work from home the rest of the day, but after talking to my dad (a seasoned tech vet) I started to feel better.

I realized that just because someone accuses you of being something you’re not, doesn’t make it true.  I know in my heart that the offense I caused was an honest mistake, and hiding from it wouldn’t make me feel any better.  In these situations, the best thing we can do is admit we made a mistake and keep our head held high.  Sitting at home stewing in my shame would only make the situation bigger and worse than it ever needed to be.

After lunch, I walked back into my office with my head held high and smiled (as I always do) at the people I passed on my way to my desk.  When I open my laptop I found a message from my boss telling me not to worry and that everyone understood that it was an honest mistake.

When life throws you into awkward situations or you make mistakes – don’t hide from them, face them.  I often want to hide from my troubles but it never makes them go away.  Today I feel proud of myself for not running away from this because it showed my coworkers, and myself, that I’m human and I can handle making mistakes.

Self high-five!

Don’t Stop Believin’

Every so often I like to take a moment to stop and take everything in.  Mentally, that is – I live in New York City and if you stop in the middle of the street you will get trampled by tourists and commuters.  Also you are an asshole.  And there’s a strong chance that where you’re standing smells like garbage or pee.

Anyway, yesterday I caught my reflection in the one of the Macy’s windows and I couldn’t help but laugh.  No I didn’t look like a homeless person (that’s only on the weekends…or after aggressive happy hours).  I looked…like an adult.  A NEW YORKER adult!

I looked at my non-ancient iPhone I was texting my FIANCÉ (ah!) with about planning our engagement party. I looked at the incredibly beautiful and thoughtful engagement ring on my finger.  I looked at the designer sunglasses on my face, the designer bag on my shoulder, and the pricey headphones on my head.  I’m not trying to sound like an asshole – I was just in awe of myself.  Not that long ago I could barely get out of bed, let alone get out the apartment and go to work.  I could barely pay rent, let alone buy myself a purse (my mom had to insist I throw out my old purse because it had too many holes in it), and I was convinced I would die alone surrounded by cats.

Designer clothes and expensive “adult toys” aren’t what matter to me; it’s the fact that I now have the ability and capability to get them.  I bought that purse after I got my start date at my new job because I got a huge raise.  My dad bought me those sunglasses for Christmas because he’s no longer swamped by my medical bills.  My amazing fiancé bought me those headphone because they’re noise canceling and he knows how sensitive I am to sound.

I’m able to have all of this because I fought to get my life back.  Mental illness was taking my life away from me and after a long, grueling battle I finally did.  For a while I let it win because it was too hard to fight back.  I didn’t realize how many resources I needed to fight and a lot of the time it didn’t seem worth it.  I didn’t know that I could have a life like this.  I didn’t know that I could have a successful career, a loving partner, and a comfortable lifestyle that I earned.  My mental illness told me that I couldn’t.  It told me that I was confined to my bed, wearing the same dirty sweatshirt for weeks, isolated and alone because that’s all I deserved.

But something inside me told me that wasn’t true.  Even when 99% of your mind is polluted by darkness there is still that 1%, maybe even 0.01% that holds on.  If you don’t think that you have it, trust me you do – if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be sitting here reading this.

You can have the life you dream, in fact you can one that’s even better than you could ever imagine.  But you have to fight for it.  Even if you don’t have a mental illness holding you back, there’s plenty of other things that plague our minds and lives and convince us that we don’t deserve the lives that we want.  Don’t listen to that voice.  Believe that you’re worthy and capable of love and happiness and eventually it will find it’s way to you.

For many years I didn’t think I deserved love or happiness but here I am, sitting in my office writing this post with a diamond ring on my finger.

Keep fighting the good fight.

Irrational (and Slightly Rational) Fears

I know I’m not alone in having fears that some may consider irrational.  I should probably be concerned with fears that most people have, like terrorism, disease, and nuclear warfare.  But for whatever reason, those don’t bother too much.  I’m certainly not in favor of them, but I don’t actively fear them.  Instead, I’m over here thinking of strategies of what to do if I ever come in contact with a hippo (do I pet it or run?) or what if it starts snowing one day and never, ever stops.  What then, world?

I decided to confront these fears and rank them from most likely to happen to highly unlikely.  Hopefully this will help me overcome them…someday.

Getting pushed into the subway tracks

Actually, this isn’t irrational at all…this happens.  I’m actually surprised it doesn’t happen more often based on how packed the subway platforms can get.  I’m still shocked I survived the E platform the day before Thanksgiving last year.

Water going up my nose

This is still a chance I take every time I swim in the ocean…so I still hold my nose like a child when I dive under a wave.  That’s right, I’m almost 30 and I take the safety precautions of an 8 year old.  Have you ever had salt water go up your nose?  It’s like snorting hot sauce.  Any sort of water near my nose is upsetting to me.  I can’t even put my face under the shower, I need to gather water in my hands and splash my face with it.  The idea of neti pot truly disturbs me.

Dropping my giant mug of tea on a coworker and/or their computer

Due to how clumsy I am, this could happen.  My open office is an obstacle course of desks, chairs, and people having stand-up meetings.  Since the water that comes out of our water cooler could melt the flesh off your skin, I would feel really bad if I dumped a huge mug of it on someone.  And I’m pretty sure I would be stoned to death for spilling something on a computer.  At least it would smell like peaches…

Getting stuck in an elevator when I have to pee

I have walked up the 6 flights of stairs to my apartment instead of taking the elevator when I really had to pee.  I refer to the mad dash to the bathroom as a “photo finish” when it’s really bad and you juuuust make it.  You know what I’m talking about.  Like not another second could have gone by or you would have peed yourself.  I fear that one time I’ll be stuck in an elevator when this happens and there will no other choice then to do the unspeakable.

Wanting another drink at a restaurant and the server never coming back

I know it’s unlikely that my server will up and quit mid-meal and the restaurant won’t send a replacement.  But what if that happens right before someone is about to make a toast and no one has refilled my glass?  You can’t cheers with an empty glass and using a water glass is stupid.  It’s also frowned up to sneak up to the bar and order a drink while you’re eating at a table.  What then?!

A pigeon flying into my apartment and not being able to get it out

Ever since my window sill was overtaken by pigeons a few years ago and I gained insight into their sadistic bird world, I have feared having one enter my home.  I feel like I wouldn’t be able to catch it and killing or hurting it is not an option, so I would be reduced to trying to coerce it out the window.  But then what if more pigeons came in and suddenly my apartment was overtaken by pigeons? I guess I would just have to move.

And finally…

Sloths

I. F**king. Hate. Sloths.  I know they’re very in right now and people find them adorable, but they just terrify me.  I feel like they’re not really that slow, it’s all just a sick game to make us think they’re harmless.  We’ll all be like “silly sloths, they’re so slow and lazy haha.”  But the sloths knows better. They’re lurking, waiting, to make their move and destroy the humans.  That’s why they’re always doing that creepy smile thing.  Plus, they grow f**cking algae on their fur!  What is that about?  Is it some form of protection or adaption?  How is no one else disturbed by this?  I’m onto to you, you stupid plant mammal.

Also, they basically have knives for hands.  Not ok.

Now that I think of it, I also fear…

Leaving my hair straightener on and my apartment burning down…even though I haven’t used my straightener in 2 years…

Dropping (and smashing) a good bottle of whiskey.  Or really any whiskey.  What a travesty that would be.

Being attacked by pigeons on my way to work, like in the movie ‘The Birds’.

Lunar moths.  You want to see a (sort of) adult hide in a corner?  Bring me to a butterfly house that some monster has released these in.

It’s amazing I’ve made it this far.

#fall

A couple of weeks ago my boyfriend and I rented and car and drove to the beautiful state of New Hampshire.  It was a crisp fall day and as we made our way north I couldn’t help but be amazed by how beautiful the foliage was.  Living in the city has given me limited to nature, so seeing the tremendous beauty that is the North East in fall was almost overwhelming.  I understand why people drive hours to gaze at nature will their fellow leaf peepers; it’s truly remarkable.

As I starred at the colorful trees that lined the highway I said, “I know this might sound basic…but I love fall.”

I am not ashamed to say that I, like every stereotypical suburban girl, love fall.  It’s the perfect season.  Spring doesn’t exist anymore, summer is sweaty, and winter is just…winter.  Fall is the combination of everything I love; pretty colors, football, and pumpkin flavored everything.  Since this beloved season will be gone before we know it, I decided to reflect on the many reasons I love fall.  So when I’m trudging through the snow and cursing myself for living in the North East, I’ll remember that I have something to look forward to.

Apple picking: free apples (i.e., the ones you eat while you’re apple picking), apple cider donuts, and planning all the apple-inspired desserts I’ll never make.

IPAs, whiskey, and red wine galore: so long 3% summer beers and hello 9% IPAs! Although I do enjoy the occasional warm-weather cocktail, I much prefer a whiskey neat or a glass of red wine. Both of which are unpleasant when consumed in 95 degree weather, no matter how good the air conditioning is.

Sundays once again have purpose: football is back! Spending the day drinking beer, eating wings, and screaming at the TV is what dreams are made of.

Leaves changing: Instagram heaven.

Boot and sweater season: wearing open-toed shoes in the city is fucking disgusting. Plus my office is never a consistent temperature and carrying a sweater in the summer is annoying. Also, boots makes my legs look more proportionate (thank you CrossFit and spin).

Chai lattes: PSLs are pretty good, but I love me a good chai latte.  Now I can walk around and admire the foliage while I sip my tasty beverage, instead of angrily sitting in a loud, pretentious coffee shop.

No more shorts: no one looks good in shorts…no one.

Sweating on the subway becomes less common: the platform has finally cooled and is no longer 100+ degrees. That was a thing…and it was horrible.

Halloween: the most wonderful time of the year in my humble opinion.

Farmers markets galore: I love that anywhere there’s even remotely space in New York a farmer’s market manifests. It’s like when you say “Starbucks” three times in Manhattan.

We were truly blessed this year to have a legit fall. As the days grow shorter and colder and the imminent doom of snow, wind, and the holidays ascend upon us, I will fondly reminisce about brightly colored trees, light jackets, and Oktoberfest beers on tap at every bar.