Anxiety

Every year, during the first week of October, NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) raises awareness of mental illness and those living with a mental health condition. I realized that this would be the perfect moment to share with you something personal in my life.

The other day, I had a great conversation with a friend about my anxiety. Back in the day, I probably wouldn’t have done that as easily or even admitted I had anxiety. Now that I recognize what I have, I feel very strongly that it’s something we should all talk about. Being vocal about mental illness is extremely important because you can relate to people in ways you didn’t expect and it makes you feel like you’re not alone anymore.

Ever since I was younger, I’ve been anxious. Back then, I didn’t realize it very much because, for the most part, I didn’t have many things to be anxious about. I had a great childhood and I have supportive parents. But every first day of school was a TRIAL. I would get so nervous and anxious about starting a new year of school that I would make myself physically sick. I would get nauseous and throw up and would get no sleep at all the night before. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just talk myself out of it. I mean, it was FINE. It was just school.

Don’t even get me started on talking in front of the class or public speaking. Those were other ordeals of extreme heart racing, nausea, and not being able to catch my breath. I dreaded it. Especially if I knew I had to give an oral presentation. I would think about it for weeks and days and couldn’t get it out of my mind. The older I got, I would try to talk myself out of it. “It’s FINE. You’re FINE,” I would say. I knew a lot of people hated public speaking so I just attributed it to that and forgot all about it until the next time I had to speak.

2016 was a really stressful year for me. It kind of was a culmination of all the stress and anxiety in my life. I had recently broken up with my boyfriend, my aunt & cousins stayed with us for a while, and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. It was the first time I had had a panic attack and my heart rate would be so fast even when I was just sitting on the couch, watching TV. I would pick at my fingernails, my face and my skin. I would keep telling myself over and over, “You’re FINE.” But nothing would help. Luckily, 2016 also happened to be the year I took an Abnormal Psychology course and I learned more about anxiety. This was extremely beneficial and couldn’t have come at a better time.

The more I learned about it, the more I realized I was exhibiting the symptoms. My dad is a very anxious person and throughout my life, I’ve watched him deal with things in ways that I told myself I would never do. For example, I hated when he would stress out about something because it was overall consuming. It was all he could think about. He wouldn’t sleep. He would get angry easily. I was always annoyed and couldn’t understand why he couldn’t just get over things. Little did I know, I was doing the same thing. I was doing what I told myself I didn’t want to do. I learned through my class that it can be genetic. If someone else in your family has it, it’s likely that you might develop it as well.

After learning about it, I decided to find someone to see. I found a marriage & family therapist that I talked to a few times and that’s when I realized the benefit of talking about what was going on in my life. I had never poured out my entire feelings to anyone. I had only done it in bits and pieces and usually left out the deeper parts. Ultimately, my therapist and I weren’t a great match so I decided to part ways but I learned a lot from that experience and decided to take what I had learned and move on.

Early last year, I was having a hard time eating. Anything I ate made me sick, including home-cooked meals. When I met with my primary care physician for my yearly physical, I explained to him the feelings I was having. He asked me if I ever get anxious and I was a little surprised. How did he know? He explained that you have nerve endings in your stomach that are connected to your brain so when you’re stressed out or anxious, your stomach receives those signals and can act in response to it. We started talking about my feelings and how easily I get annoyed or I snap at others. We also talked about how sick I make myself when I have to do certain things that I stress out over, like speaking in front of a group. He diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and we finally decided on starting a low dose of anxiety medication.

I’ve been taking it for over a year now and I have never felt better. I’m more confident in speaking in front of others and I don’t get sick! Food isn’t making me sick anymore (unless I eat too much junk food, of course). I don’t get annoyed as quickly anymore and I noticed that my relationship with my family members, especially my sister, improved dramatically.

This year, I also tried hypnotherapy. I decided to try it because I was still having a hard time picking at my face or my fingernails and I was so done with it. She recorded our sessions on audio files that I could listen to whenever I was feeling stressed out. This helped out a little bit but what really made a difference was the new position I started in July. I am not as stressed out at work anymore (which I don’t think I really realized the toll my job was taking on my mental state) and I feel like I notice a complete difference. My face has started to heal and I’m back to having clear skin.

I’m much happier these days and couldn’t be more grateful for the support I had from my friends and family throughout my life, dealing with this issue. I also am super grateful for the advancement of medicine and the ability to help me feel better with a simple solution. I still get anxious and I don’t think that will ever change but it’s more manageable. I know when it’s happening and I know what I can do to stop it.

If you have any questions about this or need someone to talk to, please let me know! I think the best thing you can do if you’re having feelings that something is wrong is to talk about it. Once you can relate to someone or open up, you will realize you don’t have to do it alone. Break the stigma and talk about it. It’s the most powerful thing you can do.

Please visit NAMI’s website for more information on mental health or call their helpline if you need to talk to someone:
800-950-NAMI
Monday – Friday, 10 AM to 6 PM ET

xoxo Michelle

 

Ways to Relax After a Long Day

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before but I’m an anxious person. My anxiety really started to get more prominent a couple years ago and since then, I’ve been on the hunt to find things that will help me de-stress.

When I switched to my new position earlier this month, I noticed I was SO much less stressed than I had been. I didn’t really realize that my job was mentally straining me. I’ve been doing a lot better now but still need ways to relax more often than not.

I thought I would list some of my favorite things to do to hopefully give you some ideas!

Being Alone

I’m an introvert (even though it may not seem like it) so after a long day at work or spending the entire day with others, I have to recharge by myself. I like not having to talk and being able to hear the thoughts in my head. Many people don’t like this because it almost stresses them out more to have to deal with their own thoughts and that’s okay. Maybe your way of recharging is by being with others! Either way, this is a big one for me and definitely helps me relax.

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Courtesy of Be Yourself

Calligraphy

This is a little hobby that I’ve picked up over the last couple of years. I’ve always had pretty good handwriting and when I was younger, I would switch out my handwriting by practicing different styles of writing certain letters. My handwriting has mostly stayed the same as I’ve gotten older but I’ve improved my cursive tremendously.

I like practicing on my iPad with the Procreate app and my Apple Pencil. I’ll doodle for hours while I watch TV or listen to music.

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I love Sex and the City and this is just a little doodle I made while watching.

Watching TV/Movies

I love spending the day in bed watching TV or a good movie (especially one of the rom-coms I talked about in my post). It helps me clear my mind and focus on something else besides what’s going on. Right now, I’m currently binge-watching Home Improvement. I loved this show when I was younger and the entire series is on Hulu! I’m making my family and Cody watch them with me. What are your favorite things to watch when you’re stressed?

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Courtesy of Variety

Working Out

I’m not going to lie to you guys, this is one that I should do more often because whenever I do, I feel so much better. Cody’s a big runner and I probably will never get to his level but I recognize the benefits of it. I’m slowly but surely getting started. Steph also likes running. She and Adam are doing a triathlon this weekend so I’m sure she’ll share all about that!

Whether it’s just working out at the gym or going on a run, it’s definitely a great way to relieve stress.

Taking a Shower/Bath

Speaking of working out, taking a shower or a long bath right after is the absolute best. I’m not a huge fan of baths because I feel like the water gets cold way too fast. Also, I don’t have a great tub to soak in. However, both are great to relieve stress and a nice, warm shower (or cold after working out) makes me feel like a million bucks.

Shopping

Retail therapy is a real thing, guys. Whenever my sister and I feel down in the dumps or we need a quick pick-me-up, we go to the mall. I’m also a huge online shopper because I like finding good deals all over the place without necessarily having to go outside. My sister always jokes that our mailman probably hates me because of how many packages I get delivered. Oh well.

Reading

Steph and I both love to read. I don’t read as much as I should these days but if it’s a good book, I can’t put it down. One of my favorite books is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. You can get it from Amazon here. This book changed my life! It’s all about organizing and getting rid of things that don’t bring you joy.

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Organizing

Speaking of organizing, this is my biggest stress-reliever! There is nothing I like more than cleaning and organizing a space. After I read that book, I went through my closet and room and got rid of so much stuff I didn’t need. It was great! As tired as I may be, I love cleaning up my room and finding cute ways to store things. The only thing I’m missing is a great walk-in closet so I don’t have to make room for more clothes…

What are some of your favorite ways to relax after a long day? Let me know below!!