Resources (to kick anxiety’s ass!)

I’m sharing my experience with Panic Disorder/PTSD, some of the resources I’ve found, and what I learned during my recovery process in hopes to help anyone struggling with something similar. You are not alone. Anxiety is extremely common and you can tackle it. You will get your life back. You won’t take anything for granted and you’ll be stronger than ever. Your future is bright—kick anxiety’s ass!!

Since my first panic attack while I was driving in September of 2013, followed by an ambulance ride to the ER, it’s been quite a journey. It has been tough, and at times I thought impossible, but I’m really proud of where I am today. My husband, family and friends have been extremely supportive during this process. While I’d be happy to share more details of my story later, I wanted to share resources I’ve found along the way that have impacted my recovery in a positive way.

My Blog Name, Positively Anxious, is to remind you that you can turn debilitating anxiety into a positive opportunity for personal growth. It doesn’t have to be in charge of your life forever, and it won’t be. Keep your chin up, you can do it! Your current situation is just a speed bump on your road of life. Don’t give up hope that things will get better, and you’ll be a better and stronger person for it. As my Dad says, “Deal with the cards you’re dealt.” It’s not always easy, but it’ll be worth it!

My sister made a comment during my recovery that has stuck with me. I told her, “Yea I’m getting there, but still I’m still not feeling 100%.” And she responded, “no one is ever 100%.” This is so true! We always have something to improve or work on in life.

I hope you find some of these tools as helpful as I did and still currently do!

My Mom got me the cute American Greeting’s card above about the speed-bump scenario! 😉  It says “On the highway of life, there are bound to be some bumps on the road…” and the inside reads: “…along with crater-sized potholes, backed-up construction traffic, and that one jerk who always cuts you off. (But anyway, you’ll get through it.)”

Recovery Ideas and Helpful distractions;

  • Professional Opinion
    • Find a psychologist or psychiatrist (or both) that’s a good fit for you. They can help you come up with a game plan to progress through your symptoms. My personal goal from the beginning was to reduce the amount of medicine as much as possible. They may have assisted in my recovery at first, but they were only a Band-Aid. The Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is what helped re-train my brain to reduce the panic in my body in specific situations. It’s important to understand why your body may be anxious and what triggers your brain to cause the incorrect fight or flight response. It’s important that your therapist is on the same page as you—that will help expedite your successful recovery. I personally tried multiple psychiatrists before finding one that was a great fit, and it was ultimately worth the search. My wonderful psychologist closed me in a small closet and told me once I finished her CBT treatment I would be closed in the trunk of her car. She gave me tough love, and I am forever grateful for her techniques that helped me get my life back. And now I can actually look back and laugh at how silly that sounds. 😉
  • Music
    • Sing through the panic! If you’re singing you’re breathing and knowing the words to an awesome song is a helpful distraction.
    • Personally Zac Brown Band was amazing for me with very inspirational lyrics.
      • I also saw them in concert twice during my road to recovery.
    • Spotify and Pandora have great playlists for however you’re feeling. Find music that’s meaningful, helpful, or just plain distracting for you; it may vary by the day—I personally listen to a wide variety of music depending on my mood/circumstances that day. It helps me power through my day (conveniently I can listen with headphones at work).
  • Exercise
    • Yoga/Meditation
      • Yoga at home: I started yoga at home when I wasn’t well enough to get to a class. It’s easy to go from laying on the couch to basically laying on the ground (at least during the beginning and end of the practice)—and yoga helped with the aches and pains that come as side effects to some meds. 😉 It also helped me to be in the present moment instead of worrying about how I’d get through this. I did yoga several times a week as a form of “treatment.”
        • “Yoga for Beginners with Desi Bartlett” from Amazon.
        • Rachel Brathen also offers classes online which are fun and for all levels of experience.
        • Most of the yoga videos I do are 20 minutes long. Everyone has 20 minutes of their day to spare. That helps to keep me motivated. And if you’re feeling great after the first practice, you can always do another! Namaste
        • Pinterest and YouTube also offer some free classes.
      • Yoga in a studio: as cheesy as it sounds, you can harness energy from those around you in a class setting. And it’s a little more motivating to be in a class.
      • Yoga and breathing. Breathing practices are very helpful since they come in handy during panic—and yoga can help you get used to focusing on your breath to strengthen that technique.
    • Running/walking outside or at a gym.
    • The ENDORPHINS you’ll get after will make it worth it, Nature’s Medicine! 😉
    • Sign up for a public walk or run! They are usually for a great cause so you’re giving back while having a date scheduled and goal to meet. Plus the energy you get from being part of something with so many people is very powerful.
  • Reading
    • Rachel Brathen’s: Yoga Girl. While she discusses yoga poses, the book is mainly about her life and her inspirational and helpful approach to accepting difficult past and thriving in the present. (Guys would be able to enjoy this book too!) I wish I had found this sooner!! 😉
    • Free treatment workbooks from Crufad.org for specific disorders. One of my therapist went through this with me during CBT. Great resource—also explains why symptoms occur, etc. Knowing the science behind my symptoms helped me a lot.
    • “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared” by Jonas Jonasson. Cute and funny read—great distraction!
    • “Anxious in Love” by Carolyn Daitch and Lissah Lorberbaum. This book is helpful for couples dealing with anxiety.
    • “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young. This is a devotional for each day of the year that was given to me during my struggle two years ago, and I still read it daily.
    • “Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue” by Jane Pauley. She discusses how her bipolar disorder was triggered and her road to recovery—very well written.
    • “10% Happier” by Dan Harris. He’s a journalist who had a panic attack on air and talks about the changes he made to make himself just 10% happier. 😉
    • I was interviewed in an article in The Atlantic: For Depression, Prescribing Exercise Before Medication, by Olga Khazan.
      • Funny fact—I still find this article helpful when reading it today 😉
  • TV/Internet
    • YouTube— watch funny videos! I love watching funny animal videos.
    • TV shows and funny movies (nothing too violent or scary). Parks and Rec, Friends, The Office, How I Met Your Mother, Always Sunny in Philadelphia, New Girl, you get the idea… Silly things that are entertaining, light and funny!
      • I’ve stopped watching the News during my recovery (since nothing uplifting is ever on the news).
  • Instagram
    • Great pages to follow that are inspirational and motivating. And can be easily accessed from the app on your phone.
    • Instagram has been really helpful for me each day. By following user’s posting things that are meaningful to you, you can be more easily lifted up (with not too much effort on your end, especially after you follow them).
  • Pinterest
    • Helpful distraction, you can find anything from inspiration quotes to adorable animal pictures, etc.
  • CRAFTY craftsman Ideas
    • Adult coloring books—just keep in the lines. Some that I’ve enjoyed:
      • Color Me Calm: 100 Coloring Templates for Meditation and Relaxation, Mucklow, Lacy
      • Creative Coloring Inspirations: Art Activity Pages to Relax and Enjoy! Harper, Valentina
      • Beauty in the Bible: Adult Coloring Book, Paige Tate
    • Photo albums; fun and creative, and you can reflect on fun times!
    • Puzzles: pick a pretty and bright one!
    • Cross-stitching: I’m making a little raccoon.
      • Etsy: Embroidery Starter Kit- Beginner Embroidery; kirikipress, then pick which adorable animal you’d like to make!
    • Knitting: I still need someone to teach me (or watch a YouTube How To video), but I’d like to learn, I’ve heard great things!
  • Mantras that help you during anxiety.
    • Find a short, simple phrase that will help you during panic attacks.
    • You can write it on a card to keep in your wallet, or type it in your phone in case it may be helpful to read during a panic attack.
    • Mine is silly, I know…. “I’m friends with my symptoms, I know they can’t hurt me and I know they’ll go away. I’ll be so proud of myself after accomplishing this.” Whatever works, right?!
    • And more recently I’ve incorporated “I will kick anxiety’s ass!!” (And I always do).. 😉
    • The mantras in combination with diaphragmatic breathing techniques will help you power through.
  • Appreciate any and all support from friends, family or anyone (without too much judgment on how the support is given– people may not necessarily know how to be supportive, but try to understand and appreciate the efforts). Keep your focus on your recovery (not the approach of how support is given to you).  If you’re having trouble with this you can kindly discuss the support you would find most helpful, etc. But I think it’s important to not push your supporters away, or make them feel under-appreciated. 😉
  • Write It Out.
    • Out of your mind and onto the paper. 🙂
    • I still get anxious reading what I wrote in the past, but I didn’t necessarily write it down to read it again or remember the specific pain I was feeling, but once it’s out of your head and on the paper you don’t have to keep thinking about it.
    • Jane Pauley mentions in her book, Skywriting, something about how your hand knows things the mind hasn’t realized yet.
    • I also found it helpful to write since my condition was confusing to myself, my husband, my family and my friends (and the medicine affected my memory). I didn’t expect them to understand a condition that at the beginning I didn’t even understand. Writing it down allowed me to be freed from it, while giving my husband or my family some space when they may not have known what to say. That being said—it’s still important to talk about how you feel, but writing allowed me to better understand it myself. And I allowed my Mom and husband to read anything I wrote if they wanted.
  • treat yo self memeSelf-Care: #treatyoself
    • Bubble bath—my favorite! (Maybe incorporate candles and music)..
    • Light a candle while at home
    • Have fresh flowers/plants around your house.
    • For the ladies: Paint nails (or get a mani), curl your hair
      • (When I’m feeling bummed, I spend an extra 10 minutes in the morning to curl my hair… might sound vein but it looks awesome and makes me feel better)…
  • Eat healthy!!
    • Supposedly almonds, broccoli, avocados have nutrients that may help lower anxiety. So try to keep a stash of those around for snacking!
    • Make some tea (with honey and lemon). Yum! And healthy– and can be caffeine free if you prefer. I made decaf coffee for at least six months so that I could still enjoy my coffee routine without exacerbating my anxiety with a lot of caffeine.
    • Alcohol… It was really easy for me to give up alcohol for at least 3 months at the beginning of my recovery since each day I already felt extremely hungover, and didn’t want to worsen how I was physically feeling. Also—alcohol may act on some of the same receptors as anxiety medication, which may impede the recovery process, which wasn’t worth it to me during tough times. Also, feeling hungover the following day induces a lot of extra anxiety for me. During tougher times I also tended to drink too much, thinking at some point it would help with my anxiety—but it didn’t. While a glass of wine or beer may be a nice reward, it’s a good goal to not overdo it. It’s a good time to take it easy.
    • Bake something new and delicious
  • Sleep well at night, catch those Zzzzz’s!!
    • Easier said than done, I know. This is something that was extremely challenging for me at the beginning of my condition. I basically didn’t sleep for 3 months. Finding the right approach/strategy with your doctor is important in this process. Getting enough sleep will help your recovery immensely, but sometimes struggling with sleep is part of the challenge towards your recovery, it sure was for me.
    • I personally used Benedryl, melatonin and tried many other meds along with very good sleep etiquette techniques during that time. It’s very important to discuss what strategy is best with your doctor—especially in combination with anxiety/depression medication.
    • Currently I enjoy a good night sleep more than I ever thought possible—I will never take that for granted again in my life!!
    • Don’t get too much sleep either though. It’s important to get an appropriate amount of sleep at night, maybe one nap during the day, but getting homework, helpful distractions, and productive recovery focused activities in!

no matter how you feel...

  • Work
    • Try and get yourself to work when at all possible. The “fake it till you make it” slogan helped me a lot. Some days are so difficult and seem impossible but one day they will be a distant memory and the same tasks that were once a challenge come with more ease and much appreciation. Having a sense of normalcy and routine, even if you’re faking it and actually feel terrible, will help your recovery immensely. Being around people who may not know what you’re going through and conversing is very helpful. If you’re going to feel miserable (remember it’s temporary) at home, might as well get paid and feel the pride of pushing yourself through it at work.
    • During my recovery, I found a few different carpool buddies to make it to work. My Mom and husband drove me sometimes too which was so kind and helpful. I found a way to get there even though I wasn’t able to drive yet.

Other positive distractions:

  • Animals—I have a lot of pets and now have a dog that are all great distractions. When I’m having a tough day I like to picture the world through their eyes. Seeing my dog proud in his backyard watching some birds or squirrels sitting in the tree makes me really happy. I also keep my bird feeder filled with seeds so I can enjoy all the pretty birds when I’m at home.
  • Enjoying nature. It can be a helpful perspective to look up at the stars at night and realize how small you and your situation are in comparison to the universe. Look extra hard at the sunrise and sunset and acknowledge their beauty. The sun will rise again.
  • Shopping. It’s great to treat yourself to little things during recovery time. My Mom gave me a cozy robe that helped me a lot during my recovery at a time I experienced chills and night sweats while weaning off certain medicine.
  • Lunch. Plan lunch with a friend in a way that works for you. Sometimes I would have Thai delivered to my apartment and my friend would meet me for lunch about once a week before I was able to get back to work. It gave me something to look forward to. And it’s very helpful to talk about how you’re feeling.
  • Kick the “What Ifs” to the curb!!!
    • Dwelling in the past– the “what ifs” only fuel anxiety. Accept your situation/symptoms and move forward. It doesn’t matter how slowly.
    • I realize this is much easier said than done. When your mind wanders down the “what if” path, picture a big stop sign and kindly accept your situation.

Feeling accomplished by knocking out certain tasks you will help a lot in your recovery (no matter how small).

  1. Set realistic goals. For example: going on a walk. Set the goal to walk down the street. Once you get there, you may realize you can go to the end of the next block, and then the next. Before you know it, you’ve gone a mile. What a great accomplishment! This approach can be used when doing almost anything.
  2. Take it a day at a time. Or sometimes 30 minutes at a time—depending on the day you’re having.

You won’t take anything for granted after your current, temporary, unpleasant experiences. Think of it as a learning opportunity that will make you a stronger person in the long run. You’ll discover more of yourself and recreate the person you strive to be.

One day you’ll look back and be able to summarize everything into one sentence. This reflects my blog name: Positively Anxious; reminding myself that I accomplished turning a long stretch of debilitating anxiety into positive growth as a Christian, wife, friend, and person. I’m still only human—and trying to continue growing from this experience and all the others I face each day, but with all the support from family and friends and encouraging myself I know it’s possible!

You can make your life better because of these experiences—making positive changes. For me that change is always incorporating yoga and exercise when I might have skipped it before. It’s a part of my “medicine” to get those endorphins. And I am grateful every day when I’m able to drive myself anywhere I need to go or sit in a crowded auditorium, even though some days are still easier than others. I also prioritize self-care more often than I did before. It’s important that I take care of myself so that I can be my best self for myself and my husband. Self-care is not selfish. It puts you in a better place so you ultimately have more to give.

Any feelings of anger or frustration I have about my situation I use as fuel to focus on kicking anxiety’s ass! The symptoms are the enemy and I accept them and then use all my strength and energy to win the fight, every time. While it may not necessarily always feel like an easy win, just getting through it is winning. Each time you get through it, it’ll get easier. You will be proud and better prepared for next time. Practice makes perfect. J Although there may not be a “perfect” way to tackle anxiety, you’ll find your personal technique that works best for you.

Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.  Everyone has their own struggles going on that may not be visible. This is yours and you’ll get through it. Sometimes part of the difficulty and frustration with having anxiety or depression is that it’s frequently an invisible illness.

survive tropic thunder memebritney spears survive meme

Some days you have to just SURVIVE. And that’s okay. As long as you make plans and small, consistent changes so that your life is happy and fulfilling and soon you’re more than surviving. 🙂

I am happy to share more details about my story or elaborate on anything. I wanted to summarize things that I’ve found helpful over my tough years. A lot of these resources I wish I’d found sooner. But hey, better late than never! I now have a strong resources that help me daily to keep me strong enough to try and ward off my anxiety (and kick anxiety’s ass when it’s there).  I know with self-care, like eating well and getting enough sleep, my anxiety tends to be lower than if I stay up late with friends and don’t eat healthy or exercise regularly. It makes it much easier to stay motivated in general to prioritize self-care above other things. After some practice and hard work, things will fall naturally into place.

One day you’ll realize you did something naturally that you used to have to talk yourself through, and that’s such an exciting feeling! Don’t forget, your future is bright—keep kicking anxiety’s ass!!

Please leave comments or questions below. And feel free to email me at anxiouspositively@gmail.com

What resources have you found to be helpful? Are there other tools out there that fellow anxious readers may enjoy and find helpful?

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