For those who follow me on Instagram you might have seen that I recently posted a throwback picture, and within the photo’s caption I shared a bit about my anxiety at the time it was taken. I’ve shared many times about my experience with depression and anxiety, but this photo seemed to have hit at the right time. I received numerous messages asking for insight into my personal Anxiety Triage Kit—as I like to call it. (recap at the bottom)
You see, my anxiety has never gone away. It’s just a lot more under control now, and not debilitating like it once was. I’ve spent the past five years learning to identify most of my triggers, and have taken note of what helps me to overcome a surge in anxiety.
There are some overall steps I take on a daily basis to keep me in check.
Without a doubt the number one, prize-winning step I’ve taken is MINDSET. How you view your life experiences is 100% going to determine your inner peace. If you do not make a conscious effort to see the good, or appreciate all the little positives that happen to you in a day you will live in the darkness. Your anxiety will mount.
Someone let you in while driving? Amazing. Catch a lucky break at the office? Wonderful. Finish a warm cup of coffee? Tremendous. Get stuck in traffic? Call a loved one. IT’S ALL FOR A REASON. The more you release to the ebb and flow of our inner-connected lives, the more peace you will experience.
Another thing I do is watch my nutrition (caffeine and sugar), my physical output (must release physical energy daily), and breathing (like actually making sure I’m breathing).
This is a very odd and personal trigger, but I cannot seem to overcome it. I have major anxiety about phone calls. A huge aversion to them. I have to avoid phone calls as much as possible. It’s so wild to write this and speak it out into existence. This a crazy hard phobia to have when you run multiple businesses, but it gets me hood. Since I was a little girl talking on the phone gives me tremendous anxiety. Even with friends. Like right now as I write this, I can think of two people I need to call back and I’ve been trying to mentally prepare myself to make the calls and my breath in restricting. We’re all a work in progress!
Now, I’d like to discuss some common anxiety triggers and my triage steps for handling each.
Did you know I am a former journalist? Trained hands-on since high school, on the anchor desk a month after graduating college. I lived and breathed telling stories, interacting with my community, and being at ground zero when the absolute worst things happened in my community.
The “if it bleeds, it leads” mentality is very real and openly discussed. Severe weather, deadly car accidents, robbery, bribery, injustice… all the most focused-on day’s top stories. Something bad happen here at home? Great! Let’s dive deep on it. Something awful happen 3,000 miles away? Let’s be sure to leave a few seconds to throw that into the D block. Oh, something positive happening in the local schools? Or someone is supporting their neighbors? You get one minute in the C block. If the gore from the A block runs over your positive news is seen as “fluff” and will be cut.
I saw the tides changing, and when my contract was up, I ran. I miss consistent storytelling and daily interaction with my community, but I’m working on ways to regain that calling to journalism on my own terms.
This is all much of the reason why Go Get It LIFE was founded.
That being said y’all the news headlines are a dangerous place to live. I’ve noticed first-hand the mental destruction it causes to myself and for those near to me, and I have to distance myself.
One of my recently adopted sayings is, “Okay, so you got anything good to share with me?” It is a dark, evil place to live if you allow current “journalism” to be consumed regularly.
I receive news headline push notifications on my phone, and weather alerts. In the off chance I actually click on one of the links that isn’t political, I see everything on the news homepage, including the weather homepage, and oh my gosh it’s nasty!
Get your headlines if you need them, but know they are tainted, biased, and highly filtered. It’s a huge anxiety trigger, so be careful.
Family/ Holidays sub. House Guests
Oh my, this is a big trigger. It’s unavoidable one for me, and for so many of us. It’s not that we don’t love our family nor want them with us, so I don’t want that to be understood. It’s just that, well, the whole thing can bring on a ton of anxiety.
There’s a lot of, “so, what are you doing with your life?” conversations. There’s a break in routine. There’s an intrusion on your personal space.
You’re not going to completely cut off family for holiday gatherings. Unless they’re completely unhealthy, unsafe, toxic people (and that’s a whole other conversation), you have to use your triage kit here.
First, always remind yourself that it’s temporary. Whether it’s just a dinner, an overnight stay, or three nights. It’s temporary.
Second, take a few minutes for yourself every day. Whatever it is that you need. It may be a run, a walk, or a trip to pick up coffee for everyone.
If you have a partner, talk to them prior to the overnight stay. Let them know that you’re going to need a few minutes every day to keep your emotions in check. Be respectful to your partner and assure them that you won’t take advantage of that “get out of jail free card”. Set boundaries. So perhaps you would say, “hey babe. I need to go for a 30-40 minute jog every morning.” Or, “babe, I just need to get out of the house for 30 minutes every day. Whether it’s to make the pickup from the store, or just disappear in the car driving in circles”. Be up front.
Third, plan something fun that’s just for you after this period. Find a day when you’re home, or your house is empty, and do something just for you. It could be alone time at a nail salon, getting a massage, going to see a movie, or eating at your favorite restaurant. Having something that’s fun, and just for you, is such a great positive beacon to meditate on when you’re hiding in the bathroom to work on your breathing.
Fourth, back to that mindset. Remember, that more often than not, that if you’re in a situation of having overnight guests, or being a guest, that means you have people around you who love you. Don’t take that for granted.
Fifth, pay very close attention to your sleep, hydration and nutrition to keep your body and mind in check during the these times. Cocktails will likely be flowing, and you may not have your normal food items on-hand. Balance with a ton of water, and perhaps make one of your “alone moments” a trip to the grocery store to pick up a few of your favorite healthy foods.
Lack of Sleep/ Poor Nutrition
Oh my, if lack of sleep isn’t my unavoidable Achilles Heel. If I don’t get the proper rest my body needs I’m toast! I had horrifying Post-Partum Anxiety after my first-born. My body was not prepared nor equipped to handle that type of sleep deprivation. If I don’t get the rest my body needs, my brain deep dives into depression and anxiety.
There’s going be bad nights here and there, but after two or three sleepless nights, I have to do whatever I can to get rest. That often times can mean simply moving much slower and saying “no” to anything that isn’t necessary that day.
Caffeine and dehydration are huge contributors as well. When you feel your anxiety begin to rise, please, please reach for a tall glass of water. You need to start flushing your system and getting back into balance. I had to switch to decaf for a few years, and have only recently been able to bring a little caffeine into my cup. If I have a terrible night of sleep, or am going on days of sleep deprivation the absolute LAST thing I will grab is caffeine. I will chug water all day long. And if a warm cup of coffee is what my soul needs for comfort, it’s gotta be decaf.
Sometimes I wonder if our lightbulb moment to start our own bottled water company (Ounce Water), was my intuition knowing that I needed a lesson on proper hydration. When my second child was born, water was my staple and it helped me tremendously.
A very common vice to lean into when your anxiety starts to kick in is either a cigarette or a alcohol. Truth be told, how many times have you noticed that your habit to light up, actually increases your anxiety as it restricts your blood vessels? Or that alcohol leaves you sluggish and further depletes your system, thus leaving you in a depressive state.
Oh brother. This one gets me good! I become a nervous wreck when I get stuck in traffic, and subsequently am running late. The ol’ “leave earlier” advice doesn’t help and will only be received with an eye roll. When I get stuck in traffic two really great tools from my triage kit are my beacons for hope. They are breathing and mindset.
Breathing: make sure you’re breathing. Low and slow breaths. Breathe in as you count slowly to 4, and then release that breath slowly as you count to four.
Mindset: remind yourself that someone may have gotten hurt or worse. This is a moment of gratitude. That despite the temporary inconvenience, if an accident is the cause of your traffic build up, say a prayer for those involved. Chances are, they’re in a very bad place due to their accident.
Toxic people. This trigger is often times a double edge sword. Toxic people can be both inevitable and unavoidable. A toxic person could be your immediate family member, significant other, co-worker, or friend. I encourage you to recognize who is toxic in your life. Take notice of who is bringing you down, who’s energy turns you into a bad state of mind. Are they always complaining (beyond a vent session), are they treating you badly?
Take notice of the toxic people in your life and find ways to either cut them out of your life, distance yourself, or limit your exposure. If the toxic person has become a significant other or family member, and thus in many ways, you don’t want to cut the person out of your life completely, I would definitely suggest looking into an appropriate counselor for your dynamic to help address the situation in a healthy way (as opposed to a screaming match over the Thanksgiving turkey).
Let it go! Let it goooooo!
Did you ever see the film, “500 Days of Summer”? There is a terrific display of reality v expectation when the main character goes to a party where his ex-girlfriend is in attendance. The split screen is such a profound lesson. I encourage you to take notice of your expectations throughout the day. And on a next level, take notice of how often you worry about the future – things that haven’t even happened. When you are able to lower your expectations, or rather, put them into a healthy boundary, you will find a great ease in your anxiety.
Really try hard to catch yourself when you begin to worry about all of the “what if’s” of something that hasn’t even happened. When you do catch yourself doing that, do a mental scan. What is it that you’re worried about? Okay, now really dig deep, what is it that you’re truly worried about? It hasn’t happened yet. Let it go, or take any steps necessary to remove a large margin of error.
I’m going to give you a personal example. My husband is really good at planning surprises and celebrations when his head is totally in the game. Like, not thinking about another character, not running back and forth from set, or business meetings. But, by and large, I learned quick that he needs some nudges. I came to accept the fact that it’s a blessing for our family that my husband is busy working (gratitude), and that I cannot rely on him to know what I’m thinking. So for many special occasions, especially my birthday or Mother’s Day for example, I try to leave little to no margin for error. What do I want to do for my birthday? Exercise, have alone time to go deep in my thoughts, and then have Mexican Food and Margaritas for dinner. I want to be on a patio, twinkling lights, kids, friends, everyone who’s a good time around me. And yes, there better be cake. I’ll happily order my own cake. No worries! I don’t leave it to chance, I ensure that on my birthday I get tacos and tequila.
So to you, I say, don’t leave it up to someone else to know your happiness, you make your own happiness, so take charge of it!
To recap what’s in my Anxiety Triage Kit:
- Mindset – optimism, appreciation, and being mindful that the bad is temporary
- Water – proper hydration
- Breathing – making sure I’m breathing, and that it’s controlled, deep breaths
- Sleep – getting sleep, resting my body and brain, saying no
- Nutrition – avoid caffeine and sugar when anxiety begins to rise
- Exercise – release the powerful energy of anxiety through exercise
I’ve really enjoyed getting to sit down and share these thoughts with you. I feel like they’re just the beginning of what could be dozens of discussions. If there’s anything specific you’d like to dig deeper into, please leave a comment below or send me a note on Instagram.