Real Talk: Anxiety
A couple of months ago, when I started this whole project, I aimed to create something that wasn’t only an interesting read to anyone who stumbled across my site, but something that could serve as a vessel for my own personal journey. I’ve found writing to be so helpful as I wander down the road towards self-discovery, and talking with the incredible people in my life has been so insightful. I’ve had discussions with Olympic champions, successful business entrepreneurs and even a handful of parents, and every time I am always so surprised by how often some sort of taboo emotion comes up in conversation. I have found it so incredibly refreshing to see that these people who I look up to as professionals who “have it all together” face the inner turmoil that I experience day to day as well.
These days it seems that its very trendy to talk about emotions and break open difficult conversations, but I feel like the process of really genuinely talking about these kinds of things has gotten lost. People mention their struggles with anxiety, but I don’t feel like anyone really describes the deep dark struggle that you can truly face when up against it. The real conversation has been lost in the popularity of the trend and I find it so empty now as a topic. I think that people even starting to have discussions about difficult topics is already a huge leap in the right direction, and for me I wanted this site to be an open discussion. When I was sitting down planning what this blog would be I decided I wanted it to be light and airy, so I added a lot of fluff to my subjects. I also felt like it was time to open up on some of the nitty gritty ideas I have. I want “Real Talk” to be a place where you can actually unpack life’s real world problems. I asked a couple weeks back on my instagram what you guys would like to see from this piece, and I was so amazed at how many of you responded. What was also so interesting to me though, was the consistent string of issues so many of you wanted to discuss. We are all so tied together by the challenges in life and often we don’t realize just how many people are in similar shoes. Who knows, maybe this can actually help you in the way it has helped me!
First up: anxiety. This felt important to write about because it is something that is very, very real that I didn’t fully understand until last year. I am pretty new to the world of anxiety and I’m just really starting to wrap my head around what it really even is to me. Skating brought so much regimen and control into my life and that really gave me this sense of calm that I haven’t been able to appreciate until now. I will fully admit here and now that I used to see anxiety as something people should just let go of and get over. If I’m capable of performing in front of thousands of people why can’t someone just let go of their issues? Well the joke was on me because in rushed 2017 along with all of my brand new problems.
It is this tightness in my chest that crawls up into my throat. I feel like I can’t take a full breath. My brain feels like its tingling, and it’s on high alert. There is this pressure behind my eyes. I feel like I’m on the verge or screaming or crying or both. I can’t get myself to leave my house. I can’t sleep. I smile but I’m not sure it means anything. This is the ugly face of my anxiety. This is what it actually looks like to me. This is what I experience, and it’s important to know that it is different for everyone. I first discovered this hideous little beast after my house was broken into for the first time (this happened two more times after that). That event, combined with the chaos of the Olympic season created this monster of anxiety that I had absolutely no clue how to deal with. I lacked all tools to be able to wrangle in these feelings and it started to completely eat away at my health.
Anxiety and stress can manifest in the body in a multitude of ways. Is that science? Probably not, but that was my experience. For me, my immune system was completely compromised and I was constantly run down and sick. That on top of not sleeping anymore created a vicious cycle of catch up that I could never really win. I felt so distant from people, which then just left me feeling removed and like I had no real resources. It was like my life was being run by this thing that wasn’t even tangible, and I had no idea where to find it or how to deal with it. I was fighting an uphill battle and I was losing, big time.
This is where I’m going to talk about my personal remedies. Some of them might work, some of them might be completely useless, but this is what helped me get a grip on what I was dealing with. First things first, I acknowledged that I needed to get my sleep in. Your mind starts to do crazy stuff when it is running low on sleep. I looked up calming drinks that could make before bed and this is where I discovered the magic of Golden Milk. I’ll link a recipe in this story somehow but essentially you boil milk of your choice, along with some turmeric, cinnamon, coconut oil and a smidge of honey. This stuff knocks you right out. I will be passed out for the entire night after a cup of Golden Milk. Magic stuff. Also, never lie around in bed, save the bed for actual sleeping. I started watching tv on my couch, writing at my dinner table, and only reserved my bed for actual sleep.
This can be an eyeroll for some, but when I feel like I’m getting lost in my thoughts and the anxiety is bubbling up, I meditate. Getting back to that sense of center can really pull you out of the spiral and gain control. Giving yourself ten minutes to go sit somewhere quiet and close your eyes can save the day. It is usually really difficult for me to turn off my mind so I focus on counting to three on each inhale and exhale. It gives me something to do without taking away from the meditation. I use the app Calm and it will guide me through a session. I also really like using their sleep stories when I’m trying to drift off. It gives me noise, something to easily follow along with and quiets my thoughts. Even if you think meditating isn’t right for you, I strongly recommend just trying it out! It is a practiced habit, you won’t be good at it right away, but committing to it can really pay off.
Lastly, talk to someone! I don’t care if it is a friend or a paid professional. Once I started talking about what I was going through that is when I discovered that so many people are experiencing the same problems. You can find a community of people to lean on, and swap ideas for what works and what doesn’t. Seeing a therapist can also be extremely helpful, I found that letting an actual professional help take some of the weight off of my shoulders was a huge improvement in my day to day experience. Sometimes you just need some help, and admitting that to anyone can be extremely empowering. You don’t have to let this beast take over your life, you can find some tools and take control!
One last, last thing. Sometimes you might not have the immediate resource of someone to talk to. I have a journal that I write in just to get all of my thoughts down in. When my anxiety is really bad, I’ll open up my journal and just start writing. It spills out and somehow I feel just by writing it down on the paper, it makes an issue I have feel so real and tangible. Once it is out there in the universe then I feel a little bit more capable of dealing with it. It’s my quick fix to helping myself get through this. Sometimes whatever is bubbling up inside just needs to come out, and finding a way to access the issue is the hardest part. I’ve found that by being kinder and more understanding to yourself is the first step. You won’t always feel great, and you won’t always have a solution, but patience will give you the opportunity to find a way to get yourself to where you want to go.
So, there it is, my first installment to Real Talk. I will absolutely be coming back and adding onto what I’ve written about anxiety, but it will be a work in progress. Let me know if you guys want me to talk about anything specific, this should feel like an open discussion to anyone reading and I want people to really connect with the topics! Comment below and happy reading everyone!