When you feel the full force of the weight anxiety can bring, it can be as debilitating as a cold or flu. Stealing your sleep, tightness in your chest, lower back pain, sweats, headache, all of it.
It is a virus that gnaws on your cells; a bacteria that eats at your soul. It is a mind altering disease that will distort your entire reality. It will shift a seemingly normal and happy life into a wasteland of pit and despair. I am for the most part good at handling stress, out of necessity. I’m a natural worrier. My mom passed that lovely trait on to me. Something big, something small, doesn’t matter, we worry about it all. 😉
Back in about 2007 after my son was born, I had an emergency gallbladder surgery, my husband was laid off work, we lost our house, and moved away from all of our friends and family looking for work; I started noticing this unbearable tightness in my chest. It was one that didn’t just disappear. I broke down and went to my doctor. Low and behold, I was having panic attacks. Hmmm, I can’t possibly imagine why that was happening.
He wrote me a prescription for Paxil and told me not to worry as much. Doctor’s orders. Just don’t worry.
We all know that is shit advice.
You can’t just not worry. Just like you can’t just hit a magical button to heal yourself from the flu. You have to take steps. Learn to explore ways to deal with the stress, not just mask it. You can work on the cause of it, not just focusing on the symptoms. You can learn to change the way you view your stressors, and better control how you react to them.
I found other ways to cope with the stress and anxiety. Yoga, writing, laughter, making sure I was getting enough Vitamin D, sleep, cut down on the caffeine, capoeira etc. After a year or so, I was able to get off the Paxil and learned how to monitor my stress/anxiety levels. For the most part, I do ok.
It’s mostly being aware of how you are feeling, and trying to find perspective on the things that weigh us down. Are we carrying burdens that we can’t remedy? Are we trying to save the world or become perfect? We have to know our limitations, and know when to raise our hands and ask for help. We have to take action on the things we can control, and learn to accept the things we can’t. We have to give ourselves permission to try, fail, and especially succeed.
Stress is good for us from a biological standpoint to a degree. It helps us see dangers and puts our body in a state of reaction. But it was originally designed for us to see a bear and react in a way to help us escape and survive that bear. But, when our system is overloaded with bear after bear, and some of those bears aren’t even really there, then that is when we become pumped so full of biological chemicals that our bodies shut down in a way. A physical illness caused by stress.
Lately, I have been feeling these symptoms again. I know tricks to heal, to calm myself, to feel better about things. But sometimes, it can just be too much. Work, kids, life, storms, dogs–it all adds up and can overtake your system. Mine is feeling a bit overloaded.
My plan is to step back a little bit and enjoy the hell out of the upcoming weekend at Music Midtown. Music festivals are my happy place. I am going to reset my system with good music, laughter, and dancing equally in the sunshine and the moonlight. When it’s over, I will return to my hectic life with a renewed spirit and a fresh perspective.
To others struggling with anxiety, take time for yourself. Give yourself permission to relax and enjoy the things you love. Get some sunshine. Laugh. Sing as loud as you can to a song that frees your soul.
Most of all…breathe.