Thursday, June 30, 2016

Don't Get Too Comfortable

Anxiety is a funny thing. You think you've got it together, and then BAM! No warning comes with it--no alarm bells, flashing lights, interruptions of regularly scheduled programming. Just a lightning bolt shock through your body. Or a rumbling up from your gut, like a dormant volcano making it's debut after years of stagnancy. It starts and then it fills your entire body. 

To this day, a lot of my anxiety comes on for no reason. I can be sitting on the couch reading a book and get flooded with emotion--unrelenting, anxious rumblings. My heart starts racing. I feel like I can jump right out of my skin. For no apparent reason other than I am just biologically prone to anxiety. My body goes into survival mode for no reason, and it is a very uncontrollable and uncomfortable feeling. 

I have been working on my anxiety for years. I have had anxiety my whole life, but it wasn't until my early 20's that I realized I needed to do something about it. It was affecting my life and how I lived my life. I struggled to talk to new people in college. Back then I'd rather hang out in my dorm by myself, in Bjorn's room by myself, or take a weekend trip home. I felt like the world was imploding on me. Sitting in the dining hall by myself felt like the end of the world. I never felt like there was a place to sit where no one would notice me, so I ate in my room a lot. Sometimes I couldn't eat. My anxiety was so bad that I just couldn't stomach food, and eventually lost a lot of weight, not because of the stress of college, but because my anxiety was out of control. For real. 

"I can be on the couch reading a book and get flooded with emotion--unrelenting, anxious rumblings."


Now that I have strategies under my belt to help myself, I have learned that my anxiety thoughts are irrational. I always knew they were, but it's hard, in the moment, to believe it. The thoughts are so real that it feels like the 6 o'clock news reel replaying my head and I'm the subject of every story. Can this really happen? Is this really happening? Is that what those people are really thinking about me? Is that how I really come off? It's a never-ending cycle of ugliness and untruth that is meant to throw you out of yourself. It throws you out of yourself so far that you have to crawl back on hands and knees and beg for your life back. 

These irrational thoughts--the speeding heart rate, the sweaty palms, the hot flashes, the tunnel vision--are no joke. For me, there is only one way to get rid of them. I have to move. 

When I say I have to move, I have to run up and down stairs, I have to do jumping jacks, I have to jump rope, I have to break a serious sweat. Movement pumps blood throughout my body. It pumps endorphins through my body. Ironically, it brings my anxious heart beat down and replaces it with a moving, active heart beat. A heart beat that feels alive, strong, and confident. It throws my anxiety out the window and allows me to come back down to Earth. 

Recently, I have had some of these moments where I just couldn't get my anxiety to slow down. It registered between 8 and 10 on a scale of 1-10. As a teacher, summer idleness is not an anxious person's friend. One night I had a late night sweat session because I knew I would never get to sleep. I could hardly sit still on the couch, let alone go lie in bed and feign sleep. So at 9:30 at night, I got up, put on a YouTube video, and completed a 60 minute bar session. 

Now that was a needed (but serious) workout. I'm at the point on my journey with anxiety where I know how much I need to move in order to bring myself down. Tonight I could feel my anxiety creeping up, but I caught it early. 15 to 20 minutes of push ups, sit-ups, squats, and weight lifting did the trick. 

Using my chair as my barre for the night.

I used to think getting up and moving was the last thing I wanted to do when I was anxious. I needed to relax. I needed to take a breath. Well, that doesn't work. When you have anxiety, you need to be okay with being uncomfortable. It's okay to feel this way. It's okay to need to get up and move. Even if you're at work and you need to take a lap or two around your building. You have to help yourself help your body. 

If it takes 30 laps up and down your stairs, do it. If it takes a pretend jump rope session in your house or  20 laps around your basement, do it. If you need to power walk around your company's parking lot, do it. You will feel better. Your body will thank you. You'll know when you can stop, just start moving. Once you're on the right track, you'll feel the anxiety start to dissipate and your endorphins starting to take over. It's like a big sigh of relief. Just keep going until you feel it. 

Feeling much better after my workout.

Anxiety isn't comfortable. It is not fleeting. It's hard to come to this realization, but sometimes you just have to pull yourself up, no matter how bad you're feeling, and get moving. 

Love and happiness <3 Holly