I’ve been feeling anxious lately. Here’s what’s helping.

When my anxiety is peaking it feels like I’ve got an intensely pissed off, hissing cat inside of me that is clawing to get out.  (That likely sounds crazy to you if you’ve never had anxiety, but there you go.)

Let me tell you, it’s really fucking exhausting spending your entire day trying to calm said pissed off cat and not let him escape.  Especially when you add the chaos of my (incredibly blessed) life to the mix – 3 boys each with different but equally competing needs, work, a business, husband’s intense job that has him away more often than not, limited social circle where we live, general global uncertainty, etc etc. 

When I’m really struggling, the cat escapes. I snap at my kids for things that wouldn’t normally make me angry. I get bitchy and blame my husband for all my problems because CLEARLY they’re all his fault. (Please read the sarcasm in this statement.) 

There are a few things that have made my anxiety rage recently. 

I was dry for July. I realised I’d been using alcohol to deal with any uncomfortable feelings I had. I wasn’t drinking a crazy amount but I was drinking too often. A glass of wine had become the fastest way to relax of an evening, instead of actually dealing with my emotions. I definitely feel healthier physically (no more brain fog in the morning) but I underestimated how much I had been putting off feelings. Now that I don’t have alcohol as an option it’s made me face a whole bunch of stuff I was putting off. Hello anxiety. 

I’m burnt out. Crispy. Completely, cooked. I’ve been doing too much for too long and all of a sudden my body, my brain and my heart are like… “ahhh nope. No. No way. We’re done”.  This is all just a sign that my high functioning anxiety has been in overdrive, I just haven’t been recognising it.  This is a pattern I get caught in all the time. While for some people anxiety makes them struggle to do anything, my anxiety pushes me to make plans, organise, clean, do more, more, more! Anything to distract me from actually feeling my feelings. I get rewarded for this because people say “Wow, you’re amazing. Look at all you can do.” Meanwhile I’m struggling BIG TIME on the inside.  

So here we are. 

feeling anxious

This is what I’ve been doing recently to manage my anxiety. 

I’ve gone into social media hibernation.

When I’m feeling good Instagram and Facebook are great, but when I’m in a not so great place it just seems to make this worse. Social media can be a great inspiration, but when I’m already feeling anxious it makes me feel like I should be doing more. And down the spiral I go. It also serves as yet another distraction from my feelings.

So it had to go. It also means there is one less thing on my to do list and I get to just create my actual work (yoga classes, videos, meditations etc) without the pressure to share on socials. Will it mean my business suffers? Possibly. I’ll report back and let you know.

I’ve given up coffee (again).  

I feel like I really should know better when it comes to coffee. I know it contributes to that anxious, jittery feeling. I know that when I’m not coping, coffee makes it worse. I know that coffee makes non-urgent things feel urgent. And yet it’s always the thing I cling to the longest when I’m struggling.  I hope that one day I’ll be able to break up with coffee for good. But for now, even just being off for a couple of weeks has already helped me feel more grounded in my day to day. 

I ditched my to do list. 

Planning, organisation and lists can be tricky for me. I’ve once had my planning system described as “Bettina’s master list to take over the world” which was said in jest but completely sums up high-functioning anxiety. While planning and organisation is something that helps me to manage stress and anxiety, it also tends to be thing I lean on when I start spiralling. This in turn makes my anxiety worse because I just plan (and do) more, more, more to avoid feeling anxious. Which makes me need to plan, organise and CONTROL more and more. And down the spiral I go.  Eventually when I come up for a breath I find myself wondering why I have made some of the decisions I have.  Only to realise, of course I did that even though I was already burning out – I was running like crazy from anxiety. 

So for now, I’m giving myself permission to accept that “good enough is good enough”. I don’t need to be doing more. I’m going to sail for a bit and resist the urge to take on more.

I’ve spoken to friends. 

Look I’m not the best at taking my own advice, okay? Even though I frequently advocate for the importance of talking to others when you’re struggling, I tend to hold my own close to my heart. They say you teach what you need yourself right? So the other day I shared with a couple of those closest to me how I was feeling. Which of course was met with love and advice because my friends are amazing. Just the act of sharing helped to relieve some of the anxiety and of course they had some great suggestions too (because when you’re in anxiety you often can’t see some of the things you know help because you’re too far in it.)

I’m giving myself permission to feel yuck.

I think sometimes we (and by we, I mean me) try to rush through anything negative. I’m often too quick to try and jump to the solution and making myself feel better instead of just giving myself some time to sit in the yuck. But I think sometimes we just need to be in whatever shit we’re feeling and just let ourselves be there. With no agenda. Or timetable. With no plan to get out of the ‘funk’ (oh the anxious irony).

Just permission to allow whatever emotions need to be there to exist.  Of course, as soon as I stopped resisting the shit I was feeling, the lighter it started to feel. Instead of being an angry hissing cat of anxiety, she has become just a mildly moody one.  

I’m trying to get back into my good habits.

Meditation. Daily yoga. Writing. Time to work on “my things”. Reading. I know that all of these things help to keep me steady (and sane). And yet I still fall into the cycle of feeling good – so I let some of these slip – I get busy – I let some more slip – I get stressed – I feel so stressed I believe I don’t have time for any of these things = hello anxiety spiral.

So stepping back out for me has to include putting some of these back in. Only little by little though (remember over-achiever over here can turn a positive actions into anxiety just by planning to do all the things all at once). After a week or so of doing a little bit of these things each day I am starting to feel like the fog is lifting. 

Why do I tell you all this?

I think it’s easy to assume that I’ve somehow ‘solved’ this anxiety thing because I talk about my experiences in the past and share tools to help.  But I don’t think anxiety is ever something that I will be rid of entirely. I know my triggers. Stress. Being too busy. Not giving myself time to feel negative feelings. 

Yet I am still very much a human who avoids the negative where possible, even though I know it’s not good for me in the long term. I’m also a Mum in a stage of life which very naturally lends itself to having no time for looking after myself.

I don’t share this with you as an excuse. Only that I know for me it explains why I let myself do this over and over again. I hope by writing it down to share with you, that one day, (when perhaps I’ve written multiple times about the same thing) I will find a way to stay out of the anxiety spiral entirely.

And maybe you will too. x

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