As a kid, I was a very nervous child. The list of shows that I wasn’t allowed to watch has become a joke with my friends. They were banned because they gave me frequent nightmares long after I had actually watched the show. Even today, there are still movies and shows that I choose not to watch for my own mental sanity. Once something is in my head, it is very difficult to get it out.
I never thought to call the nervousness I felt anxiety until early in high school when I had my first panic attack. I remember that I was sitting in a math class, learning about some basic statistics. I always have been good at math, so it wasn’t the subject that triggered the attack. I can still see the board and where I was sitting.
The first thing I noticed was my heart racing. I had just been daydreaming about some story I wanted to write and suddenly I was thrown back into the present by a heart rate higher than I had ever experienced (I wasn’t very athletic). I said to myself, “why is your heart racing? You’re fine. You’re fine. Calm down. There’s nothing wrong here,” but the racing continued.
Then I felt the cold sweat. Suddenly, I couldn’t breathe anymore. The room was spinning and reality didn’t feel real. I don’t remember coming out of the attack but I somehow made it to my next class and, when I came to, my chest was hurting from the excitement of before.
Panic attacks and the constant worry about when I would experience the next episode became normal for me. It wasn’t until I opened up about what I was feeling that I learned that anxiety isn’t a normal way of life for everyone and didn’t have to be for me.
*If you struggle with anxiety, I encourage you to seek help. I am no expert on this topic and can only speak out of my own experience.
For me, attacks tend to follow a hoarding of emotions. What I mean by that is, I have found that attacks are far more infrequent when I am regularly honest with someone about what I feel and when I journal regularly. Not everyone is this way, but I have found that speaking to a friend, a counselor, a Lovely mentor, or a pastor helps me to overcome my anxiety.
I like to take time in the evening to daily ask myself these three questions:
What did I do well today?
I always start with this question. It’s important to recognize what it is that you do well. This can be as big as “I finished that project I was working on” or it could be as small as “I took ten minutes to self reflect and ask myself this question.” Make sure that you spend a good amount of time on this one and come up with at least three things.
What could I have done better at?
A lot of times, I feel anxious because I feel like I should be better at this, that, and the other thing or more successful or more patient or more whatever, the list is never ending. I try to be very specific and honest with this one but also try to no beat myself up for every flaw. “I could have held my temper a little better with ____.” “I could have been a little less distracted today.”
How can I do better tomorrow?
I try to keep this list in line with question 2 and doable. Doable things include: “count to ten before answering that person I lost it on today,” not go on social media while doing something important, etc. I try to be very specific and set goals for myself. And sometimes tomorrow doesn’t go as well as I had hoped, sometimes, what I did well is that I tried something new.I had heart a sports psychologist mention that this is how she encourages players to improve without becoming anxious and I incorporated it into a daily habit. This is just what I do to help with my anxiety and it helps me.
If this doesn’t work for you, seek support. Keep trying until you can live without fear and keep believing that that day will come. We’re in this together