Samantha Jones

Sam's Notebook

Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com.


Managing anxiety

Friday, January 17, 2020

Regular readers of this column know about my struggle with anxiety. It began at an early age, as it does for many of us. The anxiety led to insomnia, which led to lots of sleepless nights 末 the least fun domino effect ever, if you ask me.

It got worse in college, when I experienced my first full-blown panic attack. I still remember lowering myself from the top bunk as pain radiated across the left side of my body. I was convinced I was having a heart attack, but life felt so overwhelming that I went to class and hoped to drop dead on my way there. When the thought of dying brings relief, you should definitely seek professional help. I know I should have.

Fortunately, I dug myself out of that hole and started life in the real world. It hasn稚 always been easy, but I have worked hard to be successful despite that part of my brain that tells me I知 a total failure. Here are some ways I have found to cope with anxiety, and I hope it helps you, too!

1. Come up with a mantra. A good mantra can pull you out of a downward spiral 末 it痴 a great way to ground yourself when the world is spinning around you. My mantra is, 的 am strong and brave. I致e made it through worse. I値l make it through this. Feel free to steal that or come up with something that means something to you. I repeat my mantra in the bathroom mirror when things feel too overwhelming. It sounds cheesy, but it works! Everything will be OK.

2. Practice meaningful breathing exercises. This is especially useful if you feel a panic attack coming on, because it gives you something else to focus on. Take three deep breaths, in and out, as long as you need to. Breathing out is important 末 it痴 a release in more than one way. Take your time and listen to your body. Everything will be OK.

3. Find a creative outlet. Expressing yourself through all kinds of art is a wonderful way to harness those negative feelings and create something beautiful. Painting has been a life saver to me over the past two years. I had never painted before then because I thought I couldn稚 do it, but it turns out I can do it and, even better, it helps me calm down before I start freaking out. Don稚 worry about doing anything perfectly. Just pick up a paintbrush or a pen or an instrument and start creating. You will be surprised by how therapeutic it is to create.

4. Talk to someone. It doesn稚 have to be a therapist, though I壇 say all of us could use some therapy. I am grateful for my husband and several good friends who listen to what I have to say even when I feel like none of it makes sense. If you are worried about inadvertently turning your loved one into your therapist, it would be a good idea to seek professional help. But that doesn稚 mean you shouldn稚 feel comfortable expressing some feelings to loved ones. When it feels like an elephant is sitting on your chest, you have to get it off somehow. The people who love you are there to listen. Let them be there for you.

5. Be kind to yourself. This piece of advice was given to me after the death of a close friend a couple of years ago. Since then, I致e found that it applies to both grief and anxiety. Sometimes your brain will tell you that you are worthless 末 I know that feeling all too well. When that happens, treat yourself the way you壇 treat a struggling friend. Would you call them a failure, or would you remind them about their good qualities? You know the answer. If you wouldn稚 treat a friend the way you treat yourself, it痴 time to take a step back and remember your successes.

Of course I知 not a therapist, but these methods have helped me cope and sometimes overcome bouts of anxiety. How about you? Have you found other ways to manage anxiety?

Let me know and, in the meantime, be kind to yourself.