Tuesday, February 16, 2021

7 Ways I'm Dealing with Anxiety

Disclaimer: The information in this post is educational only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice. If you are in crisis, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.  This post contains an affiliate link.

Got anxiety?

I do. Full disclosure, I am a high-strung, type A person. Oh, sure, laugh. I know it's pretty obvious. Those of you who know me are not going to be surprised by this disclosure. 

Looking back on my childhood, I was an anxious child, but in those days, the attitude was 'suck it up'. No one talked about anxiety or depression. There was no therapy--at least not in the small town where I grew up. So it's no wonder that I didn't develop much in the way of effective coping skills. By the time I hit my 20s, I turned to some pretty maladaptive coping mechanisms to manage my nerves.

As you might expect, that didn't work out so well for me, and long story short, I discovered running. Running helped me burn off that nervous energy and helped me calm myself. Running also gave me self-confidence, which helped me feel a sense of control over my life. Unfortunately, running and fitness weren't always the answer. Occasionally, I've had to deal with overwhelming anxiety that couldn't be relieved by a good pavement pounding.  

Like now.

The events of the past year--the pandemic and the political unrest--have really stoked the anxiety fires. I know it's not just me. I'm seeing it in my young patients and their parents too. But just because so many other people are feeling this way, it's not a misery loves company thing. Instead, it just makes me feel all the more helpless. Add to that the social isolation, the recent assault on the Capitol, and this never-ending cold, snowy winter-- well, I recently came as close to falling apart as I have in years.


It's been tough. I felt so hopeful after I received both doses of the vaccine, but not long after I received the second dose, the reality set in that not much has changed. We're still masking and social distancing as variants of the virus are emerging. As my anxiety escalated, I went to see my doctor. I left with a prescription for an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medicine, which she told me she has been handing out like candy. Just like what I'm seeing in my own practice. I don't like the idea of taking medication for my symptoms, but if I had diabetes, I'd take insulin, right? I'm sharing this very personal information with the hopes that it will help someone else who is struggling. No judgment, please. My word for this year is STRONG and I'm on the road to finding it. 

For the purpose of this post, I want to share some of the tools in my anxiety toolbox that are helping me get on top of my distress. 

Running and Exercise

Ok, going with the tried and true first. Running is my favorite anti-anxiety remedy. Running is a diversion from the stuff in my head. This has been especially true when I'm running the trails, where I have to focus on the path ahead of me to avoid tripping over tree roots or uneven surfaces. Running fast and hard on the road feels amazing. Slow runs help me too, especially when I'm listening to music and find a rhythm with the songs playing through my earbuds. No matter what the activity, running and working out produces endorphins, those natural anti-anxiety chemicals. 

Getting Outside

I've really embraced nature this year, haven't I? It feels as if I found the trails at the right time in my life. I grew up in rural northern Illinois and as a child, spent most of my free time playing in the woods behind my house and my grandparents' farm. Running trails brings me back to that. I'm looking forward to more exploring this year--both running and hiking. There is beauty in every season and I always feel so much better after being outside, even in the bitter cold.

Connecting with other people

The past year has been a lonely time. Zoom chats are nice and all, but they are no substitute for the real thing and hugs! I miss hugs. I'm really grateful for my job, where I spend time with not only my patients but also my co-workers. I work with a wonderful team and they've been a huge support for me. Seeing my sons, my sister, and my parents have been limited and it feels so wonderful when we do get together. I recently returned to CrossFit classes, which was a great feeling. 

Decluttering 

Marie Kondo would tell you that 'the best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one hand and ask: does this spark joy?'. Ok, for me it's not as simple as that. We have 25 years of memories in this house and frankly, it's a little overwhelming. Where to start? I'm tackling things one small chunk at a time. Cleaning and organizing really do help reduce anxiety; I feel much calmer now looking at the tidy bookshelves in my family room. 

Meditation

I am so fortunate that my employer provided all of us with a subscription to Headspace. There is a free version as well. Headspace is an app that teaches guided meditation through structured segments. I'm a terrible meditator; my mind always wanders. Headspace has cool graphics that help me focus. According to Wirecutter, Headspace has "the best educational curriculum found in a meditation app. You could use it like a class with very specific levels to graduate from..." For me, this feature will keep me using the app daily. There are everyday meditations and you can vary the length of time, which is nice. There are also sleep meditations, which would be very useful for those nights I struggle with sleep. I like this app. There are others out there, but for me, I'm finding it to be very useful to help me find some calm.

Music

I've shared my love of music many times here on the blog. While I don't listen to music on the trails, when I'm running on the road or on the bike path, I'm cruising my miles, one song at a time. Sometimes I even sing along. At home, turning off the news and listening to music has been like a balm for my soul. What do I listen to? It depends. I've been in a nostalgic mood lately and have been listening to 70s rock and pop while I'm running. At home, I tend to listen to alternative country/folk. It's probably my favorite way to relax.

CBD

CBD is cannabidiol, which is the non-intoxicating form of cannabis. Early research is promising in CBD oil's effects on anxiety. I've been using ChilWellness's CBD mellow mint oil, especially at night when I'm having trouble falling asleep. I can't say enough good things about this product--it is really effective and has no side effects. ChilWellness Mellow Mint Drops contain high quality, powerful, and safe ingredients like full-spectrum CBD, peppermint oil, and hemp seed oil. CBD mellow mint oil does not contain any THC. 



How do you manage anxiety? Have you ever tried CBD? Would you like to? I'm giving away one bottle of ChilWellness Mellow Mint Drops on my Instagram. If you can't wait to see if you won, ChilWellness is having a BOGO special! Use the code MMBOGO to get a second bottle free when you purchase one. Good stuff!

Got anxiety? I'm giving away a bottle of @ChilWellness Mellow Mint CBD drops /via @oldrunningmom #running #runchat #MellowMintBOGO #MMBOGO #chilwellness #CBDwellness #CBDhealth #giveaway

I'm linking up with Kim and Zenaida for Tuesday Topics and with the Runners' Roundup: DebbieDeborahJenLaura, and Lisa.  

 


45 comments :

  1. I won't say that I never get anxious, or that the past year+ hasn't been hard -- even once my mom has been vaccinated, I'm still at risk and I'm not sure if I'll feel comfortable hugging her even then. And I haven't hugged her in a year -- how many years does she have left at 93?

    Anyway, though, in general I'm not a super anxious person. I found meditation quite a few years ago and it has definitely helped me a great deal. Nature is a great soother, too, although it's just a little hard right now with the ice sleeting down. :)

    Like anything in life though, this too shall pass!

    All great suggestions Wendy. I know this probably wasn't easy to share, but it's going to help a lot of people.

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    1. Forgot to mention a light box in the mornings. My husband just got me a new one for my birthday -- the one I had the rechargeable battery was slowly dying (I've had it quite a few years & use it most mornings, year round).

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    2. I've heard good things about the light box. Natural light is one of the reasons I try to get outside for my runs. Helps a ton.

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  2. I'm so sorry your anxiety is high right now. I miss our lunches and our hugs. I feel you on the decluttering and the calm it promotes, yet I am a work in progress on that. I'm calling our kitchen project ZenKitchen because I know I've got to let go of so much stuff. I'm glad you found the trails because they are amazing for a sense of calm and peace in the universe. Sending you warm, calm Florida vibes. Wish you were here. xo

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    1. I miss you too! It's been a really tough time for me since the beginning of the new year. Here's to hoping for better days ahead!

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  3. Oh, that CDB Chil sounds amazing! I've tried one for the night- I think the brand is Charlotte's Web. I feel like it helps me sleep! I will have to check out your instagram.

    Great tips Wendy!

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    1. It’s so great that there are some really quality CBD products out there!

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  4. It sounds like our early years were similar. I was known in my family as being "high strung." I had to be "handled" delicately. I was and am borderline OCD. Thank goodness for my sainted mother or I would not have survived intact.

    My coping mechanism was food. By the time I was in college I ballooned to 190 lbs., size 20. And, like, you, I found better coping skills in time.

    This has been a life-changing era for us all. It's ugly, it's sad, and it's depressing. But we will get better.

    As you know, I miss running, and while my greatest anti-anxiety activities are not well, active, I lean on them for sanity. Counted-cross stitching is my Nirvana. Reading. Writing. Cooking and baking without having to watch the clock is a gift ("Retirement" is one of the most beautiful words in the English language). Communicating through the internet, Skyping weekly with our son in Los Angeles, e-mailing, messaging, and f/b. We do what we can.

    A year-and-a-half from 70, I've let go what I cannot do. Right now, I cannot even walk outside. I am not as steady on my feet as I used to be. It's not safe. Folks don't shovel and walking city streets in the ice and snow is dangerous. It's taken a long time coming to this point, but I accept with peace that I cannot do what I wish right now and know that I will return to it when I can. It will do. It has to.

    Be well. Stay safe. I wish I could hug you. Here one, virtual (Insert hug emoji here).

    Your friend back East.
    ~Connie

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    1. As always, I so appreciate your support and friendship. It’s really been a tough time. Together, we will get through this.

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  5. I think one of the first things I said to you when we first "met" through our blogs, was that I admired/loved your honesty and ability to be vulnerable on the blog. (Those were the early days of your RA diagnosis). Putting yourself out there in the hope of helping someone is true strength. I'm sorry you've been feeling this way but also so proud of the healthy coping strategies you are using to get through it. There are many moments where I've woken up feeling anxious even when things are seemingly okay. Well our new version of "okay". And then I have to remind myself, how can I not feel anxious with all this going on? How is it possible not to feel this way at this time? But let's keep running, keep talking, keep decluttering, keep taking it one step at a time.

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    1. I’m so grateful for your kind words. My first draft of this post was more superficial, but I wanted to support others who are feeling like I am. Anxiety definitely makes me feel isolated, but reaching out to others really has been helpful. Let’s keep talking and sharing. Together, we will get through this!

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  6. Another Type A person here, lol. I've always been a bit of an anxious person but I've noticed it more over the past year. Music helps me as well, but I've also gotten into 5-10 minute meditations. Even doing a quick 5 minute meditation during the work day is very helpful.

    I am going to check out the CBD product that you mentioned. I've tried one other brand of CBD but it didn't really do much for me.

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    1. I’ve been skeptical about CBD but in all honesty, this tincture has been very helpful!

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  7. I was just told the other day that Headspace was offering the app free to healthcare workers last year. Bummed I missed it. I don’t meditate but maybe I should.
    I listen to Easy pop on Amazon music when I’m cooking dinner, I find it relaxing. Lots of good songs.

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  8. It's extremely STRONG to share your vulnerability on here and I salute you and also offer you a virtual hug from over the ocean (not that useful a hug, I will admit!). I used to only have depression but developed anxiety a couple of decades ago, it's come and gone but it is far worse in this bit of lockdown and with our newish pets (how I wish we hadn't got them - but then my husband would have fallen apart). Running and nature, yes, indeed, and I play one mind-numbingly dull blocks game on my phone which does relax me. Trying to sleep better. CBD stuff is available here but I don't know about the purity or regulation of it.

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    1. I’m so sorry that you are also feeling anxious— this prolonged isolation isn’t good for any of us! Yes to the mind numbing games. I’m still wasting time on that home decor game, lol

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  9. This is a great post, Wendy!
    I love that you focus on what helped you - I am sure there are MANY out there who need to read this.

    Running/exercise has been my therapy as well and getting outdoors is so important.
    Thank you for recommending the CBD oil. I have taken some in the past to rub on sore muscles, but never to ingest.
    I need to try that!

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    1. I was a big fan of the topical CBD but I finally gave in and tried the drops. It really was helpful for me, especially at night when I couldn’t sleep!

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  10. One Little Item You Accidentally Omitted From Your List, FAMILY TIME - Spending Time With Your Husband, When He Isn't A Stress Case As Well - But Seriously, Zoom And Friends Have There Beneficial Properties But Family Is Where The Heart Is - Speaking Of Properties, I Have Been Growing High Strains Of CBD Plants For Years Now - I Keep Them Very Low And More Bush Like Than A Taller Higher Potency MJ Plants We Stereotypically Think Of - The Hand Salves Are Very Popular With Arthritis And Dry Desert Climates - They Also Make Simple Christmas Gifts - I Thank You So Much For Promoting The Mint Dropper And For Continuing To Educate Others - The World Needs More Wendys - Be Well This Week And Stay Strong - The Family Is Counting On You

    Cheers

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    1. I guess I’m just taking him for granted, lol! But you are right and that falls under my ‘connection’ category.

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  11. I do a lot of the same things as you. People overwhelm me, so connection is a tough one if I'm in the middle of a cycle or episode or whatever you want to call it.

    I entered the CBD giveaway. I never really thought about it, but I'm not sleeping again, so it might be nice to have something to take the edge off.

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    1. I’m grateful for all the little things that are helping me get through this tough time!

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  12. Tough times, for sure. It's great you have many options for dealing with your anxiety and stress. Now if this cold weather would just move on....

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  13. As always Wendy I appreciate your honesty. I'm really sorry that you've been struggling. I'm pretty Type A myself and there have been times over the past year where my stress level has been off the charts. Its great that you're enjoying the Headspace app - I've never tried it, but meditation has been a big help for me.

    Thanks for the CBD oil recommendation. I tried the other Chil Wellness products you've talked about for my aches and pains, but I haven't tried consuming CBD oil yet.

    Sending some virtual hugs your way!

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    1. I was reluctant to take the drops but after doing my due diligence, I decided to give it a go. I was pleasantly surprised by how effective they were. I'm sleeping much better overall, but I do still have an occasional sleepless night. I'm glad to have this option!

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  14. I'm sorry to hear anxiety has been a struggle. I've dealt with bad patches of anxiety with OCD-tendencies and phobias before, particularly postpartum (my Edinburgh score was high) and after having Covid. I had a panic attack in October and that was a wake up call to get my anxiety under control, but without medication. Medication is GREAT for many people...but I've also seen people still struggle on medication if they did not have other tools in their toolbox and I did not want that to be me. Running, weight lifting, time outside, and CBD have really helped me. I also significantly cut back on alcohol and caffeine (due to a GERD diagnosis) and that may be helping as well.

    The Chil Wellness drops are so helpful! I've tried other brands but theirs seems more effective (probably because it's third party tested!).

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    1. I'm so glad you've been able to manage your anxiety without medication. It's definitely a struggle either way. I'm just grateful to be feeling like myself again. Hopefully once the snow melts and spring returns, I'll be back to normal!

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  15. I am an anxious person too and the past year has definitely made it worse. Getting outside and running has been helpful, but this month has been challenging with the weather. CBD Oil sounds really interesting!

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    1. You are right-this month is when it all seemed to fall apart for me. Every day feels the same. Waiting for spring!

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  16. I needed this, thank you. I've gone back and forth about sharing the depression/anxiety of the last eleven months. One day I will.
    Arguing with myself to "get the fuck outside" especially on days when I'm not running gets old, but is so worth it in the end.

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    1. I know that there I are a lot of us out there, suffering in silence. I had the bones of this post in my draft folder, then the giveaway opportunity came my way, so it forced my hand. Glad I put it out there. It's been really tough. If you need to reach out in private, I'm here for you.

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  17. I am sorry that you are having such a rough time right now. This has been a really hard year for everyone. There is nothing to be ashamed of for taking anxiety medication if it can help you get through this rough time. I appreciate your honesty and openness and I hope that helps other people get the help that they might need now as well. hugs to you xoxo

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    1. On top of the anxiety was this feeling of overwhelming sadness--it just was such so awful. I never want to feel like that again.

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  18. Thank you for sharing this with us. I always appreciate your honesty and saying things like they are..no sugar coating. It is a rough time for everyone. There was a time when I was just feeling overwhelmed. It was just too much and I thought about going to the doctor to get something to deal with it. I didn't. I feel a lot of anger and resentment and need to find a way to deal with it or let it go. Hugs to you!!! Wish we could meet up and chat. I mean we do live in the same state. :-)

    Thank you for linking up with us!

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  19. I have anxiety as well and that is the main reason why I run. I also have been struggling a bit over the last year due to all the events in the world. It's overwhelming! Thankfully, I have used a lot of the coping skills that you mentioned and they have been so helpful. I tried CBD oil for the first time last year and I really like it. I also take medication and go to therapy. I love that mental health is becoming a topic that we can talk about openly now because it seems like it effects so many of us. Like you said, it used to be swept under the rug, but now we can share and get the help we need and deserve!

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing! I was reluctant to put my story out there because people can be judgey. Anxiety and depression are awful. I’m so glad you’re doing well!

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  20. No judgment on the medication- I take a thyroid medication every day, and what's the difference. In a recent podcast interview Alexi Pappas described mental health issues as similar to having an injury to your brain- it has to be recognized and treated just the same as if you injured your knee.
    All of your coping skills sound perfect. The pandemic (and other current events)is hard on everyone, but especially for people who suffer anxiety and depression. Add a harsh midwest winter on top of that... it's a tough time. We're all rooting for you.

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    1. I just read Bravey and I love how open she is about her struggles. I’m glad to be feeling better but so disappointed that I have to deal with this. What a tough time we are living in right now.

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  21. thank you for this post! you putting words to what so many of us experience. love & hugs

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  22. Thanks for this post.

    I pretty much worry a lot but you won't know it. Probably why I am such a poor sleeper. I just can't let things go at night. ugh!

    Running has helped me immensely but even more - hiking. There's something about being outdoors and in nature.

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    1. Nature and the trails has most definitely helped me too. I think this brutal winter has taken a toll on me because I can't get on the trails as much as I'd like.

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