It was back in 2017 when I had my first brush with anxiety. I had just called off a toxic engagement after a series of harrowing incidents. And as liberating as the decision felt, I had to deal with what came after the broken engagement. To add to it, I had just switched careers and started a new job in a media agency. Initially, the fall came in phases and then all of a sudden, it started with sleepless nights and waking up with a cold sweat if I could manage to sleep at all. Then it started manifesting more powerfully in the form of a stunted metabolism, weight gain, and palpitations.
Within a year, I was having anxiety attacks and back then I didn’t even know what anxiety felt like. I just thought I was tired ‘coz I couldn't sleep. It kept getting worse and arrived at a point when my head started getting all foggy. I started having moments when I just couldn't think and literally felt like my body would shut, one organ at a time. One of these days, a colleague who was on therapy for anxiety, saw me having an anxiety attack. She didn’t have to take a second guess to tell me that I was struggling with crippling anxiety and talked to me about it. Of course, she made a lot of sense. And while the advice of seeking therapy did appeal to me, I decided to first take charge and do something about it myself.
It has been three years since then and every day, I heal a little more. Of course, there are days when I feel slightly anxious but it isn’t crippling anymore and that for me has been a huge win. Yes, it has taken a lot of hard work. Yes, it has taken a lot of will power. But yes, it has also been worth it. Here’s how I overcame my crippling anxiety.
In his much-acclaimed book The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel van der Kolk talks about the complex effects that trauma can have on the human body. He throws light on how trauma can in fact be stored in our cells and passed on from one generation to the next. However, healing is possible and the first step towards it would be to deal with your traumas, with everything that haunts you.
For me as well, overcoming anxiety started with acceptance. I accepted that I was anxious. I accepted that I had some triggers that I needed to face and let go of. Writing helped me a great deal in that regard. I wrote everything down, forgave everyone who I felt had wronged me and apologised to everyone who I felt I had wronged. I did this exercise repeatedly, every morning after getting up.
To date, if things begin to get bad again, the first thing that I do is turn to the person sitting right next to me and share, “I am feeling anxious.” Accepting my situation and sharing it with people I trust has helped me a great deal in dealing with my anxiety.
While I have always eaten healthy, I have also had a sedentary lifestyle for most of my life. And with the increasing stress levels, it became important that I move and chase my endorphins. I started with morning walks and then graduated to yoga and weight training. Not gonna lie, it was both boring and difficult in the beginning. But it got better. I eventually got stronger and I can’t begin to tell you how much of that physical strength has turned into mental strength as well. In fact, I never miss my workout session on a bad day.
It was my lack of sleep combined with the anxiety that made it so crippling for me. I had to work on my sleeping pattern and honestly, working out mostly kinda took care of the same. Additionally, I stopped using my phone after a certain point and started reading at night instead. I mostly read about gratitude and manifestations and “The Secret” really did change a lot of things for me.
The messed up sleeping pattern and anxiety-induced nausea had severely impacted my gut health. I was suffering from severe acid reflux and it only worsened my palpitations. I reached out to a dietician and told her that a healthy gut was all that I was looking for. She gave me a diet that was high on nutrients, contained five servings of raw food and veggies and was protein-dense. I was consistent and it hardly took a couple of weeks for my gut to respond and calm down. Here’s what I did:
For the most part of my life, I used to be someone who’d always do her work at the last moment, and well, all that stress wasn’t helping. I thus actively took it upon myself to fight the habit and started doing my work well in advance. I have a presentation this weekend and all my work has already been done.
Part of the reason why I was feeling so worked up was also because I am an over-thinker and I was constantly imagining catastrophic scenarios. I had to put a brake on it and I constantly told my mind to think of good things. Now, every time I catch my head veering in the wrong direction, I pull myself back and think of all my blessings.
Lastly, it is important to understand that all of us have different experiences with anxiety. There are still days when I feel anxious but it has improved a lot. However, there are those who can benefit more from therapy and should go seek professional help.
Featured Image: Unsplash & Writer's Own