being diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder made me realize how much pressure i put on myself. i push myself to my literal breaking point until i cannot go any further. i've been doing this ever since i can remember, but it started to become a problem in high school...particularly my senior year when suddenly adulthood was around the corner. i was taking two ap classes, applying to colleges, preparing for prom and graduation, all while trying to move out of an apartment my mom and i shared, and have a social life. when my face would burn and i felt like i was suffocating--in high school--i thought i was just being nervous. it wasn't until this year, i took the step to seek professional medical attention. my anxiety was sent into a spiral when i decided to study abroad in hong kong. between the loud sounds, constant smell of cigarette smoke + my asthma, not knowing the language, struggling with identity and making friends, fall semester was extremely rough for me. i even developed a skin condition called neurotic excoriations, which causes me to scratch and pick at my skin during times of panic. my skin got so bad that it began to bruise, burn, and ache constantly because the top layer was severely damaged. but, spring break of this year was when i sought counseling and was put on medication. along with the medication, i enrolled into my university's counseling service, moved-off campus, and regularly speak to family and friends for support. looking back to fall, i have improved so much.
my therapist told me that routines help those who struggle with anxiety because it gives us a checklist of what to do, and by following things step-by-step, we are able to focus on one thing at a time. when i have a panic attack, it is hard to focus on much. my brain flicks from the air quality, the heat, how clammy i feel, what i said to someone yesterday, how i didn't reply back fast enough, how i skipped a meal, what someone said to me during critque. so, in these moments i've developed a routine that has been working well for me these past couple of months. (enjoy + comment:)
take a walk. i have come to the conclusion that panic attacks are unavoidable, especially for someone with GAD. So, when i'm having a really bad panic--to the point where I can't control it by speaking to myself--i immediately step outside and take a walk. walking helps me tap into my senses. i usually take walks at night, when the city has quieted a little, and listen to music. i absolutely have to listen to music. it's soothing for me and if i don't have it on my walk, the racing thoughts continue.
eat something. during the school year, particularly after midterms this quarter when i went into a really dark place, i walked to the fancy gas station near the dorms. when i panic, my stomach twists, and the last thing i want to do is eat. but i find that if i walk somewhere, with the goal of eating in mind, i will most likely be calm enough to consume some food by the time i get back home. on these anxiety walks, i do eat junk, like candy and fast food. but for me, that is better than not eating at all.
remove makeup. after my walk, i've sort of calmed down. yet, my makeup seems like a heavy mask plastered to my face. i use the burt’s bees micellear water wipes. i love these, and because of my sensitive skin, there’s no irritation. then i use the bioderma sensibo cleanser to deep clean. if i’m feeling fancy i’ll use my origins anti-aging planscription cleanser and white tea lotion (which is a liquid lotion that has to be used with a cotton pad. i love the smell.) then, i’ll moisturize, wash my hair, and brush my teeth.
journal stresses. i don’t keep a typical journal. i do date my pages, but instead of writing long sentences, i prefer to journal short stanzas. i find this helps in processing my emotions faster than trying to fit it into a perfect sentence. i began writing this way in april and i have written every day since then. journaling this way prevents me from getting bored or unsatisfied because i couldn’t express myself fully. i also like journaling this way because it provides a basic format for my journal. all of my entries are in forms of theee. on the first page, before the entry starts, i write down all of the good things that happened that day. never the bad so that i can remain positive in the dark times.
watch movies. after journaling, i’ll curl into bed and watch a movie. usually a disney film, but always a kid’s movie. my therapist told me to avoid watching things that make me nervous or scared to avoid insomnia. the last movie i watched—during the day, of course—was big eyes. i’m glad i didn’t watch it at night. not a scary movie, just infuriating.
take meds. if i don’t think i can get through a movie before falling asleep, i take 10mg of lexapro. lexapro is an antidepressant and an anti-anxiety medication. it’s the first medication i’be ever taken, so unfortunately, i can’t compare it to other meds. but, other than it making me drowsy, i don’t have anything bad to say about it. it’s not very strong and i never feel like i’m not in control, which is something i worried about when i first started taking lexapro.
rest/sleep. sleeping after an anxiety attack is so important because it gives your body a chance to restore. once i’ve taken my medication, i’m usually asleep in under twenty minutes. the next morning, i take it easy. i don’t beat myself up if i lay in bed until 11 or get up at 9:30.
thanks for reading,
come back soon,