My anxiety can make me feel like I’m drowning. Constantly being hit by wave after wave of life’s problems, I can’t seem to keep my head above all of the worry and stress. Even when it’s calm, I am anticipating the next swell, worrying about when I will be pushed under again. This summer, in particular, was hard for me, though I didn’t want to admit to myself how bad things had gotten. Surface distractions weren’t working anymore. My worries and tension were starting to seep into my swims, time in my veggie garden, and even video chats and online games with friends. The moment I wasn’t distracted by an activity, worries would completely consume me, and it was nearly impossible to climb out of the overwhelming sadness that accompanied my anxious thoughts. I need to get to a place where I can stop worrying about the coming swells, and learn instead to play in the waves.
I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) when I was 19. Three years later, I was diagnosed with ADHD. Not surprisingly, many experts have noted that around half of adults with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder. Even though my anxiety diagnosis came first, I never really took it seriously. I just figured, ok so I can’t relax and I worry about pretty much everything. After my ADHD diagnosis, I began researching and learning ways my brain worked, so I could overcome challenges and use my ADHD to my advantage. Dealing with my ADHD did help with some of the anxiety, but I still wasn’t addressing the GAD on its own. I’ve realized now that I need to address it. I don’t need to just accept and suffer through the symptoms of GAD. I can do something about this.
A few weeks ago I decided to make a plan. I want to implement these from now until the end of the year and hopefully I will see an improvement. Here is what I’m going to try!
1. Work Through a Cognitive Therapy Workbook
Back when I was living in Scotland, quite a few years ago, my day-to-day anxiety was the lowest it had ever been. Unfortunately, I started having panic attacks when I felt most relaxed. I ended up seeing a doctor about it. He recommended a specific cognitive therapy workbook that I could purchase online. I thought it was ridiculous that a book could help my anxiety, so I never ended up buying it. At that time, I wasn’t willing to put in the work to help manage my anxiety, but I am now! I purchased the book that had been recommended and am very excited to get started on the exercises.
2. Practice Gratitude
This is a really popular concept that I hear many people say they do and it does make sense. If you focus yourself to think of good things in your life, you start to train your brain to recognize the positives instead of always focusing on the negatives. Some people are proactive enough to just jot a few things they are grateful for in a notebook at the end of every day, but I have trouble with consistency. I ended up buying a guided journal with sections to fill in every morning and evening. It contains other prompts besides gratitude that should be interesting to reflect on as well. I’m hoping that having something a little more structured will help me stick with it!
3. Keep Fit and Eat Well
Keeping the body healthy certainly helps with anxiety and will help with some of the issues that can make my anxiety worse, like joint pain and not being able to fit my clothes well. With the colder temperatures of fall, regular lake swims are no longer an option for exercise. Thankfully, physiotherapy is helping with my ankle injury and walks are possible again. I hopefully will have enough strength in my ankle to soon return to more vigorous morning home workouts. I enjoy being active, so that is not usually a struggle for me to keep up with.
Maintaining a healthy diet on the other hand, is much more difficult for me. I love my snacks, and if it’s pretty much pure sugar, I love it even more. While I don’t plan on cutting out treats completely, I do hope that my willpower can help me reduce my snacking and focus on eating healthy meals.
4. Writing Regularly in my Prayer Journal
Prayer is so helpful for combatting anxiety. Problem is, with my ADHD, I find it so hard to stay on track when I’m praying. My mind goes in a million different directions and often what started as prayer, turns into worry. Writing in a prayer journal helps to keep me in the moment. If I lose focus, I can look back at my last sentence and continue from there. Another perk of having a prayer journal, is that I can look back and see how God has answered my prayers in ways I could have never imagined.
5. Social Media Detox
I really hate to admit how much time I spend on social media apps. Although I use it as a tool to help distract me from anxious thoughts, it can also be the cause of them. I have noticed that certain pages or types of posts will cause a spike in my anxiety, so I’m going to start by unfollowing anything that consistently posts things that bother me. I will focus instead on pages that have all the good feels, posting positive content and beautiful pictures. I will also try to stay off my phone in the evenings. I am getting back into crocheting, though I wouldn’t necessarily classify that as a stress free activity for me!
I’m really not sure how this will go. I realize that what works for one person, might not work for me, but it’s time that I gave some options a try. Hopefully with a change of mindset and reducing external stressors, I will be able to bring my anxiety down to a more manageable level. In a few months or so, I will post an update on how things are going, and whether or not I find these techniques for dealing with anxiety helpful. I am going into this process with optimism and an open mind. I hope that this will be the start of getting to where I want to be.