Disclaimer: This blog post will be talking about my experience with panic and anxiety. This topic may be sensitive for some. Please take my advice/experience with a grain of salt and always consult your doctor first.
Hey everyone! I decided to write this post to my latest video, where I get candid about my anxiety and panic for the first time online. Like I said on YouTube, I’m a pretty anxious person – but since graduating, taking on Shop Spenny + Rach Speed full time, and finally being in one place for an extended period of time, my already-out of control worrying manifested into full blown panic by January.
That’s when I experienced my first panic attack. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was, but by the end of the week, I was experiencing them every 20 minutes on a constant loop – with a feeling that nothing could calm me down and that I was never, ever going to be okay again. It was definitely a rough start to 2017, and as the days rolled on I became increasingly lethargic and started to experience moments of “derealization”, which made me truly feel like I was in a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from. It made me feel like I was unable to be present in the moment.
Days felt dark, and nights felt even darker – ever since my first year in university, my stress and anxiety had always resulted in sleeping issues. Going to bed became terrifying for me, and more nights than not, I often slept in my mother’s bed for comfort.
If you know me personally, you probably know that I’m also a Google-doctor/hypochondriac, and I often seek reassurance by looking things up online. Sometimes this can be helpful, and other times – it definitely isn’t! Even though this is where I first found out that what I was experiencing was just sheer panic, I also sometimes left feeling discouraged because I wasn’t finding the answers about anxiety that I was seeking.
After a few weeks of feeling like total crap, I went to see my family doctor. I won’t go into full details of this as I’ve only been on this journey for around two months, and I don’t exactly have a medical game plan yet. However, one thing I do know – thanks to my doctor and the world wide web – is that the true “cure” to anxiety will not be found in a medication, although it can be extremely helpful and a big part of one’s healing process.
It’s been a true struggle trying to manage my rampant, wild, repetitive thoughts and worries, but I’m slowly getting better. I can say I’m improving each and every day – and things that seemed scary or overwhelming aren’t anymore. Thanks to some wonderful people in my life, I already intended to begin CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) after they said it completely changed them. It’s a lot of hard work and can be an emotional experience, but it was certainly effective and I’m putting the effort in daily to retrain my thoughts. Although I’m a proud owner of my own copy of Mind Over Mood, I found it quite overwhelming to finish reading it – much less complete over a hundred pages of thought exercises.
Then, after watching a Netflix documentary with my mom called Minalism, I was introduced to journalist Dan Harris (who suffered a panic attack on live television) and how meditation helped clear his anxiety. At that point, I was completely desperate for a solution. I wasn’t sleeping, eating (barely) and getting any of my work done.
This is when I began to start researching CBT & Meditation more in depth. I couldn’t really find anyone’s clear-cut or detailed experience on how they recovered from anxiety, so a lot of what worked for me was based off trial and error. Two months later, I’m happy to say that I have finally found some tools that work for me. There is not one, solid cure for curing anxiety – but there is hope. Anxiety and panic are extremely treatable, and even though it takes time, it does get better. Taking care of your mental health is just as crucial as tending to the physical – and often times, they are totally correlated.
I mention a lot of these things in the video, but I wanted to write them here for those who prefer reading. Definitely check out the video for more in-depth details!
I like to call these “tools” because to me, they are just that. I can’t say that one is more effective than the other, but combined I have completely seen a change in my mental health and outlook. I’m actually looking forward to doing things, going out and living well. I’m really excited to share what’s been working for me – and I hope that it can help you too! It’s taken a while to find what works for me (so far), so don’t feel discouraged if these things don’t work for you. But they are definitely a good start! You got this.
The two apps that I’ve been using to clear my panic and anxiety are Calm & Pacifica. I’ve downloaded a ton of apps, but I personally think that these ones are the best! I use them everyday and often. Although quite different, both have an intense focus on mindfulness and are great at getting me back to feeling neutral.
Calm is the best app (IMO) for meditation. I won’t go into the details of why meditation is so beneficial, but several studies have shown a significant reduction of stress, anxiety and depression in those who meditate. I really like the guided meditations because for a beginner, it can be really challenging sitting alone with your thoughts. I’ve gotten to a place where I meditate each morning and night, and also listen to a sleep story when I go to bed. I find the sleep stories REALLY effective, especially for those who tend to overthink at night. They are really calming and lull me to sleep every time.
Pacifica is what I used to fully understand CBT. I still have a long way to go, but I already feel drastically different than when I started. This whole app is amazing! Along with guided meditations (I still prefer Calm’s), they have a mood tracker, which is really great for putting your feelings into perspective. They are able to break down your mood with real numbers, and more often than not, I generally felt much better throughout the week than I thought I did. The new “Guided Paths” option is where I learned the most about CBT, and how I can use this app to it’s full potential. I paid for the full app because it’s really affordable and effective (worked out to be about $4 a month). It’s been really helpful in reframing my thoughts, and “retraining” my brain, so to speak.
“The Anxiety Coaches Podcast”has also really helped! Gina Ryan is really informative and explains super well what happens when you experience panic and anxiety. There are over 250 podcasts to listen to, and two new episodes are posted a week. She’s really calm and I always feel more reassured when I listen to her.
The more I look in anxiety, the more I believe in natural remedies. I wasn’t totally into this before, but like I said, I was desperate. Now I’m way more open minded to natural remedies. So far I’m using lavender to relax and sleep and taking magnesium supplements for muscle relaxation. I can’t really say if they’re totally working, as I’m using a lot of things right now – but I do believe they are helping me be at ease!
I also haven’t drank caffeine pretty much in years, which is a definite “do” when it comes to anxiousness.
Although it’s only been a couple months, I can definitely say I’m feeling a lot better than I did before. Before I was feeling really hopeless, scared and fearful. Now I’m feeling a lot more like me. I’ve had to work really hard at changing all of this, but I’m glad that I didn’t give up. I’m super focused on my healing and feeling more positive than I have all year. I don’t want to get all ~zen~ on ya, but I’m feel way more in tune with my spirituality, mind and life than I ever have before. I’m also trying to focus on self-compassion and not being so hard on myself. It’s all a process but I’m still learning. I’ll definitely add more helpful tips/what’s been working for me if anything else comes into play!
The main takeaway from what I learned so far is not to judge my thoughts. Anxious thoughts aren’t bad, but they aren’t always helpful. It’s not about having “no worries”, but rather not letting them control me, my actions or my life. It’s okay to be anxious, worry or even feel panic. The less I associate these feelings with sadness or doom, the more clear I feel.
I have a deep appreciation for you all. Thank you so much for your support & I’m really excited for what’s to come!
Ps. Sleeping update: I am sleeping in my own bed again, well and on my own. Yay!