The Second Step: Battling Your Anxiety Disorder

As the second installment in the series Steps to Battling Your Anxiety Disorder, this post aims to dig a little deeper into understanding your personal struggle with anxiety. In The First Step, we explored possible causation of your anxiety problems. This post will discuss common anxiety and panic triggers in the hopes that this part of our journey will help you discover your own anxiety triggers, because once you become aware of them, you have the power to change their effect on you. 

There is a huge misconception in society about anxiety disorders. We tend to be lumped into one large group despite how enormously different each anxiety condition is; and within that how vastly different any given disorder can present itself from person to person. That is a huge problem. This general assumption that we are “all alike” can hinder our own progress into becoming better at coping with our conditions.

In order to combat this, we all need to take The Second Step in our journeys in having a less anxious life, which is finding and understanding our unique personal triggers that worsen our anxiety. 

The Second Step:

As previously stated, The Second Step is finding and understanding our anxiety triggers. However, this step can be taken multiple different ways, and may include smaller steps, but as long as at the end of this process we have a better understanding of ourselves, then we have succeeded.

Do not become fixated on the idea that there is one ideal path in accomplishing this Step, that defeats the idea that we are individuals, with individual thoughts and feelings. In fact, this Step may be one of the ones where there is more variation from person to person than the rest that will follow in this series. And that is perfectly okay!

Start taking daily “Anxiety Inventories”

What is an “Anxiety Inventory” and how do I use it to help me? This just means that you are actively monitoring your anxiety levels throughout the day and taking note of it. I mean I literally want you to PHYSICALLY take down notes on how you feel throughout the day. It can be as minimal as typing a quick blurb into the Notes app on your phone. As long as you are noting what you are doing and how you are feeling then your Anxiety Inventory is adequate. Look for patterns of actions you are doing when your anxiety levels are heightened; this is a really strong sign you have found one of your triggers.

Its also really important to know going into this that anxiety triggers are usually not obvious. That is why using an Anxiety Inventory in the beginning of your progress is so important. As I shared in my introductory post, I have a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder with intermittent panic episodes. With a diagnosis that is as general (*pun*), my triggers are likely not the triggers of someone else with the same diagnosis. As stated above, triggers vary hugely from person to person.

Through taking my own Anxiety Inventories I have come up with the following personal triggers so far:

  • Drinking more than one caffeinated drink a day
  • Plans or schedules that change multiple times
  • Running errands for more than a few hours
  • Heavy traffic/Stop-and-go traffic

If I hadn’t started closely monitoring my feelings throughout the day (and for about two weeks) I never would have noticed the patterns that trigger me to become more anxious. I usually am a three shots of espresso (one Starbucks latte) per day type person. And have been for years. I am really used to that level of caffeine but if I drink multiple cups of coffee it causes me to become really jittery and on edge. This is something that never happened to me pre-diagnosis, but does now that I have developed this condition. Which leads me to my next point, Your triggers may be things that never upset you or caused you stress before, and they can change at any time. As for the rest of my triggers, they tend to go along with the fact that I am a Type A person. I like to know exactly how my day is going to go, and unplanned for or unseen events make me anxious. It can even be as simple as my partner saying he wants to go to one store to buy an item, but then drags me to two stores afterward. The unplanned trips and unplanned use of time has (and still often does) caused me to have a panic episode.

If I wasn’t taking these inventories to look for these patterns, it may seem that I was just having a random panic episode, with no correlation to what I had done that day. But for me, that usually isn’t the case. I now know that my panic episodes are usually always caused by something, which gives me the power to do what I can to avoid them. 

This isn’t to say that some anxiety attacks don’t happen randomly, but you can reduce the likelihood of having triggered ones significantly.

I now know that I should keep a planner with me so I can map out the schedule for my week to reduce the likelihood of unplanned events. I limit myself to one cup of coffee, or go half-caff on the second one if I desperately need another. I can’t always do much about traffic, but I can try to avoid roads and interstates during rush hour times, or take less populated routes to get to my destination.

This is where things may get a little different.

Each of us will need to play around and experiment with ways we can better handle our triggers once we find them. Some of us will have to plan better, some may have to use avoidance, and that is fine as long as it is done in a healthy manner. Your Anxiety Inventory may also take much longer than a few weeks, and that is fine as long as you stick to taking regular Inventories so you have plenty of notes to look back on.

All of this has helped me significantly. I encourage you to take down your own Anxiety Inventories every day for at least two weeks to look for patters for your own triggers.

Please, please always feel free to email me or comment to give me feedback on how your progress is going.

Remember, we are all on our own journeys together. 

Hugs and Positive Vibes,

Miss lessanxiouslife

 

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The First Step: Battling Your Anxiety Disorder 

As stated in the introductory post about my personal battle with anxiety, there isn’t a clear cut reason as to why I should become a voice for this issue. As a matter of fact, there are a couple of reasons why I should not:

  • don’t have a psychology degree.
  • haven’t suffered from this condition for years.
  • What has worked well for me so far may not work well for you.

However there is one reason why maybe everyone should at least give what I have to say a try: I am literally figuring this out as a go along. Just like many of you. And I am ready to try ANYTHING to help, and to share my experiences with you. 

And if you are going to start this journey with me, the best place to start is the beginning.

The First Step:

The first step in improving your quality of life when living with any variety of anxiety disorder, is to explore the root, or causation, of your condition. 

As I said for me, my condition is biological in nature. My brain either has a very hard time recognizing its own serotonin (happy chemical), or it either just has a very naturally low or non existent production of this in the first place.

With a biological-based condition like mine, sometimes you can only be offered this “Chicken or the Egg” scenario. 

This scenario more often leads to clinical depression in people, but others, like myself, develop an anxiety disorder.

Biological based conditions may also be hereditary in nature. Both of my parents have struggled with on-and-off depression, and I may have had an underlying predisposition for mental health problems my whole life. Ask yourself if either of your parents have had struggles with any type of mental health problems in the past. If so this may be the beginning of your first step. 

Anxiety disorders and other mental health problems can be brought on by traumatic or life changing experiences. If you fall into this category, I’m sure you can clearly recall the incident that may have started you down this path of having mental health problems. But your first step is to ask yourself why this event was so traumatic to you. How did it make you feel? Did you feel vulnerable, not in control of the situation, scared, or in danger? Did this event happen once or multiple times, and are you being put into this situation in the present time? The key here is to dig deeper into your own thoughts and emotions about the situation. This is your first step. 

It is also very important to note that many disorders are rooted in a combination of biological and situational factors.

Your first step may take you many places, but one of them should be to talk to a doctor.

They are professionals and didn’t go to school for 8+ years to not learn how to help their patients! A family doctor may be able to help you if your anxiety is biological in nature, and a psychiatrist may be able to help those whose anxiety is rooted through something else.

Taking the medication my doctor prescribed to me is exactly what I needed to take the edge off of my anxiety, and to give me the motivation to help myself even more beyond taking pills.

I can’t wait to share the rest of my journey with you. (It gets a lot more fun from this point forward, but you know, serious stuff first).

 

Hugs and Positive Vibes,

Miss lessanxiouslife

My Experience with Anxiety

For me, my anxiety disorder is still relatively new in my life. I am not someone who has struggled with it for my entire life, not even for a few years. My anxiety came on suddenly less than a year ago. So why should I be offering any kind of advice to others on how to handle such debilitating feelings? It would be easiest to have total transparency with you; to share my story and my first experiences with this disease. Because if I am not honest with you, my reader, I would never expect you to respect any of the advice I truly hope you are able to gain as this blog progresses.

It is first important to know that it is not in my nature to ever become complacent where I am in life, in any aspect. I am a genuine, full fledged, over-planning, by-the-book, “Type A” perfectionist. This has been true for me since I left the womb, and I am fully aware of its pitfalls (although, to me, there are several benefits as well). So when I experienced my first panic attack about 6 months ago, I thought it was a fluke thing. I was mildly concerned, but at the time I wasn’t even sure that what I had just experienced was a panic attack because, as I said, it was my first one ever. I had nothing to compare it to. But when within  a week of that first attack, I had already had three more, I knew something was wrong. And because of my personality, I immediately scheduled an appointment with my doctor to try to figure out what was going on.

Before I finally gotten in to my appointment I was regularly having about two panic attacks a week. I started living in a constant state of fear about when the next one would strike.

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Flash forward another week and a half later, I was finally sitting in the waiting room at my doctor’s office waiting for my appointment to begin. As a ‘Type A’ person, I absolutely hate admitting there might be something “wrong or abnormal” about me, and I knew this appointment was going to make me feel extremely uncomfortable, so I asked my boyfriend to accompany me. Just as I was getting called to the back, my boyfriend texted me and told me he wouldn’t be able to make it because he was stuck in a traffic jam due to an accident on the highway. At that exact moment, I felt my body instantly get hot and tears started streaming out of my eyes. Attacks tend to manifest very differently from person to person, but I tend to get hot, I almost always start crying and hyperventilating, and I get this feeling as if I am detached from my own body. The nurse who was taking my vitals tried several times to take my blood pressure but couldn’t because I was too hysterical and it was causing my blood pressure to go through the roof.

It was like “Hi, I’m here to talk about my anxiety problems, in case you didn’t get that already.”

To make a very long story shorter, I left the office that day with a prescription for 10mg/day of Lexapro to help me feel better from day to day.

A month later I was back in her office because, I did finally feel a little better thanks to the medicine, but I still didn’t feel like the old MEAnd I was still having regular panic attacks. That day I left with the highest allotted Lexapro dosage, a prescription for Klonopin to combat the attacks, and the suggestion that I start taking up regular physical activity.

But the most important thing I left with that day, is the knowledge that for whatever unknown reason, my brain stopped making its own Serotonin, which lead to my Anxiety Disorder. 

Flash forward again to the present moment, of me finally opening up about a very under talked about mental disease, and experiencing a new understanding for myself and an appreciation for the new me. I may never be exactly like “the old me” ever again, but I finally realized that is OKAY. 

This site is for anyone who wants to accompany me on this journey of self acceptance, of discovering better coping methods, and to help others realize that just because you can’t see the mental war that is constantly waging in our minds, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. 

Hugs and positive vibes,

 Miss lessanxiouslife