I had never really heard much about anxiety before I experienced my first panic attack. Even though it was something novel to me, in that moment I understood that I was unwell.
Over the next two years the attacks became a regular occurrence. At my worst I was having them every single day, sometimes even more than once. They were unpredictable for the most part and always untimely.
Signs and symptoms...
By this point, I had many of the typical signs and symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Some of these included: muscle tension, irritability, headaches, nausea, complete exhaustion, and constant worrying.
My anxiety was interfering with my ability to work and it got so bad that I was let go from a dream internship that I had just landed.
I had built a good network of friends and more and more of them started opening up to me about their own anxiety. It became apparent that this issue expanded beyond just me and that I was not alone.
I sought out help both conventionally and holistically. My doctor offered to put me on a daily anti-depressant. The other practitioner put together a wellness program that was way too overwhelming for me to execute. My options felt limited.
Easing the anxiety...
It became clear to me that I was going to have to take ownership of what was happening in my life.
As part of my healing course of action, I decided to go back to school for holistic nutrition.
There I learned the tools on how to bring my body back into a state of balance, better manage my anxiety, and eventually resolve my anxiety altogether.
Staying true to the foundation of holistic nutrition, it is important to note that what works for some is not the solution for everyone. Anxiety, health, and mental wellness are very personal matters that require individualized care.
There are, however, conscientious guidelines that can be helpful to those dealing with anxiety. These are three of the principles that worked for me and that I continue to practice today to keep my anxiety at bay.
What you can do...
1. Be open about your anxiety
Living with anxiety is stressful enough, let alone trying to hide it. While it may not be the first thing you want to tell people, being open about your challenges with those you trust can help ease some of the load.
The more we openly create and accept the dialogue surrounding mental wellness, the better we can all understand it. When tough issues become humanized, acceptance follows and true change can take place.
2. Breathe in and breathe out
For several months, I relied on a benzodiazepine to halt my panic attacks when they started up at work. It kind of helped, and yet I knew that for me this wasn't the answer or a long-term solution. Whenever I had a panic attack elsewhere, I dedicated myself to working through it using my breath. I didn't decide this based on research or case studies but rather an instinctive knowledge that understood the power of breath.
Sure enough, I managed to shorten the lifespan of my panic attacks with deep belly breathing for a few minutes as they came up.
For the first time in years, I felt empowered and in control. I knew that no matter the strength of the dark thoughts that plagued my mind, my breath would slowly blow them away.
I am not a breathing expert and I still find myself not breathing whenever my anxiety creeps in. Nevertheless, the innate ability I have to inhale and exhale continues to save me time and time again.
3. Get intimate with your anxiety
Getting to know your anxiety is a scary thing. It means admitting that you're afraid of something, that you feel uncertain, and that much like every single one of us -- it is happening for a reason.
Some of my root causes were a nutrient-deprived diet, a stressful lifestyle, and poor self-connection on top of a life-long history of emotional trauma with repressed worries and anger. In other words, my anxiety wasn't just coming out of nowhere even though it felt that way.
I had to admit to myself that there were pieces of my life that were holding me back from moving forward. Then I set out to change them.
Over time, I cultivated a healthier way of eating, left the job that was sucking away at my body and soul, and wrote a letter of forgiveness to the person who had hurt me the most. I sent that letter to my father and our relationship has never been the same since -- in the best of ways.
Running away from our anxiety solves nothing. Better understanding it coupled with making the appropriate changes is a safe place where most of us can start. All of those small steps add up and can produce a beginning for healing.
There may not be a single answer for this ultra complex issue, but you must honor your personal path and believe in the power that you have to get better. You are not alone in this and there is hope.