a girl and anxiety

Finally! I’m back.

The month of September has proven to be pretty hectic for Florida. My writing has suffered – not from a lack of something to write about, but from a lack of time to actually sit down and put those thoughts in blog-form.

When I was in my late twenties, I made up my mind, after seeing the movie, Baby Boom, that one day I would live in Vermont. I fell in love with the landscape of covered bridges,  apple trees and utopian-style living I saw in the movie and vowed to one day live there.  In May of this year, my husband and I took the leap, via a work project, and temporarily relocated to Vermont, leaving our adult children to take care of the Florida house and doggies.

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The work project was supposed to last three months, but here we are, going into month five with no promise of an end. We are still living part-time in Vermont, and I am loving it. If you have never been, make sure you put it on your bucket list!

In August, I started having some minor health issues. I had a gall bladder attack, migraines, muscle aches, depression and a whole lot of anxiety. I have just recently turned forty-nine and it seemed that all the stories I had heard about your body falling apart as you approach fifty were coming true. But seriously, did it really have to all happen within the same week?

My anxiety and depression made me feel like I was worthless and had no value. And as amazing as the project I am working on is, I felt empty. In having pride of not being a hypochondriac, suddenly, I found myself in a loathing pot of misery, swirling in self-pity. And then, Hurricane Irma decided to make her appearance in the Atlantic Ocean. You talk about a peak of anxiety! I was in Vermont, getting on a plane heading to Oregon for a week and my kids were in Florida; preparing for a massive and catastrophic hurricane. Everything inside of me completely shut down as I turned into an insane mama bear with no other thought in her mind other than to “save my babies”.

The Oregon trip cut short and plans finalized to get back into Florida the day before airport shut-downs helped stir this pot of misery even more and by the time the wheels of that beautiful Delta jet touched down on the tarmac, I was the perfect picture of a pre-menopausal, almost fifty, over-heated, bloated, no make-up wearing hot mess.

My daughter met us at the airport and instantly – Just like that – I was better. The anxiety completely left my body as the Florida humidity reached out to slap my face and make my feet sweat. In replacement of depression, my maternal instincts set in as if to say, “Irma better not be coming to our house, cause mama is home!”

The fact was. My body was telling me I just needed to be home.

And Irma did come, and she made her mark of destruction. Friends lost much. Lives were torn apart and some ended. As I write this blog, many are still without power and our state is refusing to take down the hurricane shutters as Maria follows the path of her predecessor.

We are blessed to have suffered only minor damage (see, Irma listened and didn’t come too close to this mama!) with the loss of a tree and were without power for a minor two days.

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Anxiety can do so some pretty awful things to the human body. According to studies conducted and published by The Mayo Clinic, anxiety can create symptoms that include: “nervousness, being restless or tense. Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom. Having an increased heart rate. Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation) Sweating. Trembling. Feeling weak or tired. Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry.” [Mayo Clinic] Many have even ended up in the hospital with palpitations that mimic heart attack symptoms.

ABC News recently published an article in April of this year, stating; “An estimated 8.3 million American adults — about 3.4 percent of the U.S. population — suffer from serious psychological distress, an evaluation of federal health data concluded. Previous estimates put the number of Americans suffering from serious psychological distress at 3 percent or less, the researchers said.”

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With the value of learning that vulnerability is a positive in our lives, we have begun to experience how to share our joys and tribulations with others. We are finding that more and more of our friends and family have secretly suffered from anxiety and depression, afraid that they would be judged or condemned for what they feel is a “weakness” in their life.

As we age and see that life is sometimes hard and isn’t always fair, we can become disillusioned by the fact that we don’t live in a perfect world. There have always been and will always be disagreement, injustice, inequality, poverty, hatred and bad weather. All of these can mean some serious cause for anxiety. If we look around and only notice the evil, we are doomed, because there will always be evil. If we constantly look for the injustice, we are doomed, because there will always be injustice. And the same for all the awful qualities mentioned above.

As I age, I feel more stress and anxiety than ever before and this worries me, making me even more anxious. How can I fight this urge to sink into distraught and damnation of body and soul?

It isn’t as simple as one may think, but I have noticed that my mind feels better when I change how I look at things and how I take care of my body.

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*Photography by David Talley

So, how can we reduce stress and anxiety? I have created a list of things I do and have researched to help me in times of anxiousness. [Please know that if you are unable to find peace in organic life changes, there is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking medical attention for anxiety or depression. And as with all suggestions, make sure your medical physician is ok with you trying these suggestions.] What works for me may or may not work for you.

  • Get plenty of rest and relaxation. I notice that there are times when anxiety keeps me up at night. I found this beautiful little, non-addictive OTC herbal supplement called MidNight at Target. It helps me rest without feeling groggy the next morning. If you don’t wish to use a supplement, drink a good decaf Earl Gray Tea. It contains Bergamot, a natural ingredient to help to calm and relax. Another great way to relax is by doing simple yoga exercises or walking.
  • Drink lots of water. As we age, the percentage of water that makes up our body mass is reduced. As infants, we are about 75 – 80% water. We decrease to 60 – 65% as adults. Water keeps us hydrated and since our brain is approximately 85% water, it stands to reason that a dehydrated brain can created havoc and depression.
  • Find quiet time everyday – yes! EVERY DAY. I wish I could just shout this from the roof-top. I haven’t researched to see if this helps with anxiety, but I know it helps me. A few years ago, I decided to get up one hour earlier than my family. I did this twice a week and now it is a ritual. The house is completely quiet and I sit. Meditate. Plan. Read. Think. This quiet time has motivated me to be a business owner and during those wee hours of the morning, I have more ideas than I know what to do with. I find peace within the quiet times in my morning.
  • Use essential oils. I began using oils about three years ago – no, I do not sell them! They are diffused in my home, used to chase away zits and even freshen up my carpets. Our household staples are Frankincense, Lavender, Patchouli and Rosemary. There are lots of stories about which brand to use, causing anxiety in the choosing. Reduce the stress by choosing the one that is obtainable at a price you can afford. I have used doTerra, Young Living as well as brands from Whole Foods and health food stores.
  • Eat healthy. Three years ago, I had a very busy year. I was teaching theatre, directing/co-directing five dramatic productions, traveling on the Oprah tour, taking a college course, home educating my daughter all while performing my wifely/momly duties and going through personal drama with removing myself from a toxic friendship. There literally was no time to prepare food. I was eating fast food every day. My hair started falling out – by the handful. After researching, I found that oils used to fry foods causes hair to fall out. So does stress. Mix the two and you are in for some kind of trouble. Make sure you are eating fresh vegetables, fruits and plenty of protein.
  • Stop trying to fix everything and everyone. One of my favorite movie lines is by Dev Patel in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, when he is trying to keep others from worrying. “Everything will be all right in the end. If it’s not all right, it is not yet the end” We women have a horrible thing we do that causes us alot of stress. We try to fix everything. And everyone. Girls… we just can’t do this. It is virtually impossible to fix everything, and everyone. And, it only causes resentment from the ones we try to fix. Learn to let some things go. All will be ok in the end. And if it’s not ok, refer to the quote I mentioned above.
  • Laugh… Often. Numerous studies prove over and over again the benefits of laughter and how it reduces anxiety and helps with overall health. Did you know that two different chemicals are released in our bodies when we laugh? One is Endorphins and the other is Dopamine. Endorphins have been proven to be our body’s natural “happy drug” and it also helps with pain tolerance. Dr. Matt Bellace of Lynn University in Florida states: “laughter releases the neurotransmitter dopamine, which serves as a reward for the brain, creates a sense of euphoria, and plays a pivotal role in our motivation to continue the behavior.”   10616536_10203450096347790_5795338513072435802_n
  • Thin out toxic relationships. Now this one is a “tread carefully” because sometimes spending time with friends and family can actually increase stress. If this is the case, it’s time to clear out the friend space. If you are finding yourself in a toxic relationship with family or friends, it’s time to make some changes. As mentioned above, about three years ago, I had to remove myself from a toxic friendship. This friendship wasn’t just with one person, it was with a group of people I thought were friends. I invested a lot of myself and time into a group of people who were stuck in, what I call, a hamster ball. Doing the same thing – with the same people – all the time. Everything was subjective to the approval of the group and I was miserable, stressed and depressed. Leaving this group was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I cried more tears and thought I was never going to have a life without them. But guess what? My life has been so much better! I can’t even explain the difference in my health, spirituality and mental status since removing myself and our family from this group. There is life outside of a toxic relationship and it can be beautiful!
  • Hide or un-friend toxic social media relationships. Take a break! Hide people. And yes! It is ok to de-friend someone who only brings depression and anxiety to your life. Social media has become the breeding grounds for political discourse, meddling and down-right smut. During this past election, I literally hid every single person that created political charge – no matter who they were voting for. I was anxious for every single potential elected official because every single one was the devil in person (according to social media). We were all doomed and heading for war, poverty, injustice and I’m pretty sure every person was going to be swallowed up by the monster we elected – no matter who that may have been. My friend, get rid of this nastiness and watch your anxiety dissipate.

I know this has been a pretty long post, but it has been building up inside of me for some time. Anxiety and depression are not friends, but they can be a tool in realizing change needs to happen. Pay close attention to it. Allow it to speak to you and then make a change.

So… how do you cope with anxiety and depression? Post on this page to help others.