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My experiences with anxiety: not letting it define me

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When you think of anxiety, what does it mean to you? In conversations surrounding anxiety, some may think that this means someone generally worries, tends to second guess themselves and struggles with making decisions. 

But it goes much deeper than that. 

Anxiety is intricate because it consists of many different degrees and types. As someone with a more generalized anxiety, I find it difficult to pinpoint how I feel in anxious situations. In general, it becomes challenging for people to open up about their anxiety because of its varying degrees. It is very vulnerable, personal and dynamic.

One person I have deeply connected with through my anxiety is my friend, Heather King. The first day I truly connected with her, we talked for three hours outside after work about how we struggled with anxiety. Our genuine interaction reminded me that I wasn’t alone in my feelings and that there was someone out there in the universe who felt how I felt too. 

It was through this conversation that we were able to form an immediate bond of friendship. From there on, Heather became a voice of reason for me, a friendly face at work and a positive influence. I feel thankful to say that I have had many other interactions like that of Heather’s in my life with people who relate or understand anxious feelings. 

Perhaps there is beauty to this struggle: I have been able to develop connections through shared experiences with anxiety, which have in turn filled me greatly.

It’s important to remember that having anxious feelings shouldn’t ever be associated with emotions like shame or guilt. Anxiety can tend to make one feel out of control. I’ve learned a lot of helpful tips that have aided me in my journey and I would love to share some of them. You may have heard some of them before. 

One of the biggest and most profound suggestions I have gotten is breathing techniques. One that I use myself is breathing in and out for four seconds each. Think of yourself as a balloon filling up with air and then deflating. Whenever I get overwhelmed, I have to remind myself that I may not be getting enough oxygen to my brain, so it’s important to shut my computer, close my eyes and breathe. 

Another technique I use is listening to music that I love, which is a day-to-day, consistent habit. This immediately calms my nerves and has me focused on something that makes me automatically feel good. I think music is such a significant coping mechanism when it comes to assisting trials in mental health. Even if you need to listen to sad music when you are sad, you are allowing yourself to embrace those feelings rather than escape from them. 

One other thing I do is give myself breaks. It’s important to find areas in your day where you can slow down, rewind and do something that nurtures your being. Whether this be taking a rest, watching your favorite TV show or making yourself a snack, these small but mighty actions will feed your soul with love and bring you back to yourself. You are not wasting time – you’re making more time for you. 

My last shared tip is to step out of your comfort zone. As you expand the boundaries of your comfort, you will be able to see all of the unknown things you are capable of. It’s common, as one with anxiety, to think “I am not capable.” For example, I decided to join a study abroad group for Greece, and because of that experience, I am studying abroad again this summer. I wouldn’t be going on another trip if it hadn’t been for that previous experience of challenging myself to leave the country for the first time. 

How am I so open about this now? Honestly, it has been through many years of experience. I feel like anxiety has been a part of my life for a long while, it just took trial and error for me to find what would help me cope best. 

There are going to be people in your life who tell you that how you feel is wrong or that you can find a way to fix it. I’m here to tell you that anxiety is not something to be fixed, but something to be recognized and validated. It is something that may be with you throughout life’s many consequences. While this may sound frightening, it doesn’t have to be. If you can find what can help you cope, you will surpass many things. Embracing this mindset comes through the acceptance of how you feel. If you invalidate your feelings or cast them aside, they will always come back in bigger, stronger waves.

One thing that I have learned through my experiences is that anxiety is not something that defines me, but merely a fraction of internal struggles that I face from time to time. I am much more than clouding thoughts or panicked moments. It’s easy to think you are not capable when you allow negative thoughts to script your life. When I find a way back to myself and the universe, I am just me. I am a person who deals with anxiety, but it is never something that I should feel shameful about.

If you struggle like me, know that you are not alone. It’s important to phone a friend when you need one. One of the most relieving mechanisms for coping with anxiety is talking to someone. Having a space to vent your feelings is how you can truly release them. And if you have the right friend, they’ll help you through it. If you haven’t found your person yet, I’m here and I’m ready to listen.

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Eve Healey
Eve Healey, Reporter
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    MarcieApr 19, 2024 at 7:31 pm

    Wow. Great article. I struggle with anxiety too but reading about coping mechanisms is very helpful. Very proud of you.