How Healthy Habits Helped Me Overcome Anxiety
I remember going to a restaurant with my whole family one day. We were all enjoying each other’s company and all of a sudden I started to tense up. I was feeling very worried and agitated. I felt like my throat was closing up. I left the table and ran outside of the restaurant and started to panic.
I was having a panic attack.
This wasn’t the first time that this had happened. This particular experience hit me hard because it was around people. I remember my Mom coming after me, she was able to calm me down. I was embarrassed, I didn’t want my nieces and nephews to see what was going on, because I didn’t want to worry anyone.
I was struggling with my mental health which affected how I acted in certain situations. Mental health is a real thing and it is amazing how developing healthy habits can change it in such a positive way. It was a process for me to come to that realization.
What is mental health and how can it affect us?
According to mentalhealth.gov our mental health is described as our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It can affect how we think, feel, and act. Our mental health also relates to how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. People encounter many mental health disorders. Since I have suffered from anxiety and ADD throughout my life, those are the two specific conditions I will touch on in this article.
Triggers of my Anxiety
Looking back on my experience, I can name a handful of things that caused me to have anxiety. When I was younger, I was really shy. Comments like, “She’s so quiet,” and, “Does she even talk?” made me really self conscious. Talking to people scared me and it was just a really hard thing for me to do. It caused a lot of anxiety for me. I have gotten so much better over the years. I can now say I actually enjoy talking with people and being social. I am by no means a super loud person, and I would say I am more of a reserved person than shy.
Loud environments with lots of people and action was another situation that caused anxiety for me. I would start getting really tense, my heart would race, my throat felt like it was closing up, etc. All those feelings were signs that I was on the verge of a panic attack. There were many times I just had to remove myself from the situation and calm myself down. I was so self conscious and embarrassed about it. But being self conscious and embarrassed just caused me to have even more anxiety.
Taking tests in school was another huge trigger for my anxiety. They were already a challenge for me; I am not a good test taker. I would get so anxious before taking a test, even if it was a test I studied really hard for that my heart would race and I would get really tense.
Some things I would do when I would start to get anxious was that I would bite and pick my nails until they were sore and bleeding. Picking my skin was a nervous habit I developed. I would also get tense and raise my shoulders up by my ears, I had to remember to keep them down more. I also got really impatient and upset over the littlest things if I was more anxious. There were times where my anxiety would just come out of nowhere and I wouldn’t even know what triggered it.
Struggles with ADD
Another thing I struggled with growing up was not being able to focus. It didn’t matter what the task was. I struggled just to get ready for the day, school, etc. At times, it would take me a long time to get something done no matter how big or small it was. I remember vividly as a child, I would wake up extra early for school, because it would take me forever to get ready. I would just daydream, get distracted wondering about the time, etc. My mom would have to remind me to hurry up. It wasn’t so much that I was lazy or tired, I would just forget or get sidetracked.
In school, I struggled to focus on one thing at a time. I would start an assignment for a little bit and then move onto something else. It was hard for me to juggle my time especially in college because of my lack of focus. My anxiety and lack of focus really took its toll on me during college. I struggled to keep up with school and had lots of anxiety. It was affecting everything in my life. I was making impulse decisions, struggling with relationships, and I wasn’t healthy emotionally or physically.
I knew I needed to get some help to get things under control.
What I Did to Overcome Everything
I took some time off school and went home to work through things. I started going to counseling, which helped me figure out my triggers and how to better cope with them. My therapist diagnosed me with ADD and I was able to start taking medication for that and my anxiety. I took medication for about a year. I do think it helped to some degree but the side effects were hard to deal with at times.
I started to work out on a more regular basis. I always liked to exercise but I was never really consistent with it. I would do it for a while and then wouldn’t for a while, and the cycle would start over. Making it more of a priority, turned it into a big outlet for me. It helped me to reduce my stress and anxiety levels, and focus more. I also started to eat better, but it took some time to be consistent with this as well. Some days, I struggled to eat enough, and on others I ate too much, especially when I had a lot of anxiety. Over time, I started to eat more whole nutritious foods, and I meal prepped, which made things a lot easier for me.
Eventually, I was able to get back to school and keep up with the normal pace of college life. I was working at a wellness center on campus and taking a lot of classes, but I still made the time to work out and be social. With time, my medication dosage increased, because there was a point where things became a struggle again. However, the side effects didn’t make it worth it to me. Eventually, I completely went off medication and felt so much better. I remained consistent with my healthy habits, and that is what helped me overcome my struggles with anxiety and ADD.
That was my cure.
Now I sleep better at night, I feel better physically and emotionally, I have strengthened relationships with family and friends, I handle stress better, I focus and prioritize a lot more, and I am overall in a better mood. There are some days I still struggle, but now I know how to better cope and what works for me.
I share my story, because it is why I want to coach others. Developing healthy habits for yourself is a positive lifestyle change. Your mental health and overall well-being are worth the effort. If you would like guidance on how to get started, please set up a call time with me. Make the decision today to set yourself up for a positive lifestyle change!