Anxiety

I’ve had PTSD, I’ve had Depression, but the thing that creates a constant buzz, makes life constantly a little more difficult than it should be, is Anxiety.  Looking back on my life I think I’ve experienced Anxiety for most of it, at least since I was 12 or so.  It’s currently a livable condition in the sense that it doesn’t interfere with my everyday life–I’m able to work, maintain intimate relationships, maintain superficial relationships (an art in itself for someone who tends to be all-or-nothing about everything), etc.  At work, telemarketing, I experience the most anxiety, and then only on nights when one particular manager is in the room, because he’s unstable and unpredictable and it goes right to those deep triggers that say, “irrational angry man. hide.”  Then I drink lots of kava kava tea.

Besides kava kava tea on the front lines, I take a B-complex and steer away from caffeine (I drink 1-2 cups of green tea per day).  I don’t get enough exercise (read: any) which would probably help.  Sometimes I take valerian.  I dislike chamomile and licorice (which seem to be included in most “relaxing” teas).  I don’t have health insurance so I can’t get meds until school starts, but the process of getting meds is its own minefield of anxiety triggers (I don’t know who these doctors are who hand out Prozac like candy, but I’ve always had a hell of a time getting any medication–I’ve even had to argue about birth control) so I’d prefer to stick with herbal remedies.

So my question to you, knowing that many of my readers are artists who experience it too, is this: what do you do to stave off The Anxiety?

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25 Responses to Anxiety

  1. Matt says:

    i watch tv. it makes me feel comfortable and less lonely. no joke.

  2. Ivy says:

    Knitting. Yoga. Reading. Walking. Gardening. Anything repetitive, doesn’t require much mindfulness and gets me out of my own head. I’d probably do boxercise if there were classes around here for that. :-)

  3. Patrick says:

    Have you ever tried meditation?

    In the Close Listening with Norman Fischer, he discusses how meditation helped him deal with anxiety. He also talks about how some anxieties, like Bernstein’s, are useful. I’m not sure how long they actually discuss this issue, but it definitely stuck with me, and I know this sort of thing is up your alley:

    http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Fischer.php

    Yeah, but meditation seems like a good option. Real good.

  4. allthingsjennifer says:

    As someone who is also all or nothing, I’d have to say the only thing that keeps the anxiety away is sleep. If I can fall asleep in the first place.

  5. yesisaidyesiwillyes says:

    Exercise.

  6. Sean callender says:

    It’s a hard one I get crazy because of stress. It’s a trigger for me
    the best I can say is avoid drugs. And not too much sleep. It’s a
    personal thing though.

  7. ana says:

    above all exercise! it requires a bit of a lifestyle shift, but it’s pretty transformative. along with something more difficult like running to blow off excess nervous energy (and even, and especially, a tired office-body has an excess of it) yoga and breathing exercises are great for strengthening the mind-body connection and one’s friendship with and ability to listen to the mind-body. also, a magnesium supplement: prescribed to me a few years back anxiety attacks, and it helped.

  8. Interestingly, I just read an article that said drinking hibiscus tea can lower your blood pressure as much as blood pressure medications. Blood pressure = stress? I second b-vitamins and something like a calcium/magnesium/(something else) supplement. Sometimes those mineral balances can be off. I drink that “green tea-flavored, stress-fighting” vitamin water too. Don’t know if it really works, but it tastes good.

  9. Mind/body relationships are complicated, as you, like (duh) know. I think you’re already doing most of the things I do to stave off anxiety. My advice, I suppose, is to keep experimenting with a combination of movement/diet/patterns AND to work with your emotional edges in a safe but definite way. Personally, I know that I need to move a lot (run, walk, dance, bike, yoga, swim etc), every day, in order be remotely grounded–and that’s true even when I’m feeling tired and like I don’t want to move. Some kinds of anxiety really can be diminished through practice and repetition and some, maybe, can’t. I used to throw up before seminars. After going to several, I stopped throwing. Then, I made a policy of speaking at least three times in class. Eventually, I stopped being anxious–it wasn’t magic, it was just rigorous enforced practice. Navigating the response to aggressive men is harder–my body doesn’t always agree with my brain and vice versa. Though, as time goes on, I’m better at reading my own responses to situations and acting accordingly. Practice awareness, and be healthy. (I sending you healthy California thoughts this very minute).

  10. See… I know that exercise is going to be a good way to get out of this (and feel that yoga, running, walking, and pilates are good options– I enjoy hiking and stretching)… but exercising has all these *other* issues, as KLG points to… such as, walking/jogging must be done during daylight hours but I don’t like getting up early, and whenever I leave the house it triggers a flood of comments from male passerby. I walked 5 miles last Thursday, around town, and I remembered why I don’t leave the house (except to “go places,” specific places, using the car which is like armored protection)– it’s so hellish, not just to be talked to by men, but to be noticed at all. I think this is also why I tend not to be interested in losing weight (exercise as weight loss regime)– I have a 15-lb protective barrier.

    So, walking/running outside is difficult because: 1. Male commentary 2. Time of day/scheduling an hour for prep/run 3. Weather 6 mos/year (I know this doesn’t deter serious runners, but it deters me).

    Then there’s indoor exercise. Indoor exercise costs money that I don’t have. Unless I use the student gym @ the university. But I feel weird doing that b/c I don’t want to work out and shower with my students. It’s just weird.

    I might make enough money in the coming year to join a gym, which would solve some of these issues. Basically, I don’t like exercising in front of people. I’m much more coordinated than I was in middle school gym class, but boy do those memories stick!

  11. Matt says:

    jumping rope is cheap, and you can do it at home. also, jogging in place. sometimes i do push-ups (like once every couple months).

    jumping jacks.

    i think the important thing is just to get the heart pumping, make yourself tired. makes going to bed more fun. (i should follow my own advice).

  12. You would know best for you.

    In my life, I’ve found Byron Katie’s four questions, Ekhart Tolle’s “A New Earth”, and meditation within Zen traditions to be immensely helpful in relieving the worries of my mind.

    They all discuss the same thing (eliminating thinking), but Byron Katie’s four questions were easier to put into practice, since I am a big fan of simplicity.

  13. yesisaidyesiwillyes says:

    People in prison cells can do much with exercise, although there is a need to get outdoors a bit (around the block) to work the large muscle masses.

    Specifically, isometrics, push-ups, sit-ups or variants thereof, tai-chi (even slap-dash), tiny little hand-held weights, slap-dash tai-chi, very basic ballet movements, d-i-y yoga, etc.

    Start slow, for short bits of time, and do slow and short bits for twice as long as you think you should (e.g., if you feel ready to do more after four weeks of doing it, do four more weeks of the same amount and intensity). You wanna start slow and small, i suggest, to minimize the risk of hurting thyself.

  14. I’ll send you a hoop sometime in the fall, if I can figure out how to do that.

  15. Oh, I’m seconding the jump rope option. I used to do that a lot in DC during the winter and when it was too hot to run–put on some music and/or TV. Somewhere I have a stash of cheesy exercise videos that are good for when jump rope isn’t appealing. And, it is possible to hoop inside….

  16. stv ptrmir says:

    In July, we were just vacationing with my wife’s family in Virginia Beach, and my sister-in-law is way into Tai Chi. I think classes are often affordable, and then you can do it at home even in a small apartment. Here in Minneapolis, there are even some classes at local park buildings, so I’d think there might be something similar in other cities at parks or community centers.

    I do physical therapy at home with small weights, an excercise mat, an activity ball and a piece of foam that cost $20 at Target (what a rip, but its good for my knee). A short workout just takes some floor space. It always feels good.

    I also highly recommend bike riding though we have lots of great trails and bike paths here and a lot of towns don’t have that, and I don’t do that in the winter either. Then, ice skating.

    Other anxiety relief for me: music. Live shows, dancing, punk, loud. At home, anything vivid. Funk. Jazz. Depends on the mood. Currently nothing too raucous — a New Zealand band called The Bats and their latest record “The Guilty Office” available via iTunes, but you can also check them out for free via WFMU’s website as they’ve got some live MP3s there:

    http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2009/06/the-bats-live-at-primavera-mp3s.html

    pac, lov, and undrstanding (nvr giv up!)

    stv ptrmir
    no man’s land
    minnapolis, mn
    usa

  17. Jensen says:

    It’s had me out of work since Feb. I’ve not got a handle on it, so much as I just have less stress in my life at the moment. Sailing helps me relax, but only do that every two weeks or so.

    Mostly I just have to keep reciting to myself that I’m ok and nothing bad is happening. Then I just leave whatever stressful situation I’m in. I don’t know.

    It has given me a lot more time to be creative though, so that is good.

    Having followed you since 2006 I’ve also always found a vicarious solace in your talent. I love checking your blog for updates. A symptom of ‘grass is greener’ perhaps, but still a joy to wrap another person’s life around your eyes for a short while.

  18. Cara Benson says:

    List making.
    Bubble baths. (Nothing lengthy necessary. Just the action of bubbling up the water, getting in for some submersion, then out again is distraction enough.)
    Kitty cats. Dogs. Fish tank watching.
    Soft blankets.
    Sticking my tongue out as if it was at someone I didn’t like. (Yes there are big bad meanies in the world.)
    Calling a sympathetic listener and blabbing it all out WITHOUT INTERRUPTION OR JUDGMENT.
    Prayer.
    Meditation.
    Mountains.
    Mountains.
    Mountains.
    Plants/flowers.
    Service – help someone else.
    Write.
    Count my steps on a walk.
    Touch rocks.
    Crayons/markers. Coloring.
    One huge deep breath. Just one.
    Wikipedia random article searches.
    Hug pillows. And friends.

    I often don’t know which one might help at any given moment.

    Maybe life is tension. It’s the press of our spirit against our bones.

    Why else all the religions and books?

    Is it industrialization? I gotta think hunter gatherers had muy stress, too. These are gross generalizations on my part, I’m prone. Forgive me.

    Thanks for the post, J….

  19. Patrick says:

    Cara, in response to your comment about industrialization:

    Anxiety and depression aren’t necessarily the same thing, but in Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression (a tremendously good book) he says that the origin of depression is a mystery, but one of the theories is indeed the growing technological disconnect between humans and their natural environment. The only other theory that I remember is that depression is necessary for us to love; that the capacity for such an extreme emotion requires the opposite.

  20. Shin Yu says:

    Yoga.
    Lime and turmeric baths.
    Alternate nostril breathing.
    Long walks.
    Making a home-cooked meal.
    Swimming.
    Rollerskating.

  21. Drew says:

    I’m repeating some things that have already been said, but:

    Exercise: in yr own house. Exercise is boring. Make it convenient. 1/2 hour twice a week can do wonders- simple stuff — squats, crunches, pushups, jumprope, light dumbbells.

    Nothing else is going to have anywhere near the effect, but, if you’re doing B vitamins, go liquid, it’s absorbed much better. Also – fish oil.

  22. bob says:

    the gym at school. reframe the “shower stuff” or get a plastic bag in which to toss your sweaty (sweat is good) clothes after, then shower at home.

    find the treadmill. walk. who cares how fast, who cares how long. walk your walk. the incline and speed controls on the treadmill are your friends. feeling frisky? push the botton, increase the pace. push the button, raise the incline. or not. also, the treadmill is so much kinder to the joints than is concrete/asphalt.

    walking’s a GREAT way to get used to moving, breathing, sweating. jog a little if you want to. or not. but get on and go. be careful, though; you may become addicted to that new “grounded” feeling. you may – beware! – look back someday and marvel at what happened when you put your foot down. then the other. and so forth.

    you’re of water, jump in the pool. do a lap. stop. do another. it took me a very long time to swim the right way, a very long time. a lap here, a lap there. a little more the next time. next thing you know you’re in your element. it’ll really get the deep breathing going. release the performance stuff. did i mention that? claim this new phase. give it time to take shape; it’ll shift around as your body adapts, as your mind reframes what it means to move regularly.

    you’re creative, approach it creatively. don’t get locked into what you think you should be doing. view it as long-term; this is part of a new you that’s going to be doing this for a very long time. baby steps. and don’t worry about pounds lost, don’t count calories; that stuff takes care of itself as long as you show up.

    you’re going to surprise yourself, one simple step at a time. yes. you. will.

  23. Amanda says:

    Yoga, absolutely. But when you do get that health insurance? Lexapro, Lexapro, Lexapro. I’ve suffered from depression too, and was on Prozac for a while, but Lexapro is the best med I’ve ever taken. No side effects, and it WORKS on anxiety.

  24. Dick says:

    In the wake of the detailed recommendations above, the following will sound trite. I apologise in advance.

    I experienced a massive escalation of anxiety during the early and mid-summer – entirely unexpected and somewhat out of character. People recommended various medicaments, herbal and chemical, and assorted management techniques, all of which, it seemed to me, were merely stifling symptoms. So I sought out a counsellor and began the process of addressing the causes.

    After a brief but intensive and productive journey backwards into childhood and family, some residue of anxiety remains now. But making acquaintance with the enemy rather than turning away and seeking distraction has given me a degree of mastery over the condition.

    Different strokes for different folks, of course. But anxiety is an effect and, as in physics, there are no effects without causes. So in the search for relief, if not release, isn’t there unimpeachable logic to the process of confronting its causes?

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