Dealing with Anxiety
Hey Friends! Thanks for tuning into “Dealing with Tori” my wittle baby podcast (or in this case blog)! Each episode (post) will be short, sweet and the perfect thing to enjoy in the morning; just like your coffee. Hopefully, this will help you ease into the day you have ahead while giving you some insight on how to deal with the specific topic on hand.
This week we’ll be dealing with anxiety.
I’m not a health professional nor a therapist, but I know what it’s like to deal with anxiety. I’ve felt the tightening of my chest, the loss of speech, the sweaty hands, and the shortness of breath. Anxiety is scary, powerful, and real. So, from my personal experience, here’s how I’ve dealt with it.
Being on a TV Show like The Challenge can be very triggering for anxiety. As a competitor you don’t know when you’re going to go into an elimination, what the elimination will be, or who you’ll be going against. All of those factors concoct the perfect recipe for fear of the future, and that’s exactly what anxiety is.
So, after being on 9 different competition shows including Are you The One, Fear Factor, and The Challenge, I have finally learned some skills on how to deal with anxiety as well as how to apply those skills into my everyday life. Here are the 6 ways I deal with anxiety:
1. Acknowledgment– Your body isn’t going to verbally tell you “Hey, I’m experiencing anxiety right now.” That’s just not how it works. But, your body does communicate with you! When you start to feel the symptoms of anxiety it’s important to process and acknowledge that you’re experiencing it! Like when you feel like you can’t breathe, or your brain is just so overloaded with thought that you can’t even concentrate. In those moments, if you can catch yourself in the early stages of an anxiety attack it Is important to do so. There are so many ways our bodies respond to anxiety, I’ll read a few off and I think you’ll be surprised by how many you can relate too. Anxiety can cause sweating, panic attacks, headaches, procrastination, lack of patience, rapid heartbeat, insomnia, memory issues, avoidance, stomach issues and the list goes on. Whether you or someone else is having anxiety it’s important to know what the symptoms are so you can recognize it. After you do that, you can then follow the necessary steps to relieve yourself of the stress.
2. Breathe- Focusing on your breathing sounds simple, but it’s the best tool you have to help reconnect your mind to the present moment. Anxiety can come from fear of the future or over-thinking your current situation. But, when you connect to your breath, and take deep inhales, and long exhales, you allow your body to calm down. You know that sound you hear on your Macbook or laptop when you’ve been working on it for hours? The one that sounds like a fan? Well, it is a fan. Your computer is being pushed to the brink and is forced to breathe and ventilate. Your mind is a computer. Your brain is firing up thoughts and ideas constantly and sometimes it needs a little fan! So breathe, think about each inhale and exhale and nothing more. Regain composure and move to step 3.
3. Gather your thoughts– for those of you who can’t relate, I’ll try to explain this in a way in which it makes sense. Imagine you’re doing an Easter egg hunt with a serial killer, and if you don’t find all the eggs fast enough you’ll meet your doom. That is how intense an anxiety attack can feel. In your mind, your thoughts are scattered all over the place just like the eggs. So after you breathe, and realize that you’re not being chased, it’s important to collect all of your thoughts and answer these questions: What is triggering your anxiety? What thoughts are you nervous to think? Why are you feeling anxious? After you can pinpoint the reasons you need to write them down. If you don’t have a notebook and pen then make a note in your phone! List out everything that’s bothering you! Sometimes, just seeing the thoughts organized can alleviate some of your tensions!
4. Move Around– Anxiety is a full body experience. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone and it’s terrible for your body when you’re producing too much of it. On the other hand, endorphins are known as the “happy hormone” and your body produces that when it gets exercise. So it’s really that simple, walk it out. Sometimes when I’m really stressed I’ll do a 7 mile run and feel amazing after. Other times, when my energy levels aren’t that high I’ll do something as little as a 7-minute stretch. Both of them are incredibly beneficial and can help you regain a feeling of control.
5. Put down the coffee! – From personal experience I can tell you how much worse caffeine makes my anxiety before a competition. A lot of people ask me if I take a pre-work out or do anything to pump me up before game time and my answer is NO. I am a morning coffee drinker, it really does help me wake up in the morning, but it’s not something I can drink through-out the day or before a big event. Caffeine is a stimulant and is known for triggering anxiety. Not only are there jittery side effects but caffeine stimulates your body’s “fight or flight” response system and immediately puts your brain into overdrive. So when you are preparing for a big event or even a small event that you’re nervous about avoiding caffeine. Trust your body, you already have everything you need inside you to be successful!
6. Talk it out!– One of my favorite quotes is “A problem shared is a problem halved.” This means that if you speak to someone you trust and vent out your worries you are no longer carrying the burden all by yourself. It is human nature to be interdependent and connected, we’re supposed to lean on each other and talk it out. Here’s an example: I was on twitter and I saw a really nasty tweet about my fiancé Jordan. When I read it I was immediately sick to my stomach. The tweet was making fun of his left hand which never fully formed as a baby, to me that’s just something you never make fun of. I held in my frustrations for hours but as the day passed I grew more and more anxious. I was nervous Jordan was going to log on and see it, I could only imagine what it would feel like to read that, I wanted to protect him from it, but at the same time I didn’t want to bring it up and make it a big deal. I grappled with my thoughts all day, but my anxiety grew heavier and heavier. Finally, I realized I just had to talk to him about it so I let it out. With tears in my eyes I told him how sorry I was that the world was so cruel and wanted him to know that he should block that person on twitter so he doesn’t have to deal with that type of negativity. His response blew me away. He said “Tori, I don’t care what people say about my hand. I spent my entire childhood being bullied for it and learning how to deal with it. Nothing bothers me anymore and I know if a person says those things about me then they’re just miserable and full of hate. I’m more than confident in myself their words don’t affect me at all” I was so relieved to hear his response. All day I had been worried that Jordan would be just as bothered as I was and I was so very wrong. He’s strong and inspiring, and had I not shared with him my worries and anxieties I would have never learned such a beautiful lesson from him. He helped me resolve all of my anxieties and stress around the situation just by letting me know his feelings. A problem shared is a problem halved.
Dealing with anxiety can be tricky and it’s not something that you will perfect overnight. Even though I’ve been aware of the causes and effects of my anxiety, I still get it more often than I’d like. My advice for you today is to be easy on yourself. Don’t judge yourself for experiencing fear, worry, or negative thoughts. You are human and what you are feeling is natural. When you feel your body sending you signals remember to breathe, slow down, make a list, and connect with loved ones. You are strong enough to get through any situation, you are more powerful than what is making you anxious.