anxiety

When Anxiety Takes Over

“I need help.”

Seems like a very easy thing to say, doesn’t it?  We’ve all asked for help at times – help with everyday tasks or how to do something new.  It’s simple.  We know we don’t know everything.  We’re human.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States for adults.  Even more than that, over 60% of those that have the illness never receive treatment.  Why is that?  Why are so many suffering with a condition that is fully manageable, but never get treatment?

It’s normal to be nervous sometimes.  We all do.  But how do we know when our nervous actions and thoughts go from normal to an unhealthy level?  In articles, an anxiety disorder is described as anxiety and worrying that affects your daily life in a negative way.

My realization that I had anxiety was gradual, but difficult for me.  I’m a Type-A personality that feels like they have to be perfect 100% of the time.  The realization that I shouldn’t believe every thought I had was stunning and scary.  But the fact was: I couldn’t believe them.  My mind would go to a dark place where worst-case scenarios were the norm and every person would turn on me or leave me behind.  It wasn’t true or reasonable.  Finding that balance between my mind’s anxious paranoia and reality was painful.  How do you tell yourself that your own thoughts are the problem?

The other difficult part for me was that, at first, I couldn’t even see it.  My family saw it.  To me, I was simply reacting.  I’d be told I was over-reacting or irrational and I honestly didn’t understand.  To my family, I wasn’t myself anymore.  My perfectionism and worrying had turned me in someone they didn’t know – and didn’t know how to help.

I’m honestly not sure what flipped the trigger for me.  The 50th time my family said I needed to talk to someone about how I was feeling and reacting?  The doctor’s kind eyes and sympathy when I finally took my dad’s advice and scheduled an appointment?  It could have been the medicine I started, or the therapist I talked to… It could have been simply the relief that I wasn’t ruining my life.  Whatever it was, it worked.  And continues to work.  It’s not an overnight fix.  It’s not something just a drug or just a therapist can fix for you.  It’s work – hard work.

I’m curious about what has worked for others.  How did you realize that your thoughts were anxiety?  How do you work to overcome it?  How do you come to grips with the fact that you have a mental illness?  Any advice or thoughts are welcome!  I’d love to hear about your journey – the good pieces, or the bad.  It’s all part of it.  Let me know how you cope 🙂

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Lessons Learned

First Year of Marriage: Five Things I’ve Learned

One year.  I’ve always found it amazing how some years go by in the blink of an eye and carry a million memories, while some seem to take forever – yet you don’t remember much of them.

I can’t say if this year will be for the former or latter when I look back on it in the future.  What I can say without any doubt?  It was full.  It was challenging at times.  It was eye-opening.  I wouldn’t change it.

It’s been our first year of marriage.  We’ve journeyed from our wedding, to a mandatory military move, the sale of one home, the purchase of another, family visiting, and the day-to-day trials and bumps of the twenty-first century.  It definitely wasn’t always easy.  We had hard conversations, set-backs, and a lot of unknowns that we needed to figure out together.

I am grateful everyday that all of this happened in the first year of our marriage rather than first year of dating or living together.  Relationships need to morph and change.  Trust builds and you learn more about each other.  You learn to understand how each of you react to issues – both initially and long-term, and how to communicate through those reactions.

Now, keep in mind, I’m not an expert.  Neither is my husband, though he is most-likely much closer than I am.  I thank goodness for his patience with my anxiety and moods every day.  But we’re young and learning.  With that said, our experiences this past year have pointed out some lessons that we needed to learn, and needed to learn quickly.  I’d like to share them with you.

  1.  Either you both win, or neither of you win.  Marriage is not a competition.  Winning an argument is not a “win” if the other person loses.  It does nothing but damage the relationship.  It took a while for both of us to realize this (and to be honest, we’re still not great at it.)  We have to remind each other mid-conversation sometimes that neither of us need to win.  I’m competitive by nature, so this is probably what I need to still work on the most.
  2. Same goes for compromises.  By definition, one person compromising is not a compromise.  It’s never easy to give up something you want or have, but you’re part of a team of two (maybe more if you have a family!) and the ultimate goal should be the best outcome for your team.
  3. It will never be 50/50.  My dad used to say this quite a bit with my sister and I.  The give and take in a relationship will never be perfect – someone will always taking more than or less than fifty percent.  I never really understood it until a few months before I got married.  In my mind until then, I couldn’t understand why it wouldn’t be perfect.  Both sides should be trying all the time…  A few months before our wedding, my opinion changed.  We adopted a puppy.  A cute little black lab that my husband could not put down.  She was abandoned near our house, and it was supposed to storm.  We brought her in and by the next morning, there was no way he could have given her up… or vice-versa.  I was not as convinced.  It was too soon – too close to the wedding.  The plan was to get a fully-grown dog from the shelter a year later.  And I’d be taking care of them.  My husband had no time, between work and rugby and classes.  But he needed her.  So we kept the puppy.  It wasn’t 50/50 – at that moment or for the next six months of puppy-rearing.  But it was worth it.
  4. Honesty is always best.  I used to think this one was obvious.  And over-rated.  Not always.  My husband and I are both independent people.  We lived on our own and were used to figuring out our own issues.  In other words – we were not good at asking for help.  This past year, we realized we needed to learn.  Being vulnerable isn’t easy, but it’s a large part of honesty.  I had to learn to tell him when I was overwhelmed with packing and getting things ready to move.  He had to learn to tell me when he needed a break from my to-do lists.
  5. Distractions don’t help.  Our dog is jealous of everyone – if anyone is getting more attention than her, she tries to push her way in.  Our cat is not a lot better – he just assumes everything is specifically placed for him to walk across and explore.  Between animals, phone notifications, tv, and everything else that makes noise or requires attention, it can be hard to have a conversation about anything important.  Our trick?  The guest room.  We leave the animals, to-do lists, phones, and all other distractions out of the room.  Just us – talking or taking in a “nothing” moment.  Just hold hands and work through it.  We made it through some wedding problems, decisions on dog-training, and some moving issues by getting rid of distractions and working with each other.

Most of all, we’ve enjoyed it.  Our time together.  The more we go through, the closer we get and the more we learn.

Like I said, we’re not experts.  We still argue, fight, make up, get overwhelmed and everything in between.  But these tips have helped us.  Try one.  Maybe it’ll help – maybe you have an even better idea or tip.

Let me know how it goes!  And always – have a great day!

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How Yoga Helps Me Manage Anxiety

Let’s start out with this:  I’m not a coordinated, athletic person.  Never have been.  Highly doubt I ever will be.  And that’s ok.  Yoga is a main part of “why.”

I’m also a person with anxiety.  I like trying new things, but I have to be super-prepared.  I’m OCD, want to research every option before making a decision, and don’t like being embarrassed.

I went to yoga on a whim.  I’d been trying different activities – trying to find something I liked.  I felt like I wasn’t active, fit, or healthy enough – especially comparing myself to my husband, a rugby player.

Going to the gym made me self-conscious, even if everyone was helpful and supportive.  Trying a personal training session?  Better on the self-consciousness side – but not being able to move for a week was a deterrent.  Running was getting closer still.  By myself, with my own thoughts.  And I still do try to do this every once in a while, but as my normal workout?  Not quite there.

As I was driving home one day, I was looking at all the little, local shops in our little town that I hadn’t visited yet.  I was making mental notes of gifts I needed to buy for Christmas and where to pick them up, when a turquoise-blue awning caught my eye:  Blue Yoga Nyla.  I’d never heard of it before (apparently it had been there for years.  Oops.)

I looked it up that night.  I read through the class descriptions and teacher bios and they didn’t sound terrible.  I decided to try an easier one the next morning, called Sugar.  I got clothes and my yoga mat ready that night.

I walked in about 10 minutes before class was meant to start.  There were some students set up already – just relaxing on their mats.  I took off my shoes and chose a corner to set up in, thinking to myself “I’ll just see what it’s like.”  Students kept coming in – the place was getting fairly full of thirty, forty, and fifty-something girls, quite a few guys, one pregnant woman – the whole spectrum.

From the first moment the teacher spoke, I was hooked.  She was funny, called people by their names, welcomed all new students, and then said exactly what I needed to hear:  “This is your practice.  Do what you can; don’t compare yourself.  Listen to your body, and focus on what YOU need from this class and yoga.”

The class wasn’t too hard.  Lots of stretching, smooth movements, and music, with the instructor correcting and helping each of us through.  It was wonderful.

My next class was harder.  The even-slightly more confident me was excited and willing to try it all – the strength poses, odd stretching positions.  The next instructor was even better (she would be my favorite throughout the time I spent there).   It was fun – a learning experience that was helping my body – win win!!

I’m not saying it was always easy.  The warm yoga classes would cause sweat to drip in my eyes (for some reason, I’d never remember a headband).  I’d have sore muscles that didn’t even exist in mind before the class.  I wasn’t always excited about it – sometimes (on sore days) my mind would battle itself – get rid of soreness the easy, but long way (curling up with tea and a book) or the faster, harder way by stretching and working through it.

Every time, however, the instructors and fellow students were no less that supportive, kind, and funny.  No matter how hard the class or how well I did in my mind, I was always proud of myself.  And being proud of myself?  A pretty big accomplishment in itself.

And every day I went to a yoga class, or practiced some stretching and deep breathing at home, my anxiety and stress levels were better.  I noticed it, my husband noticed it – I’m pretty sure the dog even did…

What I even found was that the more comfortable I got with the practice of yoga, the more I could use its methods in other aspects of my life.  Hard meeting at work?  Take two deep breaths and focus on the goal of the meeting.  Getting motion sickness in the car?  Take a deep breath and stretch my arms and legs to get my mind off it.  Can’t turn my mind off to sleep?  Stretch the muscles starting at the toes and move up the body to relax.  When my husband and I found out we were switching military bases in a couple months?  We made a list of of the “To-Do’s” and then went to a slow yoga class to get rid of some the stress and tension.

I’ve been practicing for months now.  I’m more flexible, feel better, and the poses are easier to recognize and work with.  But what I find more incredible is that my mind is calmer.  I can focus at work easier.  Tough conversations are not as over-whelming.  Life is just a tiny bit more manageable.

I can honestly say that yoga has changed how I view and deal with my anxiety and stress.  And that?  That changes your life.

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Eating Adventures in a Little Big City – Little Rock, Arkansas

Little Rock, to me, is a pleasant surprise.  You don’t hear much of it.  It’s not on the many lists you can find for places you need to visit, and to be honest, it’s in the middle of nowhere.

When I moved there, I wasn’t expecting to like the city, let alone fall in love with it.  But that’s exactly what I did.  I’d lived in Dallas, Milwaukee, Baltimore, DC, and my favorite was Little Rock, Arkansas?  Imagine my surprise!  And one of my favorite things?  The beer and food.

If you ever end up in this little big city, by passing through or coming to stay, take a bit and check out the food and things to do!  I guarantee you won’t regret it!

Restaurants

  1. Breweries, breweries, breweries!!  The city has seven and more are opening!

Lost Forty, Rebel Kettle (my favorite!), Blue Canoe, Flyway, Diamondbear, etc.  All of them have a casual atmosphere and lots of different kinds of beer to try!

Most, if not all, have different kinds of food to try as well! Rebel Kettle has cajun choices, Flyway has interesting apps that use all different kinds of meats, and Lost Forty uses mostly food from local suppliers and farmers.

If you’re there on a Sunday, the brunches at Stone’s Throw and Lost Forty are magnificent!

Lost Forty – 501 Byrd St, Little Rock, AR 72202 (Website)

Rebel Kettle – 822 E 6th St, Little Rock, AR 72202 (Website)

Flyway – 314 Maple St, North Little Rock, AR 72114 (Website)

Blue Canoe Brewing Company – 425 E 3rd St, Little Rock, AR 72201 (Website)

Stone’s Throw – 402 E 9th St, Little Rock, AR 72202 – (Website)

Diamond Bear – 600 N Broadway St, North Little Rock, AR 72114 (Website)

2.  Bruno’s Little Italy – This family-owned Italian restaurant opened in the early 1900’s and has a rich, interesting history!

We ate here once and it was an instant favorite!  The food is to-die-for and the atmosphere is fun!  Be ready for their awesome wine and cocktail list!

Bruno’s Little Italy – 310 Main St #101, Little Rock, AR 72201 (Website)

3. The Root Cafe – This little cafe is full of local food, new and interesting recipes, and you’ll learn a little bit about the farms they work with as you wait at the table!

I’ve never been less than impressed at this little eatery.  The menu changes for dinner constantly, and there are some main options for lunch and breakfast available every day, but the specials vary and are never disappointing!  Their mimosas are fresh-squeezed and the lavender lemonade is a favorite of mine.

The Root Cafe – 1500 Main St, Little Rock, AR 72202 (Website)

Let me know your favorites and how you like mine!

Lessons Learned

Creating Beauty out of Anxiety and Stress

I was in college when my stress levels starting hitting an all-time high.  A full-time engineering student in the middle of a nine-month winter in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  A lack of sun did nothing to help a full load of classes, three jobs, and a instructor position helping other students succeed.  How was I supposed to help younger students succeed if I was barely hanging onto the frayed end of my own rope?

The holidays came around and I was home, helping family with a craft show.  Between setting up and taking down tables, my aunt showed me how to do a very basic crochet stitch.  It wasn’t easy – the hook didn’t want to do exactly what I thought it should, and the yarn didn’t seem to end up as pretty as hers.  But it was something to do that let my mind wander and kept my hands busy.

Fast forward to classes the next semester.  I was sick of homework and sick of walking through snow to classes.  A girlfriend and I decided on a break.  Specifically, a chick-flick, face-mask, brownie, crochet break.  We chose “Pride and Prejudice”, and green face-mask (the selfies are still epic), caramel brownies and soft yarn for new blankets we’d make for ourselves.

Ever since, crochet has been my stress-relief.  The feeling of creating something all yours and beautiful is addicting.  I could collect yarn and patterns and ideas.  My husband has implemented a “one project at a time” rule – not that I blame him.  I get into a project – and depending on the day, need something to challenge me (so maybe a new small project?) or something to calm me down (keep working on larger project).

I’ll share some of my favorites – and some of the best tutorials I’ve found.  Maybe you can learn too and let your mind wander while creating something for yourself!

Let me know what your stress relief is and how you discovered it!  I’d love to hear your stories!

 

Lessons Learned

Lots of Firsts and Lessons Learned

It’s been a crazy year.  Busy, hilarious, frustrating, exhausting, and life-changing.  There have been a lot of lessons learned and trying new things.  This is what I’d like to share with you.

Any kind of change can be exciting and scary all at once.  In the past year, I’ve planned a wedding (that in itself could be an entire archive of lessons…), married into the military (no matter how much I thought I was prepared… definitely not…), found a puppy that was far too cute to not keep, bought a house, sold that same house (again… military), became an aunt to the cutest little boy (I might be slightly biased) and will soon be living in a new city, starting a new chapter with my husband.  As much as all of that change is frightening at times, it’s all an adventure.

I want to share the adventures, the new things I try that work (or don’t work), the funny stories, the attempted stress-relief, and what I learn from all of it.

I hope you enjoy it!  Let me know if any of you awesome adventurers have stories you’d like to share or lessons you think would be helpful for others!

And… here we go!