My Top 5 Anxiety Relievers

If you’re here, that means you either have an anxiety disorder or you’re interested in learning more about it, or you just love my sarcasm and wit. Whichever reason you’re here, I hope this post is relatable to everyone. Whether it’s stress, whether it’s depression, whether it’s pain, whether it’s anxiety – we all have our own coping mechanisms. I wanted to share what helps me when I’m having a rough day.

My Top 5 Anxiety Relievers:

  1. Furiously crochet through the attack.

Whenever I’m at home and I have an anxiety attack, I will often channel all of my anxiety into crocheting. Now – you’ll notice I used the term, “Furiously crochet.” What does that mean? That means that I tune out everything else around me, and I take all of the negativity and anxiety and worry and I take all of those feelings out on my poor yarn. I crochet fast and hard, I don’t look up from the work and I don’t stop until I feel myself calming down. If you’ve ever gotten a crocheted gift from me, chances are parts of that were made during an anxiety attack. Why do I do this? Because it helps me channel the anxiety somewhere else – and it gives me something else to focus on. However, if you’re going to take this route, do so safely. Use the proper form and don’t do damage to your arms (ulnar nerve surgery hurts and it’s expensive – trust me on this one.) See the link below for proper form (just in case you happen to love yarn as much as I do.)

2. Use visualization and count backwards from 100.

This one is one I just happened to try one evening and it stuck. Most of my anxiety attacks happen at bedtime. Why? Because I have this irrational fear that if I go to sleep I won’t wake up. So, my heart starts racing and my mind starts racing. To combat that, I force my mind and my body to sync up and think of something else. We’ve all seen those deep breath videos (breathe in until the black triangle fills up and then breathe out until it disappears.) This is kind of like that, only I visualize numbers. I breathe in and start visualizing myself writing the number 100 and breathe out as I finish writing it, then I move on to 99 and so on. If I get to the number 0, I start over.

I also do the same with songs (P.S. did you know that an alarmingly large amount of songs has death mentioned in some way, shape or form? It’s really hard to find a safe one haha.) But providing I find a safe one, I’ll breathe in and out with elongated breaths and just sing the same song over and over again in my head. The repetition and being able to concentrate on something other than my anxiety attack, eventually helps me calm down enough to sleep.

3. Watching scary movies.

Sounds counterintuitive, right? I can hear your gears turning and your brain thinking, “Kelly, you’re afraid of death – why would you watch movies where people die horrible deaths?” It’s actually more common than you think, it’s just not as openly talked about because of the stigma and confusion behind it. Check out this article below, the author does a great job describing this coping mechanism and why it works. Do I sometimes still have nights where all I can do is picture every single way someone died in the movie afterwards? Yup. Queue tip number 2. But most nights, I find myself more content at the fact and hope that the demon can be beat and the battle can be won.

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/9k3vqz/watching-horror-movies-helps-me-cope-with-my-anxiety

4. Work. Work. Work.

As you may have seen in my “About Me” section, I work… A LOT. I work full-time, 40 hours a week, at a company I love that keeps me super busy and keeps my mind off of everything else. (Although, when it does get my anxiety in a tizzy, I’m allowed to listen to music – which also helps a lot. Insert the soundtrack to Newsies here.) I work part-time, 16 hours a week, at a library where I shelve books. It’s comforting, it’s easy, it’s mind numbing. It’s exactly the escape that I need sometimes. It gives me the outlet to dive deep into my brain and think, or completely shut it off and concentrate on nothing other than putting books in ABC order. I mean, is there really any better escape than books? Let’s be real here. On top of all of that, I also actively sell Lilla Rose Hair Accessories (Insert shameless plug here: http://www.lillarose.biz/KellyEngelman.) When I need something to help with my anxiety and it happens to be a night I’m off at the library, I often channel it into my Lilla Rose business (or this blog!) It’s comforting knowing that you’re working hard to obtain a goal. This month, my anxiety levels have been higher due to the possibility of hitting a new rank with the company – so I’ve been channeling that anxiety back into the business by working, working, working. It also led me to a lot of people who also suffer from anxiety on the team. They’ve been an amazing support group. Lean on your support group. If you don’t have one, contact me, I’d be happy to listen.

5. Shower cries.

This one might be my most important tip/ trick of all. With the stigma on mental disorders, many of us often feel like we can’t let other people see us during an attack, we can’t talk about it, we can’t let it be known. We may be seen as weak, or mentally unstable. Society says we have to be stronger than our disease and not let others see you break down. If you’re having an anxiety attack in public and you’re comfortable enough to explain your situation to others, then I 100% recommend that you do so. I can pretty much promise that someone in the room understands. However, sometimes we just want to break down when we’re alone. Sometimes the stress of the day gets to be too much, and so we let the anxiety take over for a while. Because fighting it all the time is hard. Because, sometimes crying just feels good. So, I shower cry. Not because I’m embarrassed, or because I don’t want others to see me, but because it’s a personal thing. It’s time for me to be alone and let go for a while and just let my anxiety have control for a bit. It’s my time with my disease to battle it and face it how I choose. Sometimes I’m a crumpled mess on the shower floor, other times I stand tall and just let the tears flow, sometimes I can’t get the anxiety under control and I have to force myself to try another tactic. More often than not though, the crying just makes everything feel better. Don’t ever be ashamed to cry and grieve from your disease. It takes a lot from us every day.

When Tragedy Strikes

Three evenings ago, our country experienced the largest mass shooting attack in history. In Las Vegas, Nevada, during a country music festival, someone opened fire on a crowd of concert goers. 59 people were killed and over 500 people were injured during the attack. On days like this, I find my anxiety levels are much higher than normal. Why? Because even though I didn’t know anyone involved personally, I could have. All 59 of those people killed and all 500+ people injured could’ve been my mother, my brother, my boyfriend, my best friend, that guy I passed in a gas station in 2001, that girl I smiled at on the train in 2008. Human life is invaluable. All of those people were someone to someone, and that, in itself, is heartbreaking.

The thought that you could be enjoying yourself one minute, and running in terror fighting for your life the next is absolutely terrifying. There are people out in the world who just want to do bad things and hurt other people. And I find myself thinking, “How am I supposed to trust the person standing next to me in line at the grocery store?” “How am I supposed to feel comfortable walking down the street?” “Why did this happen?” Why did this happen.

For some of us, hearing this news is debilitating. For some of us, we won’t leave our house for a week because we’re afraid. For some of us, we’ll sit on our couches, staring blankly at the television set with our eyes swollen and red from crying. Some of us will go donate blood, some of us will donate money to the victims, some of us will fight for gun control. Some of us will do something to help. Some of us can only physically and mentally help ourselves through this tragedy. All of which, is okay. We all will have to deal with grief and tragedy in our own ways. I encourage you to find the ways that work the best for you.

For me? I cried, I grieved for their families, their friends, themselves. I thought of how that could be anyone I know. I thought of how that could be me. I thought of how easily life can be taken and how fragile our bodies can be. I thought of the pain and the fear they must have felt. I was disappointed in the world. I didn’t want to get out of bed, I didn’t want to go to work, I wanted to shut out the world and pretend it didn’t exist that day. Sometimes my anxiety does that, and some days, I let it take over. And sometimes, that’s okay.

This day, I forced myself to get up. I went to work, I spoke with my friends and colleagues, I tuned in to my social media outlets, I let the world exist. And in that time, I saw that blood banks were turning people away because they had such an influx of donations. I saw that first responders were turning people away with their donations to help the victims. I saw my social media explode with prayers and thoughts for those involved. I saw people taking up monetary donations to help those affected. And you know what? My anxiety eased. Because I didn’t shut out the world, I was able to see people facing this tragedy responding with compassion. Responding and helping in any way that they could. And I realized I can’t let one person persuade my views on the world as a whole. Not all people are bad. Not everyone is out to hurt you.

There’s a quote from one of my favorite movies, The 10th Kingdom, that gets me through a lot of tough days.

“I often think, why did I let her in? Didn’t I know she was bad? And I did, of course I did, but I also knew that I couldn’t keep that door shut all my life, just because it was dangerous, just because there was a chance of getting hurt.”

On days like this, I have to remind myself of this quote. It helps give me the confidence and strength I need to push through my fear and my anxiety. It helps give me the strength to put my two feet on the floor and hop out of bed. It helps me face the day. It got me through yesterday. Maybe it will help you get through tomorrow.

Until next time,

The Anxious Flamingo.

 

The Start of a Beautiful Friendship

Before I go starting off with what I have to offer, I wanted to take some time out to tell you about myself. After all, why should you care about my opinions, tips and tricks if you don’t even know me? This is where I plan to change that.

In case you missed it from the Bio page, my name is Kelly Engelman. I’ve been around for 27 years and I have lived with an anxiety disorder through every last one of them. I have an older brother, who married a wonderful woman and they provided me with two pretty sweet kids that I get to cause trouble with. I’ve been dating my best friend for about a year now. We’ve known each other since our Sophomore year of high school and I wouldn’t trade him for the world (although I might consider it for a box of custard donuts.) It took us a long time to get together, but I had a lot of growing up to do. In the end it’s better we waited. I have two amazing parents who were my biggest supporters and taught me a lot in life. My Mom taught me to be tough, while my Dad taught me to work hard. These are two traits that I take the most pride in, and two traits I’ll expand on in future posts. My Mom, who also suffered from anxiety (thank you genetics,) passed away in 2014 from Stage 4 Lung Cancer and my world changed forever. This experience set me on my current path in life. I was no longer meek and mild. I was no longer the person to sit on the side-lines. I had to grow up, and I did. Faster than I would’ve liked.

I was always a nervous child. When I was a baby I’d scream, and cry any time anyone I didn’t know held me. I wouldn’t high five strangers. I wouldn’t say hello to anyone. I was shy. I was timid. I was afraid. This carried over into school years. I had hearing issues (several sets of tubes, surgeries and appointments later and I’m still deaf in one ear), I stuttered, I had a lisp. I had glasses, and braces. I was the kid that other kids picked on, because I was different. Because I was shy. I was timid. I was afraid. I was an easy target. I cried easily, I was always afraid of this, that, or the other happening. I would imagine scenarios that didn’t actually exist and get upset about them. I didn’t realize it when I was a kid, but now that I know better, my anxiety played a huge factor in the bullying. And furthermore, the bullying played a huge factor on my anxiety.

The first panic attack I can vividly remember was when I rode the Screaming Eagle at Six Flags for the first time. I can remember even still the hyperventilating, the screaming, my eyes going black, the numbness in my fingers and toes, the crying, the pressure in my ears, the feeling that I was going to die. I remember my friend’s parents having to actually pick me up out of the seat and guide me to a place where I could calm down. I didn’t know then what was happening to me. Anxiety wasn’t talked about much in my house. Even with the history of anxiety in my household, you were “over-reacting” and just “needed to calm down.” I knew my Mom had panic attacks, but I never knew what they were like.

The second panic attack I can vividly remember is the first time I accidentally drove on the highway. My mom was afraid of highways and would have panic attacks if she drove on them. Therefore, they were scary to me too. I had been taught this thought process and my brain knew nothing other than “Mom is afraid of it, so you should be too.” I had my license and I drove back streets everywhere. You wanted to get somewhere fast? Too bad. We’re tacking on another half hour to our drive because I can’t drive the highway. My now boyfriend (friend at the time), Jay, and I were driving to pick up a friend from her hotel at the airport. If any of you have ever been to St. Louis, you know that the airport can be a tricky place if you’re trying to avoid highways. I took a wrong turn and all of a sudden, there was the highway. I can remember yelling “NO! I can’t drive on the highway! What do I do?!” Queue the start of a panic attack. So here I am, losing it while driving on the highway, trying to understand what is happening to me and Jay in the passenger seat trying to figure out a plan of attack. Having never witnessed a panic attack before, he calmly talked me through it and helped guide me to an exit ramp so that I could pull over. I put the car in park and absolutely lost it. Full blown panic attack. He hugged me and talked to me until I was able to calm down. He then drove my awful car the rest of the evening. Should’ve known then that he’d be the one I’d end up with in life, stupid me for waiting so long!

Since then, I’ve had so many panic attacks I can’t even keep count. Sometimes they come with a warning, other times they don’t. I’ve become high functioning with my disability. By forcing myself to confront my anxiety disorder head on and teaching myself calming techniques for when I’m alone and one creeps in. As they sometimes do, panic attacks can morph and hit differently at different times. Often, instead of the hyperventilating, I mostly experience cold sweats, a rush of fear, an elevated heart rate and a racing mind. I’ve worked hard to combat this as well, although these are different and have developed over recent years.

I am no psychologist. I am no psychiatrist. I am not a licensed physician. You should consult your doctor if you experience any of the symptoms I have described above. Medicine can and will often help in these situations. Talking with a professional can and will often help in these situations. I am not here to tell you how to get rid of your anxiety. I hate to break it to you, but that’s not how anxiety works. My goal here is to be a beacon of hope for those with the disorder. I’m here to show that despite the disability, I have been able to lead a fulfilling life. I have been able to manage a successful career and toggle several sources of income. I have been able to spend time with my family, and love hard. How do I do that? By being open about my anxiety/ panic disorder. By eliminating the stigma. By speaking loud and proud. My disorder is a big part of me, but I am not my disorder. I am much more, and so are you.

Join me on this beautiful journey, where we can be open and honest with each other. Celebrate our accolades and discuss our misses. Where you know that you are not alone.

I look forward to getting to know you.

The Anxious Flamingo.