Treating Anxiety

Hello, I am Whitney Hawkins. I am both excited and anxious to be writing for Treating Anxiety. If I’m being honest, this is the first time I have publicly admitted that I have struggled with anxiety. After years of panic attacks, some therapy, and a lot of breathing into paper bags, I am here to set the record straight about mental illness stigma and deliver my own anxiety management strategies and techniques.
As 2015 winds down, let me start by wishing all of you a Happy New Year in 2016 from the Treating Anxiety Blog. 2015 was difficult for me, and I can't say I'm sorry to see it go. But, I also end it on a hopeful note due to all I've learned about myself, living with anxiety, and simply being human. Which, sadly, leads me to my second wish. I also wish you all a fond farewell. This will be my last post from Treating Anxiety.
Managing our anxiety about terrorist attacks is hard. It's so abhorrent and baffling that it's difficult to get our minds around it. It's extremely upsetting. Terrorist attacks in Western countries like France and the United States are a very recent phenomenon. Here in the West, we're still adjusting to the fact that terrorism has become part of our experience, too. It's no longer something that only happens in far-away places that we've never heard of, or know very little about. As we're managing our own anxiety about terrorist attacks, we're also having to learn how to discuss war and terrorism with our children.
I've been reading the Debunking Addiction blog lately, and it's gotten me thinking about how my early sobriety triggered my anxiety. Early sobriety generally refers to the first year of not drinking after sobering up. My experience has been that early sobriety will trigger anxiety, especially if you already have an anxiety disorder, which I believe many problem drinkers do (Addiction and Mental Illness: The Struggle to Stay Sober and Sane).
Sleep deprivation can be a real danger to those of us with anxiety disorders, especially in the long term. Chronic lack of sleep has been linked to everything from poor concentration and being more prone to accidents, diabetes, heart disease, and early mortality. The irony is that mood disorders, like anxiety, increase sleep deprivation, which, in turn, increases anxiety. Here is some important information about the dangers of anxiety-related sleep deprivation, and some steps you can take to increase the quality of your sleep.
Does your anxiety ever make you feel like a failure? Does it ever make you feel stupid? A reader's comment on my post, Top 10 Anxiety-Friendly Jobs really got me thinking about this issue. They indicated that anxiety at work had caused them to exhibit some of the common signs of low self-esteem, including difficulty holding down a job, and becoming easily confused and forgetful. Because I've struggled mightily with these same issues at work, it also got me thinking about other reasons why anxiety makes you feel stupid and like a failure.
Many of us live with people who don't understand our anxiety. About 18% of American adults live with an anxiety disorder.1 There are millions more all over the world who also have anxiety, which means that a lot of us live with people who don't understand our anxiety. Whether it's roommates, parents, spouses, or children, you may be living with people who don't understand (Lack of Understanding of Mental Illness). Here are some thoughts on how to cope better in that situation.
I've been seeing a therapist for a while to help decrease my anxiety. We generally just talk, but, today, we tried something new. Well, it was new for me, anyway. He's been using eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy for a number of years with his other clients. We did a session today using EMDR, and my therapist really helped me decrease my anxiety levels.
Living with mental health issues means there will be days where you feel paralyzed by anxiety and depression. Because comorbid depression and anxiety are so common with different mental illnesses, nearly everyone who struggles with mental health will have to get through a day feeling paralyzed by anxiety and depression. I had one today, and man, it was rough. But, the good news is, I got through it.
One important skill to acquire when you you have anxiety is learning how to avoid future-tripping. Future-tripping, also called anticipatory anxiety, is part of the human condition of peering into the imagined future and anticipating the outcome. Everyone does this to some degree or other. It's one of the blessings (or perhaps curses) of having a human brain with a frontal cortex. A person without an anxiety disorder may see a pleasant outcome, while an anxious person will likely imagine the worst outcome possible. The truth is, we don't know what's going to happen. That's why future-tripping when you have anxiety is a good thing to avoid.