It never fails. When the holiday season approaches, everyone is a massive ball of stress and anxiety. As someone who already struggles with anxiety and has since elementary school, this time of year can feel like a never ending nightmare.
If you have problems with anxiety, you know what I am talking about. You get all the usual symptoms x 10. The high heart rate, being hyper aware of your surroundings, feeling like your skin is going to crawl right off of you, not being able to escape an invisible box that surrounds you with its walls closing in, the list goes on. All caused due to the stress of buying presents, a packed schedule, or hosting the perfect party.
When you struggle with anxiety, it's so easy to feel like you are completely alone. I think one of the key things I tell myself when I am experiencing heightened anxiety is that the feelings will pass and I am not the only person who is going through this. When I was younger, I always felt ashamed, like something was wrong with me and everyone knew it. As I got older, I learned that many of my friends had anxiety. (It's estimated that 40 million adults struggle with anxiety disorders.) Hell, I think I realized that what I was experiencing actually WAS anxiety and not just me because "crazy". At one point, things got so bad that I broke out in hives for weeks. That was when my doctor, my parents, and I all decided I should try anti-anxiety medication.
While the meds helped me cope, they also made me a zombie. At this point, I decided to figure out ways to deal without meds. First and foremost, I had to think about what my triggers were. For me, pin-pointing these things helped me give them less power, thus lowering my chances of an anxious blackout rage. When you figure out these triggers, you can come up with easy solutions to each one. Want to blackout rage when you hear someone eating loudly? Tell yourself it wont last forever, focus on another noise going on, count your breaths, or throw in some headphones and crank the music.
Next, I researched ways that others combat anxiety. One large solution is working out. Once I set a schedule for myself (which also helped my anxiety), I made sure to include going to the gym every morning before work. After a few weeks, I found that if I skipped a workout, my anxiety levels were higher at work than they were on days that I worked out. A few other things that helped me were cutting back on caffeine/alcohol, making sure to get enough sleep, counting my breaths when I start to feel anxious, journaling, and even forcing myself away from my desk to take a walk around the block. Many people say that meditation helps them and while I've tried it a handful of times, it's not something my busy mind can allow myself to do yet but I do suggest everyone at least try!
Today, I am not completely free of anxiety (or even depression) but I have a better handle on things. Some days are harder than others. I am not going to tell you there haven't been plenty of nights spent sobbing uncontrollably on my closet floor in LA, hunching in fetal position, feeling like I was completely alone in the world and that these feelings would never end. Or even days where I was crawling out of my skin so bad in traffic that I wished someone would slam their car into mine to make it all stop. Even though I miss it every day, leaving Los Angeles helped my anxiety and depression immensely. However, moving to Raleigh brought on it's own set of challenges. Regardless, I know things will get easier and that these feelings will pass.
So... in summary -- you are not alone. Your feelings of anxiety or depression are not because you are crazy. It's a natural thing that happens and there are ways to cope. There is nothing to be ashamed of. If you are one of those lucky few who have the best life ever and never experience anxiety or depression, try to be cognizant of your friends who do suffer from these things. Reach out to them. Let them vent. Go on a walk with them. Give them a hug. We are all in this together.