How Do You Travel With Anxiety?
When people find out I suffer from anxiety, I am often asked this question.
I’ll tell ya, there was a time 7-8 years ago when that would not have been possible. For a short while, (although it felt like eternity) leaving the house simply to go to the grocery store was a daunting task! Having a large group of friends over was a challenge. Travel? There was no way. (And I thought I was one of the most adventurous and outgoing people I knew! These challenges were all because I had started to suffer with panic attacks around the age of 24.
A panic attack is a sudden flood of overwhelming fear and anxiety. More than a flood, think of Niagara Falls – but of emotions. For me, my heart is pounding, my chest feels tight and heavy, its difficult to catch my breath, I sweat buckets, I’m extremely nauseous, and super shaky, and often bawling my eyes out. You can feel like you are going crazy, or about to die. It is a surreal out of body experience for me. For me, it’s the feeling of loosing control that makes me panic even more during an attack. The symptoms can be utterly debilitating.
Regardless of the cause, panic attacks are treatable. And you shouldn’t feel that because you may suffer from an anxiety disorder, you should be restricted from exploring the globe! There are many fabulous coping strategies you can use to deal with the symptoms and also very effective treatments.
Struggles with anxiety are caused by overly apprehensive behavior, which are learned ways of coping with life.
These social graces are learned during our developmental years (typically from birth to age 8-ish).
Anxiety disorder sufferers do not consciously choose to adapt to overly apprehensive behavior as a way of coping with life. We mirrored that style of behavior thinking that it was normal. It actually comes as a shock to most to find out you have issues with anxiety when anxiety starts to create problems and issues in your life. My anxiety and depression symptoms were actually a pretty big shock to me. I have always been a very outgoing and social person. Very driven and focused. Spiralling “out of control” mentally was a pretty big struggle.
Now, at 32, I don’t too often have attacks anymore. But still have suffered from their intense results. I had to learn how to manage my anxiety symptoms with healthier ways to “cope with life”. For me it started with therapy, treatment and medication.
I also began my journey of strengthening my spirituality during the peak of my illness. At that time is when I began to meditate. I started reading really fantastic books by authors like: Dr. Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Thich Nhat Hanh, and many others. These books gave me incredible tools to manage my symptoms of anxiety, and build healthier life coping skills. To recognize when situations were making me feel anxious, and even prevent situations. Because of my determined spirit, and really learning about and utilizing as many natural tools to manage my symptoms as I could, I was able to be medication free after approximately one year.
I continue to meditate daily, read super motivating, inspiring books, try to exercise as often as I can, make sure I get plenty of rest, use some incredible essential oils, and make sure I am as open as I can be with those closest around me. Because for me the strength, understanding, and patience from my loved ones is the MOST important to managing my anxiety. My inner circle truly are an incredible group of people, who I love, respect and admire deeply. Without them, I probably would be falling apart at the seams.
Other important tools for me are any creative outlet I can do, and TRAVEL. Believe it or not! Two things that actually can work me up the most, actually help me the most. That is performing in front of live audiences, and travelling. Both have been my passions and great interests since forever. I would never want to be able to not take part in these special activities, so I do force myself through the fear. Now, I can only speak about this for myself. If you are struggling with a mental illness, I highly recommend you seek treatment first and foremost. Otherwise your symptoms will only get worse. Getting yourself back on track with the help of medical professionals is paramount, if you wish to participate in activities that you know bring on feelings of anxiety.
I wanted to write this personal blog, to show people it is OK. We all suffer and struggle with our own battles.
If we are open and honest about them, it will make it easier to tackle, and easier to succeed. Anxiety can be a miserable affliction. It is extremely frustrating to deal with especially when some have no idea why you are even reacting to a situation that brings on anxiety.
How can you help someone you know struggling with anxiety, or what can you do to to help yourself?
The people around me are so patient, and understanding because many of them have taken the time to do their own research on anxiety disorders to better understand what I can struggle with at times. And how to help me cope in an anxious situation. They also follow some very helpful processes and have learned that there are certain methods to how I may “operate”
- Strong listening skills. When I am feeling anxious, I will talk, ALOT lol. I need to release and let it out. When things build up inside I over think, and over analyze and that is a recipe for disaster. With this, comes open and honest communication. Both ways. I can always sense when someone is holding back, and that only makes me feel anxious. So communicating open and honestly from the get go is so key.
- I need tons of reassurance. I need to hear I’m ok, I’m safe, I’m loved. My loved ones are fantastic at telling me these things. They are fabulous at pointing out my strengths and praising my successes. Those little boosts go a long way. Keep it positive!
- My loved ones are so supportive of my “hippie” routines such as meditating, using a ton of essential oils, using Himalayan salt and celestite crystals among others and practicing yoga, burning incense and all the millions of spirituality books I read. And a lot of times those “hippie” ways rub off on them. Because they are all really amazing tools!
- Empathize. Don’t sympathize for or patronize me. I don’t need sympathy, I don’t need pity. I appreciate compassion and understanding when I’m dealing with a stressful situation. Believe me, I am well aware that I may be acting “Crazy” in a stressful situation and I know I am off balance in those moments. Hearing it only makes me feel worse. I am aware, and just need patience and support to get me back on track.
I really notice the little things. And I am incredibly grateful for even the smallest of gestures, and my love and bond with these special people in my life runs deep. Like a true loyal lion, these amazing people will always hold a major space in my heart. I cannot stress enough how important being aware of acquiring those qualities are, in supporting friends and loved ones with anxiety. Because of THEIR strength I am able to do things I love. They get lost in my madness and my travels, and explore the world and enjoy those amazing experiences with me. Anxiety is only a small part of who I am. It sure does NOT define me, and will never restrict me from my passions!
The Wandering Lioness