by: Carolina Guzman
It’s normal to feel anxious on occasion. That’s just a part of life. Maybe we have an upcoming event we are in charge of, an important deadline, or we’re anxious to hear back from a potential employer after an interview. But imagine feeling anxious most of the time out of your day… or out of your life. That’s what most of my life has consisted of.
I remember one of the very first times my anxiety started bothering me. I was 7. I remember sitting down in my room and thinking “what’s going to happen when I die? Who will take care of my stuff? Can I come back to visit?” It seems innocent enough to have an imagination like this as a child, but I clearly remember feeling excruciating tension in my muscles and shortness of breath from these thoughts.
At thirteen, I had my first real anxiety attack.
I completely broke down. I felt so much fear and did not know why and as a result, my breathing became more and more difficult and my body felt out of control. It was one of the most traumatic nights of my life.
A few months later, I started suffering from OCD and feeling the need to organize things a certain way and touch certain things before leaving a room, (or else everything would fall apart!) In my mind, this was reality.
At one point I was given homeopathic medication, which helped, but only temporarily. The OCD went away, but the anxiety always remained. Knowing it could surface at any random moment in time also gave me anxiety too! What a trap.
Finally, as an adult, I sought out professional help and even went to a few workshops addressing mental health, illness and disorders in hopes of getting some more answers. It was there that I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and was given options to take prescribed medications.
But by now I had suffered enough and been under the control of my mental illness. The last thing I wanted was to develop a dependency on medication and be under its control too. Right then and there I committed to change my lifestyle and see if I could take my control back on my own. (Note: I am NOT against taking medicine with mental illnesses especially. I just knew that for ME and my illness, I wanted to control it myself if i could.) It was my one last shot.
Here are the 3 ways I naturally gained control of my anxiety and decreased the amount of anxiety attacks I suffered from:
1) Working out regularly. – This should come as no surprise. When you exercise regularly, your body releases endorphins which interact with the receptors in your brain and reduces pain, stress and anxiety levels. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, too. The more positive I became, the less I felt compelled to over analyze and worry… this meant less and less anxiety attacks!
2) Eating healthier/changing my diet. – Once I started working out, my diet changed too. I began feeling so much happier as I sought out different diets to follow and recipes to try. I largely contribute using my brain creatively and with so much excitement to the infrequent amounts of episodes I suffered with.
3) A change of music. – “Music…can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.” – Martin Luther “Music can change the world because it can change people.” – Bono “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” – Bob Marley
I began listening to more soothing and tranquil music regularly. It really helped me to pause and relax my mind and body more frequently throughout the day.
During this journey, I decided to compete in a pageant. It was hard preparing for it. Some days my mindset was very positive, and other days it would bring me down. People have no idea about the days I used to spend crying and contemplating death. I had come so far and wanted to use the illness to shape me into a better woman that I could showcase proudly. This was hard for me to write, but I hope it can inspire others to not let anxiety get the best of them either.
People associate anxiety and depression with being crazy. I’m not crazy. I may have severe anxiety, but I have accomplished a lot at my 25 years. My advice for anyone going through any sort of mental illness like mine is to know that there are ways to cope with it NATURALLY and medicinally that are incredibly effective. These are the ways that helped me, so I encourage you to find what soothes and elevates you. Seek a hobby that gets your mind off of it, read a new book, be responsible with your health regime.. and remember, there is nothing wrong with being different.