How I Deal With Anxiety

My anxiety’s decided to get all up in mah business again. It’s frustrating and maddening, and it sucks. I’m an expert at wallowing. “Why do I have to deal with mental illness? Why is it a fight to feel okay? Why?”

I threw a proper pity party this week––very British, with little emotion––and told myself to get it together. Getting it together is work. Hard work. Like saying no to a slice of chocolate cake hard.

Writing is therapy for me, and I hope that there’s one person who’ll read this and know they’re not alone & that they can find rest.

The whole point of this post is to share some ways that I cope with when my anxiety strikes, but before I do, let me tell you what it’s like. If you’re one of the suckers out there who hasn’t experienced acute anxiety, that’s a gift! And also, I’m jealous. But it’s super important to understand what it’s like for your loved one or friend who deals with anxiety.

There’s a scene in Harry Potter where Harry, Ron, and Hermoine are trying to get a Horcrux from Bellatrix’s vault in Gringotts. One of the spells that protect the Horcrux is that anything the thief touches in the vault multiplies. There are hundreds of pieces of gold, precious metals covering the floor, and valuables stacked to the top of the giant room. As Ron, Hermoine, and Harry try to get the Horcrux, the objects keep multiplying––doubling, tripling, and soon the three will be overwhelmed. They’re trapped. The only thing that can save them is to have the courage to stop moving.

Anxiety (for me), feels just like that scene. My mind races––zigzagging from one scenario to another. My heart pounds and pulses like a steam engine. I cry gasping ugly cries. Entirely different from my usual tears like when I watch Jim & Pam flirt or stare at my dog for 30 seconds. It’s not normal Jess, but it’s something I occasionally deal with.

Here’s what helps me when I feel anxiety coming on:

  1. Talk through what’s actually going on. “Okay, I’m in my apartment, laying on my couch. I’m watching Gilmore Girls; there’s nothing bad happening at this moment.” Rinse, repeat.
  2. Use breathing techniques to calm my nervous system: I breathe in and let the air fill my lungs & my belly completely, and then slowly breath out until I’m empty. I repeat this for a few minutes.
  3. Remind myself who I am: “God created me, He loves me, and He will help me through this. I’m chosen, I’m forgiven, and unique.”

Did you know suicide rates have increased over 25% in the past 20 years? It’s up 30% in some states. This is unacceptable. We’ve got to talk to each other––there’s NO shame in reaching out. Mental illness affects 1 in 5 people in the U.S. That means several people you know deal with it…maybe it’s you!

I believe God’s bigger than mental illness, including mine. I believe He’s got a plan & a purpose for my life that will help others know Jesus because they can relate to my story. I believe there’s healing, but most of all…hope. Jesus doesn’t check out when my anxiety flairs up. He steps in with hope and reminds me He’s close.

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