Updated: Apr 19, 2020
|By Bonnie Whitis, Targeted Case Manager, Mindsight Behavioral Group
I have struggled with anxiety all my life. I was born into anxiety. Or maybe it is learned behavior. Both of my parents had anxiety so it could be either or both. I have searched long and hard for these answers.
I have lived in fear of the unknown and the known, always worried about what might happen. It seems I have gone from one crisis to another, many of my own makings. I have tried many medications. I have tried self-medicating. I have gone to counseling. I have been a non-compliant client and patient. So I do get it. But at some point, I got really tired of hitting my head against the wall. I got tired of always trying to control things that I had no control over at all. I could no longer manage it so I decided to live with it.
I learned my triggers.
After all, it was me and my life so that wasn’t that hard to figure out. I avoided triggers when I could until I couldn’t. I learned that self-care really was vital and I had never really stopped to try that. I made myself slow down. I tried meditation and yoga and loved it. I could stop thinking even if just for a while. And I learned how to reel my mind back if it wondered. This was huge for me. I learned to not rush. I was always in a hurry. That in and of itself was a huge trigger. I learned I could be late if I needed to be, especially if that kept me sane. The world would not come to an end over a 5-minute difference. Don’t get me wrong, I like to be punctual, but not at the sake of a panic attack. I also learned a system of putting things where they belong so I didn’t lose them because losing things would cause an anxiety attack every time. Now I still occasionally lose things, but I have a system in place to avoid it and when it happens, I just breathe.
Maybe I can’t control my anxiety, but I can control my thoughts.
I learned to control my reactions to anxiety. I tried deep breathing, which yes, you do some in meditation and yoga as well. It grounds me. I can bring my pulse down simply by breathing. My pulse would race on a normal basis, and my resting pulse was 100 at any given time. Amazing that breathing could bring it down, huh? I thought so. I also learned to journal. I could put my thoughts on paper and then go back and read them and see how unrealistic they were. This helped me realize the thoughts and fears that were not reasonable and dismiss them. I also noticed that music has a huge effect on my anxiety. My selection of music now varies depending on my level of anxiety. I have found music that is calming for times of relaxation or when my anxiety is high.
It seems crazy, but it’s real.
Now if you don’t have anxiety, I’m sure this all seems crazy. And to those of us with anxiety, it seems crazy too, but it is very real. Have you ever experienced a fight or flight response to fear or stress? Those with anxiety experience that on a regular basis, and it’s exhausting! But there are skills that you can learn that do work.
There is hope. Exercise is my favorite self-care technique and it varies from walking to weights, cycling to hiking. I feel the worry melt. It relieves so much tension and anxiety. And it is good for my health, so double-win!
Anxiety during COVID-19 is magnified.
Now let me tell you that during this pandemic my anxiety has been higher than usual. I have stressed more. I have worried about whether I am doing enough to protect myself and my family, or if I’m doing too much. I’m not a germaphobe, but I have worked in healthcare. I know what proper handwashing techniques are (and btw most do not use them). I know about germs, bacteria, and viruses. I brought Lysol in my packed bag to labor and delivery to spray my postpartum room down because I knew I would keep my baby at my bedside (I even sprayed the curtains!). I refuse to live in fear anymore.
But now we are in the middle of a global pandemic, and I have had moments of panic. So I limit social media when my anxiety is high. I don’t watch the news. I watch the state governor’s briefing daily so I’m informed, and that is it. I don’t have cable for this very reason. It is negative and invokes fear, or at least it does in me. No thanks, I have enough on my own!
There are resources that can help.
But I will tell you there are more resources out there right now because of the current world crisis. You can exercise or meditate or even do yoga right from your living room and in your pajamas if you want. YouTube has some amazing videos as well. There are even apps you can use on your phone, like Headspace for example. If you like nature and hiking like me, there is an app called AllTrails. You can safely visit with friends and family using FaceTime or Facebook messenger. You can make phone calls and send emails. There are lots of ways to stay connected to friends and family. And even though you are “Healthy at Home,” you can still walk around your block, play with your kids, play fetch with the dog, layout in the sun, do yard work, read, etc. You get the gist. You don’t have to stay inside and worry. Get outside and get some Vitamin D (sun).
Here are a few of my favorite YouTube videos to calm anxiety:
The stigma is fading. There’s no better time than now!
The mental health stigma is fading. There are counselors everywhere you turn. You can use telehealth to connect virtually. You can even call or text to reach out. There is no reason to not get help. It might take a while to find the right help, but don’t quit looking and don’t give up. I worked with many counselors before I found one who became a teacher to me. I needed more than talk therapy. I wanted more than a vent session. I wanted to learn techniques, and boy did I ever! I think more clearly now than I ever have or thought I would.
My name is Bonnie Whitis and I am a Targeted Case Manager at Mindsight Behavioral Group. I overcame anxiety to go back to school as a non-traditional student to get my degree. I don’t know if I picked this field or it picked me but it is a perfect fit. I continue to learn about myself every day and continue to work hard to live with my anxiety. It is not easy, but it is doable.
If you need help with finding resources to help you reach your goals, whatever they might be, please reach out. I am good at what I do because I care. I've been there, and I am persistent. Goals are never impossible. You just need determination and to be willing to put forth the effort.
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What online counseling options do I have? There are lots of great telehealth treatment options and lots of incredible therapists to choose from. Check it out!
What is Mindsight Behavioral Group all about? Mindsight has locations throughout Kentucky and they are dedicated to making sure their clients are cared for. Learn more here!
What if I own a mental health group practice and need extra support and resources during this time? We have just the thing! Kasey Compton, CEO of Mindsight Behavioral Group, is incredibly passionate about helping other practices succeed! Check out KC Consulting!
Looking for a supportive community for group practice owners, check out Mindsight Partners.