It’s been a little over a week since I last blogged, but it’s felt much longer than that 🙁 With grade 12 slowly coming to a close, the homework, tests, essays, and assignments have just been piling up! I barely have time to breathe anymore! So, I thought this would be a good topic to blog about.
I know a lot of high school students are feeling the way I am because of school and other stress factors that come with being a teenager, though unfortunately, everything is just ten times harder for me. I suffer with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and though I’ve been able to handle it without the help of medication, I do admit it’s gotten a lot worse in the last couple of months, due to an increased pressure in my senior year, worry over university starting in the fall, my future and career, and so many other personal factors.
I feel as if anxiety disorders aren’t too talked about, but they’re extremely difficult to live with. “Anxiety disorders” is a broad term that covers six psychiatric disorders, from GAD to posttraumatic stress disorder, and sadly 4 million Canadians are diagnosed with a type of anxiety disorder annually.
I’ve always been a pretty restless, worrying over-thinker, but it has never negatively affected my life up until a certain point. My anxiety slowly developed after I was released from the hospital for my eating disorder in February 2012. It’s actually quite common that other mental health issues arise when suffering from an eating disorder or while in recovery. I have dealt with, and still deal with anxiety attacks (or panic attacks). Panic attacks are intense short episodes of fear that appear out of the blue. It literally feels as if the world is going to end right then and there. Through the trembling, the racing heart, and the chest pain, it is not a fun experience.
I got my first panic attack whilst in the hospital. I remember it being triggered by a certain meal plan that I was thinking too much about. Since then, they’re occasionally occurred during high-stress situations, or sometimes for no reason at all. I’ve had one while studying for a biology test, in the middle of a French test, and recently had one while I was crammed against strangers on a packed subway train in London, England. I practice deep breathing while closing my eyes to help me cope with the attack without letting it get out of hand.
How I usually explain anxiety to people is that it is extremely difficult to control, and significantly disrupts my life– from school to my social life. Recently, it’s been hard for me to finish a full day at school because of it. My constant and prolonged worrying put so much stress on my body that it just shut down both physically and mentally; I’ve been feeling tremendously fatigue, with difficulty concentrating. Because of that, it led to me not being able to complete my homework and missing so many classes that I fell behind a bit, which of course, caused more stress.
You can tell a lot of my stressors are school-related, though they aren’t the only ones. Uncomfortable situations actually cause me to panic, whether it be me enclosed in a tight space or in a big crowd (I’m very claustrophobic), or something positioned funny (I like balance). In addition, I still suffer with body image issues, so constantly analyzing how I look or comparing myself to others is something that causes me anxiety. Another thing I worry about is the important people in my life; I sometimes think that I’m not doing enough for my family and friends, causing me to feel selfish. My worrying is sort of like a domino effect– it consists of me over-analyzing situations, which leads to me thinking about the most terrible outcomes, which leads to me having fear of the future, with leads back to me, making me think I’m doing something wrong; it’s a never-ending cycle. A lot of it, if not all, leads to a negative self-perception, and it’s hard to steer away from those thoughts. For those who are wondering, click here to read the difference between normal everyday worrying, and the anxiety felt by someone suffering with this disorder, as I know it’s often a confusion.
I have faith that I’ll get over this rough patch in my life, just as I have gotten over many others. It just takes time and positivity. Everyone has little things that they enjoy doing that helps them alleviate stress. The gym is my number one stress reliever- I forget about all my worries and just sweat it out. I’m also an avid yogi, and practice yoga as many times as I can; yoga really helps clear my mind and keeps me grounded. In addition to those, I enjoy journaling, creating art, reading, and listening to music. The important thing for me is to do something that calms my mind.
Here are some tips that may help relieve stress:
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle. (See my last post for tips!) Eating a balanced diet consisting of healthy, whole foods, while limiting caffeine (caffeine can trigger anxiety and panic attacks), will make you feel better inside and out. Also, physical activity helps your body and mind, as it will get those endorphins flowing!
- Don’t take on more than you can handle. Know your limit and don’t feel bad if you have to say “no.” A person can only handle so much at once.
- Progress, not perfection. Set small goals for yourself and try to reach them, but don’t focus on being perfect. All you can ask of yourself is to do your best.
- Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself the way you would treat your best friend or little sibling. You wouldn’t put down your best friend, or treat them with disrespect, so why do that towards yourself?
- Take a time out. Leave your current situation for a while and just breathe. Do some yoga, meditate, read a chapter of your favourite book, drink some tea, go for a walk. Step back from your problems and clear your head.
- Let your feelings out. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, journaling is a great way to get your emotions out.
- Talk to someone. Don’t bottle things up; confide in someone you trust and vent or ask for advice. (My therapist = my mom 🙂 )
I’m currently drinking camomile tea while writing this, with some relaxing music playing in the background. Until I can find some time to sit down and get to the main source of all my problems, all I can do is find little ways to relax and decrease my stress.
Until next time,