Those of you that know me well (in real life), probably already know that I’ve battled some anxiety in the past five or so years. Initially, I really had no idea what was going on with me. I thought I ate something bad at dinner most of the time, and chalked it up to some virus or bug or whatever.
After a few reoccurring episodes (that were also happening in circumstances similar to one another) – James finally said to me… “Christy, you realize this is anxiety – not food poisoning, right?”
And my first reaction was obviously, “No it isn’t!” (Because why not get super defensive about it?! That’s how I dealt with lots of things back then. haha)
Eventually though, I started to notice the patterns in my feelings and acknowledged that my thoughts were bringing about the nerves in my stomach, and not something I ate. James was right. (Dang it.) For the most part the anxiety stemmed around traveling (especially if I was traveling without James), and way back when – it also revolved around shooting weddings (not ideal for a wedding photographer!)… particularly the day/night before the wedding when I had worked a full week at the law firm and came home on Friday night to scramble to get all my gear prepped, print my timelines, and get life in order before running out the door the next morning to shoot a wedding all day. (Not to mention weddings are a BIG deal! There is no redo here, people, so the anxiety was real!)
The truth was – before we took our business full-time I was WAAAAY overworked and WAAAAY exhausted. The exhaustion combined with nerves about various things manifested itself into feeling super super nauseous (sometimes to the point where my body seriously shut down and all I could do was lay in bed with the room spinning around me), and feeling sooo sleepy, yet unable to sleep because my queasy stomach woke me up every time I started to doze off. I mean, my body was basically just trying to shut itself down and sleep to deal with it. It got so bad for a while there I honestly wondered if I could keep shooting weddings if this was how I would feel on a regular basis. (Because regularly feeling like you came down with the world’s worst case of food poisoning thanks to anxiety was no way to live… at all.)
Thankfully, when we took the business full-time three years ago and I (eventually) started taking better care of myself – the anxiety started to fade into a more distant memory. (Yaaaaay!!) But I still wasn’t completely out of the woods. While it is rare that I have anxiety as bad as I did a few years ago – it does creep up on me now and then when I’m especially overwhelmed, exhausted, or thinking too much about everything. Because of that – I’ve done my best to find ways to manage it and prevent it from manifesting itself.
And since I’ve spoken to a lot of other people who deal with anxiety (but often never say anything to the world about it) – I thought I’d share some of the ways in which I’ve helped keep mine at bay, in hopes that it helps someone else out there.
1. Talk to someone about it! I cannot say how wonderful it has been to not only have James to lean on, but also other family/friends who have gone through it or deal with it as well. It is such a relief to be able to explain what is happening if I’m battling it at a particular time, and not just hide away ashamed about it.
2. Sleep!! Sleep has been SO vital in managing anxiety for me. If I’m exhausted it is sooo easy for me to get anxious, it is not even funny. Thankfully, we are able to make sure to sleep in and get enough rest on days when necessary – especially leading up to big shoots.
3. Exercise! Oh my gosh – I never used to have anxiety when I was younger, and I’m convinced it was because I was SO active! I was in every extra curricular you could imagine and was burning off energy left and right, and in college I ran pretty much every single day. Then later on – when we were so busy trying to get our business off the ground exercise went on the back burner for me and it was just about the worst thing I could have done for myself. I don’t know how I didn’t realize that that was when the anxiety started for me – but it did. Now I make sure to at the very least go for a mile long walk every day and it has helped soo much.
4. Get fresh air and vitamin D! This goes along with my walks with Chloe – but oh my gosh fresh air and sunshine do the most amazing things for my soul. It is so necessary.
5. Limit your caffeine. At least for me – this is a big help too. Because my anxiety manifests itself in my stomach – it is not good if I’m already feeling a bit on the verge of getting anxiety and then I have caffeine – which just makes me more jittery. I cut back to one small cup of coffee a day (sometimes even less) and my body has thanked me. (And we don’t even drink coffee the morning of weddings because we are already excitable enough! haha)
6. Have an impromptu dance party (if possible)! Turn on the craziest song you can think of and dance like nobody is watching. I’m talking about going totally crazy, nerdy, full-on dance mode!! You can’t help but laugh at yourself, and get your heart rate going at the same time! So good to battle your brain!
7. Laugh. Hang out with people who make you happy, who make you laugh and who don’t take life too seriously. Watch shows and movies that make you crack up and forget about the rest for a bit! So good for the soul.
8. Be. Here. Now. This is one of the biggest things for me. I can do all of the above listed things – and still sometimes the anxiety will creep up on me like an evil little ghost in the night. (You like that visual? Very Halloweeny for you. haha.) I will try to sleep, exercise, get fresh air… you name it… and yet sometimes my brain is just somewhere else. This year around my birthday I was starting to feel anxious again (which is SO unbelievably frustrating when you’ve felt good for months & months & months!) – and I realized it was because I was constantly worrying about things, including worrying about getting older. (I KNOW.) I was always one step ahead in my mind – worrying about this or that. Then I saw the movie Thank You For Sharing where one of the characters said, “Worrying is meditating on shit.” And it hit me right in the gut! Oh my gosh!!! What the heck was I doing this whole time?! I was sitting around thinking about negative things I couldn’t control, when I could have been focusing/meditating on something positive!!! How crazy! And how SIMPLE!
So now if my mind starts to wander to my worries I do my best to think of that quote (which usually helps right away), and also to: be here now. I stop planning ahead, stop thinking of what might go wrong later, and instead focus on my senses in this moment. For example, when I’m walking Chloe – instead of mentally going through my to-do list (which really does no good when I’m out on a walk!) – I focus on where I am in that moment. I listen to the crunch of the leaves under my feet, the feel of the cool breeze on my face, the smell of fall in the air (you know what I’m talking about), and the colors of the trees. It takes me out of my head, and into my body – feeling each moment and appreciating it for what it is. I realize this probably sounds super hippy-dippy to some of you – but I don’t care! haha. Try this and you will be so happy you did!
Instead of rushing through life – speeding to get to the next thing as fast as humanly possible – slow down for a bit and just be here in this moment. Eat more slowly. Actually TASTE your food. Feel the air filling your lungs. Relish in the burn during a good workout. Look into the eyes of a loved one and listen to them whole heartedly while they speak to you. Get out of your worrying little brain, and into the moment you are in. It is really amazing how quickly things can turn around if you focus on where you are right now, instead of what may or may not happen in the future, or what already happened in the past.
Of course all of this is a work in progress – as are all things in life – but after having so many conversations with people about this recently, I just wanted to share. (Because you all know I’m all about sharing!) I just hate that people think they have to battle through things alone, and have this perfect (false) vision of other people’s lives – when in reality we are all going through something. You are never the first person to have ever experienced something, and you won’t be the last. So talk to people… build a community… and realize we are all in this together. xoxo
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*I am not a doctor! 🙂 This are just tips based on my own experiences dealing with anxiety. Please consult a doctor if you have a medical concern, or visit http://www.adaa.org/ for more information.