Anxiety Trooping



*Disclaimer: This article is meant to be informative and explains how the pandemic has and is continuing to affect me and countless others. My intention is to help as many people as possible find a way to cope in the meantime because, unfortunately, I have yet to meet a person that is exempt from its effects, especially now.




Picture this: A crash startles you awake. You lie still in bed half-delirious, half anxiety-ridden. A million worst-case scenarios torpedo through your brain. Another sound from the other room drives your heart to your throat. Reaching for your phone, you punch 911 into the keypad with trembling fingers without completing the call. It's probably nothing, you say under your breath. You hurry to your bedroom door to secure the lock just in case when another crash makes you jump. It's definitely not 'nothing'. And this time it sounded closer. You’ve heard about the break-ins in your area. Convinced your home is the latest target, you complete the call to 911 and scan your darkened room for a weapon in case you'll need it. You hide.


Your clammy skin sticks to the flooring in the deepest part of your closet as you clutch a four-inch heeled shoe to your chest—your only weapon. No one’s answering your call for help. Even if you were to get someone on the phone, would the intruder hear you? Are there more than one?


You hang up and try again. Someone rattles the knob. Desperate tears rain down your face. Angry pounding on your bedroom door persists, and you know it's only a matter of time before they find a way in. And help isn’t coming.


Just reading the above scenario can put anyone on edge. Of course, everyone responds differently to terrifying situations. Yet, for most people, the effects of a heightened sense of danger can take a toll on the mind and body in unexpected ways. Something many people don't realize is these effects aren't limited to adults. Kids are taxed with learning and concentrating in this anxious state of mind. Adults are expected to focus on work, get things done right, and on time. But below the surface, alarm signals are going off all over the body, and many of us ignore them, sadly to our own detriment.



Pounding heartbeat, sweating, unsteady breathing, increased blood pressure, inability to relax—these are the natural involuntary responses our body makes in preparation to either stand our ground and fight or, at the first opportunity, flee to safety to ensure our survival. This is anxiety. Google defines it as "a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome." I know there are different types of anxiety, but this is the basic definition.


With the senses on high alert and with no end to it in sight, the mind and body stay in fight or flight mode. I like how the following article breaks it down. "The fight-or-flight response (also known as the acute stress response), refers to a physiological reaction that occurs when we are in the presence of something that is mentally or physically terrifying. The fight-or-flight response is triggered by the release of hormones that prepare your body to either stay and deal with a threat or to run away to safety.[1]


What hormones are released?

Adrenaline floods the body with the energy it needs to react without hesitation, cortisol or stress helps the body prioritize its functions, and norepinephrine heightens awareness and helps prepare your body to take action by adjusting blood flow to essential organs. These reactions are important to help us survive. Once we get to safety, we can finally relax. But what happens if our body never snaps out of emergency mode?



Our bodies work tirelessly 24/7 to keep us alive. A normal heart beats about 100,000 beats per day, pumping 2,000 gallons of blood throughout the body. Throw anxiety into the mix, and it's little wonder people younger and younger are suffering from heart attacks, high blood pressure, and a host of other health and mental issues, including weight gain, acne, insomnia, and depression. The scary truth is so many ignore their bodies and the root causes of these symptoms because few make time for it.


Of course, we've all heard how crucial sleep is to repair and rejuvenate the mind and body. Cell restoration includes muscle repair so if you wake up with stiffness and soreness, (apart from sleeping in a weird position or on a lumpy mattress) you didn't get restful sleep. Deficiencies in vitamins D and B-12 can affect sleep quality too.


Did you know that the brain also makes waste? Sleep helps our neurons to push the toxic waste accumulation out of our central nervous system. Our brains also de-clutter unnecessary information from its storage. This is why sleep-deprived people are irritable, have decreased impulse control (which affects their decision making), intense bursts of anger or aggression, more aches and pains, poor concentration, poor memory, and a host of other issues.



A few weeks ago, I read an article that highlighted a crucial point about this universal case of anxiety. "Fear is about something that is predictable that you can understand. You know what it is, you know when it starts, you know when it ends. It’s contained. Anxiety is about uncertainty. There’s no beginning or end. You can’t see it. There’s no spatial or temporal constraint."


For so many people, young and old, there is no carrying on with their lives until the threat of covid is over, and no one knows when exactly that will be. Furthermore, when the adults have no answer to the questions that they and their children keep asking, it piles on even more stress. Kids worry about their parents, their future, and their friends. Parents struggle with working, staying healthy, keeping up with child care, schooling, staying away from the crazies at the stores, and getting enough rest to deal with it all again the next day.


But take heart. There is light at the end of this scary tunnel.


The key to coping can be summed up in two hyphenated words squished together: Self-care. (The following tips are in no particular order.)


The World Health Organization defines self-care as: “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.” That covers a lot of ground when you think about it and affects us in every area of our lives. I suppose it only makes sense that it would especially when we see how far-reaching anxiety and its effects are.


First, check-in with yourself. Take five minutes several times a day for deep breathing. Stretch your body. If you're tense, get a massage or buy a device to use whenever you want. My husband and I use manual back massagers ranging between $30-$60 from Walmart. They both work great to break up the knots braided along our backs and shoulders. Those knots have toxins trapped in them and get released when the knots get worked out and help rid yourself of the trapped tension in your body.


So often we try to make sure other people are taken care of and comfortable and neglect ourselves. I know everyone's circumstances are drastically different, but acknowledging and honoring your humanity and that you have limitations and needs is perfectly normal and more necessary than you can possibly know.


Journal. This is a great exercise for making short-term and long-term goals and a plan to achieve them. We all need something positive to look forward to, no matter how simple. Journaling right before bed is also helpful to purge your mind of the day's stresses so you can rest easy. If the mind is too bogged down, it will stay in this heightened sense of awareness when it's time to rest. If writing isn't your thing, talk it out with someone or make a video diary. For me personally, writing helps me work out problems, come to terms with past traumas, and sort out my emotions.





Cry. I don't care how tough you think you are, if you need a good cry, do it. Crying releases oxytocin and endorphins (feel-good hormones) which help relieve pain. Suppressing resentment, frustration, hurt, and sadness will only turn you into a pressure cooker, putting extra strain on your heart. By feeding the negativity monster thriving inside of you, peace and happiness will always be out of reach. You can't swim to the surface with these things weighing you down. Drowning is inevitable. It's only a matter of when.


Change your mindset. Positive thinking has been scientifically proven to decrease anxiety, stress, depression, and the risk of mental and physical health problems. Speaking from personal experience, it has helped me improve my ability to problem-solve creatively and build self-confidence to want to change bad habits and to be the best version of myself. Roadblocks don't deter me anymore. Of course, any kind of change can seem scary, uncomfortable, and difficult, but the effort is well worth it. Below is a link for tips on how to practice it.



Eat more nutrient-dense foods and hydrate. This can be tough when we tend to inherit more than our family's physical traits and genetic diseases. We learn by example how and what to eat from our family. So many parents don't know how to eat for nutrition, or if they do, they rarely pass these insights onto their children let alone lead by example. Most people are addicted to sugar and salt. We can't get enough. But even with people who eat a vegetable or fruit here and there, those benefits get undone by the surplus of junk in our system. (Sugar depletes our bodies of vitamins and minerals.)


Along the same line of thought, vitamin and mineral deficiencies can play a major part in our mental and physical health. For example, magnesium L-threonate is great for anxiety, stress, and improving sleep quality and memory. The best way to help ourselves is by giving our body what it needs to function at its fullest potential. Deprivation makes it work even harder.


There are plenty of apps to help you budget and plan meals even for the worst cooks. Check out myplate.gov —a website that also features an app to help provide dietary information. YouTube is also a great source of inspiration to guide you through meal planning, prep, and budgeting sustainably.



Connect with people. I'm super introverted and will be the first to tell you how living like a hermit during lockdown has been a breeze. But even hermits need to poke their heads out of their shells every now and again. Healthy human interaction can be as refreshing as a gentle breeze through your hair or the warmth of the sun on your face. We're social creatures by nature after all.


I personally don't have many friends, so I've been checking in with my family who live hours away up north. Reminiscing about our crazy childhood and sharing jokes brightens my day in an instant. And on the days where I'm really missing human faces (other than my husband's), we'll do a drive-by to my sister's and see my niece's and nephew's bright and smiling faces. (They live ten minutes away and we do video chats all the time.) If you don't have anyone, reach out to neighbors or online friends. They don't have to be your exact age. Older people make great friends. Or be a mentor to someone younger. We can all learn from each other and find mutual support.



Connect with nature and exercise. Of course, vacationing right now isn't possible for the majority of us, but that doesn't mean you can't get out of the house and take a walk in a nearby park and enjoy nature. I love listening to the birds singing, seeing the cloud shapes change day by day, or watch the trees dance in the breeze. These things have a calming effect on the mind and body. Being trapped indoors all day has a negative impact on mental and physical health. Combining this with the body's need for daily exercise which releases endorphins will supercharge you even more. There's a reason why elementary schools have a recess (at least pre-covid). Kids need to blow off steam every now and then. And this need doesn't disappear after graduation. Adults need it just as much.


Plus, ten to thirty minutes of sunlight helps your skin make its own vitamin D, which in turn helps your body with stress, fatigue, and at the end of the day, sleep. For those with more melanin, staying outside a little longer may be necessary. Also depending on the time of year, supplementing may be needed to make sure you're getting enough.


Share the burden of your concerns with someone you trust and rely on. This tip can be a challenge for those with few trustworthy people in their lives. However, being a God-fearing person I see prayer as a way to share whatever burden a person might have with the 'hearer of prayer', no matter how alone in the world someone may feel or how difficult it can be to put your thoughts and feelings into words.


The truth is, everyone needs help many times throughout their lives. Again, we're only human. There are plenty of resources to find the help you need, and it's okay to need more help than other people. Unfortunately, society has conditioned people to think that this is a sign of weakness, especially for men and boys. Being a strong person, no matter your gender or background, doesn't mean you'll never need help. Life is about balance. Sometimes we can't do things alone. There is no law that says you have to. If your boat is capsized and the waves are tossing violently around you and the coast guard is working hard to get you to safety, wouldn't it be ridiculous to reject their aid? Why would we see asking for help for other things as being any different?


Everyone has different needs, and with access to the internet, there is no excuse not to educate ourselves and take the necessary action to get help.



Indulge in a healthy activity. If you enjoy drawing, dancing, hiking, solving puzzles, reading, etc., make the time for it, even if for fifteen minutes. Do something that unlocks your creativity, exercises your brain, relaxes you, or makes you feel fulfilled in some way. Life isn't meant to be all work and no play. Most people on their deathbed wish they worked less and took the time to enjoy their life. Don't be one of them.




Avoid toxic people. This may be extremely difficult, especially if the people you live with are contributing to your anxiety. If the above picture represents your home life, you're far from alone. This was what a lot of my childhood was like. And it sucked. No one in the picture likely sees their home as a safe place. And it's not. If you're a teen or younger and you're trapped in a chaotic household, all I can say is isolate yourself from it as much as you can and drown it out with calming music and a therapeutic hobby until you're old enough and able to get out. If you're in physical danger in any way, please click here to find the help you need. No one deserves to live like that. The quality of your home life can play a major role in anxiety, not just short-term, but long-term too.


If you're an adult in a toxic relationship, click here for tips on how to cope when leaving isn't an option. Of course, this isn't limited to romantic relationships. Toxic people can be found everywhere, including in our own extended families. Worse yet, their qualities can rub off on us. And it only makes sense. We learn everything from the people around us: problem-solving, communication, and in many cases, how to worsen problems and fight to the death with our words, which can wreak havoc on relationships.


Take an honest look at yourself and others. If you have toxic traits, work on cultivating good qualities to replace them. But remember, the people you spend time with can reinforce your toxic traits if they have toxic traits too. Find friends with the qualities you aspire to. Change requires action and a game plan. Make this one of your goals.


There's an old saying: It's not about what happens to you. It's about how you react that matters. I cannot express how true these words are. We control our words, our tone, and our attitude. So when dealing with people in general, no matter your relationship with them, you play an active role in how volatile or peaceful your exchange can begin and end. You have a say in whether the conversation is worth pursuing or not. If violence is a real threat, I feel this should go without saying, but fleeing is always the best option.


Avoid unhealthy habits. Unhealthy habits are challenging to break when they're infused into your daily rituals and even more so when they offer you comfort. But once you know you've gotta do better, it's often best to take action sooner rather than later. One of the best tips I've gotten to help me with this is to plan out how you'll react in advance to temptation. Will you flee, actively seek out healthier alternatives, or throw your hands up and give in?


When we need something, we'll find a way to obtain it, no matter the cost. Our bodies do the same thing instinctively. If we're deficient in a nutrient, it will scavenge for it somewhere else like our hair, skin, and nails. If our bodies naturally prioritize, anyone can learn to prioritize too, especially if our mental, physical, and emotional health are at risk, and even more so if the health of others depends on you too. This is where positive thinking comes into play. Every day we achieve so much. It really is a matter of getting started. If you need help or guidance, take action and seek it out. We all need support in one way or another.


Seventh, if anxiety is still weighing you down and you don't know what else to do, seek professional help. It may be a simple matter of having someone act as a soundboard to your worries and helping you work through them. Or if you have a chemical imbalance, a licensed professional may be exactly what you need. If you don't like or connect well with the first doctor or professional you see, find one better suited to you. And remember, getting professional help doesn't always mean having to take meds. You have a say in your treatment, if it comes to that, no matter what that treatment may consist of. The truth is there's nothing shameful in exploring all of your options. When it comes to your physical, mental, and emotional health, it's important to make informed decisions and the best decisions for your unique circumstances.





Concluding Thoughts

Anxiety can have many triggers and serious consequences, but when our own resilience isn't enough to overcome it, there is an abundance of help. As with anything else, we have to take the initiative ourselves. This is the only body we have. So why not cherish it?


If you're a parent, I hope this article inspires you to get yourself in tip-top shape to better help your children in these unprecedented times as well as yourself. Kids will learn how to cope with anxiety by watching you. Please make sure your methods are healthy and worthy of imitation.

 

Let me know in the comments below or in a private message how you're holding up during this madness, or the methods that are helping you personally. I'd love to hear from you.


 

For more quick tips and advice to combat anxiety, click here or check out the links below.

For worksheets to work through emotional and situational issues, check out the following website. Here you'll find resources for the whole family. https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-worksheets/anxiety/adults


https://www.vox.com/culture/2020/5/11/21250518/oliver-j-robinson-interview-pandemic-anxiety-reading

The following YouTuber is a practicing licensed therapist with lots of insights about anxiety and many other mental health concerns. Click the link below to find the video for your unique situation.

https://www.youtube.com/c/TherapyinaNutshell/videos

For a detailed explanation about how vitamin deficiency affects sleep click the link below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1Qm5x7Lxgc

For tips for positive thinking, click the following link.

https://www.powerofpositivity.com/positivity-life-changing-benefits/

For tips for a healthy brain, check out the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLpbfOJ4bJU&t=406s

For tips for a good night's sleep, click the link below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqhSW8miqq8


[1] https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-the-fight-or-flight-response-2795194


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