My Experience with High-Functioning Anxiety

I first notice it in my throat, a tightening, like I just swallowed a pill that didn’t quite go down the right way. Other times, I will notice it in my neck and shoulders at night, when I finally quiet myself enough to realize all the tension I’ve been carrying throughout the day. Often this makes it hard to fall asleep. Even still there are times that I am left wide awake by the endless stream of thoughts that permeate my brain when all I want is rest. Then there’s even the feeling I get in my chest. The palpitations and the nervous feeling only made worse by the fact that my heart is racing, an endless cycle. Usually when this is happening, I say nothing and push through until the wave of anxiety subsides.

Last night was one of those nights. I tossed and turned and replayed every scenario of everything going on in my life up to the current moment. Work has been pretty challenging for the last several weeks. Things have been extremely busy, and there are a few people that I have felt I am constantly walking on egg shells around. Trying to manage this with my need to make everyone happy is exhausting. I deal with the stress with a smile on my face and try very hard to not let anyone see behind the façade.

I have been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, but I tend to refer to it as high-functioning anxiety despite the fact that it is not an officially recognized diagnosis. For me it is just a better description of my personal experience. Sometimes people mistakenly assume that someone with anxiety tucks themselves away hiding from the world outside, and this may be the case for some people, but my experience has been very different. For me it has more to do with my endless pursuit of perfection. The carefully constructed image of myself that I want to convey to others in order to hide my insecurities and imperfections.

I have an endless array of hobbies, volunteer work, achievements and pursuits. Many of these things do bring me joy and fulfillment. But there is also my need to be busy, to fill my time so that I can stay out of my own head.  There is also my embarrassing nervous laughter. Laughing to fill the space in a conversation, when maybe I am feeling insecure. Other times it is my shortness with someone caused by how overwhelmed I am feeling at that moment. Different things trigger this for me and I am aware of what those triggers are, but every once in a while the wave of anxiety still pours over me.

Most people (outside of those who read my blog, and those very close to me) would never realize that I am constantly at battle with my own mind. This is significantly better – I do take medication, practice yoga and breathing techniques nightly and try to eat healthy and live a healthy lifestyle. But occasionally nights like last night sneak up on me and suck me into that black hole of my mind, with the endless gravitational pull of my incessant thoughts.

It’s often hard to remember but if you are coping with an anxiety disorder, realize that you’re not alone. Often those you may least expect may be dealing with similar issues. Anxiety isn’t a stereotype, it looks different on some people than it does on others. Exercise and breathing techniques work, talking to someone is even better, self care is a necessity.

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Finding Balance

So I am a week behind on blog posts, but last week was a killer for me. I was stressed to the max and felt like I just couldn’t keep up with my to-do list (both for work & at home). By Friday, I was  so irritable I just knew I needed to readjust my attitude and get centered for the busy week ahead.

Do you ever just feel like… I am going to scream if I get one more email request for something someone needs “now”? Yea… that was me. Needless to say, if you spoke to me last week, I apologize for my less than bubbly disposition. There are certain things I have noticed have a tendency to greatly affect my mood throughout the week including the amount of sleep and rest I get and the time I make for myself.

Thanks to my generation (yes… I am a millennial) there is an expectation we should always be connected and available. Work days, are no longer 8 hours, and I know there are times I find myself checking email late at night. This is one thing that I have tried to really get a handle on not doing. After 8PM, I feel like whatever it is can wait until the morning. My evenings are for catching up with friends/family, snuggling on the couch, walking the dog, and taking care of me. It’s not that I’m less committed than those who do, it’s that ‘ME’ time is a necessity.

And now at the risk of sounding like an extremely old lady (I swear I am only 32), I try to get 8 hours of sleep throughout the work week. My devices go off at 8PM, and I am in bed reading a good book at 9PM. YIKES… I sound so old! It’s amazing how my evenings have changed over the last 5-10 years.

Gone are the days carousing at a bar on the weekends – although I’ll proudly admit I poured myself a bourbon or two last Friday. I need weekends to be restful and I particularly enjoy spending time outdoors. My work week is fast-paced and stressful, not to mention, I spend time the majority of my day at a desk in an interior (no windows/fluorescent light) office.

I am still figuring out balance and how to achieve it. But these are things I think we all need to be a bit more mindful of – particularly allowing yourself to unplug every once in a while. This doesn’t make you less committed or productive. This allows you to have time to pursue other interests, which in turn guards against burn out and makes for a more positive working environment for both you and your team. Make time for rest, the hobbies you love, and of course your family and friends.

Next weekend I challenge you to explore a new town, read a book, or take a yoga class – invest in your own happiness and well being.

 

Yoga Pose 1

My Changing Body – Another Uncomfortable Topic

For the sake of staying on track and sharing every uncomfortable issue with everyone under the sun, let’s discuss the changes that happen to women (overnight) once you enter your 30’s.

I am healthier and more appreciative of my body than ever, so what the hell is this crap!

Throughout my teens and 20’s I abused my body in ways I would now find unimaginable. I am ashamed to say I drank too much, stayed out too late, even occasionally smoked cigarettes (a thought that now makes me gag beyond belief). There were even times where I would obscenely binge on Taco Bell and Dairy Queen (oh God… the things I would do for a cookie dough Blizzard) with basically ZERO consequences. If I even entertain the thought I eating that way now, I would suddenly gain 20 pounds!

 

Throughout my teens I actively participated in dance and cheerleading, and consistently stayed on the very low end of the BMI chart, partially from training and partially good genetics. As many women often do, I took my body for granted and even nitpicked my body for no reason whatsoever. I had no idea the changes that would happen as soon as I celebrated that 30th Birthday two years ago!

I now enjoy staying active (especially hiking, climbing & yoga), and cooking is a hobby for me so I prepare dinner at home most nights and prep most of my lunches for the week. Even with those healthy changes the days of wearing size 4 dresses and crop tops are gone; instead I have to learn to honor my womanly body with all its curves, and what at one time I viewed as imperfections. I have boobs and a booty and when I am not eating right a little belly too. I am by no means overweight, but am definitely not the size I used to be and I am slowly becoming accepting of that fact – you could even say happy about it.

I am healthier today than I have ever been. Every day I try to be grateful for my body – it takes me on beautiful adventures, allows me to dance, play, run, and hike. I try to be conscientious of what I put into my body (forgoing the excessive late nights and things that go with that). I try not to pick on myself and really focus on not speaking negatively of other women because I really hope to be a source of encouragement for others. We all have “flaws” and we all harshly compare ourselves to others, but lovingly accepting ourselves and others brings a sense of solidarity and peace – even if it is total CRAP that I bust my ass with half the results of the girl I was in my early 20’s lol.

 

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Fitness Spotlight 7

Fitness Spotlight – B.YOU

Ugh the winter rut…

Over the last month I have been feeling the winter blues, and I am craving warmer weather and the beginning of daylight savings time (summer please get here). I feel like I am tired all the time, while also not being nearly as productive as I usually am. If you have been following my blog, you know that I heavily rely on my fitness routine for mental motivation, and that is especially true at this time of the year.

I also need to have fun while working out, otherwise I just won’t do it. Last week I was invited to attend a class at B.You Fitness here in Louisville, KY. This place is such a hidden gem! The first thing I noticed when looking at the website was how fun the classes look. B.You offers Barre, Bounce and Silque classes – I really can’t wait to go back to try out the candlelight Silque yoga class (if you don’t know what Silque is refer to the picture below on the right).

As soon as I walked in, I was impressed with this place. I was greeted with friendly staff at the desk as soon as I arrived. I was running a bit behind (nothing unusual there) and the instructor was nice enough to get my spot set up while I put my coat and purse away. The facility was clean, and the cheerful colors immediately put me in a more positive frame of mind.

Before taking the barre class, I really thought the class was going to be a breeze, but I have to say that I worked my butt off and felt great afterwards! The class was challenging, but being in a room full of supportive, positive women provided a powerful amount of motivation, especially after a long stressful day at the office.

Needless to say, if you’re stuck in a winter rut and want to try something fresh and new, you need to check out B.You Fitness! If you are interested in trying out a B.You class without any commitments, they will be at the Junior League of Louisville’s Tulips and Julips Art and Gift Market on February 24th (10:30AM) at Slugger Field.

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Details: $15.00 – includes 45-min fitness class, admission into the market & a complimentary mimosa ticket! To purchase tickets follow this link.

My 5 Essential Self Care Habits

In this crazy, busy world we live in, self care is more important now then ever. It is often so easy to get sucked into the daily grind of work and other obligations, all while neglecting ourselves. But one thing we forget to ask is “does this really benefit my performance at work and in life?” – my guess is probably not. For me personally, I need my “ME” time to be a better daughter, sister, friend and employee. Taking time for myself allows me to decompress while boosting my creativity. There are a few things I try to make time for regularly in order to take care of myself.

Reading

I love to read – and not on an IPad or device. Oh no… I love a good old fashioned, finger print stained book and I can disappear into for an hour or so. I love the smell, the texture and the satisfaction I feel as I turn each page. Sometimes, admittedly I do listen to audiobooks (helps my morning commute go by), but in general I love having a physical book in hand. About a year ago I joined the Junior League’s Book Club, which has kept me motivated to read more. When I read before bed (as opposed to watching TV), I fall asleep faster and often seem to sleep more soundly. After a stressful day, it is also a great way to leave some worries behind for a bit.

Hair Appointments

Being on a budget, this used to be something I HATED to splurge on, and would often put it off until the very last minute. But now I just view it as an investment in self care. I have also started going to a stylist who gives an amazing scalp massage, understands my need for peace and quiet at times, and who never skimps on making sure I leave the salon completely styled and ready for a night out. I always feel relaxed and beautiful when she finishes which makes it feel worth the splurge. As a woman (I think most can relate) I often feel stressed, exhausted and tired. Once I hit the age of 30, I suddenly started to notice the aging process had begun, almost overnight. So now I am more appreciative of those moments when I feel beautiful and at my best.

Spending Time with My Dog

Okay, those of you who know me know that I am slightly OBSESSED with my dog. I know this may seem strange to some, but I don’t have kids and I live alone… so she IS my baby. Regardless of my obsession, I think dogs have a lot to teach us, especially when it comes to love, forgiveness and happiness. Minnie (my dog) reminds me to enjoy the moment, let my hair down and sometimes get my hands dirty. We have been on some great adventures together and on every one of those adventures, I have been “fully present” and that is more rare than you might think. She also never holds a grudge when I don’t get home on time, make her take a bath, or forget to pick up her favorite treats. This has been a great reminder to me that holding a grudge or staying upset only hurts me in the long run.

Spending Time with Friends

One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year was to make more time with my friends. When I first moved to Louisville I had very few friends. In fact, my first year living here I spent a lot of time alone. I do think this alone time was good for me, because for the first time in my life I had time to stop and consider the woman I truly wanted to be without any outside influence. That being said, true friendships (not just party friends), push you to be a better person and offer support when you need it most. Over the last year I have made friendships with some amazing women (mostly through Junior League). These friendships have pushed me be bold and reach for my goals. Many of this women have served as my shoulder to cry on and a listening ear when things haven’t worked out as planned. Friendships like that are valuable and worth investing time in.

Making Time to Play

This may be the most important item on this list. Yes, I am a 32 year old woman and I still love to let loose and play. Life isn’t meant to be serious all the time, and I love to laugh. I like to be silly and tell stupid (usually corny) jokes. I LOVE dancing in my living room to 80’s music with the dog jumping around in confused excitement. I love to sing at the top of my lungs in the car and I need to consistently try new things (like the trampoline class). These things make me smile and laugh, and we all know that laughter is the best medicine.

We all need ways to unwind, especially when life gets stressful. These are just a few of the ways that I let loose. What are some of your self care practices?

 

 

 

 

Coping with Anxiety 3

Uncomfortable Truth

Even as I just write this post, I am beginning to feel quite self-conscious and anxious. Partially because the topic has been stigmatized, and though I have mentioned it in passing on other posts, I have never focused completely on this topic. I am the face of someone who copes daily with anxiety and depression. It is something I have struggled with since my early teens, but there are times it seems to rear its ugly head more than others. This often surprises those I’m not super close with, especially since I try to share mostly positive images of my life.

The fact is I do feel really positive in my life right now, but there’s sometimes a quiet whisper in the back of my mind that likes to focus on the fact that I’m not at the place I thought I would be at this point in my life. I have mentioned this before, but it often feels lonely that I haven’t found someone to share my life with, and that I am not sure if having children of my own will ever be something that happens for me (if my dating life is any indication – probably not). As horrible as it can make me feel, sometimes I am jealous when I see others moving through the phases of life like motherhood, and I feel left behind.

It also hasn’t helped that my dating life has been less than extraordinary. I’ve been in countless relationships that start out AMAZING, but somewhere down the line I tend to begin investing too much. I invest my time, and energy, and emotional support to make someone else happy, which is certainly fine to do in a balanced relationship, unfortunately I tend to be the giver and wind up feeling completely drained and empty. In past relationships, I have spread myself far too thin, as I feel many women probably do. I become the cheerleader, the confidante, and I try so hard to be light and positive with little given in return. Often after these relationships end I slip into a bit of a depression because I have invested so much time and energy and I feel betrayed.

This is actually how the hiking hobby began for me. I had ended a toxic, long term relationship, moved to a new city where I didn’t have any close friends, and began a new career. The first 6 months were lonely, and although I told no one, a lot of tears were shed. I desperately needed to feel strong and independent – I already was, but needed to prove it to myself. Hiking began to make me feel empowered, and I often do it when I need to clear my mind and feel strong, and capable on my own as a woman.

Aside from hiking, I try to be healthy and active which is a natural mood elevator for me. I also say “No” more – without guilt. Sometimes if I am feeling off, I back out of plans. I do this, not to be an ass, but because I know that is what I need to feel recharged. Sometimes I’m a crappy friend because I don’t text right back, but its because I need some time to myself to refocus my energy. And I am not writing this as a personal pity party, because I am slowly getting a handle on my life (I think). Really, I wanted to share this because I feel like if even one of my friends feels lonely, heartbroken, or like they just aren’t where they feel they should be, that they aren’t alone.  As we all share (myself DEFINITELY included) the happiest, most beautiful parts of our lives, and rarely give glimpses into the darker corners, it feels more important than ever to share my struggles.

I want others to know it’s okay to put yourself first, not answer your phone sometimes, and choose to do the things you enjoy. It’s okay to leave unhealthy, unbalanced relationships behind, because you want to invest your energy where it’s wanted and appreciated. And it’s okay to do these things unapologetically.

Novice Runner & Yogini Begins Her Journey

A little over a month ago, I decided to get back into a solid fitness routine. I have always been very active, but I really HATE going to the gym – I mean REALLY HATE. There have been a couple things that sparked my motivation. Sometime in early November, I got a wild idea to sign up for Louisville’s Triple Crown of Running (this includes a 5k, 10k and finally a 10 miler). I also signed up for my first 502 Fit Pass in December. This has been amazing because I can schedule classes with ease and attend classes throughout the city – never bored with the same old thing. I have really focused my fitness routine on three things right now. Once I have a better habit developed, I’ll begin adding more to my repertoire but this is a good start.

Running

Well as much as I hate it, I am trying to get in at least 4 runs in a week. Lately, they’ve been on the treadmill, I know… NOT the same, but I refuse to freeze my ass off. I have never really been a runner, so completing a 10 miler this Spring is going to be a challenge that I am really going to have to work for.  Slowly, I am beginning to enjoy my runs a little more each day – despite having to get to the gym by 5:30AM to avoid the New Year’s crowd.

Yoga

Lately, I have been posting a lot of yoga pictures and that’s because I have been taking A LOT of yoga classes. My 502 Fit Pass has let me try some new studios with a variety of yoga classes including (Vinyasa, Hatha, Bikram and Kundalini). I love my yoga practice because it helps me to reduce my stress level and calm down at the end of the day. I have suffered from terrible (sometimes debilitating) anxiety since my early teen years, and having a grounding yoga practice has worked wonders for my stress level.

Various Activities

I really don’t hate the gym that much, I just get really bored with it and often prefer other activities. I really enjoy going to the climbing gym near my apartment and as I am sure you know I love a good long hike with my dog (Minnie Pearl). I also like riding bikes at the park. Winter has slowed me down on a few of these things, but it is a huge part of my fitness life.

I really just enjoy staying active. I plan to add more weight training and cross training in the future, but hoping these practices will give me a strong foundation to build some positive habits. What are some of your favorite ways to keep fit? If you’re in the Louisville area, do you have any classes you would recommend?