Guest blog post written by Erin Stewart
I’ve always had anxiety. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my first babe and struggling with postpartum anxiety I became aware of it. When reflecting back on it, turns out all of those recurring childhood nightmares of a bed being made then quickly unmade or sticks being gathered then thrown about were actually in fact my anxiety introducing itself to me, an imaginary friend that no one else could see and I rarely wanted to admit stayed glued by my side. After miscarrying my second baby and becoming pregnant with my third, I began speaking about my anxiety openly. I am 33 years old, folks. It took the trauma of childbirth and grossly inadequate postpartum care to call it what it was.
The first person I told was my husband.
“You know that feeling when you have too much coffee and you’re constantly feel on the verge of TOTALLY FREAKING OUT? That’s how my anxiety makes me feel.”
I explained it to my 3 year old.
“Sometimes mommy is frustrated and doesn’t have a lot of patience.. It’s because she is feeling anxious. I am worried, overwhelmed, tired, and feeling a bit sad and lonely.”
Then I told my therapist. She explained how anxiety is rooted in my thoughts then gave me tools that I could use immediately. My toolkit gives me control, like the plumber who finally repaired the leaky faucet in my shower. I spent years trying to carefully use the shower curtain seal off the flow of water ensuring it wouldn’t flood the bathroom floor. Sometimes it worked and other times the overflow soaked everything in its path and it would take days to dry. Now that it’s fixed, I swear I just stand for the first minute of every shower thinking to myself well, I guess I can just get started. Like a steady drop of water, I never truly realized how much power my anxiety had over me. And now that I recognize it and call it by name– I can just be. I am free to be more mindful about my thoughts and how I respond. I can choose what to think about. I can decide what has meaning in my life.
Things that help me..
- Asking for Help– I have a “safe phrase.” Kinda like a safe word, but, well, a phrase. These words– I am having a hard time — are so empowering for me. This safe phrase allows me to communicate with my family quickly. It states concretely something that feels so abstract. Most days I feel pretty good. On days when I can feel the panic welling up inside me, I know I don’t have explain the unexplainable, because this simple phrase supports me. I am free to ask for the help I need when I need it.
- Using Essential Oils- I will tell everyone I know about my oily lifestyle. The first roller I ever received was Young Living’s Tranquil. I’ve always loved lavender and this blend is powerful. I keep it in my car. My commute to work each morning (especially Mondays) is always a trigger and my poor fingernails are always the victim. A little on my wrists and neck is the support I need.
- Coloring – Did you know they make some really great adult coloring books? I just bought a Golden Girls coloring book for my girlfriend, because she obviously needed to own it. There’s a Ryan Gosling one I’ve had my eye on! Painting, coloring, listing with some lovely music playing in the background has some real magical healing qualities.
- Listening to Soothing Music- My husband thinks it’s strange, but I swear some music sets me on edge and I just can’t have it playing. I’m a huge fan of Pandora. My favorite calming stations? Jack Johnston, John Mayer, Simon and Garfunkel, and Hipster Cocktail Party.
- Planning Something- I love having something to look forward to like a spa day, lady’s night, game night with the hubby, or a trip through the Starbucks drive thru. Peppermint mocha? Yes, please!
- Practicing Gratitude- Every night at dinner we say what we’re thankful for as our form of grace. I love the practice of searching each day for a highlight we can be grateful for.
- Meditating & Yoga – Something I’ve always love about yoga is the asana, or physical postures. Initially I didn’t know the sequencing of those poses, the movement itself was designed as a support for meditation. Moving, flowing, and breathing (one breath one movement) supports you when you need to sit and be still. Practicing stillness has been a huge support for my stress and anxiety.
- Journaling- I’m an English teacher and a writer, so naturally literature, poetry is an escape. And writing takes it one step further. It helps me to write, either creatively or as means to dig into what’s really bothering me.
- Being Aware of What I Consume- Whether it’s social media, food, information, gossip, clothing — What are you consuming? How does it impact you, both positively and negatively. My current favorite writers who speak wisdom right into my soul are Brene Brown and Rachel Hollis. Follow people who light you up, listen to Podcasts, read or listen to some amazing and profound books. Surround yourself with the inspiration you are craving. Unfollow/Unfriend relationships that are not serving you (on the internet and in life).
- Accepting Help- Ask for help AND accept help. I love my therapist. Talking to someone who is unbiased and trained to help is wonderfully, well, helpful! It’s worth it to carve this time out of your hectic schedule, because, if you’re like me, it might give you the perspective to you need. To not be ruled by your thoughts– real or imagined.
Erin Stewart is a self proclaimed couch potato — And mama, wife, teacher, oil lady, and yogi. She is madly in love with the Hudson Valley, especially her little town of Beacon and feels a magnetic pull toward polka dots, voraciously read cookbooks cover to cover, and is always in the mood for a night out and a glass of something bubbly. When she’s not teaching her students to love a good story, you can find her at her favorite yoga studio, reading/writing anywhere they sell baked goods, staying in on Friday night with her hubby, Sean, or snuggling her little love bugs, River + Kellen.
Isn’t Erin AWESOME?! If you enjoyed this post as much as I did, then be sure to follow Erin for even more helpful and inspiring information!
If you are looking for more information around how therapy could be helpful for you, click HERE to learn more.
If you are unsure if you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, click HERE to learn more about anxiety and it’s symptoms. Remember, this information is intended to be helpful in regards to information gathering, however, meeting with a trained mental health professional for a formal evaluation is the most appropriate and effective way to truly learn more about your personal mental health.
Not sure where to find a local therapist? Psychology today.com is a wonderful resource! Also, asking your primary care physician for referrals or contacting your insurance carrier for a list of names of providers in-network are both great options as well!
2 thoughts on “My Tools for Living Mindfully with Anxiety”
I love practicing gratitude to help with my anxiety! It always helps bring me back down out of my head. Thanks for sharing!
Hi there! I’m so glad you found the information to be helpful! Gratitude is such an amazing tool for anxiety management and I am so glad you find it to be helpful for you!