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Mental Health

non-traditional ways to cope with anxiety

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It’s no secret that I live with anxiety and depression – I’ve blogged about it extensively. Though I’m on a better regimen of drugs that help me cope better with things I’m learning in therapy, I still struggle with anxiety every day. There are plenty of resources with tips on how to better manage panic or racing thoughts, and they all work for everyone differently. In my 15+ years of living with this, I’ve worked up some less common methods of coping on my own.

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The Joy of Painting With Bob Ross: When I was a little kid, I was raised by PBS. Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, Sesame Street, Today’s Special, Zoobilee – and to be honest, I do go back and put some of those on from time to time. (When you’re sick and just want your mom to take care of you, there’s nothing like the comfort of Ben Vereen’s voice.) A few weeks ago I was struggling to fall asleep, a relatively new symptom of anxiety for me. I was trying everything I could think of – counting down backwards from 100 (my go-to sleep trick for years), listening to Sleep With Me, and even trying this YouTube video I’d seen people talking about. Nothing was working to quiet down my brain. Then the YouTube video ended and a suggested video was The Joy of Painting. I popped one on and as he painted quiet streams and happy little trees, his assuring voice eventually overrode my inner monologue, letting me fall asleep.

ASMR: That YouTuber I’d been seeing a lot of was GentleWhispering, a girl who does relaxing videos in – you guessed it – a whisper. Some of the videos are roleplaying exercises, as though she’s washing your hair, and some are more in the “calming empowerment” realm. ASMR is autonomous sensory meridian response – you can read more about it on Wikipedia, but it’s basically a tingly sensation that many people get throughout their bodies that seems to be very relaxing and soothing.

Don’t Assume or Personalize: This one seems pretty obvious to most people, but for me, it isn’t. I’ve always taken everything very personally (how can you not?) so even the slightest twinge of emotion from someone else is very taxing for me (the joys of being a highly sensitive person.) I recently discovered Tanya Hennessey thanks to her hilarious true makeup tutorial, and started digging in to her older videos. “Ways to know you’re an overthinker” hit very close to home and at the end, she shares this advice: “don’t expect, and don’t assume things.” Assumptions have always been a big source that fuels my anxiety fire, so hearing that (as simple as it is) is helping me begin to reframe things in a different way. I’m also reading the book The Four Agreements after seeing one of the Tone It Up girls recommend it, and I’m really liking it a lot as well. The second agreement is “don’t take anything personally” – if someone feels a particular way, it’s because of them, not because of you. This has helped change how I internalize other people’s emotions a lot.

Calligraphy: Writing things down in a planner can be a huge help for anxiety sufferers, as can things like journaling and coloring. I’m also starting to get into calligraphy as another outlet. Things like printable worksheets to trace for practice can be really relaxing – since you can simply trace over the letters, it’s a good way to relax without having to exert a lot of focus or brainpower.

Moodica: A new-to-me app, Moodica plays videos based on your “mood,” and they even have apps for Apple TV and Amazon Firestick. I really like this endless galaxy to sort of zone out and feel like I’m floating (in a good way.)

Compression Sleeves: One of the anti-depressants I tried at the beginning of the year gave me terrible restless leg syndrome. Getting off the med helped a bit, but I’m still feeling many of the symptoms. Sleeping in my Zensah leg compression sleeves has helped out a lot, and there’s research that supports compression as anxiety relief.

Weighted Blankets: Similar to compression sleeves, the feeling of having weight draped over some part of your body can help you feel safe and maybe relieve some of your stress.

Penguin Watch: If you’re a person who finds calm in doing work (like me), this might be the thing for you. Penguin Watch is a project of scientists that you can help out with by looking at pictures, and clicking if there’s a penguin in the photo. That’s it. Super simple, and you’re helping out with important research. Plus, you’ll occasionally get to see photos of other animals, like elephants!

Go to the Water: I grew up in Michigan, so I feel most at ease when near a large body of water. When I moved to landlocked cities, I really struggled. Finding a pool to swim laps in or a lake to go hiking at helped to clear my head.

Audiobooks: Sometimes I know that getting engrossed in a story will help me stop my racing thoughts, but I can’t suppress them long enough to get through even one page of a book. I love audiobooks in these times – I put in my earbuds so no other sound can sneak in and fire up an app like Hoopla or Overdrive to check out a book from the library. (Audible also has two free books right now) This way it’s a little easier to get involved in someone else’s story and get out of my own.

Noise: This one doesn’t always work for me because sometimes extra sound can just exacerbate my panic, but I’ve found having constant background noise to (usually) be really helpful. Whether it’s having some TV on in the background while I work through the day or as I fall asleep, or listening to podcasts in the car or at the gym, having something else to shift my focus to if I want can help to stave off the thoughts. Sometimes when those kinds of sound seems too much, Rainymood is my best friend. They have mobile apps as well as a desktop website with the quiet, soothing sounds of a thunderstorm. I’ve been using Rain Rain as well – I like that they have different sounds. Their ocean bonfire is my favorite thing to fall asleep to.

Do you use any non-traditional methods to cope with your anxiety? What have you found works best for you?

May 8, 2017
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Maven Clinic: healthcare in your home

Posted in Living, Mental Health by

maven clinic

Maven is a virtual clinic with providers in a variety of specialties (think medical doctors, therapists and counselors, and nutritionists, to name a few) that provide healthcare online via video and private messaging sessions. They have providers in all 50 states with appointment times around the clock, so you can get healthcare when it works for your schedule. Maven’s providers include Nurse Practitioners, OB/GYN docs, physical therapists, midwives and more. Review a provider’s profile including specialties and years of patient experience before you book to determine if it’s a good fit for your needs (and most providers are women, if you feel awkward talking about sexual health with male doctors.) Most providers also offer no penalty for appointments if they’re canceled 24 hours in advance.

Until the end of the year, Maven is offering free appointments for birth control access:

At Maven, one thing we believe will never change: getting birth control easily and affordably is a social imperative. Now through the end of the year, speak to one of our women’s health practitioners for free and get your prescription written immediately (or get your questions about IUDs answered).

Because of the flexibility that Maven offers, it’s a great option for busy women to get this super important service before the end of the year. Instead of having to leave work for an appointment, you can do it from your break room or wherever you might be. I especially like that you can get prescriptions – a recurring frustration to me over the years has been sitting in front of a doctor, almost always male, having to fight to assure him that yes, I know my body, and I know that X symptom means that Y infection is going on in there. Maven makes me feel empowered about my health care – and makes it easy to see a doctor on my schedule, wherever I am.

Maven Clinic

Screenshots of the interface

I currently see a therapist on Maven, and took advantage of a post-Thanksgiving promotion they ran for a nutritionist appointment. One really great thing about Maven is that if you sign up using a promotional code, they don’t disqualify you from taking advantage of other promotions they offer in the future (like therapist speed dating to find someone who works for you, or other similar offers.) Sign up using the referral code DESIVIP for a $25 credit (which is enough for a free appointment!) which can be used in addition to their free birth control offer as well.

Since originally posting this, I’ve also learned about PRJKT RUBY, another online birth control provider. I haven’t personally used it so I can’t give a review, but it’s worth checking into if you’re concerned about possible insurance changes!

Have you used any health care apps like Maven in place of an urgent care visit? Would you try virtual therapy?

December 19, 2016
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how to cope when you’re stressed out

Posted in Living, Mental Health by

cope

With all the tumult and anxiety going on lately, I’ve really been making an effort to try to equip myself with some coping mechanisms to keep from spinning out. For a long time, the second something made me anxious or upset, I’d let those feelings feed me until I was having an inconsolable panic attack. I’ve been in therapy for a few months now and over the past few weeks I’ve really started to learn that I had no coping skills I could use – I would just freeze up and let my thoughts spiral over and over or run down paths it shouldn’t go. Especially in light of the election results and confusion, I’m working to create a sort of “toolkit” to distract myself from unhealthy actions.

I used to primarily consider myself a lone wolf – I’d rather get through things alone rather than reaching out to other people. After the election (a night in which I spent on a Google Hangout with my friends, anxious, upset and teary) I headed back to Chicago a day early so I could be around people who felt the same way I did. Getting out of the house and being around my friends is an important way to connect with people to stay grounded, and calms the anxiety sparking in my head when I don’t have anyone to take me away from the thoughts. (Social media DEFINITELY does not count as a way to connect here.)

Read more…

November 21, 2016
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depression is an ocean, and it’s prone to tides and swells.

Posted in Living, Mental Health by

there is a photo of me that i really love. my makeup looks perfectly done (except the smudges in the lipstick where i went just outside the lines of my lips) and my hair is styled just-so, the hairspray and weight from dry shampoo and sea salt spray and volumizing root pump amplifying it. i wear a knowing smile and my favorite necklace, and it’s my facebook picture right now since i feel pretty in it and people seem to like it, as indicated by number of “friends” who have clicked that little thumbs up button. my hair is sufficiently blonde and my nose ring is front and center, just the way i like it.

it’s so funny that even though I choose this image to represent who i am and how i feel, there are things about it and things I remember about the day it was taken so clearly that no one could even begin to see at this first glance.

it was the first pretty weather day, so after i signed off of work for the day, i did my makeup and hair, thinking that i would drive in to town, uber around for awhile, and meet up with some friends for some drinking on a patio. (I vividly remember sending these texts. “COME DRINK WITH ME ON A PATIO! I WANT NACHOS AND MARGS!”) i had a selfie photoshoot in the landing area outside my bedroom door, uploaded my favorite to Facebook (i knew it was a great picture, so I posted it to get a reaction from one person in particular), and headed out. no one could join me, so I had nachos alone as the sun went down and the chill set in on the patio of one of my favorite Nashville restaurants.

depression is an ocean

then, as soon as i got back in my car, something snapped in my brain. why had I just had dinner alone? i felt so pretty and confident – why wasn’t i enough for my ex, or some new boy, or anyone? all of the things that run through your mind when you’re depressed, no matter how good you know you have it. this is how depression and anxiety work: they take things that you love and turn you into someone you can’t even recognize.

I spent the entirety of the next four hours driving around Nashville and bawling my eyes out. i didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew going home wasn’t it. I tried to go shopping for an office chair, but I couldn’t even get out of the car. i tried to take myself for some treat yo self frozen yogurt, but the place my GPS took me to had recently closed.

i finally took myself home that night, exhausted from the frustration and the tears, and slept hard. I just think it’s important to say that even when things look pretty on the outside, depression and anxiety are hard, and it’s impossible to tell where they are hiding.

August 17, 2015
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High Anxiety & the Power of Staying Positive

Posted in Mental Health, Personal by

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It has been truly another whirlwind month. After thinking that I had finished the transition process (and trust me, there’s no part of this summer that was NOT a transition) I was proven wrong again. I am typically a glass-half-empty kind of person. It’s just my nature, and I work very hard to overcome it and be the happy, bubbly girl you see here 😉

Earlier this month it felt like my world was falling apart and that I had no way to control it. I won’t go into the gritty details yet. But it’s been a crazy, chaotic, stressful month. It’s no secret that I have pretty severe panic disorder, so coupling that with the pessimism that lives in my head made it really tough to keep on keepin’ on.

I heard this amazing story from The Moth by Peter Sagal, one of my favorite NPR hosts, that really helped me feel like I could get through. He talks about his divorce and running Boston as a guide for a blind runner during the 2013 Marathon.

There were nights that I literally could not sleep and I just kept saying to myself “relaxrelaxrelax” in my head, over and over and over, in order to keep other thoughts out of my head. And then I’d wake up two hours later, still panicked into a frenzy, and have to repeat that “relaxrelaxrelax” mantra.

It’s funny to look back on when Sixx and I first met – he was really uptight, followed the rules to the letter, was totally the opposite of me. It took us years to get him to go with the flow. He teases me about this now when he tells me over and over to “let it go” and just breathe.

But it’s funny, because since this life-altering thing and getting through the initial few weeks of terror, I feel this sort of peace now. For once, I really believe when people say that things will be okay. (Basically because at this point if anything else goes wrong, I’m going to be just checked into the hospital :)) But there came a point where I made a decision to take charge and override the doubt and take a page from the book of The Hold Steady and stay positive.

Since I decided to do that, things have improved greatly. This girlfriend of mine has a saying she liked to trot out in college: “it’s all about the bounce back.” I’m hoping to bounce a little higher than I have before, and I think my attitude change is going to help me get there. And I have a lot of things to be happy about – Sixx comes home in a few weeks, I’m seeing my family this weekend. My mom bought me a really nice set of headphones. TV season is back in full effect.

It’s tough because my life doesn’t look like I thought it would look right now, but in a way, it looks the way I always thought it would.

And here – if that wasn’t enough positivity for your day, check out this cute little interview from a high school football player.

September 25, 2014
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