Updated: Nov 27, 2021
Anxiety has been a struggle for me since I was a kid. I never even knew I suffered from it and that is what I was dealing with, until I stopped drinking. I just assumed everyone got nervous walking into a room full of people. Didn't everyone's voice shake when they had to talk in front of a group of strangers? Not everyone got an upset stomach before a long car ride or flight?
I just self-medicated for so long with alcohol that my body relied on it to ease my mind before these things. I drank before flights, parties or events with strangers. I drank as a social lubricant. I drank to feel brave. I drank to feel strong. I drank to feel relaxed. I drank to be funny. I drank to experience fun. I drank to feel like the people I was with were fun. It took eliminating alcohol completely from my life to realize that there were some underlying issues there. I couldn't run from the anxiety any longer. I had to face these emotions and stop hiding, once I became sober.
There was a lot more going on for me other than simply masking my fears of socializing with booze. Many underlying issues that I have been working through in therapy, and with the help of an amazing therapist and an SSRI that has leveled me out, I have been able to find the path that works for me now.
I now know that I don't need alcohol to do any of those things. In fact, alcohol strips the fun, relaxation, bravery and strength AWAY from me! I am all of those things now because alcohol is gone from my life.
I guess for so long I didn't even know that my anxiety was manifesting in the ways it did. I never realized that feeling nervous the night before a golf tournament and staying awake all night tossing and turning was not normal. That is another reason why I would drink, to try to get myself to sleep through the night, to stop my my mind from spinning. I didn't recognize before that my anxiety was making me terrified of spiders falling on me while I slept or people breaking into my house. Now, I barely have a fear of spiders anymore and sometimes I forget to check if I locked the door. I don't have paranoia like I used to.
The general anxiety I have goes back deep into my childhood, and I am grateful to finally have it under control. It saddens me to think that I lived so long struggling to get it under control, not even realizing what was going on with me, often keeping my distressed feelings to myself.
I have begun to use different meditation apps as well as other therapy tools these days. I have started to use the Unwind app, which helps you identify when you are feeling anxious and to sit with the feelings. It helps you breath through it and work on strategies to move past it. The key is not turning away from it and facing it. I also have used the Headspace app in the past, which has worked nicely. The Insight Timer app is good because you can curate your meditation to the time and topic you want, and there are kids meditations on there.
I also continue to go to my Barre3 classes, which are incredibly centering and grounding for me. They allow me to move my body in a way unlike I do on the peloton or while playing tennis. I did two classes in the last two days, and I am so sore I can barely sit or stand up. It is the best feeling! And the class always ends with breathe work - the best kind of mindfulness.
Sometimes, all it takes is just giving yourself a few minutes to breath. Often that is all it takes to change your mindset and way of thinking for the rest of the day. Meditation was awkward and strange for me at first. But it is like training any other muscle in your body - you just need to practice it and you get a little bit stronger every time. It is so relaxing that I look forward to it now, and I truly have begun to see the benefits more and more. Do you suffer from anxiety? What do you do to manage it?