When you hear the word anxiety, what pops into your mind?
Maybe it makes you think of panic attacks. Someone struggling to catch their breath with sweaty palms and blurred vision.
Truth is, anxiety comes in so many forms, and it’s just not that simple.
Anxiety is a complex beast that likes to play tricks on you and wants to control you. Anxiety is sneaky, and even when you think you’re ready for it, it always manages to find a way in.
Anxiety likes to pretend it doesn’t exist and it likes you to believe that you are, in fact, the issue.
Anxiety can make you think and do all sorts of funny things.
Anxiety makes me think and do all sorts of funny things.
Anxiety has snuck in while I’m scrolling through Facebook. It has made me pause on a meme that a friend has shared and it has convinced me that the meme is directed at me. Out of all the people in that person’s life they have shared that meme because I have done something to upset them.
Anxiety has roared in when I’m running late. When I was supposed to have left ten minutes ago but my daughter, wanting to pour her own milk, spills it all over the floor and it gives me permission to yell and stomp my feet and slam the doors.
Anxiety has whispered to me. It has pointed out that my boss is not spending nearly as much time with me as she used to, and that it must be because I’m not good enough for this job. Anxiety has whispered that I’m not good enough so many times that I often believe it.
Anxiety has mocked me. After spending an evening with friends, anxiety has mocked something that I said and is so sure that everyone in the room now thinks that I’m a complete idiot. Anxiety has laughed in my face and asked me why would they want to be friends with you?
Anxiety makes me talk and talk and talk. Anxiety is uncomfortable with silence so it forces me to fill it with sound.
Anxiety has a great memory. Anxiety will remember something that I said 5 years ago and every now and then will decide that I should remember that I often put my foot in my mouth.
Anxiety likes to remind me. It doesn’t want me to live in the moment but instead, it wants to keep reminding me of all the things I haven’t yet done. It wants to make sure that I am always a step ahead. It doesn’t like when I rest.
Anxiety likes order. When things stray from the plan, anxiety muddles my mind and winds it up like a top until the only choice I have left is to let it go and watch it run its wild course.
Anxiety will push back when I fight it. It will show itself in physical ways if it feels like that’s the best way to get attention. Anxiety has forced my body to throw up, to lose weight, to lose hair, and to lose sleep.
Anxiety has tried its best to take control of my life. Sometimes it wins a battle or two. It pushes and pushes and pushes until I give in. I do what it wants. I get angry and I shout. I distance myself from people. I say mean and horrible things to those I love. I cry tears of hurt and frustration. I rage inside until I collapse, spent, nothing left to give.
It leaves me feeling guilty, inadequate and weak.
And then I get back up and move on.
I refuse to let it win.
Anxiety is strong, but I am stronger.
You may have heard me refer to myself as a planner, a germaphobe, a worrier, sometimes high strung.
It’s really all code words for anxious and it has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.
I have spent way too much time and effort trying to cover it up, pretending it doesn't exist and hiding it in the darkest folds of my life. Truth is, anxiety is a part of me and it always will be.
Rather than continue to hide it, I want to own it. I am learning to work with it. If you look closely, you will see it in my smile, in my eyes, in my laughter and my tears. It is woven too deeply into the fabric of my life for me to try and remove it.
But every day I learn a little more about it. Every day I learn to how to manage it a little better.
Anxiety will always make me think and do funny things and every time I talk about it, I give it less power.
I don’t diet.
Let’s start by making that clear. I had never been on a diet in my life.
I considered myself happy with my body so I felt superior to diets.
I have gone through periods of time when I have both gained and lost weight but never really on purpose.
I tend to gain weight when I’m happy and lose weight when I’m stressed.
Over the past few years I have really been lacking in the self-care department. I am a working mother with two active and busy children. Busy days are filled with homework, soccer practice and dance lessons on top of cooking meals, cleaning up, doing laundry all while both my husband and I work Monday to Friday day jobs and I am trying to balance a freelance writing career.
There simply is no time.
I had been a regular at the gym but I just stopped. I didn’t know how or when to fit it in to my jam packed schedule so I just stopped. The lack of exercise led to poor eating and I found myself snacking on cookies and chips over healthy fruit and veggies on an everyday basis.
One evening I noticed that I was completely winded after walking up one flight of stairs. One flight of stairs! I started to pay attention and noticed that each and every evening I felt nauseous. I would flop on the couch exhausted at the end of the day and battle nausea all night until I finally dragged myself up to bed. I struggled with daily headaches and there was no denying that my clothes were all getting a little snug.
I try not to stress about my weight. As the years go by and my life goes through changes I accept that my body will also. For that reason, I ignored the weight gain.
I couldn’t, however, ignore how I was feeling physically.
The extreme fatigue that took over every day. The sick feeling I was left with after all the unhealthy snacking. The fact that I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without feeling it.
Enough was enough. I needed to make some changes and I couldnt' do it on my own. I needed some help.
In my late 30’s, I went on my very first diet.
It wasn't just any diet. I went on a diet that I had been seeing all over social media. The same diets that I shunned and judged and rolled my eyes at. I started following one of the diet and exercise programs that I kept seeing in Facebook and Instagram posts.
I felt ashamed that I had to turn to a diet program so I kept it mostly to myself.
The first morning that my alarm went off at 5 am, I wanted to roll over and go back to bed but I forced myself up and into my exercise gear and down to the basement.
That first workout was brutal but that motivated me. I was really out of shape and that made me want to keep going.
And it got easier.
I started getting through each workout without as many modifications.
Not only do I not get winded going up stairs anymore but I can do push ups! Quite a few of them!
I can do squats with my eight year old son on my back.
I do burpees! At five o’clock in the morning you can find me in my basement doing burpees!
It’s been six months since I went on this diet and I have lost over 20 pounds.
This diet that was on the recieving end of all those eye rolls actually worked for me.
It was just the kick in the butt that I needed. It reminded me of the things that I already knew. It reminded me that I needed to eat the right types of foods. I was eating way too much sugar and carbs and not enough protein and vegetables. It reminded me that I needed to drink a lot of water.
It reminded me that exercise is essential to my health and well-being.
It reminded me that it was ok to take care of myself too.
I spend so much time taking care of everyone else that I let myself slip. It’s not healthy physically or mentally.
It’s been six months and I have barely missed a day of working out. I actually look forward to my workouts. I feel stronger, healthier and calmer.
I am setting myself healthy goals. I would like to run a race. I’m not sure what kind of race yet. Maybe a colour race or a 5K. But I would really like to run a race.
I like feeling fit and strong. I want to keep getting stronger.
I was a diet judger. Every time I heard of someone else jumping on these fad diet trains I sighed inside. I felt like caving to a diet meant I was weak and that I wasn’t happy with myself the way I was.
What I realized is that I can be happy but want to improve. I can be happy with the way I look but want to be healthier.
It’s that time of year again when the gyms start filling up and people start adding healthy diets and getting back into shape to their New Year’s resolutions. I used to judge those resolution makers.
Not anymore. Getting in shape is hard enough as it is without adding shamers to the mix.
There is no shame in needing a little help. There is no shame in wanting to be a little better.
Sometimes we all need a little help.
There is absolutely no shame in that.
If you have found yourself feeling sluggish this year and wanting to feel healthier there is no shame in setting yourself a get healthier New Year’s resolution. I support you! Judgment free. No matter how you choose to do it.
And if you need a little motivation, you know where to find me!