Overwhelmed. Edgy. Disconnected.
Heart racing. Get. Me. Out of here. That’s my anxiety talking.
… Is it still faux pas to use that word? I’m over here shrugging… I would like show up as honest as I can in this space, and if I am going to do that, I have to start with this. Bare with me as I talk through how I am taming my personal beast… or at least learning to.
On living with anxiety. It has the inherent ability to take over thoughts and feelings, creating nervousness and tension, stealing moments and time away from us. Anxiety is many things, but at its core, it’s a thief. What is more valuable than your time?
Those looping anxious thoughts (consuming and sometimes inappropriate) can materialize into impulsive words and visceral reactions, seemingly without consent. Maybe I’m washing my hair in the shower (no big deal) or maybe I’m at a work thing (facepalm!).
Any socially-awkward friends here? I’m raising my hand. This anxiety-stuff can even blanket all of the good energy around you like a heavy wet towel. The rattiest towel you own because it is, in fact, yours (even if you try and stuff it in the back of the closet). What do I mean? Take social events, for example. They can be triggering for those of us living with anxiety. Instead of feeling relaxed and enjoying everyone’s company, we find ourselves feeling tense, uncomfortable, and looking for an exit. Internal dialogue is often: “I don’t fit in,” “I don’t belong here,” “I have nothing to contribute,” “I’d rather be home,” etc, etc. Anxiety tries to steal our good times away from friends, family, coworkers, or just ourselves. It’s why it has to be managed, but that can’t be done if we aren’t brave enough to talk about it.
I was a child of the late 80’s, early 90’s. We didn’t talk about feelings at our dinner table. Google was not yet invented and the internet was still in its infancy and required dial-up. Anxiety certainly wasn’t a topic on the nightly news (which was always on in my house, by the way). Ultimately, whatever I was feeling, whatever I was going through, I just internalized it and dealt with it in whatever way I could. I didn’t know it wasn’t normal.
Then one day (in my early 30’s) I learned that general anxiety runs deeply within my family. I put my anxiety to work, literally. I researched it into the ground, until my eyes went crossed and delirium set in. After that, so much of my life began to feel more clear.
Taking ownership. This beastly thing is a part of me. Maybe I didn’t always know what it was. I didn’t always have a word to put there in its place. So I blindly carried my shame around. It was heavy, too, and burdensome. Now that I was armed with knowledge, I could start putting in the work and showing up as a better, happier version of myself because of it.
Outlets. Instead of going to war with myself, or anybody else for that matter, I looked for ways to channel this energy. I needed to ground myself. Seeking healthy outlets came in stages and began with yoga – I know, so cliché. Getting on the mat was the first step of many towards a more peaceful mind. Running came next, but really I was just running away from confronting the beast. Most recently, it came with two skinny wheels, a chain (which religiously tattoos my right leg with grease), and clipless pedals. Clipless, let’s be clear, are clips. Or the devil, if you have to stop short and put your foot down but forget you’re clipped in.
Ease your mind. We know that anxiety cannot be wished away or ignored. If you know me, you know I seek out holistic, naturopathic approaches to self care (now…) and whole-life well-being. Prescription meds were not an option for me (it’s ok if they are for you). Food is medicine and nature is my church, can I get an AMEN?
I practice what I preach, so three summers ago I bought a road bike. The idea of actually riding it was terrifying. I did it anyway, thanks in part to my patient and supportive better half. Actually, that’s not totally true, as I bought a bike six summers ago for my husbands birthday gift! He was always out exploring. I loved hearing him talk about his routes and everything he experienced along the way. You’d run out and buy one, too, if he ever bent your ear. Truthfully, I never expected cycling to become a means to channel this angsty energy. It wasn’t a strategy but, as it turned out, it’s the thing I never knew I needed. Consider me saved.
Cycling and mental health. We know that exercise has proven to be therapeutic, as moving your body regularly improves mood by releasing endorphins. We all saw Legally Blonde, right? Guys, I’m not out on my bike for exercise, I’m out there flexing on anxiety and having a blast! You see, when I was working out in a traditional gym, it was for aesthetics. It was because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. I hated it, don’t do that. When I am out on the road, my mind and body are fully engaged, my heart is lit up with joy, and my head stops looping the nonsense! I actually feel free from myself, if that makes sense? I think it’s so important to fully accept the beast, embrace it even. Then find something, find the thing (or things), to help declutter your mind so that you can find your channel and do life a little easier without sidestepping for your scatterbrained internal dialogue. For me, I found cycling. I put two-and-two together this season. The lightbulb just went off and I knew I had to share this. Now that I am setting goals and reaching them, my confidence is up and I’m seeing that I am mentally stronger than I allowed my former self to think. That’s powerful.
This isn’t the end of my wellness journey by any means. I’d love to share more about what I do to manage these feelings through diet, movement and supplements. I’d love for you to be part of the conversation, so if you made it this far, if any of this resonated for you, please drop a comment below. Thanks for reading, Xo!