By Sarai Welch
My Anxiety Experience
I couldn’t breathe. It felt like all the air in my body just left and I kept trying to catch some but couldn’t get enough. My hands and legs were tingling and then went numb. I was outside and it was 70 degrees but I felt like I was on fire. I completely broke out in a sweat. My chest was tight and my heart felt sore. That feeling is terrifying and one that I experienced far more often than I wanted to. Before my trauma I never had anxiety or panic attacks. I had always been a mild tempered person and in a moment of chaos I was always able to keep a level head and figure it out. This over-anxious, panic-attack having person I had become was so unfamiliar to me. My experience with anxiety has been constant overthinking about a situation, having a panic attack right before looking at an exam score, and being over-anxious about messing up anything all of the time. My anxiety has affected my sleep, appetite, and personal relationships.
The experiences I have had with my anxiety I know many others have as well. Especially during the COVID pandemic. Everyday stressors are still present while we also battle with the uncertainty we are faced within the pandemic. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA, 2021), 40 million adults are affected yearly by anxiety disorders. Having an anxiety disorder can be onset from genetics, chemical imbalance of the brain, life occurrences, or personality. Anxiety develops from stress and stress is a response to a threat (ADAA, 2021). Since the start of the pandemic, 65% of adults have reported that the uncertainty of our current times has caused the stress and 60% report that they feel overwhelmed (APA, 2020).
The Tools that Worked
So, the burning question is, what do we do to calm down, to relax, to get rid of the anxiety? Since I am in school, working full time, and applying to grad school, I often would get extremely overwhelmed and stressed out. It sometimes seems like I just cannot catch a break from my day to day tasks. The ability to spend time with my friends and family as a relief from it all was no longer an option due to COVID. In my journey of recovering from my trauma I had to learn how to deal with my triggers and the anxiety that came with it.
- I learned how to breathe. You would think that we would know how to do this already, but I never realized how much calm comes with taking deep breathes in and then slowly exhaling. I originally learned this while in undergrad while taking yoga classes, another great way to relieve stress and anxiety.
- I also started taking 30-minute walks after work which led to me feeling refreshed and relaxed, I slept better at night, and have more energy in the morning. Taking in the fresh air and the beauty sunny South Florida has to offer helps me get away from the chaos of everyday life.
- Another coping strategy I picked up was journaling. At the end of the day I check in with myself about how I am feeling and how my day was and I write it down. I found that doing this rather than bottling up my emotions gives me a better handle on my mood as well as, providing me with a way to release. Once I let it out by writing it down, my mind is clear enough to think of a way to find a solution to my problem or better understand how I am feeling. It also has decreased how much time I spend overthinking a situation.
- Within my schedule, I have made time to fit in a self-care day. On this day, I will do whatever I feel will make me happy. I’ll try a new restaurant, walk on the beach, try a new face mask, or just simply have a movie day.
- Lastly, I make sure I talk to a therapist. This has provided me with the tools I need to learn how to deal with my anxiety and triggers. Therapy in this country does not come cheap but it is a resource we all need. Especially in our coronavirus times where stress and anxiety is at an all-time high.
Here are some free or low-cost therapy resources that are available:
- Boris L. Henson Foundation is an organization created by Taraji P Henson that provides people with a plethora of free or low-cost therapy options. They have free virtual groups for the youth and young adults. They also provide a listing of mental health providers and programs that serve the African American community. borislhensonfoundation.org
- A national helpline called 211 connects you to free or low-cost therapists in your area. Just dial 211 and you would be connected to someone to assist you in finding a therapist that fits your financial needs (Cuzzone, 2020).
- Talkspace is a Facebook support group specifically designed to help manage anxiety around coronavirus. The group is led by therapists where they provide coping tips as well as, encouraging quotes (Cuzzone, 2020).
- Real to the people is a site that connects you to groups with people struggling with a common issue and it also offers individual digital check-ins. The Check-in is one session with a therapist to help you map out a plan that would be beneficial for your mental health (Cuzzone, 2020) join-real.com/real-to-the-people.
Be Encouraged, You are Strong
No matter what you are battling right now or how life may seem, know that you are never alone. You will heal and life will get better. Your anxiety will not rule over your life forever. You will overcome and you will come out on the other side better than you could ever imagine yourself to be.
Cuzzone, K. (2020, April 08). 8 free Therapy resources to try if you can’t afford to see someone. Retrieved March 16, 2021, from https://www.purewow.com/wellness/free-therapy-resources
Facts & statistics: Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. (2021, February 17). Retrieved March 9, 2021, from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics
Stress in America 2020 A Mental Health Crisis. (2020, October). Retrieved March 9, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2020/sia-mental-health-crisis.pdf
My name is Sarai and I was born in Miami, Florida and raised in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. I graduated from the University of Central Florida and received my Bachelor’s in Health Sciences Pre-Clinical with a minor in Psychology. I am currently in the process of studying for the MCAT (the admissions exam to Medical school) and I aspire to become a neurologist.