Anxiety isn’t something that I have experienced much in the past. This year, however, things have changed. Here are my personal experiences with stress and anxiety. Also: This post reflects my personal thoughts and experiences. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
What you see isn’t always the whole truth
My Experience With Stress + Anxiety This Past Year
I know with certainty that I am not alone feeling much more anxious these days. The state of the world right now alone is enough to cause worry in us all.
Living through a pandemic is like a bad case of PMS: little things that didn’t used to bother you cause a much bigger reaction.
If you check out this document created by the American Psychological Association, you’ll find some stats about the increase in stress across the country over the past year.
I have read a lot more about anxiety in the past few years for reasons unrelated to my own mental health, but as I’ve learned more about the symptoms, I’ve recognized more of them in myself.
New Anxiety Symptoms
This quote sums up the change in anxiety I have experienced:
“Everyone experiences stress and anxiety at one time or another. The difference between them is that stress is a response to a threat in a situation. Anxiety is a reaction to the stress.” –ADAA
Under “normal” circumstances, I was able to problem solve stressors and deal with them without a significant emotional toll.
But this year when I feel stress, sometimes that has led to a physical reaction. The acute symptoms of chest pressure, lightheadedness, and tingling are new.
On a more chronic note, I’ve been having more sleeplessness and insomnia (waking up feeling panicked at times) and headaches. When I was younger I used to bite my nails; that has turned into picking at my nails and nail beds, which is a gross habit that gets much worse during periods of stress.
While I know some anxiety is normal, it has crept more and more into my everyday. I know many of you struggle with panic attacks and more extreme manifestations that can disrupt daily life.
I am most definitely not an expert in anxiety, but I wanted to share some of my personal experiences in the hopes that we can support one another in the comments.
Everyone’s experiences are their own, and comparison won’t solve problems, so I do hope we can keep that in mind.
Sources Of Stress That Have Led To A Stress and Anxiety Snowball
1 // Parenting
Parenting is hard no matter what season you’re in. My kids are six years apart with very different needs. I constantly feel pulled between them for different reasons. That is normal!
School has been unpredictable for both of them. We have had so many snow days recently (Birch was out 4 days for snow in the past few weeks), and with the stricter COVID rules regarding runny noses (understandably), he will probably miss another full week when the next winter cold blows through the class.
When Mazen was this age, I used to go to ACAC and let him get all his energy out in the indoor playground with his friends while I exercised and showered. Since that’s off the table now, it’s just a LOT of time together.
That said, I am VERY grateful we have an option for Birch to have regular childcare for the majority of the days. He is getting to play with other children his age and learning so much.
I am thankful for Mazen’s teachers who have done the best they possibly can with Zoom school, but being his home teacher has not been easy. Even just regulating the daytime snacks has been challenging! He’s heading to face-to-face school on March 8 so I am very much looking forward to having a quiet house more of the time.
I know other people are working full-time with more kids at home than I have, and all I have to say about that is I feel for you too!
2 // Limited Self Care Options
Now normally when I’d be feeling a little overwhelmed I might delve into some self care. I am a huge believer of the oxygen mask principle, and I know I am the best mom when I am feeling well myself.
But again, with many people struggling with mental health, so much is closed down and the usual self care support systems are running on low power mode.
What might you normally lean on for support? A visit to your BFFs house, a girls’ night on the couch with a group of friends, a date night with your partner, a massage, go to a coffee shop, a yoga class, therapy.
While some of these might be available to some of you, your personal risk and region of the country might limit that. Not to mention, if you want to do those things someone has to watch the kids! I’d give anything for a sweaty, hot yoga class right now.
3 // A Busy Work Season
Since just before Christmas when I decided to jump 100% into creating my course I’ve been burning the candle at both ends making that dream come true. I’ve been getting up at 5:30 a.m. and working in the evenings.
I knew this would be an intense season, and luckily it’s almost over since the course and marketing around it are all set up now. But it has contributed to feelings of overwhelm during this time.
I love this Ally Love quote I heard during a Peloton class and think of it often:
“I don’t want my ambition to rob me of my current joy.”
I’m in a season of building things, but I have to remind myself that I create this reality and nothing is the end of the world – it’s just money and time.
4 // Health scares
I’ve had a few health concerns this year, including needing my first mammogram.
Luckily everything looked ok on my follow up (apparently I have “scattered fibroglandular densities”) but this weighed on my mind for months.
As this was my first one, I can now say that the actual mammogram was no big deal at all, and I’m glad to have a baseline as I turn 40 in 1.5 years!
5 // Winter Blues
Need I say more? Take me to the tropics.
6 // Extras
I hate it when people say this, but there are some more stressors I can’t share online to respect the privacy of those I care about.
What Has Helped?
Exercise is my #1 go-to when I’m feeling off. Even a 10-minute treadmill walk boosts my mood. And as cheesy as it is to say, the Peloton instructors’ positivity is always great to hear.
I had a 2020 paper planner that I never used and I turned it into a gratitude journal. Writing a few things down as part of an abundance mindset keeps me reassured I have a lot to be thankful for.
Again, the Peloton app has a ton of great 5 minute guided meditations, and occasionally the kids join in too.
Reading fiction has always been such a great mind reset for me, and I try to read every day, especially before bed or in the middle of the night when I need to quiet a racing mind.
Asking for help
Asking support from Thomas when I need a little extra time to myself (see 10 minute treadmill walk above!)
—> Very grateful
Anxiety isn’t always easily explained. I am very grateful for the things we do have: two incomes, a secure home, food to eat, no one is currently sick (knock on wood), and we have help from extended family, including Mazen’s second set of parents.
When I start to feel the anxiety creeping in, I try to root myself in foundational truths (this is partly why this became my word of the year.) I zoom out so I can see the context of this moment in this year in this one person on this one big planet.