Several nights a week my husband gets home later than he promises. He tells me that he will be home at 6:30pm. But at 6:45pm he's still not here. I call his cell phone and it goes to voicemail. Which in my head means I am pretty sure he was in a car accident. He’s probably dead. Best case scenario, in a hospital.
Hi, this is Anxious-Me speaking, nice to meet you. I have high-functioning anxiety.
I have always been a worrier. But since I had kids, Anxious-Me started doing an effective job of completely boxing out my other half, Rational-Me.
Anxious-Me is full of crazy ideas. She spends time thinking about burglaries. She stresses that if her kids don’t eat good food their brains won't develop correctly. She fears that if she doesn’t teach her kids the ABCs in time their education won't be off to the best start.
She even worries that her toddler will pull the metal tab off the La Croix can, drop it in, and subsequently choke on it.
Ridiculous, right? Or does it sound familiar?
All these worries and fears do not squash the possibility of these events occurring. They just make life really heavy.
Let's face it, Anxious-Me is not fun to be around. Her stress is contagious and is often transferred on to others. This includes her children and spouse that she is so diligently trying to protect.
Slowly and surely as I simplify my life, I find I can let go of her. I have found my rational-self again. Rather than focusing on stress and worries, I have focused on finding solutions.
There have been five changes in my life that have helped me to conquer high-functioning anxiety.
1. Lean on Affirmations
I never imagined the effect that positive affirmations could have in my life. A positive affirmation is a simple thought or statement that helps you overcome negative thought patterns. Instead of defaulting to thinking the worst, you intentionally think the best. Affirmations have helped me to conquer anxiety, particularly as it comes to driving.
My track record in driving is not stellar. When my family and I go out together, my husband always drives. On the rare occasion that I drive with my husband in the passenger seat--I am always far more nervous under his watchful eye. You see, my husband has a habit of making less-than-positive remarks about my driving.
"You turned too soon. Don't hesitate so much. Don't slam on your breaks."
One day, I asked him if he could start encouraging me instead. When he made the change, I started to relax. Hearing the words "You got this!" actually made me a less anxious and better driver.
So I started saying affirmations like this to myself. Whenever I feel anxious about driving, I switch my self-talk (or thoughts) from disparaging comments to positive ones.
"You are a good driver. You are capable. You are safe"
Doing this consistently has changed my driving experience.
2. Cut out Caffeine
It took me a very long time to come to grips with this. But it's true. Caffeine has a significant impact on anxiety. My body isn't meant for caffeine. When I have caffeine, my mind races.
We recently took a family trip to Costa Rica, home of some amazing coffee. I had been caffeine free for a while, but decided to indulge and enjoy it while on vacation. On the first day I returned to caffeine my son also became covered in harmless, non-itchy red spots.
My mind went crazy. Dr. Google was consulted. What if he was attacked by poisonous insects? What if he has the measles? What if it's some strange tropical virus? Could this be yellow fever? What is yellow fever, anyways?
In the end, they ended up being little red spots. Little red spots that didn't slow him down for a second. They came and went without any fanfare.
Unless you count my caffeinated rampage as fanfare.
3. Take Moments of Mindfulness
For the past few weeks I have been taking my one-year-old to the childcare at our local YMCA. She screams the whole time. They have a twenty minute rule--once she cries for twenty minutes they come and get me.
That means I have 1 minute to roll out my mat, 18 minutes of yoga, and 1 minute to roll it back up. I have found myself questioning--is it even worth it?
Yes. It's worth it.
Likewise, a couple times a day my Apple Watch gives me a one-minute reminder to "breathe". I am often tempted to hit the "snooze" button on the alert. But I can take one minute.
My body and mind need me to take one minute.
Often, that's all it takes. One minute of breathing. 18 minutes of yoga. Whatever tiny chance you have to slow down and breathe--take it.
4. Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food and mood are inextricably linked. Anxiety isn't just in the mind--it's very much in the body as well. The phrase, "you are what you eat" is absolutely true.
Almost 5 years ago I was diagnosed with autoimmune disease. My doctor suggested I cut out gluten to see if my symptoms improved. My symptoms did improve, but I was surprised that something else improved as well. My anxiety levels dropped significantly.
My diet was making a difference. Going gluten-free was just the beginning, now I strive to eat an anti-inflammatory diet. That means lots of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and Omega-3s. I skip the processed food and refined sugars.
I have no doubt that diet makes a difference.
5. Declutter the Schedule + House
Research shows us the clutter is associated with anxiety and stress. I spent years rushing around. Running late. Being in a hurry.
As I have emptied my schedule, I have also stopped rushing around. That means no more stressing out about running late and trying to get from one place to another.
Remember those driving issues I mentioned? Well, one day I was in a hurry and ran my car into the iron gate in our driveway. This wasn't a little dent. This was serious damage.
Y'all this is really embarrassing and I haven't told many people about this...but six months later I did it again. In my husband's car this time.
This was a huge wake-up call to me. Where did I have to be in such a hurry that I couldn't take an extra 30 seconds to pull slowly out of my driveway? No where.
Therefore, I am focusing on scaling back on the noise and clutter in my life. It has made such a difference. No.more.rushing.around.
Life has a way of getting busy. Sometimes it feels crazy. Which is why, in the words of Joanna Gaines, "we have to be aggressive in our pursuit of simplicity". Simple living and peaceful family life isn't just going to happen to us--we have to pursue it with purpose.
My new anxiety-free mantra: I am safe. My family is safe. We are healthy. We are happy.
Life is good. Let's worry less and try to relish in that instead.