Disclaimer: I feel it’s important to mention, you do not need to have a diagnosed anxiety disorder to feel anxiety or stressed. Anxiety and stress are both natural human emotions. The only reason I mention my diagnosis is because being anxious for extended periods of time can diminish a person’s quality of life. If you feel as though you can relate and your stress or anxiety is hindering your outlook on life, I strongly advise you to seek professional help.
If you’re like me–and I’m really fucking sorry if you are–you become incredibly overwhelmed over the smallest situations. For example, I went downstairs this morning for my third cup of coffee and was interrupted by my mother reminding me of all the doctor appointments I have to schedule. A normal person would be like “Okay cool, thanks mom,” and schedule the appointments. Me? I had a mini panic attack.
If you’re not familiar with anxiety disorders, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of, “Alright, well that was dramatic.” And I’m not going to say it wasn’t. Looking back at it, scheduling appointments shouldn’t be that stressful. But the thing is…when you have an anxiety disorder you are constantly stressing about every and all aspects of your life. You micromanage every single detail. So when you feel as though you are barely managing what is already on your plate and someone is telling you to start adding more (no matter how small), yeah, it’s overwhelming.
Now, luckily(?) for me, I’ve dealt with anxiety for what seems like my whole life and have found little ways to make life seem less scary and way more manageable.
I start by determining all the things in my life I have to do, even if I don’t want to. For example, going to school or work, or when certain assignments or bills are due. Knowing my obligations very clearly helps me outline my day. I also find having some sort of schedule helps me feel more on top of my life so I don’t waste time being unproductive and then stressing about things last minute.
After determining my obligations, I start keeping track. If I don’t keep track of due dates or set plans, I will forget and when those dates come up again in the future I start to panic. To avoid panic, I plan in advance. Personally, I use Google Calendar because it syncs to my phone and is much easier for me than bringing a physical planner everywhere. I use the tasks bar to keep track of little tasks I need to get done such as the doctor appointments I still have to schedule. Having a list of everything I have to do takes away the stress of trying to remember everything and making it seem like I have more to do than I actually do.
Because of my anxiety, my brain sort of tricks me into thinking things are a bigger deal than they are. What I mean is if one little thing goes wrong in my life, I will start to think that everything is going wrong in my life. When in reality, it’s just a little bump in the road and I have the power to find a solution and move on.
I’m currently in between jobs (which is a fancy way for saying I’m unemployed) because the restaurant industry is incredibly stressful and I felt I needed a break and find a healthier job for me at this time. Because of that, I’ve been stressing about finding a new job and my finances. During the days leading up to when I officially quit my job, I was incredibly anxious and felt like my whole life was a mess and I didn’t have it together at all. This is why it’s so important for me to categorize and analyze when I’m feeling overwhelmed.
I’m a very analytical person when it comes to my emotions, so when I process things I have to do it in an organized way. It sounds super weird typing it out but I basically organize my life into sections. For example, school, work, finances, and hobbies (i.e this blog) are kind of the main sections. Next, I start to identify the things in each specific category that are stressing me out. For my finances, I have my car payment which is beyond stressful since I no longer have a job. Thankfully I have this month and next month covered, so in reality, I have two months to find a job which isn’t so bad when I break it down and look at it that way. Breaking things down mentally creates the picture that it’s just a small problem that can be fixed, rather than “my whole life is a mess.”
By identifying all the stressors in each category, it’s easier for me to specifically target what I need to fix in order to take away that stress. Coming up with the solutions to each stressor helps me manage my anxiety and take away that overwhelmed feeling. It helps me take back control over my life and have a more positive outlook on whatever it was I was freaking the fuck out about.
With anxiety, it’s very easy to get sucked into the spiral of worrying. Sometimes you just have to snap yourself out of it and think, ok how can we solve this and be proactive about it, rather than retreating to your secret stash of comfort food–in my case, mallomars. Stress isn’t a choice, but how you deal with stress is.
And let’s be real, stress is always going to be a part of life so I choose to manage it before it manages me.