In this post, I want to talk about something many people deal with yet rarely speak out about; anxiety.
If you know anything about me, you know that I'm all about beating that confidence drum and cultivating happiness, which is why I find it completely necessary to shed light on this topic. I personally know we can't expect to move forward in happiness before addressing what has us on edge and in the dumps.
I'm sure individuals in this community are struggling with anxiety right now, and are in the position I was in for years of not having a way of managing stress on a daily basis that didn't come in the form of alcohol, prescriptions meds, and other external desensitizers that numb feelings and emotions.
Therefore, my purpose with these words is to help you discover one more way you can care for yourself holistically, as well as open the doors to thinking about yourself in a way that maybe you haven't slowed down long enough to think of before.
So a little back story....
For as long as I can remember I’ve had some form of anxiety.
I’ve got that type-A perfectionist personality (nothing to brag about), and though I'm recovering from it now, thankfully, the drive be on my A-game has forever been front and center.
As a teen, I didn't recognize the pressure of anxiety for what it was. My thinking was simple; these are the things, and I have to get them all done. Period.
Clearly, anxiety issues have a real starting place. Mine started somewhere in those early teen years, wedged between the heavy-hitters of emotional cray-cray (thanks hormones) and discovering one's identity.
So just like any well-meaning teen, I had my share of performance driven stress. But things started to take a downward turn during and immediately after my undergrad years. Which brings me to my first life lesson.
Life Is Full of Transitions
Nobody told me "adulting" would be so STRESSFUL!
Full of these huge things called transitions that cause you to fall into 1 of 2 camps.
Camp 1: Feel you need to grab life by the horns and be wild and free.
Camp 2: Analysis paralysis. Overwhelmed and frazzled with all of life’s decisions.
Needless to say I fell into the latter category.
Immediately after college I got my at the time "dream job" as a personal trainer at a country club resort. Not stressful at all, right? Lies!
This was a place where the objective was always to hit some obscure quota above prioritizing the fitness needs of the members.
New concept to me, but what did I know about business at 22?
Let me not forget to mention I didn’t have the greatest relationship with my fitness director. She was on a power trip, but that’s another story.
When I landed this job I was the newbie, so I did all the newbie grunt work. This consisted of waking up before the crack of dawn. Which, being the non-morning person that I am, was an immediate anxiety provoker.
So let me paint the picture:
Walking into work at 6 a.m. alarm - in the pitch black dark - in the freezing cold.
Just the simple nature of getting up at an hour before the sun rises with nobody else moving around really put me into a sad headspace. As time went on that pushed me into full-blown anxiety.
Couple this with now the pressures at work, and I started to feel the worst of the anxiety related to the job.
In the month before I quit, the alarm would go off at 5am, I would open my eyes and sit up, realize that it was morning and immediately my heart would start to race.
Immediately I would want to cry. I would feel rushed and overwhelmed like I had no time at all in the day.
This was horrible for me because back then I was naive as to how to cope. Being the extreme extrovert that I always feel better in the presence of other people – well, there’s really nobody to talk to at 5am, ya know. On top of that I lived alone.
Fast forward 2 years.
I’ve gotten married, I’ve ditched the corporate gym job, and now work for myself (which has it’s own load of anxiety, but who's counting).
At this point I’ve gone through two transitions. One of finishing college, and another of becoming a wife.
More back story...
My hunk of a hubby and I didn’t actually live together until 9 months after we got married, because – immigration. He lived in the Caribbean and I lived in the U.S.
So transition number 3 happened; my move from Virginia to St.Kitts, a little tiny island wedged between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
This transition was by far the hardest of all and lead me to learn life lesson number 2.
Life Doesn't Get Easier In Your 20s...It Gets Complicated
About 2 months after living on island, I realized hey, even though I think I'm running a business, I’m really not.
I had no clients and no consistent income. I had a hobby.
I was 24. A college grad. Had tons of energy and no plans for what I was going to do with myself. Essentially I was living the life of a childless housewife.
In the course of the 18 months that I lived on that island I had 2 panic attacks and 1 nervous breakdown. Not only was this crazy-town for me, but crazy-town for my husband!
He’d never seen me like that before; scream-sobbing into the night, not eating, not being able to sleep from my insane level of stress.
After moving back to the U.S. I finally started to learn ways to cope with my anxiety. Now given that took me 3 ½ years to figure out, I finally started to break the understanding barrier as to what can be done about anxiety. Here's what I've learned.
Where The Morning Anxiety Comes From
What would always stun me was how I could go to bed at night completely relaxed and confident in what I’d planned to do for the next day, yet wake up the next morning anxious.
I learned that morning anxiety is usually triggered by 3 causes:
1. Elevated cortisol
2. Low blood sugar
Cortisol is a stress hormone that naturally rises in the morning hours to help us wake up and feel refreshed. But for an already anxious person this stored up form of cortisol only makes one feel more anxious, causing the body to pump out more cortisol which creates more anxiety, which creates more cortisol, leading to more anxiety...and on and on and on the cycle continues.
Low blood sugar comes from the forced fast that occurs with sleeping for 6+ hours. Usually this is made worse by eating a carb heavy dinner, or for people who aren't fat adapted.
Environment can be anything from an uncomfortable bed, a blaring alarm clock, a cold floor under your feet, and even an intrusive overhead light.
My Routine For Morning Anxiety
What helped me most in managing my anxiety was figuring out how I personally function best. For instance, I don’t do well barreling into the day.
I hate being rushed when I wake up; rushing to get dressed, rushing to eat, rushing to get out the door. None of it works for me. But I do have busy-body energy (remember the naturally elevated morning cortisol?).
What I've learned is that I best manage this energy by putting it to use. Some things I do are tidy up the house, take a short walk, do some easy stretching, starting prepping a part of dinner - it’s physical movement focused, but not strenuously physical like lifting weights.
After about an hour of this, I'm good and can move on about my work day.
So that’s the first thing, figuring out how you function best.
The next biggest deal is establishing a simple routine that your brain can latch onto each morning versus allowing it to run around frantically and get you more worked up.
My morning usually looks like this:
• Wake up
• Open the drapes for sunlight
• Turn on fun music or read something short and uplifting (helps me be positive and optimistic)
• Mobility + breathing work (helps me connect my mind with my body & stretch out the morning stiffness)
• Get dressed
• Eat a chill and non-rushed breakfast or skip breakfast altogether
What! Jasmine skips breakfast?!
Yep, sometimes I do.
You see, I'm a very fat-adapted person, meaning my body very easily accesses any stored fat I have and uses it for energy in addition to the fat from food.
Most of the time (read: when I'm not pregnant) I wake up not hungry because my body is still feeding off the fat from the previous night's meal or is using what I've already got stored up. So I don't eat until I actually start to feel hungry often 3-4 hours after getting out of bed.
The only time I don't abide by this inherent law is when I'm doing a morning met-con. On those mornings I need consumed food fuel.
Coffee is something that as of late has started to happen mid to late morning, and less often as soon as I wake up.
As I've learned to check in with myself, I realize that having an early morning cup of joe only provokes more anxiety because of the stimulating caffeine.
Since I primarily drink coffee for the taste, and hate the taste of most decaf, I find it works best to postpone my morning butter coffee-sipping ritual to around the time I start my work day.
Ultimately, I hope opening up about my personal dealings with anxiety helps you be more optimistic about what can be done about yours. By no means is gaining control over anxiety an easy task, but it is doable. If I can do it, surely you can, too.
Most of all I want you to know that you do not have to go at it alone. There are so many resources from books and apps, to people like Kelly Brogan, Brene Brown, and Alexi Panos, who can help you think, feel, and see things totally clearer and calmer light.
If you feel like your anxiety is being fed by issues with your health, working with a health coach is, in my humble opinion, one of the best ways to address things from a whole person perspective.
Not only can a health coach give you the tools to help you manage stress and anxiety, but also open your eyes to how the way you eat and live directly impact it.
Schedule a free discovery call with me here to talk about what options I can serve you with.
If you want to get started today turning down the anxiety, I suggest you check out my free guide, Create Your Big Picture Happiness. It's filled with resources and prompts to help you understand how you best function, whiling helping you unveil how to create your own definition of joy in life.
Everyone has their way out of the madness of anxiety, so have courage that you can find yours.