I recently passed out. It’s a thing I do when in the presence of medical professionals. It started when I was pregnant and now it happens almost every time I am in a hospital setting.
I went in for general blood work. I did all the right things. I applied my oils, took deep breaths, visualized myself not passing out, etc. But it was too late, I had already said to myself “what if I pass out?” giving my brain the go ahead to do the thing that I always do. I knew before I checked in at the front desk that it was going to happen. Self fulfilling prophecy? For sure.
This time, I was out cold and dreaming. When I came out of it I had no idea where I was or what was happening. It took a few seconds to realize why these people in white coats were standing over me and I suddenly felt so much better. The thing that I was fearing the most had happened and was over with all within the span of one minute.
It’s hard to try to explain what having anxiety is like to someone who doesn’t experience it. Anxiety is not the same as stress or as or feeling nervous. It’s not rational, it doesn’t always have a cause, and it’s as much a physical experience as a mental one. Basically it sucks. I recently listened to a great podcast where Laura McKowen (one of my favorite sober people) explained her anxious experience and some things she did to ground herself. I could totally relate and it felt so nice for someone to put words to the things that I experience a lot of the time.
The thing is, sometimes the most anxiety provoking thing of all is trying not to have it in the first place. If you’re an anxious person then you know exactly what I am talking about. I’m literally anxious about anxiety. Ugh!
After a lot of work I feel like I can finally manage. Well, at least in settings where there are no medical staff holding carts with beeping things. Here are some things I do….
When at it’s worst, my anxiety feels so big that I think I could spontaneously combust. So, instead of trying to fight it I simply go there. I ask myself “What’s the worst thing that could happen right now?” Pass out, die, embarrass myself, heart attack? I go through the worst case scenario and usually by the end I feel better.
If I pass out, someone will help me. If I die, well then I’ll be dead and I won’t have to worry. (I know it sounds morbid but if you’re anxious you’ll understand the relief that option might offer). In the podcast, Meadow said “Say it one sentence” or in other words, break it down to one thing and then go through the worst thing that could happen. It’s usually not as bad as your ego wants you to think it is. Leaning into the scenario with facts instead of blowing it out of proportion helps.
I put in all the effort when I am not anxious. That means that I have to do all boring stuff that no one ever wants to do. I focus on exercise, sleep, diet, meditation, and self talk. I’ve had to learn the hard way there’s no quick fix to managing this and when I am not in check things are well, bad. If I have the extra (or two) cup of coffee, stay up super late, fail to exercise, skip meditation, and eat a bunch of sugar it’s always worse. Always. It might sound extreme but the reward is high.
Finally, I work really hard to interrupt the loop thoughts with gratitude and presence. Being present is the easiest and most logical way to help stop the cray cray. When I am present and focusing on exactly what’s happening I quickly learn that I am fine. As soon as I get an anxious though or feeling I just repeat over and over again exactly what is happening around me. Like, I am sitting here with my children and there is a car driving by. It might make me look like an insane person but I can promise you it’s nothing in comparison to the insane and irrational thoughts that my ego is making up.
It’s almost impossible to be grateful and anxious at the same time. So, when I am repeating what’s happening around me I then let my body feel how lucky I am to be in the situation I am in. I am safe, fed, warm, healthy, and I have the opportunity to choose happiness at any moment I want. Life is really really good.
Over time I have learned things are never as bad as they seem. If the ultimate scary thing happens and I do happen to pass out, I get the chance to come back to life and try it all over again. It’s over, I’m ok, moving on.
Even if you don’t have anxiety, you can use some of these tips to get through hard times. Maybe you’re scared about a decision, maybe you’ve got something big at work coming up, maybe it’s that hard conversation you’ve been avoiding, maybe you want to make a change but you’re terrified of what might happen?
Let go. Jump in. The part you’re dreading, the doom, the gloom, the terror, and the fear will all be over quickly. Then, you can move forward, feel better, and find relief. And when you come back to life I will be here to support you…..holding the proverbial cold pack to the back of your neck and telling you that everything is going to be ok…