I know this isn’t a usual post for my blog but I wanted to use my platform to talk about something that affects so many lives. This is obviously a very personal post but it was important to me to help spread awareness and fight the stigma of what is mental health in America.
I first started to have real anxiety problems when I was in high school. At first I didn’t know what was happening. I would go on school trips without an ounce of nervousness and all of the sudden I would become a wreck. It would be to the point that I would become physically sick from it. I didn’t understand why this was happening to me. Why me? I was 17 years old and everyone thought I was getting homesick. I was told to grow up and to get over it.
I became so depressed because I couldn’t control my body. I turned to my doctor for help. While sobbing in the doctors office over my problems she drew a diagram. She explained to me that there are “hallways” in the brain. The door that releases the “fight or flight” hormone, cortisol, is always open. They prescribed two medications that day: Prozac and Xanax. Something my parents were extremely concerned about. The first time I took Prozac I had a severe reaction. I then relied on Xanax. I found it made me sad and tired for no reason. I depended on it and that made me feel even worse about my anxiety. A few months after the doctor appointment, I knew I had to change. While these medications help and change the lives of many people for the better, they weren’t working for me. So, I looked for my answer in natural medicine. Over the past few years these are what have helped me take control of my anxiety.
- Kava Kava root– I put this first because of how much it has changed my life! In the South Pacific, Kava is used as a drink for quick relaxation. It comes in all types of forms including pills and tinctures. You can find Kava Kava here or in a health store near you.
- Vitamin B12– Many doctors have found that a deficiency in Vitamin B12 can cause depression and anxiety issues. When I take Vitamin B12 regularly, I find that I am much happier and have less anxiety.
- Essential oils– Aromatherapy has helped make me in many ways. The best tip I can give is use it while doing meditations and relaxing and when you are in a stressful situation close your eyes and smell the specific scent. It will help bring you back to a moment of relaxation. One of my favorite ways to use essential oils is in a diffuser, you can get a one here or, a more affordable one here. I use tea tree and lavender oil the most to relax.
- Podcasts/Therapy– Before moving to Italy I started therapy to help me understand what my triggers were and how I can recognize them. Going to therapy doesn’t make you weak, it makes you strong enough to fight what is controlling you. A better understanding of your anxiety can lead to a better way to conquer it! If you are totally against therapy or don’t have time, try listening to a podcast on your way to work or school. Podcasts can be equally as helpful. This is one of my favorite podcasts, The Anxiety Coaches.
- Meditation/Deep Breathing– Do yoga or simply just take 20 minutes out of your day to meditate and center your thoughts. I know meditation may seem cheesy to so many but, clearing your mind and having control over it will help you have better control when you have an anxiety attack.
- Explaining your Anxiety– The stigma of mental health in America makes so many afraid of talking to their loved ones about their anxiety. YOU HAVE NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF. Most people to an extent do have anxiety and a lot of your loved ones will understand. Sharing the fact that you have anxiety will give you less anxiety about the possibility of having an attack and them finding out you have anxiety. You will also be able to tell them when something they want to do might give you anxiety and they will be more understanding rather than thinking that you just don’t want to do it. The people closest to you are most often affected by your anxiety as well. That is just another reason to help yourself and do what you can to not let it rule your life.
- Faith/Positive Vibes– When going through an emotional hardship it is important to keep faith. Whatever your religion or practice may be, it will help to believe in something greater than your anxiety and to have good thoughts about it becoming better. It’s amazing what a good outlook can do. 🙂
These are all things that have helped me reduce my anxiety. I know that they won’t help everyone since every case of anxiety is different. Mental health is a real problem and if you suffer from it, it’s okay to get help. If you know someone who suffers from anxiety, be understanding, loving, patient and know they can’t just “get over it”. Life is way too short to be controlled by a mental health issue. You can overcome this.
With Love, Elizabeth Ashley