I want to start off by saying that I will be sharing with you how it has helped me. All of our bodies are different, so what works for me may not work for someone else. With that being said, let’s get into it!
Growing up, I would say that I was never an anxious or stressed out child. Of course, as I got older I started experiencing stress, but not anxiety. In college, most of my stress was related to whether or not I’d get an A in my class or pass a test, just things related to school. Luckily, I survived all the stress through my undergraduate degree (yay!). When I started graduate school, that’s when I noticed my anxiety starting to creep up. I started full-time online grad school spring of 2017. After my first semester was over, I noticed that doing certain things made my heart beat really fast, like a feeling of panic, that never used to happen before. As the year went along, it just kept getting worse and worse. It got to the point where I couldn’t even drive my own car. Being at a stoplight was the absolute worst. I couldn’t go to stores. I couldn’t wait in lines. I couldn’t go check my mail. I couldn’t throw out the trash alone. I couldn’t go out to eat. If I’d go out to eat with my family, I had to try my absolute hardest to hide the anxiety that I was feeling. I never really talked about it to my family because I was just embarrassed, which I shouldn’t have been because I know they’d understand. All of those things just put me in a state of panic. The only way I could go anywhere in my car is if my boyfriend was driving. Even if we’d go to stores together, I’d have to walk out almost immediately because I’d start experiencing shallow breathing, my heart rate would increase, and I just felt like I couldn’t breathe. I honestly would feel like my throat was going to completely close on me. I just felt like I couldn’t do anything anymore. As much as I wanted to go out and do things, I just couldn’t because I knew my anxiety would creep up and just take over. My sleep was also affected. I would experience insomnia most nights and would only get about 2 hours of sleep. If I’d try to fall asleep, I’d wake up almost immediately to my heart racing in a panic. I truly felt that anxiety was running my life and I felt helpless.
I’ve never really talked to my family about what I was going through. The only person who actually saw me struggle through this was my boyfriend, being that we live together. I know it was probably sometimes a little frustrating for him to go places with me because anxiety would creep up randomly, but he was such a big supporter through it all. Sometimes, I’d have good days where I was actually able to go into stores. The bad thing is that the anxiety would hit me out of nowhere. I would be walking around the store with my boyfriend, never by myself, then all of a sudden start panicking from one second to the next where I felt like I needed to just get out of the building. There were times where he would leave me alone to go to the bathroom or to go look at something randomly and I’d be left alone. He felt that leaving those things until the end of our trip was fine because he’d do whatever he had to do super quick and then come right back to me. The thing is that for me it did not feel quick because those few seconds or minutes felt like an eternity. I wanted to cry, really felt like my throat was going to close up on me, and my heart would beat out of my chest. I really didn’t like when he’d do that, but I know he meant well. I would have preferred for him to let me know ahead of time that he felt like he was gonna have to pee or whatever the case that way I could grab the keys and step out of the building to go to the car if I needed to. I always felt so bad when we’d go somewhere and have to leave because of my anxiety. I started feeling as if I was a major burden and an annoyance. He NEVER made me feel that way and he was so supportive and was always there for me during these times. I just felt horrible when we’d have to leave because of me. He was such a trooper and I love him so much for loving me even through this hard time in my life!
Strategies I Tried
I finally decided that I needed to figure out how to get my anxiety under control. I am someone who is constantly stressed, so I knew that I’d have to figure out how to manage my stress too because I know stress and anxiety go hand in hand. I just really wanted to get back to my old self because I was so tired of feeling trapped in my home. I started searching the internet for ways to help with anxiety and came across lots of different strategies. These are the strategies that I ended up trying out. Just because they did not work out for me doesn’t mean that they won’t work out for others. The key is to just keep trying things out to see if they work for you or not. If you are struggling with stress and/or anxiety, I encourage you to give some of these a try.
I found an abundance of articles saying that practicing meditation can help with stress and anxiety. I made it a point to meditate every morning and it did make me feel calm at the moment. The problem is that my anxiety would still come back as soon as I was about to go somewhere. I’d just either sit with my legs crossed or would lay on the floor, close my eyes, and just clear my mind for 5 to 10 minutes. Most of the time, I had an app on my phone open playing some relaxing nature sounds or sounds of the ocean. It’s definitely a great way to help feel calm and relaxed at the moment, but for me personally it did not help with my anxiety.
2. Take a Breather
Whenever I’d feel my anxiety creeping up on me, I tried to just take a breather and clear my mind. I’d close my eyes, place my hands over my heart, and just tried to slow my breathing down and lower my heart rate. I honestly thought that this strategy would work for me, but unfortunately it didn’t. It actually made it worse! The reason it made it worse for me is that I would start to freak out knowing that I had to take this breather because of my anxiety. I know many people may not understand it and it may sound silly, but this is honestly what would happen. It would just make my anxiety worse because I knew that I was trying to calm my anxiety down by taking this extra breather.
3. Lavender Essential Oil
If you search anxiety and essential oils on the internet, almost always the number one essential oil that will pop up is lavender essential oil. I was constantly diffusing lavender essential oil in my house to see if it would help. I’d put a few drops in my shower when I was getting ready to take a shower that way it could give off the lavender aroma. I’d also take along a lavender aromatherapy stick with me if I’d attempt to go somewhere just in case I needed to smell it to help calm me down. This did not help for me, but I will say that it kind of helped me sleep better!
4. Take a Walk
I made sure to try and take a walk out in nature everyday. The entire time that I was dealing with anxiety, I would stick to doing my own workouts here at home with the exercise equipment I had on hand. My nature walk acted as my warm-up to my actual workout. Since my brain was always thinking negatively almost all the time, taking walks did not help me. I was always thinking about bad things that could happen to me while walking instead of simply enjoying the beautiful natural environment around me. I would finish my walk, but it was not enjoyable for me because my breathing would be shallow the entire time, my throat felt like it was closing up on me, and my heart rate would not calm down. This is another one that I thought would work for me, but unfortunately it did not. It’s not so much that the walking didn’t work, it’s more that I was just anxious about the environment I was in.
5. Stay Positive
During this time in my life, I was constantly finding the negative in everything. If I passed a test with a 94, I’d be disappointed at myself because I didn’t get that 100. If I attempted to go to a store with my boyfriend, I’d start thinking about how everyone was probably going to negatively judge me. If I passed a class with an A but didn’t get the grade I wanted, I was not proud of myself and thought I was the dumbest person on earth. It seriously got to that point. I tried to remain positive and just focus on the positives in life. Honestly, I think this one didn’t work for me BECAUSE I was just finding the negative in everything. There was so much negativity that I was creating in my head that I couldn’t think of the positives. Now that I’m feeling much better, I can easily write down all the positives in my life, but at the time this strategy didn’t work for me. I feel that it definitely could have worked if I hadn’t been so negative about everything.
6. Supplements Geared Toward Stress and Anxiety
I had initially wanted to stay away from taking any pill supplements geared toward stress and anxiety just because I didn’t want to have to rely on taking supplements multiple times a day. I eventually started to look into some natural supplements that were meant to help with stress and anxiety. I bought a couple of them, but most of them actually heightened my anxiety. After experiencing that, I found out that sometimes these supplements can actually heighten anxiety for some people. I am one of those people that experienced the heightened anxiety with some of these supplements. I don’t know if it was a certain herb or ingredient that the supplements had that just didn’t do well with me or if it was me being extra paranoid about how I would react to it. I honestly feel that it was more about me being paranoid. I eventually stopped taking the supplements since they did not help me.
7. Avoid Caffeine
I think this is the only strategy out of the others that somewhat, but not completely contributed to helping my anxiety. The reason is because it only helped with my anxiety at home and did not help when I was out of my house. I had always drank regular caffeinated coffee and never had a problem up until this time in my life. I had to stay away from caffeinated coffee because it gave me anxiety inside my own home. When I switched over to decaf coffee, I never experienced that anxiety anymore when I was at home. The last thing I wanted was to experience anxiety in my own home AND out in the world because that would just make me feel absolutely horrible.
Although I personally didn’t have the best luck with these strategies, they may help others who are experiencing stress and anxiety! Remember, every body is different!
Magnesium: The Golden Ticket to Managing My Stress and Anxiety
After about a year of trying to figure out how to manage my stress and anxiety, I kind of gave up on looking for things that would help. At this point, I just really wanted to get more sleep at night and decided to look for natural sleep aids. Magnesium was one of the sleep aids that I came across and I immediately started researching more about it. While researching, I found out that not only can it help with sleep, but it can also help stress and anxiety! Magnesium is an important essential mineral that our bodies need and is involved in many different biological processes, including our body’s stress response system. Upon researching, I came across some information about magnesium deficiency. People who have magnesium deficiency may experience insomnia and heightened stress and anxiety. I was immediately intrigued! Magnesium helps to maintain healthy levels of a neurotransmitter called GABA, which helps to promote relaxation and sleep. It can also help with mood stabilization and may relieve anxiety symptoms. Being that many of us are magnesium deficient, reading this just clicked and made sense because of what I was experiencing! I’ll never know if I actually was deficient in magnesium before supplementing with it since I didn’t go to a doctor, but it has definitely helped me a bunch! I can go places on my own without freaking out. I can go out to eat and go to stores with my boyfriend without having to leave immediately. I can stand and wait in long lines. I can go on walks. I can workout at the gym alone. I can drive my car again. I don’t freak out when I’m at a stoplight. I’ve had extremely important tests and projects to do for school that I’d usually be overly stressed about it. I completed those without any heightened stress or anxiety. I remember calling my mom telling her that I was so shocked at how calm I was this semester with all the important things for school that I needed to complete! She knew about my stress, but not about the extent of my anxiety. Of course, I do still experience stress and nervousness when doing certain things, but it’s the normal kind and not the heightened kind. I’ve finally been feeling like my old self again! It feels so good to not feel trapped and to not let stress and anxiety run my life. I can now be present in everything I do and just live in the moment. Such a great feeling!
The magnesium supplement that I use is from Trace Minerals and is called Ionic Magnesium. This ionic magnesium is a form most widely recognized by the body. It is combined with other minerals to ensure that it is readily recognized and promotes fast absorption due to its liquid ionic state. I take 300 – 400 mg per day. I like to split it up throughout the day because I read that sometimes magnesium can have a laxative effect. I’ve never taken the entire dose of this ionic magnesium at once, so I honestly don’t know if that will actually happen with the supplement I’m currently taking. I just don’t want to risk it! I take 100 mg 3 to 4 times a day in 20 – 30 oz of water. If you take it with only a small amount of water, you’re definitely going to get that mineral taste. I personally don’t get the mineral taste when I take it in a large cup of water. I just fill my Yeti cup with some water from my Berkey filter, drop 100 mg of ionic magnesium into the water, stir it up, and drink it. That’s it! Remember, I’m just sharing my story and my experience with magnesium. Since every body is different, it may not work for everyone!
*If you want to learn a little more about Magnesium, this is an article that I enjoyed reading while researching about Magnesium and sleep: https://www.thesleepdoctor.com/2017/11/20/magnesium-effects-sleep/