It seems like everyone these days deals with anxiety in some form of the other. I considered myself lucky for never having to deal with anxiety in a chronic sense. Of course there were times I felt anxious, but it didn’t affect my everyday.
That is, until the beginning of my senior year of college. The summer before my last year of college, I was living in Orange County working at a children’s summer camp. It was the first time I had stayed in the area for the summer – usually I would go work in NYC or go off traveling, but I wanted to take advantage of living in such a beautiful place since it was my last year.
Towards the end of that summer, I experienced a few minor anxiety induced attacks. I had no idea what it was at the time since I had never experienced anything like it before.
It felt like my brain was dying for just a few split seconds, I would get dizzy, feel like I was about to pass out, and immediately have the urge to either poop or burp (sorry, tmi but true).
I literally thought I was dying. I was wondering what kind of major health issue did I have. Was I suddenly diabetic? Was I developing brain cancer? My mind immediately jumped to the worst case scenario because I had no idea what was happening.
To me, it couldn’t have just been “anxiety” because I didn’t have anxious thoughts. My thoughts were fine. I wasn’t too stressed out. I didn’t have a crazy amount of stuff going on, it wasn’t anything like that. It would be like I was totally fine one moment and having an anxiety attack the next.
I went home for two weeks before starting school again and for 2 weeks, I literally couldn’t get out of bed. I could barely eat, because everything I ate induced these type of attacks. I couldn’t drive, I just felt like my nervous system was completely shot.
I questioned going back to school since I would be expected to show up to class all day every day and perform (since I was a drama major). Despite it all, I made it back to school and these attacks continued. I managed to make it to classes and got cast in a big show, but everyday was a struggle as I tried to hide my anxiety attacks from everyone, which in turn, made me more anxious.
I tried everything to find the root of the problem. I went to an acupuncturist, got massages, went to a real doctor, who told me, it’s probably just anxiety. I went to a therapist who taught me how to be more mindful. I practiced yoga and my breathing. I completely cut out sugar, caffeine, and starchy foods since it spiked my blood sugar and therefore spiked my anxiety.
The thing that I realized during this time, is how much emotion and stress can affect our physical health. In reality, I was perfectly healthy, but my brain/emotions thought I was not and therefore was experiencing these very real panic/anxiety attacks where it felt like all my organs were failing me and that I was about to die on the spot. For me, my anxiety manifested completely physically. As far as I was aware I wasn’t particularly anxious or stressed about one particular thing – I was just living my life as I always had!
These problems lasted for the next year or so. They got significantly better after my first quarter ended. I wasn’t having as many attacks and had learned how to manage it.
Today, I rarely ever experience these symptoms anymore.
I’m still not sure exactly why I had this sudden on-set of anxiety, but it made me more compassionate towards people who deal with this on the daily. It can be crippling and even though “it’s in your head” it feels real af!
Here are a list of natural supplements/practices that helped me manage my anxiety. I’ve included links to the supplements which you can buy off of Amazon! These really worked for me, so try it if you deal with similar issues!
This little tincture was a life saver for me. I’m not sure if it was the placebo affect working it’s magic, or if taking it really did help with the anxiety. It has different flower extracts in it including lavender and passionfruit as well as kava root which is supposed to calm your system! You take a couple droppers in water and then take it like a shot. The taste is strong and bitter so make sure you wash it down with something else after! I took this several times a day when my anxiety was the strongest. Now, I just take it when I need it – especially before traveling because I tend to get a tad anxious then.
This is a magnesium supplement that is supposed to manage stress by normalizing your magnesium levels. You can either mix in a tall glass of water or add into your smoothies. They have a raspberry lemon flavor and original. I’ve only tried the rasp lemon which is quite nice. I usually drank this in water, but lately, I’ve been adding it to my morning smoothies just to help with my overall stress levels. This is a good one to just incorporate into your daily routine!
Lavender oil helped my anxiety SO much. Again, it may have been more of a placebo affect thing because I would use it as my crutch. I would tell myself, if I smell lavender, I won’t be anxious anymore, and usually just that thought would help soothe my nervous system. I just had a little bottle always with me that I would dab on my wrists and underneath my nose.
- Rose Quartz Crystals
Around this time, I started to get more and more into crystals and their power to heal. Even during the one session I had with a therapist, she suggested to hold a flat rock into my hand and rub it when I got anxious – just to serve as a reminder to ground yourself and focus on minute details (being more mindful) which can help the anxiety go away. I used my rose quartz as this sort of talisman and just being present with it in that way while also knowing it had the power of LOVE helped me immensely. When I was feeling super anxious, I would maniacally affirm in my head “I am loved, I am safe, I am loved, I am safe” while clutching rose quartz and that would usually help keep the attack at bay.
During my fall quarter of senior year, I literally drank a gingerade kombucha every single day. It for some reason, really helped me manage my anxiety. It was something about the mixture of the bubbly texture, the fact that it was full of probiotics and healthy gut bacteria, and the delish ginger taste that led me to believe it was helping quite a bit. I was in a big show at the time and had to sing a lot so the ginger also helped soothe my throat! Now, gingerade always reminds me of that time and I still love it, just rarely ever drink it now, because I know I don’t NEED it.
- NO Caffeine, Sugar, Starches, or Alcohol
I’ve already mentioned this, but I had to stay away from anything with caffeine, lots of sugar, and starches like white potatoes. I started to notice that after eating I would typically have more anxiety symptoms and started to learn how different foods affect our blood sugar which in turn affects our anxiety. I also learned just how much sugar is in everything. From almond milks to almond butter to chai tea lattes and granola bars once you become conscious of nutrition labels, it’s crazy how much unnecessary added sugar is in everything! I’m very sensitive to sugar and caffeine (I can’t even drink green tea without feeling off) so I had to completely cut these out since my nervous system was in such a fragile state. Nowadays, I still have ice cream and fruits and green tea on occasion (I can’t drink coffee like ever for this reason), because my nervous system is a lot stronger, but I’m still pretty conscious of added sugars and always choose sugar free products when it doesn’t NEED sugar (like almond butter and almond milk, like seriously why would that need added sugar). Alcohol too induced my anxiety, so I steered pretty clear.
These are just a few things that personally helped me during this pretty difficult time. I think practicing yoga and meditation on a regular basis, eating healthy, sleeping well, and doing other things that manage stress levels is always good so that it doesn’t culminate into this dire situation that I had of almost daily panic attacks.
These are also just what worked for me so if none of these resonate, then by no means should you follow this advice. I think we each have to come up with things that make us feel better, (for me it was smelling lavender and drinking gingerade kombucha) and then doing that act serves as a reminder to our brain to calm the fuck down and that everything is going to be alright.
This too shall pass.