Anixety doesn’t take account of your plans for the day. It isn’t concerned if there are people around or if you’re in the middle of a performance. I’ve known that I have anxiety for the past few years, but the last year in particular I have been susceptible to stronger and more consistent attacks that leave me feeling helpless. I know I cannot predict when it’s about to happen, or make it stop before the adrenaline has stopped pumping, but I know I can take action in my everyday life to make my mindset healthier and more at ease.
My first public panic attack was in the middle of a final rehearsal with a band I was working with. A few people were there to watch our set to give me some feedback. I was working with a 5 piece band of extremely talented musicians, and we were getting ready to perform our first show together at Rockwood Music Hall in New York City. At this time, I was unknowingly deep in my battle with my yeast intolerance…so sometimes my voice was on point and other times my voice was hoarse. (See previous post Starving Artist) The fear of not knowing what condition I’d be in or how to treat it was causing so much anxiety and nervous energy to build inside of me. We were rehearsing “We Can Ride This Out, Love,” and in the middle of the second verse: my voice disappeared, the room started turning, I felt overheated, and my ears started ringing. Everything felt dimmed. I was frozen. As I couldn’t get any sound out to sing, and everyone in the room was unsure of what was going on with me, I felt like time was moving so slow. A few seconds felt like an eternity. I told the band to stop playing. I could see how panicked I looked in the rehearsal mirror. I stepped off the rehearsal stage, asked my dad to get me a cup of tea and I sat and ate a donut (how ironic in hindsight, this would actually only hurt my voice!) trying to give my exhausted body some energy. Although the actual attack didn’t last long, my body felt like it had gone through war. After feeling so vulnerable in a public space, I knew I had to figure out some coping mechanisms for myself. As you read, especially for those of you that are experiencing anxiety, just be aware that these are things that I have found work for me over time. At this point, I have chosen to avoid going to the doctor and taking medication for anxiety as a personal choice, but that does not mean that would be the right choice for everyone.
When I’m going through times of high stress, I know I am more likely to start having attacks, big or small. The busier my schedule is the higher the chance I have of getting overwhelmed, even if I love what I’m doing. I always carry two kinds of tea in my bag: Throat Coat for my voice, and Peppermint to calm me. If I feel my thoughts are starting to race, and my to do list is growing, I brew a cup of Peppermint and before I even take my first sip, the aroma seems to ease my heart beat.
Playing Piano & Singing:
Music is healing. For every situation there’s a song, and if there’s not…I’ll write it. The feeling of playing piano and singing a song opens my heart, and every bit of anxiety pours right out. If I sing everyday, I will keep the panic away. It’s been proven that singing for at least 10 minutes a day relieves stress. Some of my busiest days consist of going to work for 8 hours, working out, getting ready, driving over an hour to perform, singing and then getting right back in the car to get home and get some sleep to do it all again the next day. Even though I may be extremely tired while I’m driving to the venue, as soon as I sit behind those keys, something inside of me is ignited and I let go of every stress that’s been weighing me down.
Running & Cycling:
Working out in general is a great release. My preferences are running outside and cycling on my Peloton. When the wind hits my face, I am free. As my feet pound the pavement, I forget that I’m working out, and I feel like I’m floating. Cycling on my Peloton gives me a different kind of rush. It’s a physical exhaustion, pushing myself to my utmost limits with a trainer who is keeping the positive energy flowing! I usually take my classes with instructors Jess King and Robin Arzon, two powerful, strong women. At the end of an intense sweaty workout, running or cycling, I can physically feel all of the negativity exit my body.
My Core Group:
This one is key. I used to keep my anxiety a secret. I though it was a sign of weakness, so I kept my feelings inside and hid what I was going through from the people I love. By keeping everything bottled up, I was feeling so alone in my struggle. I have my core 5 people who I know I can call or text at any moment and say “I’m having a rough time right now.” What’s even better is that they all give me different forms of advice. For instance, my mom coaches me through my anxiety in a very practical way mixed with tough love. My sister listens and simply just understands. Some of my friends relate and struggle in the exact same way, so we share our experiences. Living with a secret will only hurt you. I’ve learned the more transparent I am with my weaknesses, the more they become my strengths. Its part of owning every aspect of who I am. Let your support system be just that: supportive.
What doesn’t work for me:
Limiting my coffee:
I’ve read so many articles that suggest limiting your caffeine intake. This has never helped me. I’ve cut coffee out entirely at times in my life, and I felt no difference. Just because it works for other people, doesn’t mean it has to work for you. For many people, I’m sure it helps…but for me…I’ll take my morning espresso and my midnight coffee. They keep me happy.
Throughout my life, I’ve gone through phases of journaling. I would tell myself that I should keep track of my daily experiences and recount what I go through as a way of sorting through my emotions. For some reason, sitting down with a pen and paper and writing everything I did that day, makes me ANXIOUS. I feel rushed to get to the ending, or to convey my feelings a certain way even though it’s a personal diary. Personally, journaling gives me a completely different feeling than writing lyrics or typing a blog.
Now That I’ve Rambled…
I hope having a little insight into how I cope with my anxiety will potentially help a few other people in their journey of finding inner peace. It’s an ongoing process. Like most things in life, anxiety comes in waves…sometimes we have a better grasp of it, and sometimes it has a stronger grasp on us. My best advice is to ride the wave. If you have anxiety, use it learn more about yourself. Always turn a negative into a positive. 🙂