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jordym84's avatar

How do I stop anxiety from ruining my day?

Asked by jordym84 (4737 points ) August 9th, 2012

I’ve always taken pride in the fact that I’m usually the person with the calmest, most easy-going demeanor wherever I am, but lately I’ve been so anxious that I can barely sleep at night, something I’ve never had to deal with before. And on top of it all, my mind’s constantly racing with thoughts that only serve to exacerbate my anxiety.

I don’t know what’s happening to me but I want it to stop before I give myself high blood pressure, or an ulcer or, worse, a heart attack.

I’ve been reading a book called “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all small stuff” by Richard Carlson, Ph. D., and it’s helping me some, but usually only while I’m reading it. Once I put it down, I can feel my anxiety building and within an hour or so, I’m a bundle of nerves all over again.

I’ve also looked up strategies for dealing with anxiety on Google, but I give up too easily…

Are you have you ever been in a similar situation? If so, how do/did you cope? What strategies helped you most? Most of all, how do I keep myself motivated and on task?

Thank you in advance!!

P.s. just for reference: I’m female, 24 years old, and just recently moved to NYC for work (about 2 months ago).

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14 Answers

janedelila's avatar

You have had a major life change recently. There are a few quizzes online that measure the amount of stressful occurences in your life, and assigns them a “score”. The higher your score, the more you have a likelihood of it affecting your physical health. Have you tried exercising? Or meditation? You don’t have to be great at either, start slow and practice. It (or anything else that takes your mind off of your anxiety) can be a useful tool.

You may also try looking around for like-minded groups-make some friends! Too much time alone with your own brain and all…..

jordym84's avatar

@janedelila Thank you for your reply! I’ve thought about exercising as I’ve seen it suggested a lot, and meditation too, but haven’t gotten around to any of it yet – it all goes back to the whole “keeping myself motivated and on task” thing, which is the biggest hurdle I’m facing…

JLeslie's avatar

Anxiety is the worst. You are going through a very difficult time of like. Early 20’s, figuring out your career, made a major move to a new city, understandable you are stressed.

What exactly is racing through your head? Are you worried about doing well at work? Living with new roommates? Are you from a small town or very different region of the country and are having some cultural learning curves being in NYC? Was your family against you moving?

I think the best way to alleviate your anxiety is probably to talk about what is going through your head, maybe with a therapist, or just a friemd who will listen, or even journal it, write down your thoughts an hour a week, or three hours week, whatever limited time you pick, and then occupy yourself with other things. It isn’t that simple of course to just turn the anxiety tape in your mind on and off, but you can control it probably more than you think.

If there is something specifically you are avoiding, meet it head on. Deal with it and get it over with.

If you have started drinking more caffeine, consider cutting back down.

Judi's avatar

Exercise, good nutrition, omega 3’s, good sleep hygiene, and if none of those work, the doctor might prescribe an occasional Xanax or Valuim.

jordym84's avatar

@JLeslie To answer your questions:
1) There are 3 major thoughts that plague my mind the most: 1) even though I’m very grateful to finally have a job after searching for almost 2 months, it’s not what I want to do at all…it’s a cubicle job at a call center and the thought that I might have to be there for a while before I can get a job in my field gives me major anxiety; 2) I’m living with one of my close friends who’s been gracious enough to let me stay with her until I can get out on my own, but I hate asking for favors and feeling like a burden, so that’s also taking a toll. Plus, I want to find my own place soon, but if I’m being realistic with myself, I know it’ll be at least 1 more month before I can afford to get out on my own; and 3) I’m in a long distance relationship, with no certainty of when we’ll be able to see each other again, and I keep going back and forth, breaking up with him one week, than making up again the next because I can’t seem to make up my mind, and I realize that I’m being selfish because he’s far from home too and is going through a tough time as well (both his parents are sick back home and he can’t do anything to help them right now, which is causing him a lot of stress, and I’m not making his life any easier by breaking up/making up with him, though he doesn’t complain about it) and I feel like a terrible person…I used to be so easy to deal with! =/

2) I am originally from a tiny city, in a very small country (the whole country has a population of less than 500,000 people), but then moved to RI (a.k.a. the smallest state) when I started high school. But I don’t think that’s really part of the problem…I’ve lived in other places (went to college in upstate NY and lived in Orlando for a combined 2 years) so I’ve been around large crowds before…it could be that NYC itself is taking a toll on me, but I don’t know for certain.

3) My family was definitely ok with me moving. They’re used to me taking chances and trying something new, and they’re very supportive, so that’s not part of the problem, though I do miss them a lot…

I’ve considered therapy, but I won’t be able to do that for another while because of financial constraints…
Journaling seems to help a lot!!

And no, I have a low threshold for caffeine, so I never drink it (and I don’t drink alcohol either).

I’m just having a lot of trouble keeping things in perspective, which is something I used to be so good at =(

jordym84's avatar

P.s. I’m constantly fighting back tears because sometimes the anxiety gets to be too much, and crying seems to be the only way to let it out (but the tears only threaten to come when I’m out in public, which is why I have to hold them back).

JLeslie's avatar

@jordym84 You have to compartmentalize I think. You said it will be another month until you can move out. That isn’t very long. Are you paying the friend you are living with now any money for staying with her? Would it make you feel better if you were if you’re not? Maybe giving her a few hundred, even if it makes your stay a few weeks longer will feel better? Can you ask your parents for some cash? Borrow from them, or accept their gift if they will help you. You are still very young and starting in a difficult city, no shame in letting your parents give you some money to make the beginning a little easier.

About your job, do you hate doing it every minute you are there? If not, stop worrying about the long term future of what job you are in. At least temporarily. You are earning and saving and setting yourself up in NY. That’s your plan from what I can tell.

Deal with one thing at a time. Maybe I won’t get the one thing at a time in order, that’s for you to decide.

Your boyfriend situation is tricky. If you like him, I think why break up now? Be long distance for now. Or, do you feel like there was never a future with him even if you both lived in the same town?

I think you are crying because you are depressed a little, completely understandable. Moving is a very big deal. I think you are probably mourning right now. Mourning things you have left behind, because of the big move. Also, maybe you had a picture of what life would be like, and it is not quite what you expected at this point, and so you are mourning the fantasy so to speak. I think most people in your situation would be very stressed out.

Edit: NYC can be stressful. I doubt you have any cultural issues from what you described, but I find NY one always has to be alert, and it is quite competitive. I am in NY a couple times a year. I was raised by New Yorkers. My sister and aunt live in NY. I know my way around like I have lived there, but still the city can feel pressure filled.

Aethelflaed's avatar

You won’t give yourself a heart attack. No, really. REALLY. I know it feels that way, you won’t.

I use beta-blockers a lot; they’re cheap as hell, and many come in an extended form that you can take every day and then will last you the rest of the day. They’re great for anxiety, and can be gotten from your family doctor.

Make a list of everything that helps you relax. Bubble baths, playing board games, going jogging, reading YA fiction, watching specific sitcoms, putting a hot waterbottle on the stress point, deep abdominal breathing, everything. Then post that list somewhere you can see it easily, like the fridge door. Make sure to put the breathing on there; it physically triggers your brain into a more relaxed state. Counting while you do the breath (like to four on in, then to four on out) can help take your mind off of whatever you’re thinking about.

Progressive muscle relaxation, where you tense a muscle up for several seconds, then release it and it’s more relaxed than before it was tensed.

There’s music that will trigger different brainwaves. For sleep, you want delta waves. I put on this cd as I’m falling asleep to help me fall asleep and stay asleep. The same series has others? that help with general relaxation, mediation, creativity, etc.

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook and When Panic Attacks are both great books that take CBT therapy and put it into a self-help book format so you don’t have to actually pay for therapy. And there are used copies!

jordym84's avatar

@JLeslie compartmentalizing seems like the way to go, come to think of it. My friend made it very clear from the beginning that she wouldn’t accept any payment. I want to at least help with the groceries, but I only started this new job on Monday and haven’t had an income since January, so the little money I have left from my savings is not enough to help with groceries (I really only consume bread, milk and cereal, which I do buy every time we run out). So yes, paying would certainly make me feel better, it’s definitely a pride/ego thing…

About the job, I just started on Monday and am still in training until next Friday. I know I’m jumping the gun by already dreading it before I’ve even started…

With my boyfriend, I do see a future with him. The reason I keep breaking up with him is because of my own expectations. We get along great, but we have different ways of seeing things…he’s more laid back and doesn’t let little things get to him, whereas I have a tendency of overthinking and overanalyzing everything, so, for example, when he takes long to reply to one of my texts, I started imagining the worst. I don’t complain about it to him, I just internalize it and start thinking of worst-case scenarios and I go quiet until I hear from him again. Over time I allow these little incidents to cloud my judgment and I lose perspective, so I pretty much break up with him once or twice a month over something so stupid and then I’m beyond miserable for however long we’re broken up because I care about him so much and my life feels meaningless without him in it (even if it’s from a distance because he’s also one of my closest friends), even though I’m the one who keeps doing the breaking up…I need to stop before I do too much damage and one day he gets fed up and decides that he doesn’t want to make up anymore…

I understand that this is life, things aren’t always great, but I just can’t seem to keep my perspective. I’m allowing these things to get me down when, in reality, it’s not all that bad and things could certainly be a lot worse. Could it be that I’m going through an identity crisis? The thought just occurred to me that maybe I’m trying to figure myself out and all this turmoil I have inside is stemming from that…

Edit: and about getting financial help from my parents: my mom is thousands of miles away and, although for our country’s standards she makes really good money, it’s nothing more than a week’s paycheck in the US. In terms of my dad, he has to take care of my 2 younger siblings, so I wouldn’t feel right taking that away from them.

jordym84's avatar

@Aethelflaed Thank you so much for your suggestions!! I’m definitely going to look into those books!! :)

jordym84's avatar

Correction: I meant to say that the monthly wages where my mom lives are similar to the average mid- to low-income American’s weekly paycheck, but it’s still a considerable amount there.

augustlan's avatar

You do seem to have a lot going on right now, and when stuff piles up like that it’s enough to make most anyone anxious! If self-relaxation, distraction, journaling and the like don’t help (or don’t help enough), consider getting a prescription for Xanax (short term, fast acting, and cheap) to take as needed. When you’re able, definitely consider therapy if you’re still having trouble. Best of luck!

JLeslie's avatar

@jordym84 It seems to me you had this tendency all along, it isn’t just the past few months. Which makes me think again therapy, or even a self help book as @Aethelflaed suggested might be helpful.

If you are getting along with your friend who you are living with now, I say take her gracious offer of living there for free and don’t think twice about. Your “payment” will be when you pay it forward to someone else. You can also in a few months do something very nice for her, but for now look at it as a more universal gesture that doing good gets good and gets passed along. When I first graduated college I moved to FL and stayed with a friend for two weeks and then my cousin for about 6 weeks. If I had not had them to live with it would have been very difficult to make the move. Now, I would do the same for a friend or family member.

I didn’t mean you don’t understand life can be hard, I meant maybe you had a certain picture for yourself at 24 in NYC and it just isn’t quite what you expected. I’m afraid you think I am thinking you are being unrealistic or a brat, and I don’t think that at all. How we expect our future determines how dissappointed, or sometimes how out of control we feel. Your anxiety probably stems from a lack of control at least partly. That might be part of why you get so upset when you break up with your boyfriend too. Not only that you miss him, but maybe you have pictured a future together, and breaking up is a loss not only of him in the present, but how you imagined your future. I guess maybe that can be like an identity crisis? I don’t know, I’m not an expert that’s for sure, but I see your logic there. But, I would not let some “diagnosis” depressed, anxious, identity crisis be a big deal, in that I am sure you will feel much better soon.

If you talk to a lot of people who have moved you will find a lot of people who go through very difficult terrible transitions. When I moved to FL I had zero problems. I loved it right away. Same when I had moved to MI for college. I moved to Raleigh, NC, and it was like a blah, not horrible not great. But, when I moved to Memphis, Tn I was a mess. An absolute out of control mess. I did not expect it, because it had never happened before, and all of a sudden I was like how all those other people described. I cried every day for weeks. It didn’t start the first day I moved, but about a month in I became out of control with my emotions.

Have you been very critical of others in the past, and now you find yourself in the same hard spot you have judged others in?

Do you believe that it will all get better and work itself out? Or, are you afraid you will feel this bad a long time and can’t see an end in sight? Just know it will get better. You are just going through a bad time. What is the worst that can happen? You hate your job, and you leave NY? Move back home? Are either of those terrible? I don’t know the answer, I am just asking. I am wondering how crucial this move is.

If I did not say it above, I do agree that some xanax will give you some relief. But, as I said at the top of this post, it seems to me you have anxious tendencies, you said you tend to overanalyze and hold things in instead of communicating, and these are practices that can cause anxiety. So, the xanax will help, but it is very addictive, and you should only think of it as a temporary help as you get through these first couple of months when everything is intense. It is not a long term solution for you in my opinion, but again I am not an expert of any sort. Xanax is a wonder drug for a lot of people, it will help you feel more physically in control. Take away any shaky feelings, less agitated, if you have lost your appetite it will bring that back and calm your stomach, and just overall calm you down.

jordym84's avatar

@JLeslie Oh thank you so much!!! Your replies always have a very calming effect on me! And no, don’t worry, I know you weren’t implying that I’m being a brat, I just wanted to clarify that I’m aware that things could be worse but the problem is that, even though I know that there are people in worse situations and that things won’t always stay like this for me, I still can’t seem to be able to get some peace of mind.

I’m letting go of the notion that I’m being a burden to my friend, and already I feel like I’m breathing more easily :)

You’re right about me having formulated a picture, or ideal, in my mind of how things should be by now. I knew NYC would be tough because there’s so much competition in the job market, I just never realized it would be this tough…and oh yes, my biggest struggle is the not having control part. In the past, I’ve always succeeded at everything I’ve done through hard work and dedication (be it at school, at work, etc), but NYC is kicking my butt :x

Your story about moving to different places is similar to mine…all the other times I moved, things were great. I was able to get going in no time and never had to depend on anyone. But this time, it’s more challenging and that’s what I’m having difficulties with.

Oh, and also, you’re definitely right, I’ve always had a tendency for overanalyzing things, it’s just never been this bad and out of control…

I do know things will get better (things always work themselves out in the end, one way or another) and I try to remind myself of that, but at the same time I do fear that this’ll feel bad for a long time…I’m lacking perspective.

One thing that does seem to help, besides journaling when I get a chance to do it, is asking myself “What’s the worse that could happen?” It never fails!!

Thank you for wisdom and insight!!

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