Stress used to rule my life. It was the dictator and whatever it told me to do, I did. My sense of awareness was pretty much non-existent and I used many tactics to try and control it.
I was popping pills like they were candy and couldn’t function without caffeine to wake me up, red wine to numb myself, and Xanax to calm me down. There were days where I couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t move because I was paralyzed with anxiety.
Back in the summer of 2010, I hit a wall. I had just moved into my own apartment in NYC, working full time in finance, taking intensive summer classes for business school, my mom wasn’t well, and I was in a dead end relationship.
I remember going to see my doctor because I didn’t know what else to do. (Isn’t this what we're supposed to do when we aren’t well?) Without any questions, he diagnosed me with severe anxiety, wrote me three scripts and sent me on my way. No conversation about what was really going on in my life. Without even really learning about me, the doctor just blindly diagnosed me and gave me the easy fix.
I did what the doctor told me to do but then realized this was not sustainable for the rest of my life. I knew there was a better way to live without trying to mask the underlying symptoms for the cause of my stress. After a few months I decided to make small changes, which had a profound impact on my health and well-being.
I am happy to say that I am now living a life without worrying about my next episode. I am off all of my medications and feel better than ever. My life isn’t completely stress-free, but I sure know how to handle it a lot better. I am happier and my sense of awareness is in full force.
A few of the steps that helped me included:
1. I started a meditation practice.
Remember, your perception of the outer world is a direct reflection of what’s going on inside. When I started to calm my mind, the rest of the world felt calm. There are many different types of meditation and I recommend trying out a few techniques to see what's best for you.
2. I practiced yoga.
I never really knew what yoga was. I thought it was a kind of stretching exercise that only flexible people could do. What I understand now is that it's a complete mind-body connection that eases your mind and soothes your soul. (Of course, it's also good for your physical body as well but that's an added bonus.)
3. I ate whole foods.
You are what you eat. If you're going to eat processed and junk foods, well.... guess how you'll feel? Eat whole foods that aren’t processed, consisting of mostly fruits and vegetables. Particularly when you're stressed out, sugar is one of the worst things you can put into your body when you're stressed out, or any time for that matter.
4. I shifted my focus.
Look at what you are really stressed out about and if it’s worth all of your energy. If it’s something that you don’t have any control over, surrender to the process and focus your attention on something that will make you feel good.
5. I made time for fun.
I get it: we're all busy. You have to schedule time for yourself to renew and restore and just plain old having a good time.
Lifestyle changes take time and it’s important to work them in at a pace that's best for you. If you're committed and do your homework, life can be pretty darn awesome and stress-free.