When we first went into lockdown in March, I wrote a post about how to handle anxiety during COVID. I still refer back to those tips, but after almost two months and it has gotten harder and harder for me to feel sane. To be honest, during those first few weeks I was ok. Like many of you, I was running on adrenaline. But for someone who suffers from anxiety, that’s pretty much the norm. I was scared, but my anxiety didn’t feel out of control.
But as the long days at home have become more and more monotonous and the world out there seems to be getting scarier despite (and because of) everything opening back up soon, my anxiety has been amping up each week that we’re at home. Some days I am totally fine, grateful for my family, and happy as a clam, while others are so crippling that it takes a real effort to even get out of bed. I started referring to those as my “garbage” days because there was no other way to describe how I feel when they come around… like garbage.
While it is often tied to the weather, my garbage days are seemingly random beyond that and they have been coming more often and more furiously each time. On these days I’m not usually anxious about anything specific, it’s just a general feeling of dread. But when some small thing happens, it triggers me and pushes me over the edge to the point of panic. It was getting so bad that there were multiple days in a row where I literally had trouble breathing because my chest felt so heavy. My vision would get blurry and I couldn’t focus on anything. It was starting to get scary, to be honest.
The anxiety felt like a panic attack… but nonstop for three days. Despite my best efforts, I felt like I couldn’t crawl out of the hole, so I decided to go back to (virtual) therapy.
Over Zoom, I told my therapist about my frequent anxiety (called “breakthrough” symptoms when you’re on medication) and about how I will often have a glass of wine or a cocktail at night to quell it. We talked about upping my dosage instead of my self-medication but decided to do a two-week test with some other options first before we take that route.
I love my therapist for many reasons but one is that she knows how my brain ticks and understands that I need real action items to leave the session with beyond just talking it out. I wanted to share what she “prescribed” me for the next two weeks because I think it could be helpful for anyone suffering from anxiety right now.
Journal: She told me to put a journal next to my bed and give my anxiety a rating from 1-10 each morning and then again before bed. At night, I am supposed to write down if I had a drink, if I took my CBD regularly, if I exercised, and if I spent time outside. The next day if I’m feeling off, I can go back and look at that to remind myself why I might not be doing great.
This might sound super simple and obvious but when I’m in an anxiety attack, I can’t think logically and sometimes I need things spelled out literally right in front of my face.
Alcohol: While my anxiety is obviously situational at the moment, it’s also very chemical so she thinks that alcohol has a lot to do with the garbage days. I’m on an SSRI (anti-depressant) and alcohol is a depressant. So when I wake up feeling sad or yucky it could be because of that. She didn’t tell me not to drink which I thought was interesting. She said that this is survival mode time for everyone and you have to do what you have to do to get yourself through each day… but she did suggest that I make a note of it so I can track how it makes me feel.
Inadvertently, that has made me drink less.
CBD: I told her that when I take my CBD (full post on that here), I always feel better, but I forget it some days or when I’m feeling good I skip it. She talked a lot about the benefits of taking it regularly and told me to take my dosage (again read here for all info on that) 2x/day every single day no matter what.
Exercise: I didn’t work out for the first three weeks of quarantine so when I finally did, the endorphins made me feel like a superwoman. The problem is, I hate working out and am very unmotivated to do it, despite being married to someone who works out for a living. I have to force myself to do one of his Zoom classes or go for a run but I always always always feel 10x better when I do.
But exercise doesn’t always have to mean a workout class or something intense. On rainy days when I feel like garbage, Amalia and I will have these 30-minute dance parties (pictured below) where we do laps around the kitchen counter dancing and giggling. I end up breaking a sweat and we both feel so good afterward.
Outdoors: On the days when I don’t get outside for an hour or more, it’s not a good look. I get cranky and irritable really easily and it’s definitely tied to my anxiety too. Amalia and I usually do a long walk with Boots in the morning while Anel works then we all go on a family walk after dinner. I try to get outside either with Amalia or alone for a chunk in the afternoon too.
Sleep: After a few days of journaling, I realized that sleep is a big factor for me too. I’ve found myself staying up way too late reading lately, and tracking this has made me think twice before doing that.
It’s been a few days of this and just writing things down makes me rethink my decisions. Although it’s been nice weather, I have been feeling a lot better since I started tracking all of this and staying really on top of it. I hope this helps anyone out there who is also suffering. Please remember that you aren’t alone!
PS the photo above is meant to be a joke! That’s just water 🙂