Anxiety Update: Pandemic Edition

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 🙂

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  1. Thank you for being vulnerable and putting yourself out there…I “check in” on your blog each day and wonder how your family is doing.. these are helpful tips.. I was plugging along until it became real here in CT that we’re not going back to school, that I won’t see my students again in person, and that there is no definitive end…I really struggle with the “unknown”… hang in there… sending lots of love..

    5.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Thanks Jennifer! That really means a lot. The unknown is what is killing me too. I feel like we’re just getting started and I don’t think we’ll be done with this anytime soon.

      5.7.20 · Reply
  2. Di Scholz said:

    Love, love the dress you are wearing! Who made it and where can we get one?

    5.6.20 · Reply
    • Michelle said:

      J. Crew factory.

      5.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Yes, J.Crew Factory! 🙂

      5.6.20 · Reply
  3. Jeni said:

    Thank you for sharing this! I’ve been feeling the same way lately. In the beginning it was the same feeling of just trying to adjust to the new “norm” and then things got hard and now things are even harder I miss my friends and family and I hate seeing my 3 year old so sad missing people. I appreciate your list and am going to make efforts to use it! It’s so helpful to have something to follow.

    5.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      I really hope it helps you. It has definitely made a difference for me xx

      5.7.20 · Reply
  4. Katherine said:

    I can relate so much. I often find Monday’s the hardest because usually over the weekend I am unplugged from work and the news so it sort of feels like a break. Then on Monday it’s back to reality of no day care, juggling work and depressing news. I wish the news would also try and add in some hope. I think it would help people see that all these measures in place are helping.

    5.6.20 · Reply
    • Caroline said:

      I agree that Monday and Tuesday are hardest. What has helped me is still having some structure. I order food out every Friday, and only Friday, as a treat. Wednesday is usually a day for a coffee to go or some other treat. I try to exercise at the same time each day.

      5.6.20 · Reply
      • Caroline said:

        Also yes to liming alcohol to a few days a week. And I totally get that some of the ways we cope are not available to people who have lost their jobs, which is so sad and unfair.

        5.6.20 · Reply
  5. Laura said:

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I suffer from
    Anxiety as well, and this period has been terrible. My best days have been the ones where I am
    Outside- journaling to keep track of the good days is a great idea.

    5.6.20 · Reply
  6. Kristin said:

    Same, same, same. I’ve really tried to cut back on the alcohol. I found myself looking forward to it too much each day. At first, it was like, “it’s a pandemic, there aren’t rules!” but I’ve found that it really interrupts my sleep and I have a 50/50 chance of a hangover, even if it’s only one drink. I also started splitting my SSRI with a pill cutter and take half in the morning and half at night. I’m not sure if it’s purely psychological, but I feel more balanced throughout the day since I started that.

    One thought – is Anel’s studio accessible to you guys? If there isn’t anyone there maybe you can take turns with going to work so it feels more like a workday out of the house every once in a while? My husband is on a 5 day on / 10 day off work schedule right now and I find the days he is out of the house, I feel much better with it being like our old routine. I do love all the extra time when he has his 10 days off, but there is something comforting about hearing him leave for work in the morning and coming home in the evening.

    5.6.20 · Reply
  7. Kelly said:

    Girl, I feel you. I actually didn’t go on my SSRI until I was three months sober so I haven’t ever had both chemicals conflicting, but anytime I am tempted with some wine or a cocktail to quell the uneasiness, I remember how anxious I used to be when I did drink (and anxious ABOUT the drinking, so it was even more exacerbated!). I’ve wondered if it would be less anxiety-inducing to have had the virus and be over it. We’re in the middle of moving across a few states amidst all of this, so it’s helpful to have a fun distraction / thing to look forward to. With you!!!

    5.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Good luck with the move!

      5.6.20 · Reply
  8. Kathryn said:

    Thank you for sharing your journey throughout all of this! It’s so helpful to know others are going through this “process” as well. Journaling, exercise, and walks are my biggest go-to these days to keep my anxiety at bay. I have been drinking far more than usual, but I know that will dissipate when I finally get back to my normal work/life routine! I’m letting myself indulge a little more here and there, especially before we get pregnant! Thank you for being such a positive light! Sending love.

    5.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      That makes total sense. Great attitude about it all! Thanks for following along xx

      5.6.20 · Reply
  9. Alyssa said:

    Thank you for this post! I think I’ve given up drinking for awhile it helps it the moment, the 24 hours after a drink (yes, just one!) totally makes my anxiety flare up. I’m glad you’re starting to feel better!

    5.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      I’m the same way. Even one small drink makes the next day significantly worse.

      5.7.20 · Reply
  10. Amanda said:

    THANK YOU for this post. I already feel like
    I have some ideas on how to work on my own anxiety. I have a 3.5 year old a a 4 month old and this is NOT how I imagined my extended maternity leave to be. Again, thank you for sharing your therapist’s advice!

    5.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      I hope it helps! I can’t imagine being home with an infant. You’re so strong!! Hang in there xx

      5.7.20 · Reply
  11. Rhoda said:

    Love you so much and your honesty. I suffer from anxiety too. Some days I’m ok other days not. I have lung cancer so I am terrified to leave my home. I try to go for a car ride once a week and sometimes I get diarrhea cramps from just doing that.
    xoxox

    5.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      I’m so so sorry to hear this, Rhoda. Sending you my prayers from CT.

      5.7.20 · Reply
  12. Michelke said:

    I feel exactly the same as you. I’m an anxiety sufferer as well. I feel like I could have written this post. I definitely feel better when I can get outside and walk and when the sun is shining. I’m in. Ct too.

    5.7.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Hang in there. Sending you love and sunshine!

      5.7.20 · Reply
  13. Joyce said:

    These days are so hard. Thinking of you. Wanted to share a note my (virtual) therapist shared with me: “Anything you can think to do to make your life easier right now is the right thing to do.”

    And another mantra I’ve been using: “You don’t have to make the most of a pandemic. You just have to make it to bedtime.”

    You got this. xo.

    5.7.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      I love both of those mantras. Thank you so much for sharing. I put them both in my journal xx

      5.7.20 · Reply
  14. Lissie said:

    Thank you for sharing! I, too, suffer from anxiety and also hate working out (even though everyone always tells me it’s the best thing to do to help myself). Any tips or tricks on how to get yourself to do a workout when it’s literally the last thing you want to do?

    5.8.20 · Reply
  15. ashley said:

    Please read the short book by Claire Weekes “Hope and help for your nerves.” I had anxiety so bad I couldn’t leave my home at one point, I read many books and nothing helped, this simple book was like a Godsend, hope it helps you too.

    5.10.20 · Reply
  16. Hi Julia!
    I am so happy to know you are doing better and making conscious steps. I especially agree with sleep and would like to be more intentional about journaling.
    I want to say thank you for being consistent here. I always look forward to your blog posts, as they are very refreshing.

    5.12.20 · Reply