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How I Live with Generalized Anxiety Disorder

by | Jul 7, 2020 | Health & Wellness

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CW: Anxiety

I’ve had issues with falling asleep since middle school. Usually, it takes me over an hour to actually fall asleep at night. Little did I know this was one of the physical symptoms associated with anxiety. I was never officially diagnosed with having anxiety growing up, but I was always under the impression that I had some form of anxiety. After I had a severe panic attack a few years ago, I went to a therapist to discuss my anxiety, where I was formally diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD). While having anxiety during certain situations is considered normal [and healthy], being in a constant state of anxiety is not healthy.

Simply put, GAD means I have anxiety or symptoms related to anxiety, all the time. It’s always been a challenge for me to quiet my mind, which I didn’t think was a sign of anxiety until a previous therapist told me. COVID-19 has made it more of a challenge to manage my anxiety. Even if I’m not in a constant state of worrying [mentally], I didn’t know my body could show signs of anxiety that would affect me in a negative way. As I got older, the physical symptoms were beginning to overweigh the mental symptoms of anxiety. Some of these symptoms include:

Fatigue

Trouble sleeping

Tension and aches

Feeling shaky/trembling

Sweating

Being easily startled/nervous

Headaches or migraines

Nausea, diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome

Irritability

For me, the symptoms above I experience the most because of my anxiety are trouble sleeping, tension and aches, headaches/migraines (this is also caused by my allergies), fatigue, and [less frequently] irritability. I have concerns about future things like paying bills, what I’m doing socially, and if I’m being perceived by people the way I want to be perceived. I’ve had bad experiences with imposter syndrome that have made me question my career and affected my sanity.

Luckily, anxiety can be managed with certain lifestyle changes and techniques. I learned how to be better about not overbooking my schedule [when I can control it], setting better boundaries for working outside of my normal business hours, and writing down items I need to remember rather than using my phone. Here are some other techniques that I use:

Psychotherapy

I started seeing a new therapist back in April. It’s great being able to talk out your problems or concerns with someone that doesn’t have an immediate connection/opinion about you or the problem. I previously went to therapy back in 2017 when my anxiety was at an all-time high. My therapist has taught me strategies for working out problems without being as anxious, as well as methods for me to try to help me fall asleep at night. I did stop therapy recently, but only because my therapist cannot care for patients outside of the state of Illinois, so when I move to Wisconsin in a few weeks I will start looking for a new therapist.

Medication

I have a daily medication I take to manage my anxiety. If I’m having a bad panic attack or having trouble sleeping due to my anxiety, I have medication for that too. There’s no shame in needing a little help medically to manage your anxiety. When I first started taking anti-anxiety meds it took a few days for my body to handle the medication and it felt like I was in a constant, heightened state of anxiety. I wish someone had told me that this could happen when introducing my body to anti-anxiety medication. After a few days, my body adjusted to the medication and it helped my anxiety overall. There are still some bad days with my anxiety, but by taking daily medication I don’t have to worry about my anxiety consuming my life every waking moment.

Yoga

Yoga is one of my favorites. I always feel better after doing a few simple yoga stretches. It’s a great way to get exercise and help recenter yourself mentally. Initially, I was self-conscious about taking yoga in front of people, because I wasn’t familiar with the posts and I wasn’t that flexible. After some time, I realized that everyone is at a different level with their yoga practice and they won’t judge you. My subscription box, FabFitFun, offers fitness videos that I use for my yoga practice. Practicing yoga has also enabled me to be more flexible, both mentally and physically; after a month of practicing yoga, I was able to touch my toes!

Massage

I tend to carry my stress in my neck and shoulders. Before COVID, I would get a massage every other month to help relieve tension and stress. A massage is a form of self-care that I like to pamper myself and help relieve tension. It took a little while to feel comfortable with someone touching me that I didn’t know, but now I’m used to it. If you’re not a fan of people touching you, then don’t force yourself to get a massage.

Chiropractor visits

I primarily go to a chiropractor to help with my allergies and posture. It also helps my anxiety because they can help relieve some of the tension on a regular basis rather than waiting to get a massage. Getting an adjustment by a chiropractor can also encourage relaxation since your body needs to be relaxed in order for the chiropractor to adjust it properly.

Caffeine intake

One of the first things my therapist told me when I was diagnosed with anxiety was to watch my caffeine take. I don’t drink pop, however, I love drinking coffee in the morning. Caffeine can cause or enhance anxious symptoms. When my anxiety was really bad for a period of time, I stopped drinking coffee and switched to black tea in the morning. That way, I could still get a little bit of caffeine without feeling the same side effects as I did while drinking coffee. I’m able to drink coffee again, but I watch what amount of caffeine in other items like tea and chocolate I intake throughout the day to make sure I don’t have too much caffeine. When I order from Starbucks, I make sure my drink does not have an excess amount of espresso [to balance out how much sugar can be in their crafted drinks], so I will normally order a hazelnut coffee or chai tea latte. And don’t forget to drink water; caffeine can be dehydrating!

Overall, what ended up helping me was knowing that what I was experiencing was anxiety and could be addressed. I know now that if I’m feeling anxious it’s okay to tell someone, and if I need to talk it out with them or give myself some space. I’m not afraid to talk about my anxiety in public in hopes that others that might be going through something similar know that they’re not alone.

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42 Comments

  1. Ruth

    Thank you for sharing! For me, seeing a psychotherapist was truly life-changing for helping me manage anxiety!

    Reply
  2. Hannah Siller

    I have a love hate relationship with coffee. it helps manage my migraines but it can have issues with my anxiety (i also have GAD as well as CPTSD). i have to practice super moderation.

    Reply
  3. Megan Griffith

    I cut out caffeine for my anxiety for a long time too, but since quarantine started, I’ve started drinking coffee every day. It’s just been a comfort thing. Not sure if it’s making my anxiety worse or not. But thank you for sharing this, seriously, living with GAD can be a nightmare, and it’s just nice to know I’m not alone.

    Reply
  4. Stephanie

    Yoga is one of the best ways to manage anxiety. I also practice meditation which has completely changed how I handle stress.

    Reply
  5. kassandrajade

    wooow thanks for sharing this with us it help me sooooo much coz my friend have this

    Reply
  6. Josephine Nychole

    These are such great ways to manage anxiety. I have anxiety in some situations, but it’s not as constant as yours, but it’s definitely worse right now with everything going on.

    My biggest symptom is my heart rate will increase, and I have to talk myself down from a panic attack, but it doesn’t happen often.

    Thank you for these! I’ll be saving this post!

    xo. Josephine

    Reply
  7. Maria Black

    Thanks for sharing this great guide for living with anxiety! I also have severe anxiety and many of these things help me as well (medication, yoga, massage) I find that journaling is really helpful to get the obsessive thoughts out of my head too!

    Reply
  8. Andrea Arceneaux

    Thank you for being sharing your experience with anxiety. You’re self-care routine is a great model for others who are struggling to manage GAD.

    Reply
  9. Tracy Lee @Little Slice of Joy

    Thank you for being so open about your anxiety. As someone who also suffers from anxiety I think I may need to see a therapist that can better diagnose my needs than my family doctor. You have given me inspiration to change some things.

    Reply
  10. Lipstickcafe

    Wow I never knew those were the symptoms! Did the medication make you feel more sleepy? How much would you say the therapy helped on its own?

    Reply
  11. Live2byou

    Thank you for sharing your reality and use it to help others.

    Reply
  12. Renata

    I admire you for your openness to share this in a post – and, of course, wish you all the best 🙂

    Reply
  13. Tracy @ Cleland Clan

    This is such a terrible time to have anxiety because so much is out of our control. There are techniques and medications that can help. Neck massages really help me with stress.

    Reply
  14. Thuy-Linh

    As someone who overcame social anxiety as a teen, I can attest that some days it can be a struggle and anxiety can reemerge from time to time. It’s just that like you’ve said lifestyle changes and techniques help to cope. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

    Reply
  15. Monidipa

    I am a counselor and I also have GAD. Your methods are good. With treatment, people with GAD can live full, normal lives free of the small terrors that plagued our everyday lives. I manage it. It takes some medication tinkering and therapy, but I am a fully functional, worry-level-normal person despite my early onset, severe GAD. Help is possible.

    Reply
  16. Puja

    Sorry to hear about this. I didn’t know much about GAD and I found this post helpful.

    Reply
  17. Ting

    Sorry to hear what you had to go through. I’m sure others will find your story inspiring

    Reply
  18. Eve Morgan

    I’m sorry you are going through this. I have got social anxiety but have found myself to be very anxious in general at the moment. I’ve started using my CBT techniques again though which is definitely helping!

    Reply
  19. Prajakta

    Its very sad to know that you had to go through all this. Being a psychology graduate myself, I always feel people don’t understand these disorders correctly. Its always good to talk to someone about it.

    Reply
  20. melanie hamilton

    I feel this on so many levels. After years of battling my anxiety I have started going to therapy to help me function better – you hit the nail on the head with this blog.

    Reply
  21. Angelica

    I feel for you. My boyfriend is diagnosed with anxiety and I always do whatever I can but it is hard. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  22. Alyssa

    It’s really important to have someone to talk to about your anxiety. My cousin is already diagnosed with this disorder and I always find time to listen to her.

    Reply
  23. Mary

    This is so sad, I believe your article serves as an eye opener to a lot of people out there, who don’t understand what people living with GAD to go through on a daily basis.

    Reply
  24. Surabhi

    Sad to know that you have to undergo all this. But thankfully there are solutions for anxiety management

    Reply
  25. Denisa

    I am sorry you have to go through all of this. Anxiety is a quiet enemy

    Reply
  26. TheHappyMommie

    COVID19 has really made it difficult to manage simple task and anxiety has surely increased a lot, I completely understand what you said .

    Reply
  27. Olufunke Kolapo

    I was diagnosed with Gad after my automobile accident some years back. I was getting over it when when Covid-19 hit again. It is not something easy or pleasant, especially since people hardly know what you are going through and you can’t tell everyone you meet that you have anxiety problems.
    I found meditation helps, deep breaths too when you’re trembling or scared.

    Reply
  28. Samantha | A Thriving State of Mind

    This resonates so much with me as a fellow anxiety sufferer. Getting massages has also really helped me, I’ve been missing them since Covid. It’s probably contributed to struggling so badly the last few months. Wonderful posts!!

    Reply
  29. Puja

    Thanks for Sharing your experience. Very few people get this much courage to share their sufferings. During this lockdown period, staying away from anxiety and depression is so tough. I’ll follow your tips.

    Reply
  30. Patty Bills

    I Fight this same battle and it’s worse with COVID-19. Please be well and stay safe.

    Reply
  31. Megan Griffith

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience <3 I have GAD too (I think? my diagnoses are a bit unclear) and it's always really nice to see other people sharing their stories about life with anxiety <3

    Reply
  32. Kat Hibbert

    These are such helpful tips, I never considered a chiropractor. There are definitely some good mechanisms in here.

    Reply
  33. Kimberlie

    I would never have considered the chiropractor for help with anxiety, but it makes so much sense. Thanks for sharing these tips that can help someone suffering from anxiety.

    Reply
  34. Maria Black

    Thanks for sharing your experience with GAD! I have almost the exact same experience with it, pain and tension headaches, fatigue and difficulties falling asleep. It’s good to know what works for GAD! Yoga, medication and meditation have really helped me!

    Reply
  35. Angelika

    Great, though provoking post! I think becoming a mom raised me anxiety a lot!

    Reply
  36. Nishtha

    Such a well written post! Thank you for sharing and being open. Anxiety is very common and you have given tips on what works for you. It is beneficial for anyone who has or knows someone with anxiety.

    Reply
  37. Britt

    I love the well rounded and therapeutic options you provided. Thank you for being so vulnerable and inspirational!

    Reply
  38. Nkem

    I was reluctant to read this post, to be hones, because I felt it hit too close to home, but I’m glad I did. You name some really accessible and holistic ways to get ahead of anxiety. Thank you. Off to do some yoga!

    Reply
  39. Nidhi

    Anxiety is one of the easily neglected issues in our society. It has been normalized to an extent that these days people feign it just to pass off as someone who shouldn’t be bothered much. This takes away the focus from those who are actually dealing with it, me included. I have incorporated most of these tips and found them to be helpful. Just haven’t been able to cut down much on caffeine though!

    Reply
  40. Mary

    I experience some of these symptoms at times and I must say it can be frustrating at times. Thank you, for this article.

    Reply
  41. Nancy

    I love your post! It is so wonderful for me to read about people with anxiety to make efforts to work on it outside of therapy, but even more so to see a therapist. Since I’m a therapist myself, I always cringe when people don’t see the value or purpose in having one. Keep it up you – you’re doing a fabulous job and I’m so happy to hear that you’re finding ways to manage it on your own. Be proud of yourself – anxiety is rough. I know because I also struggle with it myself and I also see a therapist 💗💗💗

    Reply
  42. Melody

    Thanks for posting about generalized anxiety. I really want to try yoga, but my anxiety of attending a class and not knowing what to do overrides my desire. Maybe one day!

    Reply

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Lifestyle blogger and digital marketer based in Wisconsin. Michigander at heart. I'm here to provide my take on life through my blog. Fueled by chardonnay, cast recordings and chocolate.