I’ve always been somewhat of a Type A person (oldest child), but I’d classify myself as laid-back Type A. I’m responsible and organized but also chill and easy to work with. I’m very particular about certain things, but at the same time open-minded or couldn’t give AF about other things. Always curious and wanting to learn.
Growing up I don’t remember having any crazy overwhelming stress or anxiety. Not until college. And it wasn’t even until my senior year of college that I really felt stress and anxiety in a serious way.
My senior year of college I was engaged, planning my wedding, finishing my journalism degree, looking for a job, and trying to convince my fiancé (now husband) to move to New York City (where all the magazine offices are). Obviously I never convinced him to move to NYC, which in hindsight is totally fine, but that year I was stressed to the max. Oh, and my parents were getting divorced. So there was just a lot going on my life all at once.
One Saturday that year (2004/2005) I was at my job working at a boutique, and my fiancé was in town visiting me (we went to different universities three hours away from each other and our entire relationship was long distance until we got married!). I felt so guilty not being with him and working at my little job (that paid next to nothing) during one of the few days I got to see him each month.
As the hours passed by, and hardly anyone came into the store, I just kept getting more and more frustrated that I was basically doing nothing at this job while he was in town waiting to hang out with me. That spiraled me into thinking about basically everything I was stressed about, and then one of the owners of the boutique walked in and I lost it.
I couldn’t breathe, I had to go outside to catch my breath. I broke out in a sweat, in hives, and I just felt like my chest was caving in on me. I was freaking out, I didn’t know what was happening, and was bawling. And then I just felt like a crazy person, crying in front of my boss. She was very understanding and told me to go home.
I realized later that I’d had my first full blown panic attack.
That week I went to the university medical center to see if there was anything I should do considering I had several more months of stress before I graduated and got married. She gave me a low dose of something and said if I felt really anxious or a panic attack coming on to just take one of those chill pills. I did have to take one a few times, but I think they were so low dosage it just calmed me down without really altering anything dramatically.
I graduated from college, got married, went on my honeymoon, got a job via a phone interview, and moved to Florida with my new husband in a matter of 2 weeks.
Over the years I’ve been in some pretty stressful situations. I’ve typically kept my cool and haven’t had any other panic attacks quite like the one I described and I wouldn’t consider myself someone that is really anxious all the time. I think most people would classify me as pretty chill, but I still deal with stress (especially being an entrepreneur and living in a super expensive city).
I still get hives to this day. It’s usually when I’m stressed but I also can get them when I’m excited or just have a lot of emotion running through me. They like to pop up in the loveliest places — usually on my face, sometimes on my neck, chest, or stomach.
After six years of having to create my own salary, I’ve learned how to get through stressful periods. If you’re prone to serious anxiety and panic attacks I don’t recommend being an entrepreneur because stress is just a daily part of your life. For me, anxiety is a pretty situational thing that only comes in times of extreme stress, but I wanted to share with you how I’ve get through it because I think stress is something that almost all of us deal with in some way.
SEVEN WAYS TO RELIEVE STRESS & ANXIETY
1 // Recognize you are stressed.
That sounds so 12-step program but as soon as you start to feel really stressed try to avoid letting it get to a panicked state by addressing it head on. Because here’s the deal, any more than just a little bit of stress/anxiety about something is just completely unnecessary. It’s only making you feel terrible and spiral into a state where you can’t help yourself. Worrying about things doesn’t make them or you any better, and it will only affect your health negatively.
2 // Get it out.
I hate the word journaling but honestly, I think writing things down (or typing them in my case) helps SO MUCH. To me it’s just a form of getting those thoughts out of you. And once they are out you feel immediately better. If writing things out sounds awful to you, I recommend just trying it and seeing how it goes. Talking to someone (a friend you trust) can also help, but I think you can be really really honest if you are just writing (or typing) things out for yourself.
Sometimes I’ll even do this in the middle of the day. If there’s a lot on my mind and I’m starting to feel overly stressed about things I’ll just start typing up what’s going on, and I always feel better afterward. Somehow, writing it down helps me feel more in control and able to deal with everything.
3 // Breathe.
Breathing is something I’ve always had a little problem with. Not a diagnosed problem, but it’s the first thing that goes when I get stressed out and I have to tell myself to breathe. Like I literally don’t think to breathe. I’ll be talking and I’ll realize I haven’t taken a breath in. Anytime I’m starting to feel anxious I try to stop whatever I’m doing and thinking about and just breathe as deep as I can for a few minutes. It’s amazing how you can change your state of mind just by doing this. Repeat to yourself in your head “breathe in, breathe out” so you don’t think about anything else.
4 // Take your mind elsewhere.
Whatever it is that is stressing you out — stop — and go do something else for a while. Read a book, watch TV (even reality TV or trash TV), take your dog on a walk, hang out with a friend who is always fun, anything to take your thoughts out of your head and focus on something else. Change what you are doing and get out of your head as soon as possible.
5 // Exercise.
It’s pretty hard to think about the things giving you anxiety when you are trying to do a pull-up, or run a few miles, or do a yoga pose. I’ve found that working out helps me completely take my mind off of whatever I’m thinking about. And besides all the other amazing benefits of working out, scientifically, it releases happy endorphins so you really can’t go wrong!
6 // What’s the worst that could happen?
This is a tip you may not have heard before. When you are having anxiety about something, I want you to think to yourself, what is the absolute worst thing that could happen? Because most likely, not only will that NOT happen, but you will never even get close to what that is. If every single thing goes wrong and the absolute worst happens, what would you do? What does that situation look like? Think about how bad that is (and usually it’s not life and death) and that can help you put your stress into perspective.
Here’s an example: if I’m having a bad month in my business and I start getting anxiety about it I try to put it into perspective. The worst is that I make zero money. So of all of the ways that I make money just aren’t happening that month and I’d have to have zero projects coming up to know I would make nada — this is unlikely, so it’s already a little ridiculous, right? But I’m married, so one bad month here and there isn’t a big deal since my husband has a job, so in the absolute worst situation, he’d have to lose his job too while I continue to have terrible months. Again, not likely. Then we’d have to use up all of our savings while not making any money doing any type of job — this is practically impossible because we would both do anything we had to to find work if worst came to worst, and even if that happened, (again, not going to happen) but if it did, we could just go move in with one of our parents who all have large houses and multiple empty bedrooms. So in the very WORST SITUATION where everything goes extremely wrong — we move in with our parents and have a roof over our head, a place to sleep, and food to eat. You see how this makes you realize that worrying about things is ridiculous?
This tactic helps you take the drama out of your situation and realize that you will survive. You will be OK. Your very worst situation, probably isn’t that bad in the grand scheme of things. Maybe you need to downsize, or get a different job, or sell something to fix your situation — but you will probably be just fine, and all of those terrible things probably aren’t going to happen, at least not all of them all at once.
7 // Channel the stress into action.
Once you’ve written down (or typed up) all the things you are feeling, you’ve taken a moment to breathe deeply, gone and done a workout, watched a funny movie — now you can look at your situation with fresh eyes and an attitude of action. What can you do? Is there anything?
If not, if you literally can’t do anything but wait, then just let it go and realize you don’t have control over the situation and worrying isn’t going to help change the outcome — it’s just going to make you feel terrible. If you can do something, make a list, and just get to work. Don’t complicate it, don’t over think it, just do something.
Those are the things I do when I’m trying control my stress — what about you? Please share your tips in the comments!
Photos by Emma Weiss