Let’s Have a Real Conversation About Anxiety and Mental Health

Let's have a real conversation about anxiety #anxiety #mentalhealth

For all intents and purposes, I had a good day on Tuesday.

I woke up to an Etsy kit order after a 10 day dry spell. Work was productive, we had a Mardi Gras party with potluck food, and I crossed some big things off my to-do list. Then I went to a Galentine’s Day party with some friends and had more good food and good company. I came home early enough to package the Etsy order and give my skin some TLC. I prepared for the next day: clothes picked out, lunch packed, and workout planned. There is nothing that is stressing me out, or should cause me to feel uneasy.

Yet for the fourth night in a row I am overwhelmed with anxiety. Tonight I can feel it in my bones like a dull ache. I keep rolling my shoulders like it’s a soreness I can stretch out. Every few breaths it feels like I have the wind knocked out of me and my mind is hit with an incoherent panic. I am on my couch, which is theoretically my favorite place, but I am still so uncomfortable. I really want to pace just to move around but I don’t want to be that person who has to pace, you know?

I have given up that I will ever be “cured” of feeling like this. A few months ago my doctor said she thinks she’s done all she can do as far as pharmaceutical help, which was disappointing to hear. I know we get bashed for being a “toss a pill at it” kind of society but for years I still hoped I would find my miracle medicine that would offer respite from rough patches like this without totally making me feel like a zombie. I recently said to my mom that people who are addicted to drugs or try drugs get thought of as bad or weak people but I totally get it. There is an allure when you feel so crappy but there is something that can momentarily cure you. I’ve gotten drunk as a response to anxiety on a few occasions (and deeply regretted all of them, by the way, I don’t recommend it) but in the moment when it feels like the legal drug isn’t fixing it you wonder if something else would. When I start to feel like that I’m really glad that recreational drugs frighten me more than anxiety. Panic attacks are absolutely awful but at least I know I’ll always wake up after it.

Not only is anxiety uncomfortable, but at this point it feels hopeless as well. Maybe this is how I will always be. I can have fun to a certain extent but I will always be on a leash that I can’t unhook myself from. Sometimes I feel like a dog running free only to be expectedly snapped back by the neck. Even on good days I know that more often than not when I go home my mind will try to settle and this indescribable dread will set in. Sometimes it pretends to have a reason (“Did that joke I made sound too mean? Did my question at the staff meeting sound stupid? What if I don’t order enough lunches for the meeting next week?”) or it comes without warning and I drown in discomfort. And I honestly don’t know if I prefer one or the other.

I saw my first therapist in college before I knew what was happening to me. I described to him that I felt like I lived two lives: Bad Kelsey could not see the light and could not connect with Happy Kelsey or the things that brought her joy, and Happy Kelsey would look back at Bad Kelsey and think she was ridiculous for feeling the way she did when her life was so great. The two were not friends. Bad Kelsey sobbed in stairwells while on the phone with her mom while Happy Kelsey posted about how much fun college was on Facebook. I was 18 when first described this and was told that my “episodes” were anxiety attacks. Now it’s almost 8 years later and both Kelseys still fight for my attention.

This was all just a long-winded way of saying that I’m frustrated. I wish I had something uplifting to say but I am writing this with no solution or neat conclusion to sum up. I had a good day today, but still am ending it with deep breathing exercises and tears. I had a good day but it wasn’t a good day. And tomorrow might be a good day but could also not be a good day because I never know which Kelsey will show up. I wish they would RSVP so I knew what to expect.

To end this, let’s chat. Tell me about yourself. I want to keep talking about this because I know I’m not the only one who feels this way and feels alone sometimes. Let’s share and get these feelings off our chests.

  • Do you have mental health challenges? What are they?
  • How do you deal?
  • When did they first start? Has it changed?
  • Do you ever get angry or frustrated? How do you manage those feelings?

Or tell me something else mental health related in the comments, and reply back to another. Let’s have a real conversation, okay?

xo, kelsey (2)

8 On-The-Spot Ways to Get Calm

Feeling overwhelmed is awful, especially when you're in a stressful situation. Sometimes you can't always escape, but you can use techniques to help you get calm in the moment... // CandidlyKelseyBlog.com

I’ve talked a lot about anxiety lately– including Things That Happen When You See a Therapist as well as How to Find A Therapist.  To see all of my anxiety posts, you can scroll through my “Mental Health” posts under the “Health” tab at the top. With all this focus on anxiety, we still haven’t really talked too much about how to combat anxiety and get calm.

So when NewLifeOutlook emailed me asking if they could write about some techniques to help you get calm, obviously I agreed. Eric provided some helpful tips on how to calm down when you’re feeling anxious, some of which I utilize myself when I’m feeling stressed. Hopefully these tips help you if you’re in need.

Got any tips of your own, or agree with anything listed below? Leave them at the end in the comments! And without further ado, I’ll kick it over to Eric to talk about how to get calm.

8 On-The-Spot Ways to Get Calm

The ability to relax and calm yourself during a stressful situation is an ability that seems to come naturally to some. They always seem to have a plan and never let worry get the best of them, while you feverishly work to find anything that works for you.

Since you do not have the innate ability to get calm quickly, you must work to build coping skills that break the pattern of stress and tension in order to let in feelings of peacefulness and control.

Here are the eight best on-the-spot relaxation skills to leave you calm.

Deep Breathing

Before you cringe or bemoan the fact that this list includes deep breathing, understand that this is just one of the natural ways to relieve anxiety that works wonders for many people.

When you hear “deep breathing,” you may think about people who have tried to convince you of its powers before, or how you already tried it with no success. The truth is that deep breathing is highly effective, but most people perform it incorrectly.

To begin your mastery, work to take a deep breath in while leaving your shoulders still. Let your stomach protrude as you suck in the air. After a brief pause, let the air escape slowly for a long exhale.

Exercise

Exercise works wonders for many physical and mental health complaints, and as it turns out, it is even effective in calming your body and mind.

You do not even need to lace up your sneakers or go to the gym. If you are feeling tense or restless, try some dynamic stretches to burn off some energy.

Touch your toes or roll your arms forward to reduce some tightness in your chest. Doing jumping jacks or pushups shouldn’t be out of the question either — sure, you may look odd exercising in your work clothes, but it is better than feeling anxious.

Experiment with different types of exercise in different situations to find what works best for you.

Change Your Thinking

All day every day, thoughts are swirling through your head, making you anxious. Take control of your thoughts by inserting some positivity, or challenging whatever messages are contributing to your stress.

Some people develop mantras to improve their thought patterns. Mantras are simple phrases or sentences that you can repeat out loud or to yourself when their influence is needed.

Saying “I feel relaxed, calm, and in control” can work to modify your thoughts and change the resulting behaviors. Whichever version you choose, be sure to say it often to get the desired impact.

Listen to Music

A four-minute song can completely change your point of view, even when you’re stressed or anxious. Keep a positive playlist on your phone so the songs will be there whenever you need them.

Perhaps heavy metal is just what you need to find calm, or maybe you peace in a concerto. The important thing is you find music that reverses — rather than reinforces — your tension.

Again, experimentation will be necessary here. Some tunes will work better in certain situations than others.

Play a Game

Since your phone is already out after listening to music, you might as well open up your favorite app and play a few games.

People generally spend too much time on their phones, which equates to too much wasted time and distraction. In this case, a small amount of escape is acceptable.

Diving into the game will consume all of your attention and provide your brain with a needed break. During this time, you can find enough separation from your stressor to have a new, fresh approach.

Be sure to limit your time, though. There is a thin line between short-term escape and long-term avoidance.

Call a Friend

Your phone can play music and can help you play games as well. Another thing your phone can do is actually make a phone call!

So many people are just a call away, and even though they might not be able to erase your stress, they can be a friendly voice on the other end of the line. Start with people you trust and respect, and feel free to guide the conversation in any direction.

Talking about your anxiety isn’t a must since you can find calm by discussing last night’s game or the show on this evening. Once you hang up, you might find yourself with a new level of relaxation.

Avoid texting; the lack of immediacy can trigger increased anxiety as you wait for a response.

Physical Contact

When you were a child, there was nothing more calming or soothing than being held by your mother. It seems unlikely that your mother can still pick you up and rock you to sleep, but physical contact will assist in your goal of relaxation.

Find a loved one to hug. If no one is available, give yourself a squeeze to replicate the experience. Otherwise, you can find a comforting piece of clothing or a pillow to hug or rub against your face. This physical contact can add feelings of calm and safety no matter where you are.

Have a Taste

Stimulating your senses is a great way to help you get calm. Music and hugs soothe your hearing and touch, while eating or drinking can target your taste and smell.

Having a glass of ice water can be calming. A piece of dark chocolate or your favorite fruit can accomplish the goal with a bit more flavor.

My having something to taste and smell, you begin to focus more on these and less on your tension. Of course, you must be careful to keep this under control — a large milkshake may reduce some stress in the moment but lead to other problems later.

Avoid caffeine and alcohol as well. Three espressos may seem like a good idea, but that much caffeine will only trigger more anxiety.

­

Eric Patterson, LPC is a professional counselor in western Pennsylvania working for the last 10 years to help children, teens and adults achieve their goals and live happier lives. You can find more of his writing on NewLifeOutlook.

Feeling overwhelmed is awful, especially when you're in a stressful situation. Sometimes you can't always escape, but you can use techniques to help you get calm in the moment... // CandidlyKelseyBlog.com

xo, kelsey (2)

How to Find a Therapist

Finding a therapist or counselor to speak with can be incredibly overwhelming. Let's talk about how to make the process easier // www.CandidlyKelseyBlog.com

At beginning of the month I wrote about the unexpected benefits of therapy. Now, let’s talk now about how to find a therapist. Though the process can seem SUPER overwhelming, don’t get discouraged. It was definitely easier than finding a boyfriend, if that makes anyone feel better!

I took two approaches to find a therapist, but only really found success with the second one. As the first approach was suggested to me by my doctor, I thought I’d include it anyway for good measure.

BUT, before you go a-searchin’, there are some things you need to do:

Decide what are important qualifications for you.  For example, my qualifications were pretty simple. As I don’t have a car, location was a major key for me.  I wanted someone close to where I lived so it didn’t make going to see them that much harder.  I also knew I wanted a woman, someone who specialized in anxiety, and who was relatively young. Another important factor was needing them to be able to work with a sliding pay scale, as the fate of my insurance coverage would be fluctuating in the future.

When looking for someone, here are a few helpful things to keep in mind:

  • Location
  • Specialty/Experience in specific mental ailments (ie: depression, anxiety, sexuality, trauma, etc.)
  • Gender
  • Insurance/pay schedule
  • Age
  • Appointment availability
  • Style or theory of counseling, ie- Are you a big jokester? Do you want someone with a sense of humor? An optimist? Do you want someone to take you very seriously? These types of styles are important, as they’ll affect your comfort level and ability to open up to them.
  • TYPE of therapist– there are many types of counselors, and many different certifications of what we probably all lump together as “psychologists”.  Though most will help with the average talk-therapy, you may want someone who has a different specialty. Don’t hesitate to do a little research if you are unsure of exactly what you are looking for.

Check your insurance.  I checked mine online, but you can also just call your provider and ask about your coverage. Thankfully, my current health insurance covers mental health very well, so that was a huge load off my mind.  If you are without insurance, or don’t have insurance that covers mental health, make sure you take that into account when looking for someone.  I knew that I will be switching jobs in August/September, or possibly even going without a job for a short period of time this fall, so having someone who accepted many insurances, or worked on a sliding pay scale (relative to your income!) if I lost insurance was a huge bonus. Your insurance may have certain restrictions, or not cover mental health care at all, so be sure to know this before looking for people!

Approach #1: Referral from my Primary Care Physician

My general doctor issued me a referral, and gave me a list of therapists that were in-network with my primary care office.  I sorted them by location, then by gender, and started calling places that were recommended.  Honestly, I got a lot of not-so-nice responses from some places, some crazy long wait times for my first appointment, and some really staggering prices for sessions that scared me off immediately.  I think I made about six calls before I gave up and decided the process was hopeless. This was not exactly the most encouraging way to do it, in my opinion.

Plus, making me CALL THEM was not an ideal situation— anyone else out there with anxiety can probably agree with me on that one.

Approach #2: Using Psychology Today.Com

A friend who is in the mental health field suggested I use the “Find A Therapist” feature on  PsychgologyToday.com. Not only could I plug in exactly what my specifications were, like creating a search filter, but it had an EMAIL option. I picked four counselors that met my specifications, and sent them all an email:

Hello, my name is Kelsey and I am looking for a therapist to help with anxiety.  Are you accepting new patients? I have a referral from my primary care physician if you need it, and Cigna health insurance. I’d love to book a preliminary appointment if you have any openings. Thanks!

I received 2 responses from therapists with open availability, and two that were not accepting patients at that time. I booked a free consultation the same week with one, and told the other I would get back to her if I wanted to book an appointment.

Why I Chose My Therapist:

Now that I found someone to talk to, I had to decide if I thought she was the right person for me.

After our 1-hour consultation, I knew I wanted to keep seeing her because I immediately felt very comfortable and welcomed by her. It was a gut-feeling thing more than anything else. She made me feel as relaxed as I possibly could in that situation, but did it without making me feel pressured to feel relaxed.

After two more sessions, I knew I had made the right choice and wanted to keep seeing her. She was very good at taking the lead of a conversation when I needed her too, or letting me control the session when I wanted to. The conversation never lulled, and every single moment felt productive– which was huge to me. It also helped greatly that she laughed at my stupid jokes, which happened a lot because I make bad jokes when I’m uncomfortable.

Finding the right fit will feel different for everyone, so my biggest piece of advice is simple: just go with your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, then try someone else. And there is no shame in telling someone you try out that it doesn’t feel like a good fit– if they are a professional, they will completely understand! It may take time, but it is soooo worth it in the end to have someone you can speak candidly.

Any questions? Do you see a therapist yourself and have other tips to offer about finding one? Put your recommendations in the comments!

xo, kelsey (2)

Things That Happen When You See A Therapist

A few unexpected things that will happen when you start seeing a therapist. // CandidlyKelseyBlog.com

I’ve been seeing a therapist for a few months now.  I felt like I was no longer effectively managing my anxiety on my own, and needed help– so I got it. I’ve been seeing her weekly, and so far it has been really great. And despite the fact that there is no leather chaise lounge for me to lay on while we talk, I have relatively few complaints. (Though her black leather sofa is super cute and comfy.)

I’ve seen a therapist before, but this was my first time seeing someone consistently. And although I had some expectations for how it would go when I started, I had no idea how much seeing a therapist would affect areas of my life outside of just my anxiety coping skills.

For example:

Talking about yourself will get easier

I don’t like talking about myself unless it’s to make someone laugh. Talking about “bad” things has always been kind of hard for me. At my very first session I really struggled with effectively explaining myself, and repeatedly second guessing myself when I spoke. Now I am much more comfortable with it.  I don’t always feel like the most effective communicator in general, but I feel like I am greatly improving on that just by spending an hour a week trying to properly articulate my feelings.

You look at your everyday habits differently

I talk a lot about my social anxiety with my therapist, and we focus a lot on how I behave and feel in social situations. Becoming aware of those behaviors has made me aware of other things I do in my life.  I’ve made the revelation that I prefer the bus to the train because of my anxiety, and am constantly diverting attention from myself when I’m in a new situation. I am starting to understand my preferences and actions in other situations, even though those never get talked about in my actual sessions. Without meaning to, I am taking the tools I am learning from my sessions into other areas of my life.

You will gain confidence

Hearing that my anxiety is validated felt like a huge weight off my shoulders.  I had already been diagnosed several years ago, but regularly being told by a professional that I am not just “worrying”, and that “snapping out of it” is not an option makes me feel better. My thoughts, and feelings are real, and being told that feels liberating. I feel less and less conscious about my anxiety as time progresses.

You will LOVE having a space to focus only on yourself

Having one hour completely devoted to ME without guilt is fantastic. It is a space to talk through the overwhelming internal monologue that builds up every week with another person, and I always leave feeling more relaxed and refreshed having done so. It’s almost like getting a mental massage. If for no other reason, I would recommend everyone to try therapy at least once just to experience the relief of the release.

You will struggle with how to refer to your therapist in regular conversation

His/her impact on your life doesn’t stop when you leave the office, and sometimes you have to refer to them to others who may not know the details of your situation. I have made professional connections through my therapist, and had to think fast about how to answer the “So how do you know ___?” question. (Hint: “I know her through her work” is a good way to stop that question cold and illicit a somewhat embarrassed reaction from the other person. I don’t recommend it.) Relaying a restaurant recommendation, or funny story from a session has been replaced with “My friend” instead of “My therapist” just to avoid having to have that awkward conversation.

Obviously, these revelations won’t fit every single person, but they are things that have become very true for me. The tools I am taking with me from each session are wonderful, and have improved my life very much, for my anxiety and for just life in general. If you’re at all on the fence about seeing someone, please just take the plunge.  Finding the therapist you connect most with won’t be immediate — it honestly felt a little like trying on jeans: feeling upset and let down until you find your perfect fit– but it is so worth it when you do find it.

By the way, I have another post planned on how I went about finding a therapist (It’s here!). BUT if you have questions, please feel free to comment or reach out to me in another way and ask! I already have gone through the process of finding one, so that post is not for my benefit, it’s yours! Help me make sure I’m helping you!

Got any questions? Have you ever seen a therapist and have some noticed some unexpected changes in your life? Share them!

xo, kelsey (2)

Life Lately: Blame It On the A-A-A-A-Anxiety

I’ve been off my blog game lately.  Have you noticed?

Blame it on the A-A-A-A-Anxiety // www.CandidlyKelseyBlog.com

Aside from February Guest Post Month, I’ve been super lax on posting. Speaking of February Guest Post Month— Didja like it? Did you meet some new bloggers you really like? What about Jani and the One-Pot Lemon Chicken Pasta Recipe? Elle with the Chocolate Covered Strawberry Martini? Kristen with her book recommendations? Or Leslie with her bomb interior design trends? I don’t know about you, but I was super impressed with each post, and am glad I got to share their awesome blogs with all of you!

Thank goodness for February Guest Blog Month or you would have seen cartoon tumbleweeds rolling across CandidlyKelseyBlog.com. Cartoon cowboys would be drinking in deserted bars, wondering where all the sarcastic cat jokes were.

In short, February was full of some major anxiety for me.  No idea why– just that great biological wonder that is the brain chemistry of over 40 million people that make us all want to curl up in a ball and die. It felt like it had been awhile since it was that bad, but that’s the nature of the beast.  When it’s bad it’s bad, and when I’m fine, it’s like I can’t even think about how bad it feels when it’s bad. Drink everytime I write the word “bad”.

I started to write a post about it several times, but each time came out whiner than the draft before, and throwing myself a pity party was not what I was trying to do.  Sometimes I find it way easier to talk to a screen than to talk to a real human when I’m feeling bad, but writing mid “low-point” or mid-anxiety attack did not make for a productive post.

There are only so many ways to write “AHHHHHGHGHGHAskjsldjfaklsjdflkajsdflajsdf” before the post becomes unreadable, ya know?

Hence why there was radio silence. I like being happy, and nothing I was feeling during February was too happy, so I followed the age old advice of if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

Thankfully, I have been feeling way better as of the last week or so.  I did some rather irresponsible emotional shopping during February, so I have a few new beauty posts planned (including the MannyMUA palette!), and some new recipes I want to share. Are you excited? I am!

P.S. Candidly Kelsey Weekly FUNmail will start back up soon. Have you subscribed?

Time to talk back to me. I miss you all. Anyone else anxiety sufferers? Do you have bad months? How do you deal? I’m totally down to try some new coping techniques.

xo, kelsey (2)