Helpful Steps to Managing Anxiety

Anxiety, Pixabay, Free for Comm Use

Melissa’s Rap: The earliest symptoms of anxiety I can remember were in Elementary School. I didn’t know what they were at the time. I struggled with anxiety all the way through high school and college and into adulthood. I still suffer from anxiety, but I have come a long way and have learned how to manage it better. My anxiety became so prevalent at such a young age, that it didn’t occur to me until much later in life that not everyone experiences life in this way.

For those who do experience anxiety regularly, those experiences can vary drastically. For some, it comes and goes, is usually triggered by a stressful incident, and is for the most part manageable. Others, like me, seem to have it always underlying, just beneath the surface. Certain situations, experiences, and even people can trigger it, and those triggers and the symptoms they experience as a result vary from person to person.

Stressful situations can sometimes cause someone to experience anxiety attacks, which can become very debilitating and can greatly impact ones life and livelihood. When I amAnxiety3, Pixabay, Free for Comm Use experiencing an anxiety attack, my chest tightens, and I get a painful vice grip-feeling around my heart. It becomes increasingly difficult to breathe, no matter how hard I tried to relax my body and expand my lungs to accommodate the breath. My muscles tighten up so much, it is an effort to move. My sympathetic nervous system puts me in fight or flight and I start analyzing ways to get out of the situation. The voice in my head goes into overdrive and thoughts become scattered as panic sets in. I shut down socially, as my attention turned inward to my symptoms, and I snap at the smallest annoyance (and everything is annoying.) The earliest anxiety attacks I remember were in high school.

My anxiety has affected relationships, responsibilities, and my quality of life. When I was younger, it often spiraled into depression, which was just as debilitating, and usually harder to climb out of.

I read books on anxiety.  I took up yoga. I tried therapy. I tried medicating. All of those things helped, to a certain extent, but I couldn’t seem to figure out how to manage the anxiety so that it had less negative impacts on my life.

As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve learned to better manage my anxiety the majority of the time. I still incorporate many of the methods listed above, but learning to do the following steps has made the biggest difference for me, helping me manage the day-to-day anxiety much more effectively and preventing full-blown anxiety attacks completely.

HELPFUL STEPS TO MANAGING ANXIETY

Learning and managing my triggers: I am listing this one first because I believe it is one of the most important things you can do to manage your anxiety: learn what your triggers are and do your best to avoid them. For me, crowds and clutter are huge triggers. Violence and conflict also make my trigger list. Diet is a trigger and a coping mechanism, which I find sadly amusing. For some, it may be family or other relationships that may be stressful or even unhealthy. Enclosed spaces can take trigger claustrophobia for some, which I view as a form of anxiety.

There are many triggers that we can’t really control, and in some cases we wouldn’t want to. For me, being a parent is a powerful trigger for my anxiety, but it is also a special gift in my life. Travel and holidays are two more triggers that I would never want to give up. Being aware of these triggers is the first step to managing them.

What I have learned to do is control the triggers I can. I often avoid big events, I try to keep some semblance of order in my home and work spaces, and I create systems and habits that help me manage those triggers that I can’t or wouldn’t want to remove from my life. Learning your triggers takes time and a great deal of self-analysis, but it is possible. The more you work to discover your triggers, the more easily you will be able to recognize them as they arise.

Avoiding overscheduling by saying no (and taking time for you): Some time ago, I was doing some reading online and came across this statement: “No is a complete sentence.” This deeply resonated with me because not only had I been a people-pleaser for so long, I also love helping people, so I would rarely say no. Listening to my body and saying no when I knew I was on the verge of being overcommitted or overwhelmed was a game changer for me. It’s ok to say no.

Earlier this year, I wrote a post entitled “Badass Break Time: Let Go or Be Dragged.” It talks about being more kind to yourself when you just can’t see to fit everything in and you are feeling like a failure of a mom/employee/friend/family member/human and you just need a break. It is OK to take some time for you, to rest and to heal. You may also find this post helpful, since we are in the midst of yet another hectic holiday season: “Surviving the Holidays With Health Challenges.”

Asking for what I need: This was another hurdle for me. I am stubborn and I also don’t like to inconvenience people; so much so that when someone would graciously offer help, I would still say no.

Recently, life has been throwing a lot of curveballs at me at once. I was finding it difficult to get through a day without crying at least once, and I wasn’t sleeping or eating much. As hard as it was, though, I reached out for help. I contacted my therapist to schedule time,  I asked a friend to get together, and I made sure yoga was on the calendar and had friends attending to make sure it happened. While I am still working through some of those curveballs, I am doing it in a much healthier way than I would have had I not asked for what I need.

Building a support system: Another invaluable step to dealing with my anxiety was developing a strong support system. Friends and family have played a tremendous role in helping me feel more calm and empowered to face life head on by listening without judgement and helping me stay grounded. Having a foundation of support is a powerful way to keep your anxiety at bay, or at the very least have others there to assist you when anxiety strikes.

Leaving unhealthy relationships: This one is tough. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like you can leave a toxic experience, perhaps for safety reasons or because it feels too vulnerable to be alone. Or it can impact other important relationships in your life, like your children, other family members or friends. But, this may be a necessary step to addressing your anxiety, as you would be cutting out or cutting back on a major source of it.

Eating a healthy diet: I have noticed a direct correlation between my eating and my anxiety levels. While anxiety can certainly drive me to eat poorly, eating poorly definitely impacts the way I feel. And when I am not feeling well, I tend to get irritated and anxious, and coping becomes more difficult. If you aren’t already, develop regular healthy eating habits, avoiding processed food and sticking with fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and whole grains. When anxiety strikes, resist the urge to binge on fried food, caffeine, and sugar, and notice how it impacts your anxiety and your ability to cope with it.

Redirection: When I can sense my anxiety taking hold, one method of combatting it is not staying stuck in my usual actions and responses. Just like when you are redirecting a child who is upset, you can redirect yourself in a way that changes up what you are doing in the moment, and as a result, you can alter your focus, which an help tremendously. For example, if you are having anxiety and you are at home, getting out and walking around the block or starting an activity you weren’t planning to do (art, cooking, calling a friend) can help you stay focused in the present moment and give your body some time to recalibrate.

Anxiety2, Pixabay, Free for Comm UseIn Conclusion: These are just a few examples of steps I have taken to address (and learn to live with) my own anxiety. If you haven’t implemented some of these steps before, I encourage you to try them to see how they work for you. I know how debilitating anxiety can be and my hope is you are able to find what works best for you personally so that you can improve your own quality of life. Take it one day at a time, and begin the work of learning your triggers, implementing boundaries, and developing habits and systems in your life to help you better manage your own anxiety.

Professional Help: This post should not be construed as, nor should be considered a substitute for, medical advice. View our Medical Disclaimer here. It is important to seek professional help and support should you find it difficult to manage day-to-day. If you are considering harming yourself or others, please reach out for immediate help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.


I would love to learn from you and your experiences! What steps do you take to manage your anxiety? What do you think has been the most powerful step you’ve taken and why? Please comment below or message me here. I look forward to hearing from you!

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Plans for a Paleo Thanksgiving

Sarah’s Rap: Time sure has been flying by! I can’t believe Thanksgiving is next week. It is one of my family’s favorite holidays. We will miss spending it with our extended family on the East coast this year, but are fortunate that several friends will come share a meal with us. I’m sure you know by now if you follow my blog that I eat a strict Paleo diet for health reasons. This means that my Thanksgiving meal will be full of delicious vegetable dishes, meats, nuts and fruits. Many of you may be thinking… a Thanksgiving without bread, macaroni and cheese and sugar?! How is that even possible? Well, it’s actually pretty easy considering the umpteen ways to prepare vegetables, all the cookbooks and websites offering Paleo recipes and the plethora of grain, dairy, sugar and gluten alternative ingredients at the grocery store. There are so many wonderful dishes you can make using wholesome ingredients without having to be in the kitchen for a week straight. Be thankful for your health by rewarding it this Thanksgiving with a delicious, and surprisingly simple, Paleo meal. I know I will!

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Tales from a Cookbook Junkie

CookbooksSarah’s Rap: Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve loved to pore over cookbooks. I read recipes like some do magazine articles and usually head to the cookbook section in a bookstore before anything else, despite my already overflowing shelf of cooking and baking manuals. I don’t usually watch sitcoms, but sit me in front of the Food Network, Cupcake War or some other foodie cooking show and I’m sucked in. Or at least I used to be. Now that I can’t eat many of the things they are cooking on those shows, and frankly often don’t want to, I find them less appealing. Despite the fact that I started a Paleo diet because that was all I could eat, I actually prefer to fill my body with healthy foods. I love the way it make me feel and firmly believe that a daily diet full of fresh veggies, fruits, nuts and healthy meats and fish is the best way to nurture both the body and the mind.

Over the last seven years, my shelf full of high-sugar, grain- and dairy-filled cookbooks has transformed to be chock full of Paleo, anti-inflammatory, gluten-free, and grilling cookbooks. Wherever I look, stores are selling books and cookbooks on these topics as well as Clean Eating, Whole 30, the Mediterranean diet, the Ketogenic diet, and more. Every body is different, so a Paleo diet might not be the right choice for everyone, but there is no mistaking that cutting out sugar, gluten, corn and unhealthy oils can improve anyone’s health. There are so many great options out there for people who want to change their way of eating to one that will improve or promote better health. Continue reading

Yoga for Healing Trauma


Sadness, Pixabay, Comm Use
Melissa’s Rap: According to Oxford Dictionary, trauma is defined as 1. a deeply distressing or disturbing experience or 2. physical injury. Regardless of the type of trauma, it inevitably has a tremendous impact on you and your ability to function in everyday life. Seeking therapy from a licensed mental health counselor and building a support system are very important steps for helping you heal after trauma. Yoga can be another effective tool you can utilize as well.

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Roasted Delicata Squash with Bacon and Crispy Kale

IMG_5562Sarah’s Rap: I have discovered a heavenly pairing of two fall vegetables- kale and delicata squash, made even better by roasting with shallots until the squash and shallots are slightly caramelized and the kale is crispy, then finishing it off with a liberal sprinkling of bacon. This side-dish is gluten-free, dairy-free and Paleo, but full of flavor and very versatile.

It will make an excellent accompaniment to any meat or fish entree, or can serve as an entree all on it’s own. For my own dinner last night, I had it with chicken sausage and asparagus. Fresh from the oven, the kale was crispy and made the dish really stand out. Today, I ate leftovers for breakfast with a fried egg – the kale had softened, which actually was a better compliment to the egg, and the bacon flavor permeated the squash more as they’d apparently gotten to know each other better overnight. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. Feel free to mix up the seasonings to your taste.

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Health Crisis Part 5: Denial

Sarah’s Rap: This is the last post in this series and about perhaps the biggest hurdle of all to our health: DENIAL. This is what prevents people with illness from acknowledging the problem, committing to taking steps towards better health and/or from making changes to key contributors to the country’s (and world’s) disease epidemic: the Standard American Diet, a broken healthcare system, unhealthy lifestyle choices and environmental toxins.

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Denial is a tricky beast– difficult to overcome. If a person is in denial, he/she won’t believe it. This is the nature of denial. Even now many of you are reading this, thinking it doesn’t apply to you. And it may not. Please humor me though. I’d like you to ask you to open your mind and keep reading. Let this post help you to take a deeper at your health and lifestyle, and perhaps by the end you might feel differently. If not, and you have no health issues, that’s wonderful. Keep up the good work! Maybe you’ll think of a friend that is in denial and needs your help. Or maybe, you will admit that you are suffering from illness and want to take control of your health and happiness.

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Yoga for Cold and Flu

Melissa’s Rap: Being sick is never fun. It can be very draining and exercise is usually the last thing on your mind. But, yoga can be very beneficial when you aren’t feeling well. It can help get the energy flowing, jumpstart your lymph system and strengthen your immune system, which will help your body fight. 

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Health Crisis Part 4: Environment

Sarah’s Rap: If you’re like me, you barely go a day without meeting someone with health issues of their own or talking about someone they know with illness. It makes me so sad, partly because of the sheer prevalence but also because most people chalk up their illness or symptoms to genetics, bad luck or no idea. They often live a life of suffering, prescription medications and a pile-up of diseases.

Sure, genetics can play a role– some of us are more susceptible to certain conditions based on our DNA, and when we live a lifestyle that doesn’t support our own body’s needs we can flip that genetic switch on. But just because your grandmother had breast cancer, doesn’t mean you will definitely get it. The conditions have to be right. And maybe bad luck has a small part, but ultimately I feel that the majority of illnesses are caused by a handful of specific things. I’m not alone in this. Raymond Francis, author of Never Be Sick Again, believes that only two causes of disease– deficiency and toxicity. Continue reading

Visiting London on a Paleo Diet

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It was fun to walk on the infamous crosswalk near Abbey Road Studios. A picture of the Beatles on this very same crosswalk graced the cover of one of my favorite albums – Abbey Road.

Sarah’s Rap:  As mentioned in a recent post of mine, I recently had the good fortune to visit London for the first time. I fell in love with the city on day one, despite the pouring rain we had. One thing about living in the Seattle area– it’s made me virtually immune to precipitation. We arrived by train from Glasgow, hopped in a cute black cab and checked into a charming hotel in Soho. We struck out to see the city, taking in such grand sights as Big Ben, Trafalgar Square and Westminster Abbey.  Over the course of 5 days, I averaged about 25K steps  per day on my Fit Bit, taking in as much of the city as possible – Abbey Road Studios, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, Covent Gardens and the Tower of London to name a few. The city is immense and we barely scratched the surface, but what we saw of it did not disappoint.

In addition to the wonderful things to see and do in London, restaurants are plentiful and varied. However, if you’ve ever had to travel with food restrictions you know that sometimes it can be a little stressful finding a place to eat that can accommodate your needs, even in as metropolitan of a city as London. I managed to find several places that fit my needs for a Paleo diet and wanted to share them here on the blog in case others can benefit from my experiences there.  Continue reading