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  • Emily Echols

Managing My Anxiety


Photo by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash

I wrote this several months ago but couldn’t make myself share it then. I’m behind schedule posting this week because I had a sick kid home from school instead of a babysitter on Tuesday and I almost used that as an excuse to not share this. Again. It’s weird that I can be so stubborn about some things but I look for any tiny hiccup to not do the hard thing. That might seem silly but this is a hard thing for me to tell anyone.


For most of my life my anxiety has been background noise, a familiar hum. It made me overthink everything, but I was usually able to talk myself into doing things. Other times- freshman year of college, first year of seminary, the last deployment- it gets a lot louder.


A few months ago, a combination of being trapped at home with a difficult three-year-old, being stuck in the house on bad air days, being nervous about driving in Korea, and still working on my tribe here, left me struggling a little. I declined invitations to meet at a coffee shop because driving made me feel sweaty. I didn’t leave post all week long. I thought about asking that almost-friend to come over for a playdate but she was talking to someone else that day, so I didn’t say anything at all. I couldn’t sit still. I started ten projects but couldn't finish anything. I got frequent headaches. My heart raced alone in a quiet room. Maybe it was allergies. Maybe it was the air. Or maybe it was anxiety.


Things that are helping:


  • Sunshine. I knew the lack of sunshine affected me when we lived in Washington, but I didn’t realize how much until we moved to South Carolina in the winter and it was sunny every day. I'm a different person with sunshine.


  • Weighted blanket. It feels like a hug and keeps me from rolling all over the place and stealing all the covers at night. I wake up more well-rested. Sometimes I just lie in bed under it for a few minutes in the dark. It helps me feel grounded and connected.


  • Fancy loose leaf tea. I have a subscription to a tea of the month club. I have a cup of black tea with breakfast in the morning, another in the middle of the afternoon, and a cup of herbal tea in the evening. I’m creating intentional pauses in my day, structuring my day around calm, quiet tea breaks.


  • Aromatherapy. I bought a stress relief candle. It’s possible that it’s a placebo effect but it seems to be helping. I don’t believe essential oils can cure cancer but they can definitely help your mood. Lavender helps me sleep and eucalyptus and spearmint help calm me down.


  • Exercise. This is one of the biggest ones. I’m playing a team sport that gives me an outlet for my nervous energy that won’t let me sit still. Aside from derby I’m trying to do MUTU core exercises every day and do an interval workout 3-4 times a week.


  • Music. I put in my headphones and wash dishes. I ignore the chaos around me and create order. Often I listen to reggaetón. I like Reggaetón Land because no one asks me to make them a snack or wipe their bottom there. In Reggaetón Land people just want to dance with me or take me home. They tell me I’m beautiful and compliment my butt. Lately I’ve added some mellower music that Spotify is calling Indie Worship.


Just as I am/You welcome me

With open arms/how can this be

There is no disappointment in your eyes

There is no shame there is only pride

I am loved

Father I am loved by you

-Mack Brock “I am Loved”


Don’t you feel calmer?


  • Water. Drinking more of it. Yes, really, it’s making a big difference.


  • Praying the hours. It forces me to stop what I’m doing and pray. It gives me words when my brain can’t concentrate on one thing.


  • Staying off my phone. I tend to get too involved in online drama or I misinterpret something someone said and obsess about it all day long. Do you want to know how to have a bad day? Get in an argument with someone on Facebook. Bonus points if it’s a stranger. I set screen time limits on my phone because I have no self-control.


  • Write. This might not make sense to most people but if I don’t get the words out, they harass me. I replay the same scene over and over in my head until it irritates me. If I write the words down, they leave my head and I can think about something else. Or if I’m worried about something or obsessing about something simply writing it down helps me let it go.


  • Houseplants. Plants make our house cheery and alive. Steve jokes that I’m turning the apartment into a jungle. I get an immense sense of satisfaction out of watching new leaves unfurl.


  • Hugs. I often tell my husband goodnight and then hug him. I pretend I’m going to bed again but then I hug him some more. Sometimes we hug and chant, “Thirty-minute hug,” because that’s what’s happening.


  • Babysitter. Since Little Brother does not handle preschool or childcare environments very well, I have a babysitter who comes for a few hours two mornings a week. In those few hours I can run a 5-minute errand that would be a 30-minute errand with a little helper. Most of the time, I walk to the gas station and write since it’s one of the main things that keeps me on an even keel.


  • People. This one probably seems obvious but when leaving your house with your child feels like an impossible task, it can be difficult. It can also be difficult when you move every two years and you’re introverted and you really just need to be adopted by an extrovert. Also when everything outside your house feels like the problem it’s hard to get to the other people.


  • Books. When I’m not spending too much time on my phone I magically have time to read books. Novels are my favorite because I like to live in other worlds.


  • Closing my eyes and breathing. I do this a lot when we’re having philosophical discussions at breakfast and no one is eating even though we need to leave for school in five minutes or when, for the love of God, I just need someone to put their shoes on. It slows everything down for just a moment.


There are probably more, lots of little things I do without even realizing it. But now that I’m intentionally trying to do these things and not just riding the anxiety wave, I’m doing a lot better. I tend to catastrophize. Well, I guess this is how I’m going to die. The weight of this is going to crush me. Or I can make a cup of tea, sit near my plants, smell my wrists, put in my headphones, and write. Every day.


*So far, my journey hasn't included medication or therapy. In general, I think everyone can benefit from therapy but it's not something I've done in recent years. For many people, therapy and medication are important pieces of the puzzle for managing their anxiety. I don't want it to sound like all you have to do is exercise and listen to music. This is what helps me when my head gets too loud.

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