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Managing My Anxiety Through Herbal Work, Self Improvement + Ritual

Managing My Anxiety Through Herbal Work, Self Improvement + Ritual

Forward // I've rewritten this blog post over 30 times. All my jagged angled approaches to it proved that I wasn't in the right head space to talk about one of my major obstacles in my life. It was recently exasperated by a broken friendship and I was honestly, a lot more angry than I even realized and it showed in my writing. I'm a firm believer that you can't help anyone until you help yourself so I had to take time and rework this from an honest place. Thank you for your patience and onward we go...

You say "I have mental health issues" to an average person and it can go a multitude of different ways, on average in my experience, it goes a bit like this: The wide eye wandering gaze that doesn't quite meet yours and that facial reaction like a shade has been drawn over a window. It's okay, I get it. This stuff is hard to navigate and telling someone that maybe hasn't known or encountered mental health issues in their life may not be able to compute whats going on in your brain or even be able to relate to you. This too is okay. You're not damaged goods, our brains just work a bit differently and people do understand that. It's a winding road paved with pot holes and debris trying to figuring out how to manage and this was my way. I'm in no way saying this is the only way, just what works for me.

About My Mental Health Issues // My mental health issue that I deal with daily is anxiety. The delicious kind that puts me in "flight or fight" mode over the simplest of things. It revs up after posting on social media, social gatherings, traffic, text messages, emails, work related things, just to name a few. I roll conversations obsessively over in my head like a hard candy trying to figure out all the dumb things I may have said. Tip of the iceberg. If left to my own devices or encounter a pile of triggers I go into depression land. This doesn't happen quite as often as it used to and if it did it only lasted a few days. However this last round of life altering events left my head spinning with no answers and I couldn't find my way out. So much so my absolute dreaded secret would rear its ugly head; my agoraphobia. This is something I did not tell anyone until recently. I'd joke that I was a hermit ( I am though, I like being alone and in my house or studio) but in some circumstances I was terrified to leave my house. About 8 years ago I didn't leave my house for almost 6 months. To top that all off my insomnia came back full force to the point where I hadn't slept in days and eventually fell down the stairs in exhaustion. Two words; Hot Mess. I tried all my usual tricks to get out of the funk I was in but nothing was working. I was rusty at taking care of myself at this debilitating stage but thankfully I had learned a lot within those 8 years and decided to approach it a bit differently.

I started herbal work over 10 years ago and it's been a huge part of my life. Somehow I had put the blinders on when it came to utilizing this knowledge for my mental health. I legitimately slapped my forehead with my palm and took off like banshee to my herb cupboard and sat down with a game plan. Listed below are some of the steps I took to get me to function normally in my day to day life:

Taking Ashwagandhda + Gotu Kola // I make my own capsules from powdered versions of these herbs and take as needed. These amazing herbs are part of the adaptogen family. "Adaptogens work at a molecular level by regulating a stable balance in the hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal glands. These are involved in the stress response. They work by “hacking” the stress response in the body". My anxiety is a build up that spills over into the " I can't deal with anything so I'm going to have a panic attack and fall on the floor" and I needed to find a way to NOT get it to spill over. I needed an adaptogen to help me cope with stress before it snowballed out of control. These I took daily until I was naturally able to cope and still take them before a potentially stressful day or event. 

Taking CBD Daily // I realize this isn't an option for some people as they reside in states where it's illegal (which to me, is preposterous). If you've never used it it may be a bit scary as anything linked to the "devils lettuce" has a stigma. No, it doesn't get you high or alter you. When given to people with high anxiety it just levels you out. There's a variety of ways to take it but I prefer tinctures and gummies in high mgs. These two companies I highly recommend: Upstate Elevator and Vermont Hempecurean ( if you're in the Vermont area I recommend stopping by, they're amazing people!). I still take this daily!

Herbal Teas // I whipped up a batch of tea to help with one of the worst times of day for me; nighttime. This is time I obsess over terrible news reports I heard 10 years ago, agonize over awkward conversations, realize I didn't call my parents this week and how horrible of a daughter I am. You know, the usual. I needed my brain to shut off and be lulled into sleep.  I was wired and running myself ragged with the mental gymnastics I did. My blend was a mix of chamomile, skull cap, poppy, calendula, lavender and if I was feeling a bit undernourished I added nettle and oatstraw. These herbs have lovely sedative properties that calmed my mind and relaxed me. Getting a good nights sleep proved to be one of the best medicines I could ask for. It kept me clear headed in the morning and thinking rationally, which was something I desperately needed. 

Talking To Myself Out Loud + Writing // Okay so hear me out. I know this sounds slightly ridiculous but this helped me tremendously. As someone who's in their head constantly its hard to distinguish a true thought or emotion when you're having 800 of them in 5 minutes. It's also easy to push aside things you really should pay more attention to. Talking out loud or writing how you feel is a commitment. You can't take it back, it's been said, the ink is dry. Giving yourself the space to feel the feels and sort through the things that are going on in your head in an orderly manner is a breath of fresh air. You can hear your emotions, how you're feeling, toss aside the things that aren't needed and focus on the things that are red flags. This blog post is laced with the commitments I made to paper and it's evolved into something that will hopefully help someone in the same situation.

Meditation // This has and will always be quite difficult for me. I never stop moving and my brain is always going. That's one of my issues and I knew that the act of stopping and being quiet would eventually pay off. I'd be able to quiet my racing thoughts on demand. What I do isn't formal, I simply sit on the floor ( I prefer night time because candlelight dancing behind my eyelids is divine) and be still. I could maybe go 30 seconds the first time without fidgeting and thinking about what I was going to when I was done. You do have to train your brain. Eventually I worked up to 2, 5, 15 minutes and with the addition of listening to singing bowl compilations on YouTube I can go an hour without thinking about anything. For anyone suffering from debilitating anxiety you know how blissful a quiet mind can be. With this, do what feels good for you. Light some incense, put on a strobe light, grab your cat, grab your bearded dragon, be fancy or be simple.

Spirituality + Ritual Work // I tend to dance on the fringes of what I believe in when dealing with my business. You probably have an idea but I tend to not talk about it. For me I needed an additional strong arm to lean on but be held accountable and calling on my pantheon helped me immensely. In the end we all make our own decisions and blaze our own paths and I needed my spirituality back. I needed to put good energy out there and get some guidance. This was something I lost while on my 5 month bender of mental gymnastics and I needed to get back to it to feel whole. For this part it's entirely up to you whether you do this or how you do this. One of my favorite ways to connect is after meditation by calling on whom I'm seeking guidance from, make an offering, do some divination with runes or oracle cards and whatever else feels right at the time. I go with the flow of the moment and I like that, no pressure, just me being guided by what feels natural. In the end this makes me feel solid and warrior like. I feel strong and empowered. 

Self Care // Taking time out for yourself IS important. Yes, "self care" is a bit of buzz word right now but call it what you will, at its core its needed. When you're in the throws of anxiety, depression or whatever else is ailing you, you tend to put yourself last. You may not feel worthy of an hour to pampering yourself. Or even worthy of a 10 minute shower to freshen up, sometimes it hurts too much to even brush your hair. Believe me, I get it. Being an active part in bettering yourself also includes taking time to replenish yourself. Whether its an extra 5 minutes in the shower to try out a new body scrub, a full on home spa day, putting on mascara even though your home all day, planning an hour where you do nothing but focus on your vainest desires. It doesn't have to cost anything, it doesn't need to be Instagram worthy, it's entire purpose is to make you feel good about yourself and you can interpret that how you will. For me it was putting on my eyebrows ( thank the early 2000's for my sparse, pencil thin brows), making sure I was doing my skincare routine morning and night, putting lotion on (this is the first thing that I tend to stop doing when I stop caring about myself) and shaving my legs everyday. Seems like pretty basic stuff huh? At the time these things were foreign excursions that I had gotten so far away from I forgot that they were just basic needs. Now that I'm back to my "normal" my self care consists of facial masks out on the patio while drinking some tea or taking a piping hot shower before bed and using as many body products as I can slather on myself. Other times it's sitting down with a good book or the longest walks that my legs can carry me on and just sit in the grass after. 

Find Your People // During this time I made the mistake of choosing the wrong person to talk to about my anxiety which in turn made it even worse. However, there are GOOD people to talk to about what you're going through. They'll listen to you insistently repeat the same garble of emotions over and over and not think you're crazy. They'll help you by just listening, offering advise, stopping by for a cup of tea or a movie night. Put your feelers out. I know this can be extremely scary, I've been burned, it sucks. But it made me appreciate how my best friend of 15 years can still listen to me freak out about the same stuff I've been freaking out about for ... well 15 years. It's made me appreciate my soon to be husband taking all back roads without me asking because he knows I can't deal with highways and I fear for my life on them when my anxiety is peaking ( seriously a saint, it takes us 10 times longer to get anywhere!). If you don't feel comfortable talking to someone close to you see a professional and find one that suits YOU. Getting an outside perspective and realizing you're not alone in this feels like a weight off your shoulders. If you're at the breaking point please see the number I've listed at the end of this blog post. 

Get Outside // I'll get more into this in another blog post about forest bathing but yes nature is healing. There's a reason why doctors prescribe walking in a pine forest. It's true! At one point I was terrified to leave the house and the thought of walking to the mailbox ruined my entire day. So being outside (which is literally my lifeblood) was HARD. I love the outdoors but my agoraphobia slapped me upside my head and told me to stay put. Fresh air and just listening to the world around you is something to behold. We live in this amazing world filled with magic and energy, just take a moment to appreciate it. Feel the sun on your skin, the birds, the wind, touch some plants, sit still for a few moments and just take it all in. Unplug and recharge. For me this was the icing on the cake.

My anxiety will never be "cured" and I'm okay with that. I've got a new set of tools to aid me and help me cope. My biggest "ah ha!" moment was to take preventative measures so I don't get to that spill over point. I know my triggers (one of which is caffeine, hello decaf! and limiting my social media mindless scrolling) and plan accordingly. As with anything in life there are no guarantees and things will always throw you for a loop. I'm learning to take these in stride, keep learning about myself and what the healthiest way to prevent them. My anxiety doesn't make me less of a person, doesn't make me unfit, doesn't make me less than, it doesn't make me broken. I hope someday the stigma around mental health improves and we can talk about these things more openly as a society without people viewing us as "nut cases" and that we should simply "get over it". We'll get there but in the meantime we can always put in the work to improve ourselves. 

As always consult a health care professional and research anything mentioned in this blog. I am not a doctor, just an average person sharing my experience. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts please contact:

 1-800-273-8255.

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