November 3, 2021 is National Stress Awareness Day.
Growing up, I always had a feeling of “what am I forgetting?”. The first day of school (and literally every day after) had a constant feeling of “is there a test today? Did I forget about a quiz? Did I do all of the homework assigned? Am I going to make it to class on time?” (*sets alarm for 3 hours before class even starts*). These constant questions and worrying … I never thought they were abnormal. I never thought to talk about or question it. Because no one talked about anxiety growing up. It wasn’t until I became a mom and those worries and thoughts took over my life and my mental health, stole what should have been sweet moments relaxing with my babies, and fueled constant battles with my husband that I knew these feelings were in fact, not normal at all— but extremely common. In certain situations, I just assumed I was really stressed out and there wasn’t much I could do about it.
Sure, I would seek help here and there. I’d talk with the psychiatrist about my problems, get on some medication, thinking that I could take some anti-anxiety medication to help me through tough times. Then when those stressors were behind me, stop taking it and think I could continue on as normal.
It wasn’t until after having my second baby nine months ago, where my anxiety was the worst it’s ever been, that I decided to really seek the help I so desperately needed. I connected with a fantastic therapist and a psychiatrist who took the time to speak to me, really dig deep and get to know me, and give me a proper diagnosis: generalized anxiety. They educated me on what it meant, why I was behaving certain ways, and why it’s not just stress but a condition that most likely will not go away or get better without a combination of continual medication and coping mechanisms.
According to APA.org, stress and anxiety are both emotional responses; however, stress is most commonly caused by an external trigger. There is short-term stress, which could be a work deadline or getting into an argument with your significant other. Then there is long-term stress which could range from the inability to work or chronic illness. On the other hand, anxiety is defined by persistent excessive worries that don’t go away even in the absence of a stressor. They both yield the same symptoms, which are commonly insomnia, trouble concentrating, fatigue, muscle tension, and irritability.
I wish someone had told me there was a difference. I wish someone had told me sooner that nothing was wrong with me and that my generalized anxiety deserves to be talked about as freely as why someone needs to wear glasses.
I am no expert. However, I do encourage anyone who is struggling or thinks it’s more than just being stressed to seek help. There is no shame in wanting the best for yourself so that you can be the best for your family.
Along with my daily medication, some ways that help me cope with my anxiety are also great if you’re stressed! Go for a walk, head to the gym, take five minutes of “me” time and lay down listening to music, or lay down in silence. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and eat a healthy and balanced diet.