Ready to talk about something super personal? Let’s talk about anxiety. More specifically, let’s talk about my anxiety.

First, let’s make something clear. I am not a mental health professional or doctor. I am not an expert on anxiety. I am one of the millions of people who deal with anxiety. And this post is intended to do three things:

  1. To help those who also deal with anxiety know that you are not alone. You are not broken. You are not wrong. You are not anxiety. You may deal with it, but it is not a definition of who you are. You are more than your anxiety. And I, just like you, deal with it, too.
  2. To help those who do not deal with anxiety have a basic understanding of what it might feel like for those who do and some basic ways to show up for them.
  3. To help MYSELF release my own shame around my anxiety and to know that I am not alone.

If it’s triggering for you to hear someone discuss panic attacks or anxiety, this may not be the post for you. If you’re curious about anxiety or want to learn how I deal with it, I encourage you to keep reading.

Kimmay opens up about anxiety on the Hurray Kimmay blog

I’ve been having panic attacks and some level of anxiety for many years. In fact, the first panic attack I can remember (now that I know what they are) was when I was nine years old in a lake. I recently found a photo of this day (see above). I have always been a little afraid of the water, but this was different. When I stepped off of an underwater ridge and my life vest hiked around my throat, it wasn’t normal fear or panic. I felt like I was going to die. The panic consumed my thoughts, my body, my throat and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. It was illogical. My head knew I was safe and my sister was nearby, but fear lied and said I was in grave danger. The truth was that I was OK. But when my sister pulled me and told me “You’re fine”, I didn’t feel relief. The shame I felt around that fear and emotion coming up when in fact I wasn’t in danger, and my loss of control over my emotions, was even worse than the panic itself. (More on this story, including a photo of that day, in the video below). At the time I didn’t even know I was having an anxiety attack. I didn’t even know what one was. Since then I’ve had similar panic attacks on subway cars, a train, on planes, in a cave, in an MRI machine, in the dentist’s chair, in hotel rooms, in a restaurant in Japan, at a friend’s place, and in my own home. I’ve even woken up in a panic attack, more than once.

On top of panic attacks, I’ve also had general anxiety – the kind that seems to float in your body without stopping. It’s less of an attack and more of a constant hum of fear and worry. I don’t have this reaction to every lake, cave, plane, or subway car. I don’t have this feeling all the time. In fact, I don’t always deal with anxiety. I feel like I go through times of anxiety, and within those times I have waves of anxiety. Sometimes these waves last for just a few minutes, and then I don’t feel one again for years. Other times I’ll have several waves wash over me, again and again and again within the course of months. Sometimes these waves last for hours at a time. Sometimes they’re strong and pull me under. Other times I can feel them wash over me with barely any harm done. Sometimes just the nervousness that a wave might be coming is enough to bring one on. Every time I have survived. I’m still here.

Kimmay shares about dealing with anxiety on the Hurray Kimmay blog

For me personally, I found it hard to explain the fear I was feeling for many years. It was embarrassing to me to be in a perfectly safe situation and feel like I was going to die. How could I explain that to people? What would they think of me? Logically, I even knew I was safe. But inside – in my mind and certainly in my body – that’s not how it felt. My body might feel like it’s made of lead. My heart races. I get very hot and want to take off my clothes. I feel like I can’t swallow. I feel like I can’t breathe. I want to run. I feel like I am trapped and need to get out. I can’t sit still. It’s hard to use my hands or take a step. My whole body feels like it’s on high alert. Add in the fear of judgement and my own judgement of my anxiety. It’s mentally and physically exhausting. Our bodies are made to live in that panicked, flight or fight mode for a few minutes at a time in order to save us from actual danger. They’re not equipped to handle that panic for hours or days.

I want to be clear about something. I don’t feel sorry for myself that I deal with anxiety. And I don’t want you to feel sorry for me, either. What I do hope for is some understanding. You see, I judged anxiety as something that only “crazy” people had, or those who were constantly anxious, or a mess, or couldn’t get their lives together. I can assure you (and me) that I am a really confident, capable, loved, supported, creative, powerful, intelligent, and put together person. I know that, and I’ve shown up in the world in that way. I’ve been on national TV many times, I travel the world having photos taken of me in my underwear, I own my own business, I am married to an amazing man, I have a loving family, I have a load of amazing friends, I’m a compassionate coach and leader. And. I deal with anxiety. So, maybe you do, too. And that’s OK. We’re OK.

How do you deal with anxiety? Kimmay opens up about this personal struggle on the Hurray Kimmay blog.

Had I known years ago, and had someone told me (and had I listened) that anxiety is not shameful, and that there is nothing wrong with me, I wonder if I could have started the healing process much sooner. It’s only recently in my self-love journey that I’ve even tapped the surface of healing my shame around anxiety. This isn’t my first time talking about anxiety, but it’s my biggest. That’s why I share this with you not as a person who is healed, or as an expert but as a person in the midst of this as a way to lift my own shame. If that helps you lift yours too, or find some kind of comfort, or have a better understanding, then hurray hurray hurray.

The video below is of a talk that I recorded on Facebook Live {that’s why you’ll hear me talk to commenters} on June 2nd, 2018. At the time of the call (and the time when this article was published), I was dealing with a great deal of anxiety on a regular basis. During this call, I have only a mild amount of anxiety that I can physically feel in my body. That night, a few big waves hit that lasted through the night and into the next day.

Below the video of this talk, I’m also sharing some of my own tips for dealing with anxiety. These are suggestions that have either worked for me in the past, or things that I am currently exploring. I highly encourage you to seek professional help or talk with a doctor before trying any of these. My advice is meant as a way for me to share what’s worked for me, and you are a different human than I. Thanks for seeing me and allowing me to practice my courage.

How I deal with Anxiety

Below are some of the ways that I cope, deal with, or heal my anxiety – on the inside, outside, and underneath™. Remember, this is how I deal with anxiety. These methods may or may not be the methods that work for you. And depending on your level of anxiety and the symptoms that you encounter, these may help or not. And, since I’m not a health professional or anxiety expert, I highly suggest consulting with someone who is. Psst! Head’s up that some of the links in this post are affiliate links.

Kimmay shares the ways she copes with anxiety on the inside, outside, and underneath on the Hurray Kimmay blog

Inside

Compassionate Self Forgiveness – As I mention in the video, this is one of the most powerful tools that I use for all sorts of misunderstandings and fears. I use it to let go of perfectionism, judgement, and old stories. In this case, I use it to forgive myself for the misunderstanding that I am not supported, for buying into the misbelief that I am alone, for judging myself for thinking that I am in danger when I’m really safe. Then I make space for the truth. The truth is I am supported, I am connected, and I am safe. This works for me as an ongoing practice, not necessarily when I’m in the middle of a panic. It’s a cleansing tool that helps me heal old wounds and stories. Learn more about it in my How To Lovingly Forgive Yourself blog post, and use my free guided meditation.

Soothing My Past – During a recent wave of anxiety one of my mentors guided me back to that time of my first panic attack. She asked me what I was feeling and where. In a very emotional video call, I told her that it felt like a big, messy knot in my throat. She then guided me to have 9 year old me untie that knot and together we threw it into the lake. I then visualized sitting with 9 year old me and comforting her. I let her know that fear is normal but that we are safe, and accepted, and calm. In fact, my mentor then had me think of times in my life when I remember being safe, accepted, and calm. I felt and remembered those feelings in my body and visualized the moment. Through a series of making a fist and covering it with my other hand (a modality I don’t fully understand but trusted my mentor), she walked me through those feelings. Then she told me to practice self soothing by covering my right fist with my left hand any time I’m in an attack. I’ve been trying this during this time of anxiety. It does seem to help to remind my body and mind of times of safety, calm, and acceptance. I even found a photo of the exact moment that came to mind for safety and I have it on my altar in my home. I also have photos of me as a baby and young girl to refer to. Because shame and feeling unsupported (you’ll hear an amazing post in the video) is a big cause of my anxiety I refer to my inner child and “Unconditioned Self”, as Robert Holden calls it in Shift Happens!, and just how loved, blameless, and full of potential she is. She is still in there. And at some point she got scared, felt abandoned, felt unsupported. Soothing her worries and telling her (even in the middle of an attack) that we don’t need to flee or fight, we can make peace here, has been a beautiful journey. This wound is almost universal – we all have some sort of fear that we are not supported. Mine is showing up in big ways right now because I am really pushing myself outside of my comfort zone on a personal and business level. So going back to the past and healing those old wounds will help me move forward with less anxiety and more love.

Connection to the Divine- This is pretty much my biggest support during panic and in my overall healing process. I am a very spiritual person and my relationship with God has grown. It’s my faith, my connection to that higher power, and tapping into Source that has guided me to safety most often. I pray, I meditate, I call in, I ask for guidance and healing, I listen. Most often, I remind myself that I am loved and supported. Sometimes I even visualize Jesus (whatever loving being or higher power works for you), with one hand on my chest and one on my back, sitting with me, saying, “I am here with you”. Or I remember the scripture, “Be still and know that I am God.” It helps me breathe and sit still and relax (this was my mantra over and over again in the MRI machine or on plane rides where I couldn’t get up and get out.) During this time of anxiety, this is a massive part of my healing.

Journaling – Many times my anxious mind is filled with lots of fast flying emotions and thoughts. Journaling my feelings and emotions out onto paper helps bring clarity, and helps the emotion get out of my mind. It also brings up areas for healing when it comes to old wounds or misbeliefs that are causing the anxiety. I am diving in DEEP during this current time of anxiety and soothing my inner child and looking at the root cause of my worry and panic. It’s also a way for me to be seen and heard by… me. Sometimes ignoring the feelings or emotions makes them bigger. So allowing myself to declare what I feel is like saying, “hey, I see you. I hear what you’re saying. I’m not ignoring you. You’re not alone. We’ll get through this together.”

Coaching- I’m a coach, and I have a coach. And working with my coaches has been instrumental in dealing with my anxiety by addressing my inner life. Truly transformative. I highly suggest coaching, or talking to a therapist, counselor, or guide. These are all unique methods of working with someone so decide which one works best for you. Talking about and finding practices for uncovering what’s going on inside is powerful not just for anxiety and panic disorders but for life in general.

Meditation- Probably the trendiest thing on this list, and the most ancient. I use meditation in two ways. First, as a way of slowing down and praying. Then, as a way of quieting thoughts and allowing the fast paced emotions to float by. I focus on my breath or, because that can sometimes be scary to focus on when you think you can’t breathe, on a mantra or mudra. One of my favorite apps for meditation is Calm. This app has guided me through both the regular practice of mindfulness, and the use of it during a big wave of anxiety. Also, it has sleep stories, relaxing music and ambience noises, a breathing tool and more. Big fan. I use this while I’m on the subway and plane, too. I wash out the high energy of those around me sink into relaxation and calm.

Nutritious foods – While I don’t think foods cause my anxiety, I can see that when I eat certain foods they do not help it. For instance, if I’m already feeling anxious and I have a lot of sugar, alcohol, or caffeine my anxiety goes into hyperdrive. This is also true for items that give me indigestion, like carbonated drinks or fatty foods. The feeling that the indigestion gives me adds to my already tight chest, and like I can’t swallow or breathe. When I’m in waves of anxiety, I steer clear of these foods. Instead, I practice simple self-care and eat foods that my body loves and that give me healthy fuel. This helps with the exhaustion, too.

Water – I take a water bottle with me most everywhere to cope with anxiety. I especially love an insulated water bottle because it keeps the water cool. That cool hydration can be a game changer during an attack on the subway or plane. It helps calm and cool me down. Not to mention, during an attack my mouth will often go dry. And on a daily basis regular hydration is good for the body and the mind.

Medication or herbs – I want to make something clear, here. Taking medication for anxiety or any other mental health issue is OK. And not taking it is OK. Whatever you and your team of pros come up with, that’s what you should do. During a very long time of anxiety with very big waves, while I was still learning other practices to deal with anxiety, I took a prescription drug to calm my anxiety. I was nervous that I may become reliant on it, so I asked for the lowest dosage possible. I kept the bottle with me and took it during times of attack. It’s my belief that both the actual medication combined with the knowing that I had a “proven” tool in my purse at all times helped me get through some of those waves with more grace. In fact, now I have a herbal non-prescription pill that I keep in my purse for the same reasons. I’m not even 100000% sure of its biological affects on me. But the psychological affects are helpful. The assurance of knowing it’s there is real. That doesn’t mean that “anxiety is all in your head”. But there is a strong connection between our mind and our physical biology. You may also try some herbal supplements or tinctures that can aid in the overall lowering of stress or clear energy blocks.

Don't be afraid to ask for support when dealing with anxiety. Kimmay opens up to her readers on the Hurray Kimmay blog

Outside

Oils and sprays – I am a big fan of essential oils. Not just because they can smell good but because of their affect on the mind and body. Lavender is known for its calming properties, of course. I wear it, I diffuse it, I sprinkle it, I inhale it. I’m currently exploring some new blends and am open to your thoughts. In addition, Calm has a sleep mist, and I use Aura Cacia Chill Pill spray regularly on my bed and on my body at all times during the day. I bring it with me on trips and use it in AirBnBs and hotels, too! I’ve learned to stay away from perfumes with strong scents or harmful ingredients, as these tend to up my anxiety. Instead, I stick with more natural scents and oils. 

Stones and fire – I’ve been a WILD Woman Project leader since 2015, leading new moon women’s circles every month. But it’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve even started looking toward stones and burning herbs to help with my mind and biology. I like to burn sage and palo santo to clear and to bless. I burn yerba santa for courage. I burn cedar for protection. There are ancient and beautiful traditions with smudging that come from some of my ancestors and many cultures in which I have no connection. My journey with them comes from a curiosity of sorts. And the same goes for gemstones and crystals. I’m exploring. I am an Earth sign (Capricorn) and my connection to the Earth and stones is deep. We are a part of nature and I welcome in their power. I have stones that I have collected from sacred-to-me sites, and I recently visited Spellbound Sky in LA with a friend after some big waves of anxiety to learn more. I was guided to choose Smoky Quartz for grounding, Aquamarine for cooling and calming energy, and Dalmatian Stone. A word on crystals and gemstones: these really do carry energy, and I highly suggest purchasing them from someone you trust and cleansing them well. 

Home environment – I live in a really tiny apartment in New York City. As of now, my husband and I have been here for ten years together. It carries a lot of joyous memories and… stuff, old stories, outgrown items, etc. The other day I decided it was time to get rid of old versions of me and the stuff that came along with it. I welcomed in the parts of those old selves that serve the version of me now, and I let go of the qualities and things that no longer serve me and are holding me back. Along with that came a letting go of old dance shoes, acting books, craft items, jewelry, etc. And with the space that I created I welcomed in new life. I created an altar and a safe, beautiful space for me to sit and journal, to house my oils and stone, to burn sage and holy wood, to breathe. This process is not nearly finished but it’s a beautiful start and intention. I also realized that my anxiety was upping when the noise in my apartment is too much – I get really triggered by multiple sources of noise (the TV and the computer, for example). I also don’t like the TV to be too loud. I purposefully play soft and inviting music in my home. I light candles. I spray oils. I make the bed. I open a window. I do little things to create a soft and calm environment. It all adds up. 

Relationships – I am working on my relationship with myself for sure, and I’m working on those within my life. I realize that anxiety is showing up for me because I have not fully forgiven some people, or let go of resentment or anger. These old emotions are coming up now for me because they want to be healed. In addition, I’m sharing my experience with anxiety with more people in my life. It’s allowing me to let go perfectionism and the fear of being judged while educating them on what it’s like to deal with anxiety. It’s opening up entirely new forms of love and room for growth. And hugs. Hugs are huge when dealing with anxiety for me. 

Ask for support – I’m reaching out to those who I know are on my support team and actually being open to receiving their love, attention, advice, and help. This is difficult for me sometimes, and learning that I don’t have to do this alone is huge. You can do the same with friends and loved ones by informing them of what they can do or how they can help when you’re dealing with anxiety. A friend of mine actually carries a small note around that she shares with people when she’s in an attack and can’t effectively communicate her needs. When I feel a wave coming on in public I actually scope out who on a subway car may be a good person to talk to. I’ve told plenty of strangers when the train gets stuck underground for a spell, “Hi. I get a little nervous when the train stops like this. Would you mind if I talked to you?” I have yet to be turned down. And not only that, but these people are so understanding. One person even distracted me by asking if I could live in any time period, when would it be and who would I be. I was so thankful. Another time, a complete stranger let me sit down while I was peeling off my clothes because of a panic. She helped me gather up all of my things and kept me company while we waited underground. I will never forget these people and their kindness. But they never would have been able to help if I didn’t ask for it. Besides strangers, you can also reach out to doctors, coaches, phycologists, therapists, support groups, religious leaders, teachers, etc. Support is all around you. Ask for it. Accept it.  

Vacay – If you know me at all you know I love to go on vacation. I travel the globe to places like Paris, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and LA (which is where I took these photos!) more. And yet, you don’t have to go anywhere to experience the bliss of being on vacay. I truly believe whether you have 5 minutes, 5 days, or 5 weeks you can call in a cultivate the feelings that you get from being on vacation. See what mean on my Hurray Vacay page. For me right now, I’m cultivating the feelings I have on some vacations like peace, rest, calm, and restoration. Plus, I’m looking for ways to get away for a few days. New York City is filled with amazing energy, and when I’m in a time of anxiety it can sometimes be too much. Open to your loving suggestions. 

Music – This one is HUGE for me. I was a musical theater major and I’m still singer so music is like my second language – the one I can feel in my soul. I use both ambient sounds or meditation music, or I play soothing songs. Recently I’ve found some gorgeous piano composers. I also love some slow love songs. Sometimes it’s even yacht rock. I kid you not. Besides listening to beautiful music it also helps me to sing. Singing in the morning with my Sunny cat is bliss. I remember once when I was not in a time of anxiety and my honey came into the kitchen one night and said, “I can tell you’re happy because you’re singing.” So when I am in a time of anxiety I purposefully sing. Not only does it help move some of the energy out, it also reminds me that I am love, and joy, and peace. There are also all sorts of studies about music as therapy and how singing or reading music uses certain parts of the brain that benefit in stress relief. I am not prepared to report on this with scientific evidence. But from experiential evidence, I’ll tell ya it’s true.

Identifying triggers – In the video above I explain that I am usually the last person on a plane. That’s because I know that the boarding process is a trigger for me. It’s not necessarily that I’m afraid of flying (I fly all over the world!) it’s that I feel trapped in the hot plane and can’t handle everyone else’s anxiety and unsettled energy. So since I have identified this trigger (after a few panic attacks on board, mind you) I can now care for myself and prep. That means I’m last on the plane. I even kiss my honey and he’ll go in first because he likes to get in and get his overhead bin space and all that. I also sometimes tell the gate attendant and politely ask if I can “just sit over here where you can see me and you can let me know the very last minute I can get on.” Sometimes this is met with understanding and sometimes it’s not. Either way, I feel better for standing up for my needs. Then I make sure I have my water bottle, hand fan, Calm app and headphones, herbal pill, and a window seat reserved. Check my bag if you must, but I will do everything I need to and can in order to ensure that I have a safe and comfortable trip. That is what self-care looks like. And it’s for the highest good of all involved. That’s just one way I prep when dealing with a known trigger for my anxiety.

Music helps Kimmay deal with anxiety, what is your go to coping method? More on the Hurray Kimmay blog

Underneath

Bras – Sometimes I feel like a super snug bra with lots of rigid, firm support is not my friend during times of anxiety. So I purposefully wear softer, more free feeling bras. Currently, I’m gravitating toward bralettes or non-underwire bras because my anxiety shows up in the form of feeling like I can’t breathe or a tight chest. On the hand, one of the things that anxiety stems from is feeling unsupported. So it may serve you and your anxious thoughts to wear something with firm support. Especially if your anxiety shows up in the form of feeling lost or spinning, that firm support can be a blessing.

Heart and bra help – one of the reasons that I use bra fitting as a coaching tool is because I believe breasts are a gateway to our heart. Healing or expanding your relationship with this part of the body can help clear any confusion, discomfort, or shame around this part of the body. This creates a clear pathway for our hearts to open up. If you want to do a little work with this part of the body, I encourage you to find your bra size starting points, check in on your bra’s fit, and to explore my #MoreThanMyNumbers project so you can use your numbers (like bra size measurements) as information, not a definition. 

Root work – My underwear is a source of power for me sometimes. For real! Look at the pair I’m wearing here (by Lickstarter, which I purchased at a boutique in Paris). I can’t help but feel like a powerful goddess in these. It’s a simple reminder that I am fun, and fierce, and powerful. Not to mention, they usually cover one of our most primal chakras: the root (responsible for safety and home, among other things). So clothing this part of the body in power and security or love and beauty is literally something I do to ease anxiety.

Yoga – This was one of the first things that my doctor recommended to me. For real! At the time, I tried a yoga class and could not handle the slow pace and warm-ish room without panicking. It took years for me to get back to it. And when I did, it was like a medicine I had never experienced before. In fact, in 2013 I shared a video interview in which someone else shares his same experience with anxiety and how yoga “saved his life”. {Side note: it’s been years since I’ve watched this video interview. What a trip down memory lane! And I’m so glad I came back to it. A reminder that this is a journey.} The movement and attention on the breath help immensely, as do a lot of the spiritual affects that come with yoga. Working through my chakras and releasing blocked energy is a major part of my current healing regimen.

Rest – One thing about anxiety and how it can show in our bodies is that it exhausts us. Our bodies are meant to be in fight or flight mode for short bursts (Ah! There’s a lion – run!) so if you’re sitting in it on a regular basis, or for longer periods at a time, it’s important to give your physical body some rest. For me, that means naps, and changing up my nighttime routine and morning to allow for gentle sleep. It may mean less exercise and more deep relaxation. Personally, I also like to get massages or take warm baths with healing salts, candles, and meditation music to allow my body and mind to rest for a spell.

Release – The energy of fear or anxiety lives within our hearts and minds, but also in our body. Releasing it with intention, and really allowing it to move through and out of my body is a practice I am currently using. That may mean movement, like a yoga class, running, shaking it out, dancing it out, massage, hitting a pillow, screaming, singing, deep breaths (or even guided breath work with a professional!), or crying. Our bodies are part of us and it’s important to include them in the healing process with anxiety. When I feel a wave of anxiety welling up in me, instead of trying to shove it back down, I gently and compassionately let it move through me. Or a friend reminds me to, to be honest. It’s OK to feel all the feelings. It’s OK to acknowledge them. Anxiety shows up in very physical ways in my body. And allowing it to release helps it move through me instead of staying stuck and stagnant.

***

A reminder. You are not your anxiety. You are more than that. Nothing is wrong with you. You are whole. And you can be a confident, successful, beautiful, loved, supported, happy, joyous person with anxiety. Doing the inside, outside, and underneath work to lovingly take steps toward saying hurray – even with anxiety – is what’s it’s all about. This is as much a reminder to you as it is to me. Be gentle, ride the waves, and keep breathing. We got this.

Your Turn: Do you deal with anxiety? If you had to describe it to someone who has never felt it, how would you describe it? What helps you through anxiety? What everyday practices help prevent big waves of anxiety or panic attacks? What loving steps can you take toward healing your relationship with anxiety? Share with us here!

A few resources: {I have not dived into these myself but they may help you!}

Credits: The photos in this blog post were taken by Becky Yee during the #HurrayVacay in LA. There is never any airbrushing to my body or face. I bought this cute pair of underwear from Lickstarter while in Paris at a cute boutique. I bought the sweater at H&M, and shoes from a second hand store in Queens. The sunglasses belong to the photographer.