Anxiety, Self-Care, and the Guilt That Goes Along With It

I’m just going to say it: I need more self-care than most people. This is something that has taken me many years to realize. I used to work myself to the bone in a full-time job, full-time school, extracurricular activities, being a good friend, partner, and family member.

Until my anxiety finally exploded in a way that made me nonfunctional.

The blessing of panic disorder and agoraphobia was that it allowed me to slow down and reevaluate my life. I wasn’t taking care of myself before. I don’t remember ever thinking, “Oh I need to rest or do something I enjoy so that I can take care of myself.” Never. Which is so strange to me, now that self-care is a huge part of my life.

I’ve had to come to terms with all the guilt that comes along with self-care. I don’t work as much as most people. I don’t overload my days with busyness and frantic to-do lists. I make time to rest. And a lot of times, I feel really guilty about that. I still have this little voice within me that says I’m not good enough, or that I should be doing more, or that I should be working more than I do or making more money than I do.

But I KNOW what happens when I overwhelm myself and don’t make time to slow down. I get panic attacks. My digestion gets extremely thrown off. I get intrusive thoughts and a racing heart. And I’m just not willing to put myself through that anymore.

I’m thankful that right now, I can afford to slow down when I need to, but I know that this isn’t everyone’s reality. For those of you who have to work yourself to the bone to make ends meet, there are still ways to take care of yourself in the process.

Here are a few tips for how to honor the fact that, as someone with an anxiety disorder, you’ll need more self-care than most people.

-Find things that calm you or give you joy.

First things first, what IS self-care? I think of self-care as anything that calms your nervous system (restorative yoga, meditation, deep breathing, hot baths, massage therapy), OR anything that brings you joy. Some self-care activities can be excitatory by nature, like high-intensity exercise or going to a comedy club, but the joy that it brings is so good for our souls.

If you’re having difficulty finding self-care activities, think about when you feel calm or happy. What are you doing in those moments? Do more of that.

-Be preemptive about self-care.

Don’t engage in self-care only when you start feeling anxious or overwhelmed or stressed. That’s one of the biggest mistakes I made. I’ve learned that we have to be preemptive. Sprinkle self-care into your day-to-day life SO THAT you won’t even get to the place of overwhelming stress or anxiety.

Now, even if I’m not feeling anxious or overwhelmed, I’ll hop into a restorative yoga practice or take time to meditate so that I stay in a state of calm. Then, if I start feeling stressed, I just amp up my self-care routine.

-Be very, very adamant and unapologetic about your needs.

This is hard. You’re going to have people who don’t understand your need to be alone or go to yoga or take a bath, when they believe you should be doing other things. You have to advocate for yourself. You are the most important person to take care of right now. Otherwise, you aren’t showing up as your full self for those around you.

As an example, my boyfriend’s family is big and loud and boisterous. When they come to stay with us for several days, my boyfriend has no problem being around them all day. But I get overwhelmed easily when I’m around a lot of loud people, so it’s difficult for him to understand sometimes when I say that I need to take a break and care for myself. But I’m adamant about it. I’m important and I’m worthy of taking care of my own needs.

How can you care for yourself this week? Can you schedule in five minutes of meditation a day? Can you make it to yoga a couple times? Can you spend time journaling or watching a comforting TV show?

Do what makes your soul happy. And don’t- even for a second- feel guilty about taking care of yourself.

If you only have 20 minutes, try this Restorative Reset practice that is very similar to what I do in my own practice. ❤

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