My Journey with Anxiety + How I Learnt to Cope

It all started with light headedness, then I would have hot flashes, then I would feel like I was chocking, and all of a sudden my heart would pound so hard I thought I was having a heart attack (my first panic attack was so bad I had to ask my neighbour for help because I literally thought I was going to die ). Heart palpitations, pains in my chest, hyperventilating, paranoia, over digesting.  I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t even take my vitamins without having a panic attack. I was hot-ass-mess, ask Andrew.

Anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness in North America with every one in four people in Canada alone living with it. I’m one of those Canadians who live with it and let me tell you, there’s no worse feeling than experiencing the above and wondering: “What the hell is wrong with me?”

Before I go on I just want to apologize.  I used to think I suffered with anxiety.  I would loosely use the term and so often it became habitual that I would refer to everything that would make me uncomfortable as ‘anxiety’.  I have done a post on this before but that was until I experienced the real thing.  There were days I didn’t want to leave my house, I would cry in my bed for hours before I could build the courage to get out of bed and tackle my to-do-list, projects and life.  Life was very difficult this summer but somehow I fucking figured this out.

So, for all this is worth, here is how I dealt with it and what helped me cope with what I still live with but no longer do I live with it in fear.

How did I figure it out?

So I began my quest to figure out what was wrong with me and how to heal myself and minimize these symptoms to be more bearable. I visited naturopaths, did test after test, visited my doctor, did cranial sacral therapy, saw massage therapists, chiropractors, you name it; I did it, because I wanted to know what was happening with my body. It didn’t feel right.

I still didn’t tell right.  I was paranoid. I even had my blood tested twice in one month, I had my hormones tested, vitamin levels, heart monitored. Everything came back fine.

My triggers

The thing with anxiety is that everyone can have different triggers that set them into a downward spiral. It’s important to recognize what these are so you can avoid them when possible. Mine for example are:

  • Not sleeping enough
  • Forgetting to eat
  • too much coffee (I ended up quitting cold turkey, I now drink decaf and have reintroduced regular coffee once a week)
  • Working out too much (especially doing too much cardio)
  • Overbooking myself and not taking breaks
  • Stress, especially when working on big projects
  • Letting my mind run my heart

Appointment after appointment the doctor finally said it.  Maria, you have anxiety.  He subscribed me medication and gave me a subscription for these little tablets that I were to take when I had a panic attack.

Although, I knew I wouldn’t take that medicine I still bought it, it was a safety blanket. I’m just that kind of person that doesn’t want to take medicine or depend on it but I just want you all to know that if you have anxiety and need medicine, that is ok.  You are not alone, there are many people out there who do need it and I highly suggest you talk about with friends and family.  The stigma of anxiety and mental health needs to fuck off and we need to be okay talking about it.  Not being okay, is OKAY!

What I did to help

I knew that I needed to make changes in my lifestyle that would help me deal better with my anxiety and take care of myself. I started focusing on yoga (I never thought I’d write this), including going on a 10-day work-retreat in Nicaragua at Rise Up Surf and Yoga. I meditated, even though I really struggled with it. I would talk to my body (I know, sounds silly right? But it works!), and most importantly, I would accept the feelings and allow myself to feel them instead of trying to stop them.

A few other things I found helped:

  • Nose pillows which help me sleep better since anxiety made it difficult to breathe and get a good night sleep.
  • Frequent cold showers because I found heat would make me feel like I was suffocating.
  • Tuning into my body instead of being irrational and just listen. Remembering that these were just signs and I wasn’t dying!
  • Grounding myself by walking around barefoot, paying attention to my senses and touch and just being present, noticing how cool life really is and how grateful I am.
  • Laying on Andrew and feeling his heart beat would help slow my mind down and relax.

The most important thing was coming to terms with the fact that this shit wasn’t going away today, tomorrow or the next. This is something I’m going to live with and I needed to figure out ways to cope. It’s important to remind yourself that it is okay to be anxious, it’s okay to feel like shit, and it’s okay to just know that this isn’t permanent and even if it is, there are ways to make you feel better.

Products that helped me

Battling with anxiety is an ongoing battle but there are some things that I found to really help me in my every day struggle:

Living with anxiety can be challenging but it’s important to remind yourself that anxiety will not define you. You are stronger than it is.  It lives in your mind and you are in control of your thoughts. Remember, you will be okay.

Do you live with anxiety? Share with me in the comments some of the ways you cope!

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22 Comments
  • Stephanie marie
    Posted at 01:33h, 14 November Reply

    Maria i relate so much in so many ways.
    I am currently trying to understand anxiety and how it works. I think i have figured it all out and find things that help me like yoga and mediating and journaling and im cured woohoo.. then i stop and it comes back and i question my sanity and hate myself and argue with myself.. thoughts like.. you have no reason to feel like this stop it!!!!! But its here and its something i know i have to live with and find things that help me and keep doing it.. i use food an an escape, my relationship with food is horrible.. i exercise 6 days a week and feel amazing and crash and then have weeks of unconsistency and again hate myself and beat myself up.. now im lying in bed dealing with migraines trying to get up and cook my meals and train and feel alive.. but i know i havnt done all those little things that make me feet calm in weeks. I hvnt meditated i havnt journeled or done yoga its like im scared too my inner child freaks and pushes all that away so very quickly. I have so much healing to do but my body resists and i make excuses to myself. I crave water on hot days but embaressed because i dont feel comfortable in my body but i want to so badly, however i know being fitter or leaner or musclier wont create any form happiness.. its the exceptance of who i am before anything else changes!
    My journey is a long one and there is no time like the present to find who i am who you are who we all are. The battle is do f&$king real its scary but where definitely not alone and that thought gives me peace
    PEACE

    • Maria Koutsogiannis
      Posted at 19:58h, 14 November Reply

      Hello sweetie,

      Thank you so much for stopping by and for leaving your beautiful words here. I know you will be able to fight this and you are doing the right thing by coming to terms with it all and for just letting it be.

      Continue to do what you know helps and let the rest just happen.

      you are not alone, so much love to you.

  • S.
    Posted at 02:43h, 15 November Reply

    This is like reading my whole journal of Anxiety. I hate it but I am learning different ways to cope too. I stopped drinking coffee Mon- Friday and limit 1 cup per weekend while finding healthier morning routine/consumption alternatives. I have to remind myself constantly that I’ve been living this way for years so what I’m feeling in the moment, has been a moment MANY times and I’m still here and fine. In the last few years when having an anxiety attack, the sweats, lightheadedness, heart pounding, seeing my apple watch heart monitor jump- Thankfully it tells me to breath when I don’t from being wrapped up in an attack- But I have learned to get myself outside immediately, to feel the air on my face and while i close my eyes, I breath in slowly for 4 seconds while talking to myself in my mind to “breath in 1, 2, 3, 4 and breath out counting to 4 seconds and I don’t stop until the anxiety attack is over. It is the fastest method I have learned for me. Trying to get my lungs open. Just a standard breathing technique but I feel so much more control and calm when it’s done. Now I rarely have attacks but I still live with paranoia and that has been very difficult to over come. I am going to try yoga as you said it has helped you. I am willing to try anything to keep from feeling like I am losing my mind from racing thoughts. Thank You for your post!! I hope it helps others see they are also not alone and that maybe my comment of the technique can help you and others.

    • Maria Koutsogiannis
      Posted at 16:55h, 15 November Reply

      Hey hun!

      Thank you so much for sharing your story and for opening up!

      You seem to have a good balance of this all my love and just continue to do what you need to do to feel and be yourself.

      You will manage this and like you said, youve been there before and you are still here and you are still fine!

      Let me know how yoga goes! Also, MAKE SURE YOU TRY ADAPTOGENS!

  • Lorraine jarron
    Posted at 14:08h, 15 November Reply

    Maria, thank you for sharing your story.

    Love to you.

  • Nisha
    Posted at 12:29h, 16 November Reply

    Thank you for bravely sharing your experience with anxiety, Maria. You are a badass woman and I’m glad you’re learning to take care of yourself!

    • Maria Koutsogiannis
      Posted at 16:35h, 16 November Reply

      Hello Beautiful Nisha,

      Thank you so much for stopping by my love, means so much to me.

      I am so happy I am as well, its a beautiful thing!

      Much love gorgeous!

      Maria XX

  • Deisy
    Posted at 22:49h, 16 November Reply

    Oh wow Maria now i am in shock! I experienced three times the heartbeat like if it was a heart attack and u used to think that was the result of mix some foods but now I doubt it…. the first time for sure it was because i mix pills for headache (with caffeine) with Red Bull… yes i know… I forgot that I took the pill and drank Red Bull few hours later..: I was tired cuz I didn’t sleep at all that night. But the other two times just coffee and alcohol?? Or alcohol and chocolate?? And those two times were while I was at the cinema (everything closed and dark) Maybe my heart was sensitive as a result of the first time!? Because I never experienced this before the mix of red bull and pills! or maybe because It was my first year free after 6 or 7 years straight of stressful work And finally my body was relaxing because there was not stress nor schedules in my life at all anymore… I’m trying now to drink coffee again but decaf once a week and i can go to cinema again without any problem despite those 2 awful experiences in the past. Thank u for sharing Maria!! Xoxo!!

    • Maria Koutsogiannis
      Posted at 23:53h, 17 November Reply

      Isn’t it all crazy! Try not to over think it or analyze it but I am so happy that this post helped you!

  • Jamie
    Posted at 15:42h, 20 November Reply

    Hi, Maria – Thank you for your post. I’ve experienced bad panic attacks for many years, but they used to be very infrequent. Last year they got to a point where I decided they were out of control. I started seeing a therapist and a naturopathic doctor (this one specialized in anxiety). I had already cut out caffeine but still felt terrible. In addition to changing my sleep and exercise habits (more of both – especially sleep), the doctor encouraged me to stabilize my blood sugar through food, drink more water, cut back on dairy, and start taking some natural supplements (probiotics, fish oil, magnesium glycinate and a vitamin with D3 and K in it. Please consult your doctor before taking any/all of these as they may not be right for everyone. I still have work to do, but I feel so much better than I did before. Wishing you all well!

    • Maria Koutsogiannis
      Posted at 22:08h, 20 November Reply

      Hey hun!

      thanks for stopping by!

      I don’t drink coffee anymore, I get 8 hours every night and take all those vitamins for 6 years now!

      I am glad I am on the right track – thanks for your tips!

  • Anci
    Posted at 12:34h, 24 November Reply

    Glad you shared this, I’ve been dealing with anxiety for many years, but I deal more with social anxiety, not health, I tried tons of stuff, and life is never the same after you experience this unpleasing feeling. Yoga, dancing, breathing, nature, meditation, good food, sleeping well and hanging out with supporting people helps a lot, still the source is in our mind….I figured that thoughts before panic are the trouble of everything. When you capture those thoughts and become aware of what you think, you come to the roots of this issue and usually is connected with your past experiences, childhood, beliefs…. But it is hard to be present all the time. And really helps to talk to yourself as Maria mentioned, it is like you are your own parent – helping, being compassionate, loving yourself, accepting the feeling.
    Book that helped me a lot is Feel the way you want to feel, no matter what (A.R: Pucci) and I had few aha moments also reading the Linden method (C. Linden).
    Coffee totally makes it worse. I generally eat well, but have some weak moments time to time – sugar and junk food make anxiety worse for sure.

    I know how hard it is, when you feel anxious and just doesn’t stop, I know how it is to feel like crap, when your body is exhausted of fear and the worse thing is to recognize you do this to yourself by yourself.
    Wish you all that wrote here all the best and much much love.

    • Maria Koutsogiannis
      Posted at 09:29h, 25 November Reply

      Thank you so much for stopping by love and for your beautiful words.

      I agree with everything you said. I am sending you all the love and strength to kick its ass, I believe you can.

      Much love from Maria XX

  • Megan West
    Posted at 18:46h, 25 November Reply

    Girl this post was so so good! I suffer from panic attacks as well and they have been really taking a toll. I like what you said about identifying triggers- I never take the time to try and tune in to WHY I’m so anxious, you know? Anyway- you are an inspiration ❤️

    • Maria Koutsogiannis
      Posted at 10:27h, 26 November Reply

      Hey hun!!!

      I am so happy you enjoyed this blog post. It is so important to identify what is actually triggering the panic and then that way you can help yourself get better!! That means so much to me, Megan, thanks again for reading and for stopping by with your thoughts and love!

  • Demi
    Posted at 20:00h, 25 November Reply

    Hi Maria I have followed you on Instagram recently. Thankyou for sharing your journey with anixiety. I too was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder 2 years. I agree with all your points for self healing. Cutting out toxic people, learning to say no, looking after yourself, all so important! Im glad you can be so open and share this part of yourself on your blog and social media.
    Demi

    • Maria Koutsogiannis
      Posted at 10:28h, 26 November Reply

      Hey hun!

      Welcome and thank you for following @foodbymaria, she is happy!!! I am glad you agree with these points. From one woman to another is it so important to not have horrible people in your life and I swear by this rule. The moment I stopped talking to people who made me unhappy was the moment I was more happy and even less anxious!!

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