What Anxiety Is Like Day to Day

04/13/2015 12:38 pm ET | Updated Jun 13, 2015

Having anxiety is one of the most annoying things to live with day to day. I say annoying because although anxiety is many things -- terrible being one of them -- it is just plain annoying to have something bugging you nearly every second of the day sometimes for no apparent reason.

Anxiety is both a mental and a physical thing, and I can never figure out which part is worse. The physical aspect is much easier to explain, so I'll start there. It's an actual physical reaction that sometimes is hard to control or stop once it starts. I get really short of breath and my heart beats really fast. My hands will shake, and sometimes I'll get lightheaded or feel off balance depending on the situation. Some times are worse than others. The main reaction I have to getting anxious is that I feel almost like I have butterflies in my stomach except they're really large, heavy butterflies rather than small and fragile ones. Sometimes it happens at something someone says to me that causes me to be anxious or something that I do or sometimes it's just a thought that I have.

The worst physical reaction to anxiety is a panic attack. When I have panic attacks, it's sometimes as a reaction to a fear, but it's often for no apparent reason. It's when my body reacts like I'm in actual danger and all my symptoms of anxiety are amplified by a thousand. People often describe it as feeling like they're having a heart attack or like they're going to die.

Day to day, it tends to be less debilitating and more restrictive. My daily anxiety is more of the shakiness and butterflies in my stomach and my heart beating fast, but there's also the fear of it resulting in a panic attack. Worrying that I may have a panic attack has, on several occasions, kept me from even leaving the house. There are times when I feel extremely anxious physically and mentally and feel like it will escalate to a panic attack. Most of the time when I have ignored that feeling and gone out to do whatever it was, I've been right and ended up having a panic attack and regretting going out. Because of that, I tend to stay home when I get that feeling and it can prevent me from going to work or going to see my friends or going to a concert that I really wanted to see. Part of it is even that I feel bad for the people I'm with for having to be with me during a panic attack because I know they're unsure of how to help me and I worry that I'm ruining their fun.

Mentally, anxiety is exhausting. It's like worrying or being nervous but in more specific and critical ways. A lot of the time, I'll remember something I said or did in a conversation that happened weeks ago that felt like the wrong thing to say or like a bad joke and I'll worry that the people who heard it are still thinking about it. I'll avoid talking to people or seeing them just because I think they're still thinking about that one stupid thing I did that in reality, they probably don't even remember. It's also a lot of involuntary over-thinking in general. I tend to turn a tiny little problem into the end of the universe because it completely consumes my mind for way long than it should. It can be really distracting and make me flustered and unable to focus. I get so many jumbled thoughts that my mind can feel like a bowl of tangled up spaghetti and I can barely form a sentence. A normal day can leave me mentally exhausted and needing a long night of sleep just because I spent so much of my day feeling anxious and completely flustered.

It's not something that I can control or just change whenever I want to. If I could just choose not to be anxious, I would. Since I can't, I've had to find ways to cope with it. I've found that meditation is the biggest help in calming my anxiety. It helps me to breathe deeply and focus on my body and awareness, rather than the thoughts constantly going through my head. I've also found that when you have an anxious thought or begin to become anxious that wiggling your toes can help take your mind off of your negative thoughts and onto your toes because you don't usually pay any attention to them and it's been working for me lately. My favorite way to stay calm is to listen to a song with earbuds in and visualize where different sounds are coming from and focus on the different sounds that come through each ear. Other than those things, I tend to just try to distract myself from anxiety by doing something that requires my close attention, whether it's writing or drawing or reading. Anxiety is different for everyone and different techniques work for different people. To put it plainly, it sucks. At the same time, it's often manageable over time and it can always get better.

More about mental health, music, photography, feminism, and more on my personal blog, Janellisms OR see my portfolio here