I've always been a perfectionist, since I was little, and as an adult that's manifested in pretty serious anxiety spirals. I'll start thinking about something I did wrong (or something I could do wrong) and I'll get stuck on it. I'll loop and loop and loop and loop until the feelings build into a full-blown anxiety attack, which usually looks like me sobbing until I can't breath.
Yeah, it sucks. A lot. But over the past year or so, I've had a lot fewer of those anxiety attacks. That's partly because I made a really big life change this year. After five and a half years of traveling the world and moving to a new country every three to nine months, my boyfriend and I signed a year-long lease in San Francisco. We plan on being here for a while and I'm sure that the sense of stability and safety that gives me is a major reason I've had a reduction in anxiety attacks.
I've also changed some habits that I realized were making things worse. When I was traveling, I got out of the practice of making art with my hands. Sure, I'm creative all day with my writing, but there's something different about actually creating something physical. I've come to realize that if I have a sewing or embroidery project to think about, that part of my brain that finds problems and latches onto them focuses instead of creative problem solving. Which fabric will I use? How should I do those stitches? What's the color story? Those questions fill the space where What if I'm making the wrong choice? How could I have been so careless? and What does that mean? usually hang out. I've also been better about speaking my anxieties out loud, which is a tactic suggested by Dr. Jennifer Gentile, PsyD., a psychologist who treats patients via telehealth app, LiveHealth Online.
"Keeping your worries to yourself can make anxiety worse," Dr .Gentile tells Bustle. "This can result in isolation, the feeling that no one understands and can reduce your ability to take perspective. Oftentimes a simple conversation with another person can help you feel like you are not alone. It can help you gain perspective that others have experienced this and you may learn other ways to handle the situation you may be worrying about. Talking with someone can also help you to get out your thoughts in an organized way, which may result in you thinking differently about your worries."