Experiencing anxiety is a regular occurrence for most people but talking about it can feel taboo. Calm wants to change that. In Anxiety Diaries, we invite real people to document their week in anxiety. Whether their coping tactics are mainstream or unique, we’re here to understand what and how they’re doing.
If you’d like to submit your Anxiety Diary, please reach out to us at email@example.com. Mental health is personal, and for some, private. As a result, all participants are anonymous.
This week’s Anxiety Diarist opened up about her health concerns, stage fright, and navigating complicated work dynamics.
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia
Occupation: Writer and Office Administrator
How would you describe your relationship with anxiety?
I’m really into psychology and read a lot of books on psychology and neuroscience, so I know a fair amount about anxiety itself. When I experience anxiety, I can recognize it from this academic view and understand that it’s just something that is happening that has no basis in reality.
At what point in your life do you remember experiencing anxiety? How old were you and what was happening in your life?
The first time I really remember experiencing anxiety was in the form of a full-blown panic attack a few years ago, which I’d never had before. I was on vacation on the Oregon coast, and during a stop at a scenic viewpoint, my fear of heights made it impossible for me to get out of the car. I couldn’t even look in the direction of the viewpoint – and the very pretty beach way, way far down. It was strange because we’d driven past that spot many times before and I’d never been affected in that way.
What have you tended to worry most about over the course of your life? What are your most common anxious thoughts?
The last few years, since my mom died, my anxiety and worries have been generally related to health anxiety, especially with regard to food safety. I think a lot about getting sick.
I also have anxiety about being on time to places and prefer to leave with plenty of time to spare so I’m not rushed and flustered. My husband is the opposite!
What does anxiety feel like in your body and mind? What are the symptoms?
In the mind it feels like irrational thoughts, wondering if I’m going to be OK. Physically, I experience a racing heart, growing panic or worry, and my talking speed increases. Sometimes I tremble or experience sore muscles.
What are your top strategies for managing anxiety when it arises?
I normally pause and take a breath or two. I tell myself that what I’m thinking isn’t totally irrational and that nothing bad will happen to me. If my worrying is quite bad, I usually use Calm and the emergency meditation for a few minutes and that helps me shift away from the anxiety.
If it’s helpful to discuss your anxious thoughts with someone, who do you go to? How do they support you?
When I mention my anxious thoughts to my husband he just tells me I’m being silly and not to worry about it. Sometimes this is helpful but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it brings me perspective and I realize, “Oh yeah, I am just being irrational here.” Other times it can irritate me because it feels dismissive of my feelings.
5:30 a.m.: Calm is always a big part of my morning routine. It helps me get in the right frame of mind – and body – for my work day. After some yoga, I did the Daily Move with Mel Mah about turning your screens off before bed, the Daily Trip with Jeff Warren about using your imagination, followed by the Daily Jay with Jay Shetty about celebrating the present moment.
2 p.m.: Spring is finally arriving where I live and the landscapers have been trying to refresh the grass around our townhouse complex. I’m eager to move some plants around to free up space on our porch – my relaxation spot on nice days! My husband told me the landscapers had been by earlier that day spreading fertilizer on the grass. Great! Our front area hasn’t been looking the best after the rainy winter.
5 p.m.: After work, I went outside to do some gardening and I noticed that the fertilizer was everywhere – on the grass and the plants. In an initial moment of panic, I found myself worrying about chemicals in the fertilizer: “Oh my god, have I potentially ingested something toxic?”
I took a moment and considered the idea that the landscapers wouldn’t use this type of fertilizer if it was toxic, especially because there are pets and kids living in our complex. They seem conscientious; after all, they use safe salt for gritting the sidewalks and stairs in the winter.
I rationalized my anxiety and explained to myself the reasons why I would be OK. Afterward, to further take my mind off my unease, I made myself a comforting cup of ginger chai tea. Anxiety Rating: 2 out of 10
6 a.m.: Yoga, followed by the Daily Move (some relaxing morning movement – perfect!), then the Daily Trip about pleasure, and the Daily Jay about reflection. This combination of meditation, movement and wisdom is the perfect way for me to start off my day on the right foot: some gentle movement, some centering meditation to take a moment of stillness and being, and then some nugget of wisdom before I grab a coffee and head out the door.
12 p.m.: Whenever I’m preparing food, I try to space out the ingredients and items, because I have a fear of cross-contamination. I had food poisoning once, and I don’t want to get it again.
As I made a sandwich, I noticed the bag that held the buns was touching food items on my plate. My thoughts immediately turned to germs and I found myself wondering, “Who handled that at the grocery store?!” I paused and considered all the times I’d faced similar situations – and I’ve always been OK. Our bodies are great at keeping us healthy! Once I know mentally that I’ll be OK, the physical symptoms of my anxiety lessen. Anxiety Rating: 3 out of 10
8 p.m.: My husband was recording a podcast so I went upstairs to read my psychology book in bed. My mind wandered and I found myself thinking about how, a few months ago, we messed up descaling our coffee maker. I began to worry about whether the descaler could be causing us harm. However, I immediately realized how silly this was, especially because I wasn’t even drinking coffee at the time!
I pushed the anxious thought out of my mind with a shake of my head and thought back to the Daily Trip. Shaking off my anxious thoughts was how I found balance today! With a clear head, I continued reading my book. Anxiety Rating: 2 out of 10
6:30 a.m.: Did my yoga and then some Daily Move sequences that are supposed to help deal with traveling. Even though I’m not going anywhere, I still find it really helpful. Next is the Daily Trip and the Daily Jay.
4 p.m.: I’m home from work and I’m exhausted because Daylight Savings Time is really taking a toll on me this year! I’m so tired I don’t have any energy to make dinner. This is normally my job, mostly because I like to be in control as a way for me to handle my anxiety around food. My husband offered to make dinner tonight, which is nice, but this is already giving me some anxiety. We’ll see how it goes. Anxiety Rating: 5 out of 10
6:30 p.m.: We’re not off to a great start. My husband is making a simple dinner – fish, rice and veggies – and he took the fish out of the freezer earlier than I would have. I noticed he let it sit on the counter while the oven preheated. Eek! I took a moment to take a few breaths, and told myself I’m just being irrational. My anxiety lessened quite a lot after that but was still there at a low level in the background. It’s easy for me to tell myself that I’m being irrational – the hard part is actually believing it! Anxiety Rating: 7 out of 10
6:45 p.m.: I raised my concerns with my husband but he just thought I was being silly and over-reacting – which, to be fair, I was a bit! We had a good laugh about it and I left him to continue cooking, forcing myself to stay away from the kitchen. Anxiety Rating: 3 out of 10
7 p.m.: Time to eat. Of course, dinner was delicious, and we had a great conversation about our new rescue dog. Turns out I had nothing to worry about. Anxiety Rating: 1 out of 10
10 p.m.: I unwound from my anxiety earlier in the evening with a Calm Sleep Story, which was the newest in the Lionwood series, “The Green Sea.” When I listen to a new sleep story, I usually listen to it for a few days or weeks on repeat, mainly because I never get very far in them each time I listen. Sleep Stories help me shut off my mind from thinking when I should be taking the time to relax and calm down.
5:30 a.m.: Yoga followed by the Daily Move about sleep hygiene. I loved this one. The Daily Trip was about pausing – another favorite Jeff meditation! And the Daily Jay was great – all about looking at things from a different perspective.
10 a.m.: I’ve been working in an office throughout the pandemic and I just started a new job a few months ago. I also just got a new supervisor, and I’ve had a tiny bit of anxiety about working for this new person. Just the usual worries, really. Today she paid me a surprise visit and I’m not the best with surprises!
I gave myself a little pep talk: She’s nice and I’m overthinking things. Especially since we removed mask mandates here a few weeks ago, I’ve been a bit more on edge than normal. So when my new boss came close to me during our introductions – closer than I’m used to being around people since the pandemic! – I felt some anxiety, but that quickly dissipated as she moved on to meet more people. Anxiety Rating: 2 out of 10
10:30 a.m.: Feeling much better now that I have my personal space to myself again! I’m not a big fan of having people within my personal bubble, but I’m sure many of us can relate, especially since the pandemic began. Anxiety Rating: 1 out of 10
5:15 a.m.: Up for my usual morning routine. I like meditating in the morning because it gets me interacting with my environment at a time when I’m more often than not in sleepwalking mode. Today’s Daily Move was about what to do after a restless night. I don’t usually have a bad night’s sleep, but I always appreciate Mel’s advice on how to help improve your day. The Daily Trip was about noticing what’s going on around you. Jay’s insights today were about paying attention to when social media isn’t telling us the true story – great advice!
2 p.m.: I was getting some fresh air and I started thinking about this Anxiety Diaries project. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so this project itself has given me some low-level general anxiety all week. I’d been worrying, “Am I doing enough? Should I be experiencing more anxiety than I have this week, for this project? Is it going to be relatable? Are my examples of anxiety kind of weak?” Anxiety Rating: 2 out of 10
2:30 p.m.: I stopped to watch the ducks in a pond inside a beautiful park, and I feel much better and more clear-headed about this project. Anxiety Rating: 0 out of 10
5:30 a.m.: Today’s Daily Move was again about travel and sleep. Even though I haven’t traveled anywhere for the last two years, I loved the moves. The Daily Trip was another one about being aware and staying open. I really appreciate these meditations because it isn’t something we do on a regular basis – paying attention. The Daily Jay was about not letting fears hold you back. This was really apt for me because today I teach a yoga class that always makes me a bit anxious. Maybe Jay would tell me that I was actually experiencing excitement!
9 a.m.: Starting to feel more anxious about my upcoming yoga class, mainly because I haven’t created the class plan yet. I’m procrastinating because even the idea of teaching makes me anxious. I’m an introvert. Because of that, I’m not the most comfortable with public speaking and being in front of people or the center of attention. I also have a little bit of imposter syndrome even though I’ve been teaching yoga now for about five years. I considered canceling, but I couldn’t let my students down. I just kept reminding myself, “It’s only for one hour out of the whole day and afterwards you can relax.” Rating: 1 out of 10
11:20 a.m.: Yoga class is about to start. Is anyone going to show up? If they don’t it’ll be a bit of a relief! But at the same time, it’ll be disappointing that no one came to my class, so I’m conflicted. Anxiety Rating: 2 out of 10
12:30 p.m.: Class is over! It went well, as always. At the end of each class, before meditation, I always tell my students to give themselves some gratitude for coming to class and taking some time out of their busy workdays to stretch and relax the body and mind. At that point, I always feel gratitude for myself, too. Anxiety Rating: 0 out of 10
After my week of documenting my anxiety episodes, I’ve learned that I can easily overcome irrational thoughts if I take a moment to notice my anxiety. I’ve also recognized that I’m often being overly critical of myself when I realize I’m having anxious thoughts about my health, or my abilities, and I’ve learned to give myself some grace – reminding myself that I’m human. Documenting everything was an eye-opening experience. I realize that my anxiety is actually of a lower level than I thought!
The Calm app offers guided meditations, mindfulness programs, breathing exercises, and bedtime stories that can help you unwind. Feel better, inside and out.