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Anxiety ~ Symptoms, Seeking Help, Managing it

In early 2018 I began experiencing spirals of negative thoughts and had uncomfortable physiological responses to seemingly normal, low-pressure situations. I later learned this was anxiety, making itself feel right at home in my mind.

Anxiety presents itself in many ways and is experienced differently by every individual person. Anxiety does not discriminate, it can affect anyone, and is more common than you may currently know. In Australia, 1 in 3 women will experience anxiety during their lifetime, and for men, it’s 1 in 5. (Beyond Blue).

For me, having anxiety surprised me as I’ve always considered myself a fairly confident, strong-minded, logical person, who gets shit done, wastes no time, and doesn’t get phased by the opinions of others.

Growing up I was quite the perfectionist. I overachieved in my studies from kindergarten all the way through to my final year at uni, excelled in sport, and climbed part of the corporate ladder at my full-time 9-5 job at a young age. Everything I could control I did. I studied ‘til I knew everything about a subject. I practiced sport + trained consistently, and when I began a sales role with the opportunity to earn commission, I went so hard that I exceeded every single budget set out for me, and made more money than anyone I knew at 23 years old.

I worked autonomously and had a very flexible lifestyle. I travelled all over Sydney for work to meet clients, getting to know them, pitching, winning, and would spend my ‘in between meeting’ time at parks, cafe’s, shopping centres, and of course my favourite, at the beach.

I loved my job.

I was given an opportunity at the end of 2017 (Q4), after two years of being a successful sales rep, to manage a team of 6 for 3 months while our current manager worked on another project. The team were all males, and all older than me. The team finished Q4 massively and I was attributed to their success (despite me feeling like I didn’t really do anything major to be attributed - major imposter syndrome had kicked in). Coming back to work after the Christmas/New Year break in 2018, I was offered a promotion into the position of Regional Sales Leader, and had my own team to manage permanently.

I’ve always been a super honest person, not shying away from harsh truths. After inheriting a team, I began second guessing what my next conversation would consist of. I began to tiptoe with my words so as to not hurt anyone’s feelings with my straight up way of communicating, and put a lot of pressure on myself to always be providing value with every single conversation (pretty draining right?).

I quickly felt like I was losing control. This is something little miss Gina the perfectionist could not handle. After weeks and months of second guessing myself and being frustrated that I couldn’t motivate my team who to me did not care about smashing their budgets as much as I did, I began hating coming to work and also started experiencing the following signs and symptoms:

  • Spirals of negative self-talk, aka shit-talking myself. Here are some of my recurring thoughts and irrational beliefs (g-rated):

    • I’m stupid, I don’t know enough

    • I’m unprepared, and everyone can see it

    • I’m going to embarrass myself

    • I’m going to say the wrong thing and sound stupid

    • They’re just talking nicely to me because of my looks

    • I can’t do this

    • + constantly assuming I can read others minds where they are teasing me, laughing at me, or judging me

  • Holding breath without realizing it

  • Hyperventilating, racing heart

  • Tight, clenched throat, difficulty taking deep breaths

    • This would start in the morning, and get progressively worse on my 40 min - 1 hour drive to work. It was like I was driving straight into a force field with its hands around my neck.

  • Depersonalization

    • Feeling ‘out of it’ constantly. Could not find any words to explain this feeling. Felt like I wasn’t really ‘there’, as though it wasn’t me saying my words out loud as I was constantly in a separate conversation battling myself in my head.

  • Panic attacks

    • My first one was at work. I had just hired a new team member and in our very first one-on-one meeting, a few minutes in, I froze. Could not speak, instantly became a cold sweaty mess ALL over my body, and somehow managed to excuse myself to go to the bathroom. I had a very upset tummy, was struggling to breathe while also hyperventilating, and my throat felt clenched shut. Once I got out of the bathroom stall I looked at myself in the mirror and out loud was saying to myself, “what the fuck is wrong with you gina”, “you are fucking crazy”, “you have lost your mind”, “you are so fucked up” - my anxiety speaking.

  • Daily felt like I’ve gone crazy and lost my mind, and repeatedly told myself so

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Overall feelings of overwhelm, irritability, lacking in confidence, unhappy, sad - this is why depression often goes hand in hand with anxiety

  • Churning gut

  • Tired all the time, or felt the need to go to bed very early

I can’t tell you for how many months I shit-talked myself before I finally caught it and realized what I was actually doing. I’ll never forget the moment I did catch myself. Dave and I went to the servo to get munchies one evening, and I sat in the car as he went in to get snacks. When he came back around 5 or 10 mins later, he asked me what I was thinking about, as I was in a daze and had a funny look on my face. I said I had no idea, “nothing”. He began driving and I wondered, and made myself go back a few minutes in time to remember, what was I actually thinking? I soon began sobbing and became quite hysterical because I remembered that I was putting myself down viciously, abusing myself with the voice in my own head. I couldn’t believe the shit I was telling myself and felt so bad that I was hurting myself in such a way.

In my opinion, the negative self-talk is the most damaging thing we with anxiety and depression experience. If you are confronted with anything similar, or the words or thoughts which follow ‘I’ or ‘I am' when you refer to yourself are less than empowering, please know that you ARE NOT your anxiety. And if you choose to, there IS a way to manage it, I’ll get to that soon. And yes. It is a CHOICE to manage it.

I recently read this Old Japanese Samurai Proverb which makes a whole lotta sense:

“Do not speak bad of yourself. For the warrior within hears your words and is lessened by them.”

I’ve since come to realize that my young perfectionist* self was a major warning sign that I’d develop anxiety later in life. It is impossible to control the outcome of everything and I got smacked down to realize it. It was now time for me to learn to LET GO.

*perfectionist traits often stem from subconscious inner child trauma which I’ll go into more detail about in a later blog.

At times when I share my experience with anxiety, I get comments from people who know me, particularly colleagues, who are shocked as they could never tell. Anxiety presents itself differently to everyone, and some people can remain highly functional (battling themselves in their minds and hiding it externally), while others cannot. There is no blanket rule.

Looking back, my job promotion triggered my anxiety. If I wasn’t promoted, I’m entirely confident it would have been something else that would have triggered it for me. In my opinion, there may be a trigger waiting for us all at some point in our lives. You can’t predict it. Though you can control what you do next.

After quite a few months with my symptoms impacting my daily life, I decided it was time I seek help and tell a doctor. I had tested out the doctors in my local area over recent years, hoping that I’d find someone who wouldn’t use google right in front of me, rush me out, or make me feel like they didn’t know shit. I didn’t know where to go as I literally had not found a single good doctor at that point. Luckily, Dave’s cousin shared her experience with an amazing doctor in Rose Bay (which is over an hour drive from where I was living at the time), and I was encouraged to see him. I’m so glad that I did.

I told Dr. Solomon about my recent promotion to a new role, the ridiculous amount of self-imposed pressure I was feeling, and outlined some of the symptoms I was experiencing. He shared that it be best that I don’t label it, and instead work on my stress management. I liked this approach. We spoke for a while and he definitely knew what he was talking about. I hadn’t met a doctor like this ever before. Definitely worth the short travel.

Dr. Solomon asked me to wait a moment while he searched for something he wanted me to read. After a few minutes, he handed me a print-out of a newspaper article he featured in. He asked me to read it, and if I needed, to come back the very next week.

The article begins by explaining what beta blockers are. They’re little pills which keep your heart rate steady, removes stage fright, and puts you in command of yourself. With them, you can think more clearly and you’re less likely to experience a mental block. Beta blockers reduce the fight or flight response by blocking the adrenal receptors. It’s a very informative article and I’ll post the full version at the bottom of this blog if you’d like to read it.

The article comes to an end with Dr. Solomon sharing that there are many natural ways to manage and master stress, and suggests a four point plan:

I printed out the above section of the article and stuck it in a few places so that I’d read it daily. I loved the story and the tips were so damn simple and easy to incorporate into daily life.

I really appreciated this doctors approach. It sunk in. Deep. Would I like to begin taking beta blockers, or would I like to try and manage my anxiety and stress naturally?

I ended up summarizing the above points to my own easy to remember four points, and made a conscious decision to do them all, every single day:

  • Exercise

  • Eat well

  • Sleep well

  • Meditate

I have never been back to that doctor for my anxiety since that first day. My one mission from that point was to go the natural route. I have friends and colleagues who have been given beta blockers or other types of anti-anxiety meds, and when I’ve asked them about their daily practices, they don’t do any. Do they eat well most days? Honestly, no. Do they exercise daily, even a walk? Honestly, no. It breaks my heart. I’ve also learned from opening up and hearing others experiences, that many doctors don’t even SUGGEST natural alternatives, which again, breaks my heart. The system is so backwards.

Following the above 4 very simple daily practices, along with doing a lot of research on how to heal naturally, has allowed me to live a much better life with anxiety that no longer debilitates me. Anxiety will never fully go away for good, and it does creep back in, some days more than others. Though I have found a way to manage it. To get above it. To recognise and catch when it’s anxiety that’s speaking, and without judgement, shift the focus onto better thoughts, or move my body to clear that energy out.

It is definitely a choice to look after and respect your body, and your mind. Our ego, or our anxiety, enjoys fighting you by telling you and making you believe that you’re lazy, that you’re not bothered to exercise, that eating well costs too much, that it’s too much effort to cook your own healthy meals, and has you believe things like ‘I can’t meditate’. I’ve heard that so many times from others and I’m sorry if what I’m about to say hurts, but that is absolute bullllllllshit. That is your ego, your pride, your comfort zone, your excuses talking. Have you given it a good go? Really?

Here are some suggestions over the next few paragraphs on meditation: Put aside 5 whole minutes for a full 30 days in a row, to quiet your mind. You can be seated or lying down, as long as you’re comfortable. Focus on your breath, inhale deeply through your nose into your belly, and let go and release all tension with a long exhale out your mouth. Focus on the in and out, and the physical rise and fall of your body. When a thought distracts you, and you notice it, simply go back to placing your focus on your breath, with no judgement. It’s a learned practice. Please allow yourself the full 30 days to get used to this new daily practice, and if you feel like it, increase the time spent in meditation.

ANOTHER OPTION is to do guided group meditations. I was introduced to someone who performed guided meditations a few times a week, and felt so much relief which felt like physical weight lifting from my shoulders, after my very first session. I did these classes once a week for about three months, before I moved out a bit too far away to continue going regularly. I’ll share my experience with this guide, who also doubled as a spiritual healer, in future blogs. Her name is Nada and she is based in Camden in South West Sydney, please connect with me if you’d like her contact details. I’m not sure if I would have healed as much as I did without her guidance. She introduced me to my angels, spirit guides and the power of releasing my fears to the universe.

YET ANOTHER OPTION on quieting your mind, practicing mindfulness and getting into a meditative state, is to use an app like Headspace or Calm, or even type in guided meditations on YouTube and search until you find one that suits YOU. You can pop these on as SOON as you wake up, or literally any time of the day by going to a quiet room, or just put headphones on and close your eyes while sitting at your desk. At times I’d book out a meeting room in the office just so I could escape ‘work’ and quiet my mind when I felt I really needed it.

Managing Anxiety

Below is a list of things I do to help manage anxiety, which each double as an act of self-love. I hope that in sharing quite a lengthy list, you can choose a bunch to incorporate into your daily life, as being good to yourself is the most important thing you can do:

  • Meditation

    • On your own, guided, or using an app (refer to above few paragraphs)

  • Eat good, wholesome, nutrient rich food and drink lots of water

    • Limit or eliminate your junk food and soft drink / energy drink consumption

    • For some, coffee is not good. Stop drinking it if it makes you feel on edge

    • Drink at least three litres of water each day. I like to carry around a 1L reusable bottle, so I know once I finish three of those, I’m good for the day

    • Kangen water is my preferred water choice as it’s alkalized, and hydrates and absorbs into our cells instantly (unlike tap water which is not micro-clustered, and bottled water which contains harmful toxins from the plastic it’s wrapped in). You may read more on Kangen Water here

  • Exercise - move the body daily, and stretchhhhhh

    • Walk around the block, jog or run if you feel like it, dance around your room or home, do a class at your local gym, find a local pilates or yoga studio

  • Prioritize a good sleep

    • Get screens out of your face at least an hour before bedtime, and if you know you function best with X hours sleep, work backwards from your wake up time to ensure you’re in bed when you need to be

  • Practicing gratitude / Thanking the Universe / God

    • As soon as you wake up, say out loud three things that you’re currently grateful for. Do this as many times as you feel you need to throughout the day, and list as many as you can

    • I enjoy giving thanks to the universe while looking up at the sky, clouds, stars and moon. Something about looking up just does something to put me at ease

  • JOURNAL

    • This may be my personal favourite, and is usually my first recommendation for those who chat with me about their anxiety struggles

    • I filled four journals over just a few months when my anxiety was at its worst. Getting my irrational beliefs and thoughts OUT of my mind and onto paper, allowed me to then CROSS THEM OUT, and rewrite them into EMPOWERING beliefs

    • I have saved an Instagram story highlight called ‘journal’ if you’d like to see how I went about it, go to my Instagram here

    • I also write out key takeaways from documentaries, videos or playlists where I learn something new that I’d like to remember. Physically writing helps you retain the information, plus it helps to look back at it every now and then

    • If you find yourself writing a tonne of negative thoughts, refrain from reading over it again as that can often make you feel stuck and worse. Recognise that you are healing and can now rewrite / reframe / rewire your thoughts

  • Repeat empowering beliefs / mantras

    • I am worthy, I am smart, I am powerful, I am strong, I am beautiful, I am deserving, I am wealthy

    • I wrote these in my journal over and over again, and also say them out loud when I need to

    • Using mantras are a powerful way to interrupt thoughts like “I’m not good enough, I’m stupid, I’m weak, I’m ugly, I hate this about me, I’m broke”

    • You can also write or print out your favourite mantras, and keep them in places such as your bedside table, stuck on your mirror, or as screensavers on your computer or phone for daily reminders

  • Learn about your higher, conscious self

    • I watched documentaries and listened to podcasts about our ego vs our higher self, raising consciousness, and spirituality. I’ll share more on these topics in future blogs. For now, some podcasts I’d recommend include Highest Self Podcast, Lightworkers Lounge, and The Think Grow Podcast

    • I highly recommend checking out GAIA.com - for a small fee every month, you are given access to explore hundreds and hundreds of consciousness expanding content

    • I encourage you to research and find what best speaks to you, as what resonates with me may not resonate with you

  • Social media breaks

    • Uninstall Facebook and Instagram and have a break for three days, a week, or more

    • I also highly suggest UNFOLLOWING every single account that for whatever reason, makes you not feel good. That way when you are online, you are only consuming content that adds value to your life

  • Say NO. Listen to yourself

    • If you aren’t up for a certain occasion, catch up, or outing, good on you for recognizing that, and simply do not go. If you need to make an excuse, simply share that you need time to rest, which is the truth. Make sure that in this time you do actually rest and practice self-care, rather than for example, scrolling Instagram for hours comparing yourself to others (been there done that)

    • It is okay to look after yourself and if anyone makes you feel bad about taking time to rest, f u c k them right off

    • NO can extend to leaving your current job. I believe I got to a point in managing a team where the words I said didn’t match what I truly believed deep down, and I was so not mentally available to lead a team. In January 2019 I asked my boss if I could go back to a sales role as too much was happening in my life. Luckily for me, my manager obliged and within two days I transitioned and my team was transferred over to my colleague. I’m very grateful for the support I received at this time in my life. My managers knew that I was struggling (they were witness to my two fairly big uncontrollable sobbing breakdowns at work). If your job isn’t fulfilling you - FIND SOMETHING ELSE. Don’t sit and continue to slug it out. I believe many people suffer in this way. Put in an hour of work each day searching for jobs, connecting with teams on LinkedIn, or think of ways to start your own business.

  • Spend time in Nature

    • Go outdoors, go for a hike, do a trip to the beach and have a stroll along the waters edge, look for four leaf clovers at the park, touch plants and leaves and branches, hug a tree if you feel so inclined

    • Connect with the Earth which we are part of, it helps to ground you

    • Close your eyes and listen to the wind move through the trees, feel it on your body, breathe deep and smell the clear air

    • I went on 7 road trips in 2018. SEVEN. Each time I felt no anxiety, as I got away from my self-imposed work stresses. Go for a trip and spend time immersing yourself in nature. See new parks, explore new beaches, recharge yourself. There are many inexpensive air bnbs or accommodations on the coast. Leaving on a Friday night and returning Sunday arvo is good for your soul.

    • Camping. An inexpensive way to disconnect and unplug. Do NOT spend this time on your phone

  • Connect with others honestly

    • I did a wonderful job at hiding my negative thoughts from my family, friends and colleagues for a really long time. I’m glad I eventually opened up to them all when I did, as in doing so, I was able to connect with others who were going through the exact same thing

    • I recently read that everyone is struggling with something, it’s just a matter of who is doing a better job at hiding it, which is quite ridiculous

    • We are all humans on a human experience and emotions from very good to very bad are normal on our spectrum. It is okay to feel your feelings and let them out. If you don’t, they will eventually find a way to release in not so good ways

    • I’ve also begun sharing more on social media so that I can connect with multiple people at once, and it’s been truly beautiful the dnms I’ve been having with old friends and also strangers

  • Be creative

    • I have a theory that as we become ‘adults’, and get stuck in a ‘job’, we forget that as children we spent most of our time playing, or being creative while letting our imagination run wild. Why did we stop those things? Why have the majority gotten stuck in consuming mindless tv shows rather than creating?

    • Sing and dance, play an instrument, build a race car or a giant lego construction

    • Paint, draw, doodle, create collages, write poems, write anything, watercolour, get some crayons and a colouring in book, play with chalk, create a puzzle

    • I used to write a lot as a teen and stopped writing once I got stuck in my corporate job. I’ve recently began writing again (in my journal of course), though also here on my own website. It’s been a really beautiful release and I’m so looking forward to sharing more

  • Not gossiping

    • Do not speak bad of others. Do not waste your precious energy into this negative behaviour. It says more about you than whatever you’re saying about the other person. Try to be mindful, be nice and think nice thoughts

  • Surround yourself with uplifting, positive people

    • The number one reason why I wanted to move out so bad was because the energy in my parents home was really not good for my mental health

    • Consider how you feel after spending time with a certain person. If it’s not ideal, limit your time with them as your energy is worth protecting

    • Prioritise listening to positive podcasts so that you can have some good influence in your ears, if you aren’t physically able to be around positive people

  • CBD oil

    • CBD oil is a plant medicine that helps to relieve anxiety and also helps me get a good nights sleep. I’ve been using CBD oil for about a year. Mostly before bed, and sometimes in the morning and during the day if I can feel my throat tighten up and thoughts start to spiral. I will share more about CBD oil in a future post. For now, if you’re curious about it please reach out to me, and if you’d like to get some of your own, I get mine from Nuleafnaturals and my name ‘Gina’ will get you 20% off the price of your order (I absolutely swear by it).

A few resources:

If you’ve made it this far, thank you. I would love to hear about your experience in managing anxiety, please drop a comment below. Also please know I am always happy to chat. Connect with me via Instagram, Facebook, email, or let’s grab a bite to eat.

Sending you healing and all my love, Gina X

Gina Marovic owns and runs Kahli. She cares deeply mental wellness, physical health, protecting the natural environment, and does her best to share good energy wherever she goes.


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