48: Practical Advice for Preventing Daily Anxiety with Self-Care Expert, Sara Miller – Meant to Bloom
I tried to research the statistics for how common anxiety disorders are, but it started giving me an anxiety attack. I wish I were kidding about that. There seems to be a wide variety of statistics to choose from here, anywhere between 3% and 18% of the US population has anxiety. Those feel incredibly inaccurate from my experience. It leads you to believe anxiety is uncommon, like you’re alone in this.
You aren’t alone. You are so far from it. If you have anxiety, or panic attacks, or seemingly unexplainable feelings of fearfulness and you feel isolated in your experience – you’re in the right place. We’re friends here. We have battled mental illness and disorders, and we’re here to talk about the real life experiences and practical tools that you can actually use in your day to day living to enjoy life more.
Today, I have Sara Miller, the self care expert and coach, to discuss what anxiety feels like for her (because we all experience this differently) and her expert tips and tools on how she gets ahead of the anxiety to keep it from taking charge of her life.
Self Care for Anxiety Prevention
Brittni: Hi friends. Welcome to another episode of I Get To. Today, I have a very special guest. It’s Sara Miller from the Self-Care Life, and she’s been on the show before, but it’s been quite a while and even longer since we recorded together. So Sarah, why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself. Tell us what you’re up to.
Sara: Yeah, absolutely. So I’m Sara Miller. I am a self-care and anxiety coach. Over the last several months I have been working one on one with clients and I recently launched a membership, which is really exciting. I formerly had a podcast called The Self-Care Life and you can definitely still download it. I just am not actively recording at this point in time.
But ultimately what I do is I help women reduce anxiety, reduce overwhelm with the power of effective and sustainable self-care, or in other words, self-care that will actually stick in your day to day life.
B: That’s so awesome. So yeah, today let’s go ahead and focus on that anxiety and self-care for anxiety. I feel like those are some of the terms that are super self-explanatory, but then when you dive in it’s like it’s so much deeper than the surface of self-care and anxiety buzzwords that are used all the time.
S: Sure, totally. So as far as anxiety, I guess, let me start with my own experience and kind of how I started exploring this topic. I struggled a lot with generalized anxiety disorder, which is what it sounds like. I really got, I mean, I would say it was about college that I had a significant flare up and when I actually had a diagnosis come through like, ‘Okay, this is not normal.
What you’re experiencing’, so I struggled through that for a while.
It was becoming something that impacted my relationships. It impacted my ability to show up to class and show up in life the way I wanted to be showing up. It was very debilitating. And later on in life, I again experienced postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, which was a fun little combo with that generalized anxiety disorder, but also makes sense.
And just through that, I have been able to continue to explore my self care and how powerful it can be and the impact it can have. And I think to put it in other words, it’s that I discovered how to support myself through that anxiety, through that depression versus being stuck in a place of like, I am just gonna be here and I am just gonna let it happen to me, and feeling like the only option was medication and therapy, which can both be great options, but having ways to support myself in addition to that was just this turning point.
So that’s kind of how I started talking about it and why I think it’s so powerful. I guess that’s kind of my story in short. Is there a specific question that you want me to dive into there?
B: Yeah, we’ll get a little bit specific, but first I did wanna say thank you for being open and sharing about your own personal struggles because so many of us go through it and it feels so lonely at the time until you get out there and start finding like, ‘oh, I had the exact same experience.’ It’s like, yeah, I’m not alone in feeling crazy.
S: Yeah. When I first started talking about anxiety online, I remember it being such a strange experience because at that point in time, this would’ve been like, 2015 people weren’t really talking about it online. Not a whole lot. At least not on, not in the same way, at least not on these vulnerable platforms where it’s like, I’m not anonymous, I’m talking about it, and this is me, This is part of me. And I remember having these strange conversations like, Are you sure you wanna put that out there on the internet where everybody can read it? And like, What if it prevents you from getting a job in the future? And da da. It has yet to do that seven years later.
S: It has only brought in these amazing connections with other people who have experienced this struggle, and I’ve been able to share my story and support other women with their anxiety, with coping skills that have worked for me and with honestly just that feeling of community.
B: Yeah. That’s incredible. Yeah, I’ve definitely had similar experiences with that where my family thinks I’m so crazy for the kinds of things I share online. Like Yeah. But if you get online, like we’re all talking about this now, like we have to, where I felt so alone before finding that whole community online, and I’m like, how could I not tell people all the secrets I’ve learned to overcome that, and I can’t tell them the secrets without telling ’em that I had to overcome it.
S: Exactly. Like you, if you’re not sharing it, nobody’s going to know that other people are experiencing it and that it’s so, there’s other people who can commiserate , who can talk about what worked for them. It’s really important. So I love that you’re doing that, and I’ve loved your shift in content the last few weeks and just seeing more vulnerability in that.
It’s been amazing.
B: Thank you. It’s been something I’ve been working on. It didn’t come easy to realize I wasn’t opening up fully. Because, again with the anxiety and buzzwords it gets easy to make it a surface conversation and forget the actual meaning behind it all.
B: So I have realized that I’ve experienced throughout my life from before starting like the big healing process, you know, I also tried therapy and the meds and it seemed like I was just kind of in a cycle with those, where it’s like they’ve helped and then they weren’t helping until I changed my lifestyle and my mindset and started really making every day an important day to prevent anxiety and depression from taking control.
B: but I noticed the other day as I was thinking about this upcoming episode with you that I’ve experienced two different kinds of anxiety. Like the pre healed anxiety, where it just felt like absolutely the sky was falling. And now I still get anxiety within my body and it seems like it’s, it’s kind of like having a stomach ache. It doesn’t feel like my entire world’s ending. It just feels like, ‘Oh, I can feel that.’ Like my heart’s going really fast, like there’s a tightness. I feel anxious, but it’s not like I’m an anxious person now.
B: It’s this much smaller, manageable thing.
S: Yeah. Yeah.
B: So I was gonna ask what is anxiety like for you? Now that I’ve realized I’ve experienced multiple types.
S: It’s like it feels different for everybody at different times. I always like to describe it as this constant buzz of energy. Like in my brain where I cannot shut off. And that’s not all the time.
I’ve definitely experienced that feeling, like it’s just those physical symptoms of like, okay, my heart is racing and I’m feeling that tightness, like I was experiencing that yesterday out of the blue. I was like, What the, what the heck man? But most of the time for me it’s like my brain won’t shut off.
And kind of that, the tendency to catastrophize and be like, ‘Okay, everything is just because this happened.’ Somehow the fact that I had a typo in an email is going to cause me to lose my job. That’s, that’s logical, but that’s how it works sometimes is that you just get into these spirals of overthinking and I think there’s a lot of perfectionism that connects in there for me personally.
But yeah, I mean the biggest one is that buzz, that just like constant noise, like I can’t be in quiet. So it’s kind of funny because I’ll have those moments where I’m already feeling that way. And then if there’s a lot happening around me in this, like in an actual physical sense of like, okay, the car radio is on and the windows are down, and there’s like all these physical sensations happening on top of that, that can all become way too much, so that’s kind of one of the ways I would describe how I’ve experienced anxiety.
I’ve also experienced more panic attacks and like full long, just like hyperventilating and like all this, you know, what a panic attack is, but, those are kind of the different areas, I guess that I’ve experienced.
B: Yeah. So what, what do you do like in the moment when you’re feeling all that intense, like the restlessness and the everything that’s going on. How do you take care of yourself when it feels like everything’s going outta control?
S: Totally. I guess let me just start with a few examples because I think, and I wanna point out that what we’re talking about here is this, like reactive self care or even coping skills kind of go hand in hand. Versus preventative, which is a lot of what I teach is trying to be preventative, but also knowing that I started my journey coming from a reactive place, coming from a place of I’m in a horrible spot and I have to get out of that first.
So when things are feeling really, really crazy, I would say, let’s say, like a full blown panic attack. Let’s start there and work our way through. I have a few coping skills I like to pull out that are really helpful. This is much more in the coping skill bucket, then I would say self-care. But at the same time, having those skill sets is self-care.
It’s cyclical, right? It all connects. So one of my favorites for that is the five senses tool. So you’ll go through and name five things that you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things that you can smell and one thing you can taste.
I think I always get those swapped. I think different people say different things, but basically you’re taking account of your physical environment and kind of grounding yourself. And in addition to that, sometimes I’ll do what I can to stop any actual physical stuff happening, like sensory overload, I will do what I can to tone that down.
So maybe it’s turning off the radio. Maybe it is going into another room that is not with the screaming two year old to get quiet for a second. So those are the two things that I pull out a lot.
Another great coping skill that I’ll use if you can’t, like take account of your environment, say you’re having this feeling when anxiety can be really common when you’re trying to go to sleep, right? You’re trying to go to bed, it’s dark. You literally cannot see your physical space. That five senses tool is not gonna work for you. So I’ve pulled out what I call the A to Z tool, which is essentially the same kind of concept, but you basically are just gonna pick a category and name something that starts with each letter. Again, it’s a grounding practice for me. There’s definitely lots and lots of coping skills out there, so you’ll find what works for you. Those are just kind of my go-tos, what works best for me because it’s a distraction for my brain.
Now let’s go on to like, Okay, if you’re feeling that anxiety bubble up, but it’s not like the world is ending. It’s just kind of like, ‘ugh, I feel like I’m having an off mental health day.’ There’s just this constant overcast of anxiety and tightness and that buzz in my head. Sometimes all I need on those days is a really hard reset of just like, ‘okay, let me take care of some of my needs too.’
Have some quiet to have some calm, mine usually starts with a hot shower if I can do that.
Sometimes you don’t have the time, you don’t have the space. So another great option could be simply splashing water on your face. I just really love the visual of rinsing away. I think we talked about this last time, of rinsing away all of that struggle and all of that anxiety and kind of giving yourself a fresh start through that, like cleansing, I suppose.
I will also put on comfortable clothes. I will strike this balance between showing myself grace and kindness, because it’s okay to be not feeling good and to not be at a hundred percent productivity. But also giving myself just a little push to still meet some needs to help myself feel a little better, and that’s something that I really had to perfect in those days of struggle, in those days of being reactive in those days of like, okay, I’m like trying to get out of this loop of constant anxiety, of constant just emotional struggle.
There’s a few other things that I would throw in there. I do have a freebie that I can share with you, that is for surviving a bad mental health day.
It’s called the Ultimate Bad Mental Health Days Toolkit.
It’s based off a blog of mine that people reference back to a lot. So I will definitely share that with you, at the end of this. And yeah, I mean the gist is finding balance and meeting some of those basic needs, to get out of that place of anxiety.
And I think what’s key there is: once you’ve gone through this little routine of like, Okay, I’ve met my needs, I’ve showered, or I’ve washed my face, maybe you have gotten some water and some food, cuz chances are you might need to check in and ask have you eaten today?
I will, if I have to go back to work, if I have to go back to doing whatever it is I’m doing, I’m gonna set reasonable priorities. I’m gonna think about, okay, what is the bare minimum that has to happen today? And take it slow and allow yourself to work from a place of less panic. Whether that is working in the sense of like, in a full-time job or working from the sense of being a homemaker and keeping up with all the laundry or keeping up with all the things.
It’s okay if all you did was wash a dish today, one dish. Or you did nothing. Cool. Great. It’s good to rest, it’s okay to have an off day, because tomorrow you can show up better for yourself.
B: Absolutely. I was actually just having a conversation with a friend yesterday. She was getting so stressed because she’s trying to create a devotional workbook and she was getting so stressed that like yesterday, she didn’t do anything on it. She was just chasing around the baby and like trying to get the baby to take a nap and dealing with family stuff. And I was like, you know, every day isn’t gonna be productive. You can’t judge your whole life on a daily basis because your days have to be different. Especially being a woman on like a 28 to 30 day cycle every day is not gonna have the same level of productivity. So if you can’t get things done for one day, that’s okay, we’ll look at your whole month. Like, what did you do this month?
S: Yeah. Yeah. Because if you’re trying to do everything every day, you’re gonna get burned out, and that’s not taking care of yourself at all. Like we tend to think self-care is not productive because we’re not checking something off our to-do list.
S: I hear that so hard and I like, Yeah. Oh my gosh. I love that you brought up the like, paying attention to your cycle because I personally, like I have an IUD, I don’t have a real, like visible cycle anymore where it’s like, okay, I have, but I see it in my productivity.
I see it in my energy levels like, Okay. You know, I have this week where I’m like, let’s just hit the ground running and just knock all this out. And then I have a week, even two weeks of like, I feel like I can’t get anything done. And sitting there and kicking myself about it isn’t helpful to anybody and it’s not honoring your body, It’s not honoring your emotional energy.
And, you know, the whole concept of self care isn’t productive is so untrue. It’s so untrue. And I know we know this, and I think it’s really easy to get sucked up into this mindset of like, Okay. Yeah. Like logically, I understand self-care is productive, but I can’t like trying to actually change that belief system is so hard, and I guess what I have to say about that is it just takes time and it takes reworking those beliefs over and over and revisiting and having that positive self talk of like, Okay, you know, I did X, Y, and Z last week and that is awesome and it is okay that I need to rest this week. It is okay that I am having a really bad anxiety day. It is okay that I’m having an off day and that I’m not gonna check off my whole to-do list today. It’s just, it’s recognizing sometimes we’re human and we have limitations. And we have needs that are gonna vary day to day, hour to hour. It’s just how it is.
B: Yeah, absolutely, right. And one thing I’ve noticed, like it’s coming to me to say that:
We’re not meant to be hyper productive every day because I think sometimes we kind of forget, it’s not like, you know, we’re at a baseline every day and then all of a sudden we have a crappy day and we get nothing done, and then we have to like catch up and be back to baseline.
Like we have days where we’re just kicking ass every day and we’re getting stuff done.
We are hyper productive and then we have some days where we’re not doing anything. And that’s why you gotta look at the whole, you know, what’d you do this whole month? Because you had some hyper productive days where you got ahead to afford being non-productive for a few days as far as your to-do lists go. You’re able to take care of yourself because when you come out of it, you are gonna do more than the bare minimum. Right?
S: Yeah. And I think on that point, because that is something I used to talk about a lot when it came to, Okay, how am I still keeping on top of my work or my schoolwork? If you’re in school, how am I keeping on top of that when I’m having those bad days?
Because, Those bad days are gonna happen even five years into the journey, seven years into however long you’ve been working through this, you’re gonna have an off day. Hopefully they’re less frequent at this point, right? But they’re gonna happen. And one of the best things I think you can do for yourself is when you have those high productivity days, work ahead if you can work ahead. I think that that is something that is really, really beneficial for reducing the anxiety of taking rest because that is like a struggle in and of itself is you’re like, Okay, yeah, I know I’m anxious and struggling and I need rest and I need time to be in a place of calm and not like, go, go, go.
But then I feel stressed and anxious about the fact that I am resting. I found it really beneficial for me to be able to try to stay just a little bit ahead on tasks whenever possible to prevent that. And that doesn’t necessarily work every time, right? I mean, it’s hard to stay on top of life sometimes, especially I think that’s a shift that happens between you know, single woman, not a mom to mom.
And it’s like, oh yeah, this doesn’t work as well with toddlers because you can’t really stay ahead on literally their day to day needs, but, you know, I think in terms of if you’re working full time, if you’re a student, that’s something that can be just a helpful little add on to preventing and preparing ahead for those bad days.
I think definitely when it comes to being comfortable enough to rest and not stress about your productivity. I think that really comes into a balance of giving yourself grace, like you mentioned before and realizing like I don’t have to do everything every day.
And also being ahead on things and realizing there’s days that I can do a lot in a day and those days will come again. It’s going to be okay.
B: Yes, it’s okay to chill. Like I don’t have to stress. And if you stress, you’re not really resting, right?
S: Yes, a hundred percent. Like if you’re sitting there doing nothing, but your mind is going a mile a minute.
B: No it doesn’t.
S: And I think what’s so funny is that so many people who experience anxiety are, well, not funny, haha, but funny coincidence, I guess, or I don’t know. Anyway, people who experience anxiety are often high achievers. Because that anxiety drives forward this need to like
‘make it perfect or make it right’, or make it like there’s all this like perfectionism and high achieving that’s laced into that anxiety experience.
So, I dunno, maybe a little people-pleasing too, that is definitely a tough one for me as like, oldest daughter – oldest sibling, you know, all of that. So, I don’t know. I think it says a lot about, why anxiety and resting with anxiety can be so difficult is because of these tendencies that are all placed in there. It’s complex.
B: Absolutely. Yeah. See, anxiety seems like such an easy thing to talk to, but it goes so deep.
S: It does. It does. There’s always more and more, and I think it’s important to recognize that as much as you may know your anxiety as it is today. You as a person are constantly evolving and your needs are constantly evolving, and frankly, your anxiety is changing or you learn more about it and you learn more about this, like causation or the beliefs that are around it.
It’s just, it’s deep. It’s in there. .
B: Yeah. Absolutely. All right. So do you have anything more that you feel called to say today?
S: I guess I’ll just say this, is that it’s okay to be in a place with your self care, that you are working out of a reactive place, that you’re working out of struggle, and it’s okay to not be in a great place. And to just give yourself so much grace through that. It’s a journey and it’s something that is going to ebb and flow.
You’re gonna have tough times and you’re gonna have great times. And being a part of communities like this is really, really helpful in that, in that journey.
B: Absolutely. All right. So where can I send my listeners to find more of what you have to say about this? We’ll put a link to your freebie in the description.
S: Yeah, so the freebie, you can grab at the selfcare.life/brit
Then for Instagram, I’m @Sarastrives and my website is thesaramiller.com.
I relaunched it today cuz I had to do a very quick redo as we’re recording this today. So yeah, those are kind of the places you can find me.
The place I’m at most is Instagram right now, so yeah.
B: Awesome. Thank you so much for coming on.
S: Thank you so much for having me.