The Debilitating Anxiety Symptom No One Ever Talks About

Until only recently, I kept a big aspect of my anxiety hidden from the world because I was deathly afraid of the consequences I would suffer if I talked about it. I was already fearful of the judgment I may experience from opening up about my anxiety, but this was huge. What if people thought I was actually crazy? The anxiety of this backlash made me feel physically ill, and I felt like there was no one I could turn to who would understand.

I'm talking about intrusive thoughts, which the Anxiety and Stress Disorders Institute of Maryland say "become obsessive, provoke fear and shame, and often lead to doubts about sanity, control, motives, character and safety." It's common in those struggling with general anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorders, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

A majority of my life has been spent dealing with anxiety, so as far as I can remember, this symptom has always affected me. I never understood why frightening images and scenarios would pop into my head, leaving me anxious and scared. I didn't know I was experiencing intrusive thoughts or why they were disrupting my reality.

People who suffer from anxiety often experience these episodes where they see an alarming event playing out in their head. These intrusive thoughts are frightening scenarios we create, causing us to think of harmful things we might do to ourselves or people we love.

The thing is, though, we would never act on these thoughts, and we know that, but we feel the fear as if they are really happening, and they make us incredibly uncomfortable. These thoughts are an automatic reaction and completely out of our control. Our brains become a movie reel of thoughts and actions we play out in our mind, and we can't look away.

When I was a kid, these intrusive thoughts came in the form of monsters, like the ones you saw in movies. Despite knowing monsters didn't exist, they came alive in my mind and gave me physical symptoms of fear. Sometimes it would get to be too much, and I would hide under my covers and cry at night. I knew in my mind nothing could hurt me because there was physically nothing there, but I couldn't understand why these images haunted me.

As I gained more life experiences, my intrusive thoughts developed into other fears. Now that I was older, these thoughts turned into new scenarios, ones that felt more real. For example, when I started driving, I'd see myself veering off the road, hitting a side rail, flying off a ledge, or running head-on into a semi. I didn't really want to do any of these things. I just wanted to get to my destination, but these thoughts would keep running through my mind, and I couldn't stop them.

I've learned that these intrusive thoughts are our brain's coping mechanism for fear. They distract us from the anxiety we are feeling in real life with a fictitious event we can focus on instead. This is your brain's way of trying to help you with the anxiety you're experiencing in real life. It's as if your brain is telling you, "Look, I know you're afraid, but it could be worse, so whatever is going on isn't that bad."

Believe it or not, my childhood monsters have followed me into adulthood, and I still see them when I get anxious. Because I've been experiencing them for so long, I've mostly become numb to their effects. However, I do pay attention when these intrusive thoughts surface, as it's an indication that my anxiety is off the charts and I need to stop and assess myself.

This was originally posted on POPSUGAR

An Effective Morning Routine for the Non-Morning Person

Like many, I strive to set myself up for success in the morning, but often fall short. I set my intentions the night before with thoughts of me leaping out of bed in the morning, ready for the day. In reality though, when my alarm goes off I continually hit the snooze button until my drop dead get out of bed time. This leaves me scrambling to get out the door as quickly as possible, half asleep and unprepared.

I knew something had to change.

Your day is dependent on how you start off your morning. If you don’t set yourself up for success, you often spend half the day just trying to catch up, leaving a lot of productivity time on the table. A morning routine does not have to be long and complicated to be effective. It’s simply a way for you to get up and get started on the right foot. If I’m being honest with myself – I am simply not a morning person, but there are a few small things I do that have made a big impact on my day. Here are 4 easy ways you can enhance your morning routine, even if you’re not a morning person.

1. Start the Night Before
 Your morning routine starts even before you go to bed. Set your intentions for the day the night before by asking yourself what your priorities are when you wake up and how you will accomplish them. Write a list, starting with your most important tasks. That way you won’t be spending precious time trying to figure out what needs to get done and you can jump right into them first thing in the morning.

2. Get up 10 Minutes Earlier
If you’re like me, you like to hit the snooze button maybe one too many times before you actually get out of bed. A way to get up earlier without sacrificing that precious snooze time is to set your alarm 10 minutes earlier. Having that 10 extra minutes may motivate you to ditch the snooze all together, but in the meantime, it will give you a little head start.

3. Focus on Your Mindset
Once you’re out of bed, sit in a comfortable place and answer these three questions. These prompts will jumpstart your brain and get your mindset right for the day. Your answer doesn’t need to be extensive, just name one thing for each question.

What is one thing you are grateful for?
Naming something you are grateful for will often lead you into thinking about other positive aspects in your life and this will generate good feelings that will ultimately put your brain in the right state of mind.

What is one thing you are worried about?
Address that one thing that might be nagging at you, like a big meeting or presentation. After you state this concern, talk back to it and tell yourself why you are going to be successful. Working through this will help you feel confident when you enter this situation.

What is one thing you want to accomplish today?
If you could accomplish just one thing today, what would it be? Just focusing on one task takes the pressure off everything else that needs to get done and will leave you feeling productive.

4. Eat Breakfast
As the old saying goes, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. A good breakfast will fuel your brain, helping you concentrate on your most important tasks first thing in the morning. Making breakfast a priority will impact your mood and motivation positively for the rest of the day, so grab a granola bar for the road.

There is no right or wrong way to create a successful morning routine for yourself. Try this out and tweak it as you go. Remember, what works for you, may not work for everyone else but this is a great start. Do whatever will set you up for success and make the greatest impact on your day.

This was originally posted on ThriveGlobal.com

What I Learned About Setting Goals and Enjoying the Journey (and how you can do it too)

I am incredibly guilty of having these huge lofty goals with no plan on how to get there, then getting frustrated with myself when I haven’t made any progress. Even worse, I forget to enjoy the journey on my way to achieving these goals. In the impatient, on-the-go world we live in, it’s easy to forget that it’s not all about the end goal, but how you get there.

At the beginning of the year I made this beautiful crafty goal board that has now become my worst enemy. I hung it in my living room for motivation, but now I feel like it stares me in the face every day, taunting me. It’s that little nagging reminder, telling me I should be doing something productive as I try to relax.

In reality though, I never laid out a plan for myself on how to accomplish these goals, so I haven’t even completed the first step. For some reason, I just thought plastering some goals up would do something for me and it has really just become demotivating because I don’t even know where to start. 

Now, I’m faced with the task of actually creating a plan for these goals that I can put into action. The hardest part is starting, but once you’re on a roll it’s easy to follow through. Remember these three lessons as you plan and work towards your goals.

Create an Outline
First, build out an outline of smaller, more manageable goals. Keep the large end goal in mind, but focus on smaller bite-sized tasks. Completing these will motivate you on a day to to day basis and before you know it, your large goal will already be within reach.  

Revise and Reevaluate
As you're working towards your goals, don't get discouraged if each step doesn't always turn out exactly the way you planned. It's important to continually reevaluate and revise as needed, remember goals are fluid and there's no right way to accomplish them. 

Enjoy Your Journey
Finally, relax and enjoy the ride, life is a journey not a race. Remember, the view from the top of the mountain is gorgeous, but it’s all the hard work you put into climbing that mountain that makes the view special.

This was originally posted on ThriveGlobal.com

4 Ways to Support Someone Struggling With Anxiety

From the outside looking in, anxiety may be confusing and hard to understand. What might be especially hard is knowing how to comfort someone who is dealing with anxiety. You may feel like if you say the wrong thing, you’ll set me off and make everything worse — but please don’t let that stop you from comforting the ones you love. Any effort is truly appreciated. Even if I don’t show it in that moment, it really does mean the world to me that you’ve acknowledged I am struggling and you are trying to help. Admittedly, knowing what to say or do isn’t always easy. Here are a few ideas to keep in your back pocket if you ever need to help a loved one through their anxiety.

1. Distract me
When I’m feeling anxious, sometimes all I need is a change of subject or scenery. Just simply going on a walk produces endorphins that can help ease my anxiety. Suggest getting out of the house to get a breath of fresh air so I can refocus my thoughts. Change the subject by talking about something positive, something I can get excited about and let me slowly unwind from my anxiety.

2. Don’t say anything
Sometimes you don’t even need to say anything, just be physically present. Snuggle up beside me, give me a hug or just hold me. That physical reassurance that you are here and you love me means everything. It will help me slow down my breathing and remember everything is OK.

3. Talk about it
It’s not that I don’t want to talk about my anxiety, I just think you don’t want to hear about it. If you open up the conversation, it will help me work through my feelings. By talking through these emotions, you can help me work through my anxiety and rationalize my anxious thoughts.

4. Reassure me
When I’m panicking, I often forget the things I fear aren’t actually happening in real life. I have a tendency to get stuck inside my own head and get completely lost in my anxious thoughts. To help pull me out, just gently reassure me everything is OK and remind me the things I fear aren’t actually coming true.

The best thing you can do for your loved one is love them through anxiety. Be there however they need you and just be patient as they work through it. There’s no rule book on coping with anxiety — most of us are learning how to deal with ourselves just like you are.

This was originally posted on TheMighty.com

What You Need to Know About Influencer Marketing

Millennials require an entirely new approach when it comes to advertising since they are incredibly adept at filtering out everything except what they want. They can easily tune out any traditional advertising that doesn’t seem genuine or is too commercial. It’s time to look towards new ways of getting your message across so you will be heard by your students. Millennials more than any other generation look to their peers for brand and product recommendations, which is why influencer marketing will be huge in 2017.

What is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing focuses on using key leaders to drive a message to a target market by using individuals to get the word out through their personal social channels. Instead of marketing directly to your students, an influencer gets the word out for you by informing and inspiring their followers.

94% of those who used influencer marketing believe the tactic to be effective.  However, Determining the ROI of influencer marketing is a top challenge since the messaging is through personal profiles. The goal of influencer marketing is creating authentic content that drives engagement and traffic to your website through posts on popular platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

Why it Works

Influencers hold their audience’s attention because they are promoting products while staying true to their unique voice and story. They are the leaders in a specific niche or market and their opinions are highly valuable to their followers. Influencers successfully integrate their branded campaigns into their unique stories, treating every post with care.

 Influencers have created and adhere to their own personal branding, so picking an influencer that targets the right kind of consumer is key. Influencer marketing is about making the right impression on your students through people they trust.

Using Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing can help captivate your students online even if you struggle with maintaining your own social media sites. Since influencers use their own personal profiles, it can be faster and easier to reach a more targeted portion of your students that would be interested in the specific products you want to promote. By engaging with your students you can find influencers right on campus that have a large social media following. Influencer marketing promotes a more genuine message than traditional advertising and encourages peer-to-peer engagement.

Sources: adweek.com, forbes.com, tapinfluence.com

This was originally posted on retailconnection.dstewart.com

6 Ways to Create an Online Influence

There is an extraordinary opportunity to reach the largest audience possible and influence your students’ purchases in an online environment. It’s important to create an online influence for your store so you can compete with all of the other companies trying to gain their business. Here are 6 ways you can build your store’s influence online:

1.       Leverage User Generated Content
84% of people trust opinions and recommendations from people they know over any other form of marketing. Utilizing User Generated Content can enhance your store’s online image and influence purchasing decisions as much as 20%.

2.       Be Authentic
Millennials trust what they feel is authentic and 43% of them rank authenticity over content when consuming news. Speak to your students in a relatable way, utilize content like videos and testimonials to build trust and build a rapport with your shoppers.

3.       Know Your Stuff
Millennials are 44% more likely to trust experts, so it’s important to know the products you sell and how your students can use them. Engage with your students online and answer any questions or comments they may have, showcasing your knowledge will keep your students coming back for their next purchase.

4.       Deliver Exceptional Customer Service
What’s really going to set you apart from other retailers is how you interact with your customers. 75% of Millennials believe the quality of a store’s customer service is a reflection on how the business values them. Take the time to deliver Personalized Customer Service by commenting, liking and engaging with your students online.

5.       Be Consistent
The best way to be consistent is by Creating a Seamless Omnichannel Experience so your students can find the right products and information they are looking for on the sites they frequent most. Keeping your themes, content, visuals, and service consistent on all of your digital platforms will ensure your customers are getting the best service.

6.       Leave a Memorable Impression

If you work all of these tactics into your online influence you’ll be sure to leave a positive memorable impression on your students.

Sources: entrepreneur.com

This was originally posted on retailconnection.dstewart.com

How Weightlifting Eases My Anxiety

Throughout my life, I’ve unsuccessfully tried several different gyms and workout routines, never quite finding the right fit for me. I always had the desire to get in shape and go to the gym, but I continually considered it a chore that would only heighten my anxiety. I had never in my life considered weightlifting. I believed all the misconceptions out there, thinking I would never be strong enough and it would make me bulky and unattractive.

Weightlifting has provided me with a healthy outlet for my anxiety and even on my worst days, I walk into the gym and find instant relief. I’m forced to solely focus on my lifting, allowing my brain to shift away from its anxious thoughts. I feel a release from all my daily tension as I work through my reps and my workouts provide an outlet for all of my pent-up anxious energy.

Every time I lift a little heavier and reach a new goal, I feel continual reinforcement that I can get over my anxiety. I’m motivated to push myself harder because in lifting, failure is OK and even encouraged, because failing makes you better. Embracing this mentality at the gym has helped me adapt it in my daily life.

Of course, the people who have been guiding me along the way are a huge part of my journey. The gym has become my place of refuge, allowing me to abandon my anxieties at the door so I feel refreshed when I leave.

This was originally posted on TheMighty.com

Life as a Gemini with Anxiety

Buckle your seat belt and get ready for the ride because life as a Gemini can be wild. With a Gemini, you already never know what you’re going to get, and as if the twin sign wasn’t confusing enough, mixing in anxiety only adds fuel to this already unpredictable fire. I’ve found a lot of my Gemini traits are either restrained or intensified by my anxiety, which leaves me conflicted. My anxiety often gets in the way of me living life to its fullest potential. Here are seven typical signs of a Gemini and how they are affected by my anxiety.

Adventurous
It’s said that people who have the Gemini sign live by the seat of their pants and are always ready to see and experience new things. I have a deep longing for adventure and if I stay in one place too long, I tend to get moody. But, my anxiety stops me from having any real adventures. If I’ve been cooped up inside for too long, I’ll do simple things like go for a drive or take a walk, but I’m too anxious to pursue anything more exciting. Adventure is like a bad itch I can’t scratch.

Spontaneous
As a Gemini, I never like to live the same day twice and I’m often bored with routine. But, spontaneity is not a word found in my personal vocabulary. When I do dare to take an adventure, every step is carefully calculated and completely mapped out. If something veers off course, my anxiety will kick into high gear and you can basically forget about the rest of the trip until I have time to collect myself because my mind is already gone.

Energetic
People with the Gemini sign are restless and because of their spontaneity and love for adventure, they are always on the move. I tend to have lots of energy. Unfortunately, that energy is often sucked up and used to fuel my anxious thoughts and feelings. I’m often emotionally drained daily just trying to keep up with everything I have going on in my head.

Motivated
With so much energy, we’re extremely motivated and are ready to go full force on a new idea at a moment’s notice. I’ve found that I’m extremely motivated, but my anxiety drives that trait through the roof, so much so I often crash and burn easily. I don’t exactly know how to take things in moderation, and often go all-in to get something done, despite how exhausting it may be.

Intellectual
As a Gemini, I like to know a little about a lot of topics. I love learning, but if I stay on one subject too long I can easily get bored. This actually causes a lot of anxiety because the Gemini part of me is ready to move on to the next subject, but my anxiety has me continually second guessing my knowledge.

Social
People with the Gemini sign are true social butterflies. They know how to work a room and love being the center of attention. This trait is really conflicting for me because I am not an outwardly social person. I will dread a social event and try talking myself out of it until the moment I step in the door. When I first start talking to new people, I’m very self-conscious. Sometimes my anxiety does get the best of me and I never can quite recover. There are other times though when the light switch turns on and that social Gemini comes out, but I never know when it’s going to happen.

Indecisive
Naturally, the twin sign is continually contradicting themselves and a Gemini has a hard time making a decision and sticking to it. This trait is only amplified by my anxiety. I’ve found the more anxious I get, the more indecisive I become and I often can’t even decide what to have for dinner if it isn’t already planned.

Studying my star sign has really given me a point of reference when I feel overwhelmed with anxiety. Although I don’t believe being a Gemini totally defines me, it helps me realize when I’ve let my anxiety to take the lead, and it allows me regain control.

This was originally posted on TheMighty.com

How To: Create a Seamless Omnichannel Experience

In a digital world, it’s no longer an option to be present online with retail sales through digital channels increasing 23% in 2015. Although your students still make purchases in stores, shopping now starts at home. With this in mind, it’s important to create an omnichannel experience that’s prevalent among Millennial shoppers so they can easily find the products and information they are looking for.

So, What Does Omnichannel Mean?

Ultimately, the goal of omnichannel marketing is to reach your students wherever they are online; whether they’re looking up your website or searching on social media. By creating a seamless experience through a variety of digital channels, you can reach your students regardless of their engagement method with consistent branding and messaging.

The Benefits of Omnichannel Marketing

Omnichannel customers are valuable, they spend on average 4% more on every shopping occasion in-store and 10% more online than single-channel customers. 73% of shoppers use multiple channels during their shopping experience and those shoppers are more likely to recommend successful omnichannel experiences to their friends. An effective omnichannel experience also provides a competitive edge over online-only retailers.

How Omnichannel Marketing Can Work For You

Get to know your students so you can easily anticipate their needs and provide exactly what products they’re looking for. Be aware of any upcoming events or classes where specific supplies will be needed so you can then effectively market to your students to draw in sales through your omnichannel approach. When they know you have their needs in mind and can provide the right solutions, they’ll keep coming back.

Omnichannel marketing ensures your store will get the competitive edge, since students will not have to seek other outlets to find the information they want or get the products they need. Follow your student’s preferences and meet them where they prefer to shop. Make sure all of your store associates are engaging with your students so you can leverage the channels they use the most for your marketing efforts.

Sources: businessnewsdaily.com

This was originally posted on retailconnection.dstewart.com