How to Conquer Anxiety When You're a #ladyboss - Rhonda of BarkYYC

I think one of our most powerful tools is connecting with others and sharing our stories, especially when it comes to mental health concerns. I love hearing stories from women who are managing to lead their lives & do amazing things while conquering anxiety, clinically diagnosed or not. Everyone experiences anxiety, but each and every experience is as unique as the individual experiencing it. The severity differs from person to person, and I want to reflect that we all have different symptoms, triggers, and coping strategies. The best way I can think of doing this is to ask women I admire and respect to trust me to share their stories here. We're starting this series off with Rhonda of BARKyyc. She had the courage to share a glimpse into her story on instagram, and it was something that resonated so deeply with me it sparked the idea for this project. I am so very grateful for the chance to work with her and share her words here. Her story is below - enjoy.

Rhonda's Story

Hello there. My name is Rhonda and I am the girl boss behind BARK. Running my own business has been exciting and empowering. Along with the success came stress and anxiety. I believe in sharing my experience and struggles in hopes that it will bring awareness to the importance of mental well-being. I experienced my first panic attack on the morning of my first outdoor market. I had pulled an all nighter and I had just 15 more minutes before I was supposed to be at the event and setting up. The car wasn't packed, my display props were scattered throughout three different rooms, biscuits were still in the oven, there was labelling left to do, and I hadn't changed out of my pajamas.

My head started racing as I frantically ran from floor to floor until I found myself in the middle of our living room. All of a sudden it felt like someone had tightened a giant fist around my lungs, squeezing every ounce of air right out of them. I gasped and gasped, desperate for oxygen to return to my body, feeling like a fish out of water. The room was spinning and my heart was pounding so hard that I honestly worried it would explode. My extremities were numb and I felt like my legs would collapse on me at any given moment. I opened my mouth to scream at my partner for help but not a sound escaped my lips. I looked at the phone in my hand with the intention to call EMS but I just stared at the black screen unable to comprehend the device that I used so frequently. I felt so detached from my surroundings and tried to grasp at any thought to ground me. I thought of my partner Matty, then of our dogs, but the thoughts were so fleeting I couldn't even form images of them in my mind. The only feeling I could identify was doom. Impending doom. If you're a Harry Potter nerd like I am, maybe you could relate this moment to what it would feel like if you experienced a Dementor's Kiss. I still have no idea how long the panic attack lasted. What could have been just mere seconds or minutes felt like hours.

Typing up this experience is uncomfortable but I feel like it is an important story to share. It was a traumatic experience I truly wouldn't wish on anyone. Anxiety can be downright crippling. I have learned over time how to better identify my sources of anxiety and how to reframe it. I found it helps to interpret my anxiety as my body getting me psyched for what is ahead of me. When my heart starts racing and my chest begins to feel tighter, I tell myself, "This is MY body preparing me to conquer the task in front of me. My heart is pounding to pump oxygen throughout my body to rise to the challenge. I am EXCITED. I am STRONG - my pounding heartbeat is evidence I am". I've worked hard to make anxiety and stress my friend rather than my enemy. It still isn't easy though. Anxiety can be sneaky. Especially when I am over tired, it can catch me off guard and pull the rug out from underneath my feet. It tiptoes and creeps up on me even on days when I think I'm being self aware and attuned to my stress levels.

If you experience anxiety, I beg you to be gracious with yourself. Forgive yourself for the moments when you are too exhausted to be BFFs with your anxiety. Reflect on why you have experienced anxiety in the past. It is likely because it was over something that gives you meaning and purpose, something that is important to you, or maybe something that challenges you and has the potential to change you. That means that in those moments, you have found something in your life that gives you a reason to give a damn, and that is truly beautiful and worth recognition.