Hello, my name is Tessa Sayers. I am 35, mom to two adorable Havanese dogs and recently married to my husband Jeremy.
I am founder, owner and designer at my own company called Soul Curiosity.
I love learning new things, exploring different cultures and experiencing anything in life that makes me or someone else smile.
I feel deeply, I guess you can say I am sensitive, but I like to call it emphatic.
I have an innate desire to share the highs and lows of my life in the hopes of positively impacting others.
So why would I call myself an Anxious Adventurer?
Well, I have an anxiety disorder called agoraphobia, a shadow that likes to follow me wherever I go.
I also have two autoimmune diseases that make living with anxiety that much more exciting 🙂
I refuse to let either keep me from following my dreams and engaging with life in a way that I desire.
This anxious adventurer would like to take you on her honeymoon to Maui, Hawaii.
I want to specifically talk about the DARE Program by Barry McDonagh that helps anxiety sufferer’s’ work through panic attacks and fears.
This program has helped me tremendously and believe me, I have read every book out there!
They even have a Facebook support group that is fantastic.
If you struggle with anxiety, I hope this inspires you to step outside of your comfort zone.
If you have a loved-one who struggles with anxiety, perhaps this will help you cultivate more empathy and understanding, as they navigate uncomfortable situations.
Over the summer, my dad gave us the best wedding gift, money for a honeymoon! I was instantly excited, then anxiety kicked in.
This means I have to fly somewhere, huh? Oh no… this means I am going to be anxious.
We ended up choosing Maui for a variety of reasons, one being that it would be a warm destination for our honeymoon and two, it had a Whole Foods which would make eating for my autoimmune easier.
For anxiety sufferers, the anxiety develops way before any departure, they call it anticipatory anxiety and it’s the worst.
You get irrational thoughts and your mind creates all these scary movie like scenarios that honestly, 99% never happen.
The anxious person has their own mantra that is repeated on loop and it’s not something you would post on Instagram to inspire others.
It’s called the “what-ifs.” What if I get really sick?
What if I feel terrible the entire time I am there?
What if I have a meltdown on the airplane?
What if my plane plummets into the ocean?
What if I have a panic attack while snorkeling and drown?
What if I am hiking and can’t breathe?
What if Whole Foods doesn’t have any food I can eat (I mean really Tessa?).
The list goes on and on. The controlling part of you is checking off all possible scenarios so you feel best prepared when shit hits the fan.
The thing is… shit rarely hits the fan, yet you can’t stop yourself from obsessing over the details.
There was a time when I refused to fly anywhere. I was convinced for whatever reason I was going to die.
I would actually be up the night before in tears, just counting down the hours until I was convinced I would be dead.
Sounds super DRAMATIC, I know but it’s the truth. I would say no to vacations because I couldn’t get on an airplane.
My dad told me I had a higher chance of being hit in the super market with cheese then die on a plane. I knew the statistics but it didn’t help.
I started flying again with the help of a prescription drug called Xanax when I moved away for college in Utah.
If I wanted to see my family I knew I had to get on an airplane. Facetime and Skype weren’t invented yet 🙂
I’m not going to lie, flying on Xanax was amazing. The plane could have crashed and I wouldn’t have cared.
I am proud however, to be Xanax free since 2012. It had horrible side effects plus I really wanted to start dealing with my anxiety head-on.
Xanax helped get me to Kauai in 2009, so flying this go-around felt different, being completely drug-free.
I didn’t start to get nervous until an hour into the plane ride when I realized I had another 5 hours to go.
I was able to mentally calm my nerves down and the rest of the ride wasn’t too bad. Being on an island is a weird feeling.
For me, I initially get really claustrophobic, being in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, not to mention knowing your only way off the island is getting back on an airplane.
It took me a day to fully relax, which was much quicker than the last time I visited the islands.
A lot of people on vacation like to completely relax. I do too, but I also love adventurous activities which unfortunately trigger my anxiety.
I didn’t want to let anxiety keep me from doing fun things so I forged on, anxiety in tow.
I did a 26-mile bike ride down a 6,000 foot volcano in the rain, zip lined, snorkeled and took two boat rides into the Pacific Ocean, one in the dark.
As mentioned earlier, the anticipatory anxiety kicked-in right before any anxiety-provoking event, followed by the good old mantra: “what if.”
What if I get sick on the bike ride?
What if I get too cold in the rain?
What if I can’t finish it?
What if I freak out on the zip line?
What if I get really thirsty on the three-hour tour and there isn’t any water?
What if our boat gets a hole and we sink into the ocean?
It’s exhausting reading those huh? The thing about anxiety, is that our bodies are actually trying to work with and for us.
Our mental worries trigger our flight or fight response and our brain is trying to help us resolve the anxious feelings.
We are thinking and creating non-existent worries so our bodies follow, leaving us feeling more anxious and overwhelmed.
I don’t want you to think my entire honeymoon was an anxious tizzy, because it wasn’t.
All the moments of pure contentment and peace reminded me why I wanted to go in the first place.
In those peaceful moments, I feel alive and sometimes I shed a few tears because of how wonderful I feel and how proud I am of myself.
Even with the anxious shadow that follows me, I find fun, act silly and sit with those good feelings when they are present.
That moment of alignment with yourself, is unparalleled to anything else, you feel free, you feel connected, and you feel at home in your own body.
Here are some tips for you anxious adventurers to help alleviate some anticipatory anxiety for your next exploration into the unknown.
I know you’re feeling overwhelmed, so take a deep breath. I am here for you!
During my honeymoon I applied every DARE step. Here are a few insights into which one’s I used and how it helped alleviate or decrease my anxiety.
This is the most important step for me because if I successfully do this one, I don’t need the other steps.
I find success with defusing when I feel I always have some sort of out, even if it is tiny.
Here are a few of my “so what” statements while on vacation…
What if the plane crashes? Well these isn’t anything I can control, so I might as well appreciate having quiet alone time to read or get work done.
What if I get sick? They have a hospital on the island, just like here.
What if I have a panic attack? It won’t kill me, just sit down and try and relax into it.
The sooner you allow the feelings the sooner they will dissipate.
What if I freak out while my husband is gone for half a day and I don’t know anyone, he also has our rental car so I feel trapped?
There are always people around and you can call 911 if there is really a problem.
You can also catch an Uber to the hospital.
When I was zip lining my legs started to shake.
I tried to defuse but it wasn’t working as well as I wanted, so I sat on the bench waiting my turn and just felt the sensations in my body while telling myself I was safe.
The sensations then went away.
It is hard to let go and feel like you’re are succumbing to your sensations but they really do start to go away when you truly surrender.
While snorkeling I felt very unsafe in the water. I allowed my anxious mind to run crazy and my physical sensations were starting to peak.
I demanded more of the sensations and kept defusing, telling myself worst case I will start to panic and someone will come help me.
I said “fine, drown me, let me freak out in front of all these people.” After realizing I wasn’t truly alone in the water, I calmed down.
Engaging is the second most important step for me! I find if I diffuse, then immediately engage physically or mentally with something else it makes a huge difference in the anxiety subsiding.
Any activity that requires you to focus and use your hands is a good engagement activity.
Watching TV alone usually isn’t enough.
When I work on art projects or clean the house I am not only mentally focusing but moving my body as well.
When you are on an airplane, bring engagement activity one, two, three and four.
I usually have a book, art project (beadwork), computer, music and notebook (for making to do lists).
When something isn’t helping I move onto the next activity.
Additional Tips for the Anxious Adventurer
Allow yourself to obsess or be anxious about something once, make a plan A, plan B and plan C… okay let’s be real, you have about 10 plans in your mind, so you can feel a bit more in control.
The key here is make the plans then let them go! Each time your mind tries to repeat that scenario, remind yourself you already have a strategy in place so there is no need to go over it again and again.
We all know it only invites the type of imagery seen on Dateline’s 20/20.
Only do things that you truly want to do. Just because we are scared to do something doesn’t mean you should force yourself to do it.
Have an honest conversation with yourself. Is this something I really want to do?
If I wasn’t worried about the outcome, would I do it? If the answer is yes, then this is a great opportunity to work through anxiety.
So you want to snorkel but you are petrified to get in the water. Panic attacks change your relationship with water, it just does.
For me, I had a life jacket and I stayed close to the boat. I wasn’t swimming around carefree like everyone else, but I got in the water and I challenged myself.
Next time, I plan to venture further out!
It is important to enjoy your vacation, however, anxiety sufferers still need to take care of their physical body.
Late nights, excessive drinking and unhealthy foods will not do you any favors in the anxiety department.
Listen to your body and know when to cut back a bit.
Please enjoy your time away, just remember that anxiety loves to pop up when your body is a little run down.
Just ask my 23-year-old college self who went to work at a coffee stand, then proceeded to cure her hangover with two mochas and a muffin.
Cue in the panic attack that followed, the fire truck that showed up and confused passers-by, who thought I was strung out on drugs as I was semi-unconscious on the floor.
I don’t blame them, I would have walked right by myself too! Take it from me, what you put into your body counts!
Be honest and upfront about your anxiety with those close to you.
My husband doesn’t understand my anxiety completely, but our up-front communication regarding my fears, helps us become a team.
Your friends and family can be your biggest cheerleaders.
I told my husband the best thing he can do when I am anxious is to ask “what do you need from me right now?”
Sometimes I just need him to hold my hand or hug me while I breathe.
This takes a lot of pressure off others as well.
They want to help, but often have a hard time relating to what you’re experiencing and feeling.
My final thoughts: I know how debilitating anxiety is, I really do.
You are not alone and you don’t have to suffer in silence anymore.
My plan going forward is to keep pushing myself: to keep living life, inviting anxiety along for the journey.
Each success builds confidence and I will never regret going on a vacation, ever! So, where am I off to next? Who knows?
But I’m off, whether anxiety has booked a seat beside me or not.
And it’s okay to cry at any point on your journey. I cried a tad on my flight home.
Everyone on the plane thought I was sad to leave Maui right 🙂
You can do this, we can do this together!