my anxious companion

It’s 3:18am on a Thursday morning and yet again, I’ve been shaken awake by the antagonist in my head. Anxiety and I have been companions since before I can even remember. I’ve spent years trying to reclaim authority of my own mind, and I’m sure many other people can relate to this struggle. By sharing a few of my experiences and the wisdom I’ve gained from them, I hope you can find a new or a refreshed understanding of the anxious mind.

Tonight I let my guard down. Haha I mean that’s exactly what happens when we sleep, right? Sleep is one of the most vulnerable and helpless spaces we enter into, both physically and mentally. I was sleeping soundly and now what seems like the next moment (which is actually 3:18am), I’m experiencing some weird half sleep / half awake state where my mind is anxiously and recklessly spinning.

After an especially exhausting day, it would make sense that the usual mental effort exerted to guard my mind and cope with anxiety would all but disappear in a sleep state. But now I’m awake, my heart is pounding, my stomach is in knots, my chest feels tight, and my breathing is fast.

Who can relate?

This is exactly what happens when our body believes we are literally facing danger. The physical sensations of our fight or flight responses aren’t unhealthy in and of themselves. In fact, this bodily response is quite amazing. The simple awareness of danger triggers a release of stress hormones to help keep us alive.

Anxiety, then, is when our mind creates worse case scenarios in an attempt to prepare for any possible future harm. This, in turn, triggers the same release of stress hormones to activate our fight or flight system.

It’s healthy to be aware of possible outcomes, but not to the point where the possible is given all control.

Until about 4 years ago, imagining possible worse case scenarios was the most constant state of my mind.

Let me give you some context.

When I was a freshman in high school, there was a shooting at my school while I was in the building.

As you can imagine, this experience has very much shaped me into the person I am today – for better and for worse. I’ll be giving more details about the way I’ve processed this event and healed from it in a later post, but for now, I want to speak ..write.. (haha) particularly about the anxiety the event awoke within me.

Very soon after the shooting, I started seeing a therapist. While at first, my therapy was primarily focused on the treatment of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), I quickly discovered that most of the anxiety I was experiencing had been dormant, but it had always been there. The shooting just brought it to the surface and forced me to give it a name.

Before therapy, I understood anxiety as a normal state of being. It was with me every day, and I somehow thought that was okay.

I’m curious how many people are also living in a constant state of unease, worry, and fear and think they are stuck there. If this describes you, I want to say with all the confidence in the world: You’re not stuck. There is hope. I promise – you deserve to experience peace.

We all deserve to experience peace.

There are a variety of helpful tools we can use to calm anxiety (exercise, journaling, listening to music, etc.) but I want to focus on one tool in particular that you may not have heard of –

Mindfulness Meditation

Every single time I went into therapy and spewed out my anxious thoughts or felt that fight-or-flight tension in my body, this is the technique my therapist used to help calm me down. It has completely transformed my anxiety:

  • Step 1: Close your eyes and breathe deeply
  • Step 2: Take notice of where you might be feeling tension and unease in your body, but don’t fight it. Just notice it. Breathe into it.
  • Step 3: Your mind might be spiraling, conjuring up worst-case scenarios. Notice those thoughts. Allow them to be what they are. Keep breathing.
  • Step 4: Think of a time and a place where you felt the most peace/security/comfort/joy. Literally go there in your mind. Remember the sights, sounds, smells, & feelings

For me, when I meditate, I usually go back to Coronado Beach in San Diego, CA. I remember that refreshing touch of ocean water pushing me on a boogie board and I remember sitting in a circle on the sand playing Phase 10 with a group of close friends. I remember laughing, winning;), but also feeling an incredible sense of security and hope in the presence of the people who knew me best (you know who you are <3).

Regardless of your present state of anxiety, I encourage you to think: What is that place for you?

  • Step 5: Slowly, bring your awareness back to the present moment. Check in with yourself. How is the tension in your body? How is your mind? Whatever it is – let it be. Give yourself grace. And when you’re ready, open your eyes.

This is the exercise I practice, at 3:18am on a Thursday morning.

We can’t just force our anxiety to go away – I wish it was that simple – but we can redirect our attention to tasks / activities that are within our control in the present moment.

You may feel anxious sometimes, but please always remember that your anxiety does not define you. You define you. & if you’re a person of faith like I am – God’s love defines you. So speak kindly to yourself and be gracious.

Thank you for reading, please don’t hesitate to send in questions/comments!

Love and peace to you all, ❤ Dee

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” – Psalm 4:8

self-awareness and grace

When was the last time you noticed one of your insecurities and felt frustrated, annoyed, and hopelessly defeated by the belief that your insecurity can’t be changed? My hope is that by the end of reading this post you will be able to transform that belief, look your insecurities in the face and say, “I am finished letting your negativity define me, I choose to love myself.”

Until a year or two ago, I lived under the assumption that people cannot change, and if they do, it would only be for the worse. Specifically when I entered the dating world, I was taught to choose a partner based on who they are, not on who they will become. Don’t get me wrong, this is extremely wise advice, but it’s so much more complicated than that.

My parents divorced during my sophomore year of high school, which is the first time I heard the statement, “People can’t change.” At that point in my life, I’d started to recognize a lot of the same unhealthy tendencies from my parents’ relationship leaking into my own habits. Basically I thought I was screwed. I felt so stuck. I hated (yes, hate is a strong word so I don’t use it lightly) that in relationships I would become clingy, passive aggressive, co-dependent, and fearful of abandonment. (Wow – super attractive, right?)

I took these negative words deep into my identity, which caused me to lower my standards and carry myself with very little self-worth. This spiraled into a season of deep depression. I couldn’t get out of bed, go to class, hang out with friends, or eat, and I believed I had no purpose. I was convinced that others’ opinions and the negative words in my head would define me for the rest of my life, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

It all comes down to a small but mighty concept called “neuroplasticity.” Yes I’m sure that word just triggered a flood of memories from your high school or undergraduate biology/psychology classes. You probably learned about how the brain of a developing child goes wild in creating new connections and pathways in the brain as they experience new things. That’s why it’s so much easier for children to learn a second language or how to ride a bike. By the way – Easier for children, but not impossible for adults 😉

In my second year of college I took a Lifespan Development Psychology class and learned all about neuroplasticity during a lifetime. Truth be told, the only part of that particular topic that stuck with me was how this amazing ability for your brain to be shaped and changed decreases tremendously with age. For some reason my brain didn’t realize that as I was sitting in that classroom learning new things, neuroplasticity was happening in my own head!!! I mean, duhhh! I’d already been convinced that change, or in this context, growth, wasn’t possible for people my age or older. This belief was buried soo deep in my sub-conscious, I didn’t even begin to think otherwise!!

In this class we also learned about a developmental psychologist, Erik Erikson, who came up with 8 stages of lifespan development. In each stage there are pivotal points where, based on our experiences, we learn to either trust or mistrust, take initiative or shy away, and be in relationships or isolate ourselves.

Our assignment was to interview our parents about our childhood, write a paper discussing how we personally experienced each stage, then analyze how our early learning could influence our behavior today. In short, this paper changed my life (thank you Dr. Gurney).

I was struck with three main realizations:

1) Based on the implicit and explicit messages I took in from my surroundings as a child about conflict, love, and worthiness it was no wonder I believed the things I did in present day.

2) Because of the awareness I had gained, the next time I found myself engaging in one of those behaviors that I hated, I was able to stop myself – even if it was just for a moment.

3) Growing up, my parents, teachers, coaches, mentors, etc. truly wanted the best for me and loved me in the best way they knew how – which is all I could ever ask for.

#2 surprised the hell out of me – for the first time ever I felt in control of my actions: a powerful feeling for someone who didn’t believe people could change.

The next time a guy I was interested in and a friend I needed advice from took a little too long (like an hour or two? haha) to text me back, (silly example I know, but stick with me) I felt panic. My mind began to spiral through thoughts like, “okay they don’t care about me anymore, I am going to be abandoned, and I feel so out of control, how can I stop this from happening?”

Have you ever experienced an anxious thought-spiral like this?

My first reaction in this state of panic would always be to double (or triple) text, call the person immediately, or figure out when I could confront them about being so horrible at texting…

It’s funny how quickly our brain latches itself into habitual, natural behaviors like this in an effort to take control and fix our anxiety.

Instead of allowing myself to engage in this clingy behavior that I knew I would cause me shame and insecurity later, I paused.

I remembered that this panic was an incredibly natural reaction to a childhood wound that had not yet been healed.

I remembered that every single piece of evidence from previous conversations with this guy and my friend revealed that they do in fact care –

but even if they didn’t, that wouldn’t change the fact that I am worth so so SO much more than the negative thoughts in my head that fight to destroy my self-esteem.

I put my phone down, redirected my attention to the Netflix show I was bingeing at the time (probably Gossip Girl :)), and they both texted me back before the end of the night.

Our brains function out of habits. The more we engage in a behavior, the more powerful the brain wiring of that particular activity becomes; much like a muscle you continue exercise in order for it to become stronger. In order for change to occur, we have to literally rewire our brain and change our habits.

I wish I could tell you that my fear of abandonment is completely gone and that I never worry when someone takes a while to text back, but I can tell you that the process of pausing and redirecting my attention to more positive things now takes less than a minute. Slowly but surely I am deconstructing those negative brain connections I gained and reinforced as a child who didn’t know any better.

People CAN change, but not everyone is willing or mentally strong enough (yet ;)) to go through the work of rewiring one’s brain.

The first step? Self-awareness.

I promise I’m not telling you to call up your parents for an interview then write a 40 page psychoanalysis of yourself and your childhood. Hahah – but I wonder what would happen if you picked just one of the habits/tendencies you’re insecure about and started to ask, “what has made me this way?” or “what are the negative messages I believe about myself on a daily basis that reinforce this frustrating behavior?”


It can be extremely frustrating to name and confront your insecurities, so please be kind to yourself. While it’s so important to acknowledge your past, the only thing that really matters is how that past is influencing the present moment. They may be a little part of you, but you are not defined by the mistakes, traumas, or wounds from your past. Read that again.

Guilt is the opposite of self-awareness. Learn about your past but only to the extent that it can help you create your own powerful, authentic self.

Dear insecurity,

I understand why you would want to act this way because of the challenging lessons you learned as a child, but I am finished letting your negativity define me, I choose to love myself.

Love and peace to you all, Dee ❤

about dee!

Diana Krump, fondly known by her friends (that includes you now!) as Dee, is a 4th year Psychology major and music minor at Westmont College; located in sunny and beautiful Santa Barbara, CA (yes you can be jealous that’s okay;)).

Long term, she hopes to graduate college, earn her PhD in Clinical Psychology, start her own practice, and continue teaching others about the power, hope, and beauty of Psychology.

This page is an outlet for her to share some of the most challenging and influential lessons she’s learned about mental health, relationships, and spirituality thus far. She hopes that by sharing her experiences, others can begin the journey of knowing, accepting, and loving themselves deeply so that soon they can do the same for others.

“the healer you’ve been looking for is to know and love yourself completely.”

– Yung Pueblo