Post-Grad Life + the Pandemic: Bringing my Anxiety to Light

Hi! My name is Leah Maxey. I graduated college in 2019 with a degree in food and nutrition sciences. I currently work as a registered dietitian + area manager for a professional food service company (learn more about what I do here!). I am also a registered yoga teacher + have always identified as the busy bee, always go go go, + never rest kind of person. Even though I studied health sciences + preached taking care of your own mental health, I struggled to take care of my own. I’ve had an eating disorder since I was about 16, + at 21, during the fall after I graduated from college, I was diagnosed with anxiety. I remember listening to this CHAARG podcast episode during college + feeling like I did not relate to it at all. I didn’t feel like I identified with having anxiety in college. I felt social, happy to be around people, willing to speak up, + overall like I handled my stress well. It wasn’t until after college when I realized I struggled with anxiety a bit more than I knew. 

After I graduated, I left for the summer to work at a summer camp in Virginia. That fall, I started my dietetic internship. When COVID started, my dietetic internship switched to virtual, my yoga teacher training was canceled, I moved back home with my parents, + I worked from home from then on. During post grad, I was just as busy as I was during college, but I lacked the social aspect + a motivating community like CHAARG, especially when I was at home 90% of the time. People aren’t meant to have limited interactions with people! I believe the isolation from COVID + living at home were large factors to my anxiety, but so was not managing my stress in healthy ways + not doing tasks that helped reduce my anxiety. 

Just like I learned with my eating disorder – anxiety can be a roller coaster. It can be overwhelming, difficult to understand, + hard to be aware of how it presents itself in our lives, our bodies, + our minds! It took trial + error for me to learn what coping mechanisms helped + what triggered my anxiety. Below are a few things I’ve tried that have helped me cope with anxiety: 

  • Therapy: I tried therapy for three sessions, then didn’t go back until about two years later! Therapy can work, given time + that you are in a place where you’re ready to work through things.
  • Medication: I tried ‘as needed’ anxiety medication, which truly just made me more anxious because I didn’t know when or if I was going to be anxious that day. It did help though, on the days I did take it, + I am thankful to have been exposed to that before starting daily anxiety medication
  • Yoga + Reflection: This has been my favorite way to manage my anxiety! Staying active, going outside, doing breathwork, meditating, + journaling are all aspects that help me cope with daily anxiety. I’ve found that being present + aware of my body has helped me identify my anxiety so I can work with it.

Everyone will have their own ways to manage anxiety, + talking to friends who can relate, listening to podcasts, or reading books about mental health can help break the stigma + reassure you you’re not alone. 

My biggest piece of advice is this: it’s okay to be on medications that help improve your mental health. We all need help + there’s nothing wrong with that. Trust yourself, advocate for yourself, do some yoga, breathe, talk to people who support you + understand you, + trust that it gets better.

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