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COPING WITH ANXIETY… MY STORY

Uncategorized Jun 07, 2020

 

Before I get started, please know that the purpose of this post is to share my own individual experience on coping with anxiety.  Nothing I say here is intended to replace the attention of a qualified health care professional. 

Ok, now that I have that out of the way, I’d like to share something personal with you.

I have been managing moderate to severe anxiety for nearly 19 years.

Posting that statement makes me feel rather exposed.  Not sure why that is.  Anxiety disorders are very common. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports that roughly 40 million adults in the United States suffer from some type of anxiety disorder.

So why does discussing my own battle with anxiety give me anxiety?

I think it has something to do with knowing that some people still consider anxiety disorders to be a sign of weakness.  

But no matter how it makes me feel, I’m here to discuss this openly in hopes of being able to help someone else who suffers from anxiety.  

 

WHAT IS ANXIETY?

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines anxiety as a state of uneasiness about a real or perceived event.  Anxiety can be a reaction to stress, which is the body’s response to an adverse or demanding situation.  Both stress and anxiety are normal.  They alert the body that something is wrong and start its natural defense mechanisms.     

However, the prolonged release of stress hormones can be very hard on the body and elevate normal anxiety.  People with an anxiety disorders usually have strong and persistent reactions to real or imagined situations.  

These reactions may be so severe that they interfere with normal functioning and the performance of basic daily activities.

 

MY ANXIETY STORY

So, back to me.

My story with anxiety began over 18 years ago when I first became a mother.  I thought that being a new mom would be full of joy and happiness, but little did I know that this is not always the case.

Worry and fear about irrational things consumed me.  I remember having very intense, reoccurring thoughts that something bad would happen if I was away from my son.  Fear that he would grow up and leave me someday also continuously plagued my mind. 

It never occurred to me during those days that something was wrong with the way I was reacting to having a baby, so I lived with it.  This was a very dark place emotionally.  Constant fear and sleep deprivation sucked the life out of me, and I was nothing more than a hollow shell.  

It wasn’t until many months later that my doctor realized something was wrong with me.  She could tell that I wasn’t the same, so she asked how I was feeling.  In the past when she asked this, I always said that I was fine and just tired.  However, this time when she asked, my guard must have been down, and I finally confessed the irrational fears that I had. 

My doctor diagnosed me with postpartum depression and treated it with medication.  Shortly after that, I began to feel relief from physical symptoms such as rapid heartrate, extreme tension and hyperventilation.  So, I thought I was cured.

But nothing was done to change my mindset.

 

ANXIETY CONTINUES

So fast forward past the birth of another son and a few years later, the inevitable crash occurred.  As I described in a video called, Why Do I Love Pink, I experienced a series of significant stressors in a short period of time.  

“Why Do I Love Pink” by pink2paris

This sent me over the edge, and I was back with the doctor answering those questions again.

I was diagnosed with moderate depression and severe anxiety.  This time I was treated with new medication as well as psychotherapy.  Months later, I felt like my old self again.  I was able to enjoy motherhood and my life.  

Believe me, I wish that I could say that was the “happily ever after” ending to my story, but that would be too easy.  

As it turns out, my body doesn’t produce enough serotonin – a neurotransmitter that helps regulate positive mood.  According to WebMD, the chronic release of stress hormones can reduce serotonin, and low levels of serotonin may lead to high levels of anxiety.

This is the trap that I fall into, and why I had a very hard time with stress.

But if you think that I would let a mere thing such as chemical physiology keep me down, you don’t know me very well.  

I’m a fighter.

 

COPING WITH ANXIETY 

Yes, I am a fighter, but over the years, anxiety has tried to kick my butt many times.  Sometimes, I saw it coming.  Other times, it surprise-attacked me.  I have tried almost every legal remedy there is to coping with anxiety.  

Here’s ten of my most successful strategies for coping with anxiety.

  • Knowing my “peace triggers” and having quick access to them at all times.
  • Practicing meditation and deep breathing to clear my mind and reset its focus. 
  • Moving my body by walking, yoga or even dancing to my favorite music.
  • Expressing gratitude on a daily basis for my life and the many blessings that I have.
  • Taking care of my complete well-being so that my worries are limited. See my post “My Weight Loss Journey.”
  • Communicating with others to get burdens off of my chest and out in the open. Talkspace is great for this.
  • Surrounding myself with a peaceful, clutter-free environment. 
  • Writing down my feelings on a regular basis in a journal. 
  • Making sure that I get enough sleep so that my mind and body can recharge.
  • Focusing on enjoyable activities like reading, listening to music, being in nature, etc.

 

GETTING HELP

Like I said before, anxiety is very common.  You should not feel bad about yourself for suffering from it.  Anxiety is manageable and very treatable.  I encourage you to contact your health care provider for a diagnosis and treatment plan if you suspect that you suffer from an anxiety disorder. 

Coping with anxiety should be your mission.

In the meantime, you may want to try some or all of the coping with anxiety strategies that I listed above or some of the actions below to experience some relief. 

 

THREE TIPS FOR COPING WITH ANXIETY

  1. Prepare for those unavoidable triggers that are known to cause you a great deal of stress and anxiety.  You might want to practice several of your coping strategies before the trigger takes place.  In anticipation of my oldest son going away to college, I started doing a lot of meditation and making sure that I got enough sleep. 
  2. Get your vitamin D levels checked and make sure that you are getting adequate sunlight.  If your anxiety is caused by low serotonin, vitamin D supplements and sunlight may help.  This has definitely help me with anxiety and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  Ask your doctor about this.
  3. Relax and allow certain fears to be a healthy sign that your instincts and intuition are guiding you to safety.  I find that beating myself up over experiencing anxiety makes it worse.  Instead, I am getting better about listening to my body and making necessary changes.    

By Brook Mayborne

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