Dealing with anxiety disorder can be hard enough unprovoked; but when dealing with them in conjunction with lack of sleep, grief, or constant stress, it can be much, much worse. Enter: Widowhood. In my case, I was dealing with physical and mental stress, leading me to a prescription dependency, and upon my husband's death, it got 10x worse. I had to somehow get myself back together, and be able to function enough to raise two kids and work full time. Since the prescription antidepressants and ‘calming' meds weren't allowing me to be alert or independent…I could not focus on work, handle the pressures of single parenting, drive for long stretches, or even simply be alone! I was so afraid I was going to die from the symptoms of each attack – and doctors couldn't do much for me other than give me more meds!
I had to somehow get myself back together, and be able to function enough to raise two kids and work full time. …I was so afraid I was going to die from the symptoms of each attack – and doctors couldn't do much for me other than give me more meds!
When I'd finally decided enough was enough ( 10 months later ) and since meds were not helping proactively, only as a band aid fix in dire situations; I had to wean myself off of them, go thru withdrawal, and then learn how to naturally cope with anxiety attacks without meds. It took some time, therapy, and a LOT of patience, but once I got a routine down, and my coping mechanisms became second nature- things got a LOT better. I got my life back.
Finally now, and for the past 6 years, I'm back at work full time, I can live alone, be fully present for my kids, relationships and even get thru my loneliness being a widow. Because so many other women go through this silent agony, with no visible symptoms and usually have no one close to them who can really relate, I wanted to share some of the techniques I was taught -that actually worked.
First, Know Your Symptoms
Anxiety disorder is so hard to diagnose properly because it is the “phantom” symptom king. My symptoms could at any given time range from shortness of breath, sudden heart palpitations, numbness and tingling in my fingers and/or left arm ( and yes, thinking it could be a heart attack only made the symptoms WORSE! ) to sudden fatigue, chest paints, dry moth or heartburn. I really was feeling like a HOT mess! BUT – once I explained all these wide ranging symptoms to my therapist, it helped to know that she was familiar with them all – and they were NOT life threatening. They are “false alarm” reactions that your brain has “learned” at some point for whatever reason during some event that you've encountered as a natural reaction to mental or physical stress. The good news is, you can UN-learn that sequence of reactions with practice, patience and coping mechanisms.
For your own peace of mind here is a link I found a while back, listing all the many symptoms of anxiety. It made me feel less freakish, less alone, and less afraid that my symptoms were unique enough to be some undiscovered life threatening alien disease. 🙂
Figure Your Triggers
Allergies, over the counter medications ( NSAIDs) , auto immune diseases, food intolerance and stress can all cause temporary chemical imbalances in the body that can trigger anxiety attacks. After quite a bit of nutrition research, some guidance from my therapist, allergist, and OBGYN (I know right!) I realized there were several factors that could play in throwing the body off balance and alerts your nervous system that something may be wrong. Thats when anxiety finds the loop hole and attacks – while you're weak.
Getting my allergies in check was the first thing i had to do, as a “sensitive” so i could stop sabotaging myself. Then came the meds… which to take? NSAIDS – Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs are known to mess with your system there are warnings on them about taking with anti-depression or anti-anxiety drugs. And then there's decongestants – which before I had anxiety attacks I typically used at least one dose of those DAILY. Oral decongestants may cause anxiety, restlessness, problems with sleeping, and being aware of a fast or fluttering heartbeat. So there's that. Here's a list of things to think about when the goal is to eliminate things your body may be taking in every day- but silently sensitive to:
- Allergy Meds with the -D in the name
- Decongestants (use saline sprays and humidifiers instead, much more effective!)
- NSAIDS (Tylenol, aspirin… here's a list! )
- Foods with common (SILENT) Allergic/Gastrointestinal reactions (Which, is a process of elimination, unfortunately, but – usually the culprits are Dairy products, wheat, eggs, peanuts, some processed foods like chips/candy, white refined SUGAR, or white flour products.
- CHOCOLATE and other CAFFEINE products ( I know, just shoot me, right? Caffeine is my MAIN sensitivity. Feel sorry for me, collectively please!)
A deficiency in B vitamins such as folic acid and B12 can trigger depression and anxiety in some people. Vitamin D supplements were also the FIRST thing my allergist prescribed for me after being diagnosed with anxiety. You can take a vitamin supplements or eat foods (< — LINK! ) that are rich in B and D vitamins to ward off anxiety. Foods with tryptophan, omega 3s, and herbal teas can help you fight back! These include:
You can ALSO cause POSITIVE chemical reactions on your own, with simple safe tricks that calm and can protect your system from those “false alarm” alerts.
Breathing Exercises :
The 4-7-8 method WORKS BEST for me! In times of high stress ( Driving! that's mine) swear by it!
- Breathe in thru nose 4 seconds ( I double my count (8) just in case my 7 is not REAL Mississippi seconds lol )
- HOLD 7 seconds (14 for me! )
- BLOW out thru mouth, forcefully but slowly like a rushed whistle. 8 seconds. ( 16 for me!)
- Yoga before bed <—- Here's a video!
- Exercising at LEAST twice a week – I know with me if I don't get that “extra energy” out, I'm in for an Anxiety attack at some point in the next week or so! I MUST do some cardio ( usually Zumba) for at least 25-30 min 3X a week. I know. But try not think of it as a chore – Think of it as your way to FINALLY fight back!!! This is REAL solid prevention!
- Sun light – for a boost of Vitamin D
Quick Fix HacksMLXLS
Finally, you can do your best but you cant ALWAYS control everything. Here's what I do when I have an attack even if I did follow my prevention steps – or if I snuck a piece of chocolate. 🙁 I have a bad habit!! My faves are the ones that work fastest for me!
- Hot showers – Normally I can reset myself if I cant sleep or have let the attack escalate.
- Rooibos of Peppermint Tea
- Tart Cherry Pills ( For sleeping)
- A glass of very warm milk (Cow Milk has a natural enzyme that relaxes you. )
- Homemade EASY Tumeric Tea ( warm milk (cow, almond or soy is fine) , turmeric powder, ginger, cinnamon). Mix with a whisk for better taste. Works WONDERS for instant relaxation. Be prepared to SLEEP.
- Eating Peppermints – Altoids, something with real peppermint oil, not candy. This helps if I'm driving for long distances. #trigger Note: The Altoids minis do not contain peppermint. Get the originals!
- Run Hot Water over hands in bathroom
- Lay on left side ( Quick heartburn and gas relief)
- Lavender (Natural) Oil or Body Spray – After that hot shower I spray this on and I go Night night! You hear? You ever go night night ? lol 🙂
- Walk around
- Call someone on the phone and talk
All in all – these methods are not brain surgery – they really follow the same premise as getting healthy! Being healthier IS a side effect – and I'll be the first to admit; it HELPS TREMENDOUSLY.
I hope this helps someone!
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