almost friday

almost friday: ways to calm an anxious, stressed or overwhelmed mind

This post is in no way medical advice, but rather my (very) personal experience with anxiety and things that help me through it. As always, talk to your health care professional about your own thoughts and feelings to find the right diagnosis and solution for you.

Last year was one of the worst years of my life. Actually, if I’m being honest the last six years or so have been pretty miserable. It was one traumatic event after another. From dealing with difficult diagnoses and taking care of terminally ill parents, saying good-bye to parents, dealing with my husband’s job loss, income shifts (more so decline) and major house expenses in the middle of it (a new roof and a massive damaging leak in the dining room that insurance would not pay for) – I was at my end. My body started to shake, became numb and tingly, I was dizzy and lightheaded, I was constantly worrying/panicking and I didn’t have a sound mind to fully understand why. In fact, I panicked more because of these symptoms, which just made it worse. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety caused by trauma – made sense after everything I had been dealing with. I had to find ways to help my mind and my body settle down – which was not easy. Time and patience were two big factors in my healing, but so were the things listed below. I had to work everyday at this, and still do, but am in a much better place now thanks to all of these methods.

Talk – Whether it is a therapist, your partner, a parent, your best friend, co-worker – start talking. Find someone that will listen and start letting it out. Whatever is on your mind, don’t keep it inside of you.

Acupuncture – This was recommended to me by my therapist and it was a godsend. No, it doesn’t hurt. Yes, it is weird to sit with tiny needles in you for about 20 minutes, but I would do it again and again and not even think twice about it, because it works. I first went for a weekly session for six weeks straight and then did a once a month maintenance treatment for about three months after. Now I just go as needed. Everyone is different though. I learned so much from my acupuncturist during each session and what can be treated with acupuncture. I would have about 18 needles placed in me based on my symptoms. One at the top of my head, two in each ear, one between my eyebrows, three in each hand/wrist, one at the top of each calf and two in each foot. He would then turn off the lights, turn on music that you typically get during a massage, leave the room and let me lay there for 20 minutes of peace. I would leave each session completely relaxed, which would last for about 1-5 days depending on where I was in the treatments. The more you go, the longer it works. Plus, the one that they put in your ear is amazing and it instantly calms you.

Cherries – I learned this from my acupuncturist and it works! Cherries have a ton of melatonin in them. You can eat dark sweet cherries (try like 13-15) or you can drink a small glass of tart cherry juice to get the amount of melatonin to relax you. Before you know it you are relaxed and probably close to falling asleep after eating/drinking cherries!

Calm and Headspace Apps – Whether you need someone to tell you a bedtime story in a relaxing voice, count your rhythmic breathing, listen to the rainforest, a thunderstorm or a bullfrog these apps can help – especially when you can’t sleep, because your brain doesn’t want to shut off. To access the majority of the content of these apps you do have to spend about $70 a year, but I found that you can get the breathing, bed time stories and relaxing background noises for free (more so on the Headspace app). It’s worth a shot to download for free and see if anything would work for you.

Breathing – There are several rhythmic breathing exercises that you can do to help control your breath and bring you back or pull you through a panic attack. One that works for me is to breathe in four seconds and out four seconds – repeating it until needed. I went through Mindfulness training recently at work and it was interesting to learn how much of your reactions are connected to your breathing. In fact, the reason why I was feeling numb, tingly and lightheaded was because I was hyper-ventilating in a non-traditional way where I would hold on to my breath and not push it out. Proof that your mind and body are totally connected!

No Caffeine or Alcohol – Did you know caffeine brings out anxiety? I didn’t until my doctor told me to stop drinking it and see how I felt. Same for alcohol. I cut it out completely and then as my symptoms started to fade I slowly started to add them back into my life.

Massage – It might be short term relief, but it’s still relief and it helps you sleep better for a few weeks at a time.

Find a Hobby – It seems simple enough, but having something new to distract you can help for a short period of time. I put together puzzles, taught myself to hand letter and I started my Instagram page (1954house), because it gave me an opportunity to focus on something positive.

Exercise – Maybe the one I want to do the least, but it really does help. Those positive endorphins can cancel out a lot of what you might be feeling for a little bit of time.

Prescription Medication – This one was hard for me to accept, but there were times that I just couldn’t get past the symptoms and I needed relief that I couldn’t get anywhere else. And that’s okay. You do what you need to live your life and don’t be ashamed of it. And don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about it, we all need help at some point in our lives.

I share this with you in hopes that you learn something new – whether something new to try or something new to share with someone else who may be feeling stressed, overwhelmed, anxious or a similar feeling.

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