ANXIETYS BITCH BLOG
I was recently honored to be asked to guest blog on a friends site. If you told me this ten years ago, hell, even twelve months ago, I would have laughed hysterically. I am pushing myself to limits that I did not know I could reach.
In honor of International Girls Day, I will share today!
Below is my "brave" moment.
I AM BRAVE
I have been defined in my life as funny, pretty, sweet, loyal, stubborn, caring, but the most powerful word I have been described as is brave.
As a child growing up I thought to be brave meant you were never afraid of anything or anyone. You needed to wear a badge, armour or be a male to be brave. As I aged, somewhat gracefully, I began to understand those were unrealistic definitions of the word brave.
To be brave, there is not a list of credentials written in stone. Anyone can be brave, regardless of sex, nationality, employment, height, weight, personality, or age.You do not have to jump out of an airplane or pick up a rattlesnake. You do not have to dive into the deep end. You do not have to sleep with the light off. You do not have to be someone you are not.
Being brave means facing a fear and making your own decision on how you deal with it. It is far more brave to say no or walk away sometimes than it is to push yourself into something you are not ready for. I am brave not because I was not scared, but because I was, and did it anyway. I am brave because I allowed myself to be me. I am brave because I needed to be. I am brave because I survived. I am brave because I am a woman.
Find your reason to be brave and bravely yell, I AM BRAVE.
I guess I will jump on the grateful bandwagon this weekend and blog about what I am thankful for in my life. I am always thankful as I prefer the good karma that comes along with that mindstate. I, however, am more grateful this weekend as my health is 85% better than it was this time last year. Last year, my health was in jeopardy, both physically and mentally. I have fought hard to get healthy and will continue to push myself towards better health every day. I will never put myself last as I paid for that tenfold. I will always take care of me first, not selfishly, but wisely. I am thankful for my amazing children, who always make me proud to be their Mama. I am grateful for the awesome friends that I have in my life who are my tribe. I can't express how much they mean to me. I am thankful for the beautiful weather this weekend, even the rain. I love to be able to go for long walks to the pond and boardwalk close to my home. Nature is a great therapy tool for me. I am especially thankful for all of you, who are reading this blog. This little adventure of writing a blog has been beneficial to my levels of anxiety to remain low. Sharing is caring! I am caring for myself by opening up and smashing down that wall that I have kept ironclad. Hopefully, somewhere out there, I have helped someone. If I can even just make someone feel slightly better knowing that they are not alone in this battle with anxiety, then I will be happy. The only beast you or I should be dealing with this Thanksgiving is the waistband of our pants!
My favourite word has always been NO. Occasionally NOPE. Maybe runs a close third. The beast loves to keep me inside my walls, alone and unsociable Lately, I have been pushing those words out of my head as if they were in a cartoon bubble. I am learning the fabulous word, YES! The more I say YES, the more I enjoy life and the people in it. Fear still trickles along beside that word but I am slapping the beast hard these days. I want to live a happier fuller life and I am tired of the loneliness that the beast pushed me into. I want light in my life as the darkness no longer feels protective, it now feels suffocating.
Practice saying yes. Say yes to all the crazy turns and curveballs in your life, the good, the bad the big and the small. Say yes to your past, your present and mostly your future. Say yes to your choice of why you are leaving your comfort zone or home. Yes to someplace new and yes to an adventure, even if it only entails the grocery store.
Whatever arises in your mind. say yes. Say yes to sensations. feelings, images, thoughts, desires, and memories. Just keep saying yes except to over excessive online shopping, maybe say not now and leave it in the online cart! Say yes to all the people in your life, again maybe not all the salespeople. Say yes to your child and surprise the shit out of them.
Say yes by using different tones of your voice, out loud or in your mind, and who cares if someone gives you an odd look in the street for yelling yes as you walk by. Just wink and let them think about that. Try a loud enthusiastic yes, a soft yes, a rueful yes, even a cautious yes. Feel that yes in your body right down to your toes. Breathing in feeling positive about something and then breathing out say yes. Breathe in happy serene energy and then breath out yes. Breathe in the calm and breathe out yes. Do this repeatedly until it is natural to you.
Say yes to you and your needs. Yes to more exercise, less anger more love. Yes to being alive, to each day to each year. Yes to life. Think of a scenario and say yes to it in your mind. Suddenly you begin to notice you are saying yes to all the things that you said no to before in life. For every breath, every heartbeat, say yes.
I want to be flooded with euphoria like sensations not the dreary sadness of the beast offers. I crave the confidence that independence from the beast, has to offer me. I want to spread my wings and fly. So say yes over and over again until you forget how to say no. Live the life you deserve not the one that puts you in the shadows.
YES HELL YES!
The fresh crisp smell of the September air is one of my favourite type of mornings. You feel the sunshine warm your face slightly but the cool breeze makes you happy you wore that sweater. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with me. The transition into fall will be a tough time for those especially those her favourite months are the warm weathered ones. If you are a parent, your kids are now back to school, which should make any normal egg hatcher ecstatic! Some of you don't have teenagers, don't worry you will get my humour soon enough. At work, meetings may now be more prevalent as vacation is over. Your agenda is once again overflowing with events that you have no idea how you'll fit them all in. You will now remember all those things on your checklist of summer fun and feel the anguish of those you did not check off. You start to notice that it is darker in the morning and gets darker after dinner. The end of summer blues will now really start to set in.
Many who fight the beast struggle with a times up mentality concerning with all the plans they had for the season. I find myself getting anxious with the shoulda, coulda, but didn't thoughts. That dearth of time mentality can lead you down the path to the blues. Altering your thoughts to plans and ideas for finishing the year in the most achievable positive way may help you think in terms of prosperity instead. If you can't think of other great things that you did so far this year, plan to do something and DO IT!
Remember that without the change in the seasons you would be bored or complacent with the humidity and heat of the summer months. Think of it as a period of colder weather that will give you a renewed appreciation for the warmth of the hot months. Friends always talk about how sad they are to see summer leave and this will add to your despair at the arrival of Autumn. I like to think of the beginning of September as a new fresh start. I tend to "check in" with myself again. I think about my health, both mental and physical. I also clean sweep my home. Out with old. In with the new. Just like with Spring cleaning, I do Fall sweeping!
While the effects of seasonal changes on our mental health can be profound you should not allow them to invite the beast in . Changes coexist the shifting of seasons such as the length of daylight, the intensity of the sun, out diet, our routine and our sleeping patterns. Even how we spend our time changes. When late Autumn turns into the cold winter or as many of friends call it, hell, it is very common for you to feel tired, depleted and very unmotivated. Your levels of anxiety will most likely increase because of these changes will create unsettled feelings. If you are really unfortunate, symptoms of depression will increase or start, if you have not had it previously.
There is an actual name for these symptoms, called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Even the abbreviation is "sad". If you feel yourself slipping down the road of SAD, try these following tip to help heighten mental health with the changing seasons.:
* A new routine that you create which helps you appreciate things despite the early darkness in the sky, (crafts, reading, board games etc)
* Take brief or long walks throughout the day to stay in movement and use the stairs, stretch etc. to keep energy levels constant.
* Depending on your caffeine tolerance, stock up on a variety of coffees or flavored teas or even hot chocolate. The warmth of a hot mug is like a hug!
* As always, with anxiety levels on the rise, be careful of what foods that you consume. Remember that your diet affects mental health.
* The absolute best thing to do is to find what you love about the season and be intentional about incorporating that into your world. If you love to skate, do it! Find an indoor rink to skate around. If you like to watch hockey, go to a game instead of watching it on the television. Hell, if you just like to drink by the fire, do it. If you don't have a fireplace, put the fake one on your television and fake until you make it!
Regardless if you love to be outside walking with the sounds of crinkled leaves that have fallen from the trees as if you say goodbye to summer and pave the path for winter, or you hate it, embrace life. We are only here on this round planet for a bleep in time, so enjoy it, force yourself. Just don't let the beast win every battle as you are a warrior.
**** the above picture of hot chocolate is one my daughter made and it was as good as you think it was!
I get back to school anxiety even though I have been out of school for a while now, ok a long ass time! Each year, as my children would start the first day of school, early in September, I would allow the beast to attack. I still do not sleep well the night before school begins and my anxiety makes me pace like a rabid dog. Oddly, my own children dealt with first day jitters like rock stars! Next week, tens of thousands of children will begin their path along the educational highway. Some of these eager minds will be the first child of their parents to start school while others will be the last little to take flight. Don't fool yourself and assume one is easier than the other. They are both hard and emotionally draining on both the parents and children.
I have volunteered enough in kindergarten classes and have chatted with enough teachers to come up with a list to hopefully help make that first day slightly easier.
1. It is likely that your young child will be a bit scared but too nervous to say it. Many children already have the fear of not fitting in with their peers at this age. There is also those who are too scared to say they are frightened in front of their older siblings. The best thing to do is invent a super secret signal with your child. It could be like pinching their little finger or squeezing their hand twice or three times ( which means I love you). My children would rub their cheek when they were nervous or scared or would pull on the collar of their shirt. Then I would mimic their actions to let them know I knew they were scared. This always kept them calm. It is a private special connection that will reassure your child as you let them go that it will be ok avoiding any embarrassment.
2. Try to give your child a drink in their lunch that they can open on their own Please don't send them with some crazy sugary fruit drink that they have to get the straw out, then punch the little bastard into the container themselves. Kids, especially in new environments, are already nervous and fidgety so squeezing that juice all over themselves is highly likely. No screwed on so tight that they need to be accidentally exposed to gamma rays during the detonation of an experimental bomb ( think the green guy, named HULK) to open the container. This also goes for the hard to rip open package of treats that you thought were an amazing idea for their first lunch at school. Ain't nobody got time for that.
3. Do not decide the first week of school is a great time to start your kids to like a new food. They will not eat it unless ten other kids are eating the same thing. I too, wanted my kids to eat healthily and I really wanted the school to think I was the best damn parent that they had ever encountered. I wanted them to put my name on a plaque. I gave my son granola and dried apricots. It sat sadly in his lunch bag for three days until I gave up and took it out. Give them something that they like and will eat, maybe not a bag of chips and a pop tart, but something reasonable. Kids will eat very little at first as this will be a very sociable time for some and a very stressful time for others. Either way, food only gets nibbled on. Have your child help make their lunch the night before to make sure they know what they need to eat and drink. This will help with the crazy hour in the morning too as everyone rushes to get ready for the day.
4. The week or so before school starts, try to practice eating out the lunchbox at home. Teach them that they need to put their own garbage away, which by school age they should be doing at home too. Practice with your child how to take out and put in, their lunch box inside their backpack. Many kids will bring home that bright rainbow coloured lunch box when you know Mary Lou went to school with a blue Roots one. Name on the lunch box will help identify each child for the teacher as well.
5. If your wee one has to use an inhaler, please make sure that the teacher and office are notified of this. Most schools require them to stay in the office to be administered by them if needed. Please talk to school before telling little Billy that he can freely go to his bag and puff!
6. Try and make eye contact with other newbie parents as your child is most likely going to become friends with at least one to two of these other poor tired parents kids! They are also going through the same process as you so why not give each other support.
7. Since you will not be there to do up every button and unzip that jacket for Ronnie Jr., teach your child how to do these actions on their own. Hanging up their bag and outside clothing will help the already stressed overworked teacher. Same goes for shoes. NO LACES. Please send those feet in velcro or snapped shoes. First, it is hard for the teacher to tie over forty shoes and zip up over twenty jackets. Recess will be over before he or she finishes. Secondly, if there is a fire drill, kids need to be able to get out that door fast. You will be thankful for these skills when you are waiting outside during a torrential downpour at home time, and your child comes out quickly. Be nice and try not to smirk at the poor father or daycare provider drowning in the rain.
8. Being able to use the washroom and to wipe themselves will benefit everyone by this age. Some teachers do a "mass", everyone line up to use the washroom even if you absolutely don't have to go Bobby, but most expect the child to tell them when the facility is required. Having a change of clothes from day one, as accidents to happen even with the kid that can hold like a camel. Training them to wash their hands will cut down on illness and grossness being spread.
9. As I said with their lunch boxes, label everything. Bags, shoes, coat, hat, etc. Lost and found in schools are always overflowing. The chances of your child losing an article of clothing are high so be prepared.
10. If your child has allergies, please make the school aware at the time of enrollment. Notes will be then sent home with each child in their class to make sure that their families are aware of a child with a certain type of allergy is in the class. Your child's name will not be given. Same goes for any illnesses that your child may have. If it is something that warrants the teacher to be aware, then go in and talk to the teacher. They will be able to then make a plan to best accommodate your child's needs.
11. Please teach your child to write their name. This is a great aid to a teacher and your child if they can identify and label their own work. A child's sense of ownership will do away with any anxiety. If they are struggling with their full name, allow Zakary to write Zak. If they can't write their name, try to get them to recognize their name then.
12. Get into the habit to empty their bag every day. There will most likely be a bag that will go back and forth between home and school that will have need to be seen paper work in it. Notes to or from the teacher will be placed in there too. Don't be that parent who's kid never brings back the permission form to the class trip to the zoo.
13. Especially after school the first few weeks, your little one will be exhausted so trying to drag them all over town each night may not be the best move. Melt downs are going to happen and not always just by the children!
14. Reassure your child that you will be back to pick them up at home time ( or dad, or grandma or their daycare provider. Most kindergarten classes allow parents to pick up right from the classroom door providing they have an outdoor access door. Don't be late and cause unnecessary stress and anxiety for your child. Also, make sure your child knows who is picking them up. The teacher has a list of who are permitted to pick up your child. If your child does not know them, meltdowns will occur.
15. Do not get mad at your child if they react in tears the first few days but also do not give in too much. They are in need of your guidance and this is one of those times, that parenting is hard. Hugs and kisses and waving are permitted. Just don't lurk in the windows as stalking is illegal!
My daughter took a bus her first day of school, and we followed the bus after she was picked up. My paranoid Mama Bear extinct made my pulse rapid and my anxiety was sky high. I am was relieved that I did this though as my little bumble bee went into a grade one class and it took them over twenty minutes to figure out where she was. I was a mess yet my daughter thought since she was obviously smarter than those other kids, she should just skip straight up to grade one. My son, he was the kid who did not want me to walk him his first day. I explained to him that he was barely four so he did not have a choice. Unfortunately, as we stood outside in the pouring rain on his first day, his anxiety kicked in. He began to cry and cling to me. My big brave fearless little warrior suddenly was a puddle of tears. What made things far worse, his Daddy was home, bedridden, with cancer. As his new teacher, about forty parents, the whole office staff including the principal stood watching this he screamed out, " I just want to go home and take care of my daddy". I managed to bite very hard the inside of my lip so I would not cry or show any emotion as his poor teacher literally dragged him inside with his soaking wet sneakers screeching on the floor. My heart was shattered. I cried all the way home and sobbed all day. The teacher was kind enough to call me at lunch time to say he was fine and doing well. When I picked him up later that day, he came running out and thanked me for letting him stay.
Kids will cry. They may cling to you or ignore you. Melt down completely. They may kick at you or run away from you. They are not upset with you, and you are not a bad parent for walking away. They will adjust as will you. I always tell new parents, if I can survive, so can you! Enjoy your morning if you able to have the day off to yourself. Have a coffee or tea or something stronger if you must, just be sober at pick up time!
Words no one really wants to hear. "It's over"! If you have anxiety or depression those words sting far worse, even if you are the one saying them. If you have been horribly unhappy in your relationship for far too long the sensible thing to do is leave. End it. Be done. Anxiety adds to this traumatic situation and enhances the fear of the unknown. Fear compels you to stay as your distrust in the world seems far worse than your relationship. Many people stay in marriages for longer than they should have as being single seems a worse state.
It is simple to give up and remain trapped in your miserable circumstance. The beast thrives on these situations as anxiety is fueled when your mind is uneasy and full of despair. Your mind will try to convince you that if you leave you will be alone without support and will be alienated from those you love. There is also the danger of poverty, pain, guilt, isolation and infinite other things. Your fears will end up trumping what is better for your life. You start to think that leaving is too daunting or too hard. You dismiss the possibility of using support systems as you don't have faith in them.You begin to put on a happy face to the rest of the world to hide your sadness. You feel that you may be just overreacting and should stay to work on your relationship. You stay for the kids. The thought of raising your children alone is overwhelming. The thought of custody battles set your mind on fire. You don't want to be the one in your friend group suddenly separated again. Alone, again. Most importantly, you forget your own resilience in how you face extreme life challenges.
There comes a time when you have to make that hard decision. How you handle it is determined by whether your break up will create grief, which to many in world shattering or will it be a relief like the refreshing breeze of a new beginning. This applies to leaving a job, ending a marriage or serious relationship as well as severing ties with friends or family. Regardless, of what is ending and why, it needs to be done.
If you were a surgeon, one swift clean cut would result in a faster healing process than a messy tear. Same goes for any emotional severances you may have. This may sound harsh to many but sometimes quick is better. Remember when you Mom would rip off that band-aid that you feared being stripped from your skin? The one that you would let her pull half way then scream to stop? It will give you the same feeling of relief when it is done. Most of the time the pain will leave as quickly as it came. Nicely put is " I've made this hard decision to leave. I have decided to leave this relationship as the match doesn't feel right for me any longer". Take this job and shove it may work too for employment relationships.
As with any surgical procedures, prevention of an infection is vital so the wound must stay clean. Be very cautious of infecting the breaking up circumstance with any negative energy about the person being let go. Do not contact them asking if they are doing ok as this only slows down healing on both sides. Name-calling is a negative reaction that can occur on both sides and will be less than helpful. A critical tone of voice will similarly convey negative feelings toward the other person. Verbal toned negative messages about the person contaminate healing for yourself so try your best to push those out of your mind. Pulling negative thoughts from the universe will only make you feel worse regardless on who ended the relationship. You need to learn from your mistakes and move on, another one my Mama use to tell me as I cried myself to sleep over some jerk as a teen. You do need to explain to the person your reason for ending the relationship unless it was very obvious. If you walked in on your husband having sex with your boss, those finales would be easy to leave without words. Well, you could yell "It is over and I quit as you slam the door". Two birds with one stone. As with any medical issue, sharing your information will alleviate anxiety generated from the unknown. Respectful communication between a person ending a union and the person receiving a goodbye relieves the anxiety caused by lack of understanding. Shared two-way communication can put the healing task on a good track that will move forward as recovery from grief on both sides. A winner-loser relationship, by contrast, pushes the healing process to stall. Allowing everyone to let go will give you the best results. I was stalked by someone who I ended a relationship with and you do not want that as a result.
When you are the one being told of the relationship ending, you must allow yourself to grieve then move on. You are allowed to be sad as it is a perfectly normal response to leaving a relationship. Depression triggered by the loss goes beyond the sadness of the experience. If you are fixated on negative thoughts about yourself, others or the future this is no longer a good reaction. To feel the profound sense of loss of power and the sense of helplessness will send you down a path of severe depression. Once your self-confidence feels destroyed it will start to destroy other relationships and areas in your life. Find someone to talk to. Go see your doctor. Don't allow the beast to invade.
Now, let us understand how to start to change your view of your future. It will never be too late to discover aspiration. Your past does not determine your future if you are willing to look at your contributions and learn from them. Work towards believing that you are worth fight for. You need to love yourself. Trust your inner gut feelings. Sometimes, one must "find" themselves all over again. You can start over and redevelop as many times as you need to until you are truly at peace with yourself and your life. Do not settle for less. You are worth far more to the universe. Use all the lessons of your past mistakes and triumphs. Find hopefulness about possibilities for yourself moving ahead and you will make positive shifts in the way you think about what may lie beyond your current painful situation. The greatest challenge is to try to picture a life for you beyond any relationship. Relief, contentment, peace, and serenity should replace all that guilt, anger fear, and other negative thoughts.
Begin the process of thinking more openly, sorting through and unraveling the repetitive patterns, beliefs, fears, and ways that you sabotage yourself that contribute to being stuck. By looking at your own contributions will allow more room for development than does blaming your partner ( boss, ex, wife, husband) for keeping you stuck. If you felt forced because of abuse, you need to seek out a safe haven outside that relationship as soon as possible. Emotional abuse and physical abuse is horrible to have to live with and so many of us have. Some with family members, many with partners. No one ever needs to live like that. Ever. In situations like these, the feelings of undeservingness are raw. They have followed you for a long time and it may feel like it is all you know how to feel. You have been told chaos and trauma will happen if you leave. Only you can influence your emotional outcome so do not let anyone else tell your mind different. I grew up in a house where I was emotionally abused by my sister daily and it took me half of my life to overcome the influence her words had over me. I still have to push myself as those words linger in the back of mind, waiting to creep out with the beast.
Finding a way to cope is a never ending search for many but serenity will make a grand appearance enough times to keep you going down your path of healing. Having bad days, hell having horrible days is absolutely understandable. Allowing yourself to heal by giving yourself the compassion that only you can give is beneficial to this process. Your own plight over time, by reframing your experiences will allow yourself to envision the future you not only crave but deserve. Take yourself to the next level of healing then reward yourself for surviving yet another hurdle in this thing we call life.
We all change. Yet change freaks us all out. Some fear change more than public speaking. It is the kind of amorphous issue we don't think about as it manifests itself cautiously in so many ways. Relationships start and end, you move, you get a new job or you lose someone that you love. Change can be bad or good and almost always causes stress. Stress of any magnitude can trigger the beast. We need to learn how to handle change so this does not happen, often.
Change is an expansive term and it can apply to so many things. Perchance you're just moving to a new house or beginning a new job, or a sudden death happens in the family. Those type of events may seem black and white, and not necessarily identical but they all require an adjustment in the way you conduct your day to day life. These type of adjustments will cause stress and anxiety even they're positive. Negative changes can also yield positive results. Most people never know what they are going to get and therefore the reason we fear change. The trick is to cope without losing your mind and may only require an adjustment on your outlook and a little clue of surviving various circumstances. We need to know why our brains resist change and how we can do something to change that.
Let's say we define change as a modification to a person's environment, situation or mental/physical condition that can result in a challenging ones existing ideals. A person has the tendency to determine how exactly their universe is supposed to work. If something happens in your individual bubble or to our own being that is contrary to the way we feel the world should be, we suddenly get our brush with change.
In our daily routine lives, change comes in multiple forms. We all experience the pains of being thrown into puberty and then later the pains of becoming ancient through inevitable medical issues. I am getting ancient and oddly feel like puberty is striking again. People get married, switch careers multiple times, graduate from school, move across the country, we lose our parents or spouses, we get into accidents, we have children, they start school and sometimes we even achieve our dreams.Though we can regard a default emotion such as happiness or sadness to many of these broad examples, the event is not the only element that affects how we handle the good and bad of a change.
The best thing to keep in mind is that there is a sequence between positive and negative so not all changes are easily summarized as bad or good. Other psychological components, such as temperament or mood, can affect how a person codifies a change within the positive/negative continuum.
If we are confronted by an event that is inconsistent with our core beliefs, we all will feel some kind of anxiety or stress. Change really should be easy. Our brain likes easy, simple so if there is any type of change in our life, it will send off an alert signal. The beast loves this alert as it allows it to attack with backup. If our mind runs into a roadblock, suddenly the information it trusted is broken down and it panics. We all know the beast loves to hit the panic button and as a result, we tend to act irrationally, often without realizing it. The earlier we learn something the harder we deal with changing it. That saying, " can't teach an old dog new tricks", bleeps through my mind a lot lately. Kids adjust much better to change since they don't have as much legacy material to overcome when confronted with change. As we get older, our brains become less plastic and we encounter more issues processing changes as our paradigms are more rooted. We get anxiety when our children start school for the first time, for me, it brings back my fears of the first day of school. My children were fearless starting.
Our minds hate loss and unfortunately change involves loss. We invest emotionally and it becomes harder to change because we don't want to lose all the effort we already exerted. I can fully understand this type of change as I have had to deal with it numerous times and not very well. I tend to shut down or block out when a loss is the change in my universe. I think for the most part this is why I hoard items that I tell myself I am keeping because of the sentimental value of it. I have to force myself to get rid of stuff but have been doing better as I have recently donated six boxes.
I am teaching myself to deal with change as I have had no other choice. The hardest part is to put optimistic outlook into practice as my anxiety tries to pull me back. I allow myself to cry, kick and scream then I start to seek out ways to make my new situation work for me. If I allow myself to keep fixating on what I lost or what changed, it prevents me from experiencing the good things that my new circumstance can bring me. I process my emotional pain and fear into a list. Pro vs Cons helps me see that I have the potential for renewed hope in my future and the possibility of happiness, even with change. Learning to shift gears in the midst of anxiety and stress is hard work but worth it. I would not be typing this blog if I did not push through the fear of change and the unknown. So my advice is to allow change to challenge you, not break you.
When someone describes anxiety attacks and panic attacks, one tends to use the phrases interchangeably. They are even entirely unaware that they actually two clinically distinct with their own signs and experiences. Both differ in symptomology as well as the length of time and the root of the attack is not the same.
Panic attacks are identified by their rapid onset and severe intensity. You can go from feeling completely normal to feeling intense stress, fear with physical symptoms like shaking and heart palpitations. The duration of panic attacks can vary or you may experience it in waves. Waves are generally relatively short times. I find that they last anywhere between ten minutes to thirty minutes long. I recently had short waves of about ten minutes each over a few hours. They started at five am and continued until noontime. It is very draining on you physically as it takes a lot of energy to go through one. If only it burned calories!
You may be having a panic attack if you are experiencing four or more of the following
- trembling or shaking
- chest pain and/or discomfort
- excessive sweating
- accelerated heart rate
- heart palpitations, pounding heart
- difficulty breathing, sensations of shortness of breath
- feeling like you are smothering or drowning
- the feeling of choking
- abdominal distress or nausea
- fear of dying
- light headed or faint, feeling dizzy
- fear of losing control
- chills or hot flashes
- tingling or numbness sensations
Anxiety will typically intensify over a longer period of time compared to a panic attack. Anxiety symptoms can last for days, weeks even months. You could be experiencing a panic attack if you have any of these symptoms:
- muscle tension
- increased startle response
- disturbed sleeping patterns
- difficulty concentrating
- shortness of breath
- increased heart rate
You can also experience frequent urination and bowel issues with both types of attacks which is also a major trigger for so many of us who fight the beast. Regardless which one you suffer from or if you are like me, and suffer from both, it is exhausting and scary. Knowing you are not going to die is a thought I try to enforce into my brain each time as sometimes I really feel like I am. When I wake in the night feeling like someone has put a pillow over my face and I am shaking like Trump in a Clinton rally, it is scary. Medication and lots of exercise along with eating healthy does keep them at devils reach. If I sway from a good routine of those, the beast sneaks in rapidly and attacks with a mean left hook. It sometimes takes me a full day to recover as it really does physically exhaust me.
Many people find help through therapy with fantastic results. Cognitive behaviour therapy helps you identify and challenge your negative Nelly thinking patterns. It will also help with irrational beliefs that fuel the beast. Exposure therapy encourages you to confront those fears in a safe environment controlled by you. When you are repeatedly exposed to your feared object or situation, either your imagination or in reality, you will gain some sense of control. Your anxiety can gradually diminish as you face your fear without being harmed.
Whatever strategies you try may or may not work for you. The benefits in trying out weigh the fear of failure. Now go slay the beast!
I tend to put off my tasks and chores. I would love to win the lottery and pay some unfortunate soul do it all for me. Until then, I needed to come up with a plan to get stuff done. Getting things done can make you feel like it is a Herculean effort especially when you are already anxious. How do you succeed at making a dent in your to-do list and actually get them done? I know my to do list is never ending especially being an only parent. I am being generous by saying my list gets half done and my NEED to get done tasks merge into an amorphous blob of goo in my mind. I like many, need to make all the stuff in my mind to stop moving so I can get stuff done.
These are a few ideas that I am trying so perhaps they will help you too.
1. TRY to write everything down- Take a good fifteen minutes and write everything that you need to get done that you recall. It really does not matter if it is a task that needs to get done today or in two months time. The important thing is to get it all down in one big list. Once your fifteen minutes is up, put down your pen or stop typing. Good job as you just did a time management skill. Reward yourself for actually doing this step. I usually make a cup of tea!
2. MAKE a smaller shorter list from your master list and transfer everything that can be accomplished in five minutes or less. Label this list SHORTLIST. It doesn't mean the list itself is short it just means the items on the list are short tasks you can do in under five minutes. An example of this would be getting the mail and opening it, putting in the laundry or checking your email, unless you are like me and your email is never-ending.
3. COMBINE similar tasks from your smaller list. Group together tasks that seem to naturally lend themselves to being done in a block. Running errands is great for this. You can head to the grocery store, do dry cleaning, head to the post office to mail that package to your Aunt Betty before she no longer needs it as lets face it, she is almost a century old. Chain as many short list tasks together as you want. You will be amazed at how much you can accomplish in a short time.
4. FUTURE chores that can be put off should be put on a separate list. Examples are clean under the basement stairs, which is no way to spend a perfectly sunny day. Who the hell wants to jump every time something softly touches your bare arm. Spider or dust bunny?
Enough with lists even though I did make a list to remind to finish this list of things to do. I am unusually patient but when my anxiety levels are sky rocketing, my patience is limited. Now is the time we move into the execution phase of getting shit done.
I try to match my task to my energy level, like a dating app just less creepy. Take a minute to check in with yourself and your energy level. Do you feel energetic? Are you brimming with creativity and mental stamina? Do you feel like a truck just hit you and you are completely exhausted? If I am tired, I try to make phone calls or return emails. I finally look at the flyers that came in the paper four days ago. If I am feeling blah but good enough to handle errands, I do those just to get them done. We all need to eat so grocery shopping is almost always on that list. Every now and then, I have occasions when I feel loads of mental energy. Rare, but they do happen. I tend to write or type out my blog for the week during these times. I also will work on my other business, Younique when my mind is clear and ready for some action. Now you can get gritty or more granular. Granularity basically describes how many little chunks of a big project can be broken into, kind of like sand. You will find yourself getting overwhelmed as you execute a task on your list so learn to break it down. Break it down into smaller pieces. Example, cleaning the house. Do dishes, wipe down counters, and sweep the floor. Easy to do quickly and easier to break down. Do the vacuuming and dusting on your main level together. If you have a bigger task such as painting, tape the trim and move any furniture. Then when you are ready to paint, it is all ready to go. I am currently painting a few rooms and a few pieces of furniture as I am apparently a glutton for self-punishment. I do some trim in one room, tape another and then put a coat of paint on the desk that I am refinishing. It may seem like chaos to many but for my anxious mind, this is how I get it all done. Method to my madness!
Getting anything done when you are anxious can also include coping with perfectionism. I try not to give a shit what someone may think of my paint job but deep down in my soul, I want to be praised like a five-year-old. This is especially hard for people with obsessive compulsive disorder. Focusing on the task at hand will help get it completed. Even if it feels unsatisfying, the idea is to create an onward drive. You will get it all done, just maybe not in the speed you were aiming for. People fighting the beast daily still have to live in the real world, the world of doing. The infrastructure of getting things done when you are anxiety ridden is organization. I know it is hard to be organized when you feel like you are falling down a dark hole with no bottom. As with all things in life, you must try and try and try again, until you self-teach yourself to be organized. I know if you make the lists and check them twice, you will find out who is naughty or nice. Ok, maybe not but you will get some of your shit done and that is very satisfying. Reward yourself. Now go get'er done!
The beast loves to make you feel like you are on the edge of a cliff with rocks breaking away at your feet. You feel like you are on the edge of the world and there is nowhere to go. Whether it be suffering from hot flushes, chronic worrying or struggling to breathe and panic attacks, this is our body’s way of telling us it is stuck in “fight-or-flight” mode! I often refer to the "fight or flight" mode as it is the one constant in my life. There are multiple people who feel anxious on a daily basis, and they simply put this down to having hectic work schedules or busy lives. Perhaps it is or they too, are being chased by the beast.
Apart from external factors, it is possible to reduce anxiety by simply changing the foods that you eat. Eating wholesome foods will aid your body to respond efficiently and help with weight issues. Eating the right foods will help to balance your entire body including your nervous system, which plays a large role in feelings of anxiousness. Certain foods can act as triggers for stress and anxiety, just like eating others can help to calm you down. For many people, they do not realise this end up eating the wrong foods to deal with their anxiety. I will give you the bad news first.
Foods To Avoid
I don't drink coffee but I guzzle bold tea as if my life depends on it. I have trained myself to limit my intake to only two cups a day. I do allow myself an extra cup once in a while. If you NEED your morning coffee and really can't function until you have slurped down ( and are already dreaming of your next one) this may be taking a toll on your mood. I would never tell another human to stop drinking their beloved dark roasted bean in a cup, but if you are drinking if excessively, you should limit yourself. Any kind of caffeinated substance will cause heart palpitations, shaking, and my favourite, your sleep pattern. You add all those side effects into the beasts blender and your anxiety will increase. Many don't experience any of those symptoms straight away but they could still affect your body hours later.Without knowing it, many people also have a caffeine sensitivity, so that cup of coffee could be doing more harm than good. Perhaps try decaffeinated coffee for your second cup.
Manufactured food additives have been used for many years to boost the appearance and flavour of our food, but not many people realise just how bad they are for you. The ones that could trigger anxiety the most are:
Aspartame - Also known as Sweetener (951), aspartame is used to substitute sugar in a number of products, from “sugar-free” soft drinks to gums and other similar type sweeteners. Researchers have found a relationship between regular consumption of aspartame with a number of health conditions as well as anxiety.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) - HFCS is an extremely refined sweetener that can be found in most processed foods, particularly in North America. HFCS is very high in calories and, like aspartame is considered a contributing factor to a number of illnesses. not to mention weight gain.
MSG - A flavour enhancer in soups, dressings, snacks foods and frozen foods, and has amino acid. MSG is an excitotoxin which over excites cells to the point of damage. Regular consumption is known to trigger depression, headaches and fatigue. Many restaurants will advertise on their menu such as a Chinese restaurant, NO MSG. I ate Chinese recently and that was the first thing I noticed on the menu.
Food Dyes - Food dyes are often added to pop, salad dressings, fruit juices and cheese., yes, cheese. Some food dyes, particularly Red #40 & Yellow #5, can agitate a normal nervous system function, which may increase symptoms of anxiety. If you already suffer from anxiety, try to avoid these as much as possible. I know, but cheese.
Salty food diets will increase blood pressure which forces your pumper to work harder. When this happens, your body releases stress hormone adrenaline which clears the way to tension and edginess. Chips! Pretzels! Crackers! For those who eat something salty before bed, instead of calming your body down you could be forcing it to work harder. While you are cooking at home, use spices or herbs to add that extra flavour to your food where you would normally use salt. Avoid purchasing pre-flavoured meats if you can. If you are dining out most dishes already have a large amount of salt added so put down that shaker. I only buy sea salt now if I have the need to salt up my food dish. Not a huge difference in sodium levels but you would use less to flavour food.
As with salt, you should avoid foods that contain refined sugars. I love my sugar. I love it in my tea as much as I love the caffeine. Cutting down is the key.Typically after eating sugar, you will have a burst of energy and then your blood levels will drop. The high then the low. This will not only will leave you feeling sluggish but may also make you feel anxious. When your blood sugar levels are irregular and drop from high to low constantly, the hormones adrenalin and cortisol are released, which can cause anxiety and panic. Headaches are a common side effect for me while this happens. If you are like me and want that sweet taste because you feel you are starving, don't do it! You may not only be messing up your energy levels but it could leave you feeling irritable for the next few hours. Not a good mix if you have already had a long day filled with deadlines at work or screaming children at home.
When I am feeling stressed and overwhelmed, sometimes I really want fast food. Perhaps you are feeling edgy and depressed as you find yourself driving the nearest drive-thru restaurant. Turn that car around to save yourself. Indulging in that big, juicy burger may satisfy you for a few minutes, but the effects it has on your body will continue many hours later. I am not saying that you have to grab a salad every time but try to opt for some lean protein instead.It will not only have a positive effect on you but will also keep you feeling fuller for longer. Being your bodies guard is a full-time job.
My love of wine, vodka, gin and beer is strong.If burgers aren’t really your thing but sitting down to relax after a stressful day with a glass of wine in hand is - your anxiety may not thank you for it! I know when I should have a drink and when I should not but it took years for me to trust my body. If you are not able to do so, only have a small glass, not a small bottle. Alcohol is a depressant and interferes with the production and use of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood. Alcohol also significantly hinders your metabolism.Having that glass of red before bed could potentially alter your blood sugar levels and hydration, which may lead to a restless rather than restful sleep. If you use alcohol as a way to wind down after a long day, try replacing it with yoga or meditation - even taking a hot bath! I fully understand your struggle with this one as I said in a previous blog, I sometimes have a glass of wine to help me sleep too.
Foods To Eat
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
I know it sounds more like something you should avoid, but these are the good fats found in food. Salmon, tuna, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts and egg whites are a few examples of foods that are high in O3FA. There have been many studies that have shown that there is a direct link between anxiety and low blood levels of O3FA. Facts support such findings as there are lower rates of anxiety and depression in countries that have high fish consumption. Your brain cell membranes are made partly of O3FA ( DHA). If Omega3 decreases in the body and the brain it will make it harder for serotonin to pass through your cell membranes.
If you are like me and need that warmth of a cup of tea in the morning especially in our Canadian weather, try a herbal tea. There is so many on the market now so you can find one that suits your taste buds. Chamomile tea has been used for centuries to help calm the body and mind. This tea can also help at bedtime for a less restless night. Peppermint tea gives you an overall calming as has a relaxing effect on your body. It is also a natural muscle relaxant so it will help with those tense muscles from a long stressful day. You should avoid it if you are pregnant as it enhances the risk of miscarriage. Green tea is another go to for me as the polyphenol in it helps combat stress and anxiety. Just be careful of how much you drink as most green tea has amounts of caffeine, so opt for the decaffeinated versions. It's adaptogenic in nature so it can keep you alert yet calm.
Brown rice and whole grain bread are examples of healthy complex carbs that are full of magnesium. When your magnesium levels are low, you can experience added anxiety and stress. You need to eat foods that contain good amounts of this mineral such as leafy green vegetables, think kale or swiss chard. These types of food are natures chill pill and can be used in numerous recipes, even in a smoothie. Nuts, beans ( pinto, black, red, soy or kidney), soy milk and sweet potatoes are stock full of the mother natures chill pill. If I am feeling anxious and shaky, I will make carrot, apple, cucumber and kale juice in my juicer. Sometimes, I will make a quick smoothie with strawberries,avacado, kale and soy milk. I do what it takes. Complex carbs contain the amino acid tryptophan which helps your body convert serotonin. Have a turkey sandwich with kale on whole wheat bread for you next lunch instead of that bologna with cheese that has been sitting in the vending machine since 1984. The best part you will stay fuller longer and have more energy.
I am not personally a fan of eating blueberries "raw", I prefer them in a smoothie or better yet, a muffin. Apparently, there is a mass of people who love them which is good as they are considered a superfood. Rich in phytonutrients, antioxidants and vitamins, all beneficial for relieving stress and anxiety. Citrus fruits are another easy fruit to grab on the go and will benefit you and your mood! I love most fruits and will always use them in baking, my juicer and for smoothies. They are easy to eat on the run so instead of that bag of chips, grab a freaking banana!
As with all things in life, we know what is good for us and what we should avoid or not indulge in yet we do. I have been keeping a record of what I eat and drink each day through an app called Lifesum. It is easy to use as you can even scan your food with your phone. On days that my anxiety is really high, I look back at what I consumed that day. I now know what I need to cut out of my diet or at the very least limit. Simply eating good food alone may not decrease anxiety for everyone but it can certainly help be a part of the solution for some people. So if you are having an overwhelming week and are feeling stressed out, try eliminating some of those naughty foods from your diet. If anything, they will give you more energy and help you to think more clearly.