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My first extended time away from home—after being married—came when I was hired by an insurance company to be a claims adjuster. The company sends new hires to one of 3 training centers for 2 weeks, you go home for a week and do more training, then you go back for another 2 weeks. It’s tough. Really tough. Mentally and emotionally—and that was before I’d even had kids! During this time without anyone that I knew for 2 weeks straight, was the first time I had ever experienced a true panic (or anxiety) attack. And for anyone who’s blessedly never had one—you don’t want to ever have one!!!
I ended up going on medication, and have discovered that my body is actually low in serotonin, which makes it tough to survive without medication—as well as post medication (weaning from that stuff is a whole other post.) However, I’ve currently weaned myself to the lowest dose I can—which means that even though I don’t normally have full blown panic attacks now, I still have lots of anxiety when I get too much on my plate.
I wanted to talk about this because some people don’t even realize they’re having panic attacks. My sister regularly texts me with symptoms of feeling like she could be having a heart attack while the world is closing in on her: Panic attack. (Granted, she’s an attorney in an uber-high-stress job.) But even mild constant general anxiety seems to be becoming the norm for Mamas nowadays, and I want you to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
First of all, let me say that I understand that no two people are alike. So this is a general guideline of things that have helped me personally, but also sprinkled in are tidbits of advice from others that also experience panic attacks or chronic anxiety.
1. Yoga and meditation:
I have to put these first because if I miss a class, I’m very well aware of it. I end up having to catch myself before I snap at the kids for being generally aggravating, so that I can keep my shiznit together. Seriously, it’s that noticeable. Yoga is one of the only times I have TOTALLY dedicated to myself with no interruptions. The great part about yoga is that if you don’t know if it’s right for you, or just want to try it out, there are a million and one videos on Youtube for free that you can watch and give it a whirl. Even if you don’t think you can get into the relaxation mindset of it, the stretching alone is totally worth it!
2. Find YOUR relaxation:
Everybody has that thing (or things) that just allow them to let go and recharge with a better disposition than before. What’s cool about this strategy is that there is no judgement. You and maybe your partner can know about this, but you don’t have to advertise it to a single soul–it’s totally what’s wired in you to help you unwind and relax. Here’s a post on figuring that out.
3. Talk to your doc:
I went to my doc eleven-plus years ago because I didn’t know what else to do. In 2006 there wasn’t a lot of information (from bloggers or otherwise) on the benefits vs downsides of taking SSRIs. All I ever heard was how great Prozac was, and my doc put me on something similar that helped. So I thought, Great—I’m doing better, feeling better—life’s good!
But the side-effects for me weren’t worth it. Especially since we started trying to get pregnant and some of those can cause birth defects. Your doc may suggest something else, though (probably/maybe after blood work), like 5-HTP, which is the precursor to serotonin (the feel-good neurotransmitter.) So if you’re low in serotonin, this may really help without having to take any meds. My goal is to get completely off the SSRI and try this as an alternative. (And BTW–I totally am NOT advocating starting these meds if you can help it!! I’ve read articles about using medications in conjunction with cognitive therapy, and they make it sound like it’s so easy to just ‘go off’ the meds when you’re better. It’s NOT that easy!!!)
I never really realized how much my body needed exercise, because I grew up on a farm where I had to do outside work all the time anyway. But once I moved away and wasn’t forced to move my body all the time by Sergeant Dad, some negative reactions kicked in. (In hindsight this was probably a contributor to my initial panic attacks.) I always seem to resort to this for getting the kids’ energy out so they can behave like normal human beings in public settings (as opposed to lunatic neanderthals), as well as sleep soundly, but it never occurred to me that I need to get that gnarled angry energy out, too. Once I started regularly exercising, things changed a LOT.
5. Good ole’ communication:
It’s no secret that my husband and I are very opposite. I’ve felt over the years like even when I’m very specific about something that he’ll still tell me a week later that he didn’t understand my point about what made me upset in the first place. Now, I don’t promote airing your dirty laundry to anyone who will listen, but there’s definitely something to be said for a person or two that your trust with your life secrets to be a sounding board, and that won’t judge your or your partner when you vent. Just being able to talk sometimes lets you get it out and relieve some of the anxiety you’re having about things. Communication with others can be a very powerful thing if it’s used in a purposeful way. Even if you choose to only speak to a therapist about it.
Here’s a list of some great blog posts about reducing anxiety that I’ve come across in recent months:
Click the image below to snag a FREE cognitive therapy-type journal for working on your anxiety!
How do you relive anxiety? Do you have panic attacks? Let me know in the comments below!
And remember that you can and will get through these anxiety-ridden times in your life. Life in this day and age can be very overwhelming, but it’s not impossible!
Please share this with anybody you feel could benefit as well!