Tuesday, April 22, 2014

how i fight anxiety.

>>that's more like it<<

I hint at my struggle with anxiety. Sometimes I'm more forthcoming about it. It's taken me a long time to get comfortable talking about it. Anxiety is one of my least favorite things to reveal about myself. Anxiety in any form leaves you very exposed. It's hard to allow people to see you exposed, is it not? No one enjoys showing their vulnerability. 

I've struggled with anxiety since I was fifteen years old. Not the "worry is consuming me" kind of anxiety, but the physically crippling, body shuts down because of panic attacks kind of anxiety. Basically, the chemicals in my brain don't make enough serotonin, which is the chemical your body needs to fight anxiety. 

Thankfully I've learned what works and what doesn't work when it comes to calming my anxiety. Obviously, the things that gave me panic attacks at 15 are not triggers for now; techniques that worked then don't always work now. Each person is going to have a different anxiety trigger, so they are going to have a different calming technique. It is always worth sharing what helps you fight anxiety because it might help someone else. 

1. Breathing 
In our very busy worlds, we breathe from the top half of our lungs. ((because who has time to breath full breaths?!)) Do you know what that kind of breathing does to the rest of your body? Repeatedly drawing quick breaths stimulates our brain's fight-or-flight response. Your body then scrambles to identify the source of panic and discovers it is coming from within- false alarm! Except, by now you're used to drawing quick breaths so your lungs ignore your brain's urges to CALM THE HECK DOWN. Your breathing continues at this fast pace, while you now feel worse than before. 

So, focus on your breathing. Get away from any and all distractions to do so. Sit on the edge of a chair and sit up straight. Inhale slowly through your nose- count to three as you do so. Your stomach will expand as your lungs fill with air. Then exhale through your mouth- again, to the count of three. Your stomach deflates as your lungs release the air. AND REPEAT!!! Focus on your breathing for at least three minutes. Let the oxygen get in your system and return your blood flow to normal. 

2. Exercise
((Exercise is more of a preventative measure but it's also a technique- I've been guilty of running outside in 110 heat on days that I have panic attacks)) I kid you not, every doctor I've ever met tells anxiety prone patients to exercise- it does SO many beneficial things for your body. First, exercise gets the blood flowing because you're being forced to breath regularly. Our bodies so desperately need oxygen continually flowing through our blood, to our heart, our brain, and every other vital organ. Second, exercise boosts endorphins (aka the hormone that induces a natural happy high) and raises your serotonin levels. Exercise stimulates your senses. I could go on about the benefits of excercise for anciety, but I won't. 

((Personally I like exercising outdoors. But living in Texas means half the year its too dang hot to exercise outdoors. So gym it is.))

2b. Yoga
I've recently discovered the wonder that it yoga. LIFE CHANGING. It is literally the best thing ever, in my way of thinking. You can do it at home alone or with friends; you can do a short session or a long session and still feel the benefits. There are so many pins on pinterest, youtube videos, and fitness dvds for yoga, all of which make it quite easy to do at home. Just research and find one you like. Or, start at the beginners class at a local gym and stick with it. 

3. Drink water
and only water. Try to eliminate sugary drinks and caffeinated drinks, or at least minimize how often you drink them. Water flushes toxins, moves that oxygen in your blood, regulates your temperature, protects your heart, decreases fatigue, and increases energy. Phew. And that ain't all. 

4. Do a simple activity
Paint your nails, color in a coloring book, do a puzzle, fold clothes. By doing a simple activity, you are forced to do something that takes your mind off the anxiety. You have to focus on a task, which in turn, calms you down. 

5. Praying 
Write out your prayers. And write out verses that hold God's promises to you. Even speak them over yourself, if need be. It's not necessarily to remind God of His promises, but to remind you of many His promises, His goodness, His steadfastness. I know if you are having a panic attack that sometimes you can't do this for yourself, so get a family member or friend to pray over you and speak truth over you. 

6. Touch
Physical touch is hit or miss if you're in the middle of a panic attack. Sometimes it is a lifeline out of the blackness of panic attacks, and sometimes you're so out of it that being touched scares you and worsens it. If you do need physical touch, you need to tell whoever is with you what you need from them- a hand to hold, a hug, play with hair, etc. Or your dog cuddling with you works great too! 

>>>And that's a big thing guys- my panic attacks used to shut me down so badly that I couldn't even verbalize my needs. You need to learn how to communicate if you get to that point in your anxiety. People can't read your mind. They don't know what will help and what might hinder. My best friend actually has an email saved of what I need from her should I ever get that panic attack prone again. 

Anxiety is present in our world, because stress is present in our world. But one day that will all be behind us. Til then, what do you do to deal with anxiety?
xx, bethany

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