Since I was 12 years old, I’ve struggled with anxiety. It’s come in the form of panic attacks, overwhelming fear, forgetfulness and most of all, mood swings. Before I learned to control these through medication and the other coping methods below, I could be happy as a clam and the next minute, the slightest thing would send me into a rage.
Imagine if you will, making a call to the local pharmacy. I’ve called the line and been put on hold. The longer that the ticker on the phone goes on, the more and more angry I get. I’m sweating, shaking. It’s not normal. My breathing is heavy. I’m thinking about what I’m going to say to the person on the other end when they finally pick up. I feel helpless and angry, for no real reason.
Another example that would be more traditionally recognized as anxiety happened often when driving down the road. My breath would get really shallow and it would feel like someone was sitting on my chest. I felt completely out of control of my body and my car. This happened more times than I could count while driving on the highway in Houston, a terrible place to have a panic attack.
Thankfully last year I decided to speak to my doctor about my situation and ways to control it. Through reading blogs and speaking with other women, I’ve come to realize that anxiety is something that affects way more people than I realized. Because of that, I wanted to share four ways that I’ve learned to cope with my anxiety:
Talk with your doctor. This is the most important one. Many people don’t feel comfortable taking medication to regulate moods or to help with anxiety, but for me it is the one thing that finally helped get my anxiety under control. Even if you decide not to go the medication route, your doctor may be able to recommend other coping methods or refer you to a psychologist that can do so.
Figure out what triggers you. My anxiety manifested itself most often in mood swings that occurred as quickly as flipping a switch. I could feel myself getting annoyed and then I would just lash out and although I knew what I was saying was wrong or mean, I couldn’t stop myself. Although I don’t have this happen as often anymore, I have learned to take a step back if I start feeling extremely annoyed or anxious. I take deep breaths, sip water, and try to distract myself with something on TV (particularly not the news….)
Ask someone to help you with coping. Having the support of a friend, parent, or significant other is extremely important in learning to cope with a mental illness. Although I had been suffering from anxiety for 15 years, I didn’t decide to do anything about it until last year. Talking with my husband about how my anxiety manifested itself and asking him for his patience and encouragement has made a world of difference for me. When he sees me starting to get short or annoyed, he reminds me to calm down and breathe. It has really strengthened our relationship and reminds me that I’m not alone.
Take time for yourself. It seems like we’re constantly surrounded by bad news everywhere we look these days. Many people are discouraged by the direction of our country and afraid for what it might mean for themselves, their friends and their neighbors. If you’re able, unplug for a bit and do something that you enjoy. Or take a mental health day from work, if you’re able. I know my mental health has taken a toll in the last few months, but giving myself some time to do things I enjoy has really helped. (I realize that being able to unplug is a privilege that not all of us are able to afford. I’m grateful for the opportunities I have to do so but will continue to work hard so that all Americans are able to have some peace of mind.)
I’m not a psychologist, but these are just a few things that have helped me. I highly recommend speaking with your doctor or psychologist to find methods that work best for you.
Even if you don’t struggle from anxiety, are there methods you use to calm yourself down?