I have anxiety. For most of my life I have had anxiety and always recall being "anxious" as a child and an adult. My anxiety got much worse during a difficult pregnancy and then even worse once my little love was born and I unknowingly suffered from Postpartum Anxiety. Since I do not want to take medication for my anxiety, I have had to find ways to cope otherwise.
*Note: I am not against mediation, I do not look down upon anyone who takes any medication for any mental illness nor am I suggesting that anyone should not take medication. This post is not medical advice, should not be misconstrued as medical advice and should definitely not be a substitute for medical advice or treatment. I am not a medical professional. I am merely a Catholic wife and mother who happens to have anxiety and wants to share what works with others. Please speak to your doctor if you have any questions regarding your health.
With that disclaimer said, there are four questions that I ask myself whether I am either getting even a smidgen of anxiety creeping up or when I am about to have a full-on panic attack (which, thank God, is now rare.)
This Catholic Mom's Four Questions To Bring Down Anxiety:
1. Am I breathing?
It may sound odd, ridiculous, obvious or all of the above, but reminding myself that I need to breath almost always helps bring down my anxiety. I find that when I get anxious, my breathing becomes shortened and shallow.
When I notice this happening, instead of allowing myself to continue with the rapid breaths, I take a moment to inhale deeply and fill up my lungs with air. Holding the air for a moment and then slowly releasing the air, repeating as many times as necessary.
While deep breathing exercises are a popularly known method to reduce anxiety, for me at least, I have to be conscience about reminding myself to not only breathe, but really breathe. (Find some great tips, here.)
What also happens when I remind myself to breathe is that I am telling my "anxiety" that I am in control and that it can calm down. My therapist gave me this tip. She told me that everyone has a fight or flight trigger. Mine is just on overdrive. She said that I should thank my trigger when I am feeling anxious but then remind the trigger that all is well and that I've got it under control. This works.
2. How much water have I had today?
Whenever I am not drinking enough water, I find that I am more susceptible to anxious moments. I aim to drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day and for me that means drinking half of my body weight in ounces. That amount may be too little or too much for you, so see what works best for you.
I almost always have a water bottle or glass with me (and one for my husband and son as well.) It goes everywhere with me! Whether I am at home, running errands, in a meeting or at the playground with my family, it actually helps me to know that I have water with me at all times. Just be sure to wash your bottle each day so that it doesn't harbor bacteria. (Gross!)
3. How much food have I eaten today?
Since I am a believer in the "brain-gut connection" (you can read more here) and agree with Hippocrates that [mostly] "all disease begins in the gut," I strive to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet.
That means that I try my hardest to get enough protein, healthy fats, grains, fruits and veggies in each day. Unfortunately, striving and actually accomplishing are two very different things. I notice that when I am not eating "well" my anxiety, among other health factors, are greatly impacted.
Thanks to our little love, I am used to keeping healthy snacks on hand and especially when we are on the go. If I find that I haven't eaten well or even enough during the day, I will sneak some of his snacks and in a short time I am feeling better.
4. Have I asked God for help?
This, like the rest of the questions I ask myself, seems like "duh, that's obvious!" but, for me at least, I have to remind myself that God is on my side and I can ask Him for help whenever I want. He is on your side too and is ready in a moments notice to help whenever we call on Him.
Sometimes (okay, often) it is hard for me to ask for help, even from God. I downplay my anxiety and think that it isn't as significant or extreme as other peoples worries or problems. But God doesn't work that way. He wants to help all of us. He wants to help those who have "big" and "little" problems. To God, we all matter and we are all worthy of his help in life.
In fact, life is easier when I remember to ask God for help and then remember to thank Him as well. Just knowing that I do not have to go through life alone, helps tremendously. Prayer brings miracles and even anxiety is no match for our Lord.
But remember, if you are feeling anxious, depressed, etc... you do not have to do it all alone or even alone plus God. God gives us people like therapists and psychiatrists and even naturopathic doctors for a reason. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness. Mental illness is not a sign of weakness. My former therapist said to me once when I was feeling sad because of my anxiety, "you wouldn't feel ashamed if you had anemia you would just seek treatment." The same is true for mental illness, don't be ashamed and remember, you don't have to do it alone.
For more information on mental illness and to get help, please click here.
As always, thank you for reading. God bless you and may the Blessed Virgin Mary be with you always!
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