Before we get into this list let me start off by hitting you with a few facts. Did you know that an estimated 40 million adults in America suffer from anxiety disorder? That’s nearly the entire population of California. That statistic doesn’t even include all of the children who suffer from it. Even though so many people deal with anxiety disorder on a daily basis most still know very little to nothing about it. One of the main reasons is that people don’t want to talk about it.
Imagine someone telling you that their brain is constantly arguing with itself. One side is trying to tell them that they are afraid of some random scenario happening but the other side of their brain knows there’s nothing to fear. Imagine sitting next to someone on the couch, you’re relaxing and watching a movie. Then, out of nowhere, they start freaking out and crying hysterically for literally no reason at all. You’re more than likely going to think “This person is crazy!”
And that, my friends, is why no one wants to talk about it…. So at the risk of me sounding out of my mind, I am going to start talking about it. There’s also a conversation to be had about the lack of discussion around mental illness in communities of color. But that’s going to have to be a whole different article.
On a good day, I just deal with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. On an off day that can quickly morph into Panic Disorder. To simplify the difference between the two, one is the constant worry of a fear coming true and the other is going into full-blown panic attacks out of nowhere. Anxiety takes a normal small fear and amplifies it. I am a control freak and have a weird fear of bugs. So I often have panic attacks in my sleep about losing control of my car and hurting my children or that I am being attacked by giant spiders. I will wake up with my heart pounding, drenched in sweat, breathing hard, and crying. I repeat to myself “It’s not real. I am safe.” for a few minutes, then go back to sleep. And that’s just the panic attacks that I get in my sleep.
Yeah, not fun.
Dealing with anxiety is one thing. Dealing with anxiety and having 2 tiny humans that depend on you all day is a whole different animal.
Here are some ways I used to cope with my anxiety and how I have adjusted it to motherhood:
1. Don’t answer the phone. Before I became a mother, when I had my days where I was overwhelmed with anxiety I would automatically just shut down. I would shut the world out and retreat into myself. Shutting down is not an option for me now. My children need me to be there for them physically and emotionally. So I don’t shut down completely, but I do put my phone down and keep it on silent. I find that it helps a lot to have days where I just don’t talk to anyone. It’s too much work trying to put on the mask of being in a good mood to talk to people or trying to explain to them why you aren’t yourself right now. I promise the world will keep spinning if you don’t talk to anyone for a day or two. (Unless you need to, for work and whatnot.)
2.Have random dance parties. Anxiety can cause depression in someone that normally wouldn’t experience depression. I am naturally a very perky, goofy, and positive person. When I’m really anxious I tend to get depressed. Before motherhood, I didn’t feel the need to force myself to seem happy when I wasn’t. However, babies and toddlers don’t understand what depression is. They don’t get it when they are showing you their cool new Lego creation and you don’t even seem excited about it. When I feel myself starting to smile a little less I immediately jump up and throw on some music that makes me happy. I blast it and dance around the house with my boys for a good 15-20 minutes. It’s so much fun.
3. Take natural supplements. When I first started having panic attacks I was around 20 years old. It was something new to me and I didn’t really know how to deal with it. I needed something to help calm me down, so I drank alcohol and occasionally smoked marijuana. (Act like you didn’t read that, mom.) I’m not trying to kill my liver nor be under the influence all the time with two mini-humans in my care.
I have found that certain all natural herb supplements have similar calming effects. One that is very helpful is valerian root. You can find it at most stores in the vitamin and supplements section. It’s mainly used to help you sleep but if you take a small dosage it can help to just calm you a bit.
Sometimes I will take one pill during the day and then an extra in the evening to help with my insomnia and nightly panic attacks. A vitamin B complex is also helpful because it regulates your nervous system. Always consult with your doctor before taking anything you are unfamiliar with, especially if you are already on other medications or breastfeeding.
**Edit: After originally writing this post I discovered ashwagandha and it has changed my life. I went from going a few weeks where I was having panic attacks daily (sometimes multiple times a day) to the panic attacks completely stopping altogether. As long as I take the ashwagandha once every 2 or 3 days I literally do not have a panic attack. Just wanted to make sure that I mentioned that in case it may help someone else as well.
4. Do yoga and meditate. There are countless articles and resources on all the benefits of yoga and meditation, so I’m not going to go into it too much. I’ll just say that at least 15-20 minutes of yoga and meditation a few times a week helps A LOT. My little ones even love to do yoga with me. Yoga especially helps because it teaches you how to remain calm and focused in a stressful or hard situation. This carries out into your everyday life. Here’s a video showing what yoga typically looks like for me and my 2 little gremlins.
I wanted to share a quick time lapse video of what it looks like when I do a quick 15 minutes (that's all I can spare most mornings) yoga session. This is me in raw mama form lol. It's first thing in the morning. My hair is a mess, my house has random things all over the place thanks to my 1 yr old, my kids are all over me, and my 1 yr old has a cold so he looks a hot mess as well. 🤧 You won't see me in a cute yogi outfit, I'm in my leggings that I slept in and my husband's shirt. Nevertheless the moment is still beautiful. It's self-care and bonding with my boys rolled into one. ·Have you ever done yoga and meditation with your little ones?·When most people think about yoga they tend to think about the cool-looking handstand poses that the advanced yogis do. Another misconception is that you need to spend a lot of time in a quiet child-free room to do yoga. Sure that would be great but no, it's not necessary. ·One of my New Year goals is to put the same amount of time into taking care of myself as I do taking care of everyone else. Getting back to doing yoga every morning is apart of that. Yoga is so important and beneficial for a number of reasons. Not only for mama but for the kids as well. And it's not hard to start. Just turn on a DVD (lots in Amazon Prime tv), roll out your mat, and breathe 🧘🏾♀️🙂 -Bridgid
Posted by BougieMama on Wednesday, January 3, 2018
I write down everything that I need to get out. It helps to work through my thoughts and separate what’s real from what’s just blown out of proportion by my anxiety. Journaling your anxiety also helps to reveal patterns and see what triggers you to be anxious or have a panic attack. Which leads me to my next point…..
6. Identify your triggers. It is important to know what triggers you to get anxious or have a panic attack. Once you identify your triggers you can either work to avoid them or try to find ways to lessen their effect.
An example of a trigger: I noticed that when I’m anxious, physical touch can send me into a panic attack for some reason. So I tell my husband that even though he wants to hug me when I’m freaking out, it’s better to ask first or just be with me but not touch me. He has gotten pretty good at not touching me when I’m anxious unless I initiate the touch.
An example of dealing with a trigger you can’t avoid: I get triggered when I have a ton of stuff to do and remember. It also doesn’t help that I just am naturally a forgetful person. I get anxious, freaking out that I’m going to forget to do something important and cause something major to happen. Instead, I write everything down. I have 3 different dry erase boards on my fridge and one in my bedroom. I keep a tiny notebook and pen in my purse. I have a little magnetic tear-away notepad on my fridge and one in my car. And I also use apps like Wunderlist and Evernote to keep all my notes and to-do lists organized.
Phew! That was hard to talk about! Well those are my top 6 ways that I cope with my anxiety. I hope that this helps someone dealing with anxiety. I also hope this helps to enlighten and show perspective to those of you who don’t have anxiety.
I look forward to chatting with you all about this topic in the comments below!