10 Tips to Living with Anxiety (Part One)
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. I am a mother of three children ages four and under, who has been helped by medical professionals with anxiety and depression. While I understand it very well through my own experience, I do not want my help to become a substitute for professional medical help; only an additional resource. These steps will definitely help you, but an equally important step in getting help with anxiety is to go in to your OB’s office and chat with him or her about how you have been feeling and behaving.
I have cleaned out my mind, searching to find the best and most helpful tips for the mother just beginning her journey with anxiety. The following five steps are part one of a two-part 10 step series for you. Love you, mammas.
1. Understand: What is anxiety?
I like to describe anxiety as overall irrational thinking, on the regular. And usually, that irrational thinking has to do with our baby and husband. For example, your husband says to you, “Hey babe, I’m going to take the baby for a walk around the block, I’ll be back in a bit.” And you think something like, “What if they get hit by a car? And I lose both my husband and my baby all in one day? … And the funeral expenses…” Then you may genuinely begin to feel the sorrow of loss, to the extent where you say something like, “Hey, let me come with you,” or “Just be so careful, okay?”
With this example above, we have a normal desire: to keep our baby and husband out of harm’s way. But our thoughts ran away from us and our anxiety (irrational fears) crept in. Before they left out the door, we were sure something terrible was going to happen.
Anxiety is usually centered in the future. And it’s usually normal concerns, but about 5 times as intense. It’s intrusive, and starting to bug you or your partner. One or the both of you do not understand why you are so worked up about such ‘little’ things. (They’re not little in your mind, this is all very real to you. I hear you.)
Mirriam-Webster’s medical dictionary defines anxiety as follows:
1- an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one's capacity to cope with it
2- mentally distressing concern or interest
3- a strong desire sometimes mixed with doubt, fear, or uneasiness (See the full definition here)
Anxiety can center around anything. It can feel like fear, or stress, or nervousness; it can leave you very strongly opposed to something happening, or really not wanting to do something, etc.
As for the physical symptoms of anxiety, they vary from person to person, but this article gives you the main ones.
The first step to having power over anxiety is to get to know it and understand it--educate yourself.
2. Accept anxiety
I know you are in pain, you may not understand what is happening, and you want this over and out of your life as quickly as possible.
I've been right there, where you are.
Just hear me out: accept this. It will help you kick it faster. Our ability to live with, and potentially overcome, anxiety.
The opposite of acceptance is resistance or rejection. When we are resisting anxiety, we are in denial about it, or about how bad it is. We are not open to seeking medical attention, we do not want to tell people about it--even the people to whom we have our closest connections-because that makes it real. And we are not wanting it to be real.
Or, you just may be clueless as to what has been happening to you - you didn’t used to be this much of a worrier. Not understanding anxiety and not making yourself aware actually leaves you vulnerable.
You can go on this way, as I did. Eventually, though, anxiety becomes bigger than your own ability to understand it and live with it. Eventually it can lead you to not understand yourself, your thoughts, and your own behavior. This can be a very unsettling and dramatic place to be, which it why it’s so great to seek help and seek to see what you can do to stay on top of anxiety.
So here is how to accept anxiety: say the word out loud to yourself. This is not a lifetime diagnosis. Realise that living with anxiety is like welcoming a new friend into your life. Make space for this friend’s habits; seek to get to know and understand this new friend. And realize that this new friend does not always know what is best. You do.
3. Get help
The first step to healing that I always recommend (remember, I’ve been through this) - is to go see your ObGyn. My OB had a Physician’s Assistant that was female and a mother herself, I chose to see her about my postpartum struggles. But definitely keep it within the realm of the OB’s office if you can, versus a Primary Care Doctor.
Let me tell you why it is so important to talk to a medical professional about anxiety:
It makes it real to you. You say it out loud, you tell someone else. This stops the destructive potential cycle of shame, which can happen when you hide these things from others (yes, even your husband).
You will be validated and you will hear, from the mouth of a trained medical prof, how normal this is, how normal your feelings and behaviors are, especially for new moms.
...Here are some things your brain will start to tell you right now:
“But what if they try to medicate me.”
“What if they take my baby away from me because they think I’m crazy.”
“What if they send me home thinking I’m normal, and I don’t get help from feeling this way…”
“What if I see a friend there, and they ask me why I’m there….”
Totally normal, but that is all anxiety talking. You can keep this as private as you need to, for as long as you need to. No need to explain to others while you’re just figuring this all out. But do get to the OB’s office, even if you all just end up having a really educational conversation.
I chose not to bring my husband - I felt so “weird” because I’d been acting like such a worry wart and he was not understanding why and - - I just wanted answers for myself before bringing him into it. ...Frankly, I was embarrassed. I brought my sister-in-law, though. Which was helpful.
...If you completely cannot bring yourself to see a doctor about this, then at the very least, tell someone about what you’ve been experiencing. It can be me - I am an amazing person to help in this situations, I've been through it twice. I would love to coach you through this. Email me: email@example.com , or visit my web site .
4. Find patterns
This can be sort of fun, actually. If you really want to learn to live with anxiety - let’s say you’re totally against any sort of medication, then this step is your best friend. And even if you are or will be taking medication to help with your anxiety, find patterns.
Do you tend to get anxious if you didn’t get enough sleep the night before? ...Is it only when your mother is around? ...Do you feel anxiety when you’re going to an appointment with a set time, or have a deadline of some sort? Maybe it’s when your husband hints he wants to be intimate later...
Optional Activity: I want you to take out a piece of paper and make a list of the times you can think of when you have felt anxious, or situations that you generally feel anxious about. Start to notice themes.
5. Implement lifestyle habits that will help with your anxiety
Now that you have some idea of your ‘triggers’, or the situations in which you commonly start to feel anxious, take steps to prevent any situations that are reasonable to prevent. (For example, you are generally capable of preventing yourself from a lack of sleep - go to bed on time. However, preventing your mother from ever talking to you? Not as possible to prevent...and would you really want that?)
Imagine that your brain and your mind are a sky. When you get enough rest, the weather is warm and sunny. On the other hand, when you are running on four hours of sleep because you stayed up to binge on a Netflix series...it’s cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms.
Anxiety = thunderstorms.
Do what you can with your health to set the weather of your mind where you need it to be. Of course, the healthiest and most well-rested person in the world could still experience anxiety - none of us is immuned. Or unforeseen traumatic life events can happen, which can have the same effect… But we can decrease its power by doing some of those preventative health-related thing (e.g. not drinking caffeine, getting rest, doing yoag, etc.) (See this article for more on how your health relates to your anxiety)
While the habits each one of us could implement will depend on our anxiety triggers, chapter of life, and personality/preferences, here are some common ones:
Yoga or meditation - a lot of rec centers offer these
Get a life coach - a life coach will be someone to report to regularly and can help you see your progress/areas to work on surrounding anxiety
Go on morning walks - enjoy and get to know your mind being rested and clear, so you can have that to compare to when your anxiety kicks in, and be better able to recogniz anxiety when it comes.
Attend a group workout class - the social aspect helps
Consider joining a postpartum support group
Here are some more homeopathic ideas for coping with anxiety.
That’s it for Part 1, the first 5 steps. If you would like to be notified when steps 6-10 are available to you, join my mailing list here.
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I am here for you. I love you, mammas.
Anxiety about something being wrong with your health (AKA “Health Anxiety” - I experienced this for a while postpartum)