Cleaning the bathroom on a February afternoon changed my life.
As I moved containers of toiletries off the counter, I noticed the nail polish remover was out and made a mental note to put it out of reach of the kids. This simple thought led to a spiral of anxiety in which my brain obsessed about all the potentially dangerous items in my house that could be fatal if used improperly. I became terrified of everything.
These intrusive thoughts are common in people struggling with clinical anxiety. In a matter of minutes, I was hyperventilating in the full throes of a panic attack, the latest of dozens of attacks I had endured in the previous days and weeks. Though I had started seeing a therapist, this was the point I realized I wasn’t just a little more nervous than usual. I was experiencing a clinical mood disorder, and I needed professional help.
I am thrilled to say that was one of the last panic attacks I have had in months. A combination of medication and natural approaches is working wonders in keeping my anxiety and depression at bay. I wanted to share what’s helping me in case these tools can help you too. Please check with your doctor before taking any new supplements or herbs.
If you believe you are struggling with clinical anxiety, depression, panic attacks, or other mood disorders, please seek help. You are not weak for needing assistance in navigating your mental health! Admitting I needed help was one of the strongest things I have done.
Mental health is HEALTH, period. You wouldn’t delay seeking medical attention if your limbs or organs suddenly stopped working. You should approach your mental health with the same care and vigilance.
Cutting out the Big 3 (Caffeine, Alcohol, and Sugar)
I know this does not sound fun, but I believe diet is the underlying core in many health conditions. I have cut my coffee consumption to just an occasional treat on the weekend and try to avoid sugar and alcohol other than on special occasions. On the days I do choose to indulge, my sleep suffers, and I am usually more anxious the next day. It has been a sacrifice, but completely worth feeling better.
Taking My Vitamins
I’ve been very blessed to have a team of doctors, both MDs and functional medicine physicians, willing to work together to help me feel my best. In addition to prescription duloxetine, I take a variety of methylated B vitamins, fish oil, magnesium, turmeric, probiotics, and SAM-E to make sure my body is getting the support it needs.
It seems my depression and anxiety have some correlation to Seasonal Affective Disorder. As the weather improves here in Southeast Michigan, so does my mood. I try to spend a few hours outside on sunny days and sit under a sun lamp for at least 30 minutes in the morning on gray days.
When I first started to suspect I was experiencing anxiety, my functional medicine doctor told me to do as many squats as I could each day. I thought it sounded a little whacky, but I tried it. Regular exercise boosts feel-good endorphins and is responsible for the aptly named “runner’s high.” Now that marathon training is beginning, I am working on running a few times a week and cross training with Pilates and yoga. I notice I am significantly calmer and happier after exercising.
One of the best decisions I made after I started to come out of the panic attacks and depression was to say no to any new commitment for the next year that I didn’t have to take on. Saying no has allowed for more rest, baths, quiet reading time, and time to play.
On top of saying no to commitments, I am also saying no to guilt about saying no. I am a recovering people pleaser. That means I often say yes to things I should not take on, leading to an overwhelmed mind and packed schedule. The best way I have found to eliminate that guilt is to practice saying no often about both big and little things. It may look like not taking on another responsibility at church, canceling a play date when we have a busy week, and I am tired or making my kids make their lunch.
These five things on their own are useful to lessen stress and anxiety, but it’s in combination with each other and quality medical care that I see a big difference.
I may not always need medication, but anxiety will always be a part of my life now, whether a daily struggle or in memory. By incorporating these five tips in my life, I am a happier, healthier person. And I plan to stay that way.
What are your tips for fighting stress and anxiety? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.