faith, illness

13 things I’ve Learned About Living with Anxiety

It’s the weekend before Thanksgiving.

For the last month, my family has been living part time at home and part time at a hotel 3 hours from our house while my husband is working there temporarily.

I came home this weekend relieved that we were finally home to stay, only to find that we’re going back next again week.

This weekend was already full: family in from Washington, my nieces birthday party, showing my parents house (which we actually own and are looking to sell). Then, packing and Thanksgiving next week too.

Additionally, it’s snowing in the mountains where we’re staying, and my car had decided it didn’t want to make heat anymore.

Then, my internal bleeding started again –no doubt triggered by all the stress.

When I found we were being sent back away from home, it was just all too much.

Everyone deals with stress differently, and everyone has a limit to what they can handle.

I, apparently, had reached mine.

My brain froze.

It was like when your computer freezes, and there’s nothing to do but restart it. Continuing to push won’t help.

I couldn’t plan.

I couldn’t make a decision.

I couldn’t think.

I started having panic attacks over every little thing.

After writing previously about the difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder, I had actually been waiting for a time when I had panic attacks again to observe my own behavior.

The first thing that occurred to me (after I had calmed a bit) was that this couldn’t be merely an issue of lack of faith, because I wasn’t worrying about anything. I simply couldn’t get my brain to work at all. It was too frozen in freak-out mode to actually be worried about anything.

The second thing that occurred to me is that while I might have adapted to the amount of stress required to keep a family functioning living part time in two cities, it was the added stress of family gatherings, health, vehicle troubles, and real estate transactions that put me over the top.

It was like trying to push too much food through a hand-cranked food processor. No matter how hard you try, if you push too much into the processor at one time, the crank will jam. It’s not a function of not trying hard enough, the processor just can’t work.

My brain had too many energy-requiring tasks being pushed on it all at once, and the processor jammed.

Some people can handle many more stressors than I can. I could even handle much more before the illness which brought the anxiety with it.

I was able to take some supplements that helped my brain slow down from freak out mode.

We postponed the real estate stuff until next weekend.

Grandma took my kids to the birthday party.

The mechanic figured out that the coolant was low in the car causing the heater to work poorly.

I started back on the supplements for intestinal bleeding, praying that it wouldn’t require another doctor visit.

I’m handling life much better today than I was yesterday.

The only way I know to handle my anxiety is to alter my expectations. You can’t force your brain to process more than it’s able.

Did you know that PTSD is caused by your brain misfiling information when you’re stressed out? If you’re brain is in freak-out mode and you force it to keep trying to push stuff through the processor, you’re only causing further injury and problems –potentially even PTSD. Those with brain processing problems are more likely to develop more.

This is why I have learned to do the following things that help:

  1. Slow down
  2. Take supplements that help brain function (ginseng and magnesium helps me a lot)
  3. Make margins, buffers, especially allowing for more time to accomplish tasks when I’m stressed
  4. Say “no” –even to good things if they stress me
  5. Do fewer things spread further apart to give my brain a chance to destress
  6. Talk it out with a good friend (or my husband) to get to the root of what’s causing the stress (for instance, being away from my husband causes more stress than living in a hotel for weeks)
  7. Have some days where nothing is scheduled, and I just recuperate
  8. Cancel last minute if I have to in order to protect my health and mental stability
  9. Ask for help without feeling ashamed (like my mom taking the boys to my niece’s party)
  10. Make love. Ahem. Don’t ask me why this works. Both anxiety and sex are connected to brain chemistry. That’s my best explanation.
  11. Realize that it’s okay for me to not be at 100% all the time
  12. Understand that anxiety is part of the curse, an illness in my brain function and not a reflection of my character
  13. Understand that none of my health problems, not even the anxiety, can keep God from using me

Not everyone starts bleeding when they get stressed like I do. Learn to identify your signals. One of my other signs is that I start yelling. Maybe some of those ideas will help you deal with your anxiety. If not, hopefully, it will help you better understand those who do deal with anxiety and give them more grace.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

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