Perinatal Anxiety: How do I know if I’m ready for another baby?

My most recent pregnancy was wretched. I didn’t have much morning sickness, I was just the normal amount of tired, the baby grew beautifully, and I had no medical complications. But I had perinatal anxiety, and that made everything suck, and it still sucks.

Perinatal Anxiety: How do I know if I am ready to have another baby? Observe women's mental health month by sharing this with a pregnant woman you love and care about.

It started in my first trimester with an increase in panic attacks. I normally get them a couple of times a year, but they started happening a few times a week. The doctors kept telling me that I was just anxious about having another baby, but I knew it wasn’t normal pregnancy anxiety.

As the weeks went by, I started having panic attacks so frequently that I was checked into the local hospital. I simply could not catch my breath in between the episodes as they were just compounding on top of one another. In addition to the panic, I was also having very depressing and suicidal thoughts. I knew I had no intention of ever killing myself, but the anxiety made me feel that I might be going crazy and eventually take my own life without my consent. It was such a dark time, you guys.

The hospital stay set me up with a new dosage for my anxiety meds as well as a therapist and a psychiatrist. I visited both of them frequently throughout the rest of my pregnancy, and I found a bit of comfort when my psychiatrist told me she would set me up with a women’s mental health clinic if or when we ever decided to have another baby.

Theodore Patrick was born on February 18, 2015, and almost instantly, my anxiety vanished. While it was reassuring to know that it was pregnancy hormones causing all of this (and not me actually going insane), it left me with the question: Do I ever want to go through this again?

We’ve always wanted a large family, and we still do. After our older kids were born, we knew we would get pregnant as soon as we were able again. But this time was much different. It’s not a given that I will go through the same suffering the next time, but I am at a much higher risk.

And that’s where we are right now. Do we want another child? We do. Am I ready to face that same type of pregnancy if God asks me to? I don’t know.

There are days when I am positively positive that I am ready for another. Theodore was so worth it, after all. But, the majority of days I am too scared to face the same fate again.

Our plan for now is to wait until the good days outnumber the bad days. And we pray. Lord, let us know what you are asking of our family. If you would like us to bring new life into the world, make it abundantly clear, and help us to feel peace in your request. We desire more children but fear the implications on my mental health. Thank you for all of the blessings you have already bestowed on our family. Help us to leave the future in your hands and to suffer well if you so ask it of us. Amen.

Giveaway

God brought good out of my story. He filled me with the Holy Spirit and enabled me to write a book filled with all of the tips and tools I use to manage my panic and anxiety. Check out 30 Days to Calm in my Etsy shop, and enter for a change to win one here.

To Enter: Follow me on Instagram (@callherhappy), and then comment here telling me that you did (or do). I will choose a winner June 6, 2016!

xx

Share your story at Flourish in Hope or read more stories like this one.

#5Faves: Anxious TV Characters #streamteam

Netflix provided me with a streaming device and free watching privileges, but opinions are all mine.

5faves

I’ve mentioned you can preorder my journal now, but someone should get the memo to these fine folks. Here are my five favorite TV characters who should be given a complimentary copy of 30 Days to Calm. Who would you add to the list?

1. Buster Funke from Arrested Development: Honestly, I think any of these characters could use the journal. But Buster? Buster would be my number one…or Tobias…

2. Chris Traeger from Parks and Rec: The tips in this journal might *literally* be life-changing for Chris. And we all know he is about self-improvement.

3. Zoey Hart from Hart of Dixie: Maybe Zoey could use 30 Days to Calm; maybe not, but I’m pretty sure she could hand this out to a handful of people in Bluebell.

4. Jacqueline Voorhes from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: I didn’t add this tip to the journal, but I love Kimmy’s advice to her: jump up and down and chant, “I’m not really here! I’m not really here!” Maybe I add that to the revised version.

5. Arnold Perlstein from the Magic Schoolbus: This kid’s teacher clearly has him all sorts of upset. Arnold can take his 30 Days to Calm anxiety toolbox with him on all of those field trips. Problem solved.

All of these shows can be streamed on Netflix right this very minute. Is instant gratification an anxiety related problem? If so, I don’t want to be cured.

Link up your #5Faves below!

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Preorder My Book

Yep. I said it.

preorder

My book is officially available for preorder. And, for right now, it is at a special reduced preorder price which you’re probably going to want to take advantage of before it goes back to el normal.

Well, what are you waiting for? Hop to it.

Wait.

One more thing: if you share this post or my book listing from Etsy encouraging people to purchase, I will give you a coupon code for $1 off the discounted price. Just email me the link to your post, and I will send you the secret code to use at checkout.

Ready? Set? Go.

 

#5Faves: Posts About Anxiety

 

You may have heard (ha!) that I am publishing a journal this Fall. It’s all about anxiety and the best methods for coping. So, Imma make this week’s 5 Faves all about the struggle. Here are my favorite articles on anxiety and other mental illnesses.

And, consider helping the final stages of this project by funding (or sharing!) the Kickstarter.

5faves

-1-

Do Catholics Have Crisis Pregnancies?

-2-

Understanding Panic Attacks

-3-

What It Feels Like When You’re Having an Anxiety Attack

-4-

7 Tips to Tame Mental Clutter

-5-

Postpartum Depression and Anxiety Blog Hop

What are your favorite blog posts about mental health? Tell me in the comments or link up your #5Faves (about anything!) below.  

Back the 30 Days to Calm Kickstarter

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I wrote a book.

Ok, it’s more of a journal, really. But if I titled this, “I wrote a journal,” you’d be like, “Oh, LiveJournal is still a thing?” and then you’d be all sorts of confused…as if you’re not already.

Moving on.

So, I wrote this journal called 30 Days to Calm: Create Your Own Anxiety Toolbox, and I hope to have it ready for purchase before Christmas.

30 Days to Calm: Create Your Own Anxiety Toolbox

What is it about?

Here’s a little excerpt from the journal:

This journal is designed for use over the course of one month. Take it more slowly if need be. Just don’t try to rush through it. Instead, each day read the tip or tool. Then use the space provided to answer the journal prompt. The prompts are designed to help you practice your new skills, reflect on your current beliefs, and ignite new ideas to help yourself.

Each tip builds upon the next, meaning it is designed to be carried forward and practiced the next day. I encourage you to try to think of each tool as a new habit. Then, incorporate the ones that work; forget the ones that don’t. Just be consistent in your practice of the ones you keep.

By the end of thirty days, you will have a whole new set of skills on hand during times of anxiety and stress. Save this book as a reminder of what you have learned along the way. Reference it when needed. It is your toolbox.

Who is it for?

This journal is for anyone who has chronic stress, suffers from generalized anxiety, has panic attacks, or has any combination of those maladies. While I wrote it from my perspective (a woman, a mother, a Catholic), I truly believe that the tips and prompts are valuable for people of all walks of life.

I say things like “walks of life” now.

Three Ways You Can Help

The next step is actually printing these babies o’ mine. And, that is where you can help:

  • I need prayers that this project will be successful and fruitful for all who are in contact with it
  • I’d love you to share this idea with your social media circles
  • Fund the Kickstarter campaign: any amount (even a dollar!) is so incredibly helpful!

As soon as I hit the $700 funding goal, I can start taking orders and getting this journal out to those who might need it.

Thank you to everyone who has already supported me in these ways. You’re not just helping me – you’re helping anyone that is dealing with anxiety and panic in their lives. Muah!

Back This Project on Kickstarter

10 Tips for When Your Spouse Has an Anxiety Disorder

Ha. I did NOT write this post. I would call myself an expert on coping with anxiety, but being a spouse of someone with a disorder? That is ALL Mike. And he’s rill good at it too. So, he is here today with 10 Tips for When Your Spouse Has an Anxiety Disorder. He wrote it from the perspective of a husband, but his thoughts and advice are totally legit for anyone who cares for someone with anxiety. Also, he’s an engineer. 

10 Tips for When Your Spouse Has an Anxiety Disorder

You want to help your spouse and offer anxiety relief, but you just don’t know how. And, honestly, you’re getting frustrated. Help your sig-o along with your marriage by following these 10 tips. Written by a husband whose wife deals with a severe panic and anxiety disorder. So helpful and practical. This is romance.

Introductory Argument

Jenna and I recently had an argument. The point of the argument is lost to me, but I remember it consisted of me hitting a breaking point over an expectation difference that was derived from something Jenna was worried about. Like any reasonable person, I responded by entering say-mean-things-mode, which quickly escalated into a full blown altercation. Don’t worry though, we worked it out and ended with these highly encouraging words for each other:

Mike: I will try to be less mean when I think you’re being crazy

Jenna: I’ll try to remember you’re a human

Surprisingly, neither of those statements contains even an ounce of sarcasm. The root cause of the escalation was that I was unable to support Jenna during a moment of anxiety, and Jenna was unable to support me when I (very poorly) expressed some emotion. This is why we suck.

Here is another pointed exchange that further highlights some fundamental differences in our thought processes:

Jenna: I am so worried about norovirus because there is nothing I can do about it…

Mike: …which is why you shouldn’t worry about it

Jenna: we see things differently.

Anyway, the reason that I bring these conversations up is because they are both related to something that affects our marriage on a daily basis: anxiety.

Really Boring Background Context

This is my 8th year of being with Jenna. That’s almost 30% of my life. If I ever want to achieve my goal of spending over 80% of my life in love with Jenna, I need to do two things:

  1. Invest in our relationship
  2. Drink three High Life’s per day

The second thing is very straightforward, so I’ll focus my thoughts on the first. I need to invest in my relationship with my wife. That investment has many different facets such as spending time together, praying for each other, spending time away from each other, understanding each other, and hundreds of other things. One of the most critical aspects of this investment is the understanding and the subsequent actions that should align to said understanding.

My wife suffers from an anxiety disorder, and I need to understand it so that I can support her. Throughout her life, she has weathered many different waves of high and low anxiety. Sometimes it manifests as paralyzing panic attacks. Other times it’s just a subtle tone that I pick up in her voice. Sometimes it’s imperceptible to me, but I know she still feels it on some level. A lot of this anxiety can be assigned to identifiable triggers, but not all of it. It’s difficult to predict. It is self-perpetuating. It has an absurd stigma associated with it. Some waves come weekly. Other waves come monthly or yearly. Some waves barely rock the boat. Other waves capsize us and leave us clinging on to a shred of wood gasping for air and grasping for life. Anxiety is not fun for anyone involved. Despite all that, Jenna does a fantastic job of managing her anxiety. She has sought help from every possible avenue, and made huge strides in combating this affliction. I could not be more proud of her for that. I need to do my part to understand Jenna’s anxiety so that I can react appropriately to it.

Sometimes I’m the Worst Person Ever

Let’s talk about how to react inappropriately to anxiety. My frequent crier card is loaded with thousands of points that I continue to rack up when I respond to Jenna’s anxiety poorly.

In any marriage, there will be tiffs, problems, arguments and major crises. Anxiety can not only increase the frequency of those issues, but it also adds a layer of complexity to each of them.

Sometimes, instead of being courageous and approaching these issues with ninja-like tact, I take the lazy road and shut down. I react by shutting off my emotions as opposed to dealing with them. It’s like I’m trying to do the right thing by not exploding with frustration, but I’m doing it without total buy-in. Instead of being happily empathetic, I may just bite my tongue and silently add a weight to the wrong side of the resentment scale. As that scale builds up and starts to become lopsided, my patience evaporates. My kindness disappears. My understanding and forgiveness fade to the level of Ebenezer Scrooge.

I know you’re thinking I’m a model husband at this point, but this isn’t even the best part. The best (read: worst) part is when I finally hit the breaking point and spew all this crap out like Mother Nature when she’s feeling particularly destructive. This is the wrong way to handle anxiety. The great hilarity of an excessively negative emotional response to someone else’s anxiety is that it makes me the same as that person. I can’t handle your emotions so I’m going to react with even more ridiculous emotions. This reaction and any others like it are just plain selfish. Since selfish is the opposite of selfless and selfless is the same as love, that makes my selfish reaction the opposite of love (transitive property, baby). If I truly love my wife, I will not only understand her feelings, but I will feel, think and act selflessly towards her every day.

It’s Not a Tumor! (but it is a disease)

So, I’m not a doctor, but I do know that anxiety is a disease that affects people both mentally and physically. I have witnessed its work enough to see that it is not simply a lack of effort on an individual’s part. The unfortunate thing about anxiety is that its observable symptoms overlap with many actions that are also related to poor behavior. If someone has cancer, you’re going to cut them all kinds of slack (as you should!!!) and you’re going to sacrifice a lot to make sure you care for them. One of my biggest struggles with anxiety is in trying to find the line where I need to hold my wife accountable for stuff vs. sympathizing with her plight and pouring on the extra care. Part of what makes our marriage successful is that we have high standards for each other. Jenna helps me when I drift astray, and I do the same for her. It’s just a little more complicated when anxiety is part of that equation. When I put a lot of thought into how I should act in these situations, my brain is continually drawn towards a couple simple conclusions:

  • Disease or no, it’s never my place to judge my wife. She could write an entire book about my ACTUAL shortcomings that aren’t linked to any disease other than my ineptitude.
  • All I need to do is love my wife by striving to selflessly care for her every moment.

These conclusions remind me that while everyone does need a kick in the pants sometimes, if I’m unsure about how to react to something I should err on the side of empathy.

In Sickness and In Health

I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I wonder if people would ever get married if they truly understood that promise. When you’re standing on the altar, the last thing from your mind is the absolute guarantee that you and your wife will have to endure absolutely insane challenges together. During those challenges you tend to think “well THIS is not what I signed up for” or “challenges? Sure, but that certainly doesn’t apply to a situation of this magnitude!” Those colossal issues are exactly what the vow is about. It’s amazing how the words “I DO” flow out so quickly and easily, and with them we seal the entirety of our future life on a sentence that takes six seconds to speak and two seconds to forget. I like to think back on that moment in my life and remember that however difficult a situation is, I most definitely signed up for that and more. You can choose to see big challenges as a way to grow closer to your wife, or as a way to drive you apart.

I mentioned earlier that we need to recognize anxiety as a disease and care for individuals who suffer from it. That is still true, and it is still helpful for me to remind my weak self of that, but I actually believe that there is a deeper, more beautiful, and more profoundly logical way to look at it.

Several years ago I learned an invaluable lesson from my father-in-law. It was during the time when his wife was suffering from cancer. The younger me struggled to see how he could support someone through one of the most frightening and demanding situations in life with such compassion, with such consistency, and with such a positive attitude. Dan’s approach was really quite simple. He told me that he would be perfectly happy to serve his wife every day like this until the day he died if he had to because this was the work that God had given him. His mission was directly in front of him and he knew what to do. It was pure selflessness and it was amazing.

That leads me to the deeper thought, which is tied to the root of Christianity. God sent a piece of himself, his own son, to serve a broken and thankless human race. In doing so he taught us how to love, and freed us from the drudge of selfishness and hate. Each of us has trials in our lives. Our primary mission is to conquer those trials with love every single day. That’s pretty much it.

Finally! A List of Ten Reasonable Suggestions

It was a struggle for me to not make this whole dissertation one long bulleted list (if you’re wondering, it at least started as one). Here’s a quick summary of things that have worked for me in dealing with my wife’s anxiety:

  1. Most anxiety swirls around the lack of hope and confidence. Focus on building hope and growing confidence in your wife. I can’t stress this one enough.
  2. Write down a list of what helps your wife get through an anxious situation. Constantly remind her of this helpful process when she needs it most.
  3. Put problems into perspective. If something minor is causing the anxiety, talk through the details in a real context to prove that everything is going to be OK.
  4. Track major improvements and examples of overcoming anxiety. Pay attention to when your wife actually feels good, and recognize those moments emphatically.
  5. Know when to push and when to comfort. This is so tricky to do but you get better at it with time.
  6. Lighten the mood. Stay positive. Crack some jokes.
  7. Help identify anxiety triggers, and help minimize them once you know what they are.
  8. Be honest about your own feelings with your wife. You have to do this nicely, but it helps to prevent resentment from building up.
  9. Join a prayer group. Having a wife with anxiety can take a toll on you. My men’s group bolsters my faith, which in turn gives me the strength to support her.
  10. Be openminded about all kinds of treatments. It’s a difficult choice to take medication or seek therapy for anxiety, but it might be the right choice. Forget about the stigma and focus on what’s best for your wife.

For my parting thought, I’ll leave you with some words from Confucius: a sword tempers under heat and pressure. A noodle softens and becomes inedible mush. Which will you choose to be, a magnificent weapon or stupid mush?

Thank you for reading 10 Tips for When Your Spouse Has an Anxiety Disorder. Pass it along to someone who might be able to use it. Or Pin It for later xx

My Book

If you are looking for further help with your anxiety, please check out my book 30 Days to Calm. It is a journal that will take you on a month long journey through creating a toolbox for coping with and battling anxiety and panic disorders.

30 Days to Calm: Create Your Own Anxiety Toolbox

 

 

***There are so many wonderful, uplifting, heart-wrenching, and important comments on this post. While you may not see our replies in the combox, please be assured that Mike and I are responding via email to all of you!***

Treating Maternal Anxiety

I struggled for many months with whether I should write about this part of my life or not. When Katherine from Half Kindled reached out to me about her blog hop, I knew it was time to tell this story. Besides, everyone already knows I’m open about my anxiety. Why not keep sharing? AND, bonus, May has been named Maternal Mental Health Month by several organizations. So, I’d say it’s perfect timing.

While many women are worrying about a post part belly (don’t!), many women are suffering greatly through post and ante natal depression and anxiety. If it’s anxiety remedies or depression recovery you’re looking for, read some encouraging words from moms who have been in the trenches and want to offer you love. Pregnancy related disorders are hard enough; don’t suffer alone. | inspirational quotes | love quotes | love sayings | pregnant quotes

My Anxiety Story

Throughout my life, I’ve always dealt with some sort of anxiety disorder. In my early adult years, my anxiety started manifesting itself as panic attacks. With each pregnancy, the panic attacks would get worse, and with this third one, the episodes were starting to happen daily – sometimes every few hours. Because of the relentlessness of the attacks, I started to feel hopeless and depressed. Dark thoughts entered my mind, and I could not control them. I began to worry I was a danger to myself and my children.

One morning after a particularly hard night, I woke up with the expectation that a night’s sleep would have shaken off my anxiety. But, I found myself in worse shape than before. I laid in bed unable to move, but still managed to start calling around for help. I Googled help lines, called local programs, spoke with professionals, and finally decided I needed immediate help. I couldn’t live another day in that fearful state. I wasn’t eating, I could only sleep fitfully, I was scared of harming myself, I was hopeless and I was pregnant. A terrible combination.

I was hopeless and I was pregnant. A terrible combination.

I Asked for Help

I decided to check myself into the hospital where I would stay four days under the care of many specialists and volunteers. I was assigned a psychologist and a therapist, had my meds evaluated, and was taught various coping mechanisms to help in the short-term. After work, Mike would stay by my side until I fell asleep, and my parents watched my kids during the day. It still turns my stomach to think about a time in my life where I was unable to care for my own children. But I sought and received help.

After leaving hospital, I met frequently with my doctors and therapist. I took a refresher course in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I still have my team on stand by in case I ever have severe attacks again. And even though I was getting the help I needed and seeing results, I was still worried.

My Fears

I worried that if people found out that I checked myself into a hospital, they would think I was truly crazy and unable to control my own mind or actions. I thought people would treat me like I was sick. I thought it would mean that I wasn’t in control of my life and I had failed.

But what would I think if a woman told me she sought help for a mental affliction? I would think she was brave and strong. I would think it was an incredibly bold and necessary move. I would be proud that she looked past the stigma and took charge of her mental health. And I am deciding to extend those same praises to myself. I am going to love myself and the decision I made.

I am deciding to extend those same praises to myself. I am going to love myself and the decision I made.

How I Am Today

Now, after having our third baby, I still have an anxiety disorder. In fact, I may have it for the rest of my life; it’s my cross. And, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t still worried that the darkness will come back. It’s hard to forget an experience that shakes your confidence with such intensity. But, when I do start to feel the anxiety come on, I know I have the skill set I need to combat it, and I’ve used it with success. I also am comforted by the fact that I have a team standing by to help if things ever get bad again. If I hadn’t taken such a drastic step, I would never have been set up with such powerful tools.

Find Help

You may be fearful that you’re a failure if you ask for help. You may have told yourself that you’re not the kind of person who needs a big intervention. You may have been told that you can pray away your suffering. You may think you’re a failure if you can’t. I’m telling you that your prayers may not result in a miracle cure. More than likely God will give you enough strength and courage to ask for help. Listen to Him and get the help you deserve. Maternal anxiety can happen during and after pregnancy. Visit Postpartum Progress for information on all maternal mental disorders. Contact your local hospital or visit adaa.org to find a help center.

You’re loved and I’m praying for you. xo

For more encouragement and help, head over to Half Kindled to read Katherine’s story. And, many other women have joined us today. Find hope in their posts as well: A Knotted Life, This Felicitous Life, Mama Needs Coffee, Check Out that Sunset.

Anxiety Toolbox: Tips for Managing Anxiety and Panic

You guys.

I get so many emails and have so many conversations with people who suffer from anxiety but have no idea what to do about it. If one great thing comes from my daily anxiety and somewhat frequent panic attacks, it is that I might be able to help someone deal with anxiety in his or her own life.

So, I thought I would tap out anything and everything that helps me on anxious days (every day) and during panic attacks.

Read it over. Choose what you think might work for you. Give it a try. Tweak things to your liking. Store them away in your toolbox to use when needed. And, never forget that you can ask for help.

Create an anxiety toolbox full of anxiety remedies and tips for anxiety relief. Find panic attack help and lifestyle change that will bring you calm when you need it most. I particularly loved learning how a panic attack really works.

© whitestorm / Dollar Photo Club

Preventative Measures

Sleep: This season of my life (or having any child under 6) basically means crap sleep. So, I can’t always prioritize this. But, it is so helpful. So, when I am feeling particularly anxious, I let Mike know, and we make arrangements for me to get some quality sleep (or the best quality I can) during the night or a nap during the day. It is on those types of days that I have to put everything else on hold and make sleep happen somehow. Put your own oxygen mask on first, right?

Limit Sugar: I can barely eat any sugar at all these days. While I still crave it hugely in a big bad way, it is never worth an attack to me. Start thinking of alternative snacks you can have that don’t have such a high level of sugars. Fruits and low sugar baked goods usually are ok for me, and they often curb my cravings.

Limit Alcohol: This seems counterintuitive, but alcohol uses up vital calming nutrients (like fatty acids, vitamin Bs and folic acid) in its metabolism leaving less for your brain and body to use for relaxation. You also don’t sleep as restfully when there is alcohol in your system. I keep it to >1 drink per week.

No Caffeine: Don’t throw things at me. I never really started a coffee habit, so this is probably a bit easier for me than most people. I do LOVE the smell and taste of coffee, but the jitters it causes almost guarantee anxiety for me. I don’t even mess with decaf. If you can ever wean yourself, but you still want something warm to drink, try rooibos tea. Totally caffeine free, and it comes in lots of great flavors.

Drink Water: Did you know dehydration is a huge cause of anxiety in many people? Keep your water intake up. I am so bad at this. So very bad. But, here are some things I do to try to help myself.

Eat Protein: I don’t know about you, but I get shaky without protein. Make it part of each meal and snack.

Exercise: Oh, come on. You knew this would be in here. But it’s here for a reason. Wanna know a secret though? Two minute bursts of activity (think parking in a further spot, pacing while on the phone, etc.) that add up to 30 minutes a day is as effective as a more structured 30 minute workout when it comes to improving cardiovascular health. At least according to Oregon State University.

Know Your Triggers: This may take a while to figure out, but at least become aware of the fact that you should be watching for them. For me? Loud music or noises, visual clutter, and just sensory overload in general throws my anxiety out of whack. I also get increasingly anxious when I am overheated or when my blood sugar dips too low.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Consider CBT to learn more ways to reprogram your brain and its reactions to stress.

Find Your Calm: What makes you calm? Not “What do you think should make you calm?” What makes you calm? For me, I need alone time to breathe, pray and read. I also need it every day.

Move Slowly: I am a chronic multi-tasker, get things done at light speeder. To prevent anxiety, I try to deliberately move slowly. Ex. When I empty the dishwasher, I make that the only thing I am doing. I focus on it. I take my time.  I don’t focus on being done, I just focus on the doing. I let things take as long as they take without worrying about doing more faster. This takes practice.

During a Panic Attack

Challenge the Attack: If you feel an attack coming on, do not shy away from it. Acknowledge it and tell the attack that is has 20 seconds to start. After that, you plan on going on with your day. For minor attacks, this sometimes will stop them before they start.

Breathing 7/11: Use your diaphragm to breathe in for 7 seconds and out for 11. The idea is to make sure you expel all of the air from your lungs before filling them back up. This prevents hyperventilation. Smell the roses and blow out the birthday candles.

Loosen Your Clothing: Take off any heavy jewelry and scarves. Remove heavy layers. Avoid wearing things like turtlenecks and other restrictive clothing.

Don’t Go There: I make it a rule to never let my thoughts go to the panic thoughts. I stop myself from thinking about taking care of my kids. I don’t wonder how I will manage another one. I don’t think about the future and the responsibilities I have. Yes, this takes practice, but I started to note the thoughts that really make my panic spiral. These ideas are fine to think about when I am not in an attack, but I strictly avoid them during panic. Instead of thinking trigger thoughts, I simply tell myself over and over, “Do not go there.”

Have a Mantra: A go-to phrase is nice during a panic attack. It is a calming thought that is readily available. I tell myself, “These are only uncomfortable feelings. They can’t hurt me.”

Time Them: Once I started timing my attacks, it was a game changer. I was able to see how long they normally last, and it is pretty consistent. For me, the first 10 minutes builds up, and the next 10 minutes calms down. After 20 minutes, I am feeling more normal, and after 30, I am usually able to resume normal activity. When an attack starts, I look at my watch.

Talk It Through: Find someone who won’t just tell you to calm down. Mike is so wonderful with this. He waits with me while I watch the clock and talks me through it like I am in labor. He believes in me and believes what I feel is real – because it is. Find yourself a Mike.

Stay Where You Are: Don’t try to drive home when you are in an elevated emotional state. It is dangerous. Get somewhere comfortable – heck a bathroom stall works sometimes. I also find pacing a bit helps too.

Observe: Ground yourself by making observations about the present. I feel the breeze. I smell… I hear…

Don’t Fight: When you are sure an attack is inevitable, just accept it. Fighting it only tells your body to keep panicking. Your goal is to convince your body that it is not actually in a panic situation. You are trying to turn off the panic switch. Let the attack happen, and practice the above tips to bring your body back to stasis.

After an Attack

Call in Backup: If you can swing it, have someone come take care of you and yours. I don’t need this after every attack anymore, but in the beginning and before I knew more about them (and sometimes after a particularly bad one still), I needed my mom to come take over. Even if it means she turns on the TV for the kids and feeds them granola bars while I take a nap.

Veg: If you don’t have anyone to help, please veg. Cancel whatever you can cancel, and take a mental health day. Going back at it when you don’t need to will just increase your already fragile stress level. Really decide what is necessary and what you just feel like you need to do.

Bare Minimum Mode: While you recover, go into bare minimum mode. This means no unnecessary housework or errands. No limit on TV. No worries about meals. Leftovers, sandwiches and carry-out are all acceptable and edible options.

Supplements and Oils

Doterra Essential Oils: Serenity, Balance, Lavender, Wild Orange, Frankincense applied daily and during an attack.

Fish Oil: Take daily. I use Nature Made brand.

Vitamin B Complex: Again, Nature Made taken daily.

Medications

Zoloft: This is the most widely studied SSRI when it comes to pregnancy. Of course there are risks with anything you put in your body, but you have to decide if the benefits of the medication outweigh the potential risks. As my doctor explained to me, Zoloft does present a risk for heart problems in your baby, however, the risk factor is no larger than a child who has not been exposed to the medication. Your child has the same risk whether or not you take it.

Xanax: (not during pregnancy or nursing) This was very helpful to me in the beginning of understanding my attacks. I didn’t have the information I have now to work through my anxiety, so Xanax was a great way to get a hold of myself until I could understand. I haven’t used it in years now, but I still carry an expired bottle in my purse. I suppose just knowing it is there is calming?

Prayers

St. Dymphna: My favorite Saint is the patron of those suffering from nervous and mental afflictions. “Hear us, O God, Our Savior, as we honor St. Dymphna, patron of those afflicted with mental and emotional illness.” I keep her chaplet in my purse as well.

Rosary: When I am feeling well, I can pray one, but sometimes I am too anxious to concentrate. But clutching a rosary even when you can’t pray it is like hugging your mamma.

Daily Mass: We don’t go daily, but I do try to make it to weekday Mass a couple of times a week. You might think this would cause more anxiety with the kids, but God seems to be blessing my efforts. Besides, isn’t church just the safest and most calming place to be?

Links

Conquering the Panic Attack

What I’ve Written on the Topic

Understand how a panic attack works and use the knowledge to rationalize with yourself.

Postpartum Progress

My Anxiety Pinterest Board

Foods That Help Anxiety:

blueberries, fatty fish, legumes, peaches, maca root (not during pregnancy or nursing), acai berries, bananas, flax seeds, 100% whole grains, chamomile tea, kefir, almonds, leafy greens (spinach, kale, seaweed)

Try mixing lots of these things in smoothies each morning. And remember, just eating well in general is so beneficial.

Keep Living Your Life:

It might seem like sometimes the only thing you do is treat prevent and maintain your anxiety levels. I still feel that way. Often, I just want a cup of coffee and some cheesecake while I stay up until 2am after not taking any pills. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, I find myself wanting to just give up trying. It’s too much effort.

But, when you start to shut down, when you start to avoid parts of life because of anxiety, it is already winning. Don’t let a fear turn into a phobia. Find out how to manage your anxiety in the midst of life. Don’t avoid life because of anxiety.

Consider creating a flexible weekly schedule for yourself. Pick one simple, free and relaxing activity to do by yourself or with kids each day. Getting out of the house works wonders for maintaining anxiety levels. Just remember to make time for what you’re going to do. With kids, nothing can be calm and rushed at the same time. Find joy in the process because when you dwell on what else you could be doing, anxiety rises.

Finally, make an effort to limit social media. Even if you don’t think it causes stress in your life, I will guarantee it does. Make a commitment to do more living outside of the Internet. Be present in your life.

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And, I hope you know I’m not a doctor. So, you know, keep all that in mind when you heed my words. 

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Anti-Anxiety Smoothie Recipe

Start your day off zen with this anti-anxiety smoothie recipe. You’ll be glad to know that I tirelessly experimented in the kitchen until I found a combo that was full of calm but still tasty.

Sidenote: Mike wants to know why tasty is a good thing while smelly is a bad thing. Ponder that.

This anti-anxiety smoothie recipe is packed with ingredients that have been known to decrease anxiety, and it is NOT full of caffeine or any added or artificial sugar.

Zen starts in your kitchen. Keep your day calm with this anxiety relief healthy smoothie recipe. It has food that you already probably have in your fridge with one optional ingredient to really give it a boost!

 

Anti-Anxiety Smoothie Recipe

Ingredients:

1/4 cup spinach
1 banana
1/4 cup frozen blueberries (you could even do a berry mix if you want!)
1/4 cup frozen peaches
1 tbsp flax seed
1 tsp acai powder (optional)
1/2 to 1 cup plain kefir (Greek yogurt is a great substitute)

Directions:

1. Place ingredients in blender starting with softest to hardest
2. Blend up until smooth
3. Add more kefir if it is not liquidy enough
4. Drink and be calm

About the Ingredients

spinach: contains cortisol regulating magnesium
bananas: contain tryptophan (helps boost seratonin), vitamin B, and is a natural beta-blocker
blueberries: contain vitamin C and antioxidants that help protect and repair cells damaged by anxiety
peaches: considered a natural sedative
flax seed: contains omega-3 for healthy nerves
acai: I’ve heard mixed reviews on acai’s benefit for anxiety. It supposedly has similar properties to blueberries. So, take it or leave it.
kefir: contains probiotics which are linked to a healthy gut, and a healthy gut leads to less anxiety issues

 

Obviously, I am not a doctor, so take all of this with a grain of salt. And I don’t mean that you should add salt to your anti-anxiety smoothie recipe, because that would be gross.

And, for more tips on coping with anxiety, check out my new book: 30 Days to Calm.

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