5 Easy Tips To Manage Stress And Anxiety For A Real Woman On The Run
By Kim Berube
My lifelong battle with anxiety and low-grade depression began around the age of six. I can remember lying in my bed, worrying about when my mom and dad would die. It was anticipatory, senseless, out of control worry. Obsessive worry, over stuff I couldn't do anything about anyway.
The kind of worry that controls you.
I do not believe there was a single moment that triggered my anxiety. I simply have always been anxious. It is just how I am made, chemically speaking.
Although my main anxiety has always been about death, if you name it, I have thought of it. Terrorism, super-viruses, plane crashes, cancer, hating my poor dentist, freak accidents, killer bees.
Anxiety is exhausting!
Following the birth of two of my children, I suffered from dreadful bouts of postpartum depression. My family doctor prescribed Paxil, which I believe was the right course of treatment at the time. However, the side-effects of weight gain and low sex drive were enough to discourage a lengthy stay on treatment, and the thought of chemically 'masking' my symptoms didn't bode well with me. After numerous months I weaned myself off Paxil. THIS WAS NOT A PLEASANT EXPERIENCE and SHOULD NEVER BE DONE WITHOUT CONSULTING YOUR PHYSICIAN. I suffered from dizzy spells, uncontrollable crying, mood swings and increased anxiety. I did find some temporary relief by taking an all-natural supplement called 5-HTP. Alas, even that success was short-lived.
The frustrating part of living with anxiety and battling depression is that people just do not 'get' it. They tilt their head to the side and say things like, "well, just don't think about it." Others think that I have nothing better to do. Still others would think that I could turn it on and shut it off like a faucet. IF ONLY IT WERE THAT SIMPLE!
I have read dozens of books on changing my thoughts, managing my stress and coping with anxiety. While it has always been comforting to know that I was not insane and that there are many other men, women and children who suffer from anxiety and depression as well, there has been nothing that has been a 100% cure-all.
HOWEVER, I have had terrific success with these five little techniques that I use to keep my stress and anxiety at a manageable level.
1. WHAT DOES STRESS OR ANXIETY LOOK AND FEEL LIKE? Recognizing it within yourself. I call this 'temperature checking.' Am I stiff? Am I obsessing? Do I have a knot in my gut? Is my heart racing?
When I feel anxious, what does my body do? How does it respond to a 'perceived' threatening situation. I get a lump in my throat. I feel as though I am swallowing over an orange. I get tense, jumpy and over-react. I get lost in my own thoughts and can get irritated if someone tries to talk to me.
2. GET TO KNOW YOUR TRIGGERS. What sets you off? Do you get anxious close to your period? Is it hormonal or cyclical? Are you more anxious on the weekend? In crowds. On the highway? In the middle of the night? Is it the little things that trigger it? Or do you find that it is a culmination of several stressors that will set you off.
For me, it is always a combination of things. Exhaustion is a key factor. Hormones, definitely. Being out of my normal routine, with no plans can trigger it. I am a master keep-busy person. This habit of keeping myself occupied as an avoidance technique doesn't work. I need rest and rejuvenation to stay anxiety-free and when I am constantly busy, guess what? I don't relax.
3. KEEP IT IN PERSPECTIVE. Create a feeling of security wherever you are. Bring it back to minute by minute if that is what is necessary. Positive affirmation: I am alright this minute.
Simple enough? This took a great deal of practice for me. Those who suffer from anxiety LOOOVVVE looking into their crystal ball. What if?...
4. SURRENDER. Learn to release what it too heavy to carry.
I cannot overstate the importance of learning to surrender your worries to a power higher than yourself. Whether you are a spiritual person, deeply religious or are a believer in an all-encompassing 'life-force,' there is great freedom in learning to LET GO.
Visualization works well if you find it difficult to release your worries and fears. People rave about the benefits of meditation although I am rarely successful at keeping my mind quiet. Research a few options so you can play around with a few methods of experiencing surrender. I find this technique VERY useful.
5. LIVING WITH ANXIETY. It is possible to be peaceful and happy.
Stay as rested as possible. When I am overtired I find it almost impossible to stay relaxed and at ease. If I want to 'crash' emotionally, this is how to do it.
EXERCISE! Not just a few stretches on the floor either! Cardio is the ONLY type of exercise that works for me. It gets my heart pumping, my blood flowing and my happy hormones dancing. Within a few days of not exercising, I notice an immediate decline in my mood.
Avoid the news. There is nothing quite as destructive to a fragile soul as the six o'clock news. If you must be informed, choose one program, preferably local, and only watch it once a day or every couple of days.
SEEK OUT THE POSITIVE! Our news/media makes it very easy to see all that is 'wrong' with the world. Make it your aim to find all of life's little pleasures. I'll bet if you start looking, it won't take long to find an armload of joy!
Kim Bérubé is the owner and publisher of Real Woman on the Run Magazine. Kim is dedicated to validating and creating a feeling of success in the everyday 'Jane' who is balancing life precariously between family, career, community and volunteerism. Real Woman on the Run Magazine offers interesting and insightful information, real-life stories as well as valuable tools and resources for females of all ages. Kim shares her brilliant and creative 'real-life' anecdotes and 'wake-up-to-life' solutions through her 'Validate and Rejuvenate' speaking engagments, the magazine and the Real Woman on the Run weblog.