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Did you know that approximately 3.3 million people suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder? Did you know that most of those people keep it to themselves? I was one of those people. I was ashamed. I felt broken. I made excuses for why I couldn’t do things. I didn’t leave my house. I didn’t want people to think less of me. I pretended everything was ok. And then, one day, I decided I had enough. I wrote about my anxiety and was shocked to hear how many of my friends and family suffer with similar debilitating anxiety disorders. It was a step that set me free and since then, I’ve been working hard to overcome anxiety. For those of you that are suffering in silence, know that you can overcome it too. Here are some tricks that have helped me in overcoming anxiety.
After hitting rock bottom, I decided it was time to speak to a professional. Of everything we spoke about during our visits, the thing that was most reassuring to me, was hearing that I wasn’t crazy. Knowing that many people go through similar experiences was sad, but comforting. My therapist worked with me to try to find the root of the anxiety. She gave me various “homework assignments” to learn to cope and work toward being able to calm myself down if I was about to have a panic attack. It became a weekly visit I looked forward to. I was able to talk things out, get recommendations and find ways to accept what was happening to me.
Everyone I spoke with and all of the research I did, always led back to breathing exercises and meditation. At first, I was extremely skeptical. While I was trying to “breathe through it”, I was telling myself it wasn’t working, ultimately sabotaging myself. And because I was not really focused on what I was supposed to be doing, it didn’t work. When I finally gave in, and really let go to the fact that these breathing exercises were calming me down, they started to work. I found that at the height of my panic attacks, I could breathe my fears away. Now, as soon as I feel the panic coming on, I inhale slowly, counting to 5, hold it for 10 seconds and then releasing, slowly. After a few times, I feel my anxiety level decrease drastically.
Distraction is key! If I’m not thinking about it, anxiety can’t happen. The majority of my panic attacks were brought on by my constant “what ifs” in my head. Even before I left my home, I was thinking about all of the bad things that could happen to me. I was thinking about how far I would be from my safe place, how long it would take to get back… I was ultimately bringing on my own panic attack by worrying about things that were out of my control. I found that if I was busy in some way, whether it be singing, on my phone or talking to my husband or kids, I wasn’t able to give myself the opportunity to worry and I was ok. Photography has been a huge distraction for me. When we are out of the house, traveling or on a local adventure, I am so focused on capturing the moment with my camera, that I forget to worry about “what ifs”. Finding a hobby I love has been a blessing.
A huge issue for me was my lack of sleep. For me, lack of rest = anxiety and anxiety = lack of rest. It’s a vicious cycle. A good friend of mine, who also suffers from anxiety, purchased a weighted blanket a little over a year ago. At that point, I had never heard of them, but after hearing how positive her experience was with it, I wanted to give it a try. Weighted blankets provide the body with proprioceptive input which can cause the brain to release neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which both have calming effects. Weighted blankets are ideal for individuals with conditions such as sensory integration disorder, Autism, anxiety, ADHD, Rett Syndrome, PTSD and Restless Leg Syndrome. I searched for almost a year until I found KP Designs Shop. As a pediatric occupational therapist, KP Designs Shop owner Kelly was so knowledgable and easy to work with. She created a blanket especially for me, based on my size. I have slept with it since I received it and can honestly say that I have never slept more soundly. I don’t wake up every hour. I’m not restless. I fall asleep and stay asleep, which for me, makes all the difference with my anxiety level. I wake up much less anxious than I used to. It’s been a game changer for me. KP Designs Shop has graciously offered my readers 10% off with code SUPERMOMLIFE.
Most recently, I’ve learned that exposing myself to my fears helps me to conquer them. I step out of my comfort zone as often as I can and when I reach my panic state, I breathe through it and wait for it to pass. As soon as it does, my brain can relax and I can tell myself that I’m ok. We recently took a week long road trip to Atlanta, GA, where I found myself anxious more than a few times. While my fight or flight kicked in, I didn’t give in. I fought through it and went on each adventure and had the time of my life with my family. It’s helped since we’ve been back home as well because I tell myself if I can make it to Atlanta, I can drive 30 minutes down the road. It sounds crazy, but it works. Just like I was able to talk myself into a panic attack, I can now talk myself into the idea that I will be ok, panic attack or not. The more I push myself to do things outside of my comfort zone, the easier it gets.
Honestly, opening up and getting the support of my husband and kids has made all the difference. They are there to remind me why I want to fight anxiety. They are there to lend a shoulder when I just need to cry. My husband has never turned his back on me. He is constantly cheering me on while knowing that sometimes, I may have setbacks. He steps up and really relieves so much of my anxiety just by being so understanding. Having the support of others makes a huge difference.
If you are suffering in silence, know that there’s hope. You don’t have to feel ashamed. You aren’t broken. You don’t need to make excuses. You can leave your house. It’s possible. I’m proof of that. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. And while anxiety will always be there, in the back of my mind, I’m not afraid to fight it. I want to give my kids the best childhood they can possibly have. I won’t be the reason they miss out on adventures. I will be right there beside them, breathing and fighting through it.
Do you or someone you know suffer from an anxiety disorder? Comment below and let me know!
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I was gifted a weighted blanket by KP Designs Shop in exchange for promotion, but all opinions are my own.
Heather is the Mom of three and a marketing professional. She enjoys graphic design, writing, photography and making new memories with her family.