Anxiety is something that I have battled with off and on since as early as I can remember. In fact, as a young girl I would line my stuffed animals and dolls up alongside my bed every single night. Not just one or two of them…all of them. While I cannot remember exact numbers, I would say that there were close to 20. Everyone thought it was soooo adorable how much I loved those toys. Too cute! It sure was….but what people did not know was that I lined them up to protect myself from everything I was afraid of as I slept. The fears were many and even included a “one-eyed chicken in my closet” that I had met in a nightmare. (I had quite the imagination back then too. Ha!) I was probably 3 or 4 when I started to do this to help myself feel safe. I remember it vividly.
Worry and fear were two emotions that started to enter my life at such a young age. Throughout my childhood, teenage years, and even the start of my 20s, I really struggled with phases of this. Some of these times created even larger issues. (However, that is a topic for another blog or hopefully my book one day). It was a battle that I truly never thought that I could defeat but still I prayed every night that I would. I prayed every night for a miracle. Anything was and is possible right?
Now that I am in my early 30s, I can honestly say that I have learned several coping strategies and ways of handling my anxiety head on. While I know that everyone is different, I wanted to share a few tips that have helped me over the past year with dealing with my son’s multiple food allergies and skin conditions.
*Like always, I am not a doctor and these are just my opinions based on my own experiences. Disclaimer: This blog is a personal blog and used as a way of sharing and connecting with other readers. The posts, articles, and stories shared on the site are meant as a source of encouragement. In this challenging world of food allergies, I have found reaching out to other parents and people in my shoes to be extremely resourceful and inspiring. Therefore, I want to give back and do the same. The information on my blog is not intended as medical advice so as always, please consult with your doctor.*
Here are the tips that I use to get out of a funk
1)Find an outlet or two, or ten!
What relaxes you most? When are you most at ease? I feel best after exercising, writing, and praying. Since my early 20s, running has been my go-to outlet. After a bit of drama with a friend in my early 20s, another friend suggested I go for a run. That is just what I did and I haven’t stopped since. Ha! For awhile, I relied on this way too much and taking a day off would give me even more anxiety. However, I now have learned that the body needs days off from exercise so I turn to writing and praying. Writing while listening to music is just as much of an outlet as running now.
2) Connect with others
No matter how alone you may feel, always remember there are people in similar shoes. You are never alone even in your loneliest moments when you feel like no one can possibly understand. Lord knows I have had many of those in my life. It wasn’t until I started to share my experiences openly and honestly with people that I started to see that there was light at the end of the tunnel. There was hope for me and anyone with anxiety. I remember praying to God in my early years to be surrounded by people who loved me for me. That was because for many, many years I felt alone despite always being physically around loving family and friends. It was my anxiety and fear that overshadowed everything else. Then, guilt would start in and cause even more negative emotions and issues.
Over the years, I learned to speak up and out about my feelings. Find one or two people who you trust and can talk to about what you are going through. I totally believe in going to therapists if needed as well. While I have gone to some in my life, now I turn to a couple close friends and family including my husband. In addition to that, reaching out to other food allergy parents has been beyond helpful for me. In doing this, I not only learned about their experiences, but also received helpful guidance and encouraging support. Therefore, reach out, contact, and connect with others. Before sending several emails to others about our situation, I often motivated myself by saying, “What do I have to lose? They don’t respond?” And most did respond…
Remember you are never alone.
3) Health/Setting Goals for Yourself
I have pretty much always eaten pretty healthy especially during the week days and left weekends open to splurge a bit especially with pizza. However, since being a teenager, I have always turned to food during stressful times, either eating too little or too much. I do believe that I am not alone in this. Last winter after my son’s anaphylactic reaction, I started to lose weight and count calories. Both signs that I was turning to unhealthy measures to gain control of a situation in any way I could. Recognizing this, I deleted a food calorie counting app from my phone and refused to let myself step on the scale. By setting small positive goals for myself, I gained control in other uplifting ways.
(Side note: If you are struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating, contact your doctor and get the proper medical guidance and support available out there.)
In addition to this, I learned that eating a diet full of protein, vegetables, and fruits helps my energy levels and overall mindset. While I have always loved carbohydrates, it was around then that I started to see that eating too much of it was not helping me emotionally.
(Once again, I am NOT a doctor. This is just my personal experience and everyone is different.)
4)Block yourself from creating new anxieties
Anxiety often opens the door to new anxieties and fears. Last winter, I was in a bad spot. I put all of my energy in being energized and happy around my son. Then, once he went to sleep at night or napped, I was an emotional mess. I once again fell into a deep world of anxiety, fear and depression. I craved control and felt the opposite, everything was out of my control.
During those first couple of months, I found myself searching up all of the ailments that “I must have had.” I was nauseous, unable to focus, dizzy, losing weight, always tired, and much more. I convinced myself that I was sick with something. However, after going to see my doctor and getting blood work, I finally admitted it was anxiety again.
To prevent myself from searching up online all the diseases and illnesses I could have, I put one of my favorite Christian songs on the search engine on my phone and computer. Therefore, when I was tempted to give into my fear and search my newest “sickness,” I would flip right to lyrics and words that I knew were the real truth.
I then started blogging, writing about my experience, replacing the negativity that inundated me with positive thoughts. I gained control of myself again in doing this.
5)Surround yourself with as much positive energy as possible
As much as possible, surround yourself with positivity. Positive people….positive television…positive literature…positive music…positive energy…
I am not saying that negative people and things don’t and won’t happen. However, if you are engulfed with positivity then you will be more equipped with battling through the valley of difficulties and challenges.
6)Retrain your brain
Last but far from least, retrain your brain. I swear it works! It just takes time, patience, and perseverance (and being a little “crazy”). In the past I’ve had to reconfigure a few times, reteaching my brain to think by blocking out the negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones. An example of this is my tip #4.
However, two other times come to mind. One was about 6.5 years ago right after returning from our honeymoon and the second was starting back at day care this past September.
- After returning from our honeymoon and back to school six years ago, I became extremely overwhelmed with changes at work and the transitions at home. I went from the natural high of planning a wedding, getting married, then a perfect honeymoon to six months of extreme anxiety where I could not turn off my brain from the negativity. I had so much to be thankful for and happy about, yet I felt so anxious. Like usual, those feelings of anxiety led to feelings of guilt then sadness then more and more negative emotions. After barely sleeping for half a year and realizing that my thoughts and attitude was affecting people who I loved, I read “The Secret.” That was when I admitted to myself that I was the only person who could make a change. That no matter what happened to me in life; I had the ultimate control of the kind of person who I was and my true happiness. Therefore, I started to replace my negative thoughts with positive ones. To do this, I would force myself to list five things that I was grateful for every time I thought of a negative one. In addition to this, every morning when I would run, instead of listening to music, playing games on my phone, or watching television, I would pray and list every single person, quality, feature, talent, experience,…. everything that I could think of that I was thankful for. I would list everything!!! I needed sleep, happiness, and to feel sane again. After doing this for several months, almost out of nowhere one day without even thinking, I felt differently than ever before. I felt genuinely happy. Some people may think that it was insane that I did that for so long without any noticeable results. However, I tell you that it was 100% worth it. I believed change could happen, made more than just a conscious effort to retrain my brain, and then it changed more than I ever imagined it would.
- With my son starting back at daycare after having the summer off with me, I was beyond anxious about his safety. I was once again making myself physically and emotionally sick. I had no idea what being back at daycare as an active, curious toddler would bring with all of his food allergies. However, I knew that we had prepared and advocated as much as possible. We had covered all grounds over and over again, and would continue to do so. Therefore, I was left with that decision yet again. What will it be, faith or fear for me? Because I knew that I would not survive this year if I continued to focus on everything that I am fearful of (for that list is endless), I picked faith. I needed to reconfigure yet again. To do this, I decided that I would think the simple, yet powerful words over and over again in my mind every time a worry or fear tried to surface itself…“I trust you God.”
That is what I am still doing. Every time a fear or worry starts to enter the scene, I repeat to myself, “I trust you God.”
My tip this Tuesday is that retraining your brain is possible. Heck, anything is possible. In situations that cause extreme anxiety like ours recently, plan and advocate in every way you feel is needed. Never apologize for advocating too much, but be grateful for those who receive and respect it with open minds and hearts. And always remember you are never alone.
Finally and most importantly, have faith and trust that God has your back. We believe great things are in the works because we trust you God so we smile on…
Interesting read about worrying:
Check out my original post about retraining the brain:
A Retrained Brain
“No man is an island, we can be found
No man is an island, let your guard down
You don’t have to fight me, I am for you
We’re not meant to live this life alone”
-“No Man is An Island”- by Tenth Avenue North