If you have read my bio before, you know briefly about my struggles with Postpartum Anxiety and Depression. PPA/PPD are both extremely common things that new moms go through – the hormone changes that take you from your body being able to create a child, to your body now being able to feed this child can be relatively extreme. I thought I would be able to shake off the anxiety, but now two and a half years later I still struggle.
Finally realizing this was something I would not be able to bounce back from on my own, I ended up seeking professional help and am quite glad that I did. I see a counselor once a week to talk about anxiety and coping with it… some of the things I am learning are so easy I thought I would just share with you, as I know I have followers who suffer from the same.
These anxiety coping strategies are things you can do on your own; they are simple, free, and are easy. I have been seeing a counselor for about 3 months now, and have realized that the repetition talking about these things helps me remember to put them into action. At first when I had I wouldn’t remember these things when my anxiety rose, but now after months of consistently chatting about them, they come to mind much more easily. So, if you read this and it is relevant to you, I would recommend bookmarking this post or even printing it off, so that in the future when you feel anxious you can read and remind yourself of some things you can do.
So, here we go! Here are my top strategies to cope with feelings of anxiety or panic.
- Identifying Automatic Negative Thinking & Challenging it. Automatic Negative Thinking (acronym ANTs) is when negative thoughts start to spur your anxiety. Let me give you an example. Your coworker has a spouse who is diagnosed with cancer, which causes you to start feeling anxious feeling about your health, your family’s health, and so on. These thoughts are ANTs and need to be challenged. In your mind, come up with 1-3 rebuttals for each negative thought. In this situation I could tell myself that I went to the doctor recently and know I am healthy, and that I feel healthy, so I know this is an irrational thought. By acknowledging the negative thought and coming up with ways to challenge it will help you push this irrational anxious idea to the back of your mind and hopefully help your anxiety to cease.
- Keep a log of your anxiety. It can be something as easy as a monthly calendar, and at the end of each day all you need to do is draw a smiley face representing how you feel. Make a small note about what you did that day. If you see lots of sad faces that are associated with a certain thing (your workplace, a person, an environment)… this will help you track your anxiety triggers and eliminate them from your life. If all your anxious days are related to your workplace, or time spent with one particular person, it may be time to consider a change since these are obviously not positive things in your life.
- “Shake off the Ickies”. I think this one is my favorite because it sounds the most ridiculous, but I also have found it helpful in overwhelming situations. Let me start by painting a situation for you. One day, I answered the phone at work and found an angry screaming customer on the other side of the call. What they were yelling about was not related to me, and was not a problem we caused, but they were obviously taking it out on me since I was the one to pick up the phone. My anxiety spiked to the point where I thought I might have a panic attack or cry. This is where I had to go ‘shake off the ickies’ and this is how you do it. Remove yourself from the negative situation immediately. Go to the bathroom and shut the door so you are there privately. Run warm water across your hands (hand-warming itself has proven to lower anxious feelings). Look at the beads of water on your hands, then shake them AS HARD AS YOU CAN sending the drops flying off. As you shake your hands, picture that the beads of water are negative feelings rolling off your skin. Shake it so hard that you feel tension being released from your arms and shoulders. I know this sounds really funny, but it works for me very well!
- Keep a Gratitude Journal. I feel like an anxiety log and gratitude journal are something you could combine, but they are technically two different pieces. For a gratitude journal, all you need to do is jot down a few things you are thankful for each day. This frequent focus on positive things in your life will reinforce with your mind that there are good things in your life, and over time will help prevent ANTs from popping up.
- If all else fails, consider medication. I am a big supporter of trying to fix things the natural way first, but sometimes more intervention is needed. If you are struggling with anxiety that makes your life unmanageable, or depression so deep that you aren’t able to function, you may need more help recovering than you expect, and that is okay. One important thing to know is that all medications are different, and react with people’s bodies completely different too. I have tried 3 different types of SSRI’s (non-mood altering drugs to treat depression and anxiety). The first two I hated. I felt listless… just entirely unable to emote to anything. I am normally a bubbly and energetic person and though I didn’t feel anxious, it didn’t feel like me. I tried a different medication and it was a perfect sync with my body’s chemistry. Taking it I feel just like my old self again, just minus the anxiety! It however isn’t the end-all solution for me, and I do practice all these other things above to help keep me balanced.
I am not a doctor. I am only speaking from things I have learned and tried, and what works for me.
I know how hard the struggle with anxiety is, especially as a mom. Before having a child, I never had anxiety even close to the intensity I experience now. Honestly, a year ago it was so bad that I didn’t think I was going to survive it. I don’t even know how to explain it, other than I felt so overwhelmed with anxiety and so physically ill from it that it just felt like I would stop functioning and no longer be able to live. I wish I had tried to do something about it so much sooner every day. I hope that you read this and are able to take away some things that are helpful, and put them into practice better managing your anxiety too!
If you have any questions for me, or need help finding professional resources I am here for you!
X.O. – Abbey Co.
Cover photo was provided by Pixabay with overlay done by my favorite “Word Swag” app