I used to think that people who "suffered" from anxiety were being overly dramatic. After all, I have a lot going on in my life and I seem to be managing my stress just fine! Or so I thought.
When I was a young, single, and hustlin' to find my next gig, I used to thrive on a fast-paced life full of stress and drama! Once my daughter was born, things slowed down and I really enjoyed it... for a minute. Before I could think about getting back into my skinny jeans, I was pregnant again! My second pregnancy wasn't enjoyable, probably because I was running after a toddler, and life since my son was born has been on overdrive. I'm sure many moms can relate to the blur that becomes their lives for the first couple of years.
My son is now 3 years old and I've been struggling with a host of medical issues that I first noticed when he was about a year old. These issues took over my life and I have made frequent visits to the hospital and clinic for:
• Chest pains and trouble breathing
• Tingles all over my body
• Pain in my abdomen
• Sleepless nights
• Chronic neck and back pain
In dramatic fashion, I was convinced I was dying.
On one of my many visits to the clinic, the doctor politely asked me how I was doing and I just burst into tears! Up until that moment I had been able to hold it together but I realized that whatever was going on with me wasn't just physical.
Our lives are already so fast-paced and over-scheduled and with the added responsibility of raising two human beings I just wasn't able to manage my stress the way I used to. I had reached my breaking point months prior and pushed aside my needs so my body started sending me some major signals that I couldn't ignore.
The doctor at the clinic was very sweet and ran every test under the sun to assure me that I was healthy. Then he looked me in the eye and said in a low voice, "We need to address your anxiety."
Since that day, exploring different ways to relieve my stress has been a process. I chose not to take medication for my anxiety because I wanted to exhaust every other possibility first.
Here are a few things that are helping me manage my anxiety more effectively:
This is my time to be without the family. It is for me. My time to exercise and for my well-being. I have a much greater appreciation for yoga now and understand how I really have to be present and in the moment. Just remembering that one lesson of being present has helped me with my anxiety.
Find your thing! Whether it's going for a run, taking a spinning class or swimming laps. Find it. Be present and do it every day.
2. Eat Clean
When life gets busy, I miss meals and don't always pay attention to what I'm eating. It's about convenience. What I was putting into my body wasn't good enough so I changed it up. I'm committed to less alcohol and caffeine. I know this may sound painful but alcohol and caffeine can trigger panic attacks. Sugar and processed foods really do a number on my mood, so I try to avoid them as well. It's a simple concept but it just takes a little more time as far as thought and prep goes. If you can commit to this step, it will give you a huge boost in energy and you will see the difference in your moods.
3. Sleep More
Our moods, our patience and how we are able to focus are all directly affected by our sleep. I've always been a night owl, so once the kids came along and the luxury of sleeping in no longer existed, everyone suffered. Now, I have a schedule just like the kids do. I sleep more soundly and wake up rested when I stick to the schedule and when I don't I feel the effects.
Take time to clear your mind. I know, it seems impossible but, like anything, the more you do it the easier it gets. I meditate for a half an hour once a week (I'm working my way up). It allows me time to recharge, be present and think of absolutely nothing. Meditation can help reduce anxiety attacks, help lower high blood pressure and can help with insomnia so even if you're skeptical, it's definitely worth a shot with benefits like these.
In today's over-stimulated society, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting over 40 million adults. I'm doing my best to have more good days than bad days by taking a break from the rat race and remembering to slow down.
To learn about her children's book for multiracial children & families, visit www.ImAwesomeBecause.com
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