Anxiety. That big bad scary thing that takes us over, controls our thoughts and turns us into crazy people. Those of us with thyroid disease, especially hyperthyroid and Graves’ will tend to experience this first hand. As our thyroid hormones go way too high, and turn everything to 11 in our body, our brain also gets too much and it results in anxiety. It can be anything from having the same thought go around and around in your head, worrying that what you said or are about to say is going to sound awful, all the way up to, so anxious that you can’t face people, hiding in your room away from people or under the covers of your bed. It can make you sound paranoid, it will make you cry at the drop of a hat, it will make you assume things about people and situations you never would when you are thinking properly.
So, when this dastardly emotion takes you over, what tools do you have to deal with it? I have been dealing on and off with anxiety, from mild anxiety all the way up to PTSD which I’m still working to totally conquer and I’ve developed many things to help me cope. I hope some of them help you.
First step, is to start paying attention to your body, and learn to watch for clues anxiety is starting to get a grip on you. Look down at your body right now. Is your jaw clenched or tight? Are your hands relaxed or are they curled up around a pencil or by your side? Are you remembering to breathe relaxed and deep? Your body will sometimes tell you before you feel it emotionally or mentally. If they are not relaxed, then what you need to start with is as simple as breathing. Paying attention to your breathing, do a slow 5 count in and 7 count out, repeat 10 times. Did that lessen the tension? That is usually a good start for me. Next step is to redirect that negative energy before it becomes a negative feedback loop. That is when things go around and around and around in your head, feeling like you are more horrible or the situation is more horrible every time it loops around. Not a good feeling. Depending on what you are doing and where you are, here are a few things you can do to redirect the emotions.
- Get out a notebook and let yourself write down all the ugly thoughts starting in your head, don’t censor yourself. When you are done, read them over carefully and ask yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being most likely) how likely is this going to happen? If the worst happened, how bad would it really be? When you are done going through what you wrote down and rating it, take the piece of paper and tear it up and throw it out. Send that bad energy out into the world to leave you alone.
- If you are home and/or near the internet, find a distraction. I have three or four websites that I find very funny and/or cute. When I am feeling anxious and stressed, I go make myself look at one of them for a minimum of ten minutes. It’s hard for anxiety to have a good hold of you if you are laughing.
- If you are home alone or can go someplace private and the anxiety is really bad. Find somewhere quiet and go cry. Get it out of your system, release it. Crying is a great way to release tension in your system. When it’s done, wash your face and dry it, then make yourself smile in the mirror. Everything is going to be ok.
- Make a plan. Take one of the fears and make a plan for how to deal with it. It can be as realistic or as silly or creative as you like. I find sometimes when I make a plan, any plan to deal with something, it is no longer nearly as scary and I gain control over it.
- If it is something unknown you are worrying and anxious about, go learn about it. When I was diagnosed with Graves’ I was very anxious about it, my labs, my health and just everything surrounding it. Over the years I’ve looked up every expert and people who have dealt with this disease to learn all I can. The more I learn about it, the easier it is to deal with and the less anxious it makes me. I feel now that no matter what happens with my health I have an idea what is going on, and I have a plan for how to deal with it.
- Come up with a catch phrase or mantra to repeat in your head when you start feeling anxious. “I’ll be ok” “Everything is manageable”, etc.
- Break the day into smaller pieces. If what you are anxious about is occurring later in the day, start focusing on what is happening in the next five minutes, or the next minute, break it into manageable pieces to focus on.
- Get some exercise. It doesn’t have to be a marathon run or lifting weights for hours, just something that gets you moving. Burn that anxiety off in a walk in the park, or put on some music you like in your house and do a silly dance to it in your living room (curtains optional).
- Recognize that anxiety is not going to have a hold on you twenty-four seven. It will pass, if you can breathe and realize it’s not going to last forever.
- Talk it out. Find a good friend, relative, or a counselor, that you can talk to. I have found it very helpful to see a counselor once a month and talk about the problems that I am having and get tips on how to deal with things, and even more tools to help myself cope.
- Omega 3’s have been found to help stabilize mood, my doctor recommended I take 1,000mg twice daily to help with anxiety and depression. There are also supplements you might want to explore and see if your doctor okays you to try such as melatonin (for sleep) and valerian root (also for sleep).
- The above are tools to help you cope. If you are having issues and all of these together aren’t able to help you relax, and let go of the anxiety, please go see your family doctor and let them know about the issues you are having. If your thyroid levels are off or other physical reason for the anxiety that will take awhile to calm down, there is nothing wrong with getting a prescription to help you deal with things until the physical cause (i.e. hyperthyroidism) is under control.
Just remember, keep breathing, try to listen to your body so you can catch anxiety before it gets bad and try to find something to take your mind off of your fears or at least make you laugh.