You’re Grounded!

When life is overwhelming, and anxiety is taking hold, how to you reclaim yourself again? How do you find that calm center so you can feel in control again? One of the ways that have been used by thousands of people around the world is called grounding exercises. These are visualization and meditation exercises that help you move the stress and confusion out of your body and mind and clear it so you feel more grounded. Grounded means that you don’t have your energies scattered everywhere, that you are back in control of yourself, like grounding electricity to the earth, so it’s safer.

  1. The “Tree Exercise”. Sit in a chair with your feet on the ground, or you can even sit on the ground, as long as you are comfortable and your feet are touching the floor. Close your eyes and take several deep breaths, in for 7 count, out for 7 count, until your breathing is slower and more relaxed. Then visualize and imagine that your feet are putting out roots towards the earth, and connecting you physically to the ground. The middle part of your body visualize as the trunk of a mighty tree and the top half, visualize as branches reaching towards the sky. Once you have this visualization firmly in mind, “see” in your minds eye all the stress, negative thoughts and emotions and bad energy leaving your body flowing upward and out of your branches above to leave you. Also visualize at the same time or near same time that your “roots” in the ground are pulling up pure energy, untainted by stress or anything negative. This is rejuvenating you by flowing up from your “roots” and then flowing throughout your body. Keep this exercise up as long as you need to, until you start to feel more calm and less stressed. When you are done, allow the rest of the negative energy to float out the top, and then release your roots and return to your every day world.
  2. Be mindful of your surroundings technique. This is where you stop and concentrate on the world around you. Go outside if possible and look into the distance, concentrate on seeing and naming at least three things that are in the distance from you. Once you name things in the distance, stop and look close by, try to name three things that are near you, and if they are small details, even better. This will take your concentration off what is stressing you and onto something neutral.
  3. Shielding. When the world seems scary, and out of control. You can visualize a shield protecting you. Sit down and be comfortable. Take several deep breaths in and out until you have calmed some. Next pick a color that feels strong to you, for me I choose red, but you can choose any color you feel an affinity to. With your eyes closed, start visualizing your entire body. Be aware of everything from the top of your head to your arms, to your feet. Then visualize having a large bubble that is fitting over your body (or a bodysuit works also for this). See it covering every part of your body. “Tell” it in your mind that this will stay around you, protecting you from harm, and will only allow positive energy and healing to penetrate you. The mind is a powerful thing, if you put this shield over you, your mind will help you gain control over your anxiety and stress so you can function better.
  4. Centering. Centering is simply returning all of your energy that is scattered back to you. Most people have their energies divided. You may be typing up something, and watching the clock and waiting for lunch all at the same time. Centering will help bring all of your energy back to you, so you feel more calm. Again, sit comfortably and breathe deep until you are calmer. Visualize all the little bits and pieces of your energy that is all over the place as a golden color. See the tendrils going out from yourself in your mind. Mentally start gently pulling on all those tendrils and bring them back to you. It may take a few attempts to get the hang of this, but once you do, you will be able to eventually do this exercise anywhere and anytime you need to calm yourself.

Creative visualization and meditation exercises are great ways to regain control of your mental state. Those of us with chronic illness and thyroid disease often feel like our bodies are pulling us every which way and make it hard to keep oneself in check mentally. Try one or more of these exercises when you start feeling anxious or out of control and see if they can help you regain a bit of yourself again.

See Britney on twitter @BttrflyBritney

Visit the Warrior Butterflies Website and find other great articles, doctor recommendations and recipes at http://www.WarriorButterflies.com

Stronger together


One really positive thing about being on the internet and having thyroid disease is being able to compare and contrast your experience with other people. There are so many support groups out there with literally thousands of people sharing their experiences. There is also blogs, articles and information all over the place. While some of this information doesn’t apply to everyone, what it does do, is allow a person to start to see patterns.

When you start talking to other people from other places, you can see whether or not a particular issue that you are dealing with is common with other people. You can help yourself figure out if that crazy thought you are having is something you alone are thinking or if fifty others are also having crazy thoughts. You can find out options that other people have tried. You can find out the good, the bad and the ugly of treatment options out there.

You still have to put on  your critical thinking hats to deal with the information, like you do with anything on the internet. Don’t let yourself fall for lose weight quick, or those “heal your thyroid” miracle sounding cures on the internet. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. A little skepticism is a good thing. Mind you, do not close your mind off to everything, but make sure anything you hear you confirm with multiple reputable sources before you try anything you have read about. While there is a lot of good information out there, there is also people waiting to prey on those of us with chronic illness, and we can find things that will actively hurt us in the guise of helping.

If you are open to it, start doing your own research on your thyroid condition. Talk to people online. Join a thyroid support group and start reading what other people are experiencing. This is something that has helped me immensely over the last few years. I have been in several thyroid support groups over the years, and I started seeing recurring topics show up. Topics that you never see in articles online or hear about from your doctor. This enabled me to do some more research and find things that doctors do not seem to be aware of. The reason, for this I feel, is that  doctors know about what they have learned in medical school, they may see a dozen or so thyroid patients in their lifetime or a few more, so patterns of other things do not show up in those situations. If you are online with a thyroid support group, depending on the size you get a much larger sample of people coming together. People will also talk about their entire lives on support groups, not just things they think of as thyroid related issues. When you hear about people talking about obsessive thoughts for instance, or problems with their menstrual cycles and those people number in the hundreds, you start to think just maybe there is a connection. Maybe people with thyroid issues deal with much more than the medical profession knows about, and maybe the thyroid causes much more than just the issues that are mentioned commonly.

Some of the common topics I hear about on thyroid support boards including the following:

  1. Obsessive thoughts. A lot of people are finding they are struggling with obsessive thoughts, either dark and negative or just ultra focused on some strange thing in their lives. OCD behaviors also start hitting people, especially people who are hypothyroid.
  2. Anxiety in general. Having a chronic health issues like thyroid disease makes people feel more vulnerable and worry more about how to deal with things in their lives.
  3. For women, menstrual cycle issues. So many woman have reported extra long and heavy periods, or no periods at all, or spotty periods. More PMS symptoms and more issues with fatigue than normal around their menstrual cycle.
  4. For men, loss of sex drive and fatigue and stamina issues. Many men on the thyroid boards report they feel like they are much older  than they actually area. Some of them are finding they are having low T issues as well.
  5. Sudden sensitivities to foods. A lot of people seem to be finding that since their thyroid diagnosis they cannot tolerate certain foods. They have new food allergies, or foods they ate for years suddenly give them gastric distress or make them feel ill when they eat them.
  6.  General lack of energy. Even when thyroid levels are more normalized with medications, people report that they just don’t have the same energy they did before thyroid disorder. Doctors will tell them that their thyroid levels are normal so deal with it. When they get further testing on vitamins and minerals they find that they are…
  7. Low on necessary vitamins and minerals.I blogged about low Vitamin D recently, and that’s one of the big ones that people become deficient after developing thyroid disorder. People who get their vitamins and minerals tested also have reported low calcium, magnesium and other issues. Being low in nutrients can make a person not feel at their best. If you look at all the stories from people online there seems to be a connection between thyroid issues and other deficiencies in the body.
  8. Catching every virus that comes around. A lot of people report more illness in general since their thyroid diagnosis. People who never or rarely got sick will catch every cold and bug that goes around. When they do get ill, they can’t seem to get over it as fast. Something that they might have gotten over in a few days will drag on to a week or two sometimes. I frequently see this topic going around, especially in the fall and winter months.
  9. Feelings of isolation. Having thyroid disease can be very isolating for people. A lot of people can mentally deal with the idea of an illness you have and then get over. Thyroid disease does not go away. It stays with you forever, and can affect you at any time. Sometimes people with thyroid disease will lose friends and family who just cannot deal with their constant health issues. So a person is abandoned at a time they need support the most.
  10. Finding a thyroid support group online can help. Finding the right support group online is generally reported as a positive thing by most thyroid patients. There are many out there with different objectives and personalities, so just about anyone can find one that is helpful. People report when they can share their experiences online with others, they don’t feel so alone. They can talk about feelings that have bothered them and have them validated by others who have been there. They don’t have to feel like that are a freak or a crazy person, and they can find more possible solutions than any one doctor will ever be able to tell them about. The more people who band together, the more information and support will be available for all.

What I have found is that people working together can produce remarkable results. Share your thyroid experiences with others, so they also feel empowered. Share your information you learn so people can go to their doctors more educated and confident. The more of us who work together, the better things will be for all thyroid patients. Together we are stronger!

See Britney at http://www.warriorbutterflies.com or come join her at her Thyroid Tribe closed FaceBook group.

Stress relief-Or How Not to Choke out other people

stress-free-zone

Stress! It’s a cousin to anxiety, and probably it’s best friend. Stress can be good. It can motivate you to get something important done. It can warn you of danger so you get out of the way and make you run faster, or be stronger. Unfortunately in today’s world, for most of us, our bodies are under stress and it doesn’t help us, it just hurts us. It makes us anxious, it floods our bodies with adrenaline that leaves us first wired and then crashing. It can cause us to lose sleep, be irritable, and have problems keeping illness away. So what do you do about it? Stress doesn’t ever go away entirely for most of us. You can direct the energy to something more productive, or you can try to minimize how your automatically react to a stressful situation.

Here are some things that have helped me and people I know, hopefully one or two will help you reduce your reaction to stress as well.

  1. Channel that energy into something else. Use it to exercise, use it to write a letter to someone (which you probably will have to delete or throw away as it will be unhappy) or  use it to fluff a pillow, violently.
  2. Be mindful of your breathing. Most of the time when we become stressed, our breathing gets more shallow. Take a minute or two and just practice breathing in for 5 and out for 7.
  3. Go find a friend, someone whose company  you enjoy, and hang out and talk about silly things for a bit. Definitely grab a hug from them. If you like hugs, they can instantly take your stress down several notches. I make sure I keep a few “huggy” friends on speed dial for those days I need a little extra attention and love.
  4. Laugh it out. Look at funny websites, watch a funny video or movie, go listen to a comedian, or listen to jokes. Just like with anxiety it is hard to hold onto major stress if you are laughing. Think of all the happy endorphins you will release doing so. They will come flooding out of your brain giggling like mad creatures and make your stress start to melt away.
  5. Allow yourself to be ridiculous and silly. Do a silly walk, go skipping down the sidewalk, make faces in the mirror at yourself or your friends, or  make up a new word. If you can learn to relax enough so as to not take yourself seriously for a few minutes, it can change your entire mood.
  6. Of course if you are constantly stressed, you will want to avoid caffeine and alcohol, while they may keep you going short term, usually they end up making things worse in the long run.
  7. Learn meditation. Make time to sit for even ten minutes a day where you allow yourself to think of whatever comes to mind. Don’t judge what comes to mind, just acknowledge it and let it pass by. Put on some soft music in the background if you don’t like silence.
  8. If you are not allergic to animals, go pet one. Find a dog, or cat or other soft furry creature, and sit and pet them. Make sure they are tame, do not try this on a bobcat or coyote, that might cause you MORE stress.
  9. Come up with various plans for situations that occur frequently. If you already know the best plan for something that comes up often, you don’t have to stress out figuring what to do about it. A simple plan you have in your brain can help you avoid the freezing and panic that occurs when something hits you unexpectedly.
  10. Oldies but goodies. When you feel stress and anger rising, count to ten. Then count to twenty, then thirty. Count as high as you need to get yourself calm again. Feel free to count woolly sheep in your head when you are doing the counting.
  11. Finally, give yourself a break. When too many things hit us at once, it’s ok to feel overwhelmed. It’s also ok to ask for help if you need it to get back on your feet and handle the situation. Don’t be afraid to apologize if you’ve made a mistake when stressed, we are all human and all of us can relate to this.

Return to Warrior Butterfly Britney page

Ack! Anxiety! How to beat the freakout

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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).
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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).
  12. 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.

Return to Warrior Butterfly Britney page