Salt: Part 2, Iodized Salt & Iodine Affect on Thyroid Health

Back to Salt Part 1

When you have thyroid issues of any kind, it’s important to know some of the facts out there about iodized salt, or salt with added iodine in it. There is a lot of information out there about iodized salt and iodine specifically and the thyroid, hopefully this will help sort some of it out for you.

Iodine is one of those important nutrients that the body needs. The primary use is to help the thyroid produce thyroid hormones. If you still have a working thyroid, then chances are you need to have some iodine in your body to make these important hormones. There is a lot of confusion out there about whether you need to add iodine, if it’s safe for you to take iodized salt or eat foods with high amounts of iodine in them. Let’s take a look at the different sides of this question.

Iodine deficiency. One side of the issue is iodine deficiency. This is a serious problem that was the reason iodine was added to table salt in the first place. Now people are watching their sodium intake and aren’t eating as much iodized salt, so some people aren’t getting enough iodine in their diet. Plus recent studies have shown that when iodized salt was analyzed it didn’t have enough iodine added to help someone keep up healthy levels of iodine. Iodine deficiency is rising in developed countries now. Iodine is a rare element found in nature, it’s almost never found in the soil, but it is however abundant in the ocean. This is why you will find most seafood and shellfish high in iodine, but other foods people eat low or no iodine content. This is one of the reasons that iodine was added to salt in the beginning. Iodine deficiency can lead to many problems. One of the most common is developing a goiter, an enlargement of the thyroid gland.
According to Life Extension Magazine article The Silent Epidemic of Iodine Deficiency, ” …  iodine deficiency’s profound impact on overall health. … discover iodine’s vital role in thyroid function and its link to obesity, cognitive impairment, heart disease, psychiatric disorders, and various forms of cancer. “ Link

Iodine Excess. On the other side of the issue is people who are getting too MUCH iodine in their bodies.  Studies are recognizing that an excess of iodine can trigger autoimmune thyroid disease, such as Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s, worsening their attack on the body.
Dr. Teng in a New England Journal study,  found that giving iodine supplements to people with enough iodine in their system could lead to hypothyroid autoimmune disease. Also, since iodine helps the thyroid produce thyroid hormones, too much iodine, especially in the circumstances of Graves disease and hyperthyroidism, can add fuel to the fire, helping the body produce too much thyroid hormone and leading to iodine-induced hyperthyroidism. There is also some evidence that iodine can help autoimmune thyroid disease produce more antibodies with which to attack the body.

There is also a set of people who have found that iodine supplementation is helpful for their thyroid condition. If you are going to add iodine supplementation, please make sure you do so under a qualified medical professional who will be monitoring your iodine levels. Watch yourself for signs that your thyroid levels are spiking up too high or falling too low as well. Use common sense if following this path.

Basically, everyone needs some iodine, but not too much. If you are eating adequate levels of iodized salt, seafood or other iodine rich foods, the odds are good that you should NOT supplement iodine. If you have autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease, use caution in eating foods with added iodine. If your antibodies are high or you are severely hyperthyroid, you may want to cut back on the amount of iodine containing foods you are eating to prevent matters from becoming worse. Your doctor can test the amount of iodine in your system if you suspect you need to consume less or add more to your diet. This is one of the best ways to find out if you should be consuming more iodine foods such as iodized salt.

Confused by all the information that’s out there on iodine, especially in salt form? That is understandable. There are still many tests being run on iodine and the body and it seems that there is definitely not a one sized fits all recommendation on this rather controversial element. The consensus in the middle is that everyone needs some to prevent iodine deficiency, but you have to be careful not to have too much. If you have autoimmune disease of the thyroid, then you have to be even more careful. Ask your doctor or other health professional for their opinion, and research, research, research to help you figure out what may be right for you. Good luck in your journey to better thyroid health!

Catch Britney on twitter @BttrflyBritney, or online at http://www.WarriorButterflies.com or at ButterflyNationProject.org, two great thyroid resource pages

Sources:

Teng, Weiping M.D., et. al. “Effect of Iodine Intake on Thyroid Diseases in China” New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 354:2783-2793, June 29, 2006, Number 26Abstract

Utiger, Robert D. M.D. “Iodine Nutrition – More Is Better,” New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 354:2819-2821, June 29, 2006, Number 26o

Piccone, Nancy. “The Silent Epidemic of Iodine Deficiency” Life Extension Magazine, October 2011 http://www.lef.org/Magazine/2011/10/The-Silent-Epidemic-of-Iodine-Deficiency

, “Iodine and Hyperthyroidism”, Global Healing Center website:  http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/iodine-and-hyperthyroidism/, February 25,2015

Baby It’s Cold Outside!


One of the joys that can happen when you have thyroid issues is intolerance to various temperatures. This summer and fall I was hyperthyroid (too much thyroid hormone) and I was intolerant to heat, so every time it went above 75 degrees F I was sweating like it was 120 degrees outside. I cut my hair short a few years ago because I go into hyperthyroidism often enough that the sweating hits me a lot. So much so, that  my hair is soaked and dripping, and it just wasn’t a good look for me, so short hair has become cooler and easier to deal with. My heat intolerance got so bad one winter I thought for sure I was entering early menopause. My gynecologist did some tests and said, nope, it’s just my thyroid. Two winters ago I was hyper in the winter though and did the horrible sweating. Has anyone ever sweated in the middle of a freezer, sweat dripping down your face to freeze in  your hair? That’s a fun time, let me tell you.

Right now though, my body decided to go the other way the last month or so, just in time for winter here. Now I’m borderline hypothyroid (too little) and my body is COLD intolerant. C’mon body, get it together! Can’t we just agree to go hyper in the winter and hypo in the summer? My body never listens to me on this though. *sigh* Now I’m turning blue indoors with cold, wearing fifteen layers of clothing on my body, and huddling up to blowing heat in the stores I work in.

So, here it is January, it’s about 12 degrees F (please don’t ask me to convert to Centigrade as I’m an idiot on conversions) here and I’m bloody cold. I know that other people are cold, but most of them are not having the hands that turn into blocks of ice within seconds of going outside. This is when I’m bundled up with multiple layers and gloves and scarves. At least it’s better than where I grew up. I moved to Louisville, KY, about a decade or so ago, and at least we have slightly less winter weather than where I grew up in Northern Indiana, not far from Lake Michigan with lake effect snow and temperatures. I know it’s even worse elsewhere. To those of you in colder climates, my hat is tipped to you, I could not deal with it being worse.

Tips for being cold intolerant in the winter time I have discovered.

  1. Layers.  Wear layers outside. Light weight shirts under button down or pull over sweaters is a good start. Then when you go inside and you start to melt, you can take off the top layer (or if you are me LAYERS) to cool off. Putting them all back on before you go back outside.
  2. Hand Warmers. Those little portable hand warmers, either the chemical kind or special gloves to keep the heat in are necessary if you are dealing with the cold for any major period of time. They are usually inexpensive and some of them can be reused. Pop one of those in a microwave and hold in your hands.
  3. Good heavy socks. For some reason my father doesn’t believe in wearing socks and his feet are always cold. I however DO believe in wearing socks. The thicker the better in the winter time. It’s not a fashion show for me, it about making sure my feet aren’t so cold they turn into painful blocks of ice. If you don’t have a thick pair, two pairs of thin socks together are great in a pinch.
  4. Hot Shower or Bath. I will sometimes take multiple hot showers in the day when I’m freezing. If I have time I will soak in a hot bath. If you do the bath option, make sure you add something to the bathwater as muscles get cold and stiff in the winter time. A cup of apple cider vinegar along with something that smells good for the bath will help your cold muscles relax and keep you warm for much longer. Best thing is to take a hot bath before bed, then climb into the covers while you are still warm, best sleep ever!
  5. Hat or scarf. Or both when you go outside. I’ve been known to wear them inside if I was having a really cold day. Keep your head warm, and your face, and it will help keep the rest of you warm also. Plus scarves and hats can be pretty and functional for those of us who want to be stylish, as long as you can deal with hat hair!
  6. Cuddly buddy. For me this is my husband. I call him my portable heater. He is always warm, so when I’m hypothyroid and/or it’s winter time, I curl up on the couch with him to watch television or talk. Warms me right up. I think everyone should have someone to cuddle with. Not only will it help keep you warm, but being close to someone like that helps you feel better all around.
  7. Your favorite furry friend. Pets are great to have around in the winter, especially the warm blooded furry type. I have three cats and they seem to need warmth as much as I do. When it’s really cold, they will all come lay down around me  and on top of my chest, and we will all keep each other warm. Plus the purrs make me happy. Beware though, if your house is like mine, it can be dry, so being around furry creatures can also be a static discharge danger as well. Though that can be a bit funny. I mean have you ever accidentally gone to pet a dog or cat and got a small zap? The look on their faces is a bit comical.
  8. Space heaters. Space heaters have saved me at home the last few winters. I have a small portable one I bring with me from room to room. It keeps you from heating up the entire house when you are by yourself and gives you a little heat you can control right next to you.
  9. Have your thyroid checked. If you seem like you are feeling the cold a lot more than other people, consider having your thyroid checked. As I said above, being hypothyroid can make you cold intolerant. Thyroid levels tend to drop a bit in the winter for a lot of people, so you might need a little extra boost.
  10. Smile. While a smile might not make you feel physically warmer, it will help give others a boost as well as boosting your own mood and might make the cold a little easier to deal with. Stay warm my friends.

Check out Britney’s Thyroid website she runs with other thyroid ladies. http://www.warriorbutterflies.com/

Photo credit from fotolia.com

Breaking out of the Caretaker Mold


Taking care of others at the expense of our own health. Does this sound familiar to any of you? Having spoken to literally a few thousand people who have been diagnosed with thyroid disease of various kinds, I have noticed a trend. A whole lot of us are the type who have spent our lives taking care of others, pleasing others, and at the same time neglecting ourselves. This and a highly stressful and/or traumatic event is what happens to a lot of us before our diagnosis. I happen to think that just maybe all of the stress we put on ourselves trying to help others in our lives, allows us to put our own health on the back burner until a breaking point. Something very stressful happens to us and we are pushed beyond our limits. Our poor minds and bodies literally can’t take anymore of what we’ve put it through and something gives. If our immune system and/or our thyroid is the weakest link at this point, then that is what gives.

Obviously this is just my own personal theory, but I have seen this played out many, many times. Ask ten people if they took good care of themselves before their thyroid diagnosis. Ask them if after neglecting themselves for others in their lives,they then had something exceptionally stressful happen and then ended up with a thyroid health issue and/or autoimmune such as Graves’ disease or Hashimoto’s disease. I know one of the positive things about my Graves’ disease diagnosis was being forced to finally take a good look at my own life and start paying attention to what I needed. I was the one who tried to help everyone around me. Friends that needed places to crash for indefinite time periods, family that needed an ear to listen to even when I personally was exhausted, work that needed me to do just one more extra thing when I had nothing left in the tank. I made sure the people around me were better taken care of then I was for a long time. Add to that putting myself through college, and working. Then finishing college and going to work for a high stressful stockbroker job at the height of the tech boom and then tech bust, followed by a Grandparent passing away. All of this going on while I didn’t sleep adequately, didn’t eat properly and tried to do entirely more than I really should have. It’s really no wonder my body rebelled and ended up failing me right when I needed it not to do.

The good news for me is that I took the warning seriously. I started listening to my body, and my mind and emotions. I started figuring out when I needed to take time to unwind, eat something healthy, get some exercise. It took years to get to this point of view. I mourned my loss of being Super Woman, of handling everything that came my way without an issue. I mourned the person who could do everything and not break a sweat. Too bad I was living on borrowed energy the entire time, and burning the candle at both ends plus the middle.

A change had to be made, once I had my RAI treatment to kill off my thyroid and things started to calm down. I had to step back and re-evaluate how I lived my life. First thing I did was change careers. This was difficult, I had just graduated with a degree in Financial Planning and Counseling 3 years prior and felt like I was getting a handle on being a stockbroker in a call center. I knew though, that the constant days with a headset dealing with a lot of really agitated people wasn’t the best place to reduce my stress. At the time I realized that the part time position I took my last year in college helping to rewire a network and fix computers for the college was actually something I was not only good at, but I enjoyed immensely. I made the leap to switch careers. After a few years I felt like it was a good choice so I went back to school and got a second degree in Computer Networking Systems. This led to me going up in the Information Technology world and being an IT Systems Admin for a few small companies. I loved it. I did realize though after a few years that I was right back where I didn’t need to be. Too much stress due to too much responsibility in charge. Not enough downtime and I was letting it take over my health again. So, a few years ago after talking it over with my husband I decided to leave full time work. At the time I was hoping maybe a few months of rest would restore me to being able to work full time again in the future. That was in 2010.

I tried to do a version of my old IT job. I tried to build a computer repair business full time, and wasn’t entirely successful. I have several elderly ladies and a few others who I help with their computer problems from time to time still, but I didn’t have the drive or health to be able to build it into a successful business. Again, still too much stress. Stress is a bad thing to have too much of with a thyroid condition, especially caused by Graves’ disease. Autoimmune and stress are natural enemies.

In the rush to try to do something to get myself back to health, I started doing even more research. Everything I could find online, at the library, talking to others about thyroid disease. I started adjusting my diet. I started getting a small amount of exercise when I could. I started listening to my body’s cues, taking breaks and trying to learn how to read myself enough to prevent issues before they started. I was doing better, so I took a part time job that allowed me to earn some money and also adjust my schedule for rest breaks as needed. I also started seeing a counselor on a monthly basis. All of these things have helped me renew myself and find the new me. After all this time I have found I actually LIKE the new me. I have purpose, I am helping myself and hopefully others. I am back to being a caretaker type of sorts, but this time I make sure I am doing OK first, because I know that if I am not OK, then I cannot help anyone else.

If you have Graves’ disease, Hashimoto’s, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, thyroid cancer, it’s a whole new world that you are now part of. Adjustments have to be made to deal with this new reality. Allow yourself to mourn what has happened, but do not stay there. Some fantastic things are on the horizon if you keep searching for the new you. I hope for anyone who reads this to know that having thyroid disease does not have to be the end. You also can find your new purpose. Maybe this will show you how to be more compassionate to others who have health issues, or you will take care of  yourself better and end up living a much more fulfilled and healthy life than you might have been able to before. You might end up being a role model to other people, or you might find yourself a new passion that could change the world! Go forth and conquer your 2015!

Check out Britney’s site at www.warriorbutterflies.com

Photo credit: loop_oh / IWoman / CC BY-ND

Scary side of Hyperthyroidism-Thyroid storm

The more I speak to other people about thyroid disease, and Graves’ disease specifically, the more I realize too few people know about this dangerous issue that can come up with Graves’ disease and hyperthyroidism. Most of the time thyroid disease if managed, can cause a lot of issues with your health, most of the time it’s not going to have you in danger of dying immediately. Thyroid storm is one of those exceptions. Medline plus defines thyroid storm as “Thyroid storm is a life-threatening condition that develops in cases of untreated thyrotoxicosis (hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid).”

Great definition there. Except it doesn’t tell you what it can cost people. After speaking to several people who have gone thru a storm, I am finding out what the real cost can be.  Modern Medicine.com gives us some scary stats: “Only 1% – 2% of people with hyperthyroidism will develop TS, but the mortality rate for patients with untreated TS ranges from 50% – 90%. With early intervention, mortality drops to less than 20%.”  Now THAT is cause for concern. Latest estimates on how many people have hyperthyroidism is about 1% of the population. Population of the world is about 7 Billion, so 1% is 7 million so 2% of that still leaves a possible 1.4 MILLION people at risk of thyroid storm.

So, you are someone with Graves’ disease or hyperthyroidism. What should you be aware of for this condition, so you can get help in the event that it does happen to you? Here’s the various symptoms you will have:

  1. Tachycardia, heart pounding extremely hard
  2. Shaking
  3. Extreme sweating
  4. Unable to get your breath properly
  5. weakness
  6. Very restless, can’t sit still at all suddenly
  7. Body temperature will start going up
  8. Agitation, very angry suddenly for no reason, unable to settle down, anxiety
  9. Confusion
  10. Loss of consciousness
  11. Sudden Diarrhea
  12. Chest pain
  13. Heart problems
  14. Death

Some of the things that can lead to a thyroid storm can be; Graves’ disease pushing your thyroid levels too high, over medication of thyroid hormones when you are not being  monitored correctly, treatment with RAI (radioactive iodine), severe infection in a person with hyperthyroidism and medical stressors such as a heart attack. If you have hyperthyroidism, make sure you keep these symptoms above in mind, if they come up, get to the ER and tell them you suspect thyroid storm. Several people on the thyroid boards have reported that a parent with Graves’ disease died or had permanent heart conditions after going through a thyroid storm that went untreated.

If you have Graves’ disease and/or hyperthyroidism. Always make sure you keep your appointments for labs and doctor visits. Keep on top of your levels and if they give you anti-thyroid medication, TAKE IT. Many people decide not to take their anti-thyroid medicine because they start gaining some weight back they lost with hyperthyroidism untreated. Please do not do this. One of the Graves’ disease groups I am a member in, lost a member last year. Her daughter came in earlier this year and told us that her mother who was age 42 had died. She didn’t take treating her Graves’ disease seriously and frequently skipped her anti-thyroid meds. By the time she decided maybe she should take it seriously, that is when she had thyroid storm. She made it through the storm, but the resulting damage to her heart caused her to have a heart attack and die shortly afterwards. Do not be that person who leaves behind their family because they did not take their illness seriously.

If you can take care of yourself, be mindful of your symptoms and your thyroid levels, you can manage your hyperthyroidism and Graves’ disease quite well. There are many dietary paths you can take to help calm your system down somewhat, and various techniques to keep your levels where they need to be.

Return to Warrior Butterfly Britney page

Thyroid Support group Etiquette

Support Groups
One thing that is very helpful to a lot of people with thyroid issues is groups on Facebook. Finding other people who are dealing with similar issues, can help keep you sane, let you know about things you previous didn’t know or never considered and helps you make some friends.
I’ve been in several thyroid groups online and I think a basic primer on etiquette might help a person new to the Facebook groups.

Etiquette, is basic manners, social common sense, and treating others like you would like someone to treat you. You don’t have the added help of verbal or body language online, so what you type is very likely to be taken wrongly. Especially if you do not pay attention to what you are saying and how it might be viewed. Remember that there are lots of thyroid related support groups on Facebook and they all have a different “feel” to them, so if one doesn’t fit with what you need, move on to another. While you are in a group though, these tips will help you be welcome.

  1. Read the rules of the group. Usually there is a pinned post, a description or an “about” in every group that details information a new person to the group should know. Find out what is ok to post in that particular group. Some groups are for sharing happy things only, some are to debate different medical treatments, or for women only, etc. etc..Make sure you aren’t the person coming into a brand new group and posting about your fishing trip when the only posts allowed for the group are thyroid health only. People will not appreciate it and you may get banned.
  2. Spend a little time reading posts of others in the group before you post. This will allow you to know the tone of the group and get a good feeling for what is ok and what is not acceptable. This is the equivalent of going into a room full of strangers and hanging back a little until you know the subjects being discussed and the norms of what people like to deal with in that group.
  3. Know who is in charge. If you can, find out who the owner and admins are, so if you have any questions, you can ask for help, especially before you post anything that you may have any doubts about posting. Most of the time people will be happy to tell you, or you can look and see who posts the things about what is going on in the group.
  4. No spamming. This means unless the group is all about selling things, or you have specific permission to post something commercial, do not post it. Also do not post the exact same thing over and over again, that is also spamming.
  5. Add value to the group.  If you have knowledge that will help someone, please share. This is what helps make groups great for everyone, sharing new ideas and stories to help everyone understand better.
  6. Remember  emotions run high sometimes with thyroid patients. Once you are in the group, remember you are in a group with other thyroid patients. There is a special thing here that you may not deal with in other types of groups. The thyroid as most of us know can affect people’s judgments and make tempers and egos more sensitive. Things can get heated on certain topics. The longer you are in a group, the more you will find out what the hot button topics in that group are, so you can navigate them more easily.
  7. Consider carefully. When you type out a post, step up and away from your computer for a few seconds, then go back and read it. Does it seem helpful, friendly and informative? Then congratulations, that’s a good post, send it on my friend.
  8. Remember you are online. Remember that text online is your only way to communicate. Do your best to make sure your ability to write online is able to be comprehended by others. If your spelling and grammar is so bad that you cannot get your point across, then you will frustrate yourself and others. Perfect spelling and grammar is not needed, but you do need to be able to communicate effectively enough to get your point across when online. People cannot see your face, or hear your voice to help them figure out what you are trying to convey. If they can’t understand what you are asking, you might get a completely wrong answer from what you actually need to hear.
  9. No Poaching members! Definitely do NOT use a group to help you build your own group. Poaching members is not appreciated by anyone. If you have a completely different group than what you are in and think some of the members might like to be in that group also, then send a message to the group owner or admin and find out if they are ok with sharing this information. If they are then you are good, if they are not, then you might find yourself banned quickly.
  10. Participation is also key. Comment on something that interests you, or that you have knowledge or, give some encouragement to another member having a hard time. Play nice and you will find a lot of value interacting with other people in thyroid groups.
  11. Have fun! Let your personality shine, engage with people and enjoy meeting others like you.

Check out http://warriorbutterflies.com, there are two great closed thyroid support groups that are looking for wonderful thyroid patients to join listed on the main page. 

Or go directly to Britney’s page on the site: Return to Warrior Butterfly Britney page

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.

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