This isn’t right. What if something goes wrong…
My heart starts to race, my chest feels heavy, and it’s getting hard to breathe.
I can see my feet are firmly on the ground, but I feel like I’m floating away and my whole body is tingling. I’m trying to convince myself that everything is okay, but it’s as if my mind is gone, unable to form any thoughts other than sheer and utter terror.
I am absolutely terrified
Surely, if a person is having these feelings it must only be because they are in danger. Someone must have a gun to their head threatening to pull the trigger to feel like this. Right?
No. This is how I feel when I have to leave my house, before I have to talk to people I don’t know, before I have to make a phone call, the list goes on. I feel like this because I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks.
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Coping With Anxiety And Panic Attacks As A Mother
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Being a mother is hard work, no matter who you are. It takes patients, understanding, creativity, and love. You’re trying to raise a child to one day be a happy, well rounded, productive member of society, all while trying to keep your house clean, have healthy meals on the table, exercise regularly, try not to smell like you haven’t showered in two days, pay your bills on time, love your husband, try to fit in a social life, etc.
It’s worth every second and I love it. I’m not complaining, I absolutely love being a mom. But it isn’t easy, especially if you have anxiety and experience frequent panic attacks.
A lot of women, due to changes in hormones, experience anxiety and panic attacks for the first time when they start on their journey to motherhood. And, women who aren’t new to it, can experience worse symptoms than they are used to.
As far as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a mom. I’ve taken care of children ever since I was able to, babysitting, working in a daycare, being a nanny. I was prepared for the frequent feedings, changing diapers, the crying, and temper tantrums.
What I wasn’t prepared for, was postpartum anxiety.
Now, I have been dealing with mild anxiety and panic attacks since I was a teenager. Despite lack of guidance or help from medication I learned how to cope with it and I could even go long periods of time without it effecting me at all. But, after my baby was born, the worry and fear that I felt was absolutely incredibly overwhelming.
All new mothers worry, but this was bigger than that. Constantly, I feared that she was going to stop breathing. I could check on her, know she was fine, walk away for five seconds and the fear would creep back into my mind and I would have to go back and see her chest rise and fall again and again and again.
More than anything, I wanted to be able to have someone else watch her for the night every once in a while, so that I could get a full nights sleep, but I absolutely couldn’t sleep without her right next to me.
The constant worry made it almost impossible for me to do anything else but care for her, which lead to frequent panic attacks when I would have do anything else.
While the more intense postpartum anxiety eventually dissipated, I still suffer from frequent anxiety and panic attacks, and, when untreated, it is absolute hell.
But anxiety and panic attacks are treatable. No one should have to feel like this, and struggle through everyday. I did because I didn’t understand what was going on and I didn’t reach out for help. No mother should suffer like this when there are so many things that can help. Today I’m going to share with you all of the ways myself, and other mothers, have learned to cope with anxiety and panic attacks so that we can be the best moms we know we can be.
Know The Difference Between Anxiety And A Panic Attack
The first thing we need to do is educated ourselves. It’s hard to solve a problem when you don’t understand it.
What Is Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress, so it is normal to experience some level of anxiety. Like when you worried how you’d do on a math test, or now when you stress about a job interview coming up.
Anxiety becomes a problem, known as anxiety disorder, when you experience intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations to the extent that it interferes with your life.
What if my baby stopped breathing once I left the room? What if there was something small in the crib that I didn’t see and she chokes on it? What if…? What if…..?
That is anxiety disorder
What Is A Panic Attack?
A panic attack is when you experience a sudden surge of overwhelming fear. During a panic attack you may experience all, some, or more than the following symptoms.
Accelerated heart rate
Inability to filter out background noise
Oversensitivity to physical sensations
Feeling faint, dizzy, lighted, numb, and/or tingly
Mind feeling floaty or spaced out
Feeling disabled and not in control
Side Effects of Anxiety And Panic Attacks
Experiencing frequent anxiety and panic attacks takes a toll on you. You may experience the following side effects.
Ways To Cope With Your Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Identify And Prevent Your Triggers
It is important to know that anxiety and panic attacks, unfortunately, can come on for absolutely no reason at all. But, they also can be triggered by certain things. Identifying these triggers, if you have any, can help you avoid your anxiety and panic attacks.
Because anxiety and panic disorders are not one size fits all, triggers can vary from person to person. Here are a few of my triggers for example.
Anxiety (triggers panic attack)
Fear of panic attack
Lack of sleep
Lack of nutrition
Lack of schedule or routine
Leaving my home
Any social situation with someone I don’t talk to on a regular basis
Anticipating a phone call
Not being prepared
If I feel like I’ve let someone down
It is important to know that avoiding your triggers can be a good coping mechanism for triggers like lack of sleep and lack of nutrition. Getting plenty of sleep and healthy food is good for you. However, avoiding all social situations or leaving your home isn’t healthy, so if these are your triggers please read on to learn of more ways to help.
This coping mechanism may seem a little daunting, so take a deep breathe and bear with me.
Trigger Desensitization means purposely doing a trigger again and again until it no longer causes anxiety. The thought of that alone was anxiety inducing for me, so please do not feel any pressure to do this if you don’t feel comfortable.
Personally, performed consistently over a long period of time, this method has worked wonders for me. At it’s best i’d say it got me to feeling 80% normal. But I had to be consistent, giving myself any slack resulted in regression of progress and a return in symptoms
My advice for you, if you are willing to try this method is to start on a day you feel good and are experiencing little to no anxiety.
Medication can be a very effective way to lessen or even eliminate your symptoms. There are multiple medications available and what works for some may not work for others. If the first medication you try doesn’t work you shouldn’t give up or feel discouraged, it may take some trial and error to find what works best for you.
I know some people, myself included, don’t like the idea of taking medication for one reason or another. Especially as mothers who are pregnant or breastfeeding. I support you 100% if you decide against medication for whatever reason. You are a GOOD MOM. I support you 100% if you decide to take medication deemed safe by your doctor. You are a GOOD MOM. Don’t let ANYONE try to convince you otherwise. You are taking the steps, that you feel are right for you to better yourself, and that is all that matters.
If you decide against prescription medication I have made a list and linked to a few anti-anxiety products below that you might find helpful.
Getting Plenty of Sleep
This is probably one of the most annoying pieces of advice we get as mothers, so let’s just get it out of the way. We know that we’re suppose to get enough sleep, but often our little night owls, frequent night wakings, and early risers make that impossible.
I know there aren’t any mothers out there who are purposely trying not to get a good nights sleep. But this list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning this because there are direct relationships between lack of sleep and an increase of anxiety and panic attacks.
Lack of sleep puts you at risk for an imbalance in hormones, and an imbalance in hormones causes anxiety and panic attacks. Do your best to make it a priority to get a full 8 hours at night, and I promise these tips will get more helpful.
A drop in blood sugar is a common trigger. If you find this to be true for you it may be helpful to not let yourself go too long without eating. Try keeping healthy snacks, like trail mix, with you at all times, and resort to your toddlers puffs if need be.
Complex carbs are thought to increase serotonin levels, which causes a calming effect. Complex carbs include oatmeal, and whole grain breads and cereal.
Dehydration is also another known trigger for some people, and of course the best way to beat dehydration is by drinking plenty of water. I struggle to drink enough water so I try to keep a water bottle with me and get in the habit of taking a sip every time my little one does from her sippy cup.
You may also want to avoid caffeine if it makes you feel jittery because that jittery feeling can be another trigger. Caffeine is a stimulant, and can stimulate your “fight or flight” response, which can lead to panic attacks.
By now we know that anxiety is caused by an imbalance of hormones. When we exercise, our bodies release feel good hormones and this helps suppress anxiety.
This doesn’t mean you have to get an expensive gym membership, hire a babysitter, and become a body builder. Let’s face it, for most moms this isn’t even possible. Putting your little one in the stroller and going for a walk or doing some mommy and me exercises are great, more reasonable, options.
I’ve mentioned quite a few times in other posts how children thrive on structure. This holds true for anxiety sufferers as well, we just don’t do well with surprises, the unknown, or the spontaneous.
I find it very helpful to plan out my week ahead in a planner. This way I can stay on track when I’m having trouble concentrating and thinking about what I need to do. Also, anxiety can make you question the day, time, and locations of events you’ve checked a thousand times so I find writing those things down and being able to check them easily eases my mind.
For me, deep breathing is the least effective method and only provides me very temporary relief of symptoms. But I do find myself in situations where it is the only option I have, and it’s definitely better than nothing. Easy enough, just breathe in deeply and exhale slowly.
Talk To Someone
Talking to a family member, a trusted friend, or sometimes better a professional therapist, can be very beneficial for anxiety sufferers. A lot of us fear what we don’t understand, and over analyze it. Talking about your problems with another person, getting to the route of them, understanding them, and getting them off your mind, can be very helpful.
Keep A Positive Attitude
I definitely think the worst thing you can do is invite the negative thoughts in and accept the feelings of worry and impending doom.
In the beginning of my journey with anxiety I let it define me. It made me want to be alone so I became the loner, and I embraced it for such a long time. I thought, well it’s not going away so this is who I am now. It thought accepting it would make it okay, but I was miserable.
It wasn’t until I started fighting it, looking for ways to make it go way, that I realized I am not my anxiety, this is just something that happens to me.
I like leaving my house. I like taking my daughter to play groups. I like talking to the other moms. I will find a way to keep doing all the things I love to do. I won’t let anxiety define me, and I hope to God that you don’t either.
What I really hope, is that you take the advice you’ve learned here today, you use it, and it helps you. If you have any questions at all, suggestions or corrections you think I should add to the post, or if you just need someone to talk to please comment below or send me a message through my contact page.