Saturday, July 21, 2018

Life With Chronic Conditions: Dialing Down the Angst

Life is full of angst regardless of whether you are living with a chronic condition(s) and/or being a caregiver. The damaging effects to the body are well documented but more importantly, it  just feels awful. 

This post is broken into two parts: what to do to break the immediate grasp of being anxious and how to be proactive to avoid angst in the first place.

 Ways to Immediately Relieve Angst: This is for those times when you are suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of dread or fear, have a lump in your throat, racing heart, dizziness or any other sign that you are highly anxious.
• Stay present and breathe. Try one of the following breathing patterns to see which one works best for you.

-       CO 2 Breathing: Cup your hands over your mouth or use a paper bag. Breath into your hands or the bag slowly. Breathe normally and deeply.

-       Gently and slowly inhale a normal amount of air through your nose, filling up your lower lungs first and then your upper lungs. Hold your breath to the count of “three.” Exhale slowly through pursed lips, while you relax the muscles in your face, jaw, shoulders, and stomach.

-       Sit in a chair or on the floor with arms on your lap or sides. Take a deep slow breathe through your nose for a count of 5 or 6 seconds. Hold the breath for 2-3 seconds and breathe out slowly through your mouth for another 6-7 seconds. Breathe like you’re whistling. Repeat 10 times

-       Equal Breathing helps you fall asleep. Inhale and exhale on a count of four through your nose. Repeat for 10 breaths or more. You can extend counts to 6-8 seconds per inhale/exhale

-       Alternate Nostril breathing: Hold your right thumb over your right nostril and inhale deeply through your left nostril. At the peak of inhalation, hold your right ring finger over your left nostril and release and exhale through your right nostril. Repeat the breaths 3 to 5 times.

• Take a walk, stretch, yoga pose-move

• Laugh out loud

• Talk to someone friendly

• Change the dialogue in your head. Run through a mental checklist-is there a reason to believe something is wrong; is there evidence; could I be blowing this out of proportion? Try affirmations, such as “I’m okay, this is just anxiety;” “my thoughts aren’t reality.”

Changes to make that can reduce anxiety driven situations
• Identify what makes you anxious and think about ways to reduce or eliminate these types of situations.

• Put some processes in place so they don’t become sources of stress. One of my recent ones is to use the “reminders”  feature on my phone and keep a list of things I need. Before I would run around trying to figure out what we need before I went shopping and I’d not only miss things, but I’d over buy thinking I was almost out of something. Now as I notice we’re running low, I add it to my virtual shopping list. Don’t have a phone, attach a note pad to your refrigerator and use it. Yes, I’m becoming a list minder, but it definitely reduces stress so I’m okay with it.

• Clear clutter as piles of “stuff” can drain your energy and make you feel stressed. Your home should be your sanctuary. Check out The KonMari Method for Tidying When Affected by a Chronic Condition

• Evaluate your relationships and eliminate or significantly reduce time and interactions with people who make you feel anxious. Cultivate supportive friendships.

• Simplify finances: put as many things on autopilot as possible (direct deposit of paycheck; auto deduct for savings , monthly bills etc); reduce the number of accounts you have, particularly credit cards; examine monthly bills and determine if there are things you aren’t really using, such as cable TV; pay for weekly expenses with cash (you save money doing this and reduce the need to continually balance your check book).

• Simplify responsibilities: Learn to say no. Only commit to things you want to do and have time for. Over commitments turns into poor performance and leads to anxiety and resentment.

• Reduce or eliminate screen time be it TV, smart phone or computer. Social media can not only be a time suck, but studies show it doesn’t increase a sense of well being. Set your phone so it doesn’t ping you every time there is a call, e-mail, text etc. Select the most important features. The world isn’t going to end if you miss a call.

• Go for contentment and skip the happiness obsession

• Have a news block out. Media exposure to disturbing events can literally make you feel sick. The goal is to be informed but not obsessed. Many people listen or watch the news as they eat breakfast, prepare dinner etc. Switch it up with interesting pod casts.

• Take vacations

• Learn to say “I don’t care.” You don’t have to have an opinion on everything so only optimize what’s really important to you.

• Put off till tomorrow or even until next week what you can. Everything doesn’t have to be a priority. Live in the moment and avoid multi tasking. You can’t really multi task anyway.

• Relax: Dance, listen to music, draw, paint, do nothing, read a book, exercise, take a hot bath, write. Do whatever that makes you feel comfy, cozy and saying “aaahhhhh....”

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