Mental Health: 4 Steps for Controlling Anxiety

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I know that talking about anxiety, depression, and mental health can be kind of a taboo. But I’m just letting you know that I completely disagree with that, and I do my best to be open and honest about it.

I mean, think about it… Physical health is openly discussed, like eating healthier, exercising, and getting regular physical check-ups. We brush, floss, and visit the dentist twice each year for our dental health.

But what do we ever do about our mental health? It seems like it’s something that a lot of people tend to ignore.

And it would be awesome if we could just stop doing that!

I happened to suffer from anxiety and depression for a long time before my husband, Chaz, passed away. And my only treatment was medication. Looking back, I wish I had done more than that because there is a lot more to mental health than just a chemical imbalance.

4 Steps for Controlling Anxiety - Monday Mourning Widow Series - Anxiety is a very real part of many of our lives. These 4 steps can help with controlling anxiety when you need a little extra help.

Within the first few weeks after Chaz died, I began seeing a therapist. Losing him was obviously the worst thing that had ever happened to me, and I knew I needed professional help to get through it. And I consider those therapy sessions to be one of the top things that helped me get through the past 15 months.

If it helped me, I figured it might be able to help someone else. So for this week’s Monday Mourning Widow Series post, I wanted to share one of the many lessons I learned from my therapist.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional! I am sharing my own personal experience. I strongly advise you to consult with a doctor or therapist to ensure that you are doing what is right for you.

Obviously, after Chaz died, my anxiety levels were through the roof! I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t sleep. I was barely functioning. I was constantly worried about every element of my life and the kids’ lives. All of this made it incredibly difficult to parent the kids or to get through each day at work.

It is now 15 months later and I have made a lot of progress in dealing with my anxiety. I don’t often have anxiety attacks anymore and instead of weeks passing by where I’m stuck in a whirlwind of anxiety, I’ll only have a day or 2 of feeling hopelessly anxious. Sometimes, I can even get it under control in just a few hours. Here is how I do it:


4 Steps to Controlling Anxiety

1) Recognize the symptoms of anxiety

That probably sounds ridiculous. If you already know that you are dealing with anxiety, then why do you have to recognize it. Well, in order for me to control it, I have be aware of what my anxiety feels like. I have to deal with it right from the start, otherwise I’ll get lost in this crazy, unfocused state of mind and it’s so much more difficult to find my way out.

My anxiety usually comes out of nowhere and for no reason. I can just be sitting at my desk at work, and I suddenly realize I’m feeling anxious. I’m aware of it because I am now able to recognize my symptoms as they come on. My symptoms are:

  • Heart starting to race.
  • Getting fidgety and unable to sit still.
  • Inability to focus on a single task or zoning out.
  • Mind is wondering all over the place (usually with horrible thoughts or thinking of everything I need to do).
  • A sick-to-the-stomach feeling.
  • Just not feeling “right.”

Paying attention to how I was feeling helped me learn what my typical symptoms are. Give it a try and see if you can begin to recognize an anxiety attack, or anxious feelings coming on.

2) Understanding the emotion of anxiety

I learned in therapy that anxiety is actually an ancient emotion, it comes from our fight-or-flight instinct. A person would sense danger, which would result in a rush of adrenaline in order to to protect themselves, whether that be by fleeing or fighting.

In today’s society, we don’t typically experience life threatening danger on a daily basis. But that emotion still exists in our brain. It will send the rush of adrenaline but you are unable to do anything with it! (Especially if your just sitting at your desk at work!) Because you have nothing to use adrenaline rush for, the anxious feelings will begin, like your heart racing for no reason.

3) Look at the facts

Once I recognize my anxiety and think about what anxiety really means, I start to look at the facts of what’s going on around me. I ask myself, “Am I in any danger?” So far, the answer has always been “No.” Then I ask myself if I am in an uncomfortable situation, or if I’m about to be in situation I find uncomfortable (like a meeting with my boss)? For these questions, sometimes the answer is yes (although not always).

Then I have to consciously think to myself, “Sarah, you are not in danger. There is nothing going on. There is no reason to feel anxious. Calm down.” As I’m thinking this, I’m usually taking a few deep breaths to try and calm my heart. I might also step away from my desk to take a short walk or get some fresh air.

4) Be prepared

If it’s an uncomfortable situation that is causing my anxiety, the next thing I can do is to be as prepared as possible. For example, if it’s a work situation I make sure I have all my information needed for the meeting. I will practice conversations in my head, and sometimes I’ll even type out what I want to say!

In other aspects of my life, I make lists or try to get as much done ahead of time. For example, before I go to bed, I set out our outfits for the next day and make my lunch. Since winter is coming, I’ll also have coats, hats, and mittens organized and ready to be put on before we leave.

Anxiety is worrying about the future. Unfortunately, there isn’t much I can do about the future. I only exist in this current moment. So the only thing I can control right now is being prepared for the future, and hope that that is enough! This is something I have to remind myself of this constantly!

These 4 steps have helped me so much over that 15 months. I wish I had known about these steps before Chaz died. I thought life had been great back then, and if I’d been controlling my anxiety and mental health, it would have been that much better! But just like the future, there isn’t anything I can do about the past… But that will be a completely different blog post!


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4 Steps for Controlling Anxiety - Monday Mourning Widow Series - Anxiety is a very real part of many of our lives. These 4 steps can help with controlling anxiety when you need a little extra help.

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16 Comments on "Mental Health: 4 Steps for Controlling Anxiety"

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Sandy Sandmeyer
Guest

Wow, Sarah! I can't even imagine losing my husband and having 3 toddlers. Thank you for sharing from your experience. You are so correct when you say that mental health should be discussed just like we discuss physical health. I know that this post will help many people. #‎ibabloggers‬

Jamie Tomkins
Guest

You are one strong woman – God sure has a plan for your life. From what I'm reading, it's to help others. Thanks for the great info! #ibabloggers

Meg Walsh
Guest

I agree that we should all talk about mental health openly, there is not enough spotlight put on a lot of mental issues. You are an inspiration to so many people, what you have been through and how you deal with everything takes a lot of courage and strength! Great post Sarah 🙂 #ibabloggers

Mikaila R
Guest

This was such an eye-opening post. I've dealt with this type of anxiety and what you wrote about understanding the condition is how I have harnessed the power of awareness to heal. Thank you so much for sharing your story. #ibabloggers

Audrey
Guest

I find if I don't get enough sleep my anxiety levels seem to rise. Which creates a vicious cycle because it is then harder to sleep when you are worried about everything including not sleeping…<br /><br />Thanks for sharing your first hand knowledge.<br />#ibabloggers.

Joanne T Ferguson
Guest

G'day Thanks for sharing! Always good to read ways to decrease!<br />#ibabloggers Cheers! Joanne

Lysa Wilds
Guest

I am so very sorry for your loss…can't even imagine what you are going through. I suffer from depression, PTSD, and severe anxiety. I suffered a loss this summer in which I am still grieving for and know all too well how the anxiety became much worse. Your tips on dealing with it though are very helpful and although I know to do these things somehow reading this post has made me realize

Elizabeth Lund
Guest

Sarah, I couldn't agree with you more. I know mental health is a taboo topic. I wrote an article on depression several months ago and there were some bloggers who regularly comment on my blog that were notoriously silent. I think we can raise awareness and speak out to help others gain understanding and empathy and help those who are struggling not feel so alone and alienated. Great tips!

Megan Kubasch
Guest

Seeing a therapist has been the best decision I have made in years. I really don't understand why there is such a stigma about seeing a counselor or therapist for help with anxiety or depression. My therapist asked that I think about it as personal education for bettering yourself. We go to school to earn degrees to further our careers, why don't we educate ourselves about ourselves to be

millenialhomemaker
Guest

Hi Sarah, thank you for sharing your story. I have dealt with panic and anxiety this year, and counseling helped a lot to understand how to control them. Here's my story: http://wp.me/pjqgF-f0 … I hope that others will reach out and not be ashamed to ask for help. There IS help out there! There is HOPE! You can recover!

Tina Marie Ernspiker
Guest

Very nice post Sarah! I have anxiety myself and it stinks 🙁 You made some good points and I hope your article helps others! I am featuring you tomorrow at our IBA Weekly Roundup 🙂

Brittany
Guest

Great pick, Tina! I think we can all use these tips from time to time. Thanks for sharing, Sarah!

Joanne T Ferguson
Guest

G'day A heartfelt post thanks for sharing today!<br />Cheers! Joanne #ibabloggers

Nancy Laws
Guest

Awesome! I allowed mine to control me for so long, these are wonderful steps, taking the time to understand Anxiety and what triggers it is so important…

Valerie
Guest

Thank you so much for this…I often deal with anxiety issues. =) Bless you! Valerie

Kristina Perrin
Guest

My anxiety has been worse since I’ve had my daughter. These are great tips on dealing with it. I’ve actually never thought about #3 before. That’s a really good idea that I’ll have to try out next time.