As a child I grew accustomed to feeling ill when my worrying waged a war within my brain, and then, my body. With my first period, I actually thought it was my annual ‘first day of school’ gut-wrenching anxiety. A connection between my cycles & my concerns that would continue, and grow, more complicated for the next 30 years, often confusing one issue for the other. I share that background to help you understand just how long I have been battling the unwelcome powerlessness of panic.
And how much fertility issues have added to the fight.
There came a point when I finally realized the connection, but also that coping with each of them in an unhealthy way was contributing to making each of them worse. The stresses of life and infertility were snowballing and I was standing at the bottom of the hill without a clue how to stop it or get out of it’s way. So it hit me, and knocked me down hard—so hard that I didn’t get up for awhile. But that’s what convinced me I needed to prioritize my mental health in order to support my physical health, and it has been all uphill from there.
I dove into all the resources I could to help me find relief from my anxious ways, and I found some essential tools that have worked wonders. Anxiety typically comes from stress that we don’t feel capable of dealing with, but what I’ve come to understand is that even if we can’t resolve the situation, we CAN deal with the stress!
Here are four of the most effective steps I took to overcome my anxiety:
Serenity – the key to peace of mind is learning what problems we should work on and which we shouldn’t. Through counselling techniques, I discovered the best ways to view our struggles is through the lens of ‘what can I control’ and ‘what can’t I control’. This filter quickly shows us the reality of what we’re capable of changing and what we’re not, and once we understand that, we need to work on letting what we can’t control go. There is no sense in worrying or fighting against the situations in our life that we can have no effect on, but not only that, we can feel less powerless if we put our efforts into what we do have the capacity to change!
Simplicity – once we can see which of our troubles we can control, it reduces our long list of choices of what to focus on. That can be half the battle with anxiety, being overwhelmed by the sheer number of things to deal with is just one more thing to worry about. With a smaller group of issues to concentrate on, we can more easily figure out which are the priorities, allowing us the space to be more aware of which are the main things that need to be addressed first.
Self-talk – the words we speak to ourselves are often the default thoughts that have become auto-pilot. They once seemed to work for us and have now become hard-wired. But if you recognize these as anxious thoughts and are trying to stop them, it’s hard to tell yourself you can change how you think because the auto-pilot turns on and says “no way, that won’t work, this is the only thing that has worked!” Instead of accepting our self-talk as truth, we can question it! Don’t immediately own it. This will give us the space to examine if these thoughts really do help us, and if not, in that space we have room to figure out new things to tell ourselves about the situation.
Share – last month I wrote a post about the value of sharing the weight of worry with other people, and how much that can benefit us, but there is even more value that can come from sharing beyond the unburdening. Experiments have been done on how much pain a body can handle depending on if the person holds in their hurt or whether they verbalize the discomfort, and the result was those who expressed their pain could withstand it almost 50% longer! But this doesn’t only have to come out verbally. Artists have long claimed the healing benefits of creative expression. Creating something has also been proven to have therapeutic effects because it can alleviate both the emotional and physical pain, whether that be through writing, music, painting, poetry, etc. The possibilities are endless.
While these tools have been tremendously helpful, they have taken time. None of them are a quick fix, but what they did give me instantly was hope. Once I realized that I had choices in how I dealt with my stress, the stress lost a lot of its power over my life, and I found the power to overcome!
By Lori Alcorn, https://www.thepregnantpausecoach.com
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