I don’t know anyone, including myself, who doesn’t get hit with a wave of anxiety from time to time. Life can throw a lot of curveballs, and in these uncertain times that we live in, we are all susceptible. But if you are dealing with a chronic condition like diabetes, the challenges can leave you feeling overwhelmed at times by anxiety, if not feeling panic. Sometimes the curveball hits you before you have a chance to duck.
I don’t have any easy answers for dealing with those times when anxiety hits especially hard. But I do have a few ideas that have worked with my clients. You might give some of them a try, if you haven’t already. And I am interested in any techniques that have worked for you that you might want to share.
First, what are your anxiety symptoms? The common ones are feeling irritable, restless, or tense. Having a sense that something bad might happen, even if you aren’t sure what it is or don’t want to think about what it might be. Looking around for signs of danger. Scary visions about the future. Having trouble focusing. Physical symptoms like dry mouth, sweating, headaches, upset stomach, and others. And just plain old panic.
Being aware of your own anxiety symptoms is a good place to start. Some of the anxiety-reduction techniques are symptom-focused (more to come on this…).
Also ask yourself: What triggers my anxiety? You may encounter certain situations – or people – that, for some reason, you tend to react to with anxiety. You might want to consider having a strategy in place for dealing with these situations or people, or even seeing if you can avoid them. Some prevention might be useful here.
Now, here are a few ideas to help you to get through those anxious moments:
Don’t fight yourself. Acknowledge how you are feeling, including the fear. Don’t try to pretend you aren’t feeling anxious or tell yourself that you shouldn’t be feeling that way. Assure yourself that you are safe and that you will do what you need to do to take care of yourself.
Calm yourself down. Are you familiar with any relaxation techniques that you might use? Going off by yourself and taking some deep breaths. Visualizing a calm scene, like the beach, with yourself in the middle of it. Taking a couple of minutes to meditate. You might want to learn relaxation techniques that work for you so that you have them handy when you find yourself in an anxious moment. If you use relaxation techniques, you might find it helpful to focus your calming thoughts on your specific anxiety symptoms.
Avoid catastrophic thinking. If you decide to view a situation as a catastrophe, then it is more likely to feel like one. Instead, take a step back and ask yourself some questions. What is making me feel anxious? Am I in real danger or does it feel that way? Am I turning this into a catastrophe when maybe it isn’t so bad or is only temporary? The idea here is to get a quick reality check on what’s going on. And really important: Ask yourself if you are letting yourself create a catastrophe before you have the facts about what’s really going on. Don’t jump to conclusions until you and your doctor know what’s going on and what you can do!
Remind yourself: I have been through this before. Chances are, this isn’t the first time that you have felt overwhelmed by anxiety, even if the situation was different. Sure, it’s never easy. But the point is that you have felt this way before and you got through it (another way to avoid catastrophic thinking). Give yourself some positive self-talk.
Remind yourself that you have options. Anxiety affects your ability to think rationally. As a result, you may feel so overwhelmed by the emotions of the moment that you don’t think you have a way out. While you’re taking those calming, deep breaths, also remind yourself that you have options. You’re not trapped. These positive messages this may help to activate your rational side and add some balance when your emotions are on overload.
Ask yourself: What has worked in the past? When you have found yourself feeling overwhelmed by anxiety in the past, have you done anything that has helped you? Any techniques that helped? Anything that you told yourself, or that someone else said to you, that helped? You may have some coping strengths that you forgot about.
Reach out for support. Calling upon friends and family members during times of anxiety can be a big help. Consider taking stock of your support network, and make a list of who you can count on the most to be available and supportive, that you can check in with, when you need a port in the storm. You might even ask them to be available during when you are feeling anxious, and let them know what you most need from them during those times. Talk it out with someone you trust!
Let your doctor know about your anxiety. If anxiety or panic is an ongoing experience for you, or if you have an experience that is overwhelming, let your doctor know. Make sure your doctor is aware of the symptoms and see if they might be somehow related to your blood sugar levels and/or your medication. He/she may want to take a look at your medication regimen, as well as talk to you about your diet and lifestyle, to see if there any factors that might be contributing to feelings of anxiety. You may also want to talk to your doctor about treatment for anxiety.
Okay, so I gave you a few ideas. Anything that has worked for you that you want to share? I’m all ears (eyes)!
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