Help me deal with post-stress anxiety?
December 30, 2016 1:50 PM   Subscribe

I’m struggling with some anxiety that I would love tips for dealing with. Anxiety issues aren't really an ongoing thing for me - I can be a bit of an over thinker but normally it is very manageable, however that seems to have changed.

I’ve been under a lot of stress for the past few weeks, and now that the stress has let up, I’ve suddenly got terrible anxiety and am having lots of intrusive thoughts (mostly focused on my relationship) I’m also having a all of the fun physical symptoms – racing heart, tight chest, really dry mouth, upset stomach, hot sweats, and no appetite, can’t sleep.

It has been less than a week that I’ve been feeling this, so I know it hasn’t been very long. But not eating or sleeping well is starting to make things worse, and this morning I felt more like the edge of an outright panic attack (falling feeling, tingling arms and legs) I do have stretches of feeling great, and then I will notice that I feel good, and that sets me off on thinking about the intrusive thoughts and then next thing I know my heart is racing and my stomach is doing flip-flops.

Things that I’m already doing to deal with this:
-trying to work on meditation, I’ve done mindfulness before, but haven’t been practicing in a long time
-box breathing when I feel my heart start to race
-I’ve stopped drinking coffee (I’m only on day one of this!)
-I wrote some positive thoughts on a post-it to counter the negative ones on a and try to read over those when I feel myself spiraling into the anxiety.

I’m hoping this will pass, but I'm worried about all the unstructured time I’ll have over the long weekend and worry makes things worse. What else should I be doing to tackle this? I'm open to any ideas you've got.
posted by Sabby to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Are you opposed to medication? Benzodiazepines (e.g. Xanax) are meant specifically for short-term use, to help get you over a bit of bumpy road. Xanax has helped me immensely.
posted by scratch at 2:06 PM on December 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

I used to work with a group of people who called this the "post-project flu" and treated it as such: soup and treats, movies on the couch, pajamas all day. Structured periods of wallowing, sometimes pulling out that one Nuclear Option movie that'll generate a good cleansing cry, medication if necessary. High priority on sleep and rest, hydration, and treating symptoms.

When you start to get agitated, remind yourself that you pushed yourself pretty hard and you feel bad because you need to recover. Just like the flu, as much as it feels in the moment like this is where you live now, you will in fact be able to breathe through your nose in a few days. You may have a lingering cough, and you will need to be extra mindful of sleep, rest, and hydration over the next few weeks while you finish bouncing back, but this too will pass.

Time is as important a medicine as anything else. Help it pass as best you can. Let your body recover from the physical damage of stress and you will also find your mind settling down too.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:40 PM on December 30, 2016 [12 favorites]

I have dealt with issues like this in the past by completing a self-paced CBT course, (e.g "Feeling Good", but there are dozens). It was surprisingly effective for me, though I know it sounds basic.
posted by smoke at 2:47 PM on December 30, 2016

during the day:
go for walks outside if the weather permits
visit places that offer low key social interactions, such as a café

at night:
revisit old favourite movies or novels
look out of the window (unless there is a risk what you see triggers more anxiety, of course)
bake, for the sake of being immersed in an activity
posted by bluedora at 3:05 PM on December 30, 2016

Find something that's distracting but not stress inducing in and of itself. e.g. social media is distracting but the news is awful. Maybe a puzzle, or knitting. Something you have to concentrate on, but not too hard. But... walks in nature are my go-to when I'm like this.
posted by AFABulous at 3:28 PM on December 30, 2016

Nthing walks in nature. My anxiety, which cannot be treated pharmaceutically at the moment because of a possible liver problem, has been sky-high over the holidays, but spending an hour meandering through a wooded area has been a big help. I walk along the off-leash dog trail and if I manage to get a doggy to pet, then that absolutely helps, too.

Not sure if this is relevant, but I also try to pay attention to what I'm eating: a lot of times I'll develop a kind of low-grade heartburn -- for years I didn't even realize this is what it was -- and it reads as CAN'T BREATHE CHEST PAIN PANIC TIME. Keeping an eye on my diet can help head this off before it starts.

Good luck, and I hope you feel better soon.
posted by LynnDee at 4:45 PM on December 30, 2016

I've gone through periods like this after a difficult project, too. What works for me is some gentle exercise, (e.g. long walks, ideally in a park or other quiet setting) plus the same kind of pampering mentioned by Lyn Never above. It also helps me to check my caffeine intake, since I tend to ramp up my coffee consumption during difficult times.

Finally, IANAD, but I have also found that 100 mgs of the OTC supplement L-theanine helps calm down those anxiety symptoms. I've read that it counters the cortisol in your system, which can stay ramped up for quite a while after a stressful period. I have also taken a double dose (200 mgs) right before sleep and found that it helps me nod off and sleep through the night. (As far as I know it is not known for harmful side-effects, but as always, YMMV and you should check with your doctor, especially if you are taking other medications.)
posted by rpfields at 5:52 PM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

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