September 11, 2020

When Anxiety Changes

Mental Health & Wellbeing

By the time you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that I have had my first child! Pregnancy has been filled with all the emotions people warn you about, but it has also been a tremendous blessing. When I was a teenager, I suffered from an anxiety disorder. After spending time in therapy, I was able to manage my anxiety symptoms. Pregnancy changed my ability to manage my anxiety and meant that I needed to seek out more support.

I say this to highlight a very important, but not often talked about truth: Mental health is always a journey. You can find ways to cope with your anxiety, but life circumstances may sometimes change your coping mechanisms. At other times, your physical health may impact your ability to manage your mental health. When things like this happen, it becomes important to know when you need additional support and challenge the negative beliefs about yourself that may hold you back from seeking support.

Recognizing the Change

Changes in our mental health can happen very slowly over time. One day you may realize that you no longer enjoy the things you used to or that it is becoming more challenging to cope with new experiences than before. You might become more irritable or have problems sleeping. Sometimes, changes in our mental health look like a panic attack that comes from seemingly nowhere after years without panic attacks.

Whatever the change may be, it is important to continue to apply coping skills and emotional regulation tools to help you monitor the differences. This can look like keeping a Journal or thought record of how you are feeling. For others, it can include conversations with important people about changes they might have noticed as well. This self-awareness helps you understand when your previous coping skills may not be as effective for your current circumstances and it is time to seek additional support.

Finding Support

Support can mean a lot of things when caring for your mental health. If you just moved, it may be that you need to find a new support system of friends and family that can be physically present in your new location. If you are experiencing new health challenges, who are the people that will encourage you and listen during the ups and downs of your new reality? For many of us, quarantine has also required that we change how we interact with others and find support. Initially, video calls helped us feel less alone, but as time has gone on, we have found creative ways to safely be present with others.

Support can also look like finding new health care providers. If you have never been on medication for your mental health before, your primary care provider or a psychiatrist may be able to help you make this decision. If you have not seen a therapist in awhile, resuming sessions may also provide the kind of care you need for your anxiety. In a lot of circumstances, a combination of both therapy and medication will help you feel like you are making progress.

Challenging the Fear of Failure

When you start to notice changes in your mental health, it is natural to feel like you have done something wrong to cause these changes. It can be hard not to feel like you are suddenly failing yourself because you need more help with your mental health. When this happens, it is important to find people and things that encourage you to continue on your mental health journey.

You can also identify your negative self-talk and find a more compassionate way to speak to yourself. This compassionate voice will remind you that you are improving and that it is not your fault that things have changed. It will also help you understand that the most compassionate choice for yourself is to seek help, instead of hiding in shame.

If you find that you are not able to identify this compassionate voice, a therapist can help you. Call today to find the support you need as you continue to improve your mental health.

Written by therapist Elise Champanhet

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