Hashimoto's and Anxiety, and Hacks to HelpMay 19, 2021
Anxiety can be a major symptom of Hashimoto’s as well as a trigger for Hashimoto’s to flare. Learning how to identify anxiety and some helpful tools to overcome it could make all the difference in your recovery plan. I will briefly review some of my research on what it is, some of the symptoms, some of the possible disorders, and some possible ways to overcome anxiety using my LEANWell 4 step checklist: Lifestyle, Exercise, Attitude, and Nutrition.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. It’s a feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come. The first day of a new job, going out on a first date, or giving a sales pitch to a potential new client may cause most people to feel fearful and nervous.
But if your feelings of anxiety are extreme, last for longer than six months, and are interfering with your life, you may have an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety is a key part of several different disorders.
- panic disorder: unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms that may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal distress
- phobia: A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder defined by a persistent and excessive fear of an object or situation. Phobias typically result in a rapid onset of fear and are present for more than six months.
- social anxiety disorder: Social anxiety disorder (also called social phobia) is a mental health condition. It is an intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others.
- obsessive-compulsive disorder: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental illness that causes repeated unwanted thoughts or sensations (obsessions) or the urge to do something over and over again (compulsions). Some people can have both obsessions and compulsions.
- separation anxiety disorder: Adults with separation anxiety have extreme fear that bad things will happen to important people in their lives, such as family members
- illness anxiety disorder: Illness anxiety disorder is a chronic mental illness previously known as hypochondria. People with this disorder have a persistent fear that they have a serious or life-threatening illness despite few or no symptoms.
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or who have been threatened with death, sexual violence, or serious injury.
What are some of the possible symptoms of an anxiety attack?
Anxiety attacks can vary greatly, and symptoms may differ among individuals.
Anxiety feels different depending on the person experiencing it. Feelings can range from butterflies in your stomach to a racing heart. You might feel out of control, like there’s a disconnect between your mind and body.
Other ways people experience anxiety include nightmares, panic attacks, and painful thoughts or memories that you can’t control. You may have a general feeling of fear and worry, or you may fear a specific place or event.
Symptoms of general anxiety include:
- increased heart rate
- rapid breathing
- trouble concentrating
- difficulty falling asleep
Common symptoms of an anxiety attack include:
- feeling faint or dizzy
- shortness of breath
- dry mouth
- chills or hot flashes
- apprehension and worry
- numbness or tingling
What are some ways to overcome anxiety?
- Avoid multitasking. Do one thing at a time and keep your full attention on it before you move on to the next task. Take a small break in between tasks
- Take deep breaths. Inhale through the nose for 4 seconds, hold for 2 seconds, and exhale through the mouth for six seconds.
- Get involved. Volunteer or find another way to be active in your community, which creates a support network and gives you a break from everyday stress.
- Learn what triggers your anxiety. Is it work, family, school, or something else you can identify? Write in a journal when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, and look for a pattern.
- Talk to someone. Tell friends and family you’re feeling overwhelmed, and let them know how they can help you. Talk to a physician or therapist for professional help.
- Exercise 30 minutes daily to help you feel good and maintain your health.
- Take a time-out. Practice yoga, listen to music, meditate, get a massage, or learn relaxation techniques. Stepping back from the problem helps clear your head.
- Count to 10 slowly. Repeat, and count to 20 if necessary
- Recruit an “exercise buddy.” It's often easier to stick to your exercise routine when you have to stay committed to a friend, partner, or colleague.
- Find forms of exercise that are fun or enjoyable. Remember the phrase I’ve said in previous podcast episodes “The best exercise for you, is the one you will do!” Extroverted people often like classes and group activities. People who are more introverted often prefer solo pursuits.
- Accept that you cannot control everything. Put your stress in perspective: Is it really as bad as you think?
- Maintain a positive attitude. Make an effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Start each day with journaling 3 things your are thankful for, and 3 things you are excited about or looking forward to. This may be hard at first, but keep at it, it will change your whole perspective!
- Do your best. Instead of aiming for perfection, which isn't possible, be proud of however close you get.
- Welcome humor. A good laugh goes a long way.
Eating a low glycemic index diet helps with feeling fuller longer, improves cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, improves cognitive performance, improves energy, and reduces acne. It also reduces your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, and promotes weight loss for those who are overweight. Many people have also found their moods improve after balancing their blood sugar.
Balancing Blood Sugar (Rules from Izabella Wentz):
- Include fat/protein with every meal: eggs, nuts, seeds, fish, meat.
- Eat every two to three hours at first. Snacks are great!
- No sweets before bed.
- Avoid fruit juice. (Eat the whole fruit instead)
- Limit caffeine, or exclude altogether.
- Avoid all grains and dairy, soy, corn, and yeast.
- Eat breakfast within one hour of waking.
- Include snacks rich in protein/fat every two to three hours.
- No fasting.
- Cut out foods with a glycemic index above 55.
- Never skip breakfast.
- Always combine carbohydrates with fat or protein. Never exceed a 2:1 ratio of carb to protein.
Anxiety looks different for each person. If you think you have symptoms of anxiety or anxiety disorders, then use your best judgment on trying some of the tips I just wrote about or consult a professional for help. Most importantly, don’t just secretly suffer. Get the help you need to feel better.
Now, for some actions steps you can take today:
- How to help yourself: Pick 2 action steps from one of the four pillars I wrote about, Lifestyle-Exercise-Attitude-Nutrition. Put them into action THIS week. Once you feel you are ready, then add two more. Track how you are feeling and notice what works!
- How to help others: If you have a family member or friend who suffers with anxiety, show them compassion. They are NOT crazy. Their feelings, worries, fears, emotions are very real, just as real as the feeling you would get if someone pointed a loaded gun in your face. No amount of “get over it” or “You’ll be fine” or “Stop worrying so much” is going to help. Validate their fears, and help starve their fears. Give them reassurance that there are systems in place to keep them safe and cared for. Help them implement some of the tools listed above.
- How to dig deeper: Check out my long list of resources I used for this episode. There are so many great sources of information on this topic. I especially enjoyed the freebie Ebook from Izabella Wentz’s website called Thyroid Symptom Hacker. The link for the download is listed in the sources section below.