Sun. Apr 14th, 2024

Carolyn Hax: Help is on the way, but how to manage anxiety till then?

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: Due to a variety of events (pandemic, birth of twins, moved twice in the past two years with said twins, etc.), my anxiety has really gotten out of control. I have been self-medicating in different ways to push it away enough to get through the day. I know it’s not healthy, which is why I finally sat down and scheduled an appointment with a professional. My hope is that in addition to talk therapy, they can prescribe something to help turn off the warning bells that are constantly going off.

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My first meeting isn’t for another month. I’m worried the “help” will take too long to work and I’ll be left struggling to keep my head above all the anxiety. Any advice for managing my anxiety while I prepare to get help for my anxiety?

Anxious: I’m sorry you’re feeling so stressed. Before I reel off a list, a reminder of the power of deep breathing. It’s not magic or a medical treatment, but it is a mitigating option, and it’s available to you instantly, free, 24/7. Okay:

1. An appointment with your primary care doctor or OB/GYN. That can get your care started now, and maybe even bump you up in line for mental health care.

2. Do you have support? Friends, family, paid sitters or other domestic help? Call in any and all reinforcements.

3. Sample all free, home-based self-care. Yoga (try “Yoga With Adriene” on YouTube), other exercise, meditation, music, comedy, a hot bath, tea, your favorite books/movies/shows. Walks around the neighborhood with twins in the stroller were a lifesaver for us. (Till ours realized they could bite each other in the side-by-side — but it gets better!)

4. Do you have access to an employee assistance program (EAP) through an employer? Those often include immediate, short-term help, which could be a bridge to your upcoming appointment for longer-term care.

5. Support group? Based on what you’re using to self-medicate, maybe? Many are free and accessible. Or, coming at it from a different direction, you can also try a parents of multiples group.

6. Last one, because long lists of anything can be stress: Streamline. Pare your lists to the absolute essentials, focus less on appearances and forgive yourself upfront for whatever you cross off. You don’t mention a partner, but if there is one, then make this a cooperative effort.

Hugs for what you’re going through. You did the tough and brave thing by taking steps to manage it.

· I was incredibly anxious the past two years; my gynecologist checked my vitamin D levels and found they were super low. Since I started taking a vitamin D supplement, my anxiety has been much, much better. YMMV, but wanted to share! [Some support for this here.]

· The newer anti-anxiety medications can be amazingly helpful. Ask your internist, OB/GYN or whomever you see for basic care. Keep the twins fed, clothed and hugged. The rest is details.

· Be really, really honest with yourself about whether your self-medicating has taken on a life of its own. If you need treatment for addiction, therapy and anxiety meds are not going to magically solve the problem. Ask your doctor for a substance use disorder screening. If you need rehab, go to rehab.

· Maybe do a bit of reading about anxiety, what causes it, how to manage it. Try Andrea Bonior’s “Detox Your Thoughts.”

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