Calming the Busy Mind
Sarah Elliott is Haemophilia Outreach Worker – Northern, Haemophilia Foundation of New Zealand Inc.
This article is adapted with permission from Bloodline, the newsletter of the Haemophilia Foundation of New Zealand Inc, vol. 43, no. 2, June 2015
Coping with the demands of living with a bleeding disorder can be very stressful and cause much anxiety at different times in you or your child’s life. These concerns can get your ‘chatty brain’ going 100 miles per hour, and you may find it hard to concentrate or think clearly as your talkative inner voice works overtime and accentuates all your concerns, stressors and fears.
Each time you contemplate or worry over small details your body produces a surge of stress hormones which is bad for all elements of your wellbeing and causes clouded thought which often leads to further anxiety and making mistakes.
Although some stress is ‘normal’ and even important for us, there are times when stress builds up and is detrimental to our health.
Below are some ways to overcome and deal with stress and anxiety, as well as to calm and centre yourself. Try some of these techniques to find which ones work best for you:
Me time: Value yourself by making time for things you enjoy such as reading, listening to music and getting a massage.
Conscious relaxation: Things like meditation, yoga, mindfulness, breathing techniques and positive affirmations can help to quieten your mind and find peace. They can help you control and decrease the stress in your life and simultaneously increase your capacity for inner growth.
Exercise: Exercise releases endorphins and makes you feel good, it also helps you sleep better and maintain healthy body weight and strength. In particular, rhythmic exercise such as swimming, cycling or running is calming. Be careful though as when you are stressed as it is often a time for increased accidents as your concentration is lacking. Also make sure your exercise is appropriate for you and your bleeding disorder.
Interaction with animals: Animals can help you calm down and take your mind off a problem.
Manage your time well: A common cause of stress is having too much to do and too little time in which to do it, but you have more time then you think. Write priority lists, learn to say “No” and make limits on what you can and can’t do.
Remove harmful toxins: Limit stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and even sugar as these can aggravate and trigger panic attacks.
Build a relationship with the environment: Many of us feel more connected and calm when we are out in nature. Life’s problems seem to diminish when surrounded by magnificent mountains or clear blue lakes. Visiting places of significance in your life can also revitalise you.
Sleep: When you are stressed your body needs additional sleep – but when you are stressed it is always harder to sleep! Rather than relying on medication, your aim should be to maximise your relaxation before going to sleep. Make sure that your bedroom is a tranquil oasis with no reminders of the things that cause you to worry and have a routine time to go to sleep and wake up.
Relationships: We can reduce stress by making time for important people in our life and eliminating people who drain our energy and time. The people who know us well can help us put things in perspective.
Spiritual connectedness: Whether it be a religion, or a connection to a higher power this can bring comfort or security, a place to belong, a feeling that not EVERYTHING is on your shoulders or up to you to control. Connecting with your culture can also uplift your spirit and increase your resilience.
Healthy diet: Eat well-balanced healthy meals regularly as it helps to balance your mind and thoughts and can make you more rational. Do not skip any meals just cause you are ‘too busy’ as this will only add to stress or agitation down the track, and remember to keep healthy energy boosting snacks on hand in stressful times.
Take control: Consider what you can and can’t control – let go of what you can’t control and accept it. Be smart about what you can control. Try writing down your problems and stress triggers and finding solutions to these. Find out what decreases your stress and put these into action ASAP.
Connect to wider society: To fit in or belong, to be a part of something bigger and to connect to others socially is vitally important. Get involved in different social groups or volunteer until you find something you really enjoy and where you feel accepted and comfortable.
Ask for help when needed: Sometimes we are so deep into coping with our lives and what is happening that we don’t recognise when we need to ask for help. Reach out - there are people out there who can help you to find ways and mechanisms to reduce stress and anxiety. There are people willing to share some of the load and help you through if you let them.
It is so important to recognise your own stress cycle, acknowledge and understand what causes stress, and trial different techniques to see what reduces your stress. Try to be proactive and preventative in caring for your mind by using positive strategies to build your resilience, support systems and happiness in times when everything is good; instead of just waiting until you are stressed out.
Think of it like prophylaxis – taking your factor preventatively reduces the chance of getting a bleed; it is the same with your mental wellbeing.
If you would like more information about reducing stress, anxiety and your ‘chatty brain’ then contact your Haemophilia Social Worker or Counsellor. They can help to support or refer you on to someone who can.