(Originally sent by email 8/1/18)
“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”
~ Jim Rohn, entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker
This is the last letter in a 4-part series about how I healed (and continue to heal) from overwhelming panic and anxiety…
…a condition that ripped my life from me between mid-December 2017 through mid-June of this year.
(If you missed the first 3 letters, catch them here.)
Today I’ll share the 4th and final prong of my attack…what I did to heal at the physical level.
The body is wired to move, but it’s the last thing you want to do when you feel paralyzed by a mental health issue.
If you can just get yourself to do something, though…
…anything that gets your blood pumping (even a little), works your muscles, and stretches your body…
…you WILL feel better. (Just Google “mental health and exercise” and you’ll get all the evidence you need.)
The key to getting yourself to do it, I believe, is crafting your workouts so they give you energy, rather than spend it.
You have to feel good at the end…not more exhausted and depleted.
And to do that, you have to listen to your body.
You have to let it lead you, rather than the other way around.
We’re not used to doing that as entrepreneurs, but I’ve realized it’s critically important to our health and overall well-being, especially in times of high stress.
For me, that meant letting go of all my usual goals (in fact, I stopped wearing my heart rate monitor, timer, and calorie counter altogether)…
…and I made this my singular focus:
That was it.
What that looked like was much lighter workouts…dropping my free weight routine down to one day a week…and adding in a lot more yoga.
Some days it meant lightly pedaling a bike while watching a rerun of Big Bang Theory, and then stretching.
On my toughest days, it meant skipping my workout altogether, and just hitting the steam room and hot tub (sometimes coupled with a massage).
It was hard not doing what I was used to doing…
…but as I listened to my body and honored whatever it could give me…
…my body returned the favor by relaxing a little…feeling a little less anxious…and vibrating at a higher level by the time I left the gym.
That 3-day a week routine is part of what helped keep my head above water when I really felt like I was drowning.
I’m not a nutrition expert, but I do know this…
…processed foods and sugary foods don’t feel good.
Whole foods do.
Cooking your own stuff feels good, too – you know exactly what goes into it, and you’re also putting your own loving energy into it.
The last thing you need when you’re already buried under the weight of a mental health issue is to add the sluggishness and heaviness that comes with eating poorly.
After all, you quite literally are what you eat…
…what you eat is the fuel that turns into YOU – your organs, your cells, your muscles.
Giving your body the wrong fuel, not enough fuel, or more fuel than it needs just taxes your system when it’s already struggling to keep up with its current load.
Support yourself by eating the least processed and highest quality food you can afford, and if possible, make it yourself.
I’m convinced my healthy eating habits, like my exercise routine, kept me from totally drowning under the weight of my anxiety.
In spite of everything I was doing…
…all the energetic, spiritual, psychological and physical help I was giving myself…
…it wasn’t enough to get me swimming again.
My head was above water, and some days were good…
…but it wasn’t consistent enough where I could work my regular schedule or live my normal life.
My body was still in “fight or flight” mode many days and my mind was still spinning on worry and fear.
Working with my doctor, I finally decided to get on medication, and I’m on a low dose of an anti-anxiety medication and an antidepressant.
I know medication isn’t for everyone, but if you’re thinking of trying it, here’s what I would recommend from my own experience:
- Start with a low dose; maybe even lower than the “typical” starting dose.
I began taking the antidepressant at what’s considered the typical starting level (10mg) and had horrible side effects. A new doctor (who I LOVE), had me start with 2.5mg and go up to 5mg after 7 days. That worked for me, and after a couple weeks, I started to feel calmer and less anxious.
- Have someone with you when you start taking the medication. Anti-anxiety meds and anti-depressants mess with your brain chemistry. They’re scary in that sense, and they can make your condition a LOT worse. I went through that. It was beyond terrifying.
Thank God Dush was with me to watch over me and help me recognize when things weren’t right.
Unfortunately, trial and error is the only way to find a medication that might work for you. It’s a sucky process, but the right medication, under the right doctor supervision, can be a game-changer in getting you functioning again.
It helped me.
You’d think the medication, together with the other work I was doing, would have been enough.
But it wasn’t.
This is one of many reasons why mental health issues are so dangerous…
…they can make you feel hopeless…
…like nothing is working and you’ll never get your life back.
It’s a bone-chilling level of despair, and I hope I never go back to that place.
Fortunately for me, functional medicine was the final piece that parted the storm clouds and brought back the light.
If you’re not familiar with functional medicine, it’s an alternative form of treatment that looks at getting to the root of the problem, rather than just treating the symptom.
One of the first things my doctor had me do was take the Braverman Nature Assessment, and based on my results, he recommended a GABA supplement.
Within 2 days, I noticed a HUGE difference!
My body felt much calmer, my mind stopped spinning, and the constant cloud of worry lifted.
I could think clearly again! I started feeling happy again! I started living my normal life again!
It felt like a miracle…and it was just in time for Dush’s birthday!
My functional medicine doctor also did some in-depth blood tests, and other bodily sample tests that my traditional medicine doctor didn’t do.
It’s giving me answers in terms of what’s going on in my gut and with my physical chemistry that could be big contributing factors to my condition.
If you’re interested in trying functional medicine for yourself, here are my recommendations:
- Look for an actual MD. There are lots of chiropractors and other health professionals who practice functional medicine. For me, the rigorous medical training and education that comes with an MD, coupled with extensive training in functional medicine practices, was the right choice.
- Ask upfront if they’re willing to work with your primary medical doctor. My western medicine doc and my functional medicine doc work together to make sure I’m given the best care and that they both agree on the course of treatment.
- Be ready to pay. I couldn’t find a single functional medicine doctor in our area who took insurance. (Though, my doctor does process any labs through my insurance). That being said, I think I’ve spent about $2000 and that’s a cheap price to pay for getting my life back.
(Side note: The first functional med provider I went to wanted me to pay $11,000 upfront for a 6 month plan. He was a chiropractor; not an MD. I’m not sure if that’s a normal practice, but just be careful. I personally couldn’t see the sense in paying before services were rendered, or paying that amount without at least getting a second opinion.)
Over the last four letters, I’ve shared a lot of stuff I did to recover from the panic and anxiety I was experiencing. The two biggest game-changers for me were the EMDR therapy I talked about in my first letter, and the GABA supplement.
But I believe both of those were supported by all the other work I did to heal at the different levels of my body.
If you’re struggling with a mental health issue, I hope I’ve given you some ideas for how you can heal.
If nothing else, I hope I’ve inspired you to keep searching.
Keep getting help.
Keep looking for the right doctors.
You are a precious being with so many gifts to give to the world, and you are worth the fight to keep looking for a solution.
P.S. SAVE THE DATE: Ky Sayer (our Mindful Mondays author) and I will be hosting a free online meet-up at 9:00am Pacific/12:00pm Eastern on Friday, August 17th.
No selling, no agenda, no credit card needed.
Just go into your weekend feeling more connected, more grounded, more energized, and more alive. Close out your week on a high note, and let it spill over into the following Monday!
Registration link coming soon!