When is Anxiety more than just normal anxiety?

We all experience anxiety in our lives, its a normal reaction to difficult situations we face. But sometimes for some people anxiety goes beyond the normal levels, this is considered an anxiety disorder. Here are some easy ways to help determine if what you experience is normal or when you might need some more help in managing your anxiety.

Anxiety is a natural, and necessary part of life. Without it we would never feel pressured to get something done. There would be nothing lighting a fire under us to keep us moving. So, anxiety is a good thing. In fact, stress can be divided up into two components: distress – the negative kind of stress we all know and no so much love. And Eustress. Eustress is a good kind of stress; it is motivating. Without it we would get nowhere. But what happens when stress and anxiety begin to take over every inch of our life. We become paralyze by anxiety and so it keeps us stagnant in a constant state of worry and panic that no matter what we choose to do, something terrible will happen.

This is called an anxiety disorder- and there are several types: panic disorder, general anxiety disorder, and phobias. Having an anxiety disorder is totally different to experiencing anxiety. But so often we fail to realize the difference. We may experience a great deal of anxiety. For example, as military spouses we are constantly faced with anxiety: where is my husband? Is he safe? When will he get home? But unless the anxiety we feel from that uncertainty becomes crippling, we don’t really have an anxiety disorder.

And if we don’t begin to learn the difference between everyday anxiety and an anxiety disorders than those who need more help, will never go get it. In today’s society we have so normalized feeling anxious. We have anxious children, and we talk about being anxious over this or that. And for most people after the stressful event is over our anxiety is gone. But what about the rest of the people, the ones who are so anxious they can’t leave their house, even though from the outside it looks as though all things are clear? If we don’t talk about what it isn’t normal, then we will never know when we need help and how to get better. And it is so important to know when to get help; because anxiety disorders are 100% treatable.

This is not to make your fears and worries any less valid. Being a military spouse is hard and full of anxiety provoking events and we can learn to cope with that. In fact, if you are interested in learning more ways to reduce anxiety, I wrote a guest post here are my Top 10 Ways Military Spouses Can Reduce Anxiety.

Unfortunately, because of military life, military spouses are more likely than their civilian counterparts to being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. While anxiety disorders are treatable, we must recognize the difference between experiencing anxiety and having an anxiety disorder. So what are some signs and symptoms that you might be experiencing more than just anxiety?

The anxiety you feel…

  • … prevents you from leaving you house;
  • … prevents you from being able to make decisions;
  • … causes you to become isolated;
  • … avoiding all situations associated with anxiety (e.g. you quit running because the elevated heart rate reminds you of the way you feel when anxious);
  • … excessive fear or anxiety that is disproportionate to the event;
  • … evidence of avoidant behaviors- becoming isolated;
  • … last for more than six months;
  • … and, you find yourself fearful and worried even when nothing is wrong.

These are signs that maybe you need to get further help to manage your anxiety because it is more than just the normal stress we feel from day to day.

What to do if you think you have an Anxiety Disorder?

So now that we know what to look for, where do we turn when we believe we need help? Thankfully the military has lots of resources to help family members get the help they need. And most of these resources are free and confidential. One of my top recommendations are the Family Life Chaplains. These chaplains, unlike the unit chaplains, are trained as family counselors. Not only that but there is the added benefit of more confidentiality because they are removed from husband’s unit as they are centrally located typically to serve all units on a post.

If you are uncomfortable seeing a religious leader, Military Family Life Consultants (or MFLCs) are another wonderful, free, confidential service that is provided. They are independent contractors and are licensed clinical social workers or counselors. They don’t bill tri-care so no records are kept. These are the two I am most familiar with- however there is also behavioral health doctors who can help, especially if medication is required to manage your anxiety. Family Advocacy Program (FAP) also has many resources for families, but these do vary from post to post.

However you decide to seek help, no that you are not alone, so many military spouses struggle with anxiety, I mean it is hard not to with all the decisions we have to make for our families day in and day out.

We all experience anxiety in our lives, its a normal reaction to difficult situations we face. But sometimes for some people anxiety goes beyond the normal levels, this is considered an anxiety disorder. Here are some easy ways to help determine if what you experience is normal or when you might need some more help in managing your anxiety.

My Self Care “Tool Box”

Self-care is so beneficial and necessary to our well being. But it only works if we actually do it. Here is what is in my self care tool bx to help make self-care convenient

I have read 100’s of blog posts about self care – ways to care, checklists, why it’s important; and so many other great benefits about having self-care built into your schedule. But I know I am not the only one who finds it difficult to fit it into my day! As a counselor I was told constantly in my classes to practice good self-care.

I am constantly on the go, running from one place to another and so often caring for other people. This makes making self-care a priority hard for me. That is until I really saw how run down I had become; I was exhausted, irritable (just ask my husband), and ineffective at helping other people. But life is so busy, it doesn’t slow down just because you are exhausted. The key to making self-care a part of my routine was to make it convenient, take all my excuses away! So I created a self-care “tool box” Today I thought I would share what is in my tool box and why!

Nail polish & accessories –

Who doesn’t feel better after a mani/pedi. But being a student and a babysitter doesn’t pay enough to routinely get them done. So I decided to keep them neatly done myself, Essie nail polish is my favorite, and lasts the longest. Doing my nails myself is calming and relaxing for me. Plus, I feel so much more confident and pretty when my nails are done.

Coloring book & pencils –

Adult coloring books, like this one Adult Coloring Book: Stress Relieving Animal Designs, are everywhere right now. Focusing on the colors and shapes can calm down emotions and physiological reactions to stress and anxiety. Coloring can help regain mental clarity when you are upset or overwhelmed.


Journal & pens –

Being able to get your feelings and emotions down on paper can relieve tension in the body. The physical release is beneficial because there are no more pent up feelings waiting to burst out.

My favorite music –

You know that feeling on a beautiful day driving around with the windows down, blaring your favorite song, singing at the top of your lungs? Its great isn’t it! Well not every day can be beautiful, but put on your favorite song and just belt our frustrations away!

Tissues –

It is ok to cry, healthy even. So if you’re mad, sad, exhausted, hurt or just need a good cry, just let it out! That is what tissues are for!

Some chocolate –

Chocolate after a good cry can feel so rejuvenating and help bring you back together. Now I am not advocating eating your feelings away, but chocolate has endorphins in it, and endorphins are a natural chemical in your body that helps create feelings of happiness. It can be a way to boost your spirits.

My phone –

Talking to my mom, dad, husband, or best friends can help me when I am feeling rundown. It helps remember I am not alone. Just because it is self-care doesn’t mean it can’t involve others. As long as it is boosting yourself!

Some bubble bath (or other spa like things) –

Again like getting your nails done, we can’t always make it (or afford) to go to the spa. But a home spa night can be relaxing too. Set up some candles, fill the tub, some quiet music, maybe a glass or wine or some chocolate, and a good book can relax the mind and the body. So get that lavender vanilla bubble bath and feel the stress melt away.

A good book –

Maybe it’s one you’ve read before, or a brand new book, but loosing yourself in a good book can do wonders. Reading lets you move out of yourself and open your imagination. Freeing your imagination can help you find new solutions to your every day stresses.

Doing something just for me –

Now this one might not fit in a box, but I love to craft, scrapbook or work on a DI project I have had pinned for ages. I love getting out my pictures and crafting supplies and just working. It makes me feel productive and satisfied with my results. In the past one of the things I have done just for me is to take an hour out of my week to spend with a counselor. This has helped in so many ways process different things that happened like loneliness from my hubby moving away shortly after the wedding.

So these are my top 10 items in my self-care tool box. The idea is to keep everything together in one little box or bin so that it can be handy. Maybe you have a few minutes and so you pull out the journal or coloring book for a 15-minute mental break. However, you do it is up to you, because remember it is your self-care. Now take a lesson from me, and don’t wait till you are run down and exhausted to start taking part in self-care, do it now and do it often to help stay on top of your game! I promise it can make a huge difference in your outlook on life!

If you want to read more about self care see my guest post on reducing anxiety. Have a child that suffers from anxiety check out my post for reducing anxiety in children here.

What are some of your self-care go to’s?

Self-care is important, but often overlooked due to our demanding schedules at work and at home. Here are the contents of my self-care tool box that I use to make self-care convenient so I am more likely to use them.

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10 Ways to Help Anxious Children Calm Down

10 ways to reduce anxiety in kids pinnable image

As much as we adults get stressed out, so do our children! And military life provides lots of opportunities to create anxiety in our children- deployments, field time, training, frequent moves, changing schools, and constant fluctuation of friends. Or things such as adding new children to the family that many families face. As their parents, teachers, babysitters, or other family members we need to be prepared to help them calm down and relax when they are stressed and anxious.

Here are my top 10 tips for helping calm down when they are feeling stressed and anxious!

 

  • Blow Bubbles! Having a little kid sit there and just take deep breaths in and out can be hard, as most parents know! But blowing bubbles is so fun and cane help the child visualize the deep breaths by watching the bubbles.

  • We’ve all seen the pretty calm down jars like these ones! Watching the glitter move through the jar can still the child, which can have a calming effect, especially if the child is visually oriented in other tasks, such as learning.
  • Give them a big hug! Wrap your baby up and hold them tight. Knowing they are secure and safe in your arms can relieve a lot of anxiety for little ones.
  • Pop some bubble wrap. This is great for children who are kinesthetically oriented. Having something active, constructive, and nondestructive can help relieve anxiety. Doing something with your hands can help swap the mind from the emotionally over-charged center of the brain to the calmer logical part.
  • Coloring. We have all seen that adult coloring books are all the rage right now for decreasing anxiety, well if it works for us then it works for the little ones too! Sit down with them and spend some time coloring together. Maybe put some soothing music on in the background for an extra effect.
  • Put on their favorite Disney Jam and sing it out with them! Singing out loud has been shown to release endorphins, which lifts the mood! So have a dance party while you’re at it and shake those worries away!
  • Put the kiddos in a nice warm bubble bath and have them splash and play their worries away! What momma isn’t relaxed by a nice warm lavender vanilla bubble bath! This means what works for us, typically works for them. If you have more than one, and bath time is normally full of conflict, maybe bathe them one at a time tonight!
  • Got play-dough in the craft room? Give some to your kid and let them squish it between their fingers, roll it around. Playing with something in their hands can be a grounding effect. For people who suffer from panic or severe anxiety one of the most suggested ways to ground oneself is find things you can see, smell, touch, hear, taste. Squishy play-dough is something to feel.
  • Get some exercise in! Go for a bike ride, play tag, jump rope, just get outside and run around. Exercise in any form can release endorphins to have a calming effect.
  • If you notice that your kid still suffers from anxiety and have tried a variety of calming methods perhaps it is time to look into counseling. One of the main modes of therapy for kids is play therapy and incorporating expressive art therapy. Both of these modalities is helpful for children who struggle to express their feelings verbally or who express most feelings physically, in a more negative manner as it allows them to express their feelings in any form in a safe, contained area.

I hope you find these methods helpful in your household! I know the struggles of living with children with anxiety, as it often feeds our own anxiety which feeds theirs and we end up in a never ending cycle. These methods have been shown to break the cycle! If we can calm our children down it will reduce our own anxiety as well.

Military parents, we know how stressful military life though for our kids! Between deployments, PCSs and mom/dad coming and going, friends PCSing our kids are placed under so much stress! If you looking for great ways to help lead your children through these transitions hop over to my Military Parenting Page and check out my program coming soon: Parenting Coaching Designed specifically for Military Parents to address the unique concerns that we face with our children. Take a moment and sign up for updates and receive a FREE GIFT: Behavior Chart & an Easy How to Guide for Promoting Positive Behavior in our children.



What are the best methods you have found to help reduce anxiety and stress in your kiddos?

10 ways to reduce anxiety in kids

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Where Anxiety Comes from & Why it Won’t go Away

Where does Anxiety Come from & How we can make it go awat

We always think, once that test I over, once my husband gets home from deployment, TDY, the field; my kid grows out of this phase then I won’t be anxious any more. As soon as that event ends and we think we can relax. We just find something else to be anxious about. Why can’t we just relax? Well I will tell you.

The reason we have so much anxiety in our lives is because the society we live in perpetuates it. Just watch any TV commercial it will tell you all about the products you are missing out on and that you just have to have, and you will see that it is breeding grounds for feeling like we are missing out. We are constantly comparing our lives to everyone around us, who we assume always has everything perfectly together. And we suddenly feel very inadequate. Sure, come January first and we are making our new year’s resolution we will vow not to compare ourselves to other, but January 2nd rolls around and we go to a friend’s house and their house is already un-decorated, put away and cleaned. And we go home to our house filled with boxes of unfinished, unorganized Christmas decorations and we fall back into the trap.

So what can we do about this vicious cycle? Because we are imperfect people, we will never rid our lives of anxiety fully, but if we recognize the cycle and can identify it in our own lives then we can get one step closer to living peacefully alongside our anxiety. Wait what did you just say you might ask? Living peacefully alongside anxiety? That sounds like an oxymoron. In some ways maybe. There is always going to be a new product out. Our friends will always be doing something different from us. We are always going to have that anxiety in our lives; and that’s ok. It is how we respond to our anxiety that determines whether or not we live peacefully.

Often we think we are in the wrong for feeling anxious, because everyone hides their anxiety from everyone else; trying to pretend it doesn’t exist. By acknowledging it we gain power of it, we are no longer acting out of anxious reactivity we can choose how we respond to the anxiety. Reactivity to anxiety is what keeps us in the falsehood of as soon as the circumstances change our anxiety will lift; keeps us constantly purchasing the next “it” item of clothing, make-up, toy for our child; it’s what keeps us constantly looking for something else to satisfy our void. Reactivity will never make our anxiety go away it will just shift the focus of our anxiety. Recognizing our anxiety, operating knowing that we have control over it means freedom.

We own our anxiety by recognizing that its present and choosing to act despite it. It is the push to try something new, dare to be different, and own and accept your life for what it is and what God has given to you. Way easier said than done I agree; however, with prayer, patience, and knowing we aren’t always going to get it right we can live peacefully alongside our anxiety instead of imprisoned by its constraints.

Here are some more handy coping skills when you’re struggling with anxiety!

We all face some anxiety, some of us more than others. But despite our levels of anxiety if we don;t know how to address it we can never learn how to live with our anxiety.