Anxiety after stroke can be managed through proper therapy and medication – but if that isn’t working, then this article is for you.
Let’s start with a simple definition of anxiety: Anxiety involves feelings of fear or unease, often manifesting as worry or tension.
See if you can you relate to any of these symptoms:
- You’re afraid you’ll never get better
- You lose sleep because you’re up all night worrying
- You avoid things you normally enjoy
If you can identify with any of these symptoms, then you’re suffering from anxiety. And we’re going to treat this emotional change through a very different approach.
First Know That You’re Perfectly Normal
Before we get started, there’s an important concept that you need to understand: You are perfectly normal.
Take a moment to reflect on the truth behind these statements:
- You are not alone
- You are not overreacting
- It’s both a mind and body thing
- It’s something that you can control
And we’ll teach you how. But build your foundation first by sincerely understanding that you’re already okay.
We’re just going to help you be even more okay.
Learn How to Turn It ON and Turn It OFF
There’s a time for hard work, and it’s when you’re doing your stroke recovery exercises. Otherwise, thinking about all the hard work ahead is just going to make you anxious.
Here’s how to avoid this type of anxiety:
When you’re focused on tasks that require you to think about your recovery, then it’s time to turn your ‘doing mode’ on.
But when you’re done doing your rehab exercises, turn it off. Stop thinking about the long road ahead and let your mind relax. You deserve a break from all the effort.
You need some time to just be. And you’ll find that this simple state of presence will help alleviate your anxiety.
Alleviate Anxiety the Mindful Way
Anxiety stems from wanting to be there but being stuck here instead.
When you become fixated on the finish line, your mind isn’t here – it’s over there. But the reality is that you’re here in this present moment, and there’s no changing that. But trying to change this moment is exactly what’s causing your anxiety.
This is where a state of presence can help.
Imagine what happens when you stop resisting the present moment and you start accepting this moment just the way it is. When you start accepting this moment, you can start accepting yourself just the way you are.
It’s called unconditional love, and it’s something that you owe yourself.
And when you can finally surrender to the present moment, you’ll relax. You’ll stop striving for this seemingly unattainable thing because you know that it will come with time.
Just don’t confuse this state of presence with a state of defeat.
Accepting This Moment Is NOT Admitting Defeat
Just because you’re accepting your current condition doesn’t mean you’ll become stuck. In fact, it will have the opposite effect.
When you stop trying resist this moment and choose to surrender to the present moment, you’ll find peace. And when you find peace, you’ll find motivation to pursue your recovery head on.
You won’t do anything haphazardly because you’re not stressed anymore. You’re calm, cool, and collected. You’re ready and willing to take on these challenges and win.
Because when you stop thinking about all the steps that lie ahead, it will give your mind a break from the worrying.
And when you stop worrying, you’ll have much more energy and focus when you decide to turn your doing mode ON.
It’s Not Just a Mind Game – It’s a Full Body Game
Remember, anxiety is both a mental and physical condition. The prior tips will mostly help alleviate mental anxiety. Now let’s discuss how to handle physical anxiety.
On a bodily level, anxiety can cause your breath to become shortened and heart rate to quicken. These biological responses to anxiety will make you even more anxious, but there’s something you can do right now to help.
Stop what you’re doing, calm your thoughts, and turn your focus inward.
Inhale for a count of four, hold it for a count of seven, and then exhale for a count of eight.
It’s really hard, but it will force your heart rate to slow down and help you relax. Try it right now and see for yourself.
It’s Also a Food Game – Learn How to Listen to Your Body
Aside from deep breathing, there’s another thing you can do to ease bodily anxiety: eating well.
Are you eating any of these anxious foods?
- Processed foods
- Refined or artificial sugar
- Gluten (wheat, barley, rye)
Sometimes we have food sensitivities and we don’t even know it. That’s what an elimination diet is for.
An elimination diet involves completely removing all possible trigger foods from your diet. Then once you eliminate everything for a couple weeks, start to add one food back at a time – usually a couple weeks apart.
As you add each possible trigger food back into your diet, listen to your body. Does it make you feel the same or worse? As you become more in tune with your body, you can accurately identify any dietary sources of anxiety.
You can also refer to our stroke prevention guidelines for the do’s and don’ts of eating well.
We hope this mindful approach to treating anxiety after stroke helps you find peace.