Nail biting. Hair pulling. Sweat dripping. A hastened pulse. Shortness of breath. Tunnel vision. No room to think. For those who struggle with anxiety these are familiar signs, ones that often indicate something has gone wrong, fear that something may go wrong or tension for any variety of reasons. These are far from the only warning signs of anxiety. Unfortunately, these are often the early stages of a panic or anxiety attack—an experience that feels more similar to a heart attack than a bad case of stress.
Anxiety is something that many people encounter after getting weight loss surgery. The changes that come into your life after weight loss surgery are profound, and it is no surprise that tension and stress develop amidst the transitions in your eating habits, exercise goals and other behavioral changes.
Learning how to identify anxiety is the first step in coping with it. Anxiety often begins thanks to a small trigger, something that alerts the body and causes a rush of adrenaline to stream through our blood. These triggers are generally not dangerous in-and-of themselves, but they signify something greater—something more worrisome.
Common anxiety triggers include:
- Phone calls
- Dining invitations
- Schedule conflicts
This is just a short list of some of the most common triggers. Anxiety is triggered differently by everyone, and each of us may find ourselves anxious for a variety of reasons. The lure of an old favorite snack, fatigue and unwillingness to work out, constant emails and phone calls from friends, co-workers and others reminding you of your obligations beyond weight loss—all of these can trigger anxiety. Learning how these triggers affect you and learning to cope with anxiety from the onset can prevent the more severe problems of anxiety down the road.
Here are a few tips to prevent anxiety:
- Take deep breaths: At the first acknowledgement of your anxiety trigger it is time to go into damage control mode. Take deep breaths and be aware of what is bothering you. Allow the feelings of temptation, guilt or frustration to move past as you focus on improving your health.
- Talk to someone: Your mother, friend or co-worker may not realize that calling every day or stopping by your office to find out how your weight loss is going is frustrating to you. Tell them that you appreciate their support, but let them know other ways that they can be useful without becoming a stress trigger.
- Get enough rest: Not having enough sleep can worsen already-difficult stressors. Schedule a time of night that you are going to go to bed and stick to it. Turn off your phone and eliminate other distractions that can keep you up at night.
Learning to cope with your anxiety before it overwhelms you is a powerful skill to have as you are losing weight after bariatric surgery.