Over-Breathing, More Natural Remedies, and My New Focus

One of my best friends spent some time Monday sharing a bunch of links with me about hyperventilation syndrome (also called disordered breathing or over-breathing).  I didn’t read all of the links, but I found a few really helpful ones that made me feel like I’m not just making this up.

From Breathing Works:
“Disordered breathing occurs when upper chest breathing, usually at a faster rate and through the mouth, becomes the dominant pattern of breathing. Disordered breathing can also include big sighs, yawning, breath holding, feelings of breathlessness, or feeling unable to take a good breath in or out. Over time, disordered breathing can cause a large variety of symptoms including dizziness, anxiety, pins and needles, chest pain or tension, blurred vision, feeling easily overwhelmed, and constantly on edge.”

From Physiotherapy for Hyperventilation:

“How do I know if I am over-breathing? You may not be aware that your breathing is wrong or you may be aware of some, or even all, of the following most commonly experienced symptoms:

(I have most of these, though some of them aren’t constant.)

  • Frequent sighing and yawning
  • Feeling breathless, even after relatively minor exercise
  • Difficulty co-ordinating breathing and talking and/or eating
  • Breathless when anxious or upset
  • Pins and needles in hands/arms/around mouth
  • Palpitations
  • Feeling permanently exhausted and unable to concentrate for no apparent reason
  • Throat symptoms (I clear my throat constantly)
  • Muscular aches and tension around the neck/shoulders/jaw
  • Bloated feeling in the stomach
  • Light headedness

 

What causes these symptoms?

When we over-breathe we eliminate large quantities of carbon dioxide on every out breath.

This causes a chemical imbalance affecting many of the body’s systems. The results can be extremely unpleasant and frightening, causing us to become anxious. This can further upset our breathing pattern and a vicious circle develops.

Triggers
You may be well aware of a particular event or experience that triggers your over-breathing, although this is not always the case. Possible triggers include bereavement, anxieties at work or home, altered breathing due to chest disease, (e.g. asthma) or following surgery.

(My trigger was anxiety)

How can I help myself?
Become aware of the way you breathe…
and how it may vary in certain situations. By learning to control the rate and depth of your breathing, i.e. retraining:
Learn to nose breathe.
Try to stop yawning and sighing.
Focus your breathing gently into your abdomen, avoiding excessive upper chest movement.
Become aware of your posture and learn to recognise areas of tension in your body.

Exercise…
This can be a good way of increasing your general feeling of well-being and self-confidence. If exercising is particularly difficult, discuss this with your physiotherapist.

(Exercise makes it worse right now but I think I’m going to try yoga.)

Diet…
Variations in your blood sugar levels can contribute to your symptoms, so:
Avoid large meals, particularly late at night.
Eat regularly
Take healthy snacks between meals”

(I’m working on this.  I’m not always consistent with my eating.)

 

I read somewhere else (can’t remember where) that reflux is a symptom, and I’ve been struggling with that as well.  Papaya enzymes are my friend!  I tried them Monday night, and they worked almost right away.

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More Natural Ways that I’m Working on my Anxiety

Meditation and Breathing Training

I have two great apps that have worked really well for me.  I wrote about the meditation one before (Meditation Studio), but my friend shared a different one with me yesterday and it made a HUGE difference just using it a couple of times!

The app is called Breathing Zone.  It’s really simple.  It just has you breathe in and out in different amounts and times.  It completely reset my breathing.  Then I struggled again, then I started focusing on breathing through my nose only.  I have also been meditating when I first go to bed.

I took a picture today of myself before I started my breathing re-training while resting this afternoon.  I look kind of a mess (no makeup, hair everywhere, and zits), but I’m just thankful that I have these resources!  They have helped so much!

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Essential Oils
I received these essential oils from a friend yesterday, and I was floored.  She bought me 11 oils and some Stress Away bath bombs.  I totally don’t feel deserving of this.  Young Living EO’s are NOT cheap.  I’m praying that they help me!!!

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I no longer have a diffuser, so I ordered a pretty inexpensive one off Amazon.  Hopefully it works okay.  Diffusers from Young Living are at least $60 and this one was only $20!  It looks promising.  I will probably buy another one in a few weeks to have one in the living room and one on my desk in my bedroom.  We’ll see.

diffuser

I used to be anti-oils but I have decided that I am willing to try anything and my friend is helping me out SO much with this so I will try all of my options!

Supplements

I take a lot of meds (Buspirone, Lexapro, small dose of Lithium, Lamtictal, small dose of Risperdol, Propranolol, and Gabapentin), but I’m actually hoping to reduce soon because my doctor and I feel that I’m on too much (which I think has been causing me more anxiety).  I will always have to take meds, but less would be better.

I recently shared about all of the supplements that I take (Rescue Remedy as needed, Magnesium, Vitamin D3, Cod Liver Oil, Probiotics), but I have recently added 5HTP with Melatonin at bedtime and Vitamin B Complex.

I also ordered Epsom salt to use with essential oils in baths consistently.  I bought a “Sport” one because it was $5 cheaper ($10 instead of $15 for 5lbs)!  If I find that I’m going through a lot, I will buy a 19lb bag because it’s so much cheaper.  We’ll see.

epsom salt

Acupuncture

When I was really struggling a few days ago my counselor suggested I try acupuncture.  I have never been open to that before in the past, but I was desperate and I made an appointment at a place called Kerrville Community Acupuncture.

ACUKERR

I ended up canceling the appointment when I noticed that they breathing re-training was WORKING.  It is always a fall back, though, if my anxiety gets bad again or if it just doesn’t settle down long-term.  The acupuncture does a lot of good things so it would never be bad to do.  I just don’t want to spend the money now (although she is pretty inexpensive with a sliding scale!).

Bible Study, Journaling, Prayer, Worship 

This is the most important one.  I have been struggling so much spiritually and I talked with one of my best friends a few weeks ago about not totally trusting God because He allows such bad things to happen.  In the midst of my suffering with the breathing issue (it’s TERRIBLE you guys) and having to put the boys back into school (again), plus thinking about the gruesome suicide of my brother and mine and my brother’s mental illness in general, I was just low.  She was amazing and shared lots of scripture with me, but I just couldn’t hear it.

The past few days I have been reading from an app called the First 5, and the study is on suffering.  It’s so perfect and exactly what I need to be reading right now.  It has you read a chapter out of scripture (starting with Job, and I read out of my study Bible with commentary), then there is a devotional to follow and an open-ended question that it asks at the end where you can type your answer right into it.  I am also using my Quieting Your Heart journal that I’ve shared before in the past.

Then I spent some time listening to worship music (which I haven’t been doing as much lately) and it was so perfect for my heart.  I could “hear” God speaking to me again for the first time in a long time.  I could feel His love.  I felt hope.  It’s been a while since I have felt hope.

The Holy Spirit spoke to me today, and He comforted me and was my counselor.  I have needed that for a long time.  Years.  I am convinced that I need to trust Him to be that for me more often.

Speaking of… I decided to pull out a book that has been on my bookshelf for like 8 years.  I read a couple of chapters when I got it but never finished it.  I totally forgot what I read those 8 years ago.  It’s called Forgotten God and it’s by Francis Chan.  I started reading it again today and it spoke so clearly to me.  I’m looking forward to actually reading it all the way through this time :-).

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I’m keeping most things off of my plate right now.

My new focus is my relationship with Jesus, my family and friends, keeping my anxiety low, going to AA (and staying sober), homeschooling Karis, and “healthy” habits that I have been doing for a long time (including gratitude, meal planning, meal prep, self care, keeping the house mostly clean, and one that I have been working on for about 5 months but still have a long way to go… self love).  That is all I can handle at the moment. And honestly it’s a lot!  What keeps triggering my anxiety is trying to do too much (all of that PLUS a movement habit, still feeling the need to focus on weight loss, planning other Balance 365 habits, planning a backpacking trip that I’m not ready for, homeschooling all of the kids which is the biggest thing, etc), so I will NOT make that mistake again, for a while at least ;-).  Now if I can keep my perfectionist brain away!

Hyperventilation Syndrome and Trying All the Things to Reduce Anxiety

Hyperventilation syndrome (HVS); also chronic hyperventilation syndrome (CHVS) and dysfunctional breathing hyperventilation syndrome is a respiratory disorder, psychologically or physiologically based, involving breathing too deeply or too rapidly (hyperventilation). HVS may present with chest pain and a tingling sensation in the fingertips and around the mouth (paresthesia) and may accompany a panic attack.

People with HVS may feel that they cannot get enough air. In reality, they have about the same oxygenation in the arterial blood (normal values are about 98% for hemoglobin saturation) and too little carbon dioxide(hypocapnia) in their blood and other tissues.”

I’ve had this twice before, lasting 3 months and 1 month.  This time it has lasted about 1 month so far (though it has been more off and on this time).

I’m thankful for my hubby. I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out WHY I’m anxious. I’ve been thinking that there has to be a reason, and it must be my fault. I must have done something to cause it. But he reminded me that I have generalized anxiety disorder and it’s a chemical imbalance. I will have anxiety just because. I don’t have to have a reason, and it’s definitely not my fault. I can do things to help, and I am being proactive.  Tomorrow I’ll be getting blood work done, going to AA, and going to counseling.  I’ll see my doctor in about a month.   I’ll be taking some supplements as soon as I receive them from Amazon.  Last night I meditated twice and that helped.  I use these apps:

I’m also happy that I have continued to be present with my family despite this, and we have done lots of fun things! Poetry Teatime, I cooked a big dinner last night, we made Oobleck and homemade playdough yesterday, Levi and I played several games the other day, the kids have been crafting like crazy in our new craft/reading room, and last night we did independent reading as a family and Robert read aloud to the kids. All of this helps a ton because I’m not as focused on the anxiety (it’s still there while I’m doing all of this, but I’m not thinking about it as much).  

I feel like this hyperventilation syndrome will last forever but Sue in my Parenting with Anxiety group reminded me a while back that it won’t. It just feels like it.

Like my counselor says, “feelings aren’t facts.”  And what I say to myself matters!

Now on to supplements…

I have these supplements: Melatonin (I take these every night), B12, Cod liver oil, Garden of Life Vitamin Code, and Garden of Life Probiotics.

I ordered Vitamin D3.

vitamin d3

I ordered Calm Magnesium but then found out that it isn’t absorbed well into the system and it tastes gross (it’s a powder that you mix with water), so I’ll be sending it back.  My best friend ordered me some magnesium glycinate, which is the highest absorbed into the system, and it’s a tablet!  I’m so thankful for her (I had found out about the Calm after it was too late to cancel and I am out of money for supplements… this is my birthday present from her!).

Magnesium Gly

I did order Rescue Remedy candies (along with the Calm).  These are alcohol free.

Rescue remedy

 

 

I will order a Super B complex when I run out of my B12 and Vitamin Code.  I will probably also order some epsom salt because I’ve read and heard that it’s good for anxiety (it is magnesium!).

I listen to my Serenity Spa Music often during the day and especially at night, then switch to ocean sounds (white noise app) to sleep (I have done this for a long time).

 

Robert and I have decided that we will work on becoming caffeine free again.  My counselor told me to do this a while back.  We were almost there, then I started increasing my caffeine more and more and now I drink a lot of caffeine again.

Along those same lines, I’m going to switch from Coke Zero to only sparkling water (over time).

I also need to get back to being outside more.  I can’t do major hikes because when I get out of breath it makes things harder for me, but walks are good.

I also pray a lot, but I struggle with this because I am kind of frustrated that God would allow me to suffer with anxiety so badly.  I feel like my prayers are going unanswered.

Last night right before our reading time, it rained (for the first time in a long time), and I saw this beautiful rainbow out of my back windows/door.

It was a great reminder that God is with me.  Even in the moments when I don’t understand why He allows things to happen, I can trust that He will use it for His glory.

The last 2 times this happened I took a LOT of Xanax.  My previous doctor gave me 120 tablets at once and told me to take it every 4 hours!  And he knew that I drank a lot because I told him and he did urine tests!  Drinking and Xanax aren’t options anymore so I’m praying that the natural remedies and things will work!

Contentment and Teaching the Kids to Work Through Hard Things

I have a history of discontent.  If something doesn’t seem to be working well or is hard, I change things.  I see the difficulty as a sign that something isn’t right.

Because of this, we have moved so much and I kept chasing something new.  We have moved 12 times in the 13 years that we have been married (a lot of that was at the same camp).  We moved apartments early in our marriage.  We moved twice when we lived in the Dallas area.

This worked its way into homeschooling.  I have homeschooled off and on for a long time.  When I started struggling mentally, I would put them back into school.  This last time I really had no choice since I had to go to town all the time for AA when I got out of rehab.  But it still counts.

I have spent a FORTUNE (and a lot of that in credit) on new curriculum.  When things got hard for the kids or they seemed to struggle, I would buy the “shiny new thing” thinking that it would be better and they wouldn’t struggle as much.  For Karis, this was math.  For Ethan, this was reading and phonics.

We are using Math U See for the kids and while I LOVE it, Karis has still been struggling greatly.  She’s going into 6th grade and she’s on the 4th grade level and still struggling.  She can barely do basic division (2 digit by 1 digit with a  remainder).  So I was talking to Robert about Life of Fred math and telling him that maybe it would be a good fit for her because she loves reading (it’s story based).  Without him even saying anything, I said, “Wait… I just need to stick with something, don’t I?”  He agreed immediately and reminded me that hard doesn’t necessarily equal bad.  And she may just never be good at math and that’s okay.  And it’s okay that she’s on a level lower than her grade and it’s okay to take it slow.  He also reminded me that it’ll be so good for the kids if I stick with something for a full year.  And honestly, I need to stick with Math U See from now on because there is a DVD with a teacher teaching everything (and I’m terrible at math!).  He teaches it in a way that makes more sense than any teacher ever taught me.  There are also manipulatives and all of the kids make use of them every single day.

I REALLY want The Good and the Beautiful history, handwriting, nature journals, and another science unit.  But.  We have all that we need for those subjects right now.  While I love the set up of those, I need to be content with what we have.

I already have Story of the World Volume one… the book, audio book, activity book, historical fiction novels to go with it (9!), the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History, and the Usborne Book of World History.  I have an amazing set up for history this year.  It would make NO sense to change.

Now. The reason why I love G&B is because the history covers all periods of history in one year (adding to it each year), it has fun activities, it has an amazing book of stories, worksheets, and a game for review.  But I can always get it next year!  No big deal!  I’m not even sure if I’ll want to change after we finish what we have… I may want to stick with Story of the World!

Also, I was looking at buying handwriting from G&B.  I ALMOST did.  Then my doctor and I were talking about my impulsive spending and reminded me that if I am buying something new even though I already have something for that subject (and causing final trouble), that’s a sign of being impulsive.  And she’s right!  It stopped me in my tracks!  I have Handwriting Without Tears, and the kids even like it!

Now.  Next year I will probably buy G&B because I love that it teaches handwriting through copywork.  It would cut out a step of our writing.  But I can wait till next year!  No big deal!

I was also looking at buying the G&B nature journals.  But I already have some from Simply Charlotte Mason!  They love them because they can watercolor right on the page (the pages are thick).

And… Science!  I have SO much to teach science.  I have one unit of G&B science already (which will last us about a semester), and I also have Apologia Astronomy.  AND LOTS of science books and encyclopedias to make my own units if I want.  I really have enough to make science work for a couple of years honestly.  Now.  When Karis is in 7th or 8th grade, I will be buying the junior high science books because she’s going to need them to prepare for high school (and honestly she LOVES science so she’ll be happy).  But I have a year or two before I need to do that (I can’t believe she’s already in 6th grade).

All this to say… I think I will finally have a FULL year in which I don’t buy anything new!  I have everything I need for at LEAST a full year (maybe more) and I am happy about that.  It’s weird, to be honest.

And… we are not going anywhere.  While camp ministry is HARD because especially lately Robert has been working a ton, we are content to stay right where we are.  We love the way Camp Eagle is run, we love the people (camp family!), we love our home, we love that we live on 1400 acres and there are hiking trails and a clear river to play in.  Moving to Camp Eagle has been the best thing that has happened to us!

Deciding to stick with something long-term actually takes away a lot of anxiety.  I have a major spending issue, then I feel bad and feel anxious after I have spent.  It’s so easy to buy online and I just throw money away that way.  We were going to have me spend only cash but it hasn’t worked out well (lots of reasons), but at least this next check I will only have cash to spend (and less than usual because we’re going to New Mexico in a few weeks and we need money for that).  I think we’ll actually be able to save up this year.  And do more fun things with the kids.

I’m feeling content, hopeful, and peaceful.  I know I will still have times of anxiety and depression (hopefully not, but I’m planning on it happening eventually), but I know I can work through them and just do what we need during those moments.  That doesn’t mean we need to move, it doesn’t mean I need to stop homeschooling, and it doesn’t mean I need to buy something new and shiny.  It just means we need to spend time in prayer and God’s word, I need to work through it, and I need to teach my kids to do both of those.