Permission to Thrive—Part 6: Manage Your Emotions & Anxiety

This blog post was made by April McGraw, RN, CNN on June 16, 2022.
Permission to Thrive—Part 6: Manage Your Emotions & Anxiety

By April McGraw, RN. NOTE: April has taken the time to compile her experiences and life lessons as a nephrology nurse and person on dialysis into a book that she shares with the renal community free of charge for download. She has given MEI permission to serialize the book once a month in KidneyViews—and we hope you will share the link with others who will benefit from her wisdom, compassion, and empowerment. A course and workbook are in progress as well, so watch for those!

Starting dialysis as a 15-year-old and then again as a young adult after two failed kidney transplants, my emotions and feelings played a huge part in how I adjusted to my new normal. Do you tend to get emotional when it's time to go to a treatment such as a dialysis or chemotherapy? Do you have frequent anger outbursts, mainly against those closest to you? Do your friends and family call you Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde?

You may be causing yourself additional emotional turmoil for yourself and your loved ones because you are pretending that you are fine emotionally when you really are not. Start keeping a journal of what types of emotions you have and what preceded those emotions. Journal your emotions before and after the emotional outburst. How did you feel before and after? Are there any noted trends? Are you finding that you are constantly apologizing to those closest to you?

Getting a solid hold on your emotions will be important in your coping journey. Being on an emotional rollercoaster day after day diminishes your ability to manage your illness properly. The next time that you feel a negative emotion is about to come on, stop and take a deep breath. Take note of where you are and what you were doing or thinking immediately preceding this emotion.

Ask yourself, is it worth the harm that may be done after saying words that you cannot take back? Is the person that is on the receiving end of your negative emotion the cause of your frustration or pain? Will having this emotion make the world right again? When asking yourself these questions, and journaling your answers and thoughts, really pay attention to your answers.

One of the most effective ways to cope with anxiety is deep breathing. Deep breaths get much-needed oxygen to your brain and throughout your body, relaxing your muscles. The increased air in your body helps your mind to calm down when you normally become stressed out. When you notice that you're beginning to get anxious, pay attention to your breathing. For a few days, practice deep breathing in a relaxed, private, comfortable environment where you're not disturbed. Put your hand on your belly and make your hand rise and fall with each breath. Be sure to take in a slow, full breath. Exhale slowly.

If you practice this deep breathing exercise before the moment of an anxiety attack or emotional outburst, you'll be equipped to control your breathing when a stressful situation occurs. When the pressure is on, and you notice your heartbeat beginning to rise, simply pay attention to your breathing and do what you've practiced.

Once again, if you are experiencing emotional and anxiety challenges, this is yet another opportunity where it may be beneficial to speak with a professional with tools to help you work through those challenges.

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