Are you having a hypothyroid freak out? 10 ways to push the reset button

Are you having a hypothyroid freak out? 10 ways to push the reset button

So many Hypothyroid Mom readers write to me about anxiety and panic attacks, yet doctors have never considered taking a closer look at their thyroid, adrenal, and gut health. Shocking really. Thyroid Specialist and Holistic Health Expert, Jen Wittman, shares her personal experience along with 10 tips to relieve stress, anxiety, and panic.

(This is one of the most popular articles at Hypothyroid Mom. Looks like there are many of us dealing with this symptom.)

Written by Jen Wittman, CHHC, AADP

I remember lying on the bed wanting to crawl out of my skin. As I stared up at the ceiling, waves of panic overtook me…but I wasn’t sure why. Prior to becoming hypothyroid, I could handle any stress…every stress really. Whatever came my way, I was able to deflect, like Wonder Woman with her magic bracelets. Really, stress was no problem. I actually thrived on it. I piled it on, never really feeling it…or so I thought.

Then I had my baby. After that, everything changed. My moods were like a tsunami crashing the shore. At first you’re sitting on the beach, enjoying a peaceful sea and in the next moment a tidal wave of anger, sadness, panic would topple me destroying everything in its path. I thought this was just hormones and the intense sleep deprivation of new motherhood but eventually, I learned it was my thyroid – powerful and completely out-of-whack.

Why am I so much more anxious since becoming hypothyroid?

This question has a tricky answer. As we now know, the adrenals, thyroid and your gut are inextricably linked. The adrenal glands, part of the sympathetic nervous system, secrete hormones including cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine. These hormones are important as they regulate the stress response and our ability to handle stress. The problem is that the adrenal glands are the glands most negatively affected when we are stressed.

So it’s a chicken and egg scenario as to whether a malfunctioning thyroid affects your adrenals or if your adrenals are taxed and that affects your thyroid. What we know is that stress greatly affects the adrenal glands, and that is directly related to the health of your thyroid. When it comes to your thyroid, the ways in which our adrenal glands respond has far reaching consequences.

What affects the adrenal glands?

Well, it’s more than you think. Beyond the obvious daily stressors in our lives, the adrenal glands pump out more stress hormones when your blood sugar isn’t regulated, your gut is leaky, you have food sensitivities (such as gluten), toxins and infections are present, or you are inflamed and under an autoimmune attack. All of these factors can affect your adrenal glands which is why it is important to take a holistic approach to healing. You can’t look at one without the other and adrenal stress could possibly be the most important component.

Why this is important

Adrenal stress creates a host of symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, insomnia, mood swings, sugar and caffeine cravings, irritability and dizziness. It also affects how your hormones are used by your cells, reduces the conversion of T4 to T3, weakens immune barriers, causes hormonal imbalances, promotes the autoimmune response and disrupts the interactions between the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands. This affects how you react to stress or trauma, your temperature, digestion, immune system, mood, libido and energy.

How does this play into your anxiety and panic attacks?

Adrenal stress feeds into your sympathetic nervous system which mobilizes your fight-or-flight response. So, something simple like sitting in traffic, standing in line somewhere, getting the kids out the door, or completing a general task will suddenly put you in survival mode and manifest itself as an anxiety attack. What’s happening is that stress gets triggered and that stresses your adrenals which signals your sympathetic nervous system that it’s “high alert” time and that spirals into your personal freak out. Stress begets stress – this is why even when you’re trying to be a “normal” person, you may have trouble managing your emotions and reactions to situations. When your thyroid and adrenals are out-of-whack, it creates a recipe for panic soup – and that’s not tasty.

Tips for relieving stress, anxiety and panic when it rears its ugly head

1. Breathe

You knew this one would be first! But it’s true, you’ve got to stop yourself and start breathing. If you do one thing, it’s this…take a moment to breathe. Panic attacks can be accompanied by hyperventilation. Before I was diagnosed, I had what I now know was a panic attack. I started hyperventilating which I’d never done before and soon enough, I was seeing white light and yelling out to my husband to call an ambulance. I thought I was dying…for real. I’m not one for hospitals or ambulances but was begging for help not knowing if I was taking my last breaths. Experiencing something so unfamiliar was terrifying.

As I started to reverse my Hashimoto’s, I learned that the moment I felt anxiety or stress, I should become very present and focus on my breath. I love Dr. Weil’s Breathing Technique. I use it whenever I can remember to but if I don’t remember, I always go to my standby – taking a deep breath for 5 counts, holding for 3 counts and exhaling for as long as I can. Then I repeat. Deep breathing changes things on a physiological level.

If you can’t slow your breathing down, it’s time to get the ol’ paper bag out to slow your breathing. Hold it over your mouth and progressively start slowing your breath so you can begin deep breathing. You’ll want to do this for several minutes until you notice yourself calming down and coming back to earth.

2. Support your adrenals with food

There are many things you can do to support your adrenals through diet.

a. Stabilize your blood sugar:

i. eat starchy vegetables instead of grains and glutinous foods like pasta and breads

ii. eat a spoonful of coconut oil, coconut butter or a handful of nuts (that have been soaked) to keep blood sugar level

iii. minimize your sugar intake to fruits and starchy vegetables and eliminate sodas, processed snacks, high-fructose corn syrup, refined sugars and sugar substitutes

b. Avoid stimulants such as coffee and chocolate (I know, not fun but I promise it will help!)

c. Avoid alcohol (again, not a super fun suggestion but alcohol can actually put additional stress on the adrenals and affect your mood – not in the fun, party kind of way!)

d. Add eggs, soaked nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens and organ meats to your diet (if these foods are well tolerated). Note – dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, chard, and collards are ok but they have goitrogenic properties especially when eaten raw so take care not to eat them in large amounts. Cooking and steaming reduces the goitrogenic effect.

I was introduced to eating organ meats while I lived in Italy and honestly, they can be delicious! – here’s a dish I ate regularly in Italy. It’s a great snack for you and supports your adrenals. You can spread this on homemade crackers, celery or when I do it, I bend my grain-free policy and eat it on a piece of Udi’s Gluten Free toast.

3. Flex your muscles

A wonderful technique for easing yourself during a high-stress time or panic attack is to use progressive muscle relaxation. This not only helps you concentrate so you can slow your breathing, it diverts your attention from the trigger and helps your muscles relax. What you do is go from head to toe, starting with the muscles in your face, then on to your arms, hands, stomach, yo’ booty, thighs, calves and feet. You’ll tense each muscle group for 10 seconds and then release.

4. Smile, laugh and have fun

If you’re at home when you start freaking out, I highly recommend throwing on your favorite funny movie. The act of cueing up the movie will require focus that will help you calm down. The laughter that comes from it will release happy hormones to help you get out of your head and back in your smile. If that doesn’t work, call your inappropriate friend or colleague and have them dish out something funny – you know they will.

5. Try Holy Basil

Holy Basil, I like this brand, is a plant used in Ayurvedic medicine as an adaptogen to modulate the stress response and support the adrenals. Holy Basil is a potent herb so you’ll want to try a few drops in a small glass of water first to see how it goes and use up to the maximum amount suggested on the bottle if it is well tolerated. I use it for stress and as a sleep aid when necessary.

Panax ginseng, Siberian ginseng and Ashwagandha can be used as well.

6. Write it out!

One of the best things I ever did to help reverse this disease is to learn how to write. One of the best things suggested by my darling osteopath was to use journaling to get out of my head. I NEVER considered writing in a journal for anything really. I never liked to write and wasn’t particularly good at it. I gave him my best raised eyebrow and bewildered look and told him that I didn’t know where to start. That’s when he pointed me to Write To Be You. This course changed my life and is the reason I am even able to be writing you today.

When anxiety creeps in, start writing. You can grab any ol’ piece of paper, keep a “panic diary” or use your journal. Acknowledge your anxiety and write out how you are feeling, what you are afraid of, what you believe is triggering the stress. So grab your pen – you’re going to thank me for this.

7. Push the “panic button” on your stereo

Turn that bad boy on – it’s time to sing and dance out the crazy talk in your head! Now this can go two ways – you can put on your favorite relaxation play list or you can put on those songs that make you wanna belt it out and shake your booty. Either way, you’ll be doing yourself a great favor. Music has been shown time and time again to positively affect moods and reduce stress. You’ll know when the mood is ripe to choose this option to chill.

8. Use aromatherapy

Fragrances can have a physiological effect on our moods. Burning incense, lighting a candle or using calming essential oils like lavender or chamomile or grounding essential oils that are spicy and earthy can calm our bodies (slowing heart rate, lowering blood pressure and relaxing muscles). You can mix some lavender drops and water and spray on a handkerchief. Lie down and place the handkerchief over your eyes as you rest and focus on your breath. It’s a winning combination.

9. Calgon, take me away! (us old folks remember that)

This is my go-to get over it panic attack remedy. Pour 2 cups of Epsom Salts in a warm bath and get in. This will raise magnesium levels in your body and will have a calming effect on your mind by relaxing the nervous system, lowering cortisol levels and reducing the excitability of the brain. It works EVERY time! And hey, throw a little of that lavender oil in there for some extra relax in your remedy.

10. Take a virtual vacation.

Using guided imagery can be extremely effective in putting the kibosh on panic. Just think of a place or situation in which you feel completely at peace and relaxed. Close your eyes and imagine this place in detail. What does it look like? Who’s with you (if anyone?) What are the sights, sounds and scents surrounding you? Paint a vivid picture in your mind and focus on it. When you notice your breathing and your body relaxing, you can open your eyes.

I have used this technique to great success not only for panic but for anytime I may feel uncomfortable and need to relax. For instance, I had to get an MRI this year and I’m not good with tight spaces. Talk about panic! Anyway, I closed my eyes and pulled out my happy place as they began the MRI. …”I’m walking along the cobblestoned streets of Italy; having left my favorite breakfast bar where I just enjoyed a pastry and a coffee (hey, this is MY dream!) and I hear the man on the corner playing the accordion while I look at the striking Renaissance architecture surrounding me. The beautiful detail in the stone and wood. A smile creeps across my face as I head out on my day’s journey. The sun is shining and…” Oh wait, I drifted away for a second. Now, it’s your turn. Imagine your favorite memory or create a happy scene that you can keep in your back pocket for those challenging days.

Stressing about not stressing?

So now that you know why you’re being challenged by stress and anxiety and why it’s important to mitigate it, you may start to stress about not stressing. This used to happen to me! I was so committed to reversing my Hashimoto’s that I put a ban on stress in my life. Except that life doesn’t work like that. Stress comes and goes but the moment I would perceive it, I’d tried to get a handle on it and control it and then I’d start stressing that I felt stress and that created more stress. Ai ai ai… don’t do this! Don’t let your desire to reduce stress actually create more stress to you and your nervous system. The best thing you can do is to relax about it all. Be aware but be relaxed. You have your tools now. When stress arises, talk to it, give it a little wave and let it pass you by.

About Jen Wittman, CHHC, AADP

Jen Wittman is a Certified Holistic Health Expert, Chef, Author & Vitality Coach, who teaches people how to heal thyroid and autoimmune conditions naturally.

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About Dana Trentini

I founded Hypothyroid Mom October 2012 in memory of the unborn baby I lost to hypothyroidism. Hypothyroid Mom is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for consulting your physician regarding medical advice pertaining to your health. Hypothyroid Mom includes affiliate links to favorite resources including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Connect with me on Google+

Comments

  1. Hi my name is Chris (Male) and I am from England I am 34 years old and have suffered with hypothyroidism for the last 3 and a half years at times it as made my life hell and currently I am struggling, I have constant aches and pains , tired , very low libido and at times take medication for this as anyone would know that being 34 you should be fit but all my life I have been fit and healthy always running working out and full of energy yet now I struggle to run without being in pain I also get very tired , I have an amazing wife and great children but I do feel like a massive let down at times I don’t know if this is normal or not as I suffer with anxiety and depression. I am also on medication for these but with my thyroids I have checks every few months and I started on 25 mg but am now on 200 mg , I hope to get some advice as I feel I can only get the best advice from people who suffer with the same problem thank you

  2. Gretchen says:

    I need some feedback!! I take armour thyroid but my levels have never been consistent. I see a holistic doctor who seems to have reached a stalemate in helping me. I have adrenal issues and take DHEA and a glandular for that as well. I had an edpidural steroid injection for back issue in January and have never been the same. I feel anxious almost all the time, can’t get out of my own head. My doctor rtold me to take a supplement called moducare to help lower the hashimotos antibodies which are sky high. I took it for two months, only to have my TSH go from 0.2, normal, to 5.52 which is high and means my body isn’t making enough hormone. I already take thyroid meds! If I increase my dosage I get heart palpitations so my doctor told me to stay at the same dose.To make it really sweet, I have cervical spine problems and low back issues. The pain makes everything
    worse. I did an adrenal stress saliva test but test results aren’t back for two weeks. Should I find a new doctor? These issues are so complex its hard to find someone who canpull it all together. I’d love to hear from anyone as to how they’ve dealt with hashimotos.
    Thank you

    • Deborah Fuchs says:

      Hi Gretchen,
      I had been on levothyroxine about 5 years when I was given a steroid injection (dexamethasone) in the ER for bronchitis. I also had the flu at the time. About a week after the injection, I was hit with horrible anxiety(never had axiety before), shaking, weakness, stomach problems, increased blood pressure and blood glucose and tingling in my hands and feet. It was a long acting steroid and there was nothing I could do to make it leave my system any faster. I read that the fact that I was hypothyroid would complicate things. It’s been almost 5 months and I am better, but not how I was before the injection. My doctor has only tested my TSH ( which has gone down both times it was tested since the injection and still in normal range), but I think my thyroid is off and my adrenals as well. In trying to heal myself from the steroid and its side effects, I have gone dairy free, gluten free, caffeine freeand drink a lot of water. I try to eat organic and follow a mostly paleo diet. I am considering getting additional thyroid tests run and trying to find an experienced naturopath. I just wanted you to know that the steroid injection you received has probably caused a lot of your problems. I hope the results from your saliva test shed some light on your adrenal issues and that you start to feel better soon.

  3. NicoleSol says:

    Oh my word. This site is such a relief. After going back and forth to doctors for the last couple of months. Them telling me I have IBS, anxiety, depression even though things in my life are going great has been rollercoaster. I am on synthroid, have hashimotos and t3 levels are fine. Hair is falling out in chunks, stomach gurgles all the time, exhausted, and alternating between bowel movement types. Am I depressed and have anxiety, probably, but out of no where? Need some relief. This is not how I envisioned my health.

  4. Since Thursday I’ve been having major panic attacks. I’m the mother of 5 kids and have had hypothyroidism since I was around 14. I haven’t taken medicine since 2015 for my thyroid but I’m thinking it may be time. I’ve had this before when I was pregnant with now 8 year old and I wouldn’t even leave the house. I’m so terrified that it’s going to get like that again. I can’t even drive!!! Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  5. Bob Miodonski says:

    At 76 yrs old (male) this hypothyroid makes my senior years missable. I was perfectly ok til I went to the doctor at that time I was about 64 and felt great,then the doctor smiles and says you have a slight thyroid problem and you have to take this sythroid for rest of your life and you will be fine. What a joke I still play active sports but I hid my feelings,but at home my wife sees that I have problems sleeping and getting stupid feelings like dying,being unhappy . Someone please respond and I appreciate your help and information on this problem. Thank you for reading my my story and God Bless

    • Ashley F says:

      Bob you are not alone! I am 24 and used to be very athletic actually swam for team Illinois and placed! Slowly started getting panic attacks then not even a year ago the doctor diagnosed me with hypothyroidism, everything has changed, some for the better. Don’t hide your feelings from your wife, it gets easier when you tell how you feel- I see a therapist once a week just to complain about the pain and fears I have due to this condition messing me up along with the meds. It is hard to tell what is “real” vs anxiety due to different conditions. Just remember you are never alone in this. Bless you !

  6. Wow!! I love reading articles like this, they truly are reassuring and give you a sense I hope! I blacked out in my bathroom a few weeks ago and am suffering rom a concussion I have been experiencing extreme fatigue, very sore legs and was feeling slightly paranoid along with severe panic attacks at night which are still happening unfortunately… Has anyone ever become afraid of sleeping due to the fact that you know you’ll start dreaming and the dreadful worrying once your head hits the pillow?? I also have adrenal fatigue, low thyroid and a issue with my sex hormones! Once I hit My head my symptoms became worse. Once the evening sets in I have pure panic and don’t want to sleep.. I instantly feel doom and helpless!

  7. Hypothyroidism and diabetes caused by 14 years of statin use. I’m a man so I was surprised to find so much of this applied. I’m being treated for both but in recent months the anxiety and stress response have been staggering. I can’t so much as take a short walk without my legs going to jello and my face contorted in agony and my fists clenching up so tight I literally cant unclench them. I get nausea easily, get hot , sweats, feeling like i want to punch through a brick wall but physically exhausted at the SAME TIME. Its unbearable. Nobody should have to live like this.

    • I totally agree. I’m exhausted 24/7. Never had anxiety till now. Have had hypothyroidism for 8 years. Mornings are horrible. Can’t stay asleep. Problems with gut. Feel like I’m never going to be normal again. Heart races, light headed everyday, headaches. Anyone finds an answer please help!

  8. Thanks for the reassurance.Major panic attack at work and hadn’t considered my thyroid was not right.explains my downer with gin which I normally enjoy but sends e very low😥

  9. Carla A James says:

    Hello I just had my thyroid removed in Oct 26,2017 I was doing fine until January 5,2018 I feel like my life is over. I’m terrified and so are my children. I’m a strong women but I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Before surgery I had panic and anxiety every blue moon now its mostly everyday all day. I’m trying to be positive but this is scary !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Carla, how are you doing? I too am struggling. I can’t live like this. I know that for sure. Its debilitating.

    • Wow, i sure hope you are okay! Try meditating, breathing and yoga. Are you able to take iodine or any type of supplement ??

  10. Thank you for this post. I have be off of work due to anxiety, chronic fatigue, and depression ever since they adjusted my thyroid meds. I am beside myself as I can’t seem to feel better. All the doctors have been treating with ssris, etc, but I now have an endo that feels my TSH is now to high. I feel I have wasted so much time, emotional energy, and possibly the loss of my job. This is awful. I hope the new results and a possible adjustment in meds will help. I have never felt so bad in my life.

    • Ann (everyone!) please seek out natural thyroid meds like Armour or naturthroid… they are prescription only and most of us need T3 desperately as our thyroids are broken and do NOT convert T4 only meds(synthroid and thyroxine)! Docs want to ignore that T4 alone does NOT work and throw us on “happy pills” that make it worse! I finally found armour and a doc who will prescribe it! the natural prescription thyroid meds have T3, T4, T1, T2 and something else and I will NEVER go back to T4 alone EVER! I have hashimotos/autoimmune thyroid! The TSH is a pituitary test and it is WAY over relied upon to check thyroid function keeping us all sick! I also ditched gluten and it actually lowered my thyroid antibodies! Don;t give up! Check out stopthethyroidmadness.com and thyroid sexy(oxymoron) I know ha good luck everyone!

  11. Hi Rachel,
    I too am having what I think are hypothyroidism. I have a strange pressure feeling in the back of my head along with clicking sounds when I lay down. I have the hardest time getting out of bed in the morning and then when I finally drag my self out I am in a huge rush to get out the door. I had high morning cortisol and think this could be why. I seem to have a lot of anxiety in the am and then again in the pm. My holistic doctor thinks it’s linked to adrenal and gut issues. Trying to get to the root cause. Hope you get to yours!

    • This is my problem too! How are you doing now? What steps did you take to help it?

      • Mop i have the same issue going on. I will feel anxious, nervouse, i have these rare episodes where i wont know what i say or do; they last about a few seconds, however, i too sometimes wake up good in the morning and them feel bad in the afternoon. I dont have much of an appetite. My hair is thining out, loosing a lot of weight, insomnia, i feel a heavy load in my back, tired, no energy, foggy feeling and i start to feel my lega get really cold while my heart feels like its going to jump out. I have been checked by my doctor to see if its my thyroid, yet, they say i am fine. I am so desperate for help of a good doctor to fond the underlying cause of all of these symptoms. Please let me know if u have found a cure to your health because i am so overwheled that everytime i go to the doctor they tell me i have nothing going on; however, i dont feel right. Please let me know how they helped you because i dont know who to turn to for help

        • Chiffon says:

          Hello
          It sounds like your thyroid just because your blood work shows fine it doesn’t mean anything your doctor needs to treat your symptoms. It looks like you need to be on a thyroid medication. I had all those symptoms then I found me a new endocrinologist that prescribed me levothyroxine now I feel so much better.

        • IT TOOK ME FIVE YEARS TO FIND A DOCTOR WHO FOUND I HAD HYPOTHYROID. I had to go to another city to do so. Be proactive and keep questioning, and do not settle for what doctors say just because they are doctors. Perhaps you can find a good holistic doctor, but do not give up.

  12. Rachel N. says:

    Thank you! This is super informative! After a minor fall on my stairs a year ago, I started to have anxiety and depression and then more and more Hypo symptoms crept in a little at a time. I’ve been to doctor after doctor, specialist after specialist, therapist after therapist, put on medications for anxiety and depression (which are a little better today, but NOT completely gone) but no one could tell me what’s wrong with me until I went to a Naturopath Doctor. I’m getting a second opinion and had blood drawn and tested (extensive test-like 20 different ones related to the thyroid) and will have my follow up this week. We’ll see if this explains why I’ve been feeling the way I have been for the past year. Most likely it is Hypothyroidism and my adrenals like my Naturopath said. One hard thing for me was to give up coffee. I have cravings almost daily. I can’t seem to find a good alternative. Any suggestions?

    Thanks,

    Rachel N.

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