It was a hard week. My anxiety levels have been so high, I can almost feel my body buzz from an electric current of restlessness. At work, we’ve entered the busiest time of the year, and although the end is in sight, the thought of all the things that need to happen in the next 9 business days has lit my brain on fire.
How Anxiety Feels
Anxiety is a jerk.
It comes when you’re feeling most overwhelmed, latching on to your back and breathing down your neck as you try to focus. The beast taps on your shoulder to distract you from the email that you’re trying to finish, and makes you worry about another pressing issue that you need to deal with later.
It creeps in when you need to be at the top of your game in order to succeed, and it raises your body temperature slowly but surely so that you barely notice it’s happening. You sweat, and you clam up, and you fan yourself, but the heat is coming from within so nothing will cool it down.
Slowly it wraps its prickly fingers around your heart, clenching as you scan your list of to-dos. Somehow it shortens your attention span so drastically that you’re rendered nearly useless in the face of your pile of work.
It makes sure that you know you are failing, and it makes you focus on things that aren’t even real, things that are only possibilities and fears. The air thins in its presence so that even though your lungs are expanding and contracting, it doesn’t feel like you’re breathing.
Its suffocating cling makes you desperate to escape, so you get upset easier.
You lash out at people who somehow can’t see the dark figure that stays perched on your back, as it feeds off your life force and energy stores.
It makes you forget what is important, and makes you believe that the smallest non-issues are drastic and life altering.
Anxiety is a nasty beast.
What this Post was Supposed to Be
I was going to make this post about how I’m trying to live in the present in order to overcome this anxiety, but it doesn’t feel authentic.
I’m still learning how to be present, and I’m not winning right now at overcoming this anxiety. It’s been overcoming me, and even as I write this I can feel it creep over me.
Last night, as I was writing this post, I got anxiety writing about anxiety.
In the back of my brain, I was determined to get this post up on a Thursday, because my last two posts have been on Thursdays. I had set a deadline for myself, and due to the craziness of the week, I wasn’t meeting it in time.
Anxiety and Perfectionism
In time for WHAT?
In time for the fake deadline I set for myself, a deadline that only serves to put more pressure on me because I don’t want to let other people down.
But what is this blog post actually for?
Who am I actually disappointing?
What is this made up pressure to meet some made up deadline?
Luckily, I was tweeting last night, and my sister saw my tweet: “I’m trying real hard to get my blog post out on Thursday for the third week in a row! It gets an hour later each time..”
She text me almost immediately after I sent that tweet.
“Hey. Remember not to stress yourself out over a deadline with your blog!!!! It’s supposed to be therapeutic for you, not stressful.”
Thank god for sisters, am I right?
It took that outside validation to remind me that I’m doing this blog for me.
I’m doing it because it makes me feel better and it makes me feel connected.
No one is going to be upset if I don’t get a post up every Thursday at 8:40pm.
I made that pressure up in my brain because that’s how I’ve functioned my whole life. I’ve always been a perfectionist.
I run a million miles a minute, and stress myself over things that aren’t real or aren’t worth stressing over.
And I’m saying ENOUGH ALREADY.
Because what is this blog really for?
It’s a little bit of therapy, a little bit of connection, and a lot a bit of real.
If I’m feeling anxious and overwhelmed, I should be doing whatever I need to stop feeling that way, even if that means not writing a blog post for my made up deadline.
Anxiety & The Ever Elusive Present
“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Teh Ching
I think practicing staying in the present, with time, will help me overcome anxiety.
I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to grasp hold of this ever-elusive “present” that I’ve heard so much about, but the second I grab hold, it takes off again.
Sometimes, I’m not sure the present moment wants me to hold it, which seems unfair because all the self help books I’ve read over the last few months seem to be based in this idea of being present and “living in the moment.”
Slowing down enough to be here, right now, is really hard and unnatural to me.
How I’m Coping with Anxiety
Writing is the only thing that has ever slowed me down to the present, but even that is still a lot of stuck-in-my-head-ness.
Maybe that’s halfway or a quarter way there, but I can’t always resort to writing when panic sets me aflame.
Even so, I’m going to keep trying.
I don’t want to live my life living everywhere but here.
Dogs and kids know exactly how to be here.
They don’t worry about the future or regret the past—they just exist as if every moment is the only moment.
I want that.
There are times in my life when the brain fog caused by the cycle of worrying, rushing, and exhaustion is so thick, that I don’t feel like I’m here.
I want to be here.
I don’t want to rush through my life because I’m constantly hurrying on to whatever is next.
What’s the point of being here now if I’m always figuring out what’s next? I have to figure out how to be here now, while I have now available to me.
2. Yoga and Meditation
I think yoga and meditation are helping.
This week, I’ve been attempting to meditate as a way to root myself. I have only tried five minutes at a time but it seems to have the reverse effect on me.
When I slow down and close my eyes to breathe into the now, I can feel my heart speed up. I can feel the uneasiness pulsate through my veins. It feels as if someone is pumping a fresh wave of tension over and in me.
It’s almost the embodiment of facing or dealing with your emotions. This week my emotions have seemed bigger than me. It is a slightly terrifying feeling, to face yourself and drown in the very thing you’re trying to rid of.
Even so, I do I think I feel better after I get out of it.
3. Mindfulness in Yoga
Maybe it’s because I’m so overwhelmed by the feelings that meditation bring up. Because of that, when I finally break free, the world is a little lighter, and more manageable.
Meditating in yoga is a little easier.
Instead of focusing on just my breath, I can focus on the way the pose makes me feel. I can breathe into the nice stretch in my hips. I’m there with a community of people too, so it feels less intimidating knowing everyone is trying to quiet their noisy squirrel brains too.
I’ve also been trying mindful pauses—purposeful moments where you take a second to focus on your breath, focus on the way your hands feel on the steering wheel or on your computer or in your lap, focus on the feeling of your skin, notice even the pain in your back or neck. I like the practicality of little pauses, and they’re much easier to incorporate into even the busiest days.
4. Fidget Spinners
If you have anxiety and don’t have a fidget spinner yet, I definitely recommend adding a fidget spinner to your arsenal of tactics to deal with anxiety. Somehow fidget spinners and other fidget toys help me to stay focused when my brain is a buzz with anxiety and overwhelm.
I think it’s in part because I’m a tactile person, and focusing on the fidget toy brings me back into the present.
If fidget spinners aren’t your thing, take a look at this comprehensive list by Relax Like a Boss that reviews and lists the pros and cons of each type of fidget toy.
Progress is Not Linear
We all have bad weeks. We all have days that we would rather stay home and binge on Halloween candy and zone out in front of the TV.
And I did that a few times this week.
In fact, last night, I baked a whole batch of chocolate chip cookies and ate six of them while pacing about this blog post.
Luckily, those days have been getting fewer and farther apart for me, but this week felt like a massive slap back to the beginning.
I know it’s not.
I know it’s just a hiccup because progress is not always linear. Sometimes things have to get really hard before they can become truly awesome.
How do you deal with your anxiety monster?