Even 10 years ago i would have told you that anxiety wasn’t that much of an issue for me.
I think being a multiple hid it from me, because i’d just dissociate/slide/switch to cope when the feeling came up. As i learned more about myself and my system, i became more conscious of my thoughts and emotions, and more aware of my physical body and my “presence” in it. I discovered that –ZOUNDS!– anxiety is a huge issue for me. It slows down my personal progress, it limits my opportunities, it stifles my creativity, it thins my skin, it uses spoons that would be far better used elsewhere.
Fuck anxiety, man.
Over the last few years i’ve intentionally endeavoured to cut as much of this heartache-y bullshit stress out of my life as i can. I thought this morning that i might share with you a list of things i’ve done to hike this old piano off of my chest.
Let me be very clear here: This is not a step-by-step. This is my list, based on who i am and how i work. This is a personal list, specific to me. I share this list to share my process, which is a big part of what i do on this blog, and to stand as evidence that it can be done. Some of what i do or don’t do to reduce/remove anxiety might have precisely the opposite affect on you. You have your own past, your own personality, your own burdens, your own path. You do you, Boo. I am. here. for it. 100%
Things I Have Done To Reduce Anxiety
1) Stopped watching talk shows,
anything to do with celebrities:
This is a big one for a few reasons. Talk shows triggered envy, lifestyle programs triggered guilt, and nighttime news supported catastrophising. I also figured out that learning more about the celebrities/artists i like, jeopardised my enjoyment of them/their art. I’m all for killing your heroes, but sometimes not listening to them chat is enough;
2) Put down fashion, gossip, and lifestyle magazines:
See above for reasons. The lifestyle and celebrity gossip rags were easy to put down, the fashion died a little harder. It’s not just that i wished i was slim and beautiful and young and glamourous like the models, it’s also that fashion is art, to me. I’ve discovered that, like sports, i can love the thing itself, and shun the machine that surrounds it;
3) No shopping alone, not even online:
Too many choices causes me to freeze up. If there were two ice cream shops, and one was 100 flavours and one was 3, i would go to the store with three. If i went to the store with 100, i’d stand there for an hour, hemming and hawing, stress over which would be the best flavour, and either pick one and regret it, wondering if i shouldn’t have picked a different one instead –OR– i’d get completely overwhelmed and end up picking one i could have gotten in 5 minutes at the other store.
If i shop alone, a version of this happens every time. This is why i limit the amount of time i spend in a store, and don’t even enter certain stores, like Sephora, for instance, because there’s just too many choices. I wind up walking out with nothing, and so stressed i could cry. When i shop online i’ve either got my husband or a kid beside me, or i shop where they let me narrow my search (and boy oh boy, do i narrow).
4) Walk my doggos every day:
Dogs and exercise are great relievers of stress. E’erybody know dat.
5) Keep To-Do lists loose, and rarely on paper:
If i write down a list, it becomes too important and too rigid.* If it’s in my head, it’s easier for me to make amendments when and where appropriate, and not kick myself if it all doesn’t get done;
6) Share all anxiety-producing thoughts with a safe person:
Truth is, i share most of my thoughts with a safe person. The negative or stress-producing ones so that they don’t get a chance to get bigger and badder, but even the positive, happyhappy stuffs. I want to remember the good ones, and sharing the words is like planting them as seeds and giving them a chance to grow and bear good fruit;
7) See my GP every 3mos:
I have both mental and physical health issues that are important to monitor. Also, i can be obsessive, and have a tendency to imagine worst case scenarious. Oh yeah, and i’m terrified of dying. I don’t think i qualify as a hypochondriac, but i can take a pimple and WebMD it into cancer in about 3mins flat. I always bring a list to my doctor appointments, so she can address all my causes for concern, and i never lie to her or hide things from her;
8) Biweekly therapy:
9) Stopped weighing myself:
The number on the scale has only ever caused me anxiety, even when i think it’s a good number. I keep track based on how my clothes fit, and how i look in the mirror after a shower, naked. I get weighed every 3mos at my doctor’s office. I don’t look at the number, and the nurse doesn’t tell me, she only tells my doctor;
10) Become particular about who i hang out with:
I love people, but always find it somewhat stressful, and sometimes even painful to be around them. I only have so much energy and a few spoons a day, so i’ve had to get selective. Basing it on this reasoning also relieved some anxiety, because this is about me and for my wellbeing. Sometimes the reason isn’t personal, and sometimes it IS;
11) Watch telly less – read more:
I was a latchkey kid, so the television was regularly my only companion. My whole adult life i’ve switched on the tv in the morning, and not turned it off until i go to bed at night. I didn’t always watch it, but i liked the background noise. These last few months the tv’s barely on during the day. Television was a great distraction for my system when things got busy and/or stressful up in my brain. These days i’m learning to listen to what’s going on, rather than trying to tune it all out. And the quiet is actually kinda nice;
12) One hit of caffeine in the morning only, if home all day:
I like some to get me going, but after that first mug of black tea, i switch to herbal ones. I struggle with sleep and anxiety, and too much caffeine only amplifies those issues. If i’m out and about in the city or visiting with friends, i do allow myself to indulge, though. And i feel fine about that;
13) Limit socialisation:
I don’t want to cut it out entirely (although sometimes i NEED to do that), but i’m easily overwhelmed and human interaction can bleed my energy dry in a matter of hours. I’m talking about people i choose to be social with, here;
Yeah. Dumping thoughts is important for my wellbeing. I may have said this once or twice before. Heh;
15) Take stock of the day with hubby each evening:
More thought-dumping sure, but also helps to keep me on track, gives me a chance to problem-solve, and affords opportunities for encouragement, support, and human connection. Invaluable for managing my most typical anxieties;
16) Take breaks between tasks, and/or limit amount of time spent on tasks:
All that happens when i push too hard and get a whole bunch of shit done is i feel like it wasn’t enough and i need to beat my last score the next day, if that makes sense. Respite gives me a chance for checking in and self-talk, too.
e.g. I did the dishes, yay! Now i can play online Scrabble for half an hour, then maybe i’ll scrub the toilets… Ah, w00t?
17) Reduce house-clutter:
The less i have to take care of besides myself and my dog – the better;
18) Set time to obsess:
I struggle with obsessive thinking. To date, i haven’t found a way to eliminate it. In the past i would kick myself over not being able to control it. Now, i work within my capabilities. So maybe i can’t quit obsessing, but i can give myself a half hour to gnaw it like a dog on a bone. I have something to do to distract me when the time to obsess is over. It can be very hard to stop, so i’ll schedule an obsess-sesh say, right before i meet a friend for coffee;
19) Use 4-7-8 breathing method:
While i do simple yoga, i’m a nonbeliever and i just like this particular method of breathing. It calms me, it brings my focus down into my body and relieves that heavy, squinchy feeling in my chest that anxiety brings. It’s occasionally helped me get to sleep, too. Not magic, but still awesome;
20) Reduce volume:
When things are quieter on the outside of me, things are often quieter on the inside of me;
21) Walk away from toxic associations:
I’m just gonna say it. Family. I walked away from family (and not a few friends). To be fair, i think i could be pretty toxic myself, when i was around them;
22) Be conscious, be cautious when sharing opinions:
I was raised with a finely tuned sense of tribalism. I also learned that being considered 1 of the gang made me far less likely to be hurt. I’d figure out what the group dynamic and their values were, and promptly reflect them. When i broke free of that programming, i wanted to tell everyone what i thought about everything, all the time. I’ve got that t-shirt now, thanks. I don’t require anyone’s agreement or approval of my opinions because, well, they’re opinions. I share my opinions with safe and loved people. I’m supportive of those who want to stand up and shout theirs from the rooftops, and i’m also supportive of those like me, who want to go far away from the rooftops;
23) Stay home:
Socialising takes a lot out of me; too much, right now;
24) Shnuggle pets:
For those who love and have pets, explanations are unnecessary;
25) Consume comedy (shows, books, podcasts, conversations):
There’s nothing quite like laughter, to give that elephant sitting on my chest a chance to get up and do some pirouettes, maybe even grand jetés!
26) Ask, “Is this any of my business?” regularly:
Cuts down on brain clutter, and keeps me from stressing over what other people think and do. You be you and i be me;
27) Say “I’m sorry” less:
This is mostly concerning my upbringing. As the scapegoat, i was the reason shit went south. I’m always apologising, and i know it drives my loved ones bonkers. I’m learning that most of the time when i say sorry it’s unconscious, reflexive programming. I don’t have to apologise for who i am. Any apologies still remaining from my past will be dealt with as they present themselves. I’m not in constant danger of being harmed anymore, like i was when i was a child. Offering unnecessary sorries just brings up old wounds and reinforces the lies my mother told me about myself in order to control me;
28) Say “I don’t know” more:
Same original motivators as above. Not knowing things as a child left me more open to harm, so i tried to know everything. And my family was the very model of knowitallishness. I don’t have to protect myself that way anymore. Plus, it’s annoying AF, and nobody likes a smarty-pants;
29) Be more physically affectionate with husband and children:
Touch is difficult for me. While it’s been a relief to put no-touch boundaries up, i’m a human animal who does better in life with some physical connection. My husband and children are safe. I reinforce that i’m safe and they won’t hurt me, when i touch them. I experience love and healthy attachment. It calms me, grounds me, makes me feel more normal, strengthens bonds and heals old hurts;
30) Strictly limit and curate social media exposure:
Do i need to go into how anxiety-producing social media can be? If you’re reading my blog, probably not. You already know;
31) Don’t compare myself to others:
A biiiig one, and one that’s proven hard to master. Different nature, different nurture, different choices, different paths. It makes for different people, H. Duh. I do sometimes use others as a general metric, but only to keep myself honest and on track. An example would be when i thought i might be overreacting to a certain person’s behaviour. I compared my reactions to those of other people around him, and quickly figured out NOPE.
One more time for the people in the back:
This is my list. There’s more, and i’ll probably make alterations, additions and subtractions to this list over time.
My point is, anxiety is awful and takes energy i need for other stuff that feels better, or at least yields good fruit. Anxiety produces nothing for me but pain, poor choices, and more anxiety.
And what you think about this post and my list is entirely your business. Heh.
Try to enjoy your weekend, if you can. I will too.
*Wait a second, is this irony?