So I started Music Monday to share songs I find to empower me when driving because my panic usually happens in the car, on the highway. Something I have to do everyday for 40 minutes to get to work. Yikes, tricky tricky.
However this edition of Music Monday will not feature music. Because sometimes music does not cut it for me to be honest. Lately I have taken up a new defense mechanism against wandering thoughts and anxious feelings I experience on the road. When it comes to entertainment in regards to tv and books I always gravitate towards uplifting and growth inducing. I love Oprah’s OWN Network with shows like Super Soul Sunday and Lifeclass, where well-known spiritual and thought leaders appear. However with no time to ever actually watch these shows with work and a baby and social obligations, it has been some time since I have seen an episode.
And then I realized that YouTube is a wonderous and resourceful site to find clips or past episodes, sometimes in full. And since I have a YouTube app on my phone and my phone can be plugged into my car, you see where I am going here. And the beauty is, these shows don’t require to watch anything since they are interviews, you just need to listen.
So I have made a YouTube playlist that expands past just interviews with some of my favorite spiritual and motivational speakers on Oprah’s channel. I have some Tony Robbins in there, some guy named Geert in Brussels who is a regular guy who beat anxiety and now has his own little method and tips for dealing, I have some TED Talks on there. So I get in the car, select my playlist and let it play through. Before I know it, I am at work and the time seemed to fly which is what I really need when driving!
To me this is the equivalent of what some people may get out of going to church in the morning, or praying. To fill my mind with such inspiration and motivation and positivity before I even officially start my day has given me a little extra pep in my step. I am the midst of what I know is a passing funk so I can use all the extra pep I can find. And right now I find it on YouTube.
Yesterday I had a hell of a panic attack. This may not seem surprising to you since I write a blog about anxiety and as a sufferer you may assume I have panic attacks all the time. Not true. Do I have anxiety attacks, rumination, racing thoughts, monkey mind, unsteady breathing and racing heart, and all the other truly darling things anxiety brings, yes. But not so much panic. I would say I average one panic attack every six months and they are usually a one and done, phew glad that is over with, let’s carry on with our day, sorta thing. Now there was a time in my life, the nervous breakdown which you will hear me reference often, that I was in a constant state of panic attack for months so I am not a stranger, but it has been almost a good 4 years since then. My last panic attack was in August and it was isolated to a situation meaning once I got back home I was fine and unfrazzled. And prior to that August one I had not had one for almost a year.
And then there was yesterday. I was in the car on the highway on the way to work. If you have read my previous blog entries you know most of my anxiety happens in the car especially on highways. I have had anxious thoughts almost everyday on my way to work but like I said, it never really escalates to panic. Yesterday I was tired, I had not slept. I have a little bit of stress happening with the planning of a wedding, my Grandma is ill and possibly not going to make it through the weekend, things at work have intensified. It makes sense. Only on the surface I do not feel like I was thinking of any of those things. What I was thinking is, I feel anxious, remember that time I had a nervous breakdown, oh god what if that happens again, is it happening now, what if I have a panic attack and I can’t calm down and I am already half way at work, I am having a panic attack. Shit. Call the fiance, tell him to come get you. Turn around, go home. Turn around, turn around. I wont make it home, I am going to pass out.
It went something like that. My thoughts normally always go to “What if I get as bad again as I use to be” ( the nervous breakdown constant panic attack state aforementioned). On strong days I shut down those thoughts real fast with facts. 1- you came out of it 2- it led to great spiritual growth 3- You did not know what it was then, you have knowledge and resources, it won’t ever be that bad and many other self affirmations I have stored for such occasions.
But on weak days, when I am tired especially or have pent-up stress, not much helps. So I did call the fiance and he strongly urged I do not turn around and he was right because once you turn around and go home your confidence goes down. At least for me. Then negative self talk begins, “You are not strong enough to push through” and it becomes a cycle where you always turn around and then you get trapped in the fear that you cannot push through and you just always default to staying home and that is dangerous territory. So I arrived at work and he showed up to offer hugs and support. Once he left I was on my own to battle the mind and make it through the day. For the most part when I have a panic attack in the car, almost immediately as I step out of the car at my destination it immediately lifts like magic. Yesterday it did not. As I emerged myself in work the anxiety and lingering panicky aftermath started to fade and by 3:00 I chuckled to myself over how absurd it is that I don’t feel anything like I did this morning. Man is panic and anxiety weird! So now you are thinking, yay happy ending, she felt great by 3:00pm and she conquered the day. Not really. So I left work and on the way home I started to feel frazzled again. And then this morning I woke up with residual anxiety. Now lucky for me I am working from home today but I believe strongly that if I had to drive to work I would panic again over memories of yesterday. BUT at least I could tell myself that I survived yesterday and I survived today.
The big difference to panicky me now as opposed to panicky me during the breakdown is now I don’t panic over panic as much. It is so uncomfortable, it makes you feel like it will never go away and you won’t ever feel better and sometimes feels impossible to beat but I just tell myself that I have felt this way before, and then I have felt better in days following and it is an ebb and flow and just go with it and take it as it comes and it too shall pass.
In the past I would have freaked out and reacted so much to the panic which obviously just makes it grow. So although I did freak slightly I kept going forward and I guess sometimes that is the best we can do. Today I sit here with residual anxiety. I feel worried about driving to work tomorrow and if I am being quite honest I feel a panic attack creeping up just thinking about having a panic attack tomorrow but I try to take the perspective that each attack is an opportunity to implement techniques for coping and each incident that I cope will make it easier and easier. It is why I truly believe I have been able to keep panic attacks at bay in the past.
Send me some good vibes for tomorrow’s commute!
( Good vibes back at ya!)
Happy Monday to all. I just realized that my last post was also a Music Monday. Back to back Music Mondays. Eeek. Note to self, write more during the other days of the week!
Today’s edition features a song so near and dear to me. Darlin Do Not Fear by Brett Dennen. This song does worlds for my anxiety and really just because of title line. The song itself is mellow and relaxing in true Brett Dennen fashion which doesn’t hurt. If you do not know him and crave mellow, feel good, calming music but not sleepy music, he may be your man.
For a long time this was the ONLY song I would play when starting to get anxious in the car or feelings of panic would rise. Let me break it down. The chorus goes ” Darlin do not fear, what you don’t really know, cause it won’t last, your worries will pass”.
Do not fear what you don’t really know. I repeat, do not fear, what you don’t really know. This logic really hits me in that sweet spot that turns anxious thoughts into empowering thoughts. This is how it goes.
I’m driving, something triggers an anxious thought, anxious thought turns into ON MY GOODNESS I feel faint, what if I pass out behind the wheel, what if I crash my car and die, what if I get to work and I still feel like this and I cannot function, what if my anxiety is back with vengeance and I need to get on medication and then I can’t wean off, what if what if what if what if what if. Darlin do not fear, what you don’t really know. Inhale, exhale. Darlin do not fear what you don’t really know.
Because isn’t anxiety most times getting wrapped up in hypotheticals. Fearing the unknown. The loss of control. Not knowing sometimes is the biggest trigger of anxiety. Or thinking you know what will happen. We should not fear things we do not know. It’s hard right because anxious people want to know, they want to feel in control, they want to own all the information in the world so they can be prepared. This song reminds me to let go of control and surrender. Surrendering control of the unknown feels good if you can get yourself to do it. Playing this song on repeat when I am struggling with that grounds me. It reminds me to take each moment as it comes and to not get wrapped up in fearing all these made up situations in my head and focus on what is real and what is in front of me and what I can control. My thoughts and my breath. (And yes I know controlling your thoughts is hard!)
Till next time ( promise, before Monday!)
Happy Monday! So I have decided to start something new called “Music Mondays”. What does that have to do with anxiety? Everything! At least for me it does.
I would estimate that 80% of my anxiety attacks and panic happen when I am in the car, alone. I would estimate that 5% of my anxiety happens prior to driving when anticipating an upcoming drive. Let’s say 2% is residual anxiety that last all day after having anxiety and panic attack in the car that day, the lingering effect. That leaves only 13% that is not car and driving related. So having the right tunes in the car for both distraction, and sometimes motivation and strength is very crucial to my anxiety disorder. It is important that I am equipped with the right playlist. So every Monday I will share one song from my “Anxiety Fighting” playlist. I will tell you why it helps me and maybe just maybe it can help you.
I will kick off the very first one with “Age of Worry” by John Mayer. This song sings like an anthem. It is meant to be sung out loud, on the top of your lungs, victoriously as the chorus insists. Knowing a lot about John from a minor (sometimes major) obsession, I know he suffers from anxiety so this song rings a bit more authentic to me knowing that. Sometimes I hear songs that may sound like the person is speaking about anxiety and such but not really knowing their background can make you question their authority. It is easy for anyone to sing “Don’t worry be happy” if they have never suffered.
So some lyrics:
“Alive in the age of worry
Rage in the age of worry
Sing out in the age of worry
And say, “Worry, why should I care?”
But for this one, for me, it is more than the lyrics. It is the chanting way in which he delivers them. Pretty much telling worry to F’ off, and I can appreciate that!
Something about telling worry off helps minimize the anxiety and panic and helps take a bit of control back. (At least for the 3 minutes or so, while the song last)
Happy Monday and Happy Listening
“Oh my god I would have a panic attack!”
“I almost had a panic attack!”
“I’m seriously going to have a panic attack!”
These are things people often say in jest. Just the other day I was talking to a co-worker about how I did my Christmas shopping in one day, 7 hours in the mall and he said ” I would have a panic attack.” To him this is a simple exaggeration and his way of saying he could never do that. It is too much shopping, not something he is interested in. And so many times you hear people utter the phrases up top in a light-hearted manner. But when you are someone who ACTUALLY does have panic attacks the light-hearted response hits a bit deeper.
My first reaction to his comment in my head was “Oh I wonder if he suffers from anxiety too.” But in reality I know saying things like this is said in the casual tone similar to when people jokingly say “I’m gonna kill you” Because people who do and would have panic attacks rarely make a public statement like that about it. However I am the opposite, I tell anybody who would listen as hiding it or pretending it is not happening actually makes it worse for me. But that is for another post.
Whenever I hear someone make a statement as such I find myself thinking about how nice it must be to say something like that knowing you really won’t have a panic attack and although the situation might stress you out and you would like to avoid it, saying you are going to have a panic attack is just said to symbolize how strongly you dislike it. I envy those people. Ah to be able to say it in jest and not really live it. Same thoughts go through my mind when someone says they are anxious because of xyz. “I am anxious I have to give a presentation tomorrow.” “I am stressed and anxious because I have a lot of work on my plate right now.” I would LOVE to have actual factual reasons for anxiety. Something I could link it back to. That to me that is easy peasy to deal with. Cause and effect. You know the source, you know why, you might even know how to alleviate it. But when anxiety and panic hit you with no obvious and forefront cause, that is another level of displeasure.
Because of my awareness of this due to my own personal background I make it a point to be very careful with my words and sensitive to what I am saying. For instance, if I am really bummed about something, but fleeting sadness, something happened to cause me to be sad, I try really hard not to say “this depresses me, or I am depressed over it” because I know how deep and real depression is and you never know the inner struggles of your audience. Someone experiencing depression will not appreciate you putting your sad moment in the same category as their debilitating darkness. I know that the majority, if not all the people, who say these things in jest are not purposely being insensitive by any means. I cannot control what they do however I can use what it feels like to be on the other end of that and make sure going forward I choose my words carefully and make sure I don’t speak lightly of serious things to those who may struggle. Just something to think about and be aware of when communicating emotions to others. I would hate to contribute to the desensitization of such disorders and those who truly suffer deeply to be made to feel like what they are dealing with can be made light of.
And I know that those who have never suffered or experienced such dark moods do not know what it feels like and might truly think a panic attack is being stressed out and frantic in the crowded space of a mall during Xmas time. Or someone who is really sad about a break up may think that it is similar to what depression feels like because they do not know better. But us who do know better, we can choose our words wisely going forward. And maybe even help those who don’t know, understand and perhaps make them more aware and sensitive to the words they select when describing what they are experiencing. I guess my point is, I would like to fight for awareness and help stop the desensitization of these words and this seems like an easy situation to help do it in both by making you aware of how you may speak to others and help correct others when they speak to you using terms in jest, that hold a lot of weight to those suffering.
You know when you feel all antsy and anxious inside. You cannot concentrate, your monkey mind is swinging from vine to vine and you think “Surely I am coming off as crazy as I feel inside.” You’re not. Because you are not your anxiety. The real you, the person you are is still being shown to the outside world despite what your inside dialogue is doing.
Yesterday I got two unrelated, and unsolicited nice emails from friends. Friends who do not even know each other and my relationship with them each are very different. Friends who know about my anxiety, have witnessed it, and yet still see the real me despite that.
Friend # 1 says:
“You are like sunshine. You just got to get some. You are a treasure, unlike any other human being I ever met.”
Moments later I get an email from another friend.
Friend # 2 says:
“You have this heart of literal gold.. and you radiate it.. Its one of the reasons why so many people love to be around you.. In some ways your kind of addicting.. You are bubbly and always seem happy.. even if you’re really not inside”
The point of this is not to gloat and show off how awesome my friends are and how lucky I am to have them. It is to show you that your true authentic self is not defined by your anxiety, depression, ocd, whatever ails your mind. People will see through to what you really are. You never are outwardly acting as crazy as your mind makes you think you are.
My second point is that you get what you give. I was left wondering, what have I done that would make two people send such lovely thoughts to me in the same day and I realized it is because you give love you get love. And I found one of the best ways to take the focus out of your head, your problems, your ailments is to give. Give, give, give, and you will get, get, get.
Now go give love and reap the benefits of getting because that is what will define you in the end not your anxiety.
“I miss the days my mind would just rest quiet
My imagination hadn’t turned on me yet
I used to let my words wax poetic
But it melted a puddle at my feet now
It is a calcifying crime, it’s tragic
I’ve turned to petrified past life baggage
I want to disappear and just start over
So here we are
And I’ll breathe again…
Cause I have sent for a warrior
From on my knees, make me a Hercules
I was meant to be a warrior please
Make me a Hercules” – Hercules, Sara Bareilles
I am having an off morning. One filled with sleep deprivation, foggy mind and anxious thoughts about future things that may not happen. I feel like a table with a wobbly leg, or an umbrella on an extremely windy day. I need to be stabilized; I need to get back to sturdy. For times like these I tell myself to “Sturdy Yourself”. Now if only it was as easy as just telling myself to “Sturdy Yourself” but that is just not going to be enough. So what do I do, I sturdy myself with an action plan.
Sturdy Yourself in Facts
The first thing I do is anchor myself in facts.
Fact # 1 – I did not sleep good last night
Fact # 2 – I have not been drinking enough water, dehydration can make the brain not as sharp.
Fact # 3 – I have a lot on my plate, it is okay to feel anxious and a little stress, it is within reason.
Laying out the facts gives you a better view of the landscape of your mind at this time. It is easy to get caught up in “Why am I feeling this way, why can’t I just feel good.” Work through it, pinpoint why you may be feeling this way. Be your own therapist. Dig a little. But don’t over analyze. Let the facts be the facts. With facts you can feel less overwhelmed.
Sturdy Yourself with Breath
I am known to hold my breath or not take proper inhale/exhales. I believe that not breathing correctly keeps feelings trapped. So I let bad thoughts and feelings out through my breath. I visualize them leaving me with every exhale and good thoughts and positive sunshine coming in with the inhale.
Sturdy Yourself with Mind Games
I made up a game called “Let’s see how far you can go.” game. When I am anxious before work or anytime I need to go somewhere I use this game to help propel me forward. It is just what it says. I see how far I can get through the day. I start with the drive. Let’s see if I can drive to work. If I feel like turning around, keep going. Let’s see if I can make it there. Once there I say, let’s see if we can try to start the day feeling like this. Then let’s see if we can go another hour, and it continues until most of the times the anxiety subsides and the game fades.
Sturdy Yourself in Song
The lyrics from the song in the beginning of this post is one of the songs on my “Sturdy Yourself” playlist. Mine is at least 100 songs long but I will give you a little taste of some of the songs on there. Maybe some will help you. I suggest you make yourself a playlist!
Age of Worry – John Mayer
Brave – Sara Bareilles
Living in the Moment – Jason Mraz
Think Good Thoughts – Colbie Caillat
Marchin On – One Republic
Darlin Do not Fear – Brett Dennen
Every Storm Runs out of Rain – Gary Allan
Life Happens – Brandon and Leah
This is just a small sampling, I have 100’s. Maybe I will post the entire list one day!
Sturdy yourself in Gratitude
I have a gratitude journal app on my phone that makes it super simple to write down the things you are grateful for. Focusing on the positive in your life is a no brainer as to why it would help eliminate negative thoughts. By taking five minutes to write down all the things you are grateful for today, you are forcing your mind down a positive path.
Sturdy Yourself with Universal Love
One of the best things I have ever signed up for is daily Notes From the Universe. A mantra I constantly repeat when things in my head or life gets crazy is “The Universe loves and supports me.” By believing that and truly accepting it, you are trusting in the Universe that it supports you no matter what and the right thing will always be done. I believe that anxiety at the heart and center of it is fear. Fear is based on not trusting and the unknown. Trust the unknown, and the Universe and know that you are part of the Universe just like every other living organism. We are one. The world is not out to get you, the Universe will support you if you trust it. I suggest you sign up for these emails. They are quite beautiful and poignant. Sign up here: Notes From the Universe
Sturdy Yourself with Positive Quotes
I have a sheet full of positive quotes or passages in books that have really helped me. I keep them altogether on one sheet, in my purse for easy access. I refer back to them whenever I need a lift. A good resource is Tiny Buddha
These are just a few of my “Sturdy Yourself” action plan items. Put together your own plan, use my ideas, use ideas that have worked for you in the past and develop your own plan of attack. We all get a little unstable sometimes but it does not mean you cannot be fixed. A wobbly leg table can be fixed so can you! This morning I was thinking of how I use to be and I would immediately turn around and go home and how weak and worse that made me. I felt bad about myself for not being able to “Sturdy Myself” and how small and hopeless I felt. I know it does not have to be like that. Like I have said time and time, anxiety is a muscle that needs to be worked out to become stronger. Every day that I sturdy myself some more, it is making me stronger. The alternative, succumbing to it all and crawling into a ball is not something I want to do again so like the song in the beginning says, I am ready to be a Hercules.