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.
“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.
And the voice in your head should not sound like Simon Cowell. The worst thing you can do for yourself is attach negative judgment to the way you are feeling. Has any of this ever sounded like you? (Cue critical Simon Cowell’s, British accented voice)
– Why am I feeling like this when I felt great yesterday, I will never get better
– Why can’t I just be happy?
– Why am I feeling like this, what is wrong with me
Give yourself a break! Look at it this way, when you are feeling happy and joyous do you sit there and say “Why am I feeling happy?” Do you analyze the fact that yesterday you did not feel as happy but today you do? No you just feel happy and you go with it. Other feelings and emotions should be no different. Feel them, go with them. Fighting against them only makes them stronger. Ride it out without judgment. Instead try speaking compassionately to yourself. Tell yourself it is okay to feel this way, it is normal and emotions are ever changing and what you feel today will not necessarily be true tomorrow.
It has been said that what you resist, persists. So why not just sit with your emotions. Don’t try to force the feeling away because you know what usually ends up happening? You realize you cannot force it away and then start more judgment on yourself for not being able to make yourself feel better.
In my experience not dwelling on how I feel or judging it and just letting it be actually usually makes the undesirable emotion seem less strong. I use to go into frenzy when I felt anxious especially after a prolonged period of progress. I immediately thought I was going backwards and that this proved I would never get better and I judged myself so harshly and the judgment is what ended up sending me backwards, not the anxious feeling I had for a day.
I am not saying dismiss your feelings. I am only suggesting not attaching negative thoughts and judgment to them. Learn to live alongside of them. You may have moments of depression, panic, anxiety your entire life but the way you react to them can greatly change your experience with these conditions. Treating them like an enemy will do you no good.
You feel depressed? Ok feel depressed, you feel anxious, panicky, and fearful, so then feel them, truly feel them and let them be. Like my favorite author and Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh says (paraphrased), smile through your negative feelings. For every time you smile through them you lessen their strength. If you try to run from your pain, there is no way out.
So feel, breath and smile and don’t judge!
Lady Gaga song, yes. But not the inspiration for the title. No disrespect Ms.Gaga.
The inspiration actually comes from my therapist and a conversation we had last week. The question: Am I hardwired for anxiety? Was I, in a sense, born this way?
See my time in the womb may have been less than perfect. My mother was under a lot of stress due to a personal situation going on in her life. Outsiders had voiced their very loud opinions to abort me due to the circumstances and I wonder if tiny little fetus me could absorb that kind of energy. Did I sense that others were trying to demolish me before I truly existed? Could I have picked up on her stressful energy in utero? Did that paint a picture of an unsafe world to enter into? Her labor was no walk in the park either. Perhaps I was rebelling against coming into the world that felt unsafe because I kicked and kicked and bruised her ribs and made a fuss in there!
There is a lot of research and studies out there about this topic. What the womb can feel, pick up on and how much the mother’s state when pregnant can affect the child’s disposition for mood disorders such as anxiety, depression, ocd, etc. I am not going to get into all the research and debate either side but it is just something to think about.
But here is the thing. Even if I was “born this way” it doesn’t mean I am forever bound this way. Whether you are chemically imbalanced or a series of events or patterned thinking brought you to your current state I truly believe the brain can be re-trained. That it can be re-conditioned. There is also many studies on this which I also won’t go into. Is it easy? Heck no! Does it take A LOT of work, patience, non-judgement of yourself and compassion for yourself, definitely. But it is worth it.
I know that I have a series of destructive thought patterns and a tendency to ruminate which gets me in a bad way. I can see how my thoughts have been conditioned over many years that have contributed to my anxiety. The thing about feelings is, it is IMPOSSIBLE to have a feeling without a thought. It may happen so fast it seems seamless but your feelings are a direct response of something you think. Feelings cannot happen on their own without a correlating thought.This often comforts me when I am feeling particularly judgemental about something I am feeling. I think back to the thought that may have provoked it and then I work on disproving the thought and working through the thought process that got me to that feeling rather than judging the feeling. But since thought patterns have been so engraved into your being, you probably have been thinking a certain way for years, it will not be an easy undo.
I like to implement to good ol’ stop and replace method. Whenever I see myself falling into a thought pattern that statistically has led me into an anxiety frenzy I envision a giant red STOP sign and replace it with positive thought. Sometimes if the anxiety is bad I am stopping and replacing every 5 seconds but remember what I said in my first blog about your anxiety muscle? You have to keep exercising it before it gets stronger. Just like a new work-out routine, it is hard at first, you may not see immediate results, but keep at it and it will come. With time I am down to like one red stop sign a day! I dream of a world where no red stops signs need to appear in my mind’s eye and it is just green light, go!
So even if I entered the world anxious, and I was set up to be anxious, doesn’t mean I cannot overcome it. Maybe you were chemically set up that way because of genetics, or your situations have led you to be this way, or you are not even sure how or why, just remember you do not have to be bound. The brain is miraculous and has capabilities to heal itself more than we know and it just takes some work.
As a closing thought, I know that working hard on it is exhausting, especially when you feel so defeated already. Tired, apathetic and like you have been in an uphill battle everyday of your life. Don’t think I don’t have days where I am tired of fighting against my mind. That is okay. I just hope you find reasons to push through. And if you can’t I will help you find all the beautiful reasons why it is worth it.
I have always had this thing about Tuesdays. Let me break it down for you.
Mondays, people like to hate on Monday but I find Monday to be refreshing. You are relaxed from the weekend. Mind is clear. Ok I laughed as I typed that. You are as relaxed and clear minded as one with anxiety can hope to be. It is a fresh start to the week, no full work week to have banged you down into the ground like a game of “Smack a Mole.
Wednesday, it is hump day. You are halfway there. Downward stretch
Thursday, Thirsty Thursdays. People go out. People feel relaxed because they know there is only one more day left to go. It holds a lot of promise.
Friday, I don’t even need to explain this one.
Saturday and Sunday, Most of us don’t have to be at work. Enough said.
But then there is Tuesday. It seemingly has no redeeming qualities. It is not a fresh start. It is not halfway; it is right at the point where you are still climbing uphill with the weight of Monday on your shoulders. It is blah. Just kind of there taking up space until you get to the hump and then down to the weekend.I make it a rule to do something fun on Tuesdays. Give it some life.
What does this have to do with anxiety? Well whenever I am having one of those days, weeks, months when you just feel detached. Kind of blah, you are there and you are doing things but you are not truly engaged as you could be. I say “I feel like a Tuesday”. I bring this up because you might see me say it throughout the life of this blog. I don’t want to confuse you. So to recap: “I feel like a Tuesday” = blah. Everybody got it?
One of the things I use to struggle with was saying out loud that I felt anxious or depressed because those words hold so much weight. They hold a lot of stigma as well. Unfair stigma but such is the world. So saying I feel like a Tuesday took some of the weight off. And the thing is, Tuesdays turn into Wednesdays that turn into Thursdays, etc. The point is just because I felt like a Tuesday today, eventually I would feel like a Thursday or a Saturday, and sometimes a Monday. It is impermanent. And knowing that the feeling is just a feeling and it will break also took some of the power and weight out of it.
So if you too struggle with labeling what you are feeling anxiety or depression or whatever the word I encourage you to give it a name. Giving it a name, especially a silly one, will help treat it more like a pest that will come and go ( like Tuesdays) rather than this permanent state of being with scary things attached to it. You can then say things like ” Ugh Pesky Paula showed up again today, I am not going to feed her thus she will not grow” Or “the Boogey Man came out from under my bed last night and is lingering around but soon enough he will go back under the bed” It is important to note these things may be best said in your head and not out loud 🙂
Now make sure to do something fun this fine Tuesday to celebrate the day with no redeeming qualities and put all the other days to shame!