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.
A blizzard is on its way where I live and it is reminding me of a great lesson a past blizzard had taught me. There are opportunities for lessons everywhere, even in the weather. It goes like this…
There was a time when I could not be alone. My anxiety and panic was new, and it was terrifying and I required a constant rotation of friends and family by my side forcing me to avoid my scary thoughts and feelings and use them as false sense of security. I was unable to feel safe by myself. I feared my thoughts would put me over the edge, that I would go crazy, and I needed someone always. I was single at the time living alone so this meant spending a lot of time crashing on the couches of others. The nights I did have to spend home were torture. The funny part is, this couch hopping actually made me feel worse because I would tell myself that this would make me feel better and naturally it didnt. They couldnt jump in my head and untangle the mess of thoughts and they could not go in and soothe my frazzled nerves. So it actually frustrated me because deep down I knew I had to learn to be my own safe harbor. I knew that nothing anybody could say or do or how many people I surrounded myself with could fix my panic and anxiety disorder. The only thing it did bring me was a tiny sliver of peace knowing if I went crazy someone was there to make sure it didnt get out of hand.
And then a blizzard was coming. A state of emergency, snowed in for days, stock up on essentials, better get a good shovel and snow boots, hell of a storm. I knew I would have to be alone. I had to do this and what better way then when you cannot leave and nobody can get to you. It was exposure therapy at its finest. I could in theory go be snowed in at someone else’s house but I decided that this had to be done. I told myself that if it broke me, if I went into a crazy anxiety panic downward spiral from it then at least I tried. I faced the fear of being alone with my thoughts and unpleasant feelings.
And something miraculous happened. When I did not have the option to run, when I did not have the option of calling someone over, or getting in my car to go somewhere I was forced to deal. And I had zero anxiety or panic the entire three days. I mean ZERO. In fact it was a turning point for me. Those three days restored my confidence in myself and my strength and let me know I can overcome this, I can learn to deal. I am stronger than I think. Facing the fear shed light on it, it was not so scary. Having the options in the past made it easy for me to crumble and cave. Having no choice was like a switch in my brain went off.
When the snow outside started to melt, slowly so did my symptoms. Facing a fear head on and the regaining of confidence from doing so is a powerful thing. I diminished it to nothing just by facing it. That was the end of running to other people’s house. I slowly started not getting anxious on my drive home from work knowing all the co-workers and conversation and busyness of the day would be gone and it would just be me. I didn’t fear weekends without plans, or weekends with plans. It really was the start of the healing. And that little bit of confidence gave me the strength back I needed to do other things to help the healing process that I was too burned out in the anxiety cycle to focus on prior.
Is there something in your life you are avoiding or running from that you can attempt to face? Think about it, even if it is small it is worth a try. You may relapse at times ( I did at certain points) but to less severity and still with the knowledge that I have and can get past it with real life proof of that.
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!)
“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.
I don’t know about you, but I imagine most anxiety sufferers are with me on this, most of my anxiety and anxious thoughts come from future, unknown, things/events that may or may not happen ( they usually don’t happen in my experience). The majority of my anxiety is anticipatory.
And sometimes it is about the past. Rarely if ever is it about the present moment happening live in front of my very eyes. When it is about the past it is usually about me getting upset about the fact that I have had anxiety breakdowns and then I tend to judge myself and then it jumps forward to the “What if” I get so bad again? I cannot remember a time I was anxious about what was happening. I live anywhere from 1 day to 50 years in the future. I rarely live in the day I am in ( sad). Even at my worst when I experienced depersonalization and extreme anxiety and panic to where I could not function, I still was focused ahead thinking “What if I feel like this forever?” Instead of tackling the triggers and symptoms of the day I was focused on the “forever” thought which led to more panic and anxiety. Rookie mistake.
Visualization techniques really work for me. So for times when I find myself anxious about something not happening, that may never happen, or has happened already in the past, I visualize the signs you see at the mall on the directory with the arrow that says “You Are Here”. It is how I remind myself that I am right here, I am not in the future nor the past, this is where I live. Right here. I had to do this a lot today, and that is okay. Having a visual helps me focus on something other than thoughts. Anytime I would find my mind wandering forward I had to repeatedly say ” You Are Here” and snap my focus back to only the things going on right now, right here. The past is gone, I cannot change that. The future can be greatly impacted by my outlook and perspective today so the very best anyone can ever do for themselves is make themselves awesome and strong in the present, and it will carry over into the future.
This works for me, maybe it will work for you when runaway mind is determined to predict the future and get there much faster than necessary. You Are Here
Today I am having a day. I did not sleep well last night and being tired and not well rested is an anxiety trigger for me. My defenses get low; I don’t feel mentally strong to implement my anxiety fighting tools and tricks I have gained over time. I feel defenseless and usually my first thought is to turn my car around, go home and ride it out under the comfort of my blankets. History has proven that this tactic actually makes things worse because then what happens is I feel bad about myself for having to do that. I worry about missing work. I then think “I can’t just stay home every time I feel anxious.” Trust me I did that once, went home every time, and it did me no good. In fact it made the anxiety stronger as I let it win.
So the other option is to ride it out. Feel uncomfortable and remind myself that I most likely will not feel this way tomorrow because I did not feel it the day before or the day before that. And if I do feel this way tomorrow it is okay too, because I know I can get through it. Is it uncomfortable, oh yes. But it is not forever. I think what use to keep me in a bad cycle is that when I felt this way I assumed I would feel this way tomorrow and the next day and the next day and forever! I would be essentially making a date with anxiety telling myself I would feel it tomorrow. And then of course I did, because I was telling myself I would. One of my favorite songs is by an artist named Brett Dennen. The song is called “Darlin Do Not Fear.” And one of the lyrics says “ Darlin do not fear, what you don’t really know.” And I repeat that to myself often. I do not know what tomorrow will bring or how I will feel so why should I fear it right now, in the present moment.
So today although I feel “squirmy” with anxiety and fatigued I can only think about today and how to power through and do the best I can. Like the quote in the title says, not every day is good but there is something good in every day and you can focus on that or you can focus on why it is not good. So today I decided to focus on other things. I wrote in my gratitude journal, forcing me to find the good in today. I made a massage appointment for later and I will make sure to meditate when I get home. It doesn’t mean I am not still anxious as hell but I am deciding to let it be. Let the feelings run through me and don’t fight them, judge them or try hard to combat them. Let it be for today and hopefully with a little rest tonight, tomorrow will be better.