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.
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.
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.