I just got power back after 24 hours, because someone hit a pole in my neighborhood. I also lost my computer profile. I am freaking exhausted. It feels like the universe is conspiring against me. But I’m still kicking. I finished my Christmas cards in the dark. I wrote a lot. I had a friend who could come and pick me up and give me a place to recharge my phone and get work done. It could always be worse. Keep looking forward, y’all. You can do it.
I can’t take full credit for this one, because my husband had to tell me this today.
As you’re making plans and trying to execute them, and then find that you are plagued by anxiety, take a moment to be brutally honest with yourself about why you may be feeling that way. Is the course of action you’ve chosen based on your conceived notions of how others will receive you? Is there something you can do to change that? In the best case scenario, what would make you feel better? Can you compromise your plans to be more in line with your own happiness? Stop and think about it. Anxiety is like a leak; follow it to its source and then figure out what to do, instead of only focusing on the puddles.
It’s easy to let your emotions get the best of you. Everyone is moving a mile a minute, completely engrossed in their own needs, desires and ambitions. Even as they all rush around you, take a few extra seconds to notice where you are and what is happening. Give others the benefit of the doubt, and remember that only you get to decide how you are going to handle a given situation. Don’t take the stress and burdens of others on your own shoulders.
This afternoon, I had an episode of anxiety laced with depression.
It wasn’t like it sometimes is, where it’s following in the wake of a runaway stress motorboat. It also didn’t descend over me like a blanket of smoke — the kind where you wake up into it and realize you can neither breathe nor see a few inches past your face.
It came on a beautiful, quiet day, when work wasn’t sucking and I wasn’t at odds with anyone. It came without any provocation, when I had been eating well and stretching and exercising and drinking lots of water. It came like a flaming toilet hurtling from outer space.
It happens. Like shit.
And it’s easy to get angry. I did, scrubbing tears off my cheeks and all but flinging them across the room. Because while one part of my brain was having a meltdown, the other part was standing over top of them going, “Dude, what is wrong with you?”
And there isn’t an answer when this happens. You can sort of take note, recognize it for what it is, but it is literally a whirlpool. And the more you fight, the more tired and aching you get.
A few reminders when you’re going through this (for you as much as me):
- You are not broken. You are not damaged goods. And accepting that means also accepting that there are no returns.
- There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. Be calm and approach someone you trust and explain the situation. Let the love in, as much as you are concerned about being “annoying” or “clingy.”
- Breathe. Just give yourself some time and some space. You are okay.
- This too shall pass.
- Remind yourself that it is only a temporary badness. Nothing bad lasts forever.
- Acknowledge that you do not deserve to feel bad just because something bad is happening around you. Your feelings are valid, yes, but it’s not somehow ‘coming to you’ to feel that way. You do not ‘have’ to feel that way.
- Love the good things in your life. Count them. Say ‘thank you’ to them. Focus on them.
- Find something to do with your hands. Whether it’s squeezing a stress ball or doodling or writing, move your hands and focus on that instead of the world.
- Once it’s done, let it die. Tomorrow is another day.
So you’re stuck at work or at a party or you’re in the middle of a crowded Chipotle, and suddenly it hits you like a summer thunderstorm: stress. Just like that, you go from ‘I think I *will* get guac, even though it’s going to cost extra’ to ‘I’m never going to be able to finish all the things I have going on right now.’ Some people may not be able to wrap their mind around that, but as someone who suffers from anxiety, it happens more often than I would like.
And while you can give people the pointers that work in the long run – exercise, meditation, the right amount of sleep, the corrective dosage of vitamin chill – sometimes that’s not going to be possible in the middle of rush hour.
So here are five methods of dealing with stress on the spot:
- Visualization and dialogue: I have found that a very helpful way of dealing with immediate attacks of stress is to imagine it as a person or object that you can talk to. Explain in no uncertain terms that you acknowledge its existence and that you will deal with it in time. Let stress stand next to you in line, but do not let it do the ordering.
- Count your breaths: You obviously can’t go into downward dog in the middle of Denny’s, but you can inhale and exhale (and you should be doing that already). My favorite count is a 7-second in and 11-second out.
- Focus on details: This is especially helpful if you can find something pleasant to focus on, like a flower or an animal. But put all your attention on an object and list as many details in your head as possible. What color is it? What size? What’s your favorite part of that object? Make up a story about it. Anything to divert your attention from the inside of your own head.
- Stockpile your favorite funny things: Jokes, vines, one-liners. You can even keep them programmed into your phone. Look at a few and have a laugh. I find humor is a quick way to distract myself. And if I don’t have anything, I force myself to smile. It works surprisingly well.
- Think of your favorite song: A happy song. Upbeat. If you can, sing it or hum it. Dance a little (like no one is watching – even if they are). If you have earbuds, listen to it on your phone. Let it take you to a better time. Enjoy it.
How do you deal with stress on the go? Tell me about it!
- This crisis you’re facing is only cracker-thin. You’re going to crush it, almost on accident, and then wonder why you were so worried.
- Everything is temporary. Love it because it is so. Let it go because it is so. Say hello and goodbye in the same breath.
- There is a swarm of gnats in your head, and even though they feel like a hundred warring soldiers, it’s just because there is so little space for your thoughts to breath. Let them out.
- Spend as little time as possible thinking about what you should or shouldn’t do and let your hands do the talking.
- Shine the spotlight in your mind at what you love and focus on those things instead of all the things moving around in the surrounding dark.
My day job recently has been…very stressful.
Sometimes, I finish the work day, and I am in a jumbled state that can only be described as “frazzled.” I cross the finish line and my legs won’t stop. I get to the end of the sentence and I can’t just put down the period and be done.
This is a very stark contrast to how I normally operate, when things are running smoothly: I’m a perfectly functioning automobile heading down life’s interstate. Oh, it’s time to change lanes? I put on my turn signal, move over and boom. Easy.
When I’m stressed out, it’s Fast and Furious, Part Katie’s-Gonna-Kill-Someone.
So I learned something very useful but surprisingly difficult to do: I take 30 minutes and only do things I want to. I close the door to my office. I cross-stitch. I listen to music. I mess around on my computer. I doodle.
I imagine you’re waiting for the ‘difficult’ part here. The activities themselves are pleasant, sure, but it’s the awareness of what is waiting on the other side of the door. There’s this tiny version of me, banging on it with both fists, saying, “Hey! Hey! There’s dinner to make! That laundry isn’t going to put itself away! You do not have time to just be hiding in your room!”
The hell I don’t.
30 minutes. Think about it. How many times have you wasted 30 minutes on an extra episode of a television show? Or hitting the snooze on the clock by your bed?
By taking the time to gather my mental marbles up and put them back in the bag where they belong, I know they aren’t getting lost. I can come at my to-do list reinvigorated.
Give it a try. You have time. I dare you.
I’ve only recently appreciated the fact that there is a lot of awesome stuff on Youtube for relaxation. I’m not even talking about the hours and hours and hours of music and meditation, both guided and musical. But there are a lot of things I thought wouldn’t be relaxing that makes me let go of anxiety and tension. Some of them may sound weird — my list includes ASMR, and there are many that believe that ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) is not actually a thing, that it is anecdotal at best.
I tend to react to this the way I do to most self-care: what works for one person may not work for another. So long as it isn’t dangerous, hurtful or illegal, you don’t owe anyone an explanation.
So here we have some of my top five channels I watch to relax.
This handcrafter does a lot of needle-felting (which I love to do), creates stuffed animals, and there are frequently links to places where you can buy the kits she uses. A lot of videos also have really pleasant music.
This is another craft channel, but this one is more based on polymer clay charms. Really cute stuff. Again, really relaxing music.
3. Nameless (don’t be alarmed on this one — the person creating the videos had their name stolen, and to protect themselves and others, it was changed)
In Japan, there are these candy-making kits where you mix together water and dry ingredients before “preparing them” in really cool ways. I’ve never tried one of these personally, because I’ve heard they can taste a little odd (sweets across the world are interpreted very differently) but the videos are really cool.
That’s right. It’s another craft one. This one centers around papercrafts – calligraphy, cardmaking,stamps, coloring. The pieces she makes are beautiful, and she has a ton of links and tutorials if you are inspired by her creations.
So this one is going to probably come off very “one of these things is not like the others” and I’m not really sure how to explain it but Bunny’s channel is really relaxing to me. Her biggest focus is on makeup, but she also reviews As Seen on TV products, takes the viewer on shopping trips, and does monthly favorites. Sometimes, it’s very high-energy, but her makeup reviews especially are very informative and make me feel very chilled out.
So how about it, guys? What channels do you watch when you’re trying to destress? I want to know! Tell me. I dare you.