Dealing with Anxiety: Long-term Maintenance

This post is Part 4 of a four-part series on anxiety. You can find some general thoughts about anxiety in the Prologue, some ideas for dealing with anxiety in the moment in Part 2, and ways to head off anxiety as it hits in Part 3. Please note I am not a medical professional. In these posts I am sharing my experiences and insights in the hopes they will help others. Seek medical help if you need it.

Dealing with your anxiety over the long term is just like any other kind of long-term solution. That is, it’s not that glamorous or exciting, it doesn’t usually have an immediate pay off and it sounds too easy. There has to be a trick, right? Getting in better shape can’t just mean exercising regularly. The key has to be a certain set of exercises, a correct time to work out, just the right sport drink or workout pants.

Most long-term maintenance is pretty simple on paper. Just a few simple steps. But those simple steps need to be put into effect daily. As is every day. And every day after that. Doesn’t seem like that should be so hard, yet somehow it is. Maybe it’s because these steps are not one-time fixes; they are new habits we need to develop. Maybe it’s because they involve a shift in mind set, in this case, permission to not be anxious. Maybe it’s that they are actions to take, and those of us who deal with anxiety tend to be head-based; we want to solve our problems by thinking our way out of them. Maybe it’s that there isn’t an immediate payoff for doing them nor is there an immediate consequence for not doing them.

I am going to share four simple thing I strive to do to manage my anxiety and build my long-term emotional health. I slip up. I forget. I get lazy. But the nice thing is all I need to do to get back on track is just start again. Continue reading

Dealing with Anxiety: Developing Your Early Warning System

This post is Part 3 of a four-part series on anxiety. You can find some general thoughts about anxiety in the Prologue and some ideas for dealing with anxiety in the moment in Part 2. Please note I am not a medical professional. In these posts I am sharing my experiences and insights in the hopes they will help others. Please seek medical help if you need it.

My anxiety attacks do not come out of the blue; it’s more like the anxiety starts low-key and builds over time – sometimes days and even weeks – until my system can’t take it anymore and – bam! – I am pacing from room to room, unable to sleep.

It’s easy to convince myself that am not anxious early on in this process. Everyone is stressed, right? It’s “just” work or money or my health – no big deal. I can handle it. Which I can, if you define “handle” as “squash it down and ignore it until I make myself sick.” I used to take a lot of pride in being able to “play hurt” and keep going until I absolutely couldn’t deal with it anymore. Continue reading

Dealing Anxiety: In the Moment

This post is Part 2 of a four-part series on anxiety. You can find some general thoughts about anxiety in the Prologue. Please note I am not a medical professional. In these posts I am sharing my experiences and insights in the hopes they will help others. Please seek medical help if you need it.

I rarely have anxiety attacks, at least severe ones. For me anxiety is more a constant companion, a white noise that grinds me down and colors all my decisions and actions. Every so often, though, it all becomes too much and my heart races, my stomach churns and my throat tightens.  I pace and can’t concentrate and sometimes I even am tempted to emit a high pitched moan-whine-groan hybrid noise. Not pleasant. Continue reading

Dealing with Anxiety: The Prologue

This post Part 1 of a four-part series on anxiety. Please note I am not a medical professional. In these posts I am sharing my experiences and insights in the hopes they will help others. Please seek medical help if you need it.

The last month or so has been stressful for me, and it’s only ramping up. The details are not important right now. Stress is a reality in everyone’s life – it never actually seems to leave, it just ebbs and flows. And the particular stressors I am dealing with are nothing new for me. It’s almost like we are becoming old friends. Well, maybe not friends. More like familiar enemies.

Continue reading

Inner Critic Doll

Inner Critic DollSometimes you get a nudge from the universe. And sometimes that message comes in the form of a cute, squishy doll.

The past few weeks, I have been wrestling with my Inner Critic. I used to think of the Inner Critic in terms of something that got in the way of my writing by stifling my creativity. But creativity is more than just producing a story or a painting or a song. I’ve always believed that – or at least said I believed that – but I lately I have been developing a deeper appreciation of how living life and moving through the world is a creative act. And how my Inner Critic effects the way I do that every day.

I think of my Inner Critic as the part of me that is working overtime to keep me “safe.” And not in a good way. It’s almost like the Inner Critic was once burned on the stove and is now determined to keep me away from all stoves – ever, for the rest of me life – oh my god watch out for the stove! – using whatever means possible. The Inner Critic is heavily invested in what others think, winning favor, scoring points, gathering things, meeting expectations and being in control.

The Inner Critic isn’t all bad; its job is to keep us in check. Continue reading

Portrait of a Young Six

One of the first questions we were asked in our enneagram training last fall was some version of “What’s your first memory of being your type?” I found it an interesting way to see how the different types reacted, often at a very young age, to similar early experiences. It also helped me get – deep down – how my type has been influencing how I move through the world for a long, long time. I found the simple answer to that simple question very enlightening, and from their reactions, I think my fellow trainees did too.

I first answered that question over six months ago, but just recently I started thinking about my answer again. Right now, to be honest, I can’t remember what got me thinking about it, or what my sudden insight was. I remember the flash that came with the insight – it truly was like a cartoon light bulb over my head – but no details. I have thought and remembered and pondered and rolled those things around in my head too much the past couple of weeks for me to remember what’s the original thought and what I have added on sense then.

But let me start with the story I shared in answer to that question. Compared to some early childhood stories, it’s pretty mild. Continue reading

Toxic Jokes or Collaborative Humor?

My friend Mike, over at Ten Thousand Pots of Soup had a great post last week about humor.

As someone who has never been the fastest, or the strongest, the most talented or the best looking, I’ve always gotten by with a quick wit and the ability to stay ahead of people. I have always felt underestimated, and therefore I was trying to prove (at least to myself) that I was the smartest and the funniest.  And if I was able to make a joke that went over people’s heads, that just made me feel all the better.

This is familiar to me. I have always (and too often still do) used humor as a defense. Continue reading