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

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Toolkit: It’s Hard to Be The Beth

I am not going to lie. Sometimes it just plain feels good to wallow in self-pity for a bit. The paycheck doesn’t cover the bills. Things didn’t go my way at a meeting. Work sucked. Maybe I feel a little sick or I don’t have cable so I didn’t see the first of the final episodes of Breaking Bad. All I want to do is sit down and have nice little temper tantrum.

The thing is, I am a grown up and kicking feet and yelling frowned on – or worse yet, laughed at –  when done by an adult. Still, it sounds so good, doesn’t it?

I maintain it’s perfectly fine and healthy and normal to throw yourself a pity party now and then. The trick is not building and moving into an International House of Self-Pity.

In my family we use a phrase to remind ourselves with humor to step back from the brink of full blown self-pity.

It’s hard to be the Beth

Continue reading

Toolkit: Look Away From The Other Cat

It was a long weekend. The third one in a row that involved too little sleep, too much driving and junk food and (for this introvert) too much face time with too many people. They were all good in their way and I am glad for all of them, but today I am feeling the late hours and strange beds. My back hurts. My head feels so full of other people’s sorrows and triumphs and words I can barely remember my own. My refrigerator is empty and my laundry basket and trash can are full.

I am grumpy.

Continue reading

Toolkit: Hold Them Lightly

It was about 4 years ago when I first heard the term. I was sitting in the living room of a pastor colleague who was temporarily home bound, recovering from surgery. She was in that horrible place of being well enough to be bored but not well enough to be doing anything. She was a woman of action and getting things done. She liked her committees and planning sessions. Cut off from those things, the cabin fever was wearing on her. I went just to chat and break up the tedium of recovery.

I was in the middle of helping a church through a major change. Change always brings stress and anxiety and when an organization or family or relationship changes the stress and anxiety cause conflicts.  Or rather conflicts. Little fights over who should sit where or what will be served at a meal. Big fights over who gets to call the shots and why we have to this or that or even any of it at all.

Continue reading

What Tools Are In Your Kit?

“We all need a tool kit,” my new co-worker said to me last week.

Things had been hectic. There had been staffing changes, the beginning of Lent, and three fairly big events to navigate. But toward the end of last week she and I found ourselves alone in the office. The dust was settling and we got a chance just to talk.  The conversation came around to job-related stresses and various coping mechanism. Phrases that help us “stay on course” and “do the right thing” and maybe even call yourself back when you go astray.

She shared the phrase “put it in your basket” which they had used at her last job. When something hurtful or stressful has happened you don’t have to keep wrestling with it. If it is too much of a burden, you can put it in your basket. You haven’t gotten rid of it, but you aren’t obsessing, either. It’s there, in the basket, and when you are ready, you can pick it up again.

Her comment got me thinking about my emotional tool kit. What is it that I go to again and again? How do I help myself cope? What can I share with others?  As I explore and begin to identify the tools in my tool kit, I will share them here. If you have tools you’d like to share, please feel free to share them in the comments below