Saturday, May 31, 2014

[Anxiety Series Part 1] Blast Your Way to Anxiety Management!!

A Preface

When I began to see my therapist, Samine, almost two years ago, I thought I was going because I lacked basic life skills--one of the many consequences of neglecting my sobriety for so long. 
However, Samine immediately recognized that although my Bipolor II was being managed beautifully by escitalopram, I was a woman deeply embroiled in a battle with anxiety.  I fought these additional labels until this past month.  I had definitely been doing the work, but I've only recently embraced the label:

I suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

The other label I've recently embraced is Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) but that's another post for another day.

I've been wanting to write a post on how I've learned to successfully manage my anxiety for a while in case what has worked for me might be of use to someone else.  I've created a sort of flow chart as I deal with my anxieties in a very conscious, methodical manner.  

*Disclaimer:  I am not a professional clinician.  I am only a professional me.  This is not the voice of a learned expert speaking.  This is just me telling my story. 

Building A Sober Base

First the natural......  It would have been very difficult to start addressing my anxiety issues without first treating my Bipolor Disorder.  When I'm sick, as I like to refer to being in the throws of crazy, my mind lacks clarity in general.  Ordered, organized thoughts are nearly impossible.  Perspective is severely skewed and riddled with the ridiculous.  

.......then the spiritual.  Before sobriety, I was also not actively walking with the Lord.  The Holy Spirit and the Word of God have been critical in my recovery for there is not always a medicinal remedy or a nifty flow chart to make the discomfort magically disappear.  

Many times I must simply find strength in God's promises or cry out for peace and mercy.  Other times I divert my focus by engaging my entire being in total praise--praising God for the mighty wonder that He is.

After these issues had been addressed I began to learn how to live again! 
 I began to thrive by using my Anxiety Blaster Method!  Check it out! 
Unsorted Anxiety

Before getting sober, I was drowning in Unsorted Anxiety.  Unsorted Anxiety is thoughts or feelings that are running amok, accumulating unchecked, negatively affecting one's every day life and at times paralyzing the individual, possibly  figuratively and or literally.

I have learned that remaining in a state full of Unsorted Anxiety is very unhealthy and dangerous in the sense that as unattended issues began to pile up, the sense of anxiety seems to grow exponentially.  It is paramount that one learn to recognize the signs that there is Unsorted Anxiety hovering about so that it can be put through the Blaster immediately!

After Unsorted Anxiety is spotted, the first step is to determine whether you are dealing with Realistic or Unrealistic Anxiety.  

  • Realistic Anxiety--anxiety that is appropriate for the activity or situation such as an important job interview, a date with a big crush, getting ready to sky dive, waiting for biopsy results, having to spend time with someone who makes you very uncomfortable, etc.
  • Unrealistic Anxiety--anxiety that is not appropriate for the activity or situation such as difficulty getting out of bed, choosing an outfit, washing a pile of dishes, attending a casual social gathering, etc.

Blasting Realistic Anxiety

First, let's talk about  Blasting Realistic Anxiety.  So, you're hanging out one Sunday evening when you suddenly perceive some Unsorted Anxiety.  Right away you start to Blast and conclude that it's because you have a major job interview the next morning at 8:00am.  You quickly decide that you are experiencing Realistic Anxiety--now what?

Samine taught me something that sounds so simple, yet I'd never tied it into managing my anxiety.  Samine taught me to plan ahead.  She is amazing that way.  The woman keeps brand new little toys for both genders on hand for birthday parties that pop up unexpectedly, for crying out loud!  But, it's genius.  Whenever possible, I now plan ahead and it has done wonders for my anxiety.

I've put my own spin on that little gem from Samine and I call it Setting Myself Up for Success.  You know yourself better than anyone.  You know what makes you tick, what your triggers are and when you're at your worst where anxiety is concerned.  

Planning ahead is one way to set yourself up for success, but take a second to brainstorm as to how you could, for example, set yourself up to have a calm successful morning just prior to your big job interview and arrive calm, cool, collected, with minimal non-interview related anxiety.

Personally, I would need to be sure to choose my outfit the night before and it would have to be tried and true.  If I was wearing pantyhose, I'd be sure to have 2 extra pair in case I had an attack of the snags.  I might pack my bag the night before or prep my breakfast.  I might fill my gas tank beforehand.  I won't be using tomorrow to test out a new hairdo or new makeup application!  And the list could go on and on.  

God bless those days when the stars align and all your hard work and planning come to fruition and you have the most perfect, best day ever!  But--that is usually not the case.  Murphy's Law is usually fully functioning and after you've done all you can do, after you have Blasted your way through all your Unsorted Anxiety, sometimes all you can do is push through the remaining discomfort, reach out and snatch your goal!  

I have found such a peace and satisfaction in simply achieving my goal!  For so long I would never even attempt to begin to take the first step toward a goal let alone achieve a goal.  Anxiety lies to us and tells us that the journey will be too painful or that we'll never reach our goal or it makes us wonder if reaching the goal will be worth it--will the anxiety even leave once the goal is achieved??  

All of that is a big fat lie!  

Achieving a goal, be it as small as getting from your bed into the shower or be it as big as acing a huge job interview--achieving a goal feels awesome and each little victory increases your Blasting powers and boosts your confidence.  Soon, you'll be reaching for the moon!

Blasting Unrealistic Anxiety

On Sunday, I caught myself feeding off of some Unrealistic Anxiety.  We had plans to join our neighbors for a barbecue late in the afternoon.  I had completed a ton of the items on my mental to-do list, but was starting to feel uncomfortable (aka anxiety) about stopping what I was doing to head over to the gathering.  

This was definitely Unrealistic Anxiety.  It did not make sense to have anxiety about going to my friend's house without having completed the laundry.  It did not make sense that I had this overwhelming desire to mop the living room floor before leaving in order to feel "right." It was time to Blast! and discover what the Core Issues were--why was I feeling this pressure?  Why did I feel like I was running out of time?  Stress! Stress!!  Anxiety!  ANXIETY!!!  

Identifying Core Issues is paramount.  Unrealistic Anxiety feeds on confusion and smoke and mirror type of thoughts.  Once you figure out what is at the root of your discomfort, you can actually manage it.

My Core Issues in this situation were:
1. My baby had been sick the week prior and had really set me back in my cleaning routine.  The "filth" was getting to be too much and I worry about it becoming so much that it's unmanageable. 

2. My husband was off for four days straight Memorial Day weekend.  I wanted to utilize that extra help with the kids to its maximum capacity.

3. I had this driving thought that I would feel euphoric if I got every single thing done before heading to my friend's house.

Next I had to ask myself, have I needlessly introduced any of the elements of my Core Issues into the situation?  And can any of these elements or issues be eliminated?

1. Life happens and so what I got a little behind on my house work when my kid got sick.  It's not the end of the world.  I had gotten a lot of cleaning done that day and if I was realistic--my situation was still far from unmanageable.  Boom!  I blasted that unreasonable concern out of the scenario. <breathe>

2. The truth of the matter is that I had thus far fully utilized my husband's presence.  This was just going overboard.  At this point I would be feeding my anxiety at the detriment of my family and friends.  It was better for them that I be reasonable and join them at the barbeque.  They would not benefit from my hanging up all of the spring clothes and putting the winter ones in storage. 

3. This is my most damaging habit if I'm not careful.  My anxiety can cause me to become a dog with a bone.  I become a woman driven--like a Crusader with a cause and it can be quite unpleasant for those around me, completely exhausting and ultimately quite ungratifying for me as my goal of euphoric accomplishment is almost always unattainable. 

Now I needed a Coping Plan to reach my goal of arriving at the barbecue on time.  I'd been able to either eliminate all the Unrealistic Anxieties or to pare them down to Realistic ones.  (For example, I was running late because of my cleaning crusade.  It was reasonable to have some anxiety about running late.)  
The Anxiety Blaster
I set myself up for success by sending my husband ahead with the kids so that I could concentrate on getting ready without interruption.  I threw my hair up into a cute ponytail instead of washing it during my shower which would have taken much longer. I skipped eye makeup since my dark glasses would cover my eyes anyway.  

I had a little difficulty choosing my outfit, but I pushed through my discomfort and ultimately reached my goal of attending what ended up being a delightful barbecue.  That seemingly small success is HUGE for me, for there was a time that I would not have made it to that event at all.

It has taken more than a year's worth of practice to learn how to stop the little obsessions that tend to get in the way of Formulating a Coping Plan.  I used to obsess over details connected to my goal that were completely inconsequential such as having the most elaborate hair style, the perfect outfit, have the kids look a specific way, etc.

The healing and satisfaction that comes with each victory keeps pushing me along.  I'm completely intrigued by the seemingly endless possibilities that come from doing the work.  Getting a handle on these different little areas has not only increased my quality of life, but also the quality of life of the ones I love.  I plan to spend the rest of my life attempting to get this right!

Now won't you please Holla Back! in the comments and let me know if you think the Anxiety Blaster Method might work for you or share your tips for Blasting out of the clutches of anxiety.  I wish you all a peaceful, easy going weekend.  All my crazy crazy love....