Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Take it Down a Notch!

This year has been a real whopper. My anxiety about the state of the world has been through the roof. Even more so, my anxiety about the way we treat each other on the internet, and how that bleeds over into how we treat each other in real life. 

Because, actually, many of us interact MORE with each other on the internet than we do with people in the flesh.

I try to practice good media hygiene. I try to only engage when I have something clear and effective to say. I think about another person’s perspective when I am trying to convince them of mine. I try to shy away from ad hominem attacks. 

(Though sometimes I have to write out the attacks and then erase them. Calling someone a buttfaced douchecanoe can be eminently pleasing and rewarding. It rarely, however, has the desired effects.)

I decided to make a list for myself of things that I can do to help manage my anxiety about the world because, let’s face it, when the anxiety strikes, it’s good to have an easy list of things which will help us cope.

Paper, pens
There’s a reason I’m not saying ‘laptop’ or telephone. Anxiety thrives on disconnection. Believe me when I say to you that you need to connect with something PHYSICAL. Pushing a pen over paper (whether it’s to write out your feelings or to doodle or draw) can be greatly cathartic. 

Connecting with your inner flow, your inner thoughts, can help you shift attention positively inward. TURN OFF NOTIFICATIONS ON YOUR DEVICES. Tell people who need to reach you how to contact you. Everyone else can wait. 

Not people who you know are self-centered, or people who are going to push your buttons. SAFE people. People who are there for you, just as you are there for them. 

A friend of mine told me about her two-minute dumps (and no, we’re not talking about poop). She has a group of friends with whom she has a pact: when they are feeling ovewhelmed, they can call each other and do a two minute emotional dump. Set a timer, get it all out as quickly as possible. Don’t leave anything in there. It’s like a colon cleanse for your brain. 

Often it gets pretty comical by the end because we realize that we’re trying to do too much, process too much, solve too much, and our minds are like magpies, picking up any shiny emotional thing that crosses our path. Then, let your friend do her 2-minute dump. Sometimes listening to someone else’s problems actually gives you perspective on your own. 

First— don’t throw things at me for mentioning this. OR, go outside and DO throw things. My favorite way to exercise is kickboxing, where in my mind I beat up on all the villains of the world and of my thoughts. 

The first rule of emotional exercise is that if you don’t feel like doing it, that’s usually a sign that you NEED to do it. 

If you’re not a regular exerciser, go for a walk. Make yourself concentrate on certain things— maybe it’s sounds; maybe it’s colors, or textures (yes, I’m telling you to go feel things). There’s a practice called ‘grounding’ which sounds kind of weird, but I’ve tried it before and it’s super helpful. Take off your shoes. Go outside and walk in the grass. If you feel so moved, lay in the grass, or in the sand, or in the snow. Get contact with the ground. Try and concentrate on feeling gravity in your limbs. 

Crafting, cooking, coffee
Drink a beverage of your choice. Pull out some crafting materials. Don’t have materials? Steal some from the kids. Fold paper fans. Do some knitting. Work on your kitten drawing skills. 

Cook up a huge batch of something which you can share with someone else (there’s always someone not feeling well, stressed, busy, struggling. Share your food with other people. They will be thankful, and you get the emotional boost from compassion). 

Do something which takes some concentration, but is enjoyable. Aren’t crafty? Take your own advice and TRY something new.

Salon, spa, or at home relaxation
One of my favorite things is having my hair shampooed at the hairdresser. I get my hair colored every three weeks, and I’m pretty sure that it’s only 1/2 because I’m 50% grey. The other half is having someone rub my head

But, you don’t have to spend money to take care of yourself or your body. Take some time to do your own toenails, or to rub lotion in your hands. Do it with intention. 

Go for the low-hanging fruit. Something you can do easily. I know that we all are over-committed these days. But maybe it’s because we’re over-committed to things that don’t feed our souls. Ask ME to bake something for a fundraiser, and I’ll do it grumblingly. Ask me to submit images for your Instagram account, or to proofread your flyer, and I’ll have it done in two shakes of a baby goat’s tail. 

Do what comes easy to you, and what you enjoy. If things lose meaning for you, or you’re ready to move on, the move on. You don’t have to be the energizer bunny, and you don't have to do ALL THE THINGS. But doing SOME of the things can help you to feel connected and grounded.

Whatever you choose to do— realize it doesn’t all help all of the time, and if something isn’t working for you, try something new. Of course, if you feel like your anxiety is unmanageable, it is probably time to speak with your primary care provider and find a path for dealing with it. There’s no shame in anxiety disorders or panic attacks. But know that there ARE treatments which are helpful and effective, and that you don’t have to feel frightened and alone with it.


Mandy Farmer said...

A Big YES to the paper and pen. I love my laptop, but there is something so soothing and powerful about actually writing pen to paper. I hope it isn't completely lost the further we delve into this technologically advanced world.

dusty508 said...

Great commentary, the outside natural world is a wonderful drug, but also when ya need to kick off steam a good kickboxing or body combat works for me, oh a good cross ountry ride on my horse helps to , A mom of three and still going strong at 63