The last couple of weeks have been really stressful. I can tell I’m burned out by my heightened anxiety, the symptoms of which include but are not limited to exhaustion, sleeplessness, listlessness, tummy troubles, and headaches. I’m having social anxiety of the “no one likes me, omg why did I say that, I can’t talk to people I will just stay home forever watching New Girl reruns” type, and self-abusive anxiety of the “I will never have a partner because I am so weird and no one will ever be in love with me I am the worst” type. Neither feel great. Both are just thought-streams, spirals of words and feelings that are not based in any actual experiential evidence or reality.
I’m grateful that I can identify that. I am no expert, but I do think I’m at a point where I can observe those thought patterns, recognize them for what they are (non-reality, self-limiting anxiety spirals, fear-based meanness brought on by emotional exhaustion), and take actions to feel better. I don’t always do a great job but I was so relieved last week when shit hit fan that I have these tools in this toolbox of self-care and -compassion that I’ve been storing up for the last decade. They live in a beautiful chest in my brain and body, and I just have to access them–which is in itself not always an easy task.
So here are some of my tools. Maybe you’ll find them useful as well.
- Sitting in a hospital waiting room, trying to stay calm before a visit: chanting whatever mantras come to mind, using finger counting method, breathing deeply.
- Be kind to others. My stress does not trump theirs. We are all hurting in some way and compassion is contagious.
- Seek silence, even when (especially when) the urge to block out thoughts arises.
- Take a walk with a friend. (Sometimes you are the friend.)
- Sometimes you are the enemy. Talk gently to yourself, especially when your mind-voice (the anxiety voice, not the “still small voice” of truth and love) is being, frankly, rude. Treat yourself like a sweet baby angel and give yourself some love.
- Get lots of sleep. Maintain bedtime routine. Take melatonin or another (non-habit-forming) sleep aid to get to sleep when pounding heart threatens to keep you awake all night. If you wake up too early, get up and practice yoga, drink tea, read a book: do something kind for yourself.
- Listen to your body. Ask it what it needs and try to provide it.
- Ask for help. When people ask how they can help me, I tend to ask for food because I hate to cook when I’m stressed. I have friends who will walk and talk with me, ask me what I’m going to do for myself, and take me out for distractions when needed. These friends are love. People often want to help but need to be asked. Don’t be afraid to do it!