It has been nearly two weeks since my last bout of anxiety consumed me and shook me to my core. Last Sunday, after dwelling on what triggered the anxiety this time and questioning my sanity, something changed. To borrow a quote from Twelve Step groups, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. Just like an alcoholic or an addict, I “relapsed” long before the actual anxiety attacks occurred, as I had allowed myself to neglect my own well-being by not getting enough sleep, skipping my planned workouts, letting negative feelings and thoughts fester, not following a healthy diet, etc.. When I realized what was happening, I kept telling myself that I would get back on track the next day, but the next day, when the bad habits persisted, I would tell myself that I would start over the next day, and the vicious cycle continued until I was in the throes of some of the worst anxiety attacks I have had since my world imploded two years ago. I am all for having another chance to get it right, but too often, I am guilty of using that umpteenth chance as a way to put off doing what I know I need to do now. A week ago today, I decided that the time to get back on track was right now.
In the past week, I have put actions behind my lofty goals and words, and I find myself in a good place again. As I made my way through the week, I did so with the determination that I would put in place daily habits to address my physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs, because when I do, the anxiety and depression no longer take up residence in my body, mind, soul, or spirit. When they do try to nudge their way back in, I am able to address them and send them on their way before the overwhelm me. I absolutely know what to do; I just need to do it consistently and genuinely, as going through the motions won’t suffice. I paid attention to what worked for me this week, and in no certain order, here’s my guide to getting back and moving ahead:
- Begin the day with some quiet reflection. I am the world’s worst meditator, but I am an avid reader. So, I start off my day reading something that will inspire and encourage me. Of late, I have been reading daily messages from both Melody Beattie and Joel Osteen, and while it only takes a few minutes to read their wise words, their lessons stay with me throughout the day.
- Exercise first thing in the morning. I really do love to work out, but trust me, when my alarm goes off around 4:30 a.m., I can find plenty of reasons to stay under the covers instead of getting on my elliptical trainer or picking up my weights. I discovered, though, that working out before I go to work sets a positive tone for the day, and I tend to be in a better mood and make better choices when I exercise.
- Choose foods and drinks that provide nourishment for your body. I have never met a sweet I didn’t like, so, if the mindless consumption of sweets becomes an Olympic event, that gold medal is mine! As much as I like sweets, the few minutes of pleasure they bring me end up causing me more stress and pain in the long run when I feel sluggish, gain weight, and still feel empty inside after consuming too many empty calories. I much prefer how I feel after I eat or drink something that is healthy and delicious.
- Remembering that feelings are not facts. Feelings are merely my reaction to something that happens, and they are subject to change, along with my perception. Even when I feel like my feelings have taken over me, the reality is that I am in control of my feelings. I just need to exercise that control.
- Get over yourself. Just because I do not always feel like doing what is the best thing or the right thing for myself or for others is not a legitimate excuse not to do it. I may not feel like exercising, but I never regret it when I keep my commitment to myself to workout. In fact, when I do something positive for myself or another person when I did not feel like doing it at first, I feel a greater sense of satisfaction that I got out of my own way and did it.
- Spend some time outside. Whether I am trail running or doing yard work, there is something soothing and healing about feeling the earth under my feet, feeling the warmth of the sun or a cool breeze, and seeing the sky over my head.
- Put things into perspective. This is one of the best, yet toughest, things I can do for myself. When my anxiety begins to ratchet up, so do the thoughts and assumptions in my head, and before I know it, I have created the proverbial mountain out of a mole hill. I am learning to not over think things and to keep things in perspective, preferably a positive one, or at least, a realistic one.
- Ask for help. This one trips me up from time to time, as I don’t want to bother others, and I feel great shame and embarrassment when the anxiety returns. I have come to learn, though, that sometimes I need to hear the voice of trusted friends and family members to drown out my own negative voice. It is their words that permeate the dark and help to let the light begin to filter back in to my being. Thank you to my friends and family members who are there for me in good times and in the not so good times, especially my special friend.
- Breathe. Okay, this one may seem the epitome of obvious, but if you ever have dealt with anxiety, you understand. When I am anxious, either I hold my breath or I hyperventilate, instead of breathing normally. This week, I focused on breathing fully and deeply, and with each exhaled breath, I let go of whatever was troubling me at the time.
- Have faith. It is easy to have faith in my moments of calm, and it is an entirely different story when I am anxious. One of the greatest lessons I learned this past week is that if I am going to say that I have faith in God, that He is working on my behalf, and that everything is happening to help, not hurt, me, then, I better stop fearing the unknown and start believing that everything is okay now and will be okay in the future. Even when doubt challenges these beliefs, I must have faith.
It was a good week overall, and I am looking forward to building on it and stringing together more good weeks, one day at a time.
That’s another story . . .
Categories: That's Another Story