I had a bad anxiety day. I have PTSD and most days are fine but some days I get a little panicky. I’m not at the window screaming for somebody to let me out…visibly anyway….
It’s more of an inability to calm down on the inside. To sit. Think. Create. I pace a lot. Get exhausted. Can’t find peace. Talking to people is too much. I move a lot but accomplish little.
I’ve learned over the years what sets those days off for me. It was inevitable because I set myself up for it.
I’ve been working too long for the last two weeks. Some people thrive on working until 9-10 at night. I don’t. My work requires a lot of thinking in order to create and it’s eventually exhausting.
My work also requires me to be an extrovert, and I am anything but. Putting myself “out there” all the time is innately uncomfortable. I adore and love people, but I also need to be a hermit away from social media, especially.
My work and my life as a single mom also require me to hustle a lot. I’m not a go get ‘em, fast paced, round the clock person. I like to work and work hard. However, I need to have creative work time. This includes reading, listening, stories, listening, people watching, listening, writing and musing about life.
This doesn’t fulfill my need or society’s applause for productivity and box checking. I love nothing more than a day where everything is scratched off my literal list. I’ve learned that I no longer can keep up physically or mentally after everything I’ve been through. If I try for too long, it’s a set up for disaster.
I normally crash a bit after a big event. I put a lot of work in before and during. I am not one of those people who gets energized after being “on the stage”. I leave every ounce of energy on “the stage”, then walk off and within 10 minutes feel the crash coming. I have a hard time thinking. Carrying on a conversation. I just want to be alone and not think anymore.
I’ve learned to give myself a basic day off the day after a big talk or comedy show. (Comedy is really hard for me. High expectations on both my part and the audiences.)
My absolute go to for getting myself “grounded” is being outside. It’s been a change moving to an apartment. I’ve never not had a yard or garden to work on. I make sure and walk every day. Get “a little sun on me” is what I call it. Take the dog. Move. But we had a snowstorm. No driveway to shovel. No reason to clean my car off and my dog hates the snow. So, I’m two days in. Not a long time inside, but apparently too much.
I woke up tired, so I drank coffee right away. A big “no no” for me. I usually wait until around 11 to see if I need it. Then I crawled back I bed and pulled out my phone and saw I had multiple messages, emails, etc. HUGE no, no for me.
My phone rang early, I procrastinated on moving around and by 11 I knew I was in trouble. That familiar feeling of panic was creeping up and my mind started racing.
By 1:00 I had tried focusing on working but had accomplished and completed basically nothing. I was in total overwhelm and exhausted. My anxiety was out of control.
So, here’s what I did:
1. I Ate Too Much
Only not what I wanted. I wanted bread, cheese, chips, basically yummy fried carbs. Instead, I ate a banana, blueberries, dark chocolate, and a lot of decaf green tea. I took magnesium and a heavy dose of vitamin B. All of these help my body with mood and anxiety. (Not so much my tongue…but my mood.)
2. I Slept Too Much
I don’t sleep well from PTSD. I decided to take a nap. I set my alarm for 20 minutes, because in my mind I still had the thought I needed “accomplish’ some things. After hitting the snooze about 80 times I shut my phone off and slept until my body was done sleeping.
3. I Pretended to Be Outside
The wind chill is below zero. So:
-I opened all my window blinds to let as much natural light as I could.
-I lit a candle that smells like the beach.
-I played with my plants. I grow herbs inside and they needed a trimming. Plus, I accidently had an aloe massacre recently. I overwatered it and the whole plant fell out with aloe leaves splayed all over the floor in murderous pieces. I tried to do an emergency rescue and read to dunk them in vinegar and stick them in dirt. It was like an overflowing Covid ward with aloe in serious condition everywhere. IN the halls, every room.
It was time to pull the plug on most of them today. A small service over the garbage can was held and I’ll remember not to flood them out next time.
4. I Banned Electronics
No Netflix. This is the first time I’m on my computer since one. I’ll write this. Post it and then won’t check or respond to emails, any of my social media, etc. My anxiety has calmed down so it’s a sure fire way to kick start it right back up again.
5. I Reminded Myself Repeatedly Everything is Ok Today
There’s nothing I love more than to plot out a worst-case scenario for the future and react accordingly. I’ve learned to pull back on the racing thoughts and look around at the present.
I have a roof over my head today. I have food in my fridge. My family is ok today. I will work on tomorrow tomorrow.Click to tweet
6. I Didn’t Breathe or Do Yoga
Yes, both of those things are extremely helpful in resetting the vegus nerve and calming the body down when you have anxiety. I didn’t do it because it made me think about work. That’s what I talk about for a living. Every time I went to do it (knowing it was good for my anxiety), it made me think about working. I chose to get my heart rate up by walking fast around in my apartment instead. I’m sure my downstairs neighbor loved every moment of it.
7. I Didn’t Do “Self-Care”
I decided if I didn’t feel like it, I wasn’t going to do it tonight. That includes laundry, cleaning, working, or finishing re-doing my office. I may take a bath in a lot of dead aloe juice tonight, that’s it.
-Not exercising. Again, that’s usually a great choice, but I feel bad about my body and weight lately and it reminds me of that.
-I won’t do a facial or die my hair or do my nails. Self-care is amazing, but that’s not fun for me.
Anything that’s focused on the outward appearance, whether on me or my house or my social media, won’t get done. Why? Because for who I am and how I’m made, those things don’t feed my soul or bring me joy. I need to focus on the inward. That’s why no hair or nails or cleaning or selfies. If it causes an ounce of anxiety or stress with zero joy in the process – it’s not happening.
Sometimes those things are great for me.
Sometimes those things cause me stress because I feel societal pressure to be something that I am not.Click to tweet
I’m not recommending this. I’m simply saying self-care can look different for each of us, based on who we are.
8. I Focused on Purpose
I have prescription medication for my anxiety to calm me down if I need it. I have alcohol in the house. There’s delicious fried carbs in the form of chips, lots of cheese and snacks that I keep for my son, and I can always whip up a batch of cookies or some kind of sweets.
I won’t. Why? I focused on my purpose. All of those things will make me feel lousy tomorrow. If not physically, it will mentally, because I was raised Baptist and we are really good about guilt.
I love what I do for a living. I also need to take care of my kids, including financially. This requires me to keep going and trying. I want to work and feel good tomorrow. If not, tomorrow then this weekend.
9. I Remembered These Kinds of Days are Just Days. Not My Forever.
We all have seasons. With my PTSD my “seasons” have shortened to usually just a day or two. Sometimes, even just a few hours. When I feel panicky, insecure about myself not being “high functioning”, and other negative thoughts about the way I feel or my inability to accomplish things, I remember I won’t and don’t always feel this way. I’ve learned there is a rhythm that gets me into these moments, a rhythm that gets me through these moments, and a rhythm that last a little longer each time after these moments.
10. I Appreciated That I’m Wise Enough Now to Know Negative Emotions are a Part of Living.
I’m guessing before the dawn of television, film, and especially social media, people didn’t have much to compare their lives to. They were too busy trying to eat and not die of weird diseases. Grey hair was a sign of success. It means you didn’t die in childbirth or from the flu in your thirties.
I deeply believe the constant bombardment of “perfection” in advertisements and what we naturally look for, has made having anything but a perfect body, relationship, house, job, life, bank account is somehow not the norm. There’s something wrong with us if we actually have to deal with real life, real human experiences and emotions.
There is a lot of language around “success” and “mental health” that makes it sound like a serious flaw if you somehow are human and aren’t perfectly happy all the time. It’s such (insert cuss word here says my head).
Great art is born from pain. Ingenuity is born from pain. Babies are birthed in pain. The capacity for gratitude is often born from pain.Click to tweet
If we shun that concept, then no wonder we’re all miserable.
Feelings are ok. In my opinion, they are God given. Even the bad ones. Jesus was perfect and still felt anger and sorrow and he even wept. It’s what you do with those feelings that matter.
In our society, to be anything but happy and perfect and “successful” is taboo. A tarnish. You’re considered weak. A misfit. There must be something inheritably wrong with you.Click to tweet
That thought process is honestly, so very stupid. It is!! What a dumb thing to expect of others and ourselves. DUMB!
I’ll finish with what I’ve been saying since the beginning of the pandemic: It’s ok to not be ok. Normal even.
Get help if you need help navigating through it. I didn’t learn how to move through the mental and emotional mess on my own.
You’re not weird or wrong or bad. You’re human and that is a wonderful thing. Embrace it. Move through it. It’s not your forever. It’s also not a never. It may be your today and day down the road now and then.
Well, I have some dead aloe I feel guilty about wasting that I need to tend to. Wishing you a peaceful rest of your day. And if it’s not, it’s ok. Do what you need to do to get through it and be better for it.
Stacy Pederson is a Funny Motivational Speaker who has almost died a bunch. You can learn more about here here.