I connect on a personal level with the Grandparents from Willy Wonka – before the whole golden ticket thing. I would live in my bed if I could. My husband will be out meandering around the house and he will come visit me – sometimes with snacks. Those are my favorite times.
I cry the first night of most vacations because I miss my bed so much.
I love my bed, my bed loves me, but it can also the worst place for my anxiety.
Awhile ago, I called my husband very upset and anxious. When he came home from work, he knew right where to find me.
We went through our usual routine – he finds me wrapped up in blankets and hugs me and runs through his script. He knows he needs to get me up and get me up soon.
When I am at an almost reasonable state, Max asked the magic question: “Do you want to go to On the Border?”
Yes. Yes I do.
Believe me, I am the last one to make light of anxiety and say Chips and Salsa will cure it.
I have fought many a battle so intense that I wouldn’t bat an eye at two of my favorite words : Queso Bowl.
But, as someone with a disordered brain, I have accepted that pretty much every day I will feel some sort of anxiety and if I want to live my life and experience actual things, sometimes I gotta push through and do the hard thing- like get out of bed.
I am not talking about the debilitating anxiety – the episodes of more intense periods of anxiety. While I have more than my share of experiences with that, the anxiety I am referring to is the gnawing, lurking, in the background, will grow if you feed it and relent a little if you don’t anxiety. It’s the anxiety that’s like a toddler that needs to be distracted and will eventually forget what the tantrum was about.
Mild anxiety. It ebbs and flows, some days worse than others.
I have learned a lot about anxiety in my 29 years of dealing with it- and sometimes you just gotta push through it and go get yourself some unlimited Salsa. (this is unhelpful advice for the current Quarantine. Please stock up and have available.)
So that night we went. While we were munching on chips and salsa, I was reflecting on some of the ways I have learned to deal with anxiety over the years. Below are a few practical ways I go to battle against my anxiety:
1. Take the Pressure Off
Anxiety Flare ups are NOT the time to make decisions.
This is SO important for me. Feelings are liars, and they are good liars. A state of heightened anxiety is not the time to decide to quit your job, book the trip, send a confrontational text or make a huge commitment. It’s not the time to obsessively apologize via email for some made up conflict you created in your brain. Tell yourself when you’re rational, you can decide. (And if you’re anything like me, that window of time is so small there’s barely time to do anything anyways! Perfect!)
When I am feeling anxious, especially if it is related to a decision, I remind myself that I do not have to make any sort of call while feeling out of control and worried. There will be a time again that I feel calm (ish). I give myself permission to regroup when that happens. It takes off the pressure and allows me some space to focus on something else, since I will NOT be making a decision in the midst of anxiety.
2. Limit Your reassurance seeking
If the cycle of reassurance was a Carnival Ride, I would have worn down the steel frame years ago. It is SO tempting because it feels SO good…for such a short amount of time.
Every time I seek out reassurance from someone, I am feeding my anxiety- telling it that once I get the relief I will be okay. It’s just a false sense of security- fueling my worry with the obsessive-compulsion patterns, reinforcing it every time I do it.
Even if I can resist the urge for reassurance for a little longer each time, it is progress. Sometimes it isn’t realistic to not seek any reassurance at all, but keeping it minimal, limited and brief is a step in the right direction. In my case this might look like confiding in just one friend or my husband instead of 8 different people craving their reassurance that I won’t get arrested because I was wearing my sunglasses in the gas station and had my hands in the pocket. The clerk watched me for awhile. I didn’t imagine this. I have a real fear of being falsely accused of shoplifting.
3. Change scenery
On the Border. Starbucks. A drive. A walk. Getting out of the bed. I don’t mean the kind of bed where you are going to sleep. Sleep is important for the anxious brain. I mean the kind of bed where its 2:47 pm and you are marinating in your own anxiety- soaking in it. Warm and cozy, dark and depressing. It is a feeding ground for spirals and cycles of obsessive thoughts. Just move to the living room and see what happens.
4. Remind Yourself it Will Not last
Reminding myself it won’t last is one of my biggest tricks of the trade. This even *sometimes* works in my more intense battles with severe, anxiety. In the trenches, it feels like it will last forever. This time MUST be the time it all actually falls apart and my life is over.
This HAS to be the time it will never relent because it FEELS like it.
So, when I am able, I remind myself of the other times I have thought for absolutely certain that I would not calm down and I would not be okay ever again. If I am unable, others do it for me.
I can barely remember things I was absolutely distraught about even weeks ago- when I thought my life was over. I made it through okay, every time. To be honest, I have NO idea what I was so anxious about when I first started this blog draft a few months ago. No idea. But it was something that felt BIG at the time.
5. Lean on Support
Even though I just said to limit reassurance seeking, this one is different. This is not me asking my husband for the 7th time if I sounded like I had a rude tone to the cashier. This is leaning in to the people that deeply know you, know your struggles and how your brain works. I have a packet about OCD that recently my husband read aloud TO me to remind me this was just my anxiety. I leaned against his chest and he read “My feelings are not the facts.” “Maybe I’ll try being imperfect for a change!” to me. My mom knows how to speak to my anxious brain. While many of my friends would of course support and be there for me, few of them know the nooks and crannies well enough to help pull me out. Also remembering to lean on their support, but also not expect professional services from them. Having a therapist on the support team has been invaluable.
As a devout Jesus follower, I have struggled with the journey of mental health and where it fits spiritually. Prayer and scripture have played a huge role in my experiences with mental health, and I am careful with my words in saying it isn’t “enough” sometimes.
Because I somehow believe Jesus is 100% enough for me but also know he doesn’t always take me away from this anxiety.
There have been times I was so desperate for deliverance I taped verses all over my college dorm and slept with my Bible in my bed. I close my eyes and play Scripture on my phone until I sleep. I believe in His power, but I also use strategies and resources he has provided for me in my brokenness.
Of course, these things also are hugely important:
– Biblical Counsel
– Meditation on Scripture
– Worship in gratitude
-Reflecting on God’s sovereignty and faithfulness
My journey with anxiety is so much more than a list of bullet points – and what works for me might work differently for someone else. But with many of us sitting at home with WAY more time on our hands, I wanted to add to your toolbox- and if nothing else, remind you chips and salsa are delicious.
PS. I Couldn’t find any good pics of Chips and Salsa on my phone, but found a portrait picture of some BBQ Pulled Pork Nachos we made last summer and I have been dying for a reason to show them off. Worth the wait
PSS. You know what was also worth the wait? My husband that does read alouds from my anxiety workbook to me. (This is right around when I discovered Portrait mode)