I have started this blog post multiple times. Right now at 11:52 PM on a Tuesday night I am making attempt number four. The thing is that I know what I want to say. I know that I want to write about my plan for managing the stress and anxiety I've been dealing with for the past five months. The problem is that everything I write comes out sounding...well, overly simplistic and weirdly cheerful.
What? That's a bad thing?
Yes, because this isn't a happy moment. This isn't a moment of bliss or joy - instead it's me recognizing that this is going to be a lot of work. I can break it down into a list of things I need to be doing:
1. Paying attention to how I feel.
2. Pausing to recenter when I feel stressed or anxious.
3. Making time everyday to relax.
4. Getting enough sleep.
5. Eating well.
6. Being physically active.
But while the list may seem simple (Hey! You too can achieve peace and life long serenity in these six easy steps!!!), the actions are not (oh, wait...).
Anxiety feels AWFUL especially at its overwhelming extreme and to get to the first item on the list means to acknowledge that it is exists. And that, dear reader, can be a very uncomfortable place for those of us who prefer to just keep on moving in the hopes that the bad feelings go away or at least don't catch up. Facing it, confronting it and dealing with it instead of shutting down or denying it is of course the only way one can learn to manage it but that does not mean it is easy.
And here is the other catch. I don't believe for a moment that this is something that will go away. I believe that one way or another I'll be dealing with anxiety issues for the rest of my life. Whether through conditioning or genetics I think that I, like many others, am simply prone towards anxiety. Add to that one or two traumatizing life experiences that, while long past and massaged into manageability by lots of therapy, still occasionally rear their beady eyed ugly little heads and it becomes pretty obvious that anxiety and I will likely be in a constant state of negotiation for some time to come.
I also know that the old adage of anything worth doing is worth doing well is true and doing something well often means a lot of hard work. I took the easy route once, and at that time I needed to. While being temporarily on medication helped to ease the extreme anxiety I was having at that time, allowed me to sleep and to also take a look at why I was feeling what I did, it had side effects that I did not want in my life.**
In the years that followed I learned to manage my anxiety, spot an impending panic attack and prevent it from happening. I learned what circumstances were likely to trigger it and how could I approach those circumstances differently. I learned that no matter how awful it might feel in the moment anxiety, and the vast majority of things that made me feel anxious, won't kill me. "Breathe. Breathe. I'm not going to die," became my mantra.
Being alive is like running an emotional marathon where the training and practice begin at the same time that the starting gun is fired. I might have run approximately half the statistical distance of my life but I've still just as far to go ahead of me to go. Living is definitely something worth doing well, and while being human is a lot of work, it's work that I am equipped for and willing to do.
**A word on medication and anxiety.
Anxiety in its extreme can be crippling and medication for anxiety can be a life saving thing for many as it was for me. For a variety of reasons it was not something that worked for me in the long term; for others it is something they need to get through the day. There is nothing wrong with either choice.
If you are dealing with extreme anxiety, particularly if it is to the point where it is disrupting basic life care activities like eating or sleeping, please seek help. You are not alone.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has many resources available.