Category: anxiety

Exercise and Control

I realized today what I have learned to like about exercising.  When I’m at the gym my success or failure is entirely up to me.  I am not talking about weight loss that can be entirely out of my control.  I’m talking about during that hour of work.  I decide whether I am going to kick butt or play it safe.

I cant get that kind of control from almost anything else in my life.  I can’t control my family, my love life (or lack of), my friends, my job, what deadlines are set for me without my say.  I think this is also why I like voice lessons.  It is entirely in my control.  (I’m doing Moon River this week. Hurray!).

This week I was under so much pressure because of a deadline set for work that even my boss had no input on.  I really thought it was going to be impossible.  I finished my end of the month 6 days faster than I normally do.  That might as well be an eternity in accountant terms!  So for each day to go to the gym and have a short sense of control makes a big difference for my mental health.

This is especially true when I’m kickboxing.  It feels so empowering and exciting to get the anger and frustration out.  I wish I could explain it. I feel like I can explode (maybe even lose control) in a socially acceptable way.

The strange thing about my anxiety is I actually feel tons of adrenalin during the anxiety.  I think that is what allows me to get through it.  I do a good job despite the tears when I’m under anxiety.  In fact, often it is my best work which is perhaps why I can’t seem to remove it from my life.   I remember my old boss saying he kept giving me more work because I did such a good job on them that I was the first person who came to his mind.  Each job I’d agree to because most of the time I had no choice but then I kept doing better and better with the increasing pressure.  Problem is my head was exploding bit by bit….Gosh it’s hard to explain.

At least when I am angry, or anxious my performance in the gym or pool is like nothing else.  Perhaps I feel challenged or my body gives off some chemical when it feels anxious that boosts performance?  I’m not a doctor so I’m not sure. In February I was very upset because of a personal disappointment but I had an appointment to swim so I went and my times totally rocked.  Has anyone else experienced this?

It’s funny because I generally don’t get adrenalin from exercising.  In fact, I never do.  I get adrenalin from anxiety and stress and then it helps me in exercise but it doesn’t actually cause adrenalin.   Maybe before races I just need someone to break my heart or tick me off?  (Please, no!). 😉

Anyway, I was grateful this week when working 12 hour jammed pack days and having my anxiety episode that I have built up a pattern of exercise to help me feel in control.  I don’ t know how I could have made it any other way.  Well, I know it would have been an episode a day earlier and much more severe. I’ve said it a million times but for me anxiety is all about fear and control.  Cognitive therapy has taught me a lot about rationalizing and overcoming that fear but I think everyone needs some control over their life.  For me, exercise does that.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve been forced into this mindset of control because so often in my life I’m in situations where if I didn’t do it, or lead it, it didn’t happen.  I remember even going back to Middle School and there was a craft fair for some club and I made nearly every craft.  (Still have the burn on my leg to this day).  In grad school I decided to give up control and went on a trip trusting my group for a project.  Came home and turns out they hadn’t read the assignment fully and in 3 days I had to come up with a survey of JWA employees, tabulate the results and turn in the assignment for the group.  That was the last time I took a back seat in grad school I will tell you that!

This is how it goes for me. Every job I’ve ever had has been one where I had no back up or substitute, total control. Funny because I think I’m a natural leader?  (I admit I’m a terrible follower…).  A side of me obviously likes this control or it wouldn’t land in my lap  so often (I certainly hate the reverse and being told what to do all the time) but the anxiety is an unwelcome side affect I’m getting better at dealing with.  (this is why a mission was so hard for me. You lose all control, but it was for God so I knew it was in His hands and had a great, if exhausting, experience).

This blog actually gives me control.  In the end it is my voice and I chose what to put out there.  No editors (but my own constant editing), no teachers, no collaborators to deal with.  Just me and my voice.

You see why I’m single.  This control thing will be interesting come marriage!.  Even in dating and relationships I feel I often have to take control but that can be obnoxious too.  Are you asking the right questions? Are they being real?  What should you say?  One time I went on a date and a guy made me ask every question or it was silent and then at the end I hadn’t finished my food I said ‘Sorry I’m a slow eater’.  He said ‘Well, if you didn’t talk so much’…Last time we went out!

I guess in the end it is all kind of silly because I don’t really have any control . That is in God’s hands. Believe me He made it possible for me to finish the impossible task this week.  He held my hand when I felt out of control and He helped me make the tough choices.  Some may look at my life and even express to me that I have nothing to feel anxiety about.  What a comfort to know that God understands and loves me no matter what.  He is all patience.  All love.  And He knows us and knows that in the midst of the hurricane I need an hour of control at the gym

(Thanks also to my trainers Michele and Ben for being so great during this crazy week).

I honestly feel like I did on my mission and I can’t wait for a relaxing weekend.  Wahoo!

A Week in Chaos and No to Slam the Dam

So I’ve had an intense last couple of days.

Saturday- book club highlight of the day.  Great turn out, great friends, great discussion.  We read The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella which I’ve mentioned a number of times on this blog as a fav.  We had this great discussion about workaholism in the modern culture.  Then I went home and spent 5 hours on an audit for one of my jobs.  I finished drained and so glad I didn’t have to teach the next day

Sunday- went to church, fast Sunday.  Didn’t have to teach but didn’t get much spiritual feeding because my week to go to sharing time.  Then had dinner with my sister.  We had some girl talk and watched Downton Abbey.  I have so much I need to work on.  My personal life is far from perfect. It was fun and supportive but felt tired next Morning.

Monday- Found out that month end close was on the 5th this week instead of the 10th and I was going to be out of town on the 5th.  Serves me right for taking a day off work!  Stressed out all day.  Then miracle of miracles Avalara called me and said they could move up my closing to the 3rd so I could get everything done.  Great news!   Stress has moved into the anxiety stage but some relief (most dangerous kind of anxiety is when you think it has been resolved and let your guard down). 10 hour work day

Tuesday-  Found out my ride to Henderson to stay with my Aunt and Uncle wasn’t going to work out.  (The details don’t matter but it was a  communication problem that caused me a lot of anxiety).  Felt unprepared for race.  Spent $100+ on race already.  Couldn’t decide what to do.  Was supposed to be fun but then with all the work anxiety and mechanics of it all it was anything but fun and certainly not relaxing.  I had a decision to make could either stay here, give up on my plans, or find a way out there and swim a race I was unprepared for but could probably do anyway?  My fear was if I didn’t go I would just end up working anyways and then be ready for a mental ward by Saturday….10 hour work day

Wednesday- Had a big long cry, near panic attack.  Felt overwhelmed by everything.  And then like a bolt of lightning I just knew ‘I have to make a decision.”  and then I knew “I’m not going” and I immediately felt a confirmation this was the right choice.  Seriously a lightness I had not felt in a long time came over me and I smiled.  My Dad called me about 5 seconds after hearing me in sobs and couldn’t believe the transformation.  All it took was a decision to be made.

Then I said what can I do to relax instead of working if I stay?  My solution- go to City Center Marriott (my favorite as it was my victory celebration when I quit my job in 2007) from Tuesday to Monday morning get a room all to myself and watch Conference and enjoy.  They have the best pool, hot tub, robes, sheets.  I know I will be able to sleep well.  Its near everything (in the center of the city!).  I want to try out some cool restaurants and really try to relax.  If this doesn’t work than maybe I really have lost the ability to relax.  I think my mission sucked the power out of me.

So, it was a hard decision.  I loved the race last ever and had a great experience but sometimes you have to do what is best for your brain and body even if it doesn’t match up with your goals.  My eye still has sutures and my equilibrium is still off.  I had maybe 3 swims in September and today I was training with Michele and I about passed out doing stair steps.  Don’t know if from overwork or my eyes.  Either way my body just isn’t itself at the moment and there is nothing I can do about that.

I know the next 3 months are going to be hyper stressful with a move, packing up, closing on a house, finding tenants etc and maybe I needed this break to be able to handle all of that (which is way overwhelming)?

Maybe Heavenly Father just knew I needed to focus on Conference this October because my spiritual canteen has been feeling low (only so much I can gain all by myself).  My family might come to the hotel and enjoy it with me but I told them NO WORK TALK!!!!  NO DRAMA!

I wish I was better at handling anxiety.  I wish I could do more and be more but then I think of all I do and wonder maybe I do too much?  Then there are slow weeks where I am itching for things to do.  Balance  between work and life are impossible for me.  Thank goodness for my friends who keep me sane. Thank goodness for boxing and swimming and thank goodness for my parents for loving me and not judging when I struggle.

So there it is.  That was my decision making process.  I know it was the right thing to do so it will be interesting to see what my Heavenly Father has in store for me.

Things to Help and Hurt an Anxiety Attack

Cycle of Anxiety

Hello readers.  As you all know I suffer from mild anxiety and occasional panic attacks.  I find that those not familiar with mental illness struggle to help people out of an attack.  I am no doctor but after dealing with this for most my adult life here’s my advice

THINGS THAT HELP

1. Continual encouragement.  Remind them the episode is like a foot cramp, temporary and it will be over. ‘You can do this’.  ‘This is really hard’.  ‘We love you no matter what’.

2. Remind them of the deep breathing exercises and get them to walk, eat, do something physical.  Make sure they are not suicidal and do not need immediate hospitalization.   If they really can’t breathe and their symptoms are getting severe (heart palpitations, seizures, temperature) take them to the hospital.

3. Ask them to think of some of the processing skills learned in therapy.  In my case I study cognitive therapy so using my charts to write it out can help.

4. Remind them that they are not stupid and then when they inevitably feel guilty over the attack and apologize just let it go say something like ‘that’s what family is for’ or ‘we are always there for you’

5. Try to be empathetic and tell them (even if you have a to fake it a little) ‘I can see how that would be very upsetting’.

6.  Distraction can be very helpful in calming down the mood.  A song, a board game, a trip to anywhere can be helpful.

7. Medication can be a powerful and helpful tool.  I use it on an as needed basis and sometimes it has saved my life.

8.  Get them to make a decision.  Often for me the what if’s, should be’s and what will they thinks are  at the root of most of my anxiety.  By making a decision I am taking control and will feel more confident (sometimes quite dramatically).

9.  In general I find to be as practical as possible is helpful.  What I mean is get them to think of something practical they can do immediately to give some confidence like make a sandwich, get a glass of water, or do an errand.

10.  Realize some people may be triggers and should just be avoided during this sensitive period.

11.  Meditation and essential oils really do help me.

12.  Realize that every anxiety/panic attack I’ve had has been one of the scariest experiences of my life.  For about 30 seconds I feel like I’m going to die.  It is awful.

I’ve learned a lot over the years but I will always have the potential for anxiety. It will never completely go away.

THINGS TO NOT DO!

1. Do not tell them that things could be so much worse and life is terrible for wounded warriors or starving children in Malaysia and that we should all just ‘grow up’.   I feel anxious just writing that sentence down.

2. Do not try to solve whatever problem it is at least at first.  My first panic attack I ever had was because a kindly boss agreed to solve an employee dispute I was in on Monday.  This meant I had 3 days to worry and panic about what would happen.

3. Saying things like ‘well, you should just quit your job/marriage/friendship whatever if its causing such anxiety’ is not really helpful.

3. Do not assume they need to talk it out.  That can be the worst thing.   Eventually yes, but not in the moment of the attack.

4.  Do not tell them you understand unless you really understand.

5. PROBABLY MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL-  Do not look for or expect a rational explanation or problem.  Again, people have anxiety over opening a door or shaking a hand.  It is not a rational experience.  That does not mean it is stupid or they are a weirdo.  We all have irrational responses to life.  How many of us shrink back at a garden snake that is harmless or shriek at a spider that is almost always harmless.

6.  At least for me solving the exact trigger for the panic attack does not help much because it like fixing a decoration of a cake made out of glue.  The tipping point is just one part of all of the things, so trying to fix that one thing does nothing and may add additional anxiety.

7.  Realize that stress and anxiety are not the same thing.  My last post I wrote about stress.  That is day to day, how am I going to get everything done emotion.  Anxiety is like a fever of the brain.

8.  Don’t assume saying ‘calm down’ will do the trick.  That puts pressure on the person and can actually cause more anxiety.   “I love you”.  “You can do this”.  “It will be Ok”  Much better.

READ FEELING GOOD by DAVID BURNS.  It gives you so many PRACTICAL solutions to help.

Long of short of it- I’m not going to slam the dam any more.  Extrapolate from that and the post above what you will 🙂

Ok.  Got tons of work to do today.  Getting to it!  🙂

I took from some inspiration for this post from Jamie from her blog James and Jax blog.  Her post is great as well and I did get her permission for using her inspiration.   http://jamesandjax.com/2012/04/09/what-to-say-to-someone-having-anxiety-6-suggestions/