A is for Anxiety

Do you ever hold your breath doing a completely innocuous thing? Do you find your shoulders scrunched up by your ears while relaxing? Do you feel like you have a pound of bricks sitting on your chest regardless of the task at hand? Do you find yourself periodically taking really deep breaths because you don’t have any air in your lungs? Is your heart racing? Do you feel like you’re watching a reel that keeps getting faster and faster?

Perhaps you’re not cleaning the house on overdrive so you think you’re okay. You’re not obsessing about one thing. There are so many things to remember, right? That’s all this is. You’re trying to manage everyone’s schedule during a hectic time. Everyone feels like this really. It’s a symptom of our times.

But you feel out of control.

And it’s not stopping.

If you’re honest… it’s getting worse.

You’ve started avoiding things. You can get away with it for a while because people know you’re stressed. They want to give you a break and it’s not like you’re avoiding all of your responsibilities. You’re still functioning. You’ll bounce back in a second and you’re so good at managing those bricks weighing down your chest that most people don’t even know you’re struggling. You’ll be fine.

You just need a few more minutes to yourself each day. To reset. To relax. You’re so tired in the mornings. You can’t get that relaxation time in before the sun comes up so you’ll take it after the sun goes down. It used to take a half hour to wind down. Now it takes hours. It’s after midnight and you’re tired. You’re so tired. But you can’t sleep. You hold out for that deep breath to fill your lungs. It doesn’t come. Eventually you wake up on the couch and drag yourself to bed. You’ll have dark circles under your eyes come morning.

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Last month I made a call to my PCP (primary care physician) and told her I wanted to start on anxiety meds. I’ve always been type A but this last year has thrown me for a loop that I can’t seem to get out of on my own. I’ve tried. I’ve mediated. I’ve tried yoga. I’ve eaten better and exercised and eliminated as much from my plate as I could. I’ve increased water. Taken my vitamins. But on my birthday a few weeks ago I canceled a casual evening with friends last minute because I couldn’t handle it. I love birthdays. I celebrate as much as I can. But this year I tried to isolate (and I would’ve outside of my immediate family if not for my kick-ass coworker and brother-in-law who refused to let me take my lunch alone).

Last weekend I had to RSVP to two events and the decisions had me in tears. When Fred suggested we bring guacamole to one of them, I immediately started panicking about how hard it would be to find avocados. First world problems, am I right?

They tell me it takes 4 weeks to find out whether or not a medication helps or not and I’m lucky enough to have had a very good friend point out to me the following warning:

They said, “You know… the thing about medication that I didn’t realize is that it doesn’t fix you. You won’t suddenly go back to doing all of the things you pulled away from when the anxiety got too bad. You have to push yourself. You have to start doing the things that cause anxiety to see that that the anxiety isn’t there anymore.”

Another friend told me:

“Change is hard. We get used to sitting in this space even when it’s bad for us. We get comfortable. Our coping mechanisms are comfortable. This won’t be easy.”

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Burnout

If you’ve lived through this past year, I’m going to go ahead and assume you’ve experienced burnout at some level. And I mean that globally, which is insane. You’re a human? You’re old enough to understand that everything changed for us a little over a year ago? Yeah, I’m talking to you. Even as vaccines begin to be released fully to the general public and fears (hopefully) begin to subside, we’re here dealing with the effects of a year+ long pandemic, of shuffled schedules, sicknesses, deaths without closure, real fear and fear mongering, unemployment, home schooling, etc. It’s not just one thing. It’s everything.

Fun fact: Burnout can lead to anxiety disorders. Did you know that? Feel anxious lately? *raises hand with fervor* I’m a barely functioning adult some days. Thank the Lord I have a partner who carries me. But news flash: he’s going through the same stuff I am (because that’s what happens in a global pandemic where we all carry the weight of prolonged stress) so I can tell you with 100% certainty that his back is sore from carrying this team. Thanks, love!

At the start of the calendar year I started Whole30 for the 3rd time in my adult life. I went from that right into a 6 week health challenge on Les Mills On Demand (absolutely love that subscription, by the way – more on that later!). I’ve been trying to drink more water and take my vitamins regularly and kick my self-induced insomnia all in attempt to get rid of that 10 lb. weight sitting on my chest day in and day out. I’ve gotten a little lift but it’s still there. Have I tried meditation? Yes. Helps a little. Therapy? The appointment is booked.

The point is, if you look at my highlight reel and see me completing Whole30 and a 6 week workout challenge, dropping 10 lbs. and getting stronger in the past few months, you might be tempted to think I have some sort of grasp on life right now. I assure you, I do not. I do, however, have some newfound appreciation for some things due to living through a pandemic:

  • Delegating things I’m not good at doing. I hold onto things I shouldn’t because I’m afraid of doing them imperfectly but I’m learning to recognize that God gifts us all with different talents. My inability to let go is keeping someone else from being able to use their talents. Get rid of whatever it is that you don’t think you’ve mastered enough. Need to figure out your retirement investments? Outsource it. Someone else already has that gift honed. You don’t have the capacity for that right now.
  • Limiting my “yes.” I’m an introvert. I absolutely love my people and I absolutely need downtime to recover from seeing them. It’s worse now than it was pre-COVID19. If I say yes for one thing today, I’m saying no to every other social event that day – likely the whole weekend.
  • Burying my head in the sand. This feels like it would’ve been a good post for April Fools’ Day but I’m serious. I said I had a newfound appreciation for things… I didn’t say they were healthy things! I’m a total avoider. I’m not proud of that but it’s the truth. If I don’t have the energy to expend on it, I will put it off. Do I realize it makes it worse in the long run? Yes. Yes, I do. Does that stop me from doing it? No. No, it does not.
  • Washing my hands for 20 seconds. This is random and I’m not saying I didn’t wash my hands before but I’ve gotta be honest… 20 seconds is a long time. My hygiene skills were seriously lacking pre-COVID19. I’ve upped my game, ya’ll. My skin might be cracked and bleeding year round from here on out, but these hands are clean.