Tag: advice

Bumping Your Nose Against the Glass: Thoughts on Caregiving, Being Strong, and Self Care

You see them sparkle. They draw you in close. But before you know it, you’re bumping your face on an invisible barrier that keeps you from reaching them. Over and over you try to break through. If only you could touch one, hold one for a moment, you know you’ll feel worlds better. But you can’t. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t reach. The only thing you can feel is that enlarging hole in your self worth and a busted, bloody face.

That’s the major struggle of being a caregiver.

7 Ways to Kick Anxiety’s Ass

*The following is not and should not be used in place of medical advice. If you need help, please see your doctor or a mental health professional.These are just personal habits I’ve had success with.*

Back in the early 00s, I was a wide-eyed, overworked, scared to death college freshman. In my very Mickey Mouse Intro to College class, we had this group activity. It was one of those icebreaker games that’s only freshmen and people at seminars do. The gist was, we had to pick an adjective that started with the same letter our name that described us. Alliteration being a memory helper and all, I suppose. I instantly knew mine. It was a name that I had been carrying with me since I was just a wee little girl.

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I’ve never known a time when I haven’t been anxious. As a kid, I cried. I cried a lot. I’m not sure if it was the early signs of anxiety, depression, or the effects of my mother, but childhood was full of teary eyes and snotty noses. I remember once during an elementary school orientation my mother telling the teacher that I was “tender-hearted”. It was a descriptor that stuck with me long past my public school days. All these decades later, that tender-heartedness has turned into full-fledged anxiety.

Anxiety is still a big part of my life. It’s a monster I battle each day. Below are 7 things I do to try to take its power away.


Breathe

It sounds simple enough, right? Well, it’s not. Breathing is one of the hardest things to do in the midst of an anxiety attack. Shallow breaths come easy and fast and can cement you in the fight or flight mode. I tend to hold my breath when I’m struggling. I don’t even have to explain why this a foolish thing to do. One thing I’ve found that really, really helps is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. It’s a great way to reset your brain and center yourself. And it’s pretty easy.

  1. Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds.
  2. Hold that breath for 7 seconds.
  3. Exhale for 8 seconds.
  4. Repeat as necessary

It’s really a fantastic exercise to regulate your breathing and bring your mind back from the brink. If the 4-7-8 technique isn’t your style, taking deep slow breaths will also help. The fast shallow breaths that are common during an anxiety episode do more harm than good. Breath deep, from the bottom of your diaphragm. Those long deep breaths are the good ones that will help you center yourself and calm down.


Ask For Help

The only thing harder than remembering to breathe correctly often is to ask for help. It’s painful and frightening to open yourself to others. But we are not islands. We need each other. Find yourself a tag team partner. Someone who will support you and work with you as you navigate the bullshit that is anxiety. 

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Whether it’s holding your hand, making you lunch, or just reading the words you need to type, having a circle of people you can turn to is so very important. Ask them for help. Let them help you share the load.

 


Go Outside

Sometimes what you need during an attack is not just a change of space but a change of mind. Going outside can do both. It doesn’t matter if you live in a city or are in the middle of the country, going outdoors is a great way to help bring yourself back. Sunlight, fresh air, and the sounds of nature foster a sense of serenity. Being able to have space and absorb them is a great way to become unflustered.


Create Something

 

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Some of the best art comes from the darkest places. If you are able to harness some of the power of anxiety and use it for good you might be amazed at what you’ll create. It doesn’t have to be great, just make something!  Write some words, doodle some drawings, take some pictures, bake a cake, build a birdhouse! Just put yourself in motion and use your powers for good, not the self-harming evil they can be used for.


Drink Water

The first thing I ask whenever one of my kiddos comes to me with a complaint is “Do you need some water?” Staying hydrated is important. It’s also something that gets overlooked quite often.  As someone who drinks more coffee than I should, sometimes just taking a moment to drink a glass of cold water changes my mindset. Water, dirt, fire, and salt. They are all three things that connect us to the planet. They are all things we need. In the middle of our chaos, I firmly believe these things can ground us.


Find a Positive Distraction

We live in a time where podcast, audio books, and most tv shows we love are streaming on demand. We don’t have to wait to for a certain time on a certain day to lose ourselves in a mindless distraction. It’s available anytime we need it. And when you’re fighting anxiety, you need it whenever the episode happens. Finding something positive that you can quiet your mind and enjoy in the middle of a rough time is wonderful to keep you grounded. Some of my favorite things to listen to are podcast. One of my very favorite podcast is Levar Burton Readse19bd1d38fca74faca9d281a1bf9d29e9da713a57c9e60345030bab6b3a852b51bc68db007ff7d3abf61cf1f941cd4e47d48020374917551204f040abc975062 Its Levar Burton and his wonderful voice reading amazing stories. It’s incredibly calming and interesting. Being able to focus a speeding mind on something as enjoyable as Levar’s voice is great calming technique.


Stay Present

Even harder than remembering to breathe and asking for help is remembering to stay in the moment. When your head is playing the highlight reel of every horrible thing you’ve ever done, its hard to remember to be in the here and now. The following is a grounding exercise I use daily to help me focus on what is and what is not:

5: Acknowledge FIVE things you see.

4: Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch.

3: Acknowledge THREE things you hear.

2: Acknowledge TWO things you can smell.

1: Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste.

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No matter what methods we use, we must realize that we are stronger than anxiety. While this is a monster that lives in our world, we do not have to make our world about it. It is my hope that some of the tips effect you in a positive way. As with anything, find what works for you and do that.

Power Outages

Some people say that when you are open to it, the Universe guides you. That it gives you gifts, like a mama cat leaving a half dead mouse on your pillow. It knows you need the nourishment, but even more so, that you need the experience.  The limitations of my experiences kept me for totally agreeing that was gospel. I think too much, second guess myself too often. And that’s clogged up my ability to see and review these gifts from the Universe. That is until this happened. This chain linked series of events opened my eyes and showed me that, if you pay attention sometimes you get just what you need to be laid right out in front of you.

In the early hours of a Tuesday morning, some unlucky bastard ran his car off the road and into a tree. The driver was fine, but the tree was not. It had found itself a brand new home by crashing into a substation that supplied power to a large section of this small town. That power outage split the lumbering county in half. The northern half had power, while those to the south were without.

It was on that Tuesday morning I had an appointment out in the southeastern part of town. I don’t follow local news so I had no idea there was a widespread power outage. My only concern was getting two kids into a car and being able to make an 8:45 am appointment. Ever try to get two kids under the age of 5 ready and out the door in a quick and timely manner? Yeah, it’s about as easy as tying snakes in knots. Somehow, we all ended up where we needed to be with ten minutes to spare. It was then that we caught up with local events.

“M’am, we ain’t got any power. You’re gonna have to call and reschedule.” A very exasperated lady standing in a darkened door hollered at me across the parking lot.

Seat belts were buckled and kid tears were shed. Apparently, not being able to go into the darkened unairconditioned building was heartbreaking. I pulled out of the parking lot only slightly more annoyed than I should have been and started home.

I passed the DMV, giving them a mental middle finger for making me wait the last time I was in there half a year before. I passed the consignment shop that had a mouse problem last time I had visited. I passed the yellow house with the little yellow well house out front that I’ve loved since I was a kid. I slowed down after that house because the new police station was just up ahead, right past the fabrication shop that was owned by one of my distant cousins. More specifically, my dad’s uncle’s son.

And there, sitting on the tailgate of a blue S-10 was my father.

Here is the part where I tell you that I’m not on best terms with my biological family. I’ll explain it all later, but remember Cinderella? Well, instead of an evil Stepmother and stepsisters, I had an evil Mother and a father who was on his third marriage and was getting close to his fifties when I was born. When I married my husband, the ties were severed. After a few tries, I realized that my mother just wasn’t good for my mental health. The drawback was that cutting her out, cut him out too. I’ve never fully recovered from that.

So to see him, after all these years, just sitting there talking smack with the fellas caught my breath in my throat. The decision was easy. I was there. I had a block of time suddenly empty. Without turning on my blinker, I gave in to the message the Universe was sending me. I turned into the gravel parking lot and got out of the car.

Two minutes later, I was wrapped in my father’s arms.

I want to tie this back to my original point. Because of a series of unfortunate events, I got to see my father. It was exactly what I needed. The Universe gift wrapped an experience just for me. And by not second guessing it, I received two things. One was a salve on a decade old wound. And the other was the first step of a relationship with something greater than myself.

I’m listening Universe. You don’t have to knock out the power to get my attention again. 

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