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anxiety blog

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Pump My Brakes

by Heather Loeb

NAMI had an event last night, and I’ll admit, I was riled up. I don’t think in a bad way; I just get excited, talk fast and get a little high strung. I think I’m probably always high strung, but I’m ok with that.

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I didn’t feel stressed at all — I was speaking at the event, and I wasn’t in charge of anything except our stuffed llama and his accessories (that’s another story for another time). Well, I had misplaced his accessories and started asking my cohorts if they had seen the llama’s accoutrements. One of my buddies helped me look, and after finding them, he said he could teach me some strategies to decrease my anxiety.

I didn’t even feel anxious, but perhaps I was. I told my cohort that I did have ways to help me calm down and that I appreciated the offer. He told me to visualize my mind as a garden. That you can’t help what grows there, such as weeds, but you can pull the weeds out and keep you garden looking good. He said it a lot more eloquently.

I loved that.

And he’s not the first one to suggest I’m too anxious.

So maybe what I think is baseline for me is really a bit much for others. Granted I had taken my Adderall late in the day yesterday, but still. The point is maybe I should pump my brakes and keep a tighter hold on anxiety. Or loosen my grip?

I’ve never had a “green thumb” but it sounds like my garden could use some weeding.

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depressed-anxious-young-woman-suffering-from-mental-disorders-illness

A friend asked me to send her a link of my articles regarding anxiety and what helps. I quickly did a search for my columns at the Caller-Times, but I noticed that 1. there weren’t many and 2. I didn’t give any advice about what to do, I just talked about what it was.

I did write more blogs about it, so I sent those. But it made me think — I still don’t have a handle on my anxiety. It has been three years since leaving the Menninger Clinic yet I have few ideas on how to cope, even for myself.

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As of now, I’ll do some deep breathing or box breathing. I’ll take some anxiety meds (which usually help very little). I’ll talk to my husband or a friend about what I’m feeling. I’ll get under my weighted blanket, which honestly feels the best — when an anxiety attack occurs, I often feel like my insides are trying to get outside of my body. Weird, I know. I digress. A lot of times, I’ll slip and overeat on snacks or candy. That would be an unhealthy coping skill. I used to get weekly massages, but now I don’t. I haven’t seen a difference in anxiety levels.

Even if some combination of these things helps, it doesn’t make it go away completely. And the anxiety always comes back. Most people think it’s just everyday worries, but it’s not like that. It’s often worst-case scenarios that get trapped in my brain and intrusive thoughts that I can’t control. I counter them by praying over and over to the point where it gets obsessive. I’ll try to distract myself. It’s hard. And depression is hard, too. I am in no way saying it’s easy, but at least I get relief from the crushing sadness, fatigue and apathy. I never get a break from anxiety.

And if you Google tips on coping with anxiety, you get some annoying answers. I say annoying, because while these tips do help some, they don’t help someone like me who does them anyway and who has a severe anxiety disorder.

For example:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Exercise
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Maintain a positive attitude
  • Try yoga
  • Watch for triggers

I guess we get the same trite answers because nobody knows how to really help — and again, I’m talking about people with severe anxiety, not those with day-to-day worries (not that I’m discounting them either).

So really all I know that helps in the moment in my weighted blanket. But the problem with that is I’m not always home when anxiety strikes. Breathing helps, too. Sometimes singing at the top of my lungs in the car helps. Oh, and bingeing on my favorite shows. I’ve watched them all 100 times. The familiarity is comforting. Nothing new is going to surprise me. It’s just the same old characters doing the same old things. That may seem sad to you, but it’s calming.

I gotta do what I gotta do.

It’s just that sometimes that’s not enough.

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I always hated going back to school and leaving summer vacation behind. I would get anxious about the new year, wondering what friends I’d have in my class and which teacher I’d get. And I would worry about hypothetical tests and projects that I just knew I’d get bad grades on. There was such a heaviness when school rolled around, erasing all the chill I had acquired that summer.
I can’t imagine what it’s like as a kid now. They’re dealing with so much more: the pandemic, trauma of frequent school shootings and increased bullying. It’s scary, and it’s something that none of our generations has seen before.
So here’s what I’m going to do with my soon-to-be second grader and Kindergartener to help with the transition. I hope it helps our collective mental health.

  1. We’re going to get back into our school routine, i.e. waking up earlier, getting dressed first thing and eating breakfast right away
  2. Talk about what’s making them nervous. Both of my kids have new teachers this year, so I know that’s a source of anxiety. We can talk about that and anything else that’s bothering them.
  3. Empathize with my kids. Whatever it is that’s causing anxiety, I need to listen and show empathy. I’ll try not to brush off their feelings, instead I’ll validate their worries and concerns.
  4. I’ll encourage my kids to talk about their fears or how their day went. I’ll also give them tips on self-care (healthy self-care and coping skills) and how it can help their stress levels.
  5. I’ll be present. When my kids get home, I’ll push my work aside, put my phone away and concentrate on them. They may want alone time to decompress, but they will know that I’m available and there.

Signs of Anxiety in Kids (www.verywellfamily.com)

  • Appear more clingy than normal
  • Be restless and fidgety
  • Complain of stomachaches
  • Display changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Express negative thoughts or worries
  • Get upset or angry more quickly
  • Have bouts of unexplained crying
  • Struggle to concentrate

To learn more about kids and mental health, please visit the NAMI.org website.

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super-mom

First let me start by saying this is not a real thing. I mean it’s real because people are making it real, but high-functioning depression (or anxiety) is not a medical diagnosis.

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As previously mentioned, I’ve been feeling down for the past couple of weeks; I had to go into Low Battery Mode to conserve energy. But even though almost every day has been a struggle, I’ve still been functioning at a high level. It’s odd, because I’m used to extremes — down and out or walking on sunshine. Here I am able to get up early in the morning, take a shower, get the kids to camp, do the work I need to do for NAMI GCC, get school paperwork organized, etc.

Maybe it’s not about being highly functional — maybe it’s about keeping busy so I don’t have time to think about how depressed I am. Epiphany…?

No, I don’t think that’s it, because if it were a bad depressive episode I were going through, I wouldn’t have the energy to do any of those things. This is just a blip; I already feel better and the waves of sadness, loneliness and self-loathing are fewer and farther between. Thank God. It’s terrifying to think all the progress I’ve made could be erased, or that my happiness could be taken away so fast and for no reason. I guess the reason is because my neurons are unruly. That’s hardly fair. But it does makes me grateful for the precious time I have with my friends and family and the time I spend with myself smiling and enjoying the color of the water, a good book, the taste of Chick-fil-a nuggets, laughing with my best friend, a nap under a warm blanket and bingeing on my favorite shows. Totally priceless.

I can’t wait to get back there. I’m so close, I know it.

Until then, I’ll remind myself that these blues hanging around are temporary. My head is still above water. I’m still highly functional.

So, I guess it is a real thing.

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