Apartment Stories: Anxiety

Anxiety is a rather constant companion of mine. It use to be an every wakeful moment companion, a not let me sleep companion, and then it also use to bring its close cousin panic attack to the party. Thankfully, those days are behind me (for the most part), and anxiety only usually shows up occasionally, for small doses of time. Then this past week happened.

This past week –  last Sunday night and not stopping until about Friday evening, was rather brutal. Anxiety was with me more often than not. Doug, got sick last Sunday night, Monday we got our apartment sprayed for cockroaches. Those seem like insignificant things in the grand scheme of things – and they are…now. At the time it was anything but.

See, I have a phobia of throwing up. And Doug was throwing up. Was I there for him and taking care of him when he was sick – of course. Did I lose it thoroughly afterwards to my anxiety? Yes. Did I have a panic attack? No. Years ago I would have. So small steps in the right direction.

Then the spraying of the apartment. I had a sick boyfriend sleeping finally, and a piece of paper saying that I didn’t have to leave the apartment. Turns out the paper I had was wrong and we did have to leave – for 6 hours. Packed up sick boyfriend and we all went to my grandmother’s. Oh, and did I mention I was working from home that day too?

The next 48 hours were spent with me worried – irrationally worried – that I was going to get sick. Was I? No. Even writing that sentence makes me a little anxious because I’m afraid I’m jinxing myself. Doug had night shifts later in the week, and I slept over at my parent’s place after finding another cockroach after the spray and losing it. Because, hey, I hadn’t really been sleeping well. You can’t really sleep if you can’t really stop shaking.

The big triggers for me from this week that set me off were the throwing up and the change of my routine. Everything in the kitchen was in the living room and dining room, the stuff from the bathroom was in the hall and the bedroom. The apartment was in disarray, and I felt like I was in disarray already. Small drops of water as it were, that easily turn into a flood.

Now reading all of this from my calm mental and relaxed state – I know that I sound irrational. And that’s because it is. Anxiety is irrational. A switch gets flipped, a light goes off and all of a sudden your flight or fight response is triggered for no rational reason. And it can (as it did in this case) go on for days. It can be terrifying when you can’t easily calm down, and there’s no rational way to explain why you can’t.

So how did I calm myself?

As the week when on it started getting a little less on its own. I helped it along by meditating a lot. Meditating slows down your wayward thoughts, makes you breathe deeper, forces you to calm down slowly. I use the app Insight Timer. A friend of mine recommended it and it’s wonderful. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of meditations all for free. It’s fantastic.

I walked. Doug and I (when he’s not on night shift) taken 30-60 min walks around the neighbourhood. The exercise is light, but it gets you moving, gets your endorphins running, and by going with Doug it gave me someone to talk when my brain started running away with me again.

I also purposefully made this weekend my “reset weekend”. Doug and I put the kitchen and bathroom back together because a) it had to happen and b) it made me feel so much better. Friday night I went to bed at 9:30 and slept for about 9 hours. I woke up feeling refreshed. Saturday I made my day of rest – I cooked myself French toast for breakfast, I read, I relaxed. Sunday, was (is) more productive as we cleaned the apartment, and I sat down at my laptop to work. But even so, Sunday (today) is being approached with a relaxed productivity. Things need to get done, but there’s no racing around. It’s almost like nesting or puttering.

So here’s what I’ve been reminded of this weekend. Life happens, and it’s okay to fall apart after you’ve handled the important things (like taking care of a sick boyfriend), and it’s also okay to take the time to reset yourself. We’re not machines, and sometimes we don’t function like we think we should. And that’s all okay. We just have to take care of ourselves, ask for help when we need it, and most importantly try to remain positive that the irrational cloud that’s hanging over us from time to time isn’t a permanent fixture in the skyline.

Bell Let’s Talk Mental Health

Mental health is a serious issue. It’s also a serious issue that most people, societies and governments don’t take seriously.

This is a problem.

According to the Canadian Institute of Health Research, 1 out of 5 people in Canada will experience a form of mental illness at some point in their life.

1 in 5. 

That’s a lot of people. That’s a lot of people to not take seriously.

So if you are suffering, or have suffered or are afraid that you will suffer from mental illness please remember these few things:

  1. You are not, and will never be alone.
  2. You are awesome. Always.
  3. There is nothing wrong with needing help. Everyone needs help at some point.
  4. PLEASE get help, seek out help, shout for help if you need it.
  5. Help is always there for those who need it

Today is a day we talk about mental health. But it should be something that we talk about all of the time.

Let’s keep talking.

Personal Friday: The Happiness Jar

Everyone has bad days. It’s a given. Most of my bad days come from my colitis and my anxiety (most, not all). I find that when one of those acts up or when both of them act up at the same time it’s very easy for my thoughts to turn negative and my energy to lower and to just feel all around down.

My thought process when this happens also quickly becomes something like “it’s always going to be this way,” “it’s never going to get better,” “no one will want to be with me because of these problems,” etc.

So, to combat these negative thoughts and feelings when they happen, I’m taking a page from Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love, and making a happiness jar. I follow Elizabeth on Instagram and recently she posted a picture of her happiness jar, and explained what it is.

Essentially it’s you, every day, writing down on a piece of paper something about the day that made you happy and putting it in the jar. It seems simply enough. But it’s a powerful thing I think to combat your bad days.

My plan to help combat my negative thoughts when I have them, when I think that “it’s always going to be this way,” or “I’m always going to feel this way,” is to simply look at my jar – my jar full of happiness – and remember and see right there in front of me that no it won’t always be this way and here are the moments that prove it.

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I got the jar from the dollar store, and I was just going to use whatever paper I had lying around, but the jar is ribbed so it’s a little hard to see into, and thus regular paper is super hard to see in it. So I went back to the dollar store and bought a little thing of coloured paper, which as you can see in the above picture, shows up better in the jar. I think that this is going to be a good thing for me, and it cost me less than $5. You really can’t go wrong with that.

I’ve also realized since starting this that even on my bad days, I can find something to be happy about. I’ve noticed too that I’m a bit more aware of my days, and what happens in them because I’m looking for the happy moments, and I think that also helps change your attitude about the day because it puts it and your brain into a more positive setting.

So thank you very much Elizabeth Gilbert for sharing the idea 🙂

 

Review Tuesday: My Year with Eleanor

I had high hopes for this book I will admit, but what started out as a potential 5 star book ended up with 2 on Goodreads.

From Goodreads:

my year with EleanorAfter losing her high-octane job as an entertainment blogger, Noelle Hancock was lost. About to turn twenty-nine, she’d spent her career writing about celebrities’ lives and had forgotten how to live her own. Unemployed and full of self-doubt, she had no idea what she wanted out of life. She feared change—in fact, she feared almost everything. Once confident and ambitious, she had become crippled by anxiety, lacking the courage required even to attend a dinner party—until inspiration struck one day in the form of a quote on a chalkboard in a coffee shop:

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
—Eleanor Roosevelt

Painfully timid as a child, Eleanor Roosevelt dedicated herself to facing her fears, a commitment that shaped the rest of her life. With Eleanor as her guide, Noelle spends the months leading up to her thirtieth birthday pursuing a “Year of Fear.” From shark diving to fighter pilot lessons, from tap dancing and stand-up comedy to confronting old boyfriends, her hilarious and harrowing adventures teach her about who she is, and what she can become—lessons she makes vital for all of us.

The premise of the book is what drew me to it initially, however it really just ended up reading like a list of “look what I did in a year.” I wasn’t interested in her sky diving, or mountain climbing because it’s really not realistic to take a year off from work and do all of those things. Most people don’t have the time or the money. I was more interested in the every day things that people are afraid of, that they go out of their way to avoid. But those kind of fears were barely touched or talked about in her book.

There was a disconnect I found between her doing all of the big things (skydiving etc) and how doing those things helped her develop internally. Sky diving once or swimming with sharks once doesn’t erase the fear that those activities cause – and since there was no real discussion about how that helped her become a less fearful or anxious person the book got boring rather quickly.

The one thing I did like is that she talked about mindfulness and how using that tool helps us overcome fear and anxiety. That was helpful. If she had use that to relate more to herself and her fears and what she was internally going through the book would have been much better I think.

Let’s Talk About Stress

I’m perhaps not the norm when it comes to stress, but for me if I get too stressed out it can lead to anxiety, which then also can lead to panic attacks.

What do I have to be stressed about?

Nothing. And yet everything. Stress is clearly a mental thing. It’s your brain’s way of telling you that whatever you are doing you either need to stop or better pace yourself because you can’t handle it. You brain needs a break. Stress can also effect you physically. I always find this stage to be when your brain is tired of being ignored so it sends signals to your body to get you to start paying attention. These kind of signals (for me anyway) are things like headaches, sore muscles, pain in back, neck, shoulders, tiredness, hyperactivity etc.

I find that stress is something that is serious in terms of mental health, and yet something that people – especially younger generations – don’t really take too seriously.

Today I got stressed out. This happens sometimes and it’s not the end of the world. Today there was no anxiety, no panic attacks, but I was stressed out enough that I had pain in my shoulders, neck and ended up with a headache – a headache that I still can’t quite shake even though it’s now 11 pm, and I don’t feel stressed any longer. The thing with my stress levels is that because I know I get anxious, and can end up with a panic attack, I monitor my stress perhaps more carefully than other people. Today when my headache came, I took my lunch and walked around downtown in the sunshine. My break, from the work that while important, wasn’t worth getting stressed out about.

Sometimes I find that people are so concerned with getting everything done and being the best and trying to do it all that they get way too stressed out and end up hurting themselves in the long run. And while I realize that this post is now sounding more on the preachy side, it’s important to monitor your stress, and it’s important to have steps in place to combat it.

My Steps to Combat Stress and Chill the F*ck Out:

1. Take a walk. Walk aways either physically or mentally for a little while. Go do something else.

2. Take 5 minutes and just do a little mediation or breathing exercises. I realize that sounds rather new age-y, but it works. Don’t knock it ’til you try it.

3. Exercise. Do yoga, run, bike – whatever you do that helps your brain turn off and still gets your blood flowing.

Stress is part of life. Shit happens and we have to deal with it, but we all need to take a moment now and again and just chill out. Relax. Be calm. Taking that time will definitely serve us mentally and physically in the long run.

What do you do to combat stress?