Tag: anxiety

When Goals Make You Nuts…

It’s only Tuesday…How I am going to get through this week I will never know?  As many of you know I have a bit of an anxious personality, coupled with a very strong will.  This makes for an interesting experience when setting goals.

I’ve never been a half way kind of person so I have to be very careful when setting goals.  I will become totally immersed in whatever I’m trying to do.  This caused for great disappointment as a teen because I didn’t make most of the things I set goals to do…Sigh.  (If any of you watch The Middle, I was basically Sue in real life!).   It wasn’t until I got into BYU that I finally made something I’d tried out for/applied for.  It was one of the best moments of my life partly because I expected to fail, or at best was cautiously optimistic.

I think it is these experiences that made me so anxious about goals.  I grew up feeling like I could accomplish anything but eventually being let down when I didn’t; hence the anxiety about seeing something through developed.  It’s the what if game- especially in the home stretch, when I almost have it.  (Just wait if I ever get engaged the weeks before getting married will be interesting!).

That’s what has been amazing about the last few years.  Unlike other times in my life I have actually accomplished almost everything I’ve tried to do. I think finishing my mission is a big reason for that.  I know  if I could do that, I can do anything.  It was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life and I made it through.  Not only did I make it through but I did a good job! (You set a lot of goals on a mission and I was pretty good at achieving those goals!).

Then I moved on to graduate school and I did that and started the fitness quest and open water swims, did those.  Even my recitals for voice lessons have all gone well.  (I hope I’m not due for a spectacular crash and burn soon…Again, anxiety).

And yet, there has been so much bad news in the last year and a half that I feel primed and ready for a victory. Still, I wish it would just come already!

In the end, I know I can do it.  I know it will be an awesome day! I’ve put in the work.  As the sports psychologists say I just have to keep the positive self talk because “negative self-talk becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy…”.

I also remember a talk I heard once by Elder Featherstone where he said “Decide what you are going to do if you don’t get an answer to your prayer and then proceed as if you will receive it”.  I’m not saying I’m perfect at this but I think there is truth to it.  If you can visualize a ‘worst case scenario’ and deal with that, put it behind you than it is easier to move on.

Recently I also got some good advice to turn your anxiety into something funny.  Laugh, not in a mocking way, but in a ‘I’m not going to be that ridiculous’ kind of way.  This helps you smile and take a breath.  I’m trying it out and it seems to work quite well.

Still, I wish this was a week where I was out and about instead of a mostly inside.  More time to stew, especially after my scary swim on Monday, is not a great thing.  Thank goodness I have great friends who are THE BEST!  I think every last one of my friends believes in me more than I believe in myself.  They may grow weary of reminding me that I can do it, but I never grow tired of hearing it.

Let me also put in a little plug for Doterra Balance.  It might be a placebo thing but I swear it helps me calm down.  Makes my heart stop racing and feel at peace.  It really does.

What works for you when you are anticipating a big event, feeling a bit anxious?  What calming techniques, coping strategies do you like?

I know music helps and hot liquids. Sometimes just getting your mind off of it is the best thing you can do.  That’s why my friends and I are going out Thursday night.  Anyone want to do something (not to late) Friday night? I’m not saying I’ll be great company but better than nothing!

Another technique I use is focusing on relationships and moments more than outcomes.  If you can say I gained this relationship or I had this great moment than the outcome is less important.  It’s especially good to focus on outcomes you can control.  For instance, I can’t control the weather or the waves but I can control my training and my diet.  I can control some outcomes such as ‘regardless I’m going to have a darn good blog entry on Saturday’.   That’s an outcome within my control.  It took me YEARS to figure that one out!

Honestly, the best thing for me is prayer and knowing that my Heavenly Father loves me regardless of all my insecurities, failures and foibles.  I learned on my mission that God knew me and that He accepted my best effort.  I left that experience having no regrets.  I can honestly say I have left every experience since then with NO REGRETS!  I haven’t been perfect.  In fact, I’ve had some spectacular screw-ups but I know God has accepted my effort and that is the greatest peace a girl can have.

I love this painting. It is the most peaceful image I’ve ever seen.

My mission president told me once ‘You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone’ and I think that’s such an important reminder.  I’ve already proven myself to the Lord and my loved one’s by just pushing forward, just trying.  They aren’t Simon Cowell.  I’m not being judged in that way.  I’ve already finished the race just by entering it.  Now is the home stretch and the whole journey both mental and physical will make the final triumph all the more victorious!

I’m like a kid at Christmas- I wish it would just come already! Ok.  I will try and get some sleep once again.

Insomnia and anxiety are not a great mix… 🙂

Anxiety

Let me start off by saying this is an incredibly personal thing to share; however, I decided long ago that if I was going to embrace social media I would do it 100%.  You truly know the real me through following me on facebook, twitter or by reading this blog.

So I have good news my friends..  I have slept- from 11:30 last night to 6:30!  I was thrilled!  The truth is Monday night I was having a bit of an anxiety attack.  This is only the second time in my life I’ve experienced such a thing.  I can’t explain it but will just say the brain can become fixated on a thought and it won’t go away.  The crazy thing is that both times this has happened to me were after I thought I had dealt with the situation and had even felt some catharsis that it was over and then BAM!

It’s really hard to understand if you haven’t felt it.  Fixating on something like fibro pain, which has been bad lately, or on possible changes at work, or on other personal changes, and you try to distract yourself but then it keeps coming back again stronger and stronger.  At a certain point I even was getting anxiety about getting anxiety.  Also, the more sleep you lose the more tense you feel.

This chart brilliantly describes what happens when we feel anxiety

The truth is the reasons don’t really matter.  All that matters is that my thoughts changed my feelings into a sense of panic or loss of control.

Like I said, my other panic attack happened in 2007.  At the time I hated my job and felt I had a black cloud over my life.  No matter what I did I felt sad and worthless.  No matter how much reinforcement was given me I felt like a failure.  This was reinforced by the disdain showed me by my boss but it was also due to a feeling of ‘let down’ after being so important on my mission.

There was one particular day where I had finally had it with this boss.  I had planned out my week to the tee and already felt totally overwhelmed.  Then we got this new training on a huge new project.   That was it.  I couldn’t do another huge project. There was no way.  I started crying as the girl in Florida (thankfully over the phone) was giving the training. (And I was not a crier at work)

After the training my boss (who was supposed to be my advocate- or at least that’s how I saw it) turned to me and said ‘well, you are just going to have to get it done.   That was the tipping point.  I just left and stormed out of the office and called my superior boss.  This is a man I’d known for many years.  He calmed me down and we discussed the situation.  He said that he ‘shouldn’t have let this happen.’ (the mark of a great leader in my book).  Then he said ‘we will talk about this on Monday’.

Situation seemingly resolved, I felt calm and went home.  Then the little bug of a thought started in my head.  What could happen on Monday?  What if I lost control?  What if I yelled and screamed?  What if I looked like a fool? etc.   For 2 days I tried to remove those thoughts from my head but they kept coming and coming.  I just couldn’t figure it out.

Finally at Walmart I started to feel claustrophobic and my asthma began to flair up. I felt like I couldn’t breath.  I made my purchases and went home.  After calling my Mom, my brother and roommates came over to help me.  I remember they were all surprised because, like me, they thought everything had been resolved when I spoke with my boss.

Eventually I was able to calm down and everything was okay.  I did go to a counselor after this experience and found some great advice that I have put into practice many times in the last 5 years.

This week was kind of the same in the sense of building stresses, one on top of another, and then once I had thought I had it figured out, I became fixated on a thought.  In addition, I was in pain and when you have chronic pain it is easy to get anxiety about having more pain. I can’t explain it but I couldn’t get to sleep and then began to feel anxiety about not getting to sleep. At a certain point you have anxiety about getting anxiety!

I did everything I could to snap out of it but you know what finally helped?  Talking to a friend who had undergone a similar experience.  She was able to give the perfect advice.  I got out of the house (went to Walmart, the scene of the last crime).  I took some medicine that is for emergency only.  I used my Balance Doterra Essential Oils and I went to bed using as close to good sleep hygiene as I could.  I also ate a very healthy dinner.

All of these things helped but just talking to a friend and feeling understood was probably the most helpful.  Again, anxiety is not about events but its about how we process these events. How we feel about them. Those feelings are usually completely illogical but it doesn’t matter.  Part of cognitive therapy is recognizing those thoughts and then creating a plan for future thought maintenance.

Feeling Good by David Burns has helped me immensely (hey it gave me 5 years in between anxiety!  Pretty good!).  If you don’t have it I will buy you a copy.  Aside from the Book of Mormon (which I will also give you a copy of!) it is the most helpful book in my life.

He says “Negative events grow in importance until they dominate your entire reality- and you can’t really tell that what is happening is distorted.  It all seems very real to you. ”

He then goes on to give 3 Methods for Boosting Self-Esteem (or shutting out negative thought).  They are too complicated to explain here but very effective (like I said they worked for me for 5 years drug free).  But in conclusion Burns says on changing our thoughts:

“How can this be accomplished? You must first consider that human life is an ongoing process that involves a constantly changing physical body as well as an enormous number of rapidly changing thoughts, feelings and behaviors.  Your life therefore, is an evolving experience, a continual flow.  You are not a thing; that’s why any label is constricting, highly inaccurate and global…Your thoughts may be positive, creative, and enhancing’ the great majority are neutral.  Others may be irrational, self-defeating, and maladaptive.  These can be modified if you are willing to exert the effort, but they certainly do not and cannot mean that you are no good.  There is no such thing in the universe as a worthless human being.”

Like Burns says controlling our thoughts takes work and we will have moments where we aren’t successful.  That is okay.  When this happens have a list of resources that you can turn to.  I had mine and they came through for me in spades.  Even just strategies like getting out of the house or making a list of positives can help.

I share this experience with you because I am a smiling girl 90% of the time.  I love my life but like everyone else I have my battles.  There is such a stigma around mental illness in our culture but I believe just like I can get the flu, I can get an anxiety attack.  It happens.  Its OK.  Don’t be ashamed.  You will get through it.  People do love you immensely.   Get the help you need and if the first thing you try doesn’t work try something else.

Also don’t be surprised if healthy people have a difficulty understanding your condition.  To them, they may add up the events and think ‘what is the big deal?’  or even ‘why can’t she be more mature’.  It doesn’t really have anything to do with events.  Its about the thoughts and processing of those events which is completely within your own psyche.  The best advice I can give is to be honest with yourself (no denial, no self-criticism) and then create a plan to move forward.  Also, listing your distorted thoughts and a complimentary non-distorted thought (as Dr. Burns suggests) can be very helpful.

Now here’s to going another 5 years! (Its really kind of amazing I hadn’t had one last year with all the struggles but the previous one took over a year to build up to as well.  Another lesson learned).

There is no such thing in the universe as a worthless human being.

Go to http://bringchange2mind.org/ to sign a pledge to end the stigma against mental illness and to find more information for both helping yourself and your loved ones.

Feeling Good

So, its the holidays- the season of Joy and Gladness.  Anyone else out there feel the occasional winter blues?

I was visiting with a few friends today and we all started talking about how stressful this time of year can be and not really for the shopping, decorating, budgeting requirements countless Christmas specials would have you believe.

The weather and propensity for illness are part of the yuletide stress but it also seems to be a stressful time for every job.  Whether it is end of the year responsibilities, finals or a million other things December brings loads more work than other months.

As my friends and I vented our stress we started talking about all of the things we ‘wish we could do’ or that ‘we should be doing’.  Do you ever play this mental game?  It made me think of my favorite book on cognitive therapy- the classic Feeling Good by David Burns.  In the book he describes how distorted thinking tears us down. For example,

“I think the words ‘should’ and ‘must’ are almost always unhelpful and should(!), wherever possible, be deleted from your vocabulary. ”

I love this idea.  Take ‘should’ out of your vocabulary.  (I quoted this exact quote to my friends tonight.  You’d be surprised how often I end up quoting this book.  A few months back I recommended it to my trainer and the other day she quoted it back to me. Funny being quoted from your own recommendation!).

Not that we shouldn’t set goals or be ambitious but doesn’t a goal mean we are doing something, not feeling guilty for not doing something?  Guilt saps us of our positive energy and it distorts our self-image.

Anyone else feel this way? Ironically it seems like the time periods we are doing the most is when most of us feel like we should be doing more.  In my experience women are particularly bad about this.  Nothing is good enough (that old comparison bug can be so deadly!)

In the hopes of being helpful here are other forms of distorted thinking that Burns talks about (it really is such a good book.

The 10 forms of distorted thinking.  I’m sorry but I just think this list is SO BRILLIANT.  Which distortion do you relate to the most? How can we do more to support each other? Really, share your thoughts!

1. All-or-nothing thinking. This is when you look at things as absolutes : good/bad, success/failure, black/white. There’s no room for shades of grey. For example, ‘If I don’t get an A on this test I’ll be a total failure,’ or ‘If this relationship doesn’t work out I’ll be lonely and miserable for the rest of my life.’ In both cases, neither helpful nor true.

2. Overgeneralisation. You view a negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat, or take one situation that doesn’t work out to mean that life is always this way. ‘No-one really enjoyed that lasagna – I must be a terrible cook,’ or ‘My partner seemed really grumpy with me last night. I think she’s going off me.’ As with all these forms of distorted thinking, we fail to look at the bigger picture. Perhaps she was tired, not feeling well, had a stressful day at work, was preoccupied with money worries, had an argument with a friend on the way home… there could be a dozen good reasons, but you assume it’s all about you and extrapolate that out to make it a large-scale, global catastrophe.

3. Mental filter. You dwell on the negatives and ignore the positives – so, if your university tutor marks an essay and, in the middle of a glowing assessment, he includes one mild criticism, that’s what you fixate on. Think of a beaker of clear water – it only takes a single drop of ink to make it look murky and cloudy. In the same way, obsessing about a single negative remark and ignoring all the compliments or praise is a surefire way to darken your mood.

4. Discounting the positive. You reject all positive experiences by telling yourself, ‘They don’t count’, or ‘They’re just saying that to be polite.’ If you get an A-, you tell yourself it should have been an A+. If your boss praises you for a brilliant piece of work, you immediately shrug it off and say it was all down to your team, or anyone could have done it. This is a particularly unhelpful way of thinking because it drains all the joy out of life and constantly makes you feel inadequate and unappreciated. Not good.

5. Jumping to conclusions. This is when you interpret things negatively even though there are no facts to support your conclusion, and falls into two categories:

a) Mind reading. You immediately assume that someone is thinking negatively about you (‘I just know this girl thinks I’m an idiot. She obviously finds me really boring.’)

b) Fortune-telling. You predict that things will turn out badly (‘I definitely failed that test.’ ‘I’m bound to be the one who gets made redundant’).

In both cases, the key is checking out the evidence – in the vast majority of cases you’ll find your negative assumption was quite wrong.

6. Magnification or minimisation. You exaggerate the importance of your problems and less-desirable aspects of your character, while minimising your desirable qualities. ‘I wish I didn’t lose my temper – I’m a horrible, angry, unpleasant person,’ or ‘Yes, I’m quite good at maths, but I’m terrible at writing essays.’

7. Emotional reasoning. This is when you assume something is true because you feel it so strongly it must be, assuming that your negative emotions reflect the way things really are. ‘I feel sure this plane is going to crash – let’s take the next one,’ or ‘I’m so worried about my best man’s speech, it’s bound to be a disaster.’ As with distortion 5, if this is true you have an uncanny ability to predict the future!

8. Should statements. I think the words ‘should’ and ‘must’ are almost always unhelpful and should(!), wherever possible, be deleted from your vocabulary. This can work two ways: you can either tell yourself that you should do this or that, have done something better, be more skilled at something else… or that the world should be a certain way. It’s so unhelpful because should (like must, have to and ought to) have a punitive, critical edge that makes you feel bad. And if you apply shoulds to the world (‘This train should be on time! Now I’m going to be late’) it’s a guaranteed way to crank up your negative feelings.

9. Labelling. This is an extreme form of all-or-nothing thinking. Instead of saying, ‘I didn’t cook that spaghetti very well – I’ll concentrate a bit more next time, you tell yourself ‘I’m such a rubbish cook! Why am I a failure at everything?’ This is not only unhelpful but inaccurate – are you really a failure? At everything? Have you never succeeded at a single thing in your life then? Was every meal you ever cooked rubbish? Of course not. Also watch out for labelling others: ‘She’s such a bitch,’ or ‘He’s a nightmare.’ Again, neither true (she may be bitchy sometimes, but is that the totality of her character?) nor helpful.

10. Personalisation and blame. In the first instance, you hold yourself completely responsible for something that is only partially, if at all, your responsibility (‘I know there’s a recession on, but it’s still completely down to me that my business failed.’) In the second, you blame others 100% for your circumstances or problems. In both cases, the key is to be realistic and fair – you might have made some mistakes with your business, but countless businesses fail during a recession, so stop beating yourself up! Instead, take responsibility for your mistakes, learn from them and move on.

A Stupid Fear

Today I would just like to expose a fear of mine that is kind of involved with my current weight loss program.  My hope is that through expressing myself I will be able to deal with this fear and move on.  So here goes…

Relationships have always been a mystery to me.  Sometimes the whole “love” concept feels a little like Santa Claus- like one day I will wake up and realize romance is a big myth grown ups like to tell.  It’s hard because I have never been in love or anything close to it.  In fact, it is almost impossible for me to imagine anyone being in love with me.  I say that with a very healthy self-confidence.  I know I’m beautiful and accomplished, but I still can’t imagine anyone falling in love with me (Doesn’t everyone have a few things they are insecure about? This is one of mine).  Maybe romance is something you can’t imagine until it happens.

Part of what makes this tough is I am admittedly naive when it comes to men.  Aside from my father and brothers I’ve had limited interaction with men.  My friends have always been girls- even as a child or teenager.  My crushes have also been few and far between.  I’m not sure why but it seems I don’t meet men I’m attracted to very often.  Don’t get the wrong idea- I’m attracted to men but I don’t crush often. Even the Hollywood guys that other girls swoon over I rarely find that good looking.

Anyway, I am happy with my life.  I love being single and independent, but I think everyone would like to fall in love at least once in his or her lifetime.  So, here’s my fear- what if I lose all the weight and then meet someone.  No matter what happens there will always be the potential for me to look the way I am now.  How do I know that the future person will be ok with the current me? Does that make sense?  In some ways I wish I could meet someone right now.  If someone could fall in love with the plus size me it would take a worry away.  If it happens after I lose the weight I will probably  be a little anxious about my looks. What if I have a baby and end up looking just like I look now will that be a problem for the guy?  I know things like that are more important to guys but it could happen.  There will always be the potential for me to be a big girl and he has to be ok with that. Basically my fear is if I lose weight, meet someone and then gain the weight back will he not love me anymore?

It’s not like I can do much about this fear except deal with it.  It certainly is not going to stop me from getting in shape.  Love is not something that can be planned or organized on my timeline.  It is up to God and my mystery man out there.  We will just have to wait and see what happens, and I will have to conquer my anxieties and fears.