I don’t even know where to begin with this one, but I feel like it needs to come out.
I just had an awful night’s sleep, and yet, I am here, awake at 5:30AM on a Saturday, feeling more refreshed than I have felt all week.
I’d say these nights happen at least once a month. I typically fall asleep like usual, for a couple of hours, and then wake up with my chest feeling super tight and my mind racing, anticipating every worst case scenario. “We’re going to lose the house,” I think to myself. “Automation is going to make it impossible for us to make a decent living, or for our kids to make a decent living.” “The economy is going to crash.” And I’d be lying if I said that my imagination didn’t go to a place where Mama Bear is trying to keep her family together in some kind of post-apocalyptic wasteland.
This is what my anxiety attacks look like.
I wasn’t always like this
I used to actually be a relatively confident person with a can-do attitude. I can pinpoint when things started to change for me, and that was a couple of years ago. I was in a job where I felt trapped. I enjoyed the work, but the environment was toxic. One colleague in particular was constantly trying to undermine others, and another was so frustrated with their work that they took it out on the rest of us. Given that I was assigned to assist with their caseload, I took the brunt of it.
I’d always had a way of taking a tough nut to crack and winning them over, but was unsuccessful in this particular case. My confidence and self-esteem took a massive hit and never truly recovered. It’s a constant work in progress.
I remember losing interest in everything that used to make me happy. I would go to Aquafit and just cry in the pool. All I wanted to do was sleep. I was exhausted all. the. time.
I’m not at that point. I still find joy in many activities, but I find that inertia is getting to be a strong force to overcome. Once I get up and get going, I’m fine, but as soon as I sit down for a rest, it gets that much harder to get going again.
I also find that getting overwhelmed can trigger symptoms. In addition to concerns that may or may not be valid, negative self-talk kicks in “You can’t even manage this, how will you be able to move forward and tackle that new project?” Or you start beating yourself up for falling behind… on household tasks. On projects. On job applications. On blogging.
If you think that any of this sounds familiar, please go see your doctor. I’ve got an appointment set for Tuesday because it’s not normal for me to be so sluggish.
But in the meantime, when my anxiety rears its head? Some stuff that has helped me in the past, as recently as last night:
- Breathing exercises. As lame as this might sound, focusing on my breathing has always helped to bring me back to the here and now. When your task is to just breathe, pesky negative thoughts have trouble making their way through.
- Focusing on the here and now. Grounding yourself is key. You’re not in that apocalyptic setting. You are in your comfortable bed. Take a few breaths and take in your surroundings, with as many of your senses as possible. Feel the softness of your sheets. Smell the fresh air coming in through your open window. See the outlines of the items in your bedroom. Take it all in to convince yourself that you are safe and economic ruin is not imminent. Hear the birds chirping outside.
- Don’t stay in bed awake. If you find that you can’t sleep, get up and go do something else. Take a bath. Read a book. Watch a boring TV show. Train your brain: bed is for sleep, not for stress. In the past, I have run through the numbers of the budget to prove to myself “Hey, on paper, this works. Why are you freaking out?” I would recommend staying away from the internet. I have found that there are a couple of issues: one, if you go on social media sites, reality is strictly filtered. You might see a perfect scene that you become envious over but not see the struggles that come with it. Two, you can unfortunately find a huge number of sites that will support any warped worldview that your anxiety is presenting you with. For me, as much as Reddit can be helpful (like the personal finance subreddits), it can also scare the bejesus out of me, which is why I tucked my phone into my drawer when I saw I was going to have one of those nights. Only come back to bed when you are super sleepy. Breathing can help you get the rest of the way to sleep.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can also help with retraining your brain.
It’s completely normal for someone to get overwhelmed with everyday life.
But if it gets to be more than that, it’s not a weakness in you, it’s a sign of great strength to recognize it and to seek out help.
I’m sharing this because I know there is a stigma surrounding mental health issues, and without wanting to use it as an excuse or a crutch, I’m experiencing first hand how it can interfere with chasing goals and getting to that next level.
I received one of my questionnaires back and I do have to format it and share with you guys. This pair, in my mind, is the King and Queen of the side hustle. I’ll aim to have that ready for what I want to dub Feature Friday, where I feature the cool stories of my friends.
Stay well, wherever you are.