Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Hamburglar is probably just anxious

I think there are 2 brilliant things about getting older - you get better at knowing yourself and you get better at sex. I'd like to just address one of these things today, and since I'm typing this at work, I'll leave sex to the side for now (googling "sex" whilst sitting in a room full of Khmer co-workers is a bit creepy, right?). Anyway, thanks to this merry ride that life is taking me on, in recent times (and by recent, I mean the last fortnight) I've really started to get to know myself. Thanks to some stress, pressure, a bit of criticism and a liberal dose of isolation in rural Cambodia, I've come to recognise that there are certain traits/habits I have that I'm certain, now I think about it, I've had for years. But before you log off, fear not - I'm not going to bore you with some boring clap trap about an existential breakthrough I've had whilst meditating and the subsequent perspective-altering truths that I now know to be universal. No. This will probably not even give your mind a quick rub, let alone blow it. But what I am going to tell you about is real. The tips I will give you are practical. And the results will, hopefully, be achievable for both of us.

Here's what I have come to realise - I get anxious. I get so anxious, that I will spend hours distracted and totally consumed by a negative thought that I have convinced myself is a truth. I will want to speak and weep and write and fight (that's a big one for me, the fighting) and circle this negative thought for so long that I will not even realise I'm doing it. I'll stop working. I'll call my boyfriend incessantly until it becomes tantamount to stalking because I just want some comfort DAMN IT! I'll Facebook and read trashy celebrity news online and watch hours of ripped TV shows in an effort to completely distract myself. And then, when I've thoroughly exhausted myself, I will recover from this downward spiral by either shopping or eating. And now that I'm in Cambodia and no God-forsaken online clothing store will deliver here, guess which one I will chose?

So, as I say, I think I've been practising this routine for years. I once had a partner with a nasty gambling habit and I recall spending hours walking the streets at night looking for him, completely oblivious to the fact that I was never going to find him, but certain in my anxious state that he must be out here and that what I was doing was entirely sensible. It was ridiculous but I couldn't stop myself. But now, dear friends, now I know why. And in knowing why, I now have the power to do something about it - I can now, at the ripe age of 32 (ish), I can now tame this beast. And I can do it before it forces any more crazy acts or bacon cheeseburgers down my gullet. (and no, that's not me abdicating responsibility - the beast is still me, and I know that. I just need to figure out how to deal with this part of me. I know it's not "other". I get it! I was being poetic. Sheesh tough crowd)

I've found some great websites with wonderful tips (see links at the bottom of the page) and I've selected my favourite strategies from these sites that I think will work for me and chucked them up here. You might have to dig around for your own tools (come now, let's not be lazy).

  • Learn about Anxiety - read through a few sites and you may quickly recognise yourself within the pages. Learn more about what anxiety can do to the body and mind - this will lay the foundation for you understanding and putting into practice the strategies. 
  • Breathe - every site will tell you to do this. Slow, long breaths are a physical intervention that will help you get your mind back on track. It's like coming up for air when you're drowning - you need to breath when you're emotionally struggling too. Deliberately stop what you're doing (read: worrying about) and spend 2 minutes with your eyes closed breathing. It. Will. Bloody. Help. 
  • Challenge your negative thoughts - basically, you've got to find a way to say "stop" to the negativity before it goes OTT. You may chose to actually say the word "stop", spend 2 minutes breathing and then begin some real talk with yourself. There are some great example thought challenge questions that will help you get back to realistic thinking on AnxietyBC.
  • Laugh - it helps you keep at bay and/or recover from anxiety and it helps you look younger and appear witty and approachable in groups. I'll just leave this here to get you started: 

Hail me. Hilarious! Now, all of this breathing etc takes practice - it's not a one dose cure-all. I will no doubt fail using my chosen strategies just as much as I will succeed. But the point is I will try and I will be aware. My belief is that self-awareness and self-like/love/lust, is ultimately what keeps these emotional beasts and that excessive cheeseburger consumption at bay. So, if like me, you are fighting off those dastardly anxious thoughts - remember to breathe and know that you're not alone! 

Good luck 
Danielle x

Useful Resources:

Note also - I'm not a Dr nor am I anyone who actually has experience with Anxiety Disorders. I am, however, keen to get my own issues on track and I believe that sharing is caring so... there.