Accidental Fudge

Updates Thursdays

Tag: anxiety management

Down Days

It has, objectively, been a pretty good week I got to spend some quality time with friends, enjoy a comedy show, a theatre show, and a concert, and I’ve had some quality alone time, too. 

But because my Bipolar brain doesn’t always or only react to outside circumstances, the objective positivity of the week hasn’t translated to an equal level of emotional positivity. 

I’m in a bit of a depressed downswing, is what it comes down to. 

Now, this is nowhere near the worst I’ve felt, and I know that eventually I’ll be fine. But it’s still a struggle. 

At the same time that this downswing has been happening, I’ve been working really hard to establish more routine in my life. My partner and I have started meal planning over the weekend for the whole upcoming week. I’m getting back into the habit of using my planner and writing down my to do lists instead of trying to keep it all in my head. And I started working through The Artist’s Way this week, so I’m getting up early to do morning pages (three pages written longhand as a brain dump first thing in the morning) every day.

Establishing new routines is a challenge at the best of times, but it’s especially hard when depression hits and leaves you with no motivation. 

Still, I’m managing okay. I’ve done a better job than I was expecting myself to do. And I think it’s helping. Having a routine and a schedule to stick to saves energy, because I’m not wasting time figuring out what I need to be doing in the moment. 

So life doesn’t feel especially easy right now, but I think I can say that I’m doing okay. 

Stressed

I almost didn’t write anything this week. Life has felt a little overwhelming lately in ways that don’t lend themselves to very interesting blog posts, and I feel like all I have to say is, “Overall, things are okay in my life, but I am extraordinarily stressed.”

Monday morning we went live with the project I’ve spent the last few months on at work. It didn’t go off entirely without a hitch; there have been some minor road-bumps that we’re still working through. But overall I’m really pleased with and proud of the work I did, and I’m calling my first project as project manager a success. 

The stress of the last couple of weeks continues to make me wish our August trip to Song School was closer. At the same time, there are still details we need to nail down about the travel there and back and some of the stuff we need to bring with us, so perhaps I shouldn’t be wishing for the time to pass so quickly. 

This weekend is the Square Roots Festival put on by the Old Town School of Folk Music. I’m volunteering for part of it, and I’m looking forward to it despite feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.

I feel like I’ve gotten better at managing anxiety about some things lately, but not others. It might be time to review the coping mechanisms I have at hand and try to be more consistent with the things I can do daily. I don’t like feeling caffeinated all the time, especially when I’m not drinking regular coffee anymore. 

Taking Care

The people who know me best know that my brain never really stops racing.

This is still true, despite the fact that as of yesterday I’ve spent ten minutes a day meditating (using Headspace) for 27 days straight.

It remains true despite the fact that I am spending large swaths of my life feeling exhausted.

Last week, I mentioned that I was getting back into embroidery for the first time in about a decade. Last week, I embroidered the corners of nine handkerchiefs in six days:

I embroidered all of these between Monday and Sunday.

I embroidered all of these between Monday and Sunday.

It feels a little silly, and I have some complex feelings about indulging in a craft that doesn’t have a lot of practical application. When I knit, 99% of the time it’s something I am going to use, or give to someone else in the hopes that they use it. I knit beautiful things, but I knit beautiful things with a purpose – things that I will wear, or that my nephew will play with, or things to snuggle under. Embroidery doesn’t really make anything, it just makes existing things prettier. Which is, I recognize, a perfectly valid reason to do a thing, and my internal resistance to the idea of doing something that a part of me finds “frivolous” is likely largely rooted in misogyny and the devaluation of things deemed “women’s work” by society. So that’s my own bullshit to work through. And it’s (clearly) not stopping me from doing it.

A large part of the reason why I keep making one tiny stitch after the other is the fact that embroidery requires focus. Not so much that it feels strenuous, but enough that it occupies a significant portion of my mind. I noticed pretty early on in the week that when I was carefully stitching away, following the lines of the patterns, that my brain slowed down. I didn’t stop worrying altogether. The anxiety was still there. But the cacophony of thoughts quieted down to a more manageable volume. It gave me a little space to process some of the ideas pinging around in my skull.

Of course, there’s the rest of my life that still needs living, and I can’t continue to let the time I take out to embroider consume the time I need to get things done around the house, get knitting projects with deadlines done, and otherwise take care of myself.

So this weekend, I have a massage scheduled for the first time since October (I haven’t been in since just before I had surgery!), and I have an appointment with my new therapist. Because embroidery is a great coping technique in its right (and is certainly a less expensive coping mechanism than some that I’ve used over the years), but it can’t be the only tool I have tucked into my belt. I want very badly to get involved in whatever forms of resistance I can, but I also need to be realistic about the fact that I’ve been finding it difficult to do much above and beyond my regularly scheduled activities. I can’t take care of the rest of the world if I’m not taking care of myself first.

The weekend won’t be without its own anxieties (I have a gig scheduled for Monday night, and I’m planning to play the songs I’ve written in the 8-week class that just ended yesterday, so I have a lot of polishing and practicing to do), but I am determined to do what I can to get my brain in a better place, both in the short-term and into the future, uncertain though it certainly is.

To Do Lists

I’ve been trying to get through each day by way of to do lists the past couple of weeks. Often, they go something like this:

  • Organize request list at work
  • Do songwriting homework
  • Look for new therapist to help with anxiety management
  • Remember to eat actual meals (like a normal person)
  • Breathe

I’m trying to stay on top of things at work (because I just accepted a promotion that takes me from direct user support into project management), and that’s a struggle. I’m also trying to stay on top of my social media engagement and news intake (because I don’t want to be paralyzed by the deluge of horror coming out of D.C. these days), and that’s a struggle, too. Self-care fits in there somewhere, which isn’t any easier than the rest of it.

I’m tired. This level of anxiety isn’t sustainable. I’m doing everything I know how to do in order to manage it, but I’ve never had such a prolonged, physical reaction to anxiety before.

And I’m not just anxious. I’m also increasingly angry. I have always had a strong, ingrained sense of justice and fair play (Hufflepuff FTW!), and this administration of rich white folks walking all over every marginalized group they can reach is maddening. I will never understand why it’s considered okay to sacrifice people in the name of profit. I will especially never understand the people who are supporting this and still claiming they have the moral high ground, but that’s perhaps a post for another day.

I would love to hear what all of you out there in the great wide world of the interwebs are doing to manage your own anxiety and anger, or even better, how you’re channeling it.

Fighting to Focus

It’s been an anxious week. I got some good news on a personal front (that isn’t official enough to fully announce here yet, sorry), but the time leading up to that news was extraordinarily stressful. And the actions of the Dorito-in-Chief in his first week in office have been nothing short of horrifying.

I’m struggling to balance my intake and output of news-related information on social media, as well as the effect of that input and output on my mental health and general ability to function in my daily life. As a white dude, I have immense amounts of privilege that I want to leverage for good. To do that, I need to stay informed, and use my voice in the hope that I can help to inform other people. However, I also deal with chronic pain, anxiety, and the joys of being Bipolar, which means that the deluge of horrible news can be particularly paralyzing.

I don’t have answers for this yet, but I’m looking for them. I’m taking steps to get my life more organized, and am trying to exercise other methods of anxiety mitigation as well. Despite the fact that the last week has been more than a bit of a political dumpster fire, I’m determined to do what I can to make 2017 a year of forming better habits and breaking out of unhealthy patterns. I’ve struggled in the past to do this for my own sake, but I’m  hoping the sense of urgency I feel now to reach out and create change in the world around me helps to propel me on to greater success.

There’s no point in lying and saying I’m super hopeful, because I’m not. I’m struggling with some pretty crushing despair and questioning where we’ll be as a nation in four years, or if we’ll be anywhere at all. But I’m clinging desperately to the hope that this is a wake-up call for a lot of people, not just for me, and to the belief that We The People are stronger than any attempt at autocracy.

Hang in there, folks. And stay alive. Sometimes that’s the greatest revolutionary act we’re capable of.

Edited to add: my partner pointed me to this article yesterday that is related to all of this and was really helpful to me. I hope you also find it useful: How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind.

Anxiety Management

Some of you may have noticed that there was no Accidental Fudge post last week. I did not intend to take a hiatus – truth be told, I spent most of last Wednesday and Thursday more than half convinced it was Friday, and it was Thursday night before I realized I hadn’t posted anything, at which point I felt like I really didn’t have much to say. So I apologize for that.

July is a packed month for us this year – visits from family and friends, plus a music festival, all on different weekends. It’s a little overwhelming to look at it all at once, so I’m trying to stay focused on a week or so at a time.

I’ve been feeling pretty overwhelmed and distracted the past few weeks. ManicBrain has come and settled itself in with no indication of when it might vacate the premises. Which isn’t so bad, as long as I can remember that it’s the reason I’m overwhelmed and distracted. It’s when I get so distracted that I forget…that’s when problems happen. Thankfully, I’ve been managing to stay pretty on top of things.

One of the biggest things I’m working on right now is managing my anxiety. I deal with differing levels and types of anxiety depending on where I’m at in my Bipolar cycle, but it’s pretty omnipresent lately, and that’s no fun. For anyone who’s interested and/or looking for ways to do this themselves, here’s what I’ve done so far:

  • I quit drinking regular coffee. Cold turkey.
    • I will still indulge in some decaf cold brew from our favorite coffee shops (or that we make at home), but mostly, I’m just getting really into tea.
    • Caffeine in small amounts is okay…in coffee-sized amounts, it does seem to amplify my anxiety.
    • I’ve been drinking coffee since age 12, so this was a big step, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be. Mostly, I was just really sleepy for a couple of weeks.
  • I cut waaaaaaaaay back on my access to social media on my phone. I didn’t go as far as the author of this article, but I used some of the ideas there.
    • I deleted a lot of apps, including all the retail apps I sometimes get into the bad habit of searching late at night (Amazon, eBay, and Etsy were the big ones).
    • I removed the shortcut to Facebook in my phone’s browser, and turned off the “frequently visited sites” feature. And I committed to logging out of Facebook whenever I’ve finished checking it.
    • I also disabled my phone’s ability to use the web browser over anything but WiFi, which further limits the time I spend compulsively checking my phone.
    • Maybe it just means I’m lazy, but the fact that I’m not a couple of taps away from my news feed means that I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve checked Facebook in the past ten days.
    • I left Instagram on my phone, because that’s my happy social media, which is way more carefully curated than my Facebook feed. Facebook has its uses, but it mostly just makes me sad/angry/stressed out.
  • I started developing a morning routine for myself.
    • I’m a creature of habit. As much as I sometimes like to be spontaneous and try new things, I am most comfortable in familiar places and patterns.
    • I was already kind of in a morning routine, but it mostly consisted of getupbrushteethgetdressedrunoutthedoor.
    • I’ve been pushing myself to get up earlier, so that I have time to do more calming things in my morning routine.
    • Now the routine regularly includes a quick tarot spread, a few minutes spent jotting down thoughts about the cards, and at least ten minutes of meditation. Which brings us to the last point…
  • I joined Headspace and started mediating in the morning.
    • This was unplanned. At the end of my company’s employee appreciation week last week, we were given a link and a code to get a free year of full access to the site. It sounded interesting, and since it wasn’t costing me anything, I figured I’d give it a try.
    • The little ten minute meditative sessions in the morning have been great, and I tend to feel a lot less stressed before work when I do them.
    • I do get distracted a lot, but the whole system is very low-pressure, which is really helpful for my scattered brain these days.

This is not a foolproof plan, and I’m still dealing with anxiety. But I feel like I’m building up a good selection of resources and healthier coping mechanisms for dealing with it.

How about you, friends? How are you managing anxiety these days?

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