Anxiety and lockdown
We are living in extremely uncertain times. We have been restricted in terms of movement and contact, meaning many of us have lost some of the things we were clinging to as coping mechanisms.
I have anxiety. I won’t say I suffer from it, because under normal circumstances I have found ways of coping with it. Coping with the constant fear that my anxiety forms. But now, after more than 4 weeks of quarantine, with no income and no guarantee of future income, no physical contact and no running, I am beginning to feel me unravel.
Normally, I am a high-strung person. I laugh easily, but I also cry at the drop of a hat, and I have a temper that flares up and cools down just as fast. I don’t hold grudges, but I do replay scenarios over and over and over, sometimes lying awake at night, watching the highlight reel of my perceived failures. After a very stressful period, I noticed that my anxiety presents itself slowly, creeping up on me. Then before I know it, bang, it has made a nest in my head. And getting rid of it then feels like getting rid of that aunt over Christmas – there is always something else to quickly discuss, so she never leaves.
It happens in 5 steps, usually following quickly from one to the next –
1. I start sleeping really badly. This is usually a sign that I miss because I am a bad sleeper in general. But when it is as a result of anxiety, I struggle to fall asleep, I have nightmares, and I jolt awake at least a few times a week. Since I started following my sleep stats, I have also noticed that my heart rate will be much higher than my resting heart rate for at least 70% of the night. That means I am basically running a marathon in my dreams.
2. I get really really short-tempered, making me highly sensitive to normal stimuli like sounds, smells, bright lights, and repetitive movements. I am so irritated, and unfortunately, my kids bear the brunt of this irritation. This is usually when I start to notice that I am going off course, so I start to bring in my normal coping measures.
3. My food choices change. I start craving sweet, sugary and warm food. Lots of coffee. Chocolate. Anything that is unhealthy and comforting. And then the sugar and caffeine high makes me even more jittery and anxious.
4. If I allow it to reach this point, we are in trouble. Here I am walking the very thin line between anxiety and depression. At this stage, I will stop exercising. I will stop doing things I usually love. I just give up.
5. So far gone, all that is left is lethargy. Going back from this point takes more energy than what I can muster. It is an uphill battle. One that I have luckily won before.
I check in with myself constantly to make sure that I am ok. And if I am not ok, where am I on the steps as outlined above. Right now, I know I am swerving between 2 and 3. I have touched on 4 for a day or two, then luckily pulled myself back.
What am I doing to keep my anxiety in check?
My usual strategies won’t work now since most of them are centered around getting out of the house. Being between people, running, and working do me wonders. Being trapped in my house, with 2 small kids, I had to be a bit more creative.
My current strategies:
1. I do yoga. But even though I am a beginner (have been beginning and stopping for years) I do intermediate to advance lessons and flows. In that way I push myself, keep my mind busy and make my body tired. Like running would have. I also try to do at least 50min at a time.
2. I meditate. But not in long sessions, rather shorter sessions spread out through the day. It quiets my mind and brings me in touch with my senses. It also gives me time to reflect and think clearly. So far, I have not had any inspiring ideas, but I do notice that my mind is calmer afterward.
3. I spend time with my kids. I choose the activity, which gives me some control (which I lack in almost every other aspect of my life) and then we have special time together. Because I choose to do this, I cannot resent them for keeping me out of work or away from whatever I wanted to rather do. Some days I do tell them to please leave me alone for a while, and sometimes it actually works.
4. I drink lots of water. That means I need to go pee a lot. Which gives me something to do. Also, I get to accomplish a small thing, every single day.
5. We bake. Measuring and weighing is therapeutic. The kids eat everything we bake. I try not to, sometimes I am successful (see step 3…).
6. I journal. A lot. Sometimes just words, other times short stories or posts that must never see the light of day. I have a gratitude list and a fear list and some days the gratitude list is actually longer than the fear list. Those days I feel as if I am winning.
7. I try to keep myself from sleeping too much. I stay awake after the kids have gone to bed, and I do not take a nap with them in the afternoon. Sleep is a slippery slope for me – I need to get enough quality sleep but cannot allow it to become a means to escape.
8. Limited news. Good, bad, ugly, no matter. I cut out the news, and I stay of negative social media (yeah looking at you Facebook). Also, no newspapers.
9. I read my Bible. Most of the time I have no idea what I read since my mind wanders (did I mention my attention deficit problem is accentuated by anxiety and stress? I lose my way through a sentence when I get like this. Another reason why writing is so good – it forces me to stay on a train of thought, and if I do wander off I simply read what I wrote to get back on track) but I am a firm believer that the Word will find a hole and fill it.
10. I walk. Up and down in the hallway. To and fro in the garden. Anything to not just sit. I force myself to do stupid small things that will force me to get up, like leaving my water in another room or only carrying two things at a time when unloading the dishwasher. Walk. Move. Don’t sit and fret.
Oh, and I take magnesium at night, omega 3 in the morning, and Kali Phos a few times during the day. Although I am not a big drinker, having a glass of wine every now and then allows me to relax a bit, and that usually also helps. But again – only once in a while, and only a glass or two. Never drink to self-medicate, and never drink to forget. My essential oils are also never far away. My favourite scent, eucalyptus, calms me. I also love using orange for energy, lemon for focus, and geranium mixed with peppermint for an immediate pick me up.
Most days I feel as if I am going to make it. I don’t know how to provide for my kids, but the world around me is less dark. Other days I need a bit more help. So, I do extra work on myself. I try to laugh more, spend extra time with the girls, read a storybook or paint. I keep busy with busy work, not busy with thinking work. 4 weeks have passed. We have 2 to go. Our 40 days are almost over. Nobody knows what lies on the other side, but I have proven to myself that I can cope no matter what life throws at me.
I am convinced that inspiration will come to visit me, giving me an idea of what to do to bring in money. I know worrying will keep the next big idea hiding away. Easier said than done, but we keep on trying.
One day I will look back at this time and marvel. Marvel at how much we did, how little we cried, and how much we lived.