keyboard key 'F1 Help"

My Anxiety Has Flared Up, Now What?

Most of the time I manage my anxiety well, and it does not affect my quality of life or my ability to function.

But every once and a while, I have a flare up.

As weird as it sounds, in the past, sometimes I wouldn’t even be aware that I was having an excessive amount of anxiety. All I knew was I felt more tired, or everything seemed to annoy me. As I’ve learned to tune into my body more, I have gotten quite good at realizing when I’m in a downward cycle of anxiety.

My red flags for anxiety consist of things like: feeling sluggish, wanting to sleep all the time, having a hard time staying focused on tasks, feeling overwhelmed by clutter or having the desire to clean all the time, and ceasing activities that I enjoy, such as writing or reading for fun. (You may notice I haven’t posted to my blog in almost 2 weeks.)

When I get into this pattern of anxiety, it is easy to stay stuck. I was telling my husband yesterday how overwhelmed I was feeling, and that I felt a constant presence of anxiety. He asked me what I could do to take steps to counter it. My initial thoughts were torn between: A) Nothing, and B) I don’t even remember!

That’s the thing when you’re in the middle of anxiety, it’s hard to think straight and you forget all of the strategies out there that are supposed to be helpful in overcoming your anxiety. So you feel helpless, which just adds to your anxiety.

I was, however, determined not to be stuck in the pit of anxiety, and so I sat down with a post-it note and really thought through what I steps I could take to help me during this season of heightened anxiety.

post-it with anxiety remedies

1. Headspace – I only have the free version of the app, but you can still use their “Basics” course and meditate for 5 minutes every day.

2. NO social media – I confess, I frequently check Facebook and Instagram, and I have to say I do believe that sometimes, as research has said, it does make me feel worse after looking at it. I also found I was using it as a way to waste time and avoid doing other things I needed to do, so I’m taking a break for the next week.

3. Pray/Bible – I have a goal to pray and read my Bible every day. It doesn’t always happen, but when my anxiety flares, I know I need to be more purposeful to spend time with God and meditate on His truth. I also pray for help and to have that “peace that passes understanding” (Phil 4:7)

4. Grateful Exercises (daily) – many of us have heard that practicing gratitude is so beneficial for us, and it can even help change our brain and the way we think. I bought a gratitude journal a few years ago, and only was disciplined to write in it every day for about 2 weeks before I stopped. I’m picking this up again to try to focus on positive thoughts.

gratitude journal

5. Think Up – this is a great app, IF you get the paid version (which I have for the iPhone). This is a positive meditation app, and you create your own “playlists” of positive affirmations to listen to. I’m planning to make a new “Anxiety” playlist where I will listen to affirmations like, “I choose to fill my mind with positive, nurturing, and healing thoughts” or “I am learning that it is okay for me to feel safe, calm, and at peace.”

When I am in the middle of dealing with anxiety or depression, I find that the LAST thing I want to do is all of the good things that are supposed to help me. I roll my eyes at meditation, I don’t want to call my counselor, it seems too hard to find energy to do all of the good things I need to do. Maybe some of it is pride, I don’t like admitting that I need help. As a perfectionist, I certainly don’t like admitting that I’m not functioning at my best.

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introvert looking out window wistfully

Tips for Introverts Coming Out of the Pandemic

It’s been 14 months (or longer, depending on what part of the world you’re in) that we’ve been living in a pandemic. 14 months of being acutely aware of our personal space, washing our hands, and largely avoiding other humans.

With the new CDC recommendations for vaccinated people, life is moving closer and closer to “normal.” (I just saw that Disney World dropped their outdoor mask requirement today!)

This is exciting news, and we’re all obviously ready to feel like we can do the things we want to do without fear of catching COVID or having to wear a mask or social distance.

However, as an introvert, I have found myself feeling a bit overwhelmed as we move back into “normal” life.

Over the past two months, I had three weekends in a row where I had plans, like real plans to hang out with people or travel. It started with a trip to Fossil Rim Wildlife Center one weekend, then the next weekend I helped host a baby shower for a close friend, and then the weekend after that my parents came into town for a visit.

All of that was fun and good, but I was looking forward to enjoying the upcoming weekend quietly at home. But by the time the weekend got there, it was somehow (I say that tongue in cheek) full of plans to do things with people! I have a coworker I’m watching an anime show with, and I had invited her to come over to watch a few episodes. We’ve started going back to church in person, so we had worship on Sunday morning, and then we also got invited to a small group church gathering that night. Then we had some friends we hadn’t seen in a while who asked us if we wanted to have dinner together… and so without even trying that hard, my quiet “no plans” weekend was gone.

It may sound like I’m complaining about having friends who want to do stuff with me, or being able to resume activities in public. I’m not – again, those are all great things that we’ve been waiting to do for the past 14 months!

But I will say that going through this pandemic, especially the shut down, made me realize how much of an introvert (and also a homebody) I am. I enjoyed the slower pace of life. I enjoyed more time with my family. I enjoyed the simplicity of it all.

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The Connection Between Your Mental Health and Physical Health

For the past few weeks, I’ve been really tired. Like REALLY tired. I found myself falling asleep on the couch after work – going to bed at 8:30 – coming home in the middle of the day to take naps… It seemed like no matter how much sleep I got, I still felt exhausted. 

I began wondering if something weird was going on. Was I sick? Was I pregnant? Did I have COVID and my only symptom was intense fatigue? 

If you’re a follower of my blog, you’ll notice that in the past three weeks, I haven’t published anything. Not only that, I really didn’t write anything at all those few weeks – not drafts, not personal journaling or anything. I normally try to get up early to have quiet devotional time and to write, but even though I set my alarm to get up early (and had gone to bed at a reasonable hour), I still woke up every day feeling tired and hit the snooze button.

What was going on? 

I have this sweatshirt I purchased recently that says “Mental health is health.” I love it not only because it’s cute and comfortable, but because of the message it broadcasts. Mental health affects our physical health. They are so intricately connected that to really be in a state of health at all, our mental health must be cared for. 

It only takes doing a quick Google search to get thousands of results on the link between mental health and physical health. One of the results I found was from the Hillside Mental Health Facility’s blog, and it described some of the warning signs that a person’s mental health may be negatively shifting, which included:

  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and activities
  • Loss of energy
  • Increasing irritability and mood swings
  • Loss of performance at school or work

Looking back, I realize now that I was also losing motivation at work, and having increased irritability with members of my family. Basically, I was exhibiting most of these warning signs. 

I should have noticed more of the red flags. I know from past experience that when I’m stressed or overwhelmed, (or when depression might be kicking in), I tend to cope by sleeping. Some people can’t sleep when they’re anxious or stressed, but I tend to start checking out and want to sleep all of the time. 

In the book Try Softer by Aundi Kolber, (one of my top recommended books!) she describes the idea of your “window of tolerance” (WOT). She is referring to our ability to tolerate discomfort, specifically emotional discomfort. All of us have an amount of emotional discomfort or growing pains that we can tolerate – this is our “just right” amount where we won’t be at risk of becoming overwhelmed emotionally and physiologically. But once we hit our limits, we can either go into hyperarousal or hypoarousal. 

Hyperarousal mode feels like being overwhelmed with adrenaline or anger. You are out of control. You may feel the need to be moving (trying to flee whatever stressful event you are experiencing).

Hypoarousal mode causes a person to feel sluggish or depressed. You become disconnected from the world. In a word, numb. 

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