When you’ve been graced with a genetic predisposition to anxiety, you can meditate, breathe, do talk therapy, and take helpful medicine all you want, but still have days when you can’t deal with the symptoms.
I woke up that way today. I was dealing with my personal “stuff” fine yesterday, but since I woke up this morning, some chemicals are flying around my brain that are decidedly unhelpful and unpleasant. I got through my meetings, and through the screaming haze and fuzziness, I was even able to contribute. But wow, I feel like I’m in a vat of buzzing jello, with a high-pitched droning soundtrack. Oh, with bonus eye tic and chest pains. Thanks, anxiety.
I’m going to try to sleep it off, me and the canines, who are great napping role models. I’ll share some nice sleeping dog images to entertain you, since I can’t put two thoughts together right now.
My sinuses are yelling, too, because it’s dusty and the air pressure keeps changing. I’m a big ole negative whiner!
Wow. I’ve discovered that I’m not alone in having trouble remembering things. That’s another reason I’m glad I have my bullet journal — I can remember what I’m supposed to be doing and am scheduled to do. But, that’s the day-to-day stuff.
Talking to people in my extended circle, I realized that many of us have lost access to our past. One friend said she no longer has memories. Others are having a hard time remembering things when they need to, or remembering whether they told someone something. Lee totally forgot to tell me his car broke down—that’s something you usually remember to share!
We all have a clue as to why this is happening. It’s the stress, the mega-stress, the overwhelming worry and anxiety. We all have COVID stress. No one can avoid having world events stress right now, what with wars, storms, earthquakes, and shootings galore. We have overload from black-and-white thinking in politics, organizations, and families. Many of us have big work struggles. Our brains are full. And so are the brains of the people we encounter. I’m getting stressed just writing this.
Sometimes, you can get your memories back, though, which is why I’m glad I grew up in the age where people took lots and lots of photographs (though nothing like today). Today, for a bit of stress relief, I wandered through my photo album from 1984-1986, which were not my best times (I managed to lose the love of my life and my mom in just a few months), I’ve got to say, but which also had some really good times. I’m so glad I can see both types of memories.
Also, when I was young, I wrote a lot of letters. It was in my blood, since my whole family wrote letters to each other. I found a box from when I was in college and grad school lately, and they reminded me of my journals in that some were a bit embarrassing (I sure fell in love HARD in my twenties, repeatedly), but others reminded me of what strong connections I had to my communities, and that brings me back to today, when I’ve learned from some of those infatuations and heartaches and gained some balance.
I’m glad to be able to dredge some of my memories back up, after all. I hope you enjoy some little glimpses into my box of memories. See if you can come up with some.
One thing that becomes clear to me is that if I try to squish down stressful situations and pretend they don’t affect me, my anxious brain has its own ways to beg to differ. It’s all well and good to consciously remind yourself that the only things you should concern yourself with are things you can do something about. But some part of you (probably hanging out somewhere with those unconscious biases, over in the unconscious stressors area) still feels stressed about those things.
Usually I feel okay during the day, sort of observing what’s going on and doing my best to let other people’s problems be their problems and not take things personally. That’s a major triumph right there! I do a lot of deep breathing, just like I do with the horse. People, horses, they’re all things I can’t control, only offer information to.
At night, though, I have a completely different type of dream when I’m feeling anxious and overwhelmed than when things are just normally stressful. First, it’s the dreams about being in school and not knowing where to go or what the test is about. Then I’ll be at a large conference trying to avoid the scary people. Lately I dream about trying to get dressed in fancy clothing, but having forgotten how. That sounds like a COVID dream, doesn’t it?
I also think I’m trying to cover up my insecurities and put on a more professional/fancy face, but failing. People try to help me, but that makes me end up dressed really funny. I tend to end up going out to the party, meeting, or whatever half dressed. That’s a work-based interpretation. It means that all this hashing out of the same problems but only coming up with half-assed solutions ends up creating something totally unworkable. Hmm, that’s what my colleague L. and I talked about just today!
Otherwise, I’m overwhelmed with baby animals, adult animals, and their excrement. Duh. That’s literally true at the ranch, and figuratively true with my work and family life.
The dreams partially come from having so many animals in bed with me, and partially come from my problem of wanting to take care of everyone who’s helpless or needs comfort. Even when I consciously tell myself I can’t help people who don’t want to be helped or comfort everyone who’s hurting, my heart wants to anyway. Oh, stop it.
For me, I get physical symptoms only when my subconscious’s other ways of communicating don’t work. Right now they’ve been screaming at me for a week or so, and that’s led to my favorite anxiety symptom: chest pains. That means I need to do something NOW or I won’t be fully functional. I also get weird feelings like everything’s in slow motion, which makes it hard to talk. Usually, I can get through these and still do what I need to do, but it takes so much energy!
My mind and body are crying for help, obviously, but there isn’t a darned thing I can do to make today any different. I just have to get through today and see what tomorrow brings. We can’t always cope, and that’s actually fine. Sometimes we have a right to have an anxiety attack. It helps to know they will pass, and things can get back on an even keel.
Hope you aren’t having the ups and downs I am today! If you are, know you aren’t alone, because I’m surrounded by people in the same boat!
Because I’m so darned introspective, I’ve been examining how I cope with stress these days. I find that I can only handle a subset of the priorities I could before, and I avoid duties that appear like they’ll bring on more stress. That’s how I’m coping now, to the detriment of a couple of projects. But, as I look around I realize mine is only one way to cope. I also notice it’s not just us people who cope in different ways, so rather than call out people today, I’ll illustrate my points with how local plants are coping with the stress from Winter Storm Uri.
Some of us seem to deal with stress as if it’s not there at all. These people are often deeply grounded, have been through a lot, or have lots of support (roots!). These people, just like the Ashe juniper trees, often support others.
Others retreat and focus on one thing at a time, and try their best to do it well, like a rose bush with just one perfect flower.
There are people, and I know quite a few of them, who not only handle stress well, they thrive on it and so some of their best work when there’s a lot going on. Sometimes doing something is a way of coping and staying busy (I’m guilty of this), while others find challenges energizing. They enthusiastically bloom where they’re planted!
There are those, and who can blame them, who go into hiding, and only begin to peek out when the danger is over. Even then, they go slowly. It takes a lot out of people and plants to get their bearings when a stressful situation begins to ease up.
Stress tends to scatter some folks, too. They try this method of coping, and that method of coping, trying to find one that will actually work and get them through the hard times. I see this a lot in stressed oaks, which start putting out new growth all over, and not just at the ends of their branches. Some pop up along old limbs, and other pop up from the roots (very common).
When stress is really causing problems in living your usual life, though, sometimes starting again in a new place might help, like the redbud trees I’ve seem who look pretty sad up top, but have vibrant new growth farther down their trunks.
How many of us know people who have no choice to start over, even when that, too, is a struggle. I saw this poor tree with no leaves or other signs of life on its branches, but that hadn’t given up completely, and was starting again, hesitantly, and perhaps slowly. But, it’s still THERE! I count those of us who are in this situation as stronger than they realize.
Many of us fail to thrive during stressful periods. And it’s hard to say who’s going to cope well and who’s going to fall apart. One thing I noticed was that often there are two or more trees of the same variety near each other, and one looks great, while another struggles or succumbed to the weather? What’s the difference? You can’t tell on the surface what internal resources a tree or person has. That’s why we need to be patient and not blame people for their problems.
I think flexibility, along with resilience, makes a difference in how we weather the inevitable Winter Storm Uri events in our lives. People who lived very rigid, inflexible lives really have had trouble with pandemic changes, just like a plant that’s been groomed into a stiff hedge with no choice in how it grows may have more trouble in a winter storm.
Those of us who aren’t well situated in the first place or already have anxiety issues may cope by throwing things every which way. A lot of the plants I seem seem to be reproducing like crazy, trying to grow, and growing in weird ways, like they’re trying ALL the options to make sure they’re making a good, healthy, happy impression. This has to take a lot of energy, and I wonder how well they’re going to do if they keep all that extra-perky energy up. I’ve noticed some crashing and burning of late…maybe a bit by me, to be honest.
Now, some of the trees, and some of the people don’t make it at all through intense stress. I know more than one person who seems to be hanging by a thread right now. Some of us are just out of our element, like tropical trees (palms and such) that look pretty awful right now. I can’t fault them, and can only offer support and virtual hugs. And I will honor those we have lost.
Looking at all the ways we humans and plants deal with unexpected stress is a good exercise for me. I can easily see the parallels among us, and what’s most clear is that there’s no right or wrong way to cope, nor are we all going to cope equally well. So, I’ll try to be patient with those who are struggling, including those who cope differently from me. I hope you can, too.
Every time I get shaky today, I am thinking of peace, over and over.
It’s helping! I’m also keeping busy with work. Thank goodness I have something complicated to think about and people to brainstorm with.
I also took a walk today, and that helped me with the peace. I tried to find the nearest hiking trail, but could not find the start, so I wandered up the golf cart path through the golf course at the next resort. That was a bit of a huff and puff, but I was rewarded with at last being able to look at mountains, trees, and such with no condos in view. Hooray.
I found the trail when I got to the end of the golf course, and decided to follow it back down. It was so pretty, and I got to see more birds and a very annoyed squirrel. And lots of pretty Utah rocks. The path is narrow, so you have to jump off when cyclists show up. Luckily I just had to deal with one.
The only thing that disturbed my peace was when I was almost to the bottom of the trail, and things got muddy and slippery, due to snow melting. Then the path totally disappeared under a pile of snow (manufactured, I am sure). There were no cyclist paths or shoeprints to tell me where to go, so I guessed. I ended up having a lot of fun sliding and stomping in snow. If someone was watching, I’m sure I put on a good show, but it was just what I needed, some goofy time spent right there, in the moment. Goal achieved!
And by noon, I’d met my goals for exercise and movement, so my watch is happy. I’m back to doing meetings requiring concentration for another few hours, then I shall read a book that requires concentration. No, I’m not even turning on my preferred news outlet until later today.
One more thing, I want to thank all my friends and readers outside the US for the support you’ve been giving during this hard time in the US. It helps with our collective anxiety. Please, all of you our there, keep all of us in the USA in your thoughts, and if you pray, pray for peace.
Salt Lake City has a new airport. How do I know? I’m in Utah, holed up in a condo, watching football in a very comfy chair while a fire blazes.
What on Earth? Are You All Right, Suna?
Honestly? I’m worried about next week. Election anxiety. I’m afraid of upset Texans and all their firearms. I’m afraid I’ll say or do something I shouldn’t. I’m also really burned out by some things going on that aren’t bloggable. Just take my word for it. So I fled to a resort area in another state.
I need to do some big-time meditation and centering. This will let me do that with peace and quiet. I think it will help. There is also nature here, so I can walk once I get used to the altitude.
I’m just using my condo points for this year, so it’s not costing more money than I’ve already paid, other than plane fare. And this place is a bargain, since there’s construction all around and not ski season yet. Still, I can see ski lifts from my balcony! Maybe it will snow next week.
Am I taking all this time off work? Heck no. I can Zoom from here! If our Agile coach could work from Hawaii last week, I can work in Park City. I don’t even have to go out. I got food delivered!
You don’t need to tell me travel isn’t real safe right now. I know. But if I get sick, at least I’ll be sick where I feel safe and won’t make my family sick. And it’s not like anyone desperately needs me. I’m good, right here. I feel selfish, but I’ve never done this before. I guess I’m still trying to burst out of my shell. I hope to emerge better able to do good in the world.
Oh yeah, Anita will join me later. And there is space for Lee et al., if they want to break in that new vehicle with a road trip. Meanwhile, I’ll work, read, and find the trail.
If I hadn’t put out decorations in my houses, I wouldn’t remember that Halloween is in a few days. All that fun spookiness and pretending to be scared has fallen by the wayside in my circles. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY seems to have real fears right now. It doesn’t matter who you are or what social group you’re a member of, you’re probably scared, or at least really concerned.
People in the US seem to be the most scared, but friends around the world have been expressing their concerns to me or in public forums. The elections coming next Tuesday are alarming people. People are scared of fraud, roaming militias, unseemly riots, government failures, mayhem, the apocalypse, a military coup, bombs…you name it, if it’s bad, people are afraid of it.
According to an article in today’s The USA Today, 70% of US adults are anxious about the upcoming election. That obviously includes people from all parts of the political spectrum! The article describes what people around me have been saying:
The majority of American adults say they feel it. The anxiety, the fear, the dread.
They feel it before bed and when they wake at night, at red lights and in grocery store lines, at desks and dinner tables. Quiet moments are no longer a refuge, but spaces to ruminate, contemplate, to grapple with how risky it is to hope.
Only 52% were anxious in 2016 (I should have been MORE anxious). The thing is, no matter who wins, the other side will be doubtful about the results. I can see that. It doesn’t bode well. And taking deep breaths won’t help in that situation, will it? I have been wondering if there are any ideas I can share with y’all, my real-life friends, and my family (who run the gamut of beliefs and expectations).
Thank goodness for Alia E. Dastagir, who wrote this helpful article, and thank goodness I found it when I was faliling around searching for ways to cope. I’ll share her ideas for dealing with the next few days, weeks, or months, but feel free to head on over to the original article for details.
Avoid doomscrolling. That means don’t obsess over the news and check outlets repeatedly. You could even take some time off.
Prepare for a period of uncertainty. Ugh, I don’t want to do that! I want things to be DONE. Well, too bad. We need to find ways to remain strong while waiting for things to settle down. And there’s where I’m grasping at straws. Dastagir did NOT tell me how to do that.
Dare to hope. Dastagir points out that many people in the US no longer dare hope. At least there’s a suggestion on this one, which is to focus on finding something you can actually DO. I think all the postcard writing some of my friends did helped in that way.
Avoid black-and-white thinking. That is easy to fall into, especially for some of us. WE’RE DOOMED! I have been doing a fairly good job of avoiding that kind of thing myself. I try to remind myself that we are all fellow humans, and that awful stuff has happened throughout history and at least SOME people make it through it…so, maybe I’m not doing such a great job of avoiding doom and gloom. But, we can all try together, right?
Don’t despair. This may be easier said than done, but we are implored not to despair if our candidate does not win. The psychology professor quoted in the article recommended that we try to avoid people who may be gloating or in ecstasy for the first few days after a contentious election is settled. That is what I did in 2016, though that was easier then than it is now.
This time, I may have to leave town.
Hey, do any of YOU have any good suggestions for how to deal with what’s going to be a hard time for at least half of us, no matter what the outcome?
I’m guessing that today you’ll be wanting to find out how our boarder horse, Lakota the elderly fancy palomino, came out after his rough time yesterday. Last we heard, he’d been sweating and heaving, and Spice was standing over him like she was guarding his life. Sara is happy to report that after he stood up and made a big poop, he walked off, normally. She did keep checking through the night.
This morning, to our great relief, he was standing under a tree with Spice, and they both had been sleeping. It was probably a rough night for them, too. They both kept yawning and yawning, and were very loving and affectionate. Poor guys.
Sara had a couple of ideas about what had happened. Her current theory (and it’s just a theory) is that he ate some of the nightshade (Silverleaf NightshadeSolanum elaeagnifolium) that had been mown in the pasture (because she is allergic to it). Apparently, horses and cattle don’t eat it when it is alive, but for some reason think it’s tasty when it’s cut and dried. I hope that’s all it was.
Thanks to me looking up alternative veterinarians, Sara was able to get in touch with Dr. Brinlee, who works with Milam Touch of Love, and while he couldn’t come last night, we are scheduling him to come soon (Apache’s teeth need to be looked at, too). In any case, we were both really relieved to find two horses standing under the trees this morning!
After this, my morning went downhill and my anxiety went uphill, but that’s the way the circle of life goes, I guess. As I approached our gate, I saw lots and lots of black birds in the pasture. What, a crow convention? As I got closer, I realized it was vultures. I also saw this.
I drove over to where the feasting birds were, and found one of the three calves was no longer with us, and hadn’t been for a day or two. That certainly startled me. I don’t know what happened, and I probably won’t, but it was sad and a bit of a shock to see him laying there. Circle of life strikes again.
On the other hand, the chickens are all still here! Haven’t lost one in weeks! And Hedley seems to have given up on being broody, but hasn’t started laying again. I hope she does. She doesn’t seem sick or anything. They all got quite a treat out of a bunch of tomatoes Kathleen donated to them.
Even Buttercup and Butternut ate a tomato, which is a first. Maybe they’ll start branching out and eating more than just their feed and only their feed soon. I do enjoy them, and they cheered me up.
THEN I went to drive to the office. There was a giant wasp in the car, the black kind with red wings (sorry, no ID). I usually don’t worry about them, but two of my friends have had bad wasp reactions in the last week, and it started buzzing my head. As I tried to shew it away, I ran off the road. Luckily, I just drove through a lot of long grass, and probably made County Road 140 passersby curious. I am just not having a calm day so far! I’m still shaky. On the other hand, I did find some pretty groundcherries in the overgrown office lawn. These are clammy groundcherries (Physalis heterophylla).
So, I will go do my other Saturday writing tasks and breathe deeply. Has anything startled you today?
Goodness knows, we are living in unprecedented times of stress. But, they are also times of opportunity for positive change. I’ve actually been feeling encouraged by some events in the past week or two. Even my most pessimistic coworker had to grudgingly admit that that there ARE positive trends (though he stuck firmly to his trademarked pessimism).
So, why have I been dealing with an onslaught of anxiety symptoms for the past couple of days? Why was I unable to get to sleep last night thanks to pesky thoughts about potential issues popping into my head (totally unbidden; I was relaxed and ready to sleep). Why am I having my least-favorite symptom, big ole chest pains? Why is my head all fuzzy and buzzy?
The answer is that at the moment I have no idea, but I know well enough that these symptoms are a part of my makeup and that I need to listen to them when they make their presence known. It’s like, “Hi Suna, are you doing the things you need to do to maintain your mental and physical health? Is there something going on that you are choosing to ignore and not deal with? Are you concerned about someone else?”
So, I’ve been sitting here thinking about what my conscious mind may be trying to hide from me that I need to address. I know there are three family members with health issues that concern me. They’re very important to me, and it’s hard to see people you love in pain. One is getting better, but two are struggling (physically or mentally).
As I type this, AHA, I get the idea that a lot of the anxiety is about my struggling family members. In the past week or two I have tried to help out and really not had much success. So, I’ve stepped back. For one of them, matters are becoming more pressing. I know I tend to get anxious about things I can’t do anything about, especially when I really NEED to do something.
Thanks, weird anxiety friend. You have told me in no uncertain terms that I need to not keep hoping issues will go away if I don’t think about them. Some part of me is concerned and it’s causing physical symptoms.
What a good lesson this is for me, and perhaps you, too. Like I realized when the Enneagram book helped me embrace my inner sloth, the problematic parts of our makeup have a place in our whole selves. My anxiety is my messenger. I’ll listen.
It’s worth thinking about what parts of yourself that you may not be thrilled about actually are serving a useful purpose. I hope you enjoyed reading how I worked out what was going on in my head. What do you find? How do you figure things out?
What do you do to get through trying times? You take it one day at a time. I am doing my best to just observe and not get all caught up in things I can’t control, like I’ve been saying this week. And I figure one way I can help myself and others is to provide brief diversions. What the heck?
I’ve been reading and reading ideas on mindfulness and they have brought me a bit of grace, I think. Here’s a quote by Joanna Macy, the Buddhist teacher and naturalist, about the times we are in and our relationship to the earth:
…It is so great a privilege to be here on Earth at this time….Being fully present to fear, to gratitude, to all that is–this is the practice of mutual belonging. As living members of the living body of Earth, we are grounded in that kind of belonging. We will find more ways to remember, celebrate, and affirm this deep knowing: we belong to each other, we belong to earth. Even when faced with cataclysmic changes, nothing can ever separate us from her. We are already home.
Lion’s Roar, May 2020, p. 50. Excerpt from A Wild Love for the World: Joanna Macy and the Work of Our Time, edited by Stephanie Kaza.
Guess what book I just ordered?
As always, nature has provided me with a way to center. The magnolia blossom that Chris picked for me this morning has filled my office with fragrance, and I found myself in a meditative state earlier, just looking at the structure of the center.
You can see how the current beauty is all set up to become a beautiful seed pod with bright red seeds. I take it as a reminder that we are always undergoing a transformation (including Mother Earth) and that we can gain solace from how destruction and metamorphosis bring their own beauty.
I’ve noticed a lot of my friends sharing their gardens, whether flowers or produce, which brings moments of pleasure. And my Master Naturalist friends keep coming up with the best stuff! Look at this puffball mushroom my friend Pamela saw on her property, just a couple of miles from our ranch.
And then there’s humor. I was rather surprised yesterday when I made a joking comment to my husband, and he took offense. He says I never joke around. This is disturbing, since I think of myself as funny. Oops.
But I decided that it’s a good idea to have some fun with images, anyway. I posted the following photo of a tile in my bathroom on Facebook:
I said I saw a Satanic goat (it has scary eyes). The responses to the post were a lot of fun. People saw a llama, a dragon, a snail, a slug, a horse, unicorn, a goddess, and a duck (among others). The tile is a natural stone called river travertine, because it looks like flowing water, so the person who saw the ocean was right on!
I decided I’d just post things that made me laugh, so I also posted a picture of poor Penney and all her excess skin.
So yeah, I’m not going to deny the undercurrent of doom swirling around me, but my pet bobcat (or whatever that is) and I are going to keep looking for grace, natural beauty, and the absurd as we go through the day.
Getting in touch with your emotional truth, by processing feelings to improve the human condition in the 21st century. Living out loud by my motto,"Triumphing over Trauma" 🌈
In light and in shadow, always with ❤