I didn’t think I could do a series on whole-person health without addressing the emotional/mental side of things. Remember that this is just my own personal journey and not any kind of prescription for you. Although I have experienced true anxiety and depression in my life, I do not suffer from any chronic conditions in these areas. I have several close loved ones who do, but I am not going to address those things here because I can’t speak from personal experience.
What I am going to talk about is my own mental and emotional health, which usually boils down to managing stress. Obviously as a woman I also have hormones to deal with, and maybe I’ll discuss that in the future. Right now though, stress is a key factor.
We are just coming out of a very stressful period of life. A new baby, an adjusting toddler, a three month period of severe dog anxiety framed by the death of both of our dogs, and financial strain had me on the edge. (Thank God that during this time I didn’t have to stress about work too.) During the last month everything has improved somewhat but hasn’t disappeared and probably never will.
On Sunday morning I found myself suddenly feeling highly anxious to the point of panic. It was a normal morning and the kids were behaving and I had slept fine. Meredith was just taking forever to fill her bowl with blueberries and I randomly began to cry. My heart was racing and I felt jumpy and sad and overwhelmed. I was also surprised at this reaction because this kind of thing doesn’t happen to me very often. So this is what I did to deal with the immediate situation:
Removed myself. I told David how I was feeling and that I needed to get away from the kids and the demands of the house for a bit, and then I took a long hot shower.
Let it out. While I was in the shower I shed a few tears and talked to myself and prayed. It felt good to express the emotion I was experiencing.
Took stock. I wanted to figure out what brought this on. So once I had calmed down a bit I examined the areas of my life and how my gut felt toward them. I was scheduled to sing in church that morning, was I nervous? I don’t think so, when I thought about it I felt excited. What about work? No, my feelings were neutral there. Kids? Maybe a little stressful. Home stuff? At this point the chores were done and the house was clean but immediately my gut still felt twisty about all the things I wanted to do around the house that I didn’t have time for.
Adjust expectations. Although I’m not sure exactly why I felt so panicky that day, I think a big thing that was happening is that I was taking all the multitude of projects I wanted to do for fun and mentally putting them on a list of have-to’s. Then when I realized I couldn’t do them all I started to break down. I was losing my patience with Meredith taking so long to do one small thing when I had so many things to accomplish. I think for a goal-oriented and creative person like me, this is something I’m going to have to wrestle with my whole life. I will have to keep adjusting my expectations. Currently I have several “extra” projects that I’m working on, and for now I’m going to take a step back from a couple of them to focus on one or two.
That’s how I dealt with an acute period of stress and anxiety, and it’s also the basic formula that I use when I notice my stress level reaching a high point. The part that sometimes changes is the last point, which is the action step. It depends on the reason behind my stress as to what will relieve it. Sometimes I just need to eat something and take a walk. Sometimes I need to get organized. Sometimes I need to be super productive, like get a bunch of chores done quickly. But overall, these steps work for me: take a break, let it out, examine the situation, act.
What are your biggest stressors these days, and how do you handle them?