Monday, September 26, 2011

One Thing At a Time

It seems like I've had a problem with anxiety my whole life. I worry about everything. School, work, money, children. The list goes on and on. I'd blow little problems way out of proportion and dwell on them for hours. It would interfere with my appetite and my sleep schedule. I would literally get sick to my stomach.

I don't think I can help worrying. It is in my nature. But over time, I began to identify things that made my worrying snowball into full out anxiety attacks. I've made remarkable progress these last few years. I almost can't remember my last anxiety attack.

The first thing I noticed was that caffeine and I do not get along. It makes my heart pound and I feel jittery. That feeling would blend with any worries that I had and I couldn't separate the two. So I stopped drinking all caffeinated beverages. The only caffeine I ingest is in dark chocolate, which I adore. I have to have it in very small portions though.

Every once in a while I'll crave a Coke in a glass with ice. It reminds me of summers with my grandparents, when we'd have one as a treat after a hot day at the zoo. But every time I start to drink one, I just feel horrible. I get about half way through and have to stop. I like the memory of them more than the actual taste.

Now that my body has been pretty much caffeine free for years, I notice the effect that sugar has on it. If I have too much sugar, I start to feel the same way that caffeine used to make me feel. So I try to cut back on that too.

I also discovered that exercise helps, A LOT. It just isn't possible for me to worry when I am out running. I'm so focused on breathing and putting one foot in front of the other, that it just isn't possible for my body to take off on it's jittery, heart hammering roller coaster. Yesterday, I noticed that my heart was starting to pound and the first thing that popped into my head was that I needed to go for a run. I knew that running would instantly take the edge off.

A new thing that I know I need to work on is multi-tasking. It seems like a good thing. You can get so much more done if you multi-task. But it drives me nuts. I get myself all worked up. I start to feel panicky if something interrupts me, which my children almost always do. I noticed myself getting irritable with Ada when she would ask for attention. I need to try to focus on one thing at a time. When I'm playing legos with Ada, I need to focus on her and her alone. When I'm doing the dishes, I need to let my mind be calm and not dwell on all the things that I need to do next.

This is going to be hard for me. For example, as I'm writing this, I'm also simmering carrots for Joe's baby food and trying to entertain my kids at the same time. At least I am aware of what I'm doing. Now I just need to focus on making myself stop.


  1. I can so relate, Sarah. A lot of my friends think I never worry, because I'm always telling them not to-- but it's the voice of experience, because I am a natural worrier, too. It was worst in late high school and college-- the stupidest things would trigger panic attacks! I was lucky to come across a book called "The Worry Cure" at one point. I actually never finished it, but what I did read was so thought-provoking and practical. The author says that we worry because we believe that something bad will happen if we DON'T worry. He starts by saying, "If you were going to teach someone who didn't know how to worry, how would you do it?" and goes through the reasons we worry and why we keep doing it. I think on some level I really believed worrying fixed things-- I would get mad at my husband for not worrying about what I worried about! I would always think I had to be prepared for every possible (bad) situation. The book pointed out that worriers rarely think about hypothetical good outcomes-- we're inherently biased against them. And I exhausted myself emotionally living out fantasies of everything going horribly wrong. And in the end, you can't spend 99% of your energy preparing yourself for what may never happen, because you have to save some for the actual life you have! For some reason, that thought really helped me.

  2. I've gotten mad at Nick before for not being worried too. Looking back, I can see that it was dumb, but I couldn't seem to help it. Thanks for sharing. I'm not alone!