STRESSED: Practical things to do when you feel underwater
You know it’s bad when you’re waking up every morning feeling sick in the pit of your stomach for no apparent reason. And you’re waking up an hour or two before your alarm even goes off, despite needing the extra sleep. Eyes wide, brain awake. Unsettled. Panicked, even.
If that’s how you’ve been starting your days lately, I feel you.
Maybe you’re dealing with a shitty money situation, family drama, tension in your relationship…. whatever. For me, it’s plain old work. It’s the pressure of responsibilities weighing on me. The result of a longstanding buzz of stress that I’m sure everyone can relate to at one point or another. When things get to be a bit too much, the cracks will eventually show. Our bodies will show us when it’s time to reassess our life choices, and it’s hard to ignore stress that turns into a constant state of anxiety and/or unmanageable panic. When those moments/days/weeks have showed up in my face, here are some things I tried that actually helped:
+Put my personal cell phone on “Do Not Disturb” ALL day & ALL night.
Honestly, this has been the biggest change. I decided to start doing this over the last few days as a way of attempting to prevent me from getting into a state of panic in the first place. I have all of my work emails forwarded to my cell phone, to total 4 email accounts, and notifications on for all of those PLUS social media….. Quick way to a meltdown, if you’re me. There’s only so long you can keep up with so much stimulation and try to keep it all prioritized in your bird brain. Eventually, shit will fall apart. Now that I’m not looking at an alert every 10 seconds, my days are noticeably calmer.
+Organize/prioritize my ToDo list.
To me, this is something I do when I’m procrastinating something I don’t want to do or I’m nervous about for whatever reason. It’s my favorite way to stall, because even though I’ll feel guilt over putting off what I know is important, at least I can have the satisfaction of knowing it wasn’t time totally wasted.
God, it’s hard to shut down when you’re in a state of high anxiety or panic. Even after I’ve come out of the thick of it, it takes a long time to calm down enough to actually close my eyes and sleep. Hours, even. But the last time I had a record-high stressful work day, I found that allowing myself the time to fall asleep and sleep for an hour was the thing that helped the most (if you can swing it).
I’m one of those people who doesn’t eat breakfast, fueling the first 6 hours of my day on nothing but coffee and lemon water. You can see how this obviously would affect a person’s anxiety level, duh. When I was last working in an office 4 years ago, I was drinking a solid 5-6 cups of coffee at all hours of the work day, followed by alcohol at happy hour immediately after. My 23-year-old self functioned this way and showed up for work every morning at 7 a.m., bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. But if I tried to live like that now? See ya later. I’d have a panic attack by Tuesday. And even though I now only have a few cups of coffee a day, that’s still too much on days where the constant buzz of stress is kicked up a notch. I was amazed at how much better I felt when I almost totally replaced my coffee with herbal mint iced tea every morning. The truth is, when you’re stressed and whatever is happening in life has you on alert, your system probably doesn’t need the extra jolt of caffeine (if you can help it and aren’t falling asleep at your desk). It was a change I saw as too small to matter. Turns out, it mattered a lot.
These are just a few things I’ve tried that have actually helped. There are so many things that haven’t worked, though. Here’s a comprehensive list of all of the shit that didn’t calm me down when I was dealing with my last (and first in forever) panic attack: .5 mg of Lorazepam, weed (sometimes it does help, though… that’s a whole different post), going for a walk, going for a drive (DON’T recommend), and procrastinating.
I’m working on hunting down a therapist or stress expert of some kind to talk with me for Moxie (a podcast episode I hope!) about job-related stress and how to deal. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, I hope this post helps you maintain sanity a little. Have you listened to last week’s podcast episode? It’s a quick one at 20 minutes but a great listen about dealing with real uncomfortable life changes. It might help you if you’re going through it right now too (or just going wild over this eclipse). You can click here to listen or click here to listen on iTunes!
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