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Posts Tagged ‘family’

  1. When Panic Attacks, Duck! Ten Tips for Surviving the Holidays

    December 11, 2016 by Diane

    With the holiday season upon us, I decided to roll out three blog posts this week to help ease any anxiety you might be feeling. This post, from December 2015, offers ten tips to tamp down the jitters.

    Santa Claus

    Holidays can be stressful whether you struggle with anxiety or not. But with a sensitive nervous system, all the hustle and bustle of the season can be the tipping point that sends you into full-blown panic. Here are my tips on how to survive the holidays, and what to do if panic does attack.

    1. Pace yourself

    Christmas is a time of giving and receiving. Don’t give all of your energy to buying and wrapping presents, standing in lines, driving from mall to mall, and attending every party you’re invited to attend. All of these activities will zap whatever energy you’ve got if you don’t allow yourself downtime. Here’s where the receiving comes in. Receive the gift of slacking off in front of the television with a bowl of popcorn. Receive the gift of letting other people do some of the shlepping around. Receive the gift of taking a nap, or a long hot bath, or drinking a glass of wine, your feet in slippers, a good book at hand. And forget about perfection. Kick that demon to the curb. Whatever gift you choose, whatever meal you plan, is good enough.

    2. Take care

    Are you eating well? Exercising? Getting enough sleep? Are you spending time in nature, or some other sacred space? You’ll need to make an extra effort to take care of yourself when the stress of holidays is upon you. Sweets are plentiful, but limit the sugar, as it feeds anxiety. Ditto for caffeine. Cold weather may keep you indoors, but you can still do some stretching, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, calisthenics, or just dance around the living room in your pjs to release tension. Maintain a sleep schedule, and include a pre-sleep ritual like turning off the tv, cell phone and computer a half hour before you slip under the covers. And try to keep the volume down on the radio. Noise batters the nerves, too.

    3. Slow down

    Tis’ the season to feel rushed. What’s a body to do? Sloooooooow doooooooown. Make all of your movements slower. Walk, talk, whatever it is you’re doing, at a more leisurely pace. This will help to calm your heart, unclench your muscles, and lower your blood pressure.

    4. Be mindful

    Instead of thinking about all of the tasks ahead of you, bring your attention to the present moment. Focus on what you’re doing, like a camera zooming in for a close-up. Time will seem to expand, and you’ll feel less overwhelmed.

    5. Ask for help

    Don’t try to cook the whole meal, hang all the decorations, do all the dishes, or anything else involved in setting the scene, all by yourself. If others offer, accept their help. If they don’t, then prod those lazy duffs off the couch and march them into the kitchen. Many hands make for light work. And it’s a lot more fun.

    6. If panic attacks, duck

    Not under the table into the fetal position. Duck out—to the bathroom, for some deep breathing. Step outside for some fresh air and a larger perspective. Take a walk, play with the kids. Or just start in on those dishes in the kitchen.

    7. Express what you’re feeling

    It’s probably not a good idea, as you’re serving the ham, to announce to the room: “I’m having a panic attack.” But you might want to seek out someone you trust and tell them what’s going on. Why? It lets off some of the pressure that anxiety builds up. You don’t have to suffer alone.

    8. Talk to somebody who’s sympathetic

    Not the family member who’s liable to say: “Snap out of it!” Not the relative who’s uncomfortable with his own emotions, let alone yours. Instead, find someone who understands what you’re going through. It’s a good bet that over half the people gathered together (probably more) deal with anxiety. You only need to find one of those fellow sufferers to talk to. Pull that person aside and say: “I’m feeling anxious right now and can’t seem to shake it.”

    9. Distract yourself

    Count how many red and green objects are in the room. Juggle the Christmas tree ornaments. Take notes on how your family behaves after a few stiff drinks (you can use the information in your next novel!). Find someone who looks more frazzled than you, and do something to make them feel less so. Try not to make it all about you, or your anxiety, even though it feels that way.

    10. Be the observer

    Observe the action going on around you as if you are the calm, still center of the storm. Observe your panic go up and down in intensity. Observe yourself observing yourself, as if you are standing in the back of a movie theater, watching yourself in the third row, watching your life on the screen.

    Remember, this too will pass. The anxiety, the day. And when it does, pat yourself on the back for having survived.

  2. When the Small-Town Parade Passed Me By

    July 10, 2016 by Diane

    woman walking in snow

    Over four months one winter, without a job or the money to pay rent, I vacated my apartment in the San Francisco Bay Area and holed up with my father, stepmother, and sister in the tiny town of Twain Harte in the Sierras, along with their rambunctious dog, orphaned cats, and a canary that sang the Tequila Sunrise song.

    While I was immensely grateful to have a loving family who took me in and tolerated my anti-social behavior, as an introvert, being suddenly thrust into a household of people and pets, I failed miserably as a member of the tribe. I spent the days hiding in the guest room, making half-hearted attempts to write a novel.

    Carl Hogan walked downstairs with a plate of wet cat food and was never seen again.

    “What happened to Carl?” my father asked from time to time, his eagerness palpable.

    I’d mumble something unintelligible and go out for a walk in the boy’s snow boots I had purchased at the local Walmart that were a size too small, trudging down icy roads to a boulder by a ditch flowing with water, where I sat and contemplated my life.

    Occasionally, I visited the grocery store.

    On a December evening I was on one such grocery-buying escapade, when sawhorses magically appeared on the street, blocking off the one and only road out. A parade was marching in, so I stashed the groceries in my trunk and joined the crowd of onlookers.

    The tennis club led the parade, carrying their rackets and a huge banner that read “Twain Harte Tennis Club” in case there was any doubt. The Kazoo Club came next, followed by the Lion’s Club and what may have been the Dog-Walking Club, or a group of people out walking their dogs. Next up: the volunteer fire department—which is to say, the barber, the pharmacist, the newspaper editor and the taxidermist/bar owner who was also a member of the Hunting Club. A trio of girls with Shirley Temple arms rode by on their father’s shoulders—or who I assumed were their fathers but may have been the Elk’s Club. They were followed by an elderly man driving a Model T—the mayor, I guessed, and his diminutive female companion, she giving a royal wave, his more like a Texas howdy doody holler.

    I heard the marching band before I saw them, rounding the corner onto the main street led by a young man snapping his baton up and down as if he truly were leading 76 trombones to the heart of town, rather than a paltry two, along with six trumpets, three drums and a french horn striving to keep up.

    Bringing up the rear: Santa and his sleigh, with a bevy of helpers bringing up his ample rear. The float, wreathed with tiny white Christmas tree lights, played a tinny-sounding Jingle Bells from a single speaker, proving to be too much electricity for the overloaded contraption. The whole thing shorted out, and Santa froze mid-wave.

    “Ohhhhh,” wailed the crowd lining the street. They wore mufflers and snow boots and thick ski gloves, and held hot cups of cider sold by volunteers in front of the real estate office.

    A tall man standing next to me groaned and shook his head—probably one of the parade committee members who thought he had hired a jolly old Saint Nick, and not some retired bearded guy afraid of being electrocuted.

    The lights and music flickered back on.

    “Ahhhh!” said the crowd.

    Santa settled back to waving his huge white paw, and the lights flickered off.

    “Ohhhh,” said the crowd.

    And flickered on.

    “Ahhhhh!” said the crowd.

    And off.


    And on.


    And so on, until Santa disappeared around a corner, and the man next to me wiped the sweat from his brow.

    And that was that. The parade was over.

    The crowd dispersed, volunteers packed up the cider and took down the sawhorses, and I returned to my car and sat behind the wheel in the dark.

    That winter, I often felt like the parade passed me by.

    And it was that kind of parade.

  3. Things That Drive Me Crazy

    April 10, 2016 by Diane

    Bun Karyudo The Man, The Legend, The Paper Bag

    Bun Karyudo
    The Man, The Legend, The Paper Bag

    I discovered Bun Karyudo on Twitter some time ago, and I’ve enjoyed his sweet, humorous blog ever since. He can turn the mundane into something rip-snorting funny. I invited him to write a guest post on my blog and he obliged, without any arm-twisting. Enjoy! And to check out more of his fun ramblings, please visit him at

    Things That Drive Me Crazy by Bun Karyudo

    “But write about what?” I ask in my email.

    “Things that drive you crazy,” comes the reply.

    I pull at my earlobe and try to think. Anger’s not an emotion that features much in my usual repertoire of responses. There are people who can so concentrate their fury, they need do no more than lower their eyebrows three-quarters of a millimeter and thunderclouds gather in the sky, the earth begins trembling, and grown men and women fall to their knees begging forgiveness.

    This never happens in my case. I can jump up and down, snarl, wave my arms, bang my fist on the counter and the clerk at the post office will merely look through me and shout “Next!” or else give me directions to the nearest restroom. But a guest post is a guest post, so I decide that the next day, I will make a special effort to notice everything that registers the slightest tiny blip on my rage-o-meter.

    The following morning begins, as do most mornings, with the ceiling. Wow! It’s so bright! Have I woken up in the middle of a New Year’s firework display? A naval barrage perhaps? No, it’s just the irritatingly luminous display on my wife’s alarm clock. So what time is it? I have no idea. I can’t actually see the numbers from my side of the bed, just the eerie green glow they cast about the room.


    Woah, great start! The first modest blip on the rage-o-meter!

    I stagger through to the bathroom mirror and see myself. Oh there I am, fresh as a daisy – although, sadly, a daisy in a meadow used by tap dancing elephants.


    As I avert my eyes from the mirror, I happen to notice that one or other of my sons has used up a roll of toilet paper and then simply left the empty cardboard tube in the holder. I try not to give in to annoyance. After all, how can I really expect a mere teenager to manhandle a hulking four-and-a-half inch cardboard cylinder – one weighing almost 1.5 ounces! – and lug it all the way to a wastebasket very nearly four feet away?

    Blip! Blip!

    Like it or not, I’ll have to look back toward the mirror if I’m to shave. Oh look! My elder son has left the mirrored side doors of the bathroom cabinet open again so that he can see his hair from every conceivable angle. He seems to have ignored the fact that I asked him to keep these door closed in order to avoid head-bumping incidents. To be fair, it may simply have slipped his mind since I’ve only mentioned it to him one or two hundred thousand times before.

    Blip! Blip! Blip!

    I shave, splash some water on my face and then look at my face carefully in the mirror again. There has been a massive improvement in that I’m fairly confident any visiting aliens from Mars could now identify my approximate genus. Perhaps they might even be able to make a stab at my species after I’ve had my shower.

    I turn on the water and wet my hair and body. Then I hunt through the various pairs of matching plastic bottles around me for shampoo and conditioner. I check the blue pair first. The conditioner bottle is full but the shampoo bottle is empty. Perhaps the white pair will hav— No, same again. The pink pair? Oh, for goodness sake! My children do this every time! They use up all the shampoo and ignore everything else. It looks like this is just another of those days when I’m going to leave the shower with the best conditioned dirty hair in the Northern hemisphere.

    Blip! Blip! Blip! Blip!

    I turn off the water and reach for the towel which I keep hanging on the rail outside the– Agh! Not again! My towel has been folded back over on itself for some reason, thus ensuring that it hasn’t dried properly. The only light my wife and children can ever shed on this fiendish towel origami is that it definitely, absolutely, positively has nothing to do with them. Oh, those accursed towel fairies!

    Blip! Blip! Blip! Blip! Blip!

    Left with no choice, I begin patting myself with a towel that’s probably wetter than I am. Slowly, my upper body does begin to feel drier, although this may owe as much to evaporation as to anything else. Yet for some reason, my feet feel no different. I peer down to find out what’s going on, and notice the water is not disappearing. I remove the drain cover and check beneath. How can it be clogged with hair again? I removed all that just the other day!

    I think about my other family members and check off each of the possibilities in turn just to be sure. No… no… no… They’re not Yetis, not alpacas and not Afghan hounds. Where can all this hair be coming from? I’m not very excited about having to touch something that looks like it was coughed up by a saber-toothed cat, but I don’t want a flooded bathroom either, so reluctantly I bend down, pick one corner of the squelchy mess between my thumb and forefinger, and toss it into the wastebasket.

    Blip! Blip! Blip! Blip! Blip! Blip!

    After I’m fully dressed, I take a step toward the bathroom door and open it, only it doesn’t open. Recently, the lock has decided that instead of closing when turned left and opening when turned right, it would be much more fun to remain closed whether it is turned left, turned right, turned left-right-left-right-left, is hammered, is kicked, or is sworn at. I eventually get the door to open, but only at a terrible cost…

    Blip! Blip! Blip! Blip! Blip! Blip! Blip!

    Seven blips! My highest total so far.

    At this stage, I decide to call off the experiment. By forcing myself to take conscious note of all these minor irritations, I am quickly being worked into an unhealthy state of agitation. I’ve barely made it out of the bathroom and already I’m feeling angrier than I have for months. If I go on like this, I’m bound to lose my temper at some point today. There’s even the possibly that I might begin raging at some poor store clerk or passerby, and who knows were that might lead? Most likely, down the passage, first on the left, second on the right, to the nearest restroom.