RSS Feed

Posts Tagged ‘mindful’

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

    December 6, 2015 by Diane

    Santa Claus

    Holidays can be stressful, whether you struggle with anxiety or not. But with a sensitive nervous system, all of 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? Spending time in nature or in 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, do it 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. This Will Make Your Day

    May 17, 2015 by Diane

    Big Laugh

    If you place a call to, oh, say your mobile phone carrier, and the customer service rep asks for your name, and you tell her,

    “Diane,”

    and she asks,

    “May I call you Miss Diane?”

    and you say,

    “I’d prefer to be called Your Highness,”

    and she happily obliges!…

    this will make your day.

    * * *
    When you remember the gray cat you had as a child, the cat who suffered the indignities of wearing your doll clothes and riding around in your toy baby carriage, the cat who bounded out of the baby carriage wearing those same doll clothes to chase an annoying German Shepard up the road…

    decades later, this memory will make your day.

    * * *
    When your parked car, your tiny Toyota Corolla, is hit by a beast of a big rig and tossed onto the curb like a toy, and the driver continues on his merry way without stopping, this will not make your day. But…

    When a construction worker wearing clunky boots chases down the big rig, and this construction worker happens to be a photographer, and this photographer happens to take pictures of the guilty party and his driver’s license and insurance certificate, and happens to call the police to file a report, and then sticks his business card on your windshield so that you have all the information you need to recoup a portion of the cost of your now-totaled vehicle, you will be filled with such gratitude for this noble do-gooder (whose car was also hit by the big rig, and shoved twenty feet), it will make your day.

    I know, because this just happened to me.

    It doesn’t take much to turn a so-so day, a rotten day, a “why did I bother to get up” day into something wonderful. Not much at all.

    A shared joke.

    A memory.

    A good deed.

    The important thing is to be aware of these fleeting moments, and soak them in.

    So if you’re feeling blue, or you’re spiraling down the anxiety rabbit hole, here’s my prescription: three times a day find something of beauty, or something to laugh about, or something to be grateful for, and soak it in.

    That’s it.

    Be aware, and soak it in.

    And share it with somebody else.


  3. Hope for Introverts Who Feel Like Party Poopers

    May 10, 2015 by Diane

    People in a concert

    Recently a friend invited me to attend a three-day camping/music festival in the mountains, an hour drive from where I live. For an introvert, three days amongst hordes of people and loud music is nerve-wracking. “Sounds fun!” I said, and then immediately began fretting.

    Will there be port-a-potties? I hate port-a-potties. What will I do with my stuff: my lawn chair, my backpack, my snacks and meals and bottled water and book and writing tablet and sleeping bag and whatever comfort crap I lug with me? And then there’s the hour drive up winding mountain roads. Driving is not my forte. And chitchat. I loathe chitchat! I never know what to say.

    But I told myself: it will be good for you to get out from behind the keyboard and mingle. So I bought a ticket.

    Except I nixed the camping part.

    And the three days.

    I committed to one day. For a few hours.

    Do you see how my introverted brain narrowed my experience so quickly? And still I worried! I worked myself into a nervous wreck. A weekend of fun turned into something that required me to gird my loins well in advance.

    Why?

    Because of the thoughts I was entertaining. These thoughts were unwelcome guests. But they crowded the space in my mind.

    I tried smiling. It temporarily lulled my body into thinking that all was safe. I tried meditating, focusing on my “third eye,” directing my gaze upwards. It eased my racing heart, somewhat. I tried engaging in soothing self-talk. The only difference between today and any other day is the knowledge that I’m going to a music festival, and the dysfunctional thinking that I’ve attached to that future experience. But in spite of all the self-talk and relaxation techniques I still felt like damaged goods, unable to look forward to an event that most people would find enjoyable.

    What’s the matter with me!? I agonized.

    In desperation, I turned to the book The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World. The author, Marti Olsen Laney, devotes a whole chapter to attending parties and other such events. What I read gave me new insight into myself, and changed my outlook. By Saturday morning I was eager to hit the road.

    What were Laney’s tips?

    Read on, fellow introverts.

    First: you are not damaged goods. You’re an introvert, and crowds will suck the energy from you. Extroverts thrive on gatherings and other people; it’s how they recharge. Introverts recharge by going within. So it’s natural to feel anxious before attending a big event. Here is how to make the experience less overwhelming:

    1. Relax the day beforehand to conserve your energy.

    I spent the afternoon in the park reading, and after a leisurely dinner, I watched a DVD before going to bed.

    2. When you arrive at the event, acclimate yourself gradually. Stand on the fringes and take it all in. Allow other people to approach you. When you’re feeling comfortable, proceed into the belly of the crowd.

    When I arrived, I greeted my friend, located the restrooms (yay, no port-a-potties!) and slowly made my way to the main stage. I set up my lawn chair in the back of the crowd next to three people who were also sitting in lawn chairs…reading books. My kind of people.

    3. Take breaks as needed. Go to the restroom to escape, or step outside and take in some air.

    I wandered off by myself to take in the breathtaking view of the redwoods and the fog drifting in from the coast, and then found a small jazz trio jamming in the mess hall.

    4. Set a time limit for how long you’ll stay.

    I decided to give myself until 6:00, so I wouldn’t have to drive down the mountain in the dark. I ended up staying until 7:00, because I was having such a great time.

    5. Schedule downtime the following day to recharge your batteries.

    It was back to the park for me, with a good book.

    I am happy to report that the experience could not have been more perfect.

    Takeaways this week:

    The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney. If you’re an introvert and want to understand why you are the way you are, or you’re an extrovert who wants to understand introverts, get this book. Includes great tips for how to find balance in an overwhelming world.

    Respect your strengths as an introvert (creativity, good listening skills, lasting relationships, persistence, concentration…to name a few), and the requirements needed to protect your energy. Constant activity and loud noise is a drain. That’s okay. Take breaks as needed, set a time limit for participation, and rest before and after engagements.

    Conversations with groups can be intimidating. It takes longer for introverts to formulate ideas when conversing (it’s how are brains are wired), but that’s okay. A good line to use: “Give me time to think about it,” or “I’ll get back to you on that.” Or just smile, maintain eye contact, and let the extroverts do all the talking. They love to!