Happy Place

There was a time when my anxiety was the lowest. I was so distracted with lifeā€¦ I forgot my anxiety. Trust me now I look back now and I think how did I get so caught up in something that I forgot? This girl who when her heart started beating fast it was something that thrilled her, instead of immediately controlling my breathing and finding my happy place. I let the thoughts wander on their own because they were finding all the good things. I want it to be clear I wasn’t travelling or living some high “Instagram” life, I just found something that exhilarated me. There’s no “thing” that stops anxiety. But that rush that I felt had me completely caught up in living. Had me feeling the right things. This is a place I visit in my head when I’m feeling like I’m backpedalling with my mental health – there’s a quote about living a couple things twice and this moment in time is one of those moments. I like to go back and visit in my head probably more times than I care to admit. Feels like listening to the rain pour down on the roof, snuggled in bed, knowing you have nowhere to go. This memory has been bitter sweet lately. I’ve had plenty of these moments, but my anxiety has been at its highest in a while. So I’m just trying to find a new happy place.

I love water. I was raised where you could choose whether to walk to the front beach or the back beach. There’s something about being in and near water that just calms me. This is my calm. I’ve driven to the beach, just to sit. I’ve ran a shower just to have it run over me until it went cold. I’ve parented my children from a bath, because I just couldn’t leave. It meant I coped though.. in moments where I didn’t think it could be possible to cope with what I was dealing with, but I did. So I took the day. I can’t stress how important it is just to take the day when you need it. Everything will continue without you, it just will. So I went to the beach, I felt the sun on my skin and the sand up my ass. I breathed in the salt air and ran through the crashing waves, and I felt calm. And the fact that I felt that calm will give me something to breath into next time I feel like I’m drowning in my own body.

Anxiety Anti Spiral

Thursday, 8 August 2019
1:03 PM

Highly anxious people have an enlarged amygdala, this is the part of your brain that is responsible for perception and regulating emptions as well as other primitive functions. Most importantly is drives your fight or flight function – the amygdala’s role is to warn you of things that may possibly be important to your survival. Now imagine you’re triggered by every little thing, because you’re amygdala is so over active everything is a possible threat to your safety, even though it’s not. It’s a very exhausting state to be in. Never cried because even though you received a non-threatening email, it made you feel attacked. I have. Anxious people get emotional at all kinds of things, because they’re always kind of on that tipping point where that one thing is just too much. High anxiety for me leaves me exhausted, physically and emotionally and that leads to me sleeping, but not sleeping because it’s really difficult when you’re in an anxious state to sleep, which leads to me spending time in bed, not sleeping, but not doing anything, becoming more anxious about things that need to be done, and then more tired. You can see this lovely little spiral starts occurring.

When I feel myself getting into this specific situation I start by regulating my sleep habits, always wake up and go to bed at the same time. Sleep is driven by an internal body clock, it needs consistency. Now this is not likely to be enough, but it’s a start. Good bed time habits, no blue light an 1 – 2 hrs before bed. Warming up your body 2hours before bed, either in a bath or through exercise. This is a natural indication to the body it’s time for sleep. Speaking of exercise. EXERCISE! Studies link anxiety and dopamine levels in the amygdala, increasing dopamine levels through exercise can help. Sleep impacts on dopamine levels if you’re not getting enough sleep you need to boost dopamine through other avenues. Add sunshine to your life, sunshine will regulate your melatonin and internal body clock assisting with sleep and increases your number of dopamine receptors. Human contact triggers dopamine too, hugging, shaking hands, getting a massage – physical touch is such an important part of well-being. And finally, I start every day with small, attainable goals. We just like achieving things, simply achievement trains the brain propelling behaviour to more achievements.

Be your authentic annoyed self

I think the part of being happy that people forget is that it’s not a state of being. No one is happy all of the time and it’s essential to happiness! Regardless of how negative emotions benefit us people will report that the because of how we felt about it, it was bad. So I think it’s important to talk about anxiety being useful. Most people know this superficially, but we still don’t value negative emotions because it makes us uncomfortable. There are so many situations where it is better to be in a sad or angry state than being in cheerful and optimistic state. It’s my personal opinion (also backed by studies) happiness should not be the end game, or the thing that should be pursued because if you try and attain it as a goal, it only makes it more difficult to attain. If I devote my life to the pursuit of happiness, I would be setting myself up for failure. You can’t control your happiness, because we’re so situationally influenced anything can ruin your “positivity”. You find happiness on the journey of perusing things you actually care about. I set up my time for what are the important things I want to accomplish and time to do whatever I want that satisfies me. Space for myself and space for the things that are important to me and my relationships. This does not discount positive emotions, mindfulness and positive mindset. It’s just far more effective to try and be fulfilled. Be present, explore and be curious to work out what works for you. And don’t interpret having negative emotions as being unfulfilled, as emotions, the full range of emotions are beneficial. When you think about first dates, rollercoasters, child birth, things that bring great joy and happiness is never pure happiness, emotions are blended. Being uncomfortable, acknowledging vulnerability and not avoiding anxiety transfers into being present which positively impacts on relationships and connections. It’s important to accept the positive role anxiety and other negative emotions have in our lives.

Am I the villain in your Story?

I reflect, A LOT. I find it difficult to be analytical when I’m in a situation, especially of my own behaviour. So I often will think about interactions after they’ve happened, some more than others naturally. Interactions where I don’t understand the other persons behaviour especially so. The other day during a reflection of probably more a collection of events than just one situation. Something I’ve reflected on so many times, something my head just goes to… to stop myself from something usually.  I realised that I wasn’t entirely the victim that I had previously held in my head. It was the first time that I could see that my behaviour was selfish. It was a difficult realisation for me because I hadn’t previously realised I was wanting something of someone that I could not reciprocate, but I got upset when they didn’t want that. Further reflecting on that, that behaviour could have had negative impacts on another person, which is something that goes against the type of person I strive to be. It’s definitely difficult to be genuinely critical of oneself but it has made me more aware of their behaviour too, which is definitely a positive for me as I understand it more now. Probably not fully, or even close to what actually went through their head, but more than before. I also feel as though I’ve grown as a person, to be able to see my behaviour differently. Understanding that I was behaving selfishly has also helped me realise that in this situation what I want is probably not best for another person – my self-control regarding this behaviour is another issue entirely.

It has also re-sparked a thirst in me to understand how other people see and their memories of events I have in my head. And by now I assume you know my answer to the common question, if you could have one super power what would it be? To read minds. Just for a short period of time. I’m not strong enough of person to know exactly what people think of me, I’ll grow, slowly and gently though.

On Overthinking

In life I’m a mess, in my head however everything is organised. My head likes things to follow rules. Especially social etiquette rules. I’m much more confident in social situations if I know I’m following the social norms. This morning my head was organised. I was going to get off the bus I was on and the next bus would be the 156. I checked and I was going to miss one the 162, but the 156 was only a minute away so not a big deal. However, when I got off the bus the 162 was still there and people were still getting on it… and I too could have also got on that bus, but I already had in my head that I was going to get on the 156 so I just stood there and waited for the 156. Once I have an idea in my head of the way something is going to happen it’s really difficult for me to adjust when something else happens. I get really annoyed when people don’t follow the script I prepared for them in my head. And I think about everything! So it’s really hard for me not to construct a pre-thought of something before it happens. There are very few people I cannot predict behaviour/responses from and understanding people is what keeps my head happy. My head appreciates consistency and anything else drives me insane, my head dislikes this, I on the other hand love it. When my head starts to spin out I do have a strategy that works for me. I zone out into my head, and in my head I keep archived thoughts, like a point in a memory or a thought that I start at and just explore in my head. Some are loosely based off memories and I’ll have a specific part of that memory that I revisit in my head, sometimes I just let it play through and other times I play it out in my head a different way… the way I wanted it to end. Sometimes it’s just a person, it’s amazing how just someones name can make you feel like you’ve slipped between freshly washed sheets in a properly made bed. Like home. Warm fuzzy feelings. I prefer to have happy places over people though, places don’t leave you.

University (Round 2)

Learning is a massive part of who I am. It’s important for me to feel as though I’m learning not only in my career but growing as person. One of my goals for this Trimester was to be organised, which I failed miserably at. Glutton for punishment? I don’t really like tasks that aren’t hard for me to attain. When people ask me whether I’m insane going back to Uni with two kids and working full time… probably, but this is my domain. I love a challenge and if I’m honest I’ve been bored lately. I can’t say that this trimester hit the spot I’m craving, but it definitely helped me. However leaving things to the last minute definitely does not help my anxiety, so although I’m loving the pressure I come out the other side fairly burnt out. Next Trimester I will try harder to somewhat adult.

My Second goal? Make a friend. Anxiety makes making friends very difficult. I tend to make friends with people who are conversationalists and say hello first. I struggle to go out of my way to start conversations with people. I don’t want to annoy them… and I’m just generally an awkward as fuck person. So people who can talk and make the effort are my kind of people. I have absolutely lost friends because they didn’t make an effort and I just assumed they didn’t like me anymore. I have a couple of friends who I know what they’re like and I know I have to make an effort with, but we’re already close and those relationships started in situations where you don’t have to make effort to see them (school and work). My first round of Uni, I met people, people that I liked, but I really missed an opportunity. This time I wanted to make an effort to make meaningful connections. I think I did do this. I definitely hope I’ve made at least one connection so I’m happy with that. As an improvement though I am considering group study groups, which I absolutely hate the idea of, but it’s good to do things that scare us.

Thoughts of a twenty something with anxiety

There will be no “positivity is a mind set” here, living with anxiety is not a mindset and I wish more people understood that living with any mental illness is utter lack of control.

If you can imagine that thing that pops into your brain sometimes, like a bad memory or thought… most of us have one of these. Sometimes they’re not even that bad, they’re just something or someone that is a thought in your head. You’re not really ever sure where that thought comes from… it just appears every now and again. The thing about thoughts is the more times you think of something the more your brain connects that thought to other thoughts and stimuli and the more you’ll think of that thought. Now imagine that, this mysterious thought that pops into your head is actually anxiety and it’s not so much a thought as immediate impending doom. What anxiety does is triggers your fight or flight impulse, so suddenly with no actual stimuli you feel like you’re fighting for your life…

Now imagine you’re trying not to think of a ball, how difficult is it not to think of a ball. And trust me the further you try to push the ball out of your mind, the harder it pushes back. It’s like trying to push something.. like a ball filled with air under water, until pop it’s right back there.

So how to deal with possibly feeling crippling anxiety at any point in time… how do I deal with this? And this is relevant for all times you feel out of control. Be grounded. I love and live for mindfulness, it’s very simple. Name 5 things you can feel…

  1. I can feel my heart, pounding as it may be, I can feel it.
  2. I can feel my hand against my chest. (Touching your chest or head can help you feel present)
  3. I can feel the rise and fall of my chest and I breath. (Try and pace your breath, it is perfectly ok if you can’t, just acknowledge your breath)
  4. I can feel the chair underneath me, it’s soft, but sturdy.
  5. I can feel the pressure of my body on my leg as it’s tucked up underneath me

That’s 5