“You gotta nourish to flourish.”
(*Scroll to the bottom of this post if you’d rather hear me read it instead!)
I’ve been thinking (and writing) a lot about practical ways to combat the catastrophic thoughts and feelings that can eat up so much of an anxiety sufferer’s day. If you’ve struggled with anxiety or panic you know it takes work, real hard work, to make sure that things like imagination, wonder, curiosity, enthusiasm, spontaneity, and passion don’t always take a back seat to the overwhelming (and sometimes unexpected) fear that can creep up inside of us and keep us stuck in a scary and debilitating trauma loop.
My therapist says one practical way is to be intentional about self-care. Not the kind that looks like going out to dinner, or curling up with a good book, or getting a mani/pedi. The kind that involves getting to know yourself better. The self-care that involves learning more about your temperament so that you can identify triggers, plan accordingly, and help lessen stress. It’s about finding a way to decompress throughout your day, not just when you’re out at dinner, or curled up on the couch, or when you’re getting your hands or feet rubbed. It’s about refreshing your mind and body, not just your nails. It’s about filling more than your belly with good food. It’s about re-filling your brain with good things that it may be starving for, too.
Self-care is about being intentional about combating the things that drain us by identifying and implementing things that will refuel us.
Here’s a short list of self-care suggestions that have been helpful for me, personally. Maybe they’ll be helpful for someone else out there too?
1. Slow down. I’m a busy body. Not because I’m Type A, or task-oriented, or an overachiever…no, mostly because I have a short attention span and I have found that I’m most creative (and have the most energy) between 8am and 6pm. I’m worthless outside those hours (not really, but you know what I mean), so I do a little bit of a lot of different things during those 10 hours. And although I wouldn’t trade my work for the world, unfortunately, in my case, that usually means producing a whole lot of content, content, content, but not always producing a whole lot of content, content, content. I’m not saying I don’t love my job, I’m just saying one way for me to practice self-care is to slow down enough to really feel the fun in it. It’s part of the reason I gave myself permission to share stories about people and places and my passions (not my projects!) this year. I still work passionately to create content that (hopefully) inspires, informs and/or entertains, but I’m also intentional about sharing in a way that feels like a refueling for me, too.
2. Let go of ‘no’.
I know a lot of folks have a hard time saying ‘no’ but saying it isn’t the problem for me. I’m an introvert. Meaning, I love to hang out with people but, unlike an extrovert who is energized by spending time with others, I require an equal amount of alone time to recharge. Another reason I don’t have a hard time saying ‘no’ is because my social anxiety has gradually intensified because my fear of having a panic attack has also steadily grown. Why? Because my panic-related symptoms have multiplied over the years. My attacks used to just feel like heightened anxiety but, nowadays, symptoms include, but aren’t limited to: dizziness, equilibrium issues, vision and hearing issues, sky-high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, hyperventilation, paralysis of my extremities, etc.) and simply knowing those symptoms could spiral out of control in inopportune times has made it more and more difficult to be a part of and/or stay regulated in social situations.
That said, feeling bad about having to say ‘no’ is what troubles me. I believe we are better together (after all, it is why we’re here!) so not always being able to love and serve in person (like I used to) can stir up frustrating and belittling feelings of inadequacy and guilt.
To combat them, I practice self-care which looks like:
- Giving myself grace on days that I feel like I need to say ‘no’.
- Being enthusiastically grateful for days that I feel empowered to say ‘yes’.
I make a conscious and genuine effort, sometimes out loud, to let myself off the hook if I feel like I need to say ‘no’ to something or someone. In other words, I reassure myself that it’s okay to put my oxygen mask on first in order to help my struggling inner child find fresh air. I also keep a journal-style calendar on my desk so that I can keep track of my good and bad days. I like finding patterns and seeing that, regardless of what the negative voices in my head would like for me to believe, anxiety doesn’t win every day. Some days, lots of days actually, I am still able to release fear by tapping into the power of the Spirit inside me. The enemy would love for me to not remember how often I am able to do that, so I feel like it’s super important to be openly, outwardly, enthusiastically grateful for that gift. And besides, some ‘no’ responses might just need to be a ‘no for now’. God knows your heart. He sees you caring for the self He created.
3. Recall my “moment mercy mantra”. I don’t really call it that, but I had to come up with a way to tell you about it. 😉 Recently, my therapist and I talked about the truth that is revealed in Lamentations 3:22-23.
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
Did you catch that? Every morning we all awake to new mercies. New possibilities, new opportunities, a fresh chance to connect with and love ourselves and others. But here’s what is REALLY helpful for us anxious folks: there’s not only mercy on the other side of each day, there’s also mercy on the other side of each and every moment. So, sometimes, self-care is repeating this phrase:
There are mercies on the other side of this moment.
If I’m feeling anxious, I’ll say or think about it, several times, and as you can probably imagine, there are always new mercies on the other side of every anxious moment. Always! Think about that the next time you are struggling. Lean into the truth of it. Peace will always come. It may be temporary, but so is panic.
Well, that’s all for now, my friend. My eyeballs ache from an hour of EMDR. You can Google that if you’re interested in learning what those letters stand for and how the therapy works. I’ve got a sleep mask calling my name…we’ll pick up here again soon!
PS- I polled my Instagram followers and 93% of the viewers over there voted “yes” to the idea of me including an audio player here, so click the play button below if you’d like to listen to today’s post instead/too!