It's official, folks: the holiday season is here. *shudder* While it's normal for Christmas to not be not super exciting for a kid-less adult, the absolute dread I feel is a bit unusual... and largely tied to past bouts of depression and anxiety felt during the holiday season. Remember this post? Yeah, I was not in a good place then, hyperventilation-puking in the bathroom at work on New Year's Eve 2014. Christmas 2010 was even worse, a clusterf*ck of school stress, job stress, and personal stress. While I do plan to address these upsetting feelings and memories in EMDR, I've been wondering: wouldn't it be helpful if I could see these sorts of situations coming?
Like, wouldn't I be better prepared to deal with sudden intense anxiety if I know what in my life typically causes it? And how I normally react when I'm feeling it?
How am I supposed to cope when I feel totally helpless to anxiety's attacks?!
Enter "anxiety tells," an idea I got from Gretchen Rubin's podcast Happier, specifically Episode 27: The Bigger Life (8/26/15), in which Gretchen and her co-host/sister Elizabeth contemplate their own anxiety tells: the physical things we do that reveal our discombobulated inner state. They also point out how important it is for us to observe our own behavior, to become aware of the things that we do almost reflexively out of fear and anxiety. Self-examination?! What a novel idea!
With that in mind, I began looking at my own anxiety, in the hopes of understanding it, and myself, better.
What are my main anxiety triggers?
- Being out of my routine (i.e. days off, change in normal schedule, WEEKENDS). This is no surprise to anyone who regularly reads this blog, ha.
- Major life changes
- Old painful memories (I have an excellent memory, which is bad when every subsequent Christmas reminds you of how awful and alone you felt FIVE years ago.)
- Unfamiliar situations
What are my anxiety tells?
- Feeling trapped and wanting to be anywhere else
- Not talking at all (which my dad and my bf have picked up as a red flag!)
- Feelings of intense unease and loneliness
- Obsessing over a task (no matter how important it actually is) and not giving myself breaks
What helps me get out of this mindset?
- Talking to/texting/fb messaging other people, especially my bf and my friend Kristin (who knows to bombard me with Pusheen and minion stickers! haha).
- Being creative. (Y'all don't even know how incredibly therapeutic this blog is for me!)
- Checking out other people's blogs. (Apparently, you guys being creative is therapeutic for me too!) :)
- Going to a yoga class. (I just won't do it at home!)
- Listening to music.
- TV as company/background noise, especially a show like Castle that is formulaic and familiar.
- Googling whatever I'm struggling with (separation anxiety, for instance) to try to find ways to cope. It's calming to feel like I'm taking steps toward lessening the anxiety. #student4life
- Fun/cute socks! (They just make me smile!)
- Stuffed animals (particularly my giant Snuffles--blanket babushka optional!).
So what are your anxiety triggers and tells? I think it's something worth observing, especially on the brink of a stressful time of year. How do you cope with anxious moments, or with the holidays in general? (I need all the help I can get! :D) I'm really curious if/how increased self-awareness will help me this year...