I woke up yesterday feeling anxious, knots in my stomach, a feeling of impending doom. This is not normal for me, as, since completing my self-enforced program of recovery many years ago, I’ve pretty much been the happiest person I know. I’ve had moments of stress, for the most part something that never transpired, which is what usually happens. But, I’ve learned enough tools to counteract these happenings, which means they never get out of hand. Most of the time it is about a family member, especially my children. As a single mom, I’ve had to do the best I could with all of my shortcomings. I must have done something right as my four children are four of the most wonderful people I know and if I weren’t already their mother I would sure have wanted them in my life.
Taken unawares, I tried to head off any emotional turmoil that used to accompany my anxiety. Before I did anything, I checked my HALT, Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired. If any of these need to be addressed, I took care of them immediately. This usually gives me a clear vision of not only what’s bothering me but also what solution I need to take. I’m convinced that half of the suicides in the world occurred when the victim needed a good night’s sleep. This time I didn’t seem to have any needs in those four areas. I tried to list any events coming up that might be difficult for me to face, followed by possible solutions. I recalled certain anniversary dates that always brought some disturbance in my life. Today didn’t mark the anniversary of any of these. I spent more time than I would like to admit trying to figure out why I was feeling so down. I was having the normal amount of concern about any family member having financial worries, no one had any serious injury or illness, and I had no important happening coming up that would cause me anxiety.
I finally managed to pull out the guilty culprit and immediately resolved the problem. It dawned on me that since I’d had major surgery 3 weeks earlier, several changes had come in to my life. I was not able to take my early morning 30-minute walk with my Golden Retriever, Guinevere. As we are all aware, exercise is a good antidote for anxiety. Therefore, I knew that was part of it. Then I realized the other problem. Used to normally saying my morning prayers while I walked, I had gotten out of the habit of saying my prayers. I couldn’t seem to find the right time to work them in. I was ashamed. God always had time to work in any of my requests no matter what. My relationship with God is very personal and talking to My God on a daily basis always resolved things I didn’t even know were bothering me. I immediately poured myself a cup of coffee, coaxed Guinevere to go do her business on our south lawn and sat down on the porch swing. Since I normally follow these prayers with a daily rosary for my son who is in Afghanistan I went upstairs to the library, Guin now having finished her business, and sat in my favorite recliner that looked north towards Sedona and its red rocks. Then I said my rosary. After that, my anxiety was gone.
This may not seem like any big deal but I had learned early in my recovery a couple of very important rules. I always start my day by numerating my blessings. They seem to double after that and keeping an open line to my Maker and his Mother always blows the cobwebs out of my mind bringing me to a place of peace. So far, since recovery, I haven’t stumbled across any hardship that I couldn’t handle. I’ve even been known to take a walk and have my own therapy session. You know….what is bothering you? Is it really that important in the grand scheme of things? What do you think is the best way to deal with it?
There are few problems you can’t handle yourself once you’ve gone through recovery. I can still remember how terrifying anxiety is. I’ve had some dark moments in my life where I didn’t think I was going to survive, was actually worried that I might survive. It is almost like walking through a long dark tunnel; you can’t see where you are, you don’t know what your problem is, no one is with you and the aloneness is suffocating you. The anxiety is so great you can’t seem to even find the courage to begin resolving it. I have a few ground rules I try to keep in mind. They might work for you as well.
· Identify your problem, no matter how small they may seem. Sometimes this means taking out pen and paper and numbering the possibilities. It’s amazing how clarifying it is when you realize that there really are lions and tigers and bears under your bed! Oh my! And don’t try to hide or deny your problem. There is always at least one other person who knows was the problem is. You can run but you can’t hide.
· Have a talk with God. He always understands and he’s endlessly patient with me while I try to sift through the solutions until I find one that works.
· Watch HALT. It really works.
· Take a walk or do some kind of physical activity. It releases those endorphins.
· Eat healthy – junk food really isn’t food, it’s just a reminder that you need to put something in your stomach. If you don’t believe in the power of healthy eating, try eating junk food for a week and then nutritious food for another week. You’ll see the difference.
· Get your mind off the problem for a while: read a good book, go to a movie, take a hike, have a picnic with a friend etc.
· Keep a positive frame of mind. The only thing that is the end of the world is the end of the world.
If you haven’t gone through recovery yet, get started. Buy a copy of REPAIR Your Life and begin working that program. Follow it up with It’s Your Choice! Decisions that Will Change Your Life. Both books have their own book page on our website.
Good luck! Email me at Margie@thelamplighters.org if I can answer any questions or help in any way.