Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Worry Just Will Not Seem to Leave My Mind Alone.

So Sunday?


It was a bad day. I couldn't shake my dark mood. Every movement felt like an arduous chore, despite my AM yoga class (which I typically leave floating). My heart was heavy. I was restless in my own skin. Everything - somewhat inexplicably - was tinged with sadness.

I have a tendency towards anxiety. On some level, I've always been a worrier. As a child, my brother and I (and oftentimes, Koos) traveled to my grandparents' house in Colorado every summer. I loved those solo trips across the country, sans parents. I'm sure those early flights alone sealed my future independence and ease with travel.

Until one summer, I became - quite irrationally - afraid to fly. That year, my entire trip to Colorado Springs was effectively ruined, as I was desperately homesick, and I was SURE that our return flight was doomed. I was like some deranged character from Final Destination. John Denver's playing? And he died in a plane crash? Well fuck me, I am not getting on this plane.

Of course, I got on the plane. And survived! And eventually, I got over it. The fear. I gained confidence; became more independent, and continued to travel. The last truly lovely experience I had on a jet took place in June 2001. I flew to LA to visit my friend Brian, who was starring in a production of Evita. Blissful flight - with a connection through Cincinnati - blissful trip.

And then September 11th. Yeah. That.

Dealing with post-traumatic stress and anxiety is hard. It exhausts you. In my case, I could never feel safe. I felt like a moving target. Planes. Bombs. Anthrax. Blah.

That was nearly nine years ago. I have worked very hard to get through it. It's why I fly all the time. It's why I try to stay focused. It's why I make new resolutions every January. It's why I start Happiness Projects. These things make me calmer. More joyful. Whole.

But every so often (read: once every few years), the real dread creeps in. Luckily, it does not linger long. But it surfaces long enough to make me uncomfortable in my own skin. It makes me sad. It causes me to worry about every insignificant detail: new carpet might hurt our baby. The furniture won't arrive on time. SIDS. I'll get hit by a car. We don't have any window treatments in the nursery. WE NEED WINDOW TREATMENTS, J, LEST WE WILL NOT SURVIVE!

That was Sunday.

Monday was better. Today was great.

To help ameliorate my anxiety, I picked up Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now on CD. (I'm doing a lot of driving this week in Upstate New York.) I was skeptical, but Tolle talks a lot about the power our thoughts yield over us. That nagging voice in our heads, he says, is our own worst enemy. It torments us with potential negative outcomes. It attackes and punishes us, draining us of vital energy. (I might have shouted Yes! aloud at this point.)

To free yourself, he says, you only need to start listening to The Voice, paying attention to any repetitive thoughts. Listen impartially - don't judge. Soon, you will recognize your own presence versus The Voice. The thought will then lose its power, because you no longer identify with the thought.

I think that's damn lovely, and absolutely worth a shot. One of my resolutions for 2010 was to stop worrying. If I can consciously recognize these damaging, needless worries, and then banish them from my brain? Sign me up.

Agree? Disagree? I'd be interested to learn how others cope with anxiety. I love to try new things!


Mama_Bear_Sarah said...

lots of focusing on my breathing ...and then re-focusing when my mind wanders. and some good meditation. always works.

Anonymous said...

Quiet frankly, in my humble opinion and as simple as it may sound...stress, anxiety and all these wonderfully negative games that our minds play on us are totally within our total control. So much so, that they are all manifested by our own minds. Simply take control and eliminate them however you see fit. To do lists, workouts, naps, whatever shuts your mind off and gives you the grip you need is the best tool. Just stay away from the addictives, they can kill you.

In the end, its all in you own head, so just turn around and walk away. Not looking back is the part that takes practice...after all, you just walked away from your own head!

Jesse said...

Can't believe I'm just catching up to you on here. Thanks for the "remember"ances.

Máire said...

Love your blog! Just passing through and your post reminded me of some stuff I found in the "Anxiety and Phobia Workbook" my therapist recommended. It's great for people like you, who I think might like a practical approach-it worked for me and a few months on I still refer back to it. Beating anxiety is a journey and I wish you all the luck on your travels!

Homevalley said...

Sarah - I have been doing this recently... It is amazing how well it works. This is why I love yoga so much, even though my mind does tend to wander. Thanks for the tip!

Anon - have you read The Power of Now? I am starting to agree with you - we can control our thoughts, and must practice doing so. Easier said than done, but I'm trying.

Jesse!!!!!!!!!!! Glad you found me.

Maire - thanks for the love. Will definitely check out the workbook. You are right - I do need practical exercises.

Jesse said...

Well . . . found you again.

Keep rockin'.

Matt said...

It was really funny reading this because I just picked up Power of Now this week. I've only read the first couple chapters, and I alternate pretty regularly between thinking, "What a whacko quack job this guy is," and "Spot on, you freaking genius!" Can't decide if I want to continue with it or not.

Homevalley said...

Matt - I tend to agree with you. I don't think I could have read the book all the way through - listening to the CD was enjoyable though.

I think, overall, there were a lot of great takeaways. I don't know if you reached it yet, but there is a point in the book where he says "to complain is madness." I loved that whole section. I also love the idea of controlling your "pain body" and ego.

Besides that, when I feel stressed I always force myself back to the present. As I tend to be a chronic worrier, this has been a real help.

Let me know what you think if/when you finish!