Levels of Worry

I’ve decided that I need to put an exact number on my levels of worry about certain things, so I can evaluate if, over time (day to day or minute to minute), I’m worried more or less about something. Which is to say, if I’m less worried, then I’m mentally healthier.  I tell myself, don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff. And then I think, how is my friend getting killed during a home invasion a small thing?? It isn’t, but that’s a worry, NOT a reality, and the world isn’t flooded with home invaders, I have simply reversed the statistics in my head, which IS a small thing, and can be fixed with logic, right?

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________
0 – Not worried at all. Not even crossing my mind.
1 – Random or stray thought, but not concerned, and not a thought more than once a day.
2 – Slight thoughts throughout the day, but logic abates worry.
3 – On my mind, mostly able to shoo it away, but logic not working.
4 – Slightly concerned, causing distraction when I’m not occupied.
5 – Concerned, on my mind pretty steady, even while occupied, but mostly able to function.
6 – Worried, becoming a distraction, only partially functioning, and causing stress.
7 – Worried, and starting to plan or research to gather info.
8 – Worried, calling people, breathing heavy, asthma triggered.
9 – Very Worried, tears start, calling hospitals, rapid texting, wheezing, etc.
10– Complete panic mode, very physically ill, crying uncontrollably, need help.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________
Please let me know if you agree with these stages of worry. If not, post yours, I’d like to hear from you!

: )

Don’t Let Go

I worry about my sister. I worry about my parents. I worry about my kitten. I worry about my job.  I worry about money. I worry about my boyfriend when he’s on his motorcycle. I worry about losing things I love.  ID-10087041
Whatever the worry of the day is I always feel like I have to hold on to it in my mind or it will come true. As if my thinking about it can make it not happen. I must maintain focus on it like a security guard who endlessly travels the halls of a building or tediously stares at monitors, so that the thought doesn’t become a reality. And if I let go, if let my guard down, the evil intentions of fate might intervene and tragedy will certainly ensue. However irrational, I remain convinced that my repetitious quashing of the horrible images in my head will somehow fend off the attack of fate. I’m not sure when in the course of my life I decided I have this amazing power. Some call it “magical thinking.” So maybe when Olivia Newton John sang, “…have to believe we are magic…” I simply believed her. I was probably 12 when I first heard that, which is the ripest age to set in illogical beliefs. Now that I’m 44, (halfway grown-up) I logically I know it cannot be real. But emotionally it is as real to me as any other feeling or thought process I have.
As if this horribly burdensome power isn’t enough, it also painfully compounded with the need, well more accurately, an almost primal compulsion to worry about something. So when I think there’s nothing wrong at the moment, I begin to panic because I’m wondering what I’m missing. What is it that I have forgotten or I don’t know about yet that I should be worrying about?  ID-100134005
Because if I don’t know what it is I’m supposed to be worrying about how could I possibly save anyone or anything with my super powers of destiny control?  If I don’t think about it or think ahead to all of the things that could go wrong in the path of everyone and everything I care about then it will be my fault when the shit hits the fan. Then I get to endure the mental anguish of the loss plus the guilt, so I must not let go. Must not. Don’t let go. Can’t.
I’ve read enough forums, blogs, books and medical journals to know that I’m not alone in this plight, and that with the right counseling and commitment to working on it, these thoughts can be reduced. I am not convinced they can be 100% eliminated for one’s entire future. Who could make that claim anyhow?  What I do know is that there are some exercises that can actually help.
First, you must take care of your physical body. And the foundation of that is sleep. Most people will tell you nutrition is first, and it kind of is, but really, if you don’t sleep well, you will make bad choices, including what to eat or not eat. So we start with sleep as our first building block in the defense to this (and most) kinds of anxiety.  If you don’t sleep well, exercise is excellent, but who has the energy to workout when they’ve had a crappy sleep?  So, if you ask your doctor for a sleep aid, or about holistic alternatives, it might help. I take an herbal supplement called SuperSnooze. If I remember to take it early enough, like 3 hours before bedtime, I can wake up with no grogginess. Ask your doctor if that might work for you too.
Secondly, eating the right food and on a schedule can really help. Both our body and our mind become weaker without the proper nutrition.  Imagine how you’d feel if you didn’t sleep, refused to eat right (or at all) and your immune system is unable to fend off the flu. Now, you are hungry, tired, stuffy, achy and worried about everything. You would be a huge pile of horribleness.  The most healthy diet I’ve found, that promotes clarity, health and energy is the raw vegan diet. Of course, most people won’t give up their meat, let alone get used to having nothing cooked or baked. A good balanced diet will include more veggies than anything. I am absolutely opposed to the all-meat or high-protein diet for several reasons. First, your body becomes laden with animal fats. Meat and fats can get stuck in your intestines for a very long time and ferment. The body will then have difficulty digesting other foods, which means lower nutrition. You may be full and functioning, but your body is nowhere near it’s highest potential. Further, diets high in protein have been shown time and time again to cause cancer and heart disease.
Third, I know everyone says this, and when you are anxious and/or depressed, the last thing you might want to do is get up and move, but – you have to. You have to get up and do anything physical. Stretch, do a few yoga poses, walk to your mailbox 4 times and back. Do anything that gets a little blood flow going. You’d be surprised how little it takes to kick up some endorphins and improve your mental state within minutes. Again, check with your doctor before starting any new diet or exercise program.  ID-10083133
Fourth, we must know, deep down, and really own this thought, and believe it thoroughly, and I say we because you, the reader and I, the writer both need to get this: We are NOT God. We are not any kind of superior being the wields the power of fate, or destiny or has control over the actions of others in any way. To really believe we can is pure folly.Why do we think that way? Well, we probably didn’t come to this conclusion in the first place out of arrogance (as some who don’t understand us might think). We developed it over time, through countless hours of worry, guilt and the refusal to accept the unknown. This is an important point, because it is going to be uncomfortable at first, to realize that you really have no control over others, whether you lock your brain on them or not.  However, once you really get this, and know there’s nothing you can do about it, it becomes a new freedom. You don’t have to worry, because it’s simply out of your control.  One of my favorite Authors, Douglas Adams calls it an SEP. This is short for someone else’s problem.  I like it. Not everyone’s path is my problem. Not every scenario that might suck is my problem. Only the ones that actually arise, that I myself can actually fix are my problems. And they are much fewer than our minds like to trick us in to believing. This new way of thinking is lighter, easier and much more realistic.

 

 

 

Kinds of Anxieties

If you do a quick search on the internet, you’ll find a few differing opinions as to the “Main types of anxieties” but these are the ones that overlap in most of them.

1.  General Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational worry about everyday things that is disproportionate to the actual source of worry. For diagnosis of this disorder, symptoms must last at least 6 months. This excessive worry often interferes with daily functioning, as individuals suffering GAD typically anticipate disaster, and are overly concerned about everyday matters such as health issues, money, death, family problems, friendship problems, interpersonal relationship problems, or work difficulties. Individuals often exhibit a variety of physical symptoms, including fatigue, fidgeting, headaches, nausea, numbness in hands and feet, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, bouts of difficulty breathing, difficulty concentrating, trembling, twitching, irritability, agitation, sweating, restlessness, insomnia, hot flashes, and rashes and inability to fully control the anxiety. These symptoms must be consistent and on-going, persisting at least six months, for a formal diagnosis of GAD to be introduced. Approximately 6.8 million American adults experience GAD, and 2 percent of adult Europeans, in any given year, experience GAD.

2.  Panic Disorder
Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurring severe panic attacks. It may also include significant behavioral changes lasting at least a month and of ongoing worry about the implications or concern about having other attacks. The latter are called anticipatory attacks. Panic disorder is not the same as agoraphobia (fear of public places), although many afflicted with panic disorder also suffer from agoraphobia. Panic attacks cannot be predicted, therefore an individual may become stressed, anxious or worried wondering when the next panic attack will occur. Panic disorder may be differentiated as a medical condition, or chemical imbalance. The DSM-IV-TR describes panic disorder and anxiety differently. Whereas anxiety is preceded by chronic stressors which build to reactions of moderate intensity that can last for days, weeks or months, panic attacks are acute events triggered by a sudden, out-of-the-blue cause: duration is short and symptoms are more intense. Panic attacks can occur in children, as well as adults. Panic in young people may be particularly distressing because children tend to have less insight about what is happening, and parents are also likely to experience distress when attacks occur.

3.  Phobias
The largest category of anxiety disorders are phobias. A phobia is usually defined as a persistent fear of an object or situation in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding, typically disproportional to the actual danger posed, often being recognized as irrational. In the event the phobia cannot be avoided entirely, the sufferer will endure the situation or object with marked distress and significant interference in social or occupational activities.

4.  Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or worry; by repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the associated anxiety; or by a combination of such obsessions and compulsions. Symptoms of the disorder include excessive washing or cleaning; repeated checking; extreme hoarding; preoccupation with sexual, violent or religious thoughts; relationship-related obsessions; aversion to particular numbers; and nervous rituals, such as opening and closing a door a certain number of times before entering or leaving a room. These symptoms can be alienating and time-consuming, and often cause severe emotional and financial distress. The acts of those who have OCD may appear paranoid and potentially psychotic. However, OCD sufferers generally recognize their obsessions and compulsions as irrational, and may become further distressed by this realization.

5.  Post-traumatic stress disorder
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma.[1][2][3] This event may involve the threat of death to oneself or to someone else, or to one’s own or someone else’s physical, sexual, or psychological integrity, overwhelming the individual’s ability to cope. As an effect of psychological trauma, PTSD is less frequent and more enduring than the more commonly seen post traumatic stress (also known as acute stress response).[4] Diagnostic symptoms for PTSD include re-experiencing the original trauma(s) through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and increased arousal—such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger, and hypervigilance. Formal diagnostic criteria (both DSM-IV-TR and ICD-10) require that the symptoms last more than one month and cause significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

6.  Separation anxiety
Separation anxiety disorder (SAD) is a psychological condition in which an individual experiences excessive anxiety regarding separation from home or from people to whom the individual has a strong emotional attachment (e.g. a parent, grandparents, or siblings). According to the American Psychology Association, separation anxiety disorder is the inappropriate and excessive display of fear and distress when faced with situations of separation from the home or from a specific attachment figure. The anxiety that is expressed is categorized as being atypical of the expected developmental level and age. The severity of the symptoms ranges from anticipatory uneasiness to full-blown anxiety about separation.
SAD may cause significant negative effects within the child’s everyday life. These effects can be seen in areas of social and emotional functioning, family life, physical health, and within the academic context. The duration of this problem must persist for at least four weeks and must present itself before the child is 18 years of age to be diagnosed as SAD, as specified by the DSM-IV

 

Above excerpts from Wikipedia.com

Shut up, Just SHUT UP!!

What if… what if… what if… what if…

My mind is racing at warp speed, asking variations on the same question with the bottom line answer being certain tragedy.  What if… what if…, omg, what if this, what if that?
An hour of this goes by and I’m frazzled. My palms are sweaty, my thighs are tired like I ran a marathon, I’ve had nervous shits like 6 times, so I have no nutrition left in my body, my mouth is dry, I’m trembling, finger tips tingly, my heart is pounding, and I look like I’ve just seen a ghost. I’ve been gritting my teeth so hard they hurt like I just chewed through a swing set at the park. And why? WHY?  All because my mind can NOT stop asking this question, “What if…”.

Dammit brain, would you just SHUT UP???

During this episode, did any of the “what if’s” come true? No. And because this was 3 weeks ago, has that situation played out and seen it’s tragic ending? No. Actually, nothing came of the event that I was so wiggy about, and nor did the thousands of other worst case scenarios before it.

So, in an effort to reduce my chronic suffering, I asked myself a new set of questions.

  1. First, answer the question: What if that horrible thing did happen?
    1. Well, I would handle it. I’d deal with it, and get through it. Nothing lasts forever.
  2. Second, what could I have been doing other than quivering like a scared chihuahua, and chopping years off my life span?
    1. I could have been working, napping, cleaning, exercising, reading, playing with the cat and the laser light, painting beach sunsets, etc. Anything productive, creative, fun or beneficial.
  3. Third, does my life belong to me, or to the worry?
    1. It’s mine, dammit! Life is for the living. I want all my time left to go toward enjoying it, not dreading it.
  4. Lastly, what can I do next time to avoid getting caught in this whirlwind of what-if’s?
    1. This required some investigation into how our brain works. Knowing how it works and why I started down this path is a small part of the solution. I found this article very helpful. It’s such a fascinating article, I’m now a bit distracted from my what if’s, but I know they’ll be back. I already know that part of the foundation of my asking “what if’s” is born from an earlier trauma. So if the memory has less of a hold on me from the start, maybe I don’t have to freak out about it. Now I’ve got something to research. Cool, we’re off to a good start.
    2.  The next task is to completely redirect my thoughts.  Telling yourself, “just don’t think about it” is useless. And when someone says that to a person like me, (with PTSD and GAD), they are in danger of being punched in the nose. When I begin my whirlwind of what-if’s (wowi’s, for short), I need an immediate and much stronger distraction. Something big and/or very intense needs to take it’s place. So here’s what I do:
      1. First, I leave the room I’m in, and get another view for my eyes and brain to process.  I mass text a bunch of  friends, “How you doin, what you up to?” I focus on waiting for their reply.
      2. If that doesn’t redirect my mind, I begin the “live in the now exercise”. I focus on that. If my mind wanders to the “what-if’s”, I go to yet another room, or stand outside.
      3. If no one texts back with anything distracting enough, I listen to my peace and calm affirmation and mantra MP3’s, that I recorded for myself. They really work for me a lot of the time. I focus on the meaning of each message, and breathe slowly. I usually close my eyes. I must listen to them 3 times before I am allowed to give up.  That’s my self-imposed rule.
      4. If none of this works, I grab my journal. (And yes, it’s a real notebook, made of paper. And a black ink pen. I’m not talking about blogging, and you’ll see why.) I begin to pour out my every thought and emotion. I describe how I feel, how I think things might play out, and how I feel about that. I allow myself to get angry about it. I write impossible scenarios. I get nuts on purpose. As I write more and more, I force myself to get even more angry and more ridiculous. Keep going, let it all out. Don’t filter a single thought, no matter how shitty and unjustified it is. As I become intentionally more livid and outrageous, the pen presses harder in to the page, and I write long-running tirades of colorful expletives. Now, I can’t even fit my writing on one line, or even write straight. I’ve taken up 3 pages already, like a lunatic. It’s GREAT!! I’m cursing and blaming and insulting this situation, myself, people who have nothing to do with it, commercials, politicians, whatever and whomever I please, and I continue do this until I become amused.   OK, now Stop.  Take a deep breath, now look back at some of the writing, mostly the last parts.  Ha ha! I have now given myself a chuckle, or even laughed to tears, while effectively trivializing the whole situation. And even though those feelings of amusement and triviality are thin and weak, while the what-ifs are still just around the corner with all the power of a black hole waiting to suck me in, I hold on to them as best I can, rereading the parts of my scribble I find most amusing.  It is at this point, I can almost always say, “Oh fuck it, I don’t care about that (whatever it was) anymore… it’ll be fine.”  My brain has finally shut up.

Please let me know if any of this helps you – or what YOU do to redirect your thoughts. : )

 

Quell The Fear Worksheet

Are you having a fear/worry episode or a panic attack right now?  If you are having a full panic attack, first practice breathing very slowly.  See this wikipedia article for breathing exercises.

Let’s begin your worksheet with a few questions. Please get a pen and paper and write down your answers fully. This worksheet works best with a single isolated incident. For ongoing problems like an abusive husband or crappy job, see Dealing Worksheet:

  1. What exactly are you worried about or afraid of?
  2. Is it something that already happened? (If no, skip to #3) Can you fix/repair or undo it to any extent?
    1. Tell me what YOU can do to fix it if it has already happened. If “nothing” is your answer, skip ahead to #5. Otherwise, spell it out in detail, what you will do. Number the steps and take your time.
    2. Can you do that right now? When can you do that? (If “now”, please complete this entire worksheet, then directly carry out your plan.)
  3. Is it something that might happen?  Can you prevent or control any portion of the outcome?
    1. Tell me what YOU can do to prevent it, or reduce the problem. If “nothing” is your answer, skip ahead to #5. Otherwise, spell it out in detail, what you will do. Number the steps and take your time.
    2. When can you carry out this/these actions? (If “now”, please complete this entire worksheet, then directly carry out your plan.)
  4. Add your actions to your calendar (from A. & B. above). Remember, you won’t be better prepared for what is to come by worrying about it. You have your action plan written and will use it when the time comes.
  5. Next, here are the mantras and affirmations to say aloud, no less than 10 times.
    1. I am a strong, capable person. I can handle issues when they come my way.
    2. I will handle only the problems I can, and be at peace with my limitations.
    3. I am calm, knowing that when the time comes, I will handle it with success. I can now fill my head with enjoyable thoughts and go relax.
    4. I am an empowered person. I am smart and resourceful. I am competent and confident. I handle problems with ease. I am resourceful and thoughtful. I am insightful. I am confident, and decisive. My decisions are sound and well reasoned.
    5. I am allowed to enjoy the now, without worrying about the future, because in this moment everything is ok.
    6. I deserve peace. I am worthy of self love. I’m entitled to contentment.

Did you repeat those 10 times? If not, keep going. By the 3rd or 4th round, you will memorize some, and when that happens, I want you to close your eyes, and focus on the meaning of the words, and really sound them down in to your core. Mean them, feel them, embrace them, own them. Now say them some more. Trust me. You are worthy of this time you are spending on yourself.

When done, go about your day. Leave the action plan behind until it is time. Enjoy yourself. Do something fun.

Fire Them!

Sometimes a source of daily or occasional anxiety is a nasty client, or a non-supportive friend.

I’ve recently encountered both, and after listening to the input of true friends, and giving it much thought, I’ve decided that life is way too damn short to tolerate people who clearly do not give thought to the stress they cause others.
There are people in the world who are so busy being caught up in their own needs, they turn a minor slight or disappointment into long, whiny, one-sided complaint about tiny, petty issues. I’m sure you’ve met one or even a few in your lifetime. The problem is, most of the time, these are the type of people who do not actually want to RESOLVE an issue, but rather complain, with creative embellishments (lies) about the injustice and poor treatment they received.  Somehow, even if the issue originally had a basis in truth, it becomes bigger and more tragic and more serious than reality. It is here where it takes on a life of its own, and even though you have no control over it, they blame you for this fabricated nightmare.

Then, of course, it has become an issue that simply must be discussed. “We need to talk.” is an ominous and threatening tactic, reminiscent of grade school children being called into the principal’s office.  Of course, when I hear or read those words, I know that a one-sided “discussion” is about to take place, and no matter what I say, how I recount MY version of events, or the logic behind the actions that actually happened, it will not be heard. The offended party will complain until you give in, give the discount or finally agree with them, issuing a heartfelt and nauseatingly pleading apology.

Here’s my thought on that. FORGET IT, PAL!!  I have enough stress in my day without this one client who will never be satisfied paying my more-than-competitive retail prices, or this one friend who has taken things out of context and turned nothing into something without asking me what it meant.  In my mind, I have already fired them both. The anxiety has already begun to lift, as I ponder a life where I do not ever have to be put through that (by them) again. I’m sure I’ll come across new selfish soul-suckers again in life, but these two… off the list.  I feel better already.

I’m a firm believer in getting rid of things that cause stress, strife, anxiety or sadness.  My suggestion to the reader, why not find one thing in your life that triggers any form of upset, and see what you can do to phase it out of your life?

Panic and Worry Triggers

I have panic attacks or what I call “worry-waves” for many reasons. It feels like a sinking, sick feeling, with a dash of spinning out of control, a hint of falling 100 feet, and warm limbs. Sometimes its accompanied by flushing red on my chest and face. My mouth gets dry. My hands shake. Occasionally I feel weak and dizzy, and on extreme occasions, I can’t catch my breath and I experience chest pains.
In a word, it sucks.

Sometimes my worry wave comes on gradually, and sometimes it’s a sudden electrifying jolt. For instance, when you are up for your 1am popcorn frenzy and you see a scary face outside your window, only to realize that it’s your reflection, having forgotten to remove your makeup which has been rubbed and melted down your face and now very much resembles a cross between Alice Cooper and the Scream ghost face mask.

Some of my triggers are:

  • Seeing my family on latitude, in some place they aren’t supposed to be (which is almost always wrong, due to towers being inaccurate)
  • Reading an email, hearing a voice mail or directly listening to a pissed-off client
  • Learning that an expensive job has been rejected by the client, due to me/my staff error.
  • Going to the Dr. (for any reason)
  • Getting news that any family member is leaving town
  • Sometimes I can’t pin point exactly what or why… I just feel wiggy.

If I am able to quell my panic at all, it comes after learning that the problem has abated, and if I can’t immediately fix it, or get information that all is well, I have to have this long internal discussion with myself about how things will be ok, and no matter what, I have people in my life that will love and support me. Sometimes that works, and sometimes I just can’t shake the wiggins.

After the panic is finally gone, and there is no more threat, I can relax. Although, as with most chronic worriers, my mind turns to wondering what’s on the horizon, or even what may be horrible and tragic going on right now that I don’t yet know about. Still, even after it’s all said and done, my body responds for hours, with exhaustion, heightened sensitivity to others harsh words/tones, intolerance of criticism, jumping at loud noises, and lack of mental focus.

What triggers you? What physical symptoms do you experience? And what do you do to calm yourself?

Anxieties about Tax Time

Here is an excellent article by an Expert at Liveperson.com.   Liveperson.com does not necessarily endorse firstdontpanic.com.   We, at firstdontpanic.com find liveperson.com to be an excellent resource for help with anxiety. Please check them out.

http://www.liveperson.com/lp/the-advisor-free-expert-advice/2012/03/how-to-fight-financial-anxiety-as-tax-time-approaches

Types of Anxieties – Defined

Anxiety Attacks and Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety treatments and self-help strategies that can quickly help you reduce your anxiety symptoms and control anxiety attacks.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
A common anxiety disorder that involves chronic worrying, nervousness, and tension. Here’s a check list of symptoms.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Do you have uncontrollable thoughts, irrational urges, or the compulsion to continually repeat the same rituals, in order to feel like you can function?
Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder
What causes of panic attacks, how do I reduce or eliminate the symptoms of panic, and regain control of your life?
Phobias and Fears
When fears are irrational and disabling, they are called phobias. What are they? Where do they come from? How can I make them stop?
Social Anxiety Disorder and Social Phobia
Learn to understand this disorder and be more comfortable in social situations.