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?

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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.
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Please let me know if you agree with these stages of worry. If not, post yours, I’d like to hear from you!

: )

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.