Saturday, November 16, 2013

Anxiety . . . controlling a silent beast

Anxiety is a beast that is ever present in people's lives.  Anxiety is the energy that helps people perform on stage or give a speech.  It is the nagging anxiety that makes us pay our bills or complete other tasks such as taking a test.  There is a fine line between performing well and having "run away" anxiety that impairs performance or prevents us from completing tasks.  Excessively heightened anxiety can be a crippling force that leads to inability to make decisions and results in mental paralysis.  Anxiety in low doses is beneficial, but when this beast threatens to run our lives it is time to regain control.
As people age anxiety can become more problematic.  This is also true with chronic illness and fibromyalgia.  In addition to fibromyalgia, many of us have other chronic illnesses and are aging too.  Life challenges just keeping piling on top of one another.  Luckily we have tools in our tool chest that can help to keep anxiety corraled where it belongs so that it serves a useful function rather than becoming a destructive force.

Within us we have three components of ourselves that seek to govern our behavior: the child, the parent and the adult.  Each has an important role in our daily lives and each must be balanced with one another.  The fear and anxiety that becomes unmanageable lies within the realm of the child.  That child needs a comforting parent and an adult that is in charge to provide stability to a fearful and anxious child.  Whenever I feel anxious about a coming event or activity that will require physical energy that I may not have or emotional events that will require emotional energy, I look to my parent and adult to take charge.  As anxiety begins to well up my adult tells me it will be alright and my parent tells me that I am safe.  That simple act of self-talk gets that anxiety back under control.  I allow the adult to take over to do the planning and I look to the parent to set boundaries and limits for me so I am better able to balance activity and rest.  This is a simplistic view of this complex interaction that operates within our minds, but it works.  The adult part knows how to ask for help and keep anxiety within tolerable levels when I need it; that leaves the playful child carefree to have a good time.

Positive self-talk is a powerful tool that we carry with us every day.  When anxiety begins to well up inside, call upon your parent and adult to provide solice, safety and action that your child is unable to handle.  Tell yourself that you are going to be okay.  For some people this self-talk takes the form of a prayer, and that higher power or God provides the solice and safety that is sought.  Give yourself permission to rest when you need it and to delegate tasks to others that will give you help.  Balance in your life is important in every aspect.  I use self-talk every day to help me keep my life balanced and to cope with the challenges I face each day.  That simple act allows me to feel more carefree, safe and able to find humor in each day so I can enjoy my inner child to its fullest.  Blessings to you as you keep that fun loving inner child safe within you!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Stealthy stress is ready to pounce!

Well, here we go again.  Here come the holidays and I am already somewhat dreading the season, because I'm not sure how I'm going to be able to keep up with the demands.  I don't know about you, but I have read all the articles about how to manage holiday stressors.  The suggestions are simple, obvious and probably won't work very well.  Let's face it, the holiday season is chock full of stressors and people with fibromyalgia can expect a major flare this time of year.  I love getting together with people, but it just zaps my energy and when my energy gets zapped all the other fibromyalgia symptoms begin to flare.  I know from experience that pacing activities and socialization, and balancing that with rest is critical to avoid that inevitable flare.  Two weeks before Thanksgiving I begin to fret about the thought of what I must accomplish between now and December 25th and I don't know how I'm going to make it.  But I do have my strategies and these strategies have not appeared on any of the holiday stress reduction lists I have read over the years.

The first problem to be solved is the expectation that the holidays are going to be magical and perfect.  Once I got that thought out of my head I instantly felt better!  I am hosting Thanksgiving this year and I'm not going to have a big crowd; there will be six of us.  But in the scheme of things that's probably 5 too many.  So the way I'm getting around pushing myself over the edge is to ask for help from everyone that is coming to dinner.  My good girlfriend of 41 years and her husband are coming from out of town.  They will be staying with us for 4 days and I couldn't be happier.  They are very low maintenance people and they are always willing to pitch in.  I also have a couple of other girlfriends coming and they are ready to bring sides and do some cooking and serving.  A little wine in the mix should help too!  So it will be busy, but I can pace myself better with all the help.  So that's my first strategy . . . ask for help ahead of time.  As usual I want to serve a whole bunch of food and then I think, "How much food can six people eat anyway???!"  So as fast as the list of sides and appetizers grows, I start cutting out some of the more complicated dishes I planned to serve.  My second strategy is to keep it simple.  No one is going to starve.  The house doesn't need to be perfect, because no one notices that anyway.  So my third strategy is to only invite low maintenance people.  My fourth strategy is to do as much preparation as possible before Thanksgiving Day, which is one of those "no-brainer" strategies.  My fifth strategy is to remember to breathe.  And my sixth and final strategy is to put my feet up and direct activities from a prone position if necessary.

For Christmas my strategies are simple:  downsize and keep it simple.  I am downsizing the number of cards I send, the people that are getting gifts, and the number of decorations I put up.  I have found the older I get the more important it is to save my energy to just get together with friends and family that are dear to me and are low maintenance too.  The holidays are frequently stressful due to dysfunctional relationships among the people that get together.  I know what pushes my buttons and which relationships are not good ones.  Life is too short and there aren't that many holidays left in my life to purposely sabbotage my good time by letting those people into my daily life or even for the holidays.  So regarding relationships and preparation for the holidays it's important to know exactly what the priorities are and then stay the course.  The result is a happy, satisfying holiday and little to no fibromyalgia flare.

So much has been written about stress resulting in a diluted connotation due to its overuse.  People casually state that they are so stressed out and many times it's about insignificant life events.  Stress is actually a deadly mechanism that can shorten one's life and it diminishes quality of life.  Stress causes increases in blood pressure, inflammation flare ups that can result in plaque build up in the coronary arteries, elevated cholesterol, adrenal gland fatigue, rosacea flare ups, chronic disease exacerbations, destruction of interpersonal relationships, increases in anxiety and depression and many other untoward effects.  Setting yourself up for lots of stress is self-sabbotage, which interferes with happiness.

I intend to keep the chaos out and the relaxation in.  I am making lasagne ahead of time and putting it in the freezer so my out-of-town guests will be well-fed with little stress for me.  I may go to Papa Murphy's and grab a fresh pizza to stick in the oven . . . they even have prepared salads and desert too!  Sounds like a good plan to me.  During this holiday season I am going to be number one so I can emerge from the holidays happy and unscathed with good pictures to remember time with my good friends and family.  I hope your holidays are good for you too.  It's all about the plan and the intention behind the plan.  Blessings to you this holiday season!