Friday, 15 December 2017

Worrying Means You Suffer Twice

"Worrying means you suffer twice" - Newt Scamander.

   Whatever you think of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, this quote is pretty spectacular. I love it because it humours the anxiety sufferer. It plucks "what if...?" from your brain and weaves it into an inevitable reality. The thing with anxiety, at least for me, is that it works very closely with the fear of the unknown. I'd prefer to feel pain instantly than to dwell on it, like the cliche of pulling off a plaster. The idea that "worrying means you suffer twice" implies that the thing you fear will happen. It will happen and it will hurt and you will suffer - so why suffer up until then?

   It might not sound like a good idea to imagine that the thing you are afraid of will happen. I understand that for a lot of people this kind of thinking will be impossible without panic attacks. I once convinced myself that a loved one had died because they didn't reply for a few hours, and I was checking news outlets in my area and was contemplating calling the hospital when I finally heard from them - they were having a nap. I wouldn't blame you for laughing, I laugh at it now. I think this is a good example of how most things we worry about will never become a reality.

   However, my point, which is in relation to the quote, is so what if they do become a reality? I told a counsellor recently that I was worried that x would happen. I went to continue rambling about how the thought that x would happen made me panic but she stopped me and said, "so what if it does happen? What would you do?". Even though my mind had run through approximately 101 scenarios that could occur thereafter, everything was focused on the out of control events of the situation, and not on my own agency. It was Class A Catastrophic Thinking. She didn't try to reassure me that it wouldn't happen, because anxious brains say but what if it DOES, she taught me to assume it would, figure out what would be my plan of action and then to compartmentalise this and put it away for when I need it. Just knowing that my plan is there is comforting because instead of adding to the 101 scenarios when my worry arises, I just open the compartment with my plan inside it and rehearse it until I feel comfortable that I could carry it out, and put it away again. Instead of cowering away from a perceived threat, I can say "you know what, you're not happening right now so I'm okay, but when you do I'm ready for you, gimme your best shot".

   What I wish I could do is offer specific advice, but we're complicated beings with our own set of circumstances, and I'm sorry if this does nothing to help you. If it does, that's wonderful, if it doesn't, hopefully my tips below will at least be of some comfort.

It's fair to say I've had a difficult few months, and my lack of activity here is definitely a result of that. However, I wanted to take some time here to share things with you and to sign off again for a short while whilst I spend Christmas with my loved ones (and writing all my essays).

I know that for a lot of you, what I have written above will feel frustrating. Frustrating because anxiety is an involuntary condition which is very, very difficult to control and I appreciate that fully - I know. Though I have long given up the idea of curing my anxiety, I am a strong believer that you can put up a good fight by making good choices and looking after yourself. Our mindset often makes us do terrible things for our health, maybe we deliberately hurt ourselves, or maybe we neglect our well-being because we're too frazzled to pay it any attention. The "don't worry until it happens!" advice is all too familiar and it usually feels completely unattainable.

   But I never said it wouldn't be hard work. Never write yourself off as a lost cause, because you're not. We can all achieve moments of happiness, because it isn't linear, it isn't a goal that we attain and keep. There are moments of it scattered everywhere and accepting that the bad will come will remind you to appreciate them.

To wrap up this post, like a completely not fun but practical Christmas present, I'm going to leave you with a smattering of comforting things which have helped me recently. We can't do all these things all the time, because it's hard, but I've found that looking after myself is sometimes hard work and does not come naturally.

⚘ Ambient Music
   Ambient music has long been suggested for sufferers of anxiety (and also migraines for any fellow migraineurs our there), and I personally love ambient music mixes because they don't contain any lyrics, so I can listen to them when I'm working too. My personal favourite is this Harry Potter themed one, but this channel does other film-related ones too like Lord of the Rings and stuff. I recently heard of a song called Weightless by Marconi Union which, according to a completely unreliable google img, reduces anxiety and causes drowsiness. Happy listening.

⚘ Art therapy
   If you don't draw or crochet or have a craft like I like to do, get some of those colouring books. I refuse to call them "adult" colouring books because colouring is not age-specific. Creativity and fun are not exclusive to children, and anyone who tries to tell you they are need their own colouring book.

   Additionally, you could doodle, buy a Wreck Journal, make slime, cut the pictures out of old greetings cards and magazines and cover something with them, or find out how to make crafts from old newspapers or household clutter. Having the motivation to craft something isn't easy when stressed, so having a timetable, like I mention below, may help. If you have books to read for your course, see if you can get them as an audiobook (as well as your physical copy for when you need to study) and listen to it whilst you craft.

⚘ Bed Time Routine (and morning routine) ANY ROUTINE
   Sleep deprivation or too much sleep are exacerbating factors and symptoms of mental illness. Putting technology away at least an hour before bed and reading is a great way to get your body ready for sleep. Throw in a bath and brushed teeth, taking your makeup off and getting into a made bed will also help.
Additionally, a morning routine of making the bed and brushing your teeth will also help set the tone for the day, even if you don't really feel like it.

⚘ Comfortable Clothes
   Do not wear a bra if you don't want to/don't feel it's necessary. I stopped wearing bras daily years ago and my lungs feel they can expand properly. (I appreciate that this won't be possible for everyone)
Wear what makes you comfortable both emotionally and physically. Dress up or dress down depending on what you want. There is no need to be uncomfortable at home - invest in warm, fluffy socks.

⚘ Forgive Yourself
   There is a common belief that you should forgive people in order to move on from things. Although I am not inclined to suggest that we always forgive people who hurt us, because we are allowed to protest the way we have been treated, I do think we should forgive ourselves. If you start blaming yourself, spell "S.T.O.P" in your head, and forgive your younger self, even if it's just your minute-younger self. Always try to learn, and make every mistake a new lesson.

I was watching Saving Mr. Banks with my family today and a quote which stuck with me from this film is "life is a harsh sentence to lay down for yourself".

⚘ Kindness
   Always be kind. Being anxious makes it incredibly easy to be irritable with others and want to avoid social interaction and to just hide away and be grumpy under a blanket. And you know, there's nothing wrong with this. If that's how you feel, feel it and take that time for yourself. But don't forget to reach out. There are good people in the world, no matter how many past experiences might make you worry that the opposite is true. There are people worth knowing, and people you will want to make smile. Whether it's finding the spare change for someone on the street, smiling at someone, writing someone a card or sending someone a message to catch up and ask how they are - it is all worth it.

⚘ Self - Care (personal hygiene)
    Because if we're being real, mental illness doesn't always care about brushing our teeth, washing our faces or taking showers. Push yourself to wash yourself and brush your teeth daily. Go all in and treat yourself to some body spray or perfume. Smelling good makes you feel less self-conscious if you haven't felt like washing.

⚘ Timetables
   I don't really know how to explain how I do it, but if you have a lot of shit to get done, write it all down so you can get it out of your head. I have a whiteboard in my room for long-term goals, a notebook to remember important dates, a calendar on my laptop for an electronic copy of these dates, and an app called Carrot for short term goals. Carrot gets annoyed with you if you don't be productive for a certain amount of time, and it rewards for you getting things done. You level up, and it has lead me to believe that I will get a virtual pet cat. I have essentially tricked myself into being productive for the prospect of a pet cat. Yes.

   On that note, treating yourself for being productive is a really good tactic. My genuine advice is to get up early, have a good breakfast with your preferred morning beverage, begin work at 9am, have a 20 minute break half-way through the morning, an hour for lunch and continue working until 5pm. After 5pm enjoy a meal and do what you want to do for the evening, and you hopefully can do so guilt-free because you worked during the day when you were supposed to. This routine can be difficult to get used to, but I promise it is immensely helpful if you get like me where you feel guilty for sleeping and eating instead of working. If none of this works for you, tweak it until it does - you know how you work best.

Stay safe saplings x