After more than two years of life without wine, my mind is less focused on constantly monitoring what’s in my glass and instead I notice how I react to various situations and why.
When things are ticking along and all is well, I am a happy girl. Give me a clean house, sunshine, a manageable schedule and a great pair of shoes, and I am my cheerful bubby self.
However it doesn’t take much to knock me off course. I am easily hurt or quickly rattled, and although I press on it isn’t easy.
“You kids pipe down,” my grandmother used to bark at my cousins and me. “My nerves are bad today.”
I never understood what the heck she was talking about – she was just sitting there crocheting, how stressed could she really be? But we all knew it meant stay out of her way or you’d end up getting scolded harshly for some minor offense.
Now, as I am getting upset because my day isn’t going as planned or because people are letting me down, I understand how she must have felt.
Anxiety is woven through so much of my being that I have mistaken it for a personality trait. It fuels my perfectionism (fear of criticism). It feeds my drive (fear of failure). Sadly, at times Anxiety parented my kids, ran my business, pushed me on stage, and even decorated my Christmas tree.
As time went on and I relied more and more on wine to slow me down, I hit some kind of equilibrium between the tension and release – but that was only temporary equilibrium. Soon it was wobbling and the thing that was supposed to ease my anxiety was adding to it.
Now, without my old buddy alcohol, I’ve simply had to learn better ways to deal with anxiety.
It starts with calling myself out. “I am feeling anxious right now because (insert minor crisis here).”
(Here are some of the most recent ones: dog barf on sofa; bangs that are wayyy too short; the guinea pigs my son brought home from college for the summer; same son announcing he is not going back to college in the fall.)
Truth be told, I am one wound up chick and I get shit done. Getting shit done is important, but so is not killing yourself with a wacked out sense of balance. Staying sober is about finding new ways of self-care, and taking off a little pressure so that the need for comfort is not a constant demand.
Recently I stumbled on a Psychology Today article that completely captured what happens in my head. “The Problem With Perfection” by Mel Schwartz explores the motivation behind perfectionism – namely, fear of criticism. This article NAILED me, once again blowing my theory that I am SOOOOO unique and special. Turns out, I am just a normal, predictable human who got herself into a normal, predictable pattern of addiction by living out the normal, predictable outcome of certain childhood experiences.
Here is the excellent article – go and have a read but please come back and share your thoughts on the subject: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shift-mind/201105/the-problem-perfection
And here are some of the things I do to shift gears when I feel my anxiety rising:
- Sudoku – the really hard ones that require serious concentration
- “3,2,1” – focus on 3 different sights; then listen and identify 2 sounds; and then feel 1 sensation (right now: 3 sights – the flowers outside the window, my dog’s cute little brown nose, the grain of the wood floor… 2 sounds – the hum of my laptop, the tv announcer being very excited….1 sensation – my own cold toes against my leg)
- Get outside and move – the sky is big and my problems are relatively small
- Fill an online shopping cart with ridiculous choices and then DO NOT BUY ANY OF IT!
- Brush my teeth. And floss.
- Grab my guitar and try to learn a new song
- Pull up a TED Talk and learn something new
Essentially, engage the body and/or brain in something that is either consuming or pleasantly distracting. Get out of the moment until the feeling subsides, and once the emotion passes take some time to assess things objectively. This is my strategy. What’s working for you?