Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Thoughts from the Borderline: Self-Worth

One of the reasons I think things wound us so quickly, and so deeply, is that very often we never learned to recognize and internalize a sense of our own self-worth.

I’m saying this immediately. Just because we have a hard time recognizing it, or seeing it at all, does not mean it is not there.

Growing up I always felt that everything I did was never good enough, that I was never good enough. So now, at even the slightest rejection, or perception of rejection, I feel absolutely worthless. I was never really taught to internalize a sense of my own self-worth.  Often I think this is why we can have such a need, such a desire, for someone to recognize our worth for us. We need that external validation, because we never learned to recognize it internally.

However this is also why at even the slightest perception of rejection or abandonment we can react so volatilely to our loved ones; it would be the actualization of our fear that we are in fact, worthless.  And also, why we can so desperately need them to forgive us, and come back, to reaffirm that we are not.

Unfortunately when you look for validation externally, in a world, and in people and are never going to be perfect, who have their own flaws and own lives, no matter how well intentioned or loving, it will always end up being a recipe for disaster because they can never fill a void of self-worth that is inside of us. Relying on an external source is tenuous at best, and is what often leads to that crippling sense of self-doubt, misery, loneliness, never feeling that you will ever be good enough….

It is important that we learn to develop our own sense of self-worth. It is important that we learn to look within ourselves in order to find that sense of self-worth and not rely on external validation, on other people to tell us that we are valuable. Believe me! I know this is difficult. I think this is the crux of what I have been struggling with lately. It is in no way something that changes over night, and may take years to fully transform… but it can be done. Even if it’s just taking a good look in the mirror and telling yourself that you’re worth it. You may not believe it at first, but do it anyways.

More on this to come. These are just some thoughts for today. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Coping with Anxiety

I’m having a wicked anxiety spike today. I was diagnosed with a General Anxiety Disorder years ago but I haven’t had one of those random punch in the gut out of nowhere “why do I feel like something is lurking in my closet about to pounce on me?” terror feelings in forever.  It makes me almost physically nauseous and paranoid. Anxiety has an evolutionary advantage when situations actually warrant it. Anxiety becomes a disorder when it comes from nowhere and effects how you function and live day-to-day.

So I thought I would post a few things to try and help alleviate these feelings.

Managing Panic - 25 Tips and Tricks to Try:

1. Get a little exercise each day. Make sure it’s strenuous enough to get your heart pumping a bit. Try to get used to the feeling of your heart beating and tell yourself that it is normal after exercise to feel this way.

2. When feeling anxious, make a conscious effort to relax your shoulders and drop your arms down

3. When panic hits, try to stay in the situation – do not run away from it. If you run away the environment becomes tinged with fear and you may feel a need to avoid it in the future. If you stay in place until you feel better, you weaken this fear-association.

4. Hold your breath – when you notice the fear and feel your respiration rate spike you can avoid hyperventilation by holding your breath for 10 or 15 seconds, a few times in a row. After holding your breath, try to breathe very deeply right into the bottom of your lungs, breathing in for a count of 7 and out for a count of 11.  It is impossible to panic while breathing very slowly and deeply.

5. When feeling anxious, sing a song or hymn or recite a poem that you know all the words to.

6. When panic or anxiety spikes, try not to fight it. Tell yourself it’s ‘just panic and it can’t hurt me and it will pass soon.”

7. Try to stay as motionless as you can. Slow your breathing and pretend like you’re trying to make yourself disappear.

8. Or try the complete opposite – when panic hits do some very strenuous exercise right away – like running as fast and as far as you can. By the time you stop (once you’re completely out of breath and exhausted) you may notice your anxiety has simply disappeared.

9. When you feel panic coming do anything that gets your brain thinking. Try counting backwards from 300 by 3’s or doing a Sudoku puzzle.

10. Talk to someone who gets it and tell them how you’re feeling.

11. When feeling anxious, make yourself laugh out loud (your brain apparently gets the same benefits from  manufactured laughs as authentic laughter).

12. Visualize yourself in a safe place.

13. Don’t check your pulse.

14. If you’re getting anxious while driving, focus on reading the license plates of cars around you until you get out of a difficult stretch of road.

15. Think of a coping sentence and repeat it during a panic attack…”I am fine, my heart is just pounding because I am panicking” .

16. Make yourself smile.

17. Take a shower.

18. Breathe in for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 4 and then exhale for a count of 4 – gradually slow down your counting speed until you’re breathing very slowly and your heart rate has slowed to match your breathing (a good one for lying in bed).

19. Meditate.

20. When you start feeling symptoms draw a picture of what you look like when in the midst of a panic attack.

21. Read a children’s story out loud. Read it in a slow and relaxing voice, as if you were reading a bedtime story to a small child.

22. Try to find something positive to think about after a panic attack… (That was the shortest one ever!) and if you can’t find anything good to think about, just fake it until you can. By doing this you trick your mind into being less fearful of future panic attacks – which can help you to start breaking out of a bad cycle.

23. Avoid coffee and alcohol and try to avoid heavily processed foods. Eat meals on a regular schedule to avoid blood sugar spikes and falls.

24. Listen closely to some good music when feeling panicky – anything you can do to stop thinking about yourself will help.

25. Do writing exercises. Carry a notebook around with you and when you start to feel symptoms of anxiety or stress write down how you are feeling, where you are, what you’re thinking about and what you were thinking about before you started to feel panicky. This can help give you a better idea about what’s causing your panic attacks and it can also remove some of the power from the attack as it reminds you that your fears are artificial and are just symptoms that will pass in time.

All of these won’t necessarily work for you, but one or two might and that may be all you need to get through an anxious time. 

What do you do to get through an period of high anxiety?

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