Do you ever feel overwhelmed. As though everything keeps going wrong, and no matter what you do, there’s no way through the quagmire? Do you feel like even the little things are just building up into a tidal wave that’s just waiting to come crashing down on you? You know those days, when the washing pile seems endless, and the dirty dishes are judging you from the sink, where they’ve been sitting for a day or two already, and you have to call your family or friends, but you just don’t want to. Okay, so maybe you haven’t made it that far down the rabbit hole of overwhelm yet, but this stuff happens sometimes.
I’ve been going through a rough patch this year. Again. I busted my knees, which doesn’t seem so bad, but when a huge portion of your lifestyle management plan for that crippling anxiety disorder you have is to exercise at least five times a week. Well, try exercising when your knees don’t work… And so the waves start rolling in. I don’t want to do the dishes, I don’t want to do the washing. I don’t really want to do anything, except that I hate my messy house and I know the only way I won’t hate it is if I tidy it. And do the damn dishes. Which I will, I swear, I’ll do the dishes.
Now, I’ve had this whole anxiety/depression thing for as long as I can remember. No really, I was an anxious four year old. I remember hiding from the world up the enormous liquidambar out the front of my parents’ place. I would do that now if I could. What I’m trying to say is that I have many coping strategies up my sleeve. Really good ones. And I’m going to share a couple with you, because maybe it will help me to remind myself that everything will be alright.
- Sit down, just you and your anxiety and God (or whatever you believe in), and have a cup of tea together. This is one of my most calming strategies for when I’m so anxious I can’t figure out how to even read my to-do list. Just sit down and have a cup of tea. Focus on the tea. Focus on the sitting still. Let the experience drag your fractious mind and soul back into reality.
- Your to-do list for any given day shall never be more than five items long. If you’re really struggling, your to-do list can include things you would ordinarily do on autopilot, like the dishes and the washing. My to-do lists will usually include cleaning one room of our house, one load of washing, going to work, cooking dinner, and doing the exercises my physio told me to do. It’s pretty exciting stuff these days…
- Find a creative outlet. Make something. Bake a cake, or scones to go with your tea, draw something, take a photo, build a vegetable patch. If you can create something, you will have a sense of achievement. Do not underestimate the power of achieving something. I’ve started art journaling again, which is awesome.
- Go outside. I don’t care how cold/hot/rainy it is. Go outside. See that the world is still there in all its annoying beauty and frustration. Get outside and just be there. You could go for a walk (for bonus endorphin points), or just sit outside for ten minutes. It’ll do you good, so just do it.
- Tell someone that you’re struggling. Even if you don’t feel like it. Let someone know. You’d be surprised how many people will offer to help you if they know you’re struggling. You might feel embarrassed to accept help. Don’t. Everybody needs help sometimes, and maybe right now it’s your turn. Next week it might be someone else’s turn and you’ll be the one helping them. You are not indebted to anyone who offers to help you, but it is nice to pass it forward when you find yourself able. In the meantime, accept the help.
- Find something small to be thankful for. Not even kidding. You have no idea how often I get excited to see a flower, or some cute stationery, or just a really awesome colour. Maybe when you go outside you’ll see a bird, or find a really nice leaf. I find that the most happiness in my life comes from my ability to derive joy from tiny things. I love flowers, and sunsets, and sitting in the sun, and drinking tea. I love the colour pink, and adorable stationery. I like painting my nails black. Small things, people. Small things.
- Remember that everything will be alright. I even made a wallet-size printable saying this, because I need the reminder most days of the week. Feelings are passing. It’s just how it works. You can feel overwhelmed today and be fine tomorrow. It’s all okay. Just remember that everything fades and passes with time, and no matter how hard your life seems at this minute, there will be a better time in the future. Do not despair.