Bouncing Back from an Unfocused, Anxious Week
The past week has been the kind of stressful, self-defeating period that never fails to result in harsh self-judgement, anxious indecision and a complete breakdown of my ability to focus. Pretty much my holy triumvirate of bad, bad, bad thought patterns.
It all began, as it so often does, with spending money and regretting it. My 8 year old son’s room is impossibly small. I decided it was time to get rid of the enormous dresser that we got when he was born and replace it with something that takes up less floor space, while offering more drawers.
Sensible enough. Of course, this set into motion never-ending online searches for the perfect tall but skinny dresser at an affordable price.
Even though I chose the cheapest one I could find that was decent quality (every Ikea item I own has broken – Ikea and I need some time apart), I still spent a nice chunk of change. And if I was going to go down the path of updating his room, he also needed a coat of paint and some extra carpet tiles for where we will be opening floor space. Floodgates. Opened.
We are going to Maine in two weeks to go hiking and I realized that I needed hiking shoes. And hiking pants. Anthony Ongaro’s excellent post about “false first steps” on Break the Twitch is literally blaring in my head as I click “add to cart.” I stopped myself from buying binoculars – thank you Anthony – borrowing them from our friends, along with a bunch of their hiking equipment.
Then I realized I should probably secure Halloween costume supplies before everything gets sold out. Also, I just learned that I will be hosting my family of 18 people for our big Italian Christmas Eve tradition. In my tiny apartment. This is going to require more seating and a bunch of other stuff. Vague, unknowable expenses begin to bloom in my thoughts, weighing me down.
Thus I went into the weekend stressing about money, stressing about work — unpleasantries await me on Monday — and also stressing about how I did not visit my parents this week on my work-from-home day because I was too busy painting. I did not do any writing, or many of the other things I had hoped to.
Overwhelmed, anxious and paralyzed. This is my bad place.
My husband, ever wise, told me I should write about it, try to do things I enjoy this weekend and spend some time alone. I did.
Friday I practiced some ukulele. I sat on the couch and watched a movie snuggling with my little one. Saturday, I went on a fantastic two hour bird watching walk in the park. I saw some beautiful birds up close thanks to the great eyes of the more experienced birders. My husband and I went for drinks with friends and then to see a band play.
More money spent, but I was starting to feel better. I took my dog to the park early Sunday and went on a walk through the wooded paths, came home and made a nice big Sunday morning breakfast. Nothing to do today but drop my son off at a birthday party, gather my thoughts and write. Er, and clean.
This is how things begin to untangle.
When I’m stressed, all my little concerns get jumbled together to create one big, vague super-worry, floating above my head. This unnamed anxiety soup becomes a shapeless angst that I can’t even fully express. The resulting worry is debilitating, it just stops me in my tracks. I can’t make decisions, focus or find my way forward.
My husband asked me if I wanted a chicken cutlet for dinner this week and I literally could not answer the question. The thought of cooking, figuring anything out, going to the store, or making a decision of any kind became this oversized burden I couldn’t even contemplate. This is my bad stress pattern.
But I am starting to see the patterns for emerging from this, as well. It helps to start by simply resetting. Doing things like taking walks outside, seeing friends and taking a break from ruminating on my concerns allows my brain to start untangling things subconsciously, on its own. Worries start to seem a little smaller when they get untangled and delineated. When I’m calmer, I’m able to perceive what’s bothering me a little more objectively and not judge myself so harshly, which, I am learning, is unhelpful.
A little lighter…
Once my giant super-worry has been deconstructed a bit, and I am in a slightly better frame of mind, I can try nailing down what I am really concerned about and what I am going to do to fix the problem (at least as much as I can). I can’t berate myself for every dollar I spend. But I know that I do need to identify places where I can cut back because the months are only going to get progressively more expensive for the remainder of the year.
I need to go into work tomorrow in an aggressive frame of mind and not waste any time. It needs to be one of those machine-like days where I am extremely disciplined with my to do list. I need to visit my mom this week, especially since I will be away the following week. And I need to start making some lists to really prepare for the holidays. Once again, I’m amazed to find that none of this is earth shattering.
How is it possible that, depending on which side of the one-way mirror of my brain I am standing on, things can go from painfully insurmountable to eminently manageable?
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