Mental Wellness Challenge
2022, March 03
I don’t know about anyone else – but I’m feeling an incredible level of stress. The world just seems like such a nutzo place right now… so – ya, I don’t feel good.
Last week my challenge was to:
- Stretch your body. Get up, touch the sky – get up on your toes and really reach for the sky. Bend over, touch your toes. Put your arms out to your sides and stretch out as far as you can reach. Wrap your arms around yourself and give yourself a massive hug. Take a really nice deep breath in – down deep – fill up your lungs. Stretch three or more times each day.
- Read something – just for fun. Read an interest piece, a feel good story. Maybe some fiction. Take a few minutes to disconnect from the every day and melt into some words.
- Cut someone a little slack. Cut yourself a little slack. There is so, so, so much going on – on this little marble we live on… I don’t know about anyone else – but I can feel the tension – the anxiety, the pressure, the worry… so – ya – cut someone some slack… maybe that driver who cuts you off or the individual that is consumed in self thought and makes a mistake – cut them some slack – who knows – it might help your day along the way too…
I did OK with my challenge, but I didn’t really give the challenge the attention I should have.
I did try to stretch when I remembered to do it. Stretching is something that’s so simple and feels so good… I know I should be making more of an effort to do it more.
I didn’t do very well with reading something just for fun. I don’t know why really – if I had to guess – I would guess its just being stressed and drifting into being preoccupied with the craziness of what’s going on in the world right now.
I worked super hard on cutting others slack – giving other folks and myself the benefit of the doubt and trying to keep my reactions to the “goings on” in check and at bay. My stress and anxiety levels are over the top lately. I really wish I could let it go, relax and not ruminate over all the things that I can’t control – but I’m not very good at it. I envy people that can compartmentalize their lives or issues in their lives and leave things outside of their control – alone…
This week I’m going to re-share some of the tools that I use to ground myself – to catch an anxiety attack early and hopefully reduce its impact. I know that – for me – if I start getting into an anxiety cycle – the attacks come round more and more easily and more and more often. If I don’t take care to be “on them” – they’ll work their way right into full blown panic attacks – and then I am in trouble.
The first technique that I’ll share is 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. It doesn’t matter the order of the senses that you assign each number to… it just might be difficult to come up with 5 or 4 of those things… I’ll share how I do this. When I feel that tidal wave of anxiety headed for me I stop, put my feet flat on the ground or, if perhaps I’m driving – I’ll even pull over to a safe place. Then I look for 5 things I can see. I look at those 5 things, see the colors, the textures, the movement if there is any. Then I go on to 4 things I can touch. I touch them – feel them, the texture, temperature, etc. Then I move on to 3 things I can hear – I might even close my eyes to distinguish the three things I can hear. The sound of the students working in the shop, the shuffling of feet on the ground, the natter of people chatting about their day. I’m not eaves dropping – I don’t really care what they are saying, I am only identifying three things I hear. Next is two things I can smell. Sometimes this is a tough one, but I think about two things I can smell – if I’m wearing a mask, maybe its my breath or a hint of my aftershave, if I am outside, maybe it’s the smell of the earth and the scent of a fir tree or the saltiness of the air. Lastly I move on to one thing I can taste. Maybe its just the yuk of my mouth, or minty fresh breath, or coffee, or whatever. I focus on those things – and those things take my attention away from the tornado of anxiety that I was experiencing.
The next technique that I’ll share is a grounding technique, that I use especially if I’m standing or maybe in a store on my feet. I stop, feel the balls of my feet on pressing down on the ground, then I think about the balls of my feet and the heal of my foot supporting the weight of my body. I look for and feel the steadfastness of feet firmly planted on the ground. I then move my thoughts on to my ankles – I feel the weight of my body being borne by my ankles, heals and the balls of my feet. Then I move up to my calves – and on and on until I can feel the weight of my torso sitting on my hips, through my thighs, onto my knees, calves, ankles, heals, balls of my feet. I’ll continue on with this until I get to my shoulders. I’ll concentrate on my shoulders being relaxed, gravity pulling them down, through my spine and torso, through my hips and pelvis and on down through my heals and balls of my feet. Right on to the top of my head. While I am doing this – I like to think about the air moving in and out of my lungs – feeling the air lift my chest and then my chest falling as I exhale. This sounds like it would take an hour to get through, but it really only lasts a minute or two.
Sometimes I need a more physical space to dissipate my anxiety. Sometimes I feel like I need to scream right out loud. Not a cuss or a curse – just a scream. Sometimes I give out a massive scream when I am home alone. I don’t think that my neighbors can hear me – pretty certain they can’t and well, if they can – oh well. Sometimes I’ll do this in my truck… maybe in traffic, maybe on the road. Doesn’t really matter where – I give a scream and that fast release of AAAHHHHRRRR!!!!! Can help let the pressure off.
Sometimes I need to get physical – work at doing something – press weights, run a chainsaw (although I make certain I’m OK to run the saw and not “out of control”), pound on something in the shop. I find that I get this way – I have this need when I am or have been “stuffing” stress a bunch. Maybe I’ve been at work and letting off a bunch of frustration in other ways isn’t appropriate. Maybe I’ve been in some other social setting where I haven’t been able to “discharge” the excess energy from the anxiety.
Tears sometimes work to. Sometimes I need to just sit and sob. Ya – I’m a big baby sometimes. In fact – there are times when this is THE MOST EFFECTIVE MEANS of dissipating my tidal waves of anxiety. I don’t do this when I’m around people – it happens when I am alone and feeling like hell.
If you’ve never had a panic or anxiety attack – count that as a blessing. My anxiety attacks are as unsettling and can be as uncontrollable as anything I’ve ever experienced. (Imagine standing at the bottom of a landslide and trying to hold back the impending torrent of mud, stones and trees… ya – it can be like that.) They can steal all of my confidence, they can make me feel so shaken, so broken that I am literally paralyzed. Some anxiety attacks are less intense but last for days. (Like having that feeling like your car is headed for the ditch and you’re at the wheel and there’s nada you can do about it – kinda feelings…) The knots in my stomach, the constant state of fight or flight, the edginess becomes overwhelming. That’s an anxiety attack for me. Totally irrational – totally resistant to normal rational response thought or processing. It slips from anxiety to panic.
Sometimes I just have to walk away. I have to vanish. I have (or at least I am supposed to have) an accommodation from my employer for a private space – like my own space – for this exact reason. I had an office space, then we moved to another building and I got an office space on the inside of the building – then – they needed the office space… then… yada – yada – yada… so much for that… whatever – so now, if I feel like I have to walk away – well, I don’t have a place or space to do that… round and round… And really is just another example of the reality that people that face anxiety share – most of the rest of the world doesn’t “get” it. And that’s a good thing for them…
I keep coming round to my wellness model – and well, it works for me. The application of the facets of my model help me stay grounded and help me to be far more “level”. I’ll be the first to admit that I can be moody, unpredictable, unsteady and all the rest – but I’m far better at staying even than I used to be – and my awareness and commitment are big parts of that evenness.
This week I challenge you to:
- Listen two times more than you speak. Be intentionally attentive.
- Keep your opinions to yourself. Good, bad or otherwise – let’s all work to turn the heat down on and in our experiences.
- Find some way to blow off some steam – sing, dance, shout, cry, laugh, run, jump, ride, drive, saw, scream, build, cook, sauté, soak, swim, hop, dip… do something to burn off some steam.
That’s it, I challenge you!
Please, please, please be patient, kind and understanding.