Real Time: Current Anxieties

“It’s been a while…” *cue Staind*

I haven’t been up to much. I’m currently figuring out the next phase of life as far as “career” or whatever. I have something that I’m pursuing, but that shall remain under wraps until I can see if I can pull it off. I can say that I think it’ll be in the health field.

I don’t go back to the therapist until August. I was supposed to go back at the end of July, but she had to reschedule my appointment. So it’ll be awhile before another therapy post appears. But I was sitting here, kinda having some anxious thoughts and I thought, “Why don’t I work it out by using my ABCs!” And then I thought, why don’t I write it out and you can see how I use my tools to alleviate anxiety. Also, maybe this can help any of you dealing with something that’s bringing you worry/anxiety.
The ABC(D)s

I’ve talked about this tool in a previous post. I think I linked to something online, but I’ll write it all out below in case you never went to the link:
Activating Event – This is the event(s) causing stress/worry/anxiety.
Belief/thought – These are the thoughts that accompany the event.

emotional and behavioral Consequence – These are the emotions that have resulted from the Activating Event and Beliefs.
Dispute with Evidence – Here, you dispute the thoughts with rational, healthy thinking.

Now, that we have the ABCDs, let’s work out my issue:

Activating Event: In-laws are coming to visit this summer!

Belief/thought – I don’t know what to do to entertain them! They’ll be bored. I don’t know what to talk about with them. We have a small living space and it’ll feel awkward and cramped. Overall, I don’t feel prepared.

emotion/behavior Consequence – very, very anxious/nervous

Dispute with Evidence – To dispute my situation, I’ll ask myself several the questions that were prescribed in my ABCD worksheet. Note: Not all questions will apply to every situation. On the worksheet, beneath each question below, there are several more questions to help facilitate rational thinking.

  • What is the evidence?
  • What alternative views are there?
  • How much does thinking this way cost me?
  • Is my thinking realistic?
  • What action can I take?

I’m going to answer only two main questions and below them are the additional questions from the worksheet to help dispute my evidence:

What is the evidence?

  1. What evidence do I have to support my thoughts?

Is my thinking realistic?

  1. Am I thinking in all-or-nothing terms?
  2. Am I condemning myself as a total person on the basis of a single event?
  3. Am I concentrating on my weaknesses and forgetting my strengths?
  4. Am I blaming myself for something that is not my fault?
  5. Am I taking something personally which little or nothing to do with me?
  6. Am I expecting myself to be perfect?
  7. Am I using a double standard – how would I view my best friend in this situation?
  8. Am I paying attention only to the bad side of things?
  9. Am I overestimating the chances of disaster?
  10. Am I exaggerating the importance of events?
  11. Am I doing ‘should must and ought’ instead of accepting and dealing with situations as they are?
  12. Am I assuming I can do nothing to change my situation?
  13. Am I predicting the future negatively instead of experimenting with it, even being excited by it?

What’s the evidence? I don’t have any evidence to support any of my thoughts! I never have evidence to support my thoughts. Why? Because my thoughts are always irrational!! That’s something that I never, ever thought about before therapy. Therapy helped me see that pretty much ALL of my anxiety was based on me thinking some pretty ridiculous things. And the thoughts only get more ridiculous as I continue to ruminate on them. I’ve mentioned this in my earlier therapy posts, but when I get anxious, I ask myself/think about lot of questions depending on the situation (e.g.”Will they like me?” “Will I have a good time?” “What if I…?”, etc). My therapist instructed me to answer the questions and move on. This is a work in progress, but it does help!
Is my thinking realistic? Above, you can see I highlighted the questions that apply to my situation:

  • Am I expecting myself to be perfect? Yes. Always. Friends, one thing I’ve realized about myself through therapy, but have kinda known, is that I’m a perfectionist. But I’m a perfectionist for certain things. Sometimes, I couldn’t care less about a situation. Other times, I care very, very, very, very much.
    1. Through therapy, I’ve admitted that I started to care a LOT about what others thought about me. I’m not sure when this began, but I wasn’t always this way. So breaking the idea that I need to be perfect AND do perfect things, is definitely a work in progress.

Answer: In the case of having the in-laws visit, I realize that I have to chill. Not everything will be perfect and they won’t expect it. I can relax and go with the flow.

  • Am I overestimating the chances for disaster? Yes. Always. I always go to this place of, “What if everything turns out terrible?” Ughhh, it’s a horrible place for the mind to go.

Answer: There will be no disasters and if there are, we’ll deal with them. I have to keep in mind that a disaster isn’t going to occur 99.9999% of the time.

  • Am I exaggerating the importance of the events? Yes. Always. It’s part of the perfectionist mind-set I have at times. I think some things are MAJOR, when to others, it’s no big deal.

Answer: Their visit is important to me, but it’s not the end-all-be-all of visits! I’m not meeting the Queen or Barack Obama! *lol*

  • Am I predicting the future negatively instead of experimenting with it, even being excited by it? Yes. Always. Instead of getting excited and happy about stuff, I get anxious. And that anxiety brings on all the negative thoughts, even if the event will be fun.

Answer: The in-laws will have fun and be happy to see us. I haven’t seen them in a while, so it’ll be awesome to spend time with them. There’s no need to be negative. How can seeing family I love be negative? I know not everyone has a good relationship with their in-laws, so I’m happy and fortunate that I do and need to focus on that.

Friends, that’s it! That’s how I work out my anxiety. Depending on the situation, I will use my worksheet (or just write this out in my journal). It is awesome and it really, really helps me see how irrational I become about stuff. Writing in and of itself helps me, but using the ABCDs really helps me see how my thoughts go too far and how I can reign them in. Now, I’ll continue to read what I wrote until I get it etched in my mind. Because that’s the thing… it doesn’t mean that I’ll stop thinking about something just because I wrote it out. It’s a process of reassuring myself (repeatedly) that things will be ok. As I always say, anxiety is second nature to me, so I have to practice using these tools over and over (even for just one issue) to break the habit. I have to #trusttheprocess

Hope you enjoyed this post! Talk soon,

-t

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Reach Out!

I wanted to write this in light of the recent deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. May they rest in peace...

I saw a tweet from a friend today (thanks, Val) that really inspired me to write this post. In part of her tweet, she said that “being a good listener can go a long way”.  <–THIS!

It’s still hard for me…ME… to say that I’m grappling with my mental health. I don’t think I have anxiety to the extreme like some others do, but it’s true that I struggle with my mental health on a regular basis. I’ve talked (probably ad nauseam by now) about my newfound propensity to think negatively, which has lead to my anxiety. And I say it like this because, while there are others that may have a genetic disposition towards anxiety, depression and other mental challenges, I think there are a lot of people out there that don’t. Meaning, I think a lot of folks end up with some sort of mental health issue due to any number of unforeseen circumstances in their lives. Any number of events can trigger someone – losing one’s home, loss of a loved one, job loss, break-up (even with a good friend) or divorce. There are SO many things that can happen to a person that can send them in a downward spiral. And I’m one of those people, by the way, that had a variety of circumstances happen that brought me to this place.

I guess when I think about how to help someone, the best way is to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. What would you want? What do you think you’d need from friends/family? I get that not everyone is comfortable helping people through tough times. I think many of us don’t grow up really learning how to be truly compassionate, empathetic, etc. Some of us learn a little from parents and others, of course, but that may/may not be helpful depending on how those people deal with mental health issues. So I think if we just start by asking ourselves, “If I went through ________, what kind of support would I want?”, maybe we can gradually get better with helping others through tough times/mental health challenges.

I think the bottom line is to reach out. We’ve been hearing this a lot now (esp if you’re on Twitter, possibly Facebook). I think that’s the thing to do. Reach out to your loved ones that you feel are going through a lot. And don’t forget those that have a lot going on (job, family, etc). I think we overlook people that are super busy. We tend to think they’re ok because they’re not sad (on the outside) and they’ve always got a lot going on.

I admittedly SUCK at reaching out, so I write this blog as my way of reaching out about what I’m going through. AND my blog also serves as an open invitation for anyone to reach out to me. Leave a comment, I reply. If we know each other personally, email, text or call. Any way you feel comfortable is fine with me. 🙂

Much love to you all!

-t

p.s. Apologies for any errors or any weird sounding paragraphs. I wrote this in an hour and edited this super fast! 🙂

Therapy: Progression

Hello friends!

Let’s jump right in! I went to therapy last Tuesday and as always, it was a good time. We mainly recapped what I had been up to over the past month. My homework was to set goals (see my last post). I had discussed with her that I hadn’t been in a mode (or mood) of creating ANY goals in the last year or so. That’s a looooong time to not set goals and it left me feeling just…lost.

I can’t remember what I said in the previous post, but the idea of setting goals was daunting as hell. For some reason, it became super, super scary to set goals or wanting to accomplish something major in my life. And when we discussed this, I discovered that I had become sad and frankly, indifferent, about setting goals because previous goals had not come to pass. I had gotten to a point where I just felt like nothing was happening for me. I was afraid of taking the time to try again and it left me feeling very blah about life. I know this happens to people ALL of the time! I know that I’m not some freak-show or some anomaly in this world. But it happened and I was completely thrown for a loop. I’ve never been in a situation where things just didn’t work out for me. I’ve worked since I was 17. Not being able to get a job and being unemployed for all this time has been an absolutely crazy experience for me. And it just became a bigger and bigger deal to get over every year.

But I’m taking all of this new knowledge with me and I’m getting back on track! I say this in every post but it’s true: THIS IS HARD WORK!!! I’ve spent so many years telling myself I can’t do this or that. Over these years, I’ve worked on a variety of entrepreneurial ventures, but things would fall apart because my head wasn’t in the game. I realized immediately in therapy that I created a habit of negative thinking. I created a habit of doubting everything! And do you know what’s crazy? All along, I would have moments of clarity where I would tell myself how stupid/crazy my thinking was and how it was hurting me. But I had built this habit and negative thoughts consumed me.

So I’m on this path to break this habit and take back my mind. And as you know, it’s hard to break bad habits! I know it will take time amd I know I will have some setbacks. But as long as I put in the work, I know I can get there. It has been scary though, as I climb out of this place, but I’m trying! I relayed all of these thoughts to my therapist and she reminded me that this is a huge moment for me. Even though this is scary and difficult for me, she reminded me of how I started this journey, feeling SO heavy and lost. And now, I’m feeling lighter and finding my way! 🙂

Ok, so here are some of the things I’ve been doing to get my mind right:

  1. Meditation – I love meditating and I rejected it for so long. I bought a book a long time ago (5+ yrs) and I found it and started getting back into it. I have a reminder (using the Calm app) to meditate daily. It is everything!
  2. ‘Calm’ app – I love this app and if it weren’t so damn expensive, I would pay for it. But I use the free version and it has helped me tremendously. I use the guided meditations, the sleep stories (essentially bedtime stories–can’t say enough how helpful these are for me) and the music. Check it out if you need help sleeping, meditating, relaxing or all of the above! There are other apps out there, but this one is the best I’ve found so far. I’ve also used Headspace, but I like Calm better because of the features I mentioned.
  3. Reading & Podcasts – I try to read positive/uplifting text every day. I use the Bible app and read a variety of devotionals geared towards areas I need help in (i.e. anxiety, hope, peace). I follow uplifting IGers (I repost them often) and I have purchased a few books (I’m still reading them and will give a review whenever I finish). I’ve also discovered this wonderful website and podcast — Black Girl In Om. The website and podcast is full of awesome topics that are mostly centered around self-care for Black women. But you don’t have to be a Black woman to read/listen to their information. I listen to the podcast regularly. They’ve put me onto some super cool women in this growing industry of Black women self-care/self-love/self-empowerment advocates. (Note: BGIO is geared towards a millennial audience. I was a bit leery at first lol, but was pleasantly surprised by their content.)
    1. [Sidebar: Let me say quickly that I’ve often marveled at how white women are able to create spaces for themselves to be free-spirited and spiritual when it comes to their bodies and minds. The number of white women that lead yoga classes, for example, is something that has always boggled my mind. I was always curious as to why there weren’t more Black women doing this and/or leading any other health/wellness space (I have some answers to this now). The woman that created BGIO felt this exact same thing and decided she was going to do something about it. She has created a space where Black women can come and be free to express their love for their minds and bodies. On the podcast, she has had guests that specialize in Reiki/crystal healing/Feng Shui/yoga/minimalism/intuitive health & eating, and more! Many of these women created their own spaces and it’s inspiring to read and listen to their stories. /End Sidebar.]

4. Writing – I’ve obviously been writing here, but I also keep a private journal to REALLY get my feelings out. I mention this a lot, but I’ve kept a journal since I was nine years old. I never realized it, but journaling helped me relieve a lot of anxiety when I was younger. However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve sorta stopped relying on that as an outlet. So getting back into that has been awesome!

I think those are the main things I’ve been doing. OH!!! I’m back in the gym!!! Woohoo!! We have a gym at our apartment, but it’s lame. So I haven’t been working out like I’ve wanted to. I did do yoga for two months pretty consistently for the first time ever! And while it really helped me me stay active (and REALLY helped my anxiety), I needed the GYM!!! Soooo, out of the blue, we got a sweet deal with the YMCA and now we’re back hitting the gym a few times a week! Being able to lift weights is awesome! It’s my favorite thing to do and I’m looking forward to getting back on track! I have a ridiculous fitness goal I hope to accomplish by the time Sept rolls around. Fingers crossed!

Ok, my next therapy session will not be until late July! Yes, I’m feeling good and feeling like I need to focus on using the tools I’ve been given. Going to an every other month session feels right to me, so we’ll see if I’m right in assuming I’m on a good path. In the meantime, I will continue to blog about how I’m doing, etc, etc. I’m also going to start my blogging challenges, so I can get back into just blogging. I love sharing my therapy sessions, but I think it’s time to talk about other things, right? Right!

Talk soon!

-t