Stress and Anxiety: The Pile-Up Problem
I am the KING of anxiety. Well, perhaps not the KING, but I do have extreme levels and have spent countless hours in therapy, in support groups and with doctors trying to learn how to medicate, manage and live with this monkey on my back. My monkey is not a nice one, either. I should say at this point, that my hours with my support team has increased since my IBS diagnosis. When my body is not healthy and I don’t feel good, my anxiety increases significantly. I’m sure many of you experience the same. I have taken my recovery from mental illness and IBS very seriously. It is a crusade for me. I want to feel better and will to the best of my ability take the steps I need to manage my illnesses and my life. What I would like to share today is the idea of piling problems. It falls under the category of mindfulness and experiencing the moment rather than the past and present, but is more specific. It is a very common problem and causes significant anxiety and ultimately, slowly intensifies it. So, let’s deal with the pile-up problem.
The problem pile
We all get really excited when everything in our lives is in check. Work’s good, health’s stable, money’s good, no significant obstacles at the moment… YOU feel good. This is always going to be temporary, however, whether we like it or not. It is the nature of life. Things change, adversity comes and goes and our health is often playing tricks on us. I don’t mean that you can’t lead a stable, happy existence, what I’m saying is that you can’t count on a constant equilibrium and perfect alignment of the stars :-). So, what happens when things do start changing? Your IBS starts to kick up, you have to move to a new place, you lost your job, your job has gotten more demanding, you broke up with your significant other, your car died, your teeth hurt and on and on. And what happens when several of those things happen all at once, as they often do. God generally doesn’t hand us one challenge at a time and wait for us to complete the task. God has an interesting sense of humor. The excitement you had when everything was stable can turn into stress, anxiety, dread, fear and any number of negative emotions and thought processes. What intensifies these feelings and eventually may cause overload is what I call PILING UP. You pile each of the current problems one on top of the other making individual problems one HUMONGOUS problem. Your mind and spirit then tries to cope with and manage this humongous problem. Needless to say, this is not good for your mental health or your IBS for that matter.
Deconstructing the pile
What helps me in this case, is to make a list of each of the challenges that you are facing. Review the list and see if any of the things have deadlines or need to be completed by a certain date. Put those at the top. Next, review the list and see if there is anything there that you have absolutely no control over. As someone once said, ‘If you can do something to change things for the better, no need to worry. If you can’t do anything to change things for the better, no need to worry.’ Put these things at the bottom of the list. Now that you have your list, come up with an action plan for those things that you can change. Now that you have your issues in relative order, you may BEGIN to look at them as separate and not as one. A coping skill that I learned is that you are to allow yourself 10 minutes a day to worry about the things that are bothering you. After that deny yourself the urge by reminding yourself that you already worried about that today. This trick sometimes helps keep you from ruminating about multiple problems. This is not full proof and additional support may be necessary (doctor, therapist, support groups, online forums) but it may help to reduce the stress and anxiety. I hope to share other tactics (there are lots) for managing the stress and anxiety in your world.