I love Christmas but I’m looking forward to the break more than ever this year. I’m coming to the end of the long process of moving home which started at the beginning of September. I will finally get the keys today and move in this Wednesday.
The whole thing has been stress-inducing but for about 3 weeks in November/December the anxiety was so extreme it was unbearable. Being unable to sleep for more than a few hours a night, waking up with a racing heartbeat and a never ceasing feeling of panic, was horrendous. This was no doubt exacerbated – or more likely caused – by my negative thoughts spiralling out of control. I kept thinking I’d done everything wrong and couldn’t stop going over and over the poor decisions I thought I’d made.
I had support from the GP but she said that the anxiety was too acute for medication make a difference unless I was all but knocked out, which I didn’t want.
What did help:
- Talking. Sharing how I felt with friends and family was really important. I needed the reassurance they gave me that I was doing the right thing. On a couple of days when I felt beside myself, I called two amazing friends on the phone and they talked me down.
- Anchors. Having a few points during the day that gave me some comfort/distraction made a difference. In the mornings I would listen to podcast focusing on tackling anxiety, at lunchtime I’d connect with nature by taking a walk in the park near my office and when I got home I’d make a cup of lapsang suchong with extra sugar and watch YouTube videos for a while.
- Reconnecting with my ‘why’. I was in such a cycle of self-doubt that I had completely forgotten why on earth I was putting myself through all this. Running through all the benefits of moving away from my current home and into the new one was something I did at night when I couldn’t sleep.
- Writing. This one was huge. I’ve learnt that when all these fears and worries are at fever pitch, it’s hopeless trying to sort them out in my head. I have to rationalise my thoughts on paper. I wrote to that terrified part of me, telling her I understood exactly how she felt and told her that although what we were doing was tough there were many reasons that it was for our ultimate benefit. I felt radically different afterwards for the rest of that day.
- Self-help books. I binged on self-help books. I couldn’t concentrate on novels anyway and knowing that other people had gone through the same thing (and worse) made me feel less crazy and isolated.
- Extreme self-care. Like a lot of people, I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself. Considering acute anxiety puts a lot of strain on your nervous system (mine felt as if it was on fire) it can have a knock-on effect on your body. High levels of cortisol take a toll as well as all that muscle tension. I was desperately looking round for an alternative therapy that might give me some relief but in the end, settled on a good old-fashioned massage. It was physically and emotionally restorative. I spent evenings just lying in bed listening to audio books. I didn’t stress over what I ate, watched escapist boxsets and yes, that old self-care cliché, took long, hot baths. True self-care is deeper than that though. It’s about self-compassion: telling yourself it’s okay to feel the way you do, you’re not the only one who feels like this and giving yourself permission to do whatever it takes to get through it.
- Yoga. I’ve been doing yoga once a week for several years now but this has been the first time I’ve noticed the dramatic effect it can have on my mental health. It felt like an hour-long therapy session where I released all that built-up anguish. I’d come out feeling like I’d hit the re-set button on my troubled mind.
- This too shall pass. Knowing that these feelings wouldn’t last forever and I just had to get through them, one day at a time.
After all this, I will be spending the next couple of weeks unpacking, recuperating from the past few months and acclimatising to my new home. Hopefully I’ll get the sense of excitement I’ve been missing and know with certainty that I’ve done the right thing.
Val the Cookie Queen will be back with another Strange Tale tomorrow and we will then see you again on the other side of the New Year. The 1st January marks 3 years of A Bottled Rose. I can’t quite believe it’s been that long already and am incredibly grateful to all of you who consistently read and comment. It means a lot.
Wishing you all a peaceful Christmas and all good things for 2019.