Stress

6 Months and I’m Still Here

I was making an after dinner snack on Tuesday and while I was chopping bananas and making my protein yogurt sundae all pretty, I realized something. I looked at the hubs and said, “Guess what!? We’ve been in Oklahoma six months!”. “O, yeah. We have” the hubs replied. We couldn’t believe how time has passed. Time has moved slow and fast at the same time. Some days and weeks seem to drag, while others move as quick as The Doctor’s TARDIS through space.

Life in OKC has been a learning experience to say the least. Each day has presented a unique challenge and struggles that I thought wouldn’t end. There have been situations where things fell through and people turned out to be not what I expected. Opportunities have arose that were better than I could imagine. I have battled anxiety, fear, and my eating disorder. I have lost touch with who I am, my essence, to slowly start to find it again. Oklahoma life isn’t like Tennessee life.

 

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Wildflowers Outside My House Before a Storm

 

While I grew up moving around frequently, it was the main reason why I developed an eating disorder, this move was unlike the others (for more on that check out an older blog post). At sometimes I didn’t think I’d make it. People had said I’d be back home within a month or two but I wanted to prove them wrong– even though I was sad, depressed, and missed my old life. There were a few times I almost booked a flight home when I saw the fun that was happening back home, life was batshit crazy, or just because I wanted to escape the infamous Oklahoma winds.

I never booked a flight though because I wanted to show to myself and others that I could stay here. I truly loved it here even though sometimes my actions and words said otherwise. I began to make friends and meet people. I began to teach more yoga. I even got a job in a dance studio (something I had sorely missed). I received my HFS books and study guides. Therapy was going well and I had decided to recommit to the 12 Steps. Life was looking up so I saw no reason to go back home till my bestie’s wedding. Guess what, I am so glad I did.

 

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Oklahoma Skyline at Dusk on the Bricktown Water Taxi

 

So besides learning how to deal with a new landscape, people, jobs, loneliness, etc…here are a few other things I have learned:

  • In OKC the Northwest Expressway is the biggest lie I have ever encountered. You are not an “expressway”. The speed limit on an “expressway” shouldn’t be 55 mph and have a red light every block.
  • Keeping with the traffic (pun intended), in OKC people love to go five to ten miles under the speed limit unless they are in a parking lot or school zone.
  • Every  mile here is equivalent to two/three minutes approx.
  • When you let go of attachment to certain outcomes and titles, the things you want to happen actually happen.
  • Keeping an open heart when you feel like closing off can lead to some great experiences.
  • A “short trip” to the liquor store turns into an hour experience because you stock up on everything alcohol related due to some wonderful antiquated liquor laws.
  • If you ever decide to get a mani/pedi but don’t know where to go, just find a salon on the road closest to you, as there are as many salons as gas stations.
  • Trader Joe’s is amazing and I love being less than fifteen minutes from one. #worhtthedrive
  • Oklahoma has the best sunrises and sunsets I have ever seen.
  • In Oklahoma roads don’t twist and wind, they veer. So you can be going straight for sometime then you have to veer slightly right or left. If you don’t pay attention you will end up in the wrong lane.
  • Metro-life is awesome.

 

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Portion of the Boomer Sooner Sculpture at Dusk on the Bricktown Water Taxi Ride

 

 

*photos by me*

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Your Hitchiking Guide to the Anxiety Galaxy

You  never know when you will be picked up on a journey to the anxiety galaxy. About 18% of adults starting at age eighteen have some form of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). This is not including the individuals who have other mental disorders where stress is a component or where GAD is a co-disorder. These individuals are always on edge and the slightest thing can set them off (think of them as a firecracker, a beautiful, colorful explosion that is not as mesmerizing as a 4th of July firecracker).  You never know when a crowd will get too big, when a glass drops, a wrong word or even nice word, or just what will exactly be their match and set them off. This is what is called an anxiety attack or panic attack. These are extremely stressful and for those who do not have these need to know how to properly handle them. It is important to handle them in a safe manner because these attacks can be made worse. And that is not good….maybe we will discuss that in a later entry…

The following is a brief guide to navigating the Anxiety Galaxy. What to say, how to act, what to do and what not to do. All of this is very important, so remember it. Keep this with you because you never know when you will need this guide. So grab your towel and let us go on a journey through the Anxiety Galaxy.

*Do NOT Say it is Ok

One would believe that this word, “ok” would be calming. IT IS NOT. “Ok” is a foreign concept to those with anxiety. They do not understand “ok”. Since they do not understand “ok” saying “ok” makes it worse. Those who have an attack are upset, and then getting them to calm down with a word they don’t get makes them even more upset. The end result=the concept of herding cats…useless and not happening.

*Ask Them if They Have a Medication or When Was the Last Time They Took Their Medication

Now this is a helpful question/statement. Just like you do when someone is having an allergic reaction, or asthma attack, giving them medication can help the situation tremendously. Sometimes the individual has forgotten to take their medication, which is what caused the attack. The individual may have medicine to help calm them down. So administer it and let the medicine work. Ask if they have any other medications (maybe an inhaler if they have asthma) and administer that as well. Do all you can this way to help calm down. Maybe ask if they use essential oils like peppermint, bergamot, lavender, or citrus.

*Ask Them What Caused This

This is the first question that should be asked. By asking them what caused it you can act appropriately by either removing them from the situation,  using appropriate language, or know how to handle the situation. This question also shows said person that you are trying to understand them which builds trust. When said person is trusting it is easier for them to calm down. Also, it can make the person say out loud what is bothering them. Which most of the time it is an accumulation of instances and little nuances that is made bigger by one incident. Think of it as “tip of the iceberg”.

*Remind Them to Breathe

This is a reminder that said person won’t like but desperately needs. Breathing helps calm down the nervous system, grounds them, and keeps blood going to the brain. All things said person DESPERATELY needs. Now, don’t be harping on this, but soft gentle reminders will do. Just ask if they are breathing. If they say they are, then let it go. If they aren’t, then say take slow, deep, breaths, and let it go. Occasionally ask them every so often if they are breathing. Also, if you know they have asthma or other respiratory disorders this is a major must.

*Remove Said Person from the Situation

As stated earlier, if the situation is causing the attack remove at once. For example, if you are in the middle of a large crowd, get out. If someone is upsetting said person remove them. Get the person to a quiet area where no one or very few people are around.

*Do NOT Give Advice or Try to Understand

This is a BIG deal. Don’t probe or prod too much to get what is wrong or for them to fully open up. That will make things worse. Also, don’t give advice. Chances are you have no clue what is going on. So if you haven’t experienced an attack don’t say “you get it” or “I understand” or anything else. If you haven’t just do some of the earlier stuff and go on. If you have some understanding then feel free to say “I understand” or “I get these too, it will pass. I am here for you if you need me.” Then if they want to open up they will. But please, please, please, I beg, don’t say you relate if you have never experienced this. I cannot say that enough. The said person will take offense and feel as if you are trivializing their experience.

*Ask Them if They Have A Special Person That will Help Calm Them

If they won’t open up to you, which is fine, ask them if they have someone who can help them. Maybe it is a best friend, a significant other, parent, or even husband/wife. If they are there then get them. If they aren’t telephone them and have them talk to the anxious person.

*Not All of Them Have a “Happy” Place

Now, here is one where there may be some differences. I personally do not have a happy place, and cannot stand this phrase. There is no place I can go that makes me happy (unless my hubby and Winston are there). So please do not tell me to go to a happy place. It sorta is like an earlier point, like the word ok, if person does not have a happy place that will upset them more because you don’t understand them/they don’t understand you. I totally get that some people will have a happy place. So they may respond to that. But for the most part, just let it go.

*Give Them Water and Lots of Space

Keep them hydrated and let them be. Anxiety takes a huge toll on the body and water will help the body stay cool since body temp will rise. See previous example and points for why space matters.

*Be Gentle in Spirit

Just like when you give an adjustment in yoga, you come and go gently. That means be soft with words and touch, and don’t fight them if they want you to leave. Also, don’t take offense if they refuse help or touch, let it go. Walk gently away. Be gentle in tone of voice. Use a very soft, quiet, calming voice. Like what you would hear on a guided meditation.

*Give Them a Towel

Because you never know when you need a towel. If they don’t have a towel then let them borrow yours. I like my towels super soft with prints on them…

*42

If the anxious person is not having any of this, then just say 42 and walk away. 42 is the answer to everything.

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for more info on GAD click here

I ate today…

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~~~

Without a doubt, the hardest thing about recovery is eating. Well learning to be self-confident and love your self is hard, but eating is tough. Especially when you have had a rough day and the LAST thing you want to do is sit down to a meal. Yet, at the same time it is a sign of progress when you say,”I had a rough day” or “It has been stressful”…”but I ate.”

I find myself saying that A LOT! In therapy I say,”It has be a rough few days but, I keep eating meals.” Even if it isn’t a meal, but a snack or something to put in my stomach I am doing recovery work. For some odd reason by saying that, and not restricting, it makes me feel as if I am not relapsing. I may be not so strong in other areas but I am not coping with food restriction.

I have also discovered in my two years of ED recovery that actually my mood, stress level, and Melvin talk, increases when I don’t eat. I feel WORSE! Restricting doesn’t make me feel good or in control (what lies the ED, in my case, Melvin, tells us!). It makes me insane like streaking around a heavily congested area and then free jump off a cliff or it makes me like a bull running wild.

So eating is very important. The food will fuel our brains to help us see past the insanity and give us strength to fuel the fight against our ED. And hopefully the food we choose to eat will taste good in the process so we can eat mindfully and enjoy each and every morsel.

If you are going through a tough day, a rough patch, or feeling like you need to restrict and it is meal time…don’t give in. Find your favorite food, or even a safe food, sit down and eat. You will be glad you did (honestly you will, even if your ED won’t be).

Performance Anxiety

anxiety: distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortuneearnest but tense desire; eagerness; psychiatric tension occurring in some forms of mental disorder. (dictionary.com).

performance anxiety: Performing anxiety, stage fright Psychology A ‘flight-or-fight’ reaction in an anxious person carrying out an activity in public–eg, entertaining, public speaking–or in front of others, as in sexual activity, for fear of poor performance Clinical Tachycardia, ↑ BP, ↑ respiration, ↑ muscle tone. (medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com).

 

Today let’s talk a little about performance anxiety and how it can affect one’s life for a matter of moments, weeks, or days. There are many different types of performance anxieties. Anything can interfere with one’s performance: death in the family, family stress, self-doubt, self-esteem issues, body image, negative or traumatic experiences, personal relationships, pressure to perform to one’s capability, failure, or financial stress (Weiberg and Gould, 83). Any type of of athlete or performer (theatre, dance, and musician) will experience performance anxiety. It can be something simple as a brief moment of doubt, to a couple of days leading up to the performance with doubts or any of the above circumstances. How one copes with the stress is whether or not it falls into two categories: event importance and uncertainty. Event importance is just what it sounds like, how important the event is to the individual (is it a big show, is a talent scout there, etc…). Uncertainty is when you go after someone who is just as good, or two teams who are equally matched playing against one another.

Some individuals are hardier than others due to their own trait anxiety and self-esteem.  Trait anxiety is “a personality factor that predisposes a person to view competition and social evaluation as more or less threatening. A highly trait-anxious person perceives competition as more threatening and anxiety provoking than a lower trait-anxious person does” (Weinberg and Gould, 85). For example I am a highly trait-anxious individual. I may be extremely competitive, but I start to doubt my own abilities and I get so determined to win that when I start to fail my perfectionism takes over and I crumble. Also, when I am putting a lot of effort or know someone is coming to a show, I put so much onto it that I become anxious and the doubts and fears creep into my head.

I have been asked quite a few times if I get stage freight. I always reply “No”. Which is the truth. I am not scared of performing or being on stage. Actually, I enjoy it. The stage feels like home. I love it when people look at me. I love to share my passion for dance/art with others. I love the compliments after the show (I had a dance instructor that one time said, all dancers are selfish because we like the praise at the end of a show). It makes me feel good about myself and my talent.

BUT…..

I do have performance anxiety mainly in the form of social physique anxiety. Social physique anxiety is when people become anxious when others observe their physiques. Can I say, “Hello dance costumes!”? All dancers can relate to this. We either have awesome costumes or really really horrendous costumes; which in the modern dance world it is known as a unitard (and Lord forbid if it is white). In Latin dancing, costumes are usually skimpy or revealing. Ballet class has leotards and tights. Other times costumes are just made out of horrible fabric that has no right to be on a person’s body. With me, any costume, flattering or not, is a bad costume. I recently wore an all black costume and thought I looked fat in it. Anytime I have a performance coming up I stress out. I am always worried I look bigger than everyone. That I don’t look muscular enough, that I am ugly, or that people will think I don’t look good. On top of that I am worried about my technique and performance ability. Usually the week of a performance I am spun like a top. And now I am trying to navigate the world of eating disorder recovery with the world of stage performance. Making sure I fuel myself properly before, during, and after the show. Recently I have started to take up pole fitness (pole dance), and I sometimes get social physique anxiety there due to having to wear short shorts and sports bras or tight fitting shirts. I get anxious because I think the instructor will see cellulite or fat, but yet, I know she doesn’t care. She encourages people of all sizes to embrace themselves and pole dance. I am hoping that through poling I take up that attitude and help conquer this.

I do use some therapy tools while I am battling this though. I tend to use lots of imagery and talk out scenarios in my head. I imagine myself doing the performance piece exactly as I do it in rehearsal, even better. I see myself on the stage; feel the warmth of the lights, catching the energy of the audience, seeing myself looking beautiful in my costume, executing the steps with flawless technique on my given ability. Believe it or not it works! I also try to go over in my head words I hear my other half say, “You have disordered thinking. So how you see yourself is not what others will see. Others will see you like you want to see you but can’t.”

I make it through the performances. I enjoy them. Each performance I am in I use as a tool. As a learning experience. A test; a little pop quiz on how well I can handle the high pressure situation. I may not get an A, but I am not failing at it anymore. I can now enjoy all aspects of performing and actually live in the moment; which before, I wasn’t always present on the stage and it was a fleeting moment. Now it is a fleeting moment that I can remember and feel.

 

Reference:

Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 5th Edition. Weinberg, Robert S. & Gould, Daniel.