We are using our imaginations to come up with worst case scenarios when we worry. Simultaneously we are flooding our body with chemicals that harm our immune system and cause disease.
When I find myself worrying I like to antidote it by coming up with five good things that are possible. Training the brain against those tendencies to catastrophize.
Decision making is really hard for me sometimes. My perfectionism flares hard when I’m up against a deadline. Suddenly I’m afraid of everything being wrong and it makes even minor decisions seem like they will destroy everything good that exists in the world if I choose incorrectly.
This is not unlike college when every decision about every paragraph in my 20 page papers seemed unsurmountable until I was hard pressed by procrastination. Only now do I understand this to be fear-based procrastination and that I do it as a coping mechanism.
We’ve officially been LA residents for three months! I got my CA Driver’s License finally. I got my DL when I was 17 and living in the Bay Area, so they managed to find my old record and give me my old number. (Big Brother is real.) I had a little disagreement with the entirely pleasant clerk who took my application. I stated “red” on the hair color question. However, I actually identify my hair color as “Ginger Spice.” She had to fight me about whether I am blonde because when I was 16 and got my permit I was blonde. I don’t identify as blonde but I guess because of bureaucracy that’s what is happening on my ID. Lots of people don’t have their true identities on these documents and I’d rather work towards a third no gender marker on IDs than self-selected hair color.
When we were planning our move to LA from Brooklyn, we agreed that I would spend the first couple of weeks here setting things up. I genuinely believed that spending most of my time for two weeks would be enough to get us unpacked and functional.
I was really really really wrong.
I have this grief about leaving Brooklyn that hits me in waves. I am profoundly curious and excited about this new chapter in my life. I haven’t experienced a drastic geographic change in 15 years. I’m a totally different person than I was when I left CA. I’m so curious what it is going to be like. But also, I’m bummed about leaving a lot of the things I love about NYC behind. I’m working really hard not to let my grief and anxiety interfere with my ability to love the process and let go of NYC in a mindful way.
When I was 29 and my fiance had just broken up with me and I was kind of a disaster, my friend Kelli Dunham gave me a cd about the grief process. I didn’t realize at the time that you could have grief about things that weren’t death. I just thought you powered through yucky feelings by ignoring them. Learning how to deal with grief and anxiety has been a long road and I’m still working through it.
There are lots of ways to deal with anxiety, of course, but this is what has worked for me and what works for some of my pals.
1. Pay attention and course correct.
I treat feelings of anxiety and overwhelm as warning signs. They’re my own personal “check engine light,” some kind of acknowledgement my body, mind and/or spirit needs attention. If I’m having anxiety come up more often than usual than I know something is wrong and I need to do the work to assess what’s going on in my life and where the imbalance is. If I were on Car Talk and talking about running a diagnostic, I would do the things I know to do when I need to diagnose what’s going on with me. Journal, phone a trusted friend, stop and look at what’s going on in my life. In the January example, I knew what was going on–I had three friends and one of my cats pass away in a three week span in December on top of being primary caregiver for someone with cancer. Any one of those things is a lot! I needed to be gentle with myself and take care of myself.
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