Updated: Aug 27, 2019
“You can’t think yourself out of a writing block; you have to write yourself out of a thinking block.” ― John Rogers
I focus on this quote often. There are times when I feel like I just can't write. There are times when all of my creative juices have dried up. I know I'm not alone, writer's block is a real thing. Writer's for centuries have shared their cures for this disease. Most authors are clear that the only way to move beyond a writer's block is to actually write. Which, to many, seems counter intuitive.
So, today, I wrote. I wrote through my writer's block. I wrote mostly, what I would consider, garbage. I deleted it. But, I had to write my way through it.
I think that many aspects of life are the same way. At the moment, I'm working through a rough bout with anxiety. An anxiety attack was a precursor to a long lasting and painful migraine which has now dissipated into a state of heightened anxiety. This will pass. This is nothing new. I've, in fact, had a love-hate relationship with anxiety for 30 years.
Anxiety gets a bad rap. But, anxiety is also caused by positive things. A great, new job is a positive event, but still causes anxiety. Buying a home is exciting, but, if you've ever bought a home, you know that it can cause anxiety! So, I've learned to embrace it. I've learned to manage it. I've tried medication, but I don't like the way it makes me feel, the side effects nor the idea that I need a medication to function. NOW...that doesn't mean there is anything wrong with taking meds. I think, for some, it's critical. But, for me, I don't want to take ANY meds. If you read my blog, you'll see that upon discovery of high blood pressure, I began taking meds and did everything in my power to regain control of my health so I could toss those pills. It was six months, but I finally lost weight and began an exercise regime that stabilized my health and that was the end of it. I just hate pills...period. I feel like taking a pill means I'm out of control and I'm not okay with being out of control.
So, what do I do when I feel like my anxiety is out of control? I do a few things. There is no solid answer for everyone. So, although there are plenty of strategies out there, you need to know you. You need to figure out what makes you tick.
Like the strategies for writer's block, I forge through. I just do it. I just do life and go about my day. It's not easy. Let me say it louder for the people in the cheap seats...THIS IS NOT EASY. Anyone who thinks this is easy has not gone through it. Forging through means that I don't curl up in a ball crying for days at a time, I continue with life. To just go through life like nothing is wrong when anxiety is high takes a monumental level of planning and strategy. I'm going to share my strategy with you.
1. I confess. I tell the people around me that I'm going through a rough phase. I'm not ashamed of having anxiety. Truth is that a true anxiety disorder isn't some made up thing that is "all in your head", it's chemical in nature. It's no different than having diabetes or arthritis. It's part of my biology. Letting people around me know that I'm going through a rough patch helps them to understand my behavior, why I may be on edge or a bit more emotional, and helps them to support me. Support, to me, means sending me a message of support or checking in more frequently, maybe going for a walk with me or helping me to engage in a healthy social activity. Support may look different to you. But, you can't expect to get support you don't ask for, people are not mind readers.
2. I meditate. THIS proves to be so difficult, yet so beneficial. It helps me to control my breathing. When I meditate, I either focus on breathing or state things I'm grateful for, similar to a mantra. I repeat them over and over and over. I set my timer for 5 minutes. If this is a long cycle of anxiety instead of just a moment, I try to do this several times a day.
3. I write. I write a lot. It may be writing about nothing at all. I'll even write about what I see in my room or visualize something and write a written description. I may write a blog post or a work of fiction. What I find, is that the key tapping is soothing. Focusing on the letters filling the page calms me.
4. I shower. (I shower daily, for the record.) But, I may take an extra hot shower. The water pelting on my skin and flowing down my body is calming. Water, in general, is calming.
5. I exercise. Two exercises, in particular, are beneficial to me. First, lifting weights is helpful. This task increases blood flow and provides much needed sensory input. Second, I go for a walk. My walk is rarely strenuous, but being in fresh air is such a, well, a breath of fresh air. I, typically, try to find a park or lake shore path on which to walk. That water connection is deep in my core. It feeds my soul. I live near many lakes, streams and ponds, so I'm grateful to have options. At times, I will do my meditation strategy after my walk, near the water.
The important thing I want each of you to walk away with is that this is personal. There are so many self-help books about anxiety. I highly recommend that you read some of them. Get ideas. Blog posts, like this one, from people who live with anxiety, can offer insight. No one can determine what helps you other than you. YOU are the one who knows what works for you. If you cannot do that, then I encourage you to do a couple things.
1. Seek out a therapist that is interested in helping you find a solution, not just medicate you. Medication is often PART of a therapeutic approach. And, the most successful practices are when medication and therapy are combined.
2. Try different strategies. Do not give up. Anxiety is hard, but you can work through this. Sometimes you may be focusing on getting through the next 5 minutes, then the next 5, but keep going and keep trying different things until you find something that helps.
I hope that this raw post helps some of you out there. The challenge of anxiety is real. Don't own it. Don't call it YOUR anxiety. It's temporary. It's cyclical. It can be consuming if you let it.
Don't quit. Don't give in. Never, ever give up.