May kicks my butt. Every year. We are crawling to the finish line. The final weeks of school are an unrelenting slog.
I thought I was doing okay, that I was holding it together and only looking ahead at the bite-sized tasks I had schedule in half-day increments. What can I reasonably complete today? Okay. That’s all I’ll think about.
Even with this new coping strategy of small pieces instead of gasping for air with the big picture, I’m stretched to the max. I have no resilience in this state of survival. So as soon as one thing goes wrong, everything is wrong.
It happened last night and I could feel the wave of anxiety rush over me. I knew I needed to hold it together. And I believed I wanted to hold it together although the familiar pull down to the abyss certainly felt easier, and more welcoming. Try as I might to avoid it, I was spinning.
The first step is always to stop and breathe. I’ve learned those slow, steady, meditative breaths to help me through years of yoga, stress, childbirth, and more. Sometimes, however, breathing is not enough.
Everything was wrong. Everything was spinning. The world was too loud. I knew that along with slowing down my breath I needed to slow my mind. Wasn’t there anything that was right? Surely not everything was wrong. Hadn’t I been happy and calm that morning? What are three things that are true?
I have a house that is safe and strong. With almost every faucet leaking. And an attic door that doesn’t seal. And so many more problems. Everything needs fixing. Everyone needs fixing. I can’t solve everyone’s problems. This is too much.
Again I was spinning. However eventually I found three truths and they helped me settle enough to return my attention to parenting.
A very wise friend once told me: motion helps with emotion. I’ve repeated that countless times – even back to her! It’s so true. I’m most likely to skip a workout when I’m feeling overwhelmed but what I should do instead is add more movement to my day. Maybe I won’t go to the gym twice, but I could add an afternoon walk. Even if I can’t add additional movement to my day I’m trying to make a more concerted effort to prioritize my morning exercise. When life is too much I no longer let myself skip the gym.
I forced myself to the gym. Instead of tuning out with a podcast or a class, I strapped my feet into the rowing machine and let myself go. My thoughts were scattered but I let them fly. Eventually I was able to clear my mind, having given the crazy its moment, and found three affirmations I wanted to be true. Affirmations are new for me, but I gave them a try: I am strong; I am competent; I am happy. With every stroke I repeated one of those three. By the time my session was over I finally felt ready to tackle the day.
The crazy is not gone completely. I will have to fight it through the rest of this unrelenting month. But today was a victory and for that I am grateful.
What do you do to control anxiety when life is too much?