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Yesterday, you found yourself too heavy to get on with the day. Well, yesterday’s gone. So, live it – today is your day.Tweet
So you had a stay-in-bed kind of day yesterday. You felt overwhelmed, inflicted by a heavy feeling that is often described as dread. And like someone drowning, you went weak, let go and stopped fighting. Even though you desperately wanted to fight on, you were just too exhausted to do so.
If your experience is in any way like my own, you can’t help but worry that days like that are going to take you out and down the road of no return. But is this true? You might have thought “Will this be the day I slide into oblivion, never to know ‘happy’ again?’ I am confronted with this fear whenever I fail to muster the strength to do, well, anything.
Thankfully, despite my fears, I can say with 100% certainty that I have never once remained trapped in the darkest recesses of my mind. It’s this time-tested truth that I take great comfort in. All it takes is a constant reminder to “ride it out.”
Waking up this morning, you felt wonderful and refreshed and without an ounce of mental pain to contend with. You think to yourself “Today is your day.” Already, you’re off to a wonderful start. With that said, it can be useful to keep in mind that you may not be 100% well for the entire day. And that’s okay. You can, however, choose where you put your energy so that you can have the greatest amount of success.
So, what helps with that success? Firstly, it’s helpful for me to understand that there is a fundamental difference between normal stressors and disordered ones. Normal anxiety responses are driven by things like speaking in front of crowds or anticipating a moment when it’s almost your turn to speak at a meeting. All normal responses to normal, everyday events.
But… When one experiences stressors like ones that are driven from trauma, it’s more likely produced by an abnormal event(s). In this instance, it’s our brains trying to make sense of what disaster the eyes have seen. Incidents like a death, a car wreck or an assault.
I like to think of this form of anxiety as residual effects in a sense. For example, PTSD doesn’t let go of the most horrific experiences of our lives. Therefore, we relive them, sometimes years after the tragic events have passed. This is, in my view, disorder-driven anxiety.
For me, anxiety, feels the same – whether it’s “normally produced” or spawned by my mental health conditions. Regardless, it can be important to determine the source. While I know this isn’t always possible, it can help in those scenarios where you know its origins.
How? Well, therapy can be a great tool to help one determine what they are facing. To be more specific, a type of therapy called cognitive behavioural therapy can help bring angst to the fore of the mind so you can “think” your way through what factors are causing it to spike.
If we are able to conquer the feelings produced by anxiety and other mental illnesses, then we increase our odds of getting to its epicentre. In other words, if you’re about to go on stage for a spelling-bee and your anxiety is high, this is considered normal. In such a case, the more you go on stage, the better the odds of helping to minimize your fear in future. Remember, stage fright can be disorder-driven but for many, it’s simply a bad case of the jitters. Regardless, it is common to be anxious in the scenario.
Once you come to the conclusion that this is indeed a normal response, you can then ask yourself “What can I do to help me alleviate my angst?” Deep breathing is a great tool to deploy when on the hot seat. Of course, throwing yourself out there is also key to overcoming it all.
Post-traumatic stress, on the other hand, is born out of abnormal events – like those mentioned above. Thus, they require other therapeutic tools like mindfulness and EMDR. In the case of PTSD, knowing your triggers may not be helpful. We can however, acknowledge them and say “I know you are there, but you don’t have to rule my life.” The great thing about this approach is that you now have a framework to refine your skills. For example, strong mindfulness skills can get you through the noise and fear of a crowded environment, thereby improving your quality of life.
So, let today be your day. Make it so by acknowledging what is causing your anxiety. Furthermore, work on the skills you are learning in therapy to help you cope. It will liberate you so that you can have more good days than bad.
“Any freedom worth a damn is won an inch at a time, then a foot, then a mile, and so on.”Jonathan Arenburg.
20 authors from the military and emergency services tell their story of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Jonathan Arenburg, signing a copy of Lemonade Stand Vol. III
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