Changes I Made To Help My Anxiety
I went to see a new doctor a few weeks ago. I was kind of excited. Weird, I know. But I don't like anything to slow me down and between sinus issues due to allergies and some anxiety stuff going on, I wanted to feel better. Bring on the healing.
After spending over an hour with me (amazing on so many levels) this sweet, blessed woman looked at me and said, "You're exhausted." My first thought was, "tell me something I don't know." But then I began to sob right there in the exam room. A strange sense of relief flooded my system at the validation, by a medical professional no less, that I am tired. Exhausted, really.
As I left the doctor’s office, I thought, between writing deadlines, end of the quarter in school for my kids, and Christmas, could I actually slow my life down in any way? I was skeptical. However, I went home and made a list of the things in my life I thought could go, or at least have less of. Here’s what I came up with:
1) Social Media
I know. I know. We all talk about our love/hate relationship with social media, but I had to be honest with myself, not only about how much actual time I spend scrolling through posts, but also how much emotional energy I spend on information I just don’t need. I have personal social media accounts as well as ones for my writing so that’s a double whammy.
I decided to delete my personal Instagram and I took Facebook off my phone. I only check it now about once a week and I do so via the computer. Having it not as easy to access has been huge in backing away. I now only spend about ten minutes a day on my writing sites and then move on. It’s funny what changing this habit has done for my life. I didn’t realize how much I missed my pre-social media brain until it returned. Now, when we are at an event or birthday party, my mind doesn’t automatically go to how great all the pictures I take will look online, I simply enjoy what’s happening, take pictures for fun, and put them in my photo albums for me and my family. I don’t miss it the way I thought I would. I still post sometimes, but it’s rare.
An added perk is that my kids were thrilled when I said I wasn’t posting on social media anymore so they will actually let me take their picture since they’re only for family albums. (I’m grateful my kids aren’t on social media really either. They post nothing. It’s great.) I’ve seen a change in my days as well. Not only do I have more time in a day, (It’s ridiculous how much time. I’m ashamed to admit how much time I wasted trolling social media without realizing it.) but I have more space in my brain. Before, I would walk away from reading 8,000 posts and think all day about what I saw or read. I was wasting so many emotional armies on things I simply didn’t need to waste energy on. I’m less anxious. I still connect with people via social media. It’s how our world communicates now. I get it. But I don’t just sit and scroll through posts. I’m more intentional with my time.
2) I’m focusing on the living, breathing people actually in my life
Do I care about many of the people on my social media accounts? Of course. But being off of it has made me seriously consider how I define the word “friend.” Not long after my doctor visit was my birthday. In a ten day time span, I had eight coffee or lunch dates with friends who took me out to celebrate. Eight! It made me see that I am blessed beyond measure to have such awesome women in my life who want to sit and talk with me, laugh, catch up.
I decided then that this was where I wanted my energy to go. I want to call them, email them, meet for coffee. I want to hear about their lives from them, not read it on a media post. Funny thing, most of those women aren’t on social media either. They don’t post. I want to pour my time and emotional strength into people I really, truly know. Ones I hug and pray for and walk this journey with me.
3) I journal
I’m a writer. Words are kind of my thing. So, journaling has always been a part of my world. I can’t remember a time I haven’t written my thoughts down on paper. But I wasn’t doing it as much anymore. I was “too busy.” I’m journaling all the time now. Instead of writing out a post for social media, I write my thoughts on paper.
I think through my world that way, instead of opening my thoughts up to the world for input or advice. If I want those things, I can ask my friends for it.
I’m a Type A kind of girl. I’m a doer. Sitting still is not easy for me. I like to be doing something. But all this doing is a big part of what has made me exhausted. I read a book recently called Simply Tuesdays but Emily P. Freeman. Loved it. She talks about how there’s nothing wrong with keeping things simple. Sitting on a bench and watching people, taking in the leaves and their colors, watching clouds roll by. I truly believe I had lost the ability to do so.
I try now at night when I let the dog out to stand outside, even for just a few minutes and stare at the stars. This past week I’ve enjoyed curling up under a blanket with my dog and looking at the Christmas tree while listening to great music I like. This is all meditation for me. My phone is nowhere in sight. My mind is in the moment. And I’ve never been more relaxed.
Anxiety is no fun.
I’ve struggled with it for years. But I’m seeing that in making these few habitual changes in my life, I am doing much better. And as a bonus, really enjoying the Christmas season. I’m not stressed about getting things done. I have time each day to get presents bought or decorations put up. I’m reading my Bible each day and praying, keeping my thoughts on what Christmas is really about. It’s all good.
Is each day perfect? Nope. But that isn’t the goal. At this point, I just want to keep it simple. Think about what truly matters and put my energy there. Walk the dog. Watch the rain as it makes patterns in the pool out back. Laugh with my kids. Snuggle with my husband. Work on puzzles. Instead of doing, I want to just be.
MORE FROM LARA VAN HULZEN: