A while back I wrote about some of the strategies I used when my wonky brain is acting up. If you’re curious about what I mean when I say “wonky brain” or are interested in additional strategies organized in no way whatsoever, check out the post: Strategies for the Wonky Brain – Part 1
So without further adieu…
Okay, normally procrastination isn’t always seen in the best light, but it’s something I am sometimes able to use to my own advantage. There are times when a worry is playing on loop in my mind. It honestly feels like if I think about it just one more time, I will feel relief and it won’t demand my attention anymore…which never happens. And while there’s that fleeting sense of resolution, the unrest is back again almost immediately.
It’s next to impossible to convince myself that a worry is not worth thinking about. I’ve tried time and time again to remember that everything will be okay, that things work themselves out, that it’s not that big of a deal, that life will go on, etc., etc., etc. But the thing about anxiety is even if you know something isn’t a huge deal, your body doesn’t cooperate with that knowledge. So, I procrastinate worrying. This is especially helpful when I’m with other people, like hanging out with friends or at work. I tell myself, “You’re right. This isn’t good. Potentially the end of the world! When we get home, we can worry about it as much as we want. We can come unglued. We can unravel. Later.” And then when I get home, sometimes I’m already over it. Or, I just allow myself to freak out and try to address the issue. This strategy helps me miss out less on the present memories I am making.
I have also read on a website for parents who have kids with anxiety (sometimes the best tips for approaching mental health are actually those recommended for children, at least in my experience), that you can designate a certain amount of time for worrying, like 20 minutes, but then you have to do something else. I’ll probably try this at some point as well. I think there is something freeing about simply allowing yourself to worry for a minute instead of trying to not worry but then worrying and carrying the shame of worrying all at the same time.
I find imagery to be very helpful in handling such things as abstract as anxiety and depression. This imagery came to me just yesterday when I was trying to describe to my husband who doesn’t struggle with wonky brain an anxiety that was nagging at my brain. I couldn’t pinpoint why it was stuck and holding on. But… I decided to describe it this way: it’s like when a someone sends you an email with something to do and they “flag” it as IMPORTANT or whatever that red flag means. And so you’re like, Ah gottacheckthisrightnowanddoitimmediately. But then you read it and are like !%$&*#@$&#@$ this is not urgent at all! You just want me to feel like it is!
My brain does that, but with concerns. So a thought that isn’t urgent and isn’t important is stuck in my metaphorical inbox (my brain if you’re having hard time following along). And I’m like @#$@# you brain, this is not urgent. But no matter how many times I click delete, the email will not disappear.
Once I had this analogy, I decided that if I couldn’t delete the email (thought), I could at least mark it as read. And I told that email, I will tend to you in the morning, but right now I am going to go to sleep. Because you are not actually that urgent. False flag. Somehow it worked. Nothing else I had been trying had released the thought, but this imagery did. I look forward to using it more in the future and seeing how powerful it can be.
I have seen self-affirmation examples and tips on good old Pinterest, and learned a little about it from one of my social work professors who was talking about self-care. It seemed kind of silly to me at first and not useful. But I have recently begun to use self-affirmation a lot. The key to it, for me, is creating my own self-affirmation. Other people’s words don’t mean a lot to me, but when I have to reflect on what my fear or sadness is actually about and come up with truth and encouragement to address it, I’m finding it turns out to actually work.
Here are some examples of the ones I created and use:
The number of hours I sleep will not dictate the kind of day I have tomorrow. I will let go of calculations and panic. I will not obsess. My body will get the rest that it needs. My body is resilient.
Sleep and brain-wonkiness for me are correlated. When I’m not sleeping enough, my brain melts like a toddler who skipped nap-time and can’t function. But sleep is also an area where my anxiety manifests itself. I get super worried about not getting X number of hours of sleep which means I’m not relaxed so then I have trouble falling or staying asleep so I wake up groggy then I’m worried about how it will affect my day. And that whole time, I’m miserable! It’s a cycle and it snowballs so my anxiety about getting anxiety from not getting enough sleep is actually making my more wonky. But in the past couple of weeks, I have seen a change in my peace level as I repeat and accept the above words.
I am capable of determining which task is more urgent and prioritizing it by sticking with it until it is finished instead of moving on to the next task.
I can start an important task without being distracted by the nagging to slave over a master to-do list that I will never be able to perfect. I trust myself to make a good decision every moment.
I have problems focusing sometimes, because I get overwhelmed at everything I could be doing. It can cause stress and self-blame when I feel I haven’t been as productive as I want to have been. Side strategy: I keep a notepad beside where I’m working to write down thoughts that pop up. When they pop up and I don’t write them down, they buzz around my head, because I’m scared of forgetting them. Super distracting!
I trust myself to think clearly, to problem-solve rationally, to build relationships genuinely. And to put thoughts back where they belong when I don’t need them anymore.
Another one I use mainly for work, especially when I’m apprehensive about being inadequate or productive enough the next day.
I am happy to be in the here and now. No thought is strained by the future. Each thought is neatly resting in the present. I am submerged in peace. I am full of joy. I am wholly content.
This one is helpful when my brain won’t shut off to focus on the task I’m doing, because it’s evaluating if there’s something better I could be doing.
I can let this problem go for now, because my whole life does not depend on it. I will deal with it tomorrow when it is delivered to my door step once more.
Sometimes the best thing I can do is go to sleep. Maybe I’ll sound like a hippy when I say this, but often times it’s a matter of simply listening to your body. Ask your body, “What do you need?” I think it’s something I’m getting better at with time, but sometimes I feel it tell me sleep. And it’s as simple as that. My brain just needs to cool off, be free of stimuli, and reset.
I can just feel you rolling your eyes already! It’s okay, I would do the same. I’m not saying that if you just count your blessings, your anxiety will go away, you ungrateful piece of trash. Listing off the things I’m thankful for is a strategy that I’ve only found a few weeks ago that only works on one very specific type of wonky brain that is fairly new to me. I started feeling like my brain was overheating. Since I’m apparently all about that tech-analogy life (Little Brother, aren’t you proud??): It was like when you are “gaming” as the nerds (friendly shade) say–or in my case playing Sims 4 for so long I start to lost touch with reality–but you don’t leave your laptop vents uncovered (let’s say you’ve made a cozy nest in a bunch of blankets). Your computer starts to overheat. It can’t handle the most basic task. It lags and/or freezes. In the words of college students, it “literally cannot.” That’s how my brain was acting! It wasn’t going a mile a minute obsessing over something. It was barely moving like a stupid good-for-nothing computer that can’t handle the Sims (or lack of ventilation).
But somehow I stumbled into the discovering that listing the things that I am grateful for cools it down. It sounds stupid cheesy, I know. But it worked for me on more than one occasion when my brain felt like it was overheating. Who knows!
I’m not going to pretend that I can run more than 30 seconds without experiencing the need to slow to jog (Okay, slow from a jog to a walk) or that I do yoga every day. However, when I haven’t been active, my brain is like, “Oh! Stored up energy! I’ll take that and use it…TO YOUR DEMISE!!! MWAHAHAAHAHA!!!” It uses all that energy to worry and obsess over things. Running isn’t something that helps a lot if I’m already feeling down and depressed or paralyzed with anxiety, but when I feel the edge like it might happen, I am sometimes pleasantly surprised to find that just going for a run/jog/leisurely walk helps. I think there is also something about MOVING that is makes an unsatisfied brain feel like progress is being made.
I do yoga too, more for when my body feels sort of out of sync with my brain.Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube is the only one I’ve been able to get into. I highly recommend her.
There is a wonkiness my brain experiences where it feels like one gear of the machine (That’s a thing, right? Gears and machines?) is slightly off, so the machine is clunking and being annoying as hell. Listening to certain songs sometimes does the trick. This is another mysterious one to me, but if it works, it works. Some favorites of my brain, for whatever reason, are: the “Magpie and the Dandelion”album by the Avett Brothers, “Good-bye Blues” album by the Hush Sound, and pretty much anything by mewithoutYou. It’s not so much the words as it is the beat or rhythm (fill in the blanks, music people) and having my brain pick out a particular instrument to focus on the entire time is comforting as well.
You Are Safe and You are Loved
Maybe this would count as self-affirmation, but it’s a strategy that I have had for longer than I was all that aware of self-affirmation. I use it for lots of wonky brain situations, but specifically when I feel physically very panicked and/or afraid. I repeat, “I am safe and I am loved.” While I do that, I picture different people I know who love me. And sometimes I even say their names out loud as I picture their faces: Evan loves me. My mom loves me. My dad loves me. Or, when fear is the big thing I’m dealing with (like before I was married and would wake up in the middle of the night from nightmares, terrified of people breaking in and unable to relax my jumpy body), I picture all the different times I have felt very loved by someone. I replay those memories, and somehow it gives me strength.
Do you have any strategies to add?
PS-As I said in the last strategies post, I love you and I am joyfully a completely open book when it comes to wonky brain. If you have questions because your brain gets wonky sometimes or someone you care about’s brain gets wonky, reach out to me. You can ask anything! Not that any two people are the same and not that I am some sort of special person with answers to life, but…feeling alone is yucky.