So how did Thanksgiving go? Any great stories to share? Did Anxiety show up for you or anyone else at the dinner table? Did you recognize it? Did you kick it’s ass?
Our Thanksgiving Day went well. The cold that my daughter had been working so hard to share with me all week decided to park itself in my throat, so I decided to embrace it and be grateful that all of the prior planning and communication allowed the day to run very smoothly without a lot of energy expenditure on my part. I chose to sit back and listen to the stories rather than be the story teller. Our group (which is a mix of family and friends) has done this dance for a few years now and it was amazing to watch each member execute their contribution (the gravy maker arriving just as the turkey was being prepped for carving and capturing it’s savory juices) and how it all came together like a well rehearsed ballet 😊
Being sick is a time for me to put the brakes on and to spend more quiet time reflecting. While I “missed out” on a few things over the weekend, it gave me pause to consider that I can get easily overwhelmed this time of year. There is a lot of “hustle and bustle” associated with he holiday season. Time with family and friends, the incessant advertisements, Santa’s arrival, tree hunting, decorating, parties (and we have two birthdays to throw into the already busy season 😳), and our own expectations of what “should” get done can be completely overwhelming 😳
For those who tend toward the more extroverted end of the spectrum, this time of year with all of it’s busyness and social interaction must seem like an endless source of energy. For those of us who tend more toward the introverted end, this time of year can leave us wanting to crawl in a hole and hibernate 😬
So what do you know about being Introverted vs. Extroverted? The first time that I took the MBTI (Meyer’s Briggs Type Indicator) Personality Test, when I was in college, the one clear indicator (it was not middle of the road like the others were) of the four aspects that the test measures, was on the Introvert vs. Extrovert scale. I was full on Introvert! According to the MBTI, this aspect of our personality measures whether we prefer to live in the outer world (Extroverts) or our Inner World (Introverts).
It wasn’t until years later that I heard this explained better by using the “How do you charge your battery?” explanation. Do you get recharged and energized by being around other people or do you need quiet time (in your own head) to process and recharge?
OK, so if you are now saying to yourself, “What the fuck are you talking about and what does this have to do with Anxiety?”, bear with me 😉
Over the years as I have worked with more and more people who struggle with constant worry, perfectionism, sensitivities, feeling like an imposter, obsessions, fears, and all of the other fun stuff that is associated with Anxiety, I have noticed that many of them have a history of feeling like something is “wrong” with them for wanting to slow down, to do one social activity a day (rather than 3 or 4), or for despising the small talk that is associated with large social situations. When I ask them whether they identify as more introverted or extroverted, many have either not heard of these strange terms, or they say “I’m not shy” (a misconception about being more introverted).
Once we explore this aspect of their personality a little more deeply, I have watched the lines of worry on their faces give way to glimmer of hope in their eyes. They start to nod their head and their shoulders relax as the Rubik’s Cube in their head clicks into place. I love watching people discover a piece of information that allows them to understand and even accept themselves at least a little bit better than the moment before that information was shared 😍. It’s part of the reason that I do what I do!
So what do you think? Does this time of year overwhelm you and leave you either 1) thinking there is something “wrong” with you for not wanting to participate in every party and activity possible or 2) praying for a snowstorm so you can have an excuse for staying home and hibernating? Consider whether you might tend more toward the Introvert side of the equation and give yourself permission to take some time each day to recharge your battery. Introverts are not anti-social, we just have to plan for how we share our energy with others AND how we can get some quiet time to recharge our batteries.
I will be revisiting and expanding on this next week, so tune in “same bat time, same bat channel” 😊
Will you do me a favor? Hit reply and let me know where you fall on the Introvert - Extrovert scale. Do you identify strongly with one or the other? Do you fall near the middle and see yourself as an Ambivert (a mix of both)? I wanna know 😍😘
So frequently when I am talking to clients (or friends, or family, or complete strangers 😳) they will respond to something I’ve said with “I never thought of it that way”! For example, I was doing a workshop on Work Stress and a woman was telling the story of being at the end of her work day and looking through classrooms for an item that she had misplaced earlier in the day, when she happened upon a student who was hiding under a desk. 😬
In her story she was focused on how challenging it was to find someone to help her figure out who was supposed to be responsible for the student. This is totally understandable and definitely stress inducing when you think of all of the “outside” influences like how you are not getting paid enough, how other co-workers attitudes suck, and that you are just plain tired (to name a few!).
However, one thing that I know to be true is that if you take just a moment and look for the opportunity for what to be grateful for, you can decrease your stress by dealing with your “inside” stuff. Who wants to guess what I pointed out to her that I was grateful for in her story (and that left her saying, “I didn’t think of it that way!”)? If you guessed (or knew) that the answer was “I’m grateful that you happened to have lost an item and were in that room looking for it at exactly the moment that the student was in need of assistance!” then give yourself a gold star and move to the head of the class 😉
Yep, good ol’ fashioned Gratitude (you know that word everyone throws around like confetti this time of year 😜) is one of the best ways to flip your Anxiety on it’s head! Anxiety gets fed when you over focus on the external (outside) events rather than focusing on how you perceive (look at it from the inside) the event. When you choose to look for at least one thing to be grateful for when something “bad” or challenging (or that you just plain ol’ don’t like 🙄) then you can put Anxiety on a diet!
Here is another example that is playing out as I type this: I get up early (even on Sunday morning 😳) because, to me, having my quiet time is sacred. You know those memes about people who you are not supposed to talk to until they have had a certain amount of coffee? Well my quiet time is just like that!
So the external (outside) event going on is that my daughter has decided to invade my morning quiet time. Not just a quiet interruption near the end of my time….we are talking full on invasion 😳 She used to get up and come out near the end and I had figured out how to deal with that, but this weekend she has gotten up almost at the same time that I have (which is a good hour before I “expected” her!). This has been building since the time change and we even moved her bedtime back by 1/2 hour to see if we could handle it as a “win-win” situation (she wins by getting to be a “big girl” with a later bedtime and I win by not having to get up at 3:00AM just to get some quiet time 😂). Great idea, in theory, but it is not playing out, at least not at the moment 🙄
So what are my options? I can be really pissy and irritable and carry that into the day. Anxiety loves this approach 😜 Remember that Anxiety wants you all to itself, so the more that it can fuck with your relationships with others, the happier it is 🙄 The approach that I am currently using (and believe me folks, I sometimes default to the former…) is to set some boundaries with her (“no, you may not watch TV” and “no, you may not type on my laptop” and “yes, you can type on the old laptop while you sit quietly next to me”) and then do a whole lot of self talk around what I am grateful for 😍
I am grateful that I even have a child to drive me batty! I was 41 years old when I got married for the first and only time (yeah, that’s another story for another day 🤣) and just shy of 43 when my daughter came along. While being a mom is by far the hardest job I have ever had (and that’s saying something as I used to work at a psychiatric hospital and I saw and experienced some shit 😬), it is also, by far, the most rewarding. When you have a teacher in your presence for as much time as we are together, it can be intense. When I told her that I was feeling challenged by this new behavior of her “invading” my quiet time, her response was “Good, having challenges helps you to have a better life” 😳😬😂 Speak the truth sister!
So this morning I am choosing to focus on being grateful that not only do I have a child to drive me batty, but that she is strong willed, intelligent, sarcastic, creative, tenacious, and a damn fine teacher 😍. She keeps me on my toes and calls me on my bullshit! She makes me want to beat my head against a wall and she makes me laugh until my stomach hurts! I am grateful for all of the mistakes that I can turn into opportunities. I am grateful that I have a story to share with you this morning 😊
As we head into Thanksgiving week, consider whether Anxiety talks you into getting stuck in the external events like how obnoxious your brother-in-law is or whether your pumpkin pie is going to be perfect and see what you can do to change your internal perception 🤔 Do your best to Flip it to something like: “Thank goodness I’m not married to this bozo, I only have to deal with him once in awhile” and “thankfully my family is a bunch of pigs so that pumpkin pie is going to be devoured in about 5 seconds flat so who cares what it looks like”!
OK, so my examples are purposefully over the top to prove a point. No matter the situation, you can always find at least one thing (even if it is totally inappropriate, but funny as shit) to be grateful for. Remember that Humor will get you far as you deal with family this Holiday Season 😉
Wow! You are awesome 😍 You gave me some great feedback about my Why Groups? (Part 1)!
One of the loud and clear messages was how we have become a society that perceives ourselves as “brave”, but who use the “easy way” of texting or e-mail to avoid what we worry will be awkward situations. Anxiety has definitely sold us the message that one of our top priorities is to be comfortable! This message is what drives us to avoid uncomfortable situations like the plague 😳
Anxiety is such a tricky bitch! We have to keep that in mind and often “do the opposite”. When it tells us to avoid, it is important for us to step up and deal with whatever is going on. When it tells us to just send a text message rather than call (so we can avoid uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, and situations) then it’s important for us to pick up the phone (or even show up in person 😬).
I know, I know….I may have just crossed a line. Are you still reading? You didn’t run screaming from the room with your Anxiety yelling, “See I told you she was crazy!”? 🤣 Just kidding, I know you are still here, and I know this because I know that you know that doing the hard stuff is the only way to deal with Anxiety and to actually live your life (as opposed to being frozen in your fear and staying stuck in sticky situations by not taking effective action)!
This is not new information. I have shared this before: Anxiety tells us to be Certain and Comfortable. Both of these are illusions. We can be relatively certain of some things some times, but not about all things all of the time. We can also be relatively comfortable some of the time, but are definitely not meant to be comfortable all of the time.
We also have to learn to tolerate and even (gulp 😬) expect and want to feel our fear response. This is where our overactive Anxiety jumps into the fray and convinces us that we are not capable of tolerating our feelings of fear and so we do all kinds of crazy and isolating things to avoid feeling fear!
Anxiety convinces us to control our impulses, and that can be a pretty smart decision if your impulse is to jump off of a cliff 😳. However, when Anxiety convinces us to control our impulse to be in a room with other people (unless we have definite knowledge that those people are hungry cannibals 😬) then it is over doing it’s job to control our impulses. We have to work to remind ourselves that Anxiety is overreacting (again 🙄) and that we are going to choose to be part of the group even if it is uncomfortable. Nothing gets easier unless we 1) practice and 2) are willing to accept that yes, there may be uncomfortable and even (gasp!) embarrassing moments!
Society and technology have done a bang up job of feeding our Anxiety. Again, I am not bashing technology. As a tool it absolutely has benefits for making lots of tasks simpler and easier AND we have to remember that, for those of us who tend to have overactive Anxiety, we may have to consciously choose to go “old school” at times and actually put ourselves in less comfortable situations if what we really choose is to live our lives rather than spending so much of our time avoiding it! I appreciate being able to show up in your inbox every week without having to hand write an individual note and show up on your doorstep to deliver the message AND I also appreciate how valuable face to face interaction is for all of us 😍
On my Facebook Business page (“What? You haven’t “Liked” my FB Auntie Anxiety page yet?" Well here’s a link: Auntie Anxiety) I have recently been “Liked” by another business page called Solution to Panic Attack. I don’t know the people behind this page and yet they keep commenting on my posts with messages like "Let us join in the fight against anxiety or panic disorder” and "Its our collective responsibility to support one another . No to anxiety or panic disorder!." I suspect they are actually attempting to get my followers to go to their page AND while their messages are odd relative to my posts (they are not directly commenting about my content, but about Anxiety in general), their message does have value. It is important for us to “support one another" and deal with all of the scary, uncertain, and uncomfortable stuff that life throws at us AND to learn more effective ways to deal with Anxiety so that we can live our lives to the fullest!
So figure out where you are going to get support for living your life to the fullest. Is it to go to the gym, join a team or book club, participate in the PTA at your child’s school, reconnect with friends, take a class, form a group, or find a support group? The key is not so much what the group is about, it is that you find a community where you can find connection and a place to work on those skills that Anxiety would rather you not practice 🙄.
The voice behind Auntie Anxiety is Lynn Dutrow, Courage Coach and Counselor