RUDELY AWAKENED BY ANXIETY
How are you sleeping at night in this coronavirus age? Is any fear or anxiety keeping you awake at night? Last week I had a dream (nightmare) that was so real I awoke sobbing. Anxiety paid a visit on my chest. Minutes seemed like an hour as I endured that crushing sense of doom only anxiety can offer. I tried to blow the essence of grief onto a tissue. It was a coronavirus nightmare. My daughters were desperate to save their dad as nurses hooked him up to a ventilator. He was unresponsive. We were told by doctors that he might not make it.
I could keep this middle of the night drama to myself. This is also an opportunity to re-purpose my nightmare into something useful and helpful to my readers. I specifically aim this article to any person in a position of caring for someone who has a disability or is worried about someone with a compromised immune system. I recognize at the personal level the need to tend to daily responsibilities and the internal fears you may be facing at present. I also encourage you to do everything you can to take care of yourself now more than ever!
For all readers, chances are you're experiencing some dramatic form of anxiety in this age of uncertainty. If health isn't a worry, you may lie awake at night sweating about where your next paycheck will come from. You may be feeling incredible guilt or shame for wanting to take care of yourself amidst the chaos. You may be privately harboring resentment for family members you're stuck in the house with or for that boss who laid you off. You may be feeling like the worst parent on the planet for not being able to more easily transition into new school schedules.
Isn't it time we all learned to take care of what's going on inside ourselves? How can any of us expect to go back out into the world well rested and ready for life's next potential setback without attention to self-care? How can we expect to recognize opportunities when we've attached ourselves to obstacles? Isn't it worth everyone's time to explore articles such as this instead of engaging in six hours of Netflix if it means we might rest easier at night?
Even if faith and prayer lead our day it is a fact that our physical environment and those physical relationships require human attention. Where anxiety and stress prevail we may survive and we may also never feel fully rested or capable of caring for ourselves or others. Where prayer exists we feel more hopeful. We also owe it to ourselves and our families to make every effort to persevere and succeed through uncertainty with a long-term focus on our mental, physical, and emotional health. Whom might it harm to ignore these things? Whom will it help to work to raise our energy and avoid raising our blood pressure in these tough times?
For readers who don't know me well I'll share a bit about my family dynamic and why this nightmare above arrived in the middle of the night. I wish to offer this perspective so you can see more clearly why you might benefit from reading this article. For those who know my story, skip to the Fast Forward To Today section of this article and S.O.S. Formula to Kill Anxiety, Get More Zzz's, and Find Inner Peace
A HISTORY OF UNCERTAINTY
My daughter's father has been healthy for many years and he leads an active lifestyle. He's also in the very real position of having a vulnerable lung capacity. This is due to a permanent spinal cord injury he suffered twenty-five years ago. And as you may have guessed, this puts him in a high-risk category. I can still recall the blood leaving my body as the doctors said, "We don't think he's going to make it." The sound of the nasty fluid being sucked from his lungs is as loud in my brain today as it was then.
I should mention that I am divorced for a decade and my ex and I share a very successful and respectful co-parenting relationship. Our daughters are maintaining a relationship with their dad via FaceTime these days. The fact that my ex and I live separately doesn't change the fact that we are fellow human beings and are forever connected by children. More than ever we are individually responsible for doing what we can to make health a #1 daily priority.
To help you step into my story of uncertainty imagine running in the park with a person you care about today only to find yourself running your fingers along a chest tube the next day as this person lies motionless in a hospital bed. Imagine watching his or her chest rise and fall in disturbing attachment to a ventilator. Imagine doctors telling you this person isn't going to make it. Unfortunately, this was my real-life nightmare so many years ago. It's also a scene I never wish for my daughters to witness. Unfortunately, this is a scene many people are experiencing today.
I no longer take for granted the close to two-decade journey as a primary caregiver and the wisdom gained in that period. I no longer dismiss the value that experience holds in my being able to better bounce in response to all that's happening in the world. Today, I do my best to help others walk the path of uncertainty without sacrificing their emotional or mental health in the process. I hope my articles help to offer support in your journey!
FAST FORWARD TO TODAY
As you can see, my dramatic nightmare last week was based on a chilling memory re-imagined to fit today's overwhelming uncertainty we call coronavirus. To make matters worse, my anxiety swelled days after one of my ex's three caregivers left her position after a potential exposure to COVID-19 in a building she works in outside of home-care. This virus threat has me a bit on edge and I'm also in a position to offer some calm through this chaos we're all experiencing--if you care to pay attention.
Now that you know a little bit about my story let's get to how I might be able to help you kill anxiety and open the door to inner peace!
S.O.S. FORMULA TO INNER PEACE
1) Share your fears, worry, doubt, or resentment with someone that you trust and who isn't in a habit of judging your emotions or feelings. An immediate call to action would be to pick up the phone and call or schedule a face to face with this person. No texting! Set a ten-minute timer on your phone. This is the time you'll ask a friend or spouse to listen. At the ten minute mark ask this friend to help you set up a plan to focus on mental and emotional health this week.
Once a plan is in place this person can help keep you aware of your progress moving forward. You will sleep better at night knowing you have support--the kind you didn't wait for and made happen! Without a mental health plan, worry will only persist! As you can see, a going-it-alone attitude isn't an option here! You can also start or seek out a Facebook group that addresses your specific fear or worry. To help get you started feel free to join my new private Facebook group: https://bit.ly/AmyPeaceOrganization
2) Operate without comparison to others' struggles through uncertainty. It's easy to feel like our personal struggle isn't worthy of attention. After all, others have it worse, right? Well, if worry, fear, anxiety, disappointment, or resentment keeps you up at night or is disrupting your relationships isn't it worth attending to? When we are in the habit of dismissing our struggle against another we leave our personal fulfillment up to external factors. With comparison habits packed so tightly it becomes difficult to access inner peace! So, where might you begin to access inner peace? Join my email community: https://bit.ly/JoinAmyList
3) Stay awake to warning signs of chronic stress! When it comes to STRESS a simple google search will reveal that the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies stress as the #1 health epidemic of the 21st century. If this was the case prior to this coronavirus pandemic what could happen if we were to continue to ignore the seriousness of STRESS in our lives? I probably don't have to tell you that STRESS is a #1 enemy that can accumulate over time and can kill us if we're not careful.
You may know that anxiety is a reaction to STRESS. You've probably also seen the quote from Einstein that says, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." Since anxiety is our collective common reaction to uncertainty these days let's imagine for a minute the changes we can make in the world if managing our stress and mastering our stress response in situations beyond our control could do! Now, what might you do to bring that imagination into practice?
Last night I slept better. I shared my nightmare and fears with my family. I didn't shut myself down by comparing my anxiety to someone else who has it worse. I went within to explore my level of stress these days. And it turns out I can do more to nourish my body, mind, and spirit. Wherever your anxiety lives at present ask yourself these questions: Whom might it harm to ignore my emotional and mental health? Whom will it help to work to raise my energy and avoid raising my blood pressure in these tough times? Imagine the change we can all make when we make an immediate shift to alleviate this epidemic we call STRESS during this coronavirus pandemic! Where we can kill negative anxiety we make room for more sleep and inner peace.