Is this anxiety, or is this stress?
I had a conversation tonight with a friend and she asked about Sergeant Calm and how it was all going. I was honest with her and I'll be honest with you. I've been neglectful of it. Mostly, because silly season is on it's way and quite frankly the amount of work I have on at the moment is silly. It seems never ending and overwhelming too. I have been thinking to myself over the last couple of days, am I struggling? Or am I just stressed? I have spent so long fighting against full blown anxiety that I think I have forgotten what it is like to just be experiencing high levels of stress. And, trust me there is a real difference between the two. Stress however, needs to be nipped in the bud straight away because for me it's a knife edge between just getting by or getting really ill.
So I've been monitoring myself as best I can. I'm still able to do complex tasks at work (just) so on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the worst experiences of anxiety I'm probably about a 4. I'm sleeping through the night, I'm managing to cook proper meals (and eat them) and I'm drinking enough water and taking my vitamins. However, because I'm pulling in some late nights at work, some of my gym days have been compromised and this is where the trouble really starts. If I don't get a chance to raise my heart rate and pump out the cortisol and adrenaline I end up panicky and uneasy which manifests at the exact same moment every morning. I arrive to work, I walk in and put down my bag, I go into the kitchen to make my second coffee and then I start to panic. At that moment in time every day, for the past week I have had an overwhelming tiredness wash over me. To the point where I think I may not make it through the day. Monday, I almost sent myself home. But what do I say to my co-workers, my colleagues, my BUSINESS PARTNERS!? "I'm sorry guys, I can't cope, I'm going home." I have hidden this so well from them that I have a feeling not a single one of them knows that I have days when I cannot send a simple email and I go to the toilet, not to pee but to squat down behind the door and put my head between my legs to at least get some blood flow to my dizzy confused brain.
But, with some self-monitoring and pushing myself past that moment in the mornings while I stand over my coffee with a racing heart, I have managed to come to the conclusion I am just highly stressed at the moment. I can, and will cope with this as long as I stay self aware and focused on how I feel moment to moment. I have signs of stress at the moment - tiredness, irritability, infection in my eye, bad skin, sore muscles and a general feeling of being completely unorganised. I desperately need a break before this gets worse. I haven't had a holiday for months and months. I tend to work through an entire year without stopping and right now I'm truly running out of steam and I have to be careful. We all do, we all run out of juice, we all need to recharge but for someone who experiences anxiety and depression we have the added worry of knowing it is always there, lurking around every corner.
Some of the ways I intend to cope with for the next few weeks will have to be followed and initiated into my life with military precision:
- A break, in a new place with a good friend.
- Exercise, exercise, exercise. I have to book my classes in and GET OUT of the office to go. Nothing is more important than that time I take to work out.
- Friday night hot yoga for 90 minutes.
- Writing here on Sergeant Calm and on my other online journals.
- B vitamin complex along with St Johns Wort (vitamins and supplements are another post, I'm not sure these work but the placebo sure helps)
- Meditation at night - currently I have a playlist of cosmic meditation music and a scenario where I'm travelling away from earth looking back, it helps.
- A massage. I need a massage. Again not a luxury, this is something I have noticed. Not being able to truly relax my muscles for long period of time causes me to have a feeling in my body like I have the flu. It contributes to my tiredness and compounds my feelings of uselessness.
So, by asking myself the right questions, being mindful of how I feel every moment of every day, noticing patterns in my behaviour or feelings means I can answer the question, I am stressed or anxious? Being able to tell goes a long way in knowing what tools I need to initiate to get through, do I need the big guns therapy or do I just need to get under some warm towels and have someone gently massage my shoulders. Knowing the answer means I'm not getting anxious about being anxious because yeah, that happens too. What a fun cycle!
Mostly though, I want to apologise for not being here. Sergeant Calm is my outlet, my honest place, my haven and I haven't been here and that just makes me feel bad. Bear with me, it's not easy having anxiety and having to write about anxiety, all of which gives me anxiety in itself...
At ease soldiers, I'm glad to be back.