Oak City Psychology

Serving the City of Raleigh and Surrounding Areas

Category: anxiety

Five for Friday: 5 Things To Do While You Wait

So Tuesday’s blog was about how difficult waiting can be.  It’s so hard to mark time while we wait for something exciting or something we’re afraid of or something we’re worrying about.  So in this inaugural Five for Friday, I’m going to share some tips for waiting.  These things are not going to make waiting breeze by.  There are still going to be times when you feel uncomfortable or frustrated with the waiting, but hopefully it will make waiting a little easier.

  1. Focus on the present.  This is a good time to learn some mindfulness skills and use them!  Do things to bring you back to the present rather than living solely in the possibilities of the future.  If you do yoga, this is a good time to brush off those skills.  Try to focus on the good things happening in your life today.  Use your journal to document things you are grateful for each day.  I know, I just went all therapist on you, but research shows people who keep gratitude journals report more satisfaction with their life and higher levels of happiness.
  2. Research the future.  Do not, I repeat, DO NOT do this if you are waiting on medical test results.  All you will do is increase your anxiety and make yourself miserable in the process.  Google does not have a medical degree and really can’t provide you with the personalized information you will need.  However, if you’re opening a new business, wanting to create a healthier lifestyle, getting ready for a move, or a multitude of other things we wait on, the waiting time is a great time to research the things you’ll need for your new endeavor.  Whether it’s researching the schools in the area you’re moving to, finding a new social group, learning the business laws or licensing laws for a new business, or finding the best deals for a big purchase, you’ll be ready with the best information when the time comes.
  3. Learn from your last book.  Use this time to look back on what is ending to make way for the new in your life.  This is not a time to assign blame or beat yourself up for perceived mistakes.  BUT, it can be a time to think about how you would do things differently now that you have the additional experience created by time.  I have yet to meet someone who made what turned out to be the wrong decision on purpose.  In general, we make the best decisions we can with the best information we have at the time.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t and sometimes the world around us changes.  Now that you’re waiting for something new, it’s a good time to think about what you may want to do differently this time around and what worked really well that you’d like to replicate.
  4. Get Organized.  Often when we’re waiting there’s a lot of down time.  This is the time to get yourself ready for the upcoming changes.  Are you accepting a new position that will limit your time?  Maybe you want to focus on putting meals in the freezer, simplifying your cleaning routine, or hiring a cleaning service.  Are you waiting on health news that might mean a lot of doctor’s appointments?  Maybe you want to use this time to planning who will pick up your children or take them to events, setting up a room that will be comfortable for you if your mobility is going to be limited, or getting other appointments or big projects done.  Regardless of the change that is coming, there are things you can do now to make the transition easier on yourself and on your family and friends.
  5. Have some fun.  There’s only so much planning, learning, and organizing you can do.  You will eventually run out of things related to whatever you’re waiting on.  Rather than continuing to obsess about the waiting, go have some fun.  Spend a little extra time with friends, work on a hobby you enjoy, or even learn something new.  The only requirement is that it’s fun and it helps you take your mind off waiting.  And that’s it’s not unhealthy or damaging to you of course.

So there you have it.  Five things you can do to make the waiting a little easier.  Again, there will still be times that you feel uncomfortable, antsy, worried, afraid, and a multitude of other feelings.  This is normal and expected.  Sometimes we just have to feel uncomfortable.  That’s life.

The Difficulties of Waiting

I’ve been doing a lot of waiting lately.  Waiting for interviews, waiting to hear about jobs, waiting on people to send me paperwork so I could wait on other people to approve the paperwork, waiting for the right office to appear, waiting, waiting, waiting.  Let me tell you, I am not a good waiter.  Waiting makes me antsy.  Waiting makes me feel like I don’t know what to do next.  Waiting makes me feel like I want to skip over several weeks until “the good stuff” starts happening.  It makes me feel . . . stuck.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this feeling.  I talk to people all the time who are waiting for things they can’t control.  Waiting on the call from a doctor with their test results, waiting on their partner to change, waiting on their kids to work through their stuff or get to the next developmental shift, waiting on themselves to work through their own stuff.

Waiting is hard.  It is not for the faint hearted.  It makes us question whether we’ve made the right decisions.  It makes us anxious with the possibilities of what is to come.  But it is also hopeful.  It lets us dream.  It lets us create fantasies of what could be.  It also allows us to find closure.  Often the reason we are waiting in life is because something has just ended.  We’ve just finished the last book in the series, and we can’t wait for the next one to be released.

Writing that next book is hard though.  It takes preparation and reflection.  If we jump straight into the next without finishing the last we don’t allow ourselves to learn, to grow.  So yes I’ve been waiting, as I’m sure many of you have been.  As a therapist, I often find sitting with the waiting to be one of the most difficult aspects of a session.  I often find myself wanting to help my clients find a solution.  I have a feeling this may be related to my own discomfort with waiting.  So, in this period of waiting, I challenge you, and myself, to sink into the waiting.  Let’s allow ourselves to truly learn from our last book, to let it’s teachings seep into us.  That waiting is hard and uncomfortable.  But that’s life.  Sometimes the good things are worth waiting for.

ANXIETY!!!!

On a recent flight, I sat beside one of the most anxious people I have ever been around. By the time we landed, I thought I was going to have a panic attack. Not only was she miserable for most of the flight, but she was rude to her husband and definitely didn’t make my flight enjoyable. Now, I know some people are petrified of flying – some people are also scared of snakes, spiders, heights, or clowns. However, we also tend to do things to try to calm ourselves that only make the situation worse. Anxiety is an emotional response but it has very physical components. Often people feel short of breath, heart racing, palms sweating, shakiness, nausea, and light headedness. At the same time, what you often see people do when they start feeling anxious is to hold their breath, wring their hands, shake their legs, and squeeze their eyes closed as tightly as possible. The only thing these coping strategies will accomplish is to increase the anxiety you are experiencing. So in honor of the most anxious woman in the air – and in hopes of saving myself from another uncomfortable plane ride – here are some tips and tricks for decreasing anxiety. You never know, they might come in handy battling all the holiday shoppers.

1. BREATH!! For goodness sakes, take a breath already. It is amazing how often I see someone who is feeling anxious holding their breath or taking very shallow breaths. When you’re trying to decrease your anxiety, you want to take a breath so deep that your stomach expands. Two or three breaths like this and you should start to feel less anxious. Warning – don’t do it too much or you’ll make yourself hyperventilate. Think back to the advice your high school teacher gave before your presentation – take two cleansing breaths. That’s really all this is. Some people like to incorporate imagery and imagine they are blowing out their anxiety when they exhale. Some people think that’s cheesy – but laughter reduces anxiety too so cheese it up.

2. Sit still! All that jittering, jumping, and shaking plays right into the anxiety. Some people say that it releases energy, but if you really think about the action of shaking your leg, for instance, it takes a great deal of muscle tension to move your leg that fast. Muscle tension is a common symptom of anxiety, so doing something that will make you tense and will only increase your anxiety.

3. Live in the present. A lot of the reason people experience anxiety is because they get stuck in the what ifs of the future. I’m sure the woman on the plane was imagining the fireball she would become when the plane crashed. A good technique for being mindful of your current situation is to literally think only about the things your are currently experiencing – feel the furniture you’re sitting on, what do you smell, hear, in some cases taste. Combine this with the breathing and you’re on your way to relaxation.

4. Do not self medicate with alcohol or other drugs. One way to make anxiety worse the next time you have it is to avoid whatever it is that’s making you anxious now. So, if like my plane ride partner, you are afraid of flying the best way to guarantee a stronger anxiety response the next time you have to fly is to avoid this flight. Drinking and taking drugs is a way to avoid. It numbs your feelings and keeps you from being fully present. Your anxiety might be higher the first time you try this exposure but it will go down over time – and you won’t be broke from buying those little airplane bottles.

5. Lay off the caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant. That means that it will mimic the things that are going to happen in your body when you’re anxious, especially if you don’t usually drink caffeine.

Now, if you are one of those people who has extreme anxiety that interferes with your ability to live your life, for example, keeping you from going to work, spending time with friends, or taking care of yourself on a daily basis, then you need to see a therapist. These tips will help you a little, but you’ll need much longer exposures to the things that make you anxious and will probably need to learn about how your anxiety came to exist to start with. You will also need more intensive forms of relaxation. You may also need medication in order to manage your anxiety, which should be monitored by a psychiatrist in conjunction with therapy. I hope these tips can help you the next time you have some event that makes you feel nervous. And please, if you’re going to be on the same flight as me – take a breath already!

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