Why I'm Giving My 'Anxiety Brain' Two Days Off

Labor laws are in place to protect workers from abuse. They are meant to regulate the time a person can spend on-duty to ensure quality of life. The anxious mind however, is not aware of, nor cares about, labor laws.

The anxious brain works overtime, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This leaves us, the owners of these over-enthusiastic minds, physically and emotionally spent. Every little bump in the road is equivalent of a crisis. As a result, our shoulders are slumped, our skin is sallow and the call of a warm bed in a dark room is too much to ignore. When my computer goes on the fritz, the first thing I do is to try turning it off and on. Reboot the sucker. Maybe the human brain works the same way.  

The good folks at my hospital’s therapy clinic are teaching me how to maintain control over my thoughts. Racing, catastrophizing thoughts are the byproducts of anxiety and is the direct cause of the unpleasant physical side effects of panic. So, in an effort to improve my quality of life, I’m forcing my brain to take two days off. From Friday night until Sunday night, I will not allow intrusive, catastrophizing thoughts to take over. For two days:

1. I promise to eliminate all expectations of others. It is fruitless to base my happiness on what I expect people to do or to say.

2. I promise to be thankful for the home I have instead of finding fault with its flaws.

3. I promise to not overthink every interaction I had with people this week. I will remind myself I was always kind and considerate and that is good enough. What other people think of me is none of my business.

4. I promise, for two days, to accept life is uncertain and stop mentally wringing my hands over everything out of my control.

5. I promise to busy my hands with a puzzle or a craft and busy my mind with music and books.

6. I promise to halt the negative thoughts that creep into my conscious. It may be useless to try to stop them, so I’ll just put them off until Monday.

7. I promise to remind myself I deserve this break from constant worry and anguish, because all the worrying in the world will not change the outcome of anything.

Come Monday, I’ll see how I feel. Hopefully that little almond-shaped part of the brain (called the amygdala) which, in all of us with panic disorders, is way too active, will send out warning shots only in the face of real danger. Being kind to ourselves in this way will make it infinitely easier to be kind to others.

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Thinkstock photo via bruniewska.

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