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How I Get Things Done When My Anxiety Leaves Me 'Wired and Tired'

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If you’ve ever watched a duck on water, it seems as though they are tranquil and calm on the surface, yet you don’t know how fast or how furiously they are paddling under the water. I find anxiety is just like that. Someone may appear outwardly calm, equitable and utterly in control, but just looking at them, you don’t know how fast they are paddling just below the surface.

For that reason, I find it is one of the most debilitating sensations. What a lot of people don’t realize about anxiety is just how much of a physical thing it is.

When someone asks, “What is wrong?” I don’t have a straight answer, because I’m not anxious over any one particular thing. I’m just anxious and scared and I want to be left alone. Not because I don’t love these people, or want to see them, but because it is taking all the energy I have to appear to be completely calm and friendly.

It is startling and extremely distressing when I realize how I become completely overwhelmed even by the simplest of things and actions I take daily when I am in this constant state. Either I am in the space of calm — not happy, not ecstatic, not high on life and emotion, just able to be calm. Or I am either entirely wired and hyped up, or just plain physically exhausted. This is when the thought of putting one foot in front of the next becomes a challenge, and I can be in both these states simultaneously.

What does it mean when I say wired and tired? It’s being in a state of constant hypervigilance, and because of being so hypervigilant, I am also super sensitive to every energy out there.

Generally, when I’m physically feeling quite calm, I’ll have the mood or the thought or the feeling something terrible is going to happen, or somehow the rug is going to be yanked out from under me. Nothing has happened to make me believe this, but past trauma has me on constant high alert: ongoing trauma and the need to be hypervigilant causes this condition to be even worse.

The attacks themselves, however, happen out of the blue, in that they come along when I’m least expecting them. When I’m not necessarily having negative thoughts, they just arrive. Kind of like a train pulling into the station when you can hear the vibrations on the tracks before you see the train. I can feel them coming on fast, and I can feel the pressure building up. I try to take meds in time to stop it from happening, but it doesn’t always help. And then the attack happens.

I’m finding as helpful as all the doctors and medication can be, I must learn to take control of this condition myself.

For me, though, one of the things that helps tremendously is to stay interested in my own life and to keep my self-driven projects alive and healthy. There are those days when a mundane task almost seems too much. On those days, I must dig deep and do it anyway. Inevitably, this makes me feel much better and more in control once I’ve done it.

If I carry this same mentality over to another task, work or creative project, I find there is always the resistance to start. Yet, ultimately, especially if it is a piece I am writing, once I’ve done and polished it, there is a feeling of peace and reward. The more I tackle both these mundane tasks and the more complicated work and creative projects, the better I feel.

What I find is I can become absorbed in these endeavors, and once I am absorbed in what I am doing, my constant obsessive-thinking mind that never seems to want to shut up, takes a backseat and I can accomplish things.

Some days, it’s tiny things. It can be as simple as cooking dinner. Other days, it could be completing a painting or a piece of writing. I have found giving myself outcome-based activities to do daily goes a long way to solving my immediate anxious mind. As I become mentally active in another, more creative area, I can suspend the anxious zone temporarily.

Learning to pace is a process; I must always remember where I am on any given day. I must give myself a mental check. How am I today? If I am overly anxious and jumpy, unable to sit still and concentrate, it’s not going to be a day I sit down to write or paint. That will be a day that I take on a physical task, like cleaning or sorting out my office, or perhaps even doing some mundane filing and putting things away where they belong. However, whatever it is I engage in, must garner a result. Something I can step back and look at and say, “Today I accomplished this.”

I don’t tackle difficult tasks on the days I know I won’t cope with them. While sometimes something cannot be put off indefinitely, it can most often be put off to when I can deal with it. Putting off tasks in this context is not procrastination, it is understanding my limits and how much and how far I can push myself on any given day.

The times when I push those boundaries beyond what I can cope with on that day are the days when I inevitably feel like a failure, and all that anxiety kicks right back in again.

I am learning to pace myself, read my own emotions and mental state to become an observer of my feelings and thoughts, and then decide accordingly what to take on and what to leave over for another day.

The only thing I know for sure is I’m propelling myself forward one inch at a time, or as I often say, “Sometimes it’s one second at a time, sometimes, it’s one minute, sometimes it’s one day.” This mental step helps me to move forward with my life despite debilitating anxiety and depression. I take myself and my thinking less seriously and focus on what I actually can achieve, just for today. When I look back over weeks, I discover I have completed quite a lot, and that undoubtedly goes a long way to helping with the overall situation.

You can follow my journey on Tegwyn’s World.

Unsplash image by Dmitry Schemelev

Originally published: March 23, 2020
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