Sunday, June 8, 2008

Breathe

On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday we had a high of 60 degrees, but mostly in the 50's. Chilly chilly. Then suddenly, with barely a warning...Heat Wave! I am serious, it is the craziest thing. 95 today, 98 tomorrow and it is 80 in the middle of the night. With the humidity so high, this is wicked hot for us. I feel like I have been stuck in a sweaty daze this weekend. My mind keeps wanting to get up and around, work on projects, go for walks. But my body replies by sitting still while beads of sweat form on my brow. I should take a cold shower.


I did finally get going on my patriotic apron for the Flirty Apron Swap. I am using some of my own aprons to get the right measurements, but am making up the rest as I go. I was able to find this fantastic patriotic pinup girl fabric and I am lining it with this vintage gingham I got in my great grandmothers stash. I have yards and yards of it in different sizes and colors. She must have bought it by the bolt. It is thin but perfect for lining. I am excited to get this done and off by Sundays deadline.



I have dealt with anxiety my whole life. At times it was paralyzing, stifling. I have had it mostly under control these last few years using medication and learning different techniques to deal with it. Crafting is a big one.
Now and again however, if I am not sleeping very well and don't feel good, I don't have as much strength to fight it. It tries to stop me from doing all those things that help me deal with it so well. It feels like I have no control and I despise that feeling. Before I knew what I was dealing with, I thought it would never end. I know now that I can fight it and it will go away, as long as I don't let it consume me. The desire to create and participate in my life gives me strength to get through it but it doesn't make those moments any more pleasant. I know a lot of people deal with this. Many years of fighting it and experience have shown me that I am not alone. The struggle is remembering that and taking advantage of the love and support surrounding me when the moment hits. I think it takes time and practice, and a willingness to learn and change. That is the space I am in now. I have improved. I know that because I have a blog, and I do create when I can. And I can see beauty all around me, in things I never gave any notice to before. But there is so far to go, and now is the time for learning, acceptance and allowing myself to sit still and listen to my body and spirit when I need to. Here are a few of the things I do when I am in a slump and those tough moments arrive. When I can do something about it, or allow the fear, doubt and uncertainty to overwhelm me. If I have a list of ways to cope prepared, it is much easier to use them when I need to.


1. Breathe: I sit back or lay down and focus on the in and out motion breathing requires. I try to notice how my body reacts. When my mind starts to wander (as it always does) I try to slowly bring it back to the steady movement of each breath. Sometimes, I pick a few words to focus on to help keep me positive in the moment. For example, I think "patience" on the in breath and "balance" on the out breath. Sometimes it puts me to sleep, but mostly it just helps me get past the few minutes of strong emotion and anxiety, so I can make better decisions afterwards.

2. Crafting for Therapy: Through several programs I have been in to help me learn how to deal with my issues, I have gained great respect for the idea of using arts and crafts to deal with things therapeutically...(I can't believe I just spelled that right!). I know many of you are pro's at this. I approach this in two ways. The first is to actually craft out how I am feeling at the moment. One project I have used several times for this is making an inside out box. I get a small box, any will do. (I have used gift boxes to paint your own pottery boxes) I decorate the outside to match how I see myself on the outside. Then I do the inside to match how I see myself on the inside. These don't have to be fabulous works of art, you are just working through your emotions so you can see them more clearly.
This was done about five years ago. Obviously both my inside and outside needed some color added, but it was quite an improvement from the one ten years ago so I will take it. This was about three years ago, it is a votive holder. Getting brighter! The point though, isn't to make it bright and happy, but to have a way to put a face to the difficult emotions your feeling. To give them an outlet. Another quick project to do is google inspiring quotes and find one that helps you in the moment. Print it out and use the feelings it inspires to decorate it in any way you want. You can even embroider it. Then keep it close so the next time you feel things tensing up, you will have it there to ponder.

The other way I use crafts is the more common way, the kind that most of us are drawn to. That is giving ourselves a way to be creative. Allowing whatever we are working on to consume us in a way, take us away from daily pressures for even a few moments. Or several hours. Since many of us do this anyway, I think the important thing is to recognize the positive effects of creating, and instead of it becoming a chore, allow it to be a few moments of healing as well. Before I started quilting, I went through a small mosaic faze. I would do this a lot more if I had more supplies. I love how they turned out, and though I gave most of them away as gifts, I did keep this one to hold candles and doodads.

3. Engage your Whole Body: The most common of this is of course exercise. Using you muscles, energy and willpower to push through the pain knowing you will feel better when you are done. Having your whole body engaged allows you to push through any emotions you have weighing you down. If exercise is possible for you, then try to make a little time for it. For some of us though, strenuous physical activity is not possible. I am limited in what exercise I can do by my health, so I have had to find new methods of practicing this skill.
The easiest way is to have a hot bath, or a cold shower. Slowly get it as hot or cold as you can and let your whole body accept the experience. When you are entirely engaged like that, strong and difficult emotions fade since your whole self is focused elsewhere. Sometimes I just step outside into the cold for a few minutes, or let the rain fall on my face.

4. Balance: This is something we will strive for our whole lives. Being able to do just enough of the things we need and want to, without one thing taking over. Having a routine really helps. Fitting a good sleep and healthy eating into that routine gives you the strength to deal with the challenges and struggles that we all must face. Trying to be empathetic to others also helps us keep our own lives in perspective and not get so upset when things don't go the way we would like.



This list is just a start, and I wrote it for myself as much as anyone else. I learned a long time ago that when we don't talk about things we struggle with they become more difficult and we start to think we have to face them on our own. The more we talk about those things, the less scary they become, and the easier it is to figure out ways to deal and grow. If anyone has other ideas and ways they deal with anxiety and down times, I would love to hear about them. Have a great week everyone and heres wishing you good weather and peaceful moments.

11 comments:

Joanna said...

Wow what a great post - I suspect that writing your feelings out could be number five?! I love how open and honest you are. We should all me more like that.

And the weather - oh man oh man oh man I am dying here. It's awful, just like you said. We don't have central air, so it's fans for us which just aren't doing the job! I have been spending a lot of time in the basement this weekend as it must be 20 degrees cooler down there - enough that you don't even know it's hot. Then you come upstairs and it's like a sauna. Bleh! Good thing is I have been doing loads of sewing since my quilt room is in the basement!

I got your email - we leave next Tuesday, the 17th - two days before school finishes. There were so many snow days that we miscalculated when we bought the tickets back in February! And if you are wondering why I didn't return your call - I never, and mean never check the messages - I don't even know the code lol!!

Well I should be off to clean, have a cold shower - or maybe a bath in ice. Sounds good lol! Tomorrow I plan on taking the boys to the nice air conditioned mall and staying there all day long lol!

Barbara at Oodles and Oodles said...

I can tell you really put your heart and soul into your writing ... it really shows. I don't have any brilliant words of wisdom or advice to pass along; just wanted you to know I appreciated what you wrote! Stay cool and keep smiling, dearie!

Jacquie said...

Stacy,
Thank you so much for sharing this. I remember the day I told my husband about my anxiety attacks. I honestly thought I was going crazy. I have learned to work through them (most of the time) using some of strategies on your list. Creating helps occupy my mind in a positive way.

Tipper said...

Super post! Just super. I remember when I was going through the toughest time of my life-my mom-n-law told me "if nothing else go out and dig a hole then fill it back up and dig another one and so on" She was just trying to get me to make some kind of step in the right direction. I wish I had had your list and your friendship then. But hey I have them now!

I love the first picture-of the bedroom. Now I would love to have a room just like that!

Amy said...

I love your list, Stacy. I've suffered through a lot of depression in my life (who hasn't these days?) and while I haven't consciously made a list before, I think if I did it would be a lot like yours! I think the biggest thing for me is getting enough sleep. After nearly two years of sleep deprivation I finally have both my children sleeping through the night and I can't believe the difference. Even in this oppressive heat I am running around and feeling great just because my brain is finally out of that stupor. Or most of the way out, anyway. ;) Your list was a great reminder of how to get my sometimes malfunctioning brain chemistry back to a better place.

That pin-up fabric is so cute!

Maureen said...

Thank you for your posting Stacy. I'm sure there is someone else out there lurking and needing to know that s/he is not alone in this, and that you can get thru it. Feelings pass, and those that linger can be handled and minimized in healthy ways like the ones you suggest. I agree with Joanna - you've written #5.

I don't get depressed, I get angry...same thing projected outward instead of inward. What I have found that works is a variation of the creativity...I cook. A short course on stress once taught me that anything you do with two hands at the same time shorts out the thinking process...i.e. you can use it to zap negative thoughts and let your heart and soul get back to the intuitive knowing. Knowing you are worthwhile.

Breathe...repeat..repeat...repeat...

BigCat said...

You are totally awesome Stacy. Your comments are so thoughtful and your honesty and willingness to share are a gift.

I love the inside outside boxes. I have been thinking about trying out some art journalling of late. I have always done heaps of writing but I think it would be fun to try and express my emotions through my art. So that will be my next creative endeavour.

I think Maureen's comment about using both hands is really true also. I love knitting because even if I'm exhausted I can still do it and it really soothes me.

I just wish that I could get the healthy eating, the exercising and the proper sleeping happening.

Nanette Merrill and daughters said...

I have to tell you I love the picture of you on that big huge chair. I love it. Its so funny and cute.

We all have things that throw us over the edge and your list is good to apply to all of our issues, physical, mental, spiritual, etc. What a great post. We have to take care of ourselves. I've been really thinking lately about divine nature and what it really is and tapping into it. I know that it is something different to different people but finding out what makes us tick and makes us "do" the best we can do is tapping into that divine nature. I know when I sew and create I am tapping into that part of me.

thanks stacy

Angelina said...

I love hearing other people talk about their struggles with anxiety and/or depression. If everyone who suffered from it talked openly about it we'd have a huge network of ideas and support. I'm glad you are talking about it.

I do most of the things on your list but I have been thinking that I haven't been doing enough of the crafting. My craft space is still not really unpacked and cleaned up. So I don't want to go in there. I need to fix that. I love the box idea.

I used to take hot bubble baths all the time and found it very soothing, right now I have an awful bath (very shallow) so I can't do it. As soon as I can afford to get a good soaking bath I'm going to do it.

Louise said...

What a great post, Stacy. I think that a lot more of us have suffered with anxiety than want to admit it. I, too, am calmed by the slow, steady motion of crafting.

And holla on the weather thing! We had the same kind of thing last week-- and we're supposed to get more heat heat heat tomorrow. Have a great weekend!

Drewzel said...

I love this post!
The fabric for the apron is gorgeous.

I can sooooooooooo relate to what you're saying, I love the decorate the box to represent how you feel idea. You have heaps of good ideas in your list, I haven't even made that much progress yet :p
Thanks so much for sharing!
big love, steph xxxx