The impossibility of balance

A couch leg is surrounded by dust bunnies.

Laying on my living room floor looking at the surprisingly large dust bunnies under the couch (I mean really, how do they get so big?) I am thinking about the precipitating factor that got me here: stress. Okay, so to be honest, a couple of physical jobs, a history of back issues and sitting are also what laid me low, but stress plays a larger part than most people think.

As a part time student, working full time at several contract positions, volunteering with several organizations, all while trying to have a life, stress is as second nature to me as breathing. The question, I guess, is how to manage my commitments and the stress that comes from them. Now I could go on about diet, exercise, natural remedies, mediation and yoga (and I have, at length in other posts) but the reality is that there aren’t enough hours in the day. Today another back pain sufferer and robaxecet pusher jokingly said that if she could do yoga every day then she wouldn’t have any problems, but then who would do her laundry and pick up her daughter from school?

Maybe that’s what is so upsetting about it all. The myth pushed onto us that we can do it all, that we should, that it’s really our fault if we can’t find balance. I am tired of seeing blogs about the ‘5 things that balanced people do every day’, or ’10 ways to have it all’. Those tips will not help me accomplish all the tasks I have listed on sticky notes pasted all over my apartment, they won’t help me sleep at night when my mind races, they won’t stop the spasms in my back. It just places the blame for my lack of balance squarely on my shoulders, or more accurately on my lower back. It goes without saying, or it should, that what goes up must come down and juggling life is no different. Eventually, you (me, everyone) will drop the ball.

Reading this over, I feel like I should have some over riding moral or conclusion instead of just blathering on about the impossibility of balance. I have none. Maybe I am just tired. Maybe I am just overwhelmed. Maybe I am just in pain.

Shifting into another position (more dust bunnies, it’s like I never sweep!) and a little more comfortable, I can think again. Maybe that is the over riding message, a little shifting is necessary from time to time. Or maybe the melatonin and muscle relaxers are just kicking in.

Coping with Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety is not to be taken lightly. You’d be surprised just how many people suffer from Anxiety. Anxiety can be classified as a disorder and mental illness where individuals feel a sense of danger, worry and/or fear. Individuals may feel for their safety in a current or future situation, they may experience feelings of worry triggered by a particular event or they may have experienced a traumatic event in the past that brings about anxious feelings. This disorder can also be co-morbid with disorders such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Symptoms of anxiety may include rapid heartbeat and breathing, sweaty palms, irrational thoughts, dizziness, shaking and nausea. Not everybody experiences anxiety in the same way. Some people describe the feeling as having a heart attack and others feel as though they are dying.

By age 11 I knew something was wrong. It was shortly after 9/11 occurred in the U.S. that my parents flew home from a vacation in the states. On their way to Toronto, their plane ran out of fuel and had to land in New York. When my sister and I received the call that they would not be returning until the following night and that they would be staying in New York, anxiety took over. After this event, I grew fearful of my parents being away. I would have full blown panic attacks and tantrums when they tried leaving my sister and I at home to go for dinner. Anytime they left the house I feared I would never see them again. Anxiety completely took over my 11 year old life. I could not longer go to sleepovers without panicking and having to call my mum to pick me up. I could no longer be away from my parents for what I considered to be long periods of time. My mother knew that something was wrong, as my life had been significantly impacted by this one event. My mom decided it was time for professional assistance.

I saw my first therapist at age 11. My therapist assisted me to change my perceptions and corresponding behaviours though cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Through CBT, my therapist enabled me to cope with my anxiety by taking small steps towards overcoming a particular problem. For example, she would have my parents leave for 1 hour so that I could learn to deal with my thoughts and emotions that accompanied their absence. She would have me complete worksheets during these times in order to monitor my thoughts and emotions. Such worksheets included mood and thought scales, where I would rate my current mood and anxiousness on a scale of 1-10 and then record it once my parents returned. Another exercise was called the “coping character”, where I would think about someone I considered to be influential and think about what that person might do in this situation in order to help calm my mind.

With a lot of time and hard work, I eventually conquered my separation anxiety. I once had fears that I would never be able move away from home, travel, and study abroad, and yet here I am, being able to say I got to do each of those things. I am sharing my story because people deal with anxiety everyday. I may have overcome my separation anxiety, but I still experience anxiety on a fairly regular basis. I remain proactive in keeping my anxiety under control. Self-help and learning to self-cope is extremely important for any disorder. If you are facing anxiety, start today to learn how to cope with your thoughts so that your anxiety will not hinder on your everyday life. Try doing a thought record where you consider the situation that makes you anxious, rate your current feelings, jot down your anxious thoughts that situation generates, facts that support the anxious thoughts, facts against the anxious thoughts, your alternative/balanced thoughts and your final emotion rating. Thought records help to calm the mind by forcing your mind to think more rationally based on facts. For those of you who can share in the discomfort of anxiety, it is a difficult barrier to deal with, but with the appropriate tools and supports, each day gets easier.

For self-help worksheets such as thought records, check out this website with free downloadable forms: http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/freedownloads2.htm

Sources:

http://www.cmha.ca/mental-health/understanding-mental-illness/anxiety-disorders/

Image From: https://www.boundless.com/psychology/psychological-disorders/anxiety-disorders/explaining-anxiety-disorders/