Welcome to Thursday, week 7!
Pffff, another time to reflect on an emotionally intense few days.
Life is weird, isn’t it? Some days, nothing happens and life just flows… And others, too much happens and you are stuck trying to process it all.
Today is definitely a “stuck to process it all” day. Yesterday was Kingsday. In the Netherlands, the day where we celebrate our king (or queen) and basically have a day off for celebration and a lot of orange clothing-wearing. A fun day!
For me personally, especially after this pandemic, a little too much and many decibels too loud. I personally prefer enjoying the day off and just staying indoors enjoying the calmness.
My part of the festivities is felt vicariously through all the IG stories of friends and family who do enjoy this holiday, haha! I consider these videos more than enough.
However, this Thursday was very different. The day started out fairly calm. Eventually, my mom asked if I was willing to join her and my dad to go to a garden center to get some new plants for our backyard as an early Mothersday gift. Especially around spring, this is a common thing in our family. New season, new plants.
Though most days a fun outing, in these current times a challenge for me.
I was debating on going or not going, and ended up agreeing to come along. Some time out of the house and some exposure to busier environments is a good thing.
Mom’s idea was to grab a coffee or lunch there as well, to make it a proper outing.
Well, this is where the shitshow starts. Everything was relatively fine, I was fairly calm and the outing was going well. I was a little tired, but then again, I am more tired most of these days.
We ended up sitting down for lunch. A sausage roll, a coffee, and some carbonated water, was my plan.
For your sake, I will give you the short version: I got VERY nauseous.
Even though I have been able to eat like normal at home, this one simple lunch at the garden center was enough to make me go into panic mode. Luckily, I was able to get some of my composure back and was able to continue the journey through the center. Nonetheless, I was not able to calm down again, I was just hanging on the precipice of chaos while pushing my jolly little cart with flowers around. I do not think I have ever felt this disconnected from reality or “here and now”, I was completely lost in my own screaming head.
Now, in hindsight, I realize what happened next and how it happened, but the next moment I almost fainted in the middle of that garden center… Again, not exactly the aesthetic that I am going for in life…
Some VERY deep breathing and leaning on the cart helped me through this one, but I was done after this. I was exhausted, with an intense headache. Luckily, our outing had come to a close and I had the opportunity to decompress in the car.
When we got home, I realized how unhappy I was with this situation, and how stupid it is that I am going through such intense symptoms over such a little thing as eating a sausage roll with my parents in a garden center. And I felt extremely downtrodden and just plain sad over my own situation.
I did not have any energy left to do work that afternoon, so I spent all afternoon in bed, with my laptop, reading articles and listening to podcasts about anxiety, anxiety attacks, stress, and personal stories of people who have gone through similar situations like I am going through now.
I listened to this very short, yet interesting video of Jordan Peterson who gave me some perspective on why I felt like I was going to faint while walking again:
I was burning resources like crazy, as I was not able to replenish them while I was still in high-anxiety, even after the lunch was done. My inability to calm down and decompress made me be stuck in a state of adrenaline that I could not recover from. As many know, a boxing match is often decided not by skill alone, but by stamina to stay focused and energetic. The adrenaline in the body burns resources like crazy and can completely destroy you in a matter of seconds. And this happened to me during our little outing.
This new insight helped me tremendously in accepting what had happened that day, and even more so to accept that I would not be able to recover from something like this in a day.
If you have an extremely exhausting workout, you cannot expect yourself to be fine again in 1 or 2 hours. Now imagine an extremely exhausting workout while also exhausting your mental state and emotional tax, and that is what happened. My body decided to go into emergency protocol, and was willing to shut down before it destroyed itself.
While exploring the knowledge in this line of reasoning, I also researched what to do when you are in such a situation. Where does this type of anxiety come from? I have never had issues with eating, and never with eating in public. Yet now, the slightest loss of mental control can lead to a cascade of chaos in my brain. And so I started backtracking to the moment itself. What happened in my brain? What worried me? Which thoughts created a cascade?
Thoughts like “Oof, this coffee feels heavy”, “can I finish this sausage roll?”, “where is the nearest bathroom? Just in case I need to run…”.
These thoughts plagued me before the actual nausea did. I was creating my own snowball effect by expecting the worst.
Now, I think all of this stems from many months of stress. Too high stress, creating nausea. And even though the general stress has gone down, the trauma of the nausea has manifested itself deep into my own brain. And that is the part that needs healing now. The stress has gotten some love, and I take more time for myself in freedom, exercise, a good sleeping cycle, and saying no. But it is now that I need to start focusing on checking my own thoughts again and find a narrative that can combat the “It has gone wrong so often, it will go wrong again” thoughts.
For anybody who would like to hear what my research suggested on how to deal with anxiety and stress (in daily life):
1. Exercise. It helps decompress.
2. Have a regular, healthy sleeping schedule. 7-9 hours is optimal.
3. Deep breathing. Stomach breathing helps, chest breathing is bad.
4. Meditation. Same idea as the breathing.
5. Exposure therapy. Do not try to avoid scary situations, try to face them head-on. By being in the environment more often, you get more used to it and it can become less frightening or intens. This can help change your flight or fight response in anxiety from flight to fight. Same idea as horse riding: If you are thrown off, immediately get back on the horse. The threshold is much lower that way than if you have time to worry about the “what if’s”.
For tonight, I am going to keep decompressing and just taking it easy. Today has been eventful enough.
But I hope to start trying new methods for healing.
In my non-negotiables, I chose to exercise at least 30 minutes per day, and go to bed every day around 10PM.
These have been very effective in creating more energy and peace in daily life. Yet, they were not able to fix my issues.
So maybe more meditation/deep breathing and active exposure therapy can help me further.
At the very least, it is worth a try. I do not want to get stuck in this state of being, I know how fun life can be and I’d like to get that lust for life back.