How to Cope When You’re Paralyzed with Anxiety

October 4, 2009 at 5:01 am | Posted in Dealing with Anxiety, Finances, My Fascinating Mood | Leave a comment

Before you snap, try these steps.

Before you snap, try these steps.

Yesterday afternoon I was so anxious that I felt like ants were crawling just under my skin. I was pacing from one room to another, poring over my list of things to do and rejecting every item, picking up books and putting them down. I felt terrible. After about an hour of this, I sat down to journal and discover what the heck had gone wrong and how to fix it.

1. In fact, it wasn’t until I wrote in my journal that I even realized that anxiety was my problem. When I jotted down my symptoms, though — too many thoughts seething around in my brain, physical restlessness and discomfort, pinching my forearms and rubbing my hands together — that it came to me. For me, the two require somewhat different approaches. So that’s my first piece of advice: write down your symptoms and judge which mood-shackles have snapped shut on you so that you can use the proper tools to break free. A substantial percentage of bipolar people suffer from co-occurring anxiety attacks, so it’s important to know if you have clinical-level anxiety in addition to your mood swings. Whether or not you do, we all worry, and the steps here will alleviate garden-variety worry, too.

2. Once you’re sure that anxiety is your problem, if you have an antianxiolytic to take as needed, drop a minimal dose and give it 20-60 minutes to work before you take the maximum you’re allowed. Benzos like Klonopin and Xanax are habit forming, so you do need to be cautious; on the other hand, there’s no point in suffering any more than you need to, and they will help you to make use of the following advice.

3. Figure out what triggered the attack, realizing that this may take a few guesses. I made a list of about five worries before I came to the core one: I was anxious because I spent a good deal of money at the craft store, and even though I have plenty in the bank right now, I was having my usual visions of a retirement spent sleeping under a freeway overpass.

3. List several small steps you can take immediately to resolve the problem. In my case, this meant checking all of my bank balances; canceling a transfer that I’d initiated from savings to checking; withdrawing the amount of cash that I need to get along until my next paycheck and resolving to live cash only until then; reading part of a very practical book on personal finance (Mary Hunt’s Live Your Life for Half the Price); deliberately and consciously enjoying something that I already own (in this case, craft supplies and a scented candle); and reading St. Augustine on the subject of the divided will.

4. Act on as many of these steps as you can. Creating and getting through my list took a couple of hours, but it was time well spent.

5. If you’re at work the problem is almost certainly procrastination, so determine which task is causing you the most guilt and dread, make a list of baby steps, and, again, act on them.

I find that action almost always cancels out anxiety, but I’m quick to forget that. So in the future, this article will serve as my reminder.

As always, I hope this find all of you well and productive.


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