Tag Archives: anxiety

Five New Year’s Resolutions for Anxious, Grieving Souls

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Last December my mother told me she’d not survive to see this Christmas.

Mom was right.

After twenty years battling rheumatoid arthritis, she finally succumbed to complications of the disease in 2016. Having destroyed her cartilage and joints, RA attacked her urinary tract. Then, finally, came the fatal assault on her lungs and heart.

The official cause of her death? Multi-organ failure.

She was 78 years old.

Her passing wasn’t pretty. Oh, sure, we had hospice, nurses, a social worker, and her “comfort pack” of morphine and Ativan. But in those last hours and days, even as friends and family pulled tight around us, she and I found ourselves saying goodbye under physically and emotionally painful circumstances.

Going into those last days, I’d read up on hospice care, what to expect when an elder dies—you name it. But none of it prepared me adequately for what I saw and heard those last days. I counted on Mom to go “gently into that good night,” but that’s not how it played out. It was rough stuff.

Nor did any of what I read prepare me for the impact of grief on my body when she died this summer. Expecting tears and low moments, I was blindsided by somatic ailments ranging from plantar fasciitis and tendonitis to breathtaking 3 A.M. panic attacks. My long-time endocrinologist, the same man who helped me put my Graves’ disease in check, admonished me to keep my stress levels under control lest I fall out of remission. He does this at every appointment, but this time he was extra emphatic.

Perhaps that’s because I broke down sobbing at my regular check up?

Grief on top of my anxiety issues. It’s been a struggle. Now I’m about to leave behind the year in which Mom’s took her last breath. Honestly, that prospect freaks me out more than thinking of this as the first Christmas I’ve ever had without her.

To help me manage the transition, I’m working on a list of resolutions that I hope will lift me up and out of 2016’s sadness. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

Resolution #1: Keep up the self-care.
This one is vital. Checking in with my therapist monthly kept me afloat during the eldercare years, and thankfully she continues to keep tabs on how I progress through grief. My therapist is unafraid to help me touch some of the more tender spots of my heartbreak and coach me through them.

On a day-to-day basis, physical activity—especially when spent outdoors, in nature–help root me to the present. I’ve seen over the last weeks and months that when I feel disconnected both from my body and nature, then my grief can more easily lead my anxiety into a spiral.

Resolution #2: Keep and set emotional boundaries, especially online.
In the fall I trimmed my private Facebook connections considerably. That’s because I want to ensure that when I share the deepest, most personal stories about my grief, I’m only doing so with people who genuinely care. The most personal stuff? I will continue to only relate in person, via private messages, or over the phone.

My biggest weakness is that I am a current affairs hound, but the news can be a lot to take when you’re bereaved and anxiety-prone. I’m working on setting aside a specific time each day to wade into the news feed and then quickly back away. Dwelling on what I can’t change in the world tends to backfire, sparking another round of anxiety and panic. (Besides, for things I really care about, I can always make donations to relevant organizations.)

Resolution #3: Stay vulnerable with those whom you trust.
Curiously, staying honest about my grief work has deepened connections with others who have lost their own elders. There’s a gentleman at my grocery store who checks in on me routinely, having lost his own dad a few years ago. He gets it. Another friend lost her father a couple of months after my mom died. She gets it, too. Between us, we use a sort of shorthand, one that signals we’re doing as well as can be expected. We never have to pretend everything is great. That’s terrific medicine.

Resolution #4: Practice gratitude.
This can be easier said than done; yet each time that I’ve sat down to count the evidence of my good fortune, I do feel a bit of a lift. It also helps me to count my blessings when I wake up at 3 A.M. in a raging panic.

Resolution #5: Take a series of deep breaths several times a day.
Of all the things I’ve read about grief and managing one’s way through a personal crisis, the book that resonates most with me as 2016 shuts down is Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart {Amazon Affiliate Link}.

Given that my mother’s death brought an end to my identity as her emotional caregiver and a patient advocate here at midlife—just as my tween son asserts more independence himself, I’m learning that grief is an uncomfortable but illuminating call to understanding that suffering and impermanence are a natural part of life.

For this reason, I found Chödrön’s description of Tonglen meditation, a Buddhist practice, helpful. While I’m not Buddhist, the spiritual exercise meshes well with my existing belief system. Through the meditation, I’m learning to breathe in gently the suffering of others and myself while breathing out into the world compassion and love. This normalizes my grief and anxiety while getting oxygen into my cells and calming anxiety. It’s a win-win for my body/mind.

Those are my personal resolutions for moving forward with grief and anxiety, but if you, too, are dealing with anxiety and grief, I’d love to hear yours.

Pamela Price is a writer, author, and blogger. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Related and recommended:

Don’t Be Surprised By Suffering

Grief Woke Me This Morning

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Contemplating “Opportunity Fatigue”

Contemplating opportunity fatigue

 

My friend Jade Rivera wrote a post last week that hit me right in the heart.

It’s about what she calls “opportunity fatigue“:

A person with opportunity fatigue is exhausted in the face of almost unlimited opportunities for growth and learning, who could self-actualize in any given direction if they weren’t overwhelmed with constraints, options, and decisions.

This made so much sense to me, on so many fronts, that I stared at the words on my monitor, mouth agape for several minutes.

Yes, Jade. This. This. THIS.

In a world where we feel compelled to “do all the things,” there comes a point when one starts to ask how, when, and eventually why?

Jade acknowledges upfront that there is a lot of privilege tied to this phenomenon, and other friends point out, rightly, that there is some overlap here with polymaths and multipotentialites (a.k.a. “gifted adults”). Yes, I say, to all of that. It doesn’t make opportunity fatigue any less overwhelming, however, if you’re sinking or mired in it.

There are some issues here related to mid-life crises, too. Not the kind dramatized in media (cougars in tight skirts and men in fast cars) but rather those quiet, uneasy moments when one realizes life really is short and it might be running out on you personally. Basically, it’s the kind of stuff every middle-aged woman I know is going through this week, to some extent. Continue reading

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