Anxiety, Overwhelm and Self Care

It’s Sunday morning, I’m on day 30 of my usually 28 day cycle and I feel a migraine coming on. James has been in a grump, I’m feeling massively overwhelmed with the amount of things on my to do list for next week, and for the first time in a very long time, I have the Sunday dread.

All of that leads to me having a small anxiety attack – I feel dizzy, like I can’t breathe and I end up spending 10 minutes kneeling on the kitchen floor with my head pressed up against a cupboard door until I feel like I can get up again – of course I don’t tell James this because I don’t want to make a fuss.

It’s Finley’s gym class so I pull myself together to take him and on the way my self talk goes something like this…

‘Just sort yourself out, you’ve no reason to feel like this. You’ll be fine, stop complaining, nothing terrible has happened just get it together for fucks sake.’

This is quite a typical pattern where I don’t allow myself to feel how I need to feel, and therefore don’t properly deal with it, or use self care in the way it’s most needed. There’s also a kind of toxic comparison I do where I think of others in much more severe situations than myself and tell myself that I have no right to feel the way I feel when there’s people so much more worse off.

I did a similar thing when Finley was very ill with his heart, I knew that Finley’s defect was much more easily treatable than many of the other babies on the ward, so I would keep telling myself not to feel unhappy because we ‘were the lucky ones’ – even though my baby was still going to have his heart stopped and chest cut open at 8 weeks old.

I even did a similar thing when I was going through orthorexia – I wasn’t as skinny or ill as some women so why should I need any help?

I don’t think I’m alone in this pattern of thinking – but the issue is we can do this and deny ourselves our own experience – we don’t allow ourselves to fully process what’s going on, deal with and heal our emotions and care for ourselves appropriately through it.

While on the surface those kind of ‘pull yourself together’ or ‘other people are worse off’ thoughts might even sound helpful, they aren’t.

Your experience is your experience – it doesn’t have to be validated in comparison to someone else’s. There will always be someone in a more severe situation than you, but that doesn’t make whatever’s going on for you right now not valid – and most certainly not invalid of care.

This kind of thinking is a bloody massive barrier to self care because you’re invalidating your own needs.

On Sunday, when I had that thought in the car I was so glad I caught it and was able to call bullshit on it. Accepting I was in a shitty place at that time didn’t mean I totally broke down, it was like my mind realised I actually needed some help.

I had to just crack on with Finley’s gym class but I took a longer drive home to get him to sleep and so I could have a think which went something like this…

‘I have lots on in the next few days, none of which I can cancel or rearrange without compromising my integrity, values and practical needs (like taking care of my son or the need to make money in my business so I can pay my mortgage!) so how can I make sure I pull up a chair for myself at this already over crowded table?

Well honestly, I’m not even sure where to start. I’m not sure what I need? I can’t think of anything helpful!

I take a deep breath… 5 minutes pass…

I need to tell James how I’m feeling and get some support (he was a total star bless him)

I need to stay off social media for the rest of the day / (let’s be real) ok at least an hour

I need a quiet early night

I need to look at my to do list again and cross a couple of things off

I need to find the free spaces in the week ahead and give myself that free time to just be’

And just like that, I started feeling a little better. 

To be honest this little episode freaked me out because usually I pick up my early warning signs a lot quicker. I’m used to my mental wellbeing going a bit off at this very late stage in my cycle – I get anxious and find I’ll visualise worst case scenarios happening (I lost site of Finley for less than two seconds leaving the gym and had already visualised him getting hit by a car outside) but even though I knew that a fair bit of this is just connected to my cycle I didn’t deal with the creeping levels of overwhelm. 

I guess the point of this slightly rambling post is this – your experience and feelings are valid no matter what. It doesn’t matter that other people have it worse, it doesn’t matter if you think you should actually be dealing with it better – allow yourself to go through the emotions instead of running away from them or invalidating them. Then, you’ll be able to care for yourself through that situation.

Can anyone relate to this? What are your thoughts on how you handle those hard, darker days when everything seems to be falling apart?

FANCY A TWO WEEK MEAL PLAN?

I’ve put together a two week quickstart guide to set you off on your journey, full of recipes, inspiration and advice. And it’s 100% FREE!

  • Naomi’s Kitchen

    Thanks for sharing Laura, my 14 year old daughter is going through this at the moment so it’s really useful to hear the experience from another point of view. I have just been advised to join Anxiety UK as it is a great resource for help.

    • I’ll have to check that out. Thankfully it’s not something that affects me a lot, I know it definitely gets worse at certain times of the month though!

  • Ruth Newton

    Thank you for sharing this Laura. This is exactly how I’m feeling at the moment. It’s nice to know I’m not alone. A friend pointed me in the direction of some self compassion mediations that are really helping me at the moment. I’m also trying to stay focused on the here and now rather than let anxiety make be too future focused. I hope your feeling better. Xx

    • Thanks Ruth, I’m feeling a lot better now thanks, I think I just needed to get it all out instead of bottling it up! Hope you’re ok, it really sucks when you’re feeling like that xxxx

  • Lexi

    Laura I can relate to this so much. I’m the worst for saying to myself ‘ pull yourself together, others have it much worse’ – I’m so glad you were able to reach out and also take time for yourself. I’m trying to get better at this too. I find being outside and seeing sky, or sometimes just snuggling and dozing on the sofa are great for me but I struggle to make myself do it!

    • It’s so hard isn’t it, I think I’m realised that this has been ingrained in me since I was little. It’s hard to reverse that pattern of thinking but I’m working on it! And totally agree, just being outside or dozing can be really lovely ways to relax :-)

  • Maria B

    I can relate to this so much- so often my mind wanders and ends up in a bad place- silly things like if I see a dog off a lead when I am out running, I imagine it attacking me and then the owner doesn’t call an ambulance and I am lying there for ages, and then I wonder if Andy would answer his phone from the hospital and things sort of spiral. It’s very weird- I’ve always had a very active imagination in that way, with very vivid nightmares.
    That comparison trap is bad but so easy to think of too. I think when things get too busy I try to break them down into tiny bits- eg a difficult thing to do at work but it will only last for 30 mins so try not to stress too much about it.
    I saw a thing on facebook about anxiety which said breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth, look around and find 5 things to see, 4 to touch, 3 to hear, 2 to smell and 1 emotion you can feel- just to bring your emotions back down again.

  • Breanna Graham

    Thank you so much! I needed this so much today. Things have been piling up on me lately, and I have been having huge overwhelm. I do the same thing with telling myself I don’t matter because I’m not as bad off as others, that I am being petty and a drama queen…This post really spoke to me!