Friday, December 18, 2015

Holiday Parties and Anxiety

Christmas is coming and so are the parties.

Here are my 10 popular posts on preventing, or recovering from, party anxiety.

15 Tips to Enjoying a Party when you have Anxiety

Holiday Survival Kit

Post-Party Anxiety

"I can't go to the party! I'm too fat!"

7 ways to make the holidays more enjoyable

Recovering from a Holiday Hangover

How to Make Sure You Get Enough Food this Holiday Season

9 Tips to Help You Recovery From a Holiday

Fear of the Feast

Appearance Smearance

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Why I don't drink

I haven't had an alcoholic drink in 3 1/2 years. Why am I giving it up?

I used to drink...not a whole lot really. But, I liked to get drunk. I liked the feeling. Not knock-out drunk, just a little-more-than-tipsy. But, it's hard to maintain just a little-more-than-tipsy when you don't want that feeling to go away. So, I ended up more than just a little-more-than-tipsy more often than I wanted. It wasn't every day or even every weekend. Yet, I'm not sure what would have happened to me had I kept up that old lifestyle. Maybe I would have become an alcoholic, I don't know. It sure seemed like I was on that path. Alcohol, let's just say, definitely wasn't improving my life.

When I was hospitalized for depression, the doctors recommended that I give up alcohol. I was hesitant at first and only committed to a year. 3 1/2 years later, I'm still going.

I don't feel like a recovering alcoholic because I didn't give it up because I was an alcoholic. The main reason why I gave up drinking was because of my depression. I don't know if this is how it works for some alcoholics or not, that there is an underlying condition. I never went to AA meetings or anything like that. I actually don't feel like I would be an acceptable candidate for AA. I feel like the people there would have been through far worse than me. I feel like they'd laugh me out of the room.

Although, from time to time, it would be nice to have some comradery in not drinking.

I've thought long and hard about drinking again. Since I'm technically "cured" from my clinical depression, I've thought about adding alcohol back in my life. It's appealing, I love wine, it feels good...and because everyone else is doing it, of course I'd like to drink as well. Especially during this time of year, settling down on the couch after a long day with a glass of cabernet sounds so good.

But, I don't think I'll ever do it.

Even though it's been a while, I still feel susceptible to depression. I have good days and bad days. I guess everyone experiences these ups and downs. However, I always have to be on the lookout for a relapse. Or, in reality, I never want to have a relapse, so I want to prevent one at all costs.

Would drinking cause a relapse? I don't know.

Alcohol doesn't cause depression, it just exaggerates the symptoms. If you are feeling depressed, alcohol might make you feel better at first, but, after a bit, you will feel more down than before. Alcohol also impairs your decision making skills. So, if you are depressed and having thoughts of hurting yourself, drinking might make you more inclined to act on those feelings.

Or maybe alcohol does cause depression for the alcoholic? Alcoholism is an addiction. And addictions control your life. If you are being controlled by an addiction, that could cause depression. I'm not an expert, this is just me thinking out loud.

All I know for sure is that things have been better for me since giving up drinking. Things aren't perfect, but they're better. Is not drinking alcohol a contributing factor, I don't know, maybe. But, I'd rather not find out the hard way.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Three Things to Help with Anxiety

Anxiety is such a terrible feeling. Often times, you can't see it coming. The calm, peaceful presence that was residing in your soul suddenly wanes away. You are left grasping at things to help you get it back. You feel shaky on the inside...like you had too much caffeine. Your mind begins to flit from one thing to the next. You've lost focus and control. You fear there are things you are forgetting to do. Panic starts to set in. You find yourself forgetting to breath properly. Your head can spin and you might end up feeling like you are going to faint because of the lack of oxygen. You go through silly behaviors or routines trying to find the missing piece that will make you calm again.

It may take a long time to come down from an anxiety "high". Sometimes, you don't land softly. Sometimes, it's a hard crash down into depression.

What just happened? I often think hours, even days, later.

It's good to go back in time and try to figure out some initial anxiety triggers. For me, the best way to cure anxiety is to try and prevent the triggers.

But, that's not always possible. Much of this world we cannot control...to my everyday disappointment. So, what can I do?

First, I found it is helpful to recognize my anxiety symptoms: irritability, obsessively cleaning unimportant things, obsessively making lists, doing things with unnecessary haste.

Second, after realizing that I am experiencing anxiety, I try to stop what I am doing, find a secluded, safe place, and sit down (this is the hardest part). Meanwhile, I take deep breaths as I try and turn my mind away from what I was doing. I repeat the Jesus Prayer, breathing in with "Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God" and breathing out with "have mercy on me, a sinner".

Third, I think of what it is right now, in this present moment, that I need the most. It might not be on my to-do list, but it's still important.

Taking better care of myself will help me avoid the crash of depression.