Monday, August 14, 2017

Working on a New Outlook

A few weeks ago, I posted that I needed to find a new outlook on life. I thought I would update you on some of the things I’m trying. My life is still far from perfect, but baby steps are helping set me in the right direction.

One Day at a Time

I live with anxiety, with means at any given point in a day (or sometimes all day), my brain creates worse-case scenarios for every decision I make—even the mundane ones like what I’m going to have for breakfast.

The ones that really have an impact are the ones that involve what is going to happen in the future. My brain is fantastic about making me worry about all kinds of things, and it makes me feel helpless, worthless, and like a failure. I get so focused on these hypothetical situations, I feel like I have to fix the situation.

But, how am I supposed to fix the situation if I don’t know for sure that this is the future that’s going to happen? Plus, what if there is no fix? What if the scenario my brain creates is so fatalistic it’s apocalyptic? Is that even possible? My brain seems to think so, which then leads me to think so, and the process becomes cyclical.

This, of course, leads to exhaustion and more feelings of failure. There’s no way I can tell the future. And my brain can be a huge jerk.

So, instead of letting the potential visions dictate my actions, I focus on one day at a time. I look at my schedule, figure out what has to be done next, and move from one task to another throughout the day. Does this stop the thoughts from occurring? No. But it gives me something else to focus on that I can accomplish instead of fretting about things that may or may not happen.

I Shut My Brain Off

This task is a lot easier said than done, and it’s still a work in progress. After I’ve accomplished all of my tasks during the day, I allow myself the ability to chill and relax. Before, I would let the thoughts run rampant and attempt to find solutions to a future that might not exist. This would lead to more anxiety and desperation, which accomplished very little except to drive me crazy.

Now, I take the time to read, write, or watch a movie. I have a list of films on Netflix that I want to watch or re-watch, and I’m slowly getting through them. My boys are watching them with me, so I have to be a bit selective about what I watch. If you know me, you’ll know that the vast majority of the films on my list are horror films, and the boys still get freaked out—and I want to hang out with my kiddos—so I have to pick movies that aren’t too scary.

Again, these acts don’t stop my brain from creating scenarios, but it gives me something else to focus on and a chance to prioritize what I should worry about and what I shouldn’t.

I Remind Myself I’m an Adult

This seems like an odd task to undertake considering every day I’m reminded I’m an adult. From taking care of my family to feeding my dogs to paying bills to grocery shopping, I do a lot of adult things during the day. But in addition to all of those responsibilities, I have the ability to make choices.

As an adult, I don’t have to do what other people tell me. I can make my own decisions about what I eat, what I want to wear, and whether or not I’m going to work. Are there consequences for my decisions? Absolutely. But as an adult, with my experience, I’m pretty confident I can predict what those consequences are going to be and make an informed choice about what I’m going to do.

By reminding myself I’m an adult, I give myself power. I remind myself that I have choices and that there are some parts of my life I’m in control of. Whether good or bad, I get to decide what direction my life takes because I’m an adult!

I Focus on the Positive

It’s so easy when things go a little sideways to think that the sky is falling. It’s so easy to see how terrible the world is and that everything is out to get me. But underneath all that evil and devastation, there are amazing things that happen every day. They could be small or they could be huge, the important thing is that no matter how bad things are, something good is there to counteract the bad. I just have to take the time to find it and focus on it.

Life doesn’t feel as fatalistic as it did a few weeks ago, but I still have a ways to go before everything is peachy keen. The only thing I can do is keep swimming.