Self-Care Isn’t Selfish: Finding the Time and Tenacity to Get Well

Most people who suffer from anxiety and/or panic attacks (panic disorder) are the typical, tightly wound, Type a personality. Actually, all personality types have some level of tendency toward anxiety and stress about some thing according to Tanya J. Peterson, author of The Mindfulness Workbook For Anxiety. But, Type A’s are highly susceptible to the stressors that typically lead to anxiety and panic attacks.

I am somewhere in between a Type A and Type C personality (yes, there really is a Type C personality). I am highly driven and goal oriented, but I am also incredibly detail-oriented, a perfectionist, and fear criticism (all traits of Type C). Each of these personality types is susceptible to anxiety, panic, and depression.

This week during my session with my counselor, we talked a great deal about my fear of criticism and the way I react to seemingly insignificant triggers–blowing them out of proportion and treating them as if they’re the end of the world. I’ve been that way since I was a pretty young kid. I probably noticed it first around age 15 or 16.

While it’s impossible to say that these are the things that caused my anxiety and panic, it’s a pretty sure bet that they didn’t help minimize or prevent it. That’s why it is so important for people like me–for people like all of us who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks to take care of ourselves both physically and mentally.

But that’s not always easy to do….

Self-Care Isn’t Selfish

One of the things that I struggle with most is guilt. I feel guilty about many things; some of those things don’t even have anything to do with me–I just take them on as my own because…well, I guess I think I can worry about them better than someone else.

Because of those intense feelings of personal responsibility and guilt, I find it very difficult to take time out for myself. In fact, I’ve been thinking about this blog post for well over a week, but I couldn’t seem to bring myself to write it because there were so many other things that I “needed” to do.

The real problem with this is that when I get consumed with these feelings of guilt, I become completely ineffective, even in the things I feel responsible for. I shut down. I can’t get anything done at all, and that just intensifies that guilt all the more.

It is vital that we learn to take time for ourselves, even when it feels like the most selfish thing in the world to do!

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “Improving your relationship with yourself by maintaining your physical and mental health makes you more resilient, helping you weather hard times and enjoy good ones” (NAMI.org, 2018).

We are the only people who really know what we need in the way of care. We must advocate for ourselves, and we must be willing to endure criticism that comes our way when we choose to take care of ourselves.

That starts with learning to say “NO.”

No is not a dirty word. We’ve just been made to believe that by a society that, once upon a time, valued a sense of community, but which has now morphed into an increasingly codependent society, completely unhealthy and devoid of any emotional boundaries.

Saying no doesn’t mean you don’t care. It means you care enough to know when you’re too busy or too tired to really help.

Finding the Time and Tenacity to Get Well

I’m busy! We’re all busy! I don’t know anyone in my immediate circle of friends and family who isn’t going all day from sunup to sundown most days of the week. Finding a few minutes free during the day is hard enough, much less a few hours…and forget about a few days!

But, we must.

There is nothing more important to our mental health than our physical health. If our bodies are worn out and worn down; if they’re out of shape and out of sync with our lives then it is impossible to be mentally healthy.

Taking care of our physical bodies requires 3 important things:

  1. Healthy Food
  2. Water
  3. Adequate rest

I’ll write about food and water later, but for now I want to talk about rest.

Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep at night (NAMI, 2018). This can vary, of course, but as a general rule it’s true. I don’t know many people who get that much sleep at night, so NAMI also notes that a short nap (20-30 minutes) during the day can help us recharge if we didn’t get enough rest the night before.

Rest and relaxation are not optional! 

Maybe we can go for a while on 2 or 3 hours sleep. Maybe we can go for a while with never-ending schedules that have us meeting ourselves coming and going, but eventually we will wear outOur bodies will start to shut down and fail us. So, it’s important to find the time to rest and relax.

Be a pit bull!

As important as it is to find the time to rest and relax, it’s even more important to find the tenacity–to find that sense of dogged determination that leads us to do things we know that we need to do, but that the people around us tell us we just can’t do because it would be selfish.

HOGWASH! 

Don’t be a jerk about it, but be very clear that you need time to relax. Their problems, their issues, that work will still be there tomorrow and the world won’t end if it doesn’t get done today. Stand firm. Advocate for yourself!

If you don’t, who will?

Suggestions for Finding Time & Tenacity for Self-Care

  1. Schedule time to rest. No kidding, it’s as simple as that! Block out time on your calendar for rest and relaxation. Then, once you do, don’t book over it–EVER!
  2. Do things you enjoy doing on a regular basis. We all have things that we love to do. So…GO DO THEM! Just like rest, we need to block out time to do things that edify and enrich our lives. Schedule it if you must, but don’t book over it–EVER!
  3. Be assertive, but not aggressive. If you have someone who or something that is too demanding of your time, speak up for yourself. Don’t wait until you’re angry and resentful about it to say something. Rehearse what you’re going to say ahead of time (no, I’m serious), take that person aside, and tell them what you need and why you need it. If they care about you, they will understand. If not, then maybe you need to set some boundaries for that relationship.

Remember, it is not selfish to take care of yourself. In fact, it is the most natural human instinct we have. Unfortunately, our modern culture has beaten that instinct into submission, which has resulted in a society so wound up that we fight and argue about everything.

Take care of yourself so that you can take care of others! It is the right thing to do.

Until next time…

Love and light,
Jason

Tell me what you think. In the comments section below, share your thoughts about self-care. How do you practice it? What are some things you would suggest for others? Click in the “Leave a reply” box and leave your message there.


 

I hope these posts are helpful to you, whomever you may be. If you’re struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression, there is hope to be found. You can call the Panic Disorder Information Hotline at 800-64-PANIC (72642). (The page links to more information about anxiety and panic disorders.)

As always, if you or someone you know is suffering from any sort of mental illness or disorder, please reach out for help because there is help to be found!

Please share this post! Even if you don’t suffer, or don’t think you know anyone who does, you might just reach someone you didn’t even know and offer them HOPE! Thank you!!

Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 6: The Myth of Safety

In my previous posts in this series (links available at the end of this post), I’ve written a lot about many of the facets of my struggle with anxiety and panic attacks. But, one of the things I haven’t yet addressed is one of the myths that people who suffer with anxiety and panic attacks believe: the myth of safety.

As I’ve told you before, when I’m feeling anxious or having a panic attack, my first and strongest instinct is to flee the situation or the place I’m in, whether or not either has anything directly to do with the anxiety or panic. Even the most benign situations like sitting in a restaurant having a leisurely Sunday dinner with my family has ended with me getting up and leaving the table, either temporarily or permanently.

In those moments of panic, no matter when or where they are, I don’t feel safe. In my mind, getting out of that situation or space is the only safe thing to do. Once upon a time, home was the only safe place to be; and my family members were the only safe people I knew. When I felt panicked, I had to get home, or at the very least, I had to get near some family member. But, then, something awful happened.

Humans live through their myths and only endure their realities.

Robert Anton Wilson

After years of running when panic struck, panic followed me home! I started having panic attacks in my house and around my family; and worse than that, when I felt anxious away from home, running home didn’t fix it. The myth of safety that I’d constructed crumbled and I realized the truth…

There are no safe spaces and there are no safe people.

One of the things I’m struggling with on this road to wellness is rewriting the narrative in my head. Learning that the story I told myself for years is just that, a story; and learning that I am and must be my own safe person, and that whatever space I’m in is a safe space because I am in control of my thoughts, my emotions, and my reactions to whatever physical response my brain and body team up to produce. I’ll tell you that it’s not easy, but it can (and must) be done.

But, how does one go about completely rewriting that narrative that has existed for so long–in my case, for nearly 40 years? The answer is as practical as the answer I give my students when they ask what they need to do to revise and edit their writing: take out the words that don’t work and replace them with the ones that do!

Those of us who suffer with anxiety and panic attacks must retrain our brains to throw out all of the narrative that turned out to be a myth and to rewrite a new work, an autobiography, a true story of who we are and who we are meant to be.

For me, that means actually saying the new words out loud (or if the situation requires, internally):

  • This is anxiety. You know it is because you’ve experienced it before.
  • You are OK. You are not having a heart attack or a stroke. You are having a panic attack.
  • BREATHE! This will pass soon. Just let it be what it is, and let it run its course.
  • DON’T RUN!!! You are in control of this situation. No one else offers anymore safety than you. Nowhere else will be safer for you. DON’T RUN!

Not everyone requires that active level of verbal reinforcement, but most probably do–at least until we’ve retrained our brains and rewritten the narrative. Like I said, it’s’ not easy. It takes time and effort, and it won’t happen overnight. But, I believe it will happen. (Resource: The Power of Positive Self-Talk)

Talk to yourself like you would talk to someone you love.

In the end, it’s important to remember that, as adults, our individual safety and security rests solely in our own hands. We must learn that whatever space we are in is a safe space because we are in control and we are our own safe people.


I hope these posts are helpful to you, whomever you may be. If you’re struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression, there is hope to be found. You can call the Panic Disorder Information Hotline at 800-64-PANIC (72642). (The page links to more information about anxiety and panic disorders.)

As always, if you or someone you know is suffering from any sort of mental illness or disorder, please reach out for help because there is help to be found!

Please share this post! Even if you don’t suffer, or don’t think you know anyone who does, you might just reach someone you didn’t even know and offer them HOPE! Thank you!!


Previous Posts in this Series:

Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 1
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 2
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 3
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 4
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 5