living with anxiety…

When I was growing up as a shy, introverted, and mostly-nervous girl, the word anxiety wasn’t something I heard often. It wasn’t acknowledged or discussed as much as it is these days. But later on – as an adult looking back – I could see how anxiety was always part of my life, always something I struggled against, always something I tried to work around.

And always something I lived with.

During periods of time (sometimes long periods), thanks to combinations of life circumstances and anxiety-reducing-or-coping tools, the anxiety eases a little or a lot. There have been times it hasn’t been much of a struggle at all… And I can’t begin to express how grateful I am for those times.

But mostly, it is there. Mostly, my life has been spent living with anxiety – in spite of all the tools and techniques, the faith journey, the oh-so-many prayers, the coping mechanisms.

And sometimes, the anxiety roars to the surface with a vengeance. The past several years have contained a lot of that. Not constantly or unremittingly. But enough to majorly impact my life.

A couple of weeks ago, I put this on my instagram:

Today looks and feels beautiful, with blue sky and sunshine and 70-something warmth. This was book club day, and there was pizza and brownies and book-talk and general-talk and soooo much hearty laughter. It was good. So good. I’m glad I went, although I was back-and-forth about whether to go or just stay home, and my indecision continued until I actually left the house.

I almost didn’t go because of anxiety – I’ve been going to book club since early last summer, and it’s easier now than the very first time but it’s still not easy. Social anxiety is a real thing. And I almost didn’t go because of symptoms flaring from this long-slow-gradual-med-taper. But my ultimate decision was to go, to get out of the house, breathe some fresh air, feel the sunshine, and enjoy the talk and food and laughter and company of book club.

Some days I can’t go out, even if I want to. But today I could, and I did. And I’m so glad.

When I wrote “some days I can’t go out, even if I want to” I’m referring to health challenges I’ve had for a few years now. Those health issues have led to increased isolation because of not being able to get out as much – and those health issues, plus the increased isolation, have fueled the anxiety… including the social anxiety and agoraphobia-type anxiety, which, in turn, make it more difficult to go out even at times when the physical issues aren’t flaring up.

This sort of thing can become a vicious cycle. And that’s what I’ve been faced with for the last while.

If anyone tells you anxiety isn’t a real problem – or that you should simply be able to get over it, or think more positively, or pray harder (or better) – I’d say that person has never dealt with a true anxiety problem, and has never experienced life with having (or a close loved one having) an anxiety disorder.

The struggle is real.

But when I have those times of inner calm with no anxious edges…  when I can find laughter and love in spite of the struggle…  when I’m able to focus on the joy more than the fear…

I take deep breaths of gratitude.

And I hold on as long as I can.

 

finding the joy connections…

So it’s been a while.

No real excuses other than life happening. And life right now – even with some wonderful times – is a challenge in various ways.  The need for self-care is high, and self-care can look like many different things, and can vary at different times.

One way I’m tapping into self-care is consciously finding what I call the joy connections.

Joy connections are those things, even tiny or seemingly unremarkable things, that connect me with joy.

One very small example that relates to this blog is making the decision to change my tagline and switch my header font color back to blue – because it’s my absolute favorite color, and looking at it brings me joy.

Another joy connection for me is painting. I’ve been deliberately making the space and the choice to spend time at the easel. Because painting on large canvases grounds me, calms me, and brings me joy.

Joy connection for me definitely involves those I love.

Including our sweet kitty…

And I’ve been remembering and reconnecting with things I love, things I used to do, but have put away or pushed aside – or somehow thought I couldn’t have in my life anymore.

Like our old 35mm film camera.

I always loved using this camera so much. Whether changing lenses, or focusing, or simply just holding it in my hands and the feel of it, this camera always made me feel connected to my creativity and to my joy.

But for years, this camera has been put away. Just because it’s not digital.

And then a couple of weeks ago while I was telling a friend in a text about how I never used this camera anymore, it hit me: There’s absolutely no reason for me to stop using something I love, something that’s brought me so much joy.

No reason at all. Sure, it’s less convenient than digital. But the point is the joy it gives me.

So I got the camera out of its case, put in new batteries and film, got reacquainted with its various lenses and settings… and now it’s part of my life again.

It’s a little thing to give myself permission to get out a put-away object I love, and start using it again.

It’s a little thing to take just a few minutes to stand at the canvas and paint a few strokes.

It’s a little thing to give our kitty a cuddle or reach out to hold my husband’s hand.

But sometimes it’s those little things that can connect us with deep joy.

Being aware of what brings joy – and then consciously, deliberately, intentionally bringing those things into a day or a week – it can make such a difference.

And this is one way self-care looks. By choosing to find (and make) those joy connections.

printable (free!) – weekly writing plan…

Late yesterday afternoon, I finished the draft of the novel I’m writing. (Yay!!)

The book isn’t done yet – revisions are the next step – and I’m a firm believer, and know from experience, that rewriting and revising are key. And since I happen to love the process of rewriting and revising,  I’m looking forward to getting down to work on this next phase of the project.

A few weeks ago, I set a deadline for myself to finish this draft by the end of December. I didn’t have a daily goal of word counts or hours. I simply had the date of December 31 in sight. And I met that goal.

For me, it’s often helpful to keep my writing deadlines and goals on the “loose” side of things. (I’ll probably talk more about that in a future post.) Because of this, I didn’t use any sort of detailed tracking sheet.

But – for some writers (and sometimes for me, depending on the project) a written-down, scheduled, tracked way to keep up with the writing process and progress is definitely the way to go when it comes to working on, and finishing, a novel, nonfiction book, article, short story, or blog post.

That’s why I put together this free printable, a Weekly Writing Plan to keep track of writing goals and to-do’s for the week, as well as your daily progress.

The file is in .pdf format. All you need to do is download it for the paper size you want to use (there’s no charge, no strings attached, nothing to sign up for, no need to give your email address) – and then print it as many times as you need, to cover as many weeks as you want.

The Weekly Writing Plan pdf in US letter size is here.

The Weekly Writing Plan pdf in A4 size is here.

The Weekly Writing Plan pdf in A5 size is here.

If you’d like to check out my other free printables, you can find them here.

Happy writing!