So many of us are loaded with stressors. Maybe we’re not excited about what we’re doing; we may take on certain tasks because this behavior is modeled to us from early on in our lives. For example, we may have learned that one parent stays at work for what seems like ages, while the other parent drowns in chores and errands and parenting; it may seem that this person who does a wonderful job caring for others has no personal time. This can make it easier for you to later fall into similar patterns telling yourself “a good caregiver works as much as it takes to provide,” or “with so much to do, there is no time for rest.” The problem with these messages is that they cause us to sacrifice part of ourselves in the process.
So how do we take care of ourselves? Hopefully, you have a list of things you enjoy, have time for, and make happen. For those of us struggling with anxiety, though, I fear we have a difficult time getting our own needs met. Some of this may be due to ingrained messages that involve tons of responsibilities. Some may be due to not knowing how to best address our own needs or even our own doubt with internal messages like “Do I really deserve ____ (fill in the blank with whatever needs or want that may come up)?”
If you don’t have that list, please don’t hesitate to make one. You deserve it. What might be on it?
One of the most simple pleasures for me is alone/quiet time. It may be an hour or less, but I love it. Maybe it’s a chance to watch that TV show you save but don’t get to. Maybe it’s a chance to read: the newspaper, a good book, magazine, whatever. Reading seems to be sacrificed for many, because Facebook or another online activity commands so much of our attention. Maybe your downtime occurs while riding in the car or on a bus or at any other time, as you wait for the next thing to happen.
Here are a few ideas:
- Collecting (beads, buttons, pennies, old stamps, etc.)
- Arts and crafts
- Model building
- Cooking—try new recipes (If you worry about eating too much, give some to your neighbors. They may love it). This can also be a wonderful way to connect and make more friends.
- Attending church—includes support groups they may offer
- Visiting coffee shops—many smaller ones have books to read, games to play, and relaxing music to enjoy.
- Crossword puzzles—every so often, I’ll grab a magazine with a puzzle in it and have at it.
- Volunteering—I know the good feelings I receive in helping out is worth the work.
- Educational/hobby classes—each city around here puts out a monthly/quarterly magazine with classes (some one-time, some maybe for a month or so) on anything from computers to cooking, sports, etc.
- Gardening—either at home or at a local garden where volunteers come together to tend a garden and the food is donated to local families in need.
- Movies/concerts in the park—these neat activities are often free and widespread. It’s important to get out, even if you aren’t interested as much in the particular band or movie.
If you feel too busy to make any of this happen, there is a major problem. Feeling too busy won’t relieve your anxiety. When it comes to lightening our angst, think lightening your load. We can achieve this by examining all the responsibilities you currently have (and I’m not talking only about work or chores), as well as adding in more of the good stuff, such as activities you enjoy.
Get detailed when looking at your current responsibilities. Write them out. Things like running someone else’s errands, taking on more at work, with community, or school groups, doing things in what you or others may think is in excess, and so forth, all count. Outline how much time these things take—and be honest, asking yourself, “Do I truly have to do all these things? Can I do them some of the time or maybe one less time to allow myself time for a little fun (maybe one of those activities I claim I don’t have time for)?” You don’t even have to create big chunks of time, just half an hour here and there. Beware though. If you start making the time for yourself, you may hunger for it and want more. Not such a terrible thing, I say. Taking care of ourselves in this way helps bring down anxiety levels.
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Stuart A. Kaplowitz, MFT, therapist in Chino, California
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