I Have Never Had Much Luck with Self-Talk Until Now

I have a 35 years plus history of bipolar illness and I have never had much luck with self-talk. It used to feel like I was just putting a drop in the proverbial bucket when I would tell myself that my anxiety was destructive and not needed and I could do without.

Then somehow something changed quite recently and I don’t know precisely what that was or is.

Up to a week or so ago, I have decided not to let waking thoughts of anxiety over-influence my day. I have given myself (as a goal) coffee time and coffee time alone as the time when I can feel anxious. After that hour or so, I have told myself and keep telling myself there is no more room for anxiety.

Also during this time I have begun to get a two mile walk in almost every day of the week with my husband and my puppy. The two mile walk is also helping a great deal with the anxiety.

In terms of telling myself there is no room for anxiety in my day I have also had somewhat of a revelation (for me). The more time I feel being anxious the less time I spend enjoying life and the relationships in my life. The more I let anxiety in the less room there is for building relationships and experiencing pleasure and joy in my life. There is only so much I can experience in a day. If I am experiencing anxiety, I am not experiencing love, joy, companionship, well-being or success.

That said, it is easier for me to accept self-talk when I am replacing one behavior or one thought with another. Not sure why? I have never really been able to do away with a negative thought before it occurs (or after it occurs). But I find if I can substitute a new thought for an old thought, my self-talk is that much more effective. Instead of wishing anxiety away, I am trying to replace anxiety with the thought that I am not getting any younger and my days to live in love and joy are limited. If I allow anxiety to be infinite and all-encompassing I am robbing myself of love and of life.

And I am not getting any younger. At fifty-nine I feel like I am coming to terms with my own mortality and am more able to tell myself, this (life full of anxiety) is not how you want to live out the rest of your days. This (life full of anxiety) is not the legacy you wish to leave your child or your family. Even if the change away from anxiety is small, it makes a huge difference in my life and in the lives of others. I don’t need anxiety to rob me of my good days. Not any more.

For whatever reasons, this self-talk appears to be working now and has not really worked that well in the past over the years. I think it does have something to do with confronting my own mortality and realizing the time for feeling anxious is over. It is time to feel love and joy. I also think the two-mile walk most days of the week is helping tremendously. Hoorah for high energy pups needing a walk!

How does self-talk work for you? How does regular exercise work for you? If self-talk hasn’t worked that well in the past, do you feel it might work if you try substituting the old thought or the old behavior with a new one? What might help you to start or keep at an exercise regime?

Some days

Some days my anxiety gets the best of me. I have to forgive myself for this and strive again to do better in the future.

I have been journaling my walking and my anxiety levels and it does appear anxiety is worse if I don’t get a walk in. Which comes first the chicken or the egg – I am not sure. Do I feel more anxiety because I have not been on a walk? Or do I not go on a walk because I am feeling anxious?

In any case, the addition of walks to my daily routine is favorable and appears in general to have favorable outcomes – with today being an exception.

Today though I could not let go of my anxiety about my daughter’s wellbeing. This comes at a time when my mother is going in for cataract surgery and I can’t be there because it involves driving across town at 5:00am when my evening meds are still strong in my system. I have had to say no to my ability to pick up my Mom at 5:30am to drive her to the hospital at 6:00am.

This makes me feel guilty that I cannot care for my Mom. It makes me aware of my own limitations in terms of being able to get outside of my regular routine. I am good with routine – horrible without it. I know I am taking care of my health and safety and the safety of others, but I still feel inadequate about it.

To boot, the anxiety about my Mom seems to overflow into anxiety about my daughter and vice versa. I guess you could call this poor boundaries setting at the moment. Realizing they’re not there or not strong — the boundaries — makes me feel even more inadequate.

All in all, I feel like chucking this up to a bad day. Tomorrow will be better I hope and maybe I will go on a longer walk rather than just a short one.

Are to-do lists helpful to you?

For the last week or so, I have been keeping a list of items that I need to do to keep a household running like going for a blood test, picking up meds, picking up meds for my dog and so on. The list is not particularly long. I am not listing out every single thing on my bucket list, but I am including those things I must do to run a household as well as some other non-essentials. For example, this morning I awoke (late) and rested and felt ready to tackle cutting the grass in the back yard. The grass was really long so this took several starts and stops to complete – literally. But complete it I did! And better yet, I marked it off my list! All of a sudden I feel empowered by doing one small thing on my to-do list. I would be curious if other people find this approach helpful to structuring these long unstructured days. What I hope I can avoid is putting too many items on the to-do list or putting really difficult items on the list. I do not want to psyche myself out with too much on the list. Just make a short relatively easy list so I have some easy “wins.” Maybe putting a healthy meal on the table for myself and my family each day. Taking the dog for a short walk. Or taking myself for a short walk. Anything that is constructive that I can cross off my list with relative ease.