As someone who spends a great deal of time catastrophising, (e.g. imagining the worst possible outcome). It’s always a novelty when the irrational predictions bouncing around my brain turn out to be accurate.
Watching the PM’s announcement with regard to Coronavirus, I must admit, a part of me thought; Finally! Finally, my anxiety was right. It has indeed all gone tits up! Whose being dramatic now BITCH!
Also, as someone who prefers her own company, you’d think the government imposed lockdown would be a dream. Yet in contrast, it’s starting to grate on me. The whole experience takes me back to school holidays as a teenager. Great for a week… then things start to get stale, as boredom kicks in. Plus, it’s not as if I can ‘knock-on’ for my mates and hang out at the library. (No joke, that’s what I did when the other teens were drinking WKD in the ASDA car park).
The most hazardous part of isolation is that it leads to overthinking. Or as I like to call it ‘brain crack for people with anxiety.’ An endless amount of time to indulge, analyse and question.
Yesterday, for example, I got caught up in the following cycle;
F**K ‘Green Wing’ is a good TV show – Maybe that’s what I should’ve done career-wise.. become a hospital doctor. Have I wasted my life? – What am I even doing with my life? – What about my marriage, is that ok? Dan seems distant today. Does he still love me? Do I still love him? Was I even meant to get married? Or have I just fallen into the trappings of conventional adulthood? – At eighteen I imagined adopting by myself. A single mother living in Paris. Is it too late to move to Paris? Do they rent there or buy? – Why am I thinking about this sh** now? – Am I actually a horrendous person and just not realised? – My tax is due soon – Need to log that – What if I’ve been doing it wrong for years? – What if the taxman decides to make an example out of me and prosecute – how would I survive in prison? – What gang would I join? – what if I can’t think of anything interesting to say when presented to the head of the gang? – What if I start blushing or vomit? – God, I feel sick now. – Sh** is that a symptom of Coronavirus?
FORTY-FIVE SODDING MINUTES I WAS STUCK IN THIS THOUGHT STORM!
Recognise and re-direct
Even with all of my experience, I still fall into the trappings of anxiety at times… and that’s ok. I liken it to stubbing one’s toe – i.e it CAN and WILL happen multiple times in life and no amount of prep or research can prevent it… and there’s no shame in that.
While thought storms (overthinking) are natural, they’re also distressing and a pointless use of energy. Not to mention the negative impact they have on the mood.
- Positive self talk – once you realise that you’re caught in a thought storm DON’T berate yourself. Instead, think; Ah ok, it’s happened again. No worries, this is normal. I’m not weak, or pathetic, I just live with anxiety.
Self-anger and criticism feed mental illness. So be kind. Check out my post on self-criticism.
- Move – If you’re on the couch, get up and move. Ideally, run your hands under cold water for thirty seconds. The brain can only prioritise one activity at a time, so a sudden movement or change in temperature/sensation can jolt it off track. Star jumps are my personal favourite.
- Distract – I’ve become slightly obsessed with the Nintendo RingFit. Gaming is an excellent distraction technique.
However, distraction can be anything (legal) you like. Think about what might engage you in advance, so that you can deploy when the overthinking strikes. I like knitting too, reading out loud (seriously it works) and playing the ‘accent’ game with Dan – Which is exactly what it sounds like btw. You choose a random sentence and take it in turns to do as many accents as you can. BOOM!
- Purge – If the same thoughts persist in circulating, then grab a piece of paper and write them down. Don’t think, just write, (or use your phone if you’d rather). It might seem like an effort, but you’d be surprised at how cathartic this is. Think – emptying an overflowing bin. Thoughts are easier to rationalise on paper. Check out this CBT thought chart exercise.
Happy isolation everyone. Don’t be a d**k. Avoid any unnecessary risks, stay safe and be kind to yourselves.