The Other Side of Anxiety: What ALSO is…

When the outside world seems so uncertain, anxiety rears its ugly head. For those who already have underlying struggles with anxiety, it seems almost unmanageable. I wish I could say you’re the only one. I wish I could say I don’t know how you feel. Both would be a lie.

Living my entire life with OCD (which is usually accompanied by anxiety), I’ve learned coping strategies when times like these hit. No, it’s not easy. No, it isn’t a one size fits all. However, there’s a common denominator amongst us anxiety warriors. We focus on the WHAT IF, and only ONE SIDE of the WHAT IS. But what about the “other side”? The what ALSO IS. Allow me to explain…

Given the current emotional chaos that COVID-19 has caused, let’s use it as my first example. This may trigger anxiety, but try to trust me with where I’m going with it. For many of us, we’re afraid that we might get the virus, and furthermore…die from it. We’re afraid for our loved ones getting sick as well. Understandable? Of course. Because of our anxiety, we are focusing on the WHAT IF, and ONE SIDE of the WHAT IS that exists – people are getting sick and, yes, some are dying.

You want to know what ALSO is?

I have an extended family member (that I am not living with) that tested positive for COVID-19. Guess what? She’s alive, and on her way to recovery – as are many others. As I write this article, there are a total of 103,321 cases in the US, and 1,668 deaths (CDC.gov). So, clearly there are many infected who are also surviving the virus. Anxiety doesn’t want to focus on that, because it doesn’t affirm our fears – and that’s how anxiety thrives. So, it’s critical to not leave out the “What ALSO is”.

Now, let’s talk cancer – another fear of many. Self disclosure – it’s one of my triggers. My anxiety focuses on death, chemo, side effects, financial stress of being out of work, etc. Is any of that valid? Yup! But you know what ALSO IS? The fact that I have several friends and family members who have cancer, and are functioning. I know people who have gone through chemo, and somehow managed to ALSO get through their days – some even stayed at work. Most of those who I know who have had cancer, survived it and are still cancer-free. Anxiety won’t focus on that, though. It’s not scary enough. I mean, how can our brains protect us from what COULD happen, if we are only focusing on what actually IS happening? (rhetorical and massively sarcastic).

How about body image? So many of us have a fear of being viewed as unattractive if we don’t have that Instagram body. We look at cellulite, loose skin, stretch marks, and a lack of abs as if we’re automatically off the market for being attractive. Are there people who are not attracted to those things? Sure! You know what ALSO IS? There’s a gazillion different body types, and miraculously most of us are found to be desirable by someone else – even if we never know about it. But again, anxiety isn’t interested in focusing on what brings us peace – only what creates an utter mind fuck. Am I right?

We get it, anxiety – bad things can happen. Thanks for the heads up (eye roll). It’s human nature to fear the worst. However, I’ve learned that most of the time it’s more of a protective measure, than a productive one. So, even when all of this blows over…and it will…try to remember that there will always be a “What ALSO is”, and it deserves just as much, if not more, attention than anything else.

From the Boxing Ring to the Bedroom: Couples and COVID-19

fighting couple angry marriage

There is no beating around the bush here. Being held hostage in your home with your partner is no walk in the park. And, if you’re like me, you also have kids to (pretend to) homeschool, all while working and trying to keep everyone alive. Nothing about this situation screams sexy. As a matter of fact, everything seems like ONE. BIG. LIBIDO. BLOCKER. Sound familiar? You’re not alone.

When disaster happens in life, regardless of what it is, we tend to focus all of our energy on it, and neglect everything else…even our relationships. It’s sort of backwards, considering what we need MOST right now are our relationships – intimate, and platonic. So, how do we stay connected to our partners during a time of high stress and internal (and external) chaos? Here are a few tips.

  1. Carve out time for yourself, without your partner. I know it seems counterproductive, but living on top of each other is more of a desire smasher than you think. Absence makes the loins grow fonder…or is it heart? or both? Color, paint your nails, shave, take a hot bath, read, clean out your closet, watch Netflix, etc. If you have kids, take turns doing this.
  2. If you have children, keeping life as “normal” as possible will not only help them with their anxiety, but also you with yours. Getting them to sleep at the regular time gives you and your partner time alone. This leads me to my next tip…
  3. Make time to connect. To be honest, if your sex drive isn’t off the charts right now, (understandable) do something together that doesn’t necessarily involve sex. Maybe watch a movie together. Laugh at your favorite YouTube clips. Play a fun couples question game (there are thousands online). Set up an adult friend virtual hangout on Skype, Zoom, or Facebook messenger!
  4. Communicate. Holy hell, communicate. Everyone deals with anxiety and fear differently – especially within heterosexual relationships. What may come out as anger, might really be underlying anxiety, fear, or overwhelm. Sometimes just checking in with your partner is a nice opening to a vulnerable conversation. Something as easy as, “Hey – how are you holding up with all of this? I know we haven’t talked about our personal feelings much. Is there anything I can do to help you (and ultimately us) get through this with less anxiety?” Especially with kids, we tend to focus on how they are adjusting, and we forget that adults are just as impacted by the disruption in our “normal” life.
  5. If your sex drive is there but you require a bit more to get in the mood due to so many blockers, you can use this time to up your game! Buy a new toy! (Bellesa is having a 20% off sale right now, but when it’s over you can always use my code NINA15 for 15% off AND free shipping! Just sayin’…). Try out a new genre of porn together. Read erotica. Write your own erotica and share it with your partner (this can be super hot, by the way.) If you are both still working, or not together for any reason, sexting is a big YES in my book. Just make sure your partner is ok with receiving messages of that nature while at work (NSFW, anyone?).
  6. Try to get some exercise. Yes, sex is exercise, but beyond that, too! Go for a walk, do some fun YouTube dance fitness classes, hell – some of these TikTok fads I’m seeing are practically cardio!

Bottom line is this – give yourself a break, go easy on yourself, and go easy on your partner(s). It’s all one big cluster fu*% at the moment, and we may be here for a little bit before things settle. Anytime there is a disruption in our norm, our brain spazzes out a bit. It’s OK. It’s Friday – grab a drink with your partner tonight and do something after the kids go to sleep. If you’re sober, nix the drink and do the rest. After all, we really are all in this together.

Dear Human Beings…

I see you. I hear you. I know you. I AM you. 

Dear human beings who suffer from anxiety-related mental health struggles:

Often times when events happen that make the news, or are splattered all over social media, we start to spiral – be it school shootings, medical emergencies, natural disasters, celebrity deaths, etc. Sometimes, what’s happening around us may not even be a specific trigger for us, yet we find ourselves struggling more than usual with anxiety, obsessive thoughts, or depression. 

You see, anxiety folks tend to have triggers – specific things that just “hit different” than others. Some have a hard time going to crowded places. Others may have restaurant-specific anxiety. Some might fear heights, clowns, spiders, dogs, flying, death, certain illnesses, etc. The list goes on. 

What can be confusing to those with anxiety (and certainly those without), is why a random natural disaster, for example, in another country would cause anxiety to someone here in small town USA? Let me try to help provide a visual that I explained to someone today. 

People who live with anxiety typically spend OONGOTZ (might be a fake Italian term?) amount of time subconsciously trying to keep their anxiety at bay. Picture your “regular anxiety triggers” protected in the middle of a circular brick enclosure. These are the things that you are used to causing you anxiety. No surprises here. 

When bad “stuff” happens in the world outside of the enclosure, it’s as if rocks are being thrown at the bricks. After a while of that enclosure being battered, it starts to crumble. This leaves your regular triggers vulnerable and exposed. 

You may not be responding directly to the event that happened in the world (i.e. the Corona virus), but the event caused your regular triggers to become exposed and irritated. 

So, if you find yourself experiencing your anxiety triggers more than usual, if your obsessive thoughts (even if completely unrelated to the world’s events) have sky rocketed, if your depression seems to be more painful lately than normal, understand you’re not alone. 

In times like these, I encourage self care more than normal. Step away from social media, binge watch Netflix, read a good book, color, write, self-pleasure (yes, I mean it), bake, or engage in any other activity that helps you REBUILD. 

It’s ok to get knocked down. It’s ok to not be ok. But then we rest, we wipe our tears, we dust ourselves off, and we ride again…

Xoxoxo 

Nina

I Guess I Wasn’t a Good Mom…

mom guilt wine crayons

I guess I wasn’t a good Mom.

Snow days on social media would wreck my soul. I would see parents doing arts and crafts, sleigh riding, and all of the other things that “good Moms” do. I couldn’t stand the thought of having to get all dressed up in a snow suit, only to come back in 5 minutes later. 

I guess I wasn’t a good Mom. 

Parents taking kids on vacations and day trips, and posting about how amazing it was. I would get stressed at the thought of even packing for a vacation, let alone actually enjoying one. I stressed about the possible car sickness, the fighting in the back seat, the 800th “Are we there yet?”. 

I guess I wasn’t a good Mom. 

Article after article about screen time and how “horrible” it was for brain development, yet that is how I was able to get work done, cook dinner, and frankly – exhale for a bit. 

I guess I wasn’t a good Mom. 

Kids going to the local beach every day in town, and I made up some ridiculous reason why we couldn’t. I didn’t want to deal with all that went along with the planning and execution of a beach trip with two young kids on my own (my husband was working). (side note – much easier now that they are older!)

I guess I wasn’t a good Mom. 

I was drowning in Mom guilt to the point where it was impacting my relationship with myself, my kids, and even my husband! I was a mess, and something needed to change. This couldn’t POSSIBLY be what was expected to be a “good Mom”. This is not how I grew up, yet I had fallen into society’s expectations of how I should Mom, and it wasn’t matching up with how I NATURALLY Mommed…you feel me?

So, I made a huge shift. I dug deep. I went to therapy. 

I. WOKE. UP. 

I woke up to how I wanted to Mom. I woke up to accepting how I showed up as a Mom, even though it may not look like anything I saw on social media. I woke up to the CRITICAL ways my own parents showed up for me, and saw that I am showing up exactly the same for my kids. And…I turned out pretty Ok.

Much love,

Nina