We celebrated successes such as crossing the finish line…
But there was always time for Voo Doo Doughtnuts…
On to 2012. Have a Happy New Year!
While the holidays bring joy and good tidings, the long winter days that follow can breed anxiety and depression. It was in early January sixteen years ago that I recognized my own struggles with anxiety and began a long journey with twists and turns to healing and recovery. I am grateful for the people who spurred me on and had tremendous amounts of patience. I was not always easy to love (or like).
Those of us who struggle with anxiety see the world through a completely different lens. There are times we see things covered in a shade of gray. Or the event was upsetting to us we can only see feelings. It is like we take our emotions to the greatest extreme.
Before I sought help with my anxiety I was assigned to sell Christmas candy in the entrance of the dormitory next to mine. It was a dorm fundraiser and each person that was on the activities committee had to take turns. We were forbidden to sell by ourselves–we were required to have a partner with us. The idea of asking someone to help me was intimidating. While someone might have been a little nervous or shy, I was completely terrified. Those who know me understand I am not normally a shy person and quite extroverted. I asked two girls on my floor and neither were able to help me. This caused me to have an emotional breakdown. My suitemate found me curled up on the couch in my dorm room crying. She helped me find someone to assist with the candy selling project. She lovingly told me, “Amy this kind of reaction you are having is not normal.”
When sadness turns to deep despair or disappointment becomes rage or nervousness changes into intense fear, I know I am dealing with anxiety. Most of the time I am not seeing the situation through a healthy lens.
Anxiety ridden people like myself like to control the situation because we feel like we are going to lose control. There were times my mind raced with thoughts and I cannot focus on anything but the thoughts themselves. A few years ago I was dealing with a situation at work that was causing me intense anxiety. It was a Saturday and Rob and I were Christmas shopping together at the mall. I was not myself. I was on the verge of tears and irritable. Rob said, “Can’t you just put it out of your mind and enjoy Christmas shopping? It’s Saturday. You don’t have to work today.” But I couldn’t. I didn’t know how.
I learned through cognitive therapy to pick apart negative thoughts that are the root of anxiety. I learned to see them what they really are–something the anxious brain has a difficult time doing. I am still learning and continuing to deal with these very same things in my life today.
The show Addicted which is a TLC program features individuals struggling with substance abuse. They are supported by an interventionist named Kristin Wandzilak who is a former alcohol and drug addict. In Episode 4, she is dealing with Alissa, an addict. One of Alissa’s relatives keeps saying she can quit. That drinking IS a choice. Kristen responds by saying:
“It’s so baffling…someone with a brain like you would never be able to relate to a brain like mine. Alcohol responds differently in my body than it does in yours.”
Now I am not an alcoholic or a drug addict. But I can relate to this quote. My brain and body respond differently to upsetting events than other people. I have had to accept that is who I am. I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Just like the alcoholic, compulsive gambler, spender etc. have to find healthy ways to deal with their addictions, I have to find healthy ways to combat my anxiety. Some days it is relatively easy and others it is an intentional battle in my mind.
There is hope. There are days I literally repeat Paul’s words about not being anxious about anything but by prayer and petition presenting your requests to God (Philippians 4:16) over and over and over. I am reminded I do not need to control the situation and I am not going to lose control because HE is in control.
It is nearing January. Everyone wants to work off those holiday pounds. I went on Weight Watchers after my third child was born and it was an education on food and calories. Now I am using My Fitness Pal. This is what I used to believe…
1) Changing my eating habits should be relatively easy: It took me ten years to fully give up regular soda such as Mountain Dew and Coca cola. I went as long as one year without drinking it. I tried everything to give it up. What helped me was going on Weight Watchers and seeing how many points a regular Mountain Dew is…and how much of my daily calorie intake it was consuming.
2) I need to eat until I feel full…In America we walk out of a restaurant feeling “stuffed.” It’s normal to eat a large appetizer, a double portion meal followed by dessert at a family restaurant. But most people in other countries do not eat this way. When I spent four months in Indonesia, one of the missionaries shared that we do not need to eat until we are full. A sweet potato and a small bowl of soup was enough. It took some getting used to. I felt healthier and slowly the hunger cravings went away as my body adjusted.
3) Eating healthy will require me to eat strange foods and snack on celery and carrots… Just like the compulsive spender has no idea how much money he spent, the reckless snacker (my struggle!) has no idea how many calories she consumed. Using a measuring cup and teaspoons has helped me find adequate portion sizes…and kept me from eating until I am stuffed. I still struggle, but it is a constant learning process.
4) If I train for a marathon I’ll lose all kinds of weight…including my mid section…The problem us runners have is we run and run and run and build up our mileage. Then we run to the bakery and pick up a giant doughtnut because we are hungry! I feel like when I am training for any race, my hunger level increases. What happens is we lose weight from the running, but we gain calories from the extra food consumed. And then we break even. When I trained for my first long race (a 25K) I did lose a few pounds. My legs became very muscular. But my mid section hardly changed at all. I told my husband my body was all out of proportion. Cardio like running, biking, and swimming is great! It has helped me to include some weights, yoga, kick boxing, aerobics, abdominal workouts etc.
5) I can devote more time to exercise once all my kids are in school…I know many young moms who are doing triathlons, marathons, teaching aerobics or working out to videos in their own homes on a regular basis. What a great example they are setting for their kids! This morning my oldest did fifteen minutes of a kick boxing video with me. My two-year old hugged my legs as I did crunches. I want my children to love being active and eating healthy.
I have to remember that eating healthy and weight loss is a journey–not a destination. Situations arise that keep us from being able to exercise or our eating gets out of control. It’s a matter of lacing up your running shoes and starting a new routine and setting new goals…which I have had to do over and over and over again.
I truly believe life runs smoother when we set goals. It is amazing how chaotic and directionless my days get when I fail to make a to-do list (or make one and don’t follow it). I love the holidays, but never liked the constant craziness and running from one activity to the next. I have a history of crashing mentally after Christmas and then not recovering until March.
This holiday season I set goals to keep me from going “bah-humbug.” Aside from a few anxiety ridden days, it went SO MUCH better than previous years. It also helps having kids that are slightly older. I had two Christmases in the past five years where I had a newborn in the house and a toddler.
Here’s my previous goals…and my results.
1. I will not turn on the 24/7 Christmas music station until the day after Thanksgiving AT THE EARLIEST. Yes, this music pumps me up, but it starts to drive me wacky to the point I despise it.
I had it on most of the time when I was home or in the car. But the Christmas tunes did not start until the Black Friday shopping excursion in the van. occasionally I took breaks and had the alternative rock station on or Talk Radio.
2. I will not complain about my husband’s busy work schedule especially because Christmas falls on a Sunday this year which means one less church service to lead.
When Christmas falls on a Sunday, it makes it super nice for pastors and pastor families. I guess we need to enjoy it while we can. Christmas will not fall on a Sunday until the year 2016.
3. I will try to exercise at least 3-5 times a week during the month of December
Not only did I exercise at least three times a week, but I started pre-training for a marathon I hope to run in June. My husband and I acknowledge we have been snacking recklessly since Halloween. I had somewhat of a meltdown trying on jeans in a dressing room last week. I decided to utilize My Fitness Pal to help regulate my eating. For me it is not about the pounds lost or fitting into a tight pair of jeans–it’s portion control and NOT finding comfort from sweet snacks.
4. I will begin to pack for our Christmas vacation to the Midwest at least five days in advance.
I started packing yesterday!
5. I will do some sort of giving project with my kids.
Our local public schools provide healthy lunches during Christmas & Spring Break to families in need. This is also sponsored by a food share charitable organization and several businesses. The school in our neighborhood was providing this service. They also set up board games, books, coloring sheets, and Christmas crafts for the kids to do. It is a service provided for all kids ages 0 – 18 regardless of what school they attend. My oldest daughter and I helped the first day. It was a smaller crowd, but we helped make reindeer pencils. Then I took all three of my kids the Thursday before Christmas. We played Santa and passed out gifts donated from Starbucks. My oldest daughter played Play dough with some girls. My son jumped right into of a game of monster trucks with some older boys. I greatly enjoyed talking with some kids, young people, and moms from the community. I loved doing a community project with all three of my kids!
6. I will stay home from a holiday party if I am already drained and exhausted…
I had to miss one party because of my husband’s evening work schedule. I was a little disappointed at first. But I was so tired that night that I fell asleep before 10 PM. So maybe I needed the extra rest.
7. I will start working on my handmade gifts in mid November (already started on them!)
We got everything done in time. It helped I had to do a presentation on handmade gifts at my mom’s group in early December. That was a good motivation to get things done. I did make three different photo calendars this year. Which got a little crazy trying to complete them all before the coupons expired, but I managed to complete it in time.
8. I will do a special holiday related activity with each of my children. I did this last year and it was the highlight of my Christmas season.
I took my son to Five Guys Burger and Fries –one of his favorite restaurants. We visited a Christmas lights display and he got to visit Santa Claus. I took my older daughter to see Arthur’s Christmas which I totally recommend. Loved it! I took my younger daughter to a coffee shop that has toddler toys and a play area. These special outings are always highlights for me during Christmas Break.
9. I will do the Advent Calendar with my children. I will not be overly hard on myself if we miss a few days.
Even amidst our busy holiday season and numerous nights out, we managed to do the Advent Calendar most nights we were home. Aside from a little bickering about who got to eat the candy, it made the meaning of Advent come alive. My oldest especially asked great questions about the Nativity.
10. I will watch National lampoons Christmas Vacation with Rob even though I have seen it at least 27 times…
We watched it Friday night! I think it was more funny hearing my daughter say, “Is this a true story?”
I was looking for some ways to display Christmas card pictures. We used to wallpaper our fridge with pictures…and leave them up all year-long until the following Christmas. However, now with children in school there’s an endless amount of papers that need to be tacked up. Not to mention reminders, grocery lists, to-do lists, chore charts and more. So I found this clothes line idea from two of my friends…one friend had hers going across her eating area…the other used ribbon and had it going along her kitchen cabinets.
I chose over the fireplace. And I used Christmas gift wrap ribbon and duct tape. So far it has not fallen down.