Nov 30, 2015

Survival Mode - How I Deal with Sh...tuff

Unrelated to this post, but I'm back.  Cutting back on blogging helped a bit, but I still didn't get anywhere close to finishing my story or the word goal for NaNoWriMo.  Still, it's more than I've ever written at one time before!  I think I'm going to set myself an easier word goal per day (maybe 500 instead of 1,700) and see how that goes.  Anyway, back to the post...

What I call "survival mode" is not, in fact, a good mechanism for dealing with things that require actual survival skills.  It's also probably not terribly useful for dealing with real, traumatic situations.  Here's what it is:

Survival Mode

I have a mental place I go to when I'm stressed, anxious, dreading something, or terribly uncomfortable.  I shut off the thinking part of my brain that's coming up with terrible scenarios, or freaking out about our upcoming adventure.  I go as blank as possible and settle in to endure the next few minutes.  Then the next.  Then the next.  (Which is actually very similar to what the main character says in the first season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, "You can endure anything for 10 seconds!")

I think the first time I ever did this was during physical exertion.  We were hiking at the Grand Canyon and I wasn't in terribly great shape.  About halfway back up, I was exhausted, each step was effort, and I was doing my best not to be a huge whiner even though my brain was awash in self pity.  So I shut it off.  We made it to the top, and the whole process was a lot less tortuous than it could have been if I'd been emotionally experiencing each step of it.

I continued to use "survival mode" for physical discomfort.  Long drives where my back was aching, hikes and/or running, getting a tattoo, etc, etc.  But then I made an amazing discovery.

I had signed up for several Meetup events in the DC area.  But I'd flaked out on every single one.  Each time, as the day approached, my brain started complaining.  "I don't really want to do this.  Why did I sign up for it?  It's going to suck, I'm going to be awkward and bored and miserable.  This is a terrible idea.  I don't know where it is.  I'll get lost.  Let's just cancel."

I finally forced myself into a car to attend a Meetup.  My brain was screaming at me, as per usual.  I struggled to remind myself why I had signed up in the first place and that I did, in fact, want to do this, when suddenly... my mind got quiet.

The feelings were still there, but I wasn't engaging with them.  I wasn't excited, I wasn't scared.  I was just prepared to endure.

The Meetup was amazing.  Every time I started to feel awkward, I shut down my emotions, and just brought them back for polite chitchat.  By the end I was feeling positively bubbly!

It wasn't entirely smooth sailing after that.  I missed a few more Meetups, due to last-minute "lack of desire to go" before I finally realized it was probably a mild form of anxiety.  But each success built on the others.

I can't even tell you the number of times it's helped.  Meetup groups, a horrendously uncomfortable bus ride with coworkers, using the "friend-dating" website, posing for figure drawing, that first blogger date.  I mean, basically any time I'm going to meet new people, and sometimes even hanging out with old friends, there is guaranteed to be a moment when my brain says, "Holy crap, I don't want to do this!"

But I know now.  That's not me.  That's some broken, scared, little piece of me that can be overcome.

And I'm not saying that shutting your feelings off is the best way to deal with things.  But when my anxiety brain is at its most powerful, that's the only way I've figured out how to deal with it.

My rational side knows that no matter what happens, if I just endure, I'll get through it and the discomfort will be over eventually.  Just take it a few minutes at a time.

Just like running.  Nothing lasts forever.  And when it's over, you'll probably be glad you did it.

Do you have social anxiety?  How do you deal with the irrational side of your brain?  Do you have your own version of "survival mode"?


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5 comments:

  1. I don't think I have social anxiety, as in crowds, large gatherings, etc. don't bother me at all. I do understand the anti-Meetup actions though. I used to sign up and then always back out. It wasn't because I was anxious it was because, for me, I truly didn't want to go. I liked the idea of it but had no real interest.

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  2. Hahaha oh Kimmy Schmidt! I do that while I am running, I run minute by minute. Oh I can handle one more minute. Oh, what is one more minute. I sometimes have a little social anxiety and can be a flake if someone I know wont be attending an event with me. Sometimes I just don't feel like being social though too. I have to be in the right mood.

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  3. I do this! It also works well for job interviews ;) I fully credit running with equipping me with this skill. I've always had an anxious and overactive mind and running was the first thing in my life that showed me that it is possible for me to go to a quiet place in my mind. And like you said, running also taught me that suckiness doesn't last forever and that bad feelings (physical or mental) will eventually end.

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  4. I was so nervous about that first blogger date! Especially since it involved bathing suits- I was like "Hmm... first time I'm meeting these people and I'm going to be half naked... this is going to be sufficiently awkward." But then of course it wasn't and was awesome and I'm so glad I went! I haven't found a way to quiet my mind, but I try to look on the bright side (forever an optimist) and give myself pep talks to get through tough situations.

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  5. one of the most helpful things i've ever learned to overcome any kind of anxiety is to talk myself through it. i will survive. i will endure. i keep reminding myself of that. especially when i meet new people, i freak out. i don't want to do it. every single time i've met a blogger, i've wanted to bail lol. KC has been there most times and he's talked me through it which is helpful :)

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