Lately, I have been all too aware of the multitude of triggers that cause my anxiety and stress to spike. When my anxiety kicks in, I am now able to calm myself down (see this post for how I am learning to reset my mood); however, it is still really unpleasant feeling that rush of anxiety cloak my thoughts. One trigger that reared its head at the start of the year was the common cold. Feeling ill left me a nervous wreck. The cold made my anxiety spiral. So like all my triggers, I have decided to work through it. Working through it, understanding it and hopefully changing my thoughts and behaviour next time it happens.
Having a cold when you are anxious
Dealing with a cold isn’t great. It’s one of those situations where you feel rubbish but just have to keep on about your business. Everything feels harder and it’s all just unpleasant. Unfortunately, 2018 started off in exactly the same fashion as 2017: a yucky yucky cold. As usual, I’ve tried to power through and keep going, and just like last year, I’ve pushed it too far and ended up in bed. All three of us felt very sorry for ourselves. Of course, there is nothing exciting about this. Thousands of you will be in the exact same position right now. The cold most definitely is common. Yuck. So why am I writing about it?
Well I’ve noticed one side effect of having a cold is a rumbling ominous presence of anxiety – there is a sense of dread that something is looming. So today, I decided to unpick it and work out why my cold is making me feel more anxious. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
- I feel like I’m less useful around the home.
- I feel like a burden or that I’m not pulling my weight when I’m not performing at my best.
- Being sedentary for too long allows my mind to wander.
- Having blocked ears means the thoughts in my head are much louder than the sounds of the outside world.
- It’s difficult to organise my thoughts with a stuffy head.
- Brain fog makes everything feel unclear and uncertain.
OK. So it makes sense that a cold could spark my anxiety. But being anxious and stuck in bed is not a pleasant combo so here is what I am doing. here are the immediate thing I can change to help settle the feeling of anxiety:
1. Do everything to feel as well as you can. Nourish your body with good food, warm baths, fresh bedding. Pampering myself a little makes me feel more valued and therefore decreases some of those inadequacy thoughts.
2. Do little things rather than nothing. I’ve been moving slowly but getting little bits done. Even if it’s been admin from my phone while in bed. Achieving something small is a good boost.
3. Give yourself permission to rest. Allow yourself to be ill and rest. Tell yourself that you are taking care of yourself and you deserve time to recover. Being ill does not change how people view you – so don’t change how you view yourself.
Addressing thoughts and behaviours
While the three points above will help me in the short term, I think I need to address the underlying thoughts so that I don’t continue to feel anxious every time I am unwell.
I feel like I’m less useful around the home.
This looks so silly when it is written in black and white. Of course I am less ‘useful’. I am unwell. I cannot function at 100% all the time! I also need to prioritise when I do feel under par – I need to prioritise getting better over housework! Ultimately, taking my foot off the pedal for a few days and recovering without first making myself worse, will be better in the long run. And why am I so obsessed with my tidy house? It is never tidy; I have a toddler!
Being sedentary for too long allows my mind to wander.
I used to call this relaxing. Or daydreaming. But suddenly since having anxiety, allowing my thoughts to wander seems scary. I don’t know what thought I will stumble across. But ultimately, I cannot continue to live in this state of vigilance, always trying to control my thoughts. Being unable to relax is not healthy. I think I need to continue working on mindfulness so I start to feel comfortable relaxing. I cannot be afraid of my own mind anymore.
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