Anxiety spiral: Idling in “A” gear

I have had quite the unproductive week or so. I just haven’t seemed to be able to get anything done. Sometimes this happens when I get spring fever. Sometimes when I’m burnt out. This time, it was an anxiety spiral.

Anxiety spiral isn’t quite the right phrase, because it’s more like a loop or the infinity symbol—an endless cycle of scary thoughts that repeat in your head, stopping you from thinking of anything else. And that’s where I’ve been all week—paralyzed by my own brain. Oh, sure, I got up every morning, got my daughter to school, remembered to get her from school, got her to all her extracurricular activities, did an author panel, and attended a workshop and Writer’s Coffeehouse meeting, but the creative side of me had nothing. And I slept a lot while my daughter was at school. When I tried to write, no words came, no motivation, and I would end up scrolling aimlessly through Facebook, not even really reading anything.

The lack of productive creativity makes me crazy because then I get mad at myself for not using my time wisely. I always complain I don’t have enough time, yet there I was, day after day, literally wasting time. I got angry with myself, beat myself up. But I couldn’t shake it. My brain was numb.

Oddly enough, it took me some time to figure out that anxiety was behind my spectacular crash into creative oblivion. I guess that’s not really surprising, given my numb brain. But once I figured it out, I knew I had to do something to kick it to the curb. I had to basically WILL myself out of it, because it’s all about self-talk. I had been allowing the recurrent nightmares (and daymares) in my head free reign. Many times, if I allow my brain to reach the end of the nightmare journey, that frees it and that anxiety episode ends. This time, however, that trick had not worked, and had instead dragged me deeper and deeper into the malaise.

So, I had to consciously shut my brain up, change the channel. I do that by literally telling myself to stop when I notice the thoughts running down a familiar path. I also did it by stepping back from social media for a few days. Not only did that give me more time for other things, but it kept me from soaking up more disturbing thoughts and news and emotions. I didn’t do a complete break from social media, but I cut it back severely. I am going to try to keep it to a minimum for a while.

Did it work? Well, I think it’s working. I have been more productive, better able to focus. Not at full capacity, but I actually checked some things off my To-Do list, which makes me happy. So I think I am finally seeing the end of this particular anxiety spiral. Or loop. Or whatever.

If you have a similar demon that likes to hijack your brain, how do you shake it off?

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