I watched a lot of Netflix this week. Like a season and a half of Once Upon A Time. (I don’t even want to know what that is in hours…okay I did some estimations and it’s like 26.5 hours.)
It was fun.
I enjoy a good ol’ binge watch. It fits well with my anti-multi-tasking, all-or-nothing personality. I’ll go for weeks or months without really watching something for myself and then make up for it.
But this time wasn’t just for fun. It was because I was anxious.
My TEDxRichland talk is this Saturday (T-MINUS THREE DAYS YOU GUYS!) and at the time of my binge-fest, I was really feeling the pressure.
My talk material has been pretty dialed-in for a while, but something in my intro section still needed tweaking and I wasn’t exactly sure what. Also I was still relying on my printed pages to get through it. I knew I needed to start internalizing / memorizing my words but I felt like I couldn’t until I fixed whatever was wrong. But the more I tried to figure out what it was, the more evasive it became. My anxiety was building and I just couldn’t work on it anymore.
So instead, I watched Emma, Regina, Henry, Snow, David, Hook, and Robin fight King Arthur, Zelena, Hades, and Rumplestiltskin. [It was actually really fun to watch a show all about heroes and villains, because it fits right in with my talk. 🙂 ]
The arc of writing the talk has mirrored my writing process for everything else: Great start, plugging along at a promising pace, inkling something is amiss, total road block / epic meltdown / total darkness / gloom & depression…[insert binge watching here]
When I get anxious or stressed, I get a knot in my gut–slightly above my stomach but below my ribs. Breadbasket? Yeah there. And my throat gets tight and kind of hard to swallow. I also have to take intentional deep breaths throughout the day to expand my lungs all the way out, because I walk around all tight and shallow-breathing (it sounds more dramatic than it is. I just mean I carry a lot of tension in my chest/lungs).
But when I watch a show, I get distracted and it goes away a little bit. My brain gets absorbed in the onscreen character’s problems, it temporarily forgets about mine, and I loosen up and feel some relief. So I watch another one. Or thirty.
Recently (as in the last year or so) I have become more aware of my anxiety patterns. I don’t think these things are new for me, but rather I am more in-tune with myself than ever before. A byproduct of my life being parred down to the essentials–the correlations become glaring.
It’s possible it’s been happening more often lately too because I am only pursuing things I really care about. And there is less stuff to distract me in general so my stress / anxiety is more acute. Basically, there’s no where to run in a simplified passion-driven life.
Most times I can clearly see my 12 hour Netflix detour for what it is. Sometimes I have to work it out backwards. Like I will really want to zone out and watch something / disappear for a few hours [days], and I’ll stop myself…Wait, am I anxious?
*takes physical inventory of breadbasket/chest/lungs/throat*.
Yep. All tight and twisty. Okay, what am I freaking about right now?
Sometimes the answer is obvious and I can pinpoint it down to a clear thought. Often I can only ballpark a category (my book, my kids, money, relationships) and have to needle out the specifics. 99% of the time it comes down to me feeling like I’m failing at [something]. This still doesn’t tell me how to fix it, but at least I now know what I’m up against.
My anxiety / stress cycle feels a lot like writer’s block, and I deal with it in a similar way. A lot of changing mediums, a lot of waiting, a lot of internal processing that I don’t fully understand. In addition to the Netflix-binge, I also go for a drive, take a bath, draw, journal, vacuum/mop floors, clean kids rooms (for some reason sorting toys is cathartic for me–dishes and laundry are NOT), talk with a close friend.
I don’t have any magical shortcuts to my process. I just have to go through it. But during that time I do try to include a couple things:
- Acknowledge my feelings–mentally, emotionally, physically–and name them if I can.
- Articulate them in private in sentences (either aloud through praying / talking or through journaling)
- Articulate them someone else
Often the final step of trying to explain to them to someone else is the final step to me actually understanding what the heck is going on, but it almost never comes first. Only after I’ve bathed/binged/cleaned/sorted/drove/journaled…THEN talking helps.
All of these things don’t really take away the feeling, but they do ease it a bit. They give me a breather as I wait for the solution to present itself. Because one always does. It just might be 26.5 hours later.
Eventually there is a moment when all becomes clear. A revelation-esque comprehension takes place and I figure out what I need to do to move forward. It might be a mindset adjustment or an actual task. But from that moment things are better. My chest feels light and I breath easy again.
And I can move forward. I can turn off Netflix and get on with things.
My hope is the more self-aware I can be about my triggers / patterns / coping mechanisms / steps to the almighty moment of comprehension, the quicker this process will be. I will learn to hack my stress and anxiety and get to the “getting on with things” quicker.
I will never not be a TV binge-watcher. Nor do I want to be. But I would like to do it because I am making a choice, for fun and entertainment / story research purposes, and not because my anxiety says so. I don’t really want to do anything because anxiety says so. I want to kick anxiety’s ass.
What do you do when anxiety / stress hits? Do have habits / cycles you use to cope? Are they healthy? Destructive? How do you kick anxiety’s ass? Please share 🙂