Here is where my problem comes into play: those activities aren't always necessary and important. My brain creates silly things for me to do. Those "silly" things keep me from feeling guilty. They keep me from feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Guilty from not doing something "productive" in my OCD brains "eyes" (if it has them). Overwhelmed by not having a plan or a schedule in place, and anxious from the thought of not knowing what to do with myself--something feeling "off" (a huge OCD feeling).
Here's where my problem begins: I love to pack my days full of work: school work, house work, tutoring, organizing, working on one of my projects that I can never seem to finish (OCD anyone?). And here is where my problem with time comes in: I don't know what to do with myself when I have too much of it on my hands.
My OCD starts getting me thinking that I always need to be doing something productive. I can't relax; I always feel like I need a plan. For example, if I feel like sitting on the couch all day to read a book, my mind starts reeling. My anxiety level might slowly start to creep up throughout the day. I am unable to sit still. I feel antsy. I get up and do "odd jobs" around the house because I feel like I have to. They do not, however, in any way ever amount to getting anything productive completed. I just feel like I'm accomplishing something. My brain tells me that I need to do something that's considered "work," so I get up and "work."
Whether it's picking up the side table next to the couch, throwing in that next load of laundry, or starting to organize that junk drawer that I always said I would, I start doing something that my brain deems productive. My OCD brain doesn't consider relaxing, taking time for myself, and doing what I enjoy as productive activities. Once I finish my flurry of business, I look back and think, what did I actually accomplish? In retrospect, I didn't seem to accomplish all that much. This is the trouble with my anxiety. It tricks me into feeling the need to be busy, although I don't need to be. I've realized over many years that the junk drawer can wait.
My OCD starts to act up in situations like this when I have a long stretch of unstructured time on my hands (insert summer vacation), especially this year since I am not teaching summer camp. When faced with such a large amount of time without a predetermined plan to fill each hour or minute, for that matter, my OCD brain starts to feel guilty for wanting to do nothing. It feels guilty for wanting to relax and enjoy myself. It tells me that I can't do those things. It tells me that I'm being selfish.
Once my mind starts this loop, I start to feel uncomfortable in my skin. I get fidgety. I can't think straight. I can't focus. I can't do the things that I enjoy. My OCD brain tricks me into doing something else by bringing on these symptoms of anxiety: guilt, mid looping, the constant need to do something, the need to feel productive, shame, a racing heartbeat, feeling overheated, etc.
Last summer my anxiety was different. I had summer school to distract me. I had a planned vacation to distract me. The year before that I had classes to renew my teaching license to distract me. I have never had one entire summer off as a teacher. Ever. Maybe, OCD avoidance?
One whole summer to myself. The thought is daunting. It intimidates my OCD, but I am going to tackle this summer just like I tackle my OCD and anxiety in the rest of my life because I want to enjoy this summer, dammit!
1) I am going to sit with the uncomfortable feelings of my anxiety. This is a given. I do this a lot. I am used to doing this. It's funny because I associate sitting through those panic attack-like feelings with negativity in my life--with difficult tasks, things I struggle with. It's funny to think that I need to sit with the anxiety attached to thoughts of having no plans and relaxation, but that's what I need to do!
2) Remind myself of my strategies that help: visualization, movement, choreographing dances in my mind to music once the anxiety hits, take my medication.
3) Remind myself that I do have a plan! It's just a relaxation plan! I do have things that I'd like to do: go to movies, read, play with the dogs, write, go the the zoo. I'm going to tape this list up so I can look at it. I have a plan to renew and recharge myself this summer.
4) Remind myself that I need to take time for myself. I am important. I need to feel relaxed. I am embarking on a new headache journey (info to come soon), and I need all the help I can get!
5) I want to be happy. Doing things for myself helps me to be happy :)
It isn't always an easy road, but I'll get there.
What are some of your favorite things to do for yourself to relax and recharge?
Love and happiness <3 Holly