Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Coping

There was an interesting back and forth on SHU's blog yesterday about whether or not spending time on blogs/internetting (apparently this is not a word?) is an OK coping mechanism. I've been working on reducing my on-line time wasting for years now, so obviously I think its a problem. I kind of figured everyone would agree. Surprisingly, the dissent came from my therapist!

I mentioned that one of the ways I deal with my anxiety is zoning out on blogs or internet sites like Facebook or that-which-won't-be-named. And that I wanted to work on better coping mechanisms. Her response was: "But what's so bad about that?". I was sort of surprised by that answer until I thought about it. She deals with people with all sorts of mental health issues---that come with maladaptive and dangerous coping mechanisms like substance abuse, eating disorders or self-harming. Spending 30 minutes on GOMI (OK, I named it) trying to make myself feel better by comparing my life to vapid food bloggers doesn't really rate as unhealthy in that world.

But that doesn't really mean its good FOR ME. I don't have a ton of free time these days. There are lots of things I'd like to do with my time, some of which may actually do more to actually HELP my anxiety, rather than just cover it up for a while. I've been wanting to try meditation for over a year, but haven't "gotten around to it" (its not a priority). I want to harvest and dry the herbs from my garden, hunt for new recipes, write more here, plan some date nights, clear out my closets...hell, if I don't have the energy to do productive stuff, there are many books I want to read and TV shows I want to watch!

And that's just in the evenings. There are also those days when something or the other gets in my head and I get a bit worked up and I need to take the edge off and I waste 20-30 minutes of my precious work day faffing around on sites I don't even enjoy. I have planned breaks that I use to write here, and comment on your blogs, but some days, I go above that allotted time and scroll Facebook yet again or see what's new in the forums. Even when I can't do the deep thinking work because I'm too tired or stressed, there are literally hundreds of tasks I could cross of my list that would actually make me feel energized and positive rather than more stressed and down on myself.

I've decided that there are indeed certain situations---where I'm stuck somewhere with nothing else to do, and feeling stressed and anxious and not wanting to lash out at anyone or say something I'll regret (some moments at my MIL's house come to mind!) that scrolling through FB or reading something stupid for 10-15 minutes will calm me down enough to move on. It IS a better coping mechanism than yelling at my husband or drinking too much (things I may have done on occasion...). But for everyday life, I need to give it up (yet again, seriously, how many times do I have to try before it sticks? I was doing so well for a while this winter! I guess its like anything else, just keep swimming). I did manage to completely give up playing any kind of games on my phone, and I've never gone back, so I am capable of change!

Oh, and just to add it on here...I'm also trying to cut down on my drinking. That was another thing that's crept up over the past couple of months. During the winter I quit drinking on weekdays and was doing really well with that, but somehow fell back into a nightly glass of wine which sometimes became 2 glasses, and sometimes a third on the weekends. This one is not in any way related to stress, it just was...fun/tasty. And then it became a habit. Like, kids are in bed, pour glass of wine, finish glass, pour a little more. This seems to be another area that I keep trying and failing to change in my life and I'm pretty sure everyone will agree (including my therapist) that this is an unhealthy habit!

So: no more internetting outside of planned breaks and not on time sucking forums of any kind. No alcohol on weeknights unless I'm out with others.

What do you do to relieve stress? How many times do you need to quit something before it sticks?

15 comments:

  1. Usually I contemplate quitting something (say, beer during the week, or iPhone games), and contemplate some more, and then one day just go cold turkey. Delete the game. Stop drinking beer (I seem to be able to have it in my house and not drink it), and I don't even think about it. But that's just me, I guess some people hate going cold turkey. I just find that if I try to cut back, the amount creeps up again.

    And I wanted to say that I am with you on the huge amounts of time wasting on the internet. A little time will often relax me (like if I spend it blogging and I get interesting/helpful comments), but after a while I get this feeling that I want to put down the internet device and I just can't seem to rip myself away from it. It's not good, and YES there are other, way better things I could be doing with my 20 minutes of free time a day.

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    1. yup, the "bright line rules" really work better for me than just saying "I'm going to drink less during weekdays". I can't really do that. so I'll try to just not drink at all on weekdays.
      And yes EXACTLY your second paragraph. There is a certain amount of time that is refreshing & relaxing (like right now), but the diminishing returns kick in after a while, yet I CAN'T STOP. Its definitely some sort of brain chemistry related addiction when you know you need to stop but you CAN'T and that is what I'm talking about.

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  2. This is interesting. I remember a line from my therapist when I was ttc: "I don't care if you clean your bathroom as long as you find some way to relax." To each her own.

    I do turn to the internet when I can't focus on work...but in the end I think it makes me more anxious. Walking is the best cure for me. And I suppose yoga is good but when I'm THAT stressed I can't really sit still. I've had two occasions in recent weeks I actually took a little xanax (it was prescribed for sleep) and found I could concentrate much better. That worried me, but it worked.

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    1. holy hell, I took a xanax once and it was terrifyingly amazing. like, everything i've been working on with self-talk/mantras/therapy but never achieved just suddenly HAPPENED within 5 minutes of swallowing that pill. really scary.

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    2. Yeah. The first time I did acupuncture they hit a spot on my head that was, I would later learn, exactly like taking valium. I walked out of there completely focused and calm. I've tried finding it on my own with no success....

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  3. I used to smoke quite heavily, and quit a few times. The first time it stuck was when I got pregnant with kid No 1. I had a good reason and thought it was for good. Then amidst some marital turmoil I started again when he was about 3 and smoked until he was about 4.5; I started my TT faculty position in a cold climate a few months prior, and I just got sick of myself - the amount of planning it took to go out for a smoke without my new colleagues seeing and judging me, then the fact that it was November and my butt was freezing, just led to a point where I was so sick of it all I just quit and never looked back. It's been 11 years and I haven't had a cigarette since.

    I have also been trying to lose weight, that is much harder to do as I can't go cold turkey and I can't not

    As for the internet, I consider it perfectly approved procrastination.
    I myself am a binge worker and can do huge amounts of work when I am at the top of my game; that also means I have to have downtime. And let's face it -- as cute as kids are, they are darn exhausting. I am thinking that as long as essential things get done and I am not harming anyone, why not fart around on the web?

    I know we are supposed to be productive all the time, and if not productive then virtuous while at leisure nonetheless (reading, gardening, whathaveyou), but I don't think that's realistic. I wouldn't beat myself too much over your web activities. I mean -- I don't do facebook or twitter, how bad could I be compared to others?

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    1. thanks for sharing the story about quitting smoking. that was exactly what I was thinking about when I wrote that last part---most people do end up having to quit multiple times until it sticks for life.
      For weight---I try to pick certain things to abstain from completely. It doesn't always stick (I always revert back to late night snacking), but certain things do (I NEVER went back to eating crap people bring into the lab).
      I think I'm still trying to get into my groove at work, and I haven't really established myself as productive/successful enough to feel OK with that degree of downtime. IF/when I get more publications/grants and a steady record of success, I may feel justified working in that manner.

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  4. I'm still pondering this. I think for me being on my phone/internetting is not so much about stress reduction but is a habit I engage in to distract myself. I only really mind it when it's clearly keeping me from my kids, which is happening a lot this summer. My daughter is always telling me to put down my phone (and I want to tell her maybe I would if she weren't so horrible to be around! but I don't, and that is the only thing I'm doing right at the moment). Anyway, I guess I'm saying that if you're really doing it to reduce your stress, then I think it's okay. Hmmmm, maybe I am doing it to relieve stress too. I mean, nothing is more stressful than being with my kids, maybe I do use it as a way to disconnect from the stress of that moment, so I can come back renewed, or at least neutral (instead of in a negative place). I never thought about that before. I'm going to start thinking more about when I use it, mentally taking note of if I feel stressed when I pull it out. If I am using it to destress, I'll have to decide if I still think it's an okay coping mechanism... ;)

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    1. hmmm. so, I see distraction absolutely as a technique to avoid/cope with stress---to disconnect, like you said. You don't need to disconnect when things are the way you want them be...only when reality doesn't match your desires/expectations.

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  5. I think it's totally fine as a coping mechanism. I'm not sure why it's gotten a bad rap. On fb I connect with friends, get updates on people's lives, get advice or share experiences, read news articles or learn new facts. Sometimes I am on there when I should be doing other things, but that's true for any relaxation tool and probably a sign that I genuinely enjoy it. I think if you are always trying to be virtuous in your relaxation, it probably won't be all that relaxing.

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    1. I think what you're describing sounds relaxing and healthy. Vs. an anxiety-fueled hour of scrolling mindlessly instead of doing something productive.

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  6. I play games on my phone. Tons of games. Huge amounts of time-wasting games. Except that I see them as my down time, my recharging time. They make me happy, and while I often feel empty when I look at the clock and realize how much time I have spent on a word find, I also feel like I need that time to do these somewhat mindless tasks. Even things like Hay Day are about keeping order, doing tasks, keeping my farm neat (as my house falls apart!).

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    1. If they make you feel happy, then its a good activity for you. I think that's the distinction.

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  7. I know this is old now but I have to chime in. I TOTALLY get this. For some I can see how it'd be relaxing, but internet for me quickly becomes addictive/compulsive and the amount of time I spend on it is not relaxing. It becomes mindless and I can't stop :( to me this is different to tv where I can watch a 30 minute show, zone out, recharge and then be done with it.

    Your therapist's comment reminds me of when a close family member had a mental health crisis, all the doctors kept commenting on how well he was coping, whereas the family knew how off the wall and serious things were. The therapist was used to really serious issues (homelessness, drug abuse) so the actual situation barely registered.

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