Crazy for Life

Escapades of a bipolar princess.

The Yeah-But-Worry Diet: Are You On It?

Is worry your default mode? You need ‘A Diet for the Small Yeah-But’

The other day I was talking to my husband Gord about how I just got booked to do the opening keynote and a breakout session for a major conference in March. Nice, right?

Lo’ and behold what happened though? I barely finished the last syllable of the previous sentence with all that happy news and out of my mouth spewed “Yeah but I’m behind on two assignments and I haven’t gotten back to one of my …”

Gord kindly interrupted me. “Uh, hang on. You just told me great news. You got booked for an event. And you ran right past it into how all these other things aren’t working out.”

I justifiably (at least in my mind) interjected “Yeah but what if…”

Gord continues (calmly I might add) “Um…Victoria if you focus on that positive thing for a bit, you might see that things are a little better than you think. Just a little.”

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Damn, he’s good. He’s right. I didn’t even realize it, until he pointed it out. I pretty well live on a constant diet of yeah-buts and worry (as opposed to carrots and curry – which actually could be good for me). I’ve adapted to this emotional eating plan so much that ‘what-if-and-yeah-buts’ have become my source of sustenance, my point of reference from which I work. Worry is my default mode. Ewww.

Gord’s little nudge helped me have a big light bulb moment. I have this secret belief I live by (well not so secret now that I’ve posted it on the internet): if I have a constant but subtle stream of yeah buts and worries, things will always be okay. If I worry less, ease up on the tension…the future will not be safe.

I believe if I don’t worry about (fill in the blank): how long it’s taken me to return my emails, the number of twitter followers I have, whether I’ve phoned my friends enough, whether I sounded snarky to a colleague. The list is endless, literally, because the law of this magical thinking is IF the list did end, well that would be the end of harmony. I know. Logic doesn’t come into this. I’ve gotten so good at worrying it doesn’t even feel like worrying. It’s just…well normal.

This realization that I believe if I worry, all will be fine, has been sticking with me like duct tape sticks to chest hair (not mine – chest hair that is).

It’s made me really curious about what it would be like without the anxiousness. I know rationally that anxiety isn’t what keeps things okay. It’s taking action on legitimate concerns. The rest is noise. (FYI: A great resource for determining what a legitimate issue is and what’s unnecessary noise is Dr. Wilson’s anxiety self-help website, particularly his section in generalized anxiety about how to handle worries)

So this is my strategy. Let’s call it ‘A Diet for a Small Yeah-But’.

Worry is so second nature to me and going to my yeah-buts is an automatic reflex, I need a strategy that purposely and methodically momentarily draws my attention towards the positive. The following may feel formulaic but believe me I could use a new formula. If you relate to anything I’ve revealed, give this a try and keep me posted on how you fair.

When Good Stuff Happens:

Step 1: When something good happens: Breathe. Take a deep inhale and exhale through the nose. Sounds too obvious to mention – but try it.

Step 2: Remind yourself what good thing just occurred. Too ridiculous to do? Well for me, I need to do this because by now even with a pause my mind will be running to find what’s wrong. I need to intentionally and silently in my mind (‘cause it’s too weird to talk to yourself in public) list what the positive was.

Step 3: Take another deep inhale and exhale. Anxiety thrives on asphyxiation. Breathing brings oxygen to the brain.

Step 4: Again as silly as this seems: repeat to yourself what the good thing is again.

Step 5: Observe how your body feels. Do you feel a little happiness? Do you feel tension because you’re not worrying? Do you feel a sense of relief, even momentarily? Just watch and take note.

Step 6: Go back to whatever you were doing.

Repeat these steps whenever something pretty nice happens. It’s not about stopping the worry. It’s about slowly replacing it with a new way of thinking.

Anyway this is what I’m practicing over the next while. To see if, just by chance, with a little focus on the good stuff, things are a little better than I think they are. What if…what if  they are!?

© 2013 Victoria Maxwell

For more information about my shows and workshops, please visit www.victoriamaxwell.com

 

Victoria Maxwell is a playwright, actor, and lecturer on her 'lived' experiences of bipolar disorder, anxiety, psychosis and recovery.

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