Good morning, Brain Fog

Monday morning. Had breakfast and a large cup of coffee. Brain feels like it’s stuffed with cotton balls.

So instead of remaining in this fog, it’s time to examine it, and maybe even talk to it. Time to suspend reality for a few moments….

Me: “Good morning, Brain Fog. I’m noticing that you’re back with me today.”

Brain Fog: “Yep, it’s me. You had a long and sort of blah Sunday, and I thought it would be a great time to stop by for a visit.”

Me: “If you’ll give me a few moments,  I need to think about why you might be visiting today.” (pause) “It seems like you’ve brought your partner Anxiety with you this morning. My shoulders feel a little stiff and my jaw is tight. My breathing is a little shallow compared to how it feels when Anxiety isn’t around.”

Brain Fog: “Smart woman. I wasn’t sure you’d notice today. You’ve been doing some avoiding lately, and that makes me and my friends stronger.”

Me: “You’re right about avoiding, now that you mention it. Avoiding paperwork, avoiding making and/or returning phone calls, avoiding doing laundry, avoiding church yesterday…. It’s because whenever I think about doing those things, Anxiety jumps right up and starts doing its thing. I don’t like how it feels when Anxiety visits.  I don’t like the physical feelings, and I don’t like the thoughts. Sometimes you guys even gang up on me like today. It’s a lot to handle.”

Anxiety: “Yeehaw! I knew today was a good day to visit. You can’t avoid me. I’m too strong and persistent. Bwahahaha!”

Me: (Stops to take a long deep breath) “Hold it right there, mister! You can’t come sneaking in here and ruin my day. I’m in charge of my body and my thinking!”

Anxiety: “Could have fooled me….”

Brain Fog: “Busted….”

Me: “Okay, here’s how today is going to go. I’m taking a 5 minute break to do some deep breathing and get centered. I’m going to say a quick prayer to ask God to help me relax, refocus, and to catch you two when you try to sneak back in. I might even take a quick walk to the mailbox for some fresh air. When I come back, you guys are outta here! For the next 30 minutes I’m going to tackle some files and get some work done. I’m not going to surf the Internet. I’m not going to read headlines on my RSS reader. I’m going to be relaxed and focused. At the end of 30 minutes I’m going to give myself credit for accomplishing whatever is done.”

Brain fog: “We’re gonna come back, you know. We’re sneaky like that.”

Anxiety: “You won’t even know what hit you. We’ll definitely be back….”

Me: “I’ll be on the lookout. I’ll be paying attention to my body for signs of tension and stress. I’ll notice when my brain just wants to play on the Internet instead of tackling the pile of work. As soon as I notice you guys, I’ll take some action to relax and focus, and out the door you’ll go again. I’ll be waiting….”

Unusual, I know, but I’m feeling more focused now that I’ve checked in with the inner self and challenged those buzzards. Anxiety and Brain Fog, be gone!

Peace to you today.

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“Squirrel!”

squirrelEver have one of those days where your mind just cannot seem to stay on one thing? Yesterday was one of those days.

On the way to work I often pray in the car while I’m driving. Yesterday being no exception, I dropped off my daughter at school, got my coffee, turned off the radio, and started my morning talk with (to?) God.

Usually in the ten minutes or so it takes me to get to work, I can stay on track. I thank God for blessings and get down to asking for blessings for people I know or myself. Sometimes I even talk out loud about an issue that’s bugging me and try to come up with a strategy to solve the problem. Sometimes I stop to listen to any mental nudges God might send.

Yesterday’s problem: difficulty with concentration. Every 30 seconds or so during my driving prayer time, my mind would be off thinking about the shades of color in the trees. Or the Halloween decorations I had just passed. Or wishing the lady tailgating me would back off. Or thinking about that new pair of Keen shoes I really want.

Each time I noticed that my attention had lapsed, I would gently bring myself back to the prayer. I finally had to chuckle at myself when I realized how I had started to act like Dug (the dog) in the Disney/Prexar movie “Up“. The cute little dog tagging along through the story was constantly getting distracted and shouting “Squirrel!” at every turn.

I’m glad I was able to recognize what was happening and laugh at myself. It does no good to beat myself up about it. I finally decided to close the prayer by asking God to help me find ways to concentrate so I could get through the day and actually accomplish something.

Peace to you today.  “Squirrel!”

The “Others” Project

Natalie works on a prayer shawlMy daughter Natalie will have to plan and complete at least 3 hours of community service per academic quarter for one of her 8th grade teachers.  (Each of the student will complete 3 hours quarterly, not just Natalie.) The idea as I understand it is to think about ‘others’ in the community who have some sort of need and to do something to try to help.

After brainstorming lots of great ideas, Natalie decided that this quarter she would make two fleece prayer shawls (see below) and donate them to our church’s prayer shawl ministry. After working for at least 6 hours total (planning, shopping, washing, cutting, sewing) she decided that one shawl would be the final project for this quarter. (Luckily her teacher agreed.) The finished shawl is beautiful and will hopefully bring a child some joy and comfort.

 I sincerely hope that the quarterly “Others” projects help to foster community mindedness in Natalie and her classmates. There is so much need in the world, and all it takes is one person to notice and take action. Better yet, a whole bunch of people will notice and take action.

Prayer shawls are knit, crocheted, or sewn and given to people who need to know that a community of people are praying for them. Some people receive shawls to mark special events such as confirmations or graduations, and others receive shawls if they are ill or injured.  The most important thing about a prayer shawl is that the maker prays during the making. In our church, the shawls are blessed by the whole congregation before being given to a recipient. For more information, go to http://www.shawlministry.com/ .

Peace to you today

Baby steps or big girl steps?

Yesterday was a rough day.  I was feeling as though a nagging gray fog had started following me, like Linus’ dirt cloud in the ‘Peanuts’ cartoons. Last night I took some positive baby steps in the right direction- taking my meds, contacting friends to ask them to pray, and getting to bed on time.

Last year I taped this quote at the very top of my computer monitor at work: “Smile, breathe, and go slowly.”  The words are from Thich Naht Hanh, a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk. It helped me to remember that no matter how many things are in the “to do” pile or on the list, I can only do one thing at a time. Getting frantic about getting it all done will not help. Getting overwhelmed will not help.

Today I think it’s a day for taking more baby steps. Clean off the desk and tackle one file at a time. Put things away through the day rather than letting them pile up.  Take short breaks to walk around when the ‘brain fog’ gets really thick. Eat a healthy lunch. Breathe and center.

Baby steps today.

Feeling the fall

Recently I’ve been noticing little signs that seasonal depression is creeping in. Foods like homemade bread and cakes are sounding very tempting and are hard to avoid. It’s a little harder to get out of bed in the morning and harder to get to sleep at night. Concentrating at work takes a bit more effort. I feel like I’m operating in a thin veil of fog.

Those little signs are also indicators to me that it’s time to get serious about doing the little things that help to avoid the slide downward. Things that work for me include: getting to sleep on time, making healthy food choices whenever possible and watching portions, taking my meds regularly, taking a multi-vitamin, and getting outside when possible for sun and exercise. One of the most important things for me is to keep attending events that I enjoy, even when I really don’t feel like it. I sing in my church choir (with my Dad), serve on at least one committee at church, attend and participate in worship weekly, and attend a depression support group weekly.

One last thing that may indeed be the most important is cultivating friendships with people who understand what the journey through depression feels like. Getting through is so much easier when there’s someone to call, someone who checks up on me and doesn’t accept platitudes, and someone to pray for me when I reach out for help.

For now I’m taking things one day at a time, one choice at a time, one breath at a time.