Managing Anxiety

social-anxiety-googleIf you’ve been reading my blog since its inception, you might know that my husband’s family is from El Salvador and that every year in August or September, his mom and sister come to stay with us for several weeks.

You might also know that while I love them both dearly, there is always a lot of stress for me when they are here.

To say my anxiety levels skyrocket is an understatement. For several weeks, my life is not in my control as usual, and it throws me for a loop.

In fact, last year my chewing/spitting was at its peak when they visited. (I certainly don’t blame them for it; how I react to stress/anxiety is what I was working on in therapy at the time.)

Well, this coming weekend, we will go pick them up for their three-week visit.

And so I am mentally preparing myself now — not dwelling, not projecting … but mentally gearing up because I don’t want to see shades of last year’s visit once again; I pretty much hated myself for a long time after that visit. In addition to the language barrier and our very, very different ways of doing things, it’s difficult for anyone having two people living in your home in such tight confines for so long.

In-laws are the butt of many jokes, but in my case, I honestly don’t dislike mine; I just have very unique circumstances that make it difficult for me at times.

My mother-in-law is almost 72. She’s a very strong, single mother (now retired) who spends her days taking care of my sister-in-law, who is sweet as can be, but severely mentally challenged. (At 37, she has the mental capacity of a four-year-old, which presents a host of challenges outside her control).

They live in El Salvador, so visits here to visit my husband and I are very special for them, and I do realize that.

My husband is pretty Americanized and there’s often a tacit struggle in how we do things as a couple compared to how his mom would do them; he seems torn between the two worlds sometimes, torn between the two women in his life. And I try to be cognizant of that.

So unlike last year, where the circumstance of their visit were less than ideal for both he and I, (detailed here), this year, we tried to take the proactive route, by booking their tickets ourselves and doing it for a finite period of three weeks (versus five) like last year. (We actually tried to do it for August when he had a break from his MBA but tickets were 4 times more expensive then).

Last year I had therapy as a crutch during their visit, and I’m hoping I have enough coping mechanisms now to keep me positive as possible. I don’t want this to be a miserable experience but maybe a redeeming one.

Looking back, I realize that last year I said I wanted things to be OK for the sake of my husband and our relationship — but the truth is, I was still so focused on “me” and how I was doing that I lost sight of a lot of that and it made for a very unpleasant experience for all of us. I don’t want to see that happen again. I don’t want to hurt him; this is his family we’re talking about.

I’ve been chew/spit free since March, and do NOT want to go down that ugly path again. I’m sharing all this today because I know myself, and I know it’s up to me to choose Pride over Guilt yet again. I don’t mean in terms of food; I mean in terms of how I handle my anxiety.

If things feel challenging, I’ll just need to cope in my own ways: making lunch dates with my husband, finding quiet time/alone time, throwing myself into work (I’m planning a large event in Chicago for October anyway), phone dates with friends, girls’ night dinner, working out in the mornings most days  so I can have evenings free to spend with them … I can do it.

Food won’t solve my anxieties; over-exercising won’t solve my anxieties. Facing them head-on will. So this time, I hope to manage my anxiety a little better.

Dr. G. promised me that each time they visit, it will get easier and easier because I’ll have learned how to deal with it better and better (systematic desensitization, she called it in therapist (CBT) terms).

I hope she’s right. She didn’t help me overcome disordered eating issues, but she did teach me a lot about my hard-wiring and my anxiety.

When I say goodbye to them at the end of three weeks, I want to feel Pride, not Guilt. And so  I’m willing to put those coping mechanisms to the test. For the sake of myself, my husband, and (most precious of all) our relationship.

How about you? How do you handle stress and anxiety when it’s something you can’t control?

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10 thoughts on “Managing Anxiety

  1. I was just wondering about this, if your relatives were coming this year! I remember all of the stress it caused for you last year.

    I think it’s good that they are coming for a shorter period of time. I LOVE my family – love them! – but even we would have an extremely difficult time living with each other for that long. It is hard whenever you feel like you can’t just “be” in your own home. You have been doing so well and have been so strong, I know you can get through this!

    I don’t deal with anxiety or stress very well at all. In fact, I’m getting ready to do a post on it, too. I’m really trying to focus on being in the NOW – most of my anxiety comes from worrying about things that haven’t happened (and usually don’t ever happen!). That does seem to help. We just get so caught up in the “what if?” that it ruins our time in the present….

    1. Thanks ladies!!

      Holly, are you my clone?! 🙂 I’m the same way–my anxiety usually stems from things that might not ever happen — “projections.”

      Lara, that is so true … I’ve honestly NO desire to go down that path!!

      1. great! I have used food many times in the past as a way to cope with anxiety and have finally learned that doing so only ads to the anxiety by leading to weight gain and by distracting me from dealing the best I can with what is making me anxious. Even in situations that are out of our control we can usually control something about it and of course we can control how we react to it.

  2. I don’t deal with anxiety well yet I know a lot of it I bring on myself with the “what if’s”. I try to catch myself doing it and remind myself that there is just as much chance of the opposite of the “what if” happening.

    Sounds like you have a bit more control this year with having booked their stay for shorter amount of time. You are also in a better place it sounds. Hopefuly you will be able to build in some time for yourself and some couple time away from the family. And remember, C/S will not make you less anxious and could actually make you more anxious because then you will be beating yourself up about it on top of everything else.

  3. this post hits home. i deal with stress/control by over exercising, not allowing rest, and under eating. like you, i’ve taken steps this year to curb my anxiety through the busiest season of my photography business. ive asked for help teaching some of my yoga classes, and i’ve already “X-ed” out certain weekends to recharge and catch up on work. i will NOT overbook myself this year. last year was a disaster and by the time Christmas was over i had gone way back in recovery. this whole spring and summer have been a slow build, but i can’t lose it again.

    the most important thing though, like you eluded to, is to stay aware and learn from the past. best to you, thanks again for your openness.

  4. last year i was engaged to be married, and then subsequently broke off the engagement and ended that relationship in April. we would have been married last october, and i was really worried not only about how i would handle that day but also if my ex-fiancee would try to contact me or do anything crazy (we didn’t have any contact after we broke up in April). so in trying to prepare myself for that day, i tried to imagine any kind of scenario that could happen – me crying all day, him showing up at my door, etc. – and then tried to picture what i would do in response.

    as i think about it now, that’s a pretty obvious way to approach something that makes you anxious, but at the time, it was my survival mechanism – to be methodical and logical and CALM about whatever might come my way. maybe it was that the CBT stuff my therapist has tried to teach me finally sank in or maybe it was divine intervention but the closer i got to october, the more calm and in control i felt. i even TRIED to conjure up a little pity party for myself one day when i was really feeling bad about something else, and IT DIDN’T WORK! i was truly amazed.

    and you know what’s funny is that i really haven’t thought about how i handled all that until just now! at other times when i’ve been anxious about something i’ve only focused on the parts that are out of my control and never on making the most of what i could control. hey! i learned something!! 🙂

    so…i guess i said all that to say that i think you’re handling this impending visit in just the right way. aside from being in a better place mentally, you’ve also taken more control over your exercise habits and have learned to give yourself a break if things don’t go the way you planned. and being proactive about scheduling their time with you was a great idea! i’m sure their visit will be much better for you this year than it was last year.

    hoping you have a wonderful and relaxing Labor Day weekend!

  5. Methodical and calm — that’s the way to do it, Auntie! It sounds like you handled that tricky situation unbelievably well!!! You sure did learn something about yourself — rock on!! 🙂

    Thanks … we’re about to head to Chicago now … they arrive at 2 a.m. (3 a.m. my time) … I hope it will be better; I feel like I’m in a much better frame of mind. If nothing else, I’ll make my husband happy if I can not only tolerate things this time, but moreso, maybe even enjoy it!!

    Hugs!

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