Calming the Anxious Mind

I don’t know about you, but the only thing making me smile on social media these days is seeing everyone’s end-of-summer and back-to-school pics. Kids, puppies and va-k pics are beyond welcome right now.

Everything else around me just feels heavy. The political landscape sickens me more and more by the day. Charlottesville and the ugliness it brought to light. Hurricane Harvey’s devastation. Five local teenagers going 100 mph this past weekend killed as they hit a tree, days before they would have begun their next year of high school. The senseless end of #DACA. (As with healthcare, why not try to improve something instead of upending it and leaving everyone in a lurch?!).

All of that would have been enough, but couple that with scary news that rumors from the early 2000s that my university, American University, was basically built on a chemical wasteland are true and you can see why I’m a basket-case. What’s more, there are an obscene number of alumni who are battling various cancers and other ailments (many similar and odd), and all possibly related to arsenic exposure when we were students. Many have died — including my best male friend from college, Jason. (Even back when he was diagnosed, Jason suspected his cancer may have been arsenic-related; we lived in the dorms right behind the field most impacted–played on the fields, drank the university’s water).

Needless to say, my anxiety is at an all-time high and I’m doing my best to mitigate it. I’ve learned the only way to manage my anxious mind is to do exactly that: manage it. In other words, capitalize on the anxious mind’s strength: the ability to work well within parameters. So for me, that means to take the feelings, own them, and take the necessary steps to control what I can control, like the following:

  • I’ve made a doctor appointment for Friday morning to see my primary care provider and discuss what proactive tests — if any — can be done.
  • I’m running. I’m now up to 6 miles for my long runs, and I had my fastest run to date in Chicago last week — where my average was 9:47 / mile. (Normally I’m averaging 10:40/mile). I’m running on my own and with friends, challenging myself for the 15K.
  • I’m eating better and eating for fuel. (OK, except this past week when I’ve had my monthly guest and am a ravenous fool with zero self-control). A positive side effect is I’m down 4.4 pounds total now — so for being just under a month, that’s not too bad. If I can keep to 3-4 lbs/month, I can be at goal by the new year — though the scale will matter far less than how my clothes fit.
  • I’m writing. I have a couple more submissions into Kveller.com and am going to start looking for other freelance opportunities, too.

I’m just controlling what I can and trying to cope one day at a time. It’s the best I can do.

How are you coping with all the craziness around us? Is back-to-school a source of contention in your home, or a return to “normalcy”?

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