Volume 1, Issue 5: Prepping for Meltdowns

This is a public issue of Enthusiastic Encouragement & Dubious Advice. Feel free to share it!

Link to original comic: http://gunshowcomic.com/648

As of the posting of this newsletter, I will be in self isolation / sheltering in place / physical distancing for just over 3 weeks.

On the one hand, I feel like I am doing much better than I anticipated! I definitely thought I’d be having more meltdowns (only one so far) or that I’d have insomnia due to my good ol’ obsessive thinking (mostly been sleeping fine).

But…

On the other hand, I just had a huge wave of guilt for doing something “frivolous” (starting to learn a new song on the ukulele) rather than something productive (cleaning/reading/writing/exercising) with this time.

So. Yeah. This is fine.

Today I want to return to last week’s newsletter a bit, specifically regarding Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle. As I mentioned, one of the most useful parts of the book for me were the discussions of multiple ways of completing the stress cycle. Just because you get rid of the stressor, doesn’t mean you automatically get rid of the stress. So you need to complete the cycle. While I am almost always a fan of reading a book, my brilliant friend Evelyn posted a link to an excerpt from the book with the aforementioned details!

The main buckets for completing the stress cycle are:

  • Physical activity

  • Breathing

  • Positive social interaction

  • Laughter

  • Affection

  • Crying

  • Creative expression

Again, you can see a bit more detail here: Complete the stress cycle to stop feeling emotionally drained

I don’t know if this happens to you, but whenever I’m having an anxiety attack or major stress or an utter meltdown I seem to have no recollection of what things actually help me in those moments. Should I lay down? I don’t know. Cry? I don’t know. Exercise? I don’t know. Go for a walk? Drink some water? Hug my wife? I. DON’T. KNOW. I just know in those moments that I’m not doing well.

So I thought, what if present Patricia, who is NOT currently freaking the fuck out, helps out future Patricia by making a list of the things that help her alleviate anxiety and/or complete her stress cycle. Then, what if present Patricia not only has this list somewhere accessible (like on her phone) but she also then shares this list with the person she normally trusts in these situations. For me, it’s my wife Nicole. THEN, during a future meltdown, Nicole will at least have some starting points to help me.

I am optimistic about this idea, so much so, that I wanted to share it with all of you.

It’s a work in progress, of course. I am trying to think of things beyond the obvious ones of turning off screens, exercising, drinking water, and having a snack, though I will also include these on my checklist. I have a few, which I’ll share, and I’m interested in hearing yours.

Photo of a cardboard box that has the words “Do not break down” printed on it. A caption above the photo says, “I’m trying, box. I’m trying.”
Photo of a cardboard box that has the words “Do not break down” printed on it. A caption above the photo says, “I’m trying, box. I’m trying.”

Singing

Many of you know this but some of you may not: I studied musical theatre performance in college. I got to perform at the Hollywood Bowl. And then, I stopped performing because I hit my “goal.” I was known for singing sad songs. Like, heart-wrenching, make the audience cry songs. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that singing the songs helped me get my own feelings out so they wouldn’t just be held inside and fester until it was meltdown city. When I stopped singing, I stopped fully “getting it all out of my system.”

So, I’m working on getting back to singing. Not performing in front of people, but legit, full-body, breathing down to my pelvic floor and high off the oxygen singing in our apartment. Sorry neighbors!

Ukulele

I’m very much a beginner at ukulele. The last time I learned a song was in 2017 and that was for Nicole for our wedding. The thing is, I really, really like it! And I cannot concentrate on anything else while I’m learning a song which is super great for getting me out of my own head.

Baking

I used to bake extravagant cupcakes and labor-intensive cookies and it was really great to, again, be fully immersed in the process of creating something and not looking at a screen.

Reading fiction

I’ve mentioned before that I have a side-gig as a punk-ass book jockey. I gravitate toward nonfiction but I have learned that I am a happier person if I am also reading some science fiction or fantasy. Too many nonfiction books at once brings me down, even if the subjects themselves aren’t necessarily sad.

Laughter

I already do this a lot but I forget how legitimately helpful it is to watch a funny show when I’m feeling extra stressed.

Archery

Again, I can’t shoot a range weapon while concentrating on other shit. Alas, this option is not currently available to me.

Time with friends

Clearly, this is a hard one right now. I am also finding that the less I see people, the less I WANT to see people. And truthfully, whenever we’re invited to do something I usually don’t want to go but then Nicole makes me go and then surprise! I’m happy I went. Every single time. But like I said, this is a hard one right now so on my birthday the other day I had virtual lunch with a few of my coworker friends over Zoom then in the evening we Skyped a friend and had drinks. It was great! I got to see friends AND I also didn’t have to leave our apartment. I’m definitely going to try to do this more. Phonecalls can work too and even just reaching out by text to connect helps me.

That’s what I have on my list so far! Like I said, it’s a work in progress. I don’t think I have a goal number of items but I am aiming for a diverse list.

One bit of housekeeping: In last week’s newsletter, I mentioned the National Emergency Library from the Internet Archive. Turns out, it’s super unethical and really quite bad. I’m very disappointed, especially since the IA historically has done some really great work.

That’s it for this week! If you enjoy this newsletter, feel free to forward it to a friend and/or give me a tip!

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