As we anxious brains well know, but many other non-anxiety sufferers may not, having anxiety is exhausting. So much focus is placed on us continuing to fight, trying to push ourselves to be better, so I want to take a moment to focus on giving ourselves a break.
Panic attacks are not just mentally exhausting, but physically as well. Spending time out and about and battling panic attacks the entire time can leave you completely spent by the time you get back home. Part of the exhaustion comes from the actual physical work our bodies perform when we have a panic attack. As far as your body is concerned, you were just about to be eaten by a bear and it was responding completely appropriately. Of course, it’s response would have been appropriate had you actually almost been eaten by a bear, but you weren’t, you were just trying to buy some potatoes for dinner.
I, for one, am grateful to know that my body has the capability to throw itself into overdrive in the event that I ever find myself looking mighty tasty to a local bear. It’s good to know that I can run almost super-humanly fast, my lungs can expand to allow for more oxygen and my heart can beat harder to increase my blood flow. In this situation, my body is pre-wired to escape, giving me the best chance of survival, but as we anxious brains have learned over time, our brains have developed a bit of a tick and seem to perceive the most simple of every day tasks as potentially life-threatening scenarios. Naturally, having our bodies unreasonably thrown into this fight or flight response on a regular basis is exhausting. Never mind the fact that once we learn that flight is not actually mandatory as we are just trying to buy some potatoes, we have no other choice but to fight.
Now of course, the ‘fight’ in the fight or flight response refers to our bodies ramping up to either fight the hungry bear or run from it, but the fight we find ourselves in is against our own minds. The amount of strength it takes to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground when every fiber of your being is screaming at you to run cannot be understated. I admire all anxious brains because I feel that we are often perceived as being weak, constantly leaving things early or never going in the first place because we are scared of some implausible event. I find the exact opposite to be true. We are some of the strongest people I know.
Running errands, going out to dinner, driving a car, etc., etc., etc. are all activities that come easily to most people and are performed without a second thought, but for us, each of these activities requires a battle with one of the strongest foes we have likely ever faced, our own minds. We should be proud of ourselves for anything we do because it most likely took a fight to get there and when the people we were with head out for their next adventure, we will head home, collapse on the couch and sleep because our brains and our bodies are completely spent.
All that being said, I want to heavily emphasize the title of this blog. Sometimes, it’s okay to just say “Not Today.” We fight day in and day out and having a day every once in a while where we just don’t feel like doing it is not only our prerogative but also a healthy thing. Now, we obviously can’t rely on this as a crutch and I don’t recommend saying “Not Today” 37 days in a row, but if you’ve been pushing yourself, continually trying to improve your situation and doing a bit better day by day, and you wake up on a random Tuesday and say, “you know what, I just don’t feel like fighting today,” then don’t.
Take a rest and tackle those demons again tomorrow. They will no doubt still be there but you will reach a point where the voice telling you to run gets quieter and a few deep breaths is enough to tell that fight or flight response to back off.