The Anxiety of "What Ifs"
Although I don’t think it is going to last too long, I am excited we are all being “paroled” this week. Released from our captivity! Our county has gone green!
I remember when “going green” meant you decided to use paper bags instead of plastic. Now it means the risk of contracting the virus is low enough there is currently no danger of overrunning the medical facilities with seriously ill patients. We get to go out and play... together!
Pandemic induced anxiety
For a time when they first announced we are going green, I was anxious. Before the pandemic, I had your basic, well-oiled machine working for me. I had people to take me various places. I had a “seeing eye secretary” at work. Can’t read it? Ask Tessa to read it for me. What would I do if my support system had fallen apart? What was going to happen if I had to start from scratch again? Talk about high anxiety!
Fortunately, as of this writing, I have only encountered problems with the county, disabilities transportation company. “My people” are still there for me. My anxiety has mitigated.
What is anxiety?
According to What to Know About Anxiety, published by Medical News Today, the American Psychiatric Association defines anxiety as an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure. Anxiety - in the form of uneasiness, hyper-awareness, and autonomic arousal - can be good for you. Fear and caution can be lifesavers when you are truly in a threatening situation. The problem becomes when the level of fear and anxiety does not match the level of the threat.1,2
My worry about losing my support network after not being able to use it in so long really did not merit going into the “fight or flight” response. There was nothing to fight and certainly nothing to flee from. Just the same, my body revved up. I was ready to rumble and there was nothing there to engage.
Fortunately, when it came to this issue, I was able to put my fears to rest pretty quickly. I did not have to get caught in a series of fantasy “what ifs”.
Vision loss is really fertile ground for the “what ifs” to grow, by the way. When I initially became legally blind, I grew a rather lovely crop of them myself. Might be the reason I experienced such “delightful” panic attacks. Yeah, right.
Solving the "What ifs..."
So what to do if you find yourself having all of these “delightful” fantasies about what is going to happen to you now that you are visually impaired? You know what I am talking about: loss of independence, abandonment, isolation, failure just to name a few. And what to do if your body is revving up to do a marathon or go ten rounds with a young Mohammed Ali but you can’t find your track shoes and/or he doesn’t show up? What to Know About Anxiety has some suggestions.
The article, of course, suggests going for therapy. As much as we would love your business (major credit cards accepted!), I am going to slip down to the self-help suggestions.1,2
Everyday stress management
Stress management, relaxation and strengthening social support networks are all suggested. They also suggest replacing negative thoughts with positive ones and good, old exercise. They also suggest making sure all those pesky, physical issues that can make us vulnerable be taken care of.
Loss of function, such as vision loss, can have us imagining all sorts of horrible things that then leads to anxiety. In many instances, like my worries my support system had fallen apart, the things we worry about don’t happen. Try to remember that, too, the next time you grow a bumper crop of “what ifs”.
Oh, tomorrow is yoga outside at the Y. I have rides! 😎
Editor's Note: This article was written in September of 2020.
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