Sometimes it helps to make a bit of a mess

I spilled water yesterday morning, while I was making my coffee. Twice. Oh, well. It was easily cleaned up. And when I did wipe it up, I also cleaned the counter, which had the odd spot and speck on it.

After the small pond had been sopped up, the whole counter was cleaner, and so was that corner of the kitchen.

I worked most of the day yesterday. Catching up with things I’d fallen behind on. I got an early start and worked through the evening, till late. I took a nap around 4 pm and then got up and go at it again.

It may sound like a lot to do, but it’s actually really relaxing. I actually got to sort out all the things I couldn’t get to during the week, for sheer lack of time.

I love my job. I really do. And it loves me — so much, that I’ve got this never-ending stream of things I love to do… that I need to do. It’s kind of a drag, having so much to do, that you can’t enjoy the things you’re taking care of, but that’s kind of where I’m at. Not much time to relax and recoup. Management has some odd (and fairly uninformed) ideas about what makes people effective. They seem to think that constant change and shifting priorities are exciting.

If you consider adrenal exhaustion exciting, then I suppose it is.

Anyway, I did get a lot done, and I got to do it at my own pace — thoughtfully, mindfully, with an eye on the larger picture. Good stuff. When all was said and done, I didn’t feel like I’d been working — just doing my thing and enjoying it.

I’ve got a new sleeping approach that’s working pretty well for me — not worrying about getting a full 8 hours (and stressing about it, if I don’t), but taking intermittent naps, and pacing myself with time-outs that let me deeply relax. I’ve also found some stretches and pressure points in my neck and lower back that seem to be like “switches” that put me into an incredible state of full-body relaxation when I do them. It’s pretty amazing. I do progressive relaxation at times, working from my toes to my head… but these stretches and points are like an instant shot of relaxation.

Amazing.

Another amazing thing is that I’ve realized that it’s not so much the lack of sleep that wrecks me, as it is stressing about lack of sleep. Getting all tense and uptight just wears me out even more. Of course, it’s not optimal to be running around on 6 hours of sleep each day — and running at a pretty fast pace, too, I might add. But I find that if I don’t stress over it, and I incorporate things like regular stretches throughout the day, as well as naps when I can get them, I can stay in a pretty good space.

When I tense up and get all tight, it actually drains more energy from me. Even with 8 hours of sleep, if I’m stressed and tight, I feel/do worse, than if I have 6 hours and relax into the day.

Mindfulness, too — I have to stay mindful and present and pay attention to what I’m doing. If I get 9 hours of sleep but am just driving myself mindlessly through the day, things have a way of getting completely screwed up. In fact, there’s something challenging about being fully rested. I get so amped up, I tend to overdo it.

Well, it’s all an adventure and an experiment. I got a lot done over the weekend, which makes me really happy. And I found some techniques for instant relaxation, which makes me even happier. I never thought it was possible to feel this good about such mundane things. But I do.

🙂

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My solution for TBI/PTSD rage

Anger (or out-and-out rage) is one of the places where my TBIs and PTSD intersect to cause real problems. I’ve been having some rage issues, lately. Getting worked up over little things — getting angry over nothing, really. Just getting angry. Temper, temper…

In the moment, my anger — my rage — seems completely justified. I feel with every cell in my being that I am entitled to be outraged. I am entitled to be angry. I validate my emotional experience, and I end up spiraling down into a deepening pit of anger, resentment, and acting out. Yelling. Making a fuss. Putting up a stink. And getting aggressive with whomever happens to be offending me at the moment.

This is not good. I’ve done it with police officers, and I’m lucky I didn’t get cited. Or arrested. I’ve done it with family members, and it’s cost me plenty, in terms of peace of mind and my relationships. I’ve done it with co-workers, and it strained our connections to the point of breaking.

Not good.

But lately, I’ve been able to pull myself out of my downward spiral before it gets too much of a hold on me. I’ve started doing some basic things that stop the progression of rage before it picks up so much speed it’s like a runaway freight train.

First, I recognize that I’m angry, and I am convinced that I’m right about being angry. This might not seem like a big thing, but I have trouble figuring out how I’m feeling sometimes, and anger is one of those emotions that I don’t always identify well. It just feels like a rush of energy — and while everyone around me knows I’m pissed off, I usually can’t tell what’s going on with me until it’s progressed to a really problematic point. I recognize that I’m angry, and I remember that I need to not let myself get carried away.

Second, I step away. I take a time-out and just walk away. I stop myself from saying what I’m about to say, no matter how badly I want to say it. I tell myself, I’ll give it some thought and figure out how to say it exactly the way I want to say it. I tell myself… anything … just to extract myself from the situation. I step away, telling myself I’ll come back when I’m better able to express myself.

Third, I take some deep breaths.  This helps stimulate my parasympathetic nervous system, which is the part of the nervous system that chills you out. The sympathetic nervous system is what gets you worked up to respond to a crisis situation — and when I get really angry, it’s often because I think and feel like I’m in a crisis situation, and my body is getting all geared up for fight or flight (more often fight). I consciously take some deep breaths to get my parasympathetic nervous system to chill out.

Fourth, I seek out some kind of tactile stimulation. I need to get out of my head, which is spinning out of control, and just give myself a different point of focus. My head is going so madly, at this point, that I cannot even think straight, so I seek out some kind of physical sensation to get my mind off the madness. I press the side of my face against the cold side of a door that leads to the outside. I pick up something rough and rub my fingers along it. I jingle change in my pocket. Or I find something heavy and hold it. The physical sensation, along with the deep breathing, gets my mind off the crazy cycle it was in, just a minute ago, and it lets me focus on a single point — the feel of the cold door against my cheek or the feel of quarters and nickels and dimes juggling among my fingers. Tactile stimulation, like looking at a flame of a candle while meditating, helps me center and get my mind off that crazy downward cycle.

Fifth, I remind myself that my body and brain are playing tricks on me. I am probably not getting angry for the reasons I think I am — it’s my body that’s getting all worked up into a fight/flight/freeze state, and my mind is interpreting that as a real sign of DANGER. And I’m probably starting to panic a little, too. As a matter of fact, when I take an objective look at things, the rage that’s building inside of me might not even be real rage, rather a response to a hyperactive sympathetic nervous system response. It could very well be my body tricking my mind into thinking the wrong things. And I need to remember that I get to choose how I interpret my life. My mind gets to decide how I’m going to think about things, how I’m going to react. And my well-intentioned body, which thinks it needs help, is just misleading my brain into thinking that I have to do something about whatever it is that’s getting to me. When I remind myself that this is a physiological process that’s taking place, I am able to relax… and the anger subsides.

The thing I have to remember, when all this is coming down, is that It Is Not Worth It. No matter how justified my rage seems to be. No matter how entitled I am to be angry. No matter how wronged I may have  been. It is not worth it, to get so tweaked over things. When I go off on an anger “binge” I end up feeling really hungover and dumb and numb afterwards, which just makes my life more difficult, once it’s passed.

I’m no doctor, but I suspect that it may be connected with the mechanics of panic/anxiety… all that post-traumatic stress stewing in a pot, and my TBI brain being unable to sort it all out in a timely fashion… My processing speed is slower than I’d like, and by the time I figure out what’s going on, the damage is often done.

So, I do my best to recognize when I’m getting angry, I step away, I take some deep breaths and try to relax, and I do something that gets my body’s attention — like feeling something cold or rough or tactile in some way. And I remind myself that my brain and body are playing tricks on me again. They’ve done it before… and they’ll do it again.