I’m a messed up ball of emotions today, thanks to a few random comments online by strangers I don’t even know. Those emotions wreaked havoc on my physical self – I noticed the effects pretty quickly. True, most people would be perturbed by being labeled a white supremacist, but the majority would laugh and shrug it off. I can’t. Even though I know it’s not true.
I am my own enemy
Next to imposter syndrome, overthinking is my worst enemy. I can lay awake at night combing over misspoken words, mistakes, and genuine errors for hours, agonizing over how stupid I was to open my mouth and say that! My husband laughed at me after the second kid came along and told me I needed to loosen up – to be more spontaneous and just go. No need to prepare for every possible scenario of infant disaster, just go. Who else carries around a first aid kit, spare clothes, bendy straws, and toddler-sized spoons “just in case?”
Over thinking is bad enough on its own, but when you add conflict it becomes a violent demon. It takes on a life of its own, twisting every comment into a soul-searching analysis of how the other person will absorb your words. And if, by some horrible happenstance, there’s a misunderstanding? Then it’s a nightmare of anxiety over how I screwed up enough that the other person could misunderstand me.
If I could just find the right words, they would understand me. If I could just figure out the root behind my kid’s behavior, we could fix it. If I … the list goes on and on – if I just get it right, then all will be perfect. I will fix it. I CAN fix it, right?
There’s the rub. There’s that perfectionist tendency creeping in again – that need to be in control. Because if I don’t control things, they spiral into chaos and I will fall apart.
How is this related to giftedness?
Gifted individuals are often prone to these things: overthinking, sensitive, anxious, perfectionist. It’s a hazard of an overactive brain that just won’t turn off. If it doesn’t have something productive to do, then by golly! It will find something else to chew over, like a cow chewing its cud.
You could call me neurotic or overly sensitive. That’s ok, because I probably am. You could call me a tightly wound ball of emotions, because I am that too. My life is a never-ending battle against the tightening emotions, to force mindfulness and calm my physical self after my mental self gets it all wound up. So what helps me keep it down to a dull roar? A few things. I’ll share them, but this is my coping strategy. It may or may not work for you or your kid, and that means you might need a professional to help crack your individual code.
Ever since I was a little kid, getting out in nature helped. Alone, I might add. Without the demands and stresses that other people put on me, without the wearying need to wear a mask and act “pleasant.” For whatever reason I look perpetually stressed and unhappy – even when I’m calm and at rest. People react to that in a negative way – they want pleasant, smiles or they get offended. More than one boss has told me this. So for me to people effectively, I have to paste a smile on my face and maintain a polite expression of interest. It hurts. Literally hurts – my facial muscles don’t like smiling, apparently.
The trees don’t care that I have RBF (resting b—– face.) The squirrels only care if I get too close, and I’m happy to keep my distance. I am at rest, comfortable and calm. It’s one of the best forms of mindfulness for me.
2. Deep breathing
Stress tightens me up. My shoulder muscles clench up (helllllooo migraine!) my stomach muscles tighten up (woohoo digestive system alert!) and my face tightens up. In order for me to physically relax, I have to do some deep breathing exercises. Sometimes I have to KEEP doing the exercises or I simply pop right back into stress mode. It’s a battle. My body fights to stay upset. My brain is its enabler.
It never fails to amaze me how many of my physical symptoms appear with stress. Clearly, I do not handle stress well.
3. Kick out of the mental rut
I’ve found that overthinking is profoundly negative once I get into a repetitive rut. I trudge around and around the same, tired track, repeating the same negative thoughts. If I can reset the pattern – I visualize it as lifting one of the old school record player needles and resettling it – I can redirect my brain to something more positive.
Sometimes I kick my brain in its proverbial rear and remind myself that I’m flawed and human, and humans fail! And then we pick ourselves back up, fix what we can, and keep going. I am not perfect. Somehow my brain never got that message.
Please note that I am NOT a qualified mental health professional in any way. Go see a pro if you need it – I am not one.
4. Turn it off
It’s taken me years to get this trick down. I’m not sure if that’s an outstanding achievement or a moronic oversight: I turn my brain off. I just don’t think about it – deliberately. Sometimes I need a little help, so watching TV or reading a book can help me flip the switch. I tell myself “I’m not going to deal with this right now” and close the door on it. Plunk! Of course, it keeps sneaking back in, so I may have to do it more than once.
As a side note, going on Facebook seems to turn my brain off all by itself. So there’s that.
5. Self care and mindfulness
The best time to control stress is when you’re not stressed. Think about it. Do you plant a garden and sit back and harvest tomatoes? Nope, you have to maintain it. Pamper it. Coddle it. Nurse it along until those happy little plants produce tomatoes. If you treat your body the same way and pull some weeds here and there, and water it every so often, then it’s much more likely to respond well to stress. Controlling stress is easier if it’s a part of your routine instead of damage control.
Self care is the same way. Fill those wells and recharge those batteries, so that when you really need it, you have the reserves to deal. Figure out what you need to recharge your batteries and stick with it. Take care of yourself.
Easier said than done – I’m the world’s worst at dropping the ball and falling into damage control mode.
I swear, sometimes I would be happier if I was a hermit somewhere. At least then I wouldn’t offend anyone just by not-smiling or saying the exactly wrong thing. And of course, I’m overthinking this post already. “Should I edit more? Should I delete and start over? Maybe no one will notice if I post this? After all, I’m not really qualified to be writing this, so maybe they’ll just ignore me?” Yup, hitting “publish” before I chicken out already.