V is for Vladamir Putin and Various Other Madmen

When you have generalized anxiety, there is an underlying belief system that the world is a dangerous place. People with this disorder have brains that seem to filter out the good stuff and retain the bad stuff even more than the overall population.  Ask them about their day and you are likely to get a litany of things that went wrong. It’s as though the entire world is filled with lemons and lemonade is a drink only other people enjoy. These are people who, when they have downed half of their coffee, look in their cup in despair because the coffee is halfway gone already. They are already planning for their next cup rather than enjoying the coffee they still have left.  Instead of enjoying all the times that nothing bad is happening, they are busy waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Our back yard soothes us when it’s nice outside.

The thing is, anxiety can be progressive for many people. What starts as negative thinking left unchecked can end up in Agoraphobia, that thing where in severe cases people don’t leave their homes because the world is simply too dangerous. In other words, their comfort zones get smaller and smaller. Is that any way to live? I submit that it is not.

So what to do in a situation where a person has Generalize Anxiety Disorder and Fran ‘the frontal’ Cortex wants to go explore the world, but Amy G. Dala is on fire? You have to find some ways to specifically address the underlying belief system that the world is too dangerous and that the only safe place is your special bed, under the covers, eyes tightly shut. you can’t do that when your inner Amy is way overstimulated. You need some tools to get her to relax a bit so you can hear what Fran ‘the frontal’ Cortex has to say. Let’s start thinking of Amy as an overly tired toddler whose screams drown out all sensible solutions.

You ever been around an overly tired toddler? It’s hilarious (if you are not the parent, that is). They are hyperactive. They run around, swing their arms, kick things, slap their own face (or your face) anything to keep stimulating their brains so they don’t fall asleep standing up. They have chronic meltdowns. They are completely oppositional. Woe be to the parent who asks the overly tired toddler a question that begins with ‘Do you want…’.  HAHAHAHA! Those parents are really setting themselves up. Once you’ve allowed a toddler to get to this point, you’re in trouble. It’s going to be very difficult. Amy G. Dala is exactly like that. Trying to use coping skills when she is really upset is only going to go so far. You need to have been paying more attention from the get go. You need to keep her in a better state of zen.

So what do you pay attention to? What over-stimulates your brain such that Generalized Anxiety gets hold of you? In our modern world, there are many ways that we are overstimulated. We live in the TMI days. Too. Much. Information. We are constantly over-exposed. Think of it like the sun. You over expose yourself, you will get blistered. And it will hurt and be bad for you.

Over-exposure comes in many forms. And you probably will have to give up something that you THINK you are enjoying, but is actually just putting Amy’s knickers in a twist. You don’t have to give it up forever. But learning how to mitigate your exposure to things that create tension is important in the long run. It’s hard to notice how things are effecting you until you give them up. It’s kind of like a wheat sensitivity. You might not notice you have one until you eat clean for a month, then add wheat back in and suffer the consequences. Then, you make the connection. See what I mean? Here’s a short list of possibilities.

  1.  Too much news coverage. If you have GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), please stop watching TV news until your brain simmers down. And please stop reading sensationalized news coverage on the interwebs, which pretty much includes any of the mass media websites. Is there anything you can do about the evil geniuses in our world? So what if Vladimir Putin has posed without his shirt on once more? Why is it a surprise that Kim Jong-un has shown the world his own special brand of crazy again? Oh, the Mexican drug cartels have committed more murders? Do tell. The world has always been filled with crazy madmen. You have no control over that.Remember that TV and other media have to compete with each other for readers/viewers. If they can make things overly dramatic, they will do so. A constant barrage of over-stimulation by bad news is bad for the brain. It gives a skewed view of reality and people with GAD already do a good enough job of that. Take a news break.If you feel you must be ‘informed’ ask yourself why? What can you possibly do about anything that is happening in the news unless it is in your own backyard, in which case you will hear about it soon enough. You will not be a bad citizen if you protect your brain from being overly stimulated by being hyper-aroused by TV news. You know what is not news? The fact that every day in our world billions of people go about their business and live perfectly ordinary lives with no drama. No. Drama.
  2. Listen much to talk radio? Unless it’s NPR, talk radio is likely to be designed to elicit strong emotion, i.e. piss you off. If you find that talk radio puts your head in a space where it won’t shut the hell up, just say no to talk radio.Also, have you ever noticed many talk radio programs center around conspiracy theory? Ever wonder why that is? I opine it’s because fear is the way to get to people’s hearts. These people are like emotional terrorists. Think about it: so what if there is a conspiracy? What will you be able to do about it? So much of dealing with anxiety is knowing that you have ABSOLUTELY NO CONTROL, and probably the same amount of responsibility to ‘fix it’. Revel in the freedom that lack of control brings you on things like whether the world is run by reptilian aliens in disguise as presidential candidates. You have no super power. There is nothing you can do about it.

    Pause for a calming photo.

  3.  Scary movies. Really? Do we have to go into this one? Why would anyone with anxiety go to see a horror movie or true crime flick? Just a glutton for punishment? If you somehow believe that this is going to ‘teach you to handle fear’, I just don’t know what to say to that except NO.While we are on the subject, can I just put a plug in here to keep young children from viewing scary media? Just don’t take little kids to movies such as Star Wars (which I LOVE).  Young children are not ready for the complete over stimulation and in-your-face experience of this kind of movie, much less some of the others out there. When we went to see Lord of the Rings, someone had brought an infant. Really? Your 4 year old might TELL you that they know that things that happen in movies or on TV aren’t real, but they are only saying that to please you because you’ve told them that, and because they can tell how much you want them to give you that answer. Their brains are not quite ready for that. If you continually allow your young child to be overstimulated, and then they are anxious kids, don’t blame me. (Of course, it’s usually more complex than that, but point made.)
  4. Video games. Yeah, if you are a lover of intense video games, may want to rethink that, especially if they are violent. And actually, are there any popular ones that are not? Think about the images in these games. Is that what you want to put into your head? I’m not saying you have to never play a video game. But in all seriousness, when your brain is always on fire, this is like blowing on hot coals.
  5. Facebook drama. Facebook is great. I use it all the time. But ever notice how some people on your feed are always posting negative things? Maybe they have anxiety. Who knows? But if someone on your FB feed is always posting things that make you feel bad, for whatever reason, just unfollow them for awhile. You don’t have to block them, or unfriend them, or whatever. Just don’t expose yourself. Because it doesn’t help you. It hurts you.
  6. Physical surroundings. Look around the place where you live. Is it overly cluttered? Are you able to completely relax there? Do you have too much stuff? Is your place physically safe? (Recall the woman who lived in a gang infested area and thought she had anxiety.) If you have too much stuff, get rid of some of it. Have a home or boat that is fairly organized and tidy enough that you are not visually and energetically overstimulated by too much stuff. You want to be able to sigh, ‘Ahhhhh…’ in relief when you come home.

    Nature is a good calmer-downer.

    Nature is a good calmer-downer.

  7. Too much busy-ness. Take a look at how you live your day. Are you trying to cram too much into one day and feeling chronically stressed out? Is there a way to cut back on that? How can you, for instance, use the time sitting in traffic to your advantage rather than getting spun up about it? How can you give yourself time to relax each day and unwind? You might consider talking to a professional who can look at your lifestyle and help you find ways to be creative about time.
  8. Are you getting enough good quality sleep? You need at least 7 hours of good sleep each night. Sleep deprivation is a huge cause of anxiety. Do you have sleep apnea? A brain deprived of oxygen is a brain trying to survive.
  9. Exercise. Do you get any? Lack of exercise can keep you spun up for no good reason. Find something that works for you. Walking is a very good exercise for anxiety. Working that excess tension out with physical activity is good on all levels. It really does help.

I hope you can see a general trend here. You should be looking for any kind of activity that creates tension in your body because tension sends a signal to your brain that all is not well. Understanding what creates tension for you, and that you can choose to forego some of that for a time, will help you learn to control your anxiety. Give your system a chance to calm down. Again, think of a toddler. If you never give that toddler a structured time to rest and recoup, can you really blame him for being out of control?

Get some exercise to help Amy G. Dala calm down.

Finally, take stock of your level of chronic tension. Give it a number, like we did in the exercise with couples.   Don’t forget that many people have chronic, underlying issues that create a default level of tension all the time. This morning, for instance, I’m typing this post and my internal state of tension is about a 2, mostly because I’m wanting to get it finished. I’m alone, so I don’t have to worry about being able to hear anyone.

What is your current level of tension and anxiety? If it’s above a 2, how can you bring that down? The more your brain can rest from being on high alert, the more healing you will experience.

We are almost finished with the A to Z Challenge! Want to read from the letter A? Go here.


19 thoughts on “V is for Vladamir Putin and Various Other Madmen

  1. I love your nature photographs, you are a talented gardener. I’m only great with weeds, and I gave to my brother, the last houseplant that I had managed to keep alive. It was a plant from my Mother’s memorial service, and I was determined to keep it alive, and there is no room for it on the boat.

    I like to take photographs, and have them printed on canvas, and stretched over a frame, they make lovely artwork. You could take some of your beautiful garden with you on Galapagos that way perhaps.

    Another great post, I am learning so much, thanks.

    • I do have a couple of special photographs from the garden that I want to take. I’ve been taking small things that I love down to the boat as a way of transitioning into our home. There are some paintings I did last year that, while certainly not fine art, I really love and want small versions of on the boat. I’m looking for a place that has a large flatbed scanner so i can get smaller versions done on canvas. Very glad you are continuing to read and benefit from these posts!

      • You can usually get things scanned onto canvas at a Kinkos, or similar kind of place. There are also onlines stores, like Vistaprint, and Zazzles, that can do it also.

  2. Addiction.
    That’s the answer I come to each time I encounter talk radio, sensational “news” shows/networks and all their ilk and want to ask a listener “Why do you subject yourself to this crap and the anger/angst it generates?”
    I believe people become addicted to the adrenalin rush, the chemical cocktail that such programming generates, such that they can’t help but tune in.
    Am I warm?

    • You are very warm. It’s like driving by a car wreck. who can help but look? At some point, we have to be come more responsible stewards of our own angst.

  3. Excellent advice, Melissa. One of things I’ve been enjoying so much about your series is learning what I’m doing right in life, and steering clear of outside “noise” and drama tops the list.


  4. I never did understand why people go see scary horror movies. I can’t quite fathom the thrill of knowing you can’t sleep through the night because you’re scared to death that whatever monster you saw in the movie is coming for you next.

    By the way, I think you might win the award for best blog post title of the challenge.

    • So funny! I actually thought of you when the title popped into my head. I thought, ‘Ellen is going to love this title.’.
      Just say , ‘no’ to horror movies.

  5. Brilliant post. I don’t have a chronic situation at the moment, but yes, I would like to tone it down before it gets worse. I overthink alot. I mean A LOT. And then my brain skips from one supposition to the other, and boom, I’m panicking, crying, going blue. I stay away from FB as much as possible. People write shit there. Don’t need that in my life.
    [@samantha_rjsdr] from
    Whimsical Compass

    • Good idea to tone down that firey brain before it does get worse. I invite you to read through the posts from the letter A if you have the time. You may see yourself in the posts and find some other tips to be useful. Thanks for stopping by the blog! I look forward to checking yours out.

  6. Doh ! I was hoping for some Valium with “V”. No, no, just kidding…this was highly useful, too. In my work life, I had to stay on top of news in depth all the time and it’s the first thing I scrapped when I got the chance. My stress levels went down immediately. Being out of the loop is so nice, really a privilege.

    • It really is. People just have no idea how tense many of us are because of the constant stimulation we face. And don’t even get me started on kids raised in this kind of stressful environment. So hard on them. X will not be for Xanax, either 🙂

    • When i suggest that to people, they sometimes look at me like I’m a little crazy, or some kind of hermit. I think to what it must have been like when our ancestors didn’t get news from anywhere other than their town for weeks or longer, much less from across the world. Sometimes it’s too much.

  7. This is a good way to live even if you aren’t anxious! Ditto what Sailing Mareda said; I also started every day of my work life with an hour of news and news clipping services. It really is a luxury to be able to unplug from a lot of that.

    • It really is. People who have difficult anxiety suffer a great deal every day. The worst thing is that since life is just not always sunny blue skies, every time something happens they feel like they were right all along. It’s so hard for them to just enjoy the times that are good.

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