Posted in Hello, Anxiety.

Hello, Anxiety: “Truffles Showing Up in Big Kroger”

This blog category is the journaling and journey-ing of my quest to say (with cautious sincerity) “Hello, Anxiety” and to take a look at the condition from my “me-andering” views.

If you read my most recent “Hello, Anxiety” post, you may remember that for a variety of mostly sensible reasons, I have nicknamed my anxiety “Truffles.” In a nutshell, I’m trying (gritted teeth) to recognize anxiety as a part of my experience. And to back off from automatically wanting to fight it as my mortal enemy.

Well today HR (Husband Robert) and I were in Big Kroger here in Savannah, stocking up on supplies for the upcoming Easter egg hunt with the grandkids.

Seriously?

“Wait,” you interrupt, “Why call it BIG Kroger?” Because it’s GIGANTIC. I have to use GPS to find Spam. What? You don’t eat Spam? Okay. Whatever.

It’s a twenty minute Uber ride to the cracker aisle.

Anyway, I was walking (exhausted) down Aisle 2043 looking for colorful napkins when I stumbled into Truffles.

She/he/they was/were standing there, resplendently purple. Queenly. Kingly. I tried to walk past, pretending I didn’t see.

But I couldn’t. I stared. Transfixed. I picked Truffles up. Held him/her/them in my hands.

And for the first time in a long time (maybe forever), I was able to laugh, LAUGH, at my anxiety. Perhaps, laugh WITH my anxiety. In Big Kroger of all places.

I placed anxiety back on the shelf. Started to walk away. Finished with the little play.

Robert looked at me, stopping me, and said, “Neal, who knows when we will be back here, or if it will still be on the shelf.”

Irritated, I stood there.

Stood.

Between Robert and anxiety. Then sighed, walked to the checkout counter.

And actually BOUGHT the f***ing TRUFFLES chips.

Like, paid for them/it/him/her.

Is this a new relationship?

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More to come.

Posted in Hello, Anxiety.

Hello, Anxiety: “Making Room at the Table for Truffles”

This blog category is the journaling and journey-ing of my quest to say (with cautious sincerity) “Hello, Anxiety” and to take a look at the condition from my “me-andering” views.

On a recent long weekend trip up to Atlanta, Robert and I explored and ate and barhopped and went to the symphony and the theatre and even the opera.

Outside the High Museum of Art

We really had a terrific time. Well, most of the time. Except for the time when it wasn’t so terrific for me. (Which means that at that particular time it wasn’t terrific for HR either.)

Truffles (my nickname for my anxiety) showed up (uninvited) on the first evening of our … terrific trip. I don’t have a hold on whether or not I sometimes trigger my anxiety (I suspect I’m a culprit), but I do know that when I get pretty (ugly?) anxious, I sort of lose grip on the usually cool, calm and collected Neal. Together Neal. Funny Neal. Public Neal. Those Neals suddenly skedaddle. I can’t make them stay, though desperately I try.

We were staying in a very cool Airbnb steps from lovely Piedmont Park. Robert had prepared a beautiful roasted garlic chicken penne with asparagus supper. But Truffles was already making his presence known before we even sat down to eat. You see, I had gotten sick at the end of our last Atlanta trip, and I suppose I was a bit concerned it might happen again.

And then I looked closer at Robert’s beautiful food, and my anxiety skyrocketed. Which of course makes absolutely no sense. But neither does generalized anxiety disorder, at least not to me. I didn’t want Truffles there ruining our evening. So I did one of my Two Least Effective Ways to Deal With Anxiety Strategies: Nothing. I said zilch to HR and pretended to him and to myself that all was well. (In case you are interested, the other least effective strategy is to fight anxiety as my mortal enemy.)

Then dinner itself quickly became my enemy. The garlic smelled far too garlicky. And the creamy garlic sauce was leaning toward being alfredo. Which is perfectly fine for 99.9% of the human population, but I have a crazy connection in my mind between alfredo sauce and breath-inhibiting nausea. And the thought of being nauseous electrifies my anxiety. (I know, I know, I need to just get over this.)

The evening was unraveling. I felt bloated, even though I had barely touched dinner. All because of Truffles! I wanted to pack up and head back home. Because of course you can just run away from anxiety. Leave it geographically behind.

Of course Robert quickly saw through my attempted impersonation of “Normal Neal.” It wasn’t hard. I’m an easy read. I wasn’t eating, and my breathing had morphed into anxiety staccato. My eyes were wet.

I tried to explain. But you (well, I) cannot explain anxiety. It’s too person-specific, too nuanced. Too IN YOUR FACE at the moment.

Levelheaded HR reminded me that I had a protocol of strategies (which I had forgotten all about) and graciously told me that I didn’t have to eat. “It’s fine.”

I was so Truffled that I even called my therapist back home in Savannah, and Rubi agreed to chat. (Do other folks harass their therapists the way I do, thinking Rubi is constantly glancing at his phone to see if I need anything?) (No? Why not?!)

Fast forward a bit. You really don’t need to see me at my most anxious and illogical self. Sound encouragement from Rubi, chewable Benadryl, deep breathing and (finally!) accepting that Anxiety/Truffles was a part of me and that I have gotten though this many times before all helped to ground me into the reality that life goes on, that the storms don’t last forever.

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The next morning, after I set the table for breakfast, Robert weirdly placed a third plate down. Pulled a third chair to the table in front of the plate.

HR then dramatically pointed at the third plate and chair and said …

… “I think we need to make room at the table for Truffles.”

I made HR reenact the moment of his Truffles invitation. For posterity.

I’m glad I married a creative genius. But I’m also glad the only other clean plate was a smaller one.

Of course Robert—and Therapist Rubi—are right. (Sometimes I get the advice from my two R’s mixed up. It’s often quite similar.) They are both gently pushing me to recognize and accept my anxiety, Truffles, as a part of my life. And to back off from being so dismissive, unaccepting, hopeless (at least in the moment) and combative toward it.

So, okay. I guess. I’ll try. If you absolutely insist.

“Truffles, I invite you to sit at the table.”

“But I expect you to sit properly at that table. And to use your best manners. And to have taken a very hot shower before you come. With antibacterial soap. We all know Truffles can reek. And do not try to dominate the conversation. HR and I have a few things to say ourselves, you know. And if you don’t have something nice to say about people or things, just don’t say anything. And please do not overstay your welcome. This is not a spend the night party!”

“So, yes, Truffles, I invite you to sit at the table.”

Truffles: “I actually feel sorry for HR and Rubi. They’ve got their hands full with this one. When I’m with him, I’m often on the verge of a panic attack myself.”

Posted in Hello, Anxiety.

Hello, Anxiety: “A Christening — Introducing Anxiety’s Brand New Name!”

This blog category is the journaling and journey-ing of my quest to say (with cautious sincerity) “Hello, Anxiety” and to take a look at the condition from my “me-andering” views.

You’re invited to a …

Recently, my therapist “Rubi” suggested that I come up with an alternative name for my anxiety, a nickname of sorts. Why? Well, I’m working through this big, heavy workbook about anxiety …

Here it is, completely taking over my comfy study chair.

TIB (Truth in Blogging, remember?): I have a Love/Hate relationship with the book. Our latest spat centered on the book (it’s not even a hardback) somewhat arrogantly insisting that I begin to recognize and address my anxiety AS A FRIEND!

Seriously? Is poison ivy my friend? Is wet bread? Are the Kardashians my friends? No. And neither is anxiety. It’s my enemy. And it has that hateful “x” in the middle of its name, for goodness sake.

But homework is homework, and I’m a good student, so I dismissed the Kardashians and got to work.

First, some synonyms for anxiety: “worry, concern, apprehension, consternation, disquiet, jitters and agitation.” (Whew.)

And a few words related to anxiety: “alarm, stress, tension, anguish, discomfort, franticness and panic.” (Whew II.)

Both lists anxious-ed me!

And some antonyms for anxiety: “calmness, contentment, tranquility, ease, peace and serenity.” (Much better.)

Okay, that’s all just procrastinating. I gotta name this baby.

My first idea was “Frenemy”— you know, the joining of friend and enemy. But it felt too forced. Too trendy. Too bipolar. Like putting together Friends and CSI.

Next, I considered “Okra.” Wait, there’s a reason why! It’s so frustrating to harvest. I had to do it as a kid. Wearing a long sleeved shirt and wielding a sharp little paring knife, I walked the surprisingly tall rows of okra, slicing off the ripe pods. The sun! The heat! The itchiness! The danger of the blade! But I love okra. It’s actually my very favorite summer vegetable. I love it slimy, fried or gumbo-ed. But I like it too much to give its name to anxiety.

Prune”? It comes close to working. It’s pretty disgusting to look at, all wrinkled and dry. (“Prune” just rudely interrupted me and asked if I had looked in the mirror lately.) But, as with okra, I love prunes! What? You don’t?! They’re so sweet and just loaded with regularity-inducing fiber. Delicious. Nutritious. Okay, maybe they’re slippery. And too yesteryear. So, no, “Prune” won’t work.

So I’m also reading this other book in my study chair …

about fungi …

I know, I know, I need to get a life. But it’s actually fascinating.

And primarily because of this book, I’ve decided to nickname my anxiety … “Truffles.”

Do you know about truffles? Not the candy—which, by the way and coincidentally, I gave to HR for Valentine’s Day …

But, no, I’m talking about the disgusting-looking mushroom which grows underground. Let me properly introduce you.

Truffle—a strong-smelling underground fungus that resembles an irregular, rough-skinned potato, growing chiefly in broadleaved woodland on calcareous soils. It is considered a culinary delicacy and found, especially in France, with the aid of trained dogs or pigs.” Oxford Languages {You can train pigs?! Seriously?}

Truffles are not pretty.

And Oxford Languages was just being polite in their definition. My book Entagled Life: “The word for truffle in many languages translates to ‘testicle,’ as in the old Castilian turmas de tierra, or Earth’s testicles.”

Oh my word! (Literally)

“Truffles are the underground fruiting bodies of several types of mycorrhizal fungi … Truffles are spore-producing organs, analogous to the seed-producing fruit of a plant. Species evolved to allow fungi to disperse themselves, but underground their spores can’t be caught by the air currents and are invisible to the eyes of animals. Their solution is to smell.”

(Please bear with me for a couple more quotes. Think about my truffle candies I gave to Robert if it helps.)

“Truffles must be pungent enough for their scent to penetrate the layers of soil and enter the air, distinctive enough for an animal to take note amid the ambient smellscape, and delicious enough for that animal to seek it out, dig it up, and eat it … Once eaten, a truffle’s job is done. An animal has been lured into exploring the soil and recruited to carry the fungus’s spores off to a new place and deposit them in its feces.”

I had to put the book down and go outside for some fresh air for a bit after that revelation. It was simply TMI. One of the world’s most luxurious and expensive delicacies …

… begins as spores in dog or pig poop?

!

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if naked mole-rats, warthogs and aardvarks also carry it around in their poop.

Naked mole-rat

Let’s pause and …

************

But oh my gosh. The similarities I see here between truffles and my anxiety!

1. Anxiety, like truffles, is simply not pretty. And I like pretty. Who doesn’t? It’s not pretty to contemplate or experience.

2. Anxiety seems to hover “underground” much of the time. Part of my issue with anxiety is that I never know when it might pop up, dug up somehow by a trained pig, and make itself known. To be honest, I know (“fear” is a much more honest word) that anxiety for me is usually unpredictable. And that’s frightening.

3. The true power of truffles is in their aroma. When I begin to be anxious, it seems to draw me almost aromatically into its web. As you may know (if you have read any of my “Hello, Anxiety” posts), I have a protocol to help me deal with anxiety. But sometimes, I confess, I simply forget to consider and utilize it. The sour smell is just too strong.

4. Anxiety grows. “There are two key moves by which fungal hyphae become a mycelial network. First they branch. Second they fuse. Truffles’ affairs quickly unspool into entire ecosystems.” And that’s another of my problems with anxiety. It can grow. And grow. It can overwhelm. Like untended weeds in a garden.

5. “Truffle” sounds a bit like “trouble.”

6. Truffles are costly. So is anxiety. It costs me time, energy, happiness, etc.

7. But on the other hand, the word “truffle” sounds a little silly too, don’t you think? Not 100% serious. Almost playful. Much “lighter” than “anxiety” (as long as you don’t think too much about the poop connection).

(Please note that I’m Trying with a Capital T to see some leaning-toward-positive attributes of truffle-like anxiety.

8. Truffles smell good to some people. I admit that I like the earthy aroma of truffle salt. Likewise, anxiety … (Okay, I haven’t evolved enough to complete this comparison. Maybe you can help me.)

9. Truffles taste good to some people. Again, I like the earthy taste of truffle salt. Similarly, anxiety … (Same parenthetical sentence as above.)

10. And even if you don’t like truffles, you don’t have to HATE them, do you? They don’t have to be Your Deadly Enemy Food. (I’m talking to myself here.) “Anxiety does not have to be my mortal enemy.”

So, after all that rigamarole, I hereby christen my anxiety “Truffles.”

My anxiety workbook posits that WAF’s (worries, anxieties and fears) are birthed out of an attempt to protect us (think “fight or flight”), but they have just gone too far, like that “friend” you somewhat accept but don’t want around all the time.

I’m not ready to call anxiety a friend, but like with my NPA—Neal’s Protocol for Anxiety—I do desire to find ways to lessen its destructive impact on my life. To be kinder to myself. And yes, to recognize that my anxiety is a part of ME, not a virus that comes from outside of me.

So, “Hello, Truffles.”

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P. S. I believe all of the above, of course I do, I wrote it. But it’s so much easier to write about renaming anxiety when I’m not experiencing it. And to say, “Hello, Truffles!” when anxiety’s scent is nowhere to be found, deeply underground. But I know that the naked mole-rat is probably around somewhere, just waiting to provide anxiety’s spores welcome transportation. And later, the trained pig starts to dig.

Posted in Hello, Anxiety.

Hello, Anxiety: “NPA —Neal’s Protocol for Anxiety” Printable Copy

This blog category is the journaling and journey-ing of my quest to say (with cautious sincerity) “Hello, Anxiety” and to take a look at the condition from my “me-andering” views.

I’ve had requests for an easier-to-print copy of my anxiety protocol. Here’s another look at the entire protocol, followed by the downloadable copy.

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NPA — NEAL’S PROTOCOL FOR ANXIETY

All strategies are done “intentionally.” For ex, “I sit in this meditation practice with the intention that my current anxious experience will improve.”

FOR BOTH THE MENTAL AND THE PHYSICAL PARTS

(How I can attend to the experience in my mind and my body.)

• Meditation — any of my saved meditations from 10% Happier, Buddify or meditation on my own without guidance.

• Slow Side-to-Side Head Movement — Noticing colors, shapes, loved items, etc.

• Inhaling and Exhaling — “Breathing in, I calm the mind. Breathing out, I calm the mind. Breathing in, I calm the body. Breathing out, I calm the body.” — In through the nose. Out through pursed lips (like through a straw). — In, cool. Out, warm.

• Hot soothing teas

FOR THE MENTAL PART

(How I can attend to the experience in my mind.)

• Recognize anxiety as a part of my experience right now. Maybe even speak to it. “Hello, anxiety.”

• Assign anxiety a number from 1 to 10.

• Verbal self messages/affirmations. “I have felt this way before, and I always make it through.” “My anxiety level is at a six, but it is not at a 10.“ “This anxiety is like the tides, ever changing. In and out.” “If I keep breathing, which I will, sooner or later, I will feel better.”

FOR THE PHYSICAL PART

(How I can attend to the experience in my body.)

• Tai Chi/Qigong, Stretching, Walking, Exercising

• Warm shower/cold shower

• Tapping

• Essential oils/Aromatherapy

• Medication, including Buspirone, my Albuterol inhaler and chewable Benadryl

************

Download a printable copy here:

Posted in Hello, Anxiety.

Hello, Anxiety: “NPA —Neal’s Protocol for Anxiety — Part Three”

This blog category is the journaling and journey-ing of my quest to say (with cautious sincerity) “Hello, Anxiety” and to take a look at the condition from my “me-andering” views.

NPA — NEAL’S PROTOCOL FOR ANXIETY

As you know by now, I have divided my anxiety protocol into three parts. The first deals with strategies which can help with both the physical and mental aspects of my anxiety. The second with mental, and the third with physical. Of course those divisions are academic only. The mental and physical ebb and flow into and through each other. I struggled with categorizing my strategies.

Per therapist Rubi’s instructions, these strategies should be done “intentionally.” For example, “I sit in this meditation practice with the intention that my current anxious experience will improve.”

Today’s post deals with the third and final section of my protocol.

III. FOR THE PHYSICAL PART

(How I can attend to the experience in my body.)

• Tai Chi, Qigong, Stretching, Walking, Exercising

I LOVE this category of strategies. They are just so body oriented and … immediate. Qigong especially helps me to slow down, breathe and stretch in all kinds of ways. (Google for a few YouTube videos.) Before the pandemic, Robert and I attended a Monday morning Qigong class. Hopefully we can get back to it soon. My takeaway from those classes: Slow movement. Slow movement.

But also simply WALKING can be so grounding. When anxiety arrives, and if I remember to do so, one of the most effective things I will do is to begin to slowly walk around our apartment, paying attention to the sensations of contact with my feet on the floor. Right foot down, left foot down. Right foot down, left foot down. Calming. Grounding. Earthing.

• Warm shower/cool shower

The sensation of warm (or cool) water droplets pummeling, massaging is right there, on your face, on your body. “I feel, therefore I am.”

I also like to put a shower vapor tab on the shower floor to let it release its aromatherapy. Vicks makes a good one.

• Essential oils/Aromatherapy

I love putting various essential oils in the diffuser in our study by my chair …

or in our bedroom …

… and letting the incredible aromas soothe me, calm me, ground me.

• Tapping

I’m just getting started with this strategy. Have you heard about it?

From the book: “Like acupuncture and acupressure, Tapping is a set of techniques which utilize the body’s energy meridian points. You can stimulate these meridian points by tapping on them with your fingertips – literally tapping into your body’s own energy and healing power.”

So far, I like it. Update later.

• Medications

Sometimes I need this category. For me: Buspirone, my Albuterol inhaler (to help with breathing) and even chewable low dose Benadryl for quick help.

************

So there you have it, my protocol for addressing my anxiety when it shows up. I know it’s very simplistic and incomplete, but it is a great help in my life. Let me know your thoughts or suggestions.

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And here’s a review of the entire protocol, in case you are interested.

NPA — NEAL’S PROTOCOL FOR ANXIETY

All strategies are done “intentionally.” For ex, “I sit in this meditation practice with the intention that my current anxious experience will improve.”

FOR BOTH THE MENTAL AND THE PHYSICAL PARTS

(How I can attend to the experience in my mind and my body.)

• Meditation — any of my saved meditations from 10% Happier, Buddify or meditation on my own without guidance.

• Slow Side-to-Side Head Movement — Noticing colors, shapes, loved items, etc.

• Inhaling and Exhaling — “Breathing in, I calm the mind. Breathing out, I calm the mind. Breathing in, I calm the body. Breathing out, I calm the body.” — In through the nose. Out through pursed lips (like through a straw). — In, cool. Out, warm.

• Hot soothing teas

FOR THE MENTAL PART

(How I can attend to the experience in my mind.)

• Recognize anxiety as a part of my experience right now. Maybe even speak to it. “Hello, anxiety.”

• Assign anxiety a number from 1 to 10.

• Verbal self messages/affirmations. “I have felt this way before, and I always make it through.” “My anxiety level is at a six, but it is not at a 10.“ “This anxiety is like the tides, ever changing. In and out.” “If I keep breathing, which I will, sooner or later, I will feel better.”

FOR THE PHYSICAL PART

(How I can attend to the experience in my body.)

• Tai Chi/Qigong, Stretching, Walking, Exercising

• Warm shower/cold shower

• Tapping

• Essential oils/Aromatherapy

• Medication, including Buspirone, my Albuterol inhaler and chewable Benadryl

Here’s to our mental health in these trying times and always.

Posted in Hello, Anxiety.

Hello, Anxiety: “NPA —Neal’s Protocol for Anxiety — Part Two”

This blog category is the journaling and journey-ing of my quest to say (with cautious sincerity) “Hello, Anxiety” and to take a look at the condition from my “me-andering” views.

NPA — NEAL’S PROTOCOL FOR ANXIETY

As I have explained in previous posts, my therapist ”Rubi” suggested that I think about the various strategies I employ to help with my anxiety, an Anxiety Protocol, if you will. He said to make sure I begin each of my strategies with “intentionality,” that I need to be deliberately attentive and to intend that each strategy or effort be effective.

Again, as I have explained, I divided my protocol into three parts. The first deals with strategies which can help with both the physical and mental aspects of my anxiety. The second with mental, and the third with physical. Of course those divisions are academic only. The mental and physical ebb and flow into and through each other. I struggled a little categorizing my strategies.

Part One dealt with strategies I use to help with both mental and physical. Today’s post, Part Two, looks at the mental, with three simple but effective strategies.

II. FOR THE MENTAL PART.

(How I can attend to the experience in my mind.)

Recognize anxiety as a part of my experience right now.

Maybe even speak to it: “Hello, anxiety.” This strategy has been SUCH a challenge. I don’t want anxiety to be part of my experience! Who would? But as I have experimented (with test tubes boiling over), I’ve come to realize (when I’m not anxious, that is) that anxiety IS part of my life. It’s there. It’s here.

This strategy helps me to be real. “Hello, anxiety. I see you. I hear you. I feel you.” This deliberate act of anxiety recognition also helps me to grasp and understand that anxiety is NOT all-consuming, that it’s not “all of me,” but just a part of my life experience. What a revelation!

Assign anxiety a number from 1 to 10.

This strategy was/is a jewel from Rubi. With the simple act of assigning a numerical value of intensity to my current anxiety, I step “outside” for a moment. And “outside” helps me realize, again, that my experience with anxiety is not the totality of me. It’s just a part. Which I can see. And not be completely consumed by. That truth is empowering.

Most of the time, my numerical anxiety assignments are 5 or less. But for some reason, each time I think they are going to be 10 plus! Until I remember my protocol.

TIB (Truth In Blogging): 75% of the time, when I’m really anxious, I forget all of the above. Well, and the below.

Verbal self messages/affirmations.

I LOVE affirmations, declarations, proclamations! And this strategy has proven to be one of the most powerful for me.

“I have felt this way before, and I always make it through.”

“My anxiety level is at a six, but it is not at a 10.“

“This anxiety is like the tides, ever changing. In and out.”

“If I keep breathing, which I will, sooner or later, I will feel better.”

“My anxiety is like the clouds — it comes by and then it passes on.”

Easeful Calm & Peace to Us All.

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NPA Part Three and printable outline coming soon.

Posted in Hello, Anxiety.

Hello, Anxiety: “NPA — Neal’s Protocol for Anxiety — Part One”

This blog category is the journaling and journey-ing of my quest to say (with cautious sincerity) “Hello, Anxiety” and to take a look at the condition from my “me-andering” views.

So, I remind you that a while back my therapist gave me a homework assignment to come up with some strategies for dealing with my anxiety when it shows up, an Anxiety Protocol, so to speak.

“Don’t make it too long with too many items or strategies. Or too complicated,” Rubi advised. (I’m good at droning on and on. And I excel at long lists and complications. I’m actually kinda proud of all that.) He also told me to make sure I begin each of my strategies with “intentionality.” That I need to be deliberately attentive and to intend that each strategy or effort be effective.

Okay, no problem, I can be short, uncomplicated and deliberate, if you insist, I thought, a little peevishly on the drive back from Statesboro.

I divided my protocol into three parts. The first deals with strategies which can help with both the physical and mental aspects of my anxiety. The second with mental, and the third with physical. Of course those divisions are academic only. The mental and physical ebb and flow into and through each other. But it makes for a neat three-part outline, which I will share as a printable handout when I finish posting all three parts.

Today’s blog post briefly examines NPA Part One.

I. FOR BOTH THE MENTAL AND THE PHYSICAL PARTS

(How I can attend to the experience of anxiety in my mind and my body.)

Meditation — Any of my saved meditations from “10% Happier,” “Buddify,” “Apple Fitness+” or meditation on my own without guidance.

I LOVE the practice of meditation. But I’m TERRIBLE at it. My mind keeps wandering far, far off: “Will Season Four of ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ FINALLY address Susie’s sexuality?! Stop it, back to your breath, Neal.”

Seriously, apps actually help me tremendously with navigating the confusing world of meditation. “10% Happier” with Dan Harris is my favorite. It’s a bit pricey at $100 a year, but it’s worth it. The app offers courses on meditation, as well as single, short meditations on just about any subject you can imagine. Also podcasts and lectures. It has been a lifesaver for me.

• Slow Side-to-Side Head Movement — Noticing colors, shapes, pictures, loved items, etc. as you move your head left to right.

This short practice is so easy and simple, but incredibly effective for me. As you begin to rotate your head slowly from side to side, try to notice any items that bring joy or peace or color, etc— inhale as you move your head to one side, then exhale as you turn your head back. Simple, distracting and calming. I love it.

• Inhaling and Exhaling

— “Breathing in, I calm the mind. Breathing out, I calm the mind. Breathing in, I calm the body. Breathing out, I calm the body.”

— In through the nose. Out through pursed lips (like through a straw).

— In, cool. Out, warm.

— In, yes, Out, yes

Joyful, slow, deep breathing. Calming for my mind and body.

• Hot soothing teas

I continue to be amazed at how a simple hot cup of tea can also bring about soothing calm to my mind and my body. Slowly holding the warm cup and savoring the aroma and taste and ethos help to bring about needed peace.

My three favorites: Green Tea Matcha (with toasted rice), Peppermint and Echinacea.

Here’s my Tea Carousel.

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Your thoughts, ideas, suggestions? (Was I short and deliberate enough?)

NPA Part Two coming soon.

Posted in Hello, Anxiety.

Hello, Anxiety: “Briefly Introducing NPA—Neal’s Protocol for Anxiety”

This blog category is the journaling and journey-ing of my quest to say (with cautious sincerity) “Hello, Anxiety” and to take a look at the condition from my “me-andering” views.

So a while back my therapist “Rubi” gave me a homework assignment (I like homework—its completion shows what a good boy I am): “Neal, I want you to come up with some strategies for dealing with your anxiety when it shows up. You’re already doing some of these, of course. This is simply organizing them. An anxiety protocol.”

“Maybe categorize it into mental and physical parts.”

“Well, how hard can that be?” I thought.

Rubi told me to make sure I begin each of my strategies with “intentionality.” That I need to be deliberately attentive and to intend that each strategy or effort be effective.

For example, before starting a simple five-minute calming meditation practice, I might say, “I sit in this meditation session with the intention that my current anxious experience will improve.”

I have divided my protocol into three parts. The first deals with strategies which can help with both the physical and mental aspects of my anxiety. The second with mental, and the third with physical. Of course those divisions are academic only. The mental and physical ebb and flow into and through each other. I struggled a little categorizing my strategies.

But when anxiety comes a knocking, if I’m at home, I try to remember to head to my reading chair in our study …

… sit down and pull out my protocol sheet from the magazine rack nearby. (I also have copies in my calendar and online.)

If I’m feeling particularly stressed and anxious (say a 5 or more on a scale of 1-10), I have to push myself to get the protocol into my hands and onto my lap (instead of just going where anxiety leads). At that higher 5+ rating, my anxiety can even make, at first, my neatly laminated protocol sheet look pointy edged, sharp and too much trouble.

But I have worked with some of these strategies enough to know that if I give them a chance, they will not fail me.

For the next three “Hello, Anxiety” blog posts, I will examine each of the three divisions of my anxiety protocol. Please give me your thoughts and recommendations for improvements. This protocol is definitely a work in progress.

Stay tuned. But don’t get too anxious about it.

Posted in Hello, Anxiety.

Hello, Anxiety: “‘Covid’s Not Through!’ Edition”

This blog category is the journaling and journey-ing of my quest to say (with cautious sincerity) “Hello, Anxiety” and to take a look at the condition from my “me-andering” views.

So for some reason (denial? avoidance? embarrassment?—I excel at all three), I have been hesitant to blog about what has been going on in our lives recently. But I have decided that it will be … healthy to do so.

On January 17, HR—Husband Robert, remember?—tested positive for Omicron. Two days later, I did as well. No clue how that happened. We are both fully vaccinated with the booster. And we have tried to be so careful. We experienced relatively mild symptoms for about a week or so. Then I got better. Robert did not. He got worse. Much worse.

Initially our primary care doc thought he had a secondary infection of the flu and was given prednisone and a Z pack. He didn’t get much better. His body became so painfully achy that he started having trouble walking by himself. And his breathing got very labored, with a too-low oxygen saturation level. So much so that Monday of last week we ended up in the ER, with Robert on oxygen and a rainbow of meds.

Tests and more tests transformed the flu diagnosis into a serious case of Covid-related pneumonia, severe dehydration and a variety of complications. Robert was placed on the No Visitors Covid Floor at the hospital.

In spite of what I and everyone else would very much like to believe … Covid. Is. Not. Over.

When “all of the above” comes knocking at your door …. Let me rephrase that: when “all of the above” comes knocking at MY door, it brings along its viral buddy, Anxiety.

The first evening without Robert …

We have matching reading chairs in our study. But Robert wasn’t sitting with me.

He was sitting with Omicron. And Omicron’s sick friends, Pneumonia et al.

I was sitting alone.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I was sitting with my Anxiety and his buddy, Shallow Breathing, who more often than not shows up with him. Also trying to force themselves in for an uninvited visit: Too Many Thoughts. Fears. Negative Projections.

And I then felt TERRIBLE about being concerned with MY breathing, when my husband was in ISOLATION IN THE HOSPITAL with real breathing problems.

“Neal, you do have options here, you know. You’re not helpless.”

“You’re right,” I told myself, as I pulled out my homework from Therapist Rubi: the creation of a list of strategies to choose from when Anxiety comes a visiting.

NPA, Neal’s Protocol for Anxiety.

[By the way, my next “Hello, Anxiety” blog post is an examination of my NPA.]

From the “For the Mental Part” section: “My anxiety is like the waves in the ocean, it comes and it goes. It doesn’t stay forever. It never has.”

And from the same section: “Breathing in, I calm the mind. Breathing out, I calm the mind.”

Didn’t cure. But it helped.

***************

For some reason, a communication mistake we later realized, I was able to visit Robert for two of his seven days in the hospital. With PPE and a negative Covid test.

“Sorry Robert, I can’t stay with you very long. I have other patients who need my attention.“

************

I stayed concerned about Robert’s vitals. Monitors drove me crazy. Purveyors of potentially bad news.

In the darkest moments, the I-cannot-think-these-thoughts came. “Will Robert come home?”

Then yesterday, Robert‘s pulmonologist and hospitalist decided he was strong enough to go home. With supplemental oxygen and blood thinners to help make sure the blood clots in his lower legs would not be a problem.

We rejoiced, with a bit of apprehension

This morning I felt so much better. Robert wanted his 1st cup of post-hospital coffee, and he wore his Santa pants! Which has to be a great sign.

Yes?