Stop before anxiety makes you

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I spent a great deal of last summer working from bed because I was having too much joint pain to sit at my desk.

Since 2009 when my right hand froze in a painful claw one afternoon at my retail job, I’ve seen many doctors and specialists who’ve had no luck giving me answers. Last year, my doctor suggested it was a symptom of my anxiety.

The pain and anxiety don’t always go together–with my knees, wrists and elbows doing the worst during changing weather and rain–but they often do, making me think my doc is on the right track.

The symptoms caused by my anxiety have a huge negative impact on my life. There’s the pain, headaches, shortness of breath, fatigue and nausea. Discovering that all of this was caused my something going on in my brain was a wake-up call: I can’t work until I need to stop. I have to take more breaks to take care of me, otherwise I won’t have the energy to do even the most basic self-care, like eat healthy and exercise.

I’ve tested this out a bit, especially with the concussion. Can’t I just work until I start seeing a few signs that I’ve over-done it? If I work too hard one day, I can just even it out by working less the next, right?

Not so much.

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Days when I work too hard, I’d like to be able to hide away in a drawer with Stella.

It’s good to push yourself in ways that lead to the development of new skills and abilities, but striving to do more in a certain time frame doesn’t really work that way. Instead of becoming capable of doing more work over time, you become capable of doing less as health deteriorates.

Maybe it’s sort of like a car. You can only drive it so much before it needs some regular maintenance. You push that too much and you’re doing damage that is going to take a lot more energy to repair.

For me, I find that I only realize I should stop working when I start experiencing symptoms of my anxiety or concussion. And then I don’t stop working right away, but wait until I’ve completed another task.

I’ve started setting strict limits for myself. Stepping away from the desk and taking time to cook a nice meal, do laundry and take a bath have become as important on my to-do list as meeting my editing deadlines.

I’m going to challenge myself this week to schedule an hour in the middle of the day to do something that nourishes my body and mind. Maybe I’ll spend my lunch hour going for a walk in the forest, make a nice breakfast before I start the day or relax in a warm bath with a book. And I challenge you to do the same! Let me know how you spend your hours and how it makes you feel.

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