Rejection anxiety

Standard

Before I send any pitch or story to an editor, I read it approximately 5,000 times. By the fifth time, I’m just tinkering with words that don’t really need tinkering with, but I keep going.

Before even getting to the point of writing anything, I sometimes spend hours on websites I’m interested in writing for, scrutinizing every piece and trying to convince myself that I’m as good as everyone else who’s written for the publication. Granted, it’s a great idea to really familiarize myself with a publication before contacting an editor, but it’d be healthier to be doing so strictly for research and less so to convince myself of my skill level.

I don’t find rejection all that difficult to deal with when it comes from time-to-time. When I worked as the arts and culture editor of The Uniter, my boss and co-workers gave me so much positive feedback and constructive criticism that it was easier to be okay with editors for other publications letting me know they were passing on my ideas.

Barely working as I’ve been since the car accident, it’s been more difficult to deal with rejection. I send out about two pitches a week and hear back sometimes months later, so the acceptance emails and rejection emails are often spread so far apart.

A “Sorry, but this isn’t a great fit for this publication at this time” feels more like a “You’re pretty shitty at what you do and should just quit” when it’s been a while since I’ve gotten a green light.

I’ve chatted with a few friends and posted in an anxiety group I’m apart of, asking what others do to deal with rejection.

Some advice I received was to look at the evidence that I don’t suck balls (I’ve been making a living as a writer and editor for years), remind myself of outside factors (it’s a numbers game: publications get tons of pitches and can’t accept them all, someone else may have just pitched a similar story) and be understanding of my personal circumstances (I’m just getting back in the game, I still have a head injury, I’m dealing with mad anxiety and depression).

A few weeks back, I got a rejection email weeks after sending in a piece I was sure would be accepted. Honestly, I was so crushed that I spent the rest of the day on the couch and today is the first day that I’m actually back at my computer, pushing away the excuses of why I shouldn’t work.

While all the advice I got was helpful, struggling with the anxiety and depression–which has been taking over my life since I moved–along with still recovering from the concussion, I just couldn’t pull myself up. It was more work than I was capable of handling.

To prepare for future blows, I’m going to work on a set of cards that outline how to deal with different situations. On the “rejection” card, I’ll put the above advice. I’m going to make “Sensory overload,” “Panic attack” and “Anxiety for no fucking reason” cards as well. Sometimes the feels get so overwhelming, it’s hard to remember how to deal and written instructions to follow before the situation gets out of hand might be helpful for me.

But, before I do this, I’d love to hear how you deal with rejection? Comment below or join in the discussion on my Facebook page.

Advertisements

Sensory overload

Standard

Prior to the accident, sensory overload is something I experienced, although I didn’t really understand what it was. Since the accident, it impacts my every day. So. Much.

For those who don’t understand sensory overload, here’s the best way I can describe it: You know that feeling you get when more than one person is trying to talk to you at once? Well, with sensory overload (at least in my case), each individual sound–from a car driving by, to the floor creaking, to someone speaking–is like a voice demanding my attention. Bright lights, strong scents, the touch of a hand. Every single thing the body can sense is demanding full attention, at the same time.

With both my concussion and panic attacks, this culminates in what feels like the brightest light suddenly flashing inside my head and I know I need to immediately flee and get somewhere quiet and dark.

While this impacts all creatives, it has particular difficulties for those of us who need to be on computers. The brightness of a screen and tapping of the keys can make getting work done difficult, if not impossible. But I’ve found it is possible to get my brain to calm the fuck down so I can keep working, or at least keep it from a total freak out.

Make sure all needs are met

It’s so strange, but every single sensation just adds to my overwhelmed brain. That includes feeling a full bladder and empty belly. When I start feeling sensory overload coming on, I head to the bathroom, grab a drink of water and then find a healthy snack.

Relax

After this, the best thing to do for me is find a dark, still place. One of my nephews has autism and when he’s feeling overwhelmed, he ducks into his bedroom closet where he’s got soft pillows to relax on.

This might sound counterintuitive, but I find putting on a podcast that has no sound effects or music to be super helpful. When the brain is overwhelmed, a shout from outside or pop from an appliance can have me skittering and shaking in bed. But expected sounds–like the voices of folks from my favourite podcasts–don’t have quite the same effect.

Image-1

Unsuccessfully avoiding sensory overload at the last Half Moon Market in Winnipeg.

Wear shades

Sometimes you can’t just stop life and cut the sensations driving your brain over the edge. So, if you’ve gotta get up and life, wear sunglasses. If you do this in public, people are going to oh-so-annoyingly accuse you of being drunk, high or hungover. But it’s better than being blasted out by bright lights.

Get headphones

Having headphones on will help cut out some of the unexpected noise that can push me over the edge. They’re not so necessary at home, but if I’m in a car with multiple people who are having conversations or am walking down the street, you can bet I’ve got something over my ears, feeding me the sweet, sweet sounds of Guys We Fucked.

Dim the lights

Working through sensory overload isn’t a thing, but sometimes work has to get done. Between breaks to calm my brain, I make sure all lights are dim. This might mean throwing a sheet over a bright lightbulb, lighting the room with soft night light or turning down the brightness on my computer and phone screens.

 

If you experience sensory overload, how do you describe it to people? I’m very curious about this! And what do you do to take care of the situation? Comment below or head over to my Facebook page to join other conversations like this.

 

 

Be your own coach

Standard

Somedays fucking suck.

Somedays, I can barely breath because of the crushing anxiety. Somedays, I forget about all my successes. Everything just seems absolutely hopeless. What’s even the point of continuing to freelance? It’s not going to get me anywhere.

The evidence against my extreme pessimistic views are in my bank account and resume, but when you get down too deep, who’s going to remember that? Not me, let me tell ya.

But if not me, who else?

It’s not my husband’s, friends’ or fellow freelancers’ responsibility to drag me out of my depressive holes. It’s my own.

Finding inspiration or storing evidence against my false beliefs is helpful, but sometimes I just need a good pep talk, and who better to give me one than myself? After all, I know myself and what gets me out of a slump better than anyone else.

I’ve gotten rather good at giving pep talks by regularly offering them to friends when they’re not feeling like their awesome selves. It takes a little practice to be able to turn that around on oneself, but it’s important because, especially as a freelancer, you can’t always count on someone being around and having the right words.

Here’s a basic, standard, probably not super helpful because it’s not personalized pep talk:

You’re doing great. Despite everything your brain puts you through, you still get shit done. Incredible. Some people would crumble under the anxiety, but not you. Sure, it gets you down sometimes, but you get back up. You’re a badass, kickass human being who’s taking on the world like no one else can. Pick yourself up, take a day to rejuvenate and keep up the great work.

Wanna practice your pep talk skills? Shoot me a draft of what you’d say to yourself at megjcrane@gmail.com or post it on Instagram and tag @MegJCrane.

 

 

Explore natural remedies for anxiety

Standard

Medication is a valid solution to mental health problems, and in many instances it’s all that will help. However, the process of finding the right meds and dose is long and arduous. For me, there were weeks where I felt virtually nothing change after popping the first pill. There were times when I bumped up my dose and then cried nonstop for days. One terrifying time, I felt like I had lost my mind, becoming suicidal and manic. Focusing on finding natural remedies during these times helped me reduce anxiety while I searched for the right med and made me feel like I had some control.

I’m not sure how I would have kept working through some of this if I was relying solely on the medication, and as a freelancer being unable to work is bad news.

Natural remedies are not often the entire solution, but meds likely won’t completely kick anxiety’s butt alone either. Finding the right combo is key. Here are a few options.

Hydrate

I heard at a seminar on anxiety that people who have anxiety disorders have thicker blood. Because we’re often in fight or flight mode, our blood thickens so that if we’re attacked, we won’t bleed out as fast. The speaker told us that, for this reason, we should make sure to drink tons of water.

Since hearing that, I’ve read a few other resources that talk about the importance of drinking water. Being dehydrated can cause anxiety, so staying hydrated is important for people with disorders.

Cut the caffeine

Caffeine is fuel for anxiety. Cutting out my morning coffee does wonders for my anxiety, but has caused me a lot of sadness because I love  good cup a joe to start my day. So, I’ve done some experimenting.

Many of the coffee replacements are tasty. Decaf works alright and Half Ass is fine for me most days. There are some days when regular coffee doesn’t send me into anxious spins, especially if I have a cup later in the day.

If you’re a caffeine addict like me but it’s not really helping your mental health situation, it’s worth finding ways to comfortably fit it into your life. If not, it’s totally worth cutting it all together.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

People with anxiety often fall into negative thought patterns. For example, I often become paranoid that people dislike me and will overanalyze every social interaction, always interpreting small actions as feedback that I’m boring and stupid.

Using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), my therapist helped me first recognize these thought patterns and then come up with activities to change them. When anxiety comes up, I sit down and think about what is going on. Once I’ve identified the thought patterns that got me there, I think through it rationally. Has my friend not responded to my text because she suddenly hates me? Well, we’ve been friends for more than a decade and she always tells me when she’s upset with me so probably no. More plausible reasons are that she’s busy, she’s overwhelmed with her own life, or technology is failing us and the text didn’t go through.

Regularly examining thought patterns like this, it eventually becomes a quick process that nips anxiety in the bud. Check out some books on CBT at your local library if you think it might help you out!

Exercise

The solution to so many health problems is to get moving! Many anxiety resources I’ve consulted recommend calmer forms of exercise for anxiety, such as walking and yoga. Personally, I prefer high energy activities such as zumba and running because they let me get some of my anxious energy out quicker.

What’s most important is that you’re doing something regularly that you can stick with. If you start to get bored, find a new activity. If you feel too busy, add something that doesn’t take time out of your day like doing exercises at your desk, cycling to work or doing stretches while watching the news. Find what works for you.

Herbs

Lots of plants are said to reduce anxiety. With some experimentation, you might find some that work for you.

A friend of mine makes a tea she not so fondly calls Ass Tea. It’s made of dried angelica sinensis slices and dried astragalus roots. Toss a handful of each into a pot of water, boil them, simmer for 25 minutes, let cool and then strain. It tastes awful—as the name implies—but chilled with ice and some flavouring (tea or herbs), it’s tolerable. It makes her need to pee uncontrollably, so she adds in a bit of poria. I can skip that last awful-tasting ingredient.

Lavender, chamomile, valerian and lemon balm are all calming as well. You can grow some of these plants to have them readily available for tea, or buy teas that include them in the ingredient list. At the very least, settling into a cozy spot for a warm drink can be relaxing.

Mindfulness

I tried meditating many times before I finally found a meditation series that explained the purpose of the practice in a way that makes sense to me. It helps us strengthen our thinking muscles so we can have more control over what is racing through our brains.

This has helped me so much with CBT. When my mind is going too wild to be able to deal with my thoughts using the techniques I’ve learned, I do a quick meditation on my Calm or Headspace app. With my mind a bit calmer, I then implement what I’ve learned from CBT.

A lot of anxiety comes from overthinking, so being able to control the mind is a huge factor in its reduction.

If you have an anxiety disorder, it’s unrealistic to expect that anxiety will ever be wiped out completely. However, with small changes over time, it’s entirely possible to reduce anxiety enough so it doesn’t have a significant impact on your day to day life.

Each month through my weekly newsletter, I challenge my audience to make one change in their life, whether that’s eating healthier, reaching out to friends more or drinking more water. Sign-up today to join in the fun!

Bow out to avoid burnout

Standard

 

***TRIGGER WARNING: I talk about sexual assault. But here’s a version without triggers.***

Many creatives are also super political. That’s super cool. The world is fucked and we all gotta do our part to make it better. But burnout is real.

I can remember completely melting down in my third year of university. I was taking a couple gender studies courses and the stats were devastating. One night, I got drunk and cried on my balcony alone when I learned how many women are sexually assaulted in the USA.

Now, I know the world is shit. But that doesn’t stop information from destroying me.

When Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby first made the news for their fucked up, irreproachable behaviour, it hit me hard. I sobbed in my room alone. I berated some of the men in my life for not doing enough. I harboured a rage that stopped me from being able to work.

I followed Ghomeshi’s initially case, but quickly realized it was going to crush me.

Instead, I ignored the news. When others tried to talk about it, I put in my two cents about the importance of believing victims, let those I was talking to know how dangerous judging women who come forward is and then changed the subject. I heard the verdict when it came out, but I don’t know what all happened in between.

I don’t need to follow sexual assault cases to know that most men—even when they admit to their crimes—get little more than a slap on the wrist for rape. I also don’t need to follow those cases to do something, though.

I can write about consent and have conversations with men in my life about sexual assault. I can encourage others to think about respect when it comes to women’s bodies and demand it for myself. I can trust victims and talk to others about the importance of giving them support and allowing them to have a voice.

It is okay to take time away from the news and heartbreaking bullshit of the world, from time to time. There’s a big difference between sticking your head in the sand and getting a little distance to heal, rejuvenate and gather the strength to keep fighting.

It’s also okay to find ways to fight that cause you the least amount of harm.

This is especially important for people who battle with mental health issues. When the chemicals in your brain are handing you heavy, life-stopping blows on the regular, you don’t need anything else holding you down.

One thing I can offer to help you keep going through the mental health struggle is a weekly newsletter I’m now putting out that gives creatives motivation and support based on my experiences dealing with anxiety and depression. Sign-up now and together we can keep working for a better world while taking care of ourselves.

Bow out to avoid burnout (trigger-free version)

Standard

Many creatives are also super political. That’s super cool. The world is fucked and we all gotta do our part to make it better. But burnout is real.

 

It is okay to take time away from the news and heartbreaking bullshit of the world, from time to time. There’s a big difference between sticking your head in the sand and getting a little distance to heal, rejuvenate and gather the strength to keep fighting.

It’s also okay to find ways to fight that cause you the least amount of harm.

This is especially important for people who battle with mental health issues. When the chemicals in your brain are handing you heavy, life-stopping blows on the regular, you don’t need anything else holding you down.

One thing I can offer to help you keep going through the mental health struggle is a weekly newsletter I’m now putting out that gives creatives motivation and support based on my experiences dealing with anxiety and depression. Sign-up now and together we can keep working for a better world while taking care of ourselves.

Have mental health check-ins, even when life rocks

Standard

 

Sometimes everything is going great and then WHAM! Anxiety hits your right in the fucking face.

Super polite.

I’m pretty bad for this. When things are going great, sometimes I’ll just take on more and more, thinking that my anxiety, depression and PTSD have magically gone away! I’m cured! I’m a normal human who can do normal things, like work 10 hour days seven days a week without lunch followed by an evening of emotionally supporting friends or volunteering. Because that’s normal … Then I’ll suddenly be hit with a wild panic attack or depression so severe even getting out of bed to feed my kitties is nearly impossible. And getting out of bed to feed myself actually is.

A way to avoid this is to stop from time-to-time to do check-ins. On a wildly awesome week when you’re ahead of your game, instead of working ahead, take a bit of time off alone to just reflect. What are you feeling? Why? Is there anything you’re not thrilled about? Can it be changed? If all is well, just take some time for regular self-care or do a little self-spoiling. Just because the garden is looking good doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be watered and fertilized, you know?

When things are getting a little hectic, schedule some alone time in. It’s okay to say no to a friend who needs help or to extra work for a little regular maintenance.

Hey, you’re taking time to read this! So maybe you’ve got a few minutes now to chat with yourself about how you’re doing? I recommend it.