Friday, February 17, 2012

Coping by Cleaning

Oh, right. Under the piano bench. Isn't that where everyone keeps their wrist weights? 

Last night after dinner, John began to clear the table and load the dishes into the dishwasher, all the while mumbling and talking to himself.

Knowing my husband, it was clear that the combination of vigorous housework and self-talk was not a good thing.

What's going on, babe?

He sighed. "Oh, just more work stuff." Which was not surprising. He and his team have been laboring furiously to keep a project on deadline and it's been a challenge.

Just go put your feet up, honey. I'll do these dishes. Just relax!

"Thanks......but actually doing stuff like this makes me think better. Just sitting around makes me more frustrated with a problem."

Oh. I opened my mouth to say, Yes, I feel the same way... then realized that this was no longer true. I USED to deal with stress in the same way.

I USED to turn into a white tornado when I was stressed or working out a problem. I'd clean the house and do laundry, or mow the lawn, or weed my garden with a vengeance; until either I couldn't find another weed or dirty sock, or I had come to some kind of solution to my problem.

It didn't take the kids long to figure out that when I was in one of these moods, unless they scrambled out of sight, they would be handed a dust cloth or a broom or a basket of laundry to fold. I liked to problem solve with plenty of other hands working along with me. Especially indentured servants, er, helpful children pressed WILLINGLY and CHEERFULLY into service.

They had to hide pretty well, too, or I'd go find them. When they were old enough, they decided looooonnnnngggg bike rides around the neighborhood would be effective. I would be looking to snag them and I'd hear the click of their bike helmets. Ha!

But as I was watching John energetically scrubbing a frying pan last night, it finally hit me that I can't deal with stress that way anymore. I want to. I still feel an urge to DO something while I'm mulling over a problem. But I just can't anymore.

Wow. Seven years? It's taken me seven years to realize this?

Hmm. Since the arrival of autoimmune disease I just don't handle stress as well as I used to. Could it be that since one of my most valuable coping mechanisms has been taken away from me, that this might partially account for some of my ineffective reactions to anxiety and stress?

Nowadays, when placed in a stressful or anxiety producing situation, my response is much different. My mind still churns away looking for a solution, but it seems that the simple effort of thinking saps whatever energy I have. And just mulling over a conflict can literally make me break out in a sweat.


But I wonder.......if I added a very simple or easy physical exercise -- maybe lifting a very small wrist weight, for example -- this very light activity might ease some of my mental distress and get the grey matter functioning a bit better. Exercise or activity certainly used to help me think more clearly.

I'm going to give this a try. If I can remember to try it. Or if I can remember where I put those dang wrist weights......


annie said...

You've made a very good point. I notice that I do not tolerate stress well since I've been ill; it seems to upset my whole nervous system with a huge adrenaline rush which takes forever to calm down. If I move around (and pretend to be busy)I deal with stress better than if I were sitting down and contemplating the problem.

ShEiLa said...

YOU have a wonderful talent for writing your experience in a way that makes perfect sense to me.

Coping with autoimmune disease and learning to live with limitations was something I never imagined I would have to do... and yet I am smack dab in the middle of just that.


Laura said...

It's been good to read your posts. I'm just accepting that I have Sjogren's and it's helpful to know that I'm not alone.