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Feeling crazy anxious lately – could it be because of these 5 things?

Hi, hello, my name is Jenny, and I spent 6 and a half hours on the internet yesterday. Unsurprisingly, I followed that “questionable” (being charitable to myself here) life choice with nearly a whole bottle of inexpensive prosecco and a bedtime more suitable to one’s twenties than thirties, and I may have fallen asleep with fingers scrolling through a Twitter feed rather than sliding across a set of rosary beads last night.

In that brief, humiliating but illuminating intro paragraph, I believe I managed to encapsulate 90% of the highlights from the “don’t do this” list which I am about to reveal to you.

2020 has been a year filled with anxiety, and for the already anxious it has felt, at times, a bit like being trapped on that moving conveyor belt that escorts your car through the carwash, except there *is* no car and you’re just standing there utterly at the mercy of drenching water and pummeling brushes and the terrifying spinning flapping things that make my babies scream.

Listen, as Dave and I are won’t to quote back and forth to one another regularly, “Nobody in my family is dramatic!” But, then, you don’t come here expecting gravitas and composure, do you?

I have found through much trial and error (see again: last night) that the most difficult days are those which combine the 1-2-3-4-5 punch of: pathological fixation on terrible destabilizing world event + too much time online (especially on social media) + overindulging in mind altering substances + no sleep + no prayer.

Weird.

Anyway, here’s what I know I need to stay mindful of during these bizarre and buffeting storms that just keep on rollin’ in. Maybe you’ll find something helpful for yourself:

  • The news. Do you watch lots of it? Stop. It’s trash, it’s entertainment packaged as knowledge that leaves you stupider, sicker, and more scared for having consumed it, and I’m beginning to doubt that there are more than a couple real live journalists left anywhere in the world, apart from those doing old school reporting and analysis in niche markets. The news is why we have an epidemic of stupidity and hate and stark raving panic sweeping across the globe. Turn off the news. Whatever happens that you absolutely, essentially must know about? It will find you without your having to sit captive to the doom scroll ticking across the bottom of your screen for hours on end hearing what’s the latest. You will survive without knowing. You will thrive without knowing. Free yourself.
  • Of course, you know that the only thing worse than the news is social media. I know, I know…my forever soapbox. But look, that “dictatorship of relativism” that Benedict warned us about way back when? I think this is it: a self-inflicted nightmare alternate reality you both create and are held captive by, emanating from the tiny computer in your hands where the only objective truth you acknowledge is the one that suits your personal preferences. Social media is literally self brainwashing; within its dopamine-bathed echo chamber, an intellectual circle jerk where it’s nearly impossible to entertain an opposing viewpoint or offer a corrective counterpoint, one reflects and, indeed, becomes that which one consumes. Our viewpoints are reinforced, our positions entrenched, and our objectivity blurred by the blue light emanating from our tiny pretend remote controls for reality. Delete Facebook and Twitter, deactivate Instagram, and if you really, really need to check in with one of the disembodied personalities you interact with on the internet, well, it’s not 2005 anymore and you can actually access information on most of these platforms without having an account or a presence there yourself.
  • About that bottle of prosecco… Back during the darkest days of lockdown we had to mandate (you know, for ourselves, as card carrying adults capable of self parenting) no alcohol Sunday through Wednesday nights. Does that sound pathetic? Well, it was. And it was also sleep spoiling and waistline expanding. But we live, we learn, and we moderate our consumption back down to a reasonable place where wine accompanies feast days and not just random Tuesdays.
  • I have never been so tired in my entire life. Confusingly, it isn’t the baby. A piece of it, surely, can be attributed to parenting half a dozen kids, but even adjusting for offspring inflation, I feel like the crypt keeper. Guess what? Staying up until 11 pm reading hot takes on twitter makes you feel like shit on so many levels. SO many. (refers self back to bullet point 2.) Seriously, I’ve been lying down to nap or attempt something thereof on the days when the big kids are all at school and the babies nap together, and not only does this feel deeply pathetic, but I’ve yet to rediscover my pep, my joie de vivre, my internal drive to succeed at life. Apart from the 208 lawn and leaf bags of toys and clothes and what else I cannot say that I’ve dragged to the thrift store since March, I really don’t have much else, concretely, to show for myself apart from keeping these children alive and my hair occasionally (very occasionally) washed. It’s truly pathetic. I attribute it partially to poor sleep hygiene. Maybe I’ll sleep on November 4th…
  • We’re doing better in the spiritual realm, lately, but it’s still always the first thing to go when things derail. If I spent as much time with my Lord as I spend with my phone…Dave and I have been spending the first 10 minutes each morning reading the daily Mass readings out loud together and then doing like the world’s briefest take on Lectio Divino as we share whatever insights or inspirations we receive. It has been incredibly fruitful for our marriage and unlike the pulling of teeth that is grinding out the daily rosary, it’s something we actually both enjoy and look forward to. I 100% believe the rosary is critically important right now, too, however it is a less emotionally satisfying discipline for sure.

I think plenty of us are in a place where a little extra self care could go a long way – and I think of the categories outlined above as real, basic selfceare, the kinda stuff that really does keep the wheels from coming off.

As a very wise and holy priest said earlier this year, “make of this time what you can, let it be the year you look back upon and say ‘oh, yes, 2020, that’s the year we started praying the rosary together as a family, began going to daily Mass, returned to the Sacraments after years away.

2020 was when it all began again.”‘

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16 Comments

  • Annette

    Cute baby. Conqueror. I would say if I were not so depressed I would scrubbingly clean my house or vice versa. Music helps a lot.
    Alternative liquid mountain made meds (ahem) for stomach remedy.

  • jeanette

    Here I am, past 1 am, not asleep yet. Yes, the staying up too late thing is not good. It’s the pandemic. I am now staying up later and later like my body can’t wind down. I’m actually looking forward to the time change to give my body a chance to fall back one hour in time. Hope it works. Yes, Jenny, sleep is very important. Let’s pray for each of us to get a good night sleep.

    Good night, I’m off to my final prayer time.

  • Colleen Martin

    We have so many of the same rules for ourselves and continue to fail and restart all the freaking time. We try to commit to family rosary every night (chaplet on a late night), moving our bodies each day (it so helps mental health), no alcohol Mon-Thurs (which improves sleep), no phones in the bedroom, and we started drinking 32 oz. warm water with lemon in the morning before our coffee which has been so good! We hydrate our bodies first thing, don’t drink as much caffeine, and don’t eat until lunch (intermittant fasting). When I can do all of these things I feel so good, but yet I constantly fail and try again. I think that’s normal and why we are called “practicing” Catholics. Hang in there 🙂

  • Karen

    You’re so funny, Jenny! And that cutie in his cozy coupe, love.

    Great idea reading and discussing the daily readings with your husband!

    I recently went back to confession and adoration for the first time since March. And it’s helped to bring me peace. Because like you were saying, some days it’s hard to try.

    I listen to Jennie Allen’s books on audible on my drive to work -she’s great.

    I’ve told you this before, but I think you should write a book. We need more catholic mom writers-who are funny, smart and real-like you!

    God bless,
    Karen

  • Melissa

    I just deactivated my Instagram two days ago, now I just need to try to stop reading tweets about the debate and all of the other crazy ness. I feel a constant need to check the news on my phone because I think I’m waiting for the next shoe to drop constantly. My husband and I were watching political commentary after the kids went to bed, and then decided to make a wise choice and instead we watched an I Love Lucy re run. So much better for the soul

  • jeanette

    I thought of a tip about how to manage daily news. When I was too busy being a mom to read the news, I deferred that to my husband. He was always on top of the daily news, so I figured I could save a lot of time by not watching or reading the news at all, and leave that job to him, and allow him to feed me the highlights. Then if a story seemed of any importance for my own purposes, I could go look it up and get further information. That process served me well for many years. Maybe it will keep you from getting sucked into the news, too. Some things we need to know, and that is where we should draw the line.

    On a separate note, today’s saint is St. Anthony Mary Claret, and in the “Office of Readings” for the Liturgy of the Hours you can find the reading of the day. At the last paragraph, it says something that is good for all of us to bear in mind when the world draws us in too many directions, there is a way to remain centered in Jesus. If we are focused, we will keep to the path of living out God’s will, but if we are unfocused, the world will swallow us up and put us into various states of mind that are unhelpful to living joyfully, because joy comes out most frequently when we are on fire with love for Jesus. The world can douse that fire easily, but we don’t have to let it. Here is where we have to frame our purpose for living each day. We are weak, but the daily practice of our faith, not merely the belief in our heart, is what leads us to greater joy. Don’t evaluate yourself too much about how “effective” or “accomplished” you are. Just examine yourself to find out if you are being faithful to God’s will for you in the place where you find yourself, and if you are not, then ask for the grace to be so. God does not require a list of accomplishments that we created, He requires only that we do His will, and do it with love.

    Here is what St. Anthony Mary Claret says: “For myself, I say this to you: The man who burns with the fire of divine love is a son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and wherever he goes, he enkindles that flame; he desires and works with all his strength to inflame all men with the fire of God’s love. Nothing deters him: he rejoices in poverty; he labours strenuously; he welcomes hardships; he laughs off false accusations; he rejoices in anguish. He thinks only of how he might follow Jesus Christ and imitate him by his prayers, his labours, his sufferings, and by caring always and only for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.

  • Hannah

    Amen!!
    5 yrs ago, I was so addicted to the internet, I had to go cold turkey and just go without home internet/smartphone for 4 yrs. It was a giant sanity check. I felt like I was going crazy the first 6 months, and then, peace came. It was like, cutitng out the noise, I could finally hear myself think again.
    We got internet with Corona lockdown. Trying to hold onto that hardwon sanity…..Thanks for the encouragement!!

    Your habit with your husband reading the mass readings in the morning for 10 min and sharing is so inspiring to me!!!
    Long ago, 10 yrs ago, as newly-weds we were going to read Bible together daily. Then life happened,and setting aside an hour seemed impossible.
    But 10 minutes, we can do that! You just inspired me passing out on the couch dreaming iwth my eyes open, tired.
    I experimented iwth cutting my daily carb count down to around 100 grams/day, and it made a huge difference in a couple weeks of sticking to it. Basically, I don’t keep super careful count, but I looked up general carb numbers for htings I eat, and with the 2 painful weeks of finger sticks, know that I react generally to certain meals etc. So I switched to eggs instead of oatmeal in the morning, I put more tuna in my sandwiches and less bread, etc.I just changed my ratios up a bit. And it has made a huuuge difference in the physical tiredness. I no longer pass out 2x a day, despite having the 7th baby. I have no idea why my body seems to react that way, taking slight prediabetes as MUST PASS OUT FROM WEARINESS MULTIPLE TIMES ON COUCH.
    But whenever I convince myself its psychosomatic and binge-eat carbs, I wake up feeling like crud, more tired than when I went to sleep.

    So the TL;DR version is
    keeping my carbs to roughly 30ish grams a meal (capping at 100g/day) and gettting more protein really helped me not pass out on the couch 3x a day every day, or wake up more tired than when I went to bed.
    It helped so much, I have more energy now.
    I think my pre-prediabetes is just more melodramatic than other people’s 😉

  • Hannah

    I somehow lost a paragraph in my last comment.
    Basically, a few years ago I would pass out on the couch tired, 2-3x a day EVERY DAY, despite getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
    People would just laugh and say “Oh, its because you have 5 kids”, but I wasn’t chasing them around a farm. I was literally waddling between my couch and the kitchen in a 1200 sq foot single level appt.
    My husband was concerned, it got to hte point I’d wake up more tired than when I went to bed, I’d always be falling asleep.
    They checked me for hypothyroid, I was fine.
    It turned out to be pre-prediabetes. (not in the prediabetic range yet, but not in the normal)

    • Hannah

      ok, I clearly need to go to bed now and cannot write a coherent comment but lil baby hereis having her 45 minute nightly nursing session, so here goes (and congrats if you can make sense of this)

      basically, what I was trying to say was after 29 my blood sugar seemed to spike a bit higher than the normal range, but not quite in the official “prediabetes” category.
      With a $15 grocery store finger stick and about $15 worth of the diabetic test strips, and kinda doing a science experiment on myself my logging my daily carb count, I was able to determine which meals gave me more problems etc.
      Basically I learned my slight prediabetes manifests as extreme tiredness.
      And by keeping my carb count to around 100 g a day, I got so much more energy back, and only pass out about 2x a week (down from 2x a day)
      (I don’t weigh things every day. I weighed things for a month or so, wrote them down, nad now have a generalish idea of the ballpark carb numbers for things)
      This helped me so much, I just wanted to pass it along in the slim chance that it might be helpful.

  • Becky

    I was doomscrolling today, reading media outlets now that we have a “president-elect”. The possibility of losing the senate and having the vote broken by the most pro-choice woman I have seen is sickening. And I am glad we have an “asian, black, woman” as VP. I am glad for her being there and breaking that glass ceiling. Too bad she had to step on the dead bodies of the unborn to get there. “Oppression redistributed.” And all this while ACB get un-congratulated by her sorority and Girl Scouts of America. And if you hold any opinion other than left, you get called “racist” in the passive aggressive FB posts where Dems are “taking the high road.”

    Then I was complaining today about my husband’s company- a Midwestern chemical engineering company. One that has traditionally promoted from within, that has encouraged him to take steps from engineering toward management. Only to be greeted by an aggressive push within the company to promote minorities (*not just a push, but an aggressive push*). He recently helped hire interns, and selected the most qualified out of an absurd number of candidates. Only to hear from higher up, after they offered the jobs, in the white male dominated field,- “Did you hire diversity? Did you off the job yet? Can you change your offers?” I am frustrated! He doesn’t get the slack cut to women in an equivalent position because I, his wife, am a SAHM (and I have examples if needed). Yet he also won’t get promotions, even when he is more qualified and more available (since he has a SAHM for the kids) because he is a white male. As a SAHM, who has sacrificed for our children, for my husband, and and for his career, I feel suppressed by the workplace even though I am not in it. We are essential 2 people working 1 unified job instead of 2 people working 2 jobs. And you are punished for working for traditional values like maintaining a stable family life and marriage through Catholic ideals. I joke with him all the time, I should become the working parent, I should become an engineer or even manager, because even if I was bad at it I would earn more money and gain more promotions. We don’t necessarily need it, God has provided for us. But the devil uses it as an inroad for me to question my worth. I feel like I have very little worth from our achievement driven, relativistic society. I know I should rely on God. I should pray more and scroll less. I should also not have a drink in my hand right now. I knew you would have the advice i need to hear. I should know my true value rests in God. in being made in His image. I should trust that depsite it all he is in control, but it is so hard right now! Not to mention the Covid tired that we all feel at this point.

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