This week is likely to be an extremely anxious for me. I’m halfway through a six day work week (Friday-Wednesday) and then, first thing Thursday morning, I will have my two right wisdom teeth pulled.
I’m not super great at handling my anxiety, and I’m especially squeamish about doctors and dentists. That’s why they’re going to put me out for the removal; the dentist actually laughed a little bit about that. But I reacted badly to being put out last time for a tooth removal so I’m not feeling fantastic this week.
I’m not sleeping well and I find myself getting overly anxious at moments when there’s nothing to be anxious about.
At least at work I’m able to focus on a system change-over we’re in the middle of. It’s a whole lot of finding products, pulling off old stickers, and sticking on new ones. I’m already absolutely wrecked two of my nails. But in the grand scheme that’s hardly important.
The problem is every other time. It’s dealing with the anxiety when I’m on the bus and at home and when I’m trying to sleep.
Part of the trick seems to be to focus on doing things that I enjoy. It doesn’t solve my problem completely but its another way of trying to deal with things.
Lately its been mostly video games and books.
Books and reading have always been a big part of how I relax and entertain myself. My Mom loves telling me how I always loved books even as a baby. Even before I could speak I apparently used to love holding books and babbling as though I was reading the story outload. I was also slow in talking, I wanted to get to whole sentences before I really started. I always carried a book around with me and I still do. Thanks to university I feel the need to read multiple books at once.
Currently I’ve got two going. For fiction I’m on the fourth C.B. Strike novel, ‘Lethal White’ by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling). I’ve just eaten through the other three novels and introduced them to my mother who ended up buying the fourth one herself. It means it’s a hard back, which is not my preference as it’s a little harder to read, but I’m working my way through it. For non-fiction I’m reading Alison Weir’s ‘Lancaster & York: The Wars of the Roses’. I’ve previously read Weir’s biography of Elizabeth I and I found it both informative and well written. Her discussion of the Wars of the Roses is also proving fascinating.
However, my anxiety is currently making reading difficult. My ability to focus on the text comes and goes depending on my level of anxiety. If it’s high, then reading, even as a means of distracting myself, is useless because my mind wanders too much and starts giving into all the worst case scenarios running around my head.
But I’m learning more tricks.
You see, often video games can be the same thing: not enough of a distraction when I’m very anxious or too anxiety inducing in-and-of themselves. I’ve actually gone into a total panic attack from two different Legend of Zelda games (Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask). I still enjoy both games but I need to be in a really good mind space to play either of them.
When I get anxious and want to distract myself I tend to go for Harvest Moon games (the old ones that were actual Harvest Moon games before the companies split and the main games changed names to Story of Seasons (check this video out for an explanation of that whole thing if you’re curious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPZ1oLSh7ec). I tend to go to these games because I can play them without having to get involved in large time-consuming events and dungeons. I can play as long as I’d like and then stop whenever I want without losing progress or having to limit what I do while I’m playing.
Now Harvest Moon could come across like Animal Crossing for me (https://nerdycomplexity.com/2018/08/20/loving-and-leaving-animal-crossing/) except for the fact that it’s not set to real time. I can stop playing for months and go back and face no consequences for the break. So it gives me the same benefits without the feeling of playing becoming a chore.
The tricks I’m learning is to double up. Yeah, sometimes I’m so anxious that reading and playing video games by themselves doesn’t help. I can’t focus on the game or book fully because my mind keeps wandering. So I double up.
When I play video games (currently Harvest Moon: Magical Melody) I usually have YouTube playing on my computer or phone and playing theory videos and video essays. Discussions of ‘Game of Thrones’ are a big favorite of mine right now. Doubling up like this gives me the ability to do something with my hands (playing games) and something for my mind (listening to and thinking about movies, books, television, and the like).
For reading, I’ve had the most success with this week by taking my books on the bus with me. This is usually when I’m heading to and from work. The movement of the bus and the fact that I am currently in the process of heading somewhere and thus only have a certain amount of time to read, allow me to focus better on my book rather than my anxiety. It means my reading is slow going but that’s okay because sometimes I just eat up books so things balance out.
I’m still going to be anxious, especially going into the dentist on Thursday. But I’m going to do my best to stay calm and grow up a little more as I do. I’ve been working on getting better at dealing with my anxiety and gaining new skills and memories as I do. I got my G2 license and learned to drive. I kind of even like it. I defended my Master’s thesis. I can get my wisdom teeth removed and then enjoy some video games and books with a little less anxiety!