5 Low-Key Coping Skills For When You Can’t Walk Away

Ever get stuck in a spot where your anxiety is sky-high, but you’re surrounded with no real exit strategy? Maybe you’re at a work meeting or a concert with friends and the chances of you being able to slip away are slim to none. Yeah, me too. The trapped feeling that is quick to follow only makes things worse and harder to handle. 

When it happens to me, it’s usually when I’m at work. My job can get pretty damn stressful at times and it takes all I have not to freak out. There are also times where it is calm and leaves me time to think. Sometimes when I think too much, my anxiety skyrockets but most times I still can’t walk away. 

Having a coping skill with you everywhere you go can be the best way to combat anxiety and it might be easier than you think. To have a coping skill with you doesn’t necessarily mean you have to physically have something with you and let’s not forget that not every coping skill will work for every person–everyone is different, requiring different things to calm them. 

That being said, here are five low-key coping skills to try next time you can’t step away…

Deep Breathing

This is a coping skill that is widely overlooked. Truth is, taking some deep breaths could be just what you need to keep yourself calm. Sometimes this is all I have at my disposal at work and while it definitely isn’t my first choice of coping skill, I make it work!

Deep breathing can help lower heart rate as well as relax the body’s muscles. Try following the inflating shape, syncing your breathing!

Fidget Cube

Fidget cubes are perfect for work meetings when you start getting restless but need to pay attention. They are discreet and can be used under a desk or table to keep from distracting others! I don’t currently have one of these but I really wish I did!

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is whimsical in nature due to its true variability. Different scents can trigger different responses. Carry a small spray or scent roller (or hand sanitizer in my case) of whatever scent gives you the relief you’re looking for! Some scents that promote relaxation and stress relief are lavender and eucalyptus. I, personally, carry eucalyptus spearmint hand sanitizer from Bath and Body Works with me.

Neck Rolls

Built up stress and anxiety can contribute to muscle tension along with everyday activities such as driving or working on a computer. Taking a minute to stretch and roll your neck can help relieve that tension and even improve your mood once that tension is lifted a bit!

I find myself stretching out and rolling my neck a lot lately so it definitely wasn’t a surprise when I got a massage last week and the masseuse told me my neck and shoulders were extremely tense and full of knots. However, when I do stretch it feels better at least for a little bit. 

Slime/Putty

Slime may be a fun craft to do with kids, but I, a 25-year-old woman, love me some slime. In fact, I recently made some slime for myself with one of my best friends because she had bought a kit and we were bored! Now I use that slime all the time.

This is a coping skill that can help keep your hands busy and your mind focused on something other than what is around you. It can be made or bought in small batches so it has easy portability! I bought a mini one that I keep in my backpack!

Personally using four of these five coping skills, I am confident that they could work for others! All you have to do is give them a chance! The girls I work with use all of them, though they tend to tell me to shove it when I suggest they try deep breathing…

I’d love to hear what coping skills work for you, especially those for when you’re in a situation you can’t walk away from! Drop a comment below ↓ 

Until next time…

Love always,

Caitie ♥ 

To The Person Lost Inside Of Their Own Head

They say you’re supposed to be safest with yourself. But what if inside your mind is the most dangerous place?

You’re an over thinker. You think of every single possible outcome but you tend to focus mostly on the negative ones. In your mind, good things don’t happen to you–or when they do, something bad is surely not far behind.

That negativity seeps in from your mind to your body and you don’t do anything remotely productive for days. Staying in bed, going in-between sleeping and binge-watching Netflix, seems like the best thing in the world because you just can’t bring yourself to get up.

When you do get out of bed, you’re rundown and tired but try to compensate with exuberance. Except that doesn’t always work out. You put on a front and act as happy as possible because that’s how you want others to see you. Happy.

fake smile

Your thoughts get so loud that the anxiety peeks out as tears show up uninvited, but you’re in public so you try so hard to hold them back that it physically hurts. You’ve gotten pretty good at hiding it, but sometimes you can’t stop them so you excuse yourself because crying in public is frowned upon.

Due to all of this, you’re pretty sure you’re just crazy despite several others telling you the opposite. Your mind rallies behind the negative thoughts and feelings until you feel as though there is no positivity left within you.

If any or all of these sound familiar, know that you are not alone. I know all of these things to be true because they’re me, too. I get so negative in my mind that I’m all but fully convinced that I’m going to be stuck for the rest of my life. Stuck in one place, doing one thing, with just one person: myself.

Being alone in the present isn’t what freaks me out. Being alone for the rest of my days with 20+ cats for company is the scary picture in my mind. I fear I’ll never get to see all that I want to because I’ll never get out of the financial hole I’ve found myself in. I get stuck on the thought that I’m not good enough to do or be anything but what my life and self currently are.

jenlawcrazy

I think I’m crazy because my thoughts won’t stop and won’t gravitate anywhere near positivity. They consume me and make trying to do anything else an intense struggle. I meditate, work out, write, and more to try to distract my mind into motivation. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes it does long enough for me to forget about the things that stress me out for a bit.

You may have gone through some shit to get your mind where it’s at or you might not…and let’s not forget that everyone’s definition of “going through some shit” is different. For me, my last relationship really messed with my head from the verbal/emotional abuse and manipulation. I’ve been struggling long before that, but a part of me broke over the last couple years.

If you are someone who knows a person lost in their head, please be patient. It’s a tough road to journey on and it doesn’t help to have others saying things like “suck it up, it gets better” or “you’re just being crazy, you’re fine”. Instead, be supportive and ask if there is anything you can do to help. Honestly, most of the time the answer will be nothing. It’s literally the thought that counts! Everyone needs a little help now and then even if it’s just needing a shoulder to cry on.

If you’re like me, we are stronger than we think. These feelings are not forever and will fade with time and work. How much time is impossible to say. It sucks now, but finding your way through is all you can do.  Whatever we’ve gone through, it’s happened and we can’t change that no matter how much we want to.

original

We are all different. Find what works for you and your mind. Meditate every morning or throughout the day if needed. Watch a sappy movie with your favorite wine (or in my case, tequila) and get a good cry in. Check if your employer has an employee assistance program that offers free therapy sessions.

This blog is a safe space for everyone and especially those on their road to self-recovery. Comment anonymously if you choose, but remember that we are worth every bit of effort to get our minds back on track! Together we can lift each other up during our lowest times to thrive and live our best times.

Love always,

Caitie♥

My Bankruptcy Experience

Six months ago, just seeing or hearing the word bankruptcy would send my mind and body into frantic mode. There I was, a 24 (now 25) year old that had just moved back in with her moms and needed to file for bankruptcy. If you’ve read my introductory post then you know what caused me to make the move and file, but for any new comers…here’s the story:

Before moving home I lived in Massachusetts. I moved there after college, wanting a change of scenery and to start my life on my own. I was supposed to move there with a friend but that fell through so my moms put out a lot of money to make the move still happen. A couple of months after being there I decided to put myself out there on match.com. Long story short, I met a guy on there…fell quickly…and due to having a scummy landlord, moved in with the guy. Fast-forward about a year and we’re engaged.

In that time he convinced me to open some credit cards; mostly store cards like Lowe’s, Macy’s, a furniture store, etc. At the time it made sense…we got an apartment together and we wanted it to look nice. He had pretty bad credit, so the cards had to be in my name but I wasn’t overly worried because we both had good jobs. But a couple of cards turned into like eight and the payments got a little crazy and confusing.

Then he went on disability from work for his back issues. He had legitimate health issues, but his issues went much deeper. During this time is when I saw the true man he was and it was not the man I wanted to be with. When he asked me to marry him, I said yes. Not because I was ready but because I felt like I couldn’t say no. Don’t get me wrong…I loved him and still do love him. A part of me always will. But his faults and his lack of determination to get help is what made me leave. He was degrading, condescending, and just flat-out mean. He never got physical but would often say that he wished I was a man so that he could.

Since he went on disability, he was only getting a fraction of the salary he was and thus we had to rely on my lesser paycheck. I eventually just stopped paying all the credit cards because I couldn’t keep up, especially with my student loan payments. I talked to him about it and he convinced me that taking out a personal loan to consolidate was the best option. I agreed that it was the best option and it would have been…had he not run all the cards up again once they got paid off with the loan.

So I was in such a big hole that there was no rescue anywhere in sight besides bankruptcy. He told me we would do it eventually together and then we would both have good credit. I went with it. But then his disability ran out, he applied for long-term disability but got denied and he worked his way into getting unemployment. He didn’t even put any effort into finding a job…just went through the motions so he would get paid.

Fast-forward to me leaving him the day after this past Christmas and moving home. My mom helped me find a bankruptcy attorney through her work’s Employee Assistance Program. The attorney made everything seem MUCH less scary than what you hear or read about bankruptcy.

The process was relatively simple and the worst part was waiting. Here’s a rundown:

  • Had a phone consultation explaining my situation and getting facts about bankruptcy.
  • Compiled a list of my debt and sent it to my attorney.
  • Met with attorney to sign off on petition to file for bankruptcy.
  • Waited about 2 months for my bankruptcy hearing.
  • Went to bankruptcy hearing that lasted all of 5 minutes.
  • Waited 60 days to see if any creditors would fight the bankruptcy.
  • Got a letter in the mail saying all of my debt was discharged.

Little side note: student loans are pretty much the only thing bankruptcy won’t take away. Sucks, I know.

As I said, the waiting was the worst part, as it usually is in situations where the end result is unknown. But when I got the letter in the mail last week saying my debt was discharged, it felt like a massive weight came off of my shoulders. I was at work when the letter was delivered. I took a break and checked my phone and there was a missed call from my mom. She doesn’t call me at work unless it’s important so I called her back and she asked if she could open it. I told her she could because I didn’t want to wait the rest of my shift wondering what it said. She read it to me and BAM! Insta-tears…happy tears…tears of relief.

The bankruptcy went through and I can now start rebuilding my credit and continue rebuilding my life. I know I still have a long road ahead of me. However, through therapy and a lot of self-care, I feel ready for it.

To anyone who may be debating filing for bankruptcy, get informed by experts and have a person-to-person conversation. Getting a consultation does not mean you are roped into filing. It’s simply to help determine if your situation deems bankruptcy necessary. In my situation, it did.

Check to see if your employer offers an Employee Assistance Program. Using my mom’s made finding a good, affordable attorney very easy. They can even help find therapists and often offer free sessions!

To those in the middle of the process, hang in there. If you have anxiety about worst-case scenarios like I do, then believe me when I say I struggled internally with the waiting. My patience was pretty thin during my process. But it does end and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

I would also stress the importance of a good support system. Having people to rely on can make a huge difference in handling any situation but especially one as stressful as bankruptcy. Not only have my moms helped me financially, they have been there for me every step of the way. My sister and my friends helped a lot, too by giving people to vent to.

Having people is good and I have some pretty good people.

I’m actually looking forward to what comes next in my life. I’ve struggled a bit recently with motivation. Having the bankruptcy done and over gives me a new look on the future. I have been working really hard, technically working three jobs at the present time, saving up my money. I do not want to make she same mistakes I made before. I’ve done some big ‘me’ things lately, like my new tattoo (Follow me on Insagram! @caitiep08). I am budgeting and holding myself accountable when I do spend money. It won’t be an easy or short path but it is one I am excited to take and I can’t wait to take all of you along with me!

If you aren’t already, follow my blog! You can either create a WordPress account or simply enter your email to be notified when a new post goes up! I’d also love to hear from anyone who has gone through bankruptcy and what helped them to get through it…drop a comment below!

Until next time…

Love always,

Caitie♥

The Reality of Vicarious Trauma

Honestly, vicarious trauma sucks ass. Too many people think that vicarious trauma is a myth that people use as an excuse. Truth is, it’s real and it’s too easily overlooked by society. By definition, vicarious trauma is the result of continuous interaction with those who have experiences trauma and by association, highly stressful situations. If left alone, the effects of vicarious trauma can be dangerous.

Unfortunately, my job is about 85% stressful situations. I have chosen a career path that has me interacting with a lot of children who have dealt with way more shit than they ever deserved or should have experienced. I read their files and hear their stories and it breaks my heart. Then, to see the effect it has on the kids is even worse. I have interacted with countless children who have had and currently have self-harm behaviors and suicidal ideations. They want to die because of what happened to them. They ask to talk and try to process their feelings with me and other staff at times.

If that’s what they need, then I am happy to provide a set of ears for them. Most of the time, I am confident in my responses and do my best to put their minds at ease at least for a time until they can meet with their therapist. But sometimes, I just don’t know what to say. And that makes me feel absolutely horrible. If I don’t have anything to say to them, then what good am I? How can I be good at my job if I’m at a literal loss for words when the kids need me to say something that will help them not want to hurt themselves or end their lives. My own therapist tells me that it’s okay to not know what to say and to tell the kids that. Deep down I believe that, seeing as how I am not a licensed therapist. I didn’t endure the years of school and learning that requires. But on some level, I still feel worthless to the kids that I have no words for. I know they appreciate me just listening to them, but I wish there was more I could do for them. For now, I guess I’ll just have to keep reminding myself that I am doing the best I can.

There are a lot of signs and symptoms that can lead to the conclusion that someone is suffering from vicarious trauma. I’ve noticed several of them in myself over the years. If you notice them in someone around you, don’t be afraid to speak up and be supportive!

self-care

Physical

* Unusually tired, even after taking a rest

* Difficulty sleeping or over sleeping

* Irregular headaches or body aches

Emotional

* Increased anger and irritability

* Lasting feelings of grief and anxiety

*More easily distracted

Behavioral

* Increased isolation

* Increase or decrease in eating habits

* Avoiding work or other responsibilities

Burnout is a huge part of my job. My first weekend of work at the program I’m at now, an incident occurred with several girls that led to three staff quitting. Some people just aren’t able to handle the stress of the job and that’s okay. However, it’s frustrating when they all realize that at once and split, leaving the rest of us to figure it out. It ultimately leads to more stress on those of us who tough it out. The above symptoms and the associative stress is what leads to such a high burnout rate among mental health workers.

Unfortunately another part of my job includes physically restraining the kids when they become self-harmful or aggressive. The proper term is Emergency Safety Physical Intervention. No one enjoys doing this, but it necessary at times. The last week or so, one of my girls at work has been having a hard time with self-harm. We’ve had to intervene several times and it definitely takes a toll both physically and emotionally. The ESPIs can lead to vicarious trauma as well. It is extremely stressful to be holding a child who is screaming at you to just let them kill themselves. There have been several nights where I’d like to just throw in the towel and be done. But as much as I hate my job sometimes, I love it, too. It can be very rewarding when you see a kid make progress and eventually make it home or wherever their next step is. It definitely isn’t something I will do long-term; I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I think that’s part of where my dream of a nomadic and free lifestyle comes from.

My previous job as a foster care case worker in Massachusetts put a lot of emphasis on self-care. We even, at times, had whole meetings on the subject. Self care was hard for me while in Massachusetts. I dealt with the stress of my job during the day and went home to the stress of my fiancé at night. I literally never had a break. It usually doubled up with my ex texting me and calling me all day while I was at work to complain about one thing or another. I was burning out fast and everyone at my job took notice. No one really said anything because they weren’t sure how to help. I made two friends while working there who I know will be close friends for life. I talk to them regularly and they have been a huge part of me getting through leaving my ex and moving away.

Now that I don’t have that extra stress at home, I am able to focus more on myself and my own well being. I can come home and escape into one of my video games or take a long shower then relax with Albus without anything getting in the way. I think that, for sure, helps me be better at my job. I’ve talked a little about my main self-care components before and I plan on doing a bigger post about the topic in the future. It is something I take very seriously and preach to my girls on a daily basis. The biggest piece of advice I give them is that, from experience, it always gets worse before it gets better and that now is not forever. I have told every single one of my girls this and I have heard them repeating it to their parents and other kids in the program. I like to think I am making a difference in the lives of these girls and I truly hope that I am.

Everyone go home tonight and take some time for yourself. Sit for ten minutes and practice deep breathing. Go for a walk. Blast music and dance without a care. Do whatever works for you. You’re no help to anyone if you can’t take care of yourself.

Until next time…

Love always,

Caitie♥