Remember when video games were still a relatively new thing? You know, the days of systems like Atari, Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and Sega Genesis? When games were stored on cartridges instead of discs, and when the game froze you would blow air into the cartridge to “make it work again.” The days when you’d get into fights with your friends about who got to use which controller or play as which character. And when, if the game wasn’t going your way and you were down to your last life, it was “acceptable” to turn it off and back on again? (OK, so maybe it was a total cop-out, but we all did it.)
Don’t you wish life today were that simple sometimes?
If you were an adult when video games were new then you’ve got a few years on me, but I imagine that there was (and may still be) a bit of a learning curve with new technology that has become both exponentially more capable and complex. And, if you were a kid like me when video games burst onto the scene, wouldn’t it be nice if your “worst” worry was still whether or not you got to play as Mario or Luigi, Sonic or Tails, or that you got to use that awesome green controller instead of the boring gray one? Even more so, wouldn’t it be nice if when things weren’t going your way, you could simply hit the power button, reboot the system, and try again, unscathed?
I know I do.
But adult life isn’t quite like that, is it? When things get tough, we have to roll with it as best as we can and hope that we have enough support to get through it. We can’t just pause the game, or unplug it and “redo” things like we did in our video games.
I know many people, myself included, would love to have this capability. And sure, it would be nice if we could at times take the easy way out. Unfortunately, we can’t, and the fact that we can’t can be extremely anxiety-producing.
We’ve all been there: You’re going about your everyday responsibilities, plugging along with your normal routine when suddenly, you’re interrupted by something that comes up and completely throws you off. You get sick. Your friend calls you in need of something (a shoulder to cry on, a night out, a ride home from the train station, etc.) just as you’re about to go to sleep. Your kitchen sink springs a leak. You get into a car accident. Your boss assigns you to a new project with little to no notice before the deadline.
The degrees to which these things affect you will certainly vary based on a number of things, like the timing, severity, and nature of the interruption. Getting a paper cut, while unpleasant, is likely to have less of an impact on your daily routine than a family crisis. Still, each of these things come with their own anxiety, which we all handle differently because (surprise!) we’re all unique individuals.
Some of us navigate through these curveballs seemingly flawlessly, barely having to deviate from our normal routine, while others struggle to continue being productive in the slightest. If you have an anxiety disorder like I do, you may be more susceptible to the latter reaction than the former. That’s not to say that you couldn’t brush off that what some would consider a “major” disturbance, but anxiety disorders are generally notorious for making these situations difficult to break out of.
So, the question begs to be asked: What can you do to handle interruptions that become significantly disruptive to your routine?
While I’m not an “expert” on this by any means— at least in terms of formal training— what I do have is a particular set of skills. Skills I’ve acquired over many years of living with an anxiety disorder. Skills that have been a nightmare for someone like me to learn…
Movie quotes aside, the truth is that over almost my entire lifetime, I’ve experienced being thrown off of my routine and into an OCD-triggering, habit-based ritual time and time again. I consider these to be at least comparable to “merit-based” credentials, or “dues paid,” enough to speak openly about some strategies for dealing with these situations.
After years of impulsivity and reacting to that initial moment of panic and anxiety, one thing I’ve learned that there’s quite a bit of value in putting things into perspective. It can be something as straight-forward as taking a few deep breaths, calming yourself down, and asking yourself how the disruption will truthfully and realistically impact you, and to what extent. For instance, Is this something that affects my routine for the next 10 seconds, 10 minutes, or for the next 10 days?
This is kind of like hitting the pause button on a video game. Now, obviously, if the disruption is severe and needing our immediate attention, then this may not be possible. Even if the disruption is more minor, this may still be easier said than done, especially if you experience your anxiety quickly and intensely. Still, it’s important to make the attempt to take that extra few seconds, take a deep breath, and allow yourself to put things into perspective as best as you can. If you are able to rationalize and frame the impact of the situation on your routine, this may help to alleviate some of the initial anxiety you experienced.
Often times, our initial anxious reaction is an overcompensation of panic over something that, in reality, won’t actually affect our routine quite as severely in as we may feel it will. And yes, it’s inevitable that many of the interruptions we will face will, in fact, require at least some attention. Many of them, though, may actually not require the amount of attention we think it will.
Once again, our initial anxious reaction may be that “I need to take care of this RIGHT NOW” sense of panic. Believe me, this happens to me all the time. The good thing is that if and when you are able to gain perspective, you can determine the effect it will have on you and how long it will take you to address and attend to the situation.
At first, it may feel like whatever it is will take you 5 hours to fix, and maybe it will. But what if there isn’t anything that can be done until later on? Or even better, what if you don’t actually have to do anything at all? There’s your reset button.
Of course, we can’t always ignore the interruptions we face, and many of them will require us to focus on them at some point. In this case, it helps to prioritize them based on how important and impactful they really are. If it’s something that can wait for your attention for a little while, you can formulate a plan for how you’ll handle it. If you’re someone who likes having and adhering to a schedule, this can come in extremely handy as you make your adjustments.
Put Pride Aside
You’ve got a flat tire and have no clue how to replace it with your spare. Or you have 3 hours worth of work and only 2 hours left in which to do it. Guess what? It’s ok to ask for help. As hard as it might be, there’s no shame in putting aside your pride when you genuinely need a hand. This doesn’t mean you’re incapable, incompetent, or whatever other deflating feelings you may associate with asking for help— you may very well be able to handle things on your own, but that’s not the point. The point is, in many cases, it takes two people much less time to do something that one person may attempt to do alone.
I consider myself to be a pretty prideful person and paired with my stubbornness, this makes it extremely difficult for to ask for help. (“Fun” OCD note here: The realization that you will have to ask for help may very well induce even more anxiety on top of the anxiety you had over the whole situation happening in the first place. Not cool, OCD. Not cool.) Sometimes, no matter how much we might deny and fight it, we just need some help. It may very well be worth that little bit of anxiety bringing yourself to ask for help if it helps reduce an even greater amount of anxiety that you would experience trying to “take on the world” alone.
So no, the challenges we’re faced with in real life aren’t quite as simplistic as the ones you’d find in a video game. Still, there are ways to take the elements of a video game like the “pause” and “reset” buttons and apply those concepts when we’re anxious We can take a minute to pause, take a breath and process the situation at hand. Sometimes we’ll find that what we first felt would ruin everything and make us want to hit the reset button, actually won’t ruin anything at all.
And, while I don’t know a single person who preferred to play any Sonic the Hedgehog game as Tails, I think we all know deep down that when Sonic got knocked on his behind and was momentarily losing all of his coins, it was nice to have Tails there to help pick up the pieces.
What stresses you out most when your routine is broken?
What ways have you found helpful in handling it?
Share your experiences and comments at the bottom of the page.
Whatismyhealth © 2017