About ten days ago, Laura and I came down with the plague. Well, OK, not the plague. More like the flu actually. We experienced energy draining fatigue, headaches, fever, chills, a constant cough and even back pain. We spent close to two days in bed and have just now overcome our symptoms with the sole exception of a lingering, but dissipating cough.
Of course we wondered if we could have done something to prevent this malady from occurring. When we saw our doctor, he suggested that we might have gotten our flu shots too early this year (apparently, they reformulate the shots as the year goes on). Of course, he said we had no way of knowing that and, no, he wasn’t recommending that we start getting two flu shots a year.
Maybe we didn’t wash our hands often enough. Or maybe we weren’t sufficiently attentive to getting enough sleep every night. Or maybe we spent too much time around crowds at the mall. Maybe…YIKES! Stop it!
Like zillions of people around me who have shared a similar fate, a spring virus, unexpected and unplanned for, has fouled up my week. I spent a couple of days dazed—sleeping on and off—then a slow recovery. No single second was terrible, I’ve had much worse, just aches and pains, chills, and a deep cough. But the fatigue, the slogging through molasses deep tiredness of this bug, has gotten my attention.
Now I’m in the state of wellness that gives my brain permission to mull over all of the tasks that illness made seem impossible. And still tired enough that the simple tasks take on monstrous proportions. Two blogs to write, bills to pay, balances to figure. And of course, shopping and cooking. Cleaning, catching up on email, scheduling appointments. Too much for today. But, now on top of these lists, I pile stress and anxiety.
Parents often go to great lengths to protect their children from harm. And so they should. Kids need adults to protect them from danger. And in today’s world, parents protect their kids far more than they did in the past.
For example, if you’re in the Boomer generation, you may remember walking or bicycling to school as early as the first or second grade. You don’t see much of that today. And if you took a bus to school, no adults stood around watching out for you.
Today, parents are much more cautious. That’s probably good—at least to a point. I guess I knew things had gone a bit too far when I saw an ad from the Internet the other day which proclaimed:
People with difficult feelings like anxiety or depression often believe what they think. This is a common and dangerous trap that most people fall into from time to time. Here’s a phrase that I find myself using over and over with my clients and with myself:
JUST BECAUSE YOU THINK SOMETHING DOESN’T MAKE IT TRUE!
Simple right? Well, not that simple. We all get into thinking habits like “I’m not good enough,” or “I’ll never find anyone that will understand me,” or “If I touch that doorknob I’ll probably get sick,” or, “If only I could save more money I’d be happy.”
If you have thoughts like those you might feel depressed or anxious. Learning to not believe what you think takes practice (and often therapy). But for now, let’s play a game.
People with anxiety disorders worry. They worry about getting sick, running out of money, losing control, becoming embarrassed, making mistakes, getting hurt, hurting someone else, forgetting to do something, and on and on. Anxious worries rarely happen, but sometimes they do.
People do get sick, run out of money, embarrass themselves, make mistakes, get hurt, hurt others, forget stuff, and so on.
The worries of those with anxiety are reality based. However, anxious people usually inflate the actual level of risk. For example, it is true that cold viruses often linger on surfaces after an infected person coughs, sneezes onto something. If you touch an infected surface and then rub your eyes or scratch your nose, it’s quite possible that you can get sick. However, you probably have touched zillions of things in your life without getting sick. The overall risk is pretty low.