Miss Migraine: Freeing Yourself From Anxiety by Tamar E. Chansky

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The Adventures of Miss Migraine is an ongoing column about my life with chronic migraine. This post appeared first on my blog of the same name on September 4, 2012.

Freeing Yourself From Anxiety, Tamar ChanskyTitle: Freeing Yourself From Anxiety
Author: Tamar E. Chansky, Ph.D.
Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong Books
Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-0738214832
List Price: $16.00

Freeing Yourself From Anxiety isn’t the kind of book I look for (as the possibility of it featuring explosions in space is right around zero). But my library, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, recently released a smart phone app that lets you download and listen to electronic audio books on your phone, among other cool features. As an unabashed book junkie, I have been, pardon my French, using the shit out of this app.

The app’s only flaw is that it presents you with a list of every audio book currently available for check out and download (2018 update: This is now fixed). You can search for a specific book, but can’t, say, browse for science fiction books. So one day, Dr. Tamar E. Chansky‘s book came up on the first page of the long list of books available for download, and I thought, what the hell, stress is a huge migraine trigger for me, maybe this will help.

Although I felt the book could have been organized better, the information and strategies for dealing with anxiety, stress, and “negative” emotions more than made up for that shortcoming. At the book’s heart are four steps to help the reader overcome anxiety. These steps work both in the moment of anxiety and as a daily practice to help reduce the overall incidence of anxiety.

And here is the book’s real strength: Chansky doesn’t simply provide direction for calming the mind and body down when anxiety grips both, but direction and ideas for daily practice to train the body not to overreact to ordinary stressors and stimuli. Examples include instituting a time for regular, deep breathing to calm the body, keeping a gratitude journal to remind us of good things, and creating positive moments of joy (like playing with a pet) instead of waiting for them to simply happen.

Throughout the book, Chansky focuses on “possible thinking.” She actually advocates against false positive thinking, because studies have shown that telling yourself things are okay when they are not is just as bad as thinking negatively. Instead, she suggests re-focusing on reality: What is the actual situation? What do you truly believe will happen? Then, we can prepare ourselves for that situation instead of becoming stressed about out unlikely possibilities.

Admittedly, I haven’t been as dedicated in applying these strategies to my life as I should be (again, because stress is a huge migraine trigger for me), but even in my casual application I’ve seen a reduction in my stress and anxiety levels, at least in the moment. Just making myself pause and ask, “Kelly, do you really think that will happen?” is enough to calm me down. This book is overflowing with strategies, so I imagine almost every reader could find several that would work for him or her.

If you suffer from migraine or another chronic illness, and stress or anxiety trigger symptoms — or if you suffer from an anxiety disorder or simple depression — this book will provide you with something to fall back on when it feels like the world is slipping away from you, fast. I would, however, suggest reading a paper copy, because I often found myself wishing I could go back and re-read sections that I liked, and that’s a little more difficult with an audio book. This is an unpaid, unsponsored review.

How do you deal with stress and anxiety?

#PhotoFriday: Happy 14th Birthday, Lexi!

Lexi was born on April 4, 2004. She’s my lucky 04/04/04 dog. On Wednesday, she turned 14. Maybe I’m being superstitious, but that, too, seems lucky.

My family adopted Lexi shortly after my childhood dog Maverick passed away. She was six weeks old, a little young but already weaned and spunky as anything. I’d taken Maverick’s death the hardest, I think, and was angry at my parents for not doing more to help him (as an adult I realize my anger was misplaced and that my parents did every reasonable thing they could and ultimately made the right decision). We had two young German shepherds, but my mom decided we’d adopt a Welsh corgi puppy for me–even though I’d be heading off to college soon.

Me holding Lexi as a puppy.

Me and Lexi in 2004, the summer before my senior year of high school. I demanded she be in my official photos.

Lexi has always been an adventurous dog. We went on lots of walks together, and when I did go off to college my mom took her to agility classes. When I graduated I found a place that would let me have pets, and Lexi moved to Pittsburgh with me.

Lexi, Kelly, D.J., and Ruby

Lexi and Ruby were ring bearers at my handfasting ceremony in 2010.

We’ve hiked and climbed mountains together in National Parks, gone on long road trips, and done a fair bit of just hanging out at various coffee shops in Pittsburgh. She knows me better than anyone—she can sense my moods before I even know what I’m feeling. She’s quick to draw my attention to her with a “grr” or a nudge when she knows I’m sad or distressed. I can (and do) set my clock by her.

Lexi

Lexi a few days before her 14th birthday.

Our time left together is getting short, but we’re celebrating every moment of it. Lexi is my girl, and I love her to the ends of the earth and back.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2018: Fail better

If you want to be a writer, you have to be comfortable with failure. Failure isn’t bad, though. It (hopefully) means you’re learning and growing. But more importantly, failure means you’re trying.

I’ve been participating in National Novel Writing Month since 2007, and Camp NaNoWriMo since it began around 2010. The goal for NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. For Camp NaNo, you can set your own goal. Out of the 11 years I’ve done NaNo, I’ve only succeeded twice. That’s an 18 percent success rate, which is preeeeeetty bad. For Camp NaNo, my success rate is in the same ballpark, even with being able to set my own goal.

Camp Nanowrimo 2018 Banner

And yet every April, July, and November, I throw my hat in the ring, not caring too much if I “win.” My goal is rarely to complete a project; it’s usually something along the lines of “get my butt back in gear” or “for goddess’s sake get SOMETHING, ANYTHING written.” My goal, in other words, is to fail better.

In 2017, I heard from several literary agents who enjoyed my short story collection but wanted to know if I had a novel. This did not surprise me (the novel part; I’m always surprised when someone likes my writing), but it did light a fire under my ass to finish revising the novel I’ve been working on since grad school. I’ve been through many, many drafts and while I know this absolutely not be the final draft, I’m hoping it’s maybe the third-to-last draft.

Even though the novel itself is cooperating beautifully (probably because of all the previous drafts), I’ve been struggling to stay on track with my (self-imposed) revision goals. I wanted to revise 13,000 words a month, but I have yet to hit that target. Like, at all. I really don’t want to be writing this novel for the next ten years, so enter Camp NaNoWriMo.

By and large, I’m content with steady progress, even if it’s always slower than I wish (I want it to be done RIGHT NOW, DAMMIT). Unfortunately, my progress has been less than steady. It’s come in fits and starts, and there are huge blank swathes of time on my progress tracker (a Google Docs spreadsheet). Since I know I’m unlikely to hit 50,000 words this month, and because this isn’t a shitty first draft, I set my goal at 25,000 words revised for the month, which equals 800-850 words a day. It’s higher than my normal word count goal but still doable in less than an hour, and will count for 2 months of revision to help me “catch up” to where I want to be.

Who knows? If this Camp goes well, perhaps I’ll stick to the 800 words a day goal and finish revising earlier than expected! (Hah. Yeah right.) But even if I don’t hit 25,000 words, I’ve already got more than 3,000, and it’s only day four. I’m already ahead of my progress for March. And so I write on, and hope to fail better.