Need ultra-short-term crisis strategies for staying emotionally level.
January 13, 2013 7:40 AM   Subscribe

The past 3 days I have somehow managed to enter a perfect storm of personal stress. I am looking for any kind of thought-pattern-y strategies that I can use in a pinch to tell myself, so that at least temporarily, I might hold off constant weepiness.

Last Monday, I had abdominal surgery, which went really well. I have been recovering a-ok. I had a friend watching me for most of that time. However, since Friday

1. I no longer have a friend hanging out to observe me, which would have been fine if
2. I had not somehow contracted a cold in the last 24 hours, despite having almost no human contact (my fault for going to the grocery store for a couple things, I guess), and most importantly
3. I retrieved my cat from being boarded at my vet (which I only did because my friend is really allergic) and my cat was completely freaked out. The boarding, as boardings go, for vets, is pretty nice. It's like a mini cat hotel, with fairly decent sized rooms for the cats to hang out in, individually, and not be bothered much except for the sounds of the other animals nearby. But perhaps her being 13+ years old with mild kidney disease was just too much stress for her. She stopped eating her regular food, and they were able to get her to eat some other kind, but now she won't eat that either. I am preparing to take her back to get bloodwork and what not done pronto. But my question is -

are there any kind of mental tools you guys have that I could use to tell myself, that have been useful to you in the past, so I can stay reasonably calm and not get ultra upset at the moment? I just feel so physically crap from the combination of factors, and the fact that these signs seem to point to the same problem that killed my last cat, that I am having difficulty not just starting to cry and not stop. I understand that's it's reasonable to be upset, but unless it's going to be that time for ms. kitty, I feel like my body can't afford to be wigging out just yet.

(Also: I'd rather not take any medication for this since I just spent several days trying to purge anaesthesia meds from my body, oof).

Thanks much, mefiters.
posted by bitterkitten to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction can be good for helping you to accept these feelings and let them wash over you, rather than getting too caught up by them. I think ideally it's a long-term practice but I've found relief from audio recordings in the short term. Look for Jon Kabat Zinn on YouTube or for some audio downloads of his (you'll find a mixture of recordings of him talking about MBSR, and actual audio meditations, you might find a combination of both useful). If nothing else, his voice is so soothing it'll distract you for a bit. Good luck.
posted by penguin pie at 7:55 AM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

:( Sorry to hear about how rough it's been. Just take a deep breath, pray (if you are religious) and stay strong! Stay busy! You may be a bit woozy from the anaesthesia but putting on music and dancing even if I *really* don't feel like it and spending two minutes in a 'power pose' makes me laugh and actually feel better (watch this).

Big hug and stay strong!
posted by dinosaurprincess at 8:32 AM on January 13, 2013

When you are weeping, just tell yourself that really isn't going to change anything nor help you or the cat get better faster. You'll then laugh at yourself and you'll stop crying. That worked for me last week.

Then a couple of days later there was a second storm of weeping when I woke up crying and even though inside I wasn't even upset mentally it seemed like my body had a bunch of emotional toxins to release whether I wanted to cry or not. I was simply bugged with the puffy eyes and tears preventing me from writing my report. I have scabs on my eyelids from wiping them with a towel all day!

(hugs) You're overwhelmed and the body is gonna do what it needs to do, I discovered.
posted by infini at 8:33 AM on January 13, 2013

the "wouldn't it be nice" exercise!!!!!! (I got it from a book I can't remember but use it all the time)

You can do this when you are in a bit of a sad state and need to shift back into the positive. You start thinking about the things that you would like to experience... but you start out your thoughts with "wouldn't it be nice"

Wouldn't it be nice if bitterkitten found something really relaxing to watch on television?
Wouldn't it be nice if bitterkitten felt just a little bit better today?
Wouldn't it be nice if bitterkitten had something to eat that really tasted good and went down well?
Wouldn't it be nice if bitterkitten called a friend and had a really nice chat?
Wouldn't it be nice if bitterkitten healed from this surgery and it was awesome?
posted by misspony at 8:50 AM on January 13, 2013 [8 favorites]

Seconding the mindfulness recommendation. I just started exploring this and it's surprisingly effective. Jon Kabat Zinn (mentioned above) is coauthor of a book called The Mindful Way through Depression, and if you don't want to buy it right away, there are pretty substantial excerpts on google books. I got an mp3 audio version on overdrive from my local library, which is also an easy way to get engaged with the information. (Plus, the narrator, who is one of the authors, has the perfect voice for this type of thing.)
posted by gubenuj at 9:14 AM on January 13, 2013

If you have a spiritual path, now is the time to follow it, whether it's prayer, meditation, spellcasting, yoga, etc. If not, and you are interested in finding one, now is also a good time to pursue that. Regardless, reaching out on the phone to someone you trust can help. As infini suggested, a good cry can rid you of toxins and stress. Also, both you and your cat will benefit from physical contact. Hold and pet her as much as she lets you. Speak soothingly to her. You are both stressed out.
posted by xenophile at 9:31 AM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Gonna go contrary to some advice here and say that it sounds like you are (consciously and non-consciously) expending a tremendous amount of energy trying to not feel what you're feeling, and that giving yourself permission to be weepy, even if it has no logical or rational basis may be useful.

It's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sad.
posted by softlord at 11:04 AM on January 13, 2013 [5 favorites]

Can you put out an emergency call to friends or family for support? Sometimes it really helps me to "officially" declare a state of personal emergency and accept that I am going to need to call on people, stretch my budget a bit (phoning out for delivery food is a key emergency strategy), take some drastic methods (maybe feeding your cat poached salmon or chicken breast or whatever 'people food' that might be an extravagant treat), and triage responsibilities (house cleaning usually grinds to a halt during a Sidhedevil State of Emergency).
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:43 AM on January 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

Despite hella Buddhist meditation credentials, my most effective ultra-short-term anti-sick-cat-related-weeping strategy has always been to reach for my iphone and play Fruit Ninja for a bit. Preferably in arcade mode.
posted by feral_goldfish at 12:27 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you are just getting off surgery drugs, that is probably contributing to your emotional state. Sometimes it helps just to remember that.

I find making my house look calmer by getting routine but highly visible tasks like laundry, dishes and garbage done makes me feel better when I'm freaking out.

Nthing softlord - it's okay to weep.

(From the symptoms you've described with your cat, it is not time to assume the worst for her. If your vet seems unable to make headway, get a second opinion - a professional should not take offence at this.)
posted by srs airbag at 1:08 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks very much for all the suggestions. I have actually tried doing Kabat-Zinn's program in the past ('Full Catastrophe Living'), but I couldn't seem to stick with it. I do like his attitude about it though, that he believes that even if you yourself don't think it will work, keep doing it and you'll eventually see benefit.

As far as symptoms my cat has: yeah, it doesn't sound terrible, but when you know your pet really well, and their behavior is suddenly, persistently erratic - plus, it totally mimics what happened to her offspring when she went totally south - you might wig. She is back from the vet now, where they gave her some fluids and appetite boosting drugs, so we'll see what happens in the next day or so.
posted by bitterkitten at 1:34 PM on January 13, 2013

You could always try the Jack Shephard method: slowly count to five, letting yourself feel the fear with full intensity, and then let it go.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:11 PM on January 13, 2013

What's wrong with letting yourself get upset? Wouldn't that be a healthy and normal response here? It's always seemed easier to stop after you've had a good cry about something awful, instead of stewing about it and trying to not feel bad. I appreciate all those guides that tell you to let feelings go by and observe them and not let them affect you, but I've taken them as advice for handling frequent, intrusive and overwhelming emotions rather than a way to handle a particular situation that would make anyone feel sad. If you've just had surgery and have a cold and your cat is sick, maybe get plenty of rest, and sleep, and get upset and weepy if that's how you feel.
posted by citron at 6:05 PM on January 13, 2013

What if, just what if, you did cry and let yourself really feel the Awful and totally wallowed in it? What would happen? What is the worst case scenario outcome from doing that?

I suspect what whatever you name as the worst case outcome (lose your mind? never stop crying?) would not actually happen and would start seeming a bit ludicrous once you think about it for a while.

I suspect what would actually happen is that you'd cry, hard, for about ten minutes and then stop and feel marginally better once you're calm. Maybe you'd cry again in a while, but like before, it would end itself in ten minutes and you might even find that your Awful feels a bit purged. And after you do this enough times, I suspect you'll start to trust that letting yourself feel the Awful for ten minutes at a time is actually the way to make the Awful go away.
posted by (F)utility at 11:38 PM on January 13, 2013

(F)utile - Yeah I went for it yesterday. I can't really tell if it helped or not, but it definitely exacerbated the heck out of my cold thing. Crappy timing for feeling blue, ultimately.

In the meantime, this is what happened to my cat after they put her on mirtazapine to boost her appetite. (This is apparently normal and should fade as the medicine wears off).
posted by bitterkitten at 7:03 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

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