How to handle the anxiety of major life changes?
May 25, 2014 5:45 PM   Subscribe

I'm getting ready to start a new adventure! But I've been comfortable so long I don't know how to handle it.

I'm going to grad school and I'm really excited. But there is so much to do that is pushing me outside my boundaries. I have asperger's, so I don't transition well and it is hard for me to move past my box. But I need to contact landlords and roommates about finding apartments, and I need to get a blood test even though I am extremely scared of blood draws, , and I need to apply for obamacare, and I need to decide on how much to take out in loans, and etc, etc.

I know what I need to do to, I know all the steps but I feel anxious so much, on top of working a full-time job (and a 30 hour a week job for some of the summer). It is so much to do, and I'm doing it independantly for the first time in my life (I have my parents but I think I need to figure this out for myself if I'm going to live independantly).

I just feel the anxiety in the background of everything I do. How do you handle a major life change when you have 10 billion things to handle first? It almost seems impossible to get it all done by August even with all my obsessive lists and calendar reminders.
posted by Aranquis to Health & Fitness (4 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Make a list. No seriously.

Once something is down on paper (or in your computer) you can stop worrying about remembering to do it. Categorize your lists to make it easier and enjoy the satisfaction of crossing off things as you do them. (that is why I prefer paper) I recently bought my first home and was worried about doing everything myself, but my lists REALLY helped me stay sane. I had bought a notebook and sectioned it off: people to contact about moving, moving and packing notes, forms that needed filling out, things to buy for the house, etc. Whenever I thought of something I needed to do, I'd just add it to a list and then I could stop worrying about doing it, because if it was on the list, I had to get it done somehow.

Secondly, read up on Buddhism, meditation, and being present. It's really helped me with blood draws to use my controlled breathing I learned from meditation. Being present helps me to stay focused and not get ahead of myself with worry.

For those more difficult tasks, be sure to reward yourself. Once you're present and in the moment and just doing all the stuff, you'll become more accustomed to it and worry less. - as well as enjoying the satisfaction of all you have accomplished.

Good luck!
posted by NoraCharles at 5:58 PM on May 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would start with the things you don't have to go quite so far outside of your comfort zone to do. So applying for insurance can be done online...why not give that a whirl tonight? Deciding on loan info can happen by yourself, so that's another one.

Write down what you've done and reflect upon the progress you make. If there are things that you think you can't do by yourself, there's no shame in asking someone to help out or go along with you as you do them.
posted by xingcat at 6:10 PM on May 25, 2014

There is no set answer to this. Times like these are a little bit trial-by-fire. Most people who manage to handle it will look back and go "how the hell did I get all that done?" But the fact is they did. I personally know three people who are all neuroatypical and all in the past year have managed similar levels of complex life changes to what you describe.

I don't know how you work best. You mention lists and calendar reminders, those are great, although it's worth a few minutes of checking to make sure you put in reminders for things like nutritious food and relaxation time. This is SO IMPORTANT.

One big stumbling block I've dealt with, and know that friends of mine have much worse, is the whole talking to a stranger on the phone thing, to do all those applications and paperworky problems. A tactic of one friend who often has that autistic verbal loss issue thing is to write everything out on cards. She'll gather her information: what she needs to get out of the phone call, what kind of information she will have to give during the call, reminders to exchange all relevant contact details, and so-on. Then she'll make the call with a script of sorts. Even if she comes off as stilted, she knows that she will manage to achieve the goals of the call.

You mention your parents and it's great that you see them as people who can lend you assistance, and it's also great that you want to accomplish things without their help. I totally understand that. But you will find that nothing is accomplished without somebody's help. Look for people who are kind and helpful as you work through your to-do list. Ask questions and advice of anybody you might think has experience doing the same things you need to get done. Like Obamacare - do you know anybody who has applied for it? Ask them how it went and if there is anything you should know, or have handy to expedite the process. Or finding a new place to live - a good realtor is actually worth their fee, in that they will have tons of knowledge to share with you. If you have trouble reading people's intentions, you might ask a friend whose opinions you trust to come along with you to meet people like prospective roommates, or even with you to your blood test. Part of being an adult and on your own is asking the people in your life to help you out - undoubtedly they will need your help in something later on. Asking for advice is like saying "I trust and respect you" and it's a good way to start or further a friendship or good working relationship.

Sometimes you might have shut-down days. I've found that the most important thing when it comes to those is accepting that you're just going to have to reschedule things, and then focusing on coming back full-strength the next day. This is why scheduling relaxation and self-care time is so important. If you're not doing any of that as faithfully as the errands and chores and paperwork, you'll find it much harder to get back up if you fall down.
posted by Mizu at 6:16 PM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm about to move jobs and cities and sell my house and freak out about it all too.

Here's what has helped me.
I divided my to-do list into four lists:
1. things I can do right now and that have to be done before I move.
2. things I can't do right now and that are relying on something else to happen first (mostly, these were things I couldn't do until I had a new address in the new city.)
3. things I don't have to do until after I've moved.
4. things that I want to do, but that honestly aren't going to cause a huge problem if they never happen.

Then I sealed up the lists 2-4, and set calendar reminders to look at them at later dates when I need to worry about them.

That way all I have to think about is list 1.

Then I outsourced as much stuff from list 1 as possible (to my husband, to friends, to paid contractors). I hear you on not wanting to do this, but it doesn't make you any less of a grownup. Really. In fact, delegating is a good grown-up skill that everyone needs to develop.

That left me with only a handful of things to do, and I've been getting them done at a rate of one or two things a week, which is actually not that hard.
posted by lollusc at 6:53 PM on May 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

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