October 10, 2014
by Caleen Martin
I was in the grocery store the other day trying to keep to my list, stay on budget and keep an eye on coupons and ads to make sure I was getting the best deal. Not even half way through I was in a state of panic. I couldn’t think straight, my heart was pounding and I felt like I was on the verge of an anxiety attack. I ended that day with a horrible flare up. I couldn’t understand why something as simple as a grocery trip could send me into such a tailspin. Then I found out that there is research to support why this happened.
More is Less
Too much choice can paralyze us, says psychologist Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less. When we are bombarded by too many choices at one time we increase our anxiety levels. Studies also tell us that when we are given too many choices we are actually less satisfied with our end choice. For those of us with a chronic pain condition, we are told that we need to simplify our lives as much as possible to alleviate stressors which will increase our daily pain. Who thought grocery shopping would ever turn into one of those stressors?
I have the words ‘Live Simply’ on my vision board in my bedroom that I look at every day. It reminds me that I need to actively look for areas that I can simplify to make life easier for myself and my family. Anxiety and depression run high in the chronic pain community. We can become overwhelmed very easily. Learning how to navigate through complicated decisions and knowing which ones to simplify is imperative.
Considerations and Options
Here are a few options and considerations to help when making decisions and simplifying your choices:
Weigh the Cost
Is it really worth it to get the absolute best deal? Maybe you’re on a tight budget and you need to clip every coupon and price compare. If so, get organized before you go shopping or ask for help so it doesn’t become overwhelming. We all know one of those friends or co-workers who knows all the best deals and when to shop, it may be time to call on their expertise in the bargain hunt. However, if it isn’t absolutely necessary, then don’t make it more difficult for yourself. Not everything in life needs to be a bargain. It’s exhausting trying to keep up and will only contribute to increased pain and anxiety. If it isn’t an absolute yes – go the easy route.
What Really Matters
There will be complicated decisions that need to be made in our lives, this is inevitable but not everything needs to be made into a life or death decision. It’s about balancing our energy; lightening our loads in some areas so we have the energy to handle the complicated and challenging situations that will pop up in our lives. Decide what really matters to you and let the rest go. Everything will work out in its due time.
Turn it Over
There comes a time when we need to admit that we need help. Sometimes decisions become so overwhelming that we need to turn the decision over to someone we trust. The friends and family we have in our lives can and are usually very willing to help us but first we have to let them in. We need to tell them what we need, delegate our responsibilities.
What is Right for You?
It comes down to doing what is right for you in the long-term. With any chronic illness you need to think about how each thing you decide to add to your ‘to do’ list will affect you. Multi-tasking is an impossible delusion we like to think we can do, but we can’t. Take it one thing at a time, one foot in front of the other. If you’re day has been too much, take a good hard look at how much you’ve tried to do. What has caused you stress or anxiety? Is this an absolute task you must do, or can you give it to someone else? Are you making it more difficult for yourself?
If you’re like many of us who feel better being in control of the situation or tasks, you’re going to have to learn to let that control go. There are studies that indicate that when we physically feel signs stress and anxiety it is our body’s way of trying to tell us that we need to reach out to others. We need to let others know what is going on. We need to pay more attention to our body and what it is trying to tell us. We need to embrace ourselves, love ourselves and treat ourselves with the kindness and compassion that we so often give to others but forget to give ourselves.