A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

Reflections on the A-Z Challenge

This was my first time participating in the A-Z Challenge. I must say, I completely underestimated how much work it would be, but boy oh boy, what a sense of accomplishment I feel now I’m finished. My theme was “Anxiety” and some had doubts (myself included!) that this topic was broad enough to carry the load of 26 letters. But it was. Above and beyond.

What I discovered from exploring Anxiety from A-Z, is that it isn’t all bad! While it can be debilitating, soul-crushing and interfere with many aspects of life; it also brings with it, motivation, incredible friendship and support, and a determination to, if not overcome it, at least develop the skills to manage and live with it.

I was at first, reluctant (and a little embarrassed), to share my struggle with the blogging community however, this was overcome early on in the challenge with the wonderful, supportive comments I received on my posts. Some even chose to share, or reveal their own experiences, which reminded me, I am not alone in this journey.

For the challenge, I chose to write using the Haibun poetry form. Haibun appeals to me because I can combine short prose (usually my musings) before adding a Haiku to add to and support the prose. I enjoy Haiku immensely because of the restricted syllable count and the brevity of the poem. Every word needs to count! I feel I developed my skills writing Haibun through participation in the challenge, and believe it was the right form for the theme.

In terms of traffic to my blog, I didn’t notice a huge difference. I gained a couple more followers and had a few regulars who stopped by my posts, which was so lovely and something I truly valued. However, my main purpose for participation in the challenge, was not so much for increasing my stats, but rather, to try and express all the feelings and confusion surrounding my anxiety at the moment. As mentioned in my posts, my anxiety comes and goes. It just so happened it was peaking when I started the challenge, and interestingly, receding when I finished. Coincidence? Or cathartic? Who knows! Whatever it was, the writing around this theme from A-Z has helped me start to make some sense of it all.

I wanted to thank those who regularly visited and commented on my A-Z posts – in particular Iain Kelly at http://iainkellywriting.wordpress.com/, and syncwithdeep at http://syncwithdeep.wordpress.com/. I truly appreciated you stopping by and checking in throughout the challenge. It helped keep me motivated and know that someone was out there reading!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading other A-Z participants’ posts. It was so interesting to see the variety of themes and approaches people used. It certainly broadened my knowledge and appreciation for the wonderful writers out there.

I would definitely participate in the A-Z challenge again. Thank goodness I have 11 months to think of a new theme! Thank you to the organisers at the A-Z Challenge for hosting and facilitating the challenge. I know it would’ve been a lot of work coordinating it all and ensuring things ran as smoothly as they did.

Below, I have collated a “round up” of all my posts for the A-Z Challenge:

A is for Anxiety
B is for Broken
C is for Comfort
D is for Depression
E is for Excellence
F is for Friendship
G is for Gratitude
H is for Hope
I is for Indecision
J is for Jitters
K is for Kindness
L is for Lonely
M is for Mindful
N is for Nagging
O is for Objective
P is for Psychologist
Q is for Quiet
R is for Ruminating
S is for Self-Talk
T is for Terror
U is for Understanding
V is for Various
W is for Wellbeing
X is for Xenial
Y is for Yield
Z is for Zest

As always, thanks for stopping by, and taking the time to read. If you like what you see please drop me a “like” or comment to let me know.

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah, Haibun, Poetry by Sarah

Z is for Zest

Despite grappling with the many challenges anxiety has thrown at me over the years, I have realised the importance of trying to maintain a zest for life. I will share some things I have found to be helpful. Reducing your daily stress can work miracles on your zest for life, as can changing the way you look at a situation. Diet and exercise also play an important role, releasing “happiness hormones” and regulating the fight/flight response triggered by anxiety. A good night’s sleep can work miracles when it comes to your mood and efficiency level for the day. But most of all, learning to handle difficult situations and developing coping strategies, plays a large part in maintaining your zest for life. To recap, hold onto your “zest” by:

  • Practicing Relaxation Techniques. It is important to find ways to relieve the muscle tension caused by anxiety.
  • Exercise & Diet: Any type of regular exercise is very effective in relieving stress.
  • Talking It Out: If you are feeling isolated because of anxiety, there are options for discussing how you are feeling.

Take positive steps.
Don’t let anxiety take
away zest for life.

By Sarah ©2018

Image credit jill111 via Pixabay

Prompt: A-Z Challenge, 30 April 2018 – Z

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah, Haibun, Poetry by Sarah

Y is for Yield

When you’re in a state of anxiety, you want to have control over your surroundings and what’s around. You are constantly seeking a feeling of safety. In reality, the more you seek control, the more you wind up searching for safety. It’s an exhausting cycle. Ironically, you need to let go; to yield; to give over to your fear. Surrender is often viewed upon as a negative thing. We are always encouraged to take charge of our lives and be persistent. Talking about yielding to something, may make you feel weak. However, if you surrender to a higher power, you bring that power into your life and allow it to consciously move you towards your goals, dreams and desires. It’s in the yielding that balance can be found.

A higher power
is actually in control.
Give over to it.

By Sarah ©2018

Prompt: A-Z Challenge, 28 April 2018 – Y

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah, Haibun, Poetry by Sarah

X is for Xenial

The word xenial is defined as “the friendly relationship between a host and guest”. Hang on a minute, I hear you say. Isn’t this A-Z about Anxiety? How can that be friendly?” Bear with me a minute as I explain… The person suffering from anxiety is obviously, the host. Anxiety, is the host’s guest (albeit an unwelcome one most of the time!) In order for Anxiety to exist, she needs the host. Otherwise, she has no purpose and not enough fodder on which to survive. Here’s where it gets interesting. Anxiety also needs the host to believe she is a friend, not foe, otherwise the host will just kick her out. She beguiles you into believing all those thoughts and worries, are her way of cautioning you. Looking out for you. Having your best interests at heart. How kind to have a friend who cares so much. But Anxiety is a master of deception. Don’t believe it for a second…

With a friend like this,
who needs enemies? Evict
the unwanted guest.

By Sarah ©2018

Photo by Pree Bissessur on Unsplash

Prompt: A-Z Challenge, 27 April 2018 – X

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah, Haibun, Poetry by Sarah

W is for Wellbeing

Author’s Note: W was nearly going to be for “worry”, but I felt that over the last few weeks with my other A-Z posts, that the sense of worry surrounding anxiety had been clearly conveyed. So instead, I chose W for “wellbeing”.

Having good wellbeing enables us to live life to our full potential. Wellbeing isn’t as straightforward as just being happy. Wellbeing is all the different elements that make us complete, such as, meaningful relationships, knowing our strengths, finding pleasure and our passions, and contributing to a greater cause. A strong sense of wellbeing contributes to good mental health. It also helps to protect us from the feelings of hopelessness brought on by anxiety or depression. Self care is central to promoting a positive state of wellbeing and something I actively work on.

More than being happy,
good wellbeing makes us complete.
Give yourself a break.

By Sarah ©2018

Prompt: A-Z Challenge, 26 April 2018 – W

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah, Haibun, Poetry by Sarah

V is for Various

There are various forms of anxiety. Recognising the differences between them can assist you in gaining a greater understanding of your loved one and their condition. Generalised Anxiety Disorder (or GAD) is when a person feels anxious most of the time and worries about lots of different things, over a prolonged period. Health Anxiety is similar to GAD, however, the focus is on the person’s health. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (or OCD) is when a person has ongoing thoughts and fears that cause anxiety. Although the person may know these thoughts are untrue, the person often tries to relieve anxiety by engaging in certain behaviours or rituals. Social Anxiety results in an intense fear of criticism, being embarrassed or humiliated, in everyday situations (such as, public speaking or eating in public). A Specific Phobia is when a person feels very fearful about a particular object or situation and may go to great lengths to avoid it. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD) can occur after a person experiences a traumatic event. Panic Disorder results in frequent panic attacks. These are intense, overwhelming and often uncontrollable. There are many different types of anxiety and luckily, also many ways to treat them. Effective treatment helps people with anxiety learn how to control it, so it doesn’t control them.

Recognise your type.
Be aware of your symptoms.
Learn to control it.

By Sarah ©2018

Image credit analogicus via Pixabay

Prompt: A-Z Challenge, 25 April 2018 – V

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah, Haibun, Poetry by Sarah

U is for Understanding

Anxious feelings are a normal reaction to a situation where a person feels under pressure. Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried. For a person experiencing anxiety, these feelings cannot be brought under control easily. Mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, are often not discussed openly because of fear of stigma. Unlike physical illnesses that have obvious symptoms that are observed easily; symptoms of mental health conditions may remain unrecognised and misunderstood. Negative views about mental health are often due to misunderstandings, misconceptions or lack of knowledge about the condition. You can help someone suffering from anxiety by showing understanding. Familiarise yourself with the signs and symptoms and be there for them. Listen. Don’t tell them to “snap out of it” or “toughen up”. What they are experiencing is very real and often terrifying.

Be there for your friend
or family member. Don’t judge.
Love and understand.

By Sarah ©2018

Image credit Pixabay

Prompt: A-Z Challenge, 24 April 2018 – U

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah, Haibun, Poetry by Sarah

T is for Terror

Terror, terror, in my core. Who’s the unfairest one of all? During all my years of struggling with anxiety, I have experienced countless panic attacks. The uncontrolled feelings of sheer terror, that escalate with every little physiological or cognitive symptom, is truly one of the worst aspects of this condition. When you are in the grip of terror, the world plummets beneath you and spirals out of control.

This terror has me
in its vice grip. I can’t
see any way out.

By Sarah ©2018

Image credit Pixabay

Prompt: A-Z Challenge, 23 April 2018 – T

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah, Haibun, Poetry by Sarah

S is for Self-Talk

For those who suffer anxiety, if we listen to our self-talk, it often sounds something like this: “You’re such an idiot!”, “You’re worthless!” or “You’re disgusting!”. But…the good news is that this negative self-talk, with careful practice and attention, can be turned into positive self-talk. While positive self-talk is not an anxiety cure or prevention strategy, for some reason if you say positive things to yourself long enough, those things start to become a reality. Positive self-talk also has the added bonus of simply being distracting without the negative consequences of negative self-talk. The less you’re able to focus on negative, anxiety fueling thoughts, the more they seem to go away.

flip and turn your self talk ’round

By Sarah ©2018

Image credit geralt via Pixabay 

Prompt: A-Z Challenge, 21 April 2018 – S

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah, Haibun, Poetry by Sarah

R is for Ruminating

Rumination is one of the similarities between anxiety and depression. Ruminating is simply repetitively going over a thought or a problem without completion. The themes of rumination are usually about feelings of inadequacy or worthlessness. The repetition and associated feelings raise anxiety, which in turn interferes with solving the problem.

stop the round and round
repetition helps nothing
just solve the problem

By Sarah ©2018

Image credit via Pixabay

Prompt: A-Z Challenge, 20 April 2018 – R

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah, Haibun, Poetry by Sarah

Q is for Quiet

Oh what bliss are those moments where the mind is quiet! We tend to believe that what we think is always a fact. The truth is, when we believe that every thought we have is true, we open ourselves up to a whole world of pain and stress. Don’t let your mind be so loud. By recognising that our thoughts are not facts, we find a lot more peace and quiet. Allow thoughts to float in and out of your mind without judgement. Shhhhh! They are just thoughts.

don’t believe all thoughts
shush any unhelpful ones
to quiet the mind

By Sarah ©2018

Image credit Monika1607 via Pix

Prompt: A-Z Challenge, 19 April 2018 – Q

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah, Haibun, Poetry by Sarah

P is for Pyschologist

Where, oh where, would I be without my psychologist? I dread to think! I am fortunate to have found an absolute gem, who helps me enormously. Seeing a psychologist can help you change your thinking patterns so you’re able to keep your anxiety under control and reduce irrational worries. You don’t have to live with anxiety and fear. Treatment can help, and for many, therapy is a good place to start. Certain types of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy, are particularly beneficial. These therapies can teach you how to control your anxiety levels, worrisome thoughts, and fears. It is important to find the right psychologist for you. If you have had a bad experience or not found therapy to be helpful, keep trying.

Therapy’s worthwhile.
Your insights help me get through…
Indebted to you.

By Sarah ©2018

Image credit Pixabay

Prompt: A-Z Challenge, 18 April 2018 – P

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah, Haibun, Poetry by Sarah

O is for Objective

Objectivity is one of those traits we all like to think we have. After all, the best course of action in any given situation, is to consider all the facts and circumstances, and then make the best possible decision. Objectivity works in two ways. First, it helps to remove emotion, allowing people to think more rationally. The other use of objectivity is that it provides a neutral approach that allows a fair discussion to take place. Anxiety can make you lose all objectivity. If it’s not managed, anxiety can cost us opportunities, money, and relationships. Anxiety can cause us to commit cognitive errors because our perception is off. We may project our emotions, past experiences, or backgrounds, onto the person, situation, or event.

Stand back. Consider
– subjective or objective?
See things as they are.

By Sarah ©2018

Image credit Pixabay

Prompt: A-Z Challenge, 17 April 2018 – O

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah, Haibun, Poetry by Sarah

N is for Nagging

Anxiety is a nag. She is continually complaining and faultfinding. When surrounded by such negativity, it’s hard to see a way out sometimes. You feel strung up and left out to dry. The constant feeling of worry creates intense anxiety that is out of proportion to the real troubles and dangers of everyday life. While all people experience some anxiety at times, people with an anxiety disorder feel anxious and fearful nearly all the time. They are rarely free of this nagging emotion.

Always trying to
quiet the unhelpful voice.
Nagging serves no one .

By Sarah ©2018

Image credit Bertsz via Pixabay

Prompt: A-Z Challenge, 16 April 2018 – N

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah, Haibun, Poetry by Sarah

M is for Mindful

“Mindfulness” and “being mindful” aren’t just trendy catch phrases for the modern world. You hear them so frequently because they work. All hype aside, mindfulness simply means paying attention to the present moment. Practising mindfulness can help you to cope with everyday life and deal with anxiety. It can also help you to concentrate, relax and be more productive. Some ways to be mindful include: focusing only on the present moment, concentrating on what’s happening around you, withholding judgement, and engaging in mindful meditation.

Focus on the now.
If your mind roams, bring it back.
Re-training the brain.

By Sarah ©2018

Image credit Pixabay

Prompt: A-Z Challenge, 14 April 2018 – M

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah, Haibun, Poetry by Sarah

L is for Lonely

Anxiety is a lonely road. Despite being surrounded by people who love and support you; you can feel totally, despairingly, achingly alone; trapped in the thoughts in your head. In crowds of chaos, you stand adrift. Occasionally, a light shines through, and other voices are able to reach you; reason with you. But when you’re in the grip of a panic attack, or heightened anxiety, these moments are fleeting and fragile. Cold fear surrounds me as I realise this is my battle, and my battle to face alone.

Onwards the journey
takes me on a fractured path.
Solely surrounded.

By Sarah ©2018

Prompt: Olivante Poetry, #NaPoWriMo 2018 – Image 13; and also, A-Z Challenge, 13 April 2018 – L

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah, Haibun, Poetry by Sarah

K is for Kindness

Anxiety is a harsh critic. Her voice is brutal; even cruel, at times. It cuts to the very core of your self-worth. And so, it is vital, that she is adequately tempered with kindness, in order to preserve the self. This involves being caring and supportive to ourselves when we fail, feel inadequate, or struggle in life – extending the same feelings of compassion to ourselves that we typically extend to others. Most of us are very good at being kind and understanding toward others, but not toward ourselves. Think of all the generous, caring people you know who constantly beat themselves up (this may even be you). When our inner voice continually criticises or berates us for not being “good enough”, all it achieves is making us feel depressed, anxious, and afraid. “Be nice to yourself. It’s hard to be happy when someone is mean to you all the time” (Christine Arylo).

Shut down the critic.
Embrace failings as learning.

Be kind to yourself.

By Sarah ©2018

Image credit Pixabay

Prompt: A-Z Challenge, 12 April 2018 – K

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah, Haibun, Poetry by Sarah

J is for Jitters

The word “jitter” can be used as both a noun and a verb. When used as a noun, it describes feelings of extreme nervousness. As a verb, it means to act nervously. When thinking about anxiety, it can definitely apply to both. I often feel jittery – at the start of the day, when I’ve spent too much time on my own or when embarking on an activity that I am not 100% confident with. I would definitely say I often act jittery too. My sister, who I have recently travelled with, used that exact word to describe my behaviour in my anxious moments. I think it is a great word, in either context, to describe how someone who suffers from anxiety may act or feel.

Feeling jittery.
Fight or flight activated.
I’m on high alert.

By Sarah ©2018

Prompt: A-Z Challenge, 11 April 2018 – J