Today we will look at learning how to have fun again after feeling like anxiety has robbed you of a it. I received this question from a reader and it inspired me to think about delving into how we as anxious people can learn how to have fun again:
“Do you sometimes feel anxiety has stolen all your joy in your life? I feel like I have almost forgotten how to have fun and relax because I am focusing on “these feelings” so much, I’m so worried about having a panic attack at a function, I can’t even enjoy it. What has helped you to “relearn” how to enjoy life again and have fun. I have pushed so many people away and feel I don’t have many true friends anymore to do anything with. Even my husband said I’m not fun anymore, and so uptight all the time.”
Learning How to Have Fun Again
I can certainly relate to this question- you are definitely not alone with this one. I did used to get very sad about the state of my life. After suffering with anxiety and panic attacks for so many years, I felt I had been robbed of joy, happiness, and certainly spontaneity.
I “hit bottom” so to speak with my anxiety around age 40. It was around this time that I took an inventory of my life, my marriage, my state of mind. I didn’t do this to make me feel worse, but to see what could I do, really, once and for all, to make my life better.
My life was ok- I was “functional” because I took my anxiety medication as prescribed. I could do everything I needed to do, but only with lots of meds on board.
My marriage- eh- it was a work in progress. My husband and I had been through a lot of drama in our early years due to too much partying, and we never really healed from those emotional wounds. We were making progress, but still had problems with stress and anger management.
My state of mind- I was sick of living at the mercy of anxiety. My life was confined and restricted and everything I did was based on how my level of anxiety was. I wanted a happy life. I knew if I could get back to the real me- the Jill I used to be before chronic anxiety had wrapped it’s ugly tentacles around every facet of my existence, I could be happy again. I knew there was a wonderful vibrant person inside me that was just dying to come out.
It was at this time that I put forth the best effort I even had in my life to learn how to manage- and overcome my anxiety once and for all. I did it like a full time job. I did get myself out of the zombie state I was in from being on too high a dose of Klonopin for decades and I made slow but steady progress with my anxiety recovery.
But life is not all about anxiety. What about having fun? What about happiness?
“Happiness depends upon ourselves.” -Aristotle
Sometimes we may need a reminder. Last week I met a man who, despite his circumstances, was truly happy. If this man, who was in very poor health, could have fun and be happy in his life, then surely I could too.
When you suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, it’s tempting to live trying to just get through days or wish days away, but learning how to have fun again is about being present and enjoying the simple moments.
You did used to have fun right?
Find what interests you. Do you have any interests or passions? Sometimes when we’re wrapped up with feeling anxious it can be hard to remember what the heck we ever did to have fun.
Did you enjoy cooking, crafts, photography, or writing perhaps? Maybe you used to have a green thumb, or enjoyed playing a sport.
Brainstorm things you used to do for fun, or think about a hobby you never started but wanted to. Last year I took a 6 week college course for a computer design program. I discovered it wasn’t for me, but I’m glad I put myself out there and gave it a try.
Learning how to have fun is about capturing the little moments in life and savoring them… What are some little things that you could do for pleasure?
For example, you could do any of the following just for fun:
-Try baking the perfect cake or preparing a nice meal
-Write a letter to a friend to let them know you’re thinking about them
-Take a long hot relaxing bath, complete with bubbles and a great book
-Go to the crafts store and look for ideas for a fun project
-Plant an herb garden
-Go for a hike with your doggie or your partner
-Talk to your kids- and really listen and engage
-Do something nice for someone else
-Paint something- a vase, a frame, a picture
But I’m anxious or worried about being anxious. How can I have fun?
Sometimes you have to fake it till you make it. Go through the motions. Put something in front of you and just do it. Get out of your head. It takes practice but you can do it.
Coping with panic attacks and anxiety on a day to day basis is heavy duty stuff, and yet we do it. We deserve a break and deserve to have fun in our lives. If your goal is to have fun and you start taking some action towards that goal, soon enough, you will start to feel it.
When I signed up for that course last year I was a little nervous about it. Sitting in classrooms is something that triggers anxiety in me. But I’m glad I did it. Even though I figured out pretty quickly this course wasn’t for me, I stayed with it and went every week for the 6 weeks. It was fun.
(It was also good practice for getting out of the house, and being around everyday people again. In the back of my mind I knew I would be looking for a new job in earnest soon so this 6 week course was a good practice run for that.)
Making time to have fun is important too.
Life isn’t all about work or all about being a mom, or a worker, or all about getting better from anxiety. It’s important to have some down time to do things just for fun and pleasure.
When I took that course last year, I remember thinking it took up too much of my time. Nonsense, I had the time. I just wasn’t used to giving up hours to something I was doing strictly for myself. But it was nice! After all hadn’t I also given up hours, days, and weeks to worry and anxiety?
I read this morning about making a happiness inventory:
Sit down and think about all the things that are wonderful. I never heard of anyone on their deathbed saying, “Gee, I wish I’d sold 50,000 more widgets.” Almost invariably they say their greatest happiness has come from their family and from the people they love.”
In my personal quest I have discovered what I think is fun for me. Among other things, I love to do crafts, I love to cook and bake and host family dinners, I love to help people by writing this blog, I love to exercise, I love to go to fairs, and I love to putter around in my garden.
And you- has anxiety stolen some of your joy? Are you learning to have fun again? I’d love to hear *your* thoughts on this subject.
I wish you peace,