Anxiety: what if it were just a messenger?
As a small town community, we are dealing with big time stuff. I bet other towns are too. We are part of a reform movement, you and I, ready or not.
The voices I am hearing right now are many and they all have a message: sexual harassment and assault are in our towns, drinking and drugs worry us, are we building resilience in our teenagers, what can the holidays actually look like this year?
The common theme: anxiety. Anxiety for what could have happened, what could happen in the future, how we have prepared our children, and how can we celebrate.
In life we are only able to manage or live with our anxieties. We cannot get rid of them. We can, however, address them, categorize the heck out of them, and place them in a bin. This bin, by the way, has a top. And I like to put the top on the bin of worries. I am an avoider, you see. I can wrap myself in other projects, a new book, or a glass of wine. I can, and do, check out. My favorite checking out activity is to take a hot shower and in my towel and bathrobe, climb back into bed and for 15 minutes max, I listen to my book on Audible and do a jigsaw puzzle on my iPad.
I set an alarm. Because the minutes could really pass by. Which, annoyingly, gives me anxiety.
Anxiety is a messenger. And there are ways your can communicate with anxiety.
Name it to Tame it:
Identify the worry. Say it. Out loud. To anyone around, including the cat. Say it. It takes the power away from the worry. It makes it tangible and real and something you can deal with. Name it.
When you name it: is the worry screaming at you, telling you that you are unsafe or unhappy in the current situation?? LISTEN to the worry and get to safety. Your body will be going into flight (RUN!!), fight (DEFENSES UP!), or freeze (wait, what is happening?). In this situation - get to safety and when you feel ok decide if that was really a scary situation or if fear was driving your response. Don't forget the debrief. It will offer you good information.
When you name it: Your tummy flips and you know your adrenaline is pumping and it is a force that will propel you forward. Motivation increases, so does productivity and focus. GO FOR IT. The challenge is accepted and do good for the world.
When you name it: You want to phone a friend. The feeling needs to be seen by someone else. Gathering social support in times of worries may be what you need. Feeling alone can increase the worried feelings. Share them - it IS what friends are for.
When you name it: Randomly, the past or the future will flash before you. This can cause worries. If you are paying attention to the past, you may be regretting something. If you are paying attention to the future, you may be fearing something. Identify if you are thinking past or future. Once you can see the time frame, identify what the future/fear or past/regret is that you are thinking about. Give it some mind space.
For me, luxuriating after a hot shower is fearing the future: what will NOT be accomplished because I am taking time for myself? [Answers: the laundry, the chores, food my children will eat, clothes, birthday parties, my students, my classroom, pick up and drop off schedules, holidays, the world spinning - to name a few] I have just made up a pretty darn good story that my future is a mess because I took 15 minutes for myself. Guess what?!?
I can see that my list is ridiculous. Because I see the situation as it is: I am worried that if I stop, so too will everything else.
What is true: I need a break. I get one after dinner. Every night, I take a hot shower, jump into bed, listen to my book and play the jigsaw for 15 minutes. And THEN, I
join my family for the evening.