This is probably going to sound like a rehash of a previous post, but if you’re anything like me, sometimes you need to hear things a few times before they really sink in. Or in my case, MANY times.
I’m actually a pretty quick study most of the time, but with the case of anxiety, I tend to be a little slow in learning the best way to handle it. The way I phrased that last part may even indicate part of the challenge: the fact that I view anxiety as something that must be “handled.” I think the challenge is compounded by the fact that anxiety isn’t just something you can figure out in your head. I mean, I’ve got the head stuff down. It’s when things migrate to my body that it gets hard. If you’ve ever had anything like an anxiety attack, you know what I’m talking about. No matter what you know in your educated, perfectly reasonable mind, when your heart starts racing, your stomach knots up and your jaw clenches, all of that flies out the window. You are in full down panic mode and you will do whatever you can to stop it.
This is great if you only go into this mode when there’s a real challenge around — being attacked by a mugger or chased by a 3-legged dragon, say. But many of us have more sensitive panic switches and we find ourselves getting triggered by everyday occurrences. With me, I just so happen to get anxious around food. Great. Something that I HAVE to encounter multiple times a day and that is practically the SOURCE OF ALL LIFE, also happens to freak me out. Lovely. (Granted, not every food or every meal sets me off, but if you think about how many times we eat or are exposed to the option to eat everyday, the odds are against me.)
Considering the fact that I’ve been dealing with this eating disorder/food phobia for much of my life, you’d think I’d be accustomed to it by now. But no, almost every time it happens it catches me off guard. It’s like each day I wake up thinking today will be the day that I experience zero anxiety and everything will just be splendid Mary Poppins fabulous. Spoiler alert: That NEVER happens. Yet my belief that it should happen means that when anxiety shows its face (usually at least once or twice a day), I’m almost always caught off guard.
Well, guess what? New strategy: Expect the worst. Not in a Debbie Downer everything sucks and will suck and the world is going to hell kind of way, but just in a, “yeah, I’m going to feel anxious at least once today” kind of way. That way, I’ll be prepared for it. If I can face the day in the awareness that anxiety will surely pop up to greet me a few times, I’m much less likely to lose my footing when it does.
It would probably also help if I remembered my own advice from that last post. Namely, that anxiety is not a problem! It’s just anxiety. It doesn’t mean something is wrong, it doesn’t require “fixing” and I don’t have to get rid of it immediately. I can let it be there. It’s not easy, but with practice, I think remembering that I have these two tools on my belt will go a long way in helping me to deal with it more constructively.
So, I wonder what form anxiety will show itself in today… I can’t wait to find out! Bring it on anxiety. I’m ready.