Something occurred to me today that I’d never really considered before: I cannot remember a time — like, ever — that I didn’t feel anxious. Now I’m not talking about full-blown, panic-inducing anxiety here. I’m simply talking about that underlying nervous energy that bubbles just beneath my surface at absolutely all times. And has since forever.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to live without this sense of urgency. On the one hand, this is, in part, what I credit for helping me be so damn efficient. If you want something done, just ask me. (Or actually, don’t — I have enough on my plate… ) I keep a constant running to-do list — mentally, on paper, in the notes section of my iPhone, in Google Docs, and a plethora of other places as well — lest I might forget to complete a super important task (GAH! Doing so might actually kill me).
On the other (not so great) hand is the fact that I always feel like I should be doing something. Unless I’m sleeping (and that’s often a struggle too), my brain is always working overtime, thinking of all the endless items I should be checking off the list.
So here’s the thing: cognitively, I realize this is not a healthy way to live. I also realize that time spent relaxing, decompressing, and simply doing nothing at all is important to everyone’s overall mental, physical and emotional health and well-being. I KNOW this. But knowing something, and getting your brain on board (what with all its sturdily built and practiced neural pathways) are two entirely different things.
Most of the time the anxiety bubbling beneath is just that — bubbles of energy that exist. I can use them for good (to get stuff done), or for evil (to force me to stay awake at night to continue getting stuff done). But sometimes — and usually when there’s an upcoming transition in routine, an abundance of new information that I need to process, or too many things pile up on my heartily filled plate, the bubbling erupts into an all out explosion.
This is when the low-grade anxiety turns into unmanageable anxiety; when my heart speeds up, my vision gets blurry, my thoughts start to race and I can’t seem to catch my breath. When my inner elephant that normally lies dormant rouses and begins to thump heavily on my chest.
When it happens, there’s no way out but through. I have to feel the panic fully — really know what level of physiological stress I’m dealing with — before I can self-soothe and help it subside.
There’s “stuff” lately — not all of it is bad by any stretch, and for that I’m so deeply grateful. But it’s life stuff. Worry about children — am I caring for them correctly? Are there needs being met? Am I giving enough to each kiddo? (short answer = no.) Worry about the older generation — am I doing enough to ensure their health and safety? Are their needs being met? Am I giving enough of my time, energy and support? (Short answer = no.) Worry about the household stuff. Am I following through on everything needed to maintain this space of ours? (Short answer = no.) I could go on and on… work, marriage, friendships, family, self-care/me time, etc. With so much going on — and many of us feel this way constantly, I know — it’s easy to feel like we’re selling everything and everyone (including our own selves) short.
What’s the answer? I don’t really know. The responsibilities will never dissipate, so perhaps the key lies in adjusting our reactions (stress and other) to them? To to go about the day, and complete the tasks, without assigning them any emotion? And when things don’t get done, when the ruminating begins or the future worries start to creep in, to give ourselves permission to take a deep breath, remain in the current moment at hand and let that sh*t go? Because what is worrying going to do about it anyway, right?
Yet, even knowing this, I can’t help the fact that my anxiety is always there, bubbling just beneath the surface, ready to keep me a wee bit jumpy and steadily moving in
the right any direction. It kind of just is what it is. So in my 41st year of life, I’m going to do my best not to cast judgment over it, but rather to accept it’s presence, appreciate its good, and limit the times it surges up and boils over.