I never thought of myself as an overly-anxious person but as I reached adulthood, I started experiencing short bursts of anxiety when I wake up in the morning. It’s not too bad, but I do end up taking fifteen or more minutes just face-down on the bed while grasping my chest to wait for my heartbeat to even out before getting up.
I realize that this was a sign of something unhealthy I was doing and so I’m in the process of seeking out the source to fix it. Spoiler: I haven’t found it yet; but I have a few guesses on which combination of things might be causing this phenomenon to happen to me.
One of these things is my relationship with worry. The feeling of it and the things that cause it. It might be from having experienced a good amount of bad things, as humans usually do when they grow older, combined with my personality and upbringing that made me develop an unhealthy way of dealing with it. Where I noticed, after a good amount of introspection, that I tended to let it consume me even though it’s about situations that are out of my control.
I’m writing this in the midst of making a major life decision and while the COVID-19 pandemic is happening. Everyone’s been on lockdown for a month at this point and I guess it’s timely that I’ve decided to write about this thanks to a conversation I had with a workmate over Discord (yes, Symph uses Discord for work and it’s great).
The first point that I have to make though is that worry in itself isn’t bad. It helps you stay vigilant and helps you prepare for things that might happen in the future. When you feel that dip in your chest or stomach, it’s probably something your body is telling you to take notice of even for just a few minutes. We developed this sixth sense after thousands of years of evolution, after all. Might as well use it.
The second point that I’m going to make is tied to the the “take notice” part. It’s how I’m noticing it that I think is the problem. So I broke down my thought process into two simple filters to give me a framework for my thoughts:
Can I do something about it?
This is my first question to myself. If yes, proceed to next question. If no, let it go.
Do I want to do something about it?
If yes, proceed to make action plan. If no, let it go.
As you might have noticed, it’s the “let it go” part that I still continue to struggle with. I tend to obsess over the commitments I make, often going above and beyond for the people and causes that I fight for. I know this makes me happy but having this level of engagement on too many things, obviously, won’t help me last very long.
So I had to choose which things are the most important to me and deprioritize everything else. It’s the same with the things that I worry about – I have to choose and make space for what’s most important. I just have to learn to let go and hopefully be able to make more impactful things happen for the people that matter most to me, including myself.
In summary, the only way for me to use my sense of worry to my advantage is to to just let (most of) it go and make space for what really matters to me.