HANDLE WITH CARE PT. 2 | New Answers for Anxiety
Greatness looks like madness until it finds its context.
Here’s Part Two on Handling Anxiety With Care.
Anxiety, besides all of its maddening aspects, can be(come) our friend. An annoying friend, admittedly, nonetheless with benefits.
It requires some mental reframing, and patience which - I know - is hard to come by when your riddled with a head full of racing-at-full-speed thoughts.
There is a light at the end of the anxious tunnel: Understanding its underpinnings, deconstructing our crazy, helps us to get us closer to reaping its benefits.
A heads up: The benefits of anxiety are not immediate - immediate is only the anxious affair: clutching on control, gripping onto things, fearful-frantic thinking.
When I’m anxious, I unconsciously (i.e. unbeknownst to me) press a fast forward button in my brain and bring events of the future - that may or may not turn out the way I imagine - into my current experience. Further, I label them as a threat: a big, loud DANGER sign turns up in my head (imaginary tiger/nervous system-survival mode, see last article).
By pulling these thoughts/anticipations into the current moment, me labeling them as a problem to be reckoned with right now, my mind becomes agitated and, conversely pulls me out of the now.
Action, however, can only be taken
in the now.
So here’s the first mental reframe:
Anxiety insists on immediateness, however this immediateness is a fake one.
In truth/reality, we are neither present nor in the present moment (when we’re anxious).
Unless you are Marty McFly and have a time machine at hand (would be nice) acting on the future remains a frustrating endeavor, doomed to fail.
Failure (real or perceived) on the other hand, is what feeds anxiety and which we’re desperately trying to avoid.
An example: I once worked with some web-developer folks who cost me a bunch of money to work on my website, and they ran away….with the money, sans the work. Now, I need some help, yet I’m too anxious of hiring anyone due to this experience. (Insert romance/project/ideas gone haywire). Trust issues, also - in general - run deep for us anxious beings.
Anxiety does not stop at the mere want of avoiding failure. ‘Good enough’ is not good enough for the anxious M-O:
We want perfect, no less please.
Mental reframe #2: Perfectionism is a byproduct of anxiety that needs rebranding.
Demanding of life/yourself to be perfect is just as frustrating as trying to act on the future, a self-limiting way to live indeed: seeking a perfect sphere is exhausting, and lonely, and if you’re honest:
Have you ever looked back on any of your work/creation and genuinely thought “this is perfect there was nothing to improve”?
I have not. Not in a regretful way, but rather under the lens of inquiry and life-long learning leading to betterment (hopefully). (Admission: I re-read my past writings, and strongly have to fight the urge to “make-better”)
So the thought that appeals to me is this:
Isn’t it, that if we were to arrive at this perfect place (whatever this might be for you), it would also be incredibly boooring?
If everything was how we want it to be, if we removed life’s weeds, what we’re left with is flaccid complacency, and there’d be no more (flowers) growing in and from unexpected places (concrete, middle of winter...anxiety).
Wanting perfect is part of anxiety’s DNA, it’s our yearning for safety/security/reassurance, but we can rebrand into something advantageous instead: Ambition.
When we drop perfect (ambition does not care for perfect), we make room for the anxious energy (there’s a lot of fuego in it) to unfurl...and we get to fire up our dreams/desires/destiny.
Anxiety reframed is taking the big paint brush and dipping it into fresh, bold colors, it’s a call for creativity, a party invite that says: wear your pink leopard print catsuit, your extra-shiny Dapper Dan three-piece and take risks.
(Hint) Real creativity takes courage.
A few people have reached out with well-meant (and appreciated) advise on what to do about my anxiety, so I am including a paragraph that was part of the original piece, yet got deleted for both brevity and less self-indulgence...
Have a read if you like:
“Apart from my own training in the holistic health space, I have done (tried) it all. Countless weeks of meditation courses in L.A., peaceful yoga-retreats in Ibiza, fasting and cleansing for absurd lengths of time (three months, no joke) in Germany, a form of Vipassana in Austria for an entire month where during the only communal activity - mealtime - you weren’t allowed to speak with your fellow inmates. (Also, obv, no phones, no tv, and no music - the latter was my tipping point - I smuggled my iPod (that’s how long ago this is) and to keep me comapny on those long, lonely walks through surrounding the sanatorium (sanctuary would be a too fancy of a term here - this place was a far cry from the serene-cushy ambiance of Esalen and alike). I’d argue this small act of disobedience was what saved me from going batshit crazy.
Of course these things helped. Every time I emerged feeling physically energized and mentally clearer, usually had lovely glow-y skin and a flat stomach - but nothing ever lasted. Once exposed to the toxins of the real world, my skin went back to its usual irregular, break-out sensitive state, and my mind and body did the same. To be clear: I did follow the guidelines I was given at each retreat/course with army-like discipline - to a point that I’d limit my social activities to a bare minimum so that I could follow the path I’d been suggested. (All areas of my life had to be monitored: diet, movement, lifestyle, sleep-wake patterns, rituals and so on.)
And of course, they were imperative for reclaiming my health after the years of sickness, but in hindsight, I wonder whether I’d really had to take such an arduous path, and if there would have been a more easeful way to go about it. (FYI: I’m convinced there was, however this is in lieu with my usual modus operandi: the more extreme, the better my learning and growth).
None of it ultimately calmed my mind. It was merely a crutch that gave me the illusionary impression I was in control, and whenever something/someone/life (how dare you?) rattled my cage, we - anxiety and I - came crashing down like a house of cards.
I’ve learned that my anxious brain has its own workings and what works for many, more often than not, ain’t working for me. (An example: coffee is considered as amplifying anxiety. For me it works with my anxiety: the many thoughts firing at once become more organized, I can follow one train of thought versus a million.)
Let me be presumptuous here: This is actually the case for most peeps (because, you know, we’re same same but different) alas many have forgotten how to be self-reliant and walk out on their own.
Being autodidactic is arduous, no doubt, but/and in regards to finding what works for oneself and what not, irrefutable (important).