It’s Wednesday afternoon and I’m working on a proposal for a client, my latest blog entry (curtsy to my reader: hello!), and an array of e-mails and phone calls and a cool new idea for moms who, like me, are approaching their first anniversary of motherhood. Sara, my business partner, is leaving for vacation Friday morning, so we have just a few hours together tomorrow to wrap up loose ends before she’s gone. By the time she gets back, we’ll be a week into the new month, and we’re both a little amped about the length of our to-do list for the time before her departure.
What I wanted to blog about is that wound-up experience. Clients have taught me that not everyone shares my degree of bodily awareness about anxiety. Most people just walk around feeling anxious and think it’s normal. If I ask about it: “Are you feeling stressed?” they often deny it vehemently. And authentically, I think: we’re like fish in water, the way we swim in tension every day. So, having a more finely-wrought sense of the sources of our anxiety than most, I wanted to articulate it a little for you, through the lens of my own experience today, in the hope that it helps you disentangle these threads for yourself in a way that lightens your load.
See, my and Sara’s anxiety today has two different sources. One’s more helpful than the other. The helpful anxiety: “hey, we want to kick butt in March, so let’s know what’s going on before Sara leaves. And let’s make sure we get her input on everything that needs it, so nothing’s on hold that shouldn’t be.” Smart stuff. It compresses time, sure, and raises blood pressure a little, but nothing too terrible. It’s the less-helpful stuff that really messes with us (and, we’ll wager, with you): the head-trips that say “we have to get everything for the whole year figured out before tomorrow.” “There’s never enough time. We’re always behind.” “We have no idea what we’re doing.” And so on. You can probably fill in the blanks yourself. And if you’re thinking I sound like an insecure, scattered ding-dong if those things are running through my head, my guess is that’s because your own ding-dong thoughts are so well-masked that they’re unconscious. Problem is, if you don’t really hear them, they have that much more power to run your life.
The take-away for me and you, both: let’s differentiate between helpful anxiety and the head-trip stuff that just wastes our energy. Next time you notice a knot in your stomach, or tightness in your head and throat, check out what you’re anxious about. Some of it will be helpful anxiety, spurring you to productive action. Some will just be mental spinning. Take a deep breath and let that junk go. Then get back to work! The clock is ticking! J