ANXIETY – It is the most common mental illness in the US. I don’t really feel qualified to write this blog post because I still suffer from anxiety almost every day, but here it goes…
I am a master catastrophist with a very active imagination. Anyone else!? I can be going through my day and numerous scenarios will come up where I can anticipate THE WORST situation ever happening. Even if nothing is wrong, I can imagine about a million different horrific and stressful scenarios and play them all out in my head, down to the minute details. This especially has played out in work scenarios when the stakes are highest. About a year ago, I found myself struggling and striving to always be better and do more. We’ve got to do whatever it takes to be successful in business, and I had anxiety that if I didn’t DO IT ALL and do it all PERFECTLY, I would never move forward. This “hustle mindset” is so prevalent in our society today and instead of inspiring me, it was seriously stressing me out and causing more damage than I realized. Isn’t it interesting that we have more “life hacks” and we hustle harder than ever before, yet our society is struggling so much with burnout and anxiety and fatigue….seems like we should have that all figured out by now if the trendy “life hacks” were supposed to be making our life better?
Anyway, one day I hit my breaking point at work. I went into a business coaching session I had and told him we were quitting the business – it was too stressful and I craved a more simpler career path. I was dealing with a very tough transaction, and my coach told me that I had to LET IT GO. I was annoyed that some people can seem to be so nonchalant about things but I just don’t have the power to be like that – I got it from my mama. 🙂 Nevertheless, I wrote down “LET IT GO” on my to-do list and eye-rolled my way through the rest of the meeting. That night, Zach and I went to an art show that was happening in our neighborhood. It was our last stop and I met a girl selling her cute handmade jewelry. I locked eyes with a necklace that said “LET IT GO” on it, and I bought it right there on the spot so I could cross that dang thing off on my to-do list….LOL! I felt like it was God’s way of saying he’s going to help me get through this.
After researching other career paths or other ways I could be put out of my anxiety-ridden misery, I realized – this anxiety is going to follow me wherever I go. I can’t blame it on my career – I had to take responsibility for my own thoughts. I put a lot of work into “conquering” my anxiety and learning to LET IT GO, and here are some things I’ve learned along the way:
1) What are you believing about yourself?
During my struggles with anxiety, I consulted a life coach to help me get things sorted out (highly recommend getting professional help and not being ashamed about it!). In my sessions, I was hoping I would get some strategies for coping with my anxiety. But to my surprise, we didn’t focus on my anxiety at all. Instead, we focused on what I really believed about myself. We came to realize that much of my anxiety stems from me feeling like I’m not good enough – I’m not smart enough, I don’t work hard enough, I’m not nice enough, I don’t care enough, etc. These beliefs led me to strive toward impossible feats, leading me to live in a constant stage of anxiety, and fear. First off, I had to become aware that these were LIES I was believing about myself. Second, I had to combat those lies and hold onto the TRUTH. For me, my faith has been instrumental in helping me overcome these thoughts. So when I am caught in anxiety, I ask myself: “What am I believing right now?” It helps me pause and switch my focus off of my made-up scenarios and onto the truth about myself.
2) Harness the power to choose.
As we’ve talked about in other blog entries, we’ve also hired a business coach to help us keep growing in the right direction (also HIGHLY recommend if you are serious about scaling your business). Our coach has talked to us a lot about what we let into our brain. Do you ever have those thoughts that just come creeping into your head and spiraling out of control? We don’t need to be victims to those thoughts. We DO have the power to choose other thoughts and believe something else. When I start overthinking, I try and stop myself and choose something else to think about. Sometimes I’ve had to do this about a million times an hour, but it has helped me immensely. It’s just like training for a marathon – you don’t just go out running once and you’re ready to run that 26.2 (reminds me of that one time I “trained” for a half marathon but never actually did the long runs….I wouldn’t recommend it, haha). You’ve got to take small steps every day to help you get to your goal and train your body to be resilient. The same is true for our thoughts. Sometimes we get comfortable thinking the way we’ve always thought – doubting ourselves, fearing failure, striving to do more because we don’t feel good enough. It is a battlefield every day and we’ve got to put our armor on and get our there and FIGHT. Even when we don’t feel like it – we ARE good enough.
3) What is your anxiety trying to tell you?
It’s easy for me to become a victim to my anxiety – to fall victim to its power. When I do fail and give in to those anxious thoughts and start entertaining crazy scenarios in my head that keep me up at night, it’s helpful for me to evaluate what may be going on at a deeper level. Often times I need a break, or some time to step away. Instead of thinking of my anxiety as my mortal enemy (OK yes sometimes it definitely is), many times it is actually my “Check Engine” light warning me that I need a break. For me, I need to completely remove myself from the situation and force myself to be completely distracted (which is super hard because in the moment all I want to do is control the situation). I’ve found that getting together with a friend or focusing my mind on another activity like a movie or a book helps me.
I am proud to say that with the help of my faith, the help of professionals, and an awesome community of friends, I’ve been able to let things go and be free. I can sleep better, and have less days where I feel like I need to control everything and do all the things (still a work in progress with that one, haha). They say you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable if you want to do anything that stretches you or forces you to grow. And that uncomfortability definitely causes fear and anxiety, but we can be conquerors. I sound like a motivational speaker (**INSERT HUGEST EYEROLL HERE**), but just knowing that it is a battle is half the battle. And on my hard days I wear my necklace to remind me of the progress that’s been made and the power that lies within me. So get out there, buy a necklace, get some rest, and LET IT GO!