I have anxiety. I am very lucky that I’ve never had an anxiety attack, but I occasionally get into a place where my mind spins and spins with worry. I have tried meditation and deep breathing, I take medication when I really need to and I try to talk it out with my husband, friends and family when I can make sense of things. It is not a fun place to be and I’m sure that many of you can relate. That said, I’ve come to the realization that can best be stated by this quote from Corrie ten Boom: Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.
When you think about anxiety and why we get anxious about things, it all seems to come down to a loss of control. We can’t control what the weather will be like, we can’t control whether those we love will continue to be healthy, we can’t control the outcome of a medical test, we can’t control how others feel about us or our children. We have no control over so many things and that leads us to worrying about the unknown. What will happen? Will they like me? Will I get sick? Have I done enough? There are no answers to these questions and – in the moment where you have no control – it can be enough to drive you crazy.
Over the past year, I’ve made a very conscious decision to try to live for today. It is very easy to say, but not as easy to put into practice. If you ask me what I’m doing this weekend, I’ll likely tell you that I have no idea. I write everything in a Google Calendar that I share with my husband and I try to let the rest go. If I have a trip coming up, I leave myself a reminder a week ahead (let’s be honest, we all know when we’re going to travel or have a big event, but having to constantly remind yourself can be a source of stress) to make sure that I’ve worked out plans for my kids, my packing and anything I may need to do beforehand. I know what I’m doing today and tomorrow at all times. That I can handle. That won’t stress me out because it’s about to happen – I don’t (usually) need to overthink anything. And the truth is, it has really helped. Knowing that you’re going to have surgery in three weeks is huge. Anyone would get stressed about that and it would be impossible to put aside. But knowing that you have a playdate with a friend and their kids next week is a different story. It doesn’t matter where you go, what you do, what you eat – it is going to be a nice time. Focus on that and work out the details later. No need to stress about the small stuff!
One of the things that I can tell you about not letting my worry overcome my world is that I find myself appreciating each interaction more. When I have dinner with my family, I’m actually IN it. I’m living it most of the time. I’m trying not to think about work or friends or family (and no cell phones or social media!), I’m just enjoying dinner. It doesn’t matter what airline you’re going to fly next week – do the work when you are making the plans initially (seat assignments, any upgrades, add a reminder to yourself to bring a snack) and then let it go. It will be there waiting for you when you need it. Again, this isn’t a perfect art and I’m not perfect at it, but I see the benefit and it truly is working.
When we let our worry consume us, we aren’t living. We’re so focused on what might happen tomorrow that we’re not enjoying today. There are so many beautiful things about this life – don’t miss it! The sunsets, the children laughing, the wind blowing – all free, calming and beautiful. Find what makes you happy and try to live in it, if only for a few minutes each day. It will get easier over time and I promise, you will find more peace.