Overwhelm can be so crippling. You know you need to figure out a solution to the problem you are worrying about. You know you need to figure out a plan to get out of the situation you are in, and start moving towards where you want to be.
Anxiety is fear, which can lead to panic. One problem can spawn hundreds of 'what if...' scenarios in our minds that play out in vivid detail – the more we think about them the greater the detail. The greater the detail the more real those scenarios seem likely to happen.
How I wish I wasn’t as well acquainted with such fears, but let’s face it – it is part of being human. EVERYONE has worries and fears. The challenge is how much authority and power do we give to those worries and fears to impact our day-to-day lives?
I found myself smack-dab in the midst of a storm of anxiety when the love of my life had a major breakdown. He was later diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following several deployments overseas and declared by the military as being unfit for further employment (by military or civilian workforce!!). In the days, weeks, and months that followed – I found myself not only being mum to our three young children – but also the primary carer for my husband. So – I had PLENTY to worry about!!! However, along the way I developed a number of strategies that were of tremendous help. Those strategies continue to serve me well, especially since starting my journey of building an online business:
1. Use Your Words
I am not talking about sprinkling rainbow dust as you chant “I don’t have any problems. Everything is perfect”. Here is what I mean (and here is EXACTLY how I manage each worry that appears). When I’d find myself in a loop of thought that sounded like “what if things don’t change” for example, I would answer that thought with a response that I knew to be truth. Here is what it would sound like:
“I know that things won’t be like they used to be and I am ok with that. I don’t know what things will be like in 6 months or after that so I will not give myself permission just yet to think that far ahead. Instead, I choose to focus my attention and energy on what is right in front of me today, and look for improvements today – no matter how small." So add a statement to that which is troubling you that unpacks the topic a little, and reframes it.
2. Put Pen To Paper
I love to write and I found this to be a HUGE weapon in my arsenal when dealing with anxiety. In fact – my GP gave me some great advice which I implemented that very night – and it involved writing. He referred to it as ‘creating a space where you are allowed to worry – but with conditions’.
As part of your wind down for the day, choose a spot to sit, get out a notepad, and write down the worries that are on your mind then and there. Just dot-point them. Set yourself a timer of 15mins tops in order to avoid writing toooo much about the details of your worries. That would turn into a variation of overthinking – but on paper instead!! We do NOT want to do that.
This process of just dot-pointing your thoughts is simply a process to get things out of your head and on to paper. Then you can mentally ‘relax’ (so-to-speak) because you don’t have to worry about forgetting about the things that were on your mind – because you have written them down.
3. Face-off with your Fear!
I found that exploring a fear can be a very helpful process. Again – back to all those “what ifs” – one of the biggest was “what if there is another breakdown and it happens all over again?” So I explored that. I sat down and wrote out that fear, and then began a ‘contingency plan’ of what I’d need to do if it did. I wrote down who I would call and why, along with their phone numbers. I thought about who I’d call on to help with the kids. I wrote down the fact that this fear was something I need to talk openly about with my husband and discus it WITH him. We started talking about what we could do together to PREVENT the thing that, as it turned out, we were BOTH fearful of!
4. Be The Gatekeeper Over Your Mind
There is a favourite passage from the Bible that says "Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life..." I started a habit of challenging the flow of thoughts when anxiety would threaten to override my day. For example, when I was aware of the anxiety – feeling its impact in body as the tension would increase – I would ask myself “how is THIS approach to this particular problem serving me right now? Is it helping me or hindering?” Check in with your self - keep tabs on what you allow to take up residence in your mental real estate.
5. Bury Your Face Into God’s Chest
My go-to-place EVERY time. In my journey I have found that sometimes the best thing I have ever done is to take God at His Word, and trust that He means it when he says "I am with you. You are not alone". The days and nights when I have simply poured my heart out in prayer, words spilling mixed with the tears, have been the places I have found the most profound peace. Sometimes, in those moments of stillness, has come deep wisdom too.
I remember vividly one particular experience when I was on the floor sobbing deeply feeling overwhelmed and confused about what had happened. I asked my self questions like "How could this happen? How did it come to this?" I heard the words "...these symptoms are an illness, they are not who he is..." and right at the moment, with those words, I recalled our vows "...in sickness and in health." I saw myself being administered a teaspoon-size dose of hope for our future.
As you have read my post today, give yourself permission to start small and just pick one of these five strategies that perhaps resonnated with you as you read it. Pick one and put it into practice today. Any small step towards peace is never a waste of effort or time.