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September 2011
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Analyzing Anxiety

I’ve been paying attention to the shapes of my thoughts lately. I’ve figured out that I am living with levels of stress and anxiety which are too high for my body to sustain on a long term basis. Combine that with recently watching a documentary showing scientific evidence of how stress can reduce both health and happiness, and I’ve felt highly motivated to figure out where all of the stress is coming from. It is not merely the result of being busy. It is possible to be busy all day long while also being relaxed and happy. I’ve done that before and it is where I am aiming to dwell again.

I noticed that many of my thoughts had the shape of perfectionism. I put great pressure on myself to stay on schedule, to get things right. Yet I don’t think I’m inherently perfectionist. I am quite willing to allow myself mistakes and errors. This morning I realized what it was. I am not allowed to let down people who are counting on me, or people whom I perceive as counting on me. The more important the person is to me, the less I am allowed to fail them. No one else is imposing these requirements on me. I do it to myself and sometimes to a ridiculous degree. I will berate myself for failing to complete something that the other person had no idea I was doing for them. If I do fail at something I generally pick up and move on fairly quickly, but it adds stress to the next round of “I must not fail.”

I’m not entirely sure how to disconnect this as a source of stress, because I want to retain being reliable and dependable as core elements of my self-definition. I’m in the process of re-defining the boundaries of my jobs so that I take less responsibility on myself. I know I tend to snatch responsibility when it would be better to let others handle it. Most of this gets expressed in my home life. This makes things murky in the areas where personal and business overlap, such as my relationship with my husband-and-business-partner. We’re working on it and finding better balances.

The best avenue of attack has been to sit myself down and ask exactly what I’m afraid of. I’ll pull out the anxieties and sort them then think step-by-step through all the possible consequences. Usually I discover that the worst case scenarios are well within my management capabilities. That works for anxiety which has basis in thought. Other times the anxiety starts as an agitation in my body to which my brain tries to attach explanations. Re-balancing my thyroid medication may resolve most of this. I’m also actively seeking out relaxation / recreational activities. I’m exercising, gardening, and spending time on projects that don’t have much purpose other than my desire to do them. Bit by bit I am teasing out the knots of stress and tension. So far so good.

2 comments to Analyzing Anxiety

  • Learning to say ‘No’ can be so difficult, but it is so necessary to survive. It certainly is something I struggle with from time to time.
    Good luck on managing that challenge.