Your eyes are locked on the ridges of the white roof. Flat on your back, across from a bolted door with nothing but silence at the fringes of the room. It is one thing to be locked in your room, another to be locked in your head. Ideas and responsibilities running rampant, baring their fangs, ready to release a hyena howl at your imminent failure.
Trepidation sometimes so strong, it confines you in literal paralysis and if you are symptomatically Type A? Perfectionism will consume you, robbing you of daily function, lacing together knots in your stomach, surges in your head and sometimes even yes, bodily tremors.
It can range from mild worry to debilitating tension, but anxiety creeps into all of our lives at some point. It could be that you are preparing for an interview or an examination; trying to find a job; attempting to balance looking after your children, your workload deadlines and in house duties; or things as seemingly simple as trying to get through the day okay or making a good first impression. Anxiety can easily become a monster which uses the reins of your life to strangle you.
I know that some days reciting 2 Timothy 1:7 like the old ladies at church in the hats told us to just does not suffice for tackling the waves slamming into me today. So I want to share with you a few of the ways in which I tackle one of my biggest thorns in the side.
- Make an easy checklist
For some of us, it’s already a great enough hurdle to wake up without anxiety. Don’t overthink this. Try not to over-complicate it. The fervour with which you hop on to your phone in the morning to check your notifications, go to your memopad and jot down your major goals for the day. Start small, for example “find 2 things to be thankful for” or “wash one load of clothes”. As you go on, check off the things you have accomplished. Try not to make this too meticulous, but do put tasks on the list you know you need to complete. Some days I hope to write 2 paragraphs on my dissertation and end up with a page. Some days making sure that my son has not torn down the entire house while waddling in his walker, has bathed, fed, dressed and gone to bed successfully constitutes a major accomplishment. Another strategy is to make an extensive list of what you hope to get done and circle everything you must do and focus on those, say, four items. You will be amazed at how much more you cover when you bring tasks into focus and you will also feel better when you can directly observe your progress.
2. Don’t Procrastinate.
After putting your list together, try not to hesitate with execution. Procrastination is the food of perfectionists. You have this lovely idea in your head and you can’t bear to see it fail to live up to expectation in reality! A wise woman once said to me that “done is sometimes better than perfect” and I really wish I knew this tid-bit earlier in my life! If you can get the little things out of the way in the 2 minutes available to you, you free yourself up some more for the bigger tasks! Yes it will require a measure of discipline but when you see the fruit of your work, it helps encourage you to keep trying!
3. Pinpoint your motive.
Sometimes our anxiety comes from a place of the daunting thought that others will not like us or accept us and the things we do. For a long time I battled with living up to people’s expectations especially since, when I surpassed those expectations, people began to anticipate more from me. This caused me to live in a constant state of distress which actually defeated productivity in the end. Everyone, practically will not always be pleased with us but we must choose the most important causes. We have to come to a place where we are confident in our efforts and abilities, knowing that if we have given it our very best, we have given it enough. It takes continuous effort to get there with this one but it’s worth it.
4. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Again the perfectionists, and also the self critical folks. This one is for you. The fact of life is we will not always get it, sometimes we will miss miserably. We have to climb out of the moat of depression we are tempted to wallow in forever! Of course a little wallowing to deal with the situation in order to entirely move on from it is acceptable. We must be also willing to compromise when it is called for, leave room for potential errors or unexpecteds and sometimes think of them as creative liberties. When you feel the pressure is building up too much go and scream into your pillow, watch a comedy, take a bus somewhere. Perhaps running down the road naked is not an option. But try to find something that reminds you simultaneously not to take life too seriously and to stop and take in the small wonders of it. They are not always luxurious but are always beautiful. You can’t be too busy for diffusers! If you realistically can’t kill all the birds with one stone today, try scouting for another stone tomorrow.
5. Lastly, facilitate kind words.
Yes. There is room for reciting that scripture to yourself and believing it. Recite affirmations to yourself. Cheer yourself on when you are trying your best. Surround yourself with people who will offer kind words and whose shoulder you can lean on when you feel like you are unraveling. Proverbs 12:25 says that – Anxiety weighs down a man’s heart but a kind word cheers it up. Sometimes all we need to know is that someone else is there patient, willing and supportive. Also, we must practice this kindness with the people we come into contact with because we are not the only ones battling anxiety! As far as possible escape toxicity, (even from ourselves) and replace them with kind words. They are key for meditational and medicinal moments when we need our head space cleared.
These keys will not happen overnight and some days may push you down harder than others. But practice and a little determination will make the end goal of conquering anxiety that much closer to our grasp! Let’s reach for it!