Tuesday, September 18, 2012

On Coping with Anxiety

Today was one of those mornings: I woke up overtired, needing to get in the car by 7am to make it to work, and had one too many tasks to accomplish (need gas, oil change, register to vote, assign a PCP, make a doctor's appointment, pay two bills, negotiate Internet service bill, answer a million emails, and go to the grocery store). Why is it so much easier to be thankful on Sunday? In the middle of the day, just when I was feeling productive, I got a ticket. My temptation is always to get overly anxious about life's little setbacks, but Brendan is very good at talking me out of that. After all, we can afford the ticket, and though it is disappointing, it's NOT the end of the world.

One trait about me (or Cancers, if you'll allow me to blame this on astrology), I can be prone to worrying too much (aka: anxiety). One thing about Brendan: he rarely lets things upset him. I both envy and try to emulate this, which has helped me improve over time. When I was younger, if I faced a stressful day at school, I would make a mental list of all the things that would still be right in my life after that day at school: I'd still have my family, my room, food to eat, a bed to sleep in, clothes to wear, etc., etc. I can remember doing this in elementary school, and I read this letter recently about how we are at our best when we don't lose sight of how our inner child thinks about and reacts to the world. If I could talk myself down from anxiety as a pre-teen, couldn't I do it just as successfully now? Why is it that the child focuses on what he or she DOES have, while the adult is prone to focusing on what they LOST or what is being TAKEN from them?

I don't know. I think one reason is that being an adult is scary. Brendan and I talk about having a dual role as teachers: we teach students to write, but also, we prepare them for the real adult world, which is sometimes a confusing, unjust, chaotic place. On the best day, we want to get across: I was where you are. Things may be hard, but you can get past it. It's easy for me to convey that to my students, after all, I'm nearly a decade past most of them in life--remember, I have lots of dual credit high school students, but of course, I'm still fighting my own battles, one of them being anxiety, and there is no magic mentor on my end to convince me things will be okay. Brendan may help play this role, but ultimately, the magic mentor must be me: I must convince myself. 


I can be stubborn. Anyone who knows me knows this is true. I set my mind to something, and that's it. Part of coping with anxiety is learning how to change your mind. Ouch, that's really hard for me.

I wanted to cry in the grocery store. Here I am, stocking up on groceries for a week, and a senseless ticket (it was for not having an updated address on my license--the address is where I still can receive mail, at my parents) costs more than a week's worth of food. I felt myself fighting back tears. I was under-rested and overstressed, but I also realized only I could take control of the situation. I focused on all the amazing good, healthy food we were buying. If we can afford to provide this kind of nourishment for ourselves, surely we're doing okay. One ticket won't change our lives. And it could happen to anyone, especially anyone that drives as much as I do (384 miles a week to and from work alone). My anxiety didn't conquer me. I didn't crumble over a violation I didn't even know I had committed; Instead, I just told myself I would deal with it by adding it to my list of to-dos and moving on with my day.

And a good day it was. I did all my to-dos and even saved Brendan and I $150 on our internet service. You can't win every battle with the world, nor every battle with anxiety, but for today it was Stacy 1, Anxiety none.

Here's to today's reflection.
<3 S, B, L&Z

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  1. Great tips for someone who is also always overly anxious! I'm totally going to need to print this out and save it to read next time I think the world is falling apart because of one small thing. Good insight :)

  2. Thanks Laura,

    I'm glad it helped! I'll probably have to print it out too, good idea :)



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