THIS IS HOW ANXIETY DRESSES UP IN A SHINY SUIT AND SLIPS RIGHT PAST YOU. You're on the look-out for those dark negative thoughts, those catastrophic stories about your poor decisions and supposed mistakes. You're watching for the thing that can happen if you have let your guard down and not thought something out perfectly, or if you fall off your god-like pedestal of precognitive perception and miss something important. Maybe you know that's the way Anxiety is out to trip you up. But CARING, well, that's an entirely different thing, right? I can't possibly intend for you to stop CARING, can I?
LOVING, CARING, AND WORRY ARE NOT THE SAME THING.
Here's the deal, loving someone and worrying about them are not the same thing. Not at all. For one thing, love doesn't come across as tight, controlling, and fearful. Love has a strong, vibrant, warm, freedom-promoting feel to it. Anxiety and Worry, on the other hand, are prickly, irritating, and restricting, no matter how good our intentions are. Maybe more to the point, Love is an emotion, a quality we can exchange or feel for others. Worry is all about us.
YOUR WORRY IS ALL ABOUT YOU. PERIOD.
Yes, that's right. While Love is an open, generous, thing, Worry is all about you. Just you. What's so loving about that? Worry is your self-soothing anxious response to the world. It's the lie we tell ourselves--if we just worry enough about it, we can keep "It', whatever It is, from happening. Some kind of magical voodoo thinking is going on there. At the minimum, you're taking your wonderful creative imagination and turning it into a weapon of mass destruction to use on yourself, with plenty of potential collateral damage for bystanders to observe and experience. Worry is the way Anxious Folk attempt to self-soothe with a false sense of control. "If I can just control it, everything will be fine."
HERE'S HOW THAT WORKS.
Before Anxious Folk learn how to self-soothe appropriately, we often use a lot of energy to manage our feelings. You may find yourself exerting lots of effort to manage your physical environment perfectly, make sure your work is done...perfectly, manage or "smooth over" the relationships of people around you, make sure everyone is getting along, run ahead and try and solve problems for friends, family, and your children. You can spend a lot of energy just trying to make sure everything and everyone is OKAY. It's exhausting! It's exhausting to try and take care of yourself this way. Chances are, this is about a feeling or belief that, "If THIS ONE THING is going well, then I can relax." A much more ecological use of your energy is to learn to self-soothe on the inside, rather than try and control the outside. It just makes sense.
YOU ARE A CARING PERSON.
You're a caring, loving person. True. And yet when your caring loving nature is expressed through the flavor of Worry, it doesn't always come through the way you want it to. You'll find yourself irritating people and being accused of being controlling or a drag. You may find yourself feeling unappreciated, misunderstood, and resentful. What is the best way to address this? Start caring for yourself first. Make sure you are attending to the best ways to self-soothe. Learn how to relax your body and your mind and you'll find all your relationships will start improving. And they'll be more enjoyable and much less work for you, too. You can actually ditch that feeling that it's up to you to carry the whole world on your shoulders. As it turns out, it's not your job, after all.
Your self-care isn't going to be about doing anything better than you're already doing it. It is going to be about pointing your energy in a slightly different direction. More internally-oriented than other-oriented, for one thing. Naturally, getting adequate sleep, good nutrition, some daily exercise, cutting out the caffeine, and drinking plenty of water is a good place to start. More to the point, however, is developing a practice of physical relaxation such as daily yoga or Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) and adding some quiet time practices, like meditation. These are good first steps. If you find your anxious experience is overwhelming you or straining your relationships with your most beloved peeps, you may want to seek out some extra support by working with a therapist, such as myself.
THE MORE YOU ARE LOVING YOURSELF, THE LESS LIKELY YOU ARE TO EXPERIENCE LOVE AS WORRY.
The more at ease you are on the inside, the less need you'll have to manage your outside world. The more comfort you have on the inside, the less negative and scary your thought forms will be. That's just the way it works. Here's the good news, you learned how to be anxious and you can unlearn it. There's plenty you can do to improve the quality of your life and to escape cycles of repetitive, intrusive, negative thoughts. There's tremendous freedom to be had in starting to let go of some of those patterns and redefining what it means to be in relationship with others and yourself. Ultimately, life will feel better and be a much less work and that's a very, very good thing.