Anxiety is a buggar. Let me start by acknowledging that. I could list the million little ways it tries to kill me, but I think those are more obvious than the gift I have only recently begun to see. Wedged deep inside anxiety (and as is the case with any challenge, IMO) was a tool. I just had to dig at it to get to it.
They say that education is the cure to fear. I am a smart person. I am logical. I can cognitively understand the physiological hijacking taking place in my body. I know that inching your way out of a panic attack requires longer breaths. All understandable until I am charged with taking those breaths as I struggle not to suffocate. Yes, anxiety feels like death and for decades I thought there was nothing good about it. It was inconsiderate and a bully barging into my life, sometimes at the behest of nothing at all. But I had to live with it. I had to get to know it, and in doing so, I found that my anxiety can actually provide a channel to supercharged productivity.
I stumbled upon this quite naturally in the sweaty, quivering grasp of an anxiety attack. I wanted to come to terms with what I was worrying about so I could get over it. But it’s not that simple, is it? I asked myself a question: what is really bothering you? to get started and after I answered that question honestly, my creativity took off! Suddenly, I was writing articles, plotting business strategies, and I started to rise up through the layers holding me down. First, my shaking stopped and my nausea eased and when that happened, I took deeper breaths that allowed the whole physical process to reroute.
I learned I was not going to die (again.)
With that reassurance, I continued to busy myself with more tasks to keep my mind occupied because I also knew I was vulnerable in that moment to relapse into anxiety. So we had to charge ahead!
I was up late/early after filling pages of ideas and musings. After confronting the mouse I had made into a bear, my fears blown up to eclipse any hope of recovery from terror. I had made some serious headway on my feelings about events that had transpired and removed blocks from my path because recording what I was feeling and working through the core of origin enabled me to feel my own empowerment again.
Harnessing your anxiety is like plugging in an alternate energy source and it accomplishes two things at once: 1) You WILL work out what the mad tangled ball of pain is that you are holding, and 2) It removes obstacles in your path to goals. When these two happenstances collide and collaborate, then you free your mind to flow the creative musings that have been dammed up.
The next time I could feel the tell-tale signs of pre-anxiety, I knew I had better get my mind busy. I started writing again. I picked up my sketch pad. I revisited the spreadsheet I keep with the list of ongoing tasks I need to complete for my business.
*Create social media posts
*Write blog posts
*Send pitch off
*Review portfolio of potential writers
*Network with editor (at long-coveted magazine)
And on it goes…
Instead of waiting for the other psychological shoe to drop and cripple any activity, leisure or professional, I repeated my mantra. You are not going to die. You are going to get busy. Then I followed through.
There have been times when it was harder to re-emerge from anxiety. I will admit that and during those moments I try as hard as I can to make my body comply with physical commands. You are going to grab your laptop and open that spreadsheet. You are going to write a blog post about the topic that struck you two days ago. I give myself permission to pause the emotions coursing through me to work on distractions and progress. Because I will still feel that way physically whether I am lying in bed, or sitting up and plunking away, or connecting with a new business friend.
Since I have started doing this, the severity of my anxiety attacks has significantly lessened. I can only tell you my story and how I think the hidden gem of anxiety is hypervigilance to crush achievements. I can’t authorize you to listen to me or give you advice, I can only share that I have a greater understanding of what I am capable of when I step back and view the whole picture. My pent-up energy can be used to wrack my body with agony and dread, or that same energy can be applied to taking a few more steps toward my personal and professional goals.
Maybe you want to try it yourself? And if you want to talk about it, I would love to hear from you.
This post is republished on Medium.
Photo credit: iStock