It’s not so easy these days, is it?
Information overload, natural disasters, a precarious economy, the natural process of aging … and those are just the big ones! On top of the daily challenges of living, it’s no surprise that many of us live with a level of fear and anxiety that at times feels like it will overwhelm us. What to do?
The first step is notice it. You don’t even have to do anything about it, but trying to ignore that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, — or the racing heart, or shaking foot — just pushes the toxins inside, and doesn’t help your health. So get into the habit of noticing what your body is telling you: just before you go into a meeting, when you get on the phone with your spouse or kids, when you wake up on Monday morning (or any morning for that matter), when Friday/the weekend rolls around. The good and the bad, just notice.
Then name it. Whether you keep a pocket journal and jot notes about it when you take a break in the bathroom, or talk to a trusted friend, family member, or coach about it, naming an anxiety or concern can sometimes diffuse it. It’s like shining a flashlight into that closet where all those nasty childhood monsters surely lived. Speaking (or writing about) the problem or challenge helps you identify what’s going on, which can be enough to bring some comfort, and sometimes the solution you seek.
If it’s something you find yourself talking about over an over again, a type of relationship that doesn’t work for you perhaps, or a bad habit you start to notice keeps showing up, it’s time to ask for help. This can be hard for a lot of us — too many of us were trained to be self-sufficient, not to ask for what we need, not to admit any type of vulnerability or problem. The truth is, we are human, and humans are vulnerable and have problems. We need each other, we need support, we need help. Whether it’s a therapist or other professional, a specialist coach, or a 12-Step Program, there are plenty of sources out there once you start looking. The hardest part for most of us is having the courage to say to people around us “I need help”. But until you do, others can’t help you, and sometimes the answer is simpler than you think. Yes, be selective — you don’t have to accept all the well-intentioned advice or suggestions well-meaning people around you may offer, and not all professionals will be a fit for you. In the 12-Step world they suggest attending at least six different meetings before you decide if it’s for you; if you’re thinking about a therapist or coach, interview them to be sure it feels like a good fit. Be willing to look for the right person/situation for you. But do look, do ask for help, then get started.
So what happens if the professional you turn to doesn’t have any more answers than you do, for instance for some of the big ones like the economy, war, and the state of our world. What then?
Well, my answer is to find a deeper spiritual connection and understanding. This is not something I used to advocate — not by a long shot! But over the years I’ve found that sometimes the only solace, comfort, and peace comes from turning it all over to someone/something greater than myself, and being willing to trust that there are answers and a vision that I’m simply unable to see or comprehend from where I’m standing. The book that first gave me access to this territory is Emmanuel’s Book, by Pat Rodegast (have a look at my booklist on my website if you’d like to order it — some of the other books I’ve found helpful are there as well). It doesn’t so much matter what you believe, but rather that you are willing to believe there’s a power greater than us, whether it’s a being, nature, a group, God, or something else of your own understanding. Turning over our cares and concerns help free us up to do something about the things we can change, and let go of the rest.
Once you’ve regained your balance and perspective, you will be able to climb back into the proverbial saddle and rejoin the game, alert and refreshed, able to concentrate on contributing what you uniquely bring to the world. And that’s something we all need!