I have always been sure of myself in two crystal clear ways:
Despite being the butt of some jokes over the years, these characteristics have served me well, and I have been (for the most part) proud to be someone who stays home on a Saturday night to color-code my to-do lists.
However, a third characteristic always lurked in the background that did not serve me so well.
I have anxiety.
Anxiety does not pair well with perfectionism or introversion. In times of stress, I turn inward. As a teen and young adult, I managed stress in destructive ways. As a professional (pre-kids, post-therapy), I learned how to properly manage my stress through art and exercise.
But then, I chose a high-stress career, opened a business with my husband, bought a house, and had children.
My stress level over the past few years has skyrocketed. To anyone who spends time with me, I have been visibly on-edge, overly worried, and at times hysterical. I have heard the same phrase on repeat for years.
“You need to relax.”
Yes, I know. I don’t need to be reminded. My body has revolted, and my doctors tell me the culprits are stress and anxiety. I am tired and, dare I say, embarrassed, to be this way.
I know quite clearly what I need to relax: for my brain to not be anxious. But, no matter how many to-do list items I check off or how neat my bathrooms may be, I remain anxious.
I am working hard to manage this beast.
I can’t “cut the fat,” as they say, given my family and career obligations are here to stay. Often, those things I do daily to help me manage anxiety and stress make me even more anxious and stressed — exercising, eating well, guided meditation — how do I make time for all of these “extra” things every single day, when I have children and a career to nurture?
Truth be told, I often do not appropriately manage my anxiety because (knock on wood) I am lucky beyond measure — my family is healthy and happy, our business is thriving, and all of our bills are paid.
What do I have to be anxious or stressed about? Sit down, shut up, and count your blessings.
I know all of these things. But my brain and body have yet to grasp what my heart may already know.
And so, if you see me scrambling around, wearing my exercise clothes from yesterday, and gripping my color-coded planner in one hand and a cold coffee in the other: give me a high five.