At the time I was struggling with a sleepless baby and busy toddler, and feeling like an out of control, crazy, angry mess.
I’d been like this before in my work. Back then I’d book a holiday and collapse in a heap by the pool for a week.
Parenting doesn’t have holidays, its relentless, and I was desperate to catch my breath. Everyday seemed to get harder, and yet I continued to demand more of my already depleted self.
For the sake of my beautiful young children I sought professional help.
“Its Anxiety. You’re experiencing anxiety,” she said.
My mind was racing, even more than usual. Could this be right? I know I’m stressed at times and I do worry a lot, but doesn’t everyone?
I want things to be done right, that’s all. I’ve never slept well, but I have a busy mind. I’m preoccupied with the future and what could go wrong, but that’s because I like to plan.
I’m certainly frazzled, that’s why I’m here. Is that explosive feeling of frustration and anger I’m scared of anxiety?
I went home from my therapists office that day with a book about conquering anxiety. The more I read, the more my entire life began to make sense.
The mental chatter, the angry outbursts, the irritability and resulting exhaustion. The many times I’d pushed my limits, given more than I had to give, worked like crazy, existed in a heightened state of alert until I’d become so run down I was seriously ill.
Hyped up by worry, worry, worry.
I didn’t see it then. I saw it now. I’d been experiencing anxiety and I’d soon discover there are ways to manage it and (as I hoped) even avoid it.
Over the coming years I learnt that fatigue leaves me vulnerable and so I established regular routines to keep my emotional, mental and physical tanks full.
I learnt that by taking care of me I was also taking care of others. By establishing limits and boundaries I would be at my best for those I love, and perform at my best for myself.
I developed new patterns of thought and behaviours that offered an effective flow to my days and weeks.
I learnt to recognise my early warning signs, signs that I was travelling close to the anxiety path. I knew to back up, give my self space and create a way back to ease.
It was super challenging at first, it was all new, but after years of consistent practice this has become my way of life.
But anxious living is a well-worn path for me. A familiar path that I head down when under pressure……like last week.
I awoke to a series of phone alerts that triggered a well rehearsed reaction in me. Worry. The tail end of Ex-Cyclone Debbie was on her way, and here in my new forest home I had no idea what to expect and my most calming influence, my husband, was overseas.
The perception of threat is a trigger for me, and I chose to ignore the many warning signs as I spiralled into anxious mode.
Within a day the threat to us had passed, and even though we were safe and sound I remained a crazed mess (and didn’t even know it).
I see it now… For days after I was pacing the house, the kids chatter was irritating and I couldn’t concentrate, sit still or have a conversation that wasn’t all about my worries. My breath was shallow, my chest ached and my shoulders were near my ear lobes. I wasn’t sleeping, I didn’t feel tired and my daily routines were out the window.
I was off that path of ease and flow and pelting down the anxiety track.
Stressed, overwhelmed and (at my worst) anxiety riddled isn’t my life sentence. It’s however what I’ve known, my default under pressure, its comfortable in that oddly familiar way.
We all have well-worn paths, patterns of behaviour and thinking we default to, even when they don’t serve us well.
Whatever your well-worn path is, please know you can leave it at anytime.
You can forge a new way to travel through your life’s journey. A way filled with ease, and effectiveness that supports your wildest dreams.
It takes time, I’ve been refining my path for years.
It takes deep reflection, combined with consistent and realistic action. (365 supportive baby steps in a year is way better than 1 panicked leap)
It takes support. I’ve had coaches, therapists and dear friends and family who’ve rallied around me when needed.
And whenever you stumble back to your path, to your old ways, don’t panic. Remember how you want to be in this world, how you can be. Recall how you want to feel and return to those strategies that take you back.
This is your one great, glorious life and its up to you to create a path that leads it well.