Archives for posts with tag: anxiety in the morning

The School of Life doesn’t have a rigid test schedule that is easy to plan ahead for. Cheating is just about impossible. All the tests are entirely open book, and generally really fucking hard. There’s no curve to be graded on; each test, each question, each student stands alone in judgment, generally the internal self-inflicted judgment is most intense. The grading system is mysterious, flexible, and grades can change even in the past; we become what we practice, and the result is that context, meaning, understanding, and perspective over time can all change as we become someone we weren’t at some other, earlier point.

I’m just saying, the tests are hard.

It’s test time. Maybe it sort of always is, but I’m feeling it more this week. My anxiety comes and goes, and it is both unwelcome, and unsurprising. Happily, I’m also not extraordinarily tense about the anxiety itself, an experience which can really add a lot of additional anxiety to the anxiety that is more about the anxiety itself than whatever I may think I’m anxious about. It’s not helpful to have to sort all that out, but it can be majorly helpful to make the attempt to do so. No pressure… time is passing… what, it’s still there?? I chuckle over my coffee in spite of the mild persistent tension of the anxiety in the background. Shit gets real sometimes.

When a fresh wave of anxiety tightens the pit of my stomach, pulls me over my keyboard, pushes my shoulders high, and makes my chest tighten, I push back gently, raising myself up full erect on my spine, breathing deeply, letting my shoulders relax again. Another breath, reminding myself these sensations are only that, this emotion just a momentary experience – emotional weather. Another breath, “this too will pass”. The sounds of traffic and tinnitus mix with the sound of my very even breathing. Another slow even deep breath, the knot in my stomach begins to unwind.

I keep at it for a few minutes (in this instance, about 6 and a half minutes, actually), until the wave of tension and worry passes over me, and recedes. If yesterday is any predictor, it’ll come and go rather more frequently than usual today, not attached to much of anything, besides the general every day stress of managing expenses, change, and adulthood. I’m okay right now. There’s nothing much “wrong”, really. The comfortable awareness of this reassures and soothes me, and I return to sipping my coffee and writing.

Have a flower. It can be helpful to take time for beauty. I’m a fan of pausing for flowers. ๐Ÿ™‚

Some of the most stressful things in life are made far worse by our way of treating ourselves, and this one piece of living life skillfully is so very much within our own control, it’s hard to imagine not to at least give improving those skills a try. It’s been a good strategy for me – admittedly, it’s also a lot of work, and self-awareness, and failing, and learning, and getting things wrong, and owning my own poor choices, or behavior, and change, and practice, and… yeah. It’s a commitment to self that rivals any commitment I could ever consider making to another person. I try my best not to let myself down, and when I do let myself down, I try my best to move forward having learned something from the experience.

I’m so human. There’s no “cure” for my head injury, or for my PTSD, and so… this human experience. Very human. Ups, downs, all the things. This week? Anxiety. I’m not mad about it, just saying; I go through it. It used to be worse and more often. It is mostly manageable, most of the time, now. That’s more than something – it’s enough. Truly.

Ah, yes, there it is again, surging up from a ball of background stress and fear lodged in my gut; anxiety. As it begins to grow large and fill my consciousness, I return my attention to my breathing, and make a point of letting it go, again. I shrug in the silence. I can do this all day. All week. All of the rest of my life if necessary. It’s far better than becoming mired in the feeling of anxiety, frankly. I’d rather practice the practices that dial it back. Yes, of course, there are verbs involved; I have to do the things that help. Just thinking about them won’t do it. Bitching about the anxiety, by itself, is also not effective – although it can be enough distraction to break the cycle, so I can’t say “don’t bitch about anxiety”. lol Sometimes that really does work, too.

Art, puzzles, an intellectual distraction of some kind, these are things that can also help reduce anxiety.

Funny thing; the anxiety does not really want me to focus on my breathing or other self-soothing practices at all. It would far prefer that I try to troubleshoot why I feel anxious, as if deep-diving those details and attempting to fix all that would resolve the anxiety. It might. It might not. Anxiety is its own thing, and it’s a bit of a mistake to fuse it with some narrative about “why” that I’ve built up in my head. Instead, addressing the anxiety itself, from the perspective of being an experience built on some specific sensations and emotions, and accepting that it may not be so directly connected to a “why” at all, tends to be most effective. It doesn’t actually matter whether I’m “anxious for a reason” – the anxiety doesn’t care about that at all, and makes shit up on the regular for me to stress “about”. lol I’m not falling for that bullshit anymore. ๐Ÿ˜‰

It is a short work week. I’m missing my Traveling Partner. Anxiety is currently part of my experience. I’m physically fairly comfortable at the moment. My coffee is almost gone. These are all equally true observations of my subjective experience. One human. One experience. Tons of choices.

I take a deep breath and relax, and choose to begin again. ๐Ÿ™‚

My anxiety woke me during the night. No particular reason, as far as I could tell… perhaps my anxiety was concerned I’d forgotten it? No matter. I got up for a few minutes. “Checked for monsters.” Went back to bed. My sleep was restless. I woke feeling out of sorts.

"Anxiety"  10" x 14" - and she feels much bigger than that, generally.

“Anxiety” 10″ x 14″ – and she feels much bigger than that, generally.

I sip my coffee discontentedly mired in suspicion and unease. This isn’t about “reason”, and I don’t go looking for reasons. If I were to allow myself to yield to the temptation to “figure this out” in the early morning, before I’ve really quite woken up, before I finish my first coffee, I would be inviting the sort of deep down personal attack on myself that wells up from the dark corners, where the chaos and damage still lurks. It’s neither necessary nor helpful to “figure this out”; these are emotions, and I’ve just awakened from a night of troubled sleep…so… yeah. Nothing to figure out, really. I’m feeling.

This is a good morning to breathe, relax, make room to allow myself to feel my feelings without acting on them, and let them go without attachment to them.

My thoughts shift. I write some about emotion. I write about reason. I doubt the value in my words and delete all of it. I feel myself full of doubt. My nightmares, too, were full of doubt. Doubt and unease and insecurity. I breathe, relax, sip my coffee. It’s hard not to pick at those feelings, like tiny wounds. Experience suggests my wisest course is to make room for them, be open to what I can learn from them, and to maintain perspective – the broad deep perspective of 53 years that understands that this too will pass, and that emotions are more like street lights than news stories. Experience suggests letting the emotional content of my dreams color my day is a poor choice, and unnecessary – I commit to choosing differently. That used to sound like an impossible task, now I understand it as a practice. My results may vary.

I make some notes, on paper. I list the emotions and feelings quickly, without any deeper intention. I review the list, and next to each, write an emotion or feeling that amounts to a “conflict of interest” in the sense that the existing uncomfortable emotional experience can’t “compete” or continue to hold my attention were I to fill up on the other. Insecurity is the easy example, since its “opposite” experience is fairly easily identified – security. Feeling secure versus feeling insecure, feeling emotionally safe versus feeling uneasy… and having identified the preferred experience, I will cultivate that. No need to tear myself down for the emotional experience I’m having now, I will build something different, by choice. Small changes sometimes get big results.

Dismissing my feelings out of hand is ineffective; emotions tell me things about my experience, and how that’s working out for me, and although they are not a reliable source of information (because they lack precision and simple clarity, and because sometimes they are simply a byproduct of skewed biochemistry) they are my early warning system that emotional inclement weather may lay ahead. A night of nightmares and unease may meanย I’ve got something on my mind that needs my attention, that I may be overlooking or avoiding. (And it may not.) Tonight will be soon enough for all that. It is an unfortunate truth of adulthood that sometimes work comes first. I sigh aloud, and sip my coffee.

My emotional life belongs to me. How I treat myself is a choice I make. The relationship I build with myself is singularly intimate, and colors every relationship I have with others. Being present, awake, and aware, in my experience with the woman in the mirror has its own unique challenges – and value. There are verbs involved.

Begin again.

Begin again.

Today is a good day for emotional self-sufficiency and continuing to cultivate emotional intelligence. Today is a good day to be present and engaged in this moment, here. Today is a good day to change the world, even if only in the tiniest way, in one single moment; every change matters.