Anxiety Flares and Control Moves

field of yellow flowers, green stems, blue, cloudy horizon. Pair of brown skinned arms and hands sticking up in the middle.
Hands in Sunflower Field via @alyssasieb / nappy.co

I’ll try to make this a quick one. Last week, I had what I’m calling an anxiety flare up. The feelings were neither entirely new, nor overly threatening but for a couple of days I just felt out of sorts. I was both dissatisfied with myself and annoyed at my relative vulnerability. At least one night’s sleep and a rocky day at work were the tangible prices. But of course it was also a significant blow to my ego, so the last few days involved nursing my ego back to some sort of equilibrium.

The nursing process is what I want to share here. I mean, how do we rein ourselves back in after an emotional setback?

Well, in the night that I couldn’t sleep, I journaled. I described what was going on in my head. I named my fears and frustrations. In fact, I began using a stem phrase: “My anxiety has to do with…” and created a list of 10 things. There was so much more there than the triggering incident. Writing offered some immediate relief that rippled out over the next days.

I read an article on Autumn Anxiety by Jennifer A. King that provided some further context for why I might be feeling the way I was. Two characteristics in particular seemed to hit the nail on the head:

Sense of Control. Situations where we have no control over what is happening or what outcomes may be.
Threat to Ego. Situations that leave you feeling as though your competence is in question.

Jennifer A. King, Do You Have Autumn Anxiety?

These could not have been more on target! Gaining validation for my emotional state let me know that I was not alone, that there are many reasons why I could be experiencing a degree of disorientation given my recent return to work, the interpersonal professional demands that entails coupled with whatever personal frailties I had going on anyway.

This weekend I made space for recovery. I..

  • Had a long zoom chat with my best friend,
  • met friends for drinks and a movie – absolutely delightful time!
  • got outside for exercise on both mornings,
  • did a load of laundry,
  • washed, conditioned and braided my hair,
  • prepared nice meals and ate slowly,
  • took time for reading and writing.

These all belong to what I call “control moves:” actions that help me feel in control – of my time, energy and body. They are not the cure, they are the process. As a result, I feel less anxious, more grounded, closer to how I would like to experience myself on the regular. Each task functions like a mini-reminder: “You’re still here, you’re OK, take your time.”

I have no idea if this will be helpful to anyone else and I’m sharing anyway because there’s a chance it might be. In How We Show Up, Mia Birdsong reminds us of the following:

We are living in a contradiction – we are made for interdependence, connection, and love, but part of a culture that espouses the opposite…There is a tension between existing in one world while trying to live into another one. That place in between them is full of friction.

Mia Birdsong, How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship and Community, p. 226

Living in contradiction challenges us which makes our sharing of struggles and recoveries all the more important. It is in that spirit of building community and living in connection that I offer this window into my experience.

Be well, friends.

2 thoughts on “Anxiety Flares and Control Moves

  1. Thankyou so much Sherri for writing this out. Sometimes one doesn’t know they need something until they read it. And that’s just what happened to me, bumping into this one blog entry in my RSS feed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s