Anxiety and speed bumps

Lately, my main goal in life has been to “look for the best.” My favourite passage in the Bible is Philippians 4:4-9. Whatever you may believe, this passage still holds water. I’ll let you look it up yourself if you’re not familiar, but what I get out of it is the recommendation to focus on the good things in life. Fill your mind with positives, with what’s right, and pure, and hopeful. Whatever you believe, I think it’s true that if you focus on the negatives, you’ll feel rubbish. Plain and simple. If you look for the positives, you’ll start to find them, while releasing tension at the same time.

It’s not easy. Especially for someone who’s struggled all her life with anxiety. I’ll be blunt. It sucks. It’s horrible knowing that worrying and stress does me MORE harm than 99.9% of the things I worry about, which rarely, if ever, come to pass. But something in my head has always tried to assure me that if I worry, I’ll be on top of the problem. I’ll nip it in the bud before it blooms.

So. Not. True.

I’ve learned that preparation and caution ready us and keep us alert to dangers and behaviors that invite them — and there’s nothing wrong with those.

But worry over things I can’t control, things I’m guessing so-and-so might be thinking about me, the behavior of others, the weird pain that the internet wants to tell me means I have 2 minutes to live — none of this gets me anywhere. It seems pretty obvious, right?

The problem is, a person can know this intellectually but still struggle to turn the worry off.

This is how worry makes me feel. Armless, and helpless.
This is how worry makes me feel. Armless, and helpless.

As someone who believes in God, I’ve found this a vexing lifelong struggle. God encourages us, tells us not to worry. If the Creator of the universe and every hair on my head is suggesting I don’t worry, I should probably listen, right?

Then why is it so hard sometimes?

When someone doesn’t call when they say they will, when a weird ailment comes out of nowhere, when my dreams get thwarted one more time, my brain decides it’s a great opportunity to drive me and everyone around me mad with pointless anxiety.

Enter a few (very minor) health problems recently. I’ll list one: bronchitis which I had for 2 months. It left a lingering cough, and all this made me worry it was something more, something worse. The positive in all this is that I now know I’ll never again take breathing for granted. I now wake up in the morning and am grateful for oxygen, and that my lungs are working and not wheezing. So there’s that.

It finally dawned on me that the little problems we encounter daily can add stress, which enhances already-present worries, which lead to anxiety, which manifests itself in various physical ways, be it panic attacks, tense muscles, palpitations, etc.

So one thing I recently read might help: look at daily problems as speed bumps rather than “problems.” You can either slow down for speed bumps, or you can take them at full speed, do damage to your car and possibly yourself, and look foolish in the process. But if you look at all these daily problems as growth opportunities, you can calmly decide what action to take that will get you through the problem in the most effective and graceful manner.

I think “graceful” is the key. I can continue to face problems with my typical worry reaction, giving myself headaches and stomachaches and tension, and get bent out of shape . . . or I can slow down, decide on an effective, graceful solution, and get through it without regretting my reaction the next day.

I really want to remember this, and hope that when the next speed bump comes (because they never stop), I’ll choose the latter.

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