Sometimes I feel like life is just a continual dance with my anxiety. You ever feel anxious for no reason at all? It’s like you’re so used to living at a high anxiety level that when there is nothing to stress about, you stress about that! You feel that something is missing, something is wrong, and therefore, you create something to divert that attention to. But if we could learn to shift the mind to see peace as the new normal, then a world of possibilities could open up.
My anxiety keeps me ambitious. I’m so afraid of being mediocre, that I constantly push myself to new levels. It makes for an interesting life, but if you’re always reaching higher, you’re never enjoying the level you’re currently on and worked so hard to get to. The more I add to my plate, the more I stress. I used to think my job alone sucked so much energy out of me. I guess my body adjusted, and then I started my blog. Do I feel fulfilled? Absolutely! But I also have more anxiety because there are more things to stress about. My mind is always running at lightening speed and I go over a never-ending checklist in my head daily. I very seldom rest mentally. It’s almost like a cruel game I play with myself. If I’m resting, I feel guilty for not being productive, but if I don’t rest, I’m susceptible to a mental breakdown.
So how exactly do I attain the delicate balance between anxiety and ambition? I know I cannot be alone, as I would guess most successful people are motivated by the fear of mediocrity. Which, by the way is all based on perspective. I know to many I have achieved the ultimate goal in life by becoming a Midwife. I definitely do not take the skills and knowledge I have obtained in my career lightly, but I’m not satisfied reaching my peak in my 20s. There has to be a greater purpose or something else I’m supposed to strive towards because I’m still alive. It’s not to coast off the success of my 20s for the rest of my life. As long as there is breath in my body, I believe that I should continue evolving myself.
So again, how do I stay balanced? I still have not completely mastered this, but I am able to keep everything afloat while staying out of a mental hospital. The first thing I do when I’m feeling overwhelmed is actually write out my to do list. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m always thinking about what I have to do, but until I see it in writing, I cannot make sense of it. Once I write down everything that needs to get done, whether it’s in the next few days or few months, I can then prioritize and clearly see which items demand my attention first. A lot of my tasks are recurring, such as writing a blog post weekly, but some are a one-time thing, such as booking a hotel for a trip. So on my days off, I’ll ensure I write at least one blog post and book my hotel, slowly getting rid of the tasks that are months away but easy to eliminate. Whenever I do this, I immediately feel a sense of relief and realize that I have plenty of time to achieve everything. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, whip out the Notes section in your phone, make a list, then prioritize.
Sometimes I’ve been working nonstop, and I feel myself cracking. I’m the type who could throw on a movie and never finish it because I start doing something off my checklist. The best thing for me in these moments is to completely step away from my house and visit family or friends. When others distract me, I can take a real mental break from my endless tasks and focus on simply enjoying the moment. I also enjoy going on long walks with my puppy, which allows both of us to get some physical activity, fresh air, and mental stimulation. Getting a massage is another favorite, as I allow myself to rest so that I do not waste my hour, and yoga/meditation helps me to find inner peace. One of my favorite techniques when I feel myself panicking is to practice breathing by alternating nostrils. I first block my right nostril by breathing in through my left, and then block my left by breathing out through my right. I repeat this process until I feel calm. Try it the next time you feel like you may lose it. Focusing on alternating the nostrils takes your mind off of whatever immediate distress you were previously focused on.
If all else fails, and I’m still feeling like the world is ending, I ask for help. This is extremely difficult for me to do because I pride myself on working independently. I’m also slightly a control freak and love being over every situation. However, like the African proverb states, if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. I can only do so much on my own before I feel the pressure and then feel like doing nothing! Some days I just can’t make it to the store or cook dinner, so I don’t and ask my husband to order food or cook. I can plan out all my outfits for a shoot, but then I need my photographer’s input to secure locations. Instead of spending hours trying to figure out how to add a feature on my blog, I ask my brother in law who can do it in minutes. It’s okay to receive help. So many people ask me how I created my website. Well I tried twice and failed! I hired my brother in law to do it and voila, a website in a few hours. If I let my pride get in the way, I would still be dreaming about creating a blog instead of actually posting on one. A lot of things that we stress about can be outsourced.
We are definitely in the age where almost everyone has a side business, whether it’s blogging or another passion. This drive to succeed is admirable, but if we do not take care of our mental health, we can quickly fall prey to anxiety, increasing our risks for panic attacks. I’ve had a few panic attacks, and I can tell you they are the total opposite of fun and very similar to experiencing a heart attack. This is not how I want to live as its not healthy and ultimately takes me away from my passion to create. I shared some of the ways I try to fight off anxious feelings. Now how about you? Any tips for mastering the balancing act between ambition and anxiety?
xoxo, Global Midwife
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, only education. Always check with your healthcare provider.