Return to your rest, my soul, for the LORD has been good to you
I woke up early this morning, wracked with anxiety. This anxiety has been a staple for a long time now, coming and going in waves but always there. What am I nervous about? Most of the time there is no substance to my fears; I’ve been through this before so I know it will be fine, and yet I worry. My heart is always racing and I feel uneasy and irritable. It gets in the way of everything. I can’t fully relax because of the niggling feeling that I should be doing something else. And I cannot do any work because I’m tired and need to relax. Of course this makes me even less productive, as I end up spending all that time worrying. So I end up in this weird space where I am beating myself for relaxing because there’s working to be done but then I can’t relax either so I’m just unsettled and mentally running helter skelter. Last year this anxiety was caused by exams and now it’s work and life in general. From experience I know that nothing is that big of a deal, and everything will be alright. Still it is so hard to relax.
As a reasonably intelligent woman, I’ve decided to tackle this head on. What are the scenarios in which I feel the most anxious?
- When I have to make a decision and I do not know what the right thing to do is (or when I’m afraid of hurting someone’s feelings). I spent New Year’s Eve 2018 in a state of complete anxiety as I couldn’t decide where to usher in the New Year. I had two options, and though I was happy where I was, I did not want the other person to feel sad that I wasn’t there. Of course this completely consumed the whole day and took over my entire mood and had me so panicky. For some people this may seem like an overreaction and it damn sure is but still. I went out to the mall, looking and feeling like a mess, and I ran into an old friend and could barely muster enough sanity to have a nice conversation. Eventually I met up with my sister and cousin and we watched a film and I slowly relaxed. In the end I stayed where I was for NYE and visited the other place on New Year’s day and the earth continued around its axis.
This anxiety pops up when I am afraid of hurting someone’s feelings but I also feel this anxiety at work when there are tasks to be completed and I am not sure how to go about them. I feel a sense of responsibility and cannot run to the manager for every query so I try to solve it all by myself. This anxiety also pops up when the manager at work leaves a comment about the work I’ve done and I immediately start to panic about what to do. Most of the time, it turns out to be nothing. They just wanted clarification on a particular issue but by that time I have run myself ragged with worry.
- When there is too much to be done and not enough time: Deadlines! Deadlines!! Deadlines!!! One thing about adulthood is that there is always something that needs to be done and it needs to be done now. This is definitely a major source of anxiety for me during the busy periods at work. This is when I have a thousand tasks to do, a twinkling of an eye to do them in, twenty people messaging me asking questions, people I have to coach and keep an eye on, superiors I have to answer to, client relationships I need to manage, and so on. It is impossible for me to relax during this time, especially when I include scenario one (above) and three (below).
- When I have not done what needs to be done (or when I feel I have not done enough): I work hard but sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough. When I am working I like to have the TV on for company, and sometimes this makes me wonder if I have done enough work or if I’ve just been faffing around. There are also times when I just cannot be arsed; maybe I pushed myself too hard the day before and have now decided to take a leisurely approach. This is all fine and dandy until a manager messages me asking for a catch-up and I start to sweat a little.
This also happens during exams (especially during exams) because I like to chill and study along to a nice comedy series. Again this makes me wonder if my studying is enough or if I have actually spent all that time chilling and deluding myself that I have studied.
This is actually the source of my anxiety today. I am working on a client which is not one of my usual ones and it’s a little difficult to make sense of the tasks. The work is going slowly and this makes me super anxious for the daily morning catch-ups with all members of the team. The catch ups are never a big deal and they always go off smoothly but still I feel super uncomfortable if I am not completing and signing off tasks. The truth is I do work hard and manage to complete all assigned tasks; it’s just the anxiety acting up.
- When I have to do something: Having something that I have to do at a certain time stresses me out. My brain stalls and all I can think of is this thing that is happening at this time and I cannot relax until it is over. This was the other source of my anxiety today. I had to coordinate a social event for the team and I woke up nervous about it because we had not finalised the agenda. Needless to say, this also went off without a hitch and my worry was all for nought. Work aside, I feel this anxiety even if I have a fun meet-up with friends. Just the knowledge that at a certain time I have to be out of the house to get to a place adds a touch of stress to my day. My days are mundane and monotonous so anything that breaks that- a meeting or presentation or whatever-is bound to cause some anxiety.
- When I feel unprepared/disorganised: Now I am no Monica Geller, but I do like to be reasonably organised. Chaos stresses me out. Almost ten years ago now (damn), I was a member of a cultural club at University and the club president decided to put on a red carpet event and charge money for it. We sold tickets and told everyone there was going to be dance, fashion and awards. All through this period, I kept reminding the president that we, in fact, had no certain activities planned out. The night before we were all in a dorm room, some people lazily practicing a dance routine and fashion show. I just knew this event was going to flop because the organisation (or lack of thereof) made my skin crawl. And boy did it flop! First it started an hour late, the dancers pulled out last minute… Everything was so messed up. At the end, the only thing we managed to do was the fashion show, which consisted of four girls walking out on the runway. Oh yeah we also had the awards, which had me backstage, scribbling the winners name on a certificate at the very last minute. I would have been beyond furious if I paid to witness such rubbish. Anyway it seemed like I was the only one who was bothered by this, everyone else kept asking me why I was bothering myself.
This is one of the top drivers of stress for me- uncertainty, unpreparedness, and disorganisation. Back in University I took a public speaking course and before any of my presentations I would write my speech and practice multiple times while timing myself. This made me more relaxed and confident because I was prepared. This is the same with exams and work, a portion of anxiety comes from not being prepared and not knowing what to expect. When we are prepared, we fear a little less, because we know our shit, so to say.
- When my phone rings: Ahhhhhhh! There are few things that piss me off as much as this. This is definitely the most irrational source of my irritation. I think this is because the phone just rings out of nowhere, interrupting whatever it is I am doing at the time and that is just annoying. There’s never a time when my phone rings and I’m happy, unless it is a call I am anticipating. It just comes out of the blue and I have to wait for the call to be over so I can get back to what I was doing. Then of course I feel bad for ignoring the call and worry about getting in touch with the caller later. Whew, the anxiety.
- Disillusionment and general unfulfilment: Sometimes the monotony of my life bears down on me and it is all so overwhelming. In times of high stress at work I wonder is this all there is? There has to be more to life than work. I start to fantasise about doing something else and pursuing my dream of being a writer cum television watcher. But the truth is even people who do what they love have a lot of anxiety and then this stresses me out because what then can I do? Unfortunately anxiety is a common feature in adulthood regardless of the occupation. I’m sure even youtubers, instagram influencers, and sugar babies must feel anxiety. At least I have a stable job and a stable income; the anxiety from not having a stable income must be ridiculous. Thankfully I’m not worried about marriage and children otherwise I would not be able to cope.
The day is over and I have faced everything that was causing me to be anxious. As always my anxiety was for nothing. Still I know that I will not be fully rid of this naggling feeling that trails me and bogs down my spirit. It is exhausting.
Ah well. Tomorrow is another day.