Dealing with anxiety and uncertainty is something I’m working through at the moment. We now have under 6 weeks to pack up our home, rent it out (eeek, the photographer is coming tomorrow), finish my masters, sell my car and basically get our affairs in order before we head off on our big adventure around Australia. I knew it was going to be full on, but being very practical and having planning and organising as key strengths, I thought I’d be fine. Not so.
I underestimated the emotional upheaval that packing up and sorting through things would take. Everywhere I look there’s a decision to be made. “Should I keep the electric blankets? Will we use them, if (yes, I said if…) or when we come home? Do I really need 4 teapots? They are all super cute, but realistically, I don’t use them, but then… which ones go?” Sounds ridiculous but even simple things like kid’s paintings and books come with a decision.
As a child, and through my teen years I felt anxious often. I think I hid it well, but I was constantly burdened with the thoughts of what other people were thinking about me and why I didn’t fit in or wasn’t ever good enough. Not unusual for a teen I know, and thankfully they shook most of it out of me when I joined the army reserves.
Recently, I’ve been watching ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’ and getting inspired. Initially I was curious as to why they always seemed to have breakdowns as they went through their stuff, and now that’s me. There are some things I’ve found really helped and I thought I’d share the process of dealing with anxiety and uncertainty with you.
Have a plan
I’m a list person, so when dealing with anxiety and uncertainty, the first thing I do is make a list. It’s long. Everything that needs to be done before we head around Australia is on the list. (Sean now has two items to go, including phone the painter and buy a chainsaw, while my list is around 44 and starts with distance education enrolment and ends with sort children’s pyjama draws.)
Take little steps
The moment I feel anxious or overwhelmed, I find the next little step. Can I throw out a book or two or take a load to the op-shop, even if it’s just putting away washing it’s moving me closer to being organised. I imagine being stuck in a dark forest where everything feels scary and intimidating, if I sit down, I have to stay there, if I can just take another tiny step then I trust I’ll move forward. Even when I don’t know what forward is, it’s better than being stuck.
Ask for help
It’s easy to get bogged down with the amount of work that has to be done and the complexity of how, when and in what order. Yesterday I had a melt down over Norton antivirus software, I’m sure they are charging me for two subscriptions, but I couldn’t figure out what I’m paying for and what devices are protected. I sat and cried for a few moments, then went and asked Sean for help (knowing full well that he wouldn’t be able to help.) He couldn’t help, but he did give me a shoulder to cry on and a pat on the back. What I actually needed, was reassurance that it’s all going to be OK and that I’ll get through what matters and be able to let go of what doesn’t.
Remember to breathe
Easier said than done I know. I’ve been finding at the oddest times through this process my chest tightens up, my shoulders get tense, my breathing quickens, and my brain seems to slow down so I can’t make decisions at all. I have a panicky feeling like it’s all too much and feel tears start to threaten. I’m not generally anxious anymore, so the strong physical sensations are taking their toll, and I’m having to deal with them to keep moving forward. The first thing I do is try to remember to breathe. Even just 3 deep breaths in and out help my brain start working again and activates the calm and connect response, rather than the flight or fight response.
Any change is uncomfortable, but finishing my masters, packing up house and planning the trip of a life time… while incredibly exciting, is also a huge challenge. I’ve reminded myself often that anyone else doing this, would likely be feeling the same. I’m human after all, we all get it wrong sometimes, and I constantly overestimate what I can do in a day. If I beat myself up, I get upset and frustrated, if I recognise the little steps I’ve already taken, I can be kind to myself, practice self compassion and keep my motivation intact. One simple thing I do is buy myself flowers, sounds silly, but I actually think I deserve them and when I see them on the table, I remember “I’m doing OK.”
So, if you’re working through some major changes in your life and dealing with anxiety and uncertainty along the way, remember to make a plan, take little steps, ask for help, breathe and practice self compassion. Good luck, and I’m here if you need me.