I've been experiencing so much anxiety lately! It's that kind of chest crushing anxiety, where you go through the day feeling like you can't breathe. I'll admit that I have a slightly anxious personality but this kind of anxiety is not typical of me at all. So what's going on?
That's what I've been asking myself, honestly. I've recently made some big changes in my life. I started a second, part-time job and my boyfriend is moving in with me next week. The second job isn't all that stressful and doesn't require an overwhelming amount of work. Yet the moment I start thinking about the work I have to do my heart starts to beat faster. I initially concluded that the second job, no matter how "not stressful" it seems, must be stressing me out. But I don't think that's the whole story...
Because if I'm really honest with myself I have to admit that what's really stressing me out is that my routine has been altered. In mental health, we use something called the "downward arrow" technique to identify beliefs that fuel negative emotions. You start with an automatic thought. Mine is, "It is bad that my routine is going to be altered." You then ask, "What does that mean to you?" or "Why is that important?" (Or in this case, "Why is that bad?") I might reply, "If my routine is altered I might neglect to do the things that are important to me." Then you ask the same question again - "What does that mean to you?" I respond, "If I neglect to do the things that are important to me then my life will be completely out of control." And that would be bad because? "Because I can't handle it if my life is out of control."
And that's what anxiety is really about -- control, or the lack thereof. My routines are meant to provide me with a sense of control, to bring order to chaos. Without the routine, I feel completely out of control. This makes me anxious.
So what do I do? In all honesty, I will probably just create another routine that works with my new schedule. Will that solve the problem? It will decrease my anxiety, yes, but it won't fix my belief that I need to be in control of my life. So the next time some big change occurs that requires me to adjust my schedule I will again become anxious. What I need to work on -- and this will take time -- is learning to accept that I don't have to be in control and that I can still be ok.