Friday, April 23, 2010


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. 


  1. You are so self-aware. Has it always been this way? Self-awareness is something that I need to work on, sometimes I tune in to others' needs around me too much and ignore my own. Any ideas on how to pursue this more?

  2. The most important thing you can do is to pay attention to yourself. Take one minutes a few times a day to just stop and check in with yourself. Ask yourself what you are feeling. This will help you learn to "tune in" to yourself.

  3. Knowing you from the inside out is sooo important... the good and the bad. Control is an illusion anyway, so learning to let go will only enhance our lives... and probably give us more REAL control in the long run.

  4. I think you should just stop trying to control yourself. The more you do, the more you lose... yeah, just let go and affirm what you are exactly feeling... free your heart and feel easy!

  5. Hey! I started following your blog because I'm about to start my MSW and I'm interested in mental health/therapy. I love your reflections, especially this one! Thanks for sharing your insights. Good luck w/ the changes! :)

  6. Big changes are sure to cause added stress in one's life. It'll just take some getting used to. I think your anxiety is coming predominantly from your "thinking about it" as oppose to just "doing it." At least that is how I feel about my anxiety. The more I think about it, the more anxious I get. Once you have the routine down, the stress will naturally go away.

  7. Perhaps the series of events that caused you to get a second job could be the culprit? I think it is a combination of more than changing your routine...I say this with the utmost respect.

    We aren't privy to all the details.


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