Have you noticed people applaud your anxiety?
They probably don’t slap you on the back and say, “Good on ya for being a stress head!”
More likely, they say “Wow, you’re getting so much done!” Or “You always seem to have it together!”
Their admiration feeds your little anxious mind. So it wants to perform more tricks. “Look at me!” your anxiety sings while you add another dozen to-dos to your list.
These days, it’s glamorous to be anxious! Just ask someone how they’re doing. I bet they reply, “I’m just SO busy! Lots to do!” rather than “I’m soooo chill. Taking my time. Just being in the moment.”
Yes, the world wants you to stay anxious.
Depressed? No. We don’t want you depressed. You have to actually contribute to this society, OK? So no moping on the couch and giving up on life, alright?
But anxious? Oh yes, we love that! While the rest of us take a little rest, there you are picking up the pieces. Keeping it all together. Getting us organised and on time. Planning in your worried way. Checking the weather for our event. Bringing extra print-outs to the meeting. Oooh yes, please do be anxious!
We must be mindful of this.
We can’t change the world.
We can’t change its appreciation and admiration of our anxiety-led achievements.
But we must be aware that the system is quite happy with us running at hyperspeed. Because it keeps the system going.
If we’re not aware of this perception, we’re on the highway to breakdown.
Believe me, I’ve been there.
Often, all we need is someone to give us a hug and say, “Hey, go sit down. I’ll steer us for a bit.” Or tell us that the world won’t stop if we take the afternoon off.
But instead, we act like we’re got it all under control. We swallow our worries and get busier and busier, spinning faster and faster.
And the clapping? It gets louder and louder.
As Sarah Wilson says in her book ‘First, we make the beast beautiful’:
We then try to cope by revving up the angst, don’t we? We use coffee and fast-speak and sugar and staying back at work longer. We grind harder. Try harder. Think harder. We should be able to work our way through this. We think this is what will fire us up out of our funk and get us back on our game. It’s a self-perpetuating pain – we use the anxiety to fight our anxiety.
The more anxious we are, the more high-functioning we will make ourselves appear, which just encourages the world to lean on us more.
So, what can we do?
As I said, we can’t change the world. So it’s up to us to stop the carousel from detaching and rolling down the hill.
I propose we:
- Be aware and acknowledge that the world likes us to be anxious.
- Cultivate daily practices that turn the boil down to a simmer. Change has to come from within. See my morning routine for anxiety here, and the night routine here.
- Schedule time out EVERY SINGLE DAY to step off the ride. A 10 minute nap. A short meditation or deep breathing session. Turning our digital devices off. Walking in nature with no planned destination or purpose.
- Open up to someone we trust and tell them when we can’t cope. Practice being vulnerable and sharing how we’re really doing. Allow someone to step up and take the lead every now and then.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Please comment below, or join us in the private Worry Warrior group.