You get what you give

I’m prone to anxiety and worry. I consider myself a pretty optimistic person, but sometimes anxiety and worry consume me. Its hard to see the silver lining in life when your brain is constantly hijacked by obsessive worrisome thoughts. A big why in my sobriety, was getting my anxiety under control.

This has been a huge struggle for me. My brain is constantly whirring away. I tend to think in sequences of events, how I should complete a task so that its most efficient and most risk adverse. Instead of being in the moment and focusing on the task at hand, I am almost constantly thinking about the next step or how to avoid the next uncomfortable situation.

Therapy has been helping me break these thought cycles in a healthy way. In the past, I used alcohol to quiet the thoughts and to get out of my head for a bit. Now that alcohol is not part of the equation, I have had to be really mindful about what my brain is doing and why. Sometimes I catch myself mid-thought, and I have to remind myself to be present in the moment at hand and that I can deal with the next task when it is time.

Its a little counter-intuitive to me. I feel that by not planning, I am somehow failing. However, in practice, it has quite the opposite effect. Because I am present in the moment, I can focus on one thing at a time and do it well. I do not get as frustrated as easily when a task does not go as planned and then I actually feel much less anxious.

This way of thinking has helped change my life in a number of ways. When I start to feel anxious or I get though in my anxiety-thought-loop, I stop and I ask myself why I feel that way. Then I think, okay if I do not get this task completed in the way I expected to- what are the results? Quite often the results are minimal- I’ll be 5 minutes late or I may not be able to complete a task today- and always I realize- ITS OKAY. If I acknowledge someone in the hallway- and they do not respond to me- its FINE. I do not have to agonize over this interaction. Its OKAY. In fact, often when I put myself out there- to say hi or engage in some other small act of kindness- I feel very satisfied and happy.

Now that its the holiday season, I find a special kind of joy in doling out small random acts of kindness. I’ll purchase a cup of coffee for a friend or random stranger behind me in line, I’ll open doors for others, I’ll say thank you to my bus driver or give them a small thank you note with a gift card to buy a meal, just little things- and their reactions fill me with a sense of joy.

On my way into the office today, I really took notice of a pile of small painted rocks that showed up outside the building a few weeks ago. Every time I see these rocks, it makes my day just a little better.

What I love about it the most is that the artist had to have the courage to create something and then take the risk of sharing them with the world. I think everyone appreciates them, because in an urban area, nothing stays put for long and somehow these little gems have become part of the environment- a little monument to kindness and gratitude. Sometimes just a small gesture goes a long way, but you get what you give.




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