I had a great opportunity last week to put into action the things I have uncovered about my anxiety and the tools I now have to soften it. One big cause of my anxiety is having everything under control, having everything planned out and having in place a schedule. In everyday life, it wouldn’t cause too much of an issue because I have a pretty standard routine. I know what and when I am going to do things so I don’t feel worried or stressed about it. Where the anxiety would show up really intensely would be when I was traveling, on someone else’s schedule or planning things out with multiple people.
I was away for 9 days last week, going from Austin to Vegas and ending in Utah. In the past, when I travel with my family I tend to be very uptight. I want to know what we are doing, when we are doing it, where we are eating, when we are eating, etc. Having this uptight approach would put me into a negative place and I could never fully enjoy my time away. In therapy, I have realized that a big reason for wanting to have things controlled is to give myself a feeling of comfort and safety. If I have a plan I can prepare, I won’t be caught off guard or surprised by things that may make me feel vulnerable. I won’t go into detail of the underlying reasons for all of this because I do believe some things are too personal to share. I will share that I have uncovered many deep-rooted issues, I have talked through them, and I am working on letting go of pent up emotions and being more accepting and understanding of them.
It is funny because I didn’t even realize the progress I had made until after the trip was over. I was reflecting back on my time away when I got back to LA and it hit me, I had been way more flexible and open. It hadn’t even occurred to me that I was feeling and acting that way because it wasn’t even a thing I had to think about. My old feelings of anxiety and needing to control situations wasn’t there. We were all over the place, having a loose outline for the day but no set times. There was a day we were driving in the car for over 5 hours and in the past I would get very anxious and concerned about when we were stopping for lunch (since food is a big thing I have had control issues with) and what kind of place it would be. I realized that I spent that time just hanging out in the back seat, snacking on rice cakes when I was hungry but I wasn’t stressed about food, I wasn’t anxious about knowing when/where we were headed. I had made an unconscious decision to just go with the flow and be comfortable with whatever happened.
Another area my anxiety really kicks in is at night. I have talked about in past posts how I have created a set bed time routine that I feel I can’t stray from. It requires me to be home by a certain time, taking different supplements and having down time watching TV. Obviously on vacation this routine goes out the window and usually that would cause me extreme distress. If I go out to dinner or have to be out somewhere at night I will usually start to feel really anxious, I will get a tight feeling in my chest and I will be consumed with thinking about when I am going home. On this trip that barely happened. When we were out at night I didn’t find myself constantly checking the time and worrying about it getting later and later. I found I was really enjoying being with my family, seeing different things and exploring the area. When we did finally get back to the hotel I did a few steps from my routine and guess what, I slept. The world didn’t end; I wasn’t up all night tossing and turning. I changed up my routine and was out of my comfort zone and everything was okay.
This whole experience and looking back on the difference between this trip and previous trips has me really happy and hopeful. I now have evidence, situations I can use to show myself that my world won’t fall apart if I don’t have everything completely planned out. I will be fine if I eat at a restaurant I didn’t previously vet out. I will be able to sleep if I go out at night and live my life. I know that I am not “healed”, I will always have trouble with anxiety but I now feel like there is another side to it, a side where it doesn’t control my life and keep me from doing things I want to do and being truly happy.
What I think has really helped me make this progress is acceptance and letting go. I have accepted past situations and made the conscious decision to not hold onto them anymore. Anger, resentment, sadness, frustration, they are normal life emotions but they are not things I have to constantly let live inside me and write my story.