Anxiety … Now what?

Sometimes the fear is worse than the worst case scenario.

path of anxiety
Grampians National Park, Victoria, Australia

Self-isolation has been an awakening

…to say the least. I have been confronted by the practice of slowing down and being still. What has come up has not been so pretty- mostly anxiety about the unknown future (read more about my visa journey here) and discontentment with the present moment. I want to “have it all together” with the “perfect” job, family, future, bank account, body, and relationships. I strive to always BE better and DO better. This has resulted in a constant longing and lack of acknowledge in the COMPLETE-NESS of the present.

now what
Grampians National Park, Victoria, Australia

I am faced with a choice…

The choice: be with and get curious about the anxiety or fuel the anxiety by neglecting it. I spoke with my host parent, who is an ICU doctor, about COVID and dealing with the influx of patients. I could not imagine being at the coal-face during a global pandemic and working with patients and their families. It would be extremely important to rule out the worst case scenarios, but that is not always feasible.

Sometimes life is crap. Sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes the prognosis is bad. Sometimes we get hurt. Sometimes people leave. Sometimes we get sick. Sometimes people die. Sometimes we cry. Sometimes we worry. Sometimes we fail. But we get through it…

The human species is extremely resilient. If COVID has uncovered anything about mankind, it has illuminated the collective, cooperative, and ingenious nature of humanity. So, how do we deal with this looming dark cloud hovering over all of us called anxiety?

anxiety never-ending
Grampians National Park, Victoria, Australia

NOW WHAT?

Asking “Now what?” can help us get to our worst case scenario. Once we get there, we may come to realize that our fear really is worse than our worst case scenario. In my experience, anxiety is quite unproductive. I find my thoughts spinning in circles like a tornado feeding itself and destroying any logic in its way.

Rather than ignoring or suppressing the anxiety, I want to get curious about it. Just like going on a first date– you know their name, you stalked them on Facebook, you probably have a few things in common, but you still have a lot to learn. You come in open but have your reservations, rightfully so.

Let’s go through an example of mine…
Anxious thought: I do not get to extend my visa.
Now what?
I have to move back to America.
Now what?
I have to figure out a place to live and a new job. I will have to transfer money from my Australian account to pay for it but will lose out in the conversion. I will have a long distance relationship with my boyfriend.
Now what?
It will be difficult to find a job in the current economic climate. I may have to move in with a family member or friend to support myself.
Now what?
Oh, wait…that does not actually sound so bad. In fact, I acknowledge how privileged I am do have a solid support system in a country where I can work hard. I am thankful for my tertiary education and work experience. I am grateful for the time I have spent in Australia. I will be okay…even in the worst case scenario. The fear really is worse than the worst case scenario.

“Hey, Dad. Can I ask you a question?”
“Yes, Frank, but make it quick and good. I have a lot of work to do, and it’s way past your bedtime.”
“What do you think is more deadly: fear or COVID?”
“That’s a great question; what do you think, Frank?”
“Hmm…I think fear. Because you can’t self-isolate from fear”

A close family relative to my host family & his 10 year-old son, Frank
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