Many people much wiser than I have hypothesised that the quality of our life is defined by the quality of the questions we ask therein.
I would go even further and propose that words in themselves – how we employ them in their singular form and how we put them together to develop the narratives that make sense of our lives have a profound impact on our psyche, and by extension our behaviours and the fulfilment that we find within our day to day.
Words have, for me, always been particularly important. I receive love in the form of words – far more than actions or gifts. And as such I can be deeply wounded by words as well. Words have allowed me to process, to integrate, to grow and to learn. Words allow me to express empathy. Words allow me to teach. But most of all, words soothe me.
And when those feelings of anxiety – fuelled by an undercurrent of perceived inadequacy – come flooding in, it is words that are my saviour. Here are three that I find particularly helpful in managing anxiety.
Through noticing, I’ve worked out that my anxiety is most often present when I’m in situations where I perceive that I am being judged negatively. Anxiety has always gone hand in hand with the perception that I am not competent – that I am not ‘doing it right’. The associated tendency I’ve noticed in myself to over-achieve, to over-give, to over-mother, to over-commit, to over-schedule.
In short, I say ‘yes’ to everything, especially when I’m anxious. In some part of my subconscious I believe that proving myself will help the anxiety subside. In practice, the more I say yes, the more anxious I get. Developing healthy, loving boundaries is a work in progress for me but the cornerstone of it has been learning to say ‘no’ in a variety of creative and compassionate ways. Regardless of how I express the ‘no’, the important thing is that internally I am firmly affirming to myself ‘no’ – my needs and wellbeing are important too.
Getting really clear on the reason for doing things has allowed me to drop the obligations, activities and tasks that leave me feeling drained or anxious. So often we focus on ‘what’ we are doing, without reflecting on the deeper question of ‘why’ we are doing it. Getting clear on a macro-level of my ‘why’ – why I get out of bed every morning – has allowed me to align my outer existence with my internal values. My why is to ‘empower, love and be loved’. At the end of my days, I would really like to say that I empowered others and allowed myself to love an be loved and so when activities or obligations don’t expand my capacity to meet my why, I say no, or limit my engagement in them. Anxiety often arises when I am bogged down in never-ending to-do lists filled with unimportant activities. Feeling on the proverbial hamster wheel of life admin tends to do that! Getting to the heart of the matter and coming back to ‘why’, helps me to drop unimportant tasks and really make space for what is important – nature, time with my family, creating beautiful food, teaching and writing.
We live in a world of ‘and’. ‘I’ll work full time and be a stellar parent and have hobbies and be a loving partner and learn French and rescue animals on the weekends’. Or, in my case ‘I’ll have eggs and porridge and fruit toast and fruit’. So…. I love breakfast. We have been tricked by clever marketers into thinking that more things – more activities, more busy-ness, more material items – will lead us to our desired feelings. However, often we have so many tabs open in our brain – filled with all the things we ‘should’ be doing that we lose the enjoyment in doing those things. We are never satisfied – always looking for the next thing – because we are never truly present in the moment to enjoy the things we already have. We never allow ourselves to be satiated because we are in a state of scarcity – believing that what we have, do and who we are is not enough. This ‘and’ mentality has also led, in many of our cases, to a sense of mistaken identity. We take on hobbies, activities and jobs that we think are ‘us’, but are really the domain of others – those on instagram or advertising in particular. We have lost touch with what’s important to our bodies, minds and souls.
To make time for the practices that allow me to feel grounded, well and expansive, I have come to use the word ‘or’ when weighing up activities, commitments and work. Instead of saying ‘Today I’ll look after my daughter and exercise and work’, I say ‘today I could get up early and either write or do exercise so that I can spend quality time with my daughter during the day’. Discernment is the best antidote to anxiety that’s fuelled by excess, overwhelm and busy-ness.
My frequent entries back into an anxious and busy state of mind should be testament that this is very much a work in progress, and I am grateful that my body sends me anxious emotions as a call to bring back some equilibrium. In intention is not to make those feelings go away entirely, but rather to notice – always notice – how the inputs that I’m consuming make me feel so that gradually, over time, I can fill my days with those things that make me, my family and my clients more fulfilled. What a gift to have words to guide that journey.
Would you like to join me and some other amazing ladies on a quest to re-discover another way of being that does not involve stress, anxiety or fatigue?
I’m launching a new three month mentoring program for professional women in June 2017 called Love Yourself Well. With weekly calls, access to the exclusive Facebook group plus videos and workbooks – this program will help you finally ditch the guilt and stress and start defining wellbeing for yourself. Click here to join the VIP list and receive your personalised invite + early bird discount.