Monday, November 14, 2011

Fretting about Tomorrow

The same therapist that explained the connection between the past and depression explained to me that anxiety is future-based. People who suffer from anxiety worry about what would, could and should (or shouldn’t) happen. They approach tomorrow with a sense of dread and fear that seeps into their daily lives. Fear paralyzes them and stops them from taking action. They are simply overwhelmed.

If you ordered a product, you wouldn’t worry about it arriving defective or broken. You expect it to come in good working order. If it does arrive broken or with parts missing, you’ll handle it at that time, Yet, we don’t do that when we worry about tomorrow.

Some of our worries are well-founded. If you mailed off a payment knowing you don’t have the money in the bank to cover it, you’ll probably be worried … and rightly so. If you are cheating on your spouse, you probably should worry about getting caught.

However, many of our worries are unfounded. We make bad situations potentially worse when we speak them with words like always and never. I’ll never have enough money. I always meet the wrong men. I will always be stuck in this situation. Things will never get better.

Talk like that creates a lot of anxiety. We take the power of our imaginations and use it for the negative. We think of all the possible worst-case scenarios. If something has ever happened to us that supports our negative thinking then we will replay that event over and over again and assume that since it happened once before, it will, more than likely happen again.

As I said in the last post, if your anxiety is debilitating and preventing you from moving forward, you might want to consult a therapist. However, if you feel you can handle it, the best antidote for anxiety is planning. Plan for the thing you fear. Do as much as you can today to prevent the negative tomorrow from ever taking place.

As soon as I have a plan in place and begin acting on it, I feel better. I feel more in control. You might not be able to solve the whole problem but the act of doing something is making progress and you climb a mountain one step at a time.

After I’ve done all I can do, I acknowledge that I’ve done all I can do. It might not be perfect. The problem might not be solved but it might be a little better. If it isn’t better, at least I don’t have the regrets that I didn’t do all that I could.

I went through10 months of unemployment. As soon as I lost my job, I called the bank to see what I could do with my mortgage. This touched off a 10 month battle to try and keep my house. Talk about anxiety. Where would I go? How could I find an apartment without a job? Then my imagination kicked in. I would have to return to Cleveland, humiliated, and live with my family… at 41 years old. I’d be depressed. I’d be even fatter and I was convinced that I would have lost all will to go on. I invisioned myself wrapped in a blanket sitting on the sofa in the basement in my pajamas with a hair disheavled, tears in my eyes and a box of Kleenex at my side (what can I say, I have a vivid imagination!).

I did all that I could. I borrowed from family and friends. I tried to save up my meager unemployment money to make a payment. I contacted HUD, all of my congressional representatives, made a complained with the Commission of Banks, used my tax refund money and prayed relentlessly. It was overwhelming. Many, many tears were shed.

Finally, I realized that I had done all I could do and although it wouldn’t make me happy, I was willing to put my house up on a short sale. I hated the thought but I had no regrets because I had done all I could do. As I was heading home to call my agent, I got a call. It was a job offer and it saved my home.

I was fraught with anxiety that entire time but when I was working toward a solution, I felt a little bit better. Doing something, at least for that time, helped.Taking action helped combat my anxiety. If I had to do it again (and I really hope I never have to), I would add talking back to those negative thoughts and using my imagination more proactively instead of letting that negative movie play.

It doesn’t make sense to worry about things that haven’t happened yet; but it takes real actions and hard work to overcome those anxious thoughts and emotions.

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