Learning to Live
Above Severe Anxiety: Recovering Time
By Paula J. Marolewski
The following journal entries were written
as an adjunct to the book Fire
in My Mind: Personal Insights and Practical Help for Severe Anxiety,
a Bible study on severe anxiety. Here, you will find additional
information about my personal experience with severe anxiety,
focusing on what I have found particularly helpful. My prayer
is that these entries will help and encourage you if you or someone
you love is struggling with severe anxiety.
Hurry and Worry
“More, better, faster.”
That has been my mantra for too long … I must produce more,
I must do it better, I must accomplish it faster. And so I hurry
through each day, in an endless race against myself, always living
five minutes in the future and completely missing out on the joy
of living in the present.
What do I get in return for my hurry?
Anxiety that gnaws away at my mind, soul, and body. Tension that
mounts in my neck. Tightness that ties my stomach in knots.
It’s time to let go.
Time to embrace what I can reasonably do, and not expect the unreasonable
Time to release striving after perfection, and simply be and do
Time to slow down, live in the present, enjoy the moment, and
engage in life.
No more hurry.
No more worry.
We’re all given 24 hours each day. But somehow, I keep thinking
I have 30. At least, you’d think so if you looked at my calendar.
Meetings, projects, phone calls, housework, shopping … the
list each day goes on and on.
The problem, of course, is that with an endless list, I never
reach the end. So my anxiety level goes up. So I try harder the
following day to get everything done for that day plus all the
stuff I didn’t get done the previous day. And to do so while
all the stuff for the next day is breathing down my neck.
And I wonder why I’m stressed.
There’s only one solution, but it’s a tough one. And
that is, I have to engage in intelligent scheduling.
Intelligent scheduling means recognizing that there are only 24
hours in a day, and that you can’t work during all of them.
Intelligent scheduling means prioritizing what has to be done,
and focusing on each item in turn: giving it full attention, not
racing through to try to cross it off the list and get to the next
thing in line.
Intelligent scheduling means planning less, doing less, and promising
less … because I’ve been planning too much, not getting
it done, and promising what I can’t deliver.
The bottom is simply this: Intelligent scheduling means being
committed to not becoming overcommitted.
A Moratorium on Multitasking
We live in an age where multitasking is expected, praised, and
often demanded. How many things can you do at once? Talk on the
phone, check email, pet the cat, flip through the mail, check a
website, work on a project, watch the news, drive the car … we
frequently combine two or three tasks at once.
Well, for myself, I’ve declared a moratorium on multitasking.
I found that multitasking, because of my issue with severe anxiety,
is a definitive problem. When I multitask, my stress level goes
up. When my stress level goes up, my anxiety goes up. When my anxiety
goes up, I try harder to get things done faster, so I multitask
even more. So my stress level goes even higher. So my anxiety gets
even worse. And so on, and so on.
It was, and is, a tough decision to live out. No multitasking.
And this is what I found:
- I get more done now than when I tried
multitasking, because I can focus and concentrate better on each
individual project or task.
- I enjoy what I am doing more, because I can really dig
down into it and experience it to the full, instead of having
half my mind somewhere else.
- I can relax more easily, because my mind isn’t
always working at mach 10.
Don’t let society dictate how you work and how you live.
Decide for yourself what is best for you.
Remember Your First Word?
Every child learns that short but powerful negative very early
on. But sometimes, we forget it as adults.
“Can you lead this committee?” Yes, of course.
“How about meeting this Friday?” Sure, I can swing
“Do you mind taking on one more project?” Glad to.
But you’re not glad to, you can’t swing it, and you
never should have said “Yes” because you were already
overcommitted. And you knew it, too, but one little word stuck
so badly in your throat that you couldn’t wrestle up enough
courage to get it out.
It’s time to remember your first word, and start using it
wisely. Not as a child, who pouts and fusses and refuses willy-nilly – but
as an adult, who makes wise choices about what you can and cannot
reasonably do. And here’s the key:
It’s okay to say “No.”
Repeat that aloud: It’s okay to say “No.”
“No” can mean that you politely decline, that you
arrange to reschedule priorities, or that you delay until a later
date. The point is, you have options, and “No,” in
any of its variations, is a valid one to use.
Will people be surprised or upset if you say “No”?
Less often than you think. People respect people who make good
decisions, and “No” is often a very good decision.
Occasionally, someone will be upset if you say “No.” And
that’s okay, too. You can’t make everyone happy.
What you can do is do your best to keep yourself healthy. And
part of that formula is that tiny word: