Over the past couple of months I’ve been in the throes of starting up a small income-generation business for women. Having never run anything quite like this before I find myself some days both loving it and hating it. I love working with other women, being creative and seeing a product completed. The part I don’t love is that there is so.much.to.do. Every decision, every detail falls on me. And while my family would agree I am quite bossy, sometimes it’s a bit much for me to carry. Which is why what happened last week, well, happened.
After my morning coffee I situated my youngest son with his is collection of cars and tried to settle in at my desk to get some work accomplished. Opening my computer I immediately felt a wave of anxiety wash over me. Where to begin? What to do first? Everything felt urgent and incomplete. I made a list. And it kept growing. I tried to focus on a few things and found I didn’t have the heart for any of them. I couldn’t think clearly about one single thing.
So I got up and played with my son for a time, hoping he would be the distraction I needed to set me back on track, but even sitting with him I couldn’t focus or settle down.
For the next few hours I tried in vain to muscle through and will myself to be productive. I took deep breaths and reminded myself that so many were counting on me and I needed to fulfill my obligations and meet deadlines. But all I really wanted to do was to curl up in a dark room and be away from it all. I wanted the tension and disquiet I felt inside my body to disappear along with the demands I felt weighing on me.
So on that Monday, what promised to be a productive morning of checking of my growing to-do list and getting tasks accomplished, ended up being spent in confusion and anxiousness. I’m still not even sure what to call it, so a mild anxiety attack will have to do. Whatever it was, it derailed most of my day and stood as a solid reminder that anxiety, my old friend, hadn't gone anywhere.
I wish I could say these sorts of things were uncommon for me, but that wouldn’t be true. I’ve always been an anxious person, even from childhood, but it wasn’t until moving to India and a particularly bad attack that happened in the middle of my kitchen one afternoon that I started to take notice of what my body was trying to tell me through it’s not-so-subtle messages.
I hadn't seen this one coming, though. I felt fine when I woke up, but on that particular morning I had received an unpleasant email that I suppose sent me over the edge. Looking back I can see how weeks of stress, questions about the future success of our endeavor, being overly-committed and stretched too thin were the triggers that converged together to make my system want to shut down.
When the rest of my brood came home from school in the afternoon I turned on a movie for them and decided to stop fighting my body. The more I tried to accomplish something, the worse I felt. So I simply decided to just be. I found a quiet spot and picked up a book I’ve wanted to read for some time and started reading.
I read about the difference between my Best Yes and a Good Yes. I’m involved in plenty of Good things, but are they what’s Best? I’m not sure I have answers to that yet, but I feel like it’s a question I have to consider moving forward. I think sometimes as women we say yes because we want to feel useful, we believe in a cause, we want to make a difference. All of these things are good! But sometimes they may not be the best for the life of our family or even for us. Knowing the right balance in all that is difficult, but sometimes our bodies give us clues in ways we don’t expect.
Today reminded me that I am but one person, with a finite number of hours in a day and certainly finite energy. I can’t do it all. I also have little ones—four, to be exact and number five making his or her debut next year that I have to consider. I have a home, relationships and sanity to be maintained. No one else is likely to maintain it for me; I have to take care of myself in better ways.
And taking care of ‘”me” might not mean cutting things out, but it most definitely means putting things in. Oh, like fun, for example, I definitely need more of that—and laughter. I get so caught up in the every day I forget those things. I have to remember that life will always have plenty of great causes and needs to be met, but if I feel empty inside or I’m a nervous wreck, I’m not going to be able to help anyone.
I want God’s best for my life, which doesn’t involve being an anxious, stressed-out mess. Sure, there’s always work, but then there’s also rest. It’s the rest part that I seem to be forgetting lately to the detriment of my own health and anxiety is definitely not fun.
So if I’ve learned anything from all this it’s that I have to slow down. I have to trust that God’s perfect plan doesn’t involve me filling each crack in the day with “something” and it does involve rest—real rest and turning off my mind from tasks and enjoying life in the present-- which I haven't been so great about doing lately.
It’s doing my best and leaving the results to the Lord. It’s acknowledging my weakness and embracing His strength. It’s casting my anxiety on Him because He cares for me and doesn’t want me to rely on my own strength or understanding, but to lean on Him for those things and trusting that whatever He wants accomplished in this world, through me, will bring me life and not worry.
Have you ever experienced anxiety in a way that left you feeling like this? How did you work through it?