About a month ago, I was listening to a podcast and they briefly touched on anxiety. One of the hosts talked about how she gave her anxiety a human name as a way of making it easier to talk about and as a way that made it easier for her to shut down her anxious thoughts. This stopped me in my tracks. You wouldn't let another human constantly come up to you and feed you negativity, talk down to you, and question every move you make so why should you let the anxious voice in your head? I decided to adopt this idea, so everyone meet Abby. Abby is my not so nice friend who I have to remind to leave me alone.
I find that when I'm anxious and my head begins to race it can be helpful to stop, take a deep breath and say, "shut up Abby." Sometimes this is in my head, sometimes this is out loud. It just depends on the day. I also have found that giving a name to my anxious thoughts and feelings has been really helpful when journaling. I learned while in Madagascar that journaling is one of the best ways for me to get myself back into a better headspace, though admittedly I don't use this technique as often as I should. It's something I'm working on. Recently, I have started writing letters to Abby as a way of getting my thoughts out of my head, putting them on paper, seeing them and then looking at them and reflecting on how irrational these thoughts are. Once I acknowledge them as irrational, I also include in my letter to Abby just how I plan to push her aside. I let Abby know that I see why she is making an appearance in my life and let her know how I am going to keep pushing forward despite her trying to weasel her way into my day to day life.
I've come to realize that Abby tends to come around the most when I am tired, feeling worn out, and when I am thinking way too much about what is ahead of me instead of what is in front of me right now. Recently, Thursdays have been tricky for me. My body is a little bit over tired and not so happy with the amount of air travel I have put it through over the last few months. Fridays are my travel days, so when Thursday rolls around Abby chimes in to remind me how tired I am, to make me go over my packing list in my head over and over and over again, and to make sure I know how early I have to be up the next morning.
Today, I decided that Abby was not welcome in my day. I had plans today to go down to the lake to shoot some photos with my friend Caitlin, but Mama Nature had a different idea- rain. When I woke up to rain I got that uncomfortable, uneasy feeling in my stomach. I felt frustrated, overwhelmed. I felt panicked about my uncontrolled change of plans. Then I realized I had a choice. I could decide to lay in bed with Abby all day and I could let Abby's harsh words fill my head all day long. I could text Caitlin and say, "Well, it's raining. I guess let's just reschedule." Or I could tell Abby that I wasn't interested in her nonsense today. And that is the option I chose. I picked up Caitlin and we decided to just figure it out as we went. We ended up playing in the pouring rain at the beach and after that we drove around and found some more fun spots along our lovely third coast to take photos. Then a beautiful thing happened, the rain stopped and the sun started to peek through the clouds ever so slightly. We headed back to my favorite beach and finished taking our photos there. In the end, I got the shots that I had pre planned, but I also got some amazing ones in the rain that were totally unplanned.
Today was a little victory. While it's not always this easy to shut up Abby, it's important to remember the times that it is.