How to Overcome Anxiety in the Midst of Chaos

Do you ever feel like you're on autopilot? Like your brain's been hijacked and someone else is running the controls? Like a little monster in your head is making all of the decisions without consulting you? You may find yourself at the end the day in a surreal state asking yourself, “Did that just happen?” 

I experience this all the time. For example, last week while teaching a class for work, a class I’d taught at least thirty times before Adeline’s passing, I experienced an exhaustion unlike the typical tiredness I had experienced teaching the class before Adeline's passing.  When I finally arrived home at the end of the day, I was not just tired I was completely and utterly emotionally depleted.  

Not much has changed about the program itself except this most recent class I had to extend from four to six hours. With that simple change, and the ensuing demands and challenges of being "on" for such a length of time, came a realization that my anxiety levels were starting to impact my daily life choices, and I don’t like that. 

When my anxiety first started, a year ago, I’d never had to address the anxiety so I didn’t recognize what it was.  Once I finally figured it out, I was embarrassed and my strategy was to “push through it”; I assumed it would go away on its own over time.  Here we are a year later and the anxiety still remains, and I’m starting to be faced with making decisions to stop doing some of the things I love because my anxiety has become overwhelming. 

I, like many, have always had light nerves when engaging in a public speaking situation. In the past, they would typically subside within a few minutes of the presentation and off I’d go about my day. 

Since losing Adeline, I’ve found my little nerves have become BIG nerves, which ultimately lead into a feeling of tremendous anxiety. And then…the autopilot turns on and suddenly the monster rules the moment. My heart races, and words fly out of my mouth with great speed and without any thought or consideration.  I lose all sense of presence, and the gap between stimulus and response shrinks to nothing. 

Every moment in that state is draining. 

What happens when you’re in that state for six hours…. 

You’re left with a puddle of yourself…a reflection of what once was.  

Now I’m faced with a choice. I enjoy teaching these classes, but at the same time I have come to  realize that I can’t continue to do things that drain my limited supply of emotional resilience. 

So, if I want to keep doing the things I love, I have to find a way to address my fears.

“Where in the heck do I begin?” I’ve never had to address anxiety issue before, so I had no idea where to start.

And then I read the below articles by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits. (I love his blog, by the way.) I've decided to ease into my starting place with these two simple, yet profound, ideas:

  • Relax into the Moment - Accept, instead of repress, your nerves, fears, and anxieties. I’ve found myself repeating the phrase over and over throughout my day. I remind myself to embrace the flood of emotions and find presence is what’s happening in that moment.

  • The Way to Finding Powerful Human Connection - I, like Leo, am a bit shy and have always had a little social anxiety. Focusing on the power of connection and the true purpose of human interaction helps my fears dissipate. When I know my heart is in the right place, my brain finds it easier to let go of the fear.

And then last night, at an Adele concert of all places, I got to witness an example of someone who’s attempting to connect with her audience and overcome her fears. She’s quite surprisingly humble and candid about her nerves and fears and her vulnerability was quite refreshing and inspiring. (Oh, and she’s freckin’ hilarious too.) 

These may not be the solution, but they are where I will start to discover the solution.  For every adventure has to begin somewhere and will most certainly progress as times goes on.  Even if you don’t know exactly where to start, start somewhere, my friends.  Life is too short to give up on the things you love because your brain is making up stories about what you can and cannot accomplish.  You can overcome and accomplish all you want in this life. You can. I can. We all can. 

Does life feel out of control? Do you feel overwhelmed and anxious? Check out this free guide on How to Calm the Chaos After Loss.