About a week ago I drank a large coffee around 7pm. Later that night as I tried to sleep I was overcome with anxiety. My heart was beating quickly and my mind was racing over every last detail in my life. Even as I began to fall asleep–I would jolt awake with an intrusive and worried thought. My mind raged as it reacted to the caffeine’s impacts on my body.
I am seeing this late night as a gift. A peak into how meaningless anxious thoughts are and how I can learn to stop listening to them.
My anxiety and stress level is very high right now. My life, my identity and my reality are all changing in profound ways. The fear of making mistakes casts a cold shadow over what could be joy or excitement. My fears about marriage, parenting, myself, men, women….about life in general…. are becoming malicious characters with lively roles in my own mental and emotional life.
Normally, it isn’t caffeine that causes anxiety–it is my own thoughts. Because of how I talk to myself, or how I internalize anxious thoughts, I am essentially drinking coffee late at night. I am feeding into a pattern that has no interest in me being peaceful. It is like harboring a known criminal. I talk my thoughts up instead of down. If I think of something negative, my next thought escalates into something even more negative. I listen to them regardless of their validity. I am a hostage to them in weak moments–during this time of total transition I am vulnerable to this mental storm. My anxiety becomes worse when I take it seriously. I believe each thought as if it were a godly epiphany. Needless to say, caving in and allowing my fear and anxiety to rule my inner world isn’t working out. I do not get things done. I do not develop insights. I do not step forward, sideways or backward. I am frozen–a full grown deer in headlights. This path causes paralysis, sadness and confusion. It feels useful when I am doing it, somehow, but ultimately each day I am left with less and less.
So, my goal for the week is this:
1. Once a day I am going to write down my anxious thoughts
2. After I write them down I am going to take a deep breath and meditate for a few minutes
3. I will, through writing, try to look at them from a more clear vantage point, from a “higher” perspective (I will imagine this “higher” perspective to be coming from either my older awesome self–or from how I would speak to someone I loved)
One thing is certain–the mental and emotional train I am on is not going anywhere so I might as well get off.