I think I had to Google ‘what is anxiety?’ to learn I was anxious. I experienced the emotion, but what was anxiety’s medical definition?
Mental health was not brought up around me as child. Seeing a therapist had a stigma that something was wrong with you. It was kept quiet if you “had to go to therapy.” At 16, I was diagnosed with an incurable endocrine disorder. When words like anxiety or depression began to arise, I shunned my curiosity of them all together.
A decade ago, I moved to New York City and quickly learned that therapy was not thought of with disdain. People announced they had a therapist. For a lot of my friends, therapy was a part of life and as much of a necessity as going to the gym. THIS newfound mindset made sense to me. It clicked.
We need to talk about our mental health to know ourselves.
My anxiety manifests itself into a lack of balance occurring from a loss of purpose, identity, or control.
I’m a pretty positive person, but when I get anxious, I have a way of taking a small action or thought to its fullest then bringing it to an Extreme. I am the type of person that if I am working on a project, I am all in, I am in my zone, and few will receive a text back from me. This works until it doesn’t. Excessive amounts of time, relationships, and energy sometimes get unnecessarily sacrificed. If a mistake is made, it’s devastating because the stakes had become much higher than they should have. This is a downward spiral until I’m paralyzed. I’m emotionally and physically unmotivated. And I’m lost. My balance is lost.
Let’s take my current anxiety - The Coronavirus Pandemic. I am a creative producer who recently became unemployed like so many. I am healthy and so is my family. I have the privilege of being able to stay at home while others are on the front line. I have it relatively easy compared to many. I am still having a hard time. Here is my list of things I am anxious about:
- What if that jogger breathing heavily while passing me just gave me COVID-19?
- How can I stop stressing out every time I hear the word: unprecedented?
- Is everyone as scared as I am to go to the grocery store? Am I not scared enough?
- Will they be out of my favorite kind of ice cream and how long until it’s back in stock? Wait - shouldn’t I be helping the elderly get food as an able body?
- What if my favorite local bar and restaurant doesn’t come back?
- How many of my friends are going to leave New York?
- What if I get bed bugs during the pandemic?
- Are people getting ahead of me in my artistic field because I am not creating content 24/7 with all the free time I have?
- Will I be able to find a job after my unemployment runs out? Will this change the job market forever that I can no longer work in a creative field? How much less socioeconomic class mobility will there be?
- After we open back up, what if social distancing makes dating be online-only, lasting for years? How old will I be? Will I still be in my prime? Am I selfish to worry about this?
- If my aging mom or dad get COVID-19, would they survive it? What if they die before I can see them again?
There’s a lot to be anxious about. Breathe.
I need to find balance again.
Sometimes finding balance is in a hobby - I love music, so a few times a month I will DJ. Not too much that it becomes a job, but enough to regularly count on it, bring friends together, and share a passion other than my career. A career is not like a relationship. You can cheat on your first creative love with your side creative love, giving you freedom as an artist. It is a refreshing escape from whatever could be knocking you off balance. Hobbies give me control.
Sometimes finding balance is through community - There’s empowerment in knowing you have a safety net of people around you stretching farther than your circle of friends and family. I’ve found community in subcultures like a book group or running club or a music scene where we share a common value or interest. I’ve also found community in the routine of daily life. Taking time to stop and talk to those that work in my local coffee shops, bike shops, bars, restaurants has opened up the possibility of my world around me. Need signatures for a petition? Posters hung up for a lost pet? Getting the word out for finding a new roommate and want a trusted recommendation, not a Facebook stranger? Of course I do employ the internet as much any other millennial. I even worked in social media. But I found these face to face relationships go further and mean more. I am gaining genuine support and connection because of who I am. Community gives me identity.
Sometimes finding balance is in self discovery - My previous ways of finding balance are difficult to implement during a pandemic. I have been to grateful for technology keeping these connections and skills thriving. But a third way I to find balance is within myself. I make lists and goals that are written down. It is more honest. It makes it real. Accountable. Manageable. I don’t compare tragedies, it’s bad business. The only master I am serving at this moment is myself. I pin point my thoughts and desires, moving past my emotions. Knowing myself gives me purpose.
Last year, I turned 30. I thought I would be freaking out like I did when I turned 25. It was actually, well, therapeutic. Balance has kept me on track for who I am, where I want to be, and how to be okay with everything in the world right now.