I like to think I’m a basically positive person. I can be annoyingly so when friends and loved ones bring problems and frustrations to me. “So what would help with that?” I’ll ask. I like to focus on actions–either physical or cognitive–that have a chance of improving the situation.
So I was astonished this morning when, on my way to work, I sank into a stew of frenzied panic with a soupcon of despair. What the hell was this?
And that’s when I tried listening to what I was saying to myself.
You’re not going to make it, you know. You left the apartment too late. Again. Just what did you think was going to happen, you lousy lout? Did you think some fairy was going to show up and just magically turn back the clock five minutes–just for you? No wonder you’re all stressed about grad school. You can’t even make your bus.
But as soon as I stopped reacting and just listened to what was actually going on inside my head, the despair lifted. The panic evaporated. Because it was fucking absurd. How does bullying myself help anything?
Besides, it’s just flat out false. I made it to my stop with six minutes to spare.
What I learned, though, is that thoughts don’t just zip through the woods without a trace. They leave an aftertaste.
And in these last three months of vertigo and migraines, I’ve learned that the wrong thoughts can work me into a dizzy, foaming-at-the-mouth frenzy. Over just about anything.
Not worth it.
Now, a disclaimer: I don’t have anxiety or mood disorders, and I can’t imagine what that struggle is like. So I don’t mean to imply for a moment that I’ve discovered a cure.
But if you’re like me and the hectic pace of modern life leaves you feeling more stressed than is helpful, try hitting the pause button now and then. See what you’re saying to yourself. And if it’s as brutish and beastly as my little voice, tell it to take a hike. You’re better off on your own.
And as for my bus dilemma, the solution is easy: Just catch an earlier bus.