One afternoon last week I was washing dishes when I suddenly noticed how tense I was. Almost immediately I realized my uneasiness was being compounded by the fact that I had literally stopped breathing. Taking a step back from the sink, I consciously asked myself what could be triggering my anxiety.
An on-the-spot-millisecond mental checklist erupted from my brain: kids are all at school, husband in his office on a conference call that seems to be going well, housework is under control, met my column deadline…on the surface everything appeared to be totally in order.
What is it?!
Obviously I’d taken to breathing again at this point, but I continued to wonder why I was having the experience. It wasn’t the first time. Not a panic attack (unfortunately, I know what that feels like) this was more a result of concentrating so intently (believe it or not, it’s my strategy for getting through boring household chores).
How is it that I can get so consumed by my thoughts, or in my busywork, I forget to do THE ONE THING I need to do in order to survive?
What the heck was I pondering right before I noticed I stopped breathing?
I know, I was trying to figure out how I’d find enough focus to work through three writing assignments, doing each justice, before a [self-imposed] deadline of September 30th.
What did I just write????????
I put myself into an apprehensive state and stopped breathing because I was afraid I wouldn’t be creative enough to follow through on a few commitments I’d made and then proceeded to impose my own deadline on.
How often do we do this to ourselves?
Making more out of situations in our lives than we really need to, literally creating drama so we’ll feel good enough/smart enough/productive enough/enough enough, instead of taking a step back and remembering life isn’t about what we DO, but about who we ARE.
We spend so much mental energy trying to live up to what we believe other people think we should do that we create our own problems. Newsflash: We are not walking the Earth to “live up to” the standards other people set for us (whether it be a spouse, a child, a friend, an employer, a classmate, a parent…).
We ARE here to develop ourselves, through our relationships and experiences with others. To be teachers and learners and connectors.
I went back to the sink and finished the dishes having made a decision to breathe in and out, slowly, to a count of five. I have learned that staying present means actively and mentally setting aside concerns in order to fully enjoy the moment.
I practice this, I am not perfect at it.
Once the dishes were done it was time for me to take a walk to the elementary school and pick up Mia, one of my favorite ways to connect with her and catch up on the day’s events at school. She “hates the walk, but loves the talk.”
How do you know when you are becoming mentally stressed out? What physical symptoms appear in you? How do you handle it?
Comment below, I would love to hear your thoughts, after all, we’re in this together!