Considering how busy I’ve been this summer, it should come as no surprise that one of the things I’ve had on my mind a lot recently is balance.
It’s a concept I’m still relatively new to, probably because I’ve spent over thirty years of my life doing “all or nothing” thinking thanks to my anxiety. But as I’m starting to see light at the end of that loooooong, dark, twisted tunnel, I’m realizing that balance is incredibly important not only to overcoming anxiety, but to life in general.
This isn’t a new revelation – I’ve been trying to achieve balance for as long as my overactive imaginative brain has been functioning. I’ve (tried to) read books by that guy with the long, complicated Indian name, I’ve taken a handful of yoga classes, and attempted meditation more times than I can count.
But while the vast majority of people found solace and peace doing these things, I only found more anxiety. This led me to simply stop doing things — all kinds of things — even writing and hanging out with friends. And it prevented me from starting new projects – like volunteering or trying a new activity.
Then about two years ago I had a therapist tell me I needed to “take things off my plate” because of my anxiety, and I realized that I was tired of putting my life on hold because my brain didn’t know how to shut itself up.
Thankfully, through a combination of EMDR, essential oils, a happy light, and my writing, my anxiety is more under control than it ever has been. But there’s a downside to this, believe it or not.
Because now that I don’t feel 100% trapped by anxiety, I find myself with an incredibly full schedule. I have a full time job and a part time job. I volunteer. I’m making new friends and rekindling relationships with old friends. I’m attending writing-related events. I’m traveling. I even joined an athletic club where I can swim — in public!
So balancing all of these things along with the monotony of cooking dinner, vacuuming, doing laundry, and keeping dentist appointments is something I’m still learning how to tackle. Many times I’m overwhelmed by a quick glance at my schedule. I wonder how in the hell I’m going to have time to make a tasty, relatively healthy meal and walk the dog in between jaunting back and forth between 2 jobs, the pool, coffee with a friend, and a much-needed haircut. I worry that I’ll forget about the appointment to see my allergist or not get enough sleep the night before an early meeting at work. But the good news is that I’m now recognizing these worries as petty, and I’m getting better at living “in the moment” and focusing on what I’m doing at the present time instead of all I have (or want) to do in the next few hours, days, or weeks.
Because I could take some things off my plate like that closed-minded therapist suggested. And sometimes I do have to take a step back and eliminate an extracurricular or reschedule and appointment. (I took a break from volunteering this summer, for example. We all need a break to rejuvenate ourselves in the war against The Orange Lord).
But the fact of the matter is that, for the most part, I want to be doing all of these things. Although I’m not working my dream job, I’m good at what I do and it’s interesting. And even though no one wants to work two jobs, doing so gives me enough financial “wiggle room” to treat myself to things like a nice new pair of shoes or a fun weekend. Swimming is relaxing and good for me, body and soul. Writing is therapeutic. It’s my passion and has connected me with so many amazing people from all over the world. Seeing my friends lightens my world and provides endless laughs. And dates with my husband are a must-have amongst all the other craziness in both of our worlds.
So yes. Life is crazy right now. Sometimes I still get overwhelmed and take a day or two to veg out on the couch and binge watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and eat Fruity Pebbles for dinner. Other days I work both jobs, hit the pool, eat healthy, and get some serious writing done. But I think the key is to not get too wrapped up in any one thing or any one habit. I’m learning it’s okay to skip a night at the pool to have dinner with an old friend, and it’s okay to take a break from writing for a couple of hours to play darts with my husband. It’s all about not getting trapped in the damaging patterns of obsession.