How Heavy Is It?

Apr 11, 2015 by

          Since I’m so good at making myself anxious for little reason, I also need to be good at calming myself down. Relaxing anxious thoughts is something that I actively work on. I have to. If I let my mind run to the places it used to, I’d still be crying on a bathroom floor. There are many anti-anxiety tactics, all of which come down to changing your perspective on the object of your stress. For me, what works best is talking to myself, whether that be aloud in my car (my car is privy to a lot of conversations between myself and I) or through writing. It helps me deduce my anxiety to the route of the problem, so I know what actions I need to take to address it. Honestly, most times the problem is just me making something small bigger than it is. Sometimes, there’s no problem at all, so talking to myself helps me see that the pressure I’m feeling, usually physically embedded in my chest, is simply a result of getting accustomed to being on edge.

          Even if you aren’t prone to anxiety, you may know the feeling. It’s the byproduct of holding on to a stressor for too long. There are times that I get so used to having to cope with something, that even when I’m done dealing with it, I still experience its resultant stress. It’s like I’m stressed because I feel as though I’m supposed to be stressed, simply because I’ve gotten used to the stress being there. That’s why I have to talk to myself. My mind doesn’t just let go on its own. I have to instruct it to. I have to make a choice to drop something, and then I have to remind myself that there’s nothing left to hold. Almost a month ago, one of my friends, knowing I was feeling anxious, sent me this quoted analogy:

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?” Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz. She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change; but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while, and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer, and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you feel paralyzed, incapable of doing anything.” It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses. As early in the evening as you can, put all of your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the evening and into the night. Remember to put the glass down.

          By far, the hardest stressors for me to drop are people. If I sense that I’m on weird terms with someone (because sometimes it’s not crystal) or I downright know it, I need to feel like the air is clear in order to relax. Fortunately, I’m learning that the other person’s cooperation isn’t necessary for me to breathe clean air. I can do that on my own by dropping my hopes and expectations. It’s one of those things much easier said than done, because if clean air is at all desired, you surely care about the person you need to let go.

          It’s helped that I’ve come to the understanding that missing someone prompts two basic options: maintaining my sanity and driving myself batshit. I usually start with the latter by default of my tendency toward anxiety. But once I’ve had enough of that – and I’ve had increasingly less patience for it, especially lately – I come to a decision to stop caring about the outcome. Whether or not that person will be around in the future is not my present concern. That person is absent now, and my top priority is always to be happy in the now. The lead-up to the decision to stop worrying about the future of a relationship with someone, to drop the glass, is emotionally taxing. Getting there, though, means oxygen being absorbed by your lungs again. It means relieving the pressure that resided in your chest, at least from that particular stressor. You have to remember to drop the others too, whether they be people or circumstances or grammar (#mylife), and you have to aim to do so before they get too heavy; because, in addition to becoming accustomed to stress, the mind can do the reverse: get so used to not worrying that it forgets to.

Happiness Tip: Drop your glasses.

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