April Anxiety Tip#1: Stress Happens
Ironies of ironies. On the morning I planned to publish my first post in my “April Anxiety Challenge” my suddenly non-responsive computer gave me anxiety.
I am really good with computers. I use them every day, usually for hours a day. But this morning, my computer screen went black and resisted multiple efforts at resuscitation.
I had a long list of important to-do’s that all required the computer. Bad timing for my computer to go down—but then when would it be good timing for my computer to stop functioning.
Maybe we need a whole new category of stress. We have performance anxiety, and social anxiety. Maybe we need a “technology anxiety” label for stress caused by technology glitches and challenges. Especially given how much of our modern lives revolve around computers, tablets, phones . . ..
The good news is I got a chance to practice what I preach. My anti-anxiety skills helped me calm down, clear my head, and find a solution.
Stress happens. It happens every day in ways small and large.
There are going to be problems arise throughout each day. The question isn’t whether there will be problems. The question is: how will you respond to the problems?
Stress and anxiety are rooted in fear.
When my computer screen was unexpectedly black, fears that flashed through my mind were:
- fear that I wouldn’t get my 1st anxiety blog post out in the time frame I wanted it to go out in (which was early morning)
- fear that I wouldn’t get my monthly Profit and Loss statement out to the accountant before the cut off that instigates an additional fee
- fear that I wasn’t going to get my estore orders fulfilled timely
- fear that my computer was totally dead
Stress and anxiety tend to cloud your thinking.
I felt my anxiety ramp up after a few times of hitting the computer power off and then back on sequence kept resulting in a black screen. It ramped up more when I got no response from tapping various keys on the keyboard.
My anti-anxiety skills kicked in. I made myself stop. I automatically took a couple of head-clearing deep breaths.
I came up with a step to take toward a solution.
I called the computer guy that helps me once in a while. I got voicemail. It didn’t look good for a rescue.
Again, I stopped, took a couple more deep breaths, and saw some more steps to take.
I got out my old computer to google “pc screen black after startup.” (I probably could have used my phone but I’m spoiled by usually having a much more rewarding search capability with my computer and frankly didn’t even think of my phone.) After a couple of unsuccessful fix attempts stimulated by tech service, blogger, and youtube advice, I found a sequence of steps that worked.
Yeah! It does feel so good to solve a problem.
Play the ball where it lies
After I solved the computer problem, I needed to regroup. Reexamine my priorities. Accept that I am going to have to pay a small penalty fee for not getting my Profit and Loss statement sent on time. And let go of my self-imposed deadline to get this blog post done early in the day.
My regrouping also involved deciding to write about this experience as the first instalment of my “April Anxiety Challenge,” instead of using any of the many other topics I had cued up for that position.
Having the flexibility to play the ball where it lies is another skill that reduces stress and anxiety.
If we expect our days to go smoothly, we are going to fear problems. Then, the fear of problems in general will add on to and compound whatever fears might be directly attached to the specific problems themselves.
When I say “expect problems,” I don’t mean with foreboding. I mean in a calm, “It will be OK. I’ll get through it. It’s just part of life” way.
Wisdom from “The Martian”
I haven’t seen the move “The Martian” except for promos that played frequently during award season. I found one particular scene very inspiring when it comes to a shift in attitude about problems.
Mark Watney, Matt Damon’s character in “The Martian,” survives what seems like insurmountable problems, by not being shocked that problems are there:
“At some point, everything's gonna go south on you... everything's going to go south and you're going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That's all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem... and you solve the next one... and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home. All right, questions?”
In the Martian’s case, he really was working through life and death problems, but most of our problems aren’t about ultimate physical survival. They’re about surviving financially, emotionally, mentally, . . . about keeping a love we want, protecting our ego, achieving a goal, . . . about figuring out how to build a building that will stay standing, how to put the dishes in the dishwasher “right,” . . .
Our problems may not be as life-or-death as Mark Whatney’s, but our life very much involves solving one problem . . . and then another . . .and then the another. And when we solve the problems we get a benefit. (We get to “go home” figuratively, even if not so literally as he did.)
Problems happen. Embrace the experience. Enjoy the learning.
Upcoming posts in the April Anxiety Challenge
In upcoming posts this month, I’ll get more into the specifics of explaining anxiety and how to reduce it, anti-anxiety relaxation skills and lifestyle choices, and more.
Planned topics include:
- How to Stretch Your Comfort Zone
- 5 Anti-Anxiety Relaxation Skills
- The Dichotomous Thinking Right/Wrong Trap
- Try is Not a 4-Letter Word
- Vitamin D, The Anti-Anxiety Vitamin
- The Link Between Alcohol and Anxiety
- Ann Silvers