How are you doing this week? I’ve been trying to find that thoughtful middle place between setting impossible goals during quarantine, and abandoning my efforts all together.
Because that’s the thing about anxiety. It can trick us into thinking we’re more capable or less capable than we actually are. It tells me I’m lazy for not cranking out an article after watching a kid all day. But anxiety also thinks I should ask my husband for help with small tasks that I am perfectly capable of handling.
I think most of us can say that recent anxiety has influenced our perception of reality, our understanding of our own capability to navigate a global problem. The more time you spend in isolation, the more space your imagination has to run wild and leap to conclusions.
I’ve created a list of examples of how we can lose touch with reality in this anxious time. Do any of these examples remind you of yourself?
You’ve Forgotten How Capable Others Are.
· You started giving your spouse advice on their work.
· You told your partner how to structure their day.
· You did your kid’s homework for them.
· You lectured family members on how to stay safe.
· You took responsibility for everyone’s anxiety.
You’ve Forgotten How Capable You Are.
· You borrowed advice from experts w/o considering your own thinking.
· You asked partner to do things you can do for yourself.
· You became less patient and less creative as a parent.
· You treated minor problems as disasters.
· You asked friends to calm you down and reassure you.
You’ve Started to Mindread.
· You assumed you’re annoying friends when you reach out to them.
· You guessed your boss is frustrated with you.
· You thought friends and family needed help before asking them.
· You assumed the pandemic will traumatize your kid.
· You assumed others aren’t taking the pandemic as seriously as you are.
You’ve Become Hyperfocused on a Problem.
· You obsessed over home repair or organization.
· You tried to become an educational expert for your kid.
· You constantly checked in on a family member you’re worried about.
· You obsessed over securing and cleaning groceries.
· You incessantly monitored COVID-19 statistics.
These are just some of the flavors of anxiety. Your anxiety wants you to assume that everyone (including yourself) is less capable than they really are. Your anxiety makes judgements based on little to no evidence. It’s convinced that solving a single problem is the key to eliminating all your distress.
Recognizing your anxious functioning can help you look for opportunities to interrupt it. Because every human interaction, every moment of distress, is an invitation to bring your own maturity and a little more reality into the equation. To spray a little bit of thoughtfulness onto the fire of panic.
More thoughtful functioning during a crisis can look like:
· Giving people space to show you they’re capable.
· Not losing sight of your own capability.
· Operating based on facts and not the “what ifs.”
· Zooming out to see all the variables that contribute to anxiety.
What are your own principles for staying in touch with reality in these anxious times? Taking some time to write them down can help you remember your best thinking when you feel panicked or overwhelmed. Give you yourself the opportunity to be surprised by your own resilience, and by everyone else’s. Because I suspect we are all much more capable than we give ourselves credit for.
News from Kathleen
· Listen to my interview on the Notes and Quotes podcast. I talk about why I used a Viktor Frankl quote in my book, and what I think it has to do with living in an anxious world. (recorded pre-pandemic)
· Listen to my interview with Dr. Sheryl Ziegler on her podcast. This was recorded during the pandemic.
New Anxiety Journal! The folks at Hachette Books have helped me create a new, free digital resource to supplement your reading of my book, Everything Isn’t Terrible. It’s called Calming Down & Growing Up: A 30-Day Anxiety Journal, and it includes thirty daily prompts to help you reflect on and respond to your anxious behaviors, using the ideas in Everything Isn’t Terrible.
To get a copy of the digital journal, you can submit a copy of your receipt for my book at the Hachette page, and they’ll send you it to you.
Buy my book! If you haven't gotten your copy of Everything Isn't Terrible yet, you can buy it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indiebound, Target, or anywhere you buy books! But I encourage you to support your local indie bookstore. The book is also available in e-book and audio book form.
If you're new to the newsletter, you can check out my website for past newsletters about anxiety and relationships. You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, or email me if you have questions about the book, want me to speak to your group, or want to learn more about my therapy practice in Washington, DC. You can also visit the Bowen Center’s website to learn more about Bowen theory, as well their conferences and training programs.