Anxiety is a bitch.
And it’s amazing how much of it we create for, in, and by ourselves.
I was thinking about this because as I’m about to become a new father I’m getting asked two questions a lot:
- Are you ready?
- Are you nervous?
And the answer to both of those questions is “no”.
Stop Creating Stress
Now, believe me, I’m trying like heck to get ready. I’m actually writing this in my home office/half-set-up-nursery. And yes, I definitely have moments where I dive down the rabbit-hole of what-ifs and hypotheticals.
But I also hear from a lot of people that you can’t really be ready for parenthood until you’re thrust into it. If that’s true, no amount of freaking out is going to help me prepare now. Then it seems to me that I should do what I can now, and then do my best when he comes. There’s really no advantage that comes from panicking.
I’m not trying to ignore the responsibility and the long list of to-dos. But if I’m going to be sleep-deprived and stressed in a couple of months, why pile on more stress now?
Having a new child is a pretty stark example of this. But there are tons of big and small stressors that we put on ourselves that don’t serve us. It’s easy to freak out when something looms in the future. It could be a big project launch, an important sales meeting, a test in school, or an event you’re planning. There will always be things that are going to happen in the future that cause us worry and anxiety.
Constantly thinking about these future events is an easy trap to get caught in. We often think that it will help us perform better. But it’s actually quite damaging. Literally. Studies have shown that consistent low levels of fight or flight hormones like cortisol have a detrimental effect on long-term health. And we don’t have the time here to cover the full gamut of emotional and psychological effects that ongoing stress can cause.
Perspective is the Anxiety-Killer
And when you accept that the anxiety isn’t going to help, you can let it go.
When you get stressed about something that is going to happen in the future, find ways to put some perspective on the event. There are many ways to release some of the anxiety of future events, like mindfulness or meditation. All of them look to unhook our attention from the future and put it on the present. And then go to work on what you can do in the present, and let the future come when it comes.
Because then you realize that you can only do what you can do.
Speaking of which, I’m going to go put together a crib…