On anxiety: There but for the grace of God go I.

overcoming anxiety

Do you struggle with anxiety, like I do?

It’s my lifelong demon. I’m not sure I’d know what to do without it, though. I fear that without it, I wouldn’t be me. It’s my fuel, my food. Always lighting a fire under my butt to get stuff done, to try to get ahead. Staying one step ahead of my anxiety lets me not feel like I am drowning.

I have weapons to control it from getting out of hand. One of them is endorphins. There’s nothing like running for that. I don’t actually like running, I just like endorphins.

Years ago I wrote about staying in lower Manhattan for Thanksgiving and being the one to discover a dead body in the Hudson River. It wasn’t much of a Thanksgiving, for that guy. Usually, though, we stay very near Times Square so I can run, in a mile or less, to Central Park in the morning. What a fabulous oasis in possibly the dirtiest, loudest, most crowded city in the U.S.

Kudos to New Yorkers for protecting that amazing space all these years.

When I was a kid, I didn’t sleep at night. I lay there worrying about my grades, my upcoming piano recital, my brothers being sick, whether they would die of it, whether I’d catch it if I was breathing in the same room they were. Very frankly, I was in total anguish most of my childhood.

To survive, I have come up with strategies my whole life. One, of course, is a lot of green juice. I always feel better, happier even, the greener I eat. Sugar, especially corn syrup, is deadly. It’s a guarantee that the next morning, I’ll wake up having a panic attack.

Last month I was at BlogHer in New York City. I was chatting with my colleagues as we took a taxi into town. I had nothing to do with making the hotel reservations, so I hadn’t oriented myself to what part of town we were in. Consequently, I worked out in the hotel gym the next two mornings before spending all day at the conference.

By the third morning, my spirits had sunk a bit. It’s what happens when I’m trapped in a city of skyscrapers where the air smells like exhaust and I can’t see any trees.

overcoming anxiety

The third morning, though, I went outside having no idea if we were anywhere near anything but concrete. Feeling a little desperate . . .

Imagine my surprise to see THIS! I was literally two blocks from Central Park. How did I not know this? How did I spend two stifling mornings running like a hamster on a conveyor belt? When there was THIS!

I was so excited to discover my proximity to freedom. To not have to leap over smelly sewer grates for blocks and blocks, with people flipping me off, on the long gauntlet that is life in New York City. Just two short blocks to where the air is clean and you can swing your legs without kicking someone.

It seems metaphorical for Life. Sometimes a change is so close. You think you’re trapped and you feel so claustrophobic, and then you just push outside the lines enough to discover that there’s as much oxygen as you can gulp in and fabulous trees and a lake just right around the corner.

overcoming anxietyIt’s not just endorphins I get from running. It’s the unstructured time I have to practice gratitude. I don’t mean I just think of something I am grateful for. I mean I meditate my way into a deep, flowing place of ecstatic consciousness, mind-blown by all the good I see in the details around me. This, more than anything, takes me far from the fear and anxiety I’ve been running from since my earliest memory.

I see this guy and feel the pain of the humans on this planet who sleep in a park because they don’t have a home. And I feel grateful for a bed and central heat in the winter. There but for the grace of God go I.overcoming anxiety

I see this view and am blown away by the sudden natural beauty that exists in an urban space where 10,000 people sleep and work on every city block.

overcoming anxietyI look down and see my feet before I go back into the hotel. And I’m amazed they’ve been carrying me around, 10,000 steps a day, for the many years I’ve been trotting around the globe. My feet look amazing today, reminding me that they go EVERYWHERE. Thank you, feet—I rarely think about you unless you hurt. I’m going to change that, now.

Thank you, God.

8 thoughts on “On anxiety: There but for the grace of God go I.

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  1. Robyn, beautiful words from a beautiful lady! I don’t love running either, but am trying like mad to learn to do it well so u can get those beloved endorphins that come from it! I love how you see the world and how you share it with us!

  2. Dear Robyn,
    Loved your insightful words … often fighting with anxiety myself, unfortunately … I’ll re-order a daily green smoothie as of tomorrow here at Paracelsus Clinica al Ronc!
    Used to run a lot, but Runners Knee (etc.) is holding me back at present!
    Kindest regards,

  3. By the time I reached my upper teens my family had gone through several hugely traumatic events and I started to experience uncontrollable bouts of fear. I didn’t know were they came from or how to manage them. My Mother was an exceptionally wise woman, who didn’t know anything about it either, but she patiently listened to me when I needed her. She saw how white I turned and tucked me into bed and gave me comfort and an emotional sanctuary. This went on for a while, until one day I lost my patience and got really angry about this debilitating situation.
    A curious thing happened. My fear diminished. This happened every time I got angry at my anxiety.

    I practiced this anger toward my fear after that, and I have never had anxiety attacks since then – and we’re talking decades now. I’m still not sure how to explain it, but I believe that fear creates an illusion of helplessness in us and we start to run from it. In addition, our emotions are dominated by hormone production and our endocrine system loses its balance by overproducing adrenaline and cortizol in an effort to help us, but then can’t stop itself. What I think happened was similar to what a victim does when he/she turns and confronts a bully, rather than taking evasive action. I turned around and regained control over myself and probably started to produce the correct hormones to stop the abundant overrun of stress hormones.
    I feel for anyone going through this, maybe this will help someone. Wishing you well.

    1. Kathy, interesting! That anger cures anxiety for you! I read this quote once:

      Fear is just excitement, without the breath.

      When I take deep breaths, anxiety dissipates. It seems to help a lot!

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