It’s been an odd year, hasn’t it? Spring is here finally after one of the strangest winters in recent memory. How many times this winter did I look out the door and wonder what the heck is going on? When will it ever end?
We humans like to know what to expect. We like our lives to be predictable and consistent. Even those of us with a sense of adventure find comfort in places and situations that are familiar and that feel manageable. When you toss something new our way like odd weather, work stress, social unrest, relationship conflict or nearly any moment on the ever-changing journey of parenting, we get anxious, worried, withdrawn or irritable.
Anxiety and worry are on the continuum of fear – a range with mild nervousness on one end and abject terror on the other. The telltale signs of anxiety and worry include the all-too-familiar crankiness, impatience, irritability, sullen silence or demanding pushiness – often toward those we care most about.
Managing fear is a critical skill for us to survive in an unpredictable and uncooperative world. (I wonder if we all were better at fear management, if there would be less need for anger management.)
Consider this familiar situation: You are driving down a two-lane highway at 55 mph. The cars coming the opposite way are traveling the same speed. When they go by you are within maybe 6 feet of a 110 mph collision! And at best, you have only 50% control over what happens. Why doesn’t this common situation make us a whole not more nervous that it does?
This probably happens to most of us many times a week but we give it very little thought. Even though it is dangerous, it is familiar, we are used to it. We know the potential risks and we what we can do to stay safe, even though that may not be enough to prevent an accident. Somehow it seems manageable. Worry about it does not take over our day or overly distract our attention.
It is amazing to realize that this common, potentially life-threatening situation happens to us day after day and we hardly even notice it. When we have experience with a situation, and we have the knowledge and skill that we need to manage what our portion of it, we can relax and anxiety and worry about it does not take over. In fact, it becomes routine. Our knowledge, skill and experience are antidotes to fear.
What are you anxious, nervous or irritable about today? What information can you gather or skills can you practice that will help you manage your internal climate, so you can relax knowing you will act in the best possible way when the time for action comes?
Northern Illinois Men’s Counseling stands ready to coach, support, guide and challenge couples and men to be the best they can be. Call, text or e-mail if you have questions. When you are ready, you can schedule an appointment through the website without the hassle of phone tag.