There are no words to describe the feeling of waking up in the morning with no worries. At first, it started to worry me… how can my mind be without worry… I must be forgetting something. But I caught myself falling into the old habit, and actively decided to just let it go, and enjoy the moment.
Waking up to a calm mind that is not racing, ruminating or over-processing things is new to me. What a wonderful feeling it is!
It’s not because I won the lottery. It’s not because stress has magically disappeared from my life. It’s not because certain people have suddenly found the exit door from my life.
Do I have things to worry about? Yes I do, but I don’t let them linger like they used to.
I remember being taken to the doctor’s office when I was 12 because I frequently suffered from stomach aches. After an abdominal exam and not finding anything, the doctor’s advice was to stop worrying so much otherwise I’d develop an ulcer.
But there was so much to worry about: Getting good grades, pleasing my parents, getting my homework done on time, fitting in at my new school, being the “husky” kid, being the shortest boy in my class.
And as the years went on, my worries changed, but worry was a constant: maintaining a good average in high school to get into university, choosing a major in university, completing university to get a good job, the first work assignment, the first apartment, money management, the first car, paying my dues at work, health, relationships, the second apartment, noisy neighbours, the third apartment, car repairs, illness in the family, the first house purchase, home renovations, dog poo in my yard (and I don’t own a dog)… you get the picture.
At any point, I had a stack of worries circulating through my mind, but that seemed normal to me.
Along the way, I had read several self-help books and taken stress management courses to develop a tool kit to help keep my cool and to keep me grounded. Things seemed to be in check, but worry still followed me around even in the quietest, most relaxed moments.
It was in 2014 that my body (and the universe) screamed at me that I was not handling my stress properly when I developed a bad case of shingles. It was a sign, but I wasn’t sure what to do about it.
But a year later, when my piled-up worries had my mind constantly racing, anxiety started to surface. This led to my first panic attacks and my wake-up call to seek help. For me, those panic attacks were the worst feeling in the world. I didn’t want to feel that again.
My family doctor referred me to a psychotherapist, to talk it out with a professional. It was the best thing for me to vent about the worries that followed me around that, even after 50 years’ experience on this planet, I couldn’t figure out how to resolve.
At first it seemed like my worries were all over the map and seemingly unrelated. It took a few sessions to get them all out, a process which in itself helped me feel better.
With the help of a professional, digging together through my past, I came to realize that my stressors weren’t as unrelated as I thought. They all traced back to very small number of probable root causes. After a few critical sessions of talking about just those root causes, dealing with them and learning to cope with them, everything changed.
It didn’t happen overnight, it took time and it took patience. But it was the best investment ever.
Looking back, the compounding of worrying was exhausting. Yet, it had crept up so slowly on me, I didn’t notice it happening until my energy was completely tapped out.
When the root causes were dealt with, it’s like my mind has had the biggest de-cluttering and spring cleaning of my life. I’m sure Marie Kondo would be proud!
Some worries disappeared, while others are now neatly contained and compartmentalized. And should worrying thoughts ever escape from their boxes, I have better tools to deal with them now.
Once the big problems were dealt with, the small problems seemed even smaller, where previously they were just added to the mountain, which made them feel bigger.
Once the little ones were dealt with or I chose to let them go, I found clarity, calmness and stillness that I didn’t know was even possible.
Plus I established boundaries around distractions that don’t contribute to my positive energy. I have limited my exposure to news, politics and social media, substituting it instead with masterpieces of books, movies, music and art to enrich my mind, my heart and my soul.
Could new worries develop? I believe some could. Life is like that.
But now, with a clear mind and more relaxed outlook, I am better equipped to recognize the beginning of worrying thoughts and to deal with them right away rather than letting them fester and grow into unmanageable monsters.
In recent months, I have been standing up for myself more, I have been exercising better judgement in picking my battles, and I have spoken up for causes that were important to me, always in calm, professional, tactful and diplomatic terms.
I have said “no” more and the best part is that I have not felt guilty about it. And when I have said no, it wasn’t accompanied by 100 reasons to justify why not. This is huge!
With that, I feel more confident, not only in myself, but in my ability to deal with the unexpected.
After the big de-cluttering, my mind feels lighter. I feel a sense of freedom I didn’t know I was lacking.
I feel far more “in the moment” to appreciate and enjoy time with my family, my friends and my colleagues. Now, there is more room in my mind for joy, gratitude, empathy and creativity.
I finally feel the healing begin.
I don’t want to oversimplify the process of seeking professional help for the sake of a blog post. It took courage, it took work and it sometimes required opening old wounds. But the state of calm I now feel as the end result was worth every second invested in that journey.
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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,