Fear of the known

 

Have you ever noticed how fear and anticipation is often far worse than the event itself? What is it that makes us so nervous in anticipation yet strangely calm during the moment? Anxiety does not make sense.

I often have the same feeling before scuba diving. How many times have I missed a dive due to “not feeling well this morning” when actually it was nerves that was the problem. I worry about the physical exertion required to get into that tight heavy kit. I worry about being able to control my asthma on the walk to the beach, boat or entry point. I worry about the cold water, the current, the salt water getting in my eyes. I worry about getting cramp during the dive. I love diving, I have done over 350 with no incident.

I sometimes get the same feeling before getting on my motorbike. But why?  I am an advanced motorcycle rider, years since my last, minor accident. Notice I said “before” getting on my bike as the event itself if exhilarating. I would say fear of the unknown. But this is fear of the known. Yes there is the possibility of an unknown incident but that is not the issue. It’s the known that is causing the problem.

That was the issue recently, and has been for many months now. Going to work everyday feeling sick, with trembling hands. Little sleep the night before, waking up in the middle of the night rearranging my diary in my mind. How do you keep this up long term? You don’t, you break down, physically and mentally. Change is absolutely essential.

Out of pure necessity I made a decision to cut back my working hours. It hasn’t actually solved the problem so much as reduced the frequency. I was a little naive in thinking that doing less of something would make the remaining time acceptable. It doesn’t, it just means you have bad sleep and nausea less often. It needed to be done, you know decisions are needed when half the time your blood pressure is through the roof.

Three weeks into my new routine and changes have been made. I know in advance when I will be going to the gym. Days have been allocated for writing my blog and my art classes are booked. There is free time for getting out on my motorbike, and time to practice my painting. Most important my blood pressure is down.

Planning ahead relieves a lot of stress, it gives order to your life. Work is now restricted to two days a week, with real life occupying the rest of the week. Those two days are still extremely difficult and time need to be put into managing anxiety. I have started using the Headspace app to relax before and after work. So far it is having positive results though time will tell. Im still in the initial stages and will post a review when more work has been done.

How do you manage your anxiety? Does routine help or do you prefer to be more spontaneous?

Steve

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