Self-imposed anxiety. A character trait I’ve only recently started uncovering in my brain.
When my mind is idle, I create things to worry about. Like it’s something to keep me busy when I’m bored.
In the past, I have suffered from depression, OCD, and an eating disorder– mental states that made chaos and anxiety feel “normal.” Days, weeks, years went by where stress and anxiety just became part of my day to day life.
Stress became the foundation of my waking hours. As normal as oxygen. As normal as a heartbeat. As normal as blinking.
Fast forward to now. I’m in a much more stable brain-space (thank you journaling, drawing, exposure to challenges, and God) and have discovered a lot about HOW my thoughts develop.
When faced with boredom or stress, I find I’m easily tempted to revert back to my old “normal.”
Anxiety was my identity for so long, that sometimes I feel bizarre without it. Living in a “neutral,” peaceful state sometimes feels wrong; almost like I have to create something to worry about in order to feel like myself.
I know it sounds weird, but if you’ve suffered from mental disorders, you know how comforting those old ways can be when you’re faced with indecision or stress…even if those old ways are self-destructive.
Picture hiking in a foreign landscape. You slip on some rocks and find yourself holding on to the edge of a cliff.
In this scenario, you wouldn’t have time to think. Adrenaline would be pumping, ‘fight or flight’ would kick in. Without wasting time or energy to think, your primitive brain would take over.
Through countless life experiences, you’ve exposed your brain to safe and dangerous objects. In the chaos, your brain would hone-in on anything its identified as “safe” or “familiar”– footholds, ropes, stable rocks, you name it.
What your brain labels as “safe” will be the default response in chaos.
So going back to anxiety–
Old behaviors may still be identified as something familiar/safe, and out of habit, the behaviors become a foothold in chaos.
The key is to force our brains to “unlearn” those norms.
In stress or idleness, I’m now relinquishing my former default responses.
Ironically, creating more anxiety used to give me a sense of control. Now I’m realizing it only made me more stressed. Day by day, I’m learning how to navigate these thoughts and redefine old patterns.
It’s hard making the active decision to be happy. It’s hard living in the neutral. But I’d rather fight anxiety than make my life wayyyy more complicated than needed.
Highs and lows are part of every day human life…but there’s no need to create more lows than necessary just because some little voice in your brain is trying to convince you that it will make things better.
As I’m navigating through my twenties and learning more about who I am, I’m finding it easier to embrace that peace, thrive in neutrality, and soak up times in my life when NOTHING is going wrong. 🙂
And with that, I’m off to enjoy my day! 😀 Hope you enjoy yours, too!!
I leave you with a few questions–
What old norms are you trying to redefine in you noggin? Do you battle with living in neutrality?