I ran into a hiccup last week. This time it was a particularly large hiccup when anxiety got the best of me and inhibited my work pattern. I was lucky enough to find some creative advice from Austin Kleon in his blog, a post titled "Pointing At Things." It is really hard to quote Austin here because he spends most of his time quoting others. He says,
"The artist sees something and she points to it so you can see it, too."
This is the kind of post that gets me thinking, "Well, that's not hard. I can point at things." It is positive and uplifting and now I should feel ready to get my Kim Jung Ung on.
But I don't. It is often during this struggle to change, to do something better or do something different, that anxiety hits the hardest. It is like I am trying to run a mile faster than I ran the mile before. I am prepared to make micro adjustments and I know what the micro adjustments are, but every time I get into position I stop and think, "Nope. Not ready." Or I take off only to stop again down the road and think, "Something is not right."
In this moment it is easy to blame myself. I not only accuse myself of being unable to run faster, but make the astounding claim that I could never run to begin with. In an article by Ana Sandoiu she explains the importance of making stress your friend.
"Instead of seeing stress as your enemy, you can make it work for you. Stress and anxiety are nothing but a sign that you care about something, and this care can be molded into something that wildly improves your performance instead of inhibiting it."
I often need to remind myself that anxiety is a growing pain. When I was a child and I felt any kind of pain in my legs or arms at night, my mother would call them "Growing Pains." The term was actually comforting because growth is a good thing. It is less frightening than pain without a cause or due to sickness or declining health.
I want to put my attention from pain to growth. When I feel anxiety I know that I care, that I am putting a lot of work and intention into my growth, and I know that is the best way to improve.
"No Pain, No Gain."
Regardless, I will seek to avoid anxiety as much as possible.
The final strategy that Ana Sandoiu suggests is to "find what feels good." She means that not every strategy works for every person and there are perhaps as many strategies as there are anxious people.
Sometimes I need to step back and just do things the way that I do them. When I step back I often discover that I can incorporate new strategies without anxiety inhibiting me. I only needed to give myself permission to work freely.