3AM. My husband was sleeping soundly beside me while I lay awake. I wanted to sleep more than anything but couldn’t seem to do it. It was like I had drank twelve cups of coffee when I haven’t had a drop of regular in years. My hands shook as I puttered around my iPhone listlessly, hating that I’d be spending the next day at work with keyed up nerves. Why was this happening to me? What was going in my life that was making sleep nothing but a dream?
If this sounds a little too familiar you might be one of the millions of anxiety sufferers losing sleep today. Like pain, sleeplessness and numerous other anxiety symptoms are often a sign that something is up. Unlike pain, however, the “up” doesn’t always have to be physical. It could be almost anything. But some psychologists believe that prolonged anxiety and depression are caused by a subconscious dissatisfaction of life. Weather you know it or not, something is not working out like you had hoped. So, how can you fix this?
First, Take a deep breath. Deep breathing can lessen the feelings of panic and help make this process easier.
Second, you have to look into yourself and ask a lot of important questions. Is this what I expected my job to be like? Am I really happy with my spouse or partner? Is there a sad anniversary coming up that I’m forgetting? This may take a long time, or no time, but it is always important to do.
Third, after finding the source of your stress you have to then find ways to relieve it. This is not an easy task, but if you work hard and believe in yourself you can do it!!
For me I had figured out that my stress was caused by my job. I was a college graduate working at a position usually held by high school kids. This is NOT what I wanted my profession to be. But quitting was not so easy because the same subconscious that was causing my problem, was also complicating it as well. All thanks to my animus.
Psychologist Carl Jung describes the animus as a female’s composite of the many men in her life and he can often dole out fatherly advice. My animus was telling me that I should suck it up and keep working. But I knew that I couldn’t. So, in order to sooth my animus I had to find logical ways to get out of my crappy job without him calling me a quitter.
I looked for other work, I thought about what I might do if I left, and finally, after many weeks of restless searching I found the key: six months. If you have worked in a position for less than six months you can safely leave it off your resume without future employers batting an eye. Since I only worked five months I could make a clean break. I put in my two weeks notice and have since been happier and well rested.
But I was fortunate. My husband had a good job that paid him well enough for me to even consider quitting. But what if that was not case? What if we needed the money despite all the stress working for it caused? How could I deal with my anxiety then?
For that, I would have to turn to Victor Frankl, a father of Logotherapy. He believes that the main cause of anxiety or stress is a life void of meaning. But how can I find meaning when I feel the situation is essentially meaningless? Change my attitude. But how?
According to Frankl our lives can become meaningless when what we SHOULD BE doing is so far from what we ARE doing that it cannot be bridged. We have to merge the two so we “should do” becomes what we “are” doing.
I know that for me, I SHOULD have a job that helps people. Instead all my job DID was get people through a checkout line. But maybe if I bagged their items faster or chatted with them more I could help turn a mundane errand into something a little more pleasant. Or, I could do my best to be the clerk that finally finds the item they have been searching the stores for. Or, again, I could be the worker that restocks the shelves with every returned item so the other clerks wouldn’t have to stay late. All of these not only help people, but also help me find meaning AND ease my anxiety.
So the next time you feel anxious remember to relax, breathe, and remind yourself that every life has meaning if you’re willing to find it.
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/abstrato/418493178