Anxiety And The New Job

Indulge me a moment.

Monday night I lay in bed working myself up into a good deal of anxiety about work. Didn't I quit the job that makes me anxious? Yes, yes I did, and I'm in a great job now. I like the work I'm being asked to do so much that I worry about not doing it well enough. Monday night I blew past anxious almost to panic. It's no wonder my dreams were frantic and in each of them I was helpless.

My inclination in such times is to shut up, hide, and hope no one notices. That's led to some predictable results. Sometimes I get through, but the anxiety seed takes root and waits to bloom again. Other times things fail to detonate, like a kid waiting and waiting for his lie to be exposed (not that I've had childhood experience with that, no not me). Still other times the whole thing blows up.

Tuesday morning I woke figuring I would go with the usual plan. Habits. But, in the waiting room of my daughter's MRI, I read a Harvard Business Review article "What Makes A Leader?" (subscriber only link, sorry) about emotional intelligence and leadership. Good leaders show "a propensity for reflection and thoughtfulness," something I like I'm well practiced i doing. I was still feeling anxiety from Monday night, so I stopped reading to acknowledge that.

Then I wondered, now what?

Here's a lot of why I like my job: I have four people to whom I report and I talked with two of them today. I told them about my anxiety and not only did they wave it off as nonsense but they assured me I'm doing well and suggested ways forward. Both also offered specific assistance instead of "anything I can do, let me know."

This is my new job. In my old job, it was all too easy to be alone in my anxiety. In my old job I had to hide from management. In my new job I work with leaders. What a difference.

I still feel like I have to do a better job, but I get that I need to grow into things, and I'm pretty sure I'll get there. I know I've got help. I expect to sleep better tonight.

Thanks for listening to my therapy session. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program already in progress.

Frantic Doesn't Help

There's a lot to do and learn, a whole bunch of uncertainty, and more than the usual number of things gnawing on my mind, so how about I get frantic. Yeah, that'll help.

I've had a half-caffeine coffee this morning and trouble sleeping last night. Maybe that has something to do with the worry and panic coming to a boil within me. I'm like a pan of rice. The water in me is boiling, I've added the dry rice of my to-do list, and though I've lower the heat some my anxiety continues to bubble and boil. The boiling water is flushed out from under the lid by the pressure and it hisses in the flames of the burner, maybe blowing them out, poison gas filling my kitchen.

A morning such as this, I've put the top on but things threaten to boil over. I have choices: hold the cover down in hopes the heat slackens or cock the lid to let some heat and pressure escape. There's only one sensible choice, but I push down on the cover wishing trouble away.

Okay, maybe I'm not that dumb. In the midst of this rising panic, I switched from rushing through work, boiling in my anxiety, to writing this. That may leave space between pan and lid, allow steam to quietly escape, and bring down the pressure. Maybe.

I keep running into that word: maybe. I wonder if it comes from feeling doubtful about so many things or being open to possibility. When the pressure is up I'm sure it's the former. When I calm down I know that it's the latter.

Maybe doesn't apply to whether or not I'll be okay, whether or not I'll learn how to do a new job, whether or not I'm able. I've done more difficult things. I've come through troubles and this is decidedly not trouble. It's a good challenge.

There's also no maybe around whether or not I'll feel panic and anxiety from time to time. Of course I will. I'm starting new things, still dealing with old things, and living a life with a family and all the wondrous complications that involves.

The maybe comes from how I will deal with these things. The pan is on the stove. Water and rice have come to a rolling boil. Through the glass lid I see the white bubbles froth. Steam spurts out time to time and rattles the lid. Maybe I'll deal with the situation before it boils over and makes a mess. Maybe I'll make a mess and clean it up later. Either way, I suspect I'll manage. Being frantic, though it feels like my natural inclination, won't help much. Might as well calm down and have some decaf.

Why Are You Here?

In bed Sunday morning at quarter to eight I felt anxious that I was late. I had nowhere to go, nothing to do, but the feeling rose in me nonetheless. I closed my eyes tight but darkness made the anxiety stronger. Then I asked it a question:

        Why are you here?

Yeah, I talked to my anxiety. Usually I battle it, push against it, try to tamp it down. I try to stop anxiety, kick it in the knees. What else is there to do with something I fear? These things rarely work but are the habits I've developed. Today I took a different tack. I talked with it the way I want people to talk with me.

        Why are you here?

In case you're worried, my anxiety doesn't reply. There is however a child-like voice in me that said, I don't know. And with that my anxiety began to drain away. It didn't disappear in a flash but I felt it ebbing. Having asked the question, gotten something of an answer, I opened my eyes and felt ready to get out of bed. I had writing to do.

When In Doubt, Run

This afternoon I got stuck. I had been doing paperwork and paying bills. My job starts again tomorrow and I don't like working there. The temperature and humidity are way up. The anxiety of not knowing what to do chewed on me.

Then I went for a run.

I haven't run in a few days. I've been too tired, anxious, and hot. I'm tired today, kind of anxious, and pretty hot, but, without thinking, I went upstairs, changed into running shorts, strapped on my running sandals and watch, went out, and jogged down the street.

Those who don't run won't believe this, but my fatigue, anxiety, and discomfort were gone within a hundred yards. I hadn't solved the underlying problems, but they just didn't matter as I focused on the rhythms of my steps and breathing.

Back home now, it's hot enough that I'm dripping in sweat even after a shower, but most of my anxiety is gone and I'm full of vim and vigor. I still have to go to my job tomorrow. I can run but not hide from that.

Running is my thing. My daughter swims. My other daughter sings and dances. My wife walks. Do what you love to do, especially when you're anxious and thinking that you just can't. I say this knowing all the times I've felt that I couldn't follow that advice. I'm saying it as much for my benefit as yours. I need to be reminded.

When in doubt, run.