Let everything happen to you Beauty and terror Just keep going No feeling is final ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
We can cure our anxiety by keeping our energetic exertion to levels well below what we can handle when we are in a manic, “go, go, go” mode.
My anxiety is a 6′ tall, green monster that sits in the corner of each room, knitting a long, “Thneed-like” garment. It sits, knits, looks up occasionally at me to stare disapprovingly, and knits some more. Long needles clack-clacking as the yarn works.
Messaging me telepathically: Why that and not this? Humph! Good luck pulling that off. Who do you think you are? Seriously? Get going. It’s not enough. You’re not enough. Why aren’t you moving? Get busy, soldier!
Clack, clack, clack go the needles.
When I go unconscious, I’ll let the anxiety overtake my sense of self, my thoughts, my direction. I simply respond by doing, doing, doing. Anything. Just doing. Loading up on tasks, To Dos, and actions of any and all stripes.
I try to outrun those monster messages by being supremely busy.
In go-go-go mode, I don’t hear the needles clacking. When I look up, exhausted and spent, I’ll see the monster over in the corner, but it has shrunk in size for the day and is starting to nod off. It will grow to its hideous height again in the morning, refreshed and ready to resume its onslaught.
I’ll be ready, though. I’ll write my dissertation of tomorrow’s tasks before stopping work for the day. Most likely, I’ll let that heap of work consume my thoughts overnight, simmering in the crockpot of my mind and disrupting any chance of truly restorative sleep.
As entrepreneurs and creators, it is easy for us to fall prey to the anxiety monster.
We scrutinize others’ enterprises and works and wonder if we are far enough along. Doing the right things. Creative enough. Talented enough. Others’ worlds seem so much more together than ours. We can feel shabby, behind, disorganized, and overwhelmed when we steep ourselves in comparison mode.
And like a wild horse unbridled, once we feed the monster that first crappy thought, it and we are off and running. Oh, the lengths we will go to avoid feeling.
As we flee the fire within, though, we disconnect from all feelings, not just the icky ones. Poof! goes joy, inspiration, peace, aligned movement, coherence between our brain and heart, curiosity, wonder, and connection with beauty, nature, and unconditional love.
This disconnect renders us dull, isolated…prompting us to take up buffering behaviors to numb out the resulting pain (too much work, overindulging in food/alcohol, starving ourselves from self care, etc.).
How, then, do we break the cycle and make peace with our demons…ourselves?
A couple of months ago, I was in the middle of a coaching session with one of my entrepreneur clients, and she was engaged in a full-on battle with the anxiety monster. She was exhausted, off her healthy habits and routines, and feeling a brutal combination of despondency and lack of worth (even though she was packing each moment of her day and working herself to a nub).
As she spoke, I received a wholly-formed download of a wickedly effective coaching tool: the 7″ plate℠. The second it came to my mind, I knew it was the perfect antidote for all my clients and me.
Here is how it works:
Most likely, if you have ever worked to release extra weight, you’ve read about the benefit of eating off a much smaller plate than we are accustomed to doing. Putting your food on a smaller plate tricks the brain into thinking you are eating more food than you actually are (and thereby will fool the stomach in feeling more full).
Now let’s apply this same concept to our energy, focus, and attention.
Let’s say that our typical amount of energy for doing our work is the size of a 12″ plate. If we are in “outrun anxiety/fire fleeing” mode, we will pile tasks and activities onto that plate like a teenage boy at a buffet. We will not leave any rivers of blank space in our calendars, squeezing in more and more and more.
This effectively mutes the anxiety temporarily and simultaneously our creative verve.
But, if we were to trick ourselves into believing we had a 7″ plate instead of a 12″ one, we’d hold back on overbooking, overdoing, and stretching ourselves to a razor’s edge. This leaves room for creativity, pleasure, rest, exercise, meditation, handling surprises/challenges in our businesses/personal lives, connecting with loved ones, time in nature, hobbies, and hearing ourselves think.
We’d feel “full” without gorging ourselves on doing, doing, doing.
Here is how my client described her experience of transformation with this tool:
“The 7-inch plate is a way of stepping away and looking at the portions of activities/things I was doing. I was filling up every second of my day with activities/tasks I felt were productive (since productivity is where I put a lot of my own self-worth), but you could actually use this exercise for many other things, too.
When I then looked at my days…rather than filling up every second, I left extra blank spaces (like small bites) such as 15 minutes between work meetings, nights without planned dinners, extra time to get ready, etc.
At first it was hard because there were times I wanted to “fit” more things in there…but what I quickly realized is that the extra time then gave me 3 important things I didn’t have before:
- It allowed more room for errors; if things went wrong, a meeting ran late, or I didn’t feel welI, I was not desperately running to the next thing.
- I started to truly appreciate the extra time and “gave” myself some sweet, extra moments for quiet reading or a walk that was not planned.
- I started putting way less weight in the productivity = self-worth bucket because I became more compassionate and loving towards myself.”
Each and every one of my hard-charging entrepreneur clients have reported incredible benefits from adopting the 7″ plate℠ tool into their lives and businesses. I can report that for me personally, it has brought light to my creative expression, my sense of self, and my health. If you tend to turn the dial down on anxiety with overworking, give this tool a try. Let me know how it goes!
Let this New Year be one where we (as Rilke suggests) gleefully let everything happen to us, letting in all the colors, emotions, and experiences of living. Knowing that no feeling is final, we can have the courage to feel each, all the way through.
When we lower our inner drawbridges, we gift ourselves the protection of our sacred energy…the seat of our creativity and well being.