Yesterday, my husband and I got all our tax information together to send to our accountant. All year long, I try to be very careful about organizing everything—receipts, donations, and so on—so I don’t have to hunt down random scraps of paper at the last minute.
I managed to find everything—well, almost everything. One extremely important piece of paper was missing! I knew that I had carefully put it in a safe place for tax time, but I just couldn’t remember where. With panic came speed. I looked in all the likely spots over and over again—faster each time—hoping that it would somehow magically appear. When of course it didn’t, I had worked myself up into a state of complete anxiety, despair, anger—you name it, I was feeling it!
I realized I was panicking. But for once, instead of searching almost randomly for the stupid paper, I allowed myself to pause and think about how I was feeling. Gradually I calmed down a bit. That gave me the mental space to decide that I just had to get away from the whole business and take a break. Even though it was below freezing outside, I bundled myself up and set out to walk three miles round trip to do some necessary shopping.
The moment I got out the door, the cold air hit me. Somehow it blew away all my anxiety. Usually problems follow me around wherever I go, but this time I thought to myself, I’m just leaving that in the house. It’s in there, but I’m out here.
I had a lovely, brisk walk, got everything I needed, and came home in a much calmer state of mind. I decided to go through everything very carefully just one last time—and lo and behold, the paper did appear at last, almost as if by magic: I was so worked up earlier that I hadn’t looked slowly enough.
We all get anxious. And yes, it is perfectly okay to get anxious. Think of it as an opportunity. Try not to ignore the trouble or push it away. Stop a moment and acknowledge the feeling. That gives you time to decide what you want to do about it: You can give in to it—or maybe try taking a break. Get in touch with a friend. Go for a walk. Have a(nother) cup of coffee or tea. Play with your kid, your dog, your cat. But give yourself space—you never know what you’ll find there.