I believe that the bravest thing I can do as an anxious person is to be accepting of uncertainty and open to ambiguity.
The passage of time and the uncertainty that comes with it is a source of anxiety for many highly sensitive types, myself included. The five-week gap between the end of my spring semester and the beginning of my summer program in Michigan has been a challenging time for me. While I have plenty to do as far as studying and my own research, I’ve had to entirely create my own priorities, deadlines, and schedule. Being my own boss is a blessing, but only if I don’t let anxiety take charge. As such, the last few weeks of “off time” have actually been more difficult than a “normal” schedule of places of be, people to answer to, and deadlines to meet.
Many mornings, I wake up feeling the day looming ahead with nothing standing between me and all the things I said I would do this summer. The last few weeks have been prime conditions for anxiety-related habits to flare up as I try to feel in control of my life.
I’ve read a significant amount on time management. While I recognize that it’s a fad that’s helped many people, the common tips and tricks have only ever made me more anxious. Rather than trying to make sure I maximize minutes and fill every hour productively, I’ve found mindfulness techniques and calming practices to be far more valuable tools for achieving my goals.
Vacations and time off from work and school have been stressful for me since I was a young child, and I’ve had times of vacillating between overworking myself and being so paralyzed by low moods that I would literally do nothing all day. I believe this tension in my relationship with time will always exist, but this year has been a little easier as I’ve been learning the value of taking each minute and each hour at a time, and focusing on the quality of my goals rather than just rushing around being busy (which, honestly, is usually not that productive). Rejecting time management in favor of mindfulness has helped me to accept where I am each day and avoid beating myself up when I don’t meet my daily goals. Everyday is slightly different, especially for writers. Some days I write 30 words in a few hours and other days I write 3,000 in less time. Both kinds of days are okay!
Time is not a void to be filled, but a gift. I try to remind myself that my schedule is meant to accommodate me, not force me to run a meaningless race in an attempt to be someone who does it all. I firmly believe that there is no such thing as “a person who does it all.” There are only people who choose their goals and priorities, and adopt their lifestyle accordingly. My prayer is to be someone who honors God, other people, and my personal health with the time I’ve been given.
If you have a story about mental illness—whether personal or concerning a loved one—please consider sharing your experience by writing a guest post, doing an interview with one of us, or joining the team as a regular contributor. Even if you aren’t at a place yet where you feel comfortable disclosing your name, the church body needs your voice. Let’s shine a light on the darkness, together.