This year it feels like school was out for a day or two before Target, WalMart, and other big name stores began rolling the “Back-2-School” ads and I can just imagine the anxiety and despair that kids experience every time they’re reminded that school is “just around the corner.”
It hasn’t always been like this, right? I remember having an actual summer break before seeing the yellow buses start up their practice routes in mid-August. Half of June and all of July were spent taking a breath and hitting pause on the regular routine. This time gave us a chance to get some fresh oxygen in our system and the opportunity to stretch our stiff bones out in the sun!
Of course, there was also the opportunity for boredom but as I look back on these “moooooooooom I have nooooooooothing to dooooooooo” days, I’m grateful. Yes, grateful. Because my system needed the chance to settle, to not be constantly stimulated. I wish I could say this was a struggle I left behind in childhood but of course, it isn’t. There are still days where I struggle to sit and be quiet. I work with a lot of folks who are also challenged in this way…
The anxiety in us seems to get hyperactive when we leave a little space in our day, our mind, our life to get quiet. But rather than see this as a time to avoid maybe we can use it as a time to observe our anxiety and our busyness. As we take a moment to sit quietly and the reel of fear-based thoughts rush to the front of the line let’s see this as a chance to ask
“What is the purpose of these thoughts?” or “What feeling are these thoughts trying to direct my attention to?”
“What are these anxious thoughts and this experience of anxiety trying to help me avoid? Do I actually need to avoid this thing?”
“What if I don’t act on these thoughts but just let them float through?”
In some ways, the anxiety that comes to us in the quiet and still moments is trying to help us by taking our attention away from the real emotion we need to experience. It’s trying to keep us from feeling sad or angry. It believes there will be an irreversible and fatal consequence to experiences and expressing these things. And I’m willing to bet that as you read that last sentence you’ve already put together that this simply is not true.
Usually, the “consequence” of authentically experiencing our emotions is growth. Does it always feel awesome? Not at first. But does it gradually show our anxiety that it can take a break? You bet. How is this important beyond just making us feel better? Emotional experience and exploration is a skill. When we work through what’s underneath the anxiety we add a tool to our tool belt, we get to know how we deal with the stuff that triggers fear or saddness or anger and you know what they say, “the more you know…”
As we prepare for the final countdown, the complete and total bombardment of back to school marketing, let’s also try to turn off the noise, get quiet, and get to know the part of us a work underneath the anxiety.