“What will be, will be.”
These are words my mom would often say to me as a child. You can listen to the original song here.
This phrase is bouncing around in my head at the moment as I grapple with a great deal of anxiety over some upcoming events in my life. Tomorrow morning I fly to Orlando to run in the 2017 Walt Disney World Marathon on Sunday, then after a few days of play in the theme parks, I’ll fly back home on Wednesday and start my new job on Thursday morning.
Exciting stuff, right?
Right, and also incredibly anxiety-inducing for someone like me who struggles greatly with anxiety.
However, I am trying to use this fact as an opportunity at managing my anxiety better. So, here is my approach: dual optimism (in hopes of the placebo effect) and realism (to manage expectations).
As for the optimism, I truly do believe in the power of the placebo effect when it comes to certain things. Running is definitely one of those things. I’ve put in hundreds of hours of training for this race, so at this point it’s up to my attitude to manage the things that are in my control. My body is physically capable, and I can’t control the weather or the crowds etc. But I can tell myself I am going to enjoy every sweaty, exhausting moment of the race, and I will.
As for the realism, my tactic for battling the anxiety is to come to terms with the worst case scenario. In other words, I won’t sugar-coat the possibility of bad things happening and just blindly tell myself that “everything will be OK” in order to combat anxiety. Because you know what, realistically, everything may not be OK. I’ve missed a marathon before due to illness, and had another one canceled halfway through due to weather. Bad stuff happens sometimes. It’s how we deal with the prospect of it happening that matters.
So, here’s how an inward conversation with myself goes using the realism tactic:
Anxiety: What if I get sick or injured during the race? What if the race is canceled because of a thunderstorm? What if I get lost on my way to the new job and show up late on the first day? What if what if what if what if ARGHHHH!!!!!
Me: Yeah, so what?
Anxiety: IT WOULD BE THE END OF THE WORLD!!!
Me: Um, no it wouldn’t. It would suck, for sure. All of those things would suck. But you’d be OK. You’d still have two working legs, a healthy body, a roof over your head, a loving family, and a steady income. Sure, there is a non-trivial chance that any of those things may happen. There’s also a good chance they won’t. Either way, you’re fine and life will go on.
By making peace with the perceived monster in the closet, my goal is to free myself of the anxiety. If I’m OK with the fact that it could actually be a monster OR it could just be an overcoat, then the unknown is less frightening, because I’ve made peace with both outcomes.
Tell me, what are your tactics for dealing with anxiety over circumstances beyond your control?