Have you ever struggled with anxiety? It can feel so overwhelming, even debilitating at times. We all feel it to a degree and sometimes it can even be helpful to motivate us towards a goal or give us that little push of motivation that we need. Others times though, it can feel like we are completely out of control and that anxiety is taking over our lives. I have worked with countless individuals over the years who have struggled to get their anxiety better managed and I am grateful to have experienced my own struggles with anxiety because I believe that it helped me relate to my clients and provide a deeper level of compassion towards their journeys.
During the final semester of my master’s degree I began to notice some hyper vigilance, difficulty sleeping and eating and general feelings of being overwhelmed. I was working full time as a mental health counsellor and trying to finish school and maintain all the typical responsibilities of life. Inevitably my body and mind told me I was pushing too hard for too long and it was time for a break. I finally started to listen to the message when the anxiety got so bad that I could no longer ignore it. After taking 2 months off of school and backpacking through Thailand I realized one of the most valuable lessons I have ever learned, that if we listen closely our body and mind will often give us signals to indicate when we are adhering to our needs and when we are not. I had not yet learned this from my academic studies but this life lesson proved to be invaluable to work that was ahead of me. One client who was experiencing a high degree of dissatisfaction in her work place for years was able to recognize that her schedule was dramatically impacting her ability to gain meaning and fulfillment in her life. Although she had to make many difficult decisions she was eventually able to leave her work place to pursue a new more flexible career. She eventually came to see the anxiety she was experiencing as the catalyst that created a new and exciting path for herself. Much the same way that I viewed the anxiety that I had experienced.
There are many situations where creating change feels impossible or overwhelming and it can be difficult to even know where to start. I remember the first time my therapist suggested I take a semester off, I burst out laughing as if she has suggested something ridiculous, “you mean not finish my degree when I am scheduled to”? It felt absurd until it eventually felt like relief and then healing. Sometimes minor changes are equally effective, having a person to help talk it out with was incredibly valuable for me and I am so fortunate that I get to be part of other people’s journeys, hopefully passing on some of my knowledge and promote healing and change for the better.