I probably had anxiety when I was in the womb. I definitely remember being awake at night worrying about things when I was in kindergarten. Sometimes I would share the worries with my family and they would get a kick out of it in a “aren’t kids so funny” kind of way, but I knew that I wasn’t like other kids and I knew that my worrying was a problem. And I worried about that too.
I have a lot of practice with worry and what helps with worry and what doesn’t help with worry. One of the things that is very helpful is figure out what I can control in a situation, that way I can separate worries out into things that are worth worrying about and worries that aren’t beneficial to me at all. This doesn’t mean the non-beneficial worries go away automatically, but the categorizing makes it easier for me to remove those thoughts from behaviors I’m going to act on or thoughts I’m going to feed. It’s the beginning of a process that removes at least most of the power of panic thoughts, even if it’s a process I have to do over and over again.
This is one small part of a larger philosophy that helps me reset when anxiety is disrupting my life — having an internal locus of control. This means that I push myself to primarily view the world as a place where I am in control of what happens to me. The reality of knowing I could walk outside and be killed by a falling icicle tomorrow is irrelevant. I choose to focus on what I can change.
The revered filmmaker Stanley Kubrick touched on this in an interview when he was talking about how people could easily get discouraged because of how big the universe is. There is so much out there that we don’t understand, and so much can happen to us and to people we love that seems senseless, but Kubrick argues that we can combat that by “carrying our own light”:
We must give our lives their own meaning, we must carry our own strength through the hard times.
When I continue to draw awareness to the aspects of my life that I can control, I affirm my strength and efficacy as the manager of my life. This is a tool many people find helpful because it reminds of us the ways in which we are strong. It helps us remember that because we have survived difficult times in the past we can have confidence that we can survive whatever else is to come.