Life is busy, and often stressful. Anxiety is a very normal reaction to the kind of stress we all deal with: family issues, work deadlines, health challenges, and the smaller, relentless kind of stress that wears at us day after day, such as traffic jams, lost keys, and long lines at checkout counters. Mental health specialists encourage us to do what we can to manage stress, and to minimize its effects, with meditation, good nutrition and exercise, among other things.
My friend Dr. Richard Bloom has taught me another way to manage stress through his term, “preventable anxiety.” (He says the term was inspired by Surgeon General C. Everett Koop’s emphasis on Preventable Illness.) Preventable Anxiety simply describes the kind of situations where we could become anxious, but where we also have the opportunity to take control. Whenever we can actually prevent anxiety–and it’s different for every individual–it’s something wonderful we can do for ourselves. Here are a few of the ways I prevent anxiety in my life:
A Clean Desk Top
The best way for me to prevent anxiety first thing in the morning is starting each day with a clean, clear desk top. That means stopping work early enough in the evening so I have time to file papers, complete phone calls, and make a thorough to do list for the following day. An uncluttered office goes a long way toward instilling a feeling of confidence for handling the day ahead.
I love a linen closet that has everything lined up by size and color and season. It’s fun for me just to open the armoire and gaze at it all! Old sheets and towels are given to the local pet adoption agency, P.A.W.S. There’s less clutter, and I love thinking about those puppies or kittens having a cuddly towel to snuggle up to!
No More Eleventh Hour
This is something I had to learn later in life. In my college days, I always stayed up all night and handed in the term paper at the eleventh hour. No more! Holiday cards are ordered in early November, shopping is done ahead of time, and work is completed before the deadline.
Safety for Ourselves and Our Loved Ones
Another source of preventable anxiety for our family: our three Bichon Frises clowns are the light of our life. In our hometown, coyotes have been coming closer and closer to residential areas for food. They are no longer afraid of humans, and our little Bichons are just the right size for a snack. Two neighbors have lost their beloved pets to coyotes. Even though our yard is fenced in to 5 feet, we added 8 foot high deer fencing all the way around for further protection so the coyotes can’t jump into the yard. Preventable anxiety!
Having a plan (or a map) for special occasions and large projects, with all the tasks written down and dates assigned for when each detail will be taken care of can help clear your mind of worries. Delegating tasks is part of this, so write down who’s responsible for what, and when you expect them to complete their part of the project on an outline, and don’t forget to update it.
Where in your own life can you employ “preventable anxiety?”
I’d love to hear!