Recently I was reading that a good way to deal with anxiety is to hold it like a “squalling baby” in your arms. Those of us who have or have held “squalling babies” in our lives know that it is usually not a case for panic but a case for investigation. Is it hunger, thirst, earache, diaper issues, heat or cold, overtiredness, or “other”?
Anxiety, too, is a case for investigation. What basic human need is not being met or we fear may not be met? Being able to isolate the need helps us focus on how the need can be met instead of what the catastrophe will look like if it is not. Dr. Deepak Chopra says that the best use of our imaginations is creativity and the worst use of it is worry.
Imagining a desirable outcome sustains us and mobilizes us to think of ways to make that outcome happen. Bracing for the worst and playing and re-playing those fear scenarios in our minds only ramps up our stress hormones and wastes time.
Sometimes we can do all that and the thing we try not to worry about happens. It reminds me of the efforts to find and bring Mollie Tibbits home. In the end, her tragic death confirmed our fears that she would not be found alive and restored to her family. The unspeakable anxiety resolved in grief and loss that had to be realized, not in the imagination, but in real time. Life is fraught with uncertainty; it is up to us to choose how to manage our anxieties and focus on understanding them rather than fearing them.