To ‘be in the present’ has always been a goal of mine, much more than just a buzzword well-touted by the wellbeing industry, it evokes such an image of cool, calm collectedness that I genuinely aspire to. However, I am an overthinker, always have been. I worry about every scenario and every possible outcome, evaluating every option and opinion before making any decisions, and still worrying about the outcomes. It’s exhausting – and, you might think, not a great condition to be in at times like these, where there is so much uncertainty and so much to worry about.
Perversely, it seems that as the stakes have increased and there is more to worry about in the world, my anxiety and overthinking has decreased. Once the will-it/won’t-it status of our wedding had passed and we had postponed and rescheduled everything, my overthinking has calmed down, and as the situation became more serious here, and lockdown was enforced, I bizarrely seem to have had less anxiety.
Being forced to limit my actions and interactions, and having very little influence on what was going on around me in terms of the near future, has enabled me to focus my energies and attention on the day-to-day – the only thing I do have some control over. I have developed a routine whereby I maintain my daily workout (our wedding date has been postponed, not cancelled, and I’ve still got that dress to fit into!) and meditation, do my work and cook our meals. That is what I have in front of me and that is what I have influence over, therefore that is where I pour my energy. The bigger picture situation is so unknown and unprecedented that I cannot worry about – literally, my brain can’t compute all the possible outcomes and scenarios, and I don’t have enough verified information and credible evidence to allow me to do that anyway – so I don’t think about it. I make realistic lists for my days and I can honestly say I am present in every task that I take on, taking my time and applying myself diligently, not cutting corners or trying to do two things at once, and I get a tremendous sense of satisfaction from these things that I do. At the same time, whilst I may have Zoom sessions and Houseparty chats, my face-to-face social interactions are limited to the two of us, so I worry much less about what other people think, say, or do (with so much of what I do for work involving social media, I no longer feel pressure from the pictures I see on my newsfeed, but I do feel that pressure face to face).
Even the fact that the ‘end date’ of our current situation is unknown actually helps reduce the anxiety (apart from when I start thinking about our rescheduled wedding date!) Ordinarily, when I find yourself at home with some extra time on my hands, I start thinking about all the jobs I should be doing, at the same time as all the things I enjoy that I always say I would love to do if I had more time – and I therefore feel pressured to make the most of the time by doing those jobs, or picking up that book again, or cooking a nice meal – because I know I have limited time. Right now, I don’t know how much time we have, so I’m not pressuring myself to try and do everything at once, or guilt myself about the things I haven’t done yet. I just focus on each day and making it a mix of what I want to do, and what I need to do.
I shared this with a friend recently and surprised to hear her say a similar thing. It made me realise that maybe there are lots of people who are feeling the same way – who are well aware of the gravity of the global situation and who have their challenges and issues to worry about (whether that’s health, family, work, financial, family or socially) but who are actually living more in the present right now, and therefore suffering much less day-to-day anxiety and stress. I’d be really interested to hear how this is affecting people’s mental state – are you feeling more stressed, or less? And of course, if there’s anything at all we can do to help, please do let us know!