As of late, my counselor and I have been speaking about friends and coworkers who seem to be causing me some anxiety when I think about interacting with them. I have to try and explain the anxiety they cause me and why I feel anxious around them which isn’t always easy.
When I anticipate the interactions I have to have with certain people (friends and co-workers), my chest tightens, my imagination plays out the potential conversation we will have and I am instantly spending the rest of the day, sometimes the week feeling stuck with pins and needles all over my body at the idea of having any of the idealized conversations with them. I turn into a stressed out mess of a woman and I shut down. I can’t focus on my own work because I am living in a conversation that hasn’t even happened yet. The worst part of this is I replay the imagined situation again and again and again, so by the time I actually have the conversation I have no idea what I want to say to this person and all I see is the negative outcomes I’ve dreamed up.
Per my counselor’s help I have worked on writing down agendas or thoughts before the interaction in order to stick with the point I want to get across. This helps my brain say, “Hey, this is the stuff you want to talk about. Stick to this and you will be ok.” Does my anxiety tell me to think of the reaction of the conversation and turn it into the worst conversation ever? Yes it does. My anxiety will always put the worst possible outcome in my face, but I can combat it. I do what I can to make sure it doesn’t paralyze me before a meeting. The agenda is one way.
Another way I have found to combat anxiety’s voice is to visualize a positive conversation and interaction with others. If my anxiety decides to put a negative image in my head then I replace it immediately with a positive image. This is not easy. I fight daily to keep positive images and thoughts at the forefront of my mind, but there are days where anxiety sits on my chest and forces me to inhale the worst possible outcome for the entire day. Those are the days where I cannot fight anxiety off and I have to force myself to stand up while anxiety clings to me and go for a run or a walk and force fresh calming air into my lungs and my mind as I pound pavement.
When it comes to my friends that cause me massive amounts of anxiety, I tend to do the same things just a little differently. I will journal about the scenario we might be in and try to focus on the positives. I try to play out a positive conversation in my mind and visualize where we will be, topics we can cover safely, and actions I can take if I am starting to feel in a panic.
The other thing my counselor suggested I do is maintain a distance from friends that make me feel super anxious and don’t really understand why they make me anxious. Part of the reason she suggested this is because I expressed to her how I don’t feel like I could have a conversation with these friends and feel like I have been heard. These are the types of friends that I value from afar, and the reason for this is because I don’t always feel like things are reciprocated in the friendship and/or I feel like we have just gotten into different paths of life. The first one hurts the most because anxiety kicks in and says I must not have done enough for them in there time of need or it tells me I am of no value to them unless they need me. Anxiety forces these thoughts the most into my mind and imagination because as soon as it sees an opening for more pain, anxiety pounces on it like a cat on a mouse. I distance myself from them. It’s hard. I have found though that I am happier without their constant presence in my world, and I do maintain a healthy level of conversation with them but not as often as it once was. There are times where our conversations are a little more frequent, but more often than not they are very casual with a meetup on occasion. My counselor told me this is the best way to handle sometimes toxic friends that spur anxiety in me because then you aren’t cutting them out completely since that can cause more harm than good for both parties. For me it’s not that I don’t want them in my life, but it is that I want some distance since I do pick up on every little thing said, action done, or even side remark made and let it take over my thoughts for days on end and I need to have space from them in order to feel positive about myself and the progress I have made.
It’s never an easy thing to do when you want to let someone go out of your life either completely or partially. Sometimes it is necessary for your own well being though, and I wish I could say I have it all figured out… I don’t. Even writing this post anxiety is telling me all of the negative reactions and things that people will say about me. I write this more for hope that some people might understand more about why I have a hard time reaching out in work and in life, not to hurt anyone or make them mad. Trust me. That is the last thing I want is to be on the other end of someone’s anger for sharing my feelings on letting go.