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Morning Anxiety, Procrastination & the Dawn of Presence

Morning Anxiety, Procrastination & the Dawn of Presence

Until recently, I cannot remember the last time I felt that I had experienced a manageable morning. From my experience, mornings have always brought about a great deal of stress in my life and for the longest time I was completely befuddled. Why did I always wake up with a head full of chaos and an impending sense of doom lurking over my shoulder? I always got up on the wrong side of the bed, and no matter what I felt like I was showing up late to life.

Just as many other facets of my existence, I conceded that this unwelcome thought pattern was simply another faulty circuit hardwired into my brain. Many people are burdened with anxiety in the morning, so in this fashion I was correct, but what I did not realize was that I self-inflicted this phenomenon to a greater extent than most. Instead of seeing the anxiety for what it was, a feeling, I treated it as an unwelcome guest of whom I desperately persuaded to leave By doing so I falsely validated this anxiety as a fact, and solidified its place in my thought cycle.

sad_dog

    Procrastination is fear.

    Usually, my morning anxiety populates as an ongoing list of things I have to get done by the time I rest my head to sleep at night. In the past, I built up a steady routine of worrying for the majority of the day, pondering different ways that I could fail at getting everything done. I call this procrastination.

    At its core, I believe procrastination is simply the fear of failure whose derivatives manifest themselves in countless varieties of absurd actions. Whether it was writing an essay, registering a car, studying for an exam, applying for a job, asking a girl out, grocery shopping, developing a website or making a phone call, I excelled at succumbing to this fear.

    I bring up procrastination because I believe it bleeds a lot further into our daily lives than most of us realize. In a sense, I feel that anxiety-ridden mornings are really just an exaggerated exercise in daily procrastination. When I abstractly analyzed my daily routine I found that most of my mornings were spent anxiously fearing the rest of the day.

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    And this fear knew no bounds in its imagination. Will I get everything done? Where do I have to be and when? How will I get there? Will the traffic be bad? What don’t I want to do today and how much time am I going to spend anticipating it? What person might not like me and can I think myself into them liking me? Am I happy with myself? Will I feel this stressed later? Is there something I’m forgetting to worry about?

    Ask yourself questions.

    I wasn’t cognizant of how my thought process “worked” for a long time. Mark Twain once said that, “my life has been filled with many tragedies, most of which never occurred.” I can relate to that. I never heard myself asking the questions listed above, but my nervous attitude and restless demeanor stood as evidence that something was going on under the hood.

    Every morning I was anxious about the day and every night I tossed and turned, replaying all the things I hadn’t accomplished and pre-gaming the next morning’s terrors. This cycle continued ad infinitum. I never understood why. It wasn’t until I finally asked myself one morning why I always felt nervous on awakening that I started to get answers.

    I’ve found that asking questions is crucial in getting answers, and thus arriving at some feasible solution to the problem at hand. I lived in this anxiety and took its baggage at face value without once questioning the reasoning behind it. It was only once I put my energy into asking why I was anxious rather than feeding the anxiety itself that I started getting answers.

    I began to start my morning routine with asking myself, “Okay David, what is actually going on up there?” As crazy as it sounds I started to write down these questions and glossed over them one by one. Putting pen to paper immediately trivialized most of these fears and stole fuel from their fire.

    I highly recommend doing this. I realized that the cornerstone of my anxiety’s foundation was based on the idea of time. Whether worrying about getting something done by noon or realizing that a quarter of my life was over, everything seemed to stem from this mysterious four letter word.

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    time

      So what is time?

      I believe that time is nothing more than a measurement of life, and we as humans have an innate necessity to measure everything.

      Echart Tolle in the Power of Now uses “psychological time” and “clock time” as two labels to set a distinction between the way we allow ourselves to perceive this phenomenon. Echart describes psychological time as an, “identification with the past and continuous compulsive projection into the future,” and broadly encompasses clock time by suggesting its utilized “in the practical aspects of life.”

      I believe that I spent virtually all of my life trapped in psychological time; worrying about how I could have done better in the past and fearing that I wouldn’t succeed in the future. I harbored the notion that it was already too late to do what I wanted and lived with a sense of impending doom looming over me like a timer about to expire. From my personal experience I found that this ticking clock is self-imposed method with which I kept myself trapped by fear.

      In a paper published in 1997 Sudendorf and Corballis argued that,

      “We as humans are unique among the animal kingdom in being able to mentally dissociate ourselves from the present. To do so, we travel backwards and forwards in the mind’s eye to remember and reexperience specify events that happened in the past (episodic memory) and to anticipate and pre experience future scenarios (future planning).”

      This resonated strongly with me. We as humans may be the only damn animal on the planet blessed with the ability to bend time within our minds, yet we primarily use that ability to perpetuate anxiety and fear.

      N.S. Clayton and A. Dickinson of the University of Cambridge released another publication in 2010 extrapolating on this idea and hypothesized that this isn’t a trait unique to humans. They cited birds ability to cache certain memories that would allow them to plan ahead for future food gathering. Assuming their hypothesis is correct, it remains that if other animals have the ability for future planning, than they experience as Echart’s clock time.

      They are certainly not concerned about another bird finding them unattractive in their pursuit of food; they just use their past memories to plan where they should find food for their survival.

      As humans we stand alone in our capacity to worry about meaningless things. I used to ponder why this was the case. Perhaps, upon reaching the top of the food chain, the diminished threats to our survival caused us to invent our own demons to battle.

      I certainly don’t see dogs strolling about on 5th avenue with their tails between their legs because they can’t afford Gucci or devastated that another dog doesn’t give them attention. They move on with their life and don’t harbor on the past. In reality, I don’t know why we are uniquely qualified to create our own issues, but regardless, the fact that we do is readily apparent in everyday societal life.

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      meditation

        Be in the present.

        So how do we reach a point where we can comfortably live with ourselves and feel that everything is okay? I believe a large part of the answer derives from our unnatural, learned trait of constantly comparing ourselves with each other and building expectations based on these comparisons. Theodore Roosevelt once said that, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” While I agree with this statement, I feel that one must go a step further.

        Comparison can only be done between distinct entities, which implies that we are all separate. We all have an urge to build our own identity separate and better than everyone else. And building something separate implies that we are isolating from one another. Have you ever felt alone in a room full of people? That is what I am talking about. Realizing we are one living, breathing energy labeled life allows us to be grateful for others instead of steadfastly insistent that we can be better.

        When I am in the present moment I don’t feel separate, alone or unloved; there is simply no room for it in the now. Everyone may have different gateways in entering the present moment. In the morning, I be by sitting in a comfortable position and focusing on my breath. I allow my thoughts to pass through me, with an absence of judgement and feel my presence in this space. This how I usually meditate.

        At other times throughout the day, when feelings of anxiety or stress creep up, I take a minute and bring my attention back to the breath. Sometimes just realizing that I am not in the present brings me to the point where I can feel alive. I realize that within this life I am never alone. We are all one living, breathing machine. Even trees breathe through photosynthesis. We are just the only organism that allows our mind to get in the way of life.

        On awakening, we as humans should have the urge to burst onto the day, grateful and eager for whatever life has in store for us. We should leave behind our unconscious dream world and welcome the conscious breath. Today we have an opportunity to live each and every moment, casting aside all doubt and trepidation and be in the presence. Fear cannot coexist with the fully conscious moment. Be in life as life is in you, and know that the mechanics of our universe will align itself as it will, regardless of whether you fear it.

        Featured Images: Meditating at the sky Sad dog Girl with clock

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        Featured photo credit: Jean Henrique Wichinoski via flickr.com

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        Last Updated on September 20, 2018

        How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

        How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

        Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

        If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

        1. Breathe

        The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

        • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
        • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
        • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

        Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

        2. Loosen up

        After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

        Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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        3. Chew slowly

        Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

        Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

        Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

        4. Let go

        Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

        The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

        It’s not. Promise.

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        Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

        Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

        21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

        5. Enjoy the journey

        Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

        Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

        6. Look at the big picture

        The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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        Will this matter to me…

        • Next week?
        • Next month?
        • Next year?
        • In 10 years?

        Hint: No, it won’t.

        I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

        Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

        7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

        You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

        Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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        8. Practice patience every day

        Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

        • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
        • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
        • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

        Final thoughts

        Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

        Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

        Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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