Five Ways to Beat Fear and Anxiety When Faced With the Unknown

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Five Ways to Beat Fear and Anxiety When Faced With the UnknownIt’s the second weekend in a row that I’ve found myself hibernating in the bedroom.  The blinds are down.  I’m drinking red wine, alone.  I’m watching the same Sex and the City episode that I’ve seen 200 times. For the third time this afternoon, my husband pops his head in the door to ask if I’m okay. Annoyed, I respond “I’m fine. I just don’t feel like myself right now.” 

I wish I could tell you that this is the first time I’ve felt this way. But that would be a lie. Truth is, this is a pattern. Whenever faced with the dreaded “unknown”, I turn into a recluse, falling victim to self-destructive habits like overeating. During these episodes, it’s easier to sleep rather than face the overwhelming emotion of fear and anxiety.

You would think that after four years as a military spouse I would be comfortable in the unknown zone. Yet, having a Type-A personality this may never be the case. Questions like – where will we move, for how long, you’re leaving again, and when will you come home – weigh heavily on my mind. For instance, in approximately one month we are scheduled to move to a new duty station. But here’s the catch -- We still don’t know where we are going! Any typical American spouse would be appalled, but in military life this is not at all unusual.

Even though I know the unknown is part of the lifestyle, it still gets me down. For the most part, I am an optimistic, happy person. But, every once in a while, my emotions get the best of me. In an effort to minimize the impact, I’ve developed a routine. Here’s what I do when I start to slip:

Practice Mindfulness

A good friend once advised that letting yourself feel emotion is ok. She recommended setting a time limit of 5 to 10 minutes each day until the feelings subside. I’ve implemented this practice and have taken it one step further to include mindfulness. I accept that I do not have control over the future and force myself to be present in the now. By clearing my mind of the things I cannot change, I free myself to relax.

Express Gratitude

Negativity is draining and affects others. When you start to pick fights for no reason, it might be time to chill out. When feeling down, it is especially important to communicate openly with your spouse. Apologize when you are in the wrong. Let them know you aren’t mad at them per se, but you’re frustrated with the circumstances. Show your gratitude for their concern and support.

Cook Good Food

Believe it or not, food is linked to emotion. Certain food can either stimulate happiness or have the reverse affect.  Some health experts recommend avoiding foods like sugar, caffeine, dairy, and gluten when trying to boost your spirits. Instead, reach for foods that give you a natural spike in energy and brainpower like spinach, quinoa, or green tea.

When feeling blue, I tend to reach for pizza and cookies. To avoid regretting this decision later, I force myself to cook a healthy meal that can easily be frozen. Instead of calling for take-out, I warm up a cup of healthy soup. This satisfies my cravings without the negative side effects. Here are two of my favorite recipes: Curried Winter Soup and Curried Spinach and Chickpea Soup.

Create a Playlist

Have you ever felt like the lyrics of a song speak directly to you? For me, music is powerful. Currently, Many the Miles by Sara Bareilles is my new theme song as I patiently wait to find out our next duty station. It reminds me that the love I feel for my husband far exceeds the anxiety of another move. Create an uplifting playlist to help you overcome your present obstacles.

Exercise

Get out and move. The worst thing you can do is sit and sulk. This is when you start to make bad choices. Get your endorphins pumping by going for a walk or long run, preferably exercise outside. You will feel much better when you get home.

Finally, if you too struggle with the unknown, ask yourself this question: “Are you enjoying the journey and releasing your expectations of the destination?”

Four weeks ago, my answer was no. This simple question forced me to recognize that I wasn’t embracing the present.  Nor was I enjoying the journey. My time and energy was spent fretting over our next adventure.  Once I accepted that I couldn’t control the situation, I empowered myself to change. I no longer sit in my room alone on the weekend because living in the now is way more fun!     

What are your favorite pick-me-ups?