“I will feel better if/when _____ happens”
“I’ll be able to rest and relax if/when ____ happens”
“I just need _____ to happen and then I’ll be/feel okay”
Do any of those phrases sound familiar?
Those are some of the natural bi-product thoughts that come from being hyper-vigilant.
The trouble is, once one thing is crossed off the “feel better when” list, something automatically slides in to take its place.
That’s because the source of the stress isn’t external, it’s internal. We might not consciously enjoy the constant stressors (or we might if we get validation from them) but we continue to unconsciously perpetuate the cycle of endless anxiety and stress because it’s where our nervous system is the most comfortable.
For most people, it takes time and commitment to make resting and relaxation a normal and easy to engage in part of everyday life. Most of us have been conditioned in the opposite direction.
So when we decide to slow down and prioritize our wellbeing we might find ourselves trading external stimulants (excess caffeine, meds, alcohol etc) for internal ones (over filling our calendars, obsessing about every detail of a project, focusing on what we don’t like and what’s not working until we get worked up, etc). That’s our unconscious way of increasing cortisol to stay in that hyper-aroused state.
If you find rest, relaxation and “doing nothing” difficult, there isn’t anything wrong with you, you’ve been conditioned that way. And if you’re prioritizing your well-being, the invitation here is to begin to practice those things and understand they are a skill set than needs to be honed. To get off the merry go round of constant stress and anxiety, you have to learn to slow down and at first, your mind and body will likely fight it. But it’s in the rest and doing nothing that our bodies and minds can heal, release, find clarity and make the necessary room to allow in NEW things, things we say we want but might not slow down enough to make room for.