I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a little high-strung. I get anxious easily, and I feel uncomfortable in situations where I don’t know exactly what’s going on or what the plan is. I’m a big fan of plans. I love plans. I like to know the day’s schedule. If I’m going to a meeting, I like to know how to get there and who will be there. I seriously almost couldn’t go see a new doctor because I was unsure about if he had a parking lot or if I’d have to deal with street parking. I can’t parallel park to save my life and I got myself convinced that I wouldn’t be able to park and then I’d be late or cause a traffic jam as I tried to fit into a spot in the busy street and the world would explode. It got a little out of hand.
My mom is a big planner and I think this sense of order and thinking ahead was passed down to me. In a way this is great. We both like lists and itineraries. We’re organized. We’re never late. If we tell you we’ll e-mail you that thing, trust us we will e-mail you that thing when most people would forget. But let’s just say that Spontaneous Sundays are not the way I enjoy living. Spontaneity in general is not my thing. If I’ve got dinner plans and suddenly my friend invites a friend, I’m thrown off. I appreciate my organized side, but sometimes I wish I could calm down a bit. Like, for example, when I’m trying to go on vacation with Chris and his dad and brother. Seriously, who gets anxiety about a vacation? I do. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. And it’s because I don’t have total control of the situation and I don’t know exactly what will happen when we get there. Obviously I’m excited to relax and spend time with Chris and his family. I’m excited to get tan. But the idea of “going with the flow” on a trip is not exactly my thing. I need to know what to pack and what our accommodations will be like and who will be there and what we’re eating. You get the idea.
When you’re an anxious person, you’re often told to “chill out” or “go with the flow” by non-anxious types. I can see why anxiety would be confusing to a more laid-back person. I’m going to Virginia Beach, how bad could it be? Just go on the trip and enjoy it and see what happens when you get there. But to an anxious person, the lack of knowledge about the trip is stressful. I want to plan and know what each day is going to look like. I want to know what type of clothes I need. Do I need to bring my own sheets and towels? No one knows.
Another example, I was supposed to go work on a project for my job. I didn’t hear details about where I was going or exactly what I was supposed to do until two hours before. This was almost too much for me to handle. I wanted to be able to Google directions and make sure that I was prepared for the assignment. But for most people? Big deal. We’ll figure it out when we get there. If we get lost? Who cares. We’ll figure it out. But that’s just not the way I operate. I like to know plans, schedules, directions, etc.
Mental stuff like this is always interesting to look at. It’s common to hear people tell depressed people “just get over it” or “cheer up”, although I think depression is becoming more accepted in society. But I think anxiety is still viewed as a person being too uptight. Many people don’t view anxiety as something worth respecting and working with.
I will give myself credit and say that I’ve gotten better about my anxiety/need for control and planning, although I could use some more work still. If you’re like me and are trying to be able to “go with the flow” or “chill out” or whatever else people advise you to do, here are a few things that have helped me.
-Break the situation down into small pieces to figure out what’s really stressing you out. If you’re going to a party, are you stressed about not knowing anyone? Not being dressed appropriately? Not knowing how to get there? Once you figure out what’s actually making you anxious, it’s easier to find a solution and work through it. If it’s the clothes thing that’s stressing you out, bring an outfit to change into just in case you’re not dressing appropriately. If you’re worried about getting lost, get an address ahead of time so you can Google Maps and make sure you know where you’re going.
-Make a list of “worst case scenario” situations. I know this sounds strange, but hear me out. Sometimes you have to realize that even if everything goes horribly wrong and the worst possible thing happens, you will still survive and be fine.
- Communicate with your friends and family: It can be embarrassing to admit that you’re feeling stressed about things that other people might not even think about, let alone freak out about. But when other people are aware of your stress and anxiety, they can help you work through it and accommodate you.
-Plan as much as you can: I couldn’t control the lack of plans for the work project, but I can control certain aspects of the situation. For example, I know I have to drive somewhere. I can fill my car with gas so I don’t have to worry about that. I know I have to film something, I can make sure our Flip Cam is charged so that isn’t an issue. It makes me feel better to know that the parts I do have control over are covered, even if everything else is out of my hands. When you’re going on a trip, make a list of things you want to pack so you know you haven’t forgotten anything you want. You may not have the trip itinerary, but at least you know you’ll have the type of clothes and shoes you’ll want when you get there.
Being a more anxious type of person can make it harder to live spontaneously, but there are good things too. We’re more organized, into details, and we’re good at following through with tasks. I’m still working to feel comfortable when I don’t have total control of a situation, but it’s not all bad to want to have things planned out ahead of time.
Are you an anxious person? Do you love plans like I do? How do you cope in spontaneous situations?