Managing Anxiety

Living with chaos without the combat

I manage chaos on the regular because I’m a female, working mom, highly sensitive person, and a military spouse. Each one of those titles gets its own unique form of anxiety producing fruit. So naturally, I can come across as a highly anxious person, IF I don’t keep myself in check.

In addition to all those titles I carry, I am also passionate, a music therapist, advocate, and a mediation guide. You might say that I was drawn to my job because of my anxiety. But there is something special about being a military spouse that adds an extra layer to my anxiety train. In addition to being worried about my kids or having a good work-life balance, I worry about the safety of my husband, his frequent absences, and all the “unknowns” that come when your spouse is in the military.

For me, a lot of anxiety is from having a loss of control. And there is a lot of that as a military spouse, not having any control or knowledge over when your spouse will be gone, when you will be able to talk to your spouse, where they go and for how long. It’s “fear of the unknown” and “loss of control” that is the hardest for me and pretty much sums up being in the military family. You don’t know much if anything sometimes and you don’t have control. So how do you manage anxiety with so much unknown and loss of control?

I use a variety of things to help me manage my anxiety on a daily and weekly basis. That includes a lot of self-care, prayer, meditation, yoga, and a really positive support system. I have even created specific playlists for when I am feeling highly anxious. I use music to distract my mind, slow down my heart rate and racing thoughts, and set an intention with the lyrics’ positive message.

I recently took a workshop on managing conflict without combat for my work. I was drawn to this workshop because I manage chaos on a daily basis. And you can never have too many positive tools! One of the most beneficial things I re-learned in this course for myself, my family, and for the people I work with was re-evaluating what you are spending your mental energy on. So I’m going to encourage you to do this now.

Get a pen/paper and set the timer for 2 minutes.

  1. Make a list of everything that you have concerns worries or anxiety over.
  2. Go through the list and circle everything you have control over. (I think you will be surprised at the limited amount of things that you can circle.)

Now I have done this type of anxiety reducing activity before, it helps you to realize what you do and don’t have control over, what to spend your energy on, what to accept, and what to let go. It’s something I learned when I was attending Al-Anon classes when my ex-husband was abusing prescription pills. What I didn’t do was this third part…

3. Put a star next to everything on that list that you have influence over.

What I found really beneficial about this 3rd part of the activity is that it doesn’t always help just to accept what you don’t have control over, especially if there is a lot of chaos in your life. That feeling of loss of control can produce more anxiety. But being able to recognize that you have influence over a situation, can provide a sense of relief.

Here is simple every day life example, being worried about the traffic driving home from work. You probably don’t have control over how many people are driving on the road or if there are any accidents. But you do have influence over the way you get home from work. That may or may not influence how long or short your drive will be. You also have influence over what you do with your drive home. You can sit in silence, yell at the cars around you, listen to a book on tape, or put on your favorite music. Now not only do you have some influence on the amount of traffic you’re driving in but you have some influence over how you will respond or react and that situation.

In the military spouse situation, after a particularly difficult day, you really need to speak to your spouse for guidance and support (aka venting). Due to military life (deployment, drill, duties) you don’t have control over whether or not he can call you and you can’t call him. But you do have influence over what you will do if you can not talk to him and what you will do while you are waiting for his call. If you can’t talk to him, you can write a letter to him or call one of your friends/family for support. And why not use technology and record a video. You can plan your evening with distractions or activities that will relieve your anxiety. These are all things that you have influence over.

When you are living the military life you learn to become flexible. You expect at some point you might not get to celebrate Mother’s Day, Easter, or Christmas with your spouse, but you learn to make it work. And now you have a way to manage the anxiety that comes along with the fear of unknown and the loss of control. Start writing that list and set an intention to how you will influence your day.