I’ve been feeling somewhat anxious lately, perhaps not so surprising given the uneven and rather tumultuous work year I’ve had. I read an article today about inoculating yourself against anxiety, panic and shock, and the author suggested paying close attention to the inputs and images you let into your mind each day. How right she is. The bombardment of negative images and inputs starts already early in the morning, simply enough. You open the front door and take in the newspaper. And immediately—Aftenposten has a new ax to grind—lately it’s been problems with the city hospitals following the big merger (and there are problems for sure) and the effects of the merger on doctors, nurses, patients, budgets, scientists, research, society, and the list goes on ad nauseum. There are always problems, but never solutions. Journalists love to point out the problems, but they never come up with any solutions. They seem to enjoy provoking others. It’s just irritating. Is this their role in society? The news stories are never presented objectively anymore. The headlines are tabloid-like and extremely provocative. They get your irritation sensors going and then you’re off to the races. By the time you start your workday an hour or two later you’ve already experienced enough provocation for the morning at least. And then the bureaucratic workday does the rest, so that by the time you come home you just want to shut it all out.
So I’ve stopped reading the newspaper for the past week or so. I don’t listen to the radio as a rule, so there’s no negative imagery contribution there. And I’ve cut out most of my TV-watching, so I don’t get bombarded with too much negativity there either. So what is causing my anxiety? Conversations about everything that is wrong with everything--complaints about the state of everything. The fact of the matter is that a lot of things are wrong or problematic right now. The complaints are valid. There is also a lot of sadness in our lives at work now because we know colleagues who are sick with cancer. We worry about them. We try to deal with sorrow. It’s not easy watching people slip away from you. And then we obsess over other things, like how much better our workdays were ten years ago when we knew what the goals were and why we were doing the work we were doing. We aren’t dealing well with change or uncertainty. We don’t like them very much. We can be like dogs with a bone. We can worry it to death. We chew on our worries until we’ve chewed them to pieces. They’re still there afterwards, unfortunately. Sometimes it feels like we are drowning. This autumn was the last anxiety-inducing straw for me. Problems with my union leader triggered unpleasant memories from my past, and those memories somehow got a foothold and took root. So the other night I felt like I was suffocating. My heart was racing and wouldn’t stop. That went on for about thirty minutes. I was afraid and the fear perpetuated the anxiety--a vicious circle. The fear is vague. That night I feared everything. It all seemed overwhelming. Having experienced a few anxiety attacks in my mid-twenties, I know at least what I’m dealing with (if it was indeed a panic attack) and what I need to do to get my mind focused on positive things. Writing about it helps. If it was a panic attack, it was a memorable one. If it wasn’t then I need to visit a cardiologist. Either way, stress and negative inputs have to go. Anything that can help me learn to relax is welcome at present.It’s time to shut the door on people who want to wear me down in one way or another, who want to control me, own me, deride me, or use me. I’ve shut the door now on one person and I can do it to others if I need to. I did it before when I was younger. I don’t want to or have to deal with everyone, especially people who are not fundamentally nice people. I don’t have to dialog with everyone or negotiate conflicts with everyone. I get to choose. I’ve got to re-learn to block such people and let their negative inputs go. Let them go, let them go, let them go. And with them, blow my worries to the wind. Just that mental imagery is peaceful and relaxing. I feel lighter already. Let them go, let them go, let them go. That’s my mantra for 2011.