As I mentioned in a previous post, I have developed some coping habits to deal with high-anxiety moments. Generally, it involves taking a moment to figure out what is triggering my anxiety and then taking action to relieve said trigger.
Today at work my shoulders/neck started aching more noticeably than usual right around lunch time. That’s a common way in which my anxiety expresses itself; it means I’ve probably been stressed about something, so I’ve been unconsciously tensing my upper back muscles, until they finally get tired and sore and start screaming at me to chill out. To some degree, my shoulders are always a little tense and sore, but it can escalate if I’m feeling particularly keyed up about something.
So, I ran through a quick metal check list to see what possible cause there was for the muscle pain inducing anxiety. Work? Nope, it looks like it’s going to be a pretty laid back week with only a few meetings and plenty of time to finish my work. School? Well, there are two tests next week, but I’m feeling pretty confident about how classes are going lately. Money? Not as much money in the bank as I would like (is there ever?) but there haven’t been any surprise bills or other expenditure worth fretting about recently. Relationship? Going quite well, thanks. Hm..what could it be? What else usually triggers my anxiety? Have I been in trouble recently? No. Are there any changes coming up at work? No. Any new tasks I’m taking on? No. Any interpersonal issues with friends or co-workers? No. What important item on my to-do list is nearing a deadline? Nothing as far as I can remember.
At this point I texted Ben to ask if he had any insight as to what might be going on that I was forgetting. Maybe my subconscious was churning through something that I’ve forgotten consciously. He couldn’t think of anything, apart from maybe a poor night’s sleep.
So there I am, sitting at work feeling reasonably happy about life, and freaking out. For some reason not being able to pinpoint a possible cause for (what I assumed must be anxiety-induced) muscle tension made me feel even more anxious. The shoulder pain was already making it hard to focus on my work, and this made it worse. I started getting jittery- bouncing my knee(s) up as down as I’m apt to do when I have pent up nervous energy. Even as it was happening, I realized what a stupid cycle I was in. Feeling anxious about the fact that I’m probably not anxious? Silly. I finally did manage to re-focus my energy back into getting some work done and shortly thereafter I felt fine, but what a waste of time and mental energy!
Ben’s probably right that I just slept poorly or in some strange position- I remember having a bit of a nightmare early this morning. Or maybe it was just bad posture aggravating the residual tension from previous anxiety problems. Whatever caused it, it’s clear that my reaction was unreasonable. And that’s a big part of what can be so frustrating about generalized anxiety; it can be really difficult to control. I was fully aware that my getting stressed about the fact that I didn’t seem to have any stressors was supremely non-constructive, but yet there I was.
Some days, my brain is dumb.