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I have always dealt with mild anxiety. It’s the form in which my shame likes to visit me in the middle of the night. I have talked about it in the past. It is much like in my book: The Awfulizer sets up at the foot of my bed and regales me with all the ways I messed up and all the people I have offended.

I have always struggled with it, but as I have been growing in my healing, it had really become manageable. I had developed strategies that helped me to quiet that voice, and they were working. The problem is, I have stopped doing 90 percent of them. And do you know what happened? My anxiety came back … big time.

I started two different part-time jobs, which have become pretty consuming (one of those being promoting and working on my book/blog). Between that and taking care of my kids, my marriage and the house, I had to drop something. Turns out, I dropped self-care. I stopped going to yoga, I stopped writing, and I stopped doing any sort of daily meditation and prayer. I became completely unbalanced and unfocused. Frantically, I rushed from thing to thing, getting more stressed and more anxious as time went on.

What happened next is not shocking in hindsight. I developed really painful sciatica, and my anxiety shot through the roof. I started having attacks of anxiety not just at night, but during the day and at events. I smiled my way through, but all the while, my brain and body were suffering.

I tried setting my alarm to wake up early to take “me time,” but because of my anxiety, I was not able to fall asleep until 11 or 12 and could not seem to wake up. Once the sciatica started, I stopped sleeping completely. I kept telling myself that I would do something different and would manage my time better, but there always seemed to be one more thing I needed to do.

I am still fighting my way out of this, but I am on the upswing. What happened? First, I have to daily remind myself that the only person who is expecting perfection from me is me (and my Awfulizer). My Awfulizer loves to give me the goal of perfection, because it is not achievable. What better way to control me than to have me believe in an unachievable goal?

Once I was able to let go of perfection, and by “let go” I really mean tell myself daily that I do not have to be perfect (sometimes I believe it sometimes I do not), I was able to have better boundaries. Coming from a place of mercy for myself, it’s OK if it doesn’t all get done right away; it allows me to say no. Saying no to things gives me more time for myself.

Just like falling into unhealth starts with a domino effect, so does falling into health. I took that time I gave back to myself and started going to yoga again, which helps with the sciatica, which then allows me to sleep. Sleeping better (and with a firmer schedule) lets me wake up earlier in the morning to have that daily meditation and prayer time. During that time, I once again remind myself that perfection is not the goal, and so the cycle continues.

Even now, as I sit and write this, there is a list growing in the back of my mind of all the things I need to be doing, and my stomach has started churning and my chest has begun to tighten. Instead of moving on to the next thing, I am just trying to breathe and remember this Leon Brown quote I found: “The answers you seek never come when the mind is busy, they come when the mind is still.”

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