Check-ups and Check-ins - Why you don't want to check-out when you have anxiety
"I'm doing okay" are my favorite words. One might think something along the lines of "I'm doing AMAZING" would make me happier as a professional stress and anxiety management coach, but "doing okay" are the sweetest words I could hear. Let me explain...
Anxiety is a life long struggle. Some call it a condition. Some say it is a disorder. I say it is a state of being. It is state that is on a continuum, some days on the high side, some of the low depending on how the symptoms register in us at any particular time, but anxiety is always there. It is almost as if it has a dormant state and an active state and how or when or why it gets activated is sometimes known and sometimes a mystery.
Take for instance panic attacks. Some people describe feeling different all of a sudden before the panic sets it. They can tell you that they are about to have full blown panic. Others only feel the bodily response to the anxiety when it comes on without noticeable warning. A thought, a perception, or even an old experience that lies within our subconscious minds can present to us at any time as a threat. It can be fear, the need to protect, or a memory. We have no choice but to respond to that perceived threat, and out of nowhere, our bodies become flooded with stress hormones that make us feel panicked.
When one has true anxiety, they know the good days and the bad days. Some even know moment to moment when "it" will strike. Most remember about when anxiety registered with them and how their bodies react. And there are those who are still trying to piece it all together.
So, hearing that a client is "doing okay" sounds like a counterproductive response when in actuality it is reasonable response for someone who has a condition that needs managing, not curing. Anxiety is not curable. It can be controlled to a certain degree, but it is definitely managed with certain attained skills, strategies, and tools. This is why "okay" is actually a good thing.
When I end contracted sessions with a client, we part ways. Clients have tools and strategies to use for their anxiety ridden moments and they have some knowledge about how they personally live day to day with its effects. Once they are out of professional coaching, the real work begins. The majority of the time, this is when that magical lightbulb goes off that they have to put in the work and manage their states of being.
Just this week I checked up on several post coaching clients. One in particular stated that they have been "doing okay" and that they were working on ___. Music to my ears! Why? Because anxiety doesn't leave (usually). Just like a chronic health condition, anxiety is managed. It is that dose of insulin. It is that exercise and diet for heart disease. And, it is just like having a best friend that never leaves you, through the good, the bad, and the ugly. Anxiety takes up residence.
Checking up on former clients for progress, maintenance, and slides backwards is a part of this whole process. I check up while the client checks in - on themselves - every minute of every day. It sounds like a difficult life to live, but anxiety is difficult. It far too often becomes deeply rooted in who we are as a person. It can in essence define who we are and who we become. Checking in with yourself is the most beneficial way to own and grapple with your anxiety.
Here are some ways you can do this:
Make anxiety your own by strengthening self-regulatory skills, designing the best calming and grounding techniques for you, and by avoiding triggers. Check in with your mental flexibility, your resilience, and your ability to refocus your thoughts. Adopt stress management strategies that are effective for you, build on your social and emotional skills, and constantly monitor unreasonable thoughts about the need to be perfect. Focus on the things that make you tick and do these things more often. Check in with how you compare yourself to the world in which you live. Water that one tree (you) in that huge proverbial forest (your environment). Nurture it for growth and expansion.
And finally, accept that you have a new best friend in anxiety. You will be "okay" and okay is good. Check in, but never check out.
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