Full of Anxiety

Paul AngoneBy Paul AngoneApril 4, 202310 Minutes

Excerpt taken from Listen to Your Day  by Paul Angone.

Chapter 9
Full of Anxiety

We’re all probably anxious at some point throughout the day. We all have worries and fears. Sometimes they’re at “hurtling down a steep sidewalk on a skateboard without any idea how to stop” kind of levels. Other days, they are a low beat, like background music you are feeling while not hearing a single word.

But what if you defined your anxiety? For me, this does two things: it reveals to me both what is important for me to pay attention to and what is not.

For example, I’ve had too many instances than I can count where I’m feeling anxious, yet I don’t even know what I’m feeling anxious about. It’s this looming anxiety that is affecting me, yet I can’t see the source. So I stop, think, and start paying attention to the things that came directly in front of me that I did not recognize as possible causes. I start retracing my steps to find the source of anxiety.

Was it the conversation I just had with my wife? No, that was good.

Was it what I just ate? No, I feel good about the choice of a salad and hummus.

Was it being on my phone and seeing that post from my friend about the big deal he just closed? Hmm …  no, I don’t think that was it. I feel excited for him and I’m totally content not working in his field and putting in his hours to make that deal happen. But I feel I’m close to finding it . . .

Was it being on my phone, looking at my own post, and seeing how many likes I got? Or in my estimation, how few likes I got? Bingo! Rod, tell him what he’s won …

Now, I’ve defined my anxiety. I know the source. I can see it for what it is and come to the conclusion, in this instance, that my anxiety is stemming from paying attention to the wrong thing. I can talk through it and tell myself all the things I know. I shouldn’t be focusing on how many likes I got or didn’t get. My value and worth shouldn’t be coming from this perceived instant validation.

My anxiety is showing me that I’ve put too much importance on something that is not worth the weight of that kind of importance. Now that I’ve defined it, I can move back toward paying attention to what is important. I can choose to not focus on my follower counts and focus on what actually matters. I can put the proper weight in the proper places, instead of choosing to fill up my daily wheelbarrow with cement blocks that I have no purpose for and then wondering why everything feels so heavy!

Anxiety and Values

On the other hand, anxiety can reveal to me that I’m not paying attention to what is important.

Can understanding your anxiety be a way to helping you understand your values? I believe it can. Sometimes in understanding our anxiety, it becomes an important lens to understanding our soul values.

So what do I mean by soul values?

Soul values are the core principles that guide your actions and decision-making processes.

The issue for many of us is that we don’t exactly know what our top soul values are. Like we do with anxiety, we have this looming notion of what our soul values might be, but we’re not exactly sure. We know they’re there. But we can’t quite put a finger on them.

We see the forest around us every day, but we haven’t noticed the details on the trees in years.

So how can anxiety help point me toward my values? Once I define the anxiety, I might be able to better see that my anxiety is stemming from a contradicted soul value.

This realization can lead to conviction and then a conscious choice to change my actions and thoughts to better align. I’m not putting enough importance on that which I hold important. Sometimes what we might confuse for anxiety is actually conviction.

Is It Anxiety? Or Is It Conviction?

For example, let’s say I find myself feeling consistently anxious in the morning. I just can’t seem to start the day off right. I get up. Check my phone. Make coffee. Try and eat something before I’m flying out of the door to fight traffic and make it to work.

I show up to work already feeling stressed, anxious, and wishing I could just go back to bed.

All right, what’s making me anxious in the mornings? Could it be something to do with a soul value that’s not being met? Let’s say I put my spiritual faith and having a right relationship with God as my number one value. Is anything about the way I’m starting my day confirming what I say is my number one value?

Or is it a direct contradiction? I used to get up, make some coffee, read my Bible, journal, and pray before I did anything else. It felt like such a right way to start my day. But gosh, with four kids, who has time for that? God surely understands that I just don’t have the time.

Well, is it a problem that I don’t have the time, or is it a problem that it’s not important enough for me to make the time?

Ouch.

If it is important enough to me to make the time, then I need to start making some conscious choices to see it happen.

A healthy morning routine is so important. I lost the routine, and now I feel like I’m starting the day with my heart tied behind my back.

That might mean going to bed earlier, so that I’m not dragging myself out of bed and barely making it to work on time.

Is my phone one of my top soul values? No. So why would I start my day with something that is depleting me the moment I wake up? That feels contradicting and obviously draining. Why do I spend so much of my choice time throughout the day paying attention to something that I wouldn’t rank in my top ten soul values?

Too many of us, myself included, contradict our soul values first thing in the morning and the last thing at night. Then we wonder why we feel fragmented.

Tracing my anxiety back, I gain a better understanding that it’s a conviction tied to a soul value that’s not being met, so now I can make wiser choices toward convergence of my soul. Instead of continually being fragmented and then wondering why I feel so busted up every morning.

I can ask myself, Is there life in this decision? Does this choice feel life-giving to me or life-taking?

Some might refer to this thought process as listening to your conscience or your gut. If your soul values are constructed from a faith perspective, you might see this process as listening to God’s Spirit who is actively guiding you in the big and very small details of your day.

Taken from Listen to Your Day by Paul Angone ©2023 Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used by permission.

 

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