I’ve been meeting lately with holistic healer and coach, Brenda Carey, partly because I’ve become interested in Ayurvedic medicine and partly because after a year and a half spent on sabbatical working to get my mental and physical health back on track, I was starting to become busy again. This time, I wanted to be sure I’d experience a healthier kind of busy.
If you’d asked me when I was 16 what I wanted to do when I grew up, I’d have told you I wasn’t sure, but I knew I wanted to help people and I never wanted to feel bored. I’ve been a naturally curious person all my life and as a 7 on the Enneagram, boredom is akin to slow death. I was fortunate to finally find my way into the work I love, writing, speaking, guiding, advocating, etc. It has never been uncommon for me to juggle multiple work and personal projects while also maintaining an active social life and getting out often to support art in all its forms. And that has always been so exciting. Never a dull day. Never a dull moment.
Then the pandemic hit, followed by some personal issues, then health problems, then anxiety. My mind and body had frankly had enough. They were forcing me to take a break. A long one. And during that time, I realized I not only didn’t hate myself when I was “doing nothing,” I kind of liked it. It was a rough time, and I don’t ever want to go back there again, but there was a certain peace that came with stopping everything.
This year, though, I hit the ground running. My enthusiasm for my work returned and my ideas were sprouting practically fully formed. My husband’s work changed directions, too, and now we’re building things together. It’s all super exciting.
What I’ve come to realize, though, is for someone like me, who has always had an over-active nervous system, my body can’t always tell the difference between excitement and anxiety. I’m sure you’ve heard that anxiety is a “negative” emotion and excitement is a “positive” one. You may have seen headlines encouraging you to, “Turn your anxiety into excitement” or read articles suggesting anxiety comes from fear, whereas excitement comes from joy.
What I wanted to ask my holistic healer, though, was whether it might be true for me that excitement could also be a form of “nervous energy.” In other words, even though it’s technically “good,” could too much exhilaration rev up my nervous system too much? The answer, for me anyway, is yes.
If my mind is always racing, even thinking good thoughts. If my body is always “on,” because I’m running around making cool things happen. If I’m constantly picking up the energies of those around me, am I wearing myself out? It turns out, for me, there can be “too much of a good thing.”
So, I’m returning to the grounding exercises that helped me when my anxiety was high. And I’m learning new ones, as well as breathing and tapping techniques. I’m embracing more short meditations and trying to set better intentions. I’m giving my mind and body a break from all the stimulation when they need it. And I’m reminding myself not just to focus on the excitement, but to notice when it turns toward anxiety, and to give myself some extra TLC when that happens. Because while lots of fun changes are underway for me, there are still plenty of very real things for my overactive mind to worry about.
For most of my life, I let my mind be in control. I thought I could learn, or think, or train, or talk myself out of any bodily illness or trauma. My body has finally proven to me that a healthy life is a team effort. It sends me signals when it needs a break, or better nutrition, or more sleep. After 55 years, it finally found a way to make its voice heard above the chatter in my mind. And now, finally, I’m listening.
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