Answer Seeking Vs. Contentment in Not Knowing: Lesson Learned from a Panic Attack

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I realize that is a quite a wordy title but it gets my point across so bear with me.

As a twenty something and a human being, I have within me an innate, nagging need to know everything right here, right now.

Why leave everything up in the air and feel anxious when I can try to figure it all out and feel super content?

NEWS FLASH: Energy spent on trying to figure it all out is the quickest and shortest path to full-blown anxiety.

When we yearn for certainty it is usually driven by a discrepancy between where we are and where we want to be. You may envision yourself as a successful film agent in Hollywood but instead you are working a boring finance job and living with your parents. You acknowledge the discrepancy, instantly begin to think of solutions to get from A to B, can’t think of anything on the spot and before you know it, anxiety has set up camp. 

It’s a vicious cycle that has a way of sneaking up on you.

The first time I realized the gravity of how hard my own discrepancies were affecting me took place a little over two years ago.

I was working as a full-time nanny, a title I had held since I moved to Chicago a year earlier. Within that year, I bounced from family to family trying to find the right fit, not realizing how miserable I was because this was so far from what I had envisioned for myself.

I had spent a Saturday researching blogs and articles written by other 20-something’s that were traveling the word, writing for respected publications, all in all, making life happen for themselves.

I babysat that night for the family I worked for full-time and noticed that frequently throughout the night I had shortness of breath and a tightness in my chest. I didn’t think much of it and after the kids went to bed, lounged on the couch watching a thought-provoking episode of The Real Housewives.

All of a sudden, my body became extremely warm and I couldn’t catch my breath. My heart was pounding out of my chest and my hands were shaking uncontrollably

I called my mom to announce the most reasonable explanation I could think of at the time, “Mom, pretty sure I’m dying.”

If you’ve ever had a panic attack you know that the biggest fear after is having another one. I was scared out of my pants. I feared I would have one driving the kids in downtown Chicago or on the jam-packed train.

I began to see a therapist and realized these symptoms arose from the millions of thoughts going in and out my head each day about how unhappy was. The discrepancy became so extreme that it needed an outlet.

A few months later, I quit my nanny job. But two years later, I still find myself struggling with a lot of the same issues. Luckily, I’ve become better equipped in handling them.

The bottom line is, regardless of age, success, failures, experiences, dollar amount in your bank account, facebook status, you will never have it fully figured out.

There is no EUREKA! moment.

But you do have a choice: continue to obsess over having the answers or expend your time and energies into working toward your goals while settling into the peace of not knowing. Either way, you aren’t going to know so you can either fight it or ride out the current.

Making peace with the unknown does not mean sitting back and watching everything unfold with no responsibility on your part. It is quite the opposite actually.

When you are content with not knowing all the answers, you will discover more peace and clarity than every before. You can’t seek peace with a negative, anxious outlook. This outlook will only bring you more of the same: ANXIETY.

Since the anxious mindset probably isn’t working out too hot for you, try adapting a more peaceful one. Here are a few tips for developing a more peaceful mindset:

1.) Practice mindfulness

Even if you only take a few minutes out of everyday to quiet those thoughts that drive you to insanity, I guarantee you will see a shift in clarity. Close your eyes, set your alarm for 5 minutes, and observe your thoughts. When a thought of, “But how will I pay my rent if I don’t get this off the ground?” pops up, pretend you are observing it from the outside looking in. That thought doesn’t own you. It’s nothing more than a though and therefore, holds no truth.

I often think of something I heard years ago in reference to negative self-talk: If you think, There is a bear sitting right beside me. Will that bear be there when you open your eyes? Ofcourse not. It’s the same idea when you think, “I could never make this happen. I’m going to miserable forever.” This doesn’t make it true when you open your eyes.

2.) Break down what is causing you so much anxiety

If you are worried about getting a book deal for that book you haven’t even penned yet, start smaller. Write everything out. I can’t stress how much it helps to physically write out what you want to accomplish. Instead of making “write a book” your number 1, start smaller with writing 300 words tomorrow or 500 words by Friday. If I had developed this mindset sooner, I truly believe I’d have accomplished a lot more by now. But then I wouldn’t be able to express what I should have done with all of you, right? Silver lining, people. 

I don’t like go overboard with tips and strategies because if you’re anything like me, they can become a little overwhelming. 9 steps to do anything seems extreme at this point in the game. Remember you can’t win the game of the unknown so choose to pull yourself out of the game and focus on what you can control: your mind-set. 

The Floating 20’s Upside

bcebc533According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, floating is defined as “continually drifting or changing position.” If you’ve experienced life in your 20’s or are currently doing so, chances are this definition accurately describes life in this decade.

While trying to think up some cute and clever name for this blog, “floating” kept popping into my head. That is essentially what I feel I have been doing since graduating college until now, at age 26.

I have floated from job to job, apartment to apartment, friend to friend, date to date, you name it. There has been little stability and certainty during this time. I often go to bed confused, worried, uncertain, and wondering when all the pieces will fall into place?

As you can imagine, going to bed with this much anxiety can make for some pretty unpleasant dreams. One I had last night struck me so hard when I woke up, that I knew I could not ignore it. It was a pretty violent dream that left me fairly shaken when I awoke but basically, I was being held captive in a small room filled with strangers. A man, who had pretended to be a cop, all of a sudden rushed towards me, pointing a gun to my leg. Gruesome, I know.

All of a sudden, the gun went off and I realized that I had been shot. I immediately knew I was not going to make it and the first thought that came to mind was, “I never tried..”  I was filled with such vivid regret and despair for putting off so much of my life.

Fortunately, they say you can never really die in your dreams so I managed to escape but when I came to, I realized this dream meant something. None of us want to realize somewhere down the road that we were too scared to go after what we wanted when we had the chance. For so many of us, our 20’s are our chance.

With the uncertainty of floating comes flexibility, time and energy that we may not otherwise have ten, twenty, fifty years from now. But instead of taking full advantage of all the limitless opportunities we can either create or seek out, we waste the time away worrying we won’t figure it out.

I could ramble on for days on the subject but the take away of this post is this: I want to help 20-sometings see the advantages and enjoyment that can result from this floating time of life. Let’s not waste it on the negative but take full advantage of all the positives it has to offer.

I am committed to sharing my experiences, wisdom, insight, everything I have gained and lost while navigating through my 20’s with all of you. My hope is to inspire and motivate you all to create the life you envision instead of dragging your feet through the mud. Let’s make this dream a reality. After all, our 20’s won’t last forever!