Anxiety comes in many forms. For me, it normally is a product of unintentional worst-case scenario thinking mixed with high personal expectations. Take Covid – it was my job to keep my family safe from a pandemic of unknowns. If they didn’t stay safe, I must not have done my job well enough. When our family got the flu in 2019, I had an anxiety attack leaving me weak in the knees, filling up the porcelain goddess with my dinner.
For the whole of my life, I held this standard at a tier I would never place upon anyone else. Ever. It resulted in a strong work ethic that those closest to me know they can depend upon. Give me a job and you can bet it will be completed fully and well.
Because of it, I, as Ryan Reynolds said:
“Overschedule, overthink, overwork, over-worry, and over-everything.”
There are hundreds of events I could not calm my mind enough to be fully present, including those surrounded by people I love the most. I am constantly analyzing, adjusting, and processing what discomfort my presence could be creating.
When the kids were toddlers doing toddler things, I fretted about others’ frustration level by the noise of their energy. When we showed up at parties, I briefed them on expectations to try to decrease the likelihood of an uncomfortable moment. When I realized I could not breastfeed my daughter past 10 weeks, I cried in the doctor’s office convinced I was ruining her and for sure giving her future ailments… and so on.
Then Covid hit. When you have a person like me living during a pandemic, we are talking another level. I often wished I could be a person who was not concerned and saw it as no more a threat than the flu… but I am not built that way. We followed the guidelines and took precautions. We stayed home. We all struggled both internally and outwardly. My husband became our rock.
When summer came, my role as a summer swim rep caused me to have to rip the bandaid off. We are talking pull fast and hard without concern if hair or skin was coming with it. In a single week, we went from me staying 20 feet away from our soccer parent friends to organizing 60-some positions in the middle of a crowded summer swim meet, doing my best to keep everyone safe and happy.
But you know what? I did it. How? I kept saying this phrase over and over again.
Grace is the name of the game.
When something seemed to go completely astray, I said, “Let’s give grace. We are all learning.” And it worked.
I recognized a huge truth as I stood in the middle of that meet that pre-Covid-me would have never let myself experience: calm in the chaos. There was a lot to do – people to organize, computer programs to learn, safety precautions to implement, and my own children to watch – and I felt happy and thankful for the opportunity to stand there.
I missed some of their swims helping the meet run. I never got upset with myself, but simply breathed out and thought, “Grace. We are not perfect. We are trying our best.” When my son’s relay missed their last event, I simply thought, “Give grace. They are all trying their best.” When I thanked a person for helping, I meant it. I didn’t want to rush to the next thing; I wanted them to feel I whole-heartedly was thankful for them. My anxiety was not present.
What I found in reflecting, in a moment where every part of me seems like I should have been a complete disaster, grace got me through. Was I a perfect calm in a storm? No, not close, but compared to the mental chess-meets-ping-pong-mixed-with-some-football-tackles that normally plays out in my head, I was far better.
We are looking toward another unknown as we go into round two of fall and winter with new life. I am taking this lesson I have discovered: give grace. Not everyone’s battles are on display for us to see; grace allows them the room to grow, make mistakes, and become better versions of themselves.
The pretty darn amazing thing is in giving that grace, it naturally turns inward and allows you the room to grow, make mistakes, and become a better version of yourself.
And you are going to mess up and fall back into old habits now and again.
It’s okay. Give grace.