Without knowing it or having a label for it, anxiety is something I’ve struggled with most of my life. It wasn’t until I reached adulthood that I recognized what it was. My out-of-control emotions, feelings of suffocating, overwhelm, stress, and discomfort had an identity. It was called anxiety. To be clear, it is not a professional diagnosis, but I do regularly see a therapist that has helped me find the root cause and work through it.
Fast forward to today, 2021. Fortunately, the pandemic didn’t directly impact my physical health or the health of my immediate family. Still, it did have a much more significant impact on my mental and emotional health than I thought.
My emotional anxiety existed in my peripheral as a hazy silhouette. I saw it occasionally, but because of its dull existence, I didn’t confront it. Instead, I rejected it. The repercussions were more severe and striking than I had imagined. They lead to a level of social anxiety that had never existed in my life. It did exist mildly, but not vividly, as it did this past year.
Sitting at home, in my home office, at my kitchen table, or couch was both comfortable and uncomfortable. It forced the constant bubbling of emotions that had always been percolating in my mind and moved the sediment that blended with it to settle. That was uneasy, uncomfortable, and anxiety-inducing for me.
Before covid and the quarantine, I was too busy to take time to confront those feelings. I went about my day consumed by commutes, schedules, workout classes, and when the weekend hit, some sleep, some show watching, and social gatherings. Essentially, the boiling watering served as a distraction. Covid turned that boiling water to a slow simmer and eventually, entirely off, forcing my mind to mingle and co-exist with this sediment that was anxiety, fear, and discomfort–bringing it all to the surface. So, what do I do with that now?
That cocktail of emotions became the paralyzing social mechanism that showed up as paralyzing feelings of stage fright–or, more appropriately, “on-camera fright”. And then, fear of meeting new people, and eventually, fear of talking to known people.
As a solution-oriented person and someone that uses my anxiety as a way to search for and grasp tangible solutions to stressful, challenging, or uncomfortable situations, I decided to channel those feelings and find not only a way out of it but a way to improve. So, seven months into the pandemic, I started a podcast.
When I started the podcast, I knew I wanted it to be in the interview-slash-conversation format. Essentially, I wanted to have conversations with women I had never met before and learn from them and their experiences. Was it scary? Absolutely. Was it stressful and uncomfortable? You bet cha’. Did it turn out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life? More than there are words to describe.
Six months in, I am more eager, comfortable, and excited to meet new people, have conversations with them, and step outside my comfort zone. There is one caveat, those connections all over the phone. I have not overcome my fear of in-person or “on-camera fright”. But, as I began setting up and having conversations with my guests before our recording session, I was incredibly uncomfortable. I couldn’t recall the last time I had a phone conversation with someone that wasn’t part of my immediate family. So, picking up a phone and connecting with someone completely new in that way felt foreign.
After doing that for several months, I now feel more at ease and comfortable with phone conversations. But, now that in-person life is re-introduced to me, I am finding that uncomfortable and something I need to relearn. Questions that enter my mind are, “what do we have to talk about?”, “how do I respond?”, “where do I put my hands?” and “should I shake their hand?”. And a result of those questions moving throughout my mind, my response rate is delayed. Or I have no response at all. So, the solution-oriented thought about how to fix that. So, I signed up for a virtual improv class.
I want to relearn how to think on my toes, respond, and not base my responses on an outline in my mind with talking points I’ve prepared five or thirty minutes before meeting with a friend. Similar to the podcast, is it going to be uncomfortable at first? Yes. Will it be scary? Of course. Will it be one of the most rewarding things I will do? Very likely, it will be.
So, while the pandemic forced me to live inside my comfortable 990 square foot bubble, my house, and my covid pod that was my husband and me, it forced me to settle into the sediment and create something with it. Some people baked bread, intricate pasta dishes, or viral TikTok videos–all incredibly admirable and things I have yet to check off my list; I am finding new ways to be uncomfortable in this new way of life.