The Anxiety Beast

anxiety feelings Jan 31, 2021

Welcome to our basement!

Ever had some looming big home repairs? It's not quite as bad as the photo. But, we had a major leak in the cinder block in our basement about a year ago that flooded the basement and damaged the walls. We ripped out carpeting and drywall, brought in huge fans, and salvaged what we could.

We hired a contractor to put in a sump pump and drainage system. It was a huge undertaking. We moved some of our things upstairs, piled the rest in the center of the room, and covered it in plastic drop cloths. They ripped out the lower half of our finished walls, dug up the cement with jack hammers, and created piles of drywall and cement dust everywhere. It looked like it had snowed. What a mess!

They got the trench and drain system in, but we needed additional electrical outlets to run the system. Their electrician and the wall refinishing team were backed up for a few months. So, the plan became they would refund part of the cost, my husband would do the electrical, and we would hire a different contractor to refinish the basement.

Then, Covid-19 hit. The second contractor got Covid-19 quite badly and everything just sat, and sat, and sat.

We are in a hard hit area for Covid-19. Pretty much everyone knows people who had it, have it, or have lost someone to it. We don't even get mail delivered every day because the post office can't keep enough employees healthy and on the job.

Knowing that my husband is a very smart, talented, electrical engineer and that we are pretty capable people, the contractor suggested we refinish it ourselves. I enjoy house projects so I said, "Sure." But, my husband hates house projects, and he won't touch them.

So, it sat. A few weeks turned into a few months, and then almost a full year has gone by that we haven't been able to fully use our basement. What a waste of space!

I know my husband hates home renovation projects almost as much as he hates sweet potatoes, and he considers those pretty vile. He is not interested in either in any way shape or form. But, after a little not so subtle nudging from his impatient family, he began watching "how-to" videos.

GUESS WHAT???? One step at a time, he has been doing extraordinary work in the basement and even more crazy, he has been enjoying himself while he does it. Seriously, he is having fun. It's like that old TV commercial with Mikey and Life cereal. After Mikey takes a bite of cereal, his brothers proclaimed, "He likes it. He likes it. He really likes it." My husband really likes it.

All this time he's been telling me, and himself, he hates house projects. He used to complain about the house falling apart and was very critical about it. I knew it just needed an update or a fix, and if he'd help me, we could do it. But no, he hated home repairs. I would get so frustrated.

But what we found out, when he actually tried it, that wasn't the case. Even though he is a brilliant engineer who works with cars and machinery, he has never done home repair. The thought of house projects not turning out perfect or not going right triggered anxiety for him. So much so, it stopped him from even trying.  

He was as surprised as I was. He thought he hated home projects too. He didn't even realize it was anxiety holding him back. As he researched and took one step at a time, a shift began. He was figuring it out, and with each accomplishment, his confidence began to grow.

The drywall is up, seams are taped, and drywall mud is going on the walls. Not only that, he is enjoying the work. It wasn't that he hated it, it was that his anxiety had him convinced he couldn't do it so he hid behind the hatred.

You should see the work he is doing. It's awesome! The basement looks great! And, he is talking about helping me with some future projects. I guess I'm going to need to keep him around a while. 

So, why do I share all this? Now that he realizes what happened, he told me I should write about it. From the time he was a teenager, he only worked on engines and machines. He never learned home construction or finish work. Somehow, that "never tried" turned into the belief, "I can't do that."

Once his brain got that program, "I can't do that." He didn't. For years, he's told himself he hates house projects covering a fear of failure. Crazy! I knew he could it, and even our random contractor knew he could. But my husband didn't. Instead, he was stuck believing he hated it.

In reality, it was just poor programming. His anxiety stopped him. It created the belief he couldn't and instead of feeling and dealing with the anxiety, his brain covered it up by saying he hated it. But it wasn't true, he could do it. It was just something he needed to try and give himself permission to learn. And let me tell you, he is learning, and we are going to have a fantastic finished basement.

Anxiety can be a beast. It steals joy. It steals confidence. It leads you to believe you can't when you can.

Nervousness in and of itself isn't all bad. It can help spur you on to do things to protect yourself – like not run into traffic or walk into dark alleyways. It can nudge you to prepare for a test or motivate you for a challenge. But, anxiety left unchecked turns sour really quick. It festers and grows, and it can cripple and hold you back from the amazing person you were created and designed to be.

Anxiety is a feeling and feelings aren't facts. They are just warning signs that you need to bring awareness to your current situation and possibly make some changes. Exploring and coping with your anxiety can be a really great opportunity for growth.

Is there something you feel anxious about? The next time you feel stressed, anxious, or find yourself avoiding something, look for the message, consider possible adjustments, but don't let it go unchecked.

What is it that is really going on in your mind? Are their thoughts or beliefs that are spreading lies? Correct the thinking errors. Figure out the first step.

Like that old telephone game where the message gets tweaked as each person passes it down the line, you need to deal with the anxiety up front and correct the faulty thinking. Is this something that really needs to be avoided or is there something here for me to manage and work through?

Don't let yourself or your kids limit themselves with their anxiety. Don't let them miss out on any more opportunities. Don't let them be quick to refuse things they haven't really tried.

Help them change the program to I CAN do this. Yes, it might be difficult. Yes, it might require new learning. And, yes, it might involve working through some negative feelings. But, you are capable of more. You were designed for it!

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