Saturday, December 01, 2007

DIARY 49 - The Ageing of my Anxiety

My Mother is quite an anxious being, I seem to have inherited being anxious either through genes, karma or simply learning it from her example. It feels like I learnt how to be anxious in the womb, it certainly has an existential feel to it. Over the years I've got better at handling and facing my anxious tendencies. I've tended in the past to pile on the agony and make matters worse, accelerating its intensity till it became quite debilitating , so making decisions, maintaining a sense of purpose and keeping perspective would be well nigh impossible. Through growing older and years of practise as a Buddhist, I've learnt how to deal with my anxiety better, mostly by cultivating a calmer way of being, keeping perspective on difficulties, not worrying about things weeks before they're due to happen, that sort of thing, trying to contain the scope of the anxiety and not let it run rampant over my experience. Anxiety can so easily turn into quite a paralysing, despoiling ruler otherwise.

Working in the crematorium produced a distinct type of anxiety, one obviously more related to my own mortality. It seemed deeper in tone and I felt it more profoundly as an acidic ache in the pit of my stomach. Since I started working in Windhorse Customer Services I've noticed a different type of anxiety. It's felt as a knotted band stretched across the front of my upper chest, sometimes it feels warm as if a hot water bottle was pressed against it. My current level of anxiety, after years of being quite small and manageable, seems to be fluctuating unpredictably and occasionally gets beyond what I can handle and contain. There are a number of facets that are feeding it- I'm still learning my new job, and I'm aware that there are still gaps in my understanding and awareness of what needs doing. Things could go seriously awry without my being aware of it - simply the job itself, each time you pick up the phone you don't know what your going to have to deal with, this can be stress inducing, throw in a mild phone phobia I sometimes experience, and I guess you get the feel of this one - the team consists of three likeable but quite distinct individuals, with very strong tendencies - at present we seem to be constantly understaffed through illness, and so we are not getting all our tasks done effectively– all of which can lead to concerns about my own effectiveness as a manager entering my mind, dwelling in my thoughts, and sitting on my chest.

Now, most of the time I can hold all of this and not let it get out of control, but I've realised that at present the glass is pretty near full most of the time. On three occasions in the last month I think I've started to overspill, my containment leaks and runneth over - leaving work feeling pissed off, irritable and angry - I've woken up in the middle of the night in panicky states, and as a consequence have had a poor nights sleep. On each occasion it was triggered by a team member downloading a whole load of their anxiety and frustration late in the day and I've just been overwhelmed. From my Mother onward, I've found it difficult not to be overly affected by the anxiety of the people around me, even though I know its not rational nor helpful. I am attempting to keep perspective on the difficulties within my team, with the work and with me. I know none of this is going to be resolved quickly or easily, I came into this job knowing I was inheriting a bit of a poisoned chalice; the previous manager having burnt out. I do have a better grasp now on how I envisage the team developing in the future. I also need to develop a personal strategy on how to manage my anxiety even better than before. Though I recognise that its an emotional volition or habit that I will still have difficulty in turning around. Despite my best efforts it can so easily steal in and break my glasses!

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