One of the best pieces of advice I received when I became a mom came from my sister-in-law. I was standing in what felt like a sea of what if disaster scenarios (“What if I drop the baby?” being the most common), and I felt completely overwhelmed with worry. I will never forget how she reassured me that yes, all new moms suffer this paranoia, but that the key to maintaining one’s sanity was not to “go down the rabbit hole.” It is vital to acknowledge the dark thought(s) for a moment yet not let them be all-consuming. This advice proved to be invaluable, especially in those first few months as a new mother. “What if…” concerns would pop up, and I’d shiver at the horror of such a scary possibility, but then I’d take a breath and tell myself not to go down that rabbit hole. “Move along, nothing to see here.”
What was useful for me with my brand new baby has proven powerful in other ways too. Without going into too much personal detail (and to protect the privacy of others), I can say that I have found myself in scenarios in which it is tempting to obsess about how to approach and resolve a problem; what I want to say and how to perfectly phrase my point of view; what I would do if so-and-so said such-and-such. The thing is, in these situations, my stress level goes through the roof. I get frustrated and angry at the person I am having the imaginary conversation with, while simultaneously feeling a bit foolish because I know said-person is not concerned in the slightest about me or my point of view. It’s exhausting!
My saving grace is that I don’t ever (or more likely- rarely) actually take the bait and engage. Instead I go for a run and work out all the rage and rejection and rabbit hole darkness while I pound the pavement. After about 20-30 minutes, when I’m lucky, I’m more concerned with my breathing and my stride; I’m interested not in the drama, drama, drama determined by others (whose actions are out of my hands and beyond my control) but in the mini-miracles manifesting around me all the time: the lush green fields with happy cows cooling off in the shade; the tired toddler content to color with her crayons in her chariot as mama creates the breeze while pushing her from behind; the health and vitality of my family and friends who have loved and supported me any way they could, always…
The stressful, sometimes chaotic and scary unknowns are everywhere (just look at the news today if you don’t believe me). There will be days when the pull of the dark, gaping rabbit hole feels unavoidable and even inevitable. I don’t let that bother me; I acknowledge that there a million things to worry about and wonder What if about; I accept that. Then I make the choice not to go down that rabbit hole. “Move along, nothing to see here.”
…and I keep running!