I came across an inspiring blog recently, Never Ending Footsteps, written by a young woman named Lauren Juliff. Lauren struggled with panic attacks and other anxiety disorders throughout her late teens and early 20s, but has since gone on to travel extensively for years on end.
I was particularly drawn to Lauren's writing because I too love to travel (Kenya, Peru, Dominica, Mexico, Iceland are a just a few of my favorite places) but also because her story illustrates the importance of allowing anxiety to come along for the ride sometimes. As she describes, Lauren always loved to travel, from when she was a young girl straight through her "anxious years" all the way to today. Even as she was struggling with anxiety, she saved her money and plotted a trip around the world that would last a year or more. It was her great passion. And yet her anxiety made her wonder what would happen if she had a tough panic attack far from home or what if her eating disorder (an anxiety disorder) returned amidst the strange food of far off places. Shouldn't she become well again and get rid of her anxiety before she set out on her trip?
I suspect all of us anxious folk have thoughts like these; I know I did. For instance, if I was anxious to go into the grocery store, I would find myself sitting in my car, waiting to feel better before taking the plunge. Ironically, the pressure of trying to hurry up and feel better only prolonged the anxiety or panicky feelings. As Lauren describes, sometimes we just need to dive into that next experience and allow the anxiety to simply come along for the ride.
It's true, sometimes anxiety is our mind and body's way of telling us that something is not right - maybe our expectations are too high or perhaps we are forcing ourselves to do something or be something that doesn't align with our values. However, sometimes our intuition or our gut tells us that we are meant to take on that new experience, despite the anxiety buzzing in the background - maybe traveling like Lauren or a new job or a new relationship. If your gut is telling you to take the plunge, don't wait until your anxiety fades, take the plunge and allow your anxiety to come along for the ride. Anxiety is only a small part of the overall experience anyway. Just like Lauren made room for anxiety during her travels, so too can you make time and space for anxiety in your adventures or in your life. It's about experiencing the good, the bad, and the anxious.