I specialize in working with “Type A,” perfectionist clients. I love it because my clients are naturally goal-oriented and conscientious–more so than most people. They’re motivated to feel their best and dedicated to the process of making that happen. While often beneficial, there can be consequences when the need to succeed (in any area of life) drives us into a state of anxiety or compulsive behaviors. Some get heart palpitations, some clench their jaws, others turn to shopping or wine or sugar.
What I see happening with folks is that the periods of anxiety correlate with a period of preoccupation or narrow focus. The world seems to shrink and all that’s left for us to see is our latest worry: Did I get the job? Is he going to call for another date? Is my friend mad at me? Will I always feel alone? Nothing else seems to exist, let alone matter. Worry takes over and we lose sight of the rest of our life, like the fact that we have a great family, earn a good living and have a couple fun hobbies. And we’ve certainly lost sight of the rest of the world. Our healthy perspective has disappeared, only to be replace by some sort of twisted fun house mirror.
Part of the antidote to this sort of imbalance may be found in embracing expansiveness. Let go of the narrow focus by reminding yourself of all the other life out there in the world. One of the best ways I know is getting outside and taking a walk; it’s simple and doesn’t cost a dime. Our homes or offices can contain all sorts of stressful energy for us. Everywhere we look is a reminder of some other task that hasn’t gotten done yet and we’re probably already feeling a sense of urgency and uncertainty. Sometimes we feel stuck inside because we think we should be crossing things off that to do list. But…that’s not really what you need right now. So, get up off your keister and get movin’! This isn’t about burning calories or looking good. Think of this walk as a much healthier form of Xanax. Walk to the beach if you can or go to a park. Play on the swings. Watch the people going by. Walk around the block if that’s all you can muster. The point is to get out. Notice the houses or shops you pass along the way. Think about the people you pass or the people in their homes. Wish them well in your head. Send them a smile or hug as you walk by. Think to yourself of the struggles they may be having with their work or personal life and send them a bit of compassion. Think to yourself of the happiness and excitement they may be having and share in their joy and enthusiasm. Remind yourself you’re not in it alone.
Many weeks in my office, a theme seems to emerge among my clients. Maybe it’s yoga or the Garfield Park Conservatory or eating paleo. It’s always an interesting reminder to me that my clients don’t know each other, but they all come sit on my couch for an hour every week or two and so they’re all connected. Embracing expansiveness can be a great reminder of that interconnectedness and also a reminder that we are but small parts of a larger whole. That makes our problems quite small in the grand scheme of things–refreshing, don’t you think?