Can I be honest with you for a minute?
My life is about to change drastically.
After 5 years abroad, my family and I are looking to repatriate back to the United States to be closer to family. This means my daughter and I will have to live apart from my husband for a while. He’s going to keep working in the UAE while I get us set up.
Oh, and since he’s not a US citizen (shout out to Trinidad), we’ve got that expensive and often long immigration journey to embark on as well. There are embassy interviews, lawyer fees, and visas in our future… and me?
I have minimal income and no job lined up back home. Translation: some scary, adult shit!
Letting Anxiety Have Its Way With Me
I’ve been struggling for months now.
When I resigned from teaching and started working on this blog full time, I believed I could generate income much faster than I’ve been able to. Blogging is a bit of a slog, especially if you aren’t in one of those profitable niches like mommy blogging or blogging about blogging.
In order to make my dreams come true, I’ve been dipping into my nest egg from four years of teaching in the UAE to help supplement my husband’s income and pay for the childcare that allows me to work.
Annnnnnndddd…I got suckered into purchasing expensive courses and ebooks to teach me how to make a living at blogging. Very eye-opening. Essentially, I’ve paid a bunch of people to learn that blogging, in many ways, as become something of an MLM.
I’m not about that life at all.
I started this blog full time to be of service to people, and now it’s clear that the road to honest profitability is both long and arduous. Mix that in with horrible financial management (my fault) and I’ve watched that beautifully robust nest egg dwindles into oh shit territory.
Why am I telling you this?
To help you understand why I’ve spent a good chunk of the summer eating my feelings.
Converting Anxiety To Excitement
Several weeks ago, I decided that being paralyzed by anxiety about the future is pointless. Don’t get me wrong. A part of me is always scared shitless, but I can’t let that part steer the ship.
I’d even started entertaining the idea of going back into the classroom for a year or so until we get everything sorted with my husband and he’s able to transfer his job to the US.
But here’s the thing.
I swore I wouldn’t go back into the classroom. Why was I thinking about it? Am I giving up?
The more I thought about it, the more I got flashes in my mind of a future self-trapped in teaching. This future self is miserable, with little time for writing and blogging. She is weighed down by regret and thoughts of what could have been.
The heavyweight of failure.
And that’s not to begrudge my teacher peeps. I taught for 14 years. Both of my parents and about 90% of my aunties and uncles taught. My grandma taught. I love y’all. But it isn’t MY dream.
I tried to be proactive.
I hopped on Indeed and started looking for gigs outside of teaching that might interest me and didn’t find much. Most of what I did find wanted to pay me embarrassingly low salaries that would have my daughter and I sitting right at the poverty level.
A sinking feeling started to wash over me.
Do I have to do this forever?
Working a 40, 50, or 60 hour week for a barely sustainable paycheck? After I’ve tasted the sweet, sweet honey of freedom?
That can’t be me. But I’m also not going to be able to support anybody on my current income, so what do I do?
Here comes the fear, little darlin’.
Thinking about this stuff is enough to make me want to tear into a pint of Halo Top and curl into a fetal position on the couch.
But then I remembered one of the many nuggets from Sarah Wilson’s book, First, We Make The Beast Beautiful. Convert your anxiety into excitement.
They’re mostly the same symptoms in your brain. Why not use that to your advantage?
I had a come to Jesus moment with myself.
Alicia, you can freak out about what happens next and envision a dozen different scenarios that suck. OR, you can flip it on its head. Get excited! You can choose to pursue whatever you want. Fresh start!
And since there is no way of knowing what the future holds, the latter seems like the healthiest option. Instead of being riddled with anxiety over the move, I’m choosing to get excited.
What does converted anxiety look like?
As the video above mentioned, tackling in-the-moment anxiety can be diffused fairly simply by saying to yourself, “Ok, I’m excited!”
The giddy, oh shit feeling of both emotions feels basically the same.
Now, for bigger stuff, it looks a little different. Deciding to be excited and leaving it at that doesn’t put food in my daughter’s mouth or a roof over her head.
You have to find ways to sustain the excitement into the decision-making phase and throughout the building phase of your latest life transition.
Allison Woodbrooks, from the video, explained this more concretely. When you convert your anxiety into excitement, you are getting yourself “out of a threat mindset and into an opportunity mindset.”
A threat mindset equals a constant state of elevated cortisol levels which has an enormous impact on your health (and waistline). Excitement spikes your cortisol levels as well, but only temporarily. (Unless you’re bouncing off the walls 24-7, in which case, chillllllll.)
Chronic stress leads to those constantly elevated cortisol levels I just mentioned. And THAT can lead to a whole host of health problems you don’t need.
Taking back control.
Who am I?
Am I some helpless woman with a limited skillset or am I someone brimming with potential? Does this make me sound like an infomercial?
Once I decided that I’m going to make a conscientious effort to convert all my anxiety into excitement, I had to start identifying and tearing down additional barriers. Most of them within myself.
There’s a stupid, nagging voice in my brain that knows how to get my attention.
She’s the one who listens to other people, gets scared easily, and likes to play it safe. On her most obnoxious days, she tells me things like, “You can’t make that kind of money! You need to go get yourself a regular job and stop playing.”
Ugh, I hate her!
But here’s the thing, and it’s as true for you as it is for me or anyone else. We can decide, to a large extent, what we are capable of.
And so rather than spend hours contemplating whether or not to have 5 pints of Halo Top ice cream delivered to my apartment so I can comfort myself while envisioning a life of teaching in Florida, I decided to do something else.
I decided to choose. And then get excited.
Right around the time I decided that being scared of my life was unhelpful (and it matters more than ever because I have a daughter to consider), I started running into ideas.
What could I do to generate enough income to contribute to my household, give my daughter a good life, and still have time to invest in Soberish?
Rather than allow it to overwhelm me, I began researching and watching friends who were out there doing it for themselves. What were they getting into? How could I make similar moves?
I joined the same Facebook groups they belonged to and researched their same mentors and teachers. And then YouTube recommended a video to me that closed the loop.
I heard a man speak about the kind of business I was interested in pursuing and for the first time, the dominant emotion I had about the whole thing was excitement and motivation.
So I decided.
When I get back to the States later this year, I’m going to pursue X. In the meantime, I’m going to bury my nose in books learning any and everything I can to be ready.
Oh, but the self-doubt thing…
Now, I’d be lying if I said that my anxiety has vanished and the world is all excitement and motivation to forge ahead.
That is what I aspire to, but I shadowbox with doubt on a daily basis.
I’m halfway through a book to learn about one aspect of this new industry and it’s been a reality check. This stuff is hard. It’s a hustle. It takes work. Even more than I’d initially expected.
The anxiety creeps back in.
Okay, maybe you’ve bitten off more than you can chew here, sis.
I remembered the video that gave me the much-needed push in this direction. He did it. Friends of mine who are no more intelligent than me have done it. (We’re all smarties.) So why not me?
That doubt is the fear talking.
You don’t have time for fear. There’s a little girl who is depending on you to provide a good life.
Managing Your Anxiety About The Future
I can’t wave a magic wand and know for sure that things are going to work out exactly as I envision or on my desired timeline. I HOPE they do, but life is funny that way.
What I CAN do is educate myself to mitigate as many risks as possible. And I can safeguard myself against distractions and self-doubt.
Here are the steps I’ve been taking that I believe are 100% transferrable to anyone trying to change their life.
1. Choose your mentors and stick to them.
You ever get excited about an idea and then as soon as you start researching it, you find your head spinning? There are umpteen different ways to go about it. Which do you choose? Analysis paralysis.
And what’s up with the people on this group thread telling horror stories? They’ve got me worried.
I am HIGHLY susceptible to outside influence. So I have to protect myself from it. I’ve quit so many things in the past by listening to and believing complete strangers who tried and failed before me.
I don’t know why. It’s my brain.
Honestly, I didn’t strategically pick my mentors with blogging and got “got” for my hard-earned money more times than I care to admit. Nearly gave up a time or two.
I’m choosing my mentors. I’ve got two people who have done what I want to do that I am following. These are the mentors people in my own life have chosen to learn from. So there’s a trust factor.
I’m limiting all my initial research and learning to these two folks. Once I feel comfortable in my knowledge and the tools they’ve given me, I’ll branch out.
For now, I’ve got blinders on.
I’m not getting caught up in buying any more bullshit courses or webinars. No more allowing myself to get lost in hours-long trains of thought about all the potential obstacles and my inability to face them.
Do you ever do that to yourself?
You get so caught up in why something won’t work for you that you give up on it before you even try? I’m the queen of doing that. Not this time.
I didn’t believe I could build a website on my own, but I did. Honestly, it’s a pretty damn good one. I can learn this, too.
2. Keep it to yourself.
I haven’t told anyone but my husband what my plans are for earning an income once we go back to the States and for good reason.
I don’t need people trying to turn my head in other directions. Remember that thing I said about being highly susceptible to influence?
Sometimes it’s well-intending family members who want to protect you from getting hurt. Other times, it’s Bitter Betty’s and crabs in a barrel trying to pull you down.
Fear is infectious.
If you’ve properly vetted your idea (read: you know it’s honest work) and chosen your mentors, go for it. And then every time you catch yourself feeling afraid or anxious, convert it to excitement.
Oh man, there’s a lot more to this than I thought! I’m excited to try it!
I have to consciously convert anxiety to excitement every time I learn something new about this particular industry. But damnit if I am not committed to keep going.
It’s also why you see me referring to my next venture as X.
3. Safeguard your mindset…even from yourself.
I wasted nearly 15 years of my life to fear, depression, and alcohol.
It bums me out to think about it, but there’s motivation there as well.
Because honestly, what am I supposed to do? Slow walk the next fifteen years in a job I don’t like, living paycheck to paycheck, feeling sorry for myself? Mourning the loss of my youth?
That sounds horrible.
I would rather struggle and fail than to never try at all. My daughter is watching me. What do I want to teach her about grit and success?
So I make a conscious effort to only go into Facebook groups that are useful and supportive. No Negative Nancies.
Instead of falling down social media rabbit holes where people are complaining about this or that, I look for people who are successful and try to feed off their vibe (and learn from them). I’ve killed my Facebook News Feed for this reason.
And if I catch myself being a hater, I check my attitude immediately.
I don’t expect anything to be easy or without hard lessons. But I’m scrappier than I give myself credit for.
We have to constantly work against the negative self-image we’ve built for ourselves. This is particularly tough when you’ve pissed away a lot of your opportunity and goodwill on a drinking problem.
But that shouldn’t be any reason to declare the rest of your life a failure by default.
We get one life. Might as well do something useful with it.
4. Eliminate distractions.
I’m easily distracted. I love a bright and shiny object. It’s why I’ve taken so long to get the blogging thing right. (Still working on it.) Doesn’t take much to sucker me into buying another course or strategy!
It’s also why my financial planning has been subpar (working on that, too).
If you also find yourself getting easily overwhelmed or manipulated by a busy world, then it’s your responsibility to do something about it.
I’ve already started radically changing my relationship with social media. Additionally, I try to be more thoughtful about how I use my time. If I’ve got the bandwidth for it, I choose reading and learning over another episode of 90 Day Fiancé.
(That show is the WORST. I absolutely love it.)
And I try to stay consistent. I’ve been working out 5-6 times per week. I’m journaling every day, first thing in the morning. My breakfast is always the same.
Routines give me a sense of balance and structure. That, in turn, helps calm my internal world, which allows me more time to really tear into my work and lessons.
I’m someone who thrives with structure. So I try to give myself as much of it as humanly possible. You spontaneous, laissez fare type folks make me nervous (kidding…sort of).
Whatever you can do to help keep yourself focused on your goals is 100% worth the time and sacrifice.
I’m still nervous, but I refuse to freak out about it.
I’ve let a lot of things go in the past few weeks.
Two years ago, I gave birth to a whole human child. My organs rearranged themselves to accommodate her to stay inside my body. The skin on my stomach stretched to an impossible limit.
What a thing!
So not having a six-pack is fine (for me). Am I eating mostly healthy? No more binging? Do I work out every day? Is my waistline in a healthy range?
If yes, then I’m at peace with my body so long as it is healthy.
I love fitness accounts and seeing the hard work and dedication of the people in them, but I’ve got zero interest in devoting the requisite hours to the gym. Nor do I want to eat copious amounts of bland chicken breast and broccoli to get there.
So I’ve let the whole “I don’t have my 22-year-old body anymore” thing go.
The same thing is true of feeling scared about the future.
What’s the point? Who has the time?
I can spend hours contemplating a dozen different ways things don’t turn out the way I’d like, OR, I can use that time learning things to help me get where I’m trying to go.
I cannot control the future. But I CAN control my preparedness for it.
Might as well give it a go.