Your are, in some ways, a machine. You have a fuel source, a mechanism for moving around, a part of you that computes relevant things… and one or two exhaust pipes!
The thing is, you would treat a machine better than you treat yourself sometimes.
A machine you keep for its purpose. If it is the TV, you keep it on a stand, and only expect it to do TV-type things. If it is a lawn-mower, you keep it in the shed, and leave it resting until you need it for grass-cutting-type things.
WHAT KIND OF MACHINE ARE YOU?
So, I have a question. If you were a machine, what would you call yourself?
Are you a People-Pleaser, there to make sure everyone around you is always happy? Or perhaps you are a Quality Control machine, there to make sure everyone around you keeps the world up to your high standards. Maybe your job is your focus, and you are an Office Machine, or a Teaching Machine, or a Sales Machine.
Honestly, what do you see yourself as? What role do you see yourself as mostly performing?
WE ARE COMPLEX, MULTI-PURPOSE MACHINES
Perhaps you couldn’t settle on just one purpose. Maybe you thought: ‘Well, I have my job to do, but I am also a parent. And I’m also an emergency support machine for the universe, there to step in and make everything better when someone is in distress.’ Sort of a Clark Kent/Superman hybrid, with a family to look after.
I guess that’s where anxiety often steps in. Anxiety could be defined as one machine trying to perform two functions at the same time, without the design capacity. A bit like a lawnmower that doubles as a car… there will come a time when the grass needs cutting, but the kids need taking to school.
It’s CAPABLE… oh, the machine is CAPABLE of various different functions. But, when two things need doing at once, it may not, right now, have the CAPACITY.
THE MEANING OF ANXIETY
Viewed from this angle, anxiety is the set of responses and messages your body emits when pushed to multitask beyond its capacity. Think of what you say and do at anxious times. Your alarm bells go, and you start to make funny noises. You puff and pant. Perhaps you swear. Then extra demands are the ‘straw that breaks the camel’s back’, and maybe you start to shake, or fall over in some way, or metaphorically explode.
It’s not that you do not have capability. You are capable. Your instruction booklet definitely says you can do all these things. It’s just that, at this particular time, in this particular place, right now, with this particular set of circumstances, you do not have the capacity. You are full.
THE WISDOM OF REST
Following the machine analogy, we can remember that pretty much all machines need regular rest, whether it be to lower the temperature, or to perform maintenance and updates.
Also, rest helps us to stop multitasking. Multitasking is frequently damaging to our systems. When we rest, we move to just one activity, stillness. When we have finished resting, we tend to begin work on one thing at a time again. Viewed in this way, rest is a kind of reset button, there to stop us overloading ourselves.
Unfortunately, in order to rest, we need to say no to others. The more things we are engaged in, the more nos we have to say. The more plates we have spinning, the more crockery crashes we will hear, or fear, when we cannot cope.
Just for today, try to imagine that your machine instructions strongly suggest only doing one thing at a time. It’s a requirement for your safe functioning.
Whenever you feel the pressure of more than one thing, make some difficult choices. Filter out every single activity you are engaged in, except just one. Rest.
That rest can be for ten minutes or half an hour. It need only be a few seconds. But during that time, empty yourself of the multiple commitments that keep your adrenaline pumping and your heart overloaded.
Right now, just for a short while, you are doing nothing. Except resting.
In a way, we are all machines, in that we each have an organic form which takes on tasks.
We all give ourselves different tasks to do, and we all have different priorities. We tend to get anxious when we take on more than one thing at a time. At such times, whatever our general capability might be, our in-the-moment capacity reduces.
By learning to stop and rest, even if only for a few seconds, we can reset ourselves, and increase the chances that we can stay safe, comfortable, and healthy.