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“Get your shoes on? We are gonna be late...AGAIN!” I’m stuffing lunch bags into backpacks, flipping through stacks of paper wondering why I don’t put my keys in that aptly placed dish where my husband's keys seem to permanently find themselves. I’ve managing to find only one of each of my shoes. My hair is already a mess and I just did it. I’m anxious and when I’m anxious my whole house is anxious. Even the dog follows me with a sort of charged energy that I imagine is how golden retrievers show anxiety. My anxiety doesn’t look like those anti-anxiety medication commercials where the worrier rubs her temples and seems to fret calmly. My anxious self looks more like a tornado, an impatient and inattentive tornado.

As a therapist, I’m more than knowledgeable of the hows and the whys of anxiety symptoms; the mix of adrenaline and cortisol that pumps through the body. But rather than bore us with the biological mechanisms of this all to common mommy emotion; I’d rather share how I developed my anxiety resilience. It’s not what you think. It’s not mindfulness, yoga, gratitude journals, breathing techniques or the like. We all know those things theoretically work, but they just aren’t my kind of anxiety reduction strategies. Many of our most common practices for reducing anxiety rest in reactive measures. Again, there is nothing wrong with learning ways to respond to your anxiety. To me, the focus on reactive strategies feels like owning a first aid kit, necessary but not exactly fun.

For me, when I built my practice of saying “yes,” I noticed that I experienced more fun in my life and simply put having fun tamed my anxiety. More than just fun, it seemed that my anti-anxiety strategy was to embrace a spirit of adventure. For seven years, I’d put my adventurous self to bed. This timeline is roughly equivalent to when I became a mom. Yes, we all know that there are adventures in parenting, lots of them. Yet, the adventurous spirit of seeing how long my child could run around naked before I need to clean up pee isn’t exactly the same adventurer that trekked through Thailand with my besties.

Where was my adventurous side?

I parented, worked, parented, worked. I’d get a night out here or there. I’d see glimpses of this adventurous person. But I needed to seek adventure intentionally, not just find myself in an adventure when a quiet girl’s night ended up at a gay bar singing karaoke.

When I noticed that this adventurous spirit was missing in my life, I added adventure to my core values. As a Daring Way(™) facilitator, I’ve learned that when I make decisions by my core values, I live my best life. If I was going to see adventure show up in my life, I needed to make it a core value. It was that simple and then it wasn’t.

When I built my practice of saying “yes,” I noticed that I experienced more fun in my life and simply put having fun tamed my anxiety.

Immediately, my ‘not good enough’ voice came up. It screamed at me: “You are too old to adventure.” “You are too busy to adventure.” “You are too tired to adventure.” “Adventure is not a core value..you aren’t even good enough at picking core values.” Yet, this was just my internal narrative keeping me stuck. I took out a post-it note and wrote: “I give myself permission to adventure.” This little post-it note trick is another one of Brene Brown’s tools which creates personal change through brief intention setting. At least for this day, I’d allow myself to cultivate an adventurous spirit. But it didn’t last just one day, I’m still practicing at adventuring.

Just so we are clear about how I went from a previous adventurer to an anxious mess, I’ll let you in to 2016. I was anxious about just about everything. I was running my group mental health practice, my passion project non-profit, parenting two young children, and running myself into the ground. It felt like if I slowed down and responded to my anxiety, everything would fall apart- my business, my children, my marriage...all of it. I was generally in a state of panic, letting little things feel like big things and big things take me to the brink. I was crying a lot, yelling even more, and generally staying up way past my mommy bedtime trying to get it all done. It was exhausting.

Around this time, I’d completed my first Daring Way(™) workshop and discovered that I am an overfunctioner with anxiety. This means I get bossy, bitchy, controlling, and feel like I’m the only one that can get anything done. I micromanage the sh*t out of everyone. I wore busy as a badge of honor. I appeared constantly stressed. Basically, I became hard to work and live with. I could not do another year like this.

Although the label of overfunctioner seemed to normalize my behavior, it didn’t exactly create changes. Because I can rush change, my mind first went to pharmacological supports. Maybe I’d get on some anti-anxiety meds and shut this overfunctioner down! I’m not anti-meds or anything, but when I dug deep I could see that this was not biological, rather sustained by a self-imposed rigor of going full speed at too many things.

I made a big decision the day I decided to allow adventure back into my life. I clarified that adventure was not escape. Adventure could look like numbing out to anxiety, escaping it through debautory. Yet, this wasn’t my definition of adventure...at least not in this century. I needed to be careful here to define adventure; get clear on what it looked like in my life and what it didn’t. I started making decisions with adventure in mind. It worked. I immediately noticed that my world did not crash down when I adventured.

Adventuring just became a part of who I am. Right now, I’m writing this blog on a rooftop restaurant in a trendy part of London. I got here by saying “yes” to submitting a research proposal to a conference. I was accepted and found myself in London. Submitting a research proposal may not feel like the most typical example of adventure but for me, I define adventure as taking risk, doing things that create those good types of butterflies. Presenting my research definitely fit that box.

We adventured as a family, finding ourselves on the beautiful beaches of Nicaragua for Spring Break. Previously, I had been the type of mom that was a ball of stress when flying an hour and a half to visit the grandparents. Yet, when a cheap airline flight landed in my in-box, I knew we were going to take this family adventure. We drove dirt roads, hiked gorgeous coastal ridges, surfed beach breaks, went on rusted carnival rides and let each day take us to a new place. My adventurous side allowed my children an opportunity to grow their adventurous spirit. It just felt right. Months later, I found myself at a training on a farm in Germany learning about the animal-human connection. I’ve said “yes” to a lot of things. All of them pushing me in a new direction of growth.

Adventuring isn’t always travel. As silly as it sounds, I started dressing differently. I started buying things that I wanted to wear rather than what all the other moms seemed to be wearing. I found myself wearing mini-skirts, bodysuits, even got myself those cute over-the-knee boots. I let adventure take me to new restaurants. I usually made a routine of walking to a grocery store and buying some substandard healthy choice of what I ‘should’ eat. When I started adventuring for lunch, I found myself eating Vietnamese food, at Greek restaurant with the funniest owner, and discovering I love Himalayan spice.

I adventured myself to Austin, Texas and decided to start a branch of my business there. In this adventure, I learned the art of connection. Texans showed me their southern hospitality and opened up their homes, hearts and network to me. I learned that I could talk with anyone.

If I reached out, people often responded with kindness and connection. It really changed how I do business. It honestly made me rethink my fear of rejection.

When I notice that anxious state again, I ask myself “What am I afraid to of?” or “What makes me uncomfortable?” Usually, this is where I can find a daily adventure. I’ve taken myself to a marijuana dispensary (it’s legal in CA). I started writing fiction. I even decorated my new office without help of a decorator! In all these daily adventures, I’ve discovered a part of myself that I missed. I also discovered a strength that I didn’t know I had. I still have anxious moments. I still find myself over-functioning at times. But I also feel more competent, more myself, more powerful. All this makes those anxious mommy moments where I’ve barked an order to quickly, feel like my world is about to crash down, seem like something that I can handle. Saying “yes” to my adventurous spirit helps me when I’m desperately contending with another mommy meltdown.

If I reached out, people often responded with kindness and connection. It really changed how I do business. It honestly made me rethink my fear of rejection.

Cultivating an adventurous spirit reminds the body and soul that we as moms are powerful, can accomplish anything, and don’t need to live in fear and anxiety. We know how to roll with the punches and we are the type of badass chicks that can find your keys under a pile of mail without flipping out.

How will you adventure? Let me know!

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