By day three, I’d had it. I had become fully enraptured by my phone, staring at it every other minute, clicking through my various messaging apparatuses. The Inner Bitch starts firing off, curious at first: Is he going to text? Is he losing interest?
Then, she picks up steam: He’s over it. You said something weird. He probably thinks you’re insane for having pinkeye — you’re 29. He is probably with another girl. As I’ve said, my inner critic can be a real bitch.
I’ve been down this road before — the anxiety spiral caused by a new relationship that isn’t quite on solid footing just yet. It’s exciting and glorious one minute and confusing and terrifying the next.
I’m still getting to know this man, this interesting and handsome man, and still learning his quirks and triggers. And even though I know better by now than to let the fear take over, sometimes it slithers its way in and stares me right in the eyes, daring me to make a move. And so, I do.
Years ago, that move would have been self-destructive. I’d have gone into panic mode and started doing damage control. I’d have sent the funniest, brightest, and most “perfect woman” text I could think of. Followed by several more texts.
I would have written him off altogether, had a little too much to drink, and then asked why he hadn’t been in touch. I would have given in to the many negative narratives I’ve gathered over time from terrible dating advice books, TV shows, or people who were just as lost as I was.
Today, I know better. I know that this fear isn’t about him. It’s about me. It stems from where I am in this moment, and how I’m feeling about myself. Which means that fixing it is entirely on me too. Today, when I start to spiral into fear, I pick myself back up with these tools.
Here’s how to stop an insecurity spiral before it starts:
1. Get still.
Nine times out of ten, when I start into a fear spiral, it’s because I haven’t meditated that day. Meditation helps me calm my mind and separate my thought patterns from who I am.
If you allow yourself to be ruled by fear, you’re agreeing to the opposite premise: That your thoughts are who you are and that they need to be addressed immediately. The first thing I do when I notice I’m freaking out about the lack of communication from a dude is sit down, get quiet, and meditate.
2. Examine the facts.
Once my mind is clear, I take stock of the facts of the situation. And I do mean the facts. Nothing that could be considered an opinion is allowed here. There is no room for anxious interpretation.
In my case, for example, the facts are this: Man is out of town for the weekend at a wedding. Man texted me yesterday to ask how my weekend was going. The last time I saw him I really enjoyed it. He said he wanted to see me again when he was back.
When you look at the facts, as they are, you are grounding yourself in the present rather than in past narratives or future hopes. New relationships struggle when we put too much pressure on immediacy. “I need to know where this is going right now” can be replaced with “I’m okay where I’m standing today.” It’s good here in the present. You don’t have a time bomb on your shoulder.
3. Check in with yourself.
What’s going on within you today that might be causing the anxiety? In my case, I was exhausted from a long weekend upstate with friends with little sleep. I might also have been a little bit hungover. On top of that, I hadn’t exercised in a few days and was starting to let negative self-talk about my body creep in.
Once you’ve identified your feelings, ask yourself what you really think is causing them. Is it one missing text message, or is it the way you’ve been talking to yourself for the past few hours? Is this more about you not liking yourself than someone else not liking you? The answer was pretty clear in my case, and I’d bet it is in yours, too.
4. Practice self-care.
Rather than taking action against your significant other, focus your energy and attention on yourself. Do something that makes you feel good and taken care of, whether it’s cooking yourself a good meal, journaling, exercising, meditating, or having a long chat with a friend. Focus on shifting from self-doubt to self-love. Bring yourself back to the beautiful equilibrium you feel when you’re doing the things that make you feel confident and strong. You’ve got this.
5. Revisit the situation.
Once you’re feeling more balanced and present, revisit the situation. Ask yourself if you need to take any action, based on how you’re feeling now. Does this situation still feel as urgent? If it does, then you can address it confidently.
You’re in the ideal head space for a productive conversation. If not, continue treating yourself with love and see what happens. And if you’re like me, he’ll text you right after you finish your self-care. That’s how strong vibrations are.