Having anxiety has impacted a lot of areas of my life, but it has especially affected my ability to cope with tasks that are, to many people, mundane and every day. Phone calls are an area of everyday life that I find particularly difficult to mange my anxiety around. They can often be unpredictable and without facial cues from the other person, I find it difficult to comprehend how they are reacting to what I am saying.
There are a host of everyday activities such as ordering a coffee or getting a bus that I can struggle with. As with my anxiety, some days it is fine and other days the thought of ordering a coffee in a shop is too much to process. The days that it's a challenge to carry out the small things, I try to remember to feel a sense of accomplishment when I achieve things like leaving the house or coping with a social interaction.
My family and friends often use the word ‘just’ to describe a task such as, "Erin, it is just a phone call."
Whether or not this is conscious on their part, it can feel like they are trivialising my anxiety experience.
I find phone calls difficult and if I manage to make a phone call successfully without hanging up before the call goes through or mid-way through the conversation I feel a sense of accomplishment in that. However, to many people making a phone call is a ‘small’ task that causes them little to no thought beforehand. My friend who does not have an anxiety disorder suggested that the word ‘just’ is a way for loved ones to make an event feel less important and less anxiety inducing. Nevertheless, from my experience being able to do something that is anxiety provoking is never just anything, but is difficult and deserves to be seen as a success because I have been able to battle my anxiety response.
It is easy for me to be hard on myself for not being able to accomplish what I think I should be, especially the ‘small’ tasks. But it is important to be able to congratulate myself on achieving a ‘small’ thing because it is not always ‘small’ and it can be something that I have struggled with for a long time.
I think it is worthwhile remembering that yes, for me anxiety can make mundane tasks difficult, but I can feel proud that I have battled them. Loved ones know that I struggle with getting a job and to try and help they break it down into ‘it is just applying for a job,’ which to them is the easier part of the job process. But applying for a job is saying that I am worth something and I am worth listening to, which is a big step in my self-esteem and anxiety.
Every activity that is deemed to be ‘just’ something is a mountain for someone else and before we break it down into what we think are smaller, manageable chunks, we should take the time to think what we deem to be ‘just’ tasks and what we think deserves a sense of accomplishment for completing to the best of our ability.