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Life Without Gravity

The Consultant's Freakout 

Calming Anxiety in Your New, Chosen Profession

A blog chronicling the up's and down's, trials and tribulations, fear and happiness of moving your life from the expected 9-to-5 job to a life of consulting. While it is a big and often scary decision, it is a time of discovery, rejuvenation and introspection that will help you remember who you are and who you were supposed to be. It's a wonderful journey.

The other day I was having a moment. You know those “moments.” The ones we hope we have when we are alone and not in the witnessed presence of others. The ones where are emotions are irrational, and we temporarily go insane. The ones where we reach for the bottle of Xanax but don’t swallow a tablet because we know we are probably being irrational, and it will pass. And it does. But only after you have exaggerated every challenge and minimized every success.

I was pacing. I was perspiring, and my heart was racing. I was having a consultant’s panic attack. I tried to calm myself down by writing all that was flowing through my brain at that “moment:”

  • I did not earn my monthly quota, and now we will lose the house.
  • I don’t like the color of my office.
  • My daughter at college is probably failing all of her classes. And I am paying out-of-state tuition!!!
  • My client is straining her relationship with her boss and will get fired before I am paid.
  • My best friend must be mad at me. She hasn’t returned the text I sent her 10 minutes ago.
  • I haven’t called my mom in two weeks.
  • Why aren’t client x and y calling me back?
  • How in the world am I going to pay my taxes this year?
  • I really should be writing more – I am neglecting my book.

And I stopped there. And yet, as I wrote, more negative ideas started to pop:

  • I don’t know what to cook for dinner. I don’t ever want to cook again.
  • The Ravens really need to step up their game this season.
  • I am going to turn 50 in a few months. My goodness, I am so old.

Wow. By the end of this “moment,” I was feeling responsible for the war in the Middle East, Putin’s reign and the honey bee crisis. Why in the world are we wired to have such “moments?” They are C-R-A-Z-Y. And, when you work from home and have one, you have to get pretty creative in distracting yourself and breaking up the spin.

Before I dipped my toe into consulting, I talked to many who were making it work. I remember one person sharing with me that he could slip into hours of darkness worrying about money. Another talked about how she once wasted an entire week fretting over how to get new clients. Another took an extra month to launch his Web site because he just knew there was something that would not work. When we get a “moment” of panic, and we are alone, it takes discipline to break the momentum of negative flooding.

To help me overcome my next inevitable panic attack, I went to the Internet. There is an amazing plethora of advice, but a lot of it is not so good:

Show the panic who’s boss. Suppress it and take ownership of your mind.
This didn’t work so well for me during the moment. I was clearly the servant to my mind in the “moment,” but it would be nice to take charge and say, “Know it off, Luanne. You are in charge.” I’ll try to remember that next time.

Stop running. When a panic hits, stay put and confront it.
The only thing that actually stopped this particularly moment of anxiety was to go outside and weed the garden. Not only is it a perk of working from home that you can turn off your mind by doing a household chore, but the change of scenery worked quite well. So, strike this piece of advice- at least for me. Fail #2.

Act Normal. The panic will subside once you pretend everything is ok.
Seriously? You can see the list or irrational fears I surfaced. Act normal when you think the Ravens are going to have a bad season? Puh-leez.

So, the Internet didn’t help me. The garden did. And of course, it wasn’t the garden. It was the fresh air, regularized breathing, focus on the moment that did. I learned all this on my own – without the Internet or a visit to a therapist. That’s another victory for consulting – we are creative and resourceful. And, while we know how to blow up every small setback, we have the super power to put it all back in the jar and move on.