I’ve been away from the blog for a while and my absence was no mistake. I put in for a bunch of leave at work, shut down my computer at home (well… mostly), and decided to take a breather. Unfortunately, anxiety has a way of attacking just as you’ve kicked your feet back for a moment’s rest. It’s almost as if not worrying is a cause for worry.

So, most of my holiday break was spent dealing with a chronic nagging anxiety that annoyed me in the same way that a yellow-jacket does when you’re outdoors in the summer with a refreshing can of Coke or a glass of iced tea. Every time you go to take a sip, you have to look closely at your drink to ensure that you aren’t going to swallow anything… painful.

Trying to relax is about as useful as trying not to panic. Relaxation — in the “vacation” sense, that is — isn’t something you can actively seek. The very act of seeking destroys the sense of relaxation. Instead, relaxation is (at least for me) best described as letting go. When I aim to relax, I aim to let go of everything… temporarily. I think of it like carrying a heavy burden. If you carrying a boulder, you can’t relax without first dropping it. If you’re smart, you’ll put it down for a few minutes, catch your breath, then pick it up again to continue forward.

It was in this spirit that I spent my vacation. I dropped the boulder, plopped my ass on it, and poured myself a glass of iced tea. I then spent the next few days swatting at the yellow-jacket. In other words, the moment I stopped carrying the boulder was the moment I began worrying about how I would pick it up again. Instead of enjoying the freedom of being without my burden, I gave myself something else to worry about. I traded one boulder for another.

But this vacation was not without its successes. I spent a lot of time with my wife, my family, and my friends. Most importantly, I didn’t try to fight anxiety or any other battles. Sometimes the battles make their way to your doorstep, but this doesn’t mean you must always engage them.

The next time a yellow-jacket goes after your Coke, try setting out a small glass just for him and his friends. Of course, be sure to put it a few feet from you. This is a much smarter solution than allowing them to annoy you while you try to relax.