I just spent the better part of a week on a work trip. When I left, I was in a sour mood. I had had too much of a great weekend. I don’t just mean too much to drink, but too much intense human interaction: a four-hour-long dinner, multiple parties, impromptu drinks. I was just wrecked.
When I’m tired, everything seems unimaginably horrible. A minor setback is a life-ending failure. A cross word is the end of a friendship. Everything is catastrophically bad.
When I was younger, this sort of mood would trigger an anxiety spiral. Maybe my friendship was failing? Maybe everyone hated me? Maybe I was about to immediately be fired?
But now I know this about myself. I know that too much personal interaction tires me out and that, without some respite, I become exhausted and miserable.
So as I boarded the train for my trip, I knew that what I needed was some peace and quiet. And to avoid aggravating my already overextended brain.
And, with age, I’ve figured out the things that do raise my anxiety levels. Being late. Not having a plan. Being hungry.
When I changed trains, I didn’t dally or shop. I went directly to the next platform, despite having plenty of time. I didn’t deviate. I made a plan. Upon arrival, I got a snack. I made it to the hotel, into bed and I woke up the next day feeling like my usual self.
Figuring all of this out takes time and a lot of self-reflection. It’s incredibly annoying that we are born with these fantastic brains and zero understanding of how they operate.
The absolute best part about getting older is getting a better understanding of yourself. Life is so much easier when you understand what makes you tick, what annoys you, what makes you happy.
My 20s and 30s were basically spent conducting an extended scientific experiment on myself. How does the subject react when hungover? How does the subject react when hungry? How much sleep does the subject need to not want to bathe in the blood of her enemies?
(Badly, badly and a lot are the correct answers.)
These are all things that any doctor could have told me, but, as with many things, I needed to learn them for myself.
There are a lot of things, though, that a doctor couldn’t tell you. What is my natural sleep pattern like? What makes me anxious? How do I relax?
Of course, I am a mere 35 so I am sure these things will change over time and there is plenty more to discover. But grappling with at least some of these bits of my personality leave so much more headspace for other things.