Even Successful People Feel Anxious
Anxiety can be a normal human emotion. An anxiety disorder is more difficult and not an easily controlled condition, so we have to learn to manage it just the way one does dyslexia, colorblindness, or diabetes. It’s not like worrying, an emotion that we all experience at some point in our lives when faced with a problem at work, an important exam, or making a tough decision. Anxiety is, however, a crippling emotion and a medical condition. Jodi Picoult, American author, says that, “Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.” As defined by the Mayo Clinic, anxiety is an “excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations.” Anxiety disorders differ from normal worry in that they can cause distress that interferes with an individual’s ability to lead a normal life and involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety or terror that quickly reach a peak. The causes range from genetics to other medical conditions. Dyslexia, for example, is an environmental stressor that can create anxiety; perhaps it is only natural that if one cannot read easily, one is going to be anxious when presented with situations that require this activity.
One of the biggest issues surrounding anxiety is that many people don’t understand how to talk to their doctors about it, and thus, their doctors can think it’s no big deal when their patient says something is worrying them. It’s important to communicate to doctors the amount of hours you spend fretting over something, sometimes even to the point of immobility. Certain manifestations of anxiety are situations that many truly struggle with and think of as normal but are not. There are real reasons for anxiety that the mental health community can overlook and physicians and family members lump together under an umbrella of simple worrying. For example, if you had a steady job that required artistic talents, and you did not possess any, you would be anxious on a daily basis.
It’s important to remember that anxiety is not the result of a character flaw or a personal weakness. It can come with changes in the brain, medical conditions, or environmental stress. Some studies, for example, are beginning to show that the right combination of stomach microbes could be crucial to a healthy mind. Boston-area psychiatrist James Greenblatt has helped some patients by prescribing probiotics because an imbalance in the gut could be a cause of mental symptoms. In the article, “Anxiety in Your Head Could Come from Your Gut,” Greenblatt states that, “The gut is really your second brain… There are more neurons in the GI tract than anywhere else except the brain.” Thus, eating a lot of foods like pizza can lead to inflammation of the body, which could contribute to anxiety.
We can manage anxiety and related challenges by looking at it in a more practical way. Starting to talk about it more and conceptualizing it as a true fact is the beginning, just as we did a few years ago with the example of a child saying he couldn’t concentrate resulting in a diagnosis of ADHD. If we break down the information, we can find out the real reason for discomfort. As a career and life coach, I try to teach people how to manage anxiety by looking for multiple solutions and through such methods as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), or tapping.
An integral part of managing anxiety is learning to make rational decisions instead of trying to overcompensate for your fears. Because our society can be a bit shame-based, we feel bad if we cannot do something or do not feel up to going out. If people felt free and open, they could just share with others that they are dyslexic, for example, and cannot read easily, but this creates discomfort. Accommodations can make a big difference in coping with anxiety, but many do not want to do this because they fear it will make them feel embarrassed for being different. It is embarrassing to be great but different, whether your difference is physical, mental, or dietary. For example, diabetics may not want to go out to dinner because they have to watch what they eat while others do not. Another example is a woman in her late 30s I know who developed a fairly debilitating anxiety around speaking to people on the phone. She dreaded it and avoided, and it started to affect her career and even her personal relationships. It turned out that she actually had severe hearing loss in both ears, that simply required hearing aids, and although she felt slightly embarrassed to wear them at her age, the anxiety surrounding using the telephone all but disappeared once the medical condition was properly diagnosed and addressed.
Anxiety can sometimes create self-doubt, and an individual could use a coach as a sounding board when they need feedback on their thought processes. For those with anxiety who need help goal-setting and meeting objectives, a coach can help with prioritizing and determining reasonable goals, as a different perspective can sometimes be encouraging in the face of doubt. Individuals who may be anxious respond well to coaching because they don’t have to worry so much at home. Discussing topics with a coach can allow one to have more fun and not take so much worry home.
Anxiety is part of your physical body and sometimes there are specific reasons for why a person feels anxious. Many people who do not experience anxiety can view it as a benign thing, but it can truly inhibit peoples’ lives. It is important to note that, if you or someone you know experiences anxiety, there are methods and individuals waiting to support you!
DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional, but an avid collector of information which I seek to present to my clients in an effort to educate and to offer, for their choosing, options for those who may be dealing with these kinds of issues.