What I learned from that humiliating experience was that I don’t have anything to be anxious about. When that happened the fear that people would “find out” I have flaws were immediately put to rest when I became closer to my colleagues and better respected within my organization.
A fact that I managed to hold on to for about 4.5 seconds before the anxiety monster crept back. If I was going to make it as a professional adult, I had to come up with some personal strategies. I also need to take medication, meditate, restrict my diet, and limit caffeine. After 40 years of living in my body and many years of talking about these topics—I am an expert at anxiety.
Here are my 4 R’s of Managing Anxiety:
Numbers 1 and 2: Recognizing Resistance
In his book, The War of Art, author Stephen Pressfield writes about resistance. It’s that voice that tells us we can’t have the life we envision for ourselves. Resistance is the thing that tells you all the reasons why it won’t work. No matter how great the outcome may be Resistance will try to make you think you aren’t good enough because change is hard.
In recognizing resistance, tools such as meditation, mindfulness, and writing, are very effective. Instead of constantly fighting Resistance, I began to think of it like a frightened child. When your child is scared you don’t tell them to shut up and go away, nor do you ignore them. You hold them close and remind them that no matter what happens everything is going to be ok.
What if we were as nice to ourselves as we are to everyone else? Self-compassion is essential to my anxiety management. In order to recognize resistance, I must be open to the possibility that I have good to offer the world. I have to accept that success is likely and possible.
The other side of Resistance is Inspiration—Pressfield says that inspiration doesn’t just fall from the sky and bang the nearest person on the head. Inspiration is the reward for focus, discipline, and showing up every day.
Resistance keeps us from showing up. Resistance tells us that we are being measured by unreasonable and ridiculous expectations. No one cared about the bra that was just resistance trying to shift my focus and help me find the reasons to believe I wasn’t good enough.
The third R of Managing Anxiety is: Relationships
It’s really very simple. You are not alone in this world. Stop acting like you are. Anyone living with anxiety knows that it can be difficult to ask for help because that voice tells us we should be able to do everything on our own.
In many cases, we cause unneeded stress and isolation when that message is internalized. The relationships you build in your life are an important indicator of your success. Be reliable, trustworthy, and hard-working—but it’s just as valuable to let people see you are vulnerable and give them the opportunity to help, support, and encourage your vision.
This is a wonderful gift not only to you because you get help – but also to those people you ask for support. Building a rich and meaningful life requires other people. You can’t do it all alone. Why try?