Shortly after I appeared live on a show called, “Educational Moments with Dr. Naita” to discuss anxiety, someone asked me if appearances like that make me nervous. I paused to consider the question and said no, which is an honest answer.
I felt perfectly comfortable being a guest on the show because it was conversational. I enjoy conversation, which is why I love my job. The occupation of a licensed mental health counselor is perfect for me as it consists of listening, talking and giving tips and insight from a nonjudgmental, outsider perspective.
However, the simple question prompted me to analyze my own relationship with anxiety. What makes me anxious? How does that translate to my work helping others with anxiety?
When I pondered my own experiences with anxiety, I immediately thought of a presentation I gave to a large crowd of other mental health professionals. I recall that I was nervous because some of the people present were colleagues with an impressive amount of experience and years working in this field that far exceeded mine.
I meticulously prepared for my presentation and created a PowerPoint to coincide with my topic. Once I began presenting, I easily remembered the words I had previously rehearsed and committed to memory because it was a topic I knew well.
The words I spoke were precise and flawlessly matched the PowerPoint. Although nothing went wrong, the presentation felt stiff and too contrived. It didn’t feel like me, so I didn’t feel like me.
Instead of succumbing to the anxiety I felt and either quitting or quickly plowing through it just to get it over with, I took a deep breath. I then told the large audience of professional colleagues that I felt it would be better if I spoke without a script and that I would share the PowerPoint with them after the presentation.
My nervousness abated, melting away as the words came more naturally. Although some audience members may have had more experience than me, I knew that I had valuable knowledge and experience about the subject, which was why I was the one chosen to speak about it.
Anxiety Isn’t All Bad
During the aforementioned show about anxiety that prompted this stroll down memory lane, Dr. Naita Guine brought up some interesting statistics. Forty million Americans struggle with some type of anxiety disorder. That may sound like a staggering statistic, but I believe that number is probably a low estimate.
I have noticed an increase in anxiety since Covid. It makes sense. We like to feel in control, and with Covid, we aren’t in control. We aren’t even aware of when or how it will end yet.
If you struggle with anxiety, you may feel helpless or even angry when it emerges. Anxiety seems like such a pointless reaction. However, anxiety isn’t always a bad thing. It can be a powerful motivator.
For instance, anxiety prompted me to change tactics during my presentation until I found what worked best for me. The anxiety I felt enhanced my performance. I keep this in mind when I work with people who are struggling with anxiety.
Anxiety can motivate you to practice and perfect a skill. In fact, working with anxiety this way, you can find what works best for you like I did. Once you get your rhythm, you may be able to leave that anxiety in a cloud of dust. You might find that you are really good at whatever originally caused you all that worry.
A little anxiety can be helpful, but an overwhelming amount is not healthy and can interfere with you living your best life.
Therapy for Anxiety
Everyone has strengths, and a good way to manage anxiety is to identify those strengths to use in your favor.
When you experience anxiety and panic attacks, the best thing to do is breathe deeply and focus on what is here and now. When I appeared on the show, I mentioned mindfulness and staying in the moment.
Because I know how difficult that can be in the beginning, I spoke of ways to start training yourself to cultivate mindfulness. One of the ways I suggested was to place an ice cube in your mouth and focus on it. Feel the hard shape of the ice melting as the cold liquid seeps from the ice cube into your mouth. The ice cube is the moment.
If you find yourself feeling anxious, check in with yourself to determine what is going on when you feel the anxiety. It isn’t always easy to know what the catalyst of anxiety is. This is why therapy can be extremely helpful.
Sometimes just talking to a therapist a few times or even once is enough. Not everyone requires ongoing therapy, but I think that therapy is like giving yourself a tune-up. The same way a car requires an oil change to continue to run properly, people sometimes need an emotional tune-up. I think everyone could benefit from going to see a therapist at least once.
Signs Someone You Know May Need Help
If someone you know is experiencing anxiety and exhibits a change in behavior, he or she may need help without realizing it. Warning signs are an individual ceasing to have interest in activities he or she once enjoyed. People experiencing a severe amount of anxiety may also isolate themselves and/or display uncharacteristic anger.
If you or someone you know is experiencing anxiety, know that this is very common, especially in these times of uncertainty with Covid. Anxiety is not a weakness. We all need help sometimes.
I can help you find your strengths. Together, we can figure out how to turn down the volume of your anxiety, so it goes from being overwhelming to being the powerful motivator that can help you exceed your own expectations.