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It’s Okay to Have Anxiety — You’re Not Alone (Part One)

I work with many clients who are struggling with anxiety and/or depression. My job as their clinical therapist is to help the client understand possible reasons/triggers for their anxiety and possible coping mechanisms for it. Some clients have no idea if they have anxiety, but they know they are feeling burned out from their personal and/or professional life. They have simply had enough and need guidance on coping.

I recently read an article from Fast Company, that touched on this very topic, “When your body calls time-out” by author Chuck Swoboda. Swoboda describes his own personal experience of having anxiety while also running a $1B company for the last 16 years. His body finally told him enough is enough and he went to the hospital in which he found out he had A Fib (atrial fibrillation) which is a heart condition when your heart is out of synch. It was after his hospital experience in which he realized he was too anxious to go back to work immediately and needed to seek treatment for his anxiety.

Below are some key points Swoboda learned about himself through his experience of therapy, specifically Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

  • Acceptance of having anxiety. The first step in managing an anxiety condition, is to simply allow yourself to accept that you have an anxiety condition, and that with proper help, you can significantly lower the impact the anxiety can have on your life. Proper help for some means attending both therapy and seeing a psychiatrist and for others it can mean attending therapy and doing deep breathing exercises/meditation. Learning to realize that there is not always a solution to every problem can be soothing when realizing you have an anxiety condition. The more you try to “fix yourself” the harder and more defeated you may feel. Giving up some control and learning to live with anxiety is crucial for people who have an anxiety condition.
  • Life changes needed. Sometimes through therapy, people learn to unlearn behaviors they were once taught on how to manage stress and/or anxiety. This may mean that working 60+ hours a week actually is not a sustainable life style for you. Taking a step back to make changes in your life to give you a more sense of balance can also decrease your anxiety symptoms.
  • Mindfulness. Allowing for your mind and body to connect through mindfulness exercises is one of the best coping skills to reduce anxiety as it allows you to truly be present in the moment. For some people, this is through a guided meditation with some essential oils, for others it is doing yoga, and for some it could even be walking outside in nature. Whatever it is, find what works best for you! Pay attention to your body; if you feel your shoulders are up to your ears, it may be a good idea to take a couple minutes to yourself to take a few deep breaths.
  • What really matters? I encourage my clients to take time to reflect on what their core values are and to then prioritize them on what matters the most. For some people they are feeling anxious due to their values getting mixed up. For example, sometimes a value mix up looks like prioritizing work over your connections with the people that matter most in your life.
  • Unplugging during the day. Taking time to truly unplug from screens also can be very beneficial in reducing anxiety. When always on screens, we are working our brains to constantly be multi-tasking. I encourage my clients to try to disconnect from screens at least an hour before their bed time routine.
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