I’ve struggled with anxiety. That overwhelming feeling where it seems like anxiety has me by
the throat. I can’t breathe. It feels like my world is caving in, and I’m not going to survive.
I first noticed it in 10th grade when I’d made friends with a group of seniors. When they all left for Ivy League colleges, well…I didn’t know how to cope. I was very lonely. So I threw myself into music and my advance placement studies as a way of connecting with my smart senior friends.
I thought if I could achieve and be like them, I would well…I guess, not be so lonely. I put tremendous pressure on myself to be perfect. I studied through dinner. I worried about tests, labs, reports, and performances.
I kept thinking if I could get perfect grades, if I could be first chair, if I could…I would be accepted and not so lonely. However, one test and one performance was always followed by another and another. This striving stress was an endless.
When I got to college, studying engineering, and rowing on the crew team, I had ample incentive to get good grades and make boats go fast. The night before a big test or race, I’d wake up in the middle of the night and start to conjure worst case scenarios, scaring myself. It created sleepless nights and ongoing stress during the day.
The catch was, I got great grades and won my races.
This created a reinforcing loop of thinking being anxious MADE me perform well.
I was unable to see the cost of my anxiety habit.
There was a visible cost. Physically, I would regularly run myself ragged, wasting precious sleep. It felt as if my daylight hours were spent focused studying, rowing, or obsessing on worst case scenarios, and feeling scared.
There was also an invisible cost. My success came at the expense of confidence in me and satisfaction of life. Sure, I thought great grades and winning races was worth it. I got the external validation, but it was as if the success would fall through my fingers leaving me empty handed. I was only as good as how I performed next.
Later in my life in my mid-forties, my brother died. A few years after that my sister got sick. I started having night terrors. I was in full blown panic, afraid my sister would die. Plus, I was terrified I’d be next.
My anxiety was infusing my daylight hours. I started to become very pessimistic and afraid that we wouldn’t get enough clients.We’d have no money. Low and behold, our business started to contract, as if it was following my energetic lead. We had to take out a line of credit to survive.
Even things I previously loved became scary to me. I am actor and I went to an audition and before I even got up to read my lines, my heart racing. I started to hyperventilate. I walked to the bathroom trying to settle myself, but I couldn’t. So I left and I stopped auditioning.
It got so bad that I became motivated to learn more about my anxiety. What was it caused from? How could I stop it? I didn’t want to take medication. I went to workshops. I hired a coach. I read books. I re-read my mind-body training materials.
There were three main avenues I discovered that helped me with my anxiety.
One, I had to process the deeper feelings I was having. That meant I needed to feel the grief of my brother’s death, and my sister’s illness. I also had to work with my fear of death.
Two, I had to rewire my brain. I realized that due to chronic childhood trauma, my nervous system, had been sensitized to go on red alert easily. My brain had bad habits that were being triggered later in life. I learned how I could interrupt those habits.
Three, I had to let go of my need to control and make things happen. I had to practice turning my fear over to a power greater than myself.
Today, yes I get anxious, but I don’t feel so overwhelmed, swimming in, and flooded with my anxiety. I have tools to work through my anxiety, which gives me more confidence and peace. I am able to take risks, and say yes to my life. So today I speak on stage in front of 1000’s. I star in plays. I say yes to going to the Oscars with less than a week’s notice.
Do you want to open the door to more confidence, peace, joy, opportunity, money? If you said yes, sign up for your FREE 30 minute Confidence Clarity Session with me here.