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  • Writer's pictureGladys Agwai

Getting off the merry-go-round of anxiety, shame, and self-judgment

Are you ashamed about or afraid of your anxiety? Do you consider it as a sign of weakness or trouble? You should not look at it in this way. Embrace and understand your anxiety because it helps you look ahead to identify potential problems and get organized to gather the energy you need to get things done. Most people are taught to believe their anxiety is the reason for their problems. However, it is their lack of and unwillingness to understand why the anxiety exists, how to control the anxiety before it controls them, and how to leverage their anxiety to their advantage that keeps them in a state of disarray.

Fatuma was very anxious! She had to complete a major project requiring a significant organizational shift. She wants to do well, but she is not sure where to begin, how good it will be, or how it will be received. This is a perfect setup for anxiety. These are outcomes she cannot fully control. Her anxiety is so high that it has paralyzed her with fear making it harder to focus on the task at hand. She finds herself bouncing off that anxiety by checking emails, social media, or doing anything that does not matter to avoid dealing with her project and the anxiety that came with it.

Often, people want to relieve and manage their anxiety, so they are less stressed and more comfortable self sabotaging their lives. Fatuma’s anxious feelings were telling her that something was just not right while her thoughts were telling her stories (lies) that she was inadequate to do a project of this magnitude. Her stories gave her an excuse not to even try and to avoid those strong feelings of anxiety from the situation by any means necessary. She wanted permanent relief but how she was handling her situation would only yield temporary relief. Her feelings of inadequacy and anxiety continually grew. Fatuma became more focused on what was going to happen in the future. How will she do? Will it be good? How her co-workers and family will be disappointed. How she will feel ashamed. This pile on, resistance, and continued avoidance only multiplied her worry and anxiety resulting in further overwhelm, distraction, and self-sabotage.

For Fatuma or anyone to get off the merrygoround of feeling anxious, thinking they are a failure, and focusing their attention on the infinite number of future negative possibilities, they must:

• STOP - the merry-go-round and acknowledge that they control it and can stop it at any time. Take three deep centering breaths or more to help you do this.

• STEP OFF - the merry-go-round and hold on to the rails of their present reality and the truth to get their balance, stop judging, and negatively labeling their anxiety.

• SIT DOWN - ‘away’ from the merry-go-round and close their eyes to get grounded, notice, and feel what they are experiencing.

• SELECT - a key thought from their anxiety, ask and answer, a) is the thought true or false from a place of reality instead the story they had been telling themselves; b) what is the worst-case scenario and if it is true, can they deal with the consequences of whatever happens; and c) determine how can they land softly if it happens.

• SMALL STEPS - toward what must be done to move through avoidance and anxiety into action on the important things that must be done.

Fatuma must remind herself that she has not gotten this far without facing setbacks and disappointments. And you must do this as well to avoid getting on that merrygo-


“Nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action.”-Walter Anderson

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