By Bernadette A. Moyer
I have lived with anxiety my whole life. For me I believed it was a by-product of having been raised in an Italian Catholic family. There was a lot of yelling and calling one another out. There was confrontation. That is just the way it was and often the end result for me was a certain degree of anxiety.
My father wanted us to be good kids and to be smart and involved and there were definite goals and boundaries. We were expected to get good grades be high achievers and to be polite and well mannered. That was the least that was expected of us. Often the expectations created anxiety in me. How would I measure up? Would I and could I achieve good grades?
Later in my life I appreciated my parent’s high standards for me. We were supposed to excel not to just get by but to be our very best. My dad was a proud man. He believed that everyone should work and work for what they needed and wanted. Hand-outs for him were an insult. Yet there were many times when I was a young child that my parents could have used a hand up to help them with raising their five children.
For a long time probably until my late twenties and early thirties I didn’t even know what “anxiety” was just that I could be sick when confronted with pressure. The pressure of a job interview or the pressure of a business meeting often made the pit of my stomach turn.
Looking back what was almost funny was that age 26 I was the youngest Realtor in my office and it was once confided in me “how put together and accomplished you come across” and yet before that big meeting you could find me in the rest room having just dumped my lunch. I would get so nervous and sick and worried that I literally made myself throw up.
Today “anxiety” is referred to as a “mental illness” and recently I spoke with a handful of people that like me have certain degrees of anxiety or have a child or loved one who experiences “anxiety” and like me they do not consider it a “mental illness.” One friend said, “Who doesn’t have anxiety?”
I know there are different degrees of it, some people can’t function, and they become so anxious that they just can’t function to do normal everyday tasks. Even the smallest meeting or taking them out of their comfort zone causes anxiousness and an inability to function. Many are medicated as a result.
For me I have learned to tackle the things that make me anxious and to push through it. There are times I have to talk myself down and tell myself to breathe and to calm down. Mind over matter often works for me. I also imagine what the other side will look like, how will I feel when I accomplish the task that is making me anxious? How will I feel when I have mastered that which makes me nervous and anxious?
On many levels my anxiety made me better, it made me try harder, it made me more aware it contributed to my drive and to being successful. Recently I was watching an interview with Tom Petty and he said that before he performs it “takes him all day to work himself up to perform and then all night to bring him back down” I am sure that every single performer lives with a certain degree of anxiety before they actually take the stage.
And for most all of us life is our stage and it seems normal to me that any time we leave our comfort zone we will experience some degree of anxiety. The single greatest thing that I have found to help with my anxiety is being prepared. Do your homework and know what you are walking into and what you are entering. Nothing helps reduce anxiety like preparation. Take deep breathes and visualize what success will look like and feel like. Imagine how good you will feel when you get past the anxiety and accomplish what you have set out to do.
Today I would tell my younger self, calm down, breathe, take it easy, you will get through this, you will survive!
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Franklin D. Roosevelt
The thing about anxiety is that you have to manage it, because if you don’t it will manage you …
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