A couple weeks ago, a reader reached out to me and asked for my thoughts about anxiety. It was something he and his significant other have been dealing with. I didn’t write about it right away because I wanted to really marinate on it. And after thinking about it a bit, I thought I’d start off with a brief breakdown of what it is and a recent personal experience.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is an emotional, mental, and even physical response to worry and it can manifest in a lot of different ways.
Physically it can elevate your heart rate, make you sweaty, cause shortness of breath, or even lead to a panic attack. Mentally your thoughts can start racing, get fixated on a problem, or invade your thoughts. Emotionally it can take a toll causing you to feel drained and irritated.
Anxiety is something that everyone deals with, especially in light of COVID-19 and the upcoming presidential election and experiencing it temporarily isn’t a problem. That’s normal. It’s when anxiety sticks around that it can become a problem.
Last week I shared that there are different levels of Emotional Debt and this applies to anxiety too.
A mild form of anxiety comes and goes. It’s like the annoying fly that hovers around your food. You try to swat it away but it always comes back. You wish it wasn’t there and it can ruin the mood but it doesn’t really affect you too much. Eventually you move on or the fly just goes away.
A moderate form of anxiety sticks around. It’s like a marathon you’re forced to run. In the beginning, you’ve got energy to deal with it but the longer it goes on for the more exhausted you get. You want to stop running but you can’t. You hope that the marathon ends but you’re not sure it ever will.
A severe form of anxiety is like a prison. It locks you down. You can’t do anything but worry and catastrophize. You can’t sleep. You feel hopeless. The thing that worries you seems impossible to overcome.
If you are experiencing anxiety, I strongly recommend seeing a mental health professional even if it is at the mild level. You’d be surprised by how much it will help. But there are things you can do by yourself and tools you can develop to help manage it which we’ll dive into next week.
My Experience With Anxiety
I’ve been unemployed for the past 5 months and it’s been really hard. Not only was “staying at home” a struggle for me because I’m an extrovert and I felt isolated, the endless cycle of applying/interviewing/rejection was really discouraging. It got to a point where I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to get a job in the field that I wanted.
I made a decision to take a major pivot in my life when I went from a pastor to working in the world of Bitcoin about a year and a half ago. Since then it’s been a wild ride. But in the midst of my unemployment, I started becoming anxious and questioned if I made the right choice.
You see this is what anxiety does. It wears you down. It challenges your perception of reality and once it breaks it, all bets are off. Once it reaches that threshold, the seal is broken.
My anxiety got really bad in my last interview a couple weeks ago. I sort of felt like it was my last opportunity because I had a lot of things going for me. I knew the team I was applying to. I felt like I met all the qualifications. I wasn’t sure where else I could apply to if it wasn’t for this position.
Thankfully, the interviews went fast. I met with three people on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Then it came time for the references. This is when my anxiety started to scream because now everything was out of my hands.
Now I trusted my references. I knew they would put in a good word for me. But I still couldn’t help but worry about what they would say. I started role-playing the conversations in my head of worst-case scenarios and then the “what if’s” started to come into play:
What if they say something and the CEO takes it the wrong way?
What if my references sabotage me?
What if I don’t get the job? What am I going to do next?
My mind raced with thoughts filled with fear and worry. I couldn’t sleep. My heart would race randomly during the day. Even when I was playing games, anxiety would occasionally invade my thoughts and distract me.
Finally on Monday I got the email with the subject line: “Casa Offer”. And when I read the first line of email, all my anxiety melted away:
“Hey Andrew. I've completed reference calls (which went very well), and I'm excited to officially extend you an offer to join Casa as a Client Advisor!”
Getting that offer was a huge weight off my shoulders. It was an answered prayer. I literally got on my knees and thanked God for a good 5 minutes. (P.S. this is also why I didn’t send out an email yesterday. Sorry! I might end up switching my weekly emails to Saturday).
What I realized at the end of that experience was that I was worrying for no reason. My anxiety did nothing for me. Of course hindsight is 20-20 but honestly, I feel like this is true for all the times I’ve been anxious before. No matter how much I worry about a situation, it doesn’t actually help unless I use that to do something productive.
For example if I’m worried about getting a job, I could use that anxiety to motivate myself to study graphic design or coding. But if all I’m doing is just sitting around and worrying, I’m just treading water until I drown or someone throws me a lifesaver.
Another take away I realized from that weekend was that it was an opportunity for me to use some of the tools that I had developed. I was encouraged to see that these tools worked and I’ll dive into some of them next week.
Have you experienced anxiety?
What level was it? Mild/moderate/severe?
What did to feel like?