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Why We Can't Let Anxiety Go

I’ve been thinking about anxiety because so many people struggle with it, and I noticed something interesting: Even though we have tools and strategies to manage it, we don’t always use them. Why not?


Part of it is how our brain works. When we are in the throes of anxiety, we don’t have access to the part of the brain that is rational. It’s important to develop habits that help us calm our anxiety so that they are easier for us to remember them.


But here is what confounds me. Sometimes, even when we have tools, we don't use them. Why? 


My theory is that we believe Anxiety is what makes us perform; Anxiety, as uncomfortable as it is, keeps us safe from bad things happening because it forces us to imagine all the bad things and then prepare for them. 


If we let go of Anxiety, so the thinking goes, we let go of our ability to control the outcome. (Nevermind that having control is largely an illusion to begin with, but doing something pacifies Anxiety.) 


If we are no longer anxious, we worry we might forget or miss something. (Nevermind that our brains work better when they are not anxious.) 


As soon as I try to imagine what it would be like to live without Anxiety, I worry I won't have the motivation to take action, won’t accomplish anything, and eventually, will FAIL. 


I used to work in an environment where the leaders were super anxious. They just kept dreaming up more things to do to quell Anxiety. New initiatives, new hires, new projects, new processes, new technology…all of it was a way to tell Anxiety, “We’ve got this. Look at all the things we’re doing.” But they were really just spinning without solving anything. (They are out of business now.) 


They reminded me of a tornado. You know what you do when there’s a tornado? Get low and cover your head. Anxiety wants us to run outside and try to escape; to do something just to keep moving. But going outside is even more dangerous. 


Sometimes the most courageous thing we can do is stay in place and sit tight. Anxiety will talk, for sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. 

P. S.

On a side note, for those of you who are still reading, I’ve been thinking about creating an online course for perfectionists about how to save time and energy at work without sacrificing performance. What do you think of this idea? If the idea resonates with you, let me know. I’ll be looking for beta testers in the future who do the online course for free. :)  


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