Why is Everyone so Anxious?

We recently got our dog a prescription for Xanax. She’s an anxious breed, and with each consecutive baby we’ve brought home, her protective instincts have seemingly become more intense. Good in theory, but she really missed the mark on execution. It’s resulted in more than one take-down as she barrels through the kids to bark at whatever vehicle, animal or leaf had the audacity to go by the house.

I wish I was exaggerating.

We’ve tried everything to try to manage this. Various training classes (which, by the way, she masters but seemingly forgets within just a few weeks, despite our efforts to stay vigilant), in-home trainers, e-collars…the list goes on and on.

So, Xanax it is.

I admit I felt ridiculous running to CVS to pick up the dog’s prescription this morning, but as I waited for the pharmacist, I started thinking about how many anxiety medications must be filled for people every day. And I started to ask myself why. Why would we, as humans, who have an extensive ability to communicate with others, to think and choose with intention how to act or respond to a situation, need medication to help us get through the day? Unlike animals that aren’t able to think or communicate past a certain level, we have the ability to critically think. To decide how to respond to an event (vs. react). Yet we don’t do this. I believe it’s because we have become significantly unaware – unaware of ourselves and our world. We move through our days on autopilot, not really thinking or experiencing any moment. So, when we hit an unexpected snag, it can throw us off kilter and, in many situations, send us into a downward spiral. And based on what we see and hear from every media outlet, the solution is some form of medication.

Think about some of the random life events that could push you out of autopilot. A flat tire. A sick kid. The oil tank is empty or the furnace breaks overnight. The refrigerator dies. We fixate on these events and miss the other great events that go on at the same moment. The loving hug from your son. The wonderful neighbor who helped rake your leaves. The teacher who spends extra time on a subject that your kid has trouble with.

When things go our way, we ignore them. When things don’t go our way, we dwell on them. Knowing this, there’s little mystery that we think the day was tough or difficult. It leads many of us to feel like we need something from the outside to help us cope when in reality what we really need is something from the inside to help us see clearly, to help us remember that life has both ups and downs, and that the ups help with the downs.

Take Action
When you are confronted with an event that isn’t normally part of your day, stop and notice what’s going on. Take the time to gather all the information before you react. Take in what’s happening to you, around you, in you. What emotions do you feel? Why? What is actually happening right now? Is it true, or do you believe it to be true (this is a big one for those times when you can interpret an event, sometimes incorrectly, that could lead to an unproductive response)? And for every negative event you notice, work with intention to counterbalance it with a positive event. They are out there. See them. Experience them. Remember them.

By taking just a few minutes to tune in to yourself, to stop and notice what’s happening in you and around you, you gain greater self- and world-awareness. With this awareness, you can learn to manage your response to various events, to use the dimmer switch to turn up or turn down your strengths and liabilities. In the process, you’ll learn to operate in a less anxious state.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Value of Setbacks

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Finding Your Quiet

By Kristin Allaben

“I can’t hear myself think!”

How many times have you thought this – or yelled this at your kids – when the noise gets too loud?

Jay has talked a lot about tuning out to tune in. In today’s busy and noisy world, that can be a big ask, especially for parents. I can personally attest to this. After a busy day, the first time I find I have the time to really tune in to myself is around 9 or 10 p.m. This is right around the time my brain starts to run on autopilot as I work on getting lunches ready for the next day, clean up from dinner, do laundry – the admin tasks of running a household that I can tackle uninterrupted once the kids are in bed.

So I have to make time to tune out to tune in during the day. I have to find my own quiet.

My quiet may look different from yours. Sometimes, it’s in my car when I intentionally choose to turn off the radio. Sometimes, it’s intentionally turning down a longer street when I’m out on a run to extend my quiet time. Sometimes, I zone out while making dinner when I know my husband is keeping the kids occupied.

By making time to find my quiet, I give myself the opportunity to tune out the noise of the world so I can tune in to what happened that day. And the truth is, when I find my quiet, I can more efficiently focus on a specific challenge or situation, allowing me to work through it in a more productive and positive manner. I gain clarity, focus and understanding.

You may have noticed two important themes here when it comes to finding my quiet: I’m alone and my actions are intentional.

I’ve heard some parents joke their alone time is hiding in the basement or a closet after dinner, or hiding in the bathroom trying to ignore the little hands that reach under the door.

Regardless of where you find your alone time, make an intentional effort to find your quiet. By doing so, you’ll enable yourself to be more aware of your emotions and responses to what happened during the day and this, in turn, allows you to be more present in each moment life brings you.

Your quiet time is valuable. Make it happen. And in that time, get comfortable being with yourself and your thoughts. You will discover that by finding your quiet, you gain access to great insights that will guide you wisely through your day.

Important Questions from a Coach:

  1. What is preventing you from tuning out the noise of the world to tune in to yourself?
  2. How can you be more intentional in your actions to make time to find your quiet so you can tune out to tune it?
  3. How will you leverage this new awareness to be present in life’s moments?

 

Consider reading How to Learn from Any Event

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Moving in Autopilot

By Kristin Allaben, Executive Assistant & Strategic Communications Specialist

I remember the first time someone told me to “be aware.”

I was 16, sitting in my driver’s education class. My instructor played a short video, showing a driver’s view as they drove a car down several side streets and took a few turns before parking. My instructor shut off the short 15 or 20 second video and asked the class to identify the first road sign the driver passed.

I had no idea. I remember feeling stunned into awareness. I was watching the road but certainly wasn’t paying attention to the things within view of the drive, like the road signs.

This alarmed me to the things going on around me that I may be missing by moving through life in autopilot. If you are in autopilot, you will miss what’s happening around you – all the information and opportunities your world has to offer.

The next major awareness wake-up call happened for me the year after I graduated from college. Working full time and going to graduate school online at night, I had a routine. Get up, go to work, come home, go for a run, eat, go to class, go to bed. Repeat.

I vividly remember working on an assignment for one of my courses when I realized the content being taught went against what I was being taught on the job. Awareness. Enlightenment. My wake-up call. I had a moment of clarity that pointed to the fact that the program was not for me. I chose to leave the program and focus on my career instead.

If I had been moving in autopilot, focused on just getting the work done vs. being tuned in to the information I was reading, I may have missed this critical moment to decide if the degree was worth the investment (both time and money).

Moral of the story: catch yourself when you’re moving in autopilot, but don’t confuse it with routine. Routine can be healthy and help you stay focused. Though you are in routine, you are still aware and still making choices on purpose. But when you’re in autopilot, you tune out much of what’s happening around you. You do things out of habit and risk the chance of missing some of the greatest opportunities life can present to you.

Be mindful of what’s happening around you. Tune in to be aware of the opportunities that come out of every situation. Life has a funny way of surprising you. Get out of habit and autopilot. Get into being mindful, aware and ready for life’s opportunities.

 

Read Tune Out to Tune In

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