ASK THE ANXIETY SISTERS

Adrenaline rushes used to propel me to successful results—academically, athletically and in my career. Now, however, anxiety has kicked in big time so when I watch a sporting event or perform competitively, my body reacts with the old adrenaline rush, which now creates the same symptoms as my anxiety “attacks.” Do I have to pop a pill to participate or do I now have to abstain? 

We anxiety sisters tend to spend a lot of time lamenting the negative effects of anxiety, but we often overlook its positive side. Remember that swimming race you won in seventh grade or that kick-ass presentation you gave at work last week? Well, you can thank anxiety for those achievements—at least to some extent. It is true that we need a little adrenaline flowing through our bodies to get us off the couch and into our lives.

Anxiety sisters, however, are trigger-happy when it comes to adrenaline release. In other words, we tend to go into “fight or flight” mode by default, which means that competition will certainly open the floodgates. The question is, what to do about it.

We definitely do not think you should abstain from activities you enjoy, Nancy. That would be allowing your anxiety to shrink your world. We don’t have a problem with using medication, but, of course, you have to consider side effects and frequency of use—particularly if you find yourself participating in competitive activities daily.

What we do recommend, is that you pay attention to the situations that cause your anxiety symptoms so that you can develop a self-talk. For example, if you know you will be playing a tennis match tomorrow, you can prepare for the physiological discomfort by saying (out loud—it works best aloud), “What I’m feeling is the result of overzealous adrenal glands. Nothing is wrong with me, and I am going to be okay. This is a misfire. I can handle it because I know what it is and that it will pass.” Then, you can make a mantra, such as “This is a misfire” or “This too shall pass” which you can repeat when you start to feel the symptoms.

At first, this may not seem to be helpful, but, if you stick to it each time you experience this type of anxiety, it will not only help but also actually change your brain chemistry.

Keep us posted as to your progress!

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