Seth Godin on Anxiety

Seth Godin had an interesting post on anxiety this morning. I'll just quote the whole thing here, because it's really short:

Anxiety is nothing…

but repeatedly re-experiencing failure in advance. What a waste.

Seth is right.

I'm living under a crushing anxiety right now. It's making my insides hurt. It's pretty bad. I'll be honest and say that I'm not far from calling the doctor. I don't know what he could actually do about it.

But Seth's blog post added some perspective. That's what I was going to write about today. I might post on that later. I haven't failed yet. Failure is coming, but it's not here yet. I'm experiencing it in advance over and over ever minute of the day.

I guess I should stop though. It's definitely not getting me anywhere. But how do you stop being anxious?


27 Responses

  1. Feel the fear and do it anyway. I had a friend point out to me not long ago another way of looking at it. What is the worst thing that could happen if you fail? If you can be ok with the worst case scenario, then move through the fear and take a chance on success.

  2. That is a million dollar question for people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. You can’t control it and you can’t determine what is making you anxious.
    Thank god for SSRI’s that help with it.

  3. Jennifer’s got it. yeah, feel the fear and soak it up. I say breathe. I answer that to any of the negative feelings, just breathe–that and feel the fear.

  4. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!” ( Luke 12:22-24)

  5. What’s required is rehearsing the opposite thought: not what’s the worst that could happen, but what’s the best. Our brains really do respond and change chemistry with those thoughts. That has the power to change outcomes too. Science has discovered and measured what the spiritual folk have claimed all along. Breathing is also important. Best wishes to you, Philosopher. Your response to anxiety is the ultimate challenge to the status quo. (I am going through the same thing myself, and breathing real slow and deep.)

    Who would you be without your anxiety? Who would you like to be? Your Choice.
    Life’s good and bad; people are good and bad. That’s how it is.
    Live ACTIVELY in the NOW; really LIVE every minute of your day – even the bad bits. When you get that shit happens and sunshine happens, you get it – life IS a roller coaster. Relax dude and enjoy the ride. The more you accept that being wrong or bad is OK – so long as you don’t hurt anyone else or the plant – the more you will be motivated to get smart and want to experience freedom and happiness.
    Whenever you notice the signals of pent up energy (‘anxiety’) in your body, work it out – run, swim, skip, garden, tumble with the kids – whatever it takes to burn it off. Try it. When you say a deeply committed “YES” to life you will flourish – including the discomfort you’ll feel from time to time.
    Cheers Diana
    ps Say “NO” to toxic SSRI’s.

  7. I find the following very useful and poignant. Charlie Chaplin penned this on the day of his 70th birthday:
    As I Began to Love Myself
    As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering
    are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth.
    Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”.
    As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody
    As I try to force my desires on this person,
    even though I knew the time was not right and the person was not ready for it,
    and even though this person was me.
    Today I call it “RESPECT”.
    As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life,
    and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow.
    Today I call it “MATURITY”.
    As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance,
    I am in the right place at the right time,
    and everything happens at the exactly right moment.
    So I could be calm.
    Today I call it “SELF-CONFIDENCE”.
    As I began to love myself I quit stealing my own time,
    and I stopped designing huge projects for the future.
    Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do
    and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm.
    Today I call it “SIMPLICITY”.
    As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health –
    food, people, things, situations, and everything the drew me down and away from myself.
    At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism.
    Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF”.
    As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right,
    and ever since I was wrong less of the time.
    Today I discovered that is “MODESTY”.
    As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worry about the future.
    Now, I only live for the moment, where everything is happening.
    Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it “FULFILLMENT”.
    As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me
    and it can make me sick.
    But as I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally.
    Today I call this connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART”.
    We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations or any kind of problems
    with ourselves or others.
    Even stars collide, and out of their crashing new worlds are born.
    Today I know “THAT IS LIFE”!

  8. I found this from Seth’s blog and had to jump in because it hits close to home.
    Anxiety is a very real and very dangerous condition, but not as dangerous as the idea that it can be overcome by just changing your mindset. The notion that you can get past an Anxiety attack with physical exertion or exercise is just plain misleading and can only be the opinion of someone who’s never experienced it.
    A true Anxiety attack is debilitating and soul destroying and I’ve suffered from them all my life. Regular exercise, a good diet, and a steady meditation schedule helped, but didn’t stop them. Mindset work with a Law of Attraction guru did more harm for me than good. I finally broke down at age 38 an saw a doctor. I am on medication now, but only long enough to work with a therapist to come up with proper coping skills. Don’t play around with Anxiety, and don’t pretend that it’s “all in your head”, because it’s not.
    If you think that you suffer from Anxiety or Depression, I encourage you to talk about it to your loved ones and see a doctor. It’s no joke.

  9. Fear and anxiety have a lot to do with the ancient part of our brains called “the reptilian or lizard brain.” It is a defense mechanism for survival. It’s our body saying “This is too much for me. Stop. Let me rest.” But it comes from a part of our bodies, a part of our brains, that lived in ancient, long-ago times … times that were certainly not like the change-by-the-moment times we live in today.
    What has helped me enormously to understand this phenomena and learn to work with it is the book “One Small Step Can Change Your Life the Kaizen Way,” by Robert Maurer. You can get it on
    The key to warding off fear and anxiety, says Maurer, is to take small, imperceptible baby steps towards your goal. These tiny, tiny steps are critical because they allow the human being to move forward in his or her goals WITHOUT WAKING UP THE REPTILIAN BRAIN.
    It is fast and furious movement that startles the reptilian brain and when it is awakened, it roars for us to stop, causing much of the anxiety we experience. The anxiety is the reptilian brain’s way of putting on the breaks so he it can go back to sleep.
    The interesting thing is that, the baby steps actually are laying down a neurological path in the brain that will move you towards and eventually accomplish your goals. When you take this approach, the reptile sleeps, you get to where you need to be without undue anxiety.
    Sounds simple, and in a way it has to be. Otherwise the reptilian brain would wake up screaming “STOP!”
    Anyway, this approach works for me. Really, really well. Whenever my own anxiety rears its ugly head, I gently tell it to go back to sleep, then tiptoe my way to success.
    Hope this helps.

  10. Thanks, everyone.
    The anxiety I’m facing had a very specific cause, and a seemingly simple solution. I’ve known for a while that the road is running out for my job. I’ve been looking for another for quite some time, with no results.
    I found out today that my job is in fact coming to an end. I should know when on Monday, so I’ve got today and at least a day and a half on payroll.
    Amazingly enough, that eased my anxiety somewhat. The certainty that I will soon be unemployed is actually more comforting than the uncertainty that I might soon be unemployed.
    At least I have a timeframe to go on.

  11. Good luck Eric. I feel your pain and mine too! It’s OK and you will find a way since you are looking for it.

  12. Thanks for your very honest post. Last Christmas as our busy was failing, we were at risk of losing our house along with all of our other stuff and my wife just started her second job in as many months.
    She has always been prone to depression and anxiety and as you can imagine this was a bit more than she was able to handle. as a result she had a massive anxiety attack and ended up in the hospital. She just could not see any way forward and was completely paralyzed with anxiety and fear.
    In the short term she got help in the form of medication that helped her to get beyond the debilitating fear and take small steps forward. Now a little over year later she is the funny, fun loving amazing women that I married 17 years ago. She still has her job and is doing an amazing job. She still struggles off and on with anxiety and she still takes something to help manage her depression. Somehow we managed to keep the lights on at our business and it is showing signs of life. We’ve got our house on the market and we’ve sold our cottage.
    The point of my story is lot’s of people deal with anxiety… you can’t usually do it on your own… There is always hope!!! Life moves fast, to fast maybe, but that also means that whatever it is that has you paralyzed is moving to a conclusion and maybe not the one you anticipate.
    Hope, Faith and Love, the rest is just stuff.

  13. Anxiety is in the future. All we have is now. Nobody has the next minute, day, week, month or year. When you identify what you are anxious you’ve at least gotten control over it. The next thing is to ask yourself is there anything I can do about it now? You may or may not have control over it. But you can empower yourself, acknowledge it and then it go and remind yourself “all I have is now” and also know that by worrying or panicking about it is only hurting your health. We do have more control than we think.

  14. Fear is pain in the future, pain that is anticipated.
    Anger is pain in the past, pain that is held onto.
    Feel the the pain once, in the present, as it happens. Don’t give it more power than it deserves. You only have time for now.

  15. Love Seth, but sometimes he’s wrong and this is one of those times.

  16. Feel the love of someone you love, brother.

  17. My mother used to pray with us before we went to sleep each night: Jesus tender shephard hear me. Bless the little lamb tonight. Through the darkness be Thou near me. Keep me safe till morning light. Amen. It was a great prayer.
    Jesus says You are the treasure that God has been searching for. You are the lamb that God has been searching for. Even if He/you have already found eachother you are still that valuable to him, and he will take care of you if you put yourself in his hands.
    I don’t have much trouble with anxiety. I have experienced a significant panic attack or 2, probably related to severely Clostrophobic situations, but even in the middle of them I have called out to God and was reassured.

  18. Without your’reptilian’ function you would no longer be here to write a blog, source food or consume stuff that generates bills yet serve no value in staying alive (flat-screen 60in tv, processed lifeless food packaged in boxes and plastics that clog up the environment, carbon based fuels, carbonated drinks, amusement and theme parks, etc etc).
    Your ‘Reptilian’ brains only function is to respond to signs from the environment or your own body that your life is at risk. These signals are triggered primarily by your 5 senses – eg an animal or event looks like it might eat or harm me, feed me, sleep now etc.
    Your ‘reptilian’ brain signals that your life is at risk. Full stop. That’s its singular task. It has no wiring to enable it to reason or think.
    This evolutionary adaptation came later, much later. This thinking, imagining, creative, planning, problem solving brain area is your pre-frontal cortex. It’s where the thought processes are generated – eg I can’t, don’t, I should, I’m hopeless, I can never find my keys, terrorists are on the move, they might fire me and then I’ll have nothing to eat or nowhere to shelter etc etc. This ‘modern’ busy as a bee muscle is also where you generate ‘I want’, ‘I expect’ – wishful, envious, greedy, anxious ideas.
    However, evolutionary biologists suggest that your pre-frontal cortex area of the brain developed to – wait for this – enable you to purposefully experience pleasure. It’s role in your life is to enable you to enjoy and share the feeling that we call HAPPINESS – no matter what life throws at you or what you choose to create around you.
    When you say I can’t, don’t, I should, I’m hopeless, I can never find my keys, terrorists are on the move, the kids are driving me nuts, they might fire me and then I’ll have nothing to eat or nowhere to shelter etc etc you are creating your own world. You are setting your brain at a particular level of pleasure and happiness. It’s all down to biology and how you to choose to think and and what you DO.
    So there we have it. Easy peasy. When your automatically reactive ‘reptilian’ brain signals you via your 5 senses or your thinking, it’s giving you a SURVIVAL heads up and you’d better pay attention and act to attend to whatever it is that is threatening your very life. And, in 2010 that’s mostly what you say, think, imagine and fantasize; it’s rarely a tiger with you on it’s menu or any other survival information from your 5 senses.
    Your rational brain is a magnificent, wonderous gift from nature. It’s an electro-magnetic muscle that will develop according to how you exercise it. It is plastic meaning that it has the ability to change as your thoughts change. You can do the work – rigorous mental exercise and follow up action – or you can remain captive to the irrational, self-depreciating, unhelpful, past thought processes that have etched ‘anxiety’ pathways straight from your ‘modern’ pre-frontal cortex to your ancient ‘reptilian’ (old) brain.
    Your life; your choice. Being adult is not about how tall you are or being able to reproduce or to stay up late with a beer and fries. Being adult is thinking like an adult, taking responsibility for your own happiness and, hopefully, the shared gross national happiness of our beautiful world.
    YOU ARE WHAT YOU THINK, WHAT YOU DO – AND A WHOLE LOT MORE. Go find it. Your one shot at life belongs to you and no one else – not the bank, not your (former) employer, not your wife or your kids. Only YOU can get into your head (at least until science and technology create a method to go there too).
    You’re a good man and deserve a flourishing, inclusional happy, long life.
    Cheers Diana
    ps Greg, thanks for the Charlie Chaplin poem.

  19. Here are a few things that I try to do …
    1. Eat well – fresh, healthy food, lots of water, cut out as much processed food as you possibly can
    2. Exercise and activity – a good long walk in the bush is my preference
    3. Sleep and rest are really important
    4. Laugh out loud as much as possible
    5. Think about how lucky you are to have choice in your life (this one always pulls me up)
    6. To get started – write anything that comes into your head to get the juices flowing..
    7. Meditate

  20. @ James Weaks: Here, here. And to tThe Stand-up Philosopher – don’t be scarred to speak to your Dr & SSRI’s are not the only solution.

  21. Diana your a genius the only one with some common sense. When I feel anxious its a state of mind that can be combatted by distracting this same subconcious mind, by as you say, go to gym, a movie do anything to change your negative thought pattern your subconcious mind will take any thought negative or positive and manifest in your reality, cancell negatives this is how to stop anxiety.Distract your sneeky subconcious and as for taking pills what a crutch NO WAY!

  22. Hey I don’t have much suggestions but I do wish you good luck as I have pretty much the same issues. Most of these comments seem very helpful already =]

  23. It’s the middle of the night and I’m up with tons of anxiety. I have so much trouble staying in the moment and am always anticipating what will happen. I work in a very stressful job joggling lots of projects. I’m always making mistakes that I have to go back and correct. Maybe others do the same, but it always feels like I make more than usual, even though I try to be so careful. Often they’re the same mistakes over and over again.
    Everyone seems to be so good at “spinning” how great they are doing, while I’m just waiting to get caught in my mistakes. The bottom line is I’m a very competitive person and I have trouble keeping up.
    The fact of the matter is nothing ever really happens when I make the mistakes, but the idea of having to admit them fills me with total fear. I fall back into being a little girl again and being caught for doing something wrong or bad. This is why I’m not sleeping tonight, because I found a bit mistake when writing a final report and I have to tell my boss on Monday.
    So here are the things I tell myself:
    Somehow it will all work out
    You are a powerful woman
    Just try to do a better job next time
    If you win 51%, you’ve won
    No one has told me I’m doing a bad job
    Thanks for letting me share.

  24. Jane, thank you for sharing.
    One of the things I like most about blogs is the ability to share and comment on other people’s thoughts. It’s amazing how, when we’re willing to open up, we find out that almost everybody else is facing the same thing.
    I can spin how I’m doing with the best of them. “Oh, yeah, it’s going pretty good” I told a casual acquaintance at that office after I heard that I had to leave.
    I seemed to make more mistakes that others in my last job. I’m planning to keep that in mind while I look for another one.

  25. I think there are two major types of anxiety, and I’ve had experience with both of them.
    The first is because of cognitive dissonance — the holding of two opposing ideas in your mind at once. This can be lying to yourself or as simple as avoiding something that you ought to be doing. That’s what Steven Pressfield calls ‘resistance’ in his book The War of Art, and it’s something to be respected and acknowledged, as you conquer it with action.
    The other kind of anxiety is actually physical. It’s caused by the re-setting of the amygdala in your brain to a higher-than-normal level of anxiety. This type perpetuates itself so that you just feel anxious because you feel anxious. There’s a program called The Linden Method ( which can help you get over this anxiety — it worked for me. And I’m not affiliated with them in any way.
    So I think Seth’s post is rather simplistic, although it might be true for the first type of anxiety I mentioned — maybe caused by imagining failure and so being afraid to start something important.
    If you have real consistent anxiety (e.g. generalized anxiety or panic attacks or the like), I highly recommend you check out The Linden Method to see if it’s for you.
    All the best,

  26. Anxiety is hell on earth. Got to be something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I agree with Ilhan – The Linden Method – saved me from my demons.
    Stay Strong X

  27. Oh and Green Tea – 5 cups a day really chills you out. It’s worth a go. x

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