8 Ways Obsessive Anxiety Is Killing You—and how to heal

While advising entrepreneurs and leaders, we always discuss limitation and fear. Inevitably, we reach anxiety.

If you’re not anxious (upset, angry, etc), you’re not paying attention, right? 

Wrong.

Anxiety doesn’t create; it kills.

1. Anxiety is survival.

I grew up in a volatile home environment, where intimidation, tension, and fear were common yet unpredictable. I was also bullied and outcast at school. Isolated and angry, too mature beyond my 17 years, I entered the world. A Philosophy degree was my foundational attempt to make sense of the illogic of humanity.

When I wasn’t sought out by friends for life advice, which gave me purpose, I fought or checked out completely. I saw threat everywhere and trusted few. I hated my uncontrollable self most days.

It was the only way I knew to survive. It had become habit, as it is for many people, to see the world through that filter.

Don’t tell me to calm down.

Don’t tell me to meditate.

Don’t tell me to breathe.

You know what I mean.

Within each of us, there is an inner peace aching to emerge, but its elusiveness in stressful situations and relationships compounds anxiety, self-doubt, even self-loathing.

It’s taken me many years to form new habits. Am I perfect? Hell no, but I consciously practice every day to get better.

2. Anxiety is self-abuse.

You might blame other people, your past, or some other external factor, but anxiety is rooted in you. In the self-sabotaging thoughts you promote day after day within yourself, and in the narratives your tired mind repeats that amplify self-doubt.

Rather than devoting time to rational and positive opportunity-based thinking, you churn harder, push more, take on added stresses that compound feelings of worthlessness and lack. You feel more fatigued, more challenged, and less capable of overcoming stress.

And repeat.

Anxiety is also a gateway to substance abuse. New York City is riddled with wealthy, dissatisfied drunks. Bragging on hedonism, anxious from feeding off a transactional society—use or be used.

Success without peace is not success.

3. Anxiety is destructive.

Have you noticed that anxiety makes it difficult for you to attract positive, supportive relationships?

Anxious people contort or lash out at an alternative mindset that denies their anxiety its power. They try to draw out anxiety within those who have created healthy boundaries and habits. They deaden or ignore healthy communication, while building reactivity with volatile people.

They are as touchy as a guard dog snarling at a fence.

anxiety guarding behavior

Anxiety blinds clear thinking, so anxious people make bad life choices, without boundaries, and fixate on the drama. They commit to that identity and defend it.

Read this twice: 

If you need to isolate or even kill client or personal relationships to eliminate anxiety around you, even temporarily, do it.

4. Anxiety is narcissistic.

Because you’ve limited your thinking to the nth degree, you no longer focus on the greater purpose or the people serving / affected by that purpose. You can only anticipate the next worry, and that anticipation becomes self-obsessive.

Anxious people are draining. They thrive on proving to others that their anxiety is justified. Not once—always—across all areas of their lives. They won’t shut up about it.

That breakdown in communication is toxic—work, home, life.

5. Anxiety is capitalistic.

Women are barraged by digital ads and videos from supposed experts who “diagnose” them with the same “illnesses,” put them on the same fad diets or plans, yet offer no survival skills to overcome and defeat their underlying anxiety.

The more vulnerable segment of this population feels weak and powerless over time, as each scheme fails to produce life-altering results. Throughout the program, and thousands of dollars later, they are more self-consumed and less personally accountable.

The medical, psychological, wellness, and tech industries—as well as the media—are thriving off your relentless anguish. Commerce vows to teach you how to “manage” your anxiety, which underscores the idea that you’re irreparably diseased.

Even activist groups and other nonprofits benefit from anxiety. You see the post, you share, you donate, you celebrate yourself—until you feel so punished by the onslaught of subsequent mobile messages, memes, and emails that you unsubscribe and unfollow.

It’s a paradox: Anxious people use control as a means to survive, while giving over their power to systems designed to survive off societal and personal anxiety. 

6. Anxiety is control.

Repeat after me:

Control does not give you foresight.

Instead, control the urge within you to be anxious, and notice how possibility and opportunity open up around you. You won’t need foresight because you will have peace.

Most situations don’t really have form—yet exercising control over people and events gives the anxious person the illusion of form. You don’t got this when you’re anxious. You only have an illusion.

7. Anxiety is hubris.

Take my dear anxious friend, who swears she’s totally laid back.

I’ll never travel with her again.

She packs her restlessness next to her underpants: over-planning and over-structuring. Any disruption in her plan causes tedious agitation and resentment.

But guess what?

The universe always disrupts her plan. Like a heaven-sent brick to the head.

After initially fighting the inevitable truth, she always learns something new, becomes humble, and accepts imperfection—in herself and situations about which she can have no control. Only then does she begin to experience vacation mind.

Unfortunately, she reverts in planning the next trip—every time. I love her, but it is hard to watch.

anxiety temporary survival

8. Anxiety is temporary.

Everything is temporary, in fact.

“Vacation mind” is letting go of dominating (i.e., winning) a situation that is not in conflict with you. You can do it every day, with practice. Once you’ve committed to that, your energy will rebound and you’ll find it easier to achieve calm within chaos—instead of creating it.

So many entrepreneurs and leaders are juggling clients, employees, vendors, budgets, family and personal struggles, so we live in a constant state of conflict. While we might resolve conflicts every day for others, we are mystified and overwhelmed by the conflicts we create within ourselves.

Breaking the pattern of self-sabotage is challenging, but not insurmountable.

Take a roadtrip alone to the middle of nowhere.

Disconnect from email, social media, dating apps, gaming, etc.

Your mind and body will begin to speak louder than the noise you surround yourself with daily; you will remember the moments of joy and calm. Focus there. Think:

Do I need this noise?

How am I harming myself in my daily habits?

What can I do to instill this calm every day?

You can heal the anxious mind.

I lost my father to anxiety in 2015. His whole life was pushing himself to advance and succeed, denying stillness and peace, out of a sense of obligation. I saw it coming. The cancer was rapid and merciless. And senseless, particularly as he had overcome many of the demons he fought as a young man and father of just 20 years old.

My wish for you is that you heal now.

You know that feeling of immense relief—even surprise—reflecting upon the situation: “I don’t know why I was so worried.” After a breakthrough, sit with that peace, rather than seeking out the next worry. Brainstorm from that space, imagining the next phase of a project or of the business itself. Consider an alternative means of approaching a challenge, rather than filling that space with busy and “but what if” thinking.

Recognize when you’re engaging in negative self-talk or withdrawing from free thought and movement—even free-minded people—creating limiting structures that rebuild the illusion of control.

Forgive yourself, forgive your past, and commit to doing better next time. And you will get better.

Recommended reading

  • The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Eckhart Tolle
  • The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, Bessel van der Kolk, MD.
  • Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder, Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • The Art of Living, Epictetus

22-year veteran of strategy: brand, business, and communications. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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