Managing anxiety




By Caitlin Kelly

I know, for some people, it’s a chronic and debilitating issue.

There are days I think I’m going to explode.

Being asked by my doctor to monitor my blood pressure every morning is making me much more aware how chronically anxious I am, even from the moment I wake up.

This is not good!

So I’m trying to do more deep breathing.

Keeping up with my three-times-a-week spin class, which I enjoy a lot and which burns off a lot of stress.

Taking more and longer naps, even if I don’t sleep but just snuggle under the duvet and stare out into the cold, gray, cloudy winter sky from the warm safety of bed.




It’s odd…some things that make people feel really really freaked out don’t bother me at all; I recently read a tweet by someone much higher profile than I who literally ran off stage at an event to vomit with a panic attack.

Public speaking has never scared me.

But it’s time to really examine why I feel so stressed.

Part of it is very real — our monthly living costs are high and we have done everything we can to reduce them. So, working freelance means paid projects we rely on can — and do — fall through. That means making sure we always have accessible savings (which, thankfully, we do.)

Part of it is just the sheer exhaustion of constantly having to manage so many relationships — professional and personal — and the inevitable conflict and misunderstanding that often comes as a result of much (too much!) online conversation. If I piss off the wrong person, I can lose valuable friendships and clients, so I too often feel now like I’m walking eggshells to avoid that.

Part of it is knowing we have zero family support or back-up, whether emotional, financial or physical. I no longer have a relationship with my mother (her only child) and my father and I have a very stormy one. My 3 half-siblings are not people I know or like, and vice versa. Jose’s parents have been dead for decades and we very rarely see his two sisters who live far away. Whatever happens, it’s all on us.

Part of it is what happens after you’ve gotten a diagnosis of any form of cancer; mine in June 2018 for DCIS, stage zero, no spread, surgery and radiation. But I live every day in fear of recurrence.

Part of it is not having quite as many supports as would be ideal, really close friends who live nearby. I have three or four close women friends where I live, but the other day, really in a panic over a work issue, I had to call one who lives in Toronto, a woman I’m lucky to see once a year but who knows me very well. At my age, most women are retired, and at leisure and/or traveling and/or obsessed with their grandchildren, so I have very little in common with them — more with peers decades younger still in the work trenches yet also at a very different stage of life and facing very different challenges.

Part of it is just my general fears about my health and how to strengthen and preserve it as I age. I’ve stopped drinking alcohol to lose weight. I’ve added another day of a different kind of exercise. I’m trying to eat less meat and smaller portions.

Part of it is age. We are not able, now to get another well-paid full-time job in our chaotic industry because of rampant age discrimination. That keeps us in the financial precarity of freelance work and extremely expensive health insurance.



We stayed overnight in this house in a Nicaraguan village with no electricity, indoor plumbing or running water.


And I know — believe me! — having lived in and traveled to and worked in much poorer places (like Nicaragua, March 2014), that these are all “first world problems” — worries relatively very small indeed in comparison to those of millions of others, abroad and domestic.


I took six weeks off in the summer of 2017, a massive splurge of savings. It was worth every penny to travel, alone, through Europe.

When I came home I remarked to a friend that my head, literally, felt different.

“That’s what it’s like not to be anxious all the time,” she said.

I would like to feel that way again.


47 thoughts on “Managing anxiety

  1. So sorry you are experiencing so much anxiety. Yesterday, I attended a Webnar on Generalized Anxiety…it was so interesting as I too have anxiety, which feels debilitating at times. One of the things that has helped me over the years is Mindfulness, in particular Jon Kabat Zinn’s work especially, his book “Full Catastrophe Living”. I also love 10% Happier, and I use their APP for meditation. I am always looking for treatments that do not cost too much $$$. Friends are hard to come-by as I get older especially ones that are good listeners. I hope you feel better.

  2. Just seeing that lunatic-criminal in the White House held up by that posse of disgusting sycophants would make anyone feel anxious, Caitlin.

    I know you like where you live, but perhaps moving north across the border would reduce your costs and anxiety levels? Ontario has some lovely, lively towns and small cities near or far from Toronto. Personally, I could never move back to T.O., but I could consider a smaller city in Ontario …

    1. Thanks… We have discussed this but not now. And even a house in a small city (Hamilton, London) or even a small town, is much more expensive (!) than here. Prices are insane and driven by proximity to Toronto; my father’s Victorian house (an hr from TO) doubled in four years. Nice for him, not for people like us.

      I look frequently online at anything less than $300,000 Canadian…and they are horrible, ugly houses that would need another $100,000K + in renovation to be enjoyable.

      And we do not have $400,000+ (even $300,000) to toss into a house right now.

      And I really disliked small town NH life, so am wary of that. The ‘burbs are boring enough!

  3. I’ve been dealing with an anxiety disorder for about two years now. I take medication for it and use a variety of techniques to keep me calm when I get triggered. What I find helpful is a playlist that helps me calm down. The first track is a hypnosis MP3 that I use to calm down, followed by music that puts me in a good mood (“I’m Alright” by Kenny Loggins and “All Night Long” by Lionel Richie among them). I also sometimes write in an anxiety diary, where I write down all the ways whatever’s triggering me is illogical or unlikely to hurt me. All of those and then some have helped me deal with this disorder and let me live normally.

  4. I’m sorry to hear this, but it is a good sign that you are talking about it. it may help others who suffer from anxiety for a variety of reasons. it is a hard way to live, being in a state of high alert at all times, and it takes its toll. you are on the right track by doing things just for you, such as your spin classes and should continue to build upon.

  5. southwestdesertlover

    Thank you so very much for your posting on anxiety. I’ve had panic/anxiety all of my life (although there have been many times over the past five decades when it feels like it is somewhat managed). Life’s inevitable stresses trigger and increase my anxiety level.

    One of the many things I’ve tried as a reducer to anxiety is to be of service to others. When I’m truly in each and every moment helping another human being, I “forget” about myself and feeling so anxious. Obviously, I cannot do this every minute of every day.

    The other tool that has helped me “manage” my daily anxieties is to think about what I’m grateful for. Simply thinking about my simple list of saying “thank you universe for relative good health, my canine angel (adopted dog), a roof over my head, food in my kitchen, a reliable vehicle, some savings, working with people with my work (I still work full time in my 60’s) and especially, finally living in one of the Four Corner states.”

    Lastly, one tool I’ve used for over thirty-five years is saying to myself, “I have felt this way before. I didn’t die then and I’m not dying now.”

  6. Sorry to hear you’re experiencing anxiety, but thanks for sharing your story. I’m still trying to find the answer for my anxiety. Deep breathing helps, alongside challenging the anxious thoughts. My therapist told me that intolerance of uncertainty is at the root of most anxiety, so it helps to challenge the ‘what if…?’ thoughts/beliefs that start the anxiety spiral.

  7. Thank you Caitlin and all your lovely friends for sharing your thoughts and ideas about anxiety. I am finding that my anxiety is increasing as I get older which is not good. I think that alcohol makes it worse but sometimes it does seem to calm me down. Has anyone had a really good experience with a therapist? The few times I have been to counselling I have been able to avoid getting down to the real issues.

    1. Me, too.

      Not drinking — which is my current mode — may have allowed more of my feelings to bubble up. But it’s worth it for the health benefits.

      I have been to many therapists for many years! The good ones will get you there, but it can take time and it can be painful along the way. Worth it, but…

  8. It’s difficult to fend off anxiety when we all have so much more to feel insecure about, and we all get bombarded with that through the internet all the time. There are days when i think that depression and anxiety are healthy responses to the state of the world and good indicators of sanity and empathy in a person, but it is a horrible way to live and it eats your innards, all the time. I hope you can find some way to keep on top of it.

    1. Thanks…and a very good point. If ALL we do is marinate in our own anxiety, that’s enough — but reading social media can certainly make us feel like giving up entirely.

      Thanks! Even being able to talk about it here helps..

  9. I can so relate, as many of us can. I was having lunch with colleagues last week when I asked them: What stresses you? “Money,” one said. “Fear of illness,” said another. Wish I had a solution but just know that you are not alone.

  10. Jan Jasper

    There are very good therapists- I’ve had a couple of them who helped me greatly – and there are also incompetent, even unethical therapists. I don’t have anxiety, just depression. I’m on my third Rx now for that. Had to quit the first 2 meds due to side effects.

    1. Ouch…sorry to hear this.

      And yes, there are some not-good therapists. I’ve worked with at least six over the years (starting in my teens) and I would say most were fine and 2 were pretty useless. Not unethical but unhelpful.

      The good ones are/offer powerful tools and insights to help us get past difficult stuff and will make safe space for that. It is frightening, for sure, and it can take years to really unpack the most painful stuff.

      I’ve also taken breaks — even stormed out in anger — with one. I am glad she lets me come back and I feel like we have good history.

      1. Jan Jasper

        Thanks for your sympathy, Caitlyn. I initially hesitated to air my dirty laundry here, but since others were opening up. I thought I would too. I don’t want to scare anyone who is considering therapy. But it is important to realize that there are incompetent and even unethical therapists. Unless they do something egregious like molest minors, there is virtually no chance that they will lose their license.

      2. Absolutely!

        To me, the whole point of this blog is to elicit smart, kind conversation — and it’s been great to hear good suggestions and advice from so many commenters. I really appreciate that.

        I have only had 2 lousy therapists and they were just incompetent, not unethical.

        It’s a scary thing to undertake therapy because, de facto, you have to be very open and vulnerable to go and share private feelings with a stranger! I get it!

        But when it works, it’s a safe space to test out new feelings and behaviors as well. I come from a verbally abusive family and it’s very difficult for me, still, to stand UP for my own needs. I did it yesterday with someone and am worn OUT today…But at least I know now that I should and I can, even if it’s hard.

  11. If you have read my comments, you know I give credit for my amazing wonderful life, in large part,, to my millionaire’s helping of luck. If you haven’t read them, you should be a professional gambler, because you are damn good at guessing things.
    When it comes to anxiety, it’s the same. I’m lucky to have Cathy because we become anxious about different things. I have some pretty severe social and performance anxiety though, like you, I don’t have any problem speaking in public. Cathy keeps me straight by reminding me that getting worked up over this stuff is just borrowing trouble. You don’t worry about things that haven’t happened yet. Cathy gets anxious about big things, like death and financial ruin. This is where I’m good. Strangely enough, I say pretty much the same things she does. I guess that’s because we trust one another.
    I know the pressure you are under, Caitlin, and I am truly sorry for your troubles. Here’s some good news: The learning curve for standing up for yourself is very sharp, but not all that long. Once it becomes an established pattern of behavior, you’re off to the races. I’m not saying that the world will love, or even respect you, but your bully problem will experience a serious reduction in frequency and intensity, not to mention repeat business.
    At the very least, that has been my personal experience. Give ’em Hell.

  12. I’m sorry you’re going through this! I’ve never personally dealt with anxiety and depression but many people close to me do and my heart aches for them. I always share this podcast because it is SO compelling and hearing this story always makes me cry.

    But Brett is in his 50s and lived with and describes his debilitating depression for decades and was able to find profound healing by changing his diet. There are SO MANY people with stories similar to his. People with mental health issues, autoimmune issues, hormonal dysfunction, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancerous growths who have found true healing with this way of eating.

    It’s unconventional and goes against “modern science” and nutrition, but there’s a whole other story that’s its own post! Most people find this way of eating because there isn’t anything else out there that’s helped so what have they got to lose, sort of situation.

    Wishing you healing!

  13. I’ve been reading a lot about anxiety lately.
    It is very common. Most of us experience some level at some time. Mark Manson (the subtle art of not giving a fcxx fame) suggests tackling it with changing your expectations or taking action to be more equipped at handling the thing that makes you anxious. So with the cancer thing changing your expectation would look like you acknowledging I handled it once successfully and I can do it again. And the money thing, I am taking all these steps to ensure our financial security. I am not presuming I know what it feels like to walk in your shoes. Just a kind thought from me who also has her own anxious stuff going on.

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