How your anxiety is your creativity... on overdrive
Open up to read about some science of anxiety, my take, personal experience, and journey harnessing my "flaws" as super powers and help you shift your mindset to do so as well...
Hola fellow builders,
Remember when we were kids and we were encouraged to use our imaginations?
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We were encouraged to DREAM BIG. Then, somewhere along the way, those big dreams started becoming scary nightmares. Doubt crept in, crushing those dreams. We were told to look at “reality” and give up.
Maybe life became harder, and we faced challenges that stressed our nervous system. Our brains wanted to protect us from the dangers we had previously experienced or could experience.
So our brains started to create new kinds of dreams…scary dreams, nightmares that, in a way, kept us safe from trying. But sometimes, those nightmares start to feel way too real and take over our present moment, and our bodies start to react to the danger - manifesting in our bodies as anxiety.
Now the Science
Our limbic system, which consists of our hippocampus, amygdala, and hypothalamus, is responsible for emotional processing. Those of us who experience anxiety persistently have more activity in the limbic system.
Source PDF & bonus resources by Northwestern University https://www.nm.org/-/media/northwestern/healthbeat/files/science of anxiety_infographic.pdf
Anxiety is our imaginations gone wild, which just means we are extremely creative people, creating these WILD scenarios and can find outlets for it. That doesn't necessarily mean it's a "bad" thing. It's how we're wired. Now we can decide what we do next, knowing, "Ah, this is how my brain works. How can I befriend my anxiety? What do I need to accompany that part of me that is experiencing this anxiety? What does she need?"
Anxiety can be extremely debilitating. There was a time in my life when I would have panic attacks and stress hives because of the anxiety that was manifesting in my body. The panic attacks stopped when I made lots of lifestyle changes and with the help of modern medicine (nothing wrong with needing medical intervention). But that doesn't mean the anxiety went away; it just became less debilitating.
It is something I have learned to accept as part of me with the help of lots of therapy, coaching, books, processing, friends, creativity, and over the last couple of years...
Now, that isn't always easy - not at all. However, knowing this information has helped me truly process and, in the moments, calm it down - noticing when it's my anxiety taking over, creating a wild ASF story when my intuition is just trying to warn me.
I'll give you all a silly example of how I started to talk myself down:
Last summer, I worked with a friend, Daniel French, on story writing to be a bit more cohesive in finding my voice, and he told me,
"Make fun of the nightmare - make it silly."
So... in action.
I had this irrational fear: I was going to get kidnapped in Mexico - even though I was in the safest bougiest place and didn’t even stay out too late.
What was my intuition telling me: Stay safe, be on alert. Now, one year later reflecting, of course, that makes sense. I am a female traveler; I have been solo backpacking through 26 countries; this is something I know and take every precaution wherever I am to be safe.
Reality: Other people back in the US kept calling me, saying this, family telling me these fears, people projecting their fears, friends who were researchers and focused in that line of work but had not traveled, had not backpacked as I have. They were trying to protect me, to warn me, to keep me safe. They had good intentions, but I let that take over the reality that I was seeing.
Where did my fear come from: The reality that as independent and powerful as I can be, I still live in a society that does not value female lives as much as male lives. Another very real fact: there is a high rate of female kidnapping and femicide in Latin America. Yet the week prior to leaving for Mexico, I was in New York City - the city I grew up in - and was out with a friend casually at a bar and had only had a couple of drinks - only to realize we had been roofied. Luckily our friends had been on their way and rescued us before anything worse happened. So of course, my nervous system was on HIGH alert. I had every right to be on edge. Another real reality was - I didn’t have access to my ADHD & Anxiety medications - so of course, that anxiety was on overdrive.
However, was I going to let fear take over my life? The reality is - I can take every precaution but I don’t know what will happen.
So I leaned into the story I was telling myself, applying one of Albert Ellis' principles:
WHAT IF IT DID HAPPEN... then what?
My twist thanks to Daniel... make it silly, make it funny, what is the fun story?
Okay, if I got kidnapped...
Worst case, I die. And the reality is - I don't know what is going to happen. I don't. If my time comes, it comes. We had so much happen during this pandemic that was unexpected. So much so that, of course, I am scared.
But... is it worth living in fear? Is it worth telling myself the scary stories? Is it worth living terrified ignoring the beautiful beach paradise I was literally living in?
Or rather... what if I changed that story, what if I turned that nightmare in my head into a dream?
At the end of the day, nightmares are just dreams.
And trusted me more, trusted my intuition more.
What I did was started writing - writing down those stories and letting those stories live on pages of my notes. I started proving to my brain that we are safe. Started learning to calm my nervous system, and be kind to her - all she was doing was trying to keep me safe. We gave her a job, to let the story out and prepare in case it does. To be the best risk management role - but knowing it probably might not happen …. and accepting every now and then we’re gonna need to give that part of me a little bit more dopamine through fun activities and in the winter some bonus serotonin & norephedrine (yes medications) to ease her troubles cause she’s been through a lot, seen a lot, and it’s okay if she needs a bit of extra support from time to time.
So, actionable items:
Ask yourself - WHY? Why am I having this thought? What is the story I am telling myself? What can I do for myself?
To be 100% transparent...
Now, that's just a day-to-day thought - the truth is, this seeps into all areas of our life.
Our work, our business,
We often stop ourselves from starting because we let these wild stories get into our heads.
We get stuck in the WHAT IF, WHAT HAS BEEN, ignoring the WHAT IS right in front of us.
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I work with folks one on one for a minimum of 6 months to truly Build with Joy. I take a you-centered approach to business custom to your unique brain incorporating play, self-care, and creating systems that work for you to build your social impact-based business. I am there to coach you through the hard moments and co-create with you. If you want to chat or are curious, book a no-strings-attached 30-minute action plan call.
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Anyways, I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
Feel free to reply back I actually read this myself.
Until next Monday,
Joy Valerie Carrera
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