Anxiety is at an all time high in the world today. And while not everyone may deal with anxiety personally, it's difficult to not be effected by someone else in your life who is suffering.  Join JJ and Melissa as they talk about Melissa's personal experiences and how she's learned coping skills along the way.

July 27, 2021
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Melissa Albers  0:00  
Hey everyone, you are listening to the self awareness Journey podcast. This little banner is about a car ride long and features your hosts, JJ Parker, and Melissa Albers. JJ owns a tech company. And Melissa has been a coach working with influencers for the last 18 years. So this morning, JJ, as I was getting ready, my husband Mitch said, Hey, what are you guys talking about on your podcast today? And I said, we're talking about anxiety. And and he just looked at me, anyway. Hmm. And I started to laugh, but I said, I don't really feel like I need to do a lot of research about. Lucky, I have a good sense of humor most of the time.

JJ Parker  0:46  
That's funny. Sorry, he didn't he didn't offer any, like, suggestions or anything?

Melissa Albers  0:53  
No, no, he did not know. As a matter of fact, it almost felt like he started to slowly back out of the room without notice. Oh, no, I don't think it's any. I don't think it's any secret. But I've had lots of experience with anxiety. I've actually, several years back had therapy about anxiety. So I've had a real intimate personal relationship with anxiety. And I think it's a really interesting topic right now, especially because there's been so much stuff happening in our world, and so many people are way more amped up.

JJ Parker  1:29  
And you're able, you see it with your coaching clients, right? Obviously, you part of your job is to coach people often through hard times. And anxiety is often a key component of that.

Melissa Albers  1:42  
Yes. And and actually, this week, I would say that I had two examples of really strong, extremely good leaders, absolutely in tears on coaching conversations, and it was all around anxiety. So I just think that this is a really interesting topic. And what I think is really cool, too, JJ is is as I was sort of talking with you, you know, like, I don't want to show people our secret sauce or anything. Yeah, right. But we usually will kind of just talk enough about the topic so that we feel like we have a flow started. And then we just hop into recording. Right. And it was interesting, because I was asking you like, What's your relationship with anxiety? You had an interesting answer.

JJ Parker  2:24  
Yes, well, great. I saw that. I don't really, like see myself or identify with being an anxious person. So yeah, I was worried that hey, like, I'm not, you know, because I don't experience maybe won't be more like classic anxiety. Yeah, firsthand. I was like, a little nervous about, like, talking about this topic. Because I was like, I don't want I want to make sure I'm like respecting anxiety, because that's like a real struggle, like a very real struggle for so many people. Yeah. And just because it maybe affects me in a slightly different way. I want to make sure I was very mindful of, you know, not saying anything dumb, or dismissing it or something. Because it's it's very real for people.

Melissa Albers  3:15  
Yeah, no, I and I think I mean, I think having being anxious occasionally is extremely normal,

JJ Parker  3:23  
right? And then you very politely pointed out how I do have anxiety and it comes out in all these other different ways that you listed out.

Melissa Albers  3:32  
Thank you for saying, polite. But I think like, you know, even for our listeners, I'm sure there are a high number of our listeners who deal with anxiety regularly. And I would also guess there's a high number of our listeners that don't have anxiety is one of the markers that they spend time in. I think it's yeah, you know, so I think this makes for an even more interesting conversation. Because even if you don't personally experience anxiety, you certainly experience people around you that have anxiety.

JJ Parker  4:09  
Yep, yep. Okay, so I love I love me a definition, right? I like to go look at the dictionary about words. I didn't pick up I didn't actually like that definition of anxiety. But to me, like, I want to talk about just what anxiety means a little bit, because I think that's just an interesting way to start things off. Yeah. And I love this phrase that I don't remember where where I heard it, but it was depression is thinking about the past and anxiety is thinking about the future. Right? Right. So when I think about anxiety, it's around those thinking patterns of like, worrying about what's going to happen worrying about the unknown. Getting, you know thinking over and over and over about a future state that may or may not happen, right? The What the what ifs? Like, if this happens, then that happens. And this happens. And that happens. And then like the whole thing falls apart, right? Yeah. Yeah. What, what else? What other? What else would you add to the definition of anxiety?

Melissa Albers  5:18  
Well, that I would say that anxiety is just worry on overload. But you're right, that is the core of anxiety is concerning yourself with things that you don't actually have control over. And then trying to or thinking that you can control them, and then putting yourself in that state of future thinking. And people fool themselves all the time. With anxiety and anxiousness thinking that, well, I'm just gonna think all this through and I'll have a plan. So it's overthinking future state. And thinking you have more control over things than you do? Yeah.

JJ Parker  5:59  
So I, when I, when I was thinking about, like, I was thinking about this idea, like, anxiety comes from, like, trying to think things through too much. Right? I find myself as a parent of like, teenagers, constantly telling them to try to think things through a little bit more. Maybe I'm making them anxious. I'm not sure. But I think it's an interesting balance, isn't it? Because yes, yeah. I feel like part of the thing that makes us human, and part of the reason, you know, maybe that separates us from other animals, right, is that we have this ability to think ahead and think through scenarios and, and kind of imagine these future states. And that gives us a lot of times some really great insight. Yes. So while we don't fall off a cliff, or walk into the area of the woods, where the lions are, and get eaten, right. Well, you're saying that, that superpower that we have on overdrive turns into anxiety and, and a real problem?

Melissa Albers  7:15  
Yeah. Yeah. You know, this is such an interesting thing, too. Because When thoughts come to mind, I was just studying this a couple of weeks ago, when you have thoughts that come from your subconscious mind, you actually aren't choosing them, they come up randomly, right? So things pop up into your mind. But here's what happens is when when a thought randomly pops into our heads, a lot of times, we take responsibility for that thought as though we chose it. Yeah. And then we, and then so it gives this false sense of responsibility over what we're thinking, what we're thinking, what we're thinking, what we're thinking, and then it and then we do get more and more anxious as that same thought just echoes through our heart, our minds, right, we start telling ourselves stories, and trying to control the thought. And we just I always give the visual of a racetrack in our head, like, we're just doing the same thought over and over and over again, like a racetrack.

JJ Parker  8:14  
Yeah. And to me, the way I visualize that is, like, it's threads. It's like, if you have a thread on your sweater, like you, and you start pulling it, right, and it just starts unraveling more and more and more of them. Yeah. And you get halfway done. You're like, I should have just not pulled that thread in the first place. Because yeah, it's a handle, leave this as unraveled.

Melissa Albers  8:40  
I'm sleeveless. It's now a vest. I love the visual. So

JJ Parker  8:46  
you don't have to pull on a thread, right? Like you don't have to pull on all those threads.

Melissa Albers  8:50  
Right. But what's really interesting too, I think is the reason anxiety is such a powerful beast, is because we don't realize the story that we're telling ourselves over and over again. It's so habitual thoughts are so habitual, it doesn't make them right. It just makes them habitual. And in like any habit. When you're not aware. You don't even know you're doing it. Yeah. Right. So for me when I was at my worst with anxiety, I was at a state of, I would say crisis. I would, I would say I was at a state of crisis. I had a really tough childhood. And as a result, and I was an only child, so I always felt really exposed and like I was not safe. i By the way, I was very safe. I was very safe. I had a very I had a loving family, but it was not easy growing up. And so as a result of that, in my adult life, I kept searching for those same things. Moments of not feeling safe, even though they wouldn't exist, I would search for them. And my anxiety would just continue to grow and grow and grow, waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. And, and so I ended up going and seeing someone and she was a wonderful therapist. I've referred so many people to her since and it was like 15 years ago now. But she said, you know, Melissa, if you can start thinking about anxiety, almost like a separate part of who you are, anxiety can sit in a chair next to you anxiety is not you. So I mean, I mean, I was really in a crisis state where I needed somebody to help me understand what my own habits and patterns were, because I was unaware of that. So I think that's what naturally happens to people is that you are in a natural habit of thinking and you're not even aware.

JJ Parker  10:50  
Yeah, right. Like those. When you think of something, right, there's from like, a neural perspective in your brain, right? Those pathways get strengthened every time you think about a thing, the same thing. Yeah, those pathways get more stronger and stronger and stronger. And then it's the really the only way it's kind of like rewires your brain. Mm hmm. Yeah.

Melissa Albers  11:16  
Yeah. You know,

JJ Parker  11:18  
it's hard to unwire your brain.

Melissa Albers  11:20  
Yeah, I love that I, there was a speaker in our CEO group that this was years and years ago, and he was he was speaking on on when we walk a path, you know, we continue to walk the path. And it was such a good visual, and he was actually Native American. So him using this reference was really beautiful how he described it. He said, If you just picture you're walking a path, and pretty soon, the grass gets flattened out in that path. And pretty soon, there's no more grass, it's just a dirt path. And then there's a little divot in the ground from walking that path. And pretty soon that divot is a huge groove from where you walked. And soon that groove is so deep, it's a wall. And I thought, that's really

JJ Parker  12:05  
nice way to think about that.

Melissa Albers  12:07  
It was a beautiful image that I never forgot. And I think too, you know, a lot of my Well, my clients are leaders and owners of companies. And I think that when we have any level of responsibility in our lives, if we're having anxiety, in addition, we take over, we take over so much ownership of the situation we're feeling anxious about, and we think that we are personally responsible for it, you know,

JJ Parker  12:38  
yep. Yeah, that that control, that control idea, the idea that you're, you think you're in control of a lot more than you are. Yeah. And when you when you think that and take that responsibility on. Right? That's, that's really hard, because I think like, a part of you knows that you don't have that control, right? So anxiety is going to emerge when you want the thing to happen. You know, you don't have control over that thing. But you still want to try to assert some control over it.

Melissa Albers  13:17  
Yeah. Or, or conversely, you don't want that thing to happen. And so you try to control and control the outcome, so it doesn't happen. And again, it's just something that is fabricated in your mind, but it's awfully real, when we're going ahead in situations that haven't occurred.

JJ Parker  13:34  
Yet, I always think about Wyke around whenever I start getting into like, the that whole like, what if thinking pattern. It's out like, to me, it's always like, like, what if this happens, like, well, what if it does happen? Right, like, just keep driving down? It's just keep driving down the what if line of thinking and, and pretty quickly, it becomes like kind of absurd, right? Yeah. But that's not that's not a good? No, it's not like minimizing the feeling of anxiety. No, it's just like a technique that, that I've used to really like, stop that train.

Melissa Albers  14:21  
Yeah, you're really good at that. Actually, that's something that I have, I actually kind of lean on you for that, now that we're talking about it. Because I like how you will bring things back to just very practical now. And that, that that is something that is like kind of your spidey sense. You just bring things back to practical now practical and now. And I think that's really, really helpful, especially if someone who deals with anxiety can see what that pattern looks like outside of themselves. Right. And I also want to just talk about how anxiety sits in the body because we talked about the self awareness In this journey, we talk very much about how we get triggered by things. Anxiety is a huge trigger for many people. And then the feelings that are that happen as a result, are really very much in the body. And just like, for me my personal experiences when I would be and if I ever get I don't get to that point of extreme high anxiety much anymore, but I still have anxiety, I think we, I will always have it, it's just part of the fabric of my makeup. But when I was in full cry, like I would have extreme stomach aches, I couldn't eat, like I literally could not eat, I would lose weight, I would have a sore throat, because my throat would almost be so tight that my voice would practically change because it was so everything was so tense. I'd get really tight in my chest, like I just couldn't get enough air so it'd be much more in shallow breathing. My shoulders would get really tense, I'd get a migraine headache. So these are all body symptoms of anxiousness. untethered.

JJ Parker  16:11  
Yeah, just for you with those, like, would that like spike up around certain situations? Or would you be in like that kind of baseline anxiety mode for like, days or weeks?

Melissa Albers  16:26  
Baseline anxiety for weeks? Actually, I would say what I had it to a point where I don't ever know if I didn't have it. But what happens when you're in an anxious state is then everything becomes a spike. Like, Oh, I dropped my ice cream. I am gonna flat out have a fit about it. Yeah. So even meaningless, or small things that don't really matter would seem much bigger.

JJ Parker  16:57  
Yeah. And we talked about like, emotions, like as waves. Yeah. Right. We talked about how yeah, we're just trying to like calm the seas a little bit, you know that you're always gonna have waves, but your goal is to make them not as high. It sounds like if you're gonna use that same analogy. Anxiety is like, high like everything is at high tide. And the waves are still happening. So everything smashing up against the the seawall, right.

Melissa Albers  17:30  
Yep. Yep. And, and so then what are the consequences of anxiety? You know, like, what happens because we all have some anxiety, we all learn coping skills, whether they're healthy or not, we all learn how to get by. But the consequences of anxiety are really, like kind of amazing when you think about it, right? Being really controlling, like, that was one of the major consequences of my anxiety is trying to control everything not aware, by the way, so it wasn't like an intentional thing at all. Yeah, actually, I felt quite bad about it. And it took an exorbitant amount of energy to falsely try to control everything. Yeah. But that trying to be overly controlling, losing relationships, avoiding certain relationships that I knew would make me feel more anxious, avoiding any conversations that I thought could turn into something that I didn't want, or that would scare me, because again, that anxiety creates things that aren't real. So there's a lot of consequences, I think, for people when they leave anxiety unchecked.

JJ Parker  18:43  
Yeah. And you said like, it's like, reflecting your relationships, right? It's hard on the people around you, and you're like, not treating them the way you want to. Yep. Right. But you don't have a lot of control over that.

Melissa Albers  19:01  
And, and this happens, like, in all places, right? Men, women, it doesn't matter your age. Like I had this week, I had two employees of leaders call me because I work in the organization and say my leader is scaring me. They're so out of whack. They're scaring me how leaders dealing with extremely high anxiety. But they're, they're not recognizing how that looks or feels to people around them because they're so absorbed in how awful it feels inside of them.

JJ Parker  19:35  
So really, like affecting, I mean, it's really affecting them personally, probably their personal relationships and their performance at work. Yeah, right. That's another thing that I think is pretty interesting is how anxiety affects work performance. It's actually surprised that we can get anything done. Yes. At work. Yeah, and I guess what do you think of it? Like? What I mean, one huge anxiety driver for a lot of people is money. Yeah, right. Yeah. So like for sure if I don't do good at my job, I will not have enough money. I will lose my house. My kids will starve. We'll be on the street. Right. Exactly. There's like an example of the extreme ridiculous thinking, because that's very unlikely to happen. Yeah, but typically, that's real. Yeah. So that job as the starting point of that financial theater is so powerful. Yeah, right. Yeah. No, I see people even in my organization, where I feel like we've made an extremely clear, safe environment. Right. It still comes up. Right, exactly. And it affects the way they do their job.

Melissa Albers  20:51  
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Because they don't see that they are the same as everyone else. Oh, I'm different, even though it's this way, I'm different. Because they're losing that clarity. They're losing that ability to settle into who they really are. Yeah, you know, we don't really talk about the self awareness journey in terms of proactively having people move through our program. But I really feel today that I want to just say, there is not a quick, simple solution for anxiety, it takes time and effort, it takes awareness. And I would say that I think that the self awareness journey, does a really good job of helping people, when they have anxiety, learning how to untie the knots is what I call it. And it is really the journey that I went through. And it's a journey that I use with a lot of well with all of my coaching clients, and it just allows people to understand and explore what that trigger of anxiety actually is. And with exploration, it kind of becomes a paper tiger, like you can learn to make it not. It isn't scary now. Now, if it pops up, I'll say, oh, I can feel my I can feel my chest getting tight again, Oh, my stomach is my stomach is like threatening to start rolling around a little bit. Oh, that's right, I must be feeling anxious about something and it gives me a chance to check in with myself and to smooth out those waters before I've got the tsunami. So I just encourage people to think about that. And if not the self awareness journey. Explore some things around anxiety for yourself where it started for you, you know, like, how it manifests in your life, ask people that you trust,

JJ Parker  22:40  
yeah, I, I'm going back to the childhood thing when you know, my, with our kids, my kids, like I can see, you know, other people, that a lot of their anxiety is rooted in these childhood experiences, or percent, right. And some of those really old experiences stick with you. And they're just, they're wired in, they're so deep, you don't even you don't even notice until you really sit with it and start trying to unpack it. That's right, and then explore it. And just like accept it, don't judge it, explore it. Yeah, figure it out.

Melissa Albers  23:21  
I also just love this idea. And I always I love that you always say that. Don't judge yourself, because that's the thing that stops our progress every single time is when we get into this heavy judgment about ourselves. I think that you know what, we're all doing the very best that we can. We're all doing the best that we can. And some of these habits that were formed when we were very young, are so ingrained, it's like you said we don't even know that they are and exploring what they are is actually not scary. People avoid it, because they think it's going to be really scary. But I was working with a client with extreme anxiety were to the point where she had actually kind of turned off her emotions, like she couldn't even identify when she was feeling anything. And we've been working together for about eight or nine months and, and our screens came up for our session a couple weeks ago. And she was sitting back in her chair and she just had this beautiful energy around her his beautiful smile. And I said, wow, what's going on with you? And she said, I just feel so good that I'm not trying to control everything. And she said, I feel great. That's awesome. And that is a perfect way to describe how it can be when you can check under the blankets about what this is all about where it came from.

JJ Parker  24:44  
Yeah. And get back into the moment like get back into the now. Right. That's part of it. Now. The trick is don't let your mind pull those threads or our circle around the race track.

Melissa Albers  24:57  
Yeah, exactly right. I hope this conversation is helped a lot helped people I really feel like it's been a tough, you know, year and a half, there's been so many things that have caused me anxiety even then normal

JJ Parker  25:10  
route. Well, the other thing and with just the past year is just the changes, right? Everyone gets a little anxious around change because we don't really know what's around the corner. We don't we like? Yeah, when when we're, you know, in the office, and then we're remote work and then the kids are schooling from home and then they're back in school. And then there's numbers flying around with, like, the pandemic, and you know, it all, it all just really amps everything up. So hopefully as we get post pan Demick Yeah, the thing that I think about is, like, we're getting to the point where we're getting, you know, generally pastors say, but that doesn't mean the anxiety and the worry just instantly goes away. No, no, we've had like a year and a half of being really anxious about basically everything. Yeah, the idea that you can just stop it. Yeah. Now is that's not realistic. So no, no. Sitting with a feeling authentic and, and, and working on noticing that anxiety. Yeah. And letting those scalp waves become less and less each week.

Melissa Albers  26:24  
Yeah, I and you know what, you'll be doing that amongst friends, because right now everyone is allowing more transparency, about their feelings and not feeling secure, not feeling and feeling anxiety. So there's so much of that happening right now that it'll, it allows a lot more flexibility for people to be able to work on it and be supported by others doing the same.

JJ Parker  26:50  
Well, I hope everyone can, like you said, practice a little bit, become a bit more aware of anxiety and yeah, me to smooth things out.

Melissa Albers  27:06  
We hope that you've enjoyed today's episode. Our mission is to help people become happier and more effective by gaining insight into their own thoughts and feelings. We'd love your support. First, share this podcast with anyone you think might enjoy it. Second, leave us a rating or review on your favorite podcast site. This helps others discover the podcast so we can reach more people. And third, sign up for our newsletter at the self awareness journey.com. This will help us communicate better with you and build our community. Thank you so much for joining us in the self awareness journey. We'll see you next week.

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Discussed in this episode

Let's get real

Meet your guides

JJ Parker

JJ Parker is a serial entrepreneur passionate about building creative strategy, efficient operations, and unique marketing perspectives. Parker got his start as a student at The Minneapolis Institute of Art, and soon after launched his first company Tightrope Media Systems (TRMS) with a high school buddy in 1997.

Melissa Albers

Melissa is passionate about developing people’s self-awareness and ability to positively interact with others. She focuses on the importance of building influence, and highlights the most important relationship we have is with self first. Ms. Albers speaks on leadership and self-awareness, and has shared the stage with John Maxwell (Leadership Author and Speaker), Lee Cockerell (Exec VP of Disney) and Les Brown (Motivational Speaker) to name a few.

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