‘What We Resist Persists!’

This blog post is the fourth in a series of posts that are excerpts from my full length published article, ‘Five Simple Steps To Managing Anxiety’ available for immediate download from my website by this link: http://www.glennburdick.com/anxiety_help.htm

‘What we resist persists!’

As a clinician with 30 years of experience I have worked with a great many people struggling with uncomfortable levels of anxiety and even panic. I have great empathy for their plight, given my own personal encounter with a fear of public speaking, a form of social anxiety that plagued me all the way into my late 20’s.

The very thought of getting up in front of any size group of people (even six!) terrified me, and I almost always found a way to avoid such situations. If I had to give a talk, my heart would be pounding in my chest; I would be feeling a significant level of fear, palms sweaty, approaching panic, wishing I was anywhere else in the world at that time. I dreaded the possibility of embarrassing myself in front of others, or even being humiliated (both concerns of social anxiety).

As I’m sure you can imagine, I said ‘NO!’ to any requests of me to give a presentation, which reinforced my fear & feeling of being powerless in the face of it. However, when I accepted my first professional job, which I was very excited to begin, I was told that I would be giving public talks as part of my new job. The jig was up. I had to figure out how to overcome my public speaking anxiety.

Fortunately for me, I had studied the nature of anxiety disorders and their treatment and the related research in Clinical Psychology graduate school. I intellectually understood the facts that I am sharing with you in this article. Now I had to ‘walk my talk’.

I understood that I had to be willing to feel fear and feel like fleeing the event while at the same time beginning my presentation, and that by doing so the anxiety would begin to diminish. I knew that I could ‘take the edge off’ of the anxiety by regulating my breath and moving my body while speaking.

Most powerfully of all, I put my faith in the knowledge that accepting my discomfort and fear as distressing but NOT dangerous, and relaxing my resistance to feeling that way would stop the anxiety from escalating further, and would allow it to level off and begin to fade away. I began to say ‘yes’ to invitations to speak in public, knowing full well that I would have to endure several minutes of feeling afraid, but that I would then quickly grow comfortable.

Ultimately, I discovered a part of me I call my ‘inner ham’, a part that actually enjoys being up in front of a group of people. I went on to present at numerous medical conferences at highly prestigious institutions, each time being among the most highly rated presenters by the participants. Confronting my fear of being embarrassed or humiliated in front of the public led to my involvement in a weekly live radio show, and co-authoring a weekly health & wellness column in the Ann Arbor News.

Enough about me! I just wanted you to know that I can truly relate to what you are experiencing, and that I have personally put into practice in moments of intense anxiety the information and techniques I am writing about in this article.

So far in this article I have addressed the range of anxiety from helpful levels of worry, all the way to escalating anxiety and panic. You learned that anxiety is a normal part of our ‘fight or flight’ response (the ‘flight’ part), and that it is not dangerous. Nature meant for fear to be uncomfortable and to drive us into life saving activity.

You have also learned that if a high level of anxiety is experienced in the absence of an obvious clear and present danger, you can quickly escalate the level of anxiety, even to the point of panic or a trip to the emergency room thinking we are having a heart attack.

Next post in this series: “The Anxiety Disorders

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