Overcoming mid-life Anxiety

"Which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life's span?"

(Mt 6:27)

If instigating renewal to our physical and mental health issues was as simple as extracting a painful tooth, healing would be relieving. A physical symptom such as chest pains can alert us of the possibility of a cardiovascular illness (stroke, heart attack), but can also be the trigger alerting you of anxiety. Your anxiety in return can be the trigger of depression! Try to assemble these pieces of puzzle together without frustration or confusion! It takes a good dose of patience to journey into healing without relapses or without giving-up entirely.

In our last encounter we mentioned the importance of working towards achieving a positive self-esteem. This is the basis for instigating renewal into any of our mid-life concerns.

...and speaking of mid-life concerns... let me present you what I believe to be another of the most popular mental- health challenges our generation encounters...ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to anxiety!


Anxiety is not a sign of weakness…Celebrities such as Donny Osmond, Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln suffered of this illness. People of all walks of life can be afflicted. You will understand this better when I present the different anxiety illnesses and their causes. But for now, let's try to answer the following question: What is anxiety?

Everybody experiments anxiety symptoms at one time or another and that is normal. Pain is a body signal alerting you of a health concern - requesting the need for medical attention. Anxiety plays a similar role warning us about a danger: be extra cautious! E.G.: You feel a little anxious as you prepare to cross a freeway where cars circulate in both directions. It’s also normal to feel anxious when you must speak in front of a crowd or must go for a job interview.

Anxiety becomes a concern when you intentionally avoid any contact with the source of fear. E.G.: You avoid grocery shopping because you feel anxious surrounded by to many people. You avoid any outer contacts with strangers, you refuse to leave the house; you depend on others entirely for your needs.

In this case, anxiety is not a warning of cautiousness or a situation of nervousness. Anxiety as now become a state of painful or fearful uneasiness of mind over an impending or anticipated event; it is a very intensive sense of concern mixed with doubt,fear sometimes reaching a fealing of terror."

This state of emotion is intense, frequent, often appropriated to given situations, things or locations; it could go as far as to interfere into your personal life, restricting your social relationships, and your work performance. Real Life by Dr Phil McGraw)

Let’s now take a pause and try to assess your level of anxiety; answer the following questions - I quoted them from Psychologist Dr. Joni Johnston’s book entitled: "Controlling Anxiety – Keep your fears and worries at bay."

  • Does your anxiety interfere with your ability to work?

  • Does it interfere in your relationship with others?

  • Does your anxiety cause you to avoid specific places, events, objects,or situations?

  • Are you always stressed out?

  • Are you highly upset by changes in your normal routine?

  • Do you ever experience actual flashbacks of traumatic events?

  • Do you worry about the same things over and over again?

  • Does your anxiety cause you discomfort or distress on a regular basis?

  • Do you frequently feel irritable?

    A positive response to most of those questions could reveal your level anxiety to be a health concern? But don’t panic! Let’s continue this reflection one step further; we will look over the four components of your anxiety: physical, emotional, behavioural and cognitive.

    N.B. The following description contains quotes from Psychologists: Dr. Joni E. Johnston’s, Dr Phil McGraw and Dr Charles Nemeroff. See bibliography for details.

    The four components of your anxiety


  • Chest pains
  • Nausea and indigestion (butterflies in the stomach)
  • Sweating (palms, forehead or underarms)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Racing pulse or feeling of heart pounding
  • Trouble swallowing or feeling of choking
  • Dizziness or headache (vertigo)
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Muscle tenseness (goose bumps) (legs,neck, shoulders to the extend these areas ache)
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Difficulties in sleeping
  • Feeling fatigued and tired regardless of what you have done (majority of time)
  • Numbness (tingling in hands, feet, mouth)
  • Sensation of feeling apart from one’s body during of after an attack
  • Emotional

  • Fear of losing control
  • Fear of going crazy
  • Fear of dying
  • Fear of embarrassment
  • Fear of being rejected by others due to anxiety
  • Fear of the future
  • Feeling on edge
  • Feeling irritable, impatient and short-tempered with others
  • Feeling of intense guilt
  • Emotional numbness
  • Depressed
  • Cognitive

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Overestimating the real danger of situations
  • Exagering risks
  • Doubting your ability to cope
  • Thinking excessively about the possibility of failure, of drawing negative attention
  • Thinking unwanted thoughts again and again, no matter the effort to put them out of your mind
  • Behavioural

  • Avoid situations that have made us anxious in the past
  • Freezing up
  • Avoiding situations that we are afraid might make us anxious
  • Refusing to try new experiences
  • Performing rituals that help control the anxiety
  • Unable to perform some normal tasks of everyday life because of fear of anxiety
  • Engaging in harmful, dangerous or self-abusive activities
  • Using drugs or alcohol to try to cope with anxiety
  • These symptoms are the most common to anxiety. However, as mentioned in this introduction, any of these symptoms can be physical-related illnesses. So how do I know if these symptoms are anxiety disorder related? Visit your family physician and open up about your feelings and concerns; request for a general examination. Remember also, that medication, illicit drugs have anxiety-like symptoms. Some people can be very sensitive to caffeine or chocolate.

    I conclude with this definition quoted from the book: Controlling Anxiety –keep your fears and Worries at bay.

    "An anxiety disorder is an illness that produces an intense, often unrealistic and excessive state of apprehension and fear. This may or may not occur during or in anticipation of a specific situation, and may be accompanied by a rise in blood pressure, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, nausea, and other signs of agitation or discomfort."

    In our next encounter I will identify different their specific characteristics and their impact on your personality. You might recognize some of them already:

  • Social Phobia
  • Panic Disorder
  • Agoraphobia (fear of the marketplace)
  • General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

    The Sources:

    Complete Idiot’s Guide to: Controlling Anxiety - Keep your fears and worries at bay by Joni E. Johnston, Psy. D. Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Alpha Books, 800 East 96th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46240 Copyright 2006.

    Real Life - Preparing for the 7 most Challenging Days of Your Life by Dr. Phil McGraw Simon & Shuster, Inc. 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020 Copyright 2008 p.282-83

    The Peace of Mind Prescription – An Authoritative Guide to Finding the Most Effective Treatment for Anxiety and Depression, by Charles B. Nemeroff, M.D., Ph.D., Dennis S. Charney, M.D with Stephen Braun, Houghton Mifflin Company Boston New York Copyright 2004

    Webster’s New Explorer College Dictionary by Merriam-Webster,Incorporated Springfield, Massachusetts,MA 01102 Copyright 2003

    Holy Bible - Catholic Edition - NRS Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers Copyright 1993 with Imprimatur Canadian Catholic Bishops of Canada