Anxiety: An opportunity to look at the world in a different way


Anxiety or anxiousness isn’t a feeling that some of us think about very often. We all know about stress, and most people feel stressed at some point or other. Personally, I believe that continued stress is a form of anxiety that can build up to a full-blown panic attack.



Have you ever experienced a panic attack?

As a student, I did. The one time it happened was enough to make me change my approach to life.

At the time I was writing my thesis to complete my doctorate. I was offered a research fellowship and it was my dream job. Being in the field of neuroscience was exactly what I had dared to hope for when I started my studies eight years earlier. I looked at all the positives of the offer; it was a fascinating research project and I would be paid while writing my thesis which is always a good thing. I knew it would be a bit of pressure to do research and write at the same time, but I wanted the job. The job started out as these things do with the fun of discovery, exploring a new angle on research- all happy and jolly, but as soon as the science started it quickly became a 7pm (and later if I had allowed it) end to the day.

That would have been ok if I had finished writing my thesis, but I hadn’t.




I would go home each day, eat dinner and then work on my thesis until 2am in the morning and repeat the cycle all over again the next day… for eighteen months. As the months went on, finishing my thesis became more difficult. The pressure to get everything done was building. Christmas was approaching and I had a February deadline to graduate the following May. The straw that broke this camel’s back was when I was asked if I would organise a colleague’s leaving present. I was superwoman at the time so I said yes and that was all it took. It was one too many things. I went to the mall and stood there and I didn’t know what to do. I felt total panic. It rose like heat, over my chest and head and I just couldn’t think. I couldn’t move. My heart was beating fast. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t even speak to ask for help so I did nothing. I didn’t recognise myself- my strong competent approach to life seemed completely foreign.

It was then that I discovered my limit on what I could physically do in a day. I never wanted to experience that feeling again so I changed my approach to how I lived my life.


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When I look back to those student days, I realise what I had experienced was anxiety. I had pressure, admittedly some of which was self induced – the feeling that my life wouldn’t be free unless I had finished my thesis, some external – meeting research targets and graduation deadlines. Each day a little bit of anxiousness would build up if I hadn’t reached the targets set for the day. Over the eighteen months that it took to submit my thesis, the anxiety built up out of proportion. My panic attack was an accumulation of pent up feelings released in one go. It was a pressure valve that blew.  Like everyone else I made the mistake of thinking I was busy and the stress would go if I had a holiday- I didn’t face the root cause of my anxiety.

Do you:

  • Constantly worry about outcomes
  • Worry about what others think about you and your performance at work
  • Dread phone calls with the boss and others at work
  • Feel on edge all the time
  • Snap at others easily
  • Store resentment then snap at others
  • Avoid people because you’re fearful about being embarrassed or humiliated
  • Feel overwhelmed by your to-do list but powerless to change it
  • Struggle to say no

If any of the above sounds like you, then you may be experiencing anxiety.  Learn to listen to these symptoms as signals your body is sending to set some healthy boundaries in your life. Do so you before your anxiety blows out of proportion.




Anxiety arises from false thinking.  In my case, I underestimated the demands of taking on both the research project and writing a thesis. I lead myself to think in a way that wasn’t true, that I had to accept the job at that time because there wouldn’t be another job as good or as interesting.  As I went onto other research positions, I found out that was false thinking.

Anxiety arises from not knowing your boundaries.  If you don’t know what your boundaries are regarding your time and resources – anxiety is the signal that will help you find them.

If you suffer from anxiousness, take time out to take stock of what is true for you.  Identify all of the areas where your thinking is false.  (Hint: anything that begins “I can’t do….because” usually has an element of false thinking associated with it).




Identify your values– they are the path to finding your boundaries. Once you have found your boundaries, take pleasure in either saying ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on your own terms.

Vulnerability– if you suffer from anxiety you may not allow others to help you. This is precisely the time to reach out and connect to someone. Stop isolating yourself through fearful thoughts and develop the art of vulnerability.  Strangely enough vulnerability isn’t all about letting everything hang out. Its about telling the truth, simply and openly- allowing yourself to be visible to others. Try it out it’s a powerful healer.

Get extra guidance on what may be causing your anxiety or to feel unlike who you want to be with our free card reading service.


Lucille Henry PhD