can a working mom have it all, career and motherhood, Executive Anxiety, Executive Mothers, Family and the working mother, Guilt of a working mother, Sonia Boudreau, work life balance for working moms, Working mothers
This past Sunday I went to church. And the subject was anxiety. I have been attending this church for about a year and a half, almost as long as we have lived in this area. And in this time, my attendance has been spotty so I was particularly surprised that this was the second sermon that focused on anxiety. I live in a fairly affluent area which my husband and I refer to as Maybury, some days I expect I might just see Barney Fife walking down the street. Our town and its sister town is full of highly successful people from old and new money – what could anyone here be anxious about? So my ears perk up, I want to hear this for two reasons: 1) I have dealt with anxiety since I was a small child, 2) clearly my Maybury is full of high achievers also plagued with anxiety. Anxiety raises cortisol levels and in turn impedes our performance both at work and at home. It seems like a bad joke, so many people achieve success only to be confronted by their own anxiety that makes it even harder to continue moving forward.
The sermon (link provided below) started with a reference to a recent article from the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/14/health/feeling-anxious-soon-there-will-be-an-app-for-that.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0). The article describes using phone apps for anxiety. So I read through the article. I had flashbacks to psych 101 and Pavlov’s dog. The concept of using an app has merit I suspect, but it seems a deeper understanding of the triggers of our anxiety might be more helpful long-term.
Mike Woodruff, our Pastor, goes on to describe a successful individual about 45 years old who become debilitated with anxiety. He survives it and writes a letter to another gentleman also under immense pressure. The letter can be found on page 11 in the sermon notes under the attached link. It is worth reading, truly. What I take from this is something a counselor helped me understand when I was sixteen: there is nothing more intimidating that the pressure we put on ourselves. Even more than twenty-five years after learning this I still struggle with it, but being aware makes it so much easier. A few years ago I supported a man who had been referred to as ‘mega-egomaniac’, he was tough on me and very challenging, but I very much enjoyed working with him. Then one day he yelled at me to make someone else do something he wanted, someone not in his organization or mine. And the feeling of panic rose right up to my eye balls within seconds. As I was walking out of his office, I turned and said very calmly, “You can yell at me about anything I can control, but if you yell at me to fix something out of my control I might cry” (yes, I sometimes lack a filter). He looked at me in amazement, he said he couldn’t imagine I would cry over anything, ever. In my head, I know I can do just about anything, I am the go to person to get things done, I am the ultimate fixer, but at that moment I knew what he was asking for was not possible and not doing what he asked might but a chip in my exterior armor. On the outside all he saw was a can-do-anything person, tough enough to handle him and my own direct boss also known to be quite demanding, and the two were almost always in conflict. Similar to the gentleman writing the letter, my outside appearance is very different from the inside is on occasion, and the inside turmoil is self-imposed.
The pastor at one point says we should “right size” our problems. He compares it to Mary putting her faith in God as she learns that she is pregnant. He isn’t suggesting that we simply go on and ignore our problems, but when placed in the scheme of the bigger picture, a total career, a family’s overall health (not just monetary)… we can put a single item into perspective.
Even if you are not religious, but you deal with more than a little anxiety, I urge you to open the below link (February 24 sermon). There is an audio sermon (listening to Mike Woodruff is much like listening to a business presentation) and just under the audio portion is the sermon notes where you can find the letter on page eleven. Google “Executive Anxiety” and you get 22,600,000 hits, amazing.