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Living With Anxiety? Learn to Step out and Lean In

Mental Health
Author name: Paul G. Simeone, Ph.D., Vice President and Medical Director of Behavioral Health

To live in today’s world is to face -- on an almost moment to moment basis -- often debilitating levels of stress from virtually everywhere.

Whether you are a high-powered executive whose shoulders are heavy with responsibility, or a child who is learning to navigate the complexities of school, friends and family, no one is exempt from life’s challenges.

In fact, following the lead of several writers, poets, and philosophers of the 19th century, many modern historians are now describing our time as “The Age of Anxiety.”

In so doing, they agree that our period is characterized by a profound sense of deep anxiety or dread -- typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the overall state of the world.

These are the waters we are currently swimming in.

Another telltale sign of the stress we are under?

The sheer number of stress reduction programs and tools at our disposal — everything from yoga and meditation to calming apps directed toward settling our beleaguered spirits. If the market is any measure of our current situation, we are a population clearly in need of help.

Gain some perspective

For me, there is a relatively simple formula that boils down all of these tools into a useful approach that helps with anxiety. It’s what I call “stepping out” and “leaning in,” a two-pronged strategy that offers balance and increased peacefulness.

By “stepping out” I refer to all the ways we can reduce anxiety by narrowing the aperture through which the world assaults us.

Examples of this are reducing time spent on social media, watching less TV news, and, speaking more generally, avoiding as much negativity as humanly possible.

Not only does this allow us to “keep it in our own lane,” but, equally important, getting distance from vexations to the soul always increases perspective.

I don’t know about you, but when I step out enough the see the forest for the trees, I am naturally settled down because I view myself as part of a bigger whole.

Being part of something larger than ourselves reduces malignant self-absorption while providing greater meaning, purpose, and grounding. It’s the compass that points to the due north of our lives.

Find some control

On the other hand, “leaning in” is a different stance altogether.

This refers to our capacity to manage anxiety by becoming masters of our souls and captains of our own ships. Psychologists have known for a long time that taking control over our lives -- “leaning in” instead of checking out -- is what empowers us to maintain calm.

And keep in mind that checking out, often by avoiding difficult experiences, is not the same as “stepping out.” By first “stepping out,” so that you can see the big picture and locate yourself in it, you are then able to identify those areas of your anxiety that can be effectively addressed.

These two elements of the approach, when used reliably and thoughtfully, can change your relationship to a complex and dizzying world that often leaves us dazed and overwhelmed.


Lee Health Behavioral Health Services:

Discover how important you are

Lee Health Behavioral Health Services – an outpatient facility -- provides friendly and compassionate psychiatric and counseling services along with plenty of other mental health resources. We evaluate your condition, manage your medication, and implement a plan to help you feel better. You will find a trained therapist who is right for you – a caring and attentive person who will connect with you and empower you to tackle your problems. For more information or to schedule an appontment please call 239-343-9180.

We treat conditions such as:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Phobias
  • Postpartum depression

Paul Simeone, Ph.D., is vice president of Mental and Behavioral Health at Lee Health. Simeone has more than 30 years’ experience in mental and behavioral health as an educator, administrator, and practicing clinical psychologist. Simeone has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and master’s degree in school psychology from Adelphi University in Garden City, New York, and a master’s degree in psychology from Mount Holyoke College near Springfield, Mass.

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