Anxiety to Gratitude: Making a Switch

Last Monday night, I left the therapy session feeling satisfied that I’d said what I needed to say and realizing that those sessions aren’t for the faint of heart. There have been plenty of times when I would have benefitted from a therapist, a trained professional that would’ve helped me sort out my life; but now is the time and I’m thankful to have a guide to lead me on this new path.


Gratitude Wall, Charis Coffee Company, Manteo 5/19

My therapist has helped me to identify three main feelings I’m experiencing and to understand the source of each. Anger wells up when I feel I’ve experienced an injustice. Sadness shows up when I realize what I’m losing. Anxiety hits when I’m focused on the future– fearful due to uncertainty. Not only am I to recognize these feelings, I need to experience them, avoiding the urge to push them down rather than deal with them; No running away through my favorite forms of escape, no numbing out or denying– just facing things head on then moving through rather than getting stuck.

The sessions are helpful and exhausting and leave me feeling ’emotionally hungover’ the next day, dragging through Tuesday and hearing tapes in my head from Monday night.

Last Tuesday afternoon when I was driving to my hometown to see my mother, I decided to listen to one of my new audiobooks that I’d I bought because the title caught my attention: The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connection & Courage by Brené Brown. I’d heard of Dr. Brown, a PhD who researches vulnerability, shame, courage, and worthiness at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. I’d never listened to any of her TED talks or read her books, so the content of the audiobook was fresh– and timely.

In her warm, Texan accent, she described vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure; I could relate to all three at this unexpected time in my life. Not only has it felt like marital separation has produced all those feelings in me, the conversations about this change have also felt like uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. Meeting individually with family and friends and facing their feelings about our separation, having frank conversations to the extent that is appropriate, has also made me feel vulnerable. There is uncertainty in those conversations yet there has been depth that may have been avoided in the past. There are moments that have been raw and some that have been prickly, but overall, there has been support and tenderness.

Brown says, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and Courage aren’t always comfortable but they are never weakness.”


Another time of contemplation, Vermont 6/15

There have been many times in my life when I’ve held back with speaking the truth, been so tactful you wouldn’t know that I was confronting you. That may have been rooted in my Southern, Christian, middle-of-three-daughters upbringing. But dealing with the truth about my marriage ending, something I didn’t choose, has forced me to speak boldly in order not to be pulled under by the situation. I’ve had to talk more honestly about difficult things; It has taken more courage than anything in my life.

When I’ve recognized my anger at the injustice, I’ve spoken that anger aloud, pushing myself to be specific about those feelings. When sadness moves in like a storm cloud over me, I remember my therapist’s instructions and name what I’m losing, allowing that to wash over me. But identifying anxiety has been more difficult, because it seems to grab me from behind, only registering as anxiety when I can’t catch my breath or feel momentarily dizzy.

One of the things I heard when listening to Brown’s audiobook, was how to confront anxiety. She talked about how when we’re anxious, we go into that scared brain mode of needing to run toward survival. When I have moments of feeling anxious, I jump to worse case scenarios that are not based on what is real, but on fear. She suggests that the best way to stop that anxiety is to switch the brain into a different mode, to turn on thankfulness that expands the heart and mind. You can’t keep on with anxious thoughts if you’re thinking about things you’re grateful for. Because anxiety is about the future, and not what is actually happening in the present, we can be robbed of joyful times we are experiencing if we’re in an anxious mindset ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop.’

Brown says, “We simply cannot know joy without embracing vulnerability—and the way to do that is to focus on gratitude, not fear.”      

It occurred to me, an Ah-Ha when I was almost to Mama’s, that I’d read a scripture in the Bible a few months ago that seemed impossible for me to follow in the shock of those early days:

 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Pilippians 4:6 (NIV)        


Remembering the peacefulness of Iona, Scotland 9/17

Now, I think that I’m to attack that sneaky stalker, Anxiety with remembering each thing I have to be grateful for, the good memories of our marriage, the family we created and continue to enjoy, the unforeseen ways that God is working out the plans He has for me. I can speak those things out loud, with the same brave voice as the one that has spoken the difficult truths over the past weeks.


What About You?  

Are you dealing with feelings of anger, sadness, or anxiety? How can you recognize the feeling and deal with it so you don’t get stuck?

How can you practice gratitude in place of anxiety?



15 thoughts on “Anxiety to Gratitude: Making a Switch

    • Hey Jean,
      Thanks so much for reading and for your gracious comment. I’m really enjoying listening to her and continue to ponder points she’s making in that audiobook.
      Hope you’re doing well.
      Best to you and to your work,


  1. So good. oldest southern dAughters were taught the same about being polite and not speaking up. That did not help women in dealing with todayS world. This would be a good for a talk. in your favor is that you seem. To have such a. Good social support system. You seem to ha e always met new people much better than David. I was always rather envious that you seemed much moRe self care confident than me and more outgoing. keep up the good work. H Sent from my iPad



    • Thanks, for reading and for sharing your thoughts, Harriet. I agree with you that much of what we learned about being polite and quiet has not worked in this world. As adults we’re able to rethink whether what we learned serves us now.
      Best to you,
      Sister Connie


  2. Thanks for sharing, Connie! These thoughts are good for each of us dealing with a multitude of things!

    The doctors found a mass in Mike’s head a few weeks ago. He is to have surgery on Tuesday. We would appreciate your prayers!

    Continued love and hugs to you…not only during this journey, but every single day!

    On Sat, Sep 21, 2019 at 3:50 PM Connie Rosser Riddle wrote:

    > conniesedona317 posted: “Last Monday night, I left the therapy session > feeling satisfied that I’d said what I needed to say and realizing that > those sessions aren’t for the faint of heart. There have been plenty of > times when I would have benefitted from a therapist, a trained pr” >


    • Hey Sandra,
      Thanks for reading and for your ongoing support of my writing–and all aspects of my life.
      I was just thinking about you and Mike this morning on my walk. I will keep him and you in my praers–especially on Tuesday.
      Love to you and Mike,


  3. You are here, giving us the truest of thought. I can see that you are letting emotion be the driver. I can relate to your plight as I am dealing with what you have in the past. At this time I am trying to reel in all the factors and arrange them into a manageable package. You are working out the kinks with a logical pattern. Continue to follow your guide and remember that your faith will ease any doubts. I am with you all the way.


  4. Thank you SO much for writing so honestly about the break up of your marriage and the complex emotions this brings. Your words helped me enormously reading them today. I have read Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability but reading her words in the context of your writing really helped me absorb them more deeply.


    • Hey Marie,
      Thanks so much for reading and for your gracious comments. I prayed for you this morning when I walked past your Prayin’ Tree–which I’ve yet to send you a picture of! You are helping so many people and my prayer is for you to receive God’s Grace in the way that meets the needs of your heart–your big and kind heart!
      Wishing you the best, Marie in the week ahead.
      With love and gratitude,


  5. Pingback: Weekly Round-Up | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

    • Thanks for including my post in your Round Up, Marie. I hope that folks in our community will find something of benefit in what I’ve written. Best to everyone in whatever difficulties you face in the coming week.


  6. Connie,

    This is a beautiful post that resonated so deeply with me. I have lots of anxiety and some depression as a result of life’s wears-and-tears. Cancer plus a divorce shortly after took a toll on me. Thank you for this post.

    I find that keeping a grateful journal helps keep me in the present and chases away anxiety. I haven’t been journaling lately, but today might be the day to start again.


    • Hey Beth,
      Thanks so much for reading and sharing your experience. Life is hard and does wear us down, sometimes more than others. I hope you have started that Grateful Journal and that there are many things to write down today!
      Best to you and thanks for your support,


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