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Sanity Notes #032: When anxiety strikes, remember your birthright

How to reconnect with ease when stress or anxiety hit hard

Matt Munson
Matt Munson
3 min read
Sanity Notes #032: When anxiety strikes, remember your birthright
When anxiety strikes, remember your birthright
Looking for some support? If now is the time to consider coaching (or a CEO peer circle) reach out here.

It may be that I struggle with depression more than most. Maybe I’m average; I’m not really sure. I know the depressive days hit me and hit hard.

Sometimes the hard feelings show up as sadness or depression. Other times they come as anxiety: a sense that something is urgently or fully wrong although I cannot put my finger on it in the moment.

Lately, I have been watching my three-year-old daughter with joy and curiosity. The joy comes from watching how free and happy she is so much of the time. Yesterday, I took her for frozen yogurt. We were sitting at a table outside in the sunshine. Music was playing, some mix of oldies rock. And she got the urge to dance. So she got up from the table and began swaying and twirling.

As I watch her, dancing, or running, or painting, I also find myself curious about where I lost that sense of ease.

I remember feeling as a child the way I imagine she feels. Like she has direct access to the very things I spend so much time looking for:

  • joy
  • relaxation
  • curiosity
  • ease

One of the greatest gifts she has given me, among many, is being a daily reminder that these are, in fact, not things I need look for at all. They are my birthright.

And, in fact, they have not gone anywhere. They are not lost.

What I sense happened to me, what happens to all of us in some way, is I learned as I grew up that the world was not in fact quite so safe as I imagined it was as a child. As I grew, I faced challenges, threats, and losses as we all do. And I strove to protect myself against those losses through patterns of belief or behavior that were modeled for me by others in my life. Patters including:

  • Remaining diligent
  • Distancing myself from others
  • Tying my sense of self to performance
  • Self-pity (or playing the victim of my own circumstances)
  • Pleasing others
  • Getting small

These patterns came to drive most of my day-to-day experience.

But they do not have to.

These patterns are not me. And I am writing today as a reminder to myself as well as an invitation to you.

When you find yourself stuck in some unhelpful pattern: anxiety, depression, victimhood, isolation, performance, or some other pattern that brings you pain, it may be helpful to reconnect with three-year-old you. How did she or he experience the world? What sense of joy, ease, or confidence did she or he have direct access to?

If it is hard to remember, find an old photo of yourself. What do you see?

We can learn to identify, move through, and find freedom from our patterns. I have written previously about some helpful practices, and I am happy to share more if you would like to reach out. Please feel free.

To remind myself as well, let me share that life well lived is lived primarily from that place where we begin: at ease, plugged-in, dancing. That part of us is waiting, hoping we will set it loose. Let it drive the show. Let it enjoy and experience the day.

Alan Watts, the philosopher and teacher, spoke of every area of life having the potential for play:

This is the real secret of life—to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play. - Alan Watts

Whether writing code, washing dishes, or having an ice cream with your daughter, there is an opportunity to hold the moment in front of you with the ease and connection of a child. I would suggest the places where that feels hardest may be the places where it is most helpful. Imagine bringing to your next all-hands or board meeting a sense of playfulness, confidence, and creativity.

This is in part what we mean when we talk about learning to lead or partner with authenticity. Our authentic parts are quite simply our original parts, our core parts. When my daughter dances outside the yogurt shop, her authenticity is on full display. She draws in everyone around her, especially me. She draws herself in and the whole world follows. Those moments are available to each of us, they are waiting to be unleashed.

I appreciate that you are here. If you were forwarded this email and it resonates, you can subscribe here.

Wherever you find yourself today, wishing you joy, connection, and play.

Please feel free to reach out to me if I can be helpful to you in any way. Simply reply to this email.

With love from LA,


Looking for some support? If now is the time to consider coaching (or a CEO peer circle) reach out here.
ceo psychologycrisesemotionsfounder burnoutpsychologyresilence

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