The Women in Medicine Badass Radioshow

Episode #37: What Makes You Anxious and What to Do About It

Show Notes:

Hello and welcome to the show. I’m Dr. Sharon Grossman and I am here today to talk to you all about anxiety — where does it come from and what you can do about it. And it just so happens that I am working with a group of folks right now on this particular issue so not only am I going to share with you my own expertise, but also some of the things that have been coming up recently with my members and it’s really given me a whole new perspective on the subject. So buckle up and get ready!

When I talk about anxiety in general I typically let people know what I see anxiety as. And as you know if you’ve listened to the show for a while, I like the defined terms. And so the way that I like to think about anxiety is that it’s an overestimation of risk and an underestimation of coping. And here’s what I mean by that: If you are somebody who tends to worry who catastrophizes or who feels like they lack control over a situation, it might bring up some anxiety for you, especially if you underestimate how well you’re going to be able to cope with that situation. 

So that’s where you start to experience some self-doubt, negative self-talk, and a lack of confidence. Now keep in mind that about 40 million American adults experience some form of anxiety and that there are a variety of different reasons why people have anxiety disorders or just are more prone to having an anxious mind. It could be part of your genetics. It could be your social environment. It could be the way that you think about things. It can be so many different reasons. But what’s more important than that is not what has brought you there, but what you can really do about it and that’s really where I want to focus us for the most part.

Now traditionally anxiety is thought of as something that happens in the body as well which is much more pronounced than most other emotions that we experience. It’s something that you feel when your heart is pounding and you start to sweat and shake. And if you’ve ever had a panic attack you know what I’m talking about because that’s the pinnacle of anxiety. That’s where you experience the most heightened version of it. But most people experience anxiety in a much more low-grade kind of way and that’s really where I want to focus today.

Now one of the interesting things that has come up in my group which is if you don’t already know called The Priming Lab where we really focus on producing a different kind of a program in your mind that aligns with how you want to be in the world, what my members have been sharing recently is that they are not experiencing anxiety so much in their body, but more so in their mind. And I think there’s a really interesting distinction there because anxiety manifests differently for different people. and what’s really interesting about that is that as we were talking, there were three distinct triggers that bring up anxiety for them. If you’re somebody who experiences a lot of anxiety but it’s more of the worry type than of the arousal in your body type, then listen up because I’m going to share with you what these three triggers are that you need to pay attention to and then what you can do to really unwind from that. 

So trigger number one is being in the situation where you feel either unsafe or uncomfortable. So if you’ve ever been in a situation where are you felt like you were under attack because somebody that you were talking with was very aggressive, in your face, and led you to feel unsafe, that is definitely one situation that is very triggering. And it could be that the person that you’re talking to reminds you of someone else that you know from your past and that’s why you’re being triggered, or could just be that because of the way that they’re engaging with you right now, it is making you feel very uncomfortable and that is really bringing up some red flags in your subconscious mind, which is programmed to keep you safe. 

So it’s getting this alert like, “This is dangerous. This is threatening. You need to escape.” And so that is definitely one of the things that we see when you get into that fight-or-flight mechanism that you might want to flee. 

Alternatively you might want to somehow avoid the person or the situation but feel really frozen in place and that’s something that keeps you from being able to and that can be even more triggering because if you know that about yourself, you know that when you’re in these situations you freeze up, you don’t really know what to do, you might even shut down and so that can be even more anxiety-producing.

 I recently had a situation like this. We moved and had this very aggressive person come into our home to organize this entire arrangement. He was the one who brought the truck and brought the workers in and had all of our stuff. And he was very insistent on us following his exact instructions. We weren’t allowed to really question anything that he was doing. He wanted us to pay all of the amount that we owed him up front in cash and was essentially yelling at us and threatening us that if we weren’t going to do what he asked, that he was going to take our stuff and leave. Well the entire endeavor was very stressful because he not only was not very accommodating in that respect but also didn’t want to do the job that we thought he was there to do. So he wasn’t going to put things away properly. He said it wasn’t his job to construct the furniture that they had deconstructed where they moved us out of our apartment in San Francisco or our home. So there were all kinds of issues that we’re coming up throughout the day and it was extremely stressful, at least for me, and I felt that every time I had to deal with this individual it was not only unpleasant but it felt threatening. 

When I tried to talk to him, he would talk over me and what I came to realize after a while was that he truly and sincerely believed what he was saying. He wasn’t just trying to scam us but he really believed that he was the victim in the situation and that he was doing us all of these favors that we weren’t appreciative of and that we’re the ones who need to change our tune and to stop complaining about what we didn’t like. 

He even shared with me the story, which I think really exemplifies what’s behind some of these behaviors that you might be experiencing especially when you’re dealing with somebody who you feel is bullying you. So the story went like this: He said that his wife told him to never do any favors for anybody because that person will eventually stab them in the back. And I found that really interesting because when I called the company to complain that he wasn’t willing to put things away or to construct our furniture or that he showed up without any tools to do the job not even a screwdriver or a box cutter and was using or kitchen knives, he really felt very upset about this as if I had betrayed him, as if he had been doing all this amazing stuff for us and that we were complaining against him. And so when are you was talking to me, I could see that he truly believed his version of the story. Not only that, but he wasn’t really willing to listen to anything I was going to say. He was very quick to defend himself and so I realized that there was no point in having that conversation and really the only thing that I could do because I felt so triggered and so stressed and so upset was to distance myself from him. 

Sometimes you might be in a situation where it’s hard to do that — where you feel really triggered by somebody, where you feel threatened by them or just like the encounter is extremely uncomfortable and you need to find a way to calm your anxiety down. 

And so what could you do in those situations? Well if you know you’re going into a situation like one of my priming members described in our conversation was that she was going into a conference meeting with somebody who she knows to be a bully and every time she goes into that meeting with him, she feels already anxious in advance. So one of the things we talked about is that you could do some grounding you could do some grounding in advance so that you are taking care of yourself before you even go into that meeting. 

It might be just acknowledging like I did that this person is coming from a perspective where it’s really hard for them to understand where I’m coming from because they’re so wrapped up in their story that I wasn’t going to get anywhere and be able to just accept the situation.

Or the other thing I did was to just find a way of creating some space between me and that person.

Let’s look at trigger number two so the other thing that can bring up anxiety for you is worrying about how other people might think about you and this is especially true for people who are already self-conscious, who maybe aren’t super confident, or who have imposter syndrome especially at work. Now I work with a lot of high achievers and one of the things that they talked about often is that they’re expected to be an expert in their area and when they are coming across somebody who expects them to know something or who they perceive as someone who expects them to know something and they don’t necessarily know everything about that topic, they get anxious because they worry that they’re going to be perceived as not good enough or not knowledgeable and then they kind of catastrophize in their minds about where that’s going to take them…like, “If they see me as not confident, then what would that mean about my job security?” Or “How will people talk about me?” 

There’s a lot of drama that happens in the mind in terms of how we think other people think about us, right? So if you’re somebody who struggles with that and that’s why you become anxious then one of the things that you need to consider is number one is first and foremost to work on your beliefs about yourself. So do you believe that you’re not good enough because a lot of this self-doubt and lack of confidence can stem from that. And if that’s the case then I would encourage you very strongly to work on priming your brain to actually believe differently and that’s what we do in The Priming Lab is we work on these beliefs so that we can alter the way that our mind thinks and therefore produce different results. And by that I mean less self-doubt, less anxiety, and more confidence. 

The other thing you can do if you’re in this situation is to come back to the idea that you are human, that you are not going to be perfect, that there are things that you are not going to know and then if that’s okay, and just giving yourself permission to not know everything, right? Not to be perfect. And hey, listen…if you’re a perfectionist, I get it cuz I work with so many of you that I know what it’s like to expect that perfection. And listen, if that’s you, the reason for that perfectionism which then leads to the anxiety, is that you have something to prove and that comes from that sense of not being good enough typically that you have to overcome, right? And again, if that’s something that you struggle with, brain priming is a great way to overcome that more quickly than probably any therapy can do. 

And finally, the third trigger that can bring up anxiety for you is when you’re in a situation that is either unknown to you or unfamiliar. So it could be that you are expected to do something at work that you don’t know how to do, that you’ve never done before. That can bring up anxiety. There’s some anxiety around performance for sure and then there’s also the anxiety about what will happen when I don’t know what I’m doing? There’s something’s it around, “I don’t even know where to get started” or “What happens once I get started if I won’t be able to figure it out?” And that really comes back to trusting yourself and feeling confident in your ability to figure things out. 

This, once again, it’s something that you can prime yourself for. And one of the things that we’ve been talking about in The Priming Lab is priming on three dimensions: 

#1: Priming your mind 

#2: Priming your body, especially if you have the kind of anxiety that manifests in your body — so how can you reprogram your body to stay calm,  and —

#3: Priming your environment 

I think those three come together into this very powerful trifecta that can help you stay grounded and to reprogram you to be a lot more resilient.

Now if you want to find out more about how you can prime your brain for success, I invite you to grab a copy of my ebook. It is absolutely free for you. Go to 

And if you’d like to find out more information about our membership program, The Priming Lab, I encourage you to check it out. Go to 

I hope this is been hopeful that you will use this for your benefit. You could always join my Facebook group which is Transforming Anxiety for Medical Employees where we tame your anxiety. I’ll see you again next week. Take care.

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