Anxiety: a path forward

Woman in shades of pink walks forward into a canopy of trees

I keep changing and changing and changing this title, but in truth, I know exactly what I’m going to say. The conundrum, of course, is that while I have learned that anxiety, even lifelong, chronic anxiety struggles, can get better, I also don’t want to be one of those people promising you snake oil or making you feel invisible if your anxiety proves to be way more stubborn than my own challenges have been.

So, with that caveat, here’s an update on where I’m at, how I did it, and what I can suggest for other people who are struggling too.

The Recap

Last October, I started having panic attacks. Debilitating ones, that were really getting in the way of my work and my life. While I had experienced perhaps a half dozen panic attacks while living in an RV and traveling the US, I was otherwise completely new to them. And when I’d had them, they hadn’t gotten in the way of my work or my life – I knew what triggered them, and within a few hours, I’d been able to move on from them.

But last fall was different. My husband was really worried. I was really worried too; as the current primary breadwinner in our relationship, and with a husband who was a full-time student, what if I couldn’t pay our bills? So I was having panic attacks and I was spiraling further, getting anxious about having anxiety, which I’ve since read is a sign of an anxiety disorder rather than simply anxiety (which everyone has on some level, and which is 100% normal, to my totally not clinical but still very educated on anxiety understanding).

On one particularly bad day, after a series of particularly bad days, I wanted to go to the mental health clinic. But, of course, I was anxious to go. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t quite believe they’d let me in, especially because I hadn’t received my health card yet (which is your ticket to free health care as a Canadian resident).

My loving husband took me. He sat with me patiently in the car, and he came inside with me too. And the therapist I saw was so affirming, so understanding, and so encouraging as she got me on the list for free province-provided therapy. She even believed me and took notes when I told her I’d recently realized the ample supplies of nightshade vegetables I’d been filling my diet with were apparently a huge anxiety trigger (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and eggplant were filling my diet during this harvest season), based on my own Googled research.

This began more than six months of challenges as I waited, and waited, and waited to get that free therapy. Backing off the nightshade vegetables helped make the panic attacks less frequent (think 1-2 per week rather than daily), and I finally signed up online with my first therapist since college. She went from being okay for a few months, helping me to treat the anxiety, to being completely awful, around the same time I was seeing a very mediocre (at least for me) free therapist (finally) provided by the province.

Things Began Shifting

By the spring, a few things began shifting in my life:

  • I wrapped a contract with a client that had been having a negative effect on my mental health for a very long time, giving me space to begin healing from what I later realized was pretty intense burnout
  • The work I’d been doing on myself using the Enneagram was paying off, and I was seeing the benefits in my relationship with Ross, with my family and friends, and most importantly in my relationship with myself too
  • I found a new therapist who was NIGHT AND DAY from my previous experiences; she’s still supporting me, and I am grateful every day that I didn’t give up on finding the right person for me
  • The time I’d invested in finding community on PEI was bearing fruit; I had local friends and was doing meaningful work, collaborating in multiple music ensembles and enjoying the opportunity to lead one of them
  • I created an Enneagram group and had a really successful pilot program (my first group coaching program over several months)
  • I discovered the Positive Intelligence framework and became a major advocate for the benefits of mental fitness (and subsequently, I became a mental fitness trainer and incorporated the work into my coaching business)
  • I finally stepped outside of my comfort zone into an Anti-Anxiety program offered free to Islanders (called I CAN) and completed it successfully

According to my anxiety coach, my last panic attack was in late August. I know it was a combination of the techniques I had internalized by this point (learned in both I CAN and in my mental fitness studies) as well as some of the deeper personal development I had done. Having my therapist to cheer me on was especially helpful on the days I needed someone to vent to – whether you work with a therapist as well (always ideal) or just find a friend or hire a coach or accountability partner, that safe space was key.

I’ve now realized that I’ve been battling anxiety my entire life, or at least as far back as middle school. I also realize that if I had known then what I know now about mental fitness, I wouldn’t have needed to have the stress and overwhelm in my life. And I would have made healthier choices from a sage place rather than acting out of fear or to numb or distract myself.

What I Recommend

My own personal journey to get control of my anxiety was more long-winded than it needed to be, but there were also a lot of factors at stake. If I hadn’t been overwhelmed in my work, things might have played out differently, perhaps on a faster timetable. If I wasn’t so sensitive to nightshades, the panic attacks may have been less debilitating. But what I now realize is that the gift of my panic and anxiety struggles over the past year or more is that I now have direct experience I can use when coaching my clients. I can relate to them in ways I never could have five years back. What a gift!

Also, for those of you with access to some kind of free anxiety program, or one that’s very affordable for you, do consider it, if you’ve got the bandwidth for it. While I wasn’t learning many new things in mine, the daily practice and accountability (just like I use with my clients) helped me to finally finish integrating all the things people had taught me over the years. I CAN is a great option for Islanders. Find out what, if anything, is available for you.

If you want to sleep well at night, if you want a life with less stress and overwhelm, if you want the tools to find joy and peace and curiosity again, I’d love to introduce you to the mental fitness training we can do together. I have a few spots open in a small group program that will be starting up this January. I’m also developing a new program specifically with musicians in mind, and I’m planning future groups for a) for childfree people b) for men and c) for retirees.

If you’re intrigued, the easiest way for me to tell you more is for us to hop on a call so I can give you a tour of the program and a bit of coaching and some training to incorporate when you’re feeling anxious or fearful or angry or judgmental. I include a few of my favorite mindfulness techniques that you can actually use anywhere, at any time. It’s a free call, and if it intrigues you, I’m offering my programs on a sliding scale to make them as accessible as possible as we begin 2023.

I have such gratitude to be a coach and to be doing this life-changing work. Please reach out to learn more, and if you think this might resonate with a friend or a family member, please encourage them to do the same.

Take care, and be well.

Weird vibes

So, I’ve been honest here about my recent struggles with anxiety and overwhelm and the work I’ve been doing on myself through the Enneagram, other forms of personal development, therapy, and self-care.

I wanted these past few weeks to be me getting back into the swing of things with my business after a delightful week of fun with my mom here on Prince Edward Island.

I wanted to be focused and on top of it.

And, while I think I’ve done a decent job of meeting my obligations and haven’t (I hope) missed any deadlines, I’ve been giving off vibes.

Weird vibes.

Vibes that confuse the heck out of people.

Can you possibly relate to this, or am I alone? Am I the only person who, in a state of anxiety, finds themselves making their friends and family think they’re getting the death stare when they’re actually getting the deer in headlights/confused as all heck look by someone who’s struggling to keep up?

It’s contributed to some communication challenges recently, for sure. And it’s given me plenty of fodder for therapy sessions.

But I am grateful. I’m grateful for family and friends who’ve done the work alongside me to communicate what they’re feeling, tell me when I’m bothering them, and taking care of themselves in the process.

I’m grateful for a cat who insists on all of the snuggles when I’m in a funk.

I’m grateful for a new therapist who seems like a great fit for me.

And I’m so excited for this season of concerts and my new pilot Enneagram program.

I imagine these weird vibes have something to do with my Enneagram type (I’m a 1) and something to do with all of the stress it can be really hard to avoid putting on myself.

I may not have my anxiety completely under control yet. I may have some weird vibes ahead of me. But I’m thankful for this life I’ve crafted and that you’re a part of it too.

Take care, friends.

P.S. I’m still writing a book. Any interest in getting on my email list in exchange for some previews from it? If so, please comment or reach out.

You’re Not Alone (Acknowledging Anxiety)

Three weeks back, I did something I’d been wanting to do for many months – I started seeing a therapist.

If I had my way, we’d all have affordable (for us) access to a therapist. A good one, who listens and knows the types of therapy that would be most helpful for us. Someone who gives us a safe space to work through the crap in our minds and helps us sort out our stuff.

If you’re reading this and you’re feeling like you’re in a great place right now, I am thrilled for you! I can tell you that from what I’m seeing on my social media feeds and hearing about through news outlets, it sure seems like most of the world has moved on from COVID-19 and is getting back to “normal”, or close to it. And it that’s you, I’m thrilled for you, and I truly hope you’re enjoying every minute of freedom and “normalcy”.

But honestly, even though I am sick of wearing masks, and miss seeing people’s faces, and I miss eating out at a restaurant in the winter, I’m just not there yet. It feels too soon, to me, to return to normal.

Lifting a mask mandate is all well and good (for most) when there’s a mild variant on the loose. But what if a new, more dangerous variant catches us off guard? One contagious enough to spread under the radar, when we’re least expecting it?

I’d love to say I’m embracing the now and taking it day by day and not worrying about what might come next. But that wouldn’t be accurate.

So these are the kinds of thoughts that are on my mind. I’m carrying a lot of stress and anxiety around COVID. Like a lot of us are.

Add to that the stressors of getting settled in a new country and the pressures and fears of a world at war, not to mention the anger and frustration at seeing so many people’s rights being taken away in the US (including New Hampshire, where I grew up, and Florida, our adopted home state), and I’m even more thankful to have a therapist.

I’m not sharing this for praise, or for pity.

I want you to know you aren’t alone. I want you to know that whether you wear a mask or not, and whether you’re “moving on” or not, it’s okay to experience anxiety.

And I want you to know that it’s okay to have some days, some weeks, even some months or years, where you’re not okay. Where you’re going through the motions, or phoning it in. Maybe you’ve had to take some time off, or add a nap into your routine. Maybe you’re tired of saying no to social plans out of fear.

Wherever you are, I want to encourage you.

Reach out to loved ones. They’ll probably relate, maybe even more than you realize.

Get a therapist if you can, and if not, seek out a trusted mentor or spiritual leader, or find an online support group aligned with where you are. Look for sliding scale therapy or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, or many of the other free resouces that may exist in your country, state, or city.

I’ve been digging deeper into the Enneagram for the past several months, and that means I’m doing a lot of work on getting to myself – who I am, how I became that person, and how I can become an even healthier, better version of me.

I also rely on journaling, exercising, getting outside, and all of my other existing coping mechanisms for when things get tough or feel overwhelming.

Whatever method(s) you use, and wherever you’re at, I’m wishing you all the best. You’re not alone.

And if you’re reading this, you’re here now, and I’m so glad.

Thanks for reading, and take care.

P.S. I’d like to get a group together to read The Road Back To You and do some Enneagram explorations. No previous experience required, just a copy of the book. If this journey of self-reflection (in a group setting) appeals to you, please leave a comment and let me know!


Supporting This Blog

Thank you for your support of this blog and our work! You can help further by doing any or all of the following:

  • Purchase one of Ross’ albums! 
  • Take Ross’ online ukulele course!
  • Become a patron of our work!
  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links. There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds can support our travels. Begin your Amazon search here.
  • Make other purchases using our affiliate links. Signing up with Dosh is a great way for everyone with a smartphone to support us, and we also have options for aspiring virtual assistants as well as occasional and full-time RVers to save money.
  • Subscribe to our blog, as well as perhaps, and recommend our work to your friends and family.
  • Take music or theater lessons (group or private) from us, either in person or via Skype at 

COVID-19 and clutter – can you relate?

This week on social media, I shared an awesome tip that I’ve been using to reframe my approach to clutter: when you’re decluttering, always start with the most visible clutter.

It’s not rocket science, but how great is this suggestion? If guests enter your house through the front door, that means EVERYONE will get that view, even if they’re just popping their head in to pick up a package or drop off a meal.

So when you’re ready to declutter, always start with the most visible clutter: you know, the stuff you can see when you open the front door to come inside.

You know the brilliant thing about this tip though? It applies to both decluttering and to our daily lives in general.

In the physical realm, if we start with what’s most visible, we’ll see progress immediately, and even if we get distracted from our task, if someone shows up at the house, they’ll immediately get a cleaner view than they would have otherwise.

In the same way, if we’re feeling overwhelmed by all of the tasks on our to-do list, one helpful method is to start with what’s most visible. If there’s an item that’s been on our list, haunting us, for two months, knocking that thing off the list a) means we won’t be wasting any more brain space or time worrying about getting it done and b) means we can knock it off the list. Chances are that it was taking up more than its fair share of space, and having that done will be super helpful.

Likewise, if I’ve got a million things to do, but I keep putting off making a priority list, that’s the most visible thing that will be a huge help. If I do that first, I’ll be able to see the items that are essential and urgent and prioritize them accordingly. If the most visible thing is that I haven’t updated the family calendar or made the doctor’s appointment that’s required of me, maybe it’s that. But the same idea holds. Consider what’s most visible, or most present, and start there.

Lately I’ve been battling some anxious demons. I think COVID is starting to get to me in a more significant way – I know you can probably relate! The extra anxiety means that clutter that normally wouldn’t bother me can feel overwhelming right now. But the flip side of it is that when I make some time to declutter, I feel palpable relief, basically immediately, and my anxiety gives me a break for a while.

While the visible clutter isn’t always actually the most important thing on our list, it can give us the mental capacity to tackle other things on our list.

If your email inbox is freaking you out a little bit on the daily, it’s time to set a timer and do a bit of decluttering there.

If those dishes are taunting you while you’re trying to work on your side hustle, it may be more effective to do those first, or at least delegate and pass it on to another family member.

Don’t underestimate the power of tackling that visible clutter. And the reverse can be true as well. If you start with the invisible clutter (you know, the stuff in your cabinets), you won’t get the visible satisfaction of seeing and showing off your progress after a decluttering session.

Likewise, the invisible brain clutter may include tasks that, while nice to tackle, are ignoring the elephant in the room, or your brain, metaphorically speaking.

So, I challenge you – tackle some clutter this week. Physical or otherwise.

If you’d like to work on decluttering with me, I’m offering a free tracker and weekly tips to assist you in my free group, Crafting Your Life Adventure. Join me there for support on decluttering and whatever projects or goals you’re working on this year.

Thanks for reading, and have a great week!

P.S. Grab a copy of my Four Steps To Your Dream Life Blueprint while you’re at it. Giving yourself the gift of organizing and transforming your future is one more way to declutter and grow!


Supporting Our Blog

We are so thankful for your support of our blog and our careers! You can help by doing any or all of the following:

  • Purchase one of Ross’ albums! 
  • Take Ross’ online ukulele course!
  • Become a patron of our work!
  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links. There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds can support our travels. Begin your Amazon search here.
  • Make other purchases using our affiliate links. Signing up with Dosh is a great way for everyone with a smartphone to support us, and we also have options for aspiring virtual assistants as well as occasional and full-time RVers to save money.
  • Subscribe to our blog, as well as perhaps, and recommend our work to your friends and family.
  • Take music or theater lessons (group or private) from us, either in person or via Skype at 

How To Make The Holidays Work For You

Jamie and Ross snuggle on the couch

It may be cliche at this point, but it’s that time of year when it’s common to take time to be grateful. I know I’m not alone in having a dedicated gratitude practice, and if you haven’t yet tried it, whether for November or any time of year, I definitely recommend it.

A lot of people are struggling with the holidays and how to celebrate this year. Although many people have already been celebrating holidays during COVID virtually (Jewish people in particular have had several holidays come and go at this point), Thanksgiving is such an “American” holiday in a lot of ways that it affects the majority of us in some way, rather than certain religions or parts of the country.

As a coach, I’m noting two simultaneous threads or thoughts popping up:
a) An extra awareness of gratitude – if I’m healthy, if I don’t have COVID-19, if my family is safe, if I’m employed etc. I know I have a LOT to be grateful for right now
b) It’s so frustrating/I’m so angry/I’m so sad because I want to be spending the holidays with my family/without masks and social distancing but I’ve gone virtual and/or made major modifications and changes due to COVID-19

It’s okay to have mixed feelings.

It’s okay to have moments when you feel wrapped up in the love of your family/friends, whether it’s a partner or child or parent in your bubble or a virtual meal full of love and conversation and good memories.

It’s okay to in the next moment feel anxiety that your parents are going to do x, or feel resentment that you can’t do your usual holiday celebration, or feel jealous of y, who lives with their family while you are living and celebrating alone.

I hope that during this challenging time, you will give yourself forgiveness. We are all carrying so much right now.

If someone else’s life looks glamorous on social media, remember that that is just the tip of the iceberg that you’re seeing. The glamorous surface life may be only a passing moment in a chaotic day or week or month.

Here are a few things I recommend making time for this week, whatever your plans are. (Perhaps you’ll have some extra time since you won’t have your usual holiday commute to the in-laws?)

  1. Make a gratitude list. This can take many forms, and all are valid. Start or end each day by acknowledging five things you’re grateful for. Start a gratitude journal, whether it’s a big beautiful book or a note on your phone. Begin your Thanksgiving meal/Zoom call/family walk by having everyone share something they are thankful for this year.
  2. Make time for exercise. Personally, I think stuffing myself is kind of part of the fun of Thanksgiving – even if I don’t leave the main meal feeling overstuffed, I love indulging in rich fall foods in the meals and days that follow. Most of us, at least in the corporate sector or education, are also lucky enough to get time off this week. It can be tempting to use that time to relax on the couch, but making time to take a walk or stretch or lift some weights will give you more energy for the festivities and encourage you to enjoy your indulgences more, without guilt.
  3. Carve out time for yourself. I love my family, but as an introvert who isn’t always her best self at large family gatherings, I’ve worked hard over the years to set boundaries for myself. For me, part of a successful holiday season is making time for my morning routine and making sure I have time to relax on my own. If you’re having trouble seeing blank space on your calendar, even if it’s virtual gatherings, take a moment to block out a morning or an hour for you each week. It will help you to be at your best when you are with your family too.

Whatever your plans are this year, I hope you’ll take this advice to heart. No one has your best interests at heart in the same way you do, so go create the holiday schedule that will light you up and invigorate you.

Take care, and Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. Thank you so much for your support of this blog throughout the year! If you appreciate it, we’d love for you to share it with a friend or support us with one of the methods below. Thanks, and have a great day!


Supporting Our Blog

We are so thankful for your support of our blog and our careers! You can help by doing any or all of the following:

  • Purchase one of Ross’ albums!
  • Become a patron of our work!
  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links. There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds can support our travels. Begin your Amazon search here.
  • Make other purchases using our affiliate links. Capital One 360 is one everyone can take advantage of to save money! Signing up with Dosh is a great way for everyone with a smartphone to support us, and we also have options for aspiring virtual assistants as well as occasional and full-time RVers to save money.
  • Listen to, subscribe and review our theater comedy podcast, Finishing The Season!
  • Subscribe to our blog, as well as perhaps, and recommend our work to your friends and family.
  • Take music or theater lessons (group or private) from us, either in person or via Skype at