Befriending Anxiety

Befriending Anxiety

Facing the Unknown

By Amy Maricle

Confronting the unknown is unnerving.  Whether you are leaving a job, ending a relationship, having a baby, or starting a business, the unknown has a way of bringing up our deepest fears.

What if I’m not good enough? What if they don’t like me? What if I fail? What if I’m a bad person? Stepping into the unknown can be really uncomfortable.


Stepping Back

Of course change is scary. When I left my full time job and started a private practice, I was terrified that I would fail. I had pre-conceived notions of what I could and could not do. And then I heard a talk from Ariane de Bonvoisin about the qualities of people who manage change successfully.

It shifted things for me. First I decided that I was allowed to fail. Then I realized my anxiety was important – necessary even. When I stopped fighting against it, it lost a lot of steam, and I could look at each fear and address it.

It was one scariest changes I ever made – and also one of the best. Isn’t that often true?



What changes are you making? Have you confronted the unknown? Tell us about it in the comments section.






  1. Marya Samuelson, M.Ed., LPCC

    Hi Amy,
    I work often with clients that struggle with anxiety and I really appreciate reading your blog about how deciding to embrace it oftentimes is much better than fighting it. I’d love to hear more about how that choice can come about when for some, it’s such an overwhelming feeling that feels insurmountable? Do you recommend mindfulness exercises to calm down first so that it’s easier to “study” the source of the anxiety? How about from a more psycho-analytical perspective? Would it be possible to perhaps look at the source of the anxiety to find answers to embrace it more. I’m rambling, but because your post helped me think about anxiety. Thank you!

    • Amy Johnson Maricle

      Hi Marya!

      Thanks for dropping in with such a thought provoking comment! When I work with clients in my practice, I think some of the “befriending anxiety” is just me giving people permission to feel anxious. I think sometimes we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to always feel happy or calm. Clearly the volume of anxiety that many of us feel these days is the problem. However, my validation and normalization of someone’s anxiety can at times empower a person to accept their feelings. I find that this acceptance can diminish the power of a feeling a bit. Accepting and normalizing your feelings can diminish its power, and also help put a person in a more observant state.

      If a client is in the midst of a breakup, or they are struggling to define their direction in the world, of course they feel anxious! However, the severity of the anxiety is what we need to change.

      So with my clients, we try out a host of different tools to develop a toolbox of approaches that work in different contexts. So for instance, one client might find that in class squeezing a stress ball is helpful, or using Zentangle techniques ( calms them. At home they might find relief using a gazing meditation, or bouncing on a yoga ball and throwing a ball against the wall simultaneously. I really try to help people find a combination of approaches that they can use when their energy is high or low, when they are with others, or alone. We tune into where they experience anxiety in their body, and work from there to decide which approaches will best address the body’s needs. I use a combination of sensory and art based approaches, and distraction and breathing techniques.

      I hope that this answered your question. What sorts of approaches do you find useful? Please share!

      All the best,



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