PUBLISHER’S NOTE: When Defining Your Values Helps Push Through Anxiety

Piper & MTM Sandwich at Showplace Productions’ Minnesota Harvest Festival in the Adult Amateur Hunters. © Andrew Ryback Photography

By TPH Publisher Piper Klemm, PHD (Follow me on instagram at @piperklemm)

I have anxiety over… well, basically everything I can think of. I get anxious about going to the gym. About not going to the gym. About going to the dining hall. About what I’m going to eat when I’m at the dining hall. About teaching class. About staying home too much. About falling asleep. About going to the barn. About getting on a horse. About forgetting to make my bed at someone else’s house. About my boots not being shiny enough.

Seriously, I have enough self-doubt and panic to last an eternity.

But, everyday I wake up and I do all those things. I dial that phone number. I get up in front of the classroom. I trudge to the gym and hop on the treadmill. I put my left foot in the stirrup. And every time, every single time, once I get going, I am fine. I get on that phone call, stay true to myself and make something happen. I engage with students from the front of the classroom. I dig into my workout and get moving. I pick up the canter.

The more I’m around young people, the more I hear about anxiety. I get it. Your phone makes you anxious. Emails, texts, pings and dings can make even the most even keeled folks seize up with panic. Social media, constant video, the temptation to hide the truth online—of course these young people are being raised with an ever heightened sense of self-awareness. It’s to the point of torment.

How do we teach them that yes, they have a wall of anxiety to get over, but it’s worth it? How do we teach them to coach themselves on how to push on and dial that phone, stand up in front of that room, leave the house, and put themselves out there for their own future?

Accepting Reuben’s ribbon in the Hunter Derby with Pat Vogtle. © Andrew Ryback Photography

I have been thinking about this a lot lately and discussing it with everyone I know. Fundamentally, the conversation comes back to, how do I do it every day? How do I make it happen? If I take a moment to think critically about this, I realize I am able to keep pushing because I know the values that I stand for.

I’m committed to promoting education and learning in all settings, to strengthen women’s voices in all communities, and to follow opportunities to the best of my ability. For many years, I’ve devoted a lot of thought and effort into these three initiatives. While I wish many other things would change in the world, I can’t change it all. These are the three values that I base my life decisions on.

When I sit and stress about getting up in front of a classroom, I subconsciously think about the educational value of the lecture I’m about to give. It makes me realize that it is absolutely essential to my core to stand up and give it, no matter how nervous I am. If I am to be a role model that takes advantage of opportunities, missing a day at the gym when I’m healthy and have access to great equipment is not a position I’m willing to take. When I dial that phone number that makes me tremble, I am empowered by all the good The Plaid Horse has done in the last years of my tenure at the helm.

There is no magic cure for anxiety, and our society does seem to be implementing more and more of it into our youth. But take some time, and think about what motivates you. What kind of change do you want to help create in the world? It won’t make it easier to overcome the obstacles that anxiety gives us, but it will make it worth it. And I bet you might find that you feel good about your accomplishments at the end of the day. With time, it might even make all these little things seem a lot more doable on a daily basis.

About the Author: Piper began her tenure as the Publisher of The Plaid Horse Magazine in 2014. She received her B.S. with Honors in Chemistry from Trinity College [Hartford, CT] in 2009 and her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 2012. She is an active member of the hunter/jumper community, owning a fleet of lease ponies and showing in adult hunter divisions.
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