Persistent anxiety strikes to the heart of who we identify ourselves to be. The biggest stressors are work, money, health and relationships. 

If we lose a job and can’t get another for several years, we start to doubt our value as a person and our ability to take care of ourselves and those we love. Fearful, interviews don’t go well. Savings are tapped. We may feel ashamed or struggle to forgive ourselves for the situation we find ourselves in. With no emergency funds or retirement, what will happen to us? Since my husband’s death in 2016, I am an entrepreneur, relaunching my consulting business, which I put on hold to be his caregiver, and it’s like starting from scratch all over again. So I am stressed and anxious without a predictable end in sight.

Poor health destroys our ability to work and make money. It impacts our relationships as we lean on people for help, while, at the same time, we get angry at the loss of autonomy and independence. This drives them away and we are lonely and even more afraid. We can’t control when or if we will recover from illness. With less energy, we don’t know how much we can do, whether at work or interacting with friends and family. Like a child in a tantrum, I have lots of energy and suddenly none at all so I work super fast when I have got it, then crash when I must. I can take care of clients and make appointments but my anxiety about how long this exhaustion will take to get over makes everything much harder.

Relationships can be a comfort AND a source of anxiety. Sometimes people think they know what you should be doing with your life (and say so). In my life, since Dave died in my arms after eleven months of cancer and chemo, I feel a sense of urgency to do what I was born to do NOW – Affluence Code  and Bad Widow speaking, consulting, writing books, and curating David’s legacy of paintings. Getting a safe, secure job is a good idea but my safety blew up when I lost my beloved of twenty-five years so that makes no sense to me. A future alone, without David, wakes me up with panic attacks. I do not know where I will find another such love.

To get back to resourcefulness, we need to reclaim all of us. Nobody is JUST a role: boss or employee, a parent or child, a spouse, separated, divorced, widowed, a caregiver or person who is ill, etc. In times of anxiety and stress, one role supersedes all the rest as a place we are failing so it’s vital to bring yourself back into balance. I guarantee there are other areas where you are a superstar and have forgotten. 

Step 1: In the role you feel you are failing, journal or share with a friend your pockets of success. For example, you keep applying for interviews even though you are discouraged or you got a small job and money is coming in so the flow has begun. Or you are the world’s best aunt and your nephews and niece trust you, even the teenagers. Or you took exquisite care of yourself today and, today, even if tomorrow, is worse, you feel good.

Step 2: Make a list of your other roles. How do you experience yourself either alone or with other people when you are operating in your zone of genius? You will begin to see threads of things you are great at. To get back to resourceful from a place of persistent anxiety, it’s essential to own that you are much more than a failure, no matter what your current life situation may be. As much as possible, keep adding to your accounting so that how you see yourself becomes more true again.

Step 3: Once you have a more balanced view of who you are, you can access your true capacity to make things happen differently in your favor. Expand your self-care practices to buffer the feeling of anxiety when life is tough. It is natural to contract, in the face of circumstances. Remember to expand too. Offer yourself love and forgiveness simply because you are you, not as a reward or statement of value. This won’t vanish anxiety but gives you a buffer and the ability to access solutions which provide you with better outcomes. You are bigger than any problem you face, even if you have forgotten. Ask someone who sees you truly to remind you if you can’t see yourself that way. Yet.


  • Alison BW Pena

    Bad Widow Consultant and Speaker

    Alison Pena aka Bad Widow lives in NYC with her boyfriend, Wayne. She met and married David Beynon Pena, an incredible artist, in October 1996 and was widowed in September 2016. She is a consultant, speaker and author. For fun, Alison loves hanging with friends and family, music, travel, Maine, doing open mics, writing, exploring and learning new stuff. Alison started to offer resources about how to reclaim resilience and resourcefulness after a loss or transition, including work, relationships, health, money and love. She supports clients to 1) re-engage with life fully, 2) reinvent yourself and 3) rebuild networks after loss or transition.