Anxiety: It Often Gets the Best of Me

I was an anxious kid, an even more anxious teen. So much so that the nuns at my Catholic school let me skip mass each morning because of how often I threw up or fainted. Even in college, I did so now and again. And while it’s been decades since, anxiety once again has become a near-constant companion, in large part due to COVID.

And I’m not the only one who is anxious.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that anxiety increased by 25% across the globe in the first year of the pandemic. And this fall, a panel of medical experts recommended for the first time that doctors screen all patients under the age of 65 for anxiety which, involves asking questions about symptoms: How often do you feel nervous, anxious or on edge? Do you have trouble concentrating? Does worry present you from falling or staying asleep?

I’m not sure why I and all the rest of us age 65 and older aren’t covered by the WHO’s recommendation, but I do believe we ought to be. After all, it’s not like anxiety goes away with age. In fact, I and many of my friends and colleagues who are 65+ report an increase in anxiety, in part because we no longer have the self-esteem and support system that came with our jobs. Health issues are also a factor.

Some of us also report an increase in hang-xiety, which is anxiety some people experience after drinking alcohol. I certainly did shortly after the start of the pandemic when I found myself indulging far too often in a second or even third cocktail, which research shows can decrease dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in keeping anxiety under control.

It’s one reason why I reluctantly gave up drinking this year. It’s also why I’m doing other things as well:  


Setting reasonable goals

Striving for progress, not perfection

Asking for help and support

Trying eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy

I’m also admitting that I’m struggling. Doing so has been tough for me but it’s getting easier thanks to the love and support of family, friends and my fellow writers/Word Sisters.


Crystel, Antonio, Jody, Beth

Crystel, Antonio, Jody, Beth

I started Tae Kwon Do, at Kor Am Tae Kwon Do School when I was 50 years old. Yes, it was an age thing, time to do something new, challenge myself, and show the world that I’m really not all that old. For four years, I had been sitting with my back against the Do-Jang wall watching Antonio and Crystel progress through the belts. When they became black belts I decided to join.

I told myself and others that it was to help keep the kids interested in Tae Kwon Do. Really, it was because I secretly wanted to join and it took turning 50 to gather the courage.

Not that Antonio and Crystel didn’t liven up a bit when they watched me put on the stiff white uniform. Crystel got this sparkle in her eye. I knew I was in trouble then. Because they have a black belt, they outranked their mom. When they weren’t telling me what to do they were laughing. I always seemed to be a kick behind, a jump behind, a punch behind and pointed in a different direction than the other students. I thought I might be the first person who didn’t progress from a “no-belt” to a white belt.



It was a source of pride for me when after five classes that white belt was placed around my midsection. At Kor Am Tae Kwon Do, the adults and children take classes together and I’m sure that my smile was just as wide as the five-year-old that started class at the same time as I did. And, I’m pretty sure he was already better than me.



The exercise time that I spent running was now being eaten up by three to four classes a week at Tae Kwon Do. At first, I was disappointed. I wasn’t getting the same type of workout. Doing Tae Kwon Do, I wasn’t even sweating. I was such a klutz in class and had such a slow learning curve that it was a personal challenge just to show up and take my place at the back of the room.

I persevered and started noticing benefits. With the twenty minutes or so of exercises that we did at the beginning of class I found that I was able to stretch my legs more than I had in years. I also felt more in tune with my body. We used so many muscles groups exercising that I knew myself better. So, even though, I was only running on the weekends, I felt like I was in better shape because I was just so much more aware of my whole body.



Kihap (the yell that is shouted when practicing Tae Kwon Do) is the hardest thing for a new student to do. The yell often sounds like “Haaaa!” or “Ahoe!”  The kihap is designed to regulate breathing, and can be used to intimidate, distract, or startle your opponent which can cause the effect of “freezing” your opponent momentarily just prior to a strike. For me, I think of it as in terms of my personal statement. Me saying, “I’m here! Take notice of me! This is my space!” But even though, I’m not known to be shy, it took many classes for me to find my voice.

I love that in Tae Kwon Do you are expected to be loud and defend yourself. I don’t know of any place else where you are not only given the right to defend yourself but it is expected. I used to be concerned that in a dangerous situation where there was a threat of being assaulted that I would lose my voice or become immobile. I don’t worry about that anymore. Tae Kwon Do has taught me what I can do.

Role playing. I disarmed the bad guy.

Role playing. I disarmed the bad guy.

Sparring is my favorite discipline of Tae Kwon Do. I enjoy when I can kick a person in the head. That accomplishment hasn’t come without me being on the receiving end of a few black eyes, bloody noses and sore ribs. Still, there isn’t any quit in me.

A part of the membership oath of Kor-Am Tae Kwon Do School is that we are united in mutual friendship. I feel a kinship with everyone from the youngest member to the oldest member, belt and age-wise.

And especially with the people on whom I get to practice my strikes.

SSSHHHHHH SSSSSHHHH The Scale is in the Drawer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACrystel came upstairs the other day and said she weighed 79 pounds. I didn’t pay any attention to this. We only have one scale in the house and that is in the basement bathroom. I just figured that she stepped on it after she was done showering.

She had never mentioned her weight before. She is ten-years-old and not overweight. But then she did it the next day and again the next.

I had it in my mind to inquire about her sudden interest in her weight, but then it slipped my mind. Neither Jody nor I ever talk about our bodies or other people’s bodies. We tell them … if you are hungry, eat; when you are full, stop eating. If you don’t like something, you don’t have to eat it. They have our permission to leave food on their plate.

We have intentionally not made food a focus in our house. Though, Jody and I, do have controls on the amount of soda the children drink by having cold water available in the refrigerator and as a general rule they don’t drink soda at home. We also don’t deny them candy, but they have to ask for it.

Our thought is … if candy isn’t taboo then there isn’t any reason for them to hoard or hide it. It is December 27 and they still have Halloween candy left.

Jody and I haven’t ever been concerned about Antonio and Crystel’s weight—in large part, because they regularly exercise at Tae Kwon Do.

One disagreement that Jody and I have had about the children eating cropped up when the kids were little. Antonio or Crystel said they were hungry, and Jody told them that they could wait until breakfast. I told her later, “You just need to know … if they ask me for something to eat, I don’t care what time it is, I am going to let them eat. I’m not ever going to send a kid to bed hungry.”  We head off any arguments by giving them a warning early enough in the evening … “If you want to eat, eat now.”

One day after school, when Crystel tells me, “I weigh 80 pounds,” I remember to ask her about it.

“Are the fourth graders talking about their weight at school?”

“No. Why?”

I tried again. “Are your classmates weighing themselves?”

“I don’t know. Why?”

Well, why the interest, I think to myself. I don’t want to make too big of deal about it, because then for sure it will become a big deal. That’s how it works with Crystel.

I tried one more time. “Do you tell classmates what your weight is? You know some classmates might be sensitive about their weight.”

“Who? Who is sensitive?”

December 27 - Two Dolphins pushing Crystel with their noses in Mexico.

December 27 – Two Dolphins pushing Crystel with their noses in Mexico.

Hmmm. She is just like her Mama Beth, answering a question with a question. I wasn’t getting anywhere fast.

“I don’t know,” I said. I needed to change the subject. I asked her the first thing that came to my mind, “Are you hungry?”

Jody and I don’t have glamour magazines lying around the house, and Crystel hasn’t started getting any teen magazines. So … maybe she is just curious about how she is changing from day to day.

Doesn’t matter. The scale is going in the drawer, in the cat room, by the litter box.