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CJ’s story: A journey in unwinding anxiety

As a business advisor and host of the Success 2.0 podcast, CJ McClanahan helps high-performing executives and entrepreneurs redefine success on their own terms. In this guest post and a recent podcast episode with Dr. Jud Brewer, Sharecare’s executive director of behavioral health, CJ shares his story of living with anxiety – one of the most difficult challenges he has endured as a self-described “recovering overachiever” – and how he discovered new ways to cope with Unwinding Anxiety.  

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I don’t remember the day or time it happened. It wasn’t a memorable event like 9/11. Instead, it was more like catching a cold with symptoms that had been building for days.

What I do remember was a phone conversation with my dad one morning, where I spent at least 15 minutes describing what was happening, explaining that for no apparent reason at all, I felt extremely sad and anxious all the time. I could barely get out of bed in the morning and was skipping most of my classes.   

I said, “I think I’m going to have to drop out of school. There’s no way I can pass any of these courses when I can’t concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes.”

There was a long pause on the end of the phone until my dad finally promised, “Don’t worry, we’ll figure this out.”

That was the beginning of my journey with chronic anxiety mixed in with some nasty bouts of depression. 

Since then, I’ve tried everything. As an overachiever, I was certain that I could “fix” my affliction so that it would cease causing me problems all together. 

I started working with a great psychologist who helped me see uncover a handful of hidden issues. In addition, I’ve read every book I could find on the topic(s).

They’ve all helped in different ways. 

Nearly 30 years after that first episode in college, I feel like I’ve tried everything under the sun. I certainly didn’t expect any new breakthroughs. 

Then, COVID-19 hit…

Like most, my stress level went through the roof, and I found myself searching for a new approach for calming my mind and dealing with all the uncertainty. 

I stumbled across an app called “Unwinding Anxiety”. I had used a handful of online tools in the past and thought that it might provide some small benefit. I was wrong. The benefit was and continues to be significant.

The Unwinding Anxiety approach is different from anything I’ve tried before. It’s built upon ancient mindfulness training, but it’s quite a bit more than simple meditation. 

The app’s founder. Dr. Jud Brewer helped me understand the concrete science that governs how we process information and more importantly, how we can interrupt all the noise in our brains. 

He then laid out a simple and yet powerful process for ensuring that I put what I had learned into place. 

Nearly a year later, I continue to use the techniques I’ve learned from Unwinding Anxiety every day and look forward to continuing this journey. In the most recent episode of Success 2.0 – a podcast I launched to help fellow overachievers find more joy and a new mindset toward success in life – I had the privilege of sharing my experience with Dr. Jud, unpacking what makes mindfulness so effective, and inviting my listeners to take simple steps find peace by gaining control over anxiety. 

By sharing my story of life with anxiety and this special conversation with Dr. Jud, I hope it’ll inspire you to explore your experiences and find new ways to gain healthy peace of mind, no matter what comes. If you’re ready to join me in that journey, tune in to the latest episode with Dr. Jud.