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The Wisdom of Anxiety: How Worry and Intrusive Thoughts Are Gifts to Help You Heal

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In The Wisdom of Anxiety, counselor Sheryl Paul examines the deeper meaning of the racing thoughts, sweaty palms, and insomnia that accompany the uncertain moments of our lives. No one likes to feel anxiety—and yet, Paul asserts it can be a remarkably direct messenger of our subconscious. Here you will learn how you can pause and listen to your anxieties to discover inner truths that you’ve been avoiding.

Here you will learn:

The nature of intrusive thoughts and how to manage them.
? How to explore states of loneliness, apathy, regret, and shame without being caught up in them.
? Feeling anxiety around feeling good? Discover why and what to do about it.
? How to cultivate your own loving inner parent.
? Why anxiety can arise from boredom and longing.
? How to create healthy and meaningful personal rituals to relieve anxiety.
? Navigating the many sources of anxiety in relationships.

239 pages, Paperback

Published May 28, 2019

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Sheryl Paul MA

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 151 reviews
Profile Image for Karen.
1,342 reviews54 followers
June 17, 2019
"As Rilke said, 'Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart, and love the questions themselves.' When embarking on inner work, it's essential to remember that life is a work in progres, and there is not end goal to healing. As humans, we are both whole and broken, formed and unformed. But there is a critical difference between having broken parts that need attention and believing that there's something fundamentally wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with you. You are intrinsically good, loved, and whole."

I usually read a book in 1-2 days. I will sit with it, dive into it and then come up for air when I am done. I expected to do that with this book as well and I couldn't have been more wrong. This book turned out to be a journey for me. A journey through my own anxiety, my own childhood, my ability to be kind and generous with myself. I could not take this journey in one day, I needed it in bits and pieces, I needed to sit with it all.

I have highlighted 73 different sections in this book. I can't quote all of them here but here's one more that is the most resonant for me, especially as a parent but also for my own child-self:

"As a parent, one of my deepest desires is for my sons to know that they are loveable and loved exactly as they ae, no matter now angry, loud, messy, or disrespectful they are. I want them to know that all their feelings are welcome and important. I may not always like their behavior - and I let them know - but it doesn't alter my love for them, which is unchanging and eternal. I'll say to them "I didn't like how you treated your friend today, but nothing will ever change how much I love you." The message I hope to impart is: I love you because I love you. I don't love you because you're beautiful (even thought you are.) I don't love you because you're creative (although I do reflect back an awareness of your creativity.) I love you because I love you. And that will never change no matter what you do. "

This book is a reminder that anxiety is about a call inward to fill your well, it's an opportunity to be curious and to be kind and to learn. It's an opportunity for wisdom and growth. What a kind and generous perspective. It's the kind of book that encourages action and growth through curiosity, openness and self-kindness instead of blame and shame. I am so incredibly grateful for the time I've spent with it and I know there will be times I will refer back to this to remember all of the wonderful and kind lessons she imparts.

Huge thanks to netgalley and sounds true for an early copy and for the opportunity to read this wonderful book.
Profile Image for Narmeen.
491 reviews37 followers
March 20, 2020
This book came at a time I really needed help with my issues, and it came via my sister as a gift. It became a book where I journaled my thoughts alongside topics and themes that really resonated with me. Passages and lines I had underlined in a moment of revelation and understanding. It suffices to say the help and rationality it poured into the insecure spaces of my pscyhe, is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my journey.

There are certain aspects in this book that seem like common sense and are things we’ve all heard before. But the way, the author addresses these “problems” with examples gave me an insight on how my anxiety functions and my intrusive thoughts (a word I wasn’t familar existed for thoughts such as mine) are in fact not my reality. A very optimistic approach to anxiety and how we can all move hand in hand with our fears, instead of “overcoming” them. As this book suggests anxiety isn’t something we can just get over, we learn to embrace it and tackle the needs that aren’t being fulfilled leading to that said anxiety.

I recommend everybody own this book, have it on their bedside and refer to it on a daily basis. I promise it will bring order to your chaos. Let’s work on becoming better consious beings together, kay?
Profile Image for Ell.
459 reviews55 followers
April 2, 2019
The 21st Century has been labeled by many as the Age of Anxiety. Nearly 300 million people worldwide have received anxiety diagnoses and millions more are undiagnosed. Anxiety, when balanced, is beneficial to us. It alerts us to what we should pay attention to, use caution toward or what to examine for more data. It’s helpful. It’s a natural human response that help us survive and thrive. It’s when anxiety becomes imbalanced that it becomes problematic. The reasons for the rise in anxiety disorders are many. The approach to eradicate it has become mainstream. Author Sheryl Paul proposes that anxiety should be approached first and foremost as a learning tool, stripping away the shame that is often attached to It which leads us on a quest to completely eradicate or hide it.

This book offers a holistic, spiritual (not to be confused with religious) and motivational approach to dealing with anxiety rather than a purely scientific approach. Much reference is made to the soul and spiritual healing. The typical accoutrements of anxiety, such as rumination, worry, intrusive thoughts and insomnia are covered alongside the concept of nonidentification (although not explicitly described as such). The assurances that we are not defined by our anxiety, our emotions or our challenges is consistently and comfortingly woven throughout the pages. I recommend this book to those whose self-esteem has taken a hit from their anxiety.
Profile Image for Yasmin.
188 reviews
January 15, 2020
I didn't feel like my social anxiety related to this enough. Less information on anxiety, causes and treatments, more a celebration of anxiety and comfort for the reader. Lots of "there-there you're okay".

"Address your thoughts, challenge them, understand their causes." Basically this sentence reiterated again and again.

The only notes I got from this was:

How do you feel when your anxious?
Where do you feel it? What does your anxious body feel like?

Recommends a lot of slowing down and mindfulness

Discusses anxieties messages, cultures and society's effects on anxiety, dealing with anxiety in during transitions

Relates to the need to establish relationships with the inner parent.

Low blood sugar causes body to produce adrenaline which can affect and encourage anxiety. Snack often. Hypoglycemia can cause mood swings and outbursts.

Stimulating foods and drinks can encourage anxiety.

PMS is when we're actually stripped of other hormones to mask our true selves. Love this version of your self and see it as a message to what you need

Without a healthy tether, we can create obsessions and compulsions.

Started to get into the section on relationships where they discussed the difference between the distancer and pursuer. But then it just stopped! It just ended with "and that's for you to look more into yourself..."
Profile Image for Sandra  {coffee & books}.
213 reviews25 followers
July 30, 2019
As someone who has dealt with pronounced anxiety most of my life, I would have to say that this is, by far, the best book I have read on the subject. The content is relatable to everyday life and encourages us to look inward, be open, be curious, and to be kind to ourselves. I took my time with this one, carefully reading, journaling, and understanding all of its wonderful parts. I will no doubt keep it on my bookshelf and re-read it from time to time. This book is sincerely an invaluable complement to living life with a different awareness of anxiety allowing our spirituality (not religious) to come forth and guide us without blame or reservation.
Profile Image for Graham P.
224 reviews24 followers
September 28, 2023
Earnest, clear, and helpful despite it striving for a perfect life within a white picket fence.
Profile Image for Sanaa Hyder.
Author 3 books18 followers
February 25, 2020
I love the positive ring the title of this book has. It reflects the content of Paul’s work and her approach.

Although she uses words like soul, ego and self — inspired by Jungian psychoanalytic theory — I sometimes read and replaced these terms with Islamic ones like nafs, shaitan, and the rational god-given side of ourselves.

Paul’s message is simple: normalize and accept yourself as human — flawed, broken, traumatized, sad, lonely and anxious. Now work backwards, work inwards. Challenge your fears and worries. Ask yourself why questions alot. There is often a reason underlying the reason, and that can liberate you — just the process of identifying can liberate you, because now you know. And once you know, you can stop being a little afraid. Because ‘being in control’ is an illusion every anxious person is chasing.

Paul reminds you to trust yourself; within you are the resources to overcome storms. You’ve come so far in life because you have the innate power to survive, to be resilient; trust yourself and say a prayer for what is not in your control.

The book is divided into various segments to address anxiety that manifests in different ways in our lives such as in relationships and parenting. There are ‘to practice’ suggestions at the end of each segment. In some parts, Paul’s philosophical analogies did not work for me. But overall, this book feels like a salve for the soul — and who doesn’t want that? Would recommend to everryyyyone.
Profile Image for Athina Demon.
63 reviews35 followers
February 4, 2021

It's your typical self-help book...only that it's not...
I'll be honest I didn't have an "aha" moment at every theory this book had but most of the facts are quite literally what I needed to hear even if it hurt...even if I was angry at the author for seeing me. Being vulnerable is scary and yes this book will make you vulnerable, it will make you feel exposed like someone just decided to publish your deepest, darkest voices.

Now excuse me I'm off to nurture my inner child and
discipline my ego!
Profile Image for Brian Sachetta.
Author 2 books63 followers
December 9, 2019
I loved this book’s overall message. The idea that anxiety is a message carrier, rather than a thing to be fought or pushed away, is one that resonates well with me, despite what mainstream medicine often communicates to us through its prescriptions and medications.

We simply cannot ignore our inner worlds, Paul states. To do so would be to continually invite anxiety and disease into our lives. She’s absolutely right — our superficial, symptom-fighting culture often ignores this message, telling us we can medicate through shopping, eating, drinking, and the like. Yet, in reality, when we don’t confront the things we’ve buried deep, we’re really only inviting anxiety to stick around longer.

The first few chapters of this book are packed with this sort of thinking — opening up and listening to the messages our anxiety is trying to deliver. I really, really enjoyed them. After those first few chapters, however, I felt like the book started to get a little scattered. Though Paul always brings the discussion back to anxiety, there are parts of the book that feel more like general advice on how to live well.

Though I certainly welcome such advice, it didn’t always seem totally relevant to anxiety in general. For example, there are some sections on approaching the different seasons of the year that felt a bit misplaced. Yes, it’s all related to mental health, but it’s not always centered around anxiety. I think that’s worth noting before jumping in.

I listened to this one on Audible, and I had a tough time with the narrator. At times it sounded like she was whispering or trying to be too spiritual in her delivery. Often, while driving, I couldn’t get the audio loud enough to fully / clearly hear what she was saying. As such, I’d recommend the print version.

All of that said, this book is pretty solid. Its message is really important and profound, and it’s one that we often lose sight of in our hustle and bustle, consumerist society. If you’re looking for a new approach to anxiety, definitely give it a shot.

-Brian Sachetta
Author of “Get Out of Your Head”
Profile Image for Rach.
415 reviews6 followers
February 2, 2023
“This is the wisdom of anxiety: the call to turn inward so that you can fill your well and turn back outward to give to a world that needs you.”

The other day, my therapist said “feelings are just information”. This has stuck with me. As I learn to listen to my body and how I’m feeling, I can move through each feeling and problem with less anxiety and more curiosity. I’m manifesting that for myself in 2023, at least.

Everyone that suffers from anxious or repetitive thinking should read this.
Profile Image for Mariette Koop.
12 reviews
January 16, 2022
A refreshing perspective on the insights of our anxiety and why it is something to learn to honour rather than reject.
Profile Image for Chakell.
209 reviews53 followers
November 30, 2019
Changed my life. 💕 I’ve never thought of anxiety and sensitivity as a gift before, but I can see now that it is so much more than something I initially thought was a burden or terrible. Sheryl has literally changed me for the better.
Profile Image for Shamilla.
31 reviews
July 5, 2020
I had high hopes for this book. Instead I found that I had to drag myself through it for two main reasons.

1) The writing is excessively fluffy, especially in the first half of the book. I found myself wondering when the author would just get to the point. There are many examples of this type of writing, where metaphors are used and then much later the point emerges. One example is: "Transitions are ruptures in the soul, when the earth opens up and through the fissure, current and old pain energe". This is, for me, just adding fluffiness and really distracts from the message. I skipped an entire chapter because the author describes feelings etc. in the context of the four seasons...

2) The main point of the book is revealed early. Basically that we should look at what's underneath anxiety and approach it from a loving place. After this there was no direct approach on how to work specifically on looking at the root of issues. It was many chapters of quotes by other writers, metaphors, stories about the author's children and work as well as ideas that I've read before from other anxiety books. The book didn't really get going until the 9th chapter.

Another thing about the book is there are chapters that not everyone can relate too. There's many examples of the author and dealing with her children, as well as a whole chapter on dealing with your children's anxiety. Not everyone has children and I think more could have been directed towards a single person living life on their own. Also a chapter on being in a relationship which had some good ideas, but not everyone is in a marriage or committed relationship.

My biggest disappointment was that there were few new ideas on dealing with anxiety. Eating healthy excercise, meditation, a media diet etc. are all things I've read before. I was hoping for some new methods but other than the basic idea of looking beneath the surface there wasn't much else.

If you're new to self-help this may be helpful. Otherwise I would not recommend this book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Shannon.
504 reviews12 followers
September 16, 2019
Ahhh yes! This book. This is to anxiety what Radical Forgiveness is to anger and blame. I'd never thought to be grateful for anxiety, to listen to the message behind it. This is a game-changer for me. I especially enjoyed the section about loneliness/solitude and anxiety in relationships.
Profile Image for Aline.
479 reviews
December 29, 2019
This is not just for people with diagnosed anxiety. Everyone has periods of anxiety sometimes.

I have read a lot of books on this topic, this was one of the best and most helpful ones <3
Profile Image for Adrianna Talaga.
22 reviews
February 18, 2020
This is hands down one of THE BEST inner work books I’ve ever read. Sheryl Paul help me think outside of the societal normative and redefined “anxiety”. If you haven’t experienced panic attacks but you still get anxious, project fictional narratives onto your life and others, this book will be transformative. Seeing anxiety as a messenger rather than a symptom of “there is something wrong with me” let me understand my inner wounds more profoundly.
One of the topics she covered, that really stuck with me, was the concept of emotions and feelings and how all feelings are valid. We live in the times of technology where everything is immediate, we have no patience.
This book made me realize that life transitions are a core part of our human experience and rather than try to “get over it” or hide, we need to invite pain, fear and sorrow with open arms and befriend them, avoiding these emotions is what leads to anxiety. I also loved how Sheryl Paul discussed boredom and how we try to escape it constant scrolling, watching tv rather than learn to be with oneself.
The chapter on relationships blew my mind because I could very much relate to how the fictional romantic love narrative the western world has fed us is unrealistic and how often I’ve been projecting my past trauma onto my partners.
If you’re going to read one book in 2020, read “Wisdom of anxiety” .
Profile Image for Stephanie Fournet.
Author 14 books479 followers
July 12, 2022
This book is illuminating. I learned so much about my own habitual avoidance of difficult feelings and the price we all pay—individually, collectively, globally—for smothering them. Practical and transformative, this book has a great deal to offer the overwhelming majority of us who live with anxiety, and even if you think you don’t, look closer. You are probably engaging in numbing behaviors to keep the whispers of anxiety quiet. Anxiety isn’t the message; it’s the messenger. What it’s trying to tell you is dial in, listen up, slow down, and feel for once.
Profile Image for Matej.
8 reviews1 follower
March 12, 2023
Very well written, presents anxiety for what it is and disarms common excuses we tell ourselves. I'd say this is essential reading for anyone struggling with anxiety. It's possibly a bit 'advanced', in the sense that I'm not sure how well I could follow its message if I hadn't been through a year of therapy already, and learned some things about anxiety over the last few years. The only reason I'm giving it four stars is the voice of the privileged, spiritual white woman that comes through unpleasantly a few times throughout the book and colors the otherwise soft but rational narration.
Profile Image for Virginia.
Author 1 book2 followers
July 14, 2020
I can’t recommend this book ENOUGH! I think most people suffer from anxiety at some point in their life (especially in 2020, my God), and this book is absolutely priceless and encouraging when it comes to navigating that inner landscape. Anxiety doesn’t need to be scary. Anxiety can be our helper. And here’s a book that explains how that’s possible, with practical guidance. That’s it, that’s the review.

Read it!
Profile Image for Carlyn Sylvester.
80 reviews5 followers
January 20, 2023
Been spending a lot of time recently reading/listening to books that delve into our human emotions and thoughts. This one took me on a bit more of a personal journey: My therapist recommended this book to me specifically given my experience with anxiety/grief...and I felt so seen for the most part, and it also really helped connect the dots with some of the other psychology/emotional psychology literature I've been going through. The human mind is so complex and fascinating.
Profile Image for Ashley Sekal.
134 reviews4 followers
May 25, 2021
I've been following Sheryl Paul's work & taking her courses since 2014. The things she teaches about anxiety have been immensely helpful for me to have in my OCD tool belt (especially when it comes to relationships). I'm glad to now have a little physical book with highlights (& exercises that I need to do!) that I'll be able to refer to in the future when needed 💜
Profile Image for Miranda.
26 reviews8 followers
May 21, 2020
Gave this a four because the advice is truly helpful. I think some of the passages can be a little overwrought, but if you look past that it's a truly great guide for making anxiety your friend instead of your enemy.
Profile Image for Annie.
163 reviews2 followers
October 29, 2022
This was a helpful read, though there were a lot of Oprah-esque, Buddhist, and Jungian bits that weren’t really so helpful. Overall, worth the read as a library book, just not to the level of wanting to buy a copy for myself to refer to later.
Profile Image for Gillian.
17 reviews1 follower
March 20, 2023
I read this book as part of a course I’m taking and it has literally changed my life. Thank you Sheryl Paul!
Profile Image for Ona.
69 reviews3 followers
August 25, 2023
Sheryl Paul’s writing on anxiety deeply resonates with me and has helped me make peace with my own anxiety. Will likely reread this every few years. Her blog is great too.
Profile Image for Anna Snader.
211 reviews27 followers
June 1, 2023
What. My life doesn’t have to be this way!? What a novel thought. Time to re-wire my brain (I’m sure the SEL will come in handy)
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