1. Places We Go When Things Are Uncertain or Too Much

Stress, Overwhelm, Anxiety, Worry, Avoidance, Excitement, Dread, Fear, Vulnerability

Stress, Overwhelm

We feel stressed when we evaluate environmental demand as beyond our ability to cope successfully. This includes elements of unpredictability, uncontrollability, and feeling overloaded.

Overwhelmed means an extreme level of stress, an emotional and/or cognitive intensity to the point of feeling unable to function.

Feeling stressed and overwhelmed is about our narrative of emotional and mental depletion—too much going on to manage effectively.

Anxiety, Worry, Avoidance, Excitement, Dread, Fear

Anxiety is characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.

Anxiety can be both a state and a trait.

An intolerance for uncertainty is an important contributing factor to all types of anxiety.

Those of us who are generally uncomfortable with uncertainty are more likely to experience anxiety in specific situations as well as to have trait anxiety and anxiety disorders.

Worrying and anxiety go together, but worry is not an emotion; it’s the thinking part of anxiety.

Worry is described as a chain of negative thoughts about bad things that might happen in the future.

Avoidance, the second coping strategy for anxiety, is not showing up and often spending a lot of energy zigzagging around and away from that thing that already feels like it’s consuming us.

Anxiety and excitement feel the same, but how we interpret and label them can determine how we experience them.

Even though excitement is described as an energized state of enthusiasm leading up to or during an enjoyable activity, it doesn’t always feel great. We can get the same “coming out of our skin” feeling that we experience when we’re feeling anxious.

Similar sensations are labeled “anxiety” when we perceive them negatively and “excitement” when we perceive them positively.

Dread occurs frequently in response to high-probability negative events; its magnitude increases as the dreaded event draws nearer.

Fear is a negative, short-lasting, high-alert emotion in response to a perceived threat, and, like anxiety, it can be measured as a state or trait.

For anxiety and dread, the threat is in the future.

For fear, the threat is now —in the present.


Vulnerability feels like uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.

Most of us were raised to believe that being vulnerable is being weak. This sets up an unresolvable tension for most of us, because we were also raised to be brave.

There is no courage without vulnerability. Courage requires the willingness to lean into uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.

Vulnerability is not oversharing, it’s sharing with people who have earned the right to hear our stories and our experiences.

Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage