how to calm anxiety, calming anxiety, anxious lawyer, Dina Cataldo, how to be a better lawyer, be a better lawyer, be a better lawyer podcast, legal podcast

#240: Calming Anxiety

Calming anxiety is easier than you might think.

A few things you need to know:

1. Anxiety is normal.

There's nothing wrong with you. We simply weren't given coping skills for it.

2. Anxiety is nothing to be afraid of.

When we attempt to push through or avoid it, we can actually make it worse.

3. What us high-achieving/over-achieving lawyers tend to call anxiety is a general term.

Most of the time what we experience as anxiety has a layer underneath it.

There’s another feeling your body feels, but anxiety is like wallpaper covering a wall to hide what’s underneath.

When we peel back the wallpaper, we can see what really lies beneath.

That's when we can start calming anxiety.

Today you'll:

  • uncover what's underneath some anxiety you feel
  • get steps to help you feel better
  • hear real-life stories of how lawyers overcame anxiety

After you listen to this episode, you'll have the skills to calm your anxiety.

When you do, you'll discover you're capable of so much more than you know both in your life and in your law practice.



Are you a Be a Better Lawyer Podcast ride-or-die?

Thanks for listening, and I'll talk to you next week.

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Calming Anxiety


Let’s talk anxiety.

I know, I know. It’s your favorite topic.

It’s definitely one I address with my clients, and when they make the shifts you’re going to learn to make here, they feel so much better. It really changes their quality of life.

What we tend to call anxiety is very general.

Most of the time what high functioning people experience as anxiety has a layer underneath it. There’s another feeling that’s your body is feeling, but anxiety is almost like the wallpaper being covered over the wall to hide what’s underneath.

It definitely feels like anxiety — for me it feels like a buzzing all over my body and my mind goes blank — but there’s more to it.

Today we’ll uncover what's underneath any anxiety you might feel and help you with calming anxiety.

Once we get that awareness, I’m going to give you some steps to help you dissolve that feeling of anxiety and whatever else is happening underneath it, so you can move more easily through your day.

This is a practice.

The feeling doesn’t go away all at once.

It requires paying attention to how you feel.

If you’re anything like me, you may be a bit detached from how you feel in your body.

This was a skill I learned by practicing what I’m sharing with you today.

The reason the skill of feeling what you’re feeling is important is because it’s a compass to tell us whether we’re going in the right direction to achieve our goals. It’s a crystal ball that tells us if we’re going to get the result we want.

The more subtle we can get, the better. When we peel back the layer of the feeling of anxiety, then we can get a better handle on what’s really happening in our brain.

This is the skill of emotional intelligence.

It’s something my clients learn when they work with me, so if you want to become more connected with how you feel, and feel better instead of anxious every day, I encourage you to book a Strategy Session with me.

You can book a call at

When I started doing this work on myself, I noticed huge improvements in how I felt. I wasn’t snapping at people as much, and realized I had more control over my behavior than I thought. I wasn’t so hard on myself, so it was easier for me to set bigger goals without worrying I’d shame myself for not hitting them. I did more things that felt uncomfortable, which helped me expand myself as a person and do more of the things I wanted like leaving my law job to become a coach or promote my business, which of course helps you grow your business.

I say all this to punctuate the importance of emotional intelligence to help with calming anxiety.

Before I realized what I experienced as anxiety was actually the wallpaper over my true emotions, I worked myself through the feeling of anxiety.

It felt horrible, and I eventually burned out. I really think that’s why chemo felt like a vacation to me after my cancer diagnosis at 29.

Looking back on the time between high school and age 30 with the coaching skills I’ve learned, I can see that what felt like anxiety in my body wee actually unaddressed fears, shame, insecurities, desires to please and be accepted.

These feelings all came from my beliefs that I was going to fail, that I was going to be judged, that I wasn’t allowed to make mistakes, that I didn’t belong, and that I was going to get in trouble. 

It makes sense that I would feel that way based on my upbringing, but because I didn’t have the skill of emotional intelligence, I felt stuck in place. I was working hard, but I couldn’t improve. It was like I was trying to drive my car full throttle with the parking brake on.

Think about that. If you’re working yourself to the bone, and you’re not seeing the improvement you want, is this what it feels like to you?

This is step one in how to calm anxiety: awareness that you feel this general anxiety in your body.

Step two is peeling back the layers to get more specific.

When I do this with my clients, I find similar feelings and beliefs I’ve already mentioned underneath the anxiety.

You can do this with yourself.

Ask yourself why you feel anxious.

Your brain will likely offer you something like, “I don’t know.”

Don’t let your brain stay there.

It’s amazing how I can get to the bottom of things with a simple follow up like, “If you had to guess…” Suddenly they have all the answers. The secret is that we always have all the answers. Sometimes we just need some help accessing them.

So if you had to guess, why do you think you feel anxious?

That first layer might sound something like “because of a circumstance in my life” like a client, having more time, your goal, your boss, your spouse, your job.

But a feeling is always caused by a thought, so we need to know more.

Keep peeling back the layer.

  • Why do you feel anxious when you think about that client?
  • Why do you feel anxious when you think there isn’t enough time?
  • Why do you feel anxious when you think about your goals?

Then you’ll start getting answers and connecting with what’s really going on.

You may feel anxious when you think about a particular client because you’re afraid they won’t like your answer.

You may feel anxious when you think there isn’t enough time because you’re afraid you won’t get everything done, and then you’ll feel like a failure.

You may feel anxious when you think about your goal because you’re afraid that you won’t hit it, and then you’ll feel ashamed or disappointed.

Let me give you some examples of what peeling back the layers looks like in some real life examples to help you calm anxiety.

I had a client who had racing thoughts thinking about her case load. She could literally feel her blood pressure rise, and she described the feeling as a train rushing through her chest.

When we peeled that back, what she feared was dropping the ball on something on her case load and ultimately feared failing and what that would mean for her job.

She used the tools she learned working with me to bring her BP down consciously. She saw this happen when she was on a run while her thoughts were racing and she was wearing a BP monitor. She used the tools we talked about and she got her BP down.

Since then, she’s been promoted to partner in 2022, so not too shabby.

Another client had a fear of judgment preventing her from promoting her business she built on top of her full time law practice. When she learned the tools she needed, she started promoting herself more. 

As you might expect, when she started promoting it, more people signed up for her offerings. 

Something similar happened for another client who was judging herself and telling herself she wasn’t experienced enough to promote her mediation practice. Once we cleaned that up, she began promoting her practice.

Another client, Nancy, felt shame around a particular client interaction. Once she got awareness of this, she was able to serve her client instead of putting off the matter and have more contact with him. 

She created a happy client and he gave her some cookies after they finished working together too. She also surpassed her financial goal.

You can change. 

All of these examples will help you move into Step Three.

Step Three is not just having awareness of the feeling you’re having, but awareness of how you’re behaving when you feel it.

For example, the client with racing thoughts about her case load, she would see she was snappy with people or short with them. She wouldn’t delegate as much. She’d put off tasks.

The clients who weren’t promoting their businesses were putting off promoting, but they were also doing things like watching more Netflix or scrolling social media more. They were doing things that felt productive but weren’t moving the needle on their goals like cleaning or baking cookies.

The client who felt shame was avoiding doing work on the client matter, then beating herself up for not working on it, then considering firing the client because she felt shame.

These behaviors all stem from how we feel.

When we become keen observers of our feelings, then we can see what’s happening when we feel that way. We start to slow down our brain processes. I know some people get scared when they think about slowing down their brain, so I did a whole episode on what it means to do that that I’ll link to in the show notes.

Essentially it means paying attention.

Our thoughts create our feelings. And then our feelings drive our behaviors.

If you’re unhappy with the way you’re behaving, it’s because you’re fueling those behaviors with feelings that aren’t helpful.

Feelings like fear, shame, and overwhelm.

When we pay attention to what we feel and what actions we take when we feel that way, we can put a pause between the feeling that rises up in our body and how we behave.

I’ll give you an example of this in my life.

An emotion I used to be really quick to feel was anger.

It would come up literally any time of day.

I could be starting water for coffee, and I would see something was left out in the kitchen overnight.

I could immediately feel anger almost pushing up through my chest to my throat.

Same thing with driving. 

I’d see someone cut me off without signaling, and I’d feel that rush of adrenaline push up through my chest.

At first, I’d feel it then react by yelling or behaving badly.

Then I’d feel it, and not react.

Then I’d notice that I had a thought that felt kind of annoying then I’d release it.

Then in some instances I totally stopped feeling anger like when it came to people jumping in front of me.

I’m not perfect at it, but I’m SO much better at it. I’ll talk more about this in Step Four.

The more you practice this, the more space you’ll create between you and the unhelpful emotion. Then you won’t find yourself reacting to things so much. YOu’ll respond intentionally.

So that’s step three: notice and practice pausing before reacting.

Step Four: Don’t judge yourself if you notice the feeling until later or don’t do anything differently at first.

Like I said before, I’m not perfect at this, but I’m so much better at noticing my feelings and not reacting to them compulsively.

If I don’t catch myself in the moment, I don’t beat myself up because I know I’m human and that this is all a process.

Judging myself will just cause me to feel shame. It definitely won’t help me take action to make change. Shame actually drives procrastination. You may feel frozen in place.

Alright, let’s do a quick recap.

Step One: Awareness of the feeling of general anxiety

Step Two: Peel back the lawyer and ask yourself why you think you feel anxious. What are you thinking about? What feeling comes up when you think that thought?

Step Three: Notice how you feel and practice pausing before reacting.

Step Four: Don’t judge yourself for being a human.

Working with a coach can help you dissolve feelings of anxiety that may be wallpapering over the unhelpful feelings you’re having.

I help my clients with this, so they can make their law practices easier and get fabulous results in the process.

If you’d like to know more about what that looks like, book a Strategy Session with me.

During the call we’ll peel go through steps 1 and 2. You’ll start to peel back the layers right away.

Then I’ll help you create a strategy to help you get to the next level.

You can book a call with me at

Let’s help you kickoff 2023 with more ease and confidence.

Alright my lovely friend. I hope you have a wonderful New Year! I’ll talk to you soon.


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