Ask an Expert: Anthony Isacco
Ask an Expert is PULSE’s advice column featuring the perspectives of Chatham faculty, staff, and community members. In each column, our resident experts will tackle a new conundrum that they’re uniquely qualified to solve or, at least, provide insight on. In this edition, Dr. Anthony Isacco, associate professor in the graduate psychology programs, offers some tips for slowing down and reducing anxiety.
What tips or strategies do you recommend for dealing with anxiety and becoming more mindful?
There is a recent quote attributed to Bill Gates, “Busy is the new stupid,” that has really caught my attention. I have spent a lot of time thinking about the quote — why is busy stupid? As far as I can tell, everyone seems to be very busy these days. We tell each other how busy we are all of the time. Busy is stupid not so much in an intellectual way but in how it distracts us from our emotional, spiritual, and interpersonal awareness. A lack of awareness contributes to being distracted, reactive, and anxious. Anxiety typically emerges with too much worry about the future. Mindfulness at its core is an intentional, nonjudgmental focus and awareness on the present.
I am sure that being mindful in a world of busyness and distraction sounds appealing, but challenging! There is often a misperception of mindfulness as being in a Zen-like state, secluded from the world, in a far-off monastery. However, I follow the attitude of St. Josemaria Escrevia, a 20th century Catholic saint, who said that we should strive to be “contemplative souls in the middle of the world” (Furrow, #497).
People do not need to be saints to become more mindful and less anxious. A primary way to become more mindful is to slow down and to become less busy. We need to stop thinking of this extreme ‘busyness’ as a badge of honor. I often recommend to people (and remind myself) to embrace silence, as silence allows for meditation, prayer, and reflection – all of which help us to be more mindful of who we are and what we are called to do in our lives. When we slow down and lean in to silence, we can become more connected to the people in our lives, nature, the sacred, and parts of our selfs that need attention. In other words, we renew our sense of purpose and identify our life priorities that need our focus. And when we live a life of focus and purpose, we are less anxious and more excited about the things we are doing and the possibilities that are ahead. That approach to life doesn’t sound stupid to me.
Anthony Isacco, PhD is a licensed psychologist and Associate Professor in the Graduate Psychology Programs at Chatham University. His clinical practice is focused on the psychological assessment of Catholic deacons, seminarians, and women religious. He is the co-author of All In: Breaking Barriers to Discerning the Priesthood (2018, Lambing Press) and Religion, Spirituality, & Masculinity: New Insights for Counselors (2019, Routledge Publishing). He is a member of the American Psychological Association and Catholic Psychotherapist Association.
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