If I’m So Smart, Why Am I So Anxious?

Feeling more, sensing more, thinking more, knowing more.


Extremely sensitive to sounds, smells, tastes, colors, touch, emotions, weather, food, chemicals, energy, bad news, criticism, the invisible world and beauty.

A mind that moves at warp speed, seeks meaning, analyzes the hell out of everything, wonders, generates gazillions of ideas, and watches itself watching itself.

A heart that weeps at the cruelty humans inflict on one another and on the planet.

A soul that yearns for knowledge, understanding and Love.

And you wonder why you’re anxious?


OK then.

Let’s get practical.

Your anxiety may manifest in many ways.

You want to strangle your neighbor who uses her leaf blower to clear the dust off of her driveway every morning. The chaos at birthday parties leaves you and your child shrieking. Your very active, creative mind imagines unending catastrophes. You can’t stop ruminating about the sad story you just heard on NPR. You have migraines, allergies or insomnia.

What can you do?

Becoming un-g-g-gifted is not an option.

1. Make a list of self-soothing activities and do them. What calms you down? Classical music? Herbal tea? A walk in the woods? Make a long list. Did I mention that you need to do them?

2. At public events: Leave early. Move chairs so you aren’t right up next to someone. Breathe deeply and imagine peoples’ undesirable energy moving through you and out your feet into the ground. Let the earth transform it.

3. As suggested by Jade Rivera, in her blog post on gifted children, move your body. When worried, we tend to freeze. That only increases the anxiety. Try moving. Walk, dance, shake, exercise, sing.

4. If you grew up in a seriously dysfunctional family, get psychotherapy. Events in your present life can trigger PTSD symptoms where you’re unconsciously re-experiencing trauma. Feeling anxiety that makes no sense. Therapy can help you identify the triggers and learn ways to cope and to heal.

5. For lots of specific techniques, read The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Bourne, recommended by author and blogger, Pamela Price.

6. Start that meditation practice that you say you’re going to start. Learn how to connect with your inner wisdom.

7. Keep a journal and write dialogues with your anxiety. Visualize the anxiety as a person and be curious. Ask why it continues to hang around. You may be surprised by the answers.

8. Be aware of any food sensitivities, hormone imbalances, or sleep deprivation. Naturopathy, acupuncture, massage or energy work can be helpful.

9. If you’re a parent, don’t take your child’s meltdowns personally. Take time away from the kids.

10. Find your sense of humor. If you’re alone in your car, scream obscenities at passing drivers. Avoid eye contact.

11. Don’t do yoga in traffic.



To my blogEEs: Are there ways that you calm your anxiety that you can share with us? Are there questions you have that I can address in a future post? Thank you, as always, for reading.

Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

62 responses to “If I’m So Smart, Why Am I So Anxious?”

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  1. Are You Too Much Or Are You Just A Lot? – YOUR RAINFOREST MIND

    […] or their criticism. Some of you will need to practice regular self-soothing techniques to calm your anxiety and reduce your tendency to worry about life, the universe, and everything. Some of you will need […]

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  4. When Perfectionism, Anxiety, Empathy, and Expectations Collide — Gifted in Portugal | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] to be gifted will be important so you don’t mislabel yourself. Also, you will likely need to practice self-soothing and relaxation techniques. This won’t eradicate your anxiety but it can contain it and reduce […]

  5. Managing Your Young Gifted Child’s (And Your) Emotional Intensity | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] emotions are an important part of who you are. Make time to nourish yourself. Soothe your anxiety. Calm your nervous system. Find others who appreciate your depth. Remember that you have a rainforest mind which means that […]

  6. Life is Calling You to Embrace Your Intense, Insightful, Introspective Path(s) | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] think you’re just a freak, a weirdo, or a lost cause. You might have to battle depression, disabling anxiety, or chronic pain. You might need safety and control because you had neither growing […]

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    […] complexities. Their perfectionism, sensitivities/ empathy, loneliness, existential depression and anxieties. Their rainforest minds. Send them or their parents to this blog, for a place to start. And thank […]

  9. How To Deal With Under-Thinkers When You’re An Over-Thinker | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] all these years. You can go to a conference where other rainforest-y folks mingle. You can learn self-soothing techniques for when you overwhelm yourself and […]

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    […] to self-soothe. Whatever that looks like for you. If you need some ideas, try this post on anxiety and this one on […]

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  12. Intense Kids, Intense Parents — Tips for Managing the Mayhem | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] a list of ways to soothe yourself, to relax, and to find nourishment. Then DO THEM. Your kids will benefit. You know this but you still […]

  13. Annette Walden Avatar
    Annette Walden

    I use Instagram as my go-to place. I subscribe to accounts that post artwork, puppies, beautiful scenery from around the world, and encouraging quotes. I go there throughout the day to de-stress.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for the tip, Annette.

      1. william dash Avatar
        william dash

        This sounds like a wise thing.

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    […] coping strategies? Procrastination. Depression. Anxiety. Hot Fudge […]

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  17. Raising A Kid Who’s Just Like You | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] Manage and lovingly contain– I’m not talking about dumbing down here. Or stifling. Or shrinking. What I mean is that there are times when you’ll want to adjust your speed so that your communication is understood. You’ll want to wait until you’re in a safe place before unleashing your frustrations. You’ll want to learn how to keep your anxiety from overwhelming your body. You’ll want to sleep. So when you want to do these things, it’ll be useful to have developed some strategies. […]

  18. The Hazards Of Praise And Too Much Smartness | Your Rainforest Mind

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  19. If I’m So Smart, Why Am I So Stressed Out? | Your Rainforest Mind

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  20. Your Child Is Gifted–Let The Worries Begin | Your Rainforest Mind

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  22. Munchkin Avatar

    I had many things I was anxious over growing up, and being mildly OCD didn’t help. One of the things that helped me was imagining to close my eyes and imagine the anxiety and frustration as red lights scattered all through my body. Draw a deep breath in, and as I did I’d imagine it all gathering in my lungs. Let out the deep breath slowly, and imagine all those lights leaving through your pursed lips. Repeat as needed. It’s a great way to find your center and look at a situation from a different perspective.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Sounds like a great technique, Munchkin. Thanks for sharing.

  23. Zen Avatar

    ‘A mind that …. watches itself watching itself’ (and so on). Yes. My child has recently been tentatively diagnosed with ADHD. Looked at myself, and my mother. I mean, something has obviously passed down a chain here. Life makes a bit more sense to me now; I live with a very physically restrictive illness. 5 years now and I still feel no closer to acceptance. After some time of seriously beating myself up for not ‘getting over it’ despite my best efforts, I’ve realised that perhaps this is all the more nightmarish because of my lifelong, intense inner drive to move & ‘do things’. How do I cope with the anxiety due to the conflict between what my inner self needs to do, and what my body cannot do? My ipad is a bit of a life saver (distraction). Twitter has been fantastic for me… short excerpts of information everywhere! Links I can click on or not click on! I really dig cynical humour, though I’m aware it’s more a bandaid than anything else. Our two cats help with my anxiety, though again it’s really just distraction. My life is one big distraction exercise. It gets me through for now. I have a book coming by Thich Nhat Hanh… written to prisoners if I recall… about how to feel free, despite their incarceration. Am hoping it helps. In a bid to help my daughter, we will learn very basic meditation together. I’m creating a sensory box for her, and we are going to learn the art of Bonsai. It’s terrifying, the concept of having to help my daughter on this journey to find stillness. Absolutely terrifying. What better reason to try, though. Thank you again for your writing and insights Paula.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      I hope that you find the Thich Nhat Hanh book helpful, Zen. And I suspect that meditation will be good, too. So sorry to hear about your illness. I’m happy that in a small way, I’m able to help. Thanks for writing.

  24. telperion1214 Avatar

    Hmmmm. . . lots of interesting comments and different perspectives. . .
    Handwork has always soothed me, since the age of 4, before I taught myself to read. Reading can be good distraction; I like murder mysteries, not for being gruesome but for the puzzle solving. Puzzle solving is also good to relieve anxiety, and good for the mind.
    I crave silence and am thankful to have a life that gives me a lot of alone time. I’m “disabled” with chronic illness and it’s discouraging that the world does not see me as fit to have paying work because I need too many sick days. I could do in 2 days what most do in 5. Maybe that’s a sign of being g-g-gifted. 🙂
    I was told by a practitioner of Eurythmy that I “over-identify” with my environment. Perhaps it is my constitution. Perhaps it is because I grew up in an abusive home. Perhaps it is a combination of the two, nature and nurture. As long as it’s not painful I enjoy it. I enjoy noticing things that others miss. Not because they miss them, but because I enjoy noticing them.
    I still do counted cross stitch, which is my best anxiety reliever. I knit, I sew, too and they are so good for me.
    I do yoga daily; read meditation books; believe that the Universe is friendly. 🙂 When I believe it, it’s true.
    Everything must struggle: seeds struggle to sprout, mammals struggle to be born. Have you ever watched a chick hatch? Struggle. Life is not meant to be lived struggle free. There is no need to judge conflict as bad. It just is.
    it is very helpful to me to remember these facts and practice them. 🙂 By practice, I mean live as if they are true.
    Then they are true.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Wise words, telperion1214. Thank you.

  25. C A Avatar
    C A

    Hello Paula once more you nailed it…I promise I will stop asking how do you know this stuff! Yes brutal bone crushing anxiety most of my life…but I am working on healing it…God is a powerful help for me and spirit…and releasing that which doesn’t serve me and getting good help…who knew …my counsellor and me we speak the same language! Like the joke from Big Bang…” You are on a planet populated with nothing but dogs and then you meet another human! 🙂 hurrah! But weirdly as well my nautopath put me on a supplement borage oil because he thinks some of my anxiety and almost mania if you will was related to being overly hyper…but what’s a bit o mania between friends 🙂 thanks for the wonderful post as per usual 🙂 C A

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      You’re welcome I do think it’s useful to let a naturopath help you determine if certain supplements or homeopathy or diet might also relieve some of the anxiety. I’m glad you and your counselor speak the same language. That’s great!

  26. aszurom Avatar

    Ok, so I was the person you describe in your original post. Then I was on painkillers for a surgery, and I was a “normal person” without anxiety or stress or a racing mind for that week. Then it came back as soon as I was off them. Gosh, it felt great to not be like that for a while. So I made a psychiatrist appointment. Was diagnosed as severe ADD, and got medicated for it. Now, I’m steady-state and non miserable.

    So, instead of a list of BS things to do to cope with it, why not get it diagnosed and properly treated? Just sayin. Only took me 40 years to figure it out, but I’m telling you now so you don’t need to suffer that long.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      You make a good point, aszurom. Sometimes all the anxiety is actually an illness or disability or situation that needs a medical/medication solution. A “racing mind” can be more than giftedness so it’s good to check it out when coping strategies aren’t enough.

  27. If I’m so Smart, Why am I so Anxious? | Pugilistic Paradigms

    […] If I’m so Smart, Why am I so Anxious?. […]

  28. amandasmills Avatar

    Interesting coincidence, my latest blog post is about anxiety, over buying a new couch of all things. I have a tendency to let worries build until I am immobile,so the thing is to stop that process by tryin g to pick apart the what of it, and whether I can work around it, cut it up and manage it with little goals, or if I need to let it go.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      I’ll have to go to your blog and check that out. Thanks!

  29. Sue Avatar

    Paula – have read your blog before and sooooo wish you lived near by. We live in Eastern Virginia and hard to find resources, teachers, counselors etc. that really understand the gifted mind. I have 3 exceptionally/profoundly gifted children and my youngest (19 yrs ) is really struggling with the issues discussed in your blog. So ironic than his favorite t-shirt when young had a big frog on it and the word RAINFOREST across the chest! (A cherished shirt I will keep forever!) Too funny when I think about it, really.
    We have had many a discussion on the problem with slowing his thoughts down and his high need to just be alone. He walks circles around our kitchen table when we talk – sometimes for an entire hour. I love the depth of his thought and the wonderfully deep individual he is, but functioning in the “real” world is very hard for him. Even the “smart” people I know seldom get it and everyone, and I mean everyone, around us makes judgment calls on what I “need” to do to make him grow up, or start using his intelligence on something worthwhile or the like. He struggles with everyday stuff – simple things most people take for granted. Thank you. Thank you. Nice to know there are folks out there that really do get it!

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Thanks for your comments, Sue. Your son sounds like a sensitive soul and he’s so lucky to have a mom who gets him. That makes a huge difference.

  30. Kathy Avatar

    I love this. I start my day with yoga if only for 15 mins. The time to focus on breathing reminds me that not every idea has to be captured.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      That would be impossible, wouldn’t it? Capturing every single idea. Hooray for yoga.

  31. poprice Avatar

    Thanks for the shout out, Paula! I’m reading another book, one about teaching mindfulness to children by Thich Nhat Hanh (“Planting Seeds”). I wish someone would have given it to ME as a kid as I think it would have decreased my anxiety tremendously.

    1. Robert Brandt Avatar
      Robert Brandt

      Hey Pamela — Please post the title of that book on Red, White and Grew Crew; I would like to check it out.

    2. paulaprober Avatar

      Oh yes, Thich Nhat Hanh is a great resource, Pamela. As are you. A great resource for gifted kids, their parents and homeschoolers.

  32. Melody Avatar

    Thank you so much for this. (I loved on #1 – “Did I mention you need to do them?” – I am great at making lists of what I need to do to take care of me… not so great at actually doing them. This article came at a perfect time for me.

  33. hno3burns Avatar

    Multiple times a day, I take out time for prayer. It is a MUST. I burn candles and incense at home. Church is a regular routine and a refuge for me and I always get there early when it is quiet and there aren’t people chit-chatting. I often stay late for more quiet. People don’t understand why I need so much quiet or why it’s so vital for my spirituality. I didn’t understand myself until I found this blog. This may very well be a place for people like me!

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      I hope you’ve found your place here! Welcome.

      1. hno3burns Avatar

        I may have. Thank you!

  34. billy Avatar

    Im trying to understand why no therapist out of a few ive tried ever suggested this stuff. I dont think they know to look for TAG.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      They don’t, in general. I don’t think that any (few?) mental health professionals get training from their schooling in how to work with the gifted, especially gifted adults. Or at least there are no courses at universities that I’ve come across. (except for educators) I think the myth still holds that gifted folks can take care of themselves. That said, organizations like sengifted.org are providing professional development now. And there are more and more individuals providing coaching services.

      1. amyvoros Avatar

        Yep, we coaches to gifted adults do exist, even if we’re few and far between. 🙂 (or maybe we just do it because that’s us in a nutshell–rephrase: maybe I do it because that’s me in a nutshell.)

  35. Lynda Avatar

    I read the opening statement and went a ha. Yup you describe me to a T. wish it were so easy to let it go and meditate.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Lynda. It’s not easy to meditate, especially if you have a very busy mind. But the benefits are worth the struggle. Over time, it gets easier. In the beginning, you’re not likely to notice much. Except maybe frustration!

  36. Jay Avatar

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for such an insightful and practical post!

    While I’ve been aware of my sensitivity for a few years and being different my whole life, I’d never really stopped to consider the link to that too-familiar anxious feeling. I’ll definitely be implementing these tips.

    Being new to your blog, I’m not sure if you’ve written something on sensitive people in the therapy room? I find my anxiety levels skyrocket at times because I’m analyzing all my feelings, thoughts and actions AS WELL as everything my therapist says and does. It’s super exhausting but the only way I know how. It would be interesting to know more about how these special dynamics work and how we can get the most out of therapy without exploding first.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Thanks for the idea, Jay. I would love to write about that. I certainly notice many of my clients watching me carefully and being extremely sensitive to my mood, my gestures, and what I say and do. (And what I don’t say and what I don’t do!) I’ll also look over your blog to see what else you experience in therapy. I appreciate your comment.

      1. Jay Avatar

        Yay, glad I am not the only very “vigilant” client!

        That said, I just cannot reiterate enough how much of an impact your blog has had on me these last 24 hours. Excuse the long comment but it is vitally important I tell you how so you realise you are on the right path and should keep up what you’re doing…

        I have honestly NEVER thought of myself as gifted (love the few g’s you add in there) and am still debating with myself whether it could possibly be true. To indulge your blog, I went and did some more research on over-excitabilities and suprisingly identified with the imaginational, intellectual and emotional ones (and sensual to a degree).

        Unfortunately, I was extremely misunderstood as a child and felt different to my mom, step-dad and sister. My mom even called me weird to my face, which I did not take well lol. I was not encouraged to express my thoughts or feelings if they differed to my parents and I became the good, quiet girl on the outside. Books and writing were my retreat. My sister was the “highly gifted” one and we used to drop her off at a university for special classes every Saturday. It sounds sad but I became to see myself as the clumsy, “dumb” and incompetent sibling. Yes, I excelled at English and Art in high school but scraped through on maths and science (Chemistry was amazing but physics sucked!).

        I guess what I’m trying to say is that it has taken therapy and difficult experience the last two years to begin to shake off that identity. To discover the concept of the rainforest mind had me peeing in my pants with excitement. I could give you a scan of my brain right now and you would see all the neurons firing with happiness!

        You’ve changed the way I see my achievements. I have SO many hobbies and unfinished projects that I thought that made me flaky and non-specialised. At the moment, it’s ballet, learning to play piano, knitting, maintaining a daily dream journal, singing and researching neuroscience and psychotherapy principles.

        So THANK YOU.

        I cannot wait to read what you have to say on rainforest minds in therapy (no pressure and I mean it). I always wonder whether my therapist thinks I am crazy for being so sensitive and preoccupied with his wellbeing. And I think it drives him dilly that I care so much about the impact of my words and actions on him, even though I am paying to keep his needs out of it. And naturally, I researched the entire psychotherapy process and everything related to it so I can be an informed client.

        If you’re still alive after reading this, thank you for your tenacity 😉

        P.S. In my own post, I referred to the emotional receipt of the world being so big that it would take more than the world’s rainforests to print it out. That was quite funny given I now see rainforests as minds.

    2. paulaprober Avatar

      Hi Jay. For some reason, the blog won’t let me place this reply beneath your second post. Maybe it’ll just appear there when I post it. Anyway, your long comment is most welcome. I’m glad that I can help you see that you’re also gifted. Sometimes a sibling can be a high achiever so is the one with the gifted label. Then the one (like you?) who’s more sensitive or introverted or creative doesn’t seem or feel as smart. Feels weird instead. Or is told she’s weird! I’m not sure when I’ll write about therapy but it may be soonish.

      1. Sue Avatar

        My husband says I’m weird…I tell him, “Yah, that’s what you got. Oh well!” I’m learning to be proud of it and to on! Who wants to be boring!

  37. Megan Avatar

    Your description of the manifestations of anxiety…yes, exactly yes. Every single one of those things describe feelings I have. I didn’t know they’re all from my anxiety. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told myself I was going to start meditating. Thanks for this list.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Hi Megan. I’m glad you’re finding the list useful. Yes, and meditation can be so helpful, especially over time. Thanks for sharing.

  38. Caitie Avatar

    Loved everything I just read!

  39. Franca78 (@Francescamoun78) Avatar
    Franca78 (@Francescamoun78)

    God i seek meaning in every LITTLE thing and find myself without enough time to THINK because i THINK too much and SENSE too much. I sense people’s feelings, moods, i sense everything about nature around me, THE INVISIBLE WORLD !!!! it’s too much to handle sometimes. it’s great someone knows about this and we’re not alone.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Yes, Franca78. You’re in good company!

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