On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety Book Review – Part One

Title: On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety

Author: Andrea Petersen

Genre: Psychology

Publisher: Random House

Release Date: May 16, 2017

Format: Kindle/Hardcover

Pages: 320 pages

About the Book:

A racing heart. Difficulty breathing. Overwhelming dread. Andrea Petersen was first diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at the age of twenty, but she later realized that she had been experiencing panic attacks since childhood. With time her symptoms multiplied. She agonized over every odd physical sensation. She developed fears of driving on highways, going to movie theaters, even licking envelopes. Although having a name for her condition was an enormous relief, it was only the beginning of a journey to understand and master it—one that took her from psychiatrists’ offices to yoga retreats to the Appalachian Trail.

Woven into Petersen’s personal story is a fascinating look at the biology of anxiety and the groundbreaking research that might point the way to new treatments. She compares psychoactive drugs to non-drug treatments, including biofeedback and exposure therapy. And she explores the role that genetics and the environment play in mental illness, visiting top neuroscientists and tracing her family history—from her grandmother, who, plagued by paranoia, once tried to burn down her own house, to her young daughter, in whom Petersen sees shades of herself.

Brave and empowering, this is essential reading for anyone who knows what it means to live on edge.

AmazonMy Review:

What I appreciated most about On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety was Andrea Petersen’s personal story about her own anxiety. Although we had vastly different upbringings, and even different experiences with anxiety, I couldn’t help but feel a kinship with the author. After all, my own journey through anxiety is a big part of this blog (see Comfortable in My Own Skin).

My first impression as I was reading through the various causes of adult anxiety, was that poor Bud was doomed from a very young age.  As the author says, “Anxiety disorders almost certainly have multiple causes – from genetics to childhood trauma to how your parents interact with you. And for any given person, the mix of these factors will be as singular as a fingerprint.” However, some major factors popped up which specifically fit our youngest child.

First, there is evidence that what happens to the mother can alter the development of the fetus. According to Petersen, “This means that children of anxious moms don’t just have a genetic predisposition to anxiety; anxiety may actually be transmitted in utero.”

In addition, a study surveying nearly 700 high school students “found that a serious illness or infection during the first year of life strongly predicted anxiety disorders by the teenage years.” Bud had chicken pox at 2 months and pneumonia at six months old.

The research is inconclusive on whether or not parenting can actually cause anxiety. However, it does seem that for a child who is predisposed to anxiety, an anxious, hovering parent certainly doesn’t help. I’m sorry to say that I was that parent, in many ways. Bud remembers me telling him that he couldn’t be out of my sight when he was playing outside because someone could “snatch him off the street.” I suppose there is a fine line between teaching your child safety and leaving them permanently scarred.

There were so many insights in this book that I have decided to break my review into three parts. Look for part two next week.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Five Easy Ways to Motivate Others

easy ways to motivate others

“I’m so frustrated,” my friend complained. “Sam (her husband) and I were supposed to lose weight together.  After about a month, he just gave up. I keep reminding him we had a deal, but he won’t listen. I don’t know what to do! I’m worried about his health.”

Sound familiar? Substitute anyone you care about for husband, and anything that’s not being accomplished for weight loss, and, you get my point. We all know people who could use some motivation.

Over 25 years as a mom, 7 + years as a boss, and 5+ years as a weight loss group leader, I’ve learned a few things about motivation. First, if you want to motivate others, you should, yourself, be motivated. (see Top Five Ways to Boost Your Motivation). Here are a few more ideas:

5 Easy Ways to Motivate Others


Sometimes just the simple act of venting their frustrations may be enough to help a person regain their motivation.  Other times, your person might want to brainstorm with you. Be available and try not to be judgemental.

Ask How You Can Help

Holding the person accountable for the type of help they need gives him or her ownership in the process.  Offering the help you think they need takes the power out of their hands. And yes, everyone wants to feel like they have some control of their own destiny.

If you really feel you absolutely must offer specific help, why not offer a choice between two options? For example, in the case of my friend and her husband, she could say something like, “Why don’t we schedule a workout date this week? Would you rather go for a hike or take a long bike ride?” This way you are steering your person back on course, but reminding them that you know they are still in control.

Remember Past Successes

When Bud was a senior in high school, he was having difficulty with Algebra II.  The concepts were difficult for him to grasp. He wanted to give up. I knew if he quit, he wouldn’t graduate, since Algebra II was a required course.

I sat down with Bud and reminded him of how good he was at setting goals and figuring out how to achieve them. How when he was ten, he had decided to lose weight, after seeing a photo of himself on a family trip. Bud and I had started run/walking every day and cut back on snacks and sweets. He was so proud of himself when we took family photos the next year and we could all see the difference!

I reminded Bud of how, when he started sixth grade in homeschool, he decided that the following fall he wanted to start public school with his friends, who would all be in the eighth grade. We set a schedule, and Bud managed to complete BOTH sixth and seventh grades in one year.

Bud appreciated the pep talk. He and I made a plan of attack, that would get him caught up on Algebra II by the end of the school year.  I was proud for multiple reasons when Bud graduated on time in June of 2012.

Be an Example

During my years as a weight-loss group leader for Sparkpeople, I have found that being an example can be one of the most positive motivating factors for others.  However, examples don’t all have to be about successes.

If we are honest with ourselves, the path to achieving our goals is very rarely a straight line forward. More often than not, it is more of a zig-zag, a two steps forward, one step back scenario.

Those who are at the beginning of the steps to achieve their goal, can be encouraged by finding out that those of us who have reached the other side had the same setbacks and stumbling blocks along the way.  I like to share how I lost 20 pounds, then gained 50, lost 30, got stuck at a 4 1/2 year plateau, and finally lost another 10 pounds six months ago. Only 10 more pounds to go, but what a journey it has been! And while the destination will be awesome, the journey is where I learned and grew.

Be Patient

Patience is your biggest ally as a motivator. After all, we’re not all on the same journey, even though we may have similar goals. Everyone moves along their own path, at their own speed. You can not singlehandedly make a person move ahead any faster. All you can do is be available with the tools, resources and motivation, if needed.

How do you motivate others? Please share your tips in the comments.