Maxine Giannelli is a staff member at Anxiety Canada. As Anxiety Canada’s summer Community Engagement Contributor, I was lucky enough to sit down with Maxine and ask her about her personal experience with anxiety and what led her to Anxiety Canada.
By Justine Harris-Owen.
Describe your role at Anxiety Canada.
Maxine Giannelli: As you know, Anxiety Canada is a non-profit organization and charity, and we are fully supported by our individual donors and corporate donors.
I have the pleasure of building those relationships to inform them of how their donations have made an impact, and I develop relationships with new donors.
I am the Senior Manager of Development & Communications at Anxiety Canada, so the other large part of my role is to ensure our communication and marketing initiatives align with our strategic priorities.
I’m responsible for promoting what we offer at Anxiety Canada and making sure that our resources are accessible to everyone.
Before joining Anxiety Canada, was anxiety awareness something you advocated for?
MG: It wasn’t until I developed a more concrete awareness around my own anxiety and that of a loved one that I was prepared to advocate for more education around anxiety.
Pictured: Maxine with her dog, Rosie Bear.
MG continued: I began exploring what anxiety is in the last four or five years. I began advocating for mental health awareness, and anxiety in particular, on a personal level by being an attentive listener and available to speak about it with those I love, sharing resources and talking to people about CBT [Cognitive Behavioural Therapy].
What drew you to working at Anxiety Canada?
MG: It was suggested to me by a therapist, actually. I was attending therapy with a family member at the time and helping them with their anxiety when the therapist suggested trying Anxiety Canada’s ‘My Anxiety Plan’, a self-paced, online course to complement the work we were doing in therapy. I learned so much and was shocked that this amazing resource is free.
Ever since I discovered Anxiety Canada in 2019, I kept my eye on their career page, and in 2021, I joined the team.
“Anxiety gets in the way of how we want to live our lives, but if we normalize speaking about it openly and with acceptance and empathy, we can live fuller lives. We all cope differently, but imagine how beneficial it would be if we shared our positive coping mechanisms.”
– Maxine Giannelli
Pictured: Maxine enjoying nature.
Why is raising anxiety awareness important to you?
MG: Raising awareness for anxiety is important because it is something that we all deal with. Although some of us may be capable of managing it naturally, others have anxiety to a degree that is very difficult to manage. I came to a place where I was comfortable talking about [mental health] only in the past few years. It shouldn’t have to take that long, and anxiety should not be something people are ashamed to talk about.
We should be able to have conversations around anxiety and relate to each other as humans so that we can share positive coping mechanisms.
Anxiety gets in the way of how we want to live our lives, but if we normalize speaking about it openly and with acceptance and empathy, we can live fuller lives. We all cope differently, but imagine how beneficial it would be if we shared our positive coping mechanisms.
Could you share a little bit more about your experience with anxiety?
MG: As an introverted only child, I was always anxious in new social situations. During university, that only worsened. I didn’t know what I was going through. I didn’t have a name for it.
Anxiety wasn’t something that was spoken about when I was younger. Struggling with mental health was very misunderstood and in some cases ridiculed.
When I started my own business, got married and then became a mom, I was juggling all of these new responsibilities. It became very overwhelming and my anxiety took over. I began to experience painful somatic symptoms.
“I didn’t know what I was going through. I didn’t have a name for it.“
– Maxine Giannelli
MG continued: It was so disruptive and disheartening. I couldn’t hide it anymore, whereas before, I was able to mask it very well. Anxiety depletes your energy and once you are struggling, it can take a lot to get out of that state. I needed to build a list of skills for myself and stick to them.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and working through the ‘My Anxiety Plan’ really helped me to do that. I also find that daily exercise, eating well, and meditation help me. Being able to put a label on things and knowing where anxious thoughts come from also help me work through challenging times.
Another way I cope with anxiety and prioritize my well-being is by spending time with loved ones. I like to enjoy nature with friends, family, and our dog, Rosie Bear.
Learn more about Anxiety Canada
Are you passionate about mental health and want to make a difference in the lives of Canadians struggling with anxiety? Consider donating to Anxiety Canada to support award-winning, evidence-based anxiety management and treatment programs.
My Anxiety Plans (MAPs) are helpful, self-paced courses that Maxine touched on. Could you or someone you know benefit from learning the anxiety coping tools in My Anxiety Plan (MAPs)? Learn more about the free online course: see our MAPs homepage and explore MAPs for children, youth, and adults.
Interested in learning more about the anxiety coping tools Anxiety Canada offers? See our Get Help page for an overview of the MindShift program, which includes our free anxiety management app MindShift CBT and more.
Check out our other free resources, like our Educator Resources, or the many helpful PDF resources on topics like postpartum anxiety, back-to-school anxiety in children, youth anxiety, breathing exercises, and much more.
Read about the author of this blog series, Justine.