One of my AG’s (Anxiety Girls) texted the other day and asked how things were going. I told her that my family was planning a vacation and we just booked flights! A connecting flight on the way out and one non-stop on the way home. My text read:
“Terrified but saying yes and will figure it out.”
And that’s how it often goes with anxiety. We can let fear rule all our decision making or we can say yes – knowing things always work out – and figure out coping mechanisms along the way.
Every time I prepare to fly I feel sick to my stomach in anticipation. I imagine fantastic excuses for why I won’t be able to go at the last minute:
“Oh man, we all have lice!”
“Too bad, it’s the stomach flu!”
But, I get on that plane anyways – legs shaking, heart racing – and let the adventure begin.
If anxiety is a normal human reaction to (real or perceived) danger that helps keep us alert and alive, what makes it turn the corner into a problem – something that gets in the way of our day to day lives? What does anxiety look and feel like and how can we best treat it when it comes knocking.
Check out this interview with Dr. Reid Wilson as he talks about anxiety, resisting and how learning about the laws of physics can help us find freedom. And, if you haven’t seen his blog posts on the Psychology Today site, here’s the link.
Love this one from Lynn Lyons where she discusses her own challenges with anxiety and how sharing her story helped a client open up and make huge strides in his life.
Learning to Master Panic is a great article by Dr. Janet Klosko of the Cognitive Therapy Center of Long Island. In it, she does a fantastic job of describing the experience & symptoms of panic, why people resist and avoid and ways to systematically go toward the fear with their sights set on freedom.
If you’re an anxiety geek and enjoy learning about the latest research and best practices, this video is for you. In just under 90 minutes, Dr. Michelle Craske discusses state of the art strategies in exposure work and how best to consolidate learning for lasting change.
Let me introduce you. Erin is a mother, friend, wife, sister, professional, expert crafter, champion of animals, professional, adventurer and all around cool lady. She also has had anxiety and panic for most of her life.
So, here’s the story. After enjoying a mostly panic free life for many years, Erin experienced debilitating panic attacks on a drive to Bethany Beach, Delaware last summer. She knew the drive would be a challenge, but the resurgence of panic left her reeling. It took the course of the following year from which to recover. Sure, she went to work, managed her family and kept up a normal life (because she’s strong like that), but inside she struggled with daily symptoms. After some counseling and a lot of work, a year later she made that same drive again. This time was filled with dread and panic, which showed up as expected, but she did not let scary symptoms get in her way. She made it all the way to the beach, got to enjoy vacation with her family and felt triumphant. If you have experience with panic, you know that this accomplishment was like completing an Ironman!
After the trip, she was posting beautiful pictures on Instagram and, as people were viewing and adding hearts, she realized she was just portraying one side of the story.
With a huge amount of courage, she wrote the following post and shared her story in hopes it would help someone else. Maybe that person is you! Here it is – posted with permission.
“Few people know this about me, but I have panic disorder. I was always a worried child, but when I turned 20 I started to have panic attacks. I had to leave college at that time to get back on my feet and ever since then I have struggled on and off with my anxiety. After I moved, I started avoiding going places because of fear of panic attacks. And my world got smaller and smaller. I have worked really hard to overcome this and have made huge strides. I was even in almost complete remission for about 4-5 years but then I had a big set back this past summer. So I am kind of starting over. It is a huge accomplishment that I made it here to this beach. I am immensely ashamed of my battle with this, but part of what holds the anxiety to me so intensely is this shame. So I am sharing now and may share more as I keep challenging myself. I hope it is in some way helpful to someone if I share my story. I made it to Bethany Beach, Delaware and didn’t think I could. I am overjoyed that I got to make some more sweet memories with my boys. Thanks for reading.”
Here are a few weekend reads as we roll into the first weekend of July! Enjoy!
*How are people coping with anxiety in 2017? Meds? Therapy? Distraction? Yes, yes and yes. And, more and more research is revealing that the best way of working with anxiety when it pops up is to acknowledge it and let it be! — accept it and keep on doing what you were doing, shaky legs and all. The more you accept scary thoughts and sensations and don’t react like something terrible is about to happen, the quicker your brain learns that – “Hey, this anxiety response is uncomfortable, but I can handle it”. If you’ve tried exposure therapy before, you know that this approach is simple, but certainly not easy. Check out this article in the New York Magazine which focuses on accepting social anxiety – and this one which says that sometimes embarrassing yourself in public can be good medicine.
*A few weeks ago I posted stories about three superstars who travel the world AND have anxiety disorders. I find them to be quite inspirational and found another one to share with you. Meet Hilary White whose travel anxiety doesn’t hold her back from globetrotting, even when she found herself panicked in the ER right before a big trip to Europe. She says:
“my anxiety reached heights I never knew existed . . . I was convinced that I simply couldn’t do it . . . I couldn’t get on that plane, I couldn’t be far away from my comfort zone, I couldn’t. Except, I could. And I did.”
*Wrapping up, this is an excellent post from Scientific American on embracing our discomfort, the cultural phenomenon of trying to avoid emotional pain at all costs and a variety of resources and tools you can begin putting to use today.
Enjoy the weekend & Happy 4th to those living in the States!
So, I have this comic strip image in my head where a woman is inside her house on a beautiful day. The sun is shining through the open windows. As she gazes out, she sees anxiety (personified as a little chimpanzee) lurking outside by the back fence, playing and swinging in the trees. At the sight of him, she’s gripped by fear and begins locking the windows, beads of sweat forming on her brow. Compulsively, she peers out from behind the closed curtains. For a moment, he disappears and all is good again until the chimp (anxiety) opens the front door and playfully taps her on the shoulder. “I’m back!” he seems to say with a smile.
The woman, already hyper vigilant and on guard for any sight of the beast, tackles the chimp to the ground, puts it in a head lock and kicks it back outside. She throws all the locks, as she trembles and shakes, and puts a chair beneath the doorknob to keep it from coming back in.
The more she tries to protect herself, the more frightened she gets. The more she scares herself, the bigger the chimp becomes until it’s as big as King Kong sitting on her house – its eye filling up an entire window as it peers inside.
Finally, after trying everything she can think of to force him to leave (distraction – “Hey, is that a banana tree over there”?, pleading, calling a safe person to rescue her, turning the music up loud, googling expert advice, getting down on her knees to pray), she gives up and opens up the door.
“Come on in”, she gestures with exhaustion.
As soon as the door opens, King Kong shrinks back down to the size of a baby chimp, and jumps onto her lap. The woman strokes his soft fur and smiles. “I’m not afraid of you. In fact, you can stay as long as you like.”
Disappointed and bored now that the game is over, the chimp slips out the back door, swings over the fence and moves to play in the trees next door.
*How are you greeting the chimps playing just outside your window? What are you fighting and resisting that’s growing bigger and stronger as a result? Where can you give up the fight?
*Anyone who is an illustrator and wants to draw this, I’d love to see it!
*Dr. Martin Seligman, often referred to as the father of positive psychology, shows us four “well being workouts” to increase both daily & overall happiness in our lives.
*Having three kids who just finished up SOL’s and final exams, we’ve talked a lot about self care and how to handle the pressures of school. Often these conversations are initiated by adults, but check out how a small group of teens is setting out to decrease stress, depression and anxiety among their peers at Lexington High School in Massachusetts.
(And if painting rocks is becoming big in your neighborhood, check out this article with tips and info!)
*Finally, here are few articles on coping with anxiety that I’ve been drawn to lately. The author is Dr. Eric Goodman who is an anxiety and exposure therapist in sunny California.
“A Day in the Life of an Exposure Therapist” is a great read! Driving up and down the coast with a phobic driver, having someone with OCD hold a knife to your throat (to prove that the thoughts are pure anxiety) and taking a field trip downtown with a germaphobe to touch trashcans – it’s all in a days work!