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!
*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!
A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law & I went to a talk on happiness by Catherine Sanderson. She was an informative, engaging and fun speaker. And one of the things she talked about that can detract from our happiness is comparing ourselves with others on social media like Facebook – or what she called “Fakebook”.
Rachel, my SIL, had recently taken a break by deactivating her account and I’d been meaning to try for a long time. It’s not that Facebook is all bad. I love keeping up with friends and family who I don’t see regularly. Sometimes it’s a great source for news and articles I may not have seen. And, I think it can be a powerful way to spread ideas and advocacy.
However, after that talk I intentionally checked in with my feelings when I was scrolling through FB. What I found was that it regularly made me unhappy and that I used it when I was bored, procrastinating or numbing out.
And, for the most part, my connections online didn’t feel like they translated to seeing people in real time. So why not just connect with people I love in person, through a letter or on the phone?
In real time, I want to know what is good and joyful in your life. But I also want to know what you are carrying inside that feels heavy. And I want to share those things with you about my life, too.
We don’t do that with everyone, but when we choose to share well rounded, real stories from our lives, it helps us connect and have intimacy. And, as Catherine Sanderson reminded us during her talk, it’s in the hard work of building and maintaining relationships with real people that we find the greatest happiness.
If or when I go back to Facebook, I’m going to do it with more intention and less frequency. I can ask myself – Why am I going online right now? Is this making me feel connected and engaged? Or am I feeling unhappy and numb?
What do you think about Facebook and how do you use it in your life? Have you taken a break before and how did that go?
Here’s Catherine Sanderson’s talk on “The Science of Happiness” and be sure to see her speak if she comes to your town!
I just signed up for Sharon Salzberg’s 28 day meditation challenge. Want to join me? After you sign up, she’ll send you a daily meditation in the form of a 5-10 minute audio file. This mornings was 8 minutes with an intro – easy peasy. Research has been busting at the seams with all the benefits of meditation. 5-10 minutes a day. That’s not so bad, is it? Join me!
So, how have you been doing since the US Presidential Inauguration on the 20th? Like many of us, I’ve been in a whirlwind of stress as each new day we’re surprised by a new atrocity. Most of the time, our anxiety is based on something irrational and despite our worst fears and imaginings, things turn out all right. But this political climate is different. Our country needs us to stand up for all human rights, acceptance, inclusivity and love. And, action always feels better than being frozen in fear.
Join the Women’s Movement and commit to 10 actions for the first 100 days. The first action is simple – write down your thoughts and ideas on postcards about what’s important to you and how’ll you stand up and fight. Then send them to your Senators – easy peasy! Want to take it a step further? Host a postcard writing party or potluck!
Keep up the Momentum:
Here are two great sites for daily and weekly calls to action:
Next up we have Leo Babauta from Zen Habits. I love the title of this post – “Discomfort Zone: How to Master the Universe“. I saved this to Pocket a while ago & find myself referencing his ideas whenever I need a boost. If you can master that everyday moment of discomfort – whether it’s anxiety, procrastination or prioritizing what’s important -nothing will stop you from achieving your goals and living a big life.
Finally, check out: “How Exercise Shapes You, Far Beyond the Gym“. In it, Brad Stulberg reminds us that what we gain most from exercise isn’t just physical fitness – it’s the ability to sit with and even embrace discomfort in life whenever it pops up. And, if you didn’t get a chance to read Healthy Habits in September, there are many more links to articles on the benefits of exercise & meditation in combatting depression & anxiety.
Recently, I posted a page called “Finding Help” which talks about the steps to finding a great therapist. But, maybe you’re more of a self help kind of person and just want a community of people who you can talk to openly about life, including anxiety. Pull up a chair and let’s talk!
A few years ago, I invited some fellow Anxiety Girls to work through Reid Wilson’s book “Don’t Panic” and set exposure goals for ourselves. There’s just something about being accountable to someone else that helps with goal setting in any arena. It’s also comforting to talk with people who really get it. My sister-in-law & I joke that it’s nice to have people with whom you can let your crazy out. Because whether or not you can see it – we all have a little crazy.
We met for coffee every other week, at first, to discuss the book and our goals. As we got more comfortable and grew in our relationships, we hit the roads to do some exposure work together – highways, bridges, traveling distances were all part of our repertoire.
The group joined me as I drove highway routes and bridges that bothered me. Another time, we literally drove back and forth across the same bridge for 45 minutes, coaching and cheering on another Anxiety Girl as she faced her fears.
Life has gotten busy, though, and there are times where we don’t meet for months. That’s just the way it goes. But, it never seems to fail that one of us sends a a catch up email or text.
This past winter, we sat down in the hopefulness of a new year and imagined doing something big like an Anxiety Girl road trip. Laughing, we envisioned a reality show based on our superheroes. Anxiety girls take off cross country in an RV, armed only with a GoPro camera, travel journals and lots of snacks. By the time we got to the west coast, surely we would be anxiety free!
One of us said, “Yes! That sounds amazing – AND – what steps can we take right now to work toward something bigger? What if we started with a smaller road trip? You know, just for the day? Getting out of town would target highway driving & traveling distances, while we got to spend time together. And maybe we could go for a hike & grab brunch.” A month later, two of us took that trip! We both had moments of high anxiety and had a fabulous time!
In the future, we’re hoping to plan an adventure by plane or train. Or maybe we’ll take that cross country trip. Who knows? You may find us riding roller coasters & sky diving this time next year. 🙂
So, getting back to you . . .
Are you finding yourself facing anxiety alone and wanting community? Maybe it’s time to gather a few friends and start your own DIY anxiety support group.
I’ll be honest, this wasn’t my first attempt. I gathered some folks together many years ago to work through a workbook. It was great at first, but not everyone worked at the same rate. Some folks wanted to talk but not do the workbook. Others were uncomfortable hearing about other people’s fears. Life got busy, then it just fizzled. I really hungered for community, though, so I tried again a few years later and it took.
Here are some tips for getting started:
*If a DIY support group is in your future, start by talking to a few people who are interested in getting together to talk about anxiety.
*If you don’t think you know anyone with anxiety (really?), start by trying to open up the topic (when appropriate), step back and listen. Oftentimes you’ll find an “in” and people are relieved to know they’re not alone.
*Invite people to get together wherever suits – go for a hike, head to a coffee shop, meet out for a drink.
*Share what feels comfortable. Listen. See what people are looking for in a support group. Do your expectations match up?
*Maybe this becomes an anxiety book group. If so, check out the list of books in the menu titled “Bookshelf” for inspiration or find a book that works for your group.
*Maybe this is a goal setting group with regular check ins for accountability.
*Maybe folks just want to get together socially and talk with others who get it.
*And maybe you want to go crazy, get out in the world and do some exposure work together.
Whatever you do, go find your people! It may take time. It may not take at first. It might be just 2 or 3 of you. That’s ok. Make the time to get together and support each other. A bigger life is out there waiting for you!
Want to read more about DIY anxiety support groups? Check out this great article by Jessica Spires about how she started an informal support group in a pub. If you’re someone who wants something more formal, check out this thorough guideline on creating peer support groups.
In the rush of September, I’ve been thinking more about what makes me feel my best and what kind of daily habits I consistently follow. In my head, I’m a person who meditates, exercises, prioritizes relationships and creates time for myself, but in actuality, I tend to go to bed way too late, skip meditating because I missed my “window of opportunity” and get my work done at home in front a computer screen instead of getting out and being with people.
A few days ago, though, I stole away for 15 minutes and meditated between getting my older two kids out the door. After walking the youngest to school, I got a text from a friend asking if I could go for a walk. A chance for exercise and social contact – yes! We walked for over an hour, caught up and discussed an upcoming project. I came back home feeling so much more energized with a happy outlook on life.
It’s not rocket science, right? But somehow it becomes difficult to make time for self care – even when we know that taking care of ourselves makes us happier people, easier to live with and more productive to boot. Seems like lots of folks have been thinking about how healthy habits like meditation, movement and sleep can affect overall health and outlook.
Here are a few reads to check out this week:
*I popped onto a blog I like called Hey Sigmund the other day and followed a link to this article on how exercise and mindfulness meditation can significantly drop rates of depression. The study referenced looked at how a consistent course of exercise and meditation effected people with and without symptoms of depression. Check out the link to see what they discovered & then also look at this article on exercise and anti-depressants.
*Taking exercise farther, Outside magazine online talks about finding ways to add movement throughout your work day. It’s not that getting an hour run in the morning doesn’t cut it, it’s just that slow, constant motion throughout the day, in a variety of positions, can greatly increase our overall health and wellbeing.
*Katy Bowman, who is interviewed in the above article, show us here how she lives a movement based lifestyle. Yes, a little hippy for sure, but I really enjoy her fresh perspective.
*The Chopra Center discusses the benefits of exercise, meditation and healthy eating for anxiety reduction.
Lynn Lyons has another fabulous training video for anxious kids and their parents on YouTube. It’s also a must see for teachers. No kids you say? Guess what – these skills are also great for anxious adults. I hope you can carve out some time to make a cup of tea and watch Lynn as she educates us about building emotionally healthy human beings. Thanks Lynn!
Finding help can be tricky business, but so is staying stuck. First of all, we people with anxiety are not usually all that vocal about what we’re going through. Finding help has to begin by reaching out and telling someone what’s going on. Yes, you can just hang out on the internet searching symptom checkers and reading blogs, but your best bet on feeling better includes interacting with a live person in real time.
Are you ready?
The best way to start is by making an appointment with your primary physician. It’s important to rule out any physical conditions that could be causing anxiety and panic.
Before the appointment, jot down some notes about symptoms you’ve been experiencing, both physical and emotional, and for how long. It’s easy to forget what we want to discuss when someone in a white coat enters the room.
We all hope that our anxiety is just something physical like a thyroid condition that can be cured with medication. For some people this is the case. But for the vast majority, we will be given a clean bill of health and the green light to go forth and find a therapist.
Finding the right therapist is hard work and takes time but it is worth the effort.
You can look at sites like the ADAA and ABCT but I’ve found them to only generate a few names and never the names of people I know to be amazing clinicians. Still it can be a good place to begin.
Asking family and friends for therapist referrals is a good next step. You’d be surprised at how many people have seen or are seeing a therapist or they’ve heard friends rave about someone who is excellent.
Once you have a few names and numbers, it’s time to be brave and make some phone calls. Think of it as shopping around for a therapist. Ask lots of questions. What is their professional background? Area of expertise? Thoughts on medication? Theory base? How long do people typically come to see them? Do they assign homework between sessions to keep up the work and momentum? What’s your gut feeling after talking to them? For anxiety, you want your therapist to have experience with and a thorough understanding of cognitive behavioral therapy, the gold standard for anxiety. I would also ask about experience helping clients with exposure therapy. Lots of therapists say they treat anxiety, but make sure it’s their area of expertise.
Schedule an appointment and show up. Expect to feel nervous and show up anyways, just like exposure work. Give the therapist a few sessions and see how you all connect. If it’s not a good fit, move on and keep trying until you find the right person.
Once you’ve found a great therapist, remember you have to do the work to create actual change.