So, did you get a chance to grab the workbook? If not, don’t worry about being behind, just jump in when you can. I haven’t discussed a book “book club style” online before, so I’ll start by jotting down some of what stood out for me and I’d love to hear what’s speaking to you or creating a strong reaction as you digest the material.
The first thing that I want to make sure we highlight is how the intro tells us “put taking care of yourself on your to-do list”. I can’t tell you how many times I write down in my planner “make tea & read – 30 min.” and how often something else takes priority – dinner prep, email, laundry, a 3 year old who won’t nap, or just plain old procrastination. I’m thinking I might need to play around with when I read. Maybe afternoon “quiet time” with three kids in the house isn’t going to be where I’m successful. Like exercise, I may need to aim for first thing in the morning.
Something else important to note is taking the time to really read and work through all the exercises, not just skimming. In Dave Carbonell‘s workbook (another good one), I like how he recommends reading the material thoroughly and not just enough to make you more anxious. How true! How often do we dip into a book, looking for that little piece of wisdom that will make our present anxiety dissipate? As we scramble through the pages, looking at our underlined notes, anxiety can actually increase because we’re struggling to make it go away (or is that just me?).
ACT begins by telling us, “If I continue to do what I’ve always done, then I’m going to get what I’ve always got.” (pg. 11) That makes perfect sense, but it’s a fact we rarely think about. This simple truth extends far beyond anxiety and reminds me of how Dr. Phil asks, “How’s that working for you?” For our discussion, how is struggling and trying to rid yourself of anxiety working for you?
“Struggle turns out to be the most important toxic element that constricts lives and transforms anxiety from being a normal human experience into a life-shattering problem.” (pg. 47)
“ACT is about letting go, showing up to life, and getting yourself moving in directions you want to go.” (pg. 13)
“You’ll learn how to live out your dreams. You can have that without first winning the war with your anxiety monsters.” (pg. 4)
This is so inspiring to me. Since my first panic attack, the good student in me believed that if I worked hard enough and did all of my homework, I could rid myself of anxiety and panic. I thought about what I could accomplish when I was cured and anxiety free. So, I worked and struggled, and did make some big strides. But, I’ve also felt deep disappointment at times when I looked up and anxiety was still there, running alongside of me.
I’ve resisted the notion that I just need to accept my anxiety because it felt like surrendering to an anxiety filled existence. But, I think these authors are suggesting that once you’re living out what’s really important to you, it doesn’t matter if you drag anxiety along for the ride. In fact, taking your full attention off of your anxiety can create some lift. Right now, many of us spend too much time managing and trying to cope with anxiety and this takes up precious room when there are many other areas of our lives that are so vital and important.
Going back to the book, I love the use of repetitive themes as a way to sink in the learning. It feels grounding to me and I like the way some of these phrases pop up in my head as I go through my day, anxiety in hand.
“drop the rope
anxiety needs big thought, fear requires little
I can use my hands, feet, & mouth to move forward, doing what’s important to me”
The other night, I drove my youngest home from a swim meet while my husband stayed to cheer on our older two. It had grown late and I was anxious about driving home on a major highway downtown. I was trying to talk myself out of being anxious internally (I’ve done this one hundred times, nothing bad ever happens, I can handle it, bring it on). Then I remembered that driving my daughter home, on whichever route I chose, and having freedom was important to me – something that I valued highly. I drove the route, allowing the wave of adrenaline to flow through me, and made it home – once again – with no problem.
Finishing up for now:
*How might the ACT philosophy help with your experience of anxiety?
*In what ways do you struggle to control your anxiety and how does that keep you stuck?
*What’s so important to you that you’ll risk showing up and feeling anxious?
*What’s resonating for you in the reading? What’s not sitting so well?
Let’s read chapter 3 this week!