Reading Material: Getting Comfortable with Discomfort

Photo by Lia Leslie
Photo by Lia Leslie

This weekend’s reading material theme is getting comfortable with discomfort.

To start us off, check out Reid Wilson‘s new blog on Psychology Today – his latest post is titled “Winning the Battle Inside Your Mind”. It’s the story of how Reid, a psychologist & anxiety expert, worked through his own experience of panic, finding a way to Keep Going when his brain was shouting inside to stop.

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.

Happy Reading and have a beautiful weekend!

A Few Resources for Anxious Parents and their Kids

Recently I’ve had a number of friends ask about resources for their anxious children.  Most of these friends deal with anxiety themselves & are either beginning to see signs of anxiety in their kids or are worried they’ll somehow pass down their “crazy genes”.

I’m a big fan of Lynn Lyons who co-authored Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents with Reid Wilson. Check out the website with links to the book  and Casey’s Guide (a companion book for kids & teens – find the free download here and “real” book for sale here). Each chapter has info you can use right now with your family.

And this is the video I’ve been sharing with everyone. I listened to it a few weeks ago while making dinner and it’s excellent.   Lynn has years of experience working with anxious kids and their parents, and I love that she’s a straight shooter and delivers information with humor.

Wanting more? If you haven’t already, check out this article, plus this one and the exciting research about using CBT to prevent anxiety disorders in children before they can pop up.

Anxious parenting behavior, it turns out, is more indicative of an anxious child than genetics. That’s not to say genetics and an anxious pre-disposition aren’t at play – but it’s nice to know there is much we can do to help educate and build skills within the whole family.

*I had posted a fabulous training video of Lynn’s, but it’s been taken off of youtube. In it’s place, check out this 30 minute interview with Lynn where she talks about how to begin educating ourselves & our  kids about anxiety and tips for working with it when anxiety shows up. Enjoy!

Stopping the Noise in Your Head

Remember when I told you guys how great Reid Wilson’s new book was?  You still have to read it – it’s that good – but check out this series of six videos as well.  Here’s Episode 1 for your Sunday morning viewing.

Weekend Treatment Groups

Reid Wilson is getting ready to hold a few weekend treatment groups for people with panic disorder and OCD. Check out his website and get ready for a life changing weekend! You can read about my experience here.

If you live in the Chicago area, Dave Carbonell is also holding a 10 week panic attacks treatment group this coming Fall 2011.

Has anyone else attended either of these groups? If yes, what did you think? Does anyone have other resources they’d like to share?

Even more summer reading – a few wonderful articles

I’ve added a new sidebar to my blog where I’m beginning to list articles I think are great. Some are from Reid Wilson’s newsletters; others are from Dave Carbonell‘s website; and I’ve thrown in a few from Martha Beck over at “O” magazine. Enjoy & see you soon to discuss chapters 4 & 5 of our summer workbook!

*January 2017 update: Side bar is on the old site: theanxietygirl@blogspot.com, but I added links to websites & article in the text above. Enjoy!

Upcoming Fall Workshops

I know it’s the beginning of July and crazy hot (over 100 degrees here today!), but let’s look forward to two wonderful workshops available this Fall.

For those of you who live in/around the mid-west, Dave Carbonell is holding a weekend workshop for people with panic attacks. It will be held in Chicago, IL on October 23rd – 24th, 2010. For more information, check out this link. I’ve never met Dave, but his writing style is so appealing to me and I love his sense of humor. I think this would be well worth your time and money.

If you live close to North Carolina, Reid Wilson is also holding a weekend workshop and it’s excellent. His workshop is for people with panic attacks and social anxiety. It will be held in Durham, N.C. on September 11th – 12th, 2010. Reid Wilson has more dates listed at this site.

These guys are both excellent clinicians. I attended Dr. Wilson’s workshop almost two years ago and got so much out of it. What would have been even more helpful was to have a group of people working toward their goals to jump into when I got back home. Although, I think that’s possible to do online. You can expect to jump right in and work on some of your fears while you’re at the workshop. If you’re considering attending, you can read a little about my experience here.

Stay cool and I’ll check back in with a post on chapter 3 this weekend!

Day Four – Brain in Training

I remember sitting in the weekend workshop last fall and hearing Dr. Wilson say, “Getting rid of resistance is one of your biggest goals.” Even though we know intellectually that nothing dangerous will happen when anxiety and panic arise – we do know that, don’t we? – it’s so easy to get caught up in the what if’s and feel like, “I can’t do exposure today. I feel too anxious. That means something bad will happen. Maybe I should wait for another day”.

In This Emotional Life, David Barlow, Ph.D. said something I loved about our thoughts and catastrophic predictions. He said, “Don’t believe everything you think!” Even if they’re not true, we tend to believe these thoughts because we’re the ones thinking them.

Sitting at the computer on day four, I’ve completed 4 driving practices so far, 1 social practice and relaxation every day. Here’s a quick update!

Day two – I woke up feeling anxious, kind of raw and tired. You know those mornings when you just don’t feel like going out there and doing the work. I’m having lots of those as I work through this resistance. Pushing myself, I drove the bridge loop again and made it longer, adding another exit with a smaller bridge that used to be my nemesis!

Feeling really anxious before even starting, I found myself both asking the symptoms to increase and hoping them away at the same time. The first loop was pretty good, but here’s something interesting. Because I was feeling so raw, I thought during the second loop, “it’s ok if I turn on some music to keep my mind a little distracted. I just need it today. It’s no big deal.”

Well, that small act of adding a safety behavior sent a message to my brain that this was more dangerous than previously anticipated. I got to the mid-way point, turned around at the exit and boom, big waves of anxiety were pulsing through my body. My automatic thoughts were, “Uh oh. I’m in trouble here. I’m feeling really bad, I’ve got my child in the car & I’m going to have to call someone to pick us up on the side of the road.”

Then, I remembered the truth. In 14 years of dealing with anxiety, nothing bad has ever happened and fighting only makes it worse. Knowing it was the only way to go, I said again out loud, “Hit me. Come on anxiety – come and get me. I’m not even fighting back. I want to feel adrenaline coursing through my body by the time we hit the bridge.” I dropped my shoulders again and even put my right hand out, as if to say, “I give”. What else was I going to do?

Making my way across the bridge, looking over the water and city skyline, I continued to feel strong physical sensations, like I was buzzing with adrenaline. However, when I dropped my guard, I was able to step back and notice that even though it was uncomfortable, the symptoms weren’t getting worse, I was driving very well and everything was alright. I felt like this was good practice, what I need to be doing every day.

At this point, I really should have done a third loop to cement the learning. And, this sounds like an excuse, but my 2 year old was getting a little tired of looking for trucks and birds as we went “Sunday driving”. This is one of the challenges of finding ways to fit this work into our daily lives.

I tell you what . . . this feels like I’m training for a marathon some days. We are biologically wired to protect ourselves from these feelings, even if they are irrational. Dropping the resistance and choosing to feel it all is exhausting work. When I did my first triathlon, I competed while wearing my “Team in Training” singlet. I think those of us out there doing exposure work should be wearing a team shirt that says, “Brain in Training”!

If you’re joining me for 30 days of exposure, here’s a great read (very short) about how to know if you’re succeeding. I know that I’m not doing all these things regularly, but it’s a good reminder of where to set our compass.

Dr. Reid Wilson’s Three Principles to Address Anxiety

“The Three Principles*”

“Can I down what I have learned over the last 30 years into three basic strategies to address anxiety? That was my assignment recently, and here, briefly, is what I came up with. I’ll write this as though I am talking directly to those who struggle with their form of anxiety.”

“#1. Focus solely on a new frame of reference, not on techniques.

#2. Create an offensive strategy—seek to be clumsy, awkward, uncomfortable, and uncertain.

#3. Believe you can cope with failure.”

Click here to finish reading Dr. Wilson’s fantastic article as he delves into each of the three principles & consider signing up for his mailing list at the bottom of the page. Enjoy & let me know what you think!

And — here’s Dr. Wilson’s workshop schedule, including weekend treatment groups coming up in November for clients & some great trainings for anxiety professionals.

Travelogue Part Three – Island Mama/ Adventures in Paradise

So, now for the good stuff.

After planes, taxi’s & ferry boats, we arrived in the sleepy, little island of St. John and made our way to the Maho Bay Campgrounds where we stayed for a whole week. Now, some of my girlfriends laughed when I told them we stayed in a tent cabin, had to walk to the common bathhouse and fill water jugs every day. But, they have no idea what they were missing. There’s something to be said for simplicity and being so close to nature.

I gotta tell you, every anxious moment was worthwhile when I walked into our tent cabin & realized that we could sit up in bed & see the Caribbean ocean. Seriously – right from our beds!

During our vacation, we learned how to snorkel & saw the most vibrantly colored fish. It was like putting your face into a salt water aquarium. The first day we tried snorkeling, I felt a little tense, a bit nervous and then I remembered — it’s normal to feel nervous when you’re trying something new. Oh yeah. OK, let’s jump in then. On our snorkeling adventures we had the exciting pleasure of swimming with a few big & stripey barracuda, a big orange starfish, a friendly sea turtle, and a few nurse sharks. We met the most amazing people along the way and spent time in engaging conversation during breakfast and dinner each day, overlooking the Caribbean & British virgin islands from the dining pavilion. Our first full day there, we spontaneously decided to take a sunset sail with a couple we met at breakfast. There was also lots of time for hiking, napping, and for you parents out there – we were able to complete FULL sentences. We saw iguana’s & lizards in all shapes & sizes, ate delicious food prepared graciously for us all week long, sipped a variety of rum drinks here & there, and felt the weight of responsibility slide away for a while. Every night, we fell asleep to the sound of the ocean lapping gently at the shore; to doves who sang. all. night. long.; to singing frogs; and, most nights, a nighttime rain storm.

I did have moments of real anxiety during the vacation; nights were I felt on the verge of panic going to sleep, feeling very far away from my 3 precious children; creating images of a plane taking off & feeling dread that the only way home was through the air; and times where I just had an underlying feeling of tension. But you know what? I was able to handle those moments when they came up & I still had a fantastic time. Reid Wilson quotes Helen Keller at the end of his “Facing Panic” book & it stayed with me the entire trip & even back home. She said, “Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

The real truth for me is that anxiety is uncomfortable, it feels like something terrible is going to happen, but it’s not dangerous. On the trip I remembered a poignant moment when I was pregnant with my 3rd baby. I had a particularly intense panic attack the night before (intense for me, but my husband said that from the outside I just looked a little tense). After tossing & turning & having trouble falling asleep, I finally drifted off. The next day was one of those amazingly gorgeous January days where it almost felt like spring. I was working in the yard outside & looking up at the clouds, feeling the breeze across my hair & face, and it hit me – for as bad as I felt the night before, nothing bad had happened. It didn’t last forever; I didn’t go crazy; my panic was barely visible to the person I’m closest to; I was still able to fold laundry & talk during this attack which I perceived as intense; and, here I was standing in my back yard gazing at the clouds and almost forgetting that it had occurred. Huh.

I can’t believe how many weeks it’s been now since we came back home. If I didn’t have the pictures, it might feel like a lovely dream. If you’re considering an adventure, something that you know is safe, but scares you a little, why not try? People with anxiety disorders have a hidden well of courage they rarely acknowledge.

When you think about it, what amazing things have happened for you when you’ve been able to live a life of daring adventure?

Get out your social calendars!

If you have Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety, OCD or a fear of flying check your calendars! There are a few great opportunities coming up!

*Reid Wilson is holding a weekend treatment group for folks with Panic Disorder & Social Anxiety Disorder the weekend of May 2-3, 2009 & again August 29-30, 2009. His offices are in Durham, North Carolina & pretty accessible from the highway. He only takes 8 people, so give him a ring & see if the group is a good fit for you.

Dr. Wilson’s weekend treatment group for OCD is going to be held May 16-17, 2009 & again September 12-13, 2009.

*Dave Carbonell is “preparing to start another class for people with a fear of flying this spring. The class, which includes a group flight, will meet weekly in Rolling Meadows for five weeks, so it’s suitable only for people who live in the Chicago area.” For information, send a blank e-mail to: flying@anxietycoach.com

Know of more great resources like these? Share them!