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  1. Making friends is straightforward, when you’re a kid. Why isn’t it as easy to make friends as an adult? As a kid if you wanted to make friends you could just ask another kid if they want to play. There were usually toys or a playground involved and before you knew it you were laughing and playing with your new friend. Yes, that’s a bit of a simplification and it isn’t always that easy for all kids. Nonetheless, making friends as children and even teens seems a bit more natural than it does for adults. As adults we’re busy, we put up walls, or focus on family, and then one day we look around and realize we don’t have as many friends as we would like — maybe we don’t have any at all. Creating Adult Friendships Once you’ve realized that your friendship deficit and would like to change that, what’s next? Chat someone up at a bar? Go back to school? Swipe right? Although some of those may work, they probably aren’t the best options. The truth is that, as we age, it’s not really the opportunities for friendships that change, it’s us. As children we are far less preoccupied with the busyness of life, and we typically are also less concerned about rejection. As adults we not only become busy, but we also become very aware and afraid of rejection. This is part of what makes seeing potential for new friendships so difficult. So what should you do if you want to increase the size of your friend circle? Well, there are a few simple things that can drastically help. To begin with you need to change your thinking and stop worrying about being rejected. Most people are similar in that they would like to create additional friendships. Think about it — generally if you smile at someone they will smile back, if you say hello and ask about their day they will do the same. No, this doesn’t mean that you will start planning vacations together, but it does show that most people are receptive. Apply this same logic to those in your life that you may want to get to know better. Initiating conversations and showing interest in someone’s thoughts, opinions, and well-being will be met with in-kind behavior more often than not. And this can become the beginning of a friendship. These opportunities present themselves throughout your day, even if you don’t realize it — work, coffee shop, gym, or your child’s school. It just takes some initiative and effort to begin the process. The second thing to remember is not to make it complicated. You don’t need to rehearse, plan, or over-think things — just allow yourself to relax and naturally begin a conversation. You’ll also need to understand that these things don’t happen overnight. One good conversation does not create a life-long friendship. It will take time to determine if you’re actually compatible and to develop the kind of connection that is sustainable. Not all of these attempts will be successful, but that shouldn’t discourage you. It takes having certain traits, interests, and experiences in common to bring two people together and create a friendship. There are times when those things exist and times when they don’t. Why Friendships as Adults Are Important Research shows that new friendships start to decline in our 20s. Studies have also shown that friendships are a big factor in mental and physical health, as well as longevity. In other words, loneliness kills — even in a relationship. Friendships help keep us balanced and give us an outlet for expressing our feelings. They also provide substance and meaning to our lives. Caring about others and feeling cared about plays a big part of feeling important, like you matter, and that you have purpose. One of the biggest problems we have as adults, however, is knowing what a friend really is. Many people will say they have plenty of friends. They have work friends, friends at the gym, or friends that they grab a drink with, but are these really meaningful friendships? They may be, or have the potential to be, but without effort they also may just be acquaintances rather than friendships. Social contact is important, even if it is just superficial conversation. But those conversations are not a substitute for a meaningful friendship. No matter your age 25, 45, or 85, you are not too old to make a new friend. So next time you have the opportunity, take the risk and begin the process of making a new friend. View the full article
  2. According the famous mythologist Joseph Campbell, the hero’s greatest weakness, problem, or challenge is what will ultimately become that hero’s greatest strength. Campbell notes that stories across cultures and time (even many modern movies and novels adhere to this concept of the “hero’s journey”) follow this theme. Likened to a roadmap for self-improvement, the hero’s journey includes distinct stages in which the protagonist battles with the awareness of what her problem is, gains increased realization along her path, at a certain point faces a reluctance toward change, overcomes this reluctance through her own self determination and with the help of mentors and allies, commits to change, experiences both improvements and setbacks from her attempts to change, and finally learns to master her problem — and in the end becomes a stronger person for it. And like any great story, the hero’s journey can be applied to our own battles. Personally, my lifelong struggle has been anxiety — it’s been my greatest weakness, yes, but it has also helped me find my greatest strength as well. On my first stage along this journey, I experienced a limited awareness that anxiety was, indeed, a mental condition to which there were answers. In fact, I wasn’t even aware how prevalent anxiety was. In my mind, I was alone and separate from others I deemed “normal.” I was also scared to admit to others that I was dealing with both chronic and acute anxiety, for fear that they’d label me as weak. Eventually, my awareness increased. I bought a self-help program and, through that, I realized that I had a very real condition I could eventually heal from — and beyond that — I also learned that I was not alone. Reading about other’s struggles with this oftentimes debilitating condition helped me to break out of my own emotional bubble and gave me a hope that I hadn’t experienced before. Yet, like so many others on a path to self-discovery, I also hit a period of reluctance. No matter how many positive self-affirmations I kept repeating to myself, no matter how many times I read how I shouldn’t blame myself, the fears and self-recrimination still flared up, especially when I became triggered, overtired, or simply received some discouraging news. I figured that my special kind of irrational fears were so entrenched into my brain, I would never be able to fully shake them. Luckily, I persevered through this reluctance by diving into my creative process as I wrote my debut novel “The Grace of Crows.” Writing became a cathartic exercise in which I could turn off the “what-if” part of my brain. How wonderful it was to learn how to channel those negative fears into a productive act of work. Also, as I wrote about a protagonist overcoming anxiety, I, too, was slowly but surely believing that I could as well. I further committed to change — and challenged myself like I never had before — by joining Toastmasters, a nonprofit group that helps people hone their public speaking skills. Even though my anxiety had decreased, I still harbored a deep fear of speaking in front of groups — or even the thought of being a guest for possible radio, TV, or podcast interviews. I realized that, if I wanted to promote my book about a woman overcoming anxiety, I’d better learn how walk the walk myself. And, indeed, with time I was able to happily say yes to interviews because of my ongoing commitment to Toastmasters. Of course, I continued to experience both improvements and setbacks along the way — and, in truth, still do. Yes, life would have been (and still would be!) a lot easier without having to deal with anxiety. But… I am also grateful for what it has given me. If I hadn’t had to deal with this debilitating condition, I would never have written my first novel, would never have gone to Toastmasters, and would never have connected with so many wonderfully brave anxiety-warriors. I am not only stronger because of this journey — but my life is also far richer for it. So, in looking at your own challenges, dear readers, please acknowledge your own hero’s journey: How have you learned to acknowledge, learn from, and master your biggest problems? And… how have you grown even stronger for it? View the full article
  3. Anxiety doesn’t seem to have any positive characteristics. When most of us feel anxiety, we just want it to go away as fast as possible. Today’s guest has a different idea. In her new book, Reverend Connie L. Habash says that we need to feel our anxiety more in order to understand what it is really about, and what it is trying to tell us. Join us as Reverend Connie outlines her seven step process for learning from and dealing with anxiety. Does anxiety have anything to teach you? Is it desirable or even possible to survive an anxiety attack by focusing more intently on the feeling? Will that really lead to a greater sense of calm? Listen now! SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW Guest information for ‘Feeling Anxiety’ Podcast Episode Rev. Connie L. Habash, MA, LMFT, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, yoga & meditation teacher, interfaith minister, and author of Awakening from Anxiety: A Spiritual Guide to Living a More Calm, Confident, and Courageous Life. Over the last 25 years, she has helped hundreds of students and clients overcome stress, anxiety, depression, and spiritually awaken. Rev. Connie is also committed to nurturing authentic, heart-centered, inspiring spiritual community. She leads online programs worldwide, as well as retreats, workshops, and yoga teacher trainings throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Discover more at her website: https://www.AwakeningSelf.com/ or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AwakeningSelf About The Psych Central Podcast Host Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations, available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from Gabe Howard. To learn more, please visit his website, gabehoward.com. Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Feeling Anxiety’ Episode Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you. Announcer: You’re listening to the Psych Central Podcast, where guest experts in the field of psychology and mental health share thought-provoking information using plain, everyday language. Here’s your host, Gabe Howard. Gabe Howard: Welcome, everyone, to this week’s episode of the Psych Central Podcast, calling into the show today, we have Reverend Connie L. Habash. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist, a yoga and meditation teacher, an interfaith minister and author of Awakening from Anxiety A Spiritual Guide to Living a More Calm, Confident and Courageous Life. Connie, welcome to the show. Rev. Connie Habash: Thanks, Gabe. I’m delighted to be here. Gabe Howard: Well, we are certainly glad to have you. And the first question I want to ask you is, you know, we get a lot of licensed therapists and doctors and marriage and family therapist, but we don’t get a lot of people who define as, you know, an interfaith minister who have worked as a reverend. Rev. Connie Habash: I’ve always been spiritually oriented, I’m very holistic body, mind, heart, spirit. I feel that every client needs all parts of themselves addressed. And that’s been true in my path as well, in my path of healing and growth. And so at a certain point in time, I felt called to pursue and bring in more of that awareness of many different spiritual traditions and paths. Gabe Howard: I think that that’s fantastic. I love the title of your book, Awakening from Anxiety, because it sort of gives the notion that you have anxiety, but that you can you can wake up from it, you can become better and you can move past it. Was that your intent? Rev. Connie Habash: Yeah. It’s actually got a double meaning. One is what you’re talking about, that we can awake from this experience of anxiety that we’re having and that it isn’t really who we are, but the other meaning, and that is that anxiety can be a way to awaken us to a deeper level of awareness, to greater personal and spiritual growth, to becoming more of our true authentic self. So it has two meanings. Gabe Howard: It seems like we’re hearing more and more about anxiety, is anxiety on the rise? Is it something that that actually is growing or are just people are talking about it more? Rev. Connie Habash: That’s my experience. Absolutely. There’s so much more… there’s many layers to why that’s happening, I think, in our culture right now. One is that I think pressure and demands are much higher than they were a number of years ago. I live in Silicon Valley, for example. It’s like the pressure cooker of the country. People are working much longer hours. A lot more expected out of people in their jobs. Commute times have increased significantly in the last several years. So we have that layer and we have recent events that have happened like the shootings that have happened in Ohio and California in several places now around the nation. And then there’s also what is being called now, eco-anxiety. There’s a lot of concern about what’s happening on the planet and our environment and the sample, the fires down in the rainforest in the Amazon. And then there’s also concerns about the political environment here and what’s happening in our government. And that’s all just what’s happening out there, not what’s happening in our own lives, with our relationships and our children and our families and our own physical body and our wellness. So I see anxiety is definitely increasing in recent years. Gabe Howard: One of the things that you talk about is that highly sensitive people and spiritually oriented people seem to be more prone to anxiety. Can you explain how you reach that conclusion? Rev. Connie Habash: Well, first of all, I’ll explain a little bit about highly sensitive persons for people who don’t know what they are. Although I imagine any therapist listening to this probably have a number of them in their practice, but highly sensitive people are naturally empathic so they can pick up on other people’s emotions and even easily feel them put themselves into their shoes, so to speak. They are also tend to be very sensitive to sensory stimuli. So too much bright lights or too loud of a sound can be very upsetting and disturbing for someone who’s highly sensitive. So those are just some of the examples of what a highly sensitive person or an HSP might be like. And spiritually-oriented people often tend to be HSP’s. And both of them are naturally empathic and compassionate. And people who are into spiritual and personal growth care. We care about what’s going on the world. We care about other people. We care about other beings on the planet. And so anytime that there is perceived suffering around us, we will probably feel that more intensely, more deeply. And that will cause more anxiety in people who are highly sensitive and spiritually or indeed people who are the bulk of my practice. Gabe Howard: One of the things that I was sort of surprised to see when I was doing research for this show was that you want your clients to feel their anxiety more. Now, as somebody who lives with an anxiety disorder. When I read it, I was like, oh, no, this is this is this is not OK. Can you explain? Because you do go on to explain. And I found it absolutely fascinating. Rev. Connie Habash: Yeah, absolutely. So oftentimes when people say, for example, I might ask them, what are you feeling right now? And they might say, I feel anxiety. And I ask them, what is that like for you and your body? And they say, Well, it feels like I have no escape. And I’m stuck. And things will never get better. And so when you listen to that, you can recognize that those are actually thoughts that they’re describing. They’re not describing the actual emotion itself. So emotions are visceral. They are experienced through the physical body. And I think many of us are familiar with the physical sensations that might be associated with anxiety. For example, a lot of people get increased heart rate or shortness of breath or they might get tension in certain areas of the body that might clench their jaw or wrinkle, their forehead, etc. Those are the actual experience of the emotion. But a lot of people end up thinking their anxiety instead of feeling their anxiety. And when we do that, the thoughts tend to continue to perpetuate the experience of anxiety. And I’ve found that the way to help resolve the emotion when it comes through is to experience it in the body and stay with it in the body until it shifts on its own, it’s very much like an ocean wave. It has a period of increasing and rising and getting more intense and then it eventually shifts and dissolves. And so I guide my clients through that practice as well. Gabe Howard: Obviously, you feel that this is beneficial. Has it been beneficial, what do your clients report back when doing this? Because again, it does seem a little counter intuitive. That’s how it struck me. Rev. Connie Habash: It’s definitely counter intuitive. And of course, it’s not as simple as I’m describing in a few sentences, it takes practice like anything but what I noticed with clients when I guide them through that process. And it requires some certain foundations which I lay out in the book of being able to be present. Being able to be embodied because a lot of people don’t know what embodiment really is and are not very embodied in their physical self. And self-compassion, so that you’re observing and being present with yourself without judgment and being loving and kind towards yourself. So when those are laid down, then we move into learning how to feel the anxiety through the body rather than getting caught up in the train of thought that keeps perpetuating it and exacerbating it. And what I find clients experience is, yes, more calm, more peace, but also more clarity. They tend to move through that and then realize, oh, that’s really what my anxiety is about. It’s really trying to bring my attention to this particular issue in my life and encouraging me to create some change there. And that’s the next step. Listening to the anxiety and understanding what its message is. So people experience more calm, more inner peace, more resilience in being able to tolerate uncomfortable emotions and more clarity. Gabe Howard: Another thing you talk about is that self-compassion and self-pity aren’t the same things. And I don’t know that I ever thought they were the same thing, but I was fascinated with your explanation of the differences. Rev. Connie Habash: Yes. So and this is something that I learned from Reverend Michael Bernard Beckwith, who is a well-known leader in the new thought movement. But he talks about that a lot of times people don’t understand what compassion is and what it isn’t. And some people mistake compassion for sympathy, which is, in his words, I feel sorry for you. You know, some people think, oh, if I practice self-compassion, then I’m just going to be feeling sorry for myself. And it’s not that, it’s not about a pity party where you’re sitting there feeling bad for feeling bad. It’s more that you’re willing and able to be present with yourself with openness and understanding, being willing to sit with a feeling rather than push it away or avoid it or judge it, just like you would want a good friend to do with you, to compassionately be with you when you’re suffering and listen and try to understand and offer support. We can develop those same skills toward ourselves, and self-compassion has now become more well known in the therapy community in the last 20 years. Gabe Howard: Can you give us a couple examples of how somebody can practice self-compassion? Rev. Connie Habash: So it’s very helpful to have the foundations of being present. So presence is like a practice of mindfulness where we learn to come into this moment just as it is with our awareness and our attention and an open heart and a quiet mind. Quiet mind is probably the hardest part, I think, of practicing presence. But we just learn to turn the cell down a bit on those thoughts that keep ruminating over the anxiety and shift our attention to then embodiment. When am I experiencing and feeling here in this moment. And then imagining that you’re wrapping yourself, like, in a warm blanket of kindness and holding yourself there in that present moment? It’s developing more of the witness part of ourselves that can see the emotion and see the thoughts, but isn’t the thoughts themselves, but a witness with kindness and love. I’m here for you. I see that I’m suffering in this moment and I can be present with myself while I’m suffering and be kind toward myself and be more gentle toward myself. So it’s a way of self-talk. It’s a way of self soothing. You can actually literally take a blanket and wrap it around you. I have a stuffed animal in my office. Her name is Kay, the koala of Compassion. Gabe Howard: I love it. Rev. Connie Habash: She has these eyes that are just so gentle when you look at them. And so sometimes I’ll have clients hold her and look in her eyes and receive that gentle, non-judgmental gaze, or I’ll have them hug her and imagine that they’re holding themselves while they’re feeling that pain. So there’s a number of different ways that you can work with self-compassion. Gabe Howard: This is kind of a real, real big question. Kind of. I do want to say that it’s the crux of your book that I really did learn a lot from it because you have seven keys to calming anxiety. Can you give us sort of the Reader’s Digest version of those seven keys? Rev. Connie Habash: You’ve been getting some of them. So the first and the foundational practice is presence, which again, I define as bringing your awareness and your attention into the present moment as it is with an open heart and a quiet mind. So obviously non-judgmental. It’s a form of mindfulness and that’s the foundation on which everything else is laid. And from there, we learn how to be embodied, how to be present and aware in this moment inside of our body, because a lot of times we’re actually up in our head or off daydreaming or spacing out or thinking about other things or worrying about the future or ruminating over the paths, which perpetuates our anxiety instead coming into the body. The third one is self-compassion. And we just talked about that. And that all leads up to the fourth, which is feeling the anxiety. What I talked about earlier, that those three allow us to be able to sit with that wave as it arises within us and feel it build, but observe it from that witness perspective, from that self-compassion it holding as it arises. And if we’re willing to stay with it long enough of it helps to have a therapist guide you. But I think people can might also be able to develop this on their own by reading the book. Rev. Connie Habash: It will start to shift on its own. And then the fifth step beyond that, the fifth key, once you’ve learned those first four steps and you get pretty good at them is then listening to the anxiety. So what is anxiety’s message here for me? What is it trying to bring my attention to and then being able to move into the sixth step, which is empowering action. So a lot of times we are reacting rather than responding, as I think a lot of us know, to what triggers us and when we’re able to feel the anxiety, move through it and then listen to its message, then it can tell us, OK, what’s an empowering action to take? So let’s say that you had a fear of public speaking, which you like, that a lot of people have that, right? A reaction might be to avoid it altogether. I’m never going to speak in public. Another reaction might be and this is sort of related to dialectical behavior therapy that they talk about opposite action might be OK or yourself out there and give a public speech. But I would like to use a little more discernment around that. Rev. Connie Habash: I call it empowering action. That comes as a response. A more empowering action might be OK. How about practice the speech in front of a friend? Or how about go to a Toastmasters class or get a coach to help you with public speaking? That’s going to give you probably a more positive experience than just throwing yourself up there and talking in front of a group. I’m prepared and never having done it before. So we discern what is the most empowering action to take. And then the seventh step, which is a little bit advanced. And that’s why I want people to go through those first six steps and really work with them or practice them is surrender. It’s a yogic principle coming from my background in yoga philosophy where we cultivate our trust in something bigger than us. Whether you call that God or I call it the divine or the universe or nature or your higher self. We develop our trust in something bigger than us to carry us through and to show us the way. That’s surrender to something more empowering rather than our tendency to kind of fall apart and surrender to the anxiety. Gabe Howard: We’ll be right back after these messages. Announcer: Want real, no-boundaries talk about mental health issues from those who live it? Listen to the Not Crazy podcast co-hosted by a lady with depression and a guy with bipolar. Visit Psych Central.com/NotCrazy or subscribe to Not Crazy on your favorite podcast player. Announcer: This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp.com. Secure, convenient, and affordable online counseling. Our counselors are licensed, accredited professionals. Anything you share is confidential. Schedule secure video or phone sessions, plus chat and text with your therapist whenever you feel it’s needed. A month of online therapy often costs less than a single traditional face to face session. Go to BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral and experience seven days of free therapy to see if online counseling is right for you. BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral. Gabe Howard: We’re back speaking with Reverend Connie L. Habash about anxiety. Speaking of yoga, you have a yoga principal that you talked a little bit about. I hope I do not butcher the principal’s name, but it’s santosha. Rev. Connie Habash: It’s called santosha, and it is one of the foundational principles of yoga philosophy. I teach yoga philosophy and a couple of yoga teacher trainings here in the Bay Area. It’s my favorite practice. It’s actually made the most difference in my life and it translates as contentment. So contentment is different than happiness because happiness is always based on external circumstances. Did I did I get my ice cream? Did the situation happen the way I wanted it to? And that’s all great when it does. But we know that life doesn’t always happen the way we wanted to. We don’t always get what we want. So santosha is an internal practice of recognizing that I’m usually okay. Pretty much no matter what. I mean, of course, there’s always, sometimes there might be an urgent crisis or emergency in which doesn’t feel too OK. But most of the time, if we really reality check what’s happening right now, as I’m sitting here in my chair in my office and I’m talking to you on the phone, I’m pretty okay. And developing that recognition that there is some part of me going back to that witness self, there’s some part of me inside that can watch the situation and recognize, OK, some part of me is all right here. Rev. Connie Habash: It’s also a concept of enough-ness, that in this moment I am enough to be able to respond to whatever life brings me in this moment. This moment is enough. It’s enough as it is. I don’t need more or want to get rid of something here in order to feel okay. I can find that okay is inside of me and that helps us build resilience, helps us build resilience in whatever emotions arise for us, whether it’s anxiety or depression or anger, that we can be resilient through whatever arises within us and whatever arises in our life. Santosha also helps us change our perspective on what’s happening to us that we don’t have to see everything as anxiety provoking or everything is wonderful or awful and split it into that black or white kind of thinking. We can be like, OK, I’m OK. And this is OK. Gabe Howard: I love that and I love a lot of your principles and the things that you’ve taught us, especially over this episode, but it makes me kind of wonder what are some of the mistakes that people who meditate or practice yoga or even follow a spiritual path make that increases their anxiety? Can you can you help us prevent those? Rev. Connie Habash: Yes. And that’s, so the number one mistake, which probably won’t come as a surprise to many people is perfectionism, that we have a tendency when we follow the path of personal growth or spiritual growth, to well, we want to improve ourselves, right? We want to get better. But underneath that is that sly little idea that there is somewhere perfect to get to. And that can be a really violent thing actually to do ourselves is to constantly feel like we have to be better and we’re not good enough as we are in particular to people on the spiritual path who are trying to become deeper meditators or more unconditionally loving or practicing yoga or prayer. I call it the Saint’s Syndrome, where we sort of believe we see maybe some ideal person. Maybe it’s Buddha for some people or Jesus for someone else or Mahatma Gandhi that we see as a saint. We think I need to become like that. Then we set these extremely high expectations for ourselves. Or we may not think we it we’re going to be able to become exactly like the Buddha, but we need to become a lot more like them. Rev. Connie Habash: And so we imagine that maybe we need to be peaceful all the time and talk in this really calm, soothing voice and wear white robes and glide along the street rather than, you know, being our normal regular selves. And so I try to shift people away from expecting perfection or trying to aim for some sort of idea of perfection and instead toward wholeness that we are human beings. We have all of these parts of ourselves and we have times where we feel anxiety and we have times where we get angry and to embrace and welcome those in with kindness and with love and with self compassion, and that they are experiences we have as human beings. But they don’t define us. And we also don’t need to define ourselves on whether we’re perfect or imperfect, because those are human definitions. They’re not definitions that, as far as I know, God wrote down somewhere. They’re what we created in our mind of what we think is perfect. And I think it’s more fulfilling and we can become more of our true highest authentic selves when we embrace ourselves and wholeness and don’t judge ourselves. Gabe Howard: I really loved that, Connie. Thank you so much, and I understand that you have a personal connection to anxiety. How did you overcome your own anxiety? Rev. Connie Habash: I think that it’s important that anyone that’s teaching anything have personal experience in that. And so part of this journey, which I write about in the book, I not only give case studies of my clients, but I also talk about my own experience with anxiety and worry and overwhelm and stress, which I think are all related to anxiety, especially nowadays. So I grew up as a shy, introverted child, and I didn’t realize even in my teen years that I had this low level of anxiety, of worry. And I was a perfectionist. I call myself a recovering perfectionist because I still notice it coming up in myself often, but I would get really down on myself if I didn’t achieve what I thought I was supposed to or behave in a way that other people liked. If I made a mistake and said something that upset somebody, I’d really beat myself up. This is all fairly low level until I had my daughter, who is now 15 and the birth of my daughter somehow triggered this much deeper experience of fear and worry and anxiety in my life. I think because, you know, now I’m a mom and now I’m responsible for this little life I’m holding in my arms. And that’s huge, right? You realize when you become a parent what a big responsibility that is. Rev. Connie Habash: And how much you love that being that you’re holding. And so it translated into fear of flying. I became terrified of going on planes, especially of turbulence, and went through my own process of going to a there’s a fear of flying clinic right here at San Francisco International Airport where I worked through my own anxiety about that. But through that journey and my journey before that and working on my perfectionism and my worries and fears about what people thought of me cultivated this whole practice and seven T’s that have really worked well and changed my life. And have also helped my clients’ lives. So I’ve been there and I continue. And there are times when anxiety rises for me, as I say in the book. Don’t expect that now anxiety is just going to disappear and never come back again. I think that actually is more anxiety provoking because then if it does come up, you think, oh, I’ve done something wrong and I’m not doing a good enough. My approach is you’re a human being. Sometimes it’s going to arise. And now you’re more empowered. Now you know that you are much bigger than your anxiety and you know how to be with it and work with it and transform it into something that’s empowering. Gabe Howard: That’s incredible. Where can folks find you on the Web? And where can they get your book? Rev. Connie Habash: Well, my Web site is awakeningself.com. That’s S as in Sam, E, L, F as in Frank. Awakening self. Or you can just do ConnieHabash.com that works as well. My book, Awakening from Anxiety is available anywhere that you want to get it. You can order it from a bookstore if it’s not in stock and it’s on Indie Books and Barnes & Noble and of course, on Amazon. And I also have an online program I’m starting in the new year based on the book. So people from around the world can work with me. Gabe Howard: That’s wonderful, and can they find that online program at www.awakeningself.com? Rev. Connie Habash: Yes, it will be. It’s actually going to be on there soon. But right now, I have a free anxiety assessment that people can take and when they take that, they’ll receive one or two calming practices that they can work with based on the book. And then I offer them a free online class with me. Gabe Howard: That is very, very cool. Thank you so much for agreeing to be on the show. We really appreciated having you. Rev. Connie Habash: Thanks, Gabe, it’s been a pleasure. Gabe Howard: And remember, everyone, you can get one week of free, convenient, affordable, private online counselling anytime, anywhere, simply by visiting BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral. We will see everybody next week. Announcer: You’ve been listening to The Psych Central Podcast. Want your audience to be wowed at your next event? Feature an appearance and LIVE RECORDING of the Psych Central Podcast right from your stage! Email us at show@psychcentral.com for details. Previous episodes can be found at PsychCentral.com/show or on your favorite podcast player. Psych Central is the internet’s oldest and largest independent mental health website run by mental health professionals. Overseen by Dr. John Grohol, Psych Central offers trusted resources and quizzes to help answer your questions about mental health, personality, psychotherapy, and more. Please visit us today at PsychCentral.com. To learn more about our host, Gabe Howard, please visit his website at gabehoward.com. Thank you for listening and please share widely. View the full article
  4. Do you ever find yourself dwelling on something inconsequential that happened a long time ago? Are you still thinking about how badly you embarrassed yourself in front of Sally Sue in the second grade? Today’s guest has a method to help you stop! Sometimes reviewing past failures or setbacks can be healthy, a way to avoid making the mistake again. But when processing turns into ruminating, it is time to make a change. If you find yourself continually revisiting negative thoughts that just won’t go away, listen in as Dr. Tara Sanderson gives us some tips on how to stop ruminating once and for all! SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW Guest information for ‘Ruminations and Worrying’ Podcast Episode Tara Sanderson is a licensed psychologist, author and clinical supervisor in Oregon. For over 20 years Tara has been helping people learn the skills to live their best lives. Using tools from cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, mindfulness and dialectical behavior therapy, she specializes in working with clients who struggle with perfectionism, overachieving, anxiety and depression. About The Psych Central Podcast Host Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations, available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from Gabe Howard. To learn more, please visit his website, gabehoward.com. Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Ruminations and Worrying’ Episode Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you. Announcer: You’re listening to the Psych Central Podcast, where guest experts in the field of psychology and mental health share thought-provoking information using plain, everyday language. Here’s your host, Gabe Howard. Gabe Howard: Welcome to this week’s episode of The Psych Central Podcast. Calling into the show today, we have Dr. Tara Sanderson. For over 20 years, Tara has been helping people learn the skills to live their best lives, specifically specializing in working with people who struggle with perfectionism, overachieving anxiety and depression. She’s also the author of Too Much, Not Enough. Dr. Sanderson, welcome to the show. Dr. Tara Sanderson: Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here today. Gabe Howard: We’re really excited that you’re here, too, because anxiety is kind of a big topic. It’s something that really is discussed among people who really don’t spend a lot of time discussing mental health. I’ve kind of noticed, especially in the last 15 years, that people are willing to say that they’re anxious more than they would be willing to say that they’re having a mental health crisis or even depression. It’s sort of becoming a little bit mainstream. Is that what you’re seeing? Dr. Tara Sanderson: Absolutely. And I think that anxiety is something that is so relatable to everyone. We’ve all felt that nervous feeling in our belly and now can start extrapolating out to noticing when I have that nervous feeling and I’m not going onstage or I have that nervous feeling when I’m not going into a weird situation. It becomes much more noticeable. And I think everybody is starting to get that close comparison to what other people are feeling. Gabe Howard: What I specifically like speaking purely as a mental health advocate is that we used to call this like nerves or butterflies, and now we’re starting to use words like, I’m anxious. I have anxiety. Do you think that’s a good move to actually call it by its actual name rather than sort of speak about it in like whispers and code? Dr. Tara Sanderson: Absolutely. I think that one of the benefits of that is it normalizes it for everyone. That we can have this global word that we all know kind of what it means. I think there is a little bit of a con in the way that like some people say they have anxiety or experiencing it in one way and other people then compare themselves to it. And there’s this weird you-don’t-have-anxiety-like-I-have-anxiety kind of thing. But I think that globally, everybody sharing that they’re really struggling is a good thing. Gabe Howard: Whenever people compare their symptoms with one another and do that, I have it worse than you have it, etc. I always call that the suffering Olympics. Dr. Tara Sanderson: Oh. Gabe Howard: It’s like, what difference does it make, what level we’re experiencing it? We really should be focusing on the idea that we’re both experiencing it. I lead a lot of support groups and I say, really, how does how does figuring out which one of you are worse off help the greater good? How does it help you get better? And that usually refocuses it when it comes to anxiety. You did touch on a point that there’s a big difference between being nervous about maybe taking the bar exam and actually suffering from anxiety. Can you sort of tell us the difference between just general nervousness and actual anxiety? Dr. Tara Sanderson: The way I like to break it down is the actual anxiety, when you look at the DSM diagnosis, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual — that is how we kind of define each of the different disorders — is that anxiety, generalized anxiety, is a pervasive issue. It’s not, it doesn’t just affect you in one area. It affects you all over the place. There are these thought processes and ways that they think about things that are different from folks who are just struggling with getting ready to take the bar exam or going on stage and doing a presentation. One of the areas that really impacts people I think the most is the idea of rumination. And that’s the area that we think about things in a negative way over and over and over again to kind of beat ourselves up over it. Gabe Howard: And that’s one of the focuses of this show when I was doing the research. It was a little bit funny because I was like, well, yeah, I know about ruminating on things. I know exactly what that is. And then I realized that, wait, that’s like as far as I got, I know what it means or feels like to ruminate on something. But but that’s really it. I could not define the word rumination. What are ruminations? Dr. Tara Sanderson: Ruminations are those deep, dark, negative-oriented thoughts that just won’t go away. When I think about things that just won’t go away, I think that they are also reinforced by ourselves. So it’s that idea that I think I’ve seen a meme about it where somebody is lying in bed and they’re getting ready to go to sleep and they’re like, oh, my day was wonderful. And then all of a sudden their eyes pop open and they say, yeah, but do you remember what you said to Sally Sue in second grade? Wasn’t that terrible? And then they stay awake all night thinking about what they said to Sally Sue in second grade. Those deep, dark things that we reinforce within ourselves, probably unknowingly and probably unwillingly. But they just stay there and they keep like going over and over again in your head. Gabe Howard: I really love the example of Sally Sue from the second grade, and I think that a lot of people who have anxiety issues ruminate on conversations that they had earlier in the day and we just replay them over and over again, well, if I would have said this, would this have happened or if I would have said this, would this… It’s almost like we’re rehashing the same conversation or argument or disagreement or problem over and over again. And I’m guessing this probably has no benefit to us. In the example of Sally Sue, it kept you up all night. It didn’t actually resolve anything. Dr. Tara Sanderson: Correct. And I think that’s the big difference between rumination and processing, because therapists do talk to their clients about we need to process through this stuff and processing is all about a goal of getting to acceptance and understanding and potentially moving towards growth. And rumination is all about just kind of beating yourself up over and over and over again and again, not probably on purpose. But that’s just how it rolls. And it’s so important to, like, differentiate when you’re thinking about how to get through a problem. Ruminations keeps you stuck in it like a tar pit and processing gets you moving forward. Once you’ve accepted it and get kind of comfortable with it. Gabe Howard: Would it be fair to say that maybe one of the differences is the goal? Like, I know that when I ruminate on something, the goal is to retroactively win. I’m trying to make it better and make myself feel better about what happened. But when I’m processing something, my goal is to make it better. And it always includes steps for the future. Like, tomorrow I’m going to sit down and apologize or I’m going to ask this follow-up question or, you know, maybe I did come off a little heavy-handed. It’s much more practical and goal oriented and future-based, whereas ruminations seems, for me at least, to be past-based. I’m going to fix it retroactively. Dr. Tara Sanderson: Yes, absolutely, rumination is all about the retroactive, it’s all about the past and it’s all about almost reliving it in a way, whether it’s reliving it to win or whether it’s reliving it to just do something different, whether it’s reliving it to feel better about yourself, that never actually works. I mean, because we can’t go back and make any changes in the past. I can’t do anything about Sally Sue. Gabe Howard: Who is generally affected by ruminations? Is it just people with diagnosable anxiety disorders or does it expand out? Dr. Tara Sanderson: I think it expands out, I think everybody has experienced those moments where they go, dang it, I wish I had said this differently or, you know, or if I could go back and do this differently, I would. And I think that rumination, the true part of it that really impacts people, is when it goes deep into that dark thoughts of it: I’m stupid because I didn’t say this or I can’t believe that I’m such an idiot because I did this this way thinking, gosh, I wish I had done this differently. It is some good past talk that you can grow from if you want to, or it can lead into rumination. I think anxiety folks feel this. I think depressive folks feel this. I think that people who struggle with OCD feel this in the deeper, darker ways where it just becomes, I’m bad because… I’m terrible because… I shouldn’t go out in public because. Gabe Howard: And I think anybody who has ruminated on anything is probably asking the question now. OK, this is perfect. I understand what you’re saying. I’m agreeing with you. I do this. Now, how do I deal with it? How do I stop it? How do I get over it? Dr. Tara Sanderson: That is such a great question, and I think one that I see all the time in my therapy clients is they want the answer to this question and they want it to be awesome and easy and let’s just do it. And I always have to tell them that I may be disclosing that Santa Claus is not real. They need to prepare themselves. It’s not going to be easy. You’re changing a thought process that has probably been in your head for a long time. And during that process of changing, you have to do things differently, you have to notice things. So the first step is stopping, stopping what you’re doing. The second you notice that you are ruminating again. You have to stop and you have to observe what’s going on. You have to look outside and inside. I use a method called SOBER. So the first two parts of the acronym are S and O for Stop and Observe. And I think that those two are the very first key elements to making a change in rumination. When you find yourself ruminating, stopping what you’re doing and observing what’s going on outside, what’s prompting this? What’s going on inside, that’s prompting this, what am I feeling? Where did I go? I noticed that a lot of times when I ruminate, I’ll be driving somewhere and I’m on autopilot in the drive like I’m driving home from work or whatever and I’m on autopilot. So my brain just starts going into a direction where sometimes I’m not an active participant in where it goes. And when I notice like, wow, I’m on autopilot. So I let my brain go in this direction instead of being purposeful about what I want to think about and where I want to grow and what I want to do. That’s when I can start noticing like, oh, when I get on autopilot. This happens. So I need to not go on autopilot unless I am prepared to work on some of these other things. Gabe Howard: When you said that, you know, stop and observe, the first thing that immediately came to mind was that famous Bob Newhart Mad TV sketch where Bob Newhart plays a therapist and a person comes in and tells their problem that they’re having. And Bob Newhart as the therapist says, stop it. That’s all you have to do. Your therapy is over. Dr. Tara Sanderson: Absolutely. That’ll be five dollars, please. And I don’t give change. Gabe Howard: Yeah. Exactly. So. Right. And I don’t give change. And on one hand, as somebody who’s been through a lot of therapy, I remember seeing that and thinking, oh, my God, that I should just stop it and I’ll be fine. And for like a split nanosecond I was like, this is excellent. I no longer need to go to therapy because I’m just going to stop it. But that’s as funny as that was, and as much as I absolutely adore Bob Newhart’s comedy, that’s not practical. Right? So I imagine that there’s probably a step like how do you stop and observe, especially when maybe you’re not even aware that you’re ruminating? Dr. Tara Sanderson: Absolutely, and I think that’s the key to this whole process, is now that, you know, the definition of ruminating, which is to continue to beat yourself up over things, to think about all these dark negative things pretty much involuntarily, that when you notice that you do that, which is the whole first key, is that you have to notice it. You have to notice when it’s happening. Then you go to step one, which is stop. And the part of that is to really just be clear with yourself that you’re not saying, gosh, you’re so terrible, stop doing that. The thought is more, hey, I’m noticing that I’m doing this. And now let’s move on to observing. Why? Where’s this coming from? It’s asking a new question. It’s being curious rather than it being beat myself up over it again, because now I’m doing this thing that I shouldn’t be doing. Gabe Howard: And then that moves us on to B in the acronym SOBER. Dr. Tara Sanderson: Correct. So B is all about Breathing. I’m a big fan of breathing five times and the breathing five times gives you an opportunity to take space from what you’ve seen yourself do, which is that ruminating. You’ve observed why it’s happening and giving yourself some space to get ready to move on to the next step. The breathing just gives you a moment to really connect with yourself. I’m a big fan of some active breathing, so you can just take five big, deep breaths. I tend to when I take five big, big, deep breaths, tend to hyperventilate a little bit because I just want to move on to the next thing. So doing active breathing, like tracing the lines on my hands as a part of the process of breathing. So breathing in as I cross one line and breathing out when I cross the other helps me to slow it down a little bit and really gives me the space to sink in to, hey, I’m going to do some work with myself in this moment and I need to make sure that I’m being attentive and purposeful in that. Gabe Howard: So we have Stop, Observe, and then Breathing and then now we’re to E! Dr. Tara Sanderson: E is Examine the options. I’d like for people to come up with five options to dealing with whatever is going on at that moment. So in this case we’re talking about ruminations. So they’ve got five options. Two extreme options and three regular ones. So an extreme option with rumination would be I’m going to sit here and reminisce about absolutely everything I’ve ever done in my entire life that has been terrible. And I’m going to purposely do that and I’m just going to sit here until I’m done with it. And at the age of 40, I have a lot of things I could have ruminate over. Right? So that’s the extreme number one. Extreme number two is I’m going to push down on this gas pedal and drive as fast as I can to see if I can distract myself from this rumination. Which both are options. Neither are great options. They wouldn’t necessarily be the best solution to your problem, but you could do that, right? I don’t like the extremes because sometimes especially being anxious, sometimes you need those extremes to give you the limits and then you can find that middle area, the gray area that makes it a little bit easier. Dr. Tara Sanderson: I may not be willing to ruminate on all of my things from the last 40 years, but maybe I’m gonna give myself a couple of minutes to ruminate and see how it feels. That’s a much more gentle in the middle option. Maybe I think about I’m going to call a friend and talk it through with them and just make sure that I wasn’t crazy when I said such and such. You know, in that conversation, that’s four options. Yeah. Maybe a fifth option is that I’m going to turn on the radio and listen to it pretty loud and see if I can just kind of kick myself out of the funk for a minute. Any of those options are fine. And coming up with two extremes and three middle ground gives you some room to kind of figure out what’s going to help me really in this moment? Is processing it through with a friend going to help? Is purposely ruminating more gonna help? What’s really going to do the best for me at this point? Gabe Howard: And then this all leads us to the last letter in the SOBER acronym, which is R. Dr. Tara Sanderson: The almighty R, which is Response. Choose one. And the truth is, it doesn’t matter which one you choose. You can absolutely push the fuddled out and do that part of it. And I always like to remind people there are consequences to all actions. So you also may get a ticket and that may be an unintended consequence of you trying to deal with your rumination. But that’s a possibility. You totally could do that. Any of the options are fine, because if they don’t work, if they don’t do what you were wanting them to, you can always go back and pick some more options and try again. There is nothing permanent about decisions that we make in the area of trying to navigate through some of these ruminations or any other choices. And I think it’s really important that we give ourselves some grace in that. To say like, hey, I’m going to choose this one and see how it works out. If it doesn’t work, I’m going to go back to the drawing board and pick something else. Gabe Howard: We will be back after these messages. Announcer: Want real, no-boundaries talk about mental health issues from those who live it? Listen to the Not Crazy podcast co-hosted by a lady with depression and a guy with bipolar. Visit Psych Central.com/NotCrazy or subscribe to Not Crazy on your favorite podcast player. Announcer: This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp.com. Secure, convenient, and affordable online counseling. Our counselors are licensed, accredited professionals. Anything you share is confidential. Schedule secure video or phone sessions, plus chat and text with your therapist whenever you feel it’s needed. A month of online therapy often costs less than a single traditional face to face session. Go to BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral and experience seven days of free therapy to see if online counseling is right for you. BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral. Gabe Howard: And we are back speaking with Dr. Tara Sanderson. When we look at SOBER as a tool, as a tool that we can use, what barriers might come up to folks trying to use this tool effectively? Dr. Tara Sanderson: It’s super important that they do that, people do that all five letters. You can skip the breathing. But I just noticed that when I skip the breathing, I don’t really get clarity on those five options. I have a lot of people who just skip the observe part of it and they go from stopped to options. That doesn’t really work as well either, because you haven’t figured out the core of what’s going on. So remembering the acronym is kind of step one and then doing all the steps is the other barrier. Gabe Howard: And how do people overcome that? Dr. Tara Sanderson: While I have them write it down. I’m a big fan of doing it themselves. So when I’m in session with folks, I don’t have a worksheet or a handout for this method. I make them take out a piece of paper or use the journal that they bring along to therapy and say, we’re gonna or I’m going to walk you through writing this down for yourself and then we’re gonna practice it a bunch. And that really does help because it’s in their own handwriting. They’re not taking home a piece of paper and throwing it on the counter. Like they did it themselves. They’ve kind of taken that tactile response to getting something new in their head. And then we practice it a lot. I recommend that people practice this on every decision you make throughout a full day. Everything from, am I going to put my seatbelt on in the car? To am I having cornflakes or oatmeal for breakfast? To do I go pick up the kids from school today? Like that’s a decision you actually get to make. I will also say please pick up your children from school, but you get choices in that. And I think that the more we recognize that every single thing is a choice from do I brush my teeth today, to taking a shower, to wearing a seat belt, to driving the speed limit. And when we notice and make those intentionally, the more we are able to then make other decisions intentionally. Like, am I going to sit here and perseverate on something that happened in second grade? No, I am not. That is not how I intentionally want to use my time today. So I’m going to choose to do something different. Gabe Howard: It’s interesting that you pointed out that so many of the decisions that we feel are requirements, we have to, are actually choices that we make. Now, as you pointed out, we absolutely want to care for our kids in the best manner possible, but we could choose not to. And in fact, we are aware that some people do choose not to. Does looking at every choice as an intentional choice give us more power and help with things like anxiety and ruminations? Or is it all a big distraction? It seems really weird to say to most people, hey, you don’t have to pick up your kids from school if you don’t want to. Dr. Tara Sanderson: I think that it isn’t necessarily all about power, but it is all about being focused on intention. And when I think about not picking up my kids from school, well, I don’t actually have kiddos. But when I think Gabe Howard: Me neither. Dr. Tara Sanderson: About it and picking up the kids from school. I think about the option isn’t I just leave them there necessarily because you come up with five options. One could be I leave them at school forever and I’m never picking them up. That’s an extreme option. Totally a choice, but probably not our best. Right? Another one is, you know, I call my neighbor and see if my neighbor will pick them up or ask someone from the school to drop them off or call the school and tell them to take the bus, because I don’t want to leave what I’m doing to go get them. Those aren’t abusive or neglectful or terrible choices. They’re just choices. And I think giving ourselves the freedom to say things can just be choices. And I have options, decreases the anxiety and decreases the pressure that we are supposed to be doing something else. Like I’m supposed to be a perfect parent or a perfect wife, or I’m supposed to be doing enough, and that if I don’t do enough, I’m not meaningful or valuable or worthy. And giving yourself the freedom to say, no, it’s all just choices, and I have options, gives us some just peace. Gabe Howard: I absolutely love that. Dr. Sanderson, I’d kinda like to flip the script for a moment. You know, we’ve been talking about how other people can use this SOBER tool to make their lives better. But how do you personally use this tool to improve your outcomes in your life? Dr. Tara Sanderson: So in the book, I talk a little bit about my love of food. I definitely have a tender relationship with anything sweet or bready or salty. Really, it’s kind of like all food. So SOBER has helped me so much in really identifying my connection with why is this food what I crave right now? So there are some foods that make you feel warm and fuzzy. There are some foods that you eat when you’re excited. There’s food you eat when you’re bored and using SOBER has given me an opportunity to really assess in those moments and not go overboard when I’m not doing that purposely. A big bowl of popcorn I feel like I’m pretty justified in going overboard on when I’m watching movies with friends or doing a big like gathering. But eating an entire bag of mini chocolate chips is probably not ever really in my best benefit. And yet I totally would do it if I’m not being intentional in that moment. Having a handful every now and then or adding some into your mouth while you’re baking chocolate chip cookies, it’s like those are all kind of normal-ish things. But when I get on autopilot and I start having a lot of emotional feelings, especially around rumination of choices that I’ve made, sometimes that handful becomes twelve handfuls if I’m not being intentional. So giving myself permission to just say like, hey, I’m noticing that I’m feeling really tempted right now about a decision I made or about a conversation I had. Dr. Tara Sanderson: And what I want is to just dive into the mini chocolate chips in my freezer. Is that really what’s best for me? Let’s take a few deep breaths with that. Let’s do some options. Do I get out the bag and just go at it? Do I get out a little handful of them and put it back away and walk away? Do I completely avoid it by going for a walk and see if I can get through this feeling without having to eat it? You know, I try and think of a bunch of options and then I pick one. And sometimes it is absolutely I am willing to navigate this from the perspective of I’m just going to eat as many chocolate chips as I want and I will stand there and eat them. And during that process, my job is to keep checking in with myself. Is this still what I want to do? Are there other options that would make me feel better? Where am I at? Because I know that I can always U-turn after five handfuls. I can U-turn and say I’m done. I don’t need to eat the whole bag. After one handful. I can U-turn after no handfuls. I can. It’s a really nice tool that I use. Just to try and keep myself in check about what I’m eating and how that’s impacting me, not just physically, but emotionally. Gabe Howard: Thank you so much for sharing that. And of course, now I desperately want chocolate chip cookies. So thank you for that. Dr. Tara Sanderson: You’re welcome. Gabe Howard: Dr. Sanderson, thank you so much for talking to us about ruminations. It’s really incredible and it’s really helpful. Now, your book is called Too Much, Not Enough. Can you tell us where we can find it? Dr. Tara Sanderson: Sure. So my book is called Too much, Not enough: A guide to decreasing anxiety and creating balance through intentional choices. It is on Amazon as hardback, paperback, and as an e-book. And coming soon it will be an audio book. It’s being recorded right now. I’m so excited. Gabe Howard: That is very cool, and Dr. Sanderson, do you have your own website where people can go and check you out and interact with you? Dr. Tara Sanderson: I do. So my website is just DrTaraSanderson.com. So it is DrTaraSanderson.com. And there’s a link to my book, and there is a link to my practice and you can find out all about me. Gabe Howard: That is very cool. Well, thank you so much again for being on the show. We really appreciated having you. Dr. Tara Sanderson: Thank you again. It’s been wonderful. Gabe Howard: And thank you, everybody, for listening. And we’re excited to announce that The Psych Central Podcast travels well. Do you want to make your next event or conference really excited? Meet me in person and have people interviewed by a professional moderator? And then the whole show will go live, extending the reach of your conference. Give us an e-mail at show@PsychCentral.com for pricing and information. And do you want to interact with the show? You can head over to PsychCentral.com/FB and then review us wherever you find us. Share us on social media. E-mail us to your friends. Remember, we don’t have a million dollar ad budget, so you are our best hope for getting information about mental health, psychology, and mental illness in to the hands of those who will benefit from it. And then finally, remember, you can get one week of free, convenient, affordable, private online counseling anytime, anywhere, simply by visiting BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral. We’ll see everybody next week. Announcer: You’ve been listening to The Psych Central Podcast. Want your audience to be wowed at your next event? Feature an appearance and LIVE RECORDING of the Psych Central Podcast right from your stage! Email us at show@psychcentral.com for details. Previous episodes can be found at PsychCentral.com/show or on your favorite podcast player. Psych Central is the internet’s oldest and largest independent mental health website run by mental health professionals. Overseen by Dr. John Grohol, Psych Central offers trusted resources and quizzes to help answer your questions about mental health, personality, psychotherapy, and more. Please visit us today at PsychCentral.com. To learn more about our host, Gabe Howard, please visit his website at gabehoward.com. Thank you for listening and please share widely. View the full article
  5. It’s almost Halloween. Corn stalks, jack o’ lanterns, and witches hats adorn shop windows and every corridor of the local grocery. Pumpkins spill out of carts at local farm stands, often with a few carved with toothy grins. Front porches and lawns sport scarecrows, spider webs, and a skeleton or two. Some communities hold rag-tag parades where costumed kids take to the street or local mall for Halloween fun. Classrooms may no longer have parties with cupcakes and candy as they did in the parents’ generation, but many still do recognize the season in some way. It’s exciting. It’s fun! And yet. There are children for whom Halloween is fraught with anxiety. Anxious or emotionally sensitive children and children on the autism spectrum can get stressed and distressed by the season. Such children don’t like the unfamiliar. Things that go bump in the night are terrifying, not exciting. They may be afraid of the skeleton hanging from the neighbor’s porch. Grinning pumpkins might give them nightmares. Masks can be terrifying. Treats may be regarded with suspicion. And costumes? For some children, dressing up is way out of their comfort zone. If you are a parent of such a child, this isn’t new information. Nor is it new information that your child needs help to manage whatever is novel. But it is only human to minimize or forget at times, especially if we love Halloween ourselves; especially if the sensitive child has siblings who are excited and delighted with the whole scary thing. Here are some friendly reminders of ways to make Halloween manageable for kids who wish they could skip right over October: Talk with your child. Be empathetic about their fears. They are certainly not alone if they find it scary to think about spirits of the dead coming for a visit. Many cultures celebrate a holiday that is much like American Halloween. They honor or appease the dead with special activities and foods. Older children might enjoy learning about Dia de Los Muertos (All Souls Day) in Mexico, Latin America and Spain; Guy Fawkes Day in England; The Hungry Ghost Festival in Hong Kong; or All Saints’ Day in Italy, as only a few examples. There are many good children’s books to help you. Decorate together. You can detox frightening Halloween decorations by creating them together. Take the child’s lead when carving a pumpkin. Don’t be surprised if they want to make a friendly one. Make pictures together for the front door. One 5-year-old boy I know made a big picture of a beaver. I asked him why. “It’s the scariest thing I can think of,” he said. When I asked how to make it less scary, he said he could make it smile. So he did. Practice: Practice may not make perfect, but it does make things familiar. Role-play the usual doorway ritual with your child: Knock on your own door together and say “Trick or Treat.” Pretend you are getting a treat. Say, “thank you.” Then switch roles and have them practice handing out a piece of candy and admiring a costume. Costumes: If your child is uncomfortable with unfamiliar clothes or costumes, modify a favorite shirt or jacket. One of my daughters couldn’t stand clothes she considered too scratchy. Tags in a shirt could cause a meltdown. For her first time trick or treating at age 3, we pinned a tail made of a stuffed sock on the back of her favorite jacket and glued paper ears to a headband. Voila! She was a cat. She loved it. Go along: Give the anxious child an honorable way to accept adult supervision by stating safety concerns. In many places, it is only a sad truth that it is no longer wise for kids to be out alone at night. The solution in many communities is for parents and kids to travel in groups of three or four families. Parents stay out on the sidewalk chatting while the kids go to doors. If a child gets upset, that family just peels off to go home. Consider alternatives: If you know your child will be overwhelmed by going out at night, attend a community sponsored party or event instead. If your child gets upset, you can easily leave. If darkness isn’t the issue but unfamiliar people are, go only to the homes of people your child knows. Little kids don’t need to cover the whole neighborhood. They may be ready to go home after only a few stops. Manners: It’s likely your child will get treats they don’t like. Explain that it’s polite to accept them and say “thank you” anyway. One of my kids was terribly confused by this when he was 5. “But saying thank you when I don’t want something isn’t honest,” he protested. So we had to have a talk about the difference between lying and saying a little white lie to make someone else feel good. Social skills don’t always make perfect sense. It’s almost impossible to shield sensitive children from Halloween; especially when so many adults embrace the holiday. (179 million Americans take part in Halloween parties and are projected to spend $9 billion on costumes, candy, and decorations.) As a culture, Americans see trick or treating as the birthright of every child. But one of the truisms of parenting is that what everyone else seems to be doing may not be what our own child needs or even wants. With some mindfulness, we can make Halloween a positive holiday for even our most sensitive child. View the full article
  6. The first time I learned about internal interference was when I took a Public Speaking class in college. That was not the first time I experienced internal interference, of course. I’d had the running, internal dialogue most of my life. But now, I had a name for it. And I learned it’s actually quite common, especially for situations like public speaking class because of the almost universal fear and panic many people feel when faced with this task. Interference is any kind of barrier of distraction in the process of communication. This can be external or internal. External interference would be anything in the external environment, a loud radio, an airplane going overhead, or that awful high-pitched feedback you sometimes get when a microphone is too close to the speaker. This type of noise can be really distracting. It can make it really difficult to maintain your focus during a one-on-one conversation, much less a speech in front of a crowd. Interference can also be internal and much of the time this distracting buzz within your own mind is fueled by nervousness or fear surrounding what it is you are trying to communicate. Internal interference is not always rooted in stress or fear and it can happen in other contexts outside of public speaking. If you’re having a casual conversation with a friend and they ask you a question, but you realize you can’t answer it because you’ve been distracted by your own internal dialogue, for instance. Or, if you are trying to listen to music, but your mind keeps coming back to some worry you had that day, consuming your thoughts and attention. For someone that struggles with anxiety, internal interference can take the form of self-doubt, concerns about how you are being perceived, or desperate worry about when this uncomfortable situation will end. This type of interference can be extremely challenging to overcome, particularly if the situation has already moved you into a heightened state of anxiety. Some people may be more susceptible to internal interference than others. It is common knowledge that personalities that are more introverted tend to experience a rich interior life. While personalities that are more extroverted experience their highest level of engagement externally, within the presence and interactions of others. It’s true that qualities like introversion and extroversion exist on a spectrum, so maybe you are not entirely one or other. But for someone who leans toward the introverted range, they may naturally spend more time with their internal thoughts than someone who is extroverted and thus could be more easily distracted by them. But just knowing that such a thing as internal interference exists and that almost everyone suffers from it at some point, in some context, is helpful for learning to manage your own ability to focus despite distractions. The key is to practice maintaining your focus. If your interference is stress or anxiety related, before you can practice focus, you must learn ways to ground yourself and calm yourself from the stress that has triggered your internal interference. Taking a deep breath, counting to ten, or repeating a personal mantra are all ways to help stop the cycle of adrenaline and bring your body and mind to a place calm enough where you can start to manage your focus. I have found it helpful to manage my focus if I can bring my attention back to something outside of myself. If I am making a presentation, I try to focus on the information I want to convey. If I am contributing to a group discussion, I try to focus on being helpful. This helps to remove the focus from myself — my own thoughts and fears — and onto the task at hand. It brings me into the present moment, as opposed to future projections or concerns of how this will all be evaluated, by others or myself. As with any skill, maintaining focus takes practice. Through practice, though uncomfortable as it may be, you grow in confidence in your ability to face challenges of this type. Meditation is a great technique for developing iron-clad focus. If you struggle with internal interference, try practicing extending your focus everyday, just a little bit, in any context you start to feel distracted from the task at hand. View the full article
  7. Most of us are pretty familiar with how anxiety feels in our body. When you have anxious thoughts, your body responds with a tightening in the stomach, nausea, gas, heartburn, and indigestion. The connection between your brain and your gastrointestinal tract goes the other way as well. If your digestive system is disrupted, it can send signals to your brain that may cause you to become anxious. This bidirectional connection is called the gut-brain axis. We are still learning a lot about the digestive system’s effect on the body and the mind, but what is coming to light through scientific research is that your gut is truly a center of immunity, mental agility, and vitality. Taking the time to foster a healthy gut is a great way to improve digestive issues, emotional and mental ailments, and overall health. How to Support a Healthy Gut Your digestive tract is full of trillions of microorganisms. These live organisms create an environment, not unlike a climate system on planet earth, in your intestines. This internal ecosystem is referred to as the gut microbiome, and plays a crucial role in how the body functions. The health of this system guides the immune system, delivers important nutrients and contributes to healthy brain function. There are a lot of reasons your gut microbiome can become imbalanced. Diet, lifestyle, genetics, and environment can all contribute to gut health. A stressful period of time or a shift in diet for a few days can throw the fragile balance of this ecosystem off track. The good news is that balancing your gut microbiome may be as simple as changing your diet and lifestyle. From a dietary perspective, there are many foods that support a healthy gut microbiome that include: A wide variety of fruits (in moderation) and vegetables (in abundance) Whole grains Fibrous foods Fermented foods I almost always recommend probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics are concentrations of beneficial microorganisms and prebiotics are a type of fiber that feeds probiotics. You can find both in either whole foods or in supplement form. Some food-based probiotics include: Kimchi Kefir Sauerkraut Miso Some food-based prebiotics include: Apples Flaxseed Dandelion greens Garlic Onions Jerusalem artichokes If you are taking probiotics or prebiotics in supplement form, be sure to consider the quality of the product that you are purchasing—does the manufacturer have integrity? Do they use organic ingredients? The efficacy and sourcing of the products are also important considerations. If you are feeling anxious, you may also want to eat grounding foods. Foods like root vegetables and hearty soups can help to ease your anxious energy and allow you to feel more centered. Yellow foods may also help alleviate anxiety. The third chakra, located in the solar plexus, guides empowerment and the gut. This chakra is ruled by the color yellow. Eating foods such as lemon, squash, mangoes, and bananas can help balance your energies in this chakra. How to Avoid an Unhealthy Gut The foods that wreak havoc in the gut tend to be common in the standard American diet, so it’s not so surprising that so many people suffer from the symptoms of gut imbalance. Foods that lead to a sick digestive system include: Fried foods Packaged foods Alcohol Refined sugars The consumption of too much of these foods can disturb the delicate ecosystem of the digestive system, causing your body to take a turn toward disease. It is possible that this imbalance will show up as chronic discomfort, chronic disease, or mental illnesses—including anxiety. It’s best to abstain from or moderate intake of these foods. Making mindful changes to your diet can undoubtedly support your gut health and effectively reduce symptoms like anxiety. It is also important to also look at any sort of wellness challenge from a holistic perspective. Sleep, exercise, hydration, and stress levels also play crucial roles in gut health for anxiety. A few approachable lifestyle changes that can help improve your gut health and reduce anxiety symptoms are: Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Exercise, walk, or do some sort of movement every day. Drink at least 100 ounces of water per day. Practice meditation, gratitude and relaxation techniques. Once you begin to make some of these small changes, start to notice how you feel. What are the sensation in your digestive system? Has your energy increased? What foods specifically work to ground your energy and which ones have the opposite effect? As you become more in tune with your body, you will become more empowered to take charge of your overall energy and well-being. This post courtesy of Spirituality & Health. View the full article
  8. Are you a badass? Do you want to be? We all know that music has the ability to affect mood, and today’s guest takes that to the next level by helping you craft a personalized playlist to evoke specific feelings and emotions. Kelly Orchard’s unique program could help you find your inner badass. Using music and a variety of psychotherapy tools, Kelly helps individuals and groups become more confident, more productive and most importantly, more badass. SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW Guest information for ‘Badass’ Podcast Episode Kelly Orchard is a professional speaker, author and trainer and Licensed Psychotherapist. In addition to more than 30 years in the business of broadcasting, she has a Master’s Degree in Psychology and a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science with an emphasis in Organizational Leadership. Kelly specializes in working with businesses and individuals in times of trouble, turmoil and transition,  by creating a positive and profitable workplace. Kelly’s strategic coaching and leadership tools are a reliable, repeatable process that has been proven in the workplace. Kelly is a powerful story-teller – a craft she honed with her three decades in radio as part of family-owned operation, FCC Compliance consulting, and visiting hundreds of broadcast facilities. She is the author of 5 books, including her Prescriptive Memoir, Heart Lessons and her series of self-help books, Kelly Orchard’s Apple A Day, for daily nourishment for wisdom, success and personal growth. About The Psych Central Podcast Host Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations, available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from Gabe Howard. To learn more, please visit his website, gabehoward.com. Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Music Hero’ Episode Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you. Announcer: Welcome to the Psych Central Podcast, where each episode features guest experts discussing psychology and mental health in everyday plain language. Here’s your host, Gabe Howard. Gabe Howard: Welcome to this week’s episode of the Psych Central Podcast. Calling into the show today we have Kelly Orchard, who uses her psychology education and her experience in radio to help people create their own badass soundtrack. In her own words, she uses a CBT, solutions focused, positive psychology, and neuroscience approach to helping people live better lives. Kelly, welcome to the show. Kelly Orchard: Thank you so much, Gabe. I am thrilled to be here today. Gabe Howard: I am thrilled to have you because I think that you might be the first licensed psychologist that I’ve ever worked with, that named what she does “badass.” Just the word badass is right there and I love that. Can you tell me why you decided to do that? Kelly Orchard: Well, you know, my background is in radio. You know, you do a lot of stunts. You do a lot of things to create a buzz and get your name out there. And so, you know, becoming a psychotherapist, I do some stuff with my branding and whatnot, which we can talk about later. But I’ve always been called a badass. People have referred to me as, “Man, Kelly, you’re really badass.” I knew that it meant something significant. And so I decided, well, I want to work with badasses. So that’s how it first evolved, it was that I want to work with people who identify with that whole concept of themselves. Gabe Howard: One of the primary reasons that I wanted to have you on the show is because I wrote a book called Mental Illness Is an Asshole and I got a lot of pushback. You know, they’re like, oh, that that’s that, you know, this is this is serious. Why are you talking about that? Why are you saying ass? They were always kind of whispering. And my reasoning for that was because I felt very strongly that when people lay awake at night, they’re not worried about themselves in psychological terms. They’re not thinking medically. They’re thinking in the words that all of us use. Did that have an effect on you? I mean, because people do want to be badasses. They don’t necessarily know that they want to be emotionally well off. Kelly Orchard: That’s a good point. A really good point. But you’re right. Yes. A little bit of blowback when I first started toying with using the word. But the more I just kind of put it out there, anybody who had an adverse response to the word badass usually typically either, you know, the older generation and they’re used to you know, everything is polite and nicely worded. And you don’t use that kind of word. We can use my mom as an example. She’s very opposed to this. But she’s also in her 80s. Mostly, the response has been fantastic. I get where you’re coming from. It’s like Mental Illness is an Asshole. You’re absolutely right. So why not identify it that way? It is serious, but we can also kind of identify it enough in a way that we understand it. Gabe Howard: Does this open up avenues of conversation for you? Are people much more willing to discuss their issues or concerns or problems when they know that they’re on the road to becoming a badass vs. considering themselves in like a patient modality? Kelly Orchard: Well, you know, I work with two separate populations with that. In my psychotherapy practice, I do promote the badass acronym with my clients and they love it because they’re already in a program admitting that they have depression or anxiety. That’s primarily what I treat, along with comorbid issues like a long term chronic illness or stuff like that, maybe grief and loss. But in the general population, I would call that, like in the business community, yes, they love defining themselves as badass and being on the road to becoming licensed to be badass. When I say I certify badasses, they’re like, well, how can I get certified? I want that. It opens up the conversation on what it takes. Gabe Howard: Which is where we want to be. We want people talking about this more. Now, you said that badass was an acronym. Kelly Orchard: Yes. Gabe Howard: What does badass stand for? Kelly Orchard: I’ve taken a blend of some of these psychotherapeutic tools, you know, cognitive behavioral therapy, that’s the CBT, and some neuroscience, solution focused that I use and I put them into a program. So BADASS is an acronym. So the B stands for “Be bold, be brave, be confident, be yourself.” But if you don’t know yourself, how can you be yourself? So I teach different methods on how to really get in touch with who you are. Personality tests and temperament tests, and what are your strengths getting into your core values. Things like that. Gabe Howard: And that’s just the B. Kelly Orchard: That’s just the B, yes. Gabe Howard: That’s just the B. Kelly Orchard: That’s just the B. Gabe Howard: The B, and then we then we move on to the first A. Kelly Orchard: Right. Gabe Howard: Because there are a lot of A’s in here. Kelly Orchard: Well, there’s a couple of A’s. The first A stands for “Attitude is everything.” Because I’m sure, Gabe, you and I both know that a positive attitude will get you a whole lot further than a negative attitude. Gabe Howard: Agreed. Kelly Orchard: Part of what I teach is to flip that format on the negativity and increase positivity because your attitude determines your success. So there’s some tools that I use in how to create that positive attitude. Then the D in BADASS stands for “Decide.” Because, you know, that’s a big critical factor. You have to decide that you want to be well and you have to make that decision to do it. And so then we go through, you know, being determined and dedicated to the process and disciplined. Gabe Howard: And then we get to the next A, right? We get to A number two. Kelly Orchard: Yes, A number two that stands for “Awareness” or self-awareness. I teach a lot about emotional intelligence. Being aware of your surroundings, being aware of your feelings and your emotions at the moment, and then of course, acknowledging your weaknesses and your strengths. I also do a lot with “Amplify,” because I love to use music in my programs and then the first S is “Stay the course.” This is where a lot of us get hung up. If what we want doesn’t happen quickly enough, we give up. So this teaches you to stay the course and persevere and keep going. And I teach different ways how you can do that. And then, of course, the last S just means “Successfully BADASS.” So that’s the BADASS acronym. And so I have have a program that I just take them through the process so they get their license to be badass. You know, when you got your driver’s license, it felt pretty badass. Right? Gabe Howard: Yeah, I did. It felt awesome. Kelly Orchard: It did. It felt so awesome. So anybody can relate to that when you get your driver’s license. But the truth of the matter is that you’d already studied. You already knew the rules of the road and took the tests in order to pass to get your permit. Then you already got behind the wheel and practiced driving so that then you had some competence behind the wheel. So when you went to go take your license exam, you already knew all this information. But the license gave you credibility. It gave you confidence. So I take that whole concept into the badass program. You’re probably already badass because you’ve been through the storms of life. You’ve failed, you’ve lost something like a home, a job or a relationship. You stumble, you’ve had a health crisis, whatever it is. You’ve overcome it. You’ve gotten through it. And you’re badass because you’re not quitting. All you need is your license to give you the confidence and credibility to keep going. Gabe Howard: So let’s be practical for a moment. So let’s say that I contact you and I say, you know, I’m anxious or I’m depressed. There’s something in my life that I don’t like. And I’m intrigued by becoming a licensed badass. What is my step one? Kelly Orchard: The badass program starts out with I teach a workshop to get you certified, so that’s a badass certification class and think of it like CPR for your mental health, an instant attitude adjustment and then an injection of positivity to get you started. And that’s where I introduce and initially teach you how to create your badass soundtrack, which I already have used this several times and it’s proven to be really a great tool for an instant reduction of anxiety symptoms or improving the mood or confidence. So that’s where I usually start. Gabe Howard: What’s interesting to me is you don’t actually get a license to be a badass. I mean, the state doesn’t send you a laminated card that you can show police officers when you’re driving your Ferrari. But when you say you create a soundtrack that helps with symptom reduction, that’s not an analogy. Kelly Orchard: No. Gabe Howard: You’re actually utilizing music on on devices that we all have in our pockets right now to find songs that speak to the person that help them feel better. I think that everybody understands that music is helpful, but nobody’s actually utilizing music to be helpful. Kelly Orchard: Well, that’s why I think that my program is starting to really catch fire as people are starting to discover it. I’m actually even working with a licensed music therapist on this as well. Getting back to the whole, you don’t really get a license. The state doesn’t, no, but I do. When you do finish that certification class, I do give you a little I.D. card that fits in your wallet that says you’re a certified badass. It’s kind of cool. Gabe Howard: Nice, Kelly Orchard: Stick it by your driver’s license. So that’s fun. A nice daily affirmation. Every time you open up your wallet, you’re reminded. Oh, yeah, that’s right. I’m a certified badass. It’s awesome. Gabe Howard: Sweet. Kelly Orchard: And then when they go through my full program and they get to the end of it, I do send them like a diploma. It looks like an actual college degree diploma that says licensed to be badass with your name on it. So that’s part of the fun part, yes. Is it recognized by the state? No. I think you can put on your resume for sure though, you know. Gabe Howard: That’s awesome. Kelly Orchard: Yeah. Yeah. But the badass soundtrack. You know, I can say I discovered it doing some of my own psychotherapy work on myself, a little self-care and how I discovered this is, I got a new car and the car came with satellite radio. Now I’m a terrestrial radio girl. I’m a second generation broadcaster, so I would never pay for satellite radio. But while you have it, why not use it? So while I’m driving around in the car, I would scan through all these satellite radio programming that I could get and the stations. And I discovered the 70s on seven channels. Some of these songs you never hear any more because this format. Radio formats are all split up or you may not have access to them in your own streaming device or not even seek to go back to that particular genre, which for me was years of my childhood. So it’s starting to stir up memories as I’m hearing these songs, reminding me of an event that was going on or a timeframe in my life. And that’s what sort of prompted me and introduced me to hey, there’s something to this because I was going through a period of grief and working on some very personal struggles. But the music was making me feel better. And so I went back into some of my studies. And I loved studying neuroscience. And, you know, in 2009, there was a study by the National Institute of Health. Kelly Orchard: They did a study on people practicing gratitude, writing in a gratitude journal. They did the study and found that the people who practice gratitude, their hypothalamus, was really fired up. And that’s the organ in our brain that regulates our hormones and our stress levels. And they said that these people had lowered stress levels due to the fact that they were practicing gratitude. Well, it’s the same hormone as you do when you have happy memories and nostalgia. So I thought, well, why not put together a badass soundtrack with songs that you personally can attach to a happy memory, that when you allow yourself, getting back to one of the A’s in BADASS, when you allow it to work for you, it can be an instant change of your mindset, like changing the radio station or, you know, flipping the format. And I started testing it out on some of my clients because I knew it worked for me. Tested that on some of my clients, works great for them, created a class. Now I’m teaching people how to do this by utilizing neuroscience, cognitive behavioral therapy, going back and doing some nostalgia and reminiscing, which is part of where the narrative comes in. And then the solutions focus. Now, what are we gonna do with it if this works? Let’s do more of it. So it does prove to be an instant attitude adjustment. You’re right. Gabe Howard: We’ll be right back after this message. Announcer: This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp.com. Secure, convenient, and affordable online counseling. Our counselors are licensed, accredited professionals. Anything you share is confidential. Schedule secure video or phone sessions, plus chat and text with your therapist whenever you feel it’s needed. A month of online therapy often costs less than a single traditional face to face session. Go to BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral and experience seven days of free therapy to see if online counseling is right for you. BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral. Gabe Howard: And we’re back speaking with Kelly Orchard about how to become a licensed badass. Kelly, I just have to know what is on your badass soundtrack. Kelly Orchard: I’ll tell you one story that is really funny to me. And thank you for asking. So I was sharing the concept with a colleague of mine. In fact, he was my mentor as I was working toward getting licensed. So I respect him highly. He is also a professional musician, a guitar player. So we have that musical connection as well. So we’re sharing this with him, and he asked me the same thing. So what’s on your soundtrack? And I tell him, Joy to the World from the Three Dog Night, which is a song from the 70s. Gabe Howard: Yeah. Kelly Orchard: He looks at me because he’s a serious guitarist. He goes, Why? That’s not a badass song. I’m like, well, it maybe doesn’t make you feel badass. But it has, it means something to me. You know, we said when we had our radio station, we were an oldies station for a while. It was a family run radio station. And my brothers and I were also on the air. And so one of my brothers was doing the morning show and, you know, with a radio formatting, not everybody you hear on the air actually is in the studio, or works at the studio. You have, you know, you have different segments. Somebody will call in. So, for example, we subscribe to a traffic segment. So this gentleman would call in to do the traffic. And there was always some sort of a bumper of music. You know, in between the segments. So the traffic director’s name was David Jeremiah. And so my brother would play the song to the opening of Three Dog Night. He says, All right, everybody, we’ve got the traffic director. David, my good friend David, and it goes right into the lyrics, “Jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine.” And so for me, that reminds me of a really fun time when my family owned a radio station. Remember I told you when I first discovered the badass soundtrack, I was going through some of my own grief work. The brother that we were singing the song Joy to the World with, he passed away a few years ago. I was working through the process of grieving my brother. So when this song came up and it triggered that memory, of course it made me happy. And it reminded me of my brother and it had to make it on to my badass soundtrack. Gabe Howard: Of course, I’m sorry to hear about your brother, but what’s interesting is, you know, to me, when you first started talking about a badass soundtrack, I was thinking of like all the, you know, the strong bass line and the upbeat music. And it sounds like the way that you pick these songs are things that elicit strong memories and strong happy memories. Not necessarily, you know, the boom, boom, boom, boom, you know, the things that get you excited to go to a sporting event. Kelly Orchard: Right. Gabe Howard: Is that true? Kelly Orchard: Well, you know, basically what you’re doing is you’re stirring up different types of emotions which are sparking off different neurotransmitters in your brain, that dopamine in the serotonin levels. So depends on what it is that you need. If you need confidence, I’ve got a song for myself that builds that builds my confidence. It’s a reminder of a time I stood up for myself or I won. So, yes, I do encourage you to utilize those lyrics and those words that pump you up. But it’s much a different playlist. It’s going to help you with your workout or going to a sporting event is going to be completely different than one that’s going to help you reduce the symptoms of anxiety or improve your mindset or give you the confidence you need to walk into a meeting or have the conversation that you need to have with somebody different. So it’s just a matter of how you strategize it. And I do teach. I go through the steps on how to get to that point. It’s a fun. It’s a fun exercise. So when I tell clients it’s like to do your homework, it’s like who would will not want to do the homework for this — sampling music? Gabe Howard: So you assign this to your clients, to your patients, you say what I want you to do is go home and make a badass soundtrack. What instructions do you give them? Kelly Orchard: It really depends on, you know, who is there in my psychotherapy practice. One song at a time because I only see them. I don’t see them again for a week. When I teach my workshop. I have a whole section dedicated just for that. And I teach them basically how to stir up some memories. You can’t put the cart before the horse. You know, it’s like I can’t expect them to have these memories before they hear the music. It’s the music that usually triggers the memory. Right. That makes them feel good. So like, for example, that this is one of my first go-to ones is getting back to driving. Getting back to when you had your driver’s license. What was the first car that you were driving around? So then they’ll talk about the car that they drove around. Then the next step, the next question is what music might you have been listening to when you were that age and driving around in your car? Well, the next thing you know, they’re talking about the music of that era of when they were probably 16, 17, 18 years old, which is when your memories are really starting to take hold and you want to remember them. The ones that make you feel bad ass, such as graduating from high school, your first road trip, your first prom, falling in love, getting an A on a test. Getting your driver’s license. Things like that. So then I take them through that process of the first car, and then we start sampling the music of that era. And then once we start sampling a little bit of music here and there, then I’d say find one song that represents that particular incident. Like they’ll still tell a story. But I remember when my friends took a road trip up the coast in. What song were you guys been listening to on that road trip? And they find this song. Then they have that. Then they add it to their bed. That soundtrack helps them feel independent, autonomous, grown up. Gabe Howard: How often should they listen to this soundtrack? And the reason that I ask specifically is because it just seems like if it’s going to work and make you feel better, just never turn it off. Just let it play 24/7. But but but obviously that’s that’s not going to work. So it it seems like there’s probably criteria for when it will work and when it won’t. And also kind of as a follow up question to that, we don’t want to not handle our issues because we’re too busy listening to music. And I know that’s not your intent. Kelly Orchard: Yeah, that’s not the intent, and I appreciate you saying that. So first of all, how often should you listen to it? As often as you would need to have that positive mindset. You know, it’s like, well, we talk about you practice positive thoughts, gratitude. They’ll help you get through the day. But it’s not a matter of being Pollyanna. This is actually changing the brain chemistry. So when you think about it as often as you do it, it’s kind of like working out, you know, exercising your muscles while your brain’s a muscle, too. So the more you do it, the more it’s going to benefit you. But the benefit is it’s not like listening to music all the time to make you feel better. It’s actually the positivity that changing your brain chemistry is giving you an opportunity to see things in a different perspective and get fresh ideas to the solution to the problems that you have. So like for me, example, is if I’m having a stressful situation, I know that thinking about it and worrying about it isn’t gonna do anything. But if I listen to a song that’s going to shift my mindset, I’ll probably come up with a better answer to solve that problem. Either that or it’s going to resolve itself because, well, the song just told me that I got through this problem. I can get through this one, too. So that’s kind of what the soundtrack will do for you. I also cut it down and we break it down into different segments of your life. So at any given time, there should be at least 40 to 50 songs on your soundtrack. So there’s 20 different songs that you can play. So plan is not to get desensitized to certain songs. So having a decent soundtrack but listening as often as you’d like the same as when you go out for a walk as often as you want, write in your journal as many times as you need to practice gratitude all day long. You know, it’s like you can always flip back and forth. Gabe Howard: And just to clarify, the music is supposed to spur action. The music isn’t the action. It’s supposed to get you pumped up to be active, to face the challenge and to be a badass, because after all, nobody can be a badass if they’re sitting at home listening to music. Right. Kelly Orchard: Well, they really depends because, you know, part of that part of the badass is that in order for us to have fresh ideas, it’s like not to be busy all the time. So sometimes you just need to relax and even allow yourself to get bored because that’s when the fresh ideas come up in. The brainstorms really start to happen in your brain’s like free to do those things. But you’re right, it is to spur action. You know, I had a client who acknowledged that her life as a child was complete chaos. And, you know, the perspective was that she’d had a horrible upbringing and couldn’t really reconcile with that and couldn’t talk to her mother anymore because the mother had died. So we started working on about our soundtrack and got to some of the music that she listened to in her childhood. And when she rediscovered a song from the Go-Go’s, it took her back to a time period where she and her little friend would play, dance and dress up in the bedroom, even though everything was crazy going on outside that room. The two of them had that feeling of safety and bonding in a bedroom. And it helped her to reframe some of her childhood experiences just because of one song. So that’s how it can be helpful. It’s just a new method that I’ve been developing. Gabe Howard: It sounds very, very cool. And again, I don’t think that anybody is surprised by the idea that music can take you on an emotional journey. Kelly Orchard: Oh, no. Gabe Howard: And your connection of using music for that emotional journey and then harnessing that to move forward in your life. I really think it’s just common sense. Right. So it’s amazing that it took so long to come up with it. But I’m glad that you did. And I think that our listeners are gonna be better off for it. Speaking of which, where can our listeners find you? Kelly Orchard: Well, I have a Web site which is Licensed2BBadass.com, and it’s the number two, not the word to, Licensed2BBadass.com, and find me there. I’m on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. I’m everywhere on social media. I also have a podcast, Kelly Orchard’s Apple a Day listed on Apple, i-Tunes Stitcher and Spotify. Also a YouTube channel. Oh, my gosh. Almost forgot that. Gabe Howard: What’s the YouTube channel? Kelly Orchard: The YouTube channel is my name. Kelly Orchard. I have a little fun series that I do. I also drive a 2006 Mustang, so I’ve been doing little videos inside the car with people called Mustang Monday, Badass Tips from the Street so you can catch the videos on my YouTube channel. Gabe Howard: Nice. Kelly Orchard: Yeah, they’re just a little short, brief ones, business, mental health, personal development, me a conversation with somebody else in my car. Carpool. Karaoke for mental health. Gabe Howard: Carpool karaoke for mental health. Well, I love it. Well, thank you so much, Kelly, for hanging out with us. I really appreciate it. Kelly Orchard: Gabe it was truly an honor. Gabe Howard: Thank you and everybody else, do you want to interact with the show on Facebook, suggest topics, comment on the show or be the first to get updates? You can join our Facebook group. A quick link is psych central dot com slash f B show. And as I ask every week, I’m basically pleading at this point. I would consider it a personal favor if you told a friend, referred us on social media, emailed somebody or hey, just left us a review. Give us as many stars as possible and use your words to tell people why they should listen. And remember, you can get one week of free, convenient, affordable, private online counseling anytime, anywhere, simply by visiting our sponsor. Better help dot com slash psych central. We will see everybody next week. Announcer: You’ve been listening to the Psych Central Podcast. Previous episodes can be found at PsychCentral.com/show or on your favorite podcast player. To learn more about our host, Gabe Howard, please visit his website at GabeHoward.com. PsychCentral.com is the internet’s oldest and largest independent mental health website run by mental health professionals. Overseen by Dr. John Grohol, PsychCentral.com offers trusted resources and quizzes to help answer your questions about mental health, personality, psychotherapy, and more. Please visit us today at PsychCentral.com. If you have feedback about the show, please email show@PsychCentral.com. Thank you for listening and please share widely. View the full article
  9. When I was in college studying psychology, one of my professors had a handy little saying he liked to share that guided his counseling practice: “skills before pills.” What did this mean? In essence, as a psychologist, when he was working with clients, helping them manage various types of mood concerns, he always advocated for his clients to learn coping skills before pursuing taking psychiatric medications, such as antidepressants. The reason he advocated for this is because, by learning coping skills, you can use these to self-manage the stressors and symptoms impacting your mental health. Coping skills are tools you keep in your imaginary tool belt, and you can whip out whenever you need them. Those coping skills provide you the confidence to manage your own mental health symptoms whenever they pop up. Psychiatric medications, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, for instance, are also very valuable for treating mental health disorders. But many people wonder if and when they should consider being evaluated for a possible medication. Here, we will outline how you may know it’s the right time to consider adding medication to your treatment plan for your mental health issues. As always, though, you need to work with your treating provider to create the best treatment plan specific to your needs. When speaking of moderate to severe depression and anxiety, the very best evidence-based treatment is a combination of psychotherapy (i.e., talk therapy) and psychiatric medication. When used in combination, these two treatment options help alleviate symptoms and provide relief to people who are suffering from anxiety and depression. But what if you’re unsure if seeking medications is the right choice for you? If you are experiencing your first ever bout of anxiety or depression and have never had treatment for it before, it can be best to start with psychotherapy. In therapy, you can explore what may be triggering your depression and begin to learn how to better cope with the symptoms and stressors leading to your mood concerns. On the flip side, if you are finding one of the following rings true for you, it can also be helpful to seek an evaluation for psychiatric medications: 1) “My anxiety/depression is impacting me so significantly that I can barely function in my day to day life. I struggle to even get out of bed or make it to work. I can’t care for my kids.” If you find that your symptoms are so severe that you just can’t make it through what you need to do in a day, psychiatric medications can help alleviate your symptoms. By using medications in this instance, you can get to the point where you can better engage in psychotherapy and practice skills to manage your day to day stressors. 2) “I’m struggling to actually be able to implement coping skills. I just can’t seem to work up the energy or motivation to practice the skills I’m learning.” If you’re feeling so impaired by your mental health symptoms that you can’t work up the strength and energy to use the skills you’ve learned, medication can help. Medication can help provide reduction in the severity of your symptoms so you can feel better able to use those skills you’ve learned. 3) “I’m having suicidal thoughts and am scared that nothing will get better. I’m not sure I can stay safe.” Your safety and well-being are the top priority. If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis, it can be extremely helpful to be evaluated for psychiatric medications. By doing so in combination with psychotherapy, you can work on reducing the depression that is impacting those suicidal thoughts. 4) “I’ve been in psychotherapy for quite some time and my depression/anxiety just isn’t improving.” If you find that, despite consistently going to psychotherapy, your symptoms haven’t gotten better, it can be a good time to consider an evaluation for psychiatric medications. What many find is, by starting medication, they can feel some increased relief of their symptoms and, as a result, find that their therapy also becomes more productive and helpful. 5) “I have had psychotic symptoms (for instance, seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there) or manic symptoms (for instance, reduced need for sleep, increased impulsive/risk taking behaviors, fast/pressured speech).” If you have found, or a loved one has expressed to you concerns about possible psychotic or manic symptoms, it is important to be evaluated for psychiatric medication. These symptoms very often require a medication intervention to combat the symptoms. The fact is, if you are having psychosis or mania, it is extremely difficult to engage properly or benefit from psychotherapy until the symptoms are better under control. What if you’re still unsure whether psychiatric medications are right for you? It is extremely helpful to broach this topic with your provider. If you are currently in psychotherapy, talk to your therapist about your questions and concerns. As part of counseling, your therapist’s job is to outline all of the various treatment options for you, including whether a medication evaluation could be beneficial. Your therapist may also be able to provide you a referral to a psychiatrist or family medicine provider who could provide such an evaluation. With that said, though, medications alone may not be enough. This brings us back to the start of this article, where we advocated for “skills before pills.” What has been proven to be the most beneficial treatment for anxiety and depression is a combination of medication and psychotherapy. So, if you have started psychiatric medications, it is best to continue on with therapy at the same time. Medications can help alleviate your symptoms, and therapy can help fill your toolbox with skills to keep those symptoms at bay in the long-term. Remember, there is hope. Your anxiety or depression can be treated. You can find relief. View the full article
  10. “If the only thing people learned was not to be afraid of their experience, that alone would change the world.” – Sidney Banks I spent most of my life scared of my feelings. Having feelings and expressing them made me mentally ill—or so I was led to believe by a large number of mental health professionals. When I felt sad, they labeled me as depressed. When I showed any signs of anxiety, they gave me another list of mental health disorders I needed medication for. And if I was angry? Oh well, that was the absolute worst. That clearly proved how insane and utterly out of control I was! I didn’t understand how they couldn’t see what was really going on for me. I couldn’t understand how everyone saw me as the problem when what was happening to me was the actual problem. But that’s a story for another time. I was brought up to be a good girl, which meant that any angry expressions were forbidden, shamed, and punished. I wasn’t allowed to express disappointment because that made me ungrateful. I couldn’t ask for what I wanted because that made me greedy. I wasn’t allowed to disagree with anyone because that made me difficult. I couldn’t express frustration because that meant I was out of control and needed to be left alone to think about my shameful behavior. I didn’t ask for help because good girls don’t inconvenience other people. I couldn’t be happy either because that made me attention-seeking and annoying. I felt all the feelings, but I was taught that they were wrong, forbidden, and shameful, so it didn’t feel safe to feel them. And so I tried to suppress them. I inhibited them, pushed them away, avoided them, shamed them, and feared them. Every time I felt something, I saw it as more evidence for how bad I was. Later on, I saw it as evidence for how broken and mentally insane I was. It drove me crazy. But it was thinking that having feelings made me insane that actually drove me insane. I believed that what I was experiencing was wrong. I saw my feelings as problems, so I tried to hide them and not feel them. So much so that I don’t even recall feeling very happy or excited about anything. All I remember is feeling tired, lethargic, and bored. I wasn’t even fifteen years old at that time… I continued like this for a very long time. My life felt lifeless and bleak. I don’t recall having any fun, adventures, or exciting experiences. Everything just seemed so hard. Life was something to endure, not enjoy. Enjoyment seemed to be reserved for a lucky few, and I most certainly wasn’t one of them. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I learned that my feelings weren’t problems, and that they didn’t make me insane. My feelings only made me one thing—human. Feelings Lesson 1: Feelings aren’t evidence that we are broken or insane. They are evidence that we are human. I know now that I had always been perfectly healthy, but others taught me to believe that being a little human with feelings was somehow wrong and shameful. My feelings were a problem for others. They were inconvenient to them. And as a result of them not dealing with their own feelings—their own irritation, intolerance, and impatience—they tried to control and eliminate mine. But what happens when we try to control or eliminate our feelings is that we deprive ourselves from experiencing the richness of life. We numb them all because we cannot selectively numb. We feel it all or nothing at all. So if I am unwilling to feel my anger, I will eradicate other feelings with it—apart from maybe one or two that will be expressed more strongly than they would if we only let ourselves feel whatever it is that we actually need to feel. Feelings Lesson 2: We are meant to feel all our feelings and can’t selectively numb them. In my professional work, I have noticed that sad people usually suppress their anger and angry people usually suppress their sadness. It’s a simplistic generalization, but it is largely true. The problem is that the displaced feeling will be way more powerful and destructive than it would be if we didn’t try to control or avoid it. We avoid a feeling when it is shame-bound, when every time it arises we feel shame for feeling it. If we feel something excessively and intensely, it’s a sign that we have shame-bound another feeling, which means that this feeling was not tolerated in our childhood, and every time it arises, our anxiety level rises. We then try to push it down to stop ourselves from feeling it, but then the energy of that feeling gets displaced and added to a feeling we believe to be more acceptable to feel and express. The ‘more acceptable’ feeling then takes on a bigger form, and we end up having panic attacks instead of expressing our frustrations about someone. Or we get depressed instead of setting boundaries with people who treat us in disrespectful ways. Or we explode in a rage because we don’t allow ourselves to admit to feeling hurt, alone, and unsupported. There are thousands of examples like the above. Sadly, we always believe that our misdirected expression like rage or depression is the problem we need to fix, and so we focus on the result of the problem and not on its actual cause, which means that we cannot solve it. If we want to work through our issues, we need to identify which of our feelings are shame-bound and then reconnect with them in healthy and compassionate ways. This is a process. We are going against a lifetime of conditioning, so we need to be gentle with ourselves while persevering and getting honest with ourselves. But it is possible. We can remove the shame-binding from all of our feelings by reminding ourselves that our feelings aren’t problems, and that feeling our feelings is what makes our human experience special. Feelings Lesson 3: Shame-bound feelings express themselves in different and destructive ways, meaning we simply can’t not feel. When we inhibit what we are meant to express to protect others from our feelings, because we perceive that they’re a problem for them, we reinforce the message that our feelings are problems and that we are wrong to feel them. Believing this will negatively impact our mental health and enjoyment of other people and life in general, because feelings exist for our benefit. Our feelings exist to guide us through life. They show us what we want and what we don’t want so we can create more of the former and move away from the latter. When someone shames our feelings and encourages us to disconnect from them, they encourage us to disconnect from our emotional guidance system, which serves to help us create a great life for ourselves in which we can grow and thrive. This inevitably leads to creating an inauthentic, unfulfilling life, and stunted development. Our feelings also show us when we believe something harmful that isn’t true: a lie of the mind. If I believe that my anger is a sign that I am an inherently flawed human being, I feel distressed because this isn’t true. My guidance system is trying to tell me that I’m on the wrong track. Because just like the physical pain we experience when touching something painfully hot, emotional pain tells us to move away and let go of a harmful thought. And so, our emotions highlight our state of mind. They encourage us to let go, drop, and move away from anything that doesn’t serve us or promote our personal growth. Feelings Lesson 4: Our feelings tell us when we engage in harmful thinking. Once we understand the purpose of our feelings, we begin to see the beauty in them. We are made to have feelings—all the feelings! We are meant to feel our feelings. Our feelings aren’t problems. They are just here to give us the full human experience. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! We have the potential to experience it all. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! But we cannot make the most of this opportunity if we go in blind. Being cut off from our feelings is just that. It’s like trying to sail the oceans without a compass, hoping to find paradise to live in. It’s navigating life without any sense of what we want or what is good and healthy for us. As a consequence, we make many wrong choices and keep believing all the wrong things. Our attention then goes into fixing our mistakes instead of creating a life that is most suited to who we really are. Because simply don’t know what’s good for us and what isn’t because we don’t know what we are feeling. We are emotionally disconnected. We have feelings that try to move us toward what’s good for us, but because we don’t like how some of them feel, we disregard them all. We try to create a successful life without any sense of what successful actually looks like for us. Let me outline this with an example: What was my anger during my childhood trying to tell me? It definitely wasn’t that I was a bad and ungrateful child who was inherently flawed and devoid of any tender human qualities. My anger didn’t mean that I was disrespectful or manipulative and deserved to be hit, shouted at, shamed, and punished. My anger was trying to get me to act, to stand up for myself, to protect myself. Only was too little. Then. Not now. But I lived by those shame-bound rules for most of my life. I hated my anger. I avoided conflict. I didn’t stand up for myself when it mattered and then got myself into situations that were abusive, full of conflict, draining, and traumatic—but also unnecessary. If I had been attuned to my anger, if I had responded to it immediately, nothing would have ever needed to escalate. I would have stood up for myself and moved away from whoever and whatever wasn’t healthy for me and didn’t contribute positively toward my growth. I would have made very different choices and I would have lived a very different life. Being cut off from my feelings and disconnected from my internal guidance system deprived me of the experience of life I wish I’d had. I was doing it the hard way. I was trying to succeed going in blind. It doesn’t work. I know you know that too. Feelings Lesson 5: Our feelings ask us to act in ways that are good for us. So why am I going on about feeling our feelings? Because it’s the solution to many of our problems. Instead of putting all our energy into avoiding, controlling, and eliminating our feelings, we have to become attuned to them. We have to reconnect with them so we can make better and healthier choices for ourselves. We need them. We are meant to have them. And the more we let ourselves feel them, the more easily we learn to respond to them in healthy and life-enhancing ways. Because our feelings aren’t problems. They are not inconvenient. They are trying to move us into the direction of health and well-being on a physical, emotional, and mental level. And in that way, they help us create a life we can actually enjoy. But only if we allow ourselves to feel them. This post courtesy of Tiny Buddha. View the full article
  11. When life throws us challenges, it can be beneficial to have ways to comfort ourselves amidst intense feelings of fear, worry, sadness, or other strong emotions. We all have moments like this, whether it might be waiting for a loved one’s phone call when we are worried about their well-being, awaiting medical test results, feeling fear about some upcoming situation, experiencing loss or grief, feeling anxious about a test we have to take, or waiting for someone we care about to come out of surgery. Large or small, these moments can feel interminable and can be difficult to get through. How do we help ourselves through such moments? Sitting meditation, with eyes closed, can sometimes be a helpful practice when we encounter difficult emotions, but when emotions are very heightened this can be hard for people to engage in — and may even be contraindicated at times. The following is a short meditation practice that can be done with eyes open, sitting or moving about as you choose. This meditation uses the acronym S.A.F.E., and its purpose is to help cultivate feelings of safety and stability, even amidst some of life’s challenging moments. S — Send yourself compassion and care. While self-compassion might seem like a foreign concept for many people, the power of self-compassion has been well documented. One way you might begin to send yourself compassion is by acknowledging that what you are experiencing is difficult, and by reminding yourself that you are not alone. Sometimes, during times of distress, we can feel deeply alone with our fear, sadness, grief or other intense emotions. It can be immensely helpful to acknowledge that: (1) other people in your community or in the world (even if you don’t know them) are probably struggling in similar ways and (2) you can be there for yourself. When we can acknowledge our own suffering as part of a larger, shared humanity, as Kristen Neff suggests, and when we can reach out to the parts of us that are feeling scared or hurt or sad, this can help to make our pain more bearable. You might try putting one hand on your heart and the other hand on your abdomen (which psychiatrist Dan Siegel describes in his book Brainstorm) to send soothing messages to the nervous system. Feel the gentle pressure of your hands as you say some simple phrases that acknowledge whatever you are experiencing. For example, “this is difficult, I am not alone in experiencing this, I’ll get through this.” A — Accept, Allow and Anchor Accept and allow that whatever you are feeling is O.K. While emotions may at times be highly uncomfortable, we often can add fuel to the fire by feeling bad about what we are feeling. It is common for people to say to themselves “I shouldn’t be feeling this, this is stupid. I shouldn’t let this bother me. I need to be strong” or other variations on this theme. Know that you don’t have to fight to push away your feelings or feel something different than you do. At the same time, these feeling don’t have to completely swallow you up or sweep you away. This is where the anchor comes in. Picture an anchor of a ship, holding that ship safe and secure in the harbor even as the storms pass by. At the surface of the water there might be great turbulence, but deep underneath the water, where the anchor is, there is stillness. As you think about this image you might focus on just one thing for a few moments that gives you a sense of being anchored, such as the constant rhythm of your breath coming in and going out, or the feeling of your feet making contact with the solid earth beneath you, or a person in your life who is a steady support for you. F — Face this moment with all of the resources you have. Take a moment to think about all of the inner and outer resources that you have to help you get through this current challenge. Call to mind qualities within yourself that have helped you to get through other challenges in your life, qualities such as courage, resilience, perseverance, the ability to find gratitude, or patience. Also call to mind resources outside of yourself that are available as supports to you, including people in your life who you might reach out to, organizations, groups, or professionals who are available to help you. If you are able, write down all of the inner and outer resources that you thought of. Imagine this circle of caring that surrounds you. You are not alone. E — Engage in something here and now. Find an activity that allows you to bring your full attention into the present moment. If there is something you can do about the problem at hand, you might choose to fully focus on that task. For example, if you just got news that your parent has dementia, you might focus on finding as many resources as possible on the internet that might offer you knowledge about next steps and/or supportive organizations in your area. More often than not however, we may be dealing with intense emotions and accompanying ruminating thoughts about a situation for which there are no immediate actions we can take. In these cases, it can be helpful to intentionally engage our attention on something other than our ruminating thoughts. This might include anything from more enjoyable activities such as knitting, gardening, doing a crossword puzzle, going for a walk in nature or playing with a child, to more neutral ones such as folding the laundry with full attention on just that one thing, or washing the dishes. The idea is to try and steady the mind on just that one activity, and when the mind starts to ruminate in unhelpful ways, to bring it back to whatever you are doing, again and again. Bring as many of your five senses into this experience as possible. The mind will wander repeatedly, but the task at hand becomes a kind of anchor we come back to over and over, to guide us back into the present. Many of my patients describe engaging in such activities as “distracting themselves”, but I like to reframe this for them. The ruminating thoughts are the distraction that the mind creates; engaging oneself fully in an activity at hand brings oneself back into the present moment. Practicing each of these four steps in sequence can be a kind of informal meditation practice that can help bring greater ease to some of life’s more challenging moments. View the full article
  12. The only reason your physician asks about your symptoms is because he cannot accurately treat your pain and discomfort, if he doesn’t know where that pain and discomfort is coming from. And even then, being aware of all the symptoms does not mean that he will always get the treatment right the first time, or the second, or ever! Even when patients know how to accurately describe their symptoms, cases of misdiagnosis and worsening symptoms after treatment abound. We now know that knowing the symptoms is not always synonymous with knowing the cause. I like to think of children’s anxiety along the same lines. Identifying what drives your child’s anxiety can be easy — changing schools, going to an activity where he’s scared of the facilitator, a fear of swimming pools, feeling like he won’t be able to make friends; these are all normal anxiety-provoking situations for a child, and they are generally easier to “fight” when you know what monster you have to fight against. But there are times when a child shows all the symptoms of anxiety, but you can’t quite place a finger on the source. Dealing with this type of anxiety can place you on quite slippery terrain. Our daughter’s anxiety began as would any other child’s. She was shifting from preschool to elementary school and was scared of what, we thought, was the unexpected. She was going to have a male teacher; until then, she had only had female ones. She was going to start reading. We would no longer be able to accompany her to her class. Things were about to get more “serious.” We have made it a habit to speak to our kids about it being normal to have difficult emotions, about being able to deal with even the scariest of them. We thought this knowledge would help her sail through the shift, but dealing with her anxiety took longer than we would have ever imagined. The thing is, the shift sparked the anxiety, but we only saw the surface, the tip of the iceberg. Her anxiety was on and off, and she was unable to pinpoint where it came from. She talked about being scared, but the things that sparked her fears changed at dizzying speed. We were up against an invisible monster. What we knew for sure was that she was going through an anxious episode and we had to do something to ensure her anxiety didn’t ruin her first year in elementary school. These are the three things that worked for us: 1. We found out what worked. Kids will not always react in a given manner. The last time our daughter had a bout of anxiety, worry dolls had worked wonders. This time around, they wouldn’t do. The thing is, young kids do not necessarily connect “the same feeling” with the same “coping mechanism.” There’s good news and bad news for parents who have to deal with natural worriers. The good news is that there are thousands of coping mechanisms to help your child manage anxiety. The bad news is that not all those mechanisms will work for your child, meaning that you have to adopt a “test and see” approach. The appropriate coping mechanism has to feel right to help your kid learn to manage his anxiety by himself. 2. We chose not to focus on fear and anxiety. Seeing your child struggling with fear and anxiety can be hard. A common reaction is to try and protect her, but here’s the thing: focusing on your child’s anxiety-related temperament and behavior makes it worse, not better. The more we spoke to our child about anxiety, the bigger her fears grew. These two things worked for us: We completely stopped talking about anxiety and fear and started focusing on positive behavior that would help her deal with that anxiety. We stopped reinforcing her behavior by hanging around at drop off. We started telling her we had to leave, and that we knew she’d have a great day, and started leaving confidently without turning around after saying goodbye. 3. We taught her that it is possible to feel fear and still be brave. Try as we might, we cannot get rid of “big” emotions. Difficult as they make be, emotions play an important role in our lives. Being emotionally intelligent is not about experiencing less difficult emotions; it is about reacting appropriately to the emotion-provoking situations we encounter every day. Instead of telling our daughter to act as though she was not scared, we taught her to say, “I was scared today, but I still managed to…” or “I felt a bit anxious, but I managed to…” We taught her that even in the midst of big emotions, she could still find balance. This strategy worked especially well because it made her aware of possible options for behavior change. Every time she exhibited the expected behavior, she received a special card (“I felt anxious today, but I still went and played with my friends”). The cards made it easier to understand that it is possible to feel anxious or to be scared and still carry on with “normal activities.” If your child, like our daughter, is a natural worrier, he will need more help than other kids to deal with major changes. The good news is that there are a wide range of strategies that can equip you with the tools you need to help him better manage his anxiety episodes. Remember that if his anxiety seems to increase, his behavior appears extreme, or you feel unable to help, a professional can provide you with strategies adopted to your situation. View the full article
  13. It may seem ironic that meditation — a technique that helps manage stress — can itself inspire anxiety. However, qualms about taking up meditation are common, and they illustrate perfectly that our automatic stress response can fire in situations which are wholly inappropriate. Misgivings inspired by meditation also show how easily stress can develop, in even the least ostensibly stressful of contexts. Far from being useless, these kinds of worries can be transformative teachers. Engaging with them can offer you insight into how anxiety forms, before it attacks. Exploring your meditation-related concerns will equip you with new abilities to deconstruct stress-inducing thoughts in other areas of your life, before they reach critical mass. Recognizing when worries don’t warrant “fight or flight” mode Anxiety is inescapable; hard-wired into human physiology. It is, primarily, a survival tool called our “fight or flight” response because it primes us for avoiding threats in the wild. However, the bodily changes it engenders are often (in our relatively safe modern world) misplaced and unpleasant. Your heart rate increases, firing extra blood to the muscles, as your system scales up for self-defense. Almost always disproportionate, and unhelpful to navigating the situation at hand, this state can be downright counterproductive. If you’re in a traffic jam, for example, stress will function to fog your inner windscreen, compromising the faculties you actually need — clear thinking and road safety sense. The frequent superfluousness of our physical stress response is especially apparent if you look at anxieties about meditating. An enlarged sense of perspective is regularly celebrated by people who take up meditation. Noting the gulf between life-or-death and your worries — about meditation, and in other areas of life — will come naturally the more you practice. Stick with your mantra, but everything else is better when you go off-script. The basis of Beeja meditation (the form of meditation I teach) is your mantra, which you repeat internally to achieve a meditative state. When silently thinking it during your practice, it is natural for other thoughts — ones which make you angry or upset — to crop up. You might find that additional insecurities pile in, especially about whether meditating is “working.” Surely the goal is banishing worries? Although your inability to banish other thoughts feels like falling at the first hurdle, it’s actually a win — for your conscious awareness. It’s never advantageous to suppress vexation; it will incubate and intensify. Instead, you should become aware of your self-imposed limitations about what you’re allowed to think. Attempting to stop yourself thinking particular things is one of the greatest roadblocks to meditating. Once you transcend it, you will be empowered to meet whatever arises without hostility. You can approach all thoughts, even painful ones, with new detachment. You will unearth the space to question and discard ideas that no longer serve you. The most valuable present is the present moment. When you meditate, it is easy to fall into the fallacy that you are laying the foundations of a better future you. This can result in conceptualizing your practice as a means of clocking up brownie points for your future self. Each repetition of your mantra or few minutes of breath regulation can become a building block to put down hurriedly, so that you can pick up the next one. This creates the uncomfortable sensation of stockpiling your meditation practice time, with your eyes on the prize on the horizon. The only thing you can be certain of, if you fixate on blossoming in the future, is that you’ll never experience fulfillment in the present. Draw your senses towards how your meditation practice feels right now. You will access a calmness much more in keeping with your ideal self than you could possibly have reached by rushing towards an imagined goal. Make time for your mantra, and your mantra will make time for you. Spending twenty minutes, twice a day meditating can feel like an impossible ask; an amount of time that it is initially difficult to imagine setting aside. However, we devote time effortlessly to activities that become second-nature — on average, people spend a sobering three hours and 15 minutes on their smartphones per day. The sooner you establish a habit, the less you will feel like you have to dig deep to find the time for meditation. Furthermore, it will itself become a time-saver; for example, increasing your productivity and reducing stress-created activities like compulsive phone-checking. Whenever you find yourself thinking about your to-do list or feeling like getting on with it would be a better use of your time, keep meditating. View the full article
  14. While snorkeling in the ocean, I had the opportunity to remember an invaluable lesson regarding willingness — to take what is offered in the moment. Willingness is an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) principle that, when applied correctly, can help us live more meaningfully, despite unpleasant external and internal events. My snorkeling story illustrates how easily we forget that we should not try to fight the unfightable. We can learn to accept what is offered to us in the here and now, so we can focus on whom and what matters most in our lives. While swimming towards the area of a lagoon that had a reef by the open sea, my sister and I found some fish to look at but not as many as we had seen previously in other areas. Nevertheless, I became enthralled with watching them and let the ocean flow take me wherever it went. After a few minutes of enjoying and watching the fish, I decided to lift my head to see where I was. I discovered the sea current had taken me out of the lagoon and I was now in the open ocean — fortunately, not too far from the lagoon. The Alarm: The second I realized I was not in the lagoon, my protector (my mind) quickly alerted me, “Oh no! This is dangerous. I’ve got to get back in.” I proceeded to swim back towards the lagoon. After what it seemed like a long time, though it probably had been just one minute, I realized that I was not making any headway. It may have been because I’m not the best swimmer. But I remembered, “I cannot get tired,” so I floated and rested. When I began to swim again, I spotted my sister about 30 feet away and yelled, “I can’t get back in!” She calmly responded, “You can do it.” I yelled back, “I’m trying to, but the current is too strong!” I then tried to do backstrokes and went the wrong way. She swam a little closer and reminded me to stay present and to slow down. There was no rush. I frustratingly answered, “I know. I’m trying!” Fusion I became totally entangled with my thoughts, feelings, sensations, and especially with the urge to swim fast and get out of the current taking me away from the lagoon. My advisor inside my head was saying so to keep me safe. I got caught up with the content of the thoughts: “I am out of the lagoon. I passed the safety ropes. I’m in danger. There is no lifeguard. No one had noticed me drifting away. What would’ve happened if my sister had not seen me? The fish were nice, but not worth drowning for. This is too hard.” My protector was at work. There was no storm. The current was strong but not so powerful to make it impossible to get back in if I stayed calm. For a few seconds I felt that icky feeling in my stomach indicating my body was in a fight-or-flight response. Willingness The minute I got caught up with the meaning of the thoughts, that was the very moment I began to fight. I was not willing to be outside of the lagoon, though it was no deeper than the farther areas inside the lagoon. When I recognized the unhelpful thoughts, I was able to connect and embrace actuality — being outside of the lagoon. No matter what I did in a frantic mode, my reality could not change right then. When I embraced it, and allowed my thoughts, feelings, sensations, bodily sensations, and urges to be there, I was able to think more clearly instead of panicking and trying to get rid of them. To be clear, “accepting your thoughts and feelings now” does not mean staying stuck where you are with a victim stance or white-knuckling the situation. Learning to become disentangled from your thoughts and accepting what is given will enable you to have an open mind to adjust accordingly. When I was desperately trying to remove myself from the situation, I didn’t get anywhere. Once I let go of the fight with my internal events (i.e., thoughts, feelings, sensations, and urges), I was able to let them be so they could run their course naturally. Act while focusing on the process. Instead of reacting frantically and just having the end goal in mind — getting back inside of the lagoon to feel safe, my focus became one slow breaststroke (my own version of a breaststroke) at a time. In your case, when anxiety and other unpleasant external or internal events occur, you can learn to be willing to take what is being offered in that instant and let emotions and sensations run their course. The effort and time you spend fighting them can be channeled towards cultivating and acting on your values and living a richer and more meaningful life. Your Turn What will you be willing to do today or this week that has been difficult in the past? Will you be willing to accept what is offered in the moment of a difficult situation? Will you be willing to let go of the fight with the unfightable? It’s never too late to learn to embrace those internal events so you can move in the direction that you want. View the full article
  15. Many of my clients, all of whom are coming to see me for help with anxiety, complain that they have a difficult time making decisions. Anxiety sufferers often have perfectionistic tendencies, and this plays into their decision-making process as well. When faced with multiple alternatives, they want to feel certain that they are choosing the right path. It is normal and often healthy to analyze different options when making a decision, but we each have our own “threshold” for when we have analyzed enough to pull the trigger on making a decision, even if we can’t be certain what the outcome will be. For people with high anxiety, this threshold for certainty is too high; they don’t want to finalize the decision until they can be 100% certain that it is the right decision. Of course, if the decision is not an inherently obvious one, reaching 100% certainty that you are making the right decision is not a realistic goal. So the decision-making process becomes endless. We call it “paralysis by analysis.” The process at play here is the same as it is for any type of anxiety: short-term avoidance of anxiety is feeding more anxiety in the long term. Anything you do to try to relieve anxiety in the moment you are feeling it actually creates more anxiety the next time you’re in a similar situation. Short-term resistance to anxiety unintentionally teaches your brain that you need the anxiety to stay safe. Let’s say a person with anxiety is unhappy in their job and is thinking about quitting. There might be a lot of factors to weigh here, such as how much money the job pays, how much they enjoy the people at work, the prospects the person might have for other jobs, etc. The trigger for anxiety around this decision is uncertainty: the decision is not an obvious one, and it is uncertain what is the right decision. When your brain senses uncertainty and perceives it as dangerous, it warns you about it by using anxiety as an alarm. Your brain tells you to try and get away from the supposedly dangerous uncertainty with a simple instruction: try to get certain about it! There are various ways we try to do this: mentally analyze it over and over (that’s what worry is), get other people’s opinions about it, or research the topic online. Doing these things often leads to reassuring answers about what the right decision might be, which leads to a temporary decrease in anxiety. But because anything that decreases anxiety in the short-term feeds more anxiety in the long-term, the anxiety gets worse the next time the person has a thought related to the uncertainty about the decision. Often, this happens about 5 seconds after we get a potentially reassuring answer when our brains say, “Well yeah but how do you KNOW?” In other words: “You aren’t 100% certain about this yet, so keep analyzing it until you are!” So the process keeps repeating itself. So what’s the solution? The answer is the principle of Exposure Therapy, a form of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that has a strong evidence base for its effectiveness in treating anxiety. Exposure therapy means doing the opposite of short-term avoidance: purposely doing and confronting the things that make you anxious in the short-term, which retrains your brain that these triggers are not actually dangerous and decreases the anxiety in the long-term. Here’s how this applies to decision-making: the best therapy for anxiety about decision-making is to simply make faster decisions! When you have a decision to make, try to keep the analysis about it as brief as you possibly can — so brief that it even feels risky. Then make the decision and take action on it even though you are not sure it is the right decision. When you do this and no harm comes to you, your brain will learn that uncertainty around decisions is not actually dangerous and will give you less anxiety about it the next time you have another decision to make. As you do this repeatedly in many different situations, it will get easier and easier with less and less anxiety. My clients are often understandably anxious to do this because what if they end up making the wrong decision? When they are reluctant, I often have them add up an estimate of how many hours they have spent analyzing this decision already. The answer is usually dozens and sometimes hundreds of hours. My question to them then is: if you’ve already spent 100 hours analyzing this, do you really think the 101st hour is the one where you will become certain about it? Also, are you really going to make a different decision after 100 hours than you would have after one hour? Or even 10 minutes? I doubt it. When my clients follow through on this and make quicker decisions even though it feels risky, they often express a feeling of profound freedom, like they are off the hook from this hugely burdensome task that wasn’t doing them any good anyway. Even though it’s scary at first, it’s really a relief to spend less time in decision-making mode. Try it for yourself and see the power of making rapid, uncertain decisions! View the full article