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  1. What’s the worst that could happen? And who will you still be regardless of the outcome? In today’s podcast, Gabe talks with author Shira Gura about her newest method CLEAR, a tool we can all use to prepare for an upcoming event or situation that is causing anxiety. Worried about an upcoming exam, a date, or a party where you won’t know anyone? Join us to learn a great method to help CLEAR your head before you go. SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW Guest information for ‘Shira Gura- Mentally Prepare’ Podcast Episode Shira Gura is an emotional well-being coach. Her background as an occupational therapist, yoga instructor, and mindfulness teacher led her to create two powerful self-help tools: The unSTUCK Method® and The CLEAR Way®. She is the author two books: Getting unSTUCK: Five Simple Steps to Emotional Well-Being (which was awarded winner of the 2017 International Book Award in self-help), and most recently The CLEAR Way: Five Simple Steps to Be Mentally Prepared for Anything. Through her coaching, courses, and community, she guides people to live more deliberately. She lives in Israel with her husband and four children. 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 the author. To learn more about Gabe, please visit his website, gabehoward.com. Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Shira Gura- Mentally Prepare’ 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: Hello, everyone, and welcome to this week’s episode of The Psych Central Podcast, I’m your host Gabe Howard and calling into the show today, we have Shira Gura. Shira’s background is as an occupational therapist, yoga instructor and mindfulness teacher. And it led her to write the book The CLEAR Way: Five Simple Steps to Be Mentally Prepared for Anything. She’s also the host of the Living Deliberately Together podcast. She makes her home in Israel with her husband and four children, Shira, welcome to the show. Shira Gura: Thank you so much. It is so great to be back. Gabe Howard: Well, I am very glad to have you back again now, given all that is going on in the world with COVID-19 being mentally prepared for anything seems more important now than perhaps at any other point, at least in my lifetime. How does your book fit in with everything that’s happening in the world? Shira Gura: Yeah, I actually think obviously when I was writing the book starting last year, this is before COVID hit and I had no idea that the publication of the book was going to come out at the same time during the hit of this pandemic. And it is a wonderful tool for the time period that we’re in right now, because as we’ll get into in the podcast, it’s a tool that helps prepare you before you go into any future moment. It really helps ground you and helps you be ready. Gabe Howard: It sounds like a great, happy accident, and I’m one of these people that I try to stay away from the extremes, you know, black and white thinking has gotten me personally in trouble. It’s interesting to me, because if I would have read the title of your book a year ago, Five Simple Steps to Be Mentally Prepared for Anything, I would’ve been like anything? Really, anything? But as we did the pre work for the show, I was like, look, if it works in a global pandemic, we might be as far along the path to anything as we can possibly get. So I’m so glad that you wrote the book. Shira Gura: I am, too. Gabe Howard: All right, as we mentioned at the top of the show, you’re a returning guest, so I want to spend just a couple of moments on your previous book and your previous episode where we talked about getting unSTUCK: Five Simple Steps to Emotional Well-Being. Just real quick, sort of baseline it for long time listeners to the show that have heard both episodes. What’s the difference between the unSTUCK method and the CLEAR Way method? Shira Gura: Both tools are really used for emotional well-being, but the unSTUCK method you would really use for something that happened in the past and the past could be a minute ago and it could be 10 years ago. I got stuck on anger. I got stuck on frustration or I was stuck on guilt, are things that already happened. And I’m stuck on them because I have an emotion attached to a story that already happened. I use the unSTUCK method in order to get myself out of the hole, out of that stuck spot. But the CLEAR way is a tool that you use for the future. If you are going into a presentation, if you are anticipating a difficult conversation with someone, if you are about to go to work, if you’re about to work with a client even and you want to just get clear for yourself before you start work, this is where the CLEAR way would be used. They are both powerful self-help tools that are step by step because they’re both based on acronyms, but they are really used for two different purposes. Gabe Howard: Can you give us some examples of where you would want to get clear in your life? Shira Gura: If you can think about any situation where you have a feeling of worry or concern or anxiety or fear going into that moment, this would be the tool that you would use. For example, I got clear before we started this interview. Gabe Howard: Nice. Shira Gura: I got clear. Yeah. And it’s not that I was having so much anxiety. I do interviews a lot. But again, it’s a future moment that I’m not sure what to expect. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know if the Internet is going to work. I don’t know if I’m going to stumble on my words. So I need to get clear. Gabe Howard: Thank you so much. And when you pitched being on the show, you said, hey, would Gabe be willing to be a guinea pig and give his own problem and be walked through the CLEAR way? And I thought, hey, why not Shira Gura: We did it on the first episode, and it worked well with getting unSTUCK. Gabe Howard: We did, and it was a lot of fun and I learned some stuff about myself, and I really think that the listeners understood the example, so we’re going to try it again. So can you walk me through the CLEAR way? Shira Gura: I would love to do that, the first thing that we need to know is what do you need to get clear about? So you can think of anything. But we need to pinpoint one example in your life where you have feelings of anticipation, of worry, of concern, of fear going into a future moment. Gabe Howard: I think that’s perfect. I have my first live speech since March coming up in a week. Obviously, I’ve done virtual stuff and continued hosting the podcast, but Gabe Howard in a room with an actual audience whom could throw tomatoes at me, first time in many, many months in a week. Shira Gura: That’s fantastic, that’s a great example. Let’s do that. OK. Gabe Howard: Excellent. All right, what’s step one? Shira Gura: So this is an acronym, five steps, C L E A R, so the first step is C is for calm. It very much relates to the unSTUCK method with the first step, S, was stop. It’s basically the same thing. This is a step where you take a moment to redirect your attention away from the story, away from the future, away from all of the emotions that you’re feeling. And we’re going to bring it to the present moment so that you can allow your mind to rest for a moment. So we’re going to eventually deal with the emotions and kind of go to rational thinking. In order to do that, we really need to get ourselves in a place of calm. And this doesn’t need to be long. It doesn’t need to be a 30-minute meditation. It could be just one deep breath or a few deep breaths, but something even symbolic to say, OK, I’m getting clear. I’m going to start. And the first thing that I’m going to do is get calm. Gabe Howard: Yeah, I’m going to take a real big, deep breath. I don’t know if it will come through on the podcast, but I want to assure the listeners that that I’m doing it. Shira Gura: Ok, and while you’re doing it, if you want, you can close your eyes and you can imagine yourself in the place where you’re going to give the speech, you’re about, let’s say, to walk up the steps to the stage and you’re going to give your speech. And in that moment, you say, I’m getting clear. I’m going to first, I’m going to get calm. Gabe Howard: All right. Shira Gura: All right, the next step is L and that’s for Lighten. When you are going into a future moment, when you have all of these emotions, you probably have emotions that are feeling heavy, right? Emotions of fear and worry and anticipation. Those are heavy feelings and they affect us physiologically. So the next step L for Lighten is we uncover what are the thoughts that we have about the situation as we’re going into it? And then we see if we can lighten our thoughts by slightly changing our language. We’ll do this together. See if you can uncover a thought that you have that says something like, I know something is going to happen, some sort of negative thing is going to happen. Gabe Howard: I know that I’m going to be out of practice, I know that I’m going to stumble over words. I know that the delivery is not going to be as pristine. I mean, it’s been months. There’s just no way that it could be. Shira Gura: Yeah, great. Perfect, and that’s so important for you to uncover what those thoughts are, because they’re there. They’re there in your mind Gabe Howard: Yeah, they are. Shira Gura: And oftentimes we don’t even know or just it’s unconscious. So we’re uncovering them. Now, you’re saying I know I’m going to be out of practice. I know I’m going to stumble. I know my delivery isn’t going to be perfect. And the question is, do we really know that? Do we know what’s going to happen in the future? The truth is, we don’t know. We have no idea what’s going to happen. Right? And so we change our language to it might happen. It’s a possibility that might happen. But we take away like the I know, which is a really heavy thought. And it really kind of creates that reality, like I know it’s going to happen. So that’s what’s going to happen as opposed to I have a feeling that might happen. But you can even hear in my voice, it lightens. It lightens your thought and it affects you again physiologically. Can you try one or two of those changing the language? Gabe Howard: I’m pretty pessimistic by nature, but I can say that you’re right, saying I know is arrogant, right? I can’t see the future, so I can certainly see for Gabe Howard changing it from I know this is going to happen to I think that it might happen or even I’m concerned that it could happen, which I can hear the difference. I’m worried that something will happen. Is a far cry from I know it’s going to happen. I worry about a lot of things that don’t come true. Shira Gura: Yes. Gabe Howard: So you’re right. It does feel significantly lighter. Shira Gura: But the language that we use in our lives is so important for our emotional and mental health. I think it’s something that people just don’t even think about. But it is really important how we use our language. Let’s go to the next step, which is E and this is for Expect. And so here we’re going to uncover what are your expectations, what are your hopes, what do you wish for? What do you want to happen? Gabe Howard: I want, like a standing ovation and fireworks and people cheering. Reasonably, I want a good speech, a good presentation, an engaged audience, I want people to laugh at my jokes and, you know, nod at the serious parts. I want engagement, but I want the audience to behave how I expect the audience to behave. Shira Gura: Awesome. Those are wonderful uncovering of your expectations and it’s so important to uncover your expectations because this is typically what gets us stuck when our expectations aren’t met. You want a standing ovation, you want fireworks, you want cheering. You want a really great speech. You want engagement. That sounds like the most important thing is you want the engagement. You want the nods and the laughter and the Gabe Howard: Yes. Shira Gura: Ok, awesome. Right now we’re going to go to the next step. You ready? This one’s kind of tricky. OK. A is for Accept. In this step, we are going to radically accept the opposite of what it is that you want so that if the expectations that you actually want aren’t met, you’re not going to get stuck because you will have accepted in advance the possibility that that was going to happen anyway. In this step we’re not wanting, right? We’re not saying, we’re not wanting the opposite of what we want to have, that’s not what we’re doing. We’re just accepting the possibility that the opposite of what we want may happen because it might. And if it does, and that’s reality, what are you going to do with it besides accept it in that moment? Gabe Howard: So just to clarify a little bit, you know, in my case, I could accept that the crowd would boo and get up and leave, but I think that that’s too far, too extreme. I don’t really see any, I don’t, I don’t see any scenario where that would realistically happen. Realistically, the worst-case scenario is that the audience is bored. It’s probably important for somebody doing this method to not go so extreme. Like I’m going to accept that the audience throws tomatoes at me. That’s probably not a good use of the method. I’m going to accept that the audience is bored. Would that be better? Is like reigning that in smart? Shira Gura: Yes, amazing, so I hope that I’m going to have amazing engagement, right, and I can radically accept that I might not have amazing engagement. Right? Gabe Howard: I’m accepting that there ho-hum. They’re going to be polite. I’m not giving a speech to a hostile crowd, no matter how bad I am, they’ll give the cursory applause at the end. And yeah, I’ve never had tomatoes thrown at me and I’ve never been booed. But I’ve certainly looked out at the audience and seen a lot of people checking their phones and watches and that has happened before. If so, that’s the absolute worst-case scenario and it doesn’t happen very often, but it feels crummy when it does. Shira Gura: The question is, can you accept that now? Can you accept that that’s a possibility that might happen? Gabe Howard: I can, I can, Shira Gura: Ok, great. Gabe Howard: Yes, I can accept that, that they will think that I am ho hum. And they will politely golf clap as I leave the stage. Shira Gura: Good, so I can accept the possibility, right? Gabe Howard: Yes. I can accept the possibility that they may be bored. Shira Gura: Yeah, it’s just a possibility, right, again, not what we wanted Gabe Howard: Yes. Shira Gura: It, but it’s a possibility, Gabe Howard: Yes. Shira Gura: You can’t move forward if you’re being held back behind. So it’s really important that you can be able to just accept it as a possibility, which you did. Great Gabe Howard: We’ll be right back after we hear from our sponsors. Gabe Howard: Hey, Psych Central Podcast fans, before we get started, we’d love for you to take a brief three minute listener survey so we can better understand our audience, which is all of you. Go to PsychCentral.com/Survey20 to complete it now. Everyone who completes a survey will automatically be entered into a drawing to win one of two $75 Amazon gift cards. Special thanks to Savvy Co-op for their survey support. And that Web site again is PsychCentral.com/Survey20. Void where prohibited by law. And now, on with the show. Sponsor Message: Gabe here and I wanted to tell you about Psych Central’s other podcast that I host, Not Crazy. It’s straight talk about the world of mental illness and it is hosted by me and my ex-wife. You should check it out at PsychCentral.com/NotCrazy or your favorite podcast player. Sponsor Message: 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 Shira Gura, the author of The CLEAR Way: Five Simple Steps to Be Mentally Prepared for Anything. Shira Gura: Last step, R. This is for responsibility. This is where you take responsibility for your way of being, not your way of doing and not your way of having, but your way of being. Who is it that you want to commit to being in an adjective form? So that no matter what happens, there’s not engagement, they don’t laugh at your jokes, you stumble, no matter what happens, you still stay grounded and committed to your way or ways of being. This is where you take responsibility for yourself and you release responsibility of anything outside of you that you don’t really have control over. There’s endless ways that we can be maybe one or three words. What kind of speaker do you want to commit to being? Gabe Howard: I want to commit to being a confident, professional, unflappable speaker. I really feel that the best speakers are ones that don’t attack their audience or their clients or. The best speakers also understand that let’s say that there’s 100 people in the audience and it only takes about 40 or 50 percent of an audience to make the audience seem like they’re uninterested. It’s certainly possible that you got through to 20, 30, 40, 50 percent of the audience. I like what you said about taking responsibility because so often I see speakers get angry at their audience. And I think that’s, that’s not the way this works. They don’t owe you anything. You’re there for them. They’re not there for you. So I like the take responsibility. I like that. I want to be a professional, unflappable speaker. Shira Gura: Good. Awesome. Now, wait a sec. Gabe Howard: Who projects confidence. Shira Gura: Awesome, awesome. I want you to know what you just said again. I really believe language is one of the keys to mental health. I want to be a professional, confident, unflappable speaker. That’s the last thing you just said. Right? I want Gabe Howard: Yes. Shira Gura: To be and listen to how different it is from I want to be that kind of speaker to I am committed to being that kind of speaker. You hear the difference? Gabe Howard: I do, I do. I want to be a good husband versus I’m committed to being a good husband. Like, who do you want to be or who do you want to marry? Somebody who wants to do it or somebody who’s committed to doing it? Shira Gura: Exactly. Gabe Howard: I think of my own relationships and yeah. Yeah, I don’t want somebody that wants to be in a happy marriage. I want to be with somebody who’s committed to being in a happy marriage. Shira Gura: Exactly. Gabe Howard: I think we all understand that in relationships. We’re spreading that out. Right to everything else. I know I’m asking a lot of like questions in between, but yeah, I, you’re right. If my wife came to me and said I want to be happy in our marriage, I think, oh, that doesn’t sound good. But if she said I’m committed to being happy in our marriage, I’d be like, all right, all right, let’s do this. Arm in arm. Let’s go. Nice. I like it. Shira Gura: It’s a different story, right? Gabe Howard: It is, it is. Shira Gura: And it’s like one word, it’s one word, but it changes the world, it really changes the world. So your ways of being are like an anchor to a ship. OK, that is how you are grounding yourself. They are in your ways of being. That’s who you are. So no matter what comes your way, if you’re on a ship and there’s going to be waves and there are going to be waves, right. Things are going to happen. It’s not going to be a smooth run in your marriage or in the talk or in this interview or whatever. Nothing is ever 100 percent smooth. So no matter what happens, your ways of being are your anchor. And so it’s exactly what you’re saying. It’s like I’m committed to doing this. It’s not that I want to be these ways, because if I just want to be these ways, the anchor is going to get unleashed. You know, you’re going to float away. But if you are committed to being these ways, that anchor is going to stay in the ground. So it’s perfect, it’s exactly what you said. And so that’s the last step. And of course, if you want to go more into this work in that last step, what you could do is you could visualize your future self. So what does a confident speaker look like? What does a confident speaker say or act or how does he behave? The next level would be creating your future self ahead of time, seeing yourself ahead of time, being that person and then manifesting it. Gabe Howard: I like it and I can see how it fits together now. Now, just to recap, CLEAR stands for? Shira Gura: Calm, Lighten, Expect, Accept, Responsibility. Gabe Howard: And again, it’s for stuff that’s coming up in the future, so this is what I’d use for my first day of work or my wedding day or even something as simple as my parents coming to visit or my spouse coming home from work. It’s broad appeal. Shira Gura: It could be anything. I worked with my kid last night, he started a new school and he’s 12. The kids in his school have been together since the age of three. And he’s the new kid on the block. And he tends to be shy and he wants to make friends. And no one is really approaching him. And he wanted to approach kids to ask them if they want to play baseball, because here in Israel, nobody plays baseball. They don’t even know what baseball is. But my kids have baseball mitts and they have a baseball. And he wanted to say, does anyone want to have a catch with me, but he was stuck. Right? He was stuck on fear of rejection. And so I sat with him last night before he went to sleep. I said, let’s get clear. Let’s get clear on who you’re going to be no matter what happens, no matter if they reject you and they say no or they say, yeah, let’s have I’d be happy to have a catch with you. Gabe Howard: I like that example a lot, so how can our listeners learn these tools, are they difficult to learn? My question is, is it difficult to learn? My listeners’ question is, is how can they learn? Shira Gura: Yeah, the tools are not difficult. They are simple, right? That’s one of the reasons I created these tools. I created them actually for myself. And then I of course, I teach them to other people, but they are simple to learn. And it’s not so much are they easy to learn or difficult to learn. It’s more of how can I get practice in using them? It’s one thing to acquire a tool. It’s another thing entirely to say I practiced in it. I know how to get unSTUCK from anything. I know how to get CLEAR from anything. And that doesn’t happen overnight. That happens over time in community with people, working with people. That’s really how this happens. So in terms of where you can learn about it, I have two books. Gabe Howard: Yeah, where do they find them? Shira Gura: You can find them on Amazon and you can find them on my website, ShiraGura.com. But what you can also find on my Web site is a course called The Living Deliberately Blueprint. And inside of this course are videos of me walking people through both tools step by step. There are worksheets. There are guided meditations. And in addition to lots of other goodies that are inside of that course, anyone who enrolls is invited into my private Facebook group and free monthly gatherings. So it’s a community, and then it’s, again, the practice. Gabe Howard: Shira, thank you so much for everything. Thank you for helping me with my speech. Next week, I’ll drop you an email and let you know how it goes. Shira Gura: I would love to hear and I would encourage you to get clear minutes before or half an hour before whatever. It’s not enough that we did it here. I would encourage you to do it again, like really have it fresh in your mind and really see yourself on that stage before you go up there. And good luck with it. Gabe Howard: You know, I really like that, and I like that it also becomes something to occupy your mind. As somebody who suffers from anxiety, my mind often ultra focuses on the worst-case scenario. It sounds like by going through the CLEAR method, I can keep my mind occupied on that. Now, again, if you don’t have anxiety or, you know, your mileage may vary, but for me, it gives me something proactive to do to concentrate on. Do you find that in your work? Is that accurate or am I just making stuff up? Shira Gura: No, absolutely, absolutely. In fact, I’m leading a challenge right now inside of my private Facebook group and every person in the challenge is practicing to being one thing. This is broad range. So one person is practicing to be a non-overeater, one person is practicing to be a nondrinker and one person is practicing to be friendly. I mean, it’s really broad. And what I recommend them to do is every single day wake up and affirm out loud who are you being? Because if we’re practicing to be somebody that we’re not typically being, then we’re going to forget. We’re just going to be our default selves. As you wake up every day, and you said, I’m committing to being a loving wife. I am committing to being a nondrinker. You really set the stage for the day by affirming who you are being every single day when you wake up. It sets you up for the day. And like you said, it gives the mind something to rest on in a positive way so that your mind doesn’t slip back into that default place of negativity, which happens for everyone, because that’s just how the human mind works. Gabe Howard: Anything that prevents people from slipping into negativity, I think is its own success. Once you start to think poorly about something, you create a self-fulfilling prophecy. At least that’s been my experience. And certainly, being able to distract your mind with something proactive and positive, I have to imagine, creates a powerful end result. Shira Gura: It totally does, and I’m doing the challenge, by the way, I’m participating and I am committing to being a loving wife. It’s not that I’m like a mean wife or something like that, but I’m probably not like the most loving wife I could be. And I said, you know what? This is what I’m going to work on for 30 days. And I’m constantly finding myself saying this throughout the day. You are committing to being a loving wife, right? Because sometimes it’s not easy. And I just keep saying to myself, in the morning I say it, when my husband comes home from work, I say it, and I just and it’s great. It’s so helpful to have those words in my mind as a reminder, who is it that I want to be? Gabe Howard: Shira, thank you so much for being here. We really appreciate having you. Shira Gura: Thank you so much for the interview. It was really great to see you again. Gabe Howard: You’re very, very welcome. Hey, everybody, my name is Gabe Howard and I am the author of Mental Illness Is an Asshole, which is available on Amazon, or you can get a signed copy with all kinds of cool swag, including stickers from The Psych Central Podcast for less money just by heading over to gabehoward.com. Let me tell you about our super-secret Facebook page you should absolutely check out, just go to PsychCentral.com/FBShow. And remember, you can get one week of free, convenient, affordable, private online counseling any time 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! For more details, or to book an event, please email us at show@psychcentral.com. 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 with your friends, family, and followers. The post Podcast: How to Mentally Prepare for Anything first appeared on World of Psychology. View the full article
  2.  Now that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, more people than ever are experiencing anxiety, especially those who struggled with mental health issues before COVID-19. And to make things even worse, many of our coping mechanisms, like going to the gym or hanging out with friends, have been taken away. In today’s show, our host, Gabe Howard, talks with Dr. Jasleen Chhatwal, who helps explain why so many people are having anxiety symptoms and what we can do about it. SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW Guest information for ‘Managing Anxiety’ Podcast Episode Jasleen Chhatwal, MD, is Chief Medical Officer and Director of the Mood Disorders Program at Sierra Tucson, a premier residential behavioral health treatment center. Dr. Chhatwal also serves as Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. Board certified in Psychiatry and Integrative Medicine, she is well versed in psychodynamic psychotherapy, cognitive behavior therapy, psychopharmacology, neuromodulation including ECT & rTMS, and various emerging modalities. Dr. Chhatwal is active in the mental health community, advocating for her patients, colleagues, and profession through elected positions with the Arizona Psychiatric Society and American Psychiatric Association. 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 the author. To learn more about Gabe, please visit his website, gabehoward.com. Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Managing 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: Hello, everyone, and welcome to this week’s episode of The Psych Central Podcast, I’m your host Gabe Howard and calling into the show today, we have Dr. Jasleen Chhatwal. She is the chief medical officer and director of Mood Disorders Program at Sierra Tucson, a premier residential behavioral health treatment center. Dr. Chhatwal, welcome to the show. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Thanks for having me. I’m delighted to be here. Gabe Howard: Well, we are super excited to have you here today because you’re also an anxiety expert, and many people who aren’t used to feeling the effects of anxiety are because of COVID. I want to start with, are you seeing people that never had anxiety and stress issues before suddenly developing anxiety disorders because of the global pandemic? Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: I am noticing that there are a lot of people who notice anxiety type symptoms, and since they’ve never really experienced them before, they’re really taken aback and they don’t really know what’s going on. And so I feel like one of our big duties at this time is to help people become more aware, because I think once you can name the beast, then it’s a lot easier to tame the beast. And I think a lot of individuals will have a hard time if they don’t know what to call it or what to do with it. Gabe Howard: The Psych Central Podcast has been on the air for almost five years, PsychCentral.com has been around for 25 years. So we are well versed in mental health advocacy. And for the most part, it’s always sort of been in its own little corner. There’s the people that have a mental health issue or a mental illness and they understand it. There’s people who develop one or have a loved one who develops a mental health issue or a mental illness, and they’re searching for information. But by and large, the majority of the population was not discussing this openly. We’ve seen that change dramatically in the last six months where suddenly it’s sort of mainstream news about how adults that never had any mental health issues before are suddenly suffering from the symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, and on and on and on. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: So a lot of people talk about anxiety like it’s a pathological thing. I really try to explain to people how anxiety is normal. You have to have the neurobiological fear response to be safe as a human being. Like you’re going to the Grand Canyon and walking over the skywalk, the fact that we don’t just climb over the rail and try to jump down is because we do have a biological response to anything that’s not within the normal human experience or scope. If you think about having a snake by your chair, you want to have an anxiety response so that you can quickly panic and run. And what will happen if you don’t have that fear response is you will die because the snake will bite you or you’ll have some pretty negative consequences of that. How can you not have anxiety when you’re being told all day on the news that you need to take all these extra precautions to just be safe, to not fall sick, to make sure your loved ones don’t die. That is something that just normally will cause some degree of anxiety. The difference between that type of anxiety and what can be called a DSM anxiety disorder ends up being that it becomes overwhelming to the point that you can’t function. And what we start to see is people who may have had a higher level of anxiety before, but were being able to do things to help themselves, like going to the gym to work out or going for a run outside or spending time with loved ones. All those people, their coping skills have been taken away. And that is where you start seeing that they now fall into more of that clinical anxiety disorder category. If you look at most mental health conditions, they are on a spectrum. And it just really depends on how far along the spectrum you are today. It could be that today it’s a disorder. But, you know, a week ago or two weeks ago, it wasn’t quite meeting the criteria. Gabe Howard: One of the themes that runs through The Psych Central Podcast is we try to explain that mental health and physical health actually are, they have a lot in common. Meaning most people have good physical health most of the time. But you can still get a cold. You can still get injured. And that’s a very temporary problem. But you can also have, for example, diabetes, which is severe and persistent and lifelong. Mental health is the same way. I think a lot of people think that you either have good mental health or you’re mentally ill and that there’s nothing in between. Do you believe that because of the pandemic, people are starting to realize that everybody has mental health and that you can have the equivalent of a cold, which in this case is stress and anxiety or panic? Do you think this is helping to educate people that we all have mental health and anything can trigger bad mental health? Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Yeah, I think reading a lot more content about that in very popular channels. Maybe your podcast or me like this is our world, but other people Gabe Howard: Sure, yeah. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: For whom this is not their world, we are seeing them talk more about mental health. And in my own world, I try not to talk about somebody having just mental illness. I think about mental health on a continuum. You can do things every day to improve your mental health and you can do things every day that may not really be serving it well. The kind of food that you eat, the places that you go to, the people you spend time with, each of those things can help build up that mental health. Gabe Howard: Dr. Chhatwal, thank you so much for establishing that more people are suffering from anxiety and that it’s a very real thing. We’ve been doing this work for a long time, so we’re not surprised by this. But I think that the general population is and one of the hallmarks of being surprised by something is that you don’t know what to do about it. Do you have advice for listeners who are overwhelmed, anxious and filled with stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic? Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: The one thing that we can all do and maybe do a little bit better is starting to become more aware. Naming what is going on for you is really important and naming not in the sense of saying, oh, I have so-and-so disorder or diagnoses, but more naming like how does it feel for me? How am I feeling in my body? What are the signs that I’m seeing for myself? What are the changes that I’m seeing in my behavior? So recognizing that you’re not as engaged, you’re not as motivated or fulfilled to saying, OK, well, I don’t really feel like doing my work or when my children ask me a question, I feel exasperated and want to roll my eyes that that can be a step to saying, OK, something is definitely going on. And now let me sit and think how I’m feeling physically. What are the emotions I’m feeling? Some of us have a broader language for emotion and some of us have a narrower language and words for emotion. And that’s OK. Even being able to identify I feel good, I feel bad. That may be a great place to start. And then starting to look at what are really options for you to start to change things that make you feel bad? Is it something related to your job, like either the hours are now feeling too much or the workload is feeling too much. Talking to your human resources department, or when it comes to your home life maybe getting together with your partner or people who live in the household with you, or if you live alone connecting with friends and starting to really talk through this and asking for the support that you might need. Another strategy can be then to start to follow some degree of a schedule, because we hear a lot about pajama sales are on the rise or that people are doing the zoom uniform with the formal top and shorts at the bottom. Gabe Howard: I love that. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Yeah, it’s comfortable and it can also give your mind a signal that you’re just supposed to be relaxing. However, what you’re doing is sitting in front of your computer and working. So now your mind is really confused. It’s like, well, I’m supposed to be feeling relaxed, but I’m doing work. So what we’re hearing from people is that they’re working longer hours because now they’re just connected on the computer all the time. They still have to take care of their children and now they have to go pick up their groceries and wipe them all down like everything’s become just a tiny bit or a whole lot more complicated. And so trying to at least get your life into a little bit of a schedule may make you say, OK, I start my workday at eight and then I am going to end it at five, just like I would normally clock out. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: And then maybe in that evening time you can start to recognize what are pleasurable activities that you can do in your home environment? I’m hearing from people that they can’t work out, but I can tell you, like doing push ups doesn’t take a lot of equipment. And so it may be deciding here right now I can only do five pushups a day. Within the next two weeks or a month, I’ll get up to ten. So setting realistic goals that make you feel like you’re being able to achieve something and that are in a direction of something. For myself, I think two or three months ago I was feeling like, oh, I’m just at home going to work, coming back. But I got myself an easel and canvas and I picked up something I hadn’t done in about a dozen years. I made a painting. It’s not great. I’m not going to sell it, but I did something that was enjoyable. Finding anything that you can do that serves your soul is really very important at this time. Gabe Howard: When all of this started, we sort of had this mindset that, OK, we just need to hunker down and get through it, it’s only going to be a couple of weeks or even a couple of months. Now, here we are and we’re starting to learn that we don’t really know when this is going to be over. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Yeah. Gabe Howard: So now we’re sort of in this kind of like a limbo state where we don’t know if we want to make new habits that we want to last for years or if we should still stay in this, oh, things are going to get back to normal tomorrow. The example that I always use is, look, if I lost my job, I would understand that that job’s not coming back and I would prepare for a new future. But if I was laid off from that job and they told me that as soon as things pick up, we’ll call you back. Well, now what do I do? Do I look for a new job? Do I wait for things to pick up and they call me back and I resume my life? We don’t know when this is going to end. We don’t have that hard stop. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: My advice to people and my thought for myself and my loved ones is that this is maybe a time for us to really start reinventing and reconsidering what our new normal is going to be. We know that not only has the pandemic obviously affected our way of life drastically but also that there’s a potential financial crisis that’s brewing. So really looking at restructuring our lives and seeing are we really on the right path? And even as a human species is the direction that we’re going really the direction we need to go? In all the things that we cannot control, the thing we do get to control is how we’re going to react and how we’re going to start to make our own decisions in our lives. Connection is fairly important. Make sure that there is a regular way to connect with other human beings, even if you’re working from home. I’ve heard these amazing stories about families that do Zoom sessions every week or who will play card games on Zoom or might even just turn on something like a video platform and have conversations throughout the day. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: We’ve done things like with my in-laws and family where we watch a movie at the same time. Also, I think, starting to look in terms of employment and what are sustainable ways to work, because as a culture, we work a lot. And I think a lot of companies are now realizing that maybe people don’t need to be clocked on or on site as much as we previously thought they needed to be. So starting to really see if that is OK for you, because for some people, like telework does not work, and for others, telework seems like the best thing since sliced bread. Gabe Howard: You’ve hit on a very interesting point there with your example of telework, some people absolutely love it other people absolutely hate it. We’re seeing this a lot with anxiety. Some people are handling this pandemic no problem. They have literally zero anxiety. Other people are falling apart at the seams. Why is it hitting some people harder than others? And then there’s this tendency, if you’re one of the people who anxiety is hitting you really, really hard to find somebody who’s managing this global pandemic like gangbusters and compare yourselves to them. And I imagine that makes it much more difficult to manage the anxiety and move forward. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Comparison has always been one of those things that kills your drive and really starts to make you feel deflated because we don’t know what that other person’s life looks like. We don’t know what their life experiences have been. In mental health, now, we’ve noticed for a long time that our early lives have a huge impact on how we respond later on. And some people who are more anxious than others either at this point don’t have access to their usual coping strategies or the other thing could be that a person who has more anxiety likely had more adverse childhood experiences or early life trauma. Some of that trauma can get relived when you’re isolated, alone, don’t have support. And then finally, it can also sometimes be that you’ve had a really comfortable and quote unquote, normal life. And when suddenly something comes and upends your way of life, it may be your first time really facing something that feels overwhelming. So you may not have had practice at managing that before. So the more we think that others are doing well, the more likely it is that we’re more focused on them rather than ourselves. Rather than just sitting and saying, well, you know, Tom seems to be doing really well and I see that Gabe Howard: Right. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Gabe’s kind of killing it, being more connected with yourself is probably your best bet in being able to find that new normal and move forward post pandemic. Gabe Howard: I really like what you said there about if we’re paying attention to others, were clearly not paying attention to ourselves and anxiety is not going to clear up by convincing it that Bob or Jane is living their best life and therefore I should be living my best life as well. It involves more nuance and work than that. Which leads me straight into my next question of how can I know if I’m being realistic about the risks and dangers and when I’m letting anxiety just simply get the better of me? Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Anxiety can get the better of anybody. It is a neurobiological response. We have this tiny area in our brain called the amygdala, whose job it is to give us fear signals. It’s really once you start feeling like you can’t quite function in your life, you’re not really being able to do the things that you typically can get done, or especially if you start having thoughts about suicide or not wanting to live or starting to feel like your life is not worth it. Those are danger signs and those are times I would say don’t even think, go seek help. There’s really no harm in seeking help. And if nothing else, most of our communities have what we call warm lines. And you can call those and speak to somebody and see if that starts to help you, because a lot of us may not be able to clearly think about what’s happening to us till we start speaking about it. I usually say, you know, if you go to a therapist, you can always decide you don’t go for the second visit. It’s not like they’re going to force you to come by. You at least start to tell your story and start to try that out as an option for if that’s going to help you or not. Gabe Howard: We’ll be right back after these messages. Sponsor Message: Gabe here and I wanted to tell you about Psych Central’s other podcast that I host, Not Crazy. It’s straight talk about the world of mental illness and it is hosted by me and my ex-wife. You should check it out at PsychCentral.com/NotCrazy or your favorite podcast player. Sponsor Message: 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 discussing COVID-19 anxiety and stress with Dr. Jasleen Chhatwal. Gabe Howard: Now, Sierra Tucson has started a program called Health Care Heroes, and that’s specifically designed to treat doctors, nurses, and other frontline health care workers coping with the trauma of disease and death from coronavirus. How can you help health care workers heal from this tragic experience? Because up until now, we’ve been talking about just lay people managing the pandemic, but they’re literally on the front lines. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Health care workers are already at a greater risk of fatigue, burnout, suicide, and that was pre-pandemic. Most of us generally go to school and do years of training with the goal of helping other fellow humans. And so now that the pandemic has really challenged our own lives and we’ve also had to go to work with having increased anxieties about being exposed, most of us may also know fellow health care workers who may have contracted coronavirus and may even have lost their lives to coronavirus. From a health care worker perspective, I feel like life is more stressful than it has ever been. You are being called to really show up and help people. However, we also haven’t quite had all the tools that we typically need, for all the shortages of PPE, shortages of ventilators, increased hospital bed capacities. People are working longer hours. There is more expected of them and there’s less reward because we are losing our patients. We are seeing people be sicker. Health care workers themselves are experiencing helplessness. And there has been so much stigma around seeking mental health support for even lay people and then for health care workers, it’s compounded because we then have to start reporting it to our boards or we need to start telling people that we’re getting mental health treatment. A lot of health care workers are used to kind of putting on their armor and saying, I’m OK, I can work long hours, I can do what needs to be done. So, Sierra Tucson as a group, when we started looking through, how could we show up and help our community and help our people, we decided to try to create this program which we want to make it OK for people to say I’m not OK. That’s the message that we’re trying to give. It’s OK to need support. And we’re here for you. We are also health care professionals and we’re experts in trauma healing. And we’re uniquely positioned at this time to support our fellow health care professionals with a nurturing environment, trauma focused therapies, and then also additionally peer support. So finding ways to help them get back on that spectrum of mental health, to move closer towards mental wellness and further away from having a mental health diagnosis or mental illness. There are health care workers who already live with mental health conditions prior to this. So making it OK for them also to know that they can take time off and really care for themselves because they’re the most important person. Gabe Howard: From my perspective, it doesn’t serve the greater society to have a health care worker who is so stressed out, so overwhelmed or is suffering from a mental illness or a mental health condition, not seek treatment, because how beneficial are they going to be to my care if they themselves are in crisis or potentially in crisis? So, do you want health care workers who know that they’re at risk for a mental health issue, not seek help because they’re afraid of the stigma, the discrimination, the judgment? That doesn’t serve the greater good. Are people starting to realize that? Do you see a shift both in terms of health care workers being willing to seek help and in the general society understanding that, hey, health care workers are people too? Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Interestingly, it seemed like maybe the pandemic has helped, that people are more accepting that, oh, this is traumatic and you’re hearing the word trauma a lot more. I would like to say it’s slowly improving. And I think the more the general public accepts mental health conditions, the easier it will be even for health care workers. But it’s still very hard. It’s still not a good place. We’re not doing well by our people. I think the big piece of that is that we’re separating physical and mental health and you just can’t do that. One thing affects the other. Even with something like anxiety, which is what we’ve been talking about, you have physical symptoms. You feel like your heart is beating. You have chest pain. People show up to the E.R. thinking they’re having a heart attack when they’re having a panic attack. Unless we as a society, the health care system, insurance companies in their own areas start to really marry the two together and say it’s whole health, we really can’t get away from stigma. Like we said right in the beginning, everybody has mental health and everybody has physical health. And like the WHO says, there is no health without mental health. So we’ve got to get them together. Gabe Howard: I completely agree with your assessment that the pandemic does seem to be helping mental health understanding because so many people are in the exact same boat. They themselves are suffering from anxiety because of COVID. So therefore, they’re less likely to be judgmental against somebody else who’s suffering from anxiety. Also, if a global pandemic doesn’t cause anxiety, I don’t know what will. For some reason when somebody says I’m anxious, our first question is why? And then we decide if that’s a good reason, that’s very unfair. Right? To determine if somebody is allowed to be anxious based on the reason that they give — anxiety doesn’t work that way. Is that correct? Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: You’re exactly right, Gabe, anxiety can only be assessed by a person’s own barometer. So, myself, I’m not scared of heights. I used to skydive, but I have a friend. We went together to the Grand Canyon and they have a walkway on the Nevada side. And we were walking over it and she was like, nope, not doing it, not doing it. And I was like, oh, come on, we’ll walk and well, I’m trying to hold her hand. And she just couldn’t. So I can’t say she is more anxious than I am because it’s not the same for everything. She may not be anxious in a lot of other situations that I may be anxious in. And so anxiety is per your own context, and it is per the lessons you’ve learned in life for things that are fearful to you, the stories you tell yourself. And it’s usually from early life experience, you’ve either had a negative experience with something, so you’re more fearful of it, or you’ve been told stories about that thing that make you more worried. So there are all those components which fall into the nurture category. And then some people do have just a slightly higher sensitivity. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: And that becomes the nature element, which is your genetics, how your amygdala, which is the fear center, like how that’s tuned. And some people just have a more sensitive amygdala. Their fear response is greater. And then we also know that having negative experiences early on in life will make it that your fear center kind of reacts a lot quicker or may start to be easy to get stimulated. So if you’ve had a lot of early life trauma, it’s almost like your fear muscle is stronger so you can react a lot quicker and that is an evolutionary mechanism for human beings to keep themselves safe. So when we were hunter gatherers, if we were roaming around dangerous areas and there were going to be javelinas chasing us, then our fear around javelinas would need to be a lot more to protect ourselves. And for your listeners who don’t know what javelina is, you can Google it. It’s a wild animal. It’s a wild boar that we have here in Arizona. So that’s really my Gabe Howard: Oh, wow. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Closest context. They’re mean looking creatures. Gabe Howard: Dr. Chhatwal, I have one more question, which is kind of an ironic question, and that’s why I saved it to the very end. All of the content surrounding COVID-19, it can be overwhelming. It can be disturbing. It can be hard to listen to. How can our listeners balance staying informed with the information that they need to stay safe like this podcast, for example, but also not be overwhelmed by this onslaught of negativity brought on by just constant COVID-19 information? Much of it scary, quite frankly. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: It really is. I’ve recommended and I practice this in my own life to take sort of a news break or a news holiday to stop listening to the news. Because when people are sitting at home, they’re just listening to the news channels all day sometimes. So really giving yourself a sliver of time when you look at whatever content that you want to look at and then put it away. Also looking at platforms that maybe present this news in a more palatable format. So maybe like your podcast. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Everybody can tune in to Psych Central. You have a great sense of humor and you try to make it approachable. Some people listen to the late night comedy shows which will give you the information you need, but with a chuckle. You can also subscribe to news outlets now have daily newsletters that they can send you with the headlines. So maybe that you say, I’m not going to read all the news, I’m just going to get a newsletter and look at it once in the day. So that’s one way of reducing your exposure, not only in quantity, but also just in intensity. And then it’s good to balance it out with positive things, things that bring you pleasure, things that make you feel better about your world. I hope your listeners will do something to add value to somebody else’s life. And that may be in the form of helping out their neighbors who are elderly with their grocery shopping and may be checking in with their friends who are also stressed out. Creating some sort of a book club, whatever it is that is part of their own interest, but a way to start feeling better about yourself, because whenever we give value to somebody else, that’s really our best way of getting some positive back to us. That can be a way to move forward at this time with more kindness in our world and really being able to rebuild our communities in a more wholesome way and going in a direction, as a country, as a human species that will take us all in a positive direction with the lessons that we’ve learned from the pandemic. We can’t let these lessons go to waste. That would be a waste of a pretty awful condition. And usually, I think if there’s adversity, you want to try and get something out of that adversity, learn a lesson, build some resilience so that in the future you have more skills to move forward in your life. Gabe Howard: We want to find the silver lining in the cloud. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Definitely, yeah. Gabe Howard: Thank you so much for being here. Where can folks find you online? Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: I’m present on LinkedIn, which is one of the places I’m trying to get better at. I’m also on Twitter. I haven’t quite gotten the hang of Twitter yet, but I just started last week. That’s my goal for the next month. I’m going to try to learn this. And if any of your listeners are excellent at Twitter then I would say, please send me tips and I will help you with mental health education and sending you interesting information about mental health. Gabe Howard: That sounds like a great deal. Once again, thank you so much for being here. We really, really appreciate it. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Thanks so much, Gabe, it was so wonderful to talk to you. Gabe Howard: All right, everybody, my name is Gabe Howard and I’m the author of Mental Illness Is an Asshole, which is available on Amazon, or you can get signed copies for less money by going to my website at gabehoward.com. You can also subscribe to the show’s Facebook page just by going to PsychCentral.com/FBShow. Please remember to subscribe to the podcast. Share us on social media. Rate, rank and review. Use your words. Tell people why they should listen and remember, you can get one week of free, convenient, affordable, private online counseling any time anywhere, simply by visiting BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral. We’ll see everybody next week. The post Dealing With Anxiety in the Time of COVID-19 first appeared on World of Psychology. View the full article
  3. It seems like everyone I talk to lately is tired, and not because they’re suddenly more active or more productive than usual. In fact, most of them can’t tell you exactly why they’re so tired, they just are. This isn’t to say people aren’t busy, they are — just in new and taxing ways. But these new kinds of busyness and the “new normal” brought on by the coronavirus is causing many of us to feel mentally fatigued. Mental fatigue is something that occurs when your brain goes into overdrive. You can’t stop thinking, worrying, anticipating, planning, etc., and this constant parade of changing thoughts can lead to exhaustion. This isn’t uncommon, most of us have experienced this at one point or another, usually when there’s a big project or event coming up. But lately mental fatigue seems to be the rule rather than the exception for many. Why Your Brain May Be More Tired Than Normal Most of us feel we’re rolling with the punches to some degree while the world around us changes. But the truth is these changes take a psychological toll on us all. You may be working, but your work has changed. Kids are in school, but school has changed. You may be healthy, but for how long? And there are marches, riots, and an upcoming election to consider. No matter how much you try to focus on your own small piece of the world the world around you is having an effect on you. In a normal environment, you know what to expect and how to navigate things. You probably have work under control, school schedules are structured, and the regular chaos of life ebbs and flows at a fairly predicable rate. Sometimes you’re stressed, sometimes you’re not, and occasionally you feel mentally fatigued when things are particularly crazy. But our current state of prolonged instability and change is something different. It’s like noise that’s always playing around us as we try to get through the day-to-day. Our brains naturally try to assign structure and normalcy to our personal environments, but the current noise can be deafening and distracting, and is changing all the time making it all that more difficult to put things in order and operate normally. This means your brain must work even harder to try and be productive and create routines and stability. What Happens When Your Brain Is Tired for Too Long? If you work your shoulders or legs too hard, they get sore, right? Well, your brain may not become sore like overworked quads, but it absolutely shows signs of overuse. Mental fatigue has several tell-tale signs. See if any of these sounds familiar: Inability to focus. When your brain is tired, it isn’t working at optimal levels. Just like your legs won’t carry you through marathon after marathon (or even fractions of that for most of us), your brain will eventually slow down too. This often shows up as an inability to stay focused on tasks and responsibilities, leaving you feeling scattered, disorganized and impeding your ability to complete tasks successfully. Physical exhaustion. Yes, your brain affects your body. When your brain is tired, it can make your whole body feel tired, effectively signally that you need a break. Shutting down through sleep is our normal physiological method for relieving the stress on our brain. Unfortunately, mental exhaustion itself can make sleeping difficult. Difficulty sleeping. While you may be tired and your brain may need a break, it can often be very difficult to turn things off. The overstimulation caused by the environment around us means that we may not sleep as well. How many times have you tried to solve the world’s problems while laying in bed? Or stewed over the things you should have said or done earlier in the day? Constant feeling of stress and anxiety. Mental exhaustion and the persistent noise around us can lead to a constant feeling of stress and anxiety. It can feel like there’s ALWAYS something to worry about, so even if your corner of the world is handled and organized, there’s no relief or sense of calm. Over time, unrelenting stress and anxiety can lead to depression as well. Lack of patience or sudden bursts of anger. If your fuse suddenly seems shorter than normal and you find yourself feeling irritable and angry all the time it can be a result of an overworked brain. When you’re not operating at optimal levels and feel scattered, tired, and stressed it can be very difficult to exercise the appropriate levels of patience. Any of these ringing a bell? Tips To Rest and Reset This can be harder to do than it sounds. Turning off and tuning out the noise around us initially requires concentration which is difficult when you are already having a tough time concentrating. But the focus in this case is on being mindful and calm in order to give yourself a break. Mental exhaustion won’t just get better — you need to give your brain a rest and break the cycle. Any of these can be helpful. Get outside. Nature is calming, so use what’s around you. Being mindful of what you’re seeing and experiencing. Turn off the TV and internet. There’s bad news everywhere right now, don’t let yourself be inundated with it. Try music instead. Exercise. This is a good idea for so many reasons. By getting physical you’ll relieve stress, sleep better, and improve your physical condition. Read. The escape into something that has nothing to do with the world around you can provide a healthy break. The longer we let mental fatigue continue the harder it becomes to break the cycle. Over time you may experience physical issues, emotional problems, or full-scale burnout. And these all leave you incapable of navigating your life in a healthy and happy way. The post Is Your Brain Tired? You May Be Mentally Fatigued first appeared on World of Psychology. View the full article
  4. In dealing with COVID on a daily basis and continually bemoaning its effects on us as individuals and a society, we wistfully anticipate a return to “normal,” though arguably a normal that will be noticeably different than our past. What we miss is that it may be worth considering the potential positive impact of COVID. One of the largest impacts may be felt in the mental health field. We know that COVID has increased the incidence and intensity of anxiety and depression.1 Clearly that burdens the current mental health care system. However, it also means that many more people are becoming aware of the realities of mental health issues. While we know that 1 in 6 people experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, we now have far more people experiencing an acute episode exacerbated by the pandemic, and many more family members and friends also impacted by loved ones, finding themselves also learning how to provide support. This is working to heighten the awareness of mental health issues and may help to diminish stigmatization and accelerate a change in societal attitudes. Moreover, COVID has had an impact on the delivery of psychological services: some therapists are offering tele-sessions. Though such sessions diminish some aspects of a complete sensory person-to-person office visit, they do have advantages, particularly seen with younger clients. While many find the office to be a stressful, formal environment, being at home may allow the client to be in a more familiar, comfortable space making it easier for them to open up. In addition, some therapists are reporting that seeing clients in a sliver of their home space may also give them glimpses into their world, through the setting and items displayed as meaningful to them. This can be particularly helpful for working with a more reserved or reticent individual. COVID has challenged our normal means of socialization and maintaining interpersonal relationships. While this has increased the instances of domestic violence and stoked toxic relations, it has also been an opportunity for families to strengthen their bonds and rekindle their connections as they have been required to spend more time together. There are numerous anecdotes of parents and older children conversing more and thereby gaining a better understanding of each other as well as learning to enjoy each other’s company. Parents are learning about social influencers and TikTok and how teenage angst, while still based on the same anxieties, has transformed since their time. Teens are learning that their parents actually can may understand more than they previously assumed, even though their experiences are different, and they may also find humor and insight into their own challenges from their parents’ experiences. The slowdown that COVID has demanded has allowed many people to discover pleasures at home they were not aware of or had forgotten, from cooking and sharing a meal, to movie night in, to gardening and looking at a starry night while listening to the howl of neighbors at 8 p.m. This experience has compelled us to rediscover and reimagine community. Connections have definitely been redefined with technology playing a far larger role. We are quick to observe the deficiencies of virtual communication, but there are also advantages. Older adults have lagged behind this generation in technological savviness, but not only that, reticently testing and dipping into their primary modes of communication. Now, we are faced with learning to communicate by their primary modes, which result in increasing the technological competency of a greater part of society. This has a number of positive ramifications. First, virtual visits allow more people to speak to one another across vast geographical distances, and not only to speak but to see one each other. Grandparents and grandchildren living states apart can visit, letters to pen pals from different countries can be replaced by real time synchronous visits. Virtual connections may actually help older people, shut-ins, and those with chronic conditions to avoid feeling lonely and isolated. We have the possibility to connect more with those we love and those we know little about to better appreciate the lives of others who are different than our own. We also know that COVID has forced dramatic changes to learning. First, it is important to distinguish between online and remote learning. Online learning, to professionals, means asynchronous lessons completed without real time interaction. It allows for widespread dissemination and is less appealing to students as it is less interactive, more passive form of learning. Remote learning engages teachers and students in real time. All students do not have access to the technology needs for successful remote or online learning; however, in the twenty-first century, that access is becoming more fundamental to student success since technological skill is also significant in employability. Given that we will need to address that need, consider how learning is being innovated. In remote teaching (as well as business), teachers and presenters can share far more material of their own design and from around the world through the enormous “library” of the web. Moreover, teachers and students become more skilled in multi-media forms of communication which also enhances their critical thinking skills. Crisis often propels innovation, and at this time that is particularly true on the technological front. We face security concerns and a diminishing of in-person interactions, but there is also much to be gained from the expansion of our abilities to connect to others throughout the world. It can be refreshing to take a moment to consider the potential fruits that can emerge from the current storm. Reference: Mental Health America. (2020, August 11). More Than A Quarter Million People Screened Positive For Depression, Anxiety Since Start Of The Pandemic. The post Are There Potentially Positive Outcomes from COVID-19? first appeared on World of Psychology. View the full article
  5. Have you ever found yourself suddenly ill at ease? You might feel flustered or agitated. Your heart starts to race, or you catch yourself darting toward the door or to the kitchen to do some mindless comfort eating. The next time this happens, reflect and ask yourself: Who is in the room with me? Who did I just talk with? What did I just experience? What’s going on around me? Negative emotions from the people around us — including fear, worry, anxiety, and stress — pass from one person to another quickly, often with few or no words, like a highly contagious virus. If you spend an evening, for instance, social distancing outdoors with stressed-out neighbors who are drinking heavily, do you have a hard time keeping your own drinking in check? Does your workday start out productive but end up derailed from a snarky colleague’s endless rants? If you’re volunteering in your community, do you come home feeling de-energized after being pelted with committee members’ countless complaints? Even our physical health and our susceptibility to medical diseases are related to the company we keep. What we eat, how much we sleep, how sedentary we are, and how much exercise we get is strongly influenced by the people we choose to associate with. But why, exactly, does all of this happen? It’s all in the way we’re hardwired. The human brain has evolved over many thousands of years to pick up any and all potential threats and negative feelings expressed by those nearby. Neurobiologist Dr. Charles Stevens, a nationally recognized expert at the Salk Institute’s Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory in California, told us, “There’s a neural basis for how we share emotions. Cells in our brain will fire in the same way as the nervous system that we’re watching. Our nervous systems respond similarly. They’re linked — they mirror each other — to whomever we are observing and close to.” As if tethered by invisible cords, we’re wired to replicate the moods of others — including worry, anxiety, and sadness — just by being in the same room. The positive moods of others are just as easily replicated. Other research shows that moods can spread among networks of people like a social contagion. Sociologist Nicholas Christakis of Harvard Medical School and political scientist James Fowler of UC San Diego looked at data from a 20-year study that included information on the social networks of 4,739 people. Called the Framingham Heart Study, the research followed people from 1983 to 2003. The results were startling: On average, they found that for every happy friend in your social network, your own chance of being happy rises by 9 percent. For every one unhappy friend, your chance of being happy decreases by 7 percent. Happiness — as well as unhappiness — was essentially spread and shared. Three ways to manage your reactions: The good news is that, with practice, you’ll become better at detecting — and then avoiding or managing your reaction to — the people around you who are frequently swimming in their own private thoughts or negative states of mind. Conversely, you’ll also be able to better detect those people who lift your spirits and support your goals and move to secure close relationships with them. Here are three ways to start: 1. Get comfortable saying no. You’re not obliged to give yourself over to others — not your time, not your energy, not your happiness. Give yourself permission to question or say no to situations that pull you down. This is an especially important skill to practice around authority figures, family, and highly persuasive individuals. Saying no can be as simple as stating, “I wish I could do that, but it’s not possible for me.” Create a simple phrase and rehearse it many times before you meet up with highly demanding people. 2. Mitigate negative interactions when it’s impossible to escape them. It’s not always possible to walk away from difficult people. Workplaces are particularly challenging. You come into direct, prolonged contact with groups of people under stress. In that environment, it’s all too easy to pick up negative emotions, and this can seriously rob you of your agency. In these situations, try this strategic psychological operations (PSYOP) technique: selectively ignore certain people, and navigate around the drama to keep your mind clear. Instead of engaging, shrug or make a lighthearted joke when coworkers become negative or competitive. In personal situations, turn to humor. We know one couple who imagine their loud, self-absorbed in-laws as characters in a Woody Allen movie, and they encourage each other to keep talking even when these family members monopolize the conversation. It’s an amusing (and effective) way to keep negative emotions from ruining every holiday dinner. 3. Address your stressors head-on. Sometimes, the tensions we perceive as negative — and about us — have nothing to do with us at all. For example, let’s say your coworker invites you to a Zoom call in preparation for an upcoming sales meeting. He’s curt and visibly frustrated. After a few minutes, you ask, “You seem stressed. Are you concerned about our meeting?” Your coworker releases a long, deep breath and smiles. “No,” he reassures you. He explains that he’s been juggling back-to-back meetings while homeschooling his kids, and he hasn’t had a break in what feels like ages. It would have been easy to mistakenly attribute your coworker’s stress to yourself — or speculate that there was impending bad news related to the meeting. The takeaway? Always ask for clarification. Don’t assume that what you’re sensing is directly related to you or that it must continue. Tensions can often be defused, or disappear entirely, simply by facing them squarely. View the full article
  6. Admin

    Self-Care to Lower Anxiety

    In today’s world, self-care is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Although we may not be able to control what is happening outside of us, we can take steps each day to stay grounded and connected to our center. If you are looking for some at-home self-care practices to help you lower anxiety, alleviate stress, and feel calmer on a day-to-day basis, you’ve come to the right place. The practices below will help to anchor you in the present moment, quiet your fears, and calm a spiraling mind. Implement these practices on a regular basis to see lasting effects in your life. However, with this being said, if you are currently experiencing heightened anxiety or feel hopeless and overwhelmed, please seek the help of a mental health professional. Together, the two of you can work together to determine the next best steps for treatment. 8 Ways to Calm Anxiety with Self-Care Connect to breath. First and foremost, when a surge of anxiety hits, take a timeout and breathe. Deep breaths in our bodies signal to our minds that we are safe, lessening the stress “fight or flight” hormone called cortisol which increases heart rate and raises blood pressure. Silence your phone, sit or lie down, and take ten long, deep breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Move your body. Whenever you are feeling anxious, try going for a brisk 20-minute walk or turning on music and dancing around the house. Exercise calms us down and boosts our mood, making it a double whammy for combating anxiety. The key? Making it a consistent routine. Aim for at least three to four 20-minute movements sessions per week and build from there. Feed yourself well. What we eat has a dramatic effect on how we feel. Emphasize whole, minimally processed foods, including fresh fruits and berries, starchy vegetables and leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and legumes, whole grains, and high-quality animal proteins. Eat to fuel yourself and pay attention to the way you feel after meals. Steer clear of caffeine, alcohol, sugar, and highly processed foods, all of which can increase anxiety and contribute to emotional highs and lows. Spend time in nature. Nature is a natural antidote for anxiety. The sound of flowing water, the colors of a sunset, and the busy hum of bees and insects are all things that calm our nervous system and consequently increase our mental health and well-being. Make it a point to spend as much time in nature as possible, away from traffic, cell phone notifications, financial stress, and emails, all of which can induce feelings of heightened anxiety. Focus on sleep. Sleep is one of the key building blocks to health and happiness and adults need at least eight hours of high-quality sleep per night. Unfortunately, most of us are not getting anywhere close to that amount. A few ways to encourage healthy sleep are 1) develop a nighttime routine, 2) turn off screens at least one hour before bed, 3) keep electronics and other stressors out of the bedroom, and 4) turn the temperature in your bedroom down at night. Try journaling. Longhand freewriting is a great way to process thoughts and fears that are creating anxiety. Experiment with taking time in the morning to journal before the start of the day. If there is a particular situation, person, or event that is causing anxiety, try writing about it to sort through what you are feeling. Oftentimes we don’t know the root cause of something until we look at it from many angles. Develop a mindfulness practice. Mindfulness is simply the practice of returning to the present moment and observing what is taking place without judgment. Because anxiety occurs when we worry about the future and mindfulness anchors us in the present moment, it is a great practice for lowering anxiety. Morning meditation, gratitude, and breathwork are all great ways to develop a mindfulness practice. If you need help getting started, a quick internet search will give you more YouTube videos, podcasts, and books on mindfulness and mediation than you will know what to do with. Let laughter be thy medicine. Laughter is one of the most useful yet underrated natural anxiety treatments that exist. If you are able, take a step back from your life from time to time to observe everything that is happening. Then, allow yourself to laugh about it all. Laughter can actually trigger physical and emotional changes within the body, so laugh at yourself, laugh with yourself, laugh with a friend, laugh with a pet, laugh alone. Laugh as much as possible to give yourself a natural relief from anxiety. View the full article
  7. If you had a devastating illness and were given one year to live, what would you do? No question there would be grief and plenty of important decisions to make. If it didn’t debilitate you completely, what would you do with your time? Where would you focus your attention and energy? Would you be willing to spend more time with your loved ones despite the pain that shows up? Would you be doing activities that you’ve enjoyed in life or would you stay home lamenting what life would’ve been if you didn’t have this affliction? As a mortal being we are guaranteed physical, mental and emotional pain. The prospect of getting away from pain is a fantasy, and we all know it. Yet, when we are in the middle of adversity, we can easily forget. Our nature is to seek comfort, and the human mind is adept at providing infinite solutions to dissuade the pain. This can happen when you struggle with intrusive thoughts. Your tendency may be to control them. You may try to ignore them. Sometimes you may try to replace, fight or push the thoughts away. After incessantly trying, you may resign yourself to being a victim to what your thoughts say and succumb to compulsions to alleviate your emotional and mental pain. You may have at some point even wished or prayed to trade your OCD for a physical debilitating illness. No question OCD is torturing, and it can get in the way of living the kind of life you want. Just like you would want to spend your precious time doing what matters with those you care most about, if you had a fatal disease, would you consider a similar stance with the pain that OCD brings into your life? Your OCD mind may advise you to wait for those internal private events (i.e., thoughts, emotions, and sensations) to abate so you can enjoy life. The advice would make sense if you were dealing with external situations, “Wait until you’ve gotten a job to purchase a car!” “Wait till you’ve earned enough money to put a down payment on a new house!” The truth is that you cannot treat internal private experiences as if they were external ones. “But why can’t that invasive thought just vanish?” you may ask. If you aren’t willing to have it, you will. In order to not think about it you have to think about it, don’t you?* Will you acknowledge the thoughts and carry on with life instead of trying to control them? This is not easy of course, but you can start with the following practice exercise. The Sticky Note On a 3 x 3 sticky note, write down three of the intrusive thoughts you wish you didn’t have. This may be difficult. However, the alternative is to have them front and center and let them get in the way of your life because you keep pushing them away. After writing your thoughts, read them and consider how long they have been showing up in your mind? How old are these stories? Are they not old news? Sometimes new thoughts will show up, and soon enough they’ll become old and the cycle will continue. Would you be willing to place the sticky note containing your intrusive thoughts in one of your pants or shirt pockets, purse, backpack or wallet? Would you be willing to carry the note with you everywhere you go? Then, when the intrusive thought shows up, can you acknowledge it, and remember how long this thought has been reoccurring? “Yes, this is the same old story.” Then decide to “own” the thought each time it pops up and genuinely thank your mind. “Yeah, I’ve got that thought in my pocket. Thanks Mind!” Pull out the note and read it, then place it back. Own your thoughts! Carry them in your pocket. Don’t wait until they are gone. Start focusing on what and who matters most despite the emotional pain. Your best life is waiting for you! Source *Steven C. Hayes, Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life, Oakland, CA: New Harbinger, 2005. View the full article
  8. Distress is a culmination of an uncomfortable storm of emotions, judgments, resistance, and physical sensations. Depending on a person’s specific triggers, coping skills, brain, and self-understanding, the reaction to distress can range from mild and controlled, to an intense experience of dysregulation and trauma. Triggers of distress come in all shapes and sizes. It can be personal or global, such as this pandemic. Currently, the pandemic is a universal trigger poking and scratching at old wounds, especially experiences that left us feeling powerless and helpless — and it is creating new ones. I’ve written this step-by-step survival guide. First and foremost, you must understand yourself well. Which leads us into Step 1: 1. Increase your self-knowledge & self-awareness. Log your traits, strengths and struggles, interests, and values. Write the emotions hardest for you to regulate (common ones: anger, anxiety, helplessness), and then triggers for each of those emotions. It helps to recount the steps before the ultimate distress hit, and to be as specific as possible. For example: I was on the internet, felt powerless -> the articles contain a lot of uncertainty, so I kept reading -> felt powerless and confused -> the loss of control feeling hit my “landmine” of when I was once in a traumatic situation I had no control over -> panic attack, then lashed out at my child for not cleaning his room *vulnerability factors: tired, hungry, overwhelmed, so it was easier for me to react and perceive it as more upsetting than it was. This step elevates the pause in between trigger and your response — the ultimate power is in the pause. You cannot change what you do not know, or what you do not accept is a struggle. Which brings you to the next step. 2. Radical Acceptance. For anyone who knows about Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), you know how useful this tool is. What radical acceptance tells us is we must acknowledge reality. As Paulo Coelho said, “The challenge will not wait.” Rejecting reality is preventing a solution. Note your rejection phrases. Common ones are: “I hate this.” “This sucks.” “I can’t stand this.” “I cannot handle this.” “Why is this happening?” Resisting reality is a fight you will never win. We must accept we are living through a pandemic; we must accept what we can do, like using safety measures for the protection of ourselves, and for the protection of others. Acceptance is not comfortable. It is often an event we will still interpret as “bad.” And that’s the point — radical acceptance is not about suddenly believing it’s okay. It’s about wholly acknowledging it exists so you can surrender, and focus on what you can control, what you can do to move forward. 3. Distress Tolerance Pandemic-induced distress causes an array of emotions, even within one moment. Sadness, frustration, fear, depression, loneliness, powerlessness, to peace within the permitted pause of “normal routine”, to joy in newfound hobbies and skills to master, gratitude for all we have and want to have return. But — what are emotions? Emotions are a set of sensations and chemical shifts, within our brains and bodies. The “sad” category lowers our physiological arousal; it is often why we feel slumped and sloth-like when we shift into them. The “anger” and “anxious” categories produce a higher arousal state. Heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, tension grips. Both are highly uncomfortable states to sit with but become easier to tolerate with practice. Therefore: 4. Sit with Emotions. Set a timer for fifteen minutes. A nice mindfulness practice I teach is labeling the emotional experience. First, close your eyes. Locate where the emotion is in your body (might be one spot or several). What color would it be? Shape? Air, liquid, hollow, or solid? Texture? What would it sound like? What would it smell like? What would it taste like? Enlist your senses to produce a “known” to better understand and sit with the emotion without judging it. You might notice your breathing slowed down on its own, your body shifts into a quieter hum, and your emotional intensity has lowered. The brain is soothed by labels, as well as re-centering with your senses as your guide. Once the distress has quieted down, bring in some logic with step 5. 5. Check the Facts. This counters cognitive distortions such as magnifying a problem, only focusing on the worst-case scenario, and/or emotional reasoning (i.e. I feel anxious therefore something must be wrong, and it is the worst thing I can imagine). When we are not gathering information and using our reasoning alongside validating our emotions, our imagination can take us into horrible corners of our mind. Checking the facts allows us to step back, gain objectivity, and see what’s at play to let go, and what’s at play to solve. Answer the “what-ifs.” Give your brain a “known” to survive the “unknown.” After answering, remind yourself of the “what IS” — the facts without assigning your opinion. 6. Wrap it up with self-compassion. Our confidence wanes, our strengths and use of skills fluctuate, and our self-esteem and self-worth can take a hit. But self-compassion is a tool that can remain constant. Let yourself say, “This is normal. This distress is allowed. It makes sense that a pandemic would rise my levels of vulnerability. I will be extra special kind to myself during this time, and through it all.” We Are All Going Through This Together The pandemic has removed our security of the future. Boost your mindfulness skills, add to your healthy coping skills toolkit, maintain little goals you can look forward to, and cultivate self-compassion. View the full article
  9. During this pandemic people have found themselves at home either more of the time, or in some cases, almost exclusively. The calendar that was once filled with meetings and reminders, suddenly lacked all its luster. Those annoying dings that once sent us on to the next task, giving us nothing short of a Pavlov’s dog response, stopped suddenly. Previously, we wore the word “busy” as some sort of badge of honor, but now find ourselves feeling lost and even despondent. So how can it be that we’re exhausted at the end of the day? The calendar says that we’re doing less, yet our body, mind and spirit would beg to differ. Even our personal relationships may be suffering, yet we don’t understand why. “There’s so much uncertainty which, for many people, can lead to feeling insecure,” says Dr. Fran Walfish, a leading child, couple and family Psychotherapist in private practice in Beverly Hills, California. “No two people experience the effects of this pandemic exactly the same way, but most can agree that this is an extremely stressful and difficult time, both mentally and physically.” Remember, your partner and your children may also be suffering, even if they don’t verbalize it. Life events don’t stop because of a pandemic, and like many other people, I encountered a life-changing event over the past few weeks. We buried my sister after an untimely death due to a fall. As I sat with my family, the funeral director peppered us with questions, seeking answers that only we could provide. At one point, I felt the energy drain from my body and I turned to her and said, “I need to know how many more questions you’re going to ask.” I wasn’t trying to be rude; I just needed to know there was an end in sight. This experience made me reflect on how different things seem to be for almost all of us and how draining it can be to live in this new normal. The truth is, we’re all suffering from decision fatigue that’s exasperated by no clear end in sight. Prior to March, our lives ran on autopilot. The hectic schedules and repetitiveness allowed us to conserve our energy for bigger, more important decisions. Now, every day, every hour, is filled with decisions. I, for one, would welcome the dictates of a calendar telling me what to do and when to do it. At least then, I wouldn’t have to think so much. Our brains only allow for so much bandwidth, and when that bandwidth is jammed with pop-up decisions like whether to get dressed, what to snack on, or which show to binge, there’s no room for the important decisions. Even deciding which store to shop at, when to shop, and how to get in and out safely can tax the system, especially since safety concerns put the brain on high alert, draining all the mental reserves. Many people are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety. Such feelings can come on suddenly and linger for hours. “You know you’re energy’s been zapped when you just don’t care about the things you used to love,” says Jennifer McDaniel, a wellness strategist, energy coach and owner of Soul Abode, “It’s not just about self-care, it’s about soul care. Give yourself permission to retreat, taking a step back to BE instead of DO.” 5 Tips for Combating Decision Fatigue: Lay out your clothes the night before. Not only will this motivate you to get dressed, it will free up one less decision for the morning hours, allowing you to focus on more important things. Make a list of to-dos. Having a list to check off helps keep you on task and gives your mind to prepare for what’s coming next. Recognize the feelings of fatigue and grant yourself grace. This may mean going for a walk, taking a short nap, or meditating with a focus on centering yourself. Arrange your dietary habits to include more brain foods, like nuts and avocados, and less brain drains, like carbs and sugars. Get lost in a good book. Reading for pleasure allows a break from reality. Your only decision is to turn the page. View the full article
  10. Social anxiety involves worry or fear that you will be judged, embarrassed, or humiliated in social situations and often leads to people avoiding or feeling distress in certain social environments. At the same time, research shows that social anxiety is not just how an individual consciously experiences or reacts to a scenario — it can also affect automatic functions, those that operate outside our conscious awareness. For example, how individuals view things or people in a given environment may operate differently in people with social anxiety. Understanding differences in how people process visual images, particularly those involving facial expressions, can provide insight into the kinds of information individuals with social anxiety are gathering from their environment. Using eye-tracking technologies, researchers can examine the quality and frequency of eye movements when individuals are viewing images of faces. In an eye-tracking study, participants wear a device that detects the position of the pupils and the reflection in the cornea in both eyes simultaneously. This allows researchers to measure things like what people first look at or how long they focus on different aspects of a visual scene. A study conducted by Liang, Tsai, and Hsu (2017) used eye-tracking technology to examine how individuals with social anxiety engage with perceived social threats, in this case, images of angry faces. Some past evidence suggests that people with social anxiety will initially focus on unpleasant stimuli and then move attention away from those threats, known as the vigilance-avoidance hypothesis. Other research suggests there is delayed disengagement, meaning that people with social anxiety take longer to turn their attention away from threatening stimuli than those without social anxiety. To explore these possibilities, the researchers had participants with and without social anxiety look at an image containing five faces with a happy, angry, sad, and neutral facial expression. The participants were instructed to look at the image while wearing an eye-tracker for 5, 10, or 15 seconds. This study determined that most people, regardless of whether they had social anxiety or not, look at angry faces first. However, the participants with social anxiety fixated on the angry faces more often and for longer. Consequently, those with social anxiety may have difficulty disengaging from angry faces, as it took them longer to shift their attention away from the angry facial expression. The results suggest that people without social anxiety engage with the perception of negative individuals less than those with social anxiety. By fixating less on the angry face, they may be able to see other possibilities and interpretations of a situation. They can balance their own mood by this form of self-regulating. The relationship between social anxiety and attention to faces is far from clear, as other eye tracking research suggests that in certain conditions people with social anxiety direct their attention away from emotional facial expressions (Mansell, Clark, Ehlers & Chen, 1999). Taylor, Kraines, Grant, and Wells (2019) suggested that one factor that may affect this relationship is excessive reassurance-seeking. Excessive reassurance-seeking may cause individuals to orient attention to positive faces quickly after engaging with threatening ones. To test this hypothesis, they conducted another experimental study using eye-tracking technology with individuals who have social anxiety. However, their experiment focused on how individuals orient their attention back and forth between pleasant and threatening stimuli. Participants were instructed to view images of different emotional faces, formatted like a photo album, and participants were encouraged to flip through at their own pace. Each page contained an angry, disgusted, happy, neutral, and sad face. In addition to this, participants completed two scales, one measuring social anxiety and one measuring participants’ tendency to seek reassurance in their personal relationships, such as the tendency to ask loved ones if they really care about you. The researchers found that although there was no direct relationship between social anxiety symptoms and how long people fixated on faces exhibiting disgust, there was an indirect relationship when one considered the tendency to seek reassurance, with individuals with social anxiety high in reassurance-seeking behavior fixating less on faces of disgust and orienting more quickly to happy faces. Taylor et. al (2019) noted two possible reasons for this behavior. It could be an avoidance of threatening feedback or, alternatively, a way of seeking reassurance. These behaviors can be successful ways to feel comfortable or safe in an anxiety-provoking situation. Together, the results from these studies suggest that individuals with social anxiety show an irregular attentional pattern when they are viewing emotional faces. While some individuals with social anxiety may have a harder time disengaging from threat information, others, who seek excessive reassurance, may be more likely to orient towards positive facial expressions. People do not consciously choose where their eyes move most of the time. This lack of cognitive control can hinder the ability of people to see alternatives. Where an individual without social anxiety might recognize that the angry person in the room may not necessarily be angry at them by looking for other cues, somebody with social anxiety may not be able to disengage or orient to additional information. Their fixation prevents them from seeing the whole picture. References Liang, C., Tsai, J., Hsu, W. (2017). Sustained visual attention for competing emotional stimuli in social anxiety: An eye tracking study. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 54, 178-185. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbtep.2016.08.009 Mansell, W., Clark, D. M., Ehlers, A. &, Chen, Y. P. (1999) Social anxiety and attention away from emotional faces. Cognition and Emotion, 13, 673-690. https://doi.org/10.1080/026999399379032 Taylor, D., Kraines, M., Grant, D., Wells, T. (2019). The role of excessive reassurance seeking: An eye tracking study of the indirect effect of social anxiety symptoms on attention bias. Psychiatry Research, 274, 220-227. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2019.02.039 View the full article
  11. Do you constantly refresh your social media feed? Are you checking your notifications more often than you’d like to admit? In today’s Psych Central Podcast, Gabe and psychologist Robert Duff have an enlightening discussion on how the information age has affected our mental health — but only if we let it. Dr. Duff explains how the overuse of social media is often driven by a fear of missing out and even a false sense of productivity. So how can we work with the modern world rather than be controlled by it? Join us to hear specific tips on how to make social media the servant, not the master, of your reality. SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW Guest information for ‘Robert Duff- Social Media Anxiety’ Podcast Episode Robert Duff is a licensed clinical psychologist from Southern California. He is the author of the popular Hardcore Self Help book series and his most recent book, Does My Mom Have Dementia?. He also hosts a weekly podcast where he answers listener mental health questions and interviews interesting guests. When he’s not working as a neuropsychologist in private practice or creating content for his “Duff the Psych” persona, Robert can usually be found sharing a few glasses of wine with his wife or playing video games. 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 the author. To learn more about Gabe, please visit his website, gabehoward.com. Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Robert Duff- Social Media 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 to this week’s episode of The Psych Central Podcast. Calling into the show today, we have Dr. Robert Duff. Robert is a licensed clinical psychologist and is the author of the popular Hardcore Self Help book series. He’s also a fellow podcast, hosting the Hard Core Self Help Podcast, a weekly show where he answers listeners’ mental health questions and interviews interesting guests. Dr. Duff, welcome to the show. Dr. Robert Duff: Thank you so much for having me. Gabe Howard: Today, we’re going to discuss anxiety and the modern age and more specifically, how things like technology and social media impact our anxiety and stress levels. I think that most people don’t realize that our modern world is causing us stress in other ways than just work, relationships and children. Dr. Robert Duff: Yeah, I think at the very least, it’s different. I wouldn’t say better or worse, but certainly the Internet and definitely social media, I think, are kind of some of the biggest changes to society and the way that we interact since the industrial revolution or the printing press or something like that. So absolutely, it’s different. Gabe Howard: It seems like if you read back through history, every new thing was going to be the end of the world. And I remember reading about the printing press and how the printing press was going to destroy the world as we know it. And it was fascinating to read because, of course, we all love the printing press. We think that the printing press is one of the greatest revolutions in the world. And yet at the time, it was very much maligned as being a bad thing. Which leads me to my question. Is that this. Are people just saying, oh, no, social media and technology is the downfall of the world and it’s sort of, you know, the sky is falling syndrome. Dr. Robert Duff: I think that people can fall on either side of it. Sometimes people think that it’s a very, very, very negative thing. For me, I’m like, well, it doesn’t matter either way, it is what it is. And it’s sort of growing up in this period of time. I think that one of our major, for lack of a better term, developmental tasks is to figure out how to manage all this stuff, because there’s just a lot. The jump up from the printing press gives you access to information that you never had before. And this is that like times a gazillion. So there’s just a lot in knowing what to do with that, how to manage that. I think it’s a really, really, really important thing. Gabe Howard: Social media is just the, it gets blamed for everything, it seems nowadays. What role does social media play in anxiety in 2020? Dr. Robert Duff: There’s good and bad and neutral, you know, it is what it is. I think that one of the good things about it is that you have unprecedented access to connecting with people and finding resources. If you’re to go on Twitter say, and say, hey, I’m having extreme anxiety. Can somebody help me out? And a bunch of people are going to come and they’re going to send you resources. That’s how a lot of people find my books and stuff like that, for instance. So there’s, it’s a great way to connect with people. It’s a great way to find resources. It also, though, feeds into sort of the compulsive nature of anxiety. Anxiety, you tend to get this sense of unease like you want to know the answer. Whether that’s is the situation dangerous or what’s going on in the world or how does this person feel about me? You really, really, really want to know the answer to that. And social media gives you a way to either get those answers or at least fulfill some of that compulsive desire to do that. So, when you want to know what’s going on in the world, all you have to do is refresh your social feed. And you see the news there these days. A lot of people, myself included, don’t even turn on the TV or go to CNN.com when we want to get news. Dr. Robert Duff: I just go to Twitter and see what’s trending. And that’s going to help me understand in the immediate right now sense what’s going on, which is a good thing and a bad thing. I always tell people your knowledge of what’s happening in this moment, especially if it’s something like a natural disaster, a shooting, a political event, things like that. Your knowledge of it does not change the fact that it’s happening at all. But there’s this, with how much information is available, there’s just this weird guilt that sort of sets in where if you don’t know what’s happening in that exact moment, you feel bad about that or disconnected somehow. And so, you know, by refreshing your feed, by checking those things, it relieves some of that. They release some of that tension, which is going to lead you to do that more and more and more. So it can become a thing that’s just so absent minded. You’re constantly either checking notifications, which is a whole different story, or just refreshing social feeds, trying to see what’s going on. And that can certainly play into anxiety, especially if it’s an issue that you already have. Gabe Howard: It’s fascinating that you talked about refreshing the social feed to learn what’s going on, to release anxiety on one hand. I completely agree with you. I have done it. I have sat there on my phone when something a big event has happened. And I’ve just hit refresh, refresh, refresh, you know, going through like four different Web sites going on, like you said, Twitter or Facebook to see what other people are saying or what other people are posting. And in that moment, I feel less anxious because after all, I’m up to date. Dr. Robert Duff: Right. Right. Gabe Howard: But then again, I’m completely enmeshed in it. Dr. Robert Duff: Right. Gabe Howard: I’m not doing anything else. I’m not focused on anything else. I’m letting other things like work, family, friendships, joy go, because I’m just, I’m so engrossed in this story. And then I often learn, whether it be days, weeks or months later that some of the information I got was just false. There’s so much pressure to have the scoop that people say the police questioned Gabe Howard. He’s a suspect. And in the meantime, Gabe Howard was the Jimmy John’s delivery guy. And now the whole world believes that the poor Jimmy John’s delivery guy is involved. Which I imagine creates even more anxiety. Dr. Robert Duff: Yeah. Gabe Howard: How does that all flow together? Dr. Robert Duff: The other thing to think about with this is how it doesn’t allow you to turn off with anxiety. A lot of people. Their brain is already going to be searching for signs of danger. Answers to things. It’s going to be sort of always on. And it’s an active effort to try to get that to slow down, to rest, to recuperate. Sustained anxiety over time is really exhausting. And then you integrate something like this where you’re getting the immediate information that’s constantly changing. So you have to keep up with it. I can recall just recently, somewhat recently, I live in the area of California that has all the wildfires, these really big fires that have happened. And one of them that was closest to us happened while my wife was asleep. But I was still awake and I had to really make the choice of, OK, do I wake her up and let her know what’s happening? Just because she needs to know with the knowledge that that’s going to keep her up all night because she’s going to be doing that refresh and continuing Gabe Howard: Right. Dr. Robert Duff: To look, continuing to get that. Or do I wait till there’s a need to know part of the information? Because really, for all practical purposes, it wasn’t affecting us yet at that point and the information was only going to be more solid later on. But you really, really, really, really want to know. And the anxiety is going to fuel that because it’s going to say, hey, I’m trying to keep you safe. The best thing you can do here is gather all this information, try to figure out every aspect of it, and then also avoid things that would actually make a difference or maybe make you involved somehow. So it definitely plays into it. But at the very least, I think we need to pay attention to how it affects us. And one of my biggest sort of takeaways for people is that you need to start building some self awareness about how social media plays out for you, for different people, it’s going to have a different level of impact. For me, it may not be quite as big as somebody like. Like I said, my wife, she’s somebody that openly struggles with anxiety. It has a big effect on her. And so knowing when to invite that in, when to not invite that in, I think that’s a skill that we all sort of need to build at this point. Gabe Howard: I’m thinking of my own social media use, and I got sucked in by everything, I had the notifications on, so when something happened, there was a ding. I had the emails that came in. And this is the thing that I’m most ashamed of. I wanted to earn all of the badges. Social media does a really good job of telling you that you’re a top poster, you’re a top fan. You’ve made one Dr. Robert Duff: Verified. Gabe Howard: Update a day every day for 100 days or. Yeah. Verified is a big one. I wanted to earn, and I’m using that word earn. I wanted to earn them all. But I’ve since learned, as comes with, you know, maturity and age and better understanding that I wasn’t earning anything. It was a false reward. I think many people are stuck in this trap where they think they’re accomplishing something. But in reality, you’re not accomplishing anything. Dr. Robert Duff: Yeah, definitely. And the checking nature of social media with anxiety, you’re taking away that unease of not knowing what’s going on. But then on top of that, there’s also positive reinforcement. You’re getting hearts. You’re getting likes. You’re getting badges, you’re getting these things. And they are just quick little hits of essentially dopamine that are reinforcing you for that behavior. And it’s built that way. That’s why Facebook is such a huge monster that can charge so much for ads and make so much money because everything is just built on that. It’s like Vegas. You know, you have this positive reinforcement. You have the light, you have the ding, you have the money payout. You have all these things that kind of keep you going and keep you going. And so I think that’s definitely important to recognize that it’s designed to make you compulsive. That doesn’t mean it’s a terrible thing in and of itself. But just like when you walk into a store, you see all the ads and promotions and things like that, you’ve got to at least know that they’re trying to sell you and that’s going to at least help you take things with a grain of salt. Gabe Howard: I do think that people understand that the stores, the televisions are trying to sell you. Do you think that people understand that Facebook and other social media sites are trying to sell you? Do you think that people understand that they are are consumer of these products? And do you think that that understanding or lack of understanding contributes to anxiety? Dr. Robert Duff: That’s an interesting question. I think that one thing that Facebook and the social media platforms do really well as they get to know you, you give them permission to give them a lot of your information. And so things start to become very tailored to you. You know, you hear the stories about, oh, I was talking over dinner about getting a new vacuum. Suddenly I see ads for new vacuums. So, I mean, I think that people do know that they’re being sold to. However, it is worked in a very sort of contextual way where sometimes you don’t even notice it. But I have kind of mixed feelings about, I’m getting a little bit off topic with this. But the idea of sort of your social media feed becoming a bit of a bubble, that’s very tailored toward you. It depends on what you’re using it for. But for some people, maybe social media plays a great role in broadening your perspective for other people. I think there’s nothing necessarily wrong with controlling what you see there for ads or for different types of posts. You can block. You can say, I don’t want to see this type of content. You can sort of curate your social media feed to be something that works for you instead of against you. Somebody who has, say, depression. They might want to intentionally remove some of the things that are maybe a little bit more pessimistic. They may want to bring in things that are a lot more that’s sort of positive content. That’s going to help them at least have a tiny boost throughout their day that will inspire them. And I don’t think that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that. I think a lot of people feel like there is. So they feel like, oh, well, I can’t just, like, make myself in my own little bubble because then I’m not seeing what’s going on on the other side. It’s a tool. It’s a tool that you can use however you want to. But it’s something that you do have some degree of control over. Gabe Howard: I know that you talk a lot about fake productivity or false productivity. It’s this idea where you think you’re accomplishing something but you’re not. Can you explain what fake productivity is? Dr. Robert Duff: So for me, the way that I see this the most is with not necessarily social media, but like apps. There are gazillions of apps out there and they’re all trying to be the perfect tool for this thing, whether it’s a to do list or a calendar app or tracking your period or exercise, whatever it is. There’s a million options for each of those things. And one thing that a lot of people do is fall down this rabbit hole of searching for the perfect tool. Oh, this one doesn’t have this feature. OK. Let’s keep looking. OK. This one has a lot of great features, but not quite. This one was too expensive. And you keep going. Keep going, keep going. Keep going. And at the end of the day, whatever the tool is supposed to help you with, you did nothing related to that thing. You don’t have your to do list made. Your calendar isn’t updated. So you kind of spent a bunch of time going down this rabbit hole of trying to be sold on the perfect tool and didn’t actually do anything with it. And for people who have anxiety. So with anxiety, the thing I would say is that avoidance is the fuel of anxiety. Anxiety tells you to avoid something so that it can keep you safe. And then when you do avoid that thing, it gets bigger and more present. So you avoid more and more and more and then suddenly you’re having a really hard time. And I think that one sort of insidious thing that can happen is that we turn this search for the perfect tool into a form of avoidance. If you’re just planning and looking for the right thing and doing all this top level stuff, you don’t actually have to take action because action is scary. And so you can use that as a form of avoidance and just kind of keep doing this over and over again. Gabe Howard: But you’re not actually achieving anything. And at some point you realize this. It really does seem like this self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m anxious because I’m productive. Now I’m anxious because I’m realizing I’m not productive. But I can be productive by doing what is effectively nothing. But if I don’t do it, I become anxious. But if I do do it, I become anxious. I just I’m having, like, a really hard time getting out of the feedback loop of what do I do so that I am productive, well-informed. And I don’t have this sudden fear that I don’t fit into society and that I’m just one of these curmudgeonly people on my porch saying social media is going to kill us all. This whole conversation is making me anxious because I honestly don’t know what to do. Dr. Robert Duff: Yeah, I mean, that’s anxiety itself, though, right? Whether it’s social media or anything else, I think that the thing that the Internet does and social media does is provide like a big sort of magnifying glass or megaphone for those things that are already tendencies you have. The answer is really trying to build self-awareness of your patterns. Right. And especially understanding the way that your patterns interact with these new tools that are available. The best way I think to do that is talking with people, trusted loved ones, your therapist, whoever. Also journaling. That’s like a form of self therapy and sort of self monitoring. OK. Write down at the end of the day, what did I do today and how did it affect me? I spent six hours diving down this rabbit hole of trying to find the perfect tools and all my apps are set up pretty and all these things, but I haven’t done anything. And now I feel bad about that. And I feel anxious that I wasted time and I have less time tomorrow to do all these things, write those things out so you can at least understand your patterns and use that information to adjust your approach. I’m a big fan of using both online and offline things open in front of my face right now. I have an Evernote document with some notes from when you asked me questions beforehand for this interview, I’ll also have my Google Keep, which has like my whole to do list. But I’ve also got a stupid little index card in front of me. If I think of something and I don’t have time to get to the to do list, I’m just going to write it down there. Gabe Howard: We’ll be right back after these messages. Sponsor Message: 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 discussing anxiety in the digital age with Dr. Robert Duff. I certainly don’t think that the solution here is to cancel all of your social media, never read the news, never get on email, never prepare. Like you talked about the extremes. How does one make sure that they’re staying in the middle? Because I imagine that that moderation, that middle, that average is where the least amount of anxiety comes in. Dr. Robert Duff: Yeah, I think a lot of it is about sort of setting limits for yourself and having some boundaries with yourself at this point. I think it’s really unrealistic to tell people to say, OK, you’re only allowed to do these actions at this time, like you’re only allowed to engage with social media at this time. That’s kind of pushing against a really strong beast, unless social media isn’t even a big thing for you. There’s plenty people out there with like, oh, well, I don’t have a Facebook it’s not a big deal, but insert whatever it is, checking email, checking the news, what have you. It’s easier, though, to block out times that are sacred, times that you’re not doing that. Actively disconnecting from the world. And I think that’s really important in terms of like especially things like sleep, being able to sleep and turn off for the night. Massively important when you’re dealing with mental health issues, both in terms of memory and learning the skills that you’re trying to work on and build and just giving enough energy to get back out there and fight a little bit of the uphill battle that you’ve been fighting. So I’m a big fan of sort of book ending the day is what I call it. So the beginning of the day, first half hour or so, last hour of the day, disconnecting from the world, putting the phone away. And I really am a big fan of not even having your phone in the bedroom because so many people, last thing they see before they close their eyes is their phone, email or social media feed. Dr. Robert Duff: Then they close their eyes. If they wake up in the middle of the night, drink water, they’re going to be checking their social media feed again or their email. They wake up in the morning. What’s the first thing they see? They pull that out again. And really, I think that there are very, very, very few instances where that’s going to be a great thing. It could be neutral. It could not affect you very much. And there’s a pretty significant chance that it’s going to derail you. If you’re gonna see something that pisses you off, something that scares you, something that you forgot about for work or whatever, you know, the last thing you need is to wake up in the middle of the night and see a work email. OK, bye bye sleep. So I’m a big fan of in the morning, kind of taking some time before you even pull out your phone. Make yourself some coffee. Take a few deep breaths. Write some thoughts down if you have them. Do whatever you want to do with that and then pull that out. And at the end of the night, focus inward, do some journaling. Like I said, you can do some stretching or foam rolling or deep breathing or just enjoy an off line activity like we used to do in the olden days and try to come down a little bit and disconnect from the world so that you can drift off into restorative sleep, not having your brain running a million miles per hour. Gabe Howard: When I am in a hotel, when I travel, I keep my phone next to me because it’s my alarm clock and every single time I get up to go to the bathroom, because that phone is sitting next to my bed, I check it. Now, fortunately, 90% of the time, there’s nothing on there. But 10% of the time there’s something, there’s something. And I’m up the rest of the night. And I think that people need to realize this. Now, what do you say to the people who are going to immediately fire back, well, I have to. I have to keep the phone next to my bed because I have teenage children who are out or my spouse works nights and might need to call. I am the emergency contact for my mother or of course, my personal favorite, it’s my alarm clock and there’s just no way around that. Dr. Robert Duff: Yeah, those are all very anxious responses, right? You know, oh, my God, what if this what if that. There are ways around that. They still make alarm clocks. Gabe Howard: Yeah. Dr. Robert Duff: I have one. It’s really annoying. I have to put it on the other side of the room. So actually physically get up and walk over there. Otherwise, I’ll just turn over and hit it with my hand. So, you know. Gabe Howard: We may be soulmates. I’ve just, yes, I do the exact same thing. Dr. Robert Duff: I’ve always had to because my brain will create a scenario where there’s like a nuclear launch happening and I have to hit this button to stop it. And that’s the alarm clock. And so my brain will troll me and it just won’t work. So I have to actually physically get up. But, yeah, they make real alarm clocks, you know, and then in terms of the other concerns about what if there’s an emergency, et cetera, there’s a variety of ways around that. There are things like maybe you have your Apple Watch in the room if you have Apple products, but not your phone. Or you keep it outside the room, but you keep it on do not disturb and you can sort of have your specifications. So if somebody calls you, it’ll ring loudly. I mean, that’s outside the room, but you’ll still be able to hear it. There’s a variety of ways to do it. If you have teenage kids that are out for the night, maybe that’s the night you make an exception and you try to be responsible with it. As responsible as you can, not keep it right next to the bed. But that’s your kind of exception for the week and the rest of the week, you’re not going to have it in there. So you could do a lot with it. And those are usually just sort of knee-jerk reactions. I get that sort of knee-jerk reaction from people a lot, too, when I’m talking about setting limits on social media, even taking breaks from social media, things like this, they say, well, it’s my job. I need to be on it. There’s definitely usually a little more wiggle room than you think there as well. Gabe Howard: I really feel like this all does boil down to making healthy choices and sticking to them and I really think this is a good analogy that people who say that they don’t have time to exercise and the people that say that they have to be on social media. But, of course, one of the things that you can do to exercise is park at the back of the parking lot and walk forward. You can take the steps instead of the elevator so you can turn off social media during dinner. Dr. Robert Duff: Right. Gabe Howard: Do you believe that finding those tiny little things? Because in the grand scheme, those are small things. But it sounds like you’re saying those will pay big dividends when it comes to lessening our anxiety. Dr. Robert Duff: I feel like just exercising control over it is a good practice, right? Intentionally putting it away sometimes, intentionally having it out sometimes. If you’re feeling that discomfort, much like if you walk out the door and you realize your phone Psych in your pocket, you get this sense of discomfort these days like, oh, God, something’s wrong. A lot of people feel that way. If they’re not able to immediately check their phone at dinner and they’re feeling a buzz in their pocket or whatever you have, that that sense of discomfort. So learning how to sort of modulate that and do it intentionally, you know, I’m going to put my phone away or I’m going to log off or not check these things for this period of time, at least gives you the flexibility to say, OK, sometimes I’m on, sometimes I’m off. And that’s a practice I think, that people need to need to do. You know, we have all these coping skills, mindfulness, you know, all these different things that that we use in the mental health field. I think that this is just simply another one of those things, sort of like technological flexibility or something. The ability to just decide when you’re on and when you’re off. And that’s a hard thing to do when the structure is designed to make you on all the time. But you need to wrest some control back from that. Otherwise you’re gonna be worn out. Gabe Howard: I hear a lot of what you’re saying, and I completely agree with it, and I know that making more intentional decisions about our social media and about our use of technology will make us feel better. But do you think that there is a role in that when we’re staring at our phones? There’s often people in the room and those people are our friends, our families, our loved ones. And they maybe don’t feel so good about it. And they’re probably giving us pushback, whether straight up, put your phone down or passive aggressive, well, I’m not going to tell you. You care more about your phone or whatever. Do you think that keeping them happy also lowers your anxiety? And I know keeping them happy is kind of a weird way to say it, but in the beginning, I got a lot of negative pushback from my friends and family, which also made me more anxious. And when I got better control over my phone and social media use, a lot of that went away. Which, of course, made me less anxious. Dr. Robert Duff: Yeah, I think so. I mean, and also you’re making the assumption that the other person isn’t also on their phone. Gabe Howard: Sure. Dr. Robert Duff: And then suddenly you are just both disconnected, sort of doing parallel life next to each other. Communication is something that is still really important, you know, and you could be communicating with people online. I think that’s valid. But you also need to communicate with people in person. And when couples are having trouble in my clinical practice, a lot of things sometimes I ask, do you guys eat dinner together? Like, do you sit across each other and eat dinner? And often the answer is no. We sit side by side or on our phones, whatever the case may be. And it’s like, OK, well, then you’re robbing yourself of the chance to practice communicating with one another and getting that support from one another. And yeah, I think that definitely accessing the supports that you have and then treating them well is it’s really important. That it’s a whole piece of the puzzle, along with all the other things you might do to help relieve your anxiety. So I definitely agree with you there. Gabe Howard: I could talk to you about this all day because people seem to be more anxious than ever, people seem to be more disconnected than ever at a time that we should be more connected than ever. But the specific question that I want to ask you really involves a story with my grandfather. One morning, my grandfather comes downstairs, he is staying at my house, and he sees my wife and I sitting at the breakfast table and we’re both on our phones and and he says, oh, this is the problem with your generation. You’re staring at your phones. You’re not talking to one another. You know, in my day, we didn’t have this. We actually talked to each other. And for the rest of that day, I felt a little bad. I was like, oh, my God, this is my wife. I love her. And he’s right. I’m ignoring her. And then the next morning, I come downstairs and my grandmother and grandfather are sitting at the table and my grandfather’s reading the paper. Dr. Robert Duff: Yep. Gabe Howard: Yeah. And my grandmother is doing the crossword puzzle, completely ignoring each other. Dr. Robert Duff: Yeah, yeah. Gabe Howard: And I said, oh, this is the problem with your generation, completely ignoring each other for newsprint. It seems like it’s very much the same thing. We’ve seen couples sit at the breakfast table ignoring each other since the beginning of time, but it does seem like technology is way more intrusive than the morning newspaper routine. Can you talk about that for moment? Because again, I think it’s one of those excuses. Oh, I’m on my phone, but my grandfather was on his newspaper. Dr. Robert Duff: Yeah, people have always found ways to sort of disconnect and go into their own world, and I don’t want to place a value judgment on any of this. If they’re happy. These things are only a problem when they’re a problem. Right? If you’re realizing that these things are creating a sense of disconnection in your relationship or creating a sense of anxiety or messing with your sleep, that’s what you need to do something about it. If not, and if you’re satisfied and happy, that’s fine. You know, certainly there are times where what my wife wants to do is sit next to me and be on her phone, not talk to me, because she wants me my presence. But she’s super introverted and just doesn’t want to people right then, you know? Gabe Howard: I like that. Dr. Robert Duff: And that’s OK. That’s OK. But when it crosses into interfering with things, that’s, I think, where you need to pay attention. And so this is just the next platform for that and things that you need to consider related to this platform. I do think that the intensity is higher. Right? You’re right. There’s a big difference between having a book or a crossword or newspaper, then having this endless stream of information. And the default is to have all these notifications on, which I don’t think you should have. Where it is just constantly pulling your attention out of the present moment. And I think that in addition to the relationship part, the sort of regular life part, I think that we need to reclaim our ability to do deep work and focus on something without being distracted by all these other things. And so that’s another part where I think that training, that skill of being a turn on and off really matters when you’re having a conversation with someone or when you’re writing a paper or when you’re working on some sort of brainstorming project, you should be able to start that and put the work in without having to be pulled away constantly by these other things. If you can’t do that and it’s kind of messing with your productivity or your relationship, that’s where you need to maybe take a close look at how these things are affecting you and what you can do about that. Gabe Howard: Robert, thank you so very much. How do people find you, what’s your Web site? Where can they get your podcast? Where are your books? Let our listeners know exactly how to track you down. Dr. Robert Duff: Sure. So my sort of online persona is it’s called Duff the Psych. So if, a good place to start is DuffthePsych.com/StartHere. That has sort of like my greatest hits. So it has, you know, information about my books, which are called The Hardcore Self Help books. I’ve one about anxiety, one about depression. It has some of my most popular podcast episodes, A TED talk that I did. All sorts of things like that. That’s sort of like a great starting place. And then if you want to reach out to me or connect on social media, I’m on basically all platforms @DuffthePsych. Gabe Howard: Robert, thank you so much again for being here. Dr. Robert Duff: Totally my pleasure. Thank you. Gabe Howard: And listen up, listeners, here’s what I need you to do. Wherever you found this podcast, please subscribe and review it and use your words. Tell people why you like us. Share us on social media. And if you are a fan of social media, we have a super secret Facebook group that you can join. Just go to PsychCentral.com/FBShow. And 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! For more details, or to book an event, please email us at show@psychcentral.com. 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 with your friends, family, and followers. View the full article
  12. At certain times, it might seem impossible to find a few moments of peace in your life. If you have a lot of responsibilities or worries, you may feel caught in a whirlwind of trying to get things done while trying to deal with problems or your own complex emotions. Other people impact your sense of peace, too, when they ask you to do more than you feel you can handle comfortably or when they cause additional issues. The good news is, no matter how difficult your external life is, you can add healing peace to each day. This won’t magically make everything okay, but it can help you deal with stress and protect your health. Where can you squeeze in these moments? It only takes a news report or controversial comment to see that problems today are very real. And these are important. Doing what you can when you can is one way to achieve peace about issues. Plan and make your efforts as meaningful as possible. The feeling of control over something can help minimize the stress that feeling helpless brings. And you can make a difference when changes need to be made. Recognize early when stress is beginning to overtake you. Ask for help with chores that can be delegated. Take a look at your calendar; use that and notes or lists to make sure you prioritize those things that have to be done, others that need to be done but can be rescheduled for a later time, and some that are just on your wish list. Prioritizing may help you find those tasks that you can let go completely. Don’t forget to make space for self-care. When new ideas, needs, opportunities, and requests for help come in, you can look at your calendar and see a true picture of your time. It’s always a good idea to delay an answer by saying something like, “Let me check my calendar and get back to you with a decision.” This also avoids the immediate pressure of having to make a quick decision. Saying “no” is a skill and does not usually come naturally. Develop it by practicing what you really want to say. If you are grieving or feeling ill, minimize the demands on your strength and seek support from professionals or peers. Support groups of all kinds can be found in local areas or online. Connecting with other people dealing with similar pain can give you immense strength. And you will find yourself feeling more in control as you return the favor by helping others or just letting them know you hear them and care. These may seem like small, unimportant things, but having moments of peace in your life everyday can help you live better and do more. Even a simple plant on your table can bring your thoughts to nature and give you a break from pressing matters. When you can, a swim, a shower, listening to music, or working on an art project can do the same thing and nurture your resiliency. Friends and family members need peace, too, so share what worked for you. You live in a complicated society, a global society, in which people interact with others who think and behave differently or who share your values but express them in different ways. Conflict increases stress. Make sure your day does not revolve around disagreements. You may be experiencing anxiety or stress about parenting, money, work, relationships, health. One stressor often impacts other areas, and situations can be acute, episodic, or chronic. Parents of young children are faced with a different kind of stress than parents of adult children. At all stages of life, however, working with those who are important in your life requires the cooperation of everyone involved. Don’t let stress go unaddressed. Your health and the wellbeing of those you care about are at risk if you do. It you need to make a major shift (job change, break up, relocation), find ways to make the adjustment easier, but first make sure you won’t be just exchanging one stress for another. Examine scenarios and address emotional issues that can clear the way for a healthy decision. If no beneficial change can be made and you cannot find workable solutions, consider accepting a situation. The measurable difference in stress may make it worthwhile for you to stop trying to change or “fix” it. Ask yourself if what you’re struggling against really is worth all the anger and frustration you feel. It may be. That is very different from other things that can be let go without much sacrifice. Only you can decide what is best for you and your family. Exploring these different strategies allows you to hold onto hope. View the full article
  13. As someone whose friends and family know I’ve endured a number of heartbreaking challenges and physical and emotional difficulties, I’m often asked how I cope with anxiety. They see my eternal optimism as at odds with the turmoil I’ve gone through in life and wonder what my secret is for dealing with a magnitude of life’s ups and downs. I tell them, quite simply, that it isn’t a secret, yet the most effective technique I’ve discovered to calm anxiety is deep breathing. How and why does deep breathing work in calming anxiety? The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that about 40 million adults in America have an anxiety disorder, making anxiety this country’s most common mental illness. If deep breathing exercises can help, surely more people should add this technique to their anxiety-busting toolkit. While my anecdotal experiences may serve as peer advice, to further validate the benefits of deep breathing as an easy-to-use anxiety intervention, I combed research for some scientific answers and offer them here. Deep Abdominal Breathing Reduces Anxiety and Stress According to the American Institute of Stress, 20-30 minutes of deep breathing daily is effective in reducing both anxiety and stress. It has to be breathing deeply through the abdomen to produce the best results. What happens during deep abdominal breathing is that the oxygen breathed in stimulates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system. This, in turn, produces a feeling of calmness and body connectedness that diverts attention from stressful, anxious thoughts and quiets what’s going on in the mind. Researchers Find Why Deep Breathing Induces Tranquility and Calm Research published in Science uncovered what may be a likely reason why deep breathing is so successful in bringing about a sense of calmness and tranquility. In studies with mice, Stanford University researchers discovered that a neuronal subpopulation in the animals’ primary breathing rhythm generator projects directly to a center of the brain with a key role in “generalized alertness, attention, and stress.” This subgroup of neurons belongs to a cluster of neurons in the brainstem that controls breathing initiation. When scientists removed the neuronal subgroup from the brains of the mice, it did not affect breathing, yet the mice remained in a state of calm. In fact, their calm behaviors increased while they spent less time in agitated or aroused states. Further research, they said, should explore mapping the full range of functions and emotions controlled by the breathing center. Deep Breathing Turns Off Body’s Response to Stress When you’re anxious and tense, the body automatically kicks in the stress response. This is known as the “fight or flight” syndrome and is the physiological reaction that occurs from the release of the chemicals cortisol and adrenaline. Initially, the stress response helped man respond to external threats to his existence, like fire, flood, marauding wild animals or an attack by members of rival clans. While not so applicable today, the body’s stress response still throttles up when it senses danger or a threat. Being aware of danger when it suddenly appears helps us take preventive action to save lives. Yet when stress goes on indefinitely, and the stress response is constant or chronic, it wreaks incredible havoc on the body. Not only does anxiety increase, so do a number of health risks, such as obesity, heart disease, and digestive problems. Deep breathing, however, turns off the body’s natural stress response, allowing heart rate and blood pressure to decrease, tension in muscles to relax, and promotes an overall resiliency build-up to better withstand life’s stressors and anxiety. How Does Deep Breathing Affect Stress? In a pilot study published in Neurological Sciences, researchers said their results point to the possibility that deep breathing has the capability of inducing mood and stress improvement effectively. The study utilized both self-reports and objective parameters. They noted that deep breathing, particularly as practiced during yoga and qigong, has long been perceived as beneficial to overall well-being. Research of yoga, the oldest known technique for relaxing, has found improvements of a “remarkable” nature in blood pressure, heart rate, body composition, motor abilities, respiratory function, cardiovascular function, and more. Also, researchers found positive effects in mood states, such as anxiety and perceived stress, including deep breathing’s effect on reducing tension anxiety. Breath Control (Slow, Deep Breathing) Can Decrease Anxiety Research published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that slow, deep breathing can decrease anxiety by promoting changes that enhance autonomic, psychological, and cerebral flexibility through a number of mutual interactions. These include links between central nervous system activities that are related to emotional control, parasympathetic activity, and psychological well-being. The psychological and behavioral outputs resulting from these changes produce an increase in alertness, relaxation, vigor, comfort, and pleasantness and a decrease in anxiety, depression, anger, arousal, and confusion. In a study published in Frontiers in Physiology, researchers Donald J. Noble and Shawn Hochman investigate the effect that sensory nerves around the chest play in deep breathing’s ability to relax the chest during exhalation, thereby triggering baroreceptors (another set of sensors) in arteries. Both sets of sensors, the researchers said, feed into the brainstem, and the resulting slow brain waves produce the state of relaxed alertness. The ideal is six breaths per minute, note researchers. What if You’re Chronically Anxious? If you suspect that you may have an anxiety disorder and deep breathing only works sometime to help dampen the anxiety level you feel, you may benefit from seeking treatment from a doctor or mental health professional. Symptoms of chronic anxiety include, but are not limited to, exhaustion and fatigue, constantly worrying, sleep problems, decreased or increased appetite, digestion problems, difficulty concentrating, and lack of energy. There’s no shame involved in asking for help to learn how to overcome anxiety. While medication and talk therapy may be necessary as you work through how to effectively cope with anxiety, deep breathing and other therapies will likely also be incorporated into the healing plan. View the full article
  14. Uncertainty is the reigning emotion during critical times. The response to our feelings may depend on our physical, emotional, and mental health circumstances. The turmoil in the world can surely make for a perfect emotional daily storm. Our protective mind may advise us to curl up in bed and stay there. However, will avoidance provide us with moments of joy despite the turbulence and uncertainty around us? We are constantly being triggered by external signals. We may be aware of how our body and mind respond, but sometimes we may not consciously recognize it. When awareness is absent, we can quickly become entangled with unpleasant and unhelpful thoughts. Uncertainty can take over and panic may follow. It has been said that “if you are not willing to have it, you will.” The more you resist uncertainty, the more pain and suffering occurs. Just the prospect of embracing uncertainty is distressing. However, you know the alternative. Looking for certainty in life is like trying to find gold at the end of the rainbow. Will you then consider the following steps that can help when you feel overwhelmed by uncertainty?* 1. Acknowledge your thoughts, feelings, and sensations. When your mind begins to provide you with unhelpful advice, acknowledge what you are noticing in the moment of discomfort. For example, “I am noticing thoughts related to uncertainty; I am noticing the feeling of anxiety. I am noticing the bodily sensation of nausea and rapid heart rate.” Thoughts, feelings and sensations are natural internal events. They come and they go, but when you start evaluating, try to fix, or fight them, you become stuck with them. Notice if acknowledging them is more effective. Acknowledge your internal events as needed throughout the day. 2. Breathe In and out slowly. As you exhale, picture the air flowing into the area of your body where you feel the sensation related to uncertainty. Do not misunderstand this step. You are not trying to breathe the sensation away. Your task is to notice your breathing and let the air go into and around the sensation to get you ready for the next step. 3. Create Space for Uncertainty As you continue to breathe in and around uncertainty, imagine creating room for it in your body. Take a stance of curiosity. For example, think of the sensation as if it were a tangible thing. What shape, color, and texture does uncertainty have right now? Where does it begin and end in your body? Does it have a sound or vibration? Make space for uncertainty, and notice it with interest. 4. Decide to Allow Uncertainty Uncertainty is unpleasant. You don’t have to like it. You only need to decide to allow it and keep expanding the space for it while it is visiting you in this very moment. Observe it, and let it take its natural course without pushing it away. Sometimes your emotions and sensations related to uncertainty will change. If they change, notice and acknowledge as described above. When you feel like you have created enough room for the initial sensation, go ahead and repeat the steps with the new emotion and/or sensation that has emerged. 5. Engage in What Matters Most When you feel compelled to resist and/or obsess, will that help you become the person you want to be? When the urge is irresistible and you do something to find relief, will it take you closer to who and what matters most in your life? You can devote your precious energy and time to connecting with your loved ones and engaging life — doing what really matters. Uncertainty is part of the human condition, and you can choose what kind of relationship you’ll have with it. Following the steps above is a way to start changing your mindset. You can develop curiosity as doubts present themselves. Remember that when storms are upon you, they are opportunities for personal growth and learning. You are not alone. We are all in this together. You can embrace uncertainty, and as you build resilience, take advantage of your strengths and gifts to bring value to those around you. You can do this! “When nothing is sure, everything is possible.” – Margaret Drabble Reference: *Russ Harris, The Happiness Trap: How To Stop Struggling and Start Living, Boston, MA: Trumpeter Books, 2008. View the full article
  15. One of the most confusing feelings is when you feel both calm and anxious at the same time. It can seem like a constant battle in your mind. One-minute life feels normal, the next it seems frightening. Or you find yourself going along with your day and suddenly realize you’re supposed to feel worried, and so you start worrying because you’re not worried enough. It’s a frustrating and confusing way to exist. Unfortunately, when there are events that affect the world around us on a large scale, and over which we have no control, this feeling isn’t uncommon. Many of us are existing in a heightened state of anxiety right now. It’s no wonder — coronavirus, earthquakes, riots, and, yes, even UFOs have dominated the news and, in many cases, have turned our lives upside down. Even those of us who feel like we’re coping and getting through things fairly well are dealing with a certain level of discomfort that can be hard to put your finger on. The impact that today’s circumstances are having on people vary a great deal. Some of these impacts are quite clear and yet some are so subtle that you may claim they don’t exist. Except they do and the effects and repercussions of living in the current conditions can take a large toll, whether you recognize it at that moment or not. So how can we cope and maintain a calm, hopeful, and purposeful approach to life, when it seems like the world around us has gone mad? Acknowledge the Circumstances Before you can really begin to cope you need to acknowledge that circumstances are stressful and not what we would consider normal. We often overlook doing this because our brains are wired to try and create order out of chaos. So, we immediately try to assimilate and, often unknowingly, try to make things feel normal even when they’re clearly not. This is both good and bad. On the good side, our natural inclination to look for a way to create normalcy and a functional framework for each day helps make our lives work and can create calm. Finding structure allows us to progress from day-to-day, attempting to be productive and positive. Most of us need this in order to thrive — this is especially true for children. But sweeping the frightening, uncomfortable, or painful state of things to the side has a downside. When our lives become unsettled and disrupted it causes stress and anxiety. This is a normal response, and not just a psychological one either but also a physiological one as well. Turning a blind eye will only amplify the anxiety response and it can manifest in unexpected and unpredictable ways. Some people may find they become easily agitated and even develop anger issues. Others may go into a depressive state, or find that they feel sick, shaky for no defined reason, unable to concentrate, or just constantly uncomfortable. This is one place where the “I feel fine and not fine at the same time” feeling can develop and this duality in feelings can make it harder to address. So, acknowledging the circumstances is crucial. It’s perfectly acceptable to admit that things aren’t normal, that you don’t like it, and that a radical left-turn in your life and routine makes you unhappy. Once you give conscious recognition to these feelings, you’re ready to figure out the best way to cope. Coping with a Crazy World Finding a way to cope and make the best out of a bad situation will look a bit different for each of us. But there are some general principles that, when employed, can make things easier. Share your sorrow and fear. When large scale events occur, whether it’s a pandemic or a natural disaster, there are enormous groups of people affected. As sad as this is, it’s also unifying. These types of circumstances don’t discriminate and there is a tremendous commonality in feeling and response. It can be tempting to withdraw and focus on taking care of yourself and immediate family, but that can also be very isolating and lonely. So you should also reach out to people around you. You now have a shared experience and something immediately in common. In the case of the our current state of physical distancing and social restrictions this may be a more virtual effort than ever before. But if there were ever a time for social media to do good it’s now. Reject feeling helpless. This can be tough for many of us. When events are out of our control it’s easy to feel like you are at the mercy of everything around you. You’re not. Yes, you may have new limitations and be suffering in certain ways, but don’t let yourself fall prey to the feeling of helplessness that can creep over you. One thing that can help is to make a list of the things you can do and take charge of doing them. Indulge in healthy. Comfort food and comfortable clothes seem, well, comforting when things are scary or sad. But beware — too much of that and you’ll just feel worse. It’s a much better idea to indulge in the healthy activities and foods that perhaps you haven’t had time for before this. Swear. Not in front of your kids, not at your boss, not at strangers, etc. But studies show that using expletives at the appropriate time can reduce tension and anxiety and actually make you feel better. So, if you hate the state of things, try locking yourself in the bathroom and letting the f-bombs fly. You probably feel a lot f#$%ing better. Whatever your strategy is, managing your feelings and response during stressful times can be a challenge. But give yourself permission to dislike it, feel sad and scared, and then make an effort to move forward. View the full article
  16. I feel very grateful to have found a portal I can use to experience a compelling sense of inner peace. I want to share it with you in the hopes that you can join me in my serenity, regardless of what is going on around you in the outside world. I simply visualize that my psyche is a mountain. At the top is the thinking part of my brain, in the middle are my feelings, and at the bottom is my subconscious and all the other parts of my mind that lurk around outside of my active awareness. Running underneath and through this mountain is an inviting stream of peace. A peace I can jump into at any moment to carry me away to a beautiful place I can’t describe in mere words. However, when I am there, I am drenched in stillness and presence. This stream meanders from my mountain as I transcend my mind and venture into an alluring and distant domain. I am sometimes in a canoe as I float by sandy banks and pine trees and gaze at clouds as they pass through the sky. Other times I am flowing in warm, white light which leaves me feeling like I just pulled a quilt over my head as I lay in bed on a cold winter’s night. I savor going to my stream when I meditate because I know I have ample time to venture beyond the limitations of my mind and reach deeper and deeper levels of bliss, far from the challenges of the quickly disappearing outside world. I also go to my stream whenever I have unwanted thoughts or crave a moment of silence amidst the noise in my head or the outside world. I used to have to remind myself to jump into my stream, but now go there instinctively whenever the need arises. Finally, my stream has helped me overcome intense fear and anxiety during highly traumatic moments in my life. A few years ago, I found myself lying helplessly on a gurney in a very crowded hospital emergency room after an EKG revealed that I might have had a heart attack. I worked myself into a lather of despair as I pondered my mortality and thought about all the beloved family and friends that I would leave behind if I died. Suddenly, I was jolted out of my distress by the beckoning of my stream and quickly dove in. I closed my eyes, let go of any semblance of control over my life and began drifting away from the chaos around me and into a state of inner comfort and safety. Although I certainly did not feel happy and was still aware of my predicament, I did experience a desperately needed sanctuary from my suffering. Fortunately, it turned out I was fine and I returned to enjoying all life has to offer. However, I will always value the fact that I was able to find some peace of mind despite my perilous situation. When I am in my stream, I feel very close to myself. I also feel deeply connected to all of humanity and relish the awareness that my fellow human beings have been finding their own portals into peace since we began walking around on two feet. Whether through meditation, yoga, prayer, strolling in the woods or simply gazing at a beautiful sunset, we all long for peace of mind. We spend our entire lives inside ourselves and it is a lot more pleasant if we have inner harmony rather than emotional turmoil. I love to read the writings of the great women and men who have spoken eloquently about how we can achieve wellbeing and abundance. My favorite is the poet Rumi who wrote: Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. One of the most fruitful epiphanies I have experienced is that I can be immersed in my stream and still live the life I want in the outside world. In fact, I am more productive and effective because I am mindfully focused on the task at hand and can hear the guidance and wisdom of my “inner voice.” As a therapist and life coach, I routinely encourage my clients to identify a real or imagined place that brings them a sense of quietude. The beach is the most popular destination, although I have heard about many appealing spots, including one client who visualized that he was a frog sitting on a log in a pond on a hot summer’s day. I then use guided meditations to lead my clients to their tranquil scene, far from their problems and worries. I love the look of contentment on their faces along with their frequent tears as they arrive and bask in their inner calm. It is often difficult for my clients who have been traumatized to give themselves the gift of inner peace because they erroneously believe they need their fear and anxiety to shield themselves from danger. I assure them that these emotions do not protect them and that they will be able to take even better care of themselves if they are peaceful. For instance, I recently asked a client who was visualizing that she was sitting on the bank of a beautiful lake if she would still be able to move to safety if the woods around her caught on fire. She smiled, responded “of course,” and settled back into her deep relaxation. Once my clients have developed the ability to access their peacefulness, they have renewed energy and focus to change what they can in themselves and their lives. The emotional pain that brought them to therapy fades away and they experience greater happiness and fulfillment. Now it’s your turn. Close your eyes, take a couple of deep breaths and visualize that you are jumping into the stream of inner peace we will share. There is plenty of room and you richly deserve the serenity and abundance which await you! View the full article
  17. As a chronic worrier, ongoing anxiety warrior, and general wary-of-what’s-going-to-happen-next kind of person, I know how healing it can be to practice the art of living in the present. As simple as that goal seems, though, it sometimes proves a lot harder than it sounds. I’ve read numerous articles and books on the subject, including Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, which offers specific practices on how to connect to the outer world and, even more importantly, to the stillness of our inner being to help anchor ourselves in the present moment. As Tolle points out, people can cope with whatever arises in the here and now (even if it’s an emergency, one can spring into action), yet it’s practically impossible to deal with something that is only a mind projection into the future — or the wish-I-could-change-things way of thinking of the past. Living in the present, then, can help decrease the anxiety of future what-ifs and alleviate the depression of past regrets. And while I highly recommend Tolle’s teachings and often reread (and keep underlining) his book’s messages, I still struggle. Looking around, I know others are as well. Even the people I know who practice living in the here and now and meditate on a daily basis suffer from the bows and arrows of both life circumstances and inner emotional pain. So… how can we deal the reality of hardship while striving to thrive in the now? I believe, first of all, it’s important to know that both our physical and emotional worlds are things we need to acknowledge and tend to. In other words, if you’re dealing with incredible back pain, it may help to get it diagnosed by a health care practitioner and then heed whatever treatment plan that will heal or alleviate your physical distress. Likewise, if you’re in deep emotional pain, you may want to seek the expertise of a professional — or even a trusted friend — to help you understand where it stems from and what actions you can take to deal with it. Also, know that if you’re living with ongoing mental health conditions such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, panic disorder, and OCD, it’s important to acknowledge your triggers and know that it may be extra challenging to practice staying in the here and now (which doesn’t mean it won’t help you in the long run — even if you may encounter setbacks). Then, too, most of us have to deal — at one time or another, at least — with devastating life circumstances such as natural disasters, death of a loved one, loss of job and/or home, etc. During these times, we can feel as if we’re treading on the sea of survival. We not only have to deal with the stark reality of today — but also have to plan for the future in a much bigger way than before. Practicing the present joy of the sun on our faces and connecting to the stillness of our inner voice can be that much more difficult — but even more powerful — during these trying times. As Tolle points out in his book Practicing the Power of Now, even if you learn to accept the reality of your current situation (whether it stems from devastation or simple stagnation), it doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to it. You can still see what needs to be done, take action, and do one thing at a time to make a positive change toward a more positive direction. The practice of living in the now, then, doesn’t mean that we deflect real life circumstances, emotions, mental health conditions and our physical bodies as mere distractions. We still take appropriate action; we still plan for the future. Taking action and planning in the present moment, though, is quite different from the rumination cycle of reliving past mistakes and fretting over future events. When we plant our feet in the reality of the here and now, we are more likely to stay clear headed, make positive, solution-based decisions — and hopefully be able to hold onto a deeper peace of mind — even while in turmoil. I, myself, am working on it, at least! View the full article
  18. What could possibly go wrong? Well, pretty much everything — says your brain. In today’s Psych Central Podcast, Gabe talks with Kevin Stacey, an effectiveness expert, author and former brain imaging specialist. Kevin explains how and why your brain often acts as your worst enemy, giving you a constant flow of fake news. What can we do about it? Can we make our brain a more positive ally? Tune in for a great discussion on reigning in your inner critic. SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW Guest information for ‘Kevin Stacey- Reduce Daily Worry’ Podcast Episode Kevin Stacey, MBA, is an effectiveness expert, author, and former brain imaging specialist who removes barriers to performance, boosts resiliency, and accelerates results- no matter what. He combines his military background, management training, experience as a healthcare clinician, and successful manager at the nation’s largest managed care company to be a catalyst for workplace improvement. After starting his medical career at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Kevin now brings the principals of neuroscience into the modern business world to effect change from the inside-out. Kevin has a proven record of helping organizations enhance their effectiveness and bottom line. From IBM, The New York Times, Ford Motor Company, JP Morgan Chase, Pharmacia, Bayer, Goody Hair Care, United Technologies, Boeing, and Sara Lee, he has worked with the world’s best and brightest and studied the effects of self-created problems in organizations and individuals along with the most effective antidotes to combat it. His services help these and other clients achieve increased performance, sales, higher employee retention, greater job satisfaction, and improved service quality. He is CEO and founder of TrainRight, Inc., with a highly-skilled team of facilitators offering programs globally. 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 the author. To learn more about Gabe, please visit his website, gabehoward.com. Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Kevin Stacey- Reduce Daily Worry‘ 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: Hello, everyone, and welcome to this week’s episode of the Psych Central Podcast. Calling into the show today, we have Kevin Stacey, MBA. He’s an effectiveness expert, author and former brain imaging specialist who removes barriers to performance, boosts resiliency and accelerates results, no matter what. He’s the author of MindRight: Navigate the Noise – How to deal with your internal fake news. Kevin, welcome to the show. Kevin Stacey, MBA: Thank you, Gabe, so much for having me. Gabe Howard: Kevin, I’m really glad you’re on the show, because I think a lot of us get bogged down in our own negative self talk. Can you give us some sort of an explanation or a definition of negative self talk? Kevin Stacey, MBA: Sure, Gabe, you know, it’s so frustrating for people and I’ve seen some stuff lately, they think the US, we’re considered the most unhappiest kind of wealthy nation in the world. I think they’re much happier out there in Finland or some of those European countries. But, you know, with the negative self talk it is just this background kind of chatter that goes on, it’s almost like death by a thousand paper cuts, it needles with it. And so many people just aren’t even aware that they’re doing it. It’s just that’s how they grew up. They’re just so used to this background, automatic negative thoughts. The brain is very negative, unfortunately. Our brains have a negativity bias and the brain just really wants to speculate on what’s going wrong. What could go wrong? What might be wrong with this picture? How I might be in danger. And it’s just inner criticism, self-criticism, inner critic, kind of out of control, this is what I mean by internal fake news. It’s kind of news that appears real. But it’s really just fake because it’s our brain trying to protect us from physical danger. And it’s really just silly and outdated job. Gabe Howard: One of the things that I think of when I hear negative self talk is a conversation that I have with my wife about once a week. Kevin Stacey, MBA: Right. Gabe Howard: I say to her, oh, my God, you’re so positive. You’re basically Pollyanna. And she says to me, well, you’re so negative. And I say, I’m not negative. I’m a realist. Kevin Stacey, MBA: So I guess that’s what they mean by opposites attract. Gabe Howard: I think it is, but in my mind, I’m not being negative, I’m being realistic. The negative things I find aren’t fake. They are real. I’m worried about paying bills or worried about work. But of course, my wife is pointing this out because I imagine it’s unbearable to live with somebody who is just constantly walking around saying, hey, the plumbing could leak. Do we have insurance? Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yeah, I mean, it can be tough. People can bring you down, but good to be prepared. It’s good to have financial plans. It’s good to have backup plans. But I just think at some point people have to just ask themselves, how would I like things to go? How would they like things to be? A lot of us are just such experts in our problems or perceived problems or speculating over problems that we’re just experts not in solving them but just describing them to other people. Gabe Howard: That’s a really good point that you brought up there, that we’re experts in describing them, but we’re not experts in fixing them. Kevin Stacey, MBA: Well, just the analysis paralysis, the rumination is what psychologists call it, just the getting stuck in the problem and kind of looping around and looping around. And some people, I think they want to act like victims, like you could ask the, well, what do you think you could do about that? And some people just really aren’t ready to think about or talk about solutions. They just want to be stuck in the problem. For some people that works for them. The victim mentality, some people that works for them to get people to feel bad for them. Some people get attention this way or, you know, most people do what works for them on some level. But it really just affects the immune system and affects the health and it attracts a lot of negative things. And if you’ve heard, Gabe, much above the law of attraction. But I just don’t want to think negatively. I just don’t want to attract negative things in my life. You know, again, I don’t want to irresponsibly be unprepared for something, preparation with hand grenades in war. If you’re in that situation, you think of all the negative scenarios that could happen. But life is too short to go through life that way and be attracting and thinking of all these things. Gabe Howard: You’re also sort of describing time and place, right? There is a time to be critical and focus on what could go wrong. And then there’s just the Saturday with your family. Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yeah. Gabe Howard: So, OK. You’re one of these negative thinkers, you’re Gabe Howard. I am a chronic pessimist and I’m a chronic negative thinker. And I don’t want to be this way. What do I do? Kevin Stacey, MBA: Well, first step is just to notice it and recognize it. You know, that’s 80% of it, if you can recognize it and notice it. Great. So just saying, hey, my name’s Gabe Howard. I’m a little too much of a nervous Nellie. I’m a little too much negative and just recognize that, first of all. And then secondly, just be able to say to yourself, how is this harming me? How is this hurting? How is this attracting negative things into my life? And thirdly, don’t reinforce things that you don’t want to be true. So don’t keep saying, hey, I’m Gabe and I’m a worrier. Just say I’m getting better or I’m becoming more positive or I’m letting go or. That’s the old me or I’m changing from that. And I’m always growing and changing. So I’m becoming more positive and I’m thinking more about what I’d like to have happen. You know, Gabe, this whole question, how would you like things to go? What would you like to have happen? Very few people can answer that. Most people would just go on and on again with how they don’t want things to go, or how I don’t want things to happen. Gabe Howard: It’s really interesting you said that because as you were giving me the question, I thought, huh? How would I like things to go? Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yeah. Gabe Howard: And I tend to come up with well, I’d like to be happy. Well, you know, that’s a nebulous concept. I’d like to make more money. Well, how much more? If I make an extra dollar am I happy? Kevin Stacey, MBA: Right. Gabe Howard: One of the things in the title of your book is how to get your mind right and navigate the noise. So how do people get their mind right and navigate the noise? Kevin Stacey, MBA: Well, part of it, Gabe, is sometimes you’ve just got to ignore it. Just look at it as noise to look at it as background static and background noise, because we don’t ignore things that we feel are more important and, you know, ignore the noise is an easy phrase to say. And lots of people say it, even though a lot of sports teams and where I’m from, the Patriots in New England, they would, they have a sign in their locker rooms, just ignore the noise. So some of us need to navigate it by just doing a better job ignoring it. Some of us need to look at our brains more with more skepticism and understand that we have a negativity bias. The brain’s job is to print the newspaper every day. It has to print something. It has to come up with something. But again, it’s mostly speculating on the negativity. It’s much more biased toward fulfilling an outdated need to protect us from physical danger. So, A, ignore it and B, look at it with more skepticism and say this is not the God gospel truth. This is not totally accurate. This is just an old job of my brain trying to protect me. Kevin Stacey, MBA: And then thirdly, what I think we need to be doing is going on the offensive. I think it would be fascinating if everybody was just given a 3-D pie chart with their emotional state, say, OK, these were your average emotional states. In other words, 65% of the time you were in the emotional state of fear or stress or frustration. And then what percentage, was it 40 or 20 where you were exhilarated? Were you happy? Were you upbeat? What is your percentage? Because you know, Gabe, when you talk about making more money. We think we want these things. But what we really want is the experiences that we think these things are going to give us. So, you know, if Gabe Howard told me, he said, yeah, you know, I want to win the lottery, that’s great. But why would you want to win the lottery? I wouldn’t have to worry about money anymore. So then I say, OK, well, can you just give yourself the experience of not worrying about money? Can you just give yourself the experience of feeling a sense of abundance and gratitude for that? And that’s what we need to do more. Gabe Howard: You know, my uncle has a saying that the amount of money that you need to make is $100 more than you’re currently making because you’re always a Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yes. Gabe Howard: Hundred dollars away from something. And obviously, that’s just this never fulfilling prophecy. And I think about that. And I think, well, yeah, I do that. I currently am making more money at this stage in my life than I ever have before, but I’m no more happier at 43 than I was at 25. And I think Kevin Stacey, MBA: Right. Gabe Howard: About that a lot because it’s kind of a bummer, because I remember 25 year old Gabe. He just wanted to be married and own a house. But, 43 year old Gabe wants to be married and own a house and go on vacations more or, you know, whatever. And I know that you said that our brains resting state is negativity. Why do you think that is? Is it really just to protect us? I mean, because it seems like positivity would protect us more because we’d be happy. Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yeah, you know what it is, Gabe? The brain hasn’t caught up. Our brains are in desperate need of an app update. There was an upgrade from the App Store. It’s just our brains haven’t caught up with the reality of our environment. The likelihood of us meeting a sudden and violent death on a daily basis is pretty low. Gabe Howard: We’ll be right back. After we hear from our sponsors. Sponsor Message: 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 discussing why our brains are so negative with author Kevin Stacey. Kevin Stacey, MBA: What people don’t realize is that human beings have been walking upright on this planet for four million years. And the latest version of mankind, Homo sapiens sapiens really were getting a foothold 50,000 years ago. So we forget how violent earth was when we we had this debut with our brains. So our brains are really just doing an outdated, obsolete job. So it’s speculating on what could go wrong. Because 50,000 years ago, Gabe, what could go wrong was life or death. Nowadays, what could go wrong is when I may miss out on some revenue or I might have 300 e-mails to answer. My wife could be mad at me or do some repairs on the car. But the brain’s still doing the same job. It’s coming up and speculating on what’s wrong or what could go wrong. The only difference nowadays is the answer to the question is no longer life or death. It’s just about everyday life stuff. But it’s still we’re getting that same fight or flight response, we’re getting the same cortisol rushing into the bloodstream. And it just has so many negative effects on us as a human being as a whole. Gabe Howard: I love your app update analogy, that may be my favorite analogy on the Psych Central podcast ever. But then I think and this may be my favorite question, and I’m excited to have you answer it. How do we update our apps? How do we update our brain? I mean, what can we do? Is this… Does Google have the answer? Is it in Kevin Stacey, MBA: No, Gabe Howard: The App Store? Kevin Stacey, MBA: It’s not in the App Store, you know what you have to do? You have to spend some time each day going on the offense. You have to spend some time each day giving yourself a positive experience. Now, this is not positive thinking. This is a positive experience. This is actually closing your eyes and smiling and thinking about and visualizing and playing a video. It’s actually playing video of something that would excite you, how you’d want things to be, how you’d want things to go. So for you, it might be a video of an awesome vacation that you’re going on with your family and with your wife. And everybody’s calm, everybody’s happy, everybody’s grateful. And you’re not worried about the money. You have an abundance of money and it’s just no problem and no worries of the world. And you smile through this and you feel it and you see it. You see yourself on the beach. You see that calm, clear blue water. You feel those winds, you hear the waves, you get into that experience. So that’s how we rewire. We start to get our neurons going in the direction of creating some neural structure in the direction of how we’d like things to go by having good experiences. Kevin Stacey, MBA: Because I tell you, Gabe, we’re so good at just feeling bad about what our thoughts are, thinking about things that make us feel bad or feel stressed or feel worried. We’re not good at all about thinking about what makes us excited and happy. It’s just giving yourself that experience. And then you attract that and now you’re rewiring. Now you’re giving yourself the app update because you’re reinforcing to your brain, this is a good experience. I’m having a good experience right here, right now. This is an awesome experience. And you’re turning the tide. Slowly rewiring. It’s kind of like compound interest. You have to keep doing it and doing it. So I’m not going to tell your audience this is easy. It’s not easy, but it happens slowly over time. But you just got to do it. I do it when I get up in the morning. I just sit up on the bed, close my eyes, sort of pull up behind my back, smile, and then that gets my neurotransmitters heading in the right direction there. And just think about what would excite me, what would go well, what would make me happy, how would I like this date to go. Very few people do this. Gabe Howard: Very few, I imagine, I think about the negative things, I think about my worry points and then I move on. People who are sort of in the know with mental health, like my listeners are, they know that depression and suicide rates, are at not Kevin Stacey, MBA: Mm-hmm. Gabe Howard: All time highs, but pretty close. Why do you think that depression and suicide rates are at such highs right now? Kevin Stacey, MBA: Just we’re so impatient in our society and we want to rethink the way we want it. And you know, what most people would be well served to do is just go to a third world country for a couple weeks or a month to volunteer at a medical treatment facility out in Syria. And then you’d get that perspective shift. Like some of us, we just need a sudden wake up call. We just need like an ice cold glass of water being thrown in our face and just we have no idea what we have. So I think we just keep looking at what we don’t have. What we don’t have. What’s wrong. What’s wrong. So we’ve got to change this around. We’ve got to savor the positive experiences when they happen and stay with it. The psychology of savoring, I think it’s just fascinating because it creates more neural structure. Maybe volunteer at a children’s cancer ward, Gabe. Help people that are less fortunate than you. And remind yourself how many things you have. Find the gratitude in your life. Ask yourself what you’re grateful about, what you’re excited about. But wouldn’t it be fascinating if a percentage of Americans could just go to a Third World country for a few weeks and then come back and then tell us what problems you think you have? Gabe Howard: I believe that every single American should have to work in retail for two weeks. I really, Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yeah, Gabe Howard: Really do, because Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yeah, that would be awesome. Gabe Howard: Yeah. You ever notice that servers are the best tippers? And you notice that people who work in customer service are the nicest to customer service reps. People who have done their tours of duty at fast food places are a lot less likely to start screaming at the minimum wage employee behind the counter because they’ve Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yeah. Gabe Howard: They’ve dealt with it. They’ve done it. They have that basic understanding. Sincerely, go volunteer at your local McDonald’s for a week and your perspective of life will change dramatically. I really believe that. Kevin Stacey, MBA: I know. It would it be fascinating, Gabe, if they said everybody has to do it for two weeks a year. You’re going to go to McDonald’s, you’re gonna wear that uniform. You’re going to stand at that drive through counter. Wouldn’t that be great for people’s perspectives? Gabe Howard: It would be wonderful if that could happen, and I sincerely believe that it would change people’s perspectives. I don’t know if it would be the equivalent of an app update. I don’t know if it would make people happier. But I know that I hear people angry at customer service workers and their belief is that the customer service worker doesn’t care. I believe that’s where the rage comes in. Right, because their mind goes to the most negative place. The customer service worker is maliciously not getting my order correct or making my food wrong or ensuring that I have a bad experience. And because, of course, they’re doing it on purpose. Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yeah, they assume, you know. I think this whole mindset that people are out to get us and the paranoia. What does that look mean? Why did they say that? Or even you know, the other thing that kills me now, Gabe, is your text hasn’t been replied to or your e-mail message hasn’t been replied to. And then people start making all kinds of assumptions. And speculation means that or it doesn’t mean that the amount of narcissism and self centredness in this country nowadays is just off the charts. No wonder why we’re so unhappy. Gabe Howard: I think you make really, really good points, I I think that we want things now and when we don’t get it now, we assume that somebody is attacking us and then our brains prepare for that attack. That’s I mean, in a nutshell, that’s what you’re saying, right? Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know if any many of your listeners have been to Europe, but I guess in England they call it a queue. They’re just so used to standing in queues. It just doesn’t bother them. They just don’t make all these mental assumptions and conclusions. And then all these, have all these conspiracy theories. The anger isn’t there. I mean, maybe because they were bombed during World War II. Every night they had to go into the subway tunnel. I mean, you know, in America we’ve never experienced that. We’re just so impatient. We lose electricity. We lose Wi-Fi service. Oh, my God. OMG. Emojis, emojis. We’re one of the most miserable societies on record, Gabe. Gabe Howard: And yet we have the most money on record. Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yeah, we have the most money on record, but we’re not mentally tough enough. Nobody’s creating their own videos nowadays where everybody is just watching YouTube. And back before there was television, they used to call radio the theater of the mind because you had to listen to what was being described. And you create these mental pictures, kind of like book reading, you create a mental picture. But nobody is creating mental pictures in their mind of something that they would like, that would excite them, that would make them happy. They’re just creating missile pictures of disasters and problems. And why is this one mad at me or why didn’t this one respond to me? And when is this place gonna get its act together? When is this person going to get their life together? It’s just an epidemic. We’ve got to get more control of this noise. We’ve got to know when to shut it up. We need to know when to ignore it. We need to know when to create our own noise and go on the offense. Gabe Howard: It really sounds like the old timey phrase take time to stop and smell the roses really applies here. Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yeah, not only smell the roses, but feel what the roses make you feel like. Feel that emotion. It’s not positive thinking, it’s positive experiences again, but and the roses are what’s in front of you now. And that’s good. That’s savoring. But what people also need to work on is creating the reality, creating their future, answering the question, how would they like this day or this weekend or the rest of this month to go create a video of that? Put yourself in the video, in the picture, see it, feel it in the brain, also has a novelty bias. So each time you play the video have different levels of detail where you really want to get into it and see it, because this really does it. Now this is the opposite of worrying, right. Worrying is thinking about future events and the way you don’t want it to go, and then feeling the corresponding feelings of tension and anxiety and the nervousness. So this is the opposite of that. Some people would say worrying is the most common form of mental illness. Gabe Howard: I love what you said there, because worrying is just ruminating about something negative over and over and over again, and it impacts your mental health. Whereas, as you put it, if we change the video and if instead of ruminating about a problem, we ruminate about something positive, something that makes me happy. We share those experiences not only with ourselves, but with others. That’s going to impact how we feel as well. But in a positive way. Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yeah, absolutely, because you’re feeling the feeling that the worrying is causing you to feel, which is those negative emotions and it’s about a future event. So, worrying really has two aspects. It’s about a future event, and it’s making you feel anxious, or it’s making it feel negative emotions. But if you were to be so practiced, so proficient at this. But I ask people just for ten minutes. Just close your eyes and smile and think about the future events and the ways that would excite you. And what would that look like? And how would you feel? And try to feel those emotions. Now you’re getting the neurons flowing in the network that maybe have not had a lot of neurons flowing in. Getting that traffic down those roads and those networks from the brain where you want that traffic to go. Gabe Howard: Kevin, I can’t thank you enough. I agree with you. Again, you gave me my favorite analogy ever on the show. I really appreciate that. Where can folks find you and your book? Kevin Stacey, MBA: Sure. You can find me on KevinStacey.com. One of the challenges of my life is you put my name in Google, Kevin Stacey. It comes up as Kevin Spacey and is he guilty or is he innocent? They just assume I’m a misspelling. But it’s just K E V I N S T A C E Y. That’s KevinStacey.com. And then you can get a link to my information on my books and my book on Amazon. MindRight: Navigate the Noise – How to deal with your internal fake news for success, resiliency, mental toughness and peace of mind. And those links should be on there. Gabe Howard: Wonderful, Kevin. Thank you so much. And to my listeners, please rate and subscribe to this podcast. Share us on social media. Use your words, in the description, tell people why you’re sharing the show. And remember, you can get one week of free, convenient, affordable, private online counseling 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! For more details, or to book an event, please email us at show@psychcentral.com. 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 with your friends, family, and followers. View the full article
  19. Admin

    Agoraphobia Relapse Fears

    I am familiar with agoraphobia, not just as a mental health crisis responder but because my own mental illness has manifested into periods of debilitating anxiety. What I now refer to as the breakdown of 2007, was a period of my life where I was struggling with many issues and my mental health suffered greatly as a result. I found it difficult to leave my house and the comfort zone of my home. Staying home as much as possible was the only way I could maintain some sense of sanity, when I was feeling anything but sane. I lived in this state of chronic agoraphobia for many days. This turned into many months and eventually it passed the one-year mark. I left my house only when I absolutely had to, and it felt exhausting both mentally and physically. The process of trying to convince myself that I could leave my house, be okay after I leave my house, and get through the task of whatever I needed to do outside of my house was draining. Reflecting back, I feel a deep sadness for that time in my life that I felt tortured by my own brain. Eventually, I got out of that dark place that I felt cemented in for so long through counseling, self-care, my 12-step recovery program and sometimes sheer determination not to live the rest of my life that way. I had to engage in exposure therapy and be an active participant in the world that I was finding so scary to be part of. It was not an easy mission and there were times I felt suicidal, but I knew that I had to fight for my life. The agoraphobia subsided and eventually life returned to a somewhat normal rhythm. When I say normal rhythm, I mean that although generalized anxiety has never truly left me, I am able to live and thrive with anxiety now with success and ease, in comparison to that time of my life. With that being said, there have been moments that I have felt the whisper of agoraphobia try to inch its way back in my life like it was some evil gremlin. I wondered if I would have what it takes to keep it at bay. Surgeries that have kept me isolated at home for weeks and sometimes months, have tested my resiliency to return to my regular schedule of daily living. Daily living that included working outside my home, volunteering and socializing. Somehow, the thought of going back to the breakdown of 2007 has been enough to keep me vigilant with my mental health so I would not slide back into that bottomless pit of despair to that depth again. As our COVID-19 pandemic unfolded and social distancing was required, I found it easier than others to stay home, self isolate and not go out. I have jokingly shared the memes going around about us anxious folk who have been perfecting social distancing for years. While I reveled in the idea of staying in my comfort zone of home, I became increasingly aware that this situation has the potential to relapse my agoraphobia. When I have to go out, which is sometimes weeks in between, I can feel the anxiety setting in. With this realization, I have had to do a few things to stay connected and an active participant in society to ensure that I can keep my agoraphobia under control. Some of these things include: Getting out of the house once a day, even if it to just go for a drive around my subdivision or to check to mail. Going for regular walks in my neighborhood . Sitting outside every day, a few times a day sometimes. Making sure I am maintaining social relationships by Zoom or video chat. Keeping up my self care routine of online 12-step meetings, meditation and reading These few small routine tasks make a difference in my life to help me maintain some regularity, during such irregular and unique times. The fears of agoraphobia relapse have inspired me to create an accountability post each day in the “Parenting with Anxiety” Facebook group I facilitate. With the shared fears from others of anxiety taking over during this “great pause” (as I have been calling it), we are developing tasks for ourselves to commit to each day to persevere and maintain good mental wellness. Turning familiar and relatable fears into self-help solutions is proving to be a good way for individuals with anxiety to navigate through relapse concerns. Unless you have lived through agoraphobia and have managed to find ways of coping and combatting, it is difficult to explain the worry of it returning one day or escalating. Mental illness is an illness, and just like many other diseases of the body, relapse prevention and self-care are an important part of recovery long-term. View the full article
  20. The cicada, an insect with large clear wings, hibernates underground for 17 years. It takes almost two decades for this insect to slowly crawl out of the earth, to live, to breathe, to mate. As the United States slowly lifts quarantine and lockdowns, we find ourselves burrowing out of our own cocoons in which we have hunkered down to once again emerge to the light of day. We identify with the cicada in that this quarantine has surely felt like a full 17 years! And — coincidentally — it is this very year of 2020 that the broods of cicadas are emerging in droves. We emerge gradually, with trepidation, masks still looped over our ears to observe and investigate what this new terrain and new normal will look like. We learn that each region must achieve seven different metrics to become eligible for this “new normal” life. And we now refer to life as B.C. (Before Corona) and A.D. (After Disease). Of course there are the obvious anticipated joys — seeing our family and friends, watching our children hopefully going back to school or camp, putting vacation plans back on the books again, and gleefully dining out and going to movies. Yet, this sheltering at home has also made us ponder whether there have been unexpected silver linings in this quarantine — things we have learned about ourselves and our lives that we don’t want to lose. And so, we face F.A.R.O.L. — fears about reentering our lives — both personally and professionally. Gloria: “Commuting from my home on Long Island to my Manhattan office to see patients has always been part of the fabric of my life as a psychotherapist. I really never questioned it but just dutifully caught the 8:18AM every morning. Quarantining at home has made me aware of how much I actually hate that commute. I just don’t want to do it anymore. I’ve decided to give up my Manhattan office but haven’t told my patients yet. I feel guilty that I’m betraying a commitment to be there for them, and it’s made me question my attachment issues! But shedding my commute now feels more important than honoring my commitment to show up in person.” Janet: “Since I’ve been married, my husband has spent a great deal of time traveling for business in Europe. It has been a source of ongoing tension between us with my always begging him to cut down his traveling. It feels like I’ve had to raise our children pretty much all alone, and I have a great deal of resentment towards him. Now that he has been home during this COVID crisis, unable to travel, I’m not happy having him around all the time either! Although I’m getting what I said I wanted, it’s not doing the trick. I’m confused and questioning myself as to how much closeness and intimacy I really want. When we return to living our lives and Dave goes back to his business trips, I imagine my complaints about missing him will start up again, but now I’m confused about what I really want and need!” Corinne: “I finally unbraided my corn-rows during lockdown for the first time in years. My hair is now an exuberant mess of curls and twists. Every day it looks different in its newfound freedom. But in a FaceTime session with my Mom, she told me I looked like a wild disheveled woman, and I better not go back to work looking like this hot mess. At this time, when so many people are suffering with so many losses and deaths, all I’m thinking about is how I dread having to return to the real world and spend so much time and money once again to make my hair ‘obey’ in the white world.” Stacey: “I wouldn’t say I’m an alcoholic, but my lifestyle certainly involves finishing classes most nights at law school and heading to the bar with my friends for a couple of drinks. I would say that I’m basically a shy person, and I enjoy the ‘liquid courage’ of booze. Being home alone during this time has really reduced my drinking, and I feel better. But getting back to my real life after quarantine is going to lead me back to my drinking routine. I haven’t figured out how to handle that, but I have some concerns. The solitude with no pressure to socialize has been kind of a relief for me.” Gail: “My mother died in a nursing home from the coronavirus in April. I’ve been feeling like I’m living in a protective time warp — at home, with my husband, and our two young adult kids. They are caring for me and we are nestling together. I’m afraid when we are no longer having to quarantine and everybody goes back to work or school, I’m going to feel abandoned and the impact of my mother’s death will come tumbling down on top of me. I’m dreading that moment. I wish we could just stay on pause until I feel I’m ready for everyone to get going again.” Marjorie: “My biggest fear about reentry is that everyone will see that I’m the poster child for having gained that dreaded COVID-15 pounds. I’m ashamed that my anxiety caused my binge eating to kick into high gear during this time. While other people were flattening the curve, I was fattening my curves! I wish the lockdown would continue for another few months, so I could start working on getting my eating back on track.” Other fears of returning to our lives include issues of safety: How long should we continue to be wary and observant of social distancing? Should we just continue working remotely until a vaccine is available before going back to work? Will there be another wave of the virus after this one dies down? Financial issues also abound — will I still have my job and my same salary? And psychotherapists worry whether their patients will tire of remote sessions and decide to leave therapy, whether insurance will continue to pay for remote sessions, and whether, upon returning to our offices, we are liable if a patient sues us claiming they caught the virus from us. There is FOMO (fear of missing out) and now I’ve coined the term FAROL (fears about reentering our lives). Farol in Spanish means a lantern that illuminates. We therapists work with our clients to instill hope that this pandemic will pass, to strengthen their coping skills and self-care, and to find ways to make personal meaning during this time of lockdown and beyond. As we emerge from the threat and pain of this pandemic, we co-create with our patients an illuminating lantern to shine the way toward post traumatic growth and resilience. We ask how they envision what that growth would look like for them. My stepson Sean tells me, “When this is over, I want to import into my life the things I’ve discovered during lockdown that are making me happy — like family dinners and reading to the kids before bed. “Yes!” I add. “And then let’s export the things that haven’t been working — like rushing around all the time.” Sean and I laughingly agree that we will be entering the import-export business when all this is over. Albert Camus reminds us, “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.” And Bette Midler evokes hope as sings The Rose, “Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows/ Lies the seed, that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose.” I think also of the words of T.S. Eliot which seem so comforting at this time, “Teach me to care. Teach me not to care. Teach me to be still.” As we psychotherapists face reentering our lives, there will also be the loss of the wild, weird, and wonderful connections that have happened with patients on virtual reality. I am on a Zoom session with Sandra. She invites me into her Red Tent — an enclosed space she has created for herself in her bedroom by draping sheets over a make-shift scaffolding. I feel like I’m climbing into a children’s fort. Pink light suffuses Sandra’s face as the red sheets reflect the light from her window. She explains how she needed a private space away from her husband and daughter where she could draw, think, and write “bad poetry.” As she shows me her drawings, I see a shadow crossing my line of vision. I am now doing sessions from my country house and see that a deer has wandered into my garden and has begun to eat my peonies. I explain to Sandra why I must excuse myself for a minute. I shriek loudly at the deer to get out of my garden, and finally it slowly ambles away back into the forest. I yell after it, “Thank you!” and come back to the session. Sandra is laughing whole heartedly, “I’ve never heard you scream before,” Sandra says. “You’re so loud! But also hearing you thank the deer for leaving absolutely made my day!” We agree this special silver lining never would have happened during a normal Brooklyn session. View the full article
  21.  At the thought of losing a job or missing a mortgage payment, Gabe is an anxious discombobulated mess, while Lisa is cool as a cucumber. In today’s Not Crazy podcast, Gabe and Lisa ponder: Why do people have such vastly different ways of reacting to the world? They also discuss — with the special flare that only a divorced couple has — the good old days when Gabe would have full-blown panic attacks and Lisa had to get them through it. How did they handle these scary moments? Is it ever OK to feel anger toward the panicky person? And what if the panicky person accidentally causes harm — should they have to apologize? Tune in as Gabe and Lisa share their personal panic experiences. (Transcript Available Below) Subscribe to Our Show! And Please Remember to Review Us! About The Not Crazy podcast Hosts 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. Lisa is the producer of the Psych Central podcast, Not Crazy. She is the recipient of The National Alliance on Mental Illness’s “Above and Beyond” award, has worked extensively with the Ohio Peer Supporter Certification program, and is a workplace suicide prevention trainer. Lisa has battled depression her entire life and has worked alongside Gabe in mental health advocacy for over a decade. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband; enjoys international travel; and orders 12 pairs of shoes online, picks the best one, and sends the other 11 back. Computer Generated Transcript for “Panic Attack” Episode Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you. Lisa: You’re listening to Not Crazy, a psych central podcast hosted by my ex-husband, who has bipolar disorder. Together, we created the mental health podcast for people who hate mental health podcasts. Gabe: Hey, everyone, you’re listening to the Not Crazy podcast. I’m your host, Gabe Howard, and I’m here with my co-host, Lisa. Lisa: Hi, I’m Lisa. Gabe: Once again, you say this every single week. I just told everybody you were Lisa. You can’t say hi, I’m Lisa. Lisa: Ok, look, I give up. I don’t know. I need you all to help me out. Can someone in the audience send me something better to say? OK, email me at show@PsychCentral.com. And tell me what I should be saying. Gabe: Why don’t I just hire them if they know what to say? Lisa: Oh, harsh, man, harsh. Gabe: Why am I going to hire you? I just. I’m going to get a new co-host. Lisa: Yeah, right. Gabe: You’ll be applying at show@PsychCentral.com. Lisa: Send your resume. Gabe: Since you already know what to say. I don’t need Lisa. Lisa: I just don’t have that part. I’ve got the rest. Sort of. Gabe: Lisa, I just I bring this up because, I know I’m not your boss, but if my boss, my partner discussed firing me, I’d have an immediate panic or anxiety attack. That the anxiety would be so high it would just like I don’t even know. And yet you’re just sitting there like, who cares? Lisa: Well, I mean, it’s not that big of a deal, you know? Gabe: All right. Lisa: I mean, it won’t kill you. Gabe: What? That’s not the only factor that we should consider. Lisa: But it should be. Gabe: The world is not. But, it’s not because. But you are very Zen. And of course, the difference is, I have panic and anxiety disorder. And you do not. What is it like for you? What’s it like for you to be told that you’re going to be fired and just not care? Because I don’t know what that’s like. I have Lisa: Well. Gabe: I am already e-mailing every boss and customer I’ve ever had, asking them not to fire me. And it didn’t happen. Lisa: Right. Gabe: It didn’t even happen. Lisa: Well, I guess you’ve told me in the past. I just didn’t care enough about things. I think I just don’t care about things. Gabe: You’re not worried that I’m going to fire you. And you also think that, well, if I get fired, I’ll find something else to do. You’re not having a panic attack or anxiety about it. This is your personality. You’re a very calm and chill person. You just chill, you’re uber chill. Lisa: When have you ever thought that? When have you ever thought that I was chill? You don’t think that. Gabe: In regards to this specific thing, Lisa: In terms of losing a job? Yes. Gabe: You are chill. Lisa: Yes, yes, absolutely. Yeah, because it doesn’t matter. Gabe: Whenever customers threaten you, whenever bosses threaten you, whenever there’s a rumor that you might be downsized, you’re just very laid back. Lisa: Yeah, I don’t care about that. Gabe: I start crying immediately. Lisa: Yeah. Yeah. You care about that a lot. Yeah. Gabe: I do, and I think well, what did I do wrong? How did I? It’s very time consuming to constantly worry that I’m screwing up. And the panic attacks are. Well, they’re horrific. Lisa: Mm-hmm. Gabe: They’re obviously horrific. I mean, I, my heart starts to race. My vision gets blurry. I sweat through everything. It’s. I do a lot to avoid panic attacks by avoiding situations. Lisa: Yes. Gabe: You don’t have to do any of that. You can, you would make a good lawyer in a way that I would not. I’m a much better arguer. But you’re unflappable. Lisa: Oh, that’s so nice of you to say. To be fair, there are some situations I avoid because I don’t like them. Gabe: But we’re talking about panic and anxiety. Everybody avoids situations they don’t like, Lisa. Lisa: I’ve actually wondered about this because it’s not so much that I don’t have panic or anxiety as it is that I don’t care about most things. And the example I always give, you’ll remember years ago when we were married, there was one month when we were having trouble paying our mortgage. And you were really freaked out. And I said, yeah, this isn’t that important. I said, we don’t need to worry about this. I don’t know why you’re so upset. This isn’t the end of the world. It isn’t going to kill us. And you said, oh, so what? So as long as we still have our health, we just don’t have to worry about anything? And I understood that you were trying to make some sort of sarcastic point, but yeah. Yeah. Gabe: I wasn’t making a sarcastic point at all. Lisa: Yes, exactly. As long as you have your health, you do not have to worry about anything. Gabe: But most people don’t go from perfectly healthy to unhealthy. There are steps. And one of the steps that puts you in harm’s way is not having a safe place to live. Lisa: I know you told me all that at the time. Gabe: I put a lot of value on being able to pay my bills because I don’t want to be evicted. I don’t want to be homeless. Lisa: I didn’t want any of those things either. I just said we weren’t going to die from it. We could make it to the other side. It wasn’t the end of the world as long as we were still alive. It didn’t matter. Gabe: You know, Lisa, this reminds me of there’s a very old you know, it’s or what’s a, what’s a word for, like, wisdom? Lisa: Adage? Gabe: No, not adage. Lisa: Proverb? Gabe: Yep, proverb. Lisa: Proverb, okay. Gabe: There’s this old proverb that says that the reason a bird can sleep while resting on a branch is not because he has faith in the branch. It’s because he has faith in his wings. And I like that you brought up that story because it really it shows Lisa: That’s sweet. Gabe: I have no faith in my wings. You have complete faith in your wings. And the way that I Lisa: Yes. Gabe: Manage my anxiety is to have complete faith in the branch. So what I was trying to explain to you is, look, our branch is in danger. And you were like, hey, if the branch breaks, we’ll just fly to another branch. Chill. Lisa: Right. Gabe: Right. Lisa: This is a great proverb. Gabe: The question that I’m getting at is, why are you this way? Look, I’m not trying to be a jerk by saying this, but I feel that I have way more survival skills than you. Like on a. Lisa: You do not. Gabe: But I do. Come on. Admit it. Lisa: Really? Gabe: On a factual basis. Honestly, if you were trapped in another country and you needed somebody to get you out, who would you call? Lisa: You. Gabe: Right. Lisa: But that doesn’t show that you have more survival skills than me. If you were trapped in another country, who would you call? Gabe: I would call you, but Lisa: Ok. Gabe: I wouldn’t get trapped in another country because I have skills that would make sure that I never got trapped in. How about this? Lisa: If you needed something repaired in your house, who would you call? Gabe: Ok, fine, I understand what you’re saying. Good point. I asked it wrong. Who is more likely to piss off the locals and get stranded in another country and then not be able to get out and need to call somebody? Lisa: I feel like that’s a trick question because you never go anywhere. Gabe: It’s not a trick question. Who is more likely to get stuck in a situation that they need the other one to get them out of? Lisa: All right. Gabe: You piss off everybody. Lisa: Well. Gabe: You are constantly calling me and saying, I don’t know what to do. Bail me out. What have I ever. Lisa: Well, I want social advice. Gabe: That’s what I’m talking about. Socially, you are incredibly awkward, but strangely, you have no anxiety about it whatsoever. How? What is that like? What is that like to have so much unearned faith in your ability to manage? Whereas I have earned skills. You know that I am very good at public relations, marketing, with people, networking, social skills. You know how good I am at it. There is a reason that I am a public speaker, writer and a successful podcast host. And yet I am positive and I have so much anxiety that I’m going to fail at any moment. You, on the other hand, made my parents angry over a misunderstanding. Fifteen years ago. Lisa: Oh, really? Really? That’s where you’re gonna go with this? Really? You want to talk about what you did to my parents? Really? Gabe: Yes, I bought them a very expensive trip. Lisa: Ok. Not that one, the other one. Gabe: Cheated on their daughter? Lisa: Oh, anyway. All right. What are you saying? Gabe: I’m not sure where you’re going with this, but. Lisa: I yeah. Anyway. Gabe: I am better socially, yet I am anxious about it. Lisa: You are better socially. Gabe: You acknowledge that you are worse socially, yet you are not anxious about it. That’s the whole takeaway. I don’t know why you’re fighting me on this. You do not have anxiety. Lisa: Some of that is protective, if you’re bad at something, you can’t be anxious about it or you’ll die. I can’t possibly be anxious about my behavior socially because then I won’t be able to function at all. Gabe: Well. But listen to what you said. You just said that it’s protective. The reason that you don’t have anxiety is to protect yourself. Well, the reason that I don’t have cancer is to protect myself. You can’t control what health problems you get. You’re literally Lisa: Well, that’s fair. Gabe: Saying that you are keeping anxiety at bay. Well, just do that with everything. I am keeping COVID-19 at bay. Otherwise, I will have COVID-19. I mean, just you can’t not. You can’t choose which mental health issues to have. Lisa: That’s true. Gabe: What is it, mind over matter, Lisa? Ooh, are you doing yoga? Are you doing yoga? Wait, you went for a walk in the woods, because that’s what an antidepressant is. What are you doing here? Lisa: Just cheer up. Gabe: Yeah, you’re literally saying I don’t have anxiety because it’s a protective thing. Wow. Why didn’t I think of that? You just cured me. Lisa: What I am saying is that you are much better socially than I am. Like I call you a lot because you always know what to write in the e-mail to apologize and stuff. But in terms. You’re super good at that. Gabe: I am. Lisa: But when it comes to. Gabe: I am super good at apologizing for Lisa. Lisa: You are. You are. He writes the best e-mails for this purpose. I put them in my own words. Anyway. Gabe: I just, I’m thinking of all the people listening to this that have got an apology e-mail from you. They’re going to be like, damn it. She didn’t mean it. Lisa: I meant it. I just didn’t say it right. That’s why Gabe said it. Gabe: Wow. Lisa: You do that all the time. You’re great at that. Gabe: Wow. Lisa: Anywho. The point is, when it comes to life skills, you don’t know how to do anything. You’re terrible at cleaning. You can’t repair anything. Remember the whole thing about how I have a drill? You don’t have a drill. Anytime something breaks in your house, you call me to fix it. Gabe: Yeah, that means I know how to fix it. I call you. Lisa: Really? Do you remember that time that you literally needed to hang something up and you called me to do it? Gabe: Do you remember that time? Lisa: It was the saddest thing anyone had ever seen. Gabe: That you needed to turn on your computer? And you called me to do it? Lisa: Well, yeah, you’re good at computer things. Gabe: So that’s my point, though. Lisa: You’re my computer person. There’s no reason for me to learn these skills when you already have them. Gabe: Yeah. There’s no reason for me. Lisa: Division of labor. Gabe: To learn how to hang a picture when this is a skill that you already have. We trade this. Lisa: Oh, that’s not bad logic, actually. Gabe: The point that I’m making here is I know we’ve gotten Lisa: You have one? Gabe: A little far afield. I do have one. It’s that you acknowledge that you are good at things. I don’t acknowledge that I’m good at things, even the things that I know that I’m good at, I have anxiety about. Lisa: That’s true. Gabe: And even when I do acknowledge that I’m good at something. It’s the logic part of my brain that’s like, Gabe, you know you’re good at this. But at the same time, I don’t sleep on that branch because it’s gonna break. And it’s, I’m in immediate danger all of the time. And you don’t feel that way. Lisa: Sometimes, to be fair, it works to tell you that, like, if you’re nervous about something and I say, look, you’re really good at this, you’re going to do a great job, sometimes it works. Not always, but sometimes. Gabe: The logical part of my brain and one of my coping mechanisms is to apply that logic. Gabe, will this kill you? Gabe, is it true? Gabe, how do people feel about it? And I ask, you know, my friends and family a lot. Are you mad at me? Say, Lisa, are you mad at me? And you’re like, no. And I say to my wife, you know, wife, are you mad at me? And she’ll say, Yes. And I’ll say, OK, why? And she’ll say, Because of this. And I’m like, Oh, my anxiety said that you were mad at me for this other thing. So that’s good to know. And talking it out does help me. This is a coping skill that I have learned and honed over, frankly, over the last decade. But panic attacks. They come up so fast that logic doesn’t work. The other day we were watching a television show and in the television show, in the final scene, a whole bunch of high school kids got in what can only be described as a karate battle. Lisa: Guess which show? Gabe: I do like the show. It’s a really, really good show. But all of these teenagers, and they are teenagers, all of these teenagers are beating on each other. Now they’re using karate skills. And it’s this dojo versus that dojo. But they’re in high school and the other high school kids are cheering them on. Nobody is making any effort to break this up, including the teachers. And I had an immediate panic attack because I was one of the kids that got beat up in high school while the other students and the teachers did nothing. And I kept trying to say, that’s just a TV show. I kept trying to use logic. But as the fight wore on and on and on, I could not get over the fact that minors, children, were hurting one another and nobody seemed to care. And this all culminated in one of the kids falling off of a balcony or something and landing on the steps. And at the end of the season, I mean, I don’t know what it’s actually going to be because on TV you can fall two stories onto steps and just have a bruise. But in real life, that kid’s paralyzed for the rest of his life because the students and teachers did not care enough to stop this brutal beating that was happening in their school. Lisa: Yes. And I really thought you would like it. And in retrospect, I should have known. Gabe: I did like it. Lisa: That has happened to you before when stuff like that’s been on TV. And I didn’t even think about it. I’m sorry about that. I can tell even now, as you’re telling the story, you’re still upset about it. It’s still bothering you. You can hear it in your voice. Yeah. In retrospect, I should have known that that was gonna get you. Gabe: Listen, this is this is part of living in the world. You don’t owe me an apology. The show doesn’t owe me an apology. The world doesn’t have to adapt to Gabe. Gabe has to adapt to the world. I suppose you can argue that this is really the benefits of a content warning and trigger warnings and reading the description of shows, because maybe I would have been more prepared for it. But this Lisa: That’s true. Gabe: Is it. This is where panic attacks are so horrible. Now, you can also argue, let’s be a little bit fair, I could’ve just turned it off. Lisa: You could have seen it coming. Gabe: I could’ve said, you know, this is bullshit. I didn’t see it coming. I just thought it would be quick and it would move the story along. This was an epic battle. This was an epic fight scene that lasted. Lisa: The choreography was amazing. Gabe: It was. It really, really was incredible. I just couldn’t get past it. Lisa: I know. Gabe: I couldn’t get past the memories of my own life. And that’s where that particular panic attack came from. And it was really, really bad. Lisa was nice. She brought me all kinds of water and she gave me a hug and she told me that I would be okay. And these are the panic attacks that, like you said, you can see coming. But I’ve had the same panic attacks with no, just and I still don’t know where they came from. But, Lisa, still, you’ve had trauma in your life. You’ve had bad Lisa: Yeah. Gabe: Things happen in your life. You’ve had things that you don’t want to revisit. And when you see depictions of them in popular media, you don’t have a panic attack. Why is that? Why do I Lisa: No. Gabe: When remembering or seeing depictions of my past trauma, just, my heart races. I sweat. I just, I get dizzy. I could not move. I could not move. How come when you see depictions in popular culture or in the media of traumatic events that have happened to you, you don’t seem to care? You just watch it and you’re like, yeah, something like that happened to me. I’m cool. Lisa: That is an excellent point, and I’ve never really thought about it. I think a couple of things. One, I think it just happens a lot less often to me. It’s not that I don’t react. It’s that there aren’t as many things that set me off. Gabe: Well, but do you ever have a panic attack or are you ever watching something and Lisa: No, Gabe: Have a panic attack? Lisa: Not exactly. It’s not completely true that it doesn’t bother me. There are some things what starts happening on TV and I go, okay, that’s it, I’m done. I just can’t watch it anymore. But it’s not panic. You are right about that. It’s not panic. It’s more just incredible anger or upset-ness. And I think, why am I doing this to myself? Why am I making myself this angry? So I just leave the room. But one, it doesn’t happen very often. And two, it’s not panic. You’re right. It’s more anger. And I’m not having an anger attack for some reason. I don’t know. I don’t know. I guess this is what mental illness is. It kind of happens kind of randomly and you can’t control what you have. Gabe: Do you ever have like? Obviously, we’ve talked about the panic attack that I had because of that show and there’s a reason. But I also have panic attacks that I, they’re not connected to anything. Do you ever have, like, anger or rage attacks that aren’t connected to anything? Lisa: No, Gabe: Or are they always connected to something? Lisa: They’re always connected to something. Always. I’m never just sitting around and suddenly like, oh, my God, I’m so angry. No, that never happens. Gabe: Panic attacks are really insidious for me because more often than not, they come out of nowhere. I use this particular example because, one, it’s recent in my memory and two, it had the added bonus of you being there. Lisa: Well, that hasn’t happened lately. You don’t have near as much as you did when we were together. You know, I used to see you do this a lot more. It had been so long since I’d seen you have a full scale panic attack, I had almost forgotten how horrible it is and how terrible you look. I felt kind of bad about that. Gabe: I know how I feel about having a panic attack. What’s it like for you? You’re just minding your own business and suddenly your friend turns into a giant ball of mumbling word salad water. Lisa: It’s difficult to watch. You look horrible and like I said, I’d forgotten how bad you look. You get that real waxy, cast to your skin and you start to look real gray. And we’ve been many places where this has happened and people have wanted to call 911 or something for you. And I assume as you get older, they’re thinking that you’re having a heart attack. And yeah, yeah, I can see why they think that. You look terrible. You look like something really horrible is happening and you can’t hide it. Gabe: What do you do about it? I don’t remember what you do because I’m focused on me, like you said, if I look horrible, imagine how I feel. So I have no idea what you do during this time. I knew you brought me water. I’d like to think maybe you did more than that. You brought me water and gave me a hug during the worst panic attack you’ve ever had. That’s not true. Or is it? Lisa: This was not the worst panic attack you’ve ever had, but it was a bad one. Gabe: Ok, but you’re avoiding the question of what did you do? Is the answer you just kept watching the show and ignored me. Lisa: Not once I figured out what was happening. It’s, there’s not a lot that you can do. And trust me, if there was, I would have figured it out by now. You become very. I don’t know, I guess inward? Like you draw into yourself. And I always feel like there’s more that you could be doing or more that we could be doing together. And it’s impossible to make you do anything. Like, I always feel like, oh, my God, let’s just leave the situation. You know, we’re at a sporting event. We’re out. Let’s just go home. Why are we standing here? And you will not do it. It’s almost impossible to get you to move. You just stay in the exact same spot, no matter how difficult or poor of a decision that spot is. And you can’t get you to do anything. And obviously, things like calm down, it’s OK. It’ll be alright, that doesn’t work. Gabe: Well, hang on a sec. OK. So. Yes. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever tell anybody to calm down, ever. It’s the literal equivalent of dumping gas on a fire to make the fire go down. But putting that aside, you don’t seem to have a great list of what to do because. Well, frankly, there’s Lisa: There’s not a lot to do. Gabe: Yeah. There’s just not a great list to do. Lisa: Yeah. Gabe: What are some things not to do? What is some advice that you have for people like, hey, if your friend or loved one is having a panic attack, don’t do the following things because that’s stupid? Lisa: Don’t yell. Don’t. They don’t like that. Gabe: Geez, I don’t know why our marriage failed. Don’t yell at the sick guy. It’s sad that you needed to say that. But OK, Lisa: Ok. Gabe: Don’t yell at your sick loved one. Got it. Lisa: Ok, but look at it from my perspective. And I know that this sounds terrible or this sounds selfish, but look at it from my perspective. OK, I want to go to the play or go to the hockey game or go to the party or do whatever it is that I want to do that we have agreed to do. That we have been planning to do. And now you have a panic attack. And that means I can’t do the fun thing that I’ve been looking forward to. And I understand that you can’t control it, but you feel like, I feel like you have more control over this than you would if you had cancer or if you suddenly became nauseous or something like that. Right? So I feel like, oh, my God. Control this better. Push through it. We’ve been looking forward to this. We paid money for this. And you’re messing with my fun here. OK, so it’s hard to get over that. It’s hard to accept. It’s hard to accept. I’m upset for myself as well. And then. Gabe: I’ve never really thought about it from your point of view, and you’re right. If you and I are out at an event and I have a panic attack that ruins it for you, it ruins the events Lisa: Yes. Gabe: And. But you. This is. How come I don’t. Lisa: Even if it’s my event, like what if we went to something for me? You know, I’ve been looking forward to this play that you didn’t really want to go to, but I got the tickets and I’ve had them for six months. Or, of course, we’re visiting my family. We’re at a family wedding or a family gathering. And now you’re a wreck. Or my personal favorite, we’re visiting your family. And so that just puts this incredible burden on me. Because this is something you’re supposed to be doing. And let’s say there’s some responsibility that you have when the panic attack comes on, like you’re supposed be taking care of a kid and you just check out. And now it’s my problem. It seems so incredibly unfair and it’s a lot of extra work for me. Gabe: It’s always interesting to hear the other side. Right. There nothing that I can say to that. I feel terrible. And that’s how come. That’s Lisa: I know. Gabe: How come you said you, Gabe, you won’t leave for nothing. You won’t move for nothing. Yeah. I don’t want to move because if we leave the event, then you won’t get to see it anymore. So I am trying to get through it. I think this is a core misunderstanding and why Lisa: Well. Gabe: I don’t want to move. There’s also I can’t. I can’t move. Lisa: Ok. That’s not bad logic. I hadn’t considered that might be one of your reasons. But, don’t do that. You’re not helping. You know, that is not helping. It is better to get out. Gabe: It may be. Lisa: But again, you won’t. Remember that time you had a panic attack in the bathroom at a Wendy’s? OK. And I could not get you out of there for nothing. And that was not ideal. You just can’t stay in the bathroom at a Wendy’s having a panic attack for a half an hour. Yeah. Gabe: This is where it really sucks to have mental illness, because listen to what you said, it is not ideal for you to stay in a bathroom for a half hour. You can’t do it and you can hear it in your voice. You’re annoyed that I tried to camp out Lisa: I know. Gabe: In a Wendy’s. Remember that time that you refused to leave an international flight, airplane bathroom in violation of TSA law because they were trying to land because you were so airsick. You still, to this day, even though you are violating federal law by trying to stay in that bathroom, you still feel like you were right because you were sick. Lisa: Ok. I could not stop vomiting. Gabe: I could not stop the panic attack. Lisa: That’s all I’m saying. I don’t know what that woman wanted. What did she want me to do? I could not stop vomiting. Gabe: I could not stop the panic attack. Lisa: I know, I know. Gabe: Look, obviously I know it’s got to be horrible to be sick and just want to be not in an airplane. And you felt safe in the bathroom. Just like I felt safe in the bathroom. Now, I was not violating federal law and nobody was trying to land a plane. But you still felt like I should have moved faster and gotten out of the bathroom. Now, you though, you look at it completely different because I don’t know, maybe you had a physical illness? Lisa: I know. Gabe: Like that. Like, is that maybe? Lisa: Yeah, I know, Gabe: You’re pushing? Hmmm? Lisa: Again, I understand, and I do know that intellectually, but in the moment. And it’s hard to get this out of your mind. You feel like you should be able to control it more. You feel like if you tried harder, you, Gabe, tried harder, you would be able to get more control over the situation and fix it or at least make it better. And I know. I know that’s not completely reasonable. This obviously is one reason why we’re divorced. But I just can’t get over that feeling. I can’t get over that thought, especially in the midst of it that, oh, come on, pull it together or at least pull it together more. Maybe you can’t get over it completely, but you could certainly stand up and walk out. Gabe: Remember at the start of the show when I said, which one of us is more likely to be trapped in a foreign country by creating an international incident? Lisa: Uh-huh. Gabe: And you have just said that you violated federal law in another country and refused to leave a bathroom while also chastising me for not leaving a Wendy’s bathroom, I might add. Now, can Lisa: Yeah. Gabe: Can maybe people understand that of the two of us, you are more likely to be arrested on foreign soil? Lisa: If I could have stopped vomiting, I would have left the bathroom. It’s not like I wanted to stay there. Gabe: If I could have stopped my heart from racing, stopped from sweating. Been able to stand up on my own feet, which were wobbly, end of the vertigo, and been able to focus, see and think straight, I would have left the Wendy’s bathroom, though. The reality is, is listen, we’re both right and we’re both wrong. That is why there’s no good solution here. We’re both sick. I would like to point out that society in general is probably going to agree with you more. Well, what could the woman do, she was vomiting? Lisa: I know. Gabe: And not agree with me. And this is, this is why the world is just, well, frankly, tough for people with mental illness. And I know. I know that I wrecked plans for you because I know that if you were vomiting and we had to leave a hockey game or a Rolling Stones concert or something that I spent a lot of money on and was looking forward to, I would be mad or upset or at the very least annoyed. And you only ever got sick once. I got sick all the time. Really, the question is, and this is serious question, why did you keep buying tickets to events? Because I was having these panic attacks in crowds at your events 80% of the time. Why did we keep going? It’s like you were setting me up to fail. Lisa: Was it that much? Gabe: It was it was at least 50% of the time. Lisa: What are you supposed to do? Give up your life? Stop going out? Gabe: Maybe. Lisa: Like that was one of the things people said at the time that people who have panic attacks, at a certain point, you stop doing things not because you’re afraid of the thing. You’re not afraid to go to the Blue Jackets game. You’re afraid that you’ll have a panic attack at the Blue Jackets game. So you start avoiding activities because of the fear of the panic attacks. You’re not afraid of the thing anymore. Gabe: Blue Jackets is a hockey team for those that don’t knows. There’s like 18,000 people there and tickets are hundreds of dollars. It’s ridiculous. And yeah, I stopped going to a lot of things because I was afraid of. Lisa: Right. But you weren’t afraid of the thing, you were afraid of the panic attacks. So it becomes the panic attack that is limiting your life. And whare you supposed to do with that? Should you lean into the curve and just start curtailing your life because you’re afraid you’ll have panic attacks? How long is that going to last? Pretty soon, you’re gonna be housebound. I don’t know if that is a good strategy or even something you should want to try, to stay home to avoid panic attacks. Because where’s that going to end? Gabe: You obviously don’t think that’s a good idea, and I benefited from it because you kept buying tickets. We kept going to plays, we kept going to concerts. We got on airplanes and flew to other cities and went on vacations because you just decided, I’m not letting Gabe’s mental illness and potential panic attacks get in the way. And I had panic attacks on almost every single one. In fact, there’s a funny story. I was invited to a conference for people with mental illness, and I was having so many panic attacks, we’re pretty much stuck in the room. And Lisa called. Well, well, Lisa, you called your friend. And what did she say? That the whole reason you’re there is because he has panic disorder? Lisa: I called and said, I can’t believe this guy is doing this. He’s mucking up our trip, blah, blah, blah. She goes, you know, the reason you’re on that trip is because he’s mentally ill. So you’re going to be mad at him for being mentally ill on the trip? And I was like, huh? Well, that’s good logic, I guess. But I almost feel sick to my stomach even thinking about that trip, because when you had a panic attack on the airplane and it was so horrifying and I was so afraid for you. And, you know, this was 15 years ago. And so only a few weeks earlier, a man with bipolar disorder had been shot and killed by air marshals because he had a panic attack on a plane and people freaked out. And I almost cried listening to the story because it was exactly like every time it had happened to you where the person was with him, his wife was saying things like, it’s okay, we’re gonna be home soon. It’s all right. You’re all right. And I still all these years later, I still feel sick just thinking about it. It’s horrible to watch. And I was so afraid for you. And I was just so afraid that something like that would happen. Gabe: This was only a couple of years after September 11, and much like the other gentleman, you know, I’m a big guy. I’m a loud guy. And I’m acting extraordinarily irrationally. And the entire country is on high alert for people who are acting irrationally on airplanes. It reminds me, several years ago I was coming back from a conference and a woman had a panic attack on a plane and she tried to get into the cockpit. She thought that the cockpit door was the bathroom door and she was pounding on it and screaming and pulling on it. And she was very, very fortunate. One, she probably weighed 90 pounds soaking wet. And they came to the back and said, hey, we need to move this woman to the back. Can you sit in the front? And I overheard them say this to the person who is directly behind me. And I said, I work in mental health and I would be happy to sit with her. I’m sorry this happened. It sounds like a mental health issue. And the stewardess said, I don’t know what it is. This has never happened before. But if you will keep tabs on her, this would probably go a lot smoother. And I said, OK. And she sat by the window, me in the middle seat. And two hours later we landed. And of course, she was you know, they had to have an air marshal escort her off of the plane. I don’t know what happened after that, but I do think about this a lot. You know that this woman did try to get into the cockpit of an airplane in flight. What would have happened if she was a large black man? What would have happened if she was a large white guy? What would have happened if she was a man? Apparently? Lisa: What would have happened if she was you? Gabe: I don’t know. Lisa: You’re a big guy. And so when you start acting erratically, it freaks people out. People get nervous. They get upset. And frankly, they get scared. And I worry about that. Not so much now, but I worried about that for you. Quite a lot on that particular flight. It was horrible. Gabe: I also wonder about that woman. What would happen if I wasn’t on the flight and I don’t mean me because I think I’m. Lisa: Yeah. You helped. Gabe: I’m fantastic. It’s because I have specialized training. I’m a certified peer supporter. I have skills in leading a support group, working with people with mental health issues. I myself have a mental illness. I know de-escalation, etc. So I offered to help. And I just chittered at her and we talked. And whenever she would ask questions or try to get up, I would put her focus on something else. And she sat there for the entire trip and did not move. Well, what if she would have sat all alone and the person next to her would have been annoyed by her? Afraid of her? And that would have, you know, ramped up her annoyance? Because you can feel that, you’re so packed in. These are the things that cause more anxiety and more panic. And what if she would’ve started kicking or lashing out? I mean, again, she’s very tiny. And I don’t know that she could have hurt anybody. But I do know that she can be arrested for assault. I don’t know if she got arrested for trying to get into the cockpit. I honestly don’t know. And they would not tell me. And that is probably reasonable. The woman has rights. I don’t know, I hope that she got the help that she needed and she was OK. But these are the things that weigh heavy on my mind. And, Lisa, I just you knew that whole story and you still saw the greater good of getting me on that plane. I don’t know if you just really Lisa: Well. Gabe: Wanted to go to San Francisco, but if you would not have done that, I would not travel the country giving speeches all by myself right now. Lisa: You are much better. Gabe: I’m not much better. I’m perfect. Lisa: I cannot emphasize enough the difference between then and now. You used to be completely incapacitated by your panic attacks. I mean, you did have periods where you essentially could not leave the house. And you have made, I don’t want to say recovery, because that’s not quite the right word. But you are much, much better than you ever were back then to the point where when you had a panic attack last week, it took me a while to figure out what it was. It had been so long since I’d seen one. There’s just a huge difference in your stability now. Gabe: We’ll be right back after these messages. Announcer: Interested in learning about psychology and mental health from experts in the field? Give a listen to the Psych Central Podcast, hosted by Gabe Howard. Visit PsychCentral.com/Show or subscribe to The Psych Central Podcast 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. Lisa: And we’re back talking about panic attacks. Gabe: I am extraordinarily thankful that you kept buying tickets. I’m extraordinarily thankful that you supported me in a partnership. You didn’t yell at me and tell me to calm down. You didn’t treat me poorly. You did get annoyed because you’re human. But you really probably handled it as best that anybody could. And we talked about it a lot. And I learned more and more coping skills by going to therapy, by adjusting my medication and by trying again. And you gave me the courage to try again. Like you said, people stop going places because they’re afraid of the panic attack, not because they’re afraid of the event or the venue or even the people there. You helped me go again and again and again. And I don’t know if it’s exposure therapy. I don’t know if I’m using that correctly. But without you, I would not have tried again. And now I can enjoy flights and travel and concerts and plays, and I can really just enjoy life to the fullest. It’s interesting that you brought up recovery because on one hand, I immediately wanted to interject. I’m in recovery. What are you talking about? But then I just had a panic attack. It’s not 100 percent. You can’t call yourself in recovery if you have zero symptoms of mental illness because that’s an improbable, likely impossible goal. Do you consider me to be in recovery with panic? And I’m asking your opinion. Lisa: Well, okay, that’s going to be yet another topic that we add, the whole definition of recovery. That’s a whole debate in mental health circles. I would say that definitely you still have panic disorder. You still have panic attacks. But it’s almost, not all the way, but almost, inconsequential at this point. It has very little impact on your life these days. How many panic attacks do you have? I mean, again, I don’t live with you. Less than once a month? Gabe: Probably, yeah. Lisa: Once every couple of months? Gabe: I probably have 12 a year. I have slightly more around the holidays. Lisa: Are they not as bad as they used to be, like are the individual panic attacks themselves lesser? Gabe: No. When I was having one a day, you know, again, we talk about spectrums a lot. When I was having one a day, they were pretty mild. They were panic attacks and they were problematic, but they were smaller. And now I pretty much only have four alarm panic attacks. Now, having ten to twelve four alarm panic attacks a year seems like a lot. But I really did used to have one every day or two or three a day or. I haven’t ran out of a job in years. Remember that time I quit the job from the parking lot? Lisa: Yes. Gabe: Because of the panic attack? Lisa: Yes, I do. Gabe: And almost wrecked the car on the way home because I should not have been driving? But I didn’t know. Lisa: That’s another thing you always did that annoyed me. You’d be like, oh, no, I’m fine to drive. No, you’re not. You’re too sick to stay at the hockey game, but you’re fine to drive? That’s just stupid. But, hey, I’m over that now. That was 15 years ago. Not still mad. Anyway, Gabe: But you should have been mad. You’re not wrong. Lisa: I was mad. Gabe: That anger led to a good place because I should not have been driving and you stopped me from driving. To this day, I will not drive when I have a panic attack. Lisa: I go back and forth between being angry at you and feeling like that’s unreasonable because on the one hand, it kind of seems like it’s unreasonable to be angry at you for having a panic attack. But on the other hand, it kind of feels like it’s not unreasonable. So, yeah. Gabe: This is not clean. Listen, I was angry at you for forcing a stewardess. An air marshal? I don’t know who it was that was pounding Lisa: It was a stewardess. Gabe: On the door, saying loudly So everybody in the plane could hear. Ma’am, we will not land if you don’t get out and you will delay this flight by an hour. But I wasn’t even on the plane. All right. Just hearing the story later made me angry that you would jeopardize a flight with three hundred people on it. You can hear me getting mad now. How could you inconvenience all those poor people that had been on a plane for 11 hours? Because, oh, I’m throwing up and I don’t want to do it in front of people. Oh, my God. Lisa: That wasn’t why. Gabe: Just. Just. That’s it. So. Yeah. Lisa: I didn’t want to throw up on the stewardess or on the guy I was sitting next to who was a stranger. Sorry about that, by the way. Poor thing. Gabe: So you were going to leave a plane in the air? Lisa: Well, I didn’t understand that until she started yelling at me. Gabe: The point that I’m making is you can hear me as you are explaining this to me, just thinking, wow, you are incredibly unreasonable. But I go back and forth. Lisa: And selfish and inconsiderate. Gabe: And selfish and inconsiderate. But logically, that’s. You didn’t know what was happening. You didn’t know that you were jeopardizing the flight from landing. I understand why you feel this way. I do. It took me a long time to understand it. But just because I am upset that you did this or you’re upset that I did this, just because your feelings are reasonable doesn’t mean they’re right. Lisa: Like I said, I go back and forth with it. I still am angry with you and I can understand some of the arguments intellectually that it’s not reasonable to be mad at you. But, yeah, I’m still mad. I still feel it. And, yeah, I understand what you’re saying about your feelings aren’t right. But how do you not listen to your feelings, you know? I mean, how do you ignore your own feelings? Gabe: Your gut and your feelings are not the end all be all of the world. Because my gut has told me a lot of things that have turned out to be very incorrect. Lisa: It feels like they are. Yeah. Gabe: My gut has told me to hit and I lost all $25. I follow the logic of blackjack, you know, hit on this. Don’t hit on this. Play the odds and I win a lot. So clearly the feeling of whether or not to hit is not how I should be gambling. And you know what builds casinos? People that use their gut to gamble. You know who else builds casinos? People who use a logic and a system to gamble. Everybody who gambles helps build casinos. But Lisa: These are good examples. Gabe: The best way to play blackjack is to put the odds in your favor. And the odds being in your favor is just intellect and logic. There’s no feelings involved. But you know as well as I do, everybody sitting at that table, their gut starts to tell them. Lisa: Yeah. Gabe: Their gut tells them to hit. And you know what happens when they listen to their gut? Sometimes they win. Lisa: Yeah, that throws off the whole system. Gabe: And that’s why they believe their gut. Don’t believe your gut, your gut is wrong. We need to follow logic more than we do. I know that it’s hard. I want you to know that logically, I know that you weren’t trying to do anything wrong. And I know that logically, you know that I wasn’t trying to do anything wrong. And this is what makes this so complicated, right? It doesn’t matter how we logically feel. Emotions get the better of us all the time. All the time. You know, logically, I know that I am going to outlive my parents, but I don’t feel that’s right. I just don’t. I’m not prepared for it. I don’t want it to happen. I want all of us to live forever. But logically, I know it’s going to happen. But my gut tells me that it’s not gonna. We’re gonna be together forever. And most of us listen to our gut. And that’s why things like death hit us so hard. Because even though we all know what’s going to happen, none of us prepare for it because we don’t care. We go with our feelings that things are fine now and they’re going to be fine forever. And that’s a problem for another day. I think it’s a lot like that. Lisa, I need to say again, I’m not trying to belabor the point, but I might be an anxiety ridden panic attack, having housebound agoraphobic if you didn’t keep helping me get out. My advice to listeners is, you know, find a buddy. Find a buddy that’s willing to tolerate it and go out as much as you can. All the places that gave you panic attacks. Go there again. And if you have a panic attack again, go there again. If there is any secret to my success, it’s that Lisa stuck around and kept helping me. Lisa: You realize this is the first and only time you’ve ever said this. Gabe: Well, yeah, I’m doing it publicly, so I sound really good. As soon as we’re done recording, I’m going to say that, hey, I only did that to sound good on the air. Lisa: One of the things that would make me so angry back then was that you never apologized. When we had to leave or stop doing or whatever, you never said you were sorry. And if I would say something like, screw you, buddy. You would say, you can’t blame me. It’s not fair of you to be mad at me for being sick. Gabe: Yeah, isn’t this? Lisa: And maybe it was and maybe it wasn’t. But you never apologized. That really pissed me off. Gabe: I now understand this. When I put myself in other people’s shoes, the world looks a lot different. But I was so busy protecting myself and caring for myself, and I could not understand why you were mad at me for being sick. You know, my grandfather passed away from cancer and he was sick for a couple of years and nobody was mean to him. And he had all kinds of problems, as you can imagine two years in hospice is a very, very long time. Lisa: Well, but he probably did. Gabe: I don’t know that he ever. Nobody expected him to apologize for being sick. Lisa: I know, but I bet he said thank you. Gabe: I don’t know if he did or not, but nobody expected him to. The man was dying of cancer. Lisa: So you’re telling me that if you’re dying of cancer and someone comes in and takes care of you, you weren’t gonna say, hey, thank you? Gabe: I have no idea. Lisa: Thank you for doing this for me. Thank you for showing me this care, this consideration, this love. Thank you. Gabe: I have no idea. Because the overwhelming thought of lying in bed dying might overcome my sense of I should be thankful. I don’t know. I have never had to hold that on my chest. I have never had to consider my own mortality in this way. And maybe considering that I am going to die and leave my family will make me forget please and thank you. Because maybe it’s just not so important anymore. I don’t know. I hope not. Some people get terminally ill and they’re still making jokes. They’re still making YouTube videos. I consider those people to be just amazing and incredibly inspirational. And some people get terminally ill and they just they cry every day. And I’m not going to say that one person’s right and one person’s wrong, because once again, you don’t have panic attacks when you see things that are traumatizing to you. You get angry. I don’t get angry. I have panic attacks. Do you want to sit here and debate which one of us is right and which one of us is wrong? Because I think that would be just one, a waste of time and two, kind of a jerk move. We can’t control our feelings. Lisa: I am trying to say that for all of you out there who are having panic attacks, I know that you feel that you don’t need to apologize or maybe you feel like you have, hey, I’m sick. Leave me alone. Hey, I’ve earned the right to be a little self-centered here. But it would be nice and it will make your life easier. Try to apologize. Try to look at it from the other person’s point of view. Try to respect that they’re going through a lot, too. And it wouldn’t hurt to say you’re sorry or to try to be extra nice about it. That’s all I’m saying. Gabe: Lisa, I. I love giving you shit. Lisa: That’s a life tip there. Gabe: But as you know, I agree with 100 percent of what you just said. Lisa: Oh, it’s like that thing you always say that it may not be our fault, but it is our responsibility. Gabe: I was literally just getting ready to say that. Lisa: You’re welcome. Gabe: I love the part where you’re like, hey, Gabe, it’s the thing you were always going to say. I’m sitting right here. At least we have learned from each other. You know, you’re right, Lisa, because I, you know, I got lucky even though I never apologized. I never tried to make amends, et cetera. You did stick around. And I appreciate that. But, you know, a lot of my other friends did not. It took a long time to get back in good graces with, you know, some of my family members that, you know, I was that family member that everybody’s like. He’s coming? All right. Well, we’ll only stay for a half an hour. I put the people around me through a lot. And what fixed those relationships is me apologizing. And you’re right, Lisa. I do say all the time, just because it is not your fault doesn’t mean it’s not your responsibility. But I also say and I think this is really the crux of it, I’ve never once apologized for being mentally ill. I’ve never once apologized for having a panic attack or being depressed or having to go to the hospital. I have apologized for ruining the play. I have apologized for ruining the concert or ruining the evening, or I have paid back people who have spent money and then had to drive me home because the thing got canceled. I have thanked people for taking care of me when I was sick. Gabe: I don’t expect people to run around and say, hi, my name is Gabe. I apologize for having bipolar disorder. But I do expect people to say hi, my name is Gabe. I’m really sorry that I got sick and ruined your evening. I know that you were looking forward to seeing Hamilton and you spent a lot of money on that. Please let me reimburse you for the ticket. And I’m just so incredibly sorry I ruined the evening by getting sick. That’s a very reasonable thing to say. I did ruin the evening. Listen, I got a million of these analogies. If you accidentally bang into somebody’s car, you have to fix their bumper. If you have a seizure and bang into somebody’s car, still have to fix the bumper. I think we get hung up on that a lot. That really is my the more you know moment. You want to keep the people in your life around? Appreciate them and try to see things from their perspective. And I hope this lets the people in our lives stick around more. And I hope everybody with panic disorder and anxiety can find a buddy. I hope everybody with depression can find a buddy. You know, I hope everybody can find a buddy. You know, Lisa, like we did. I mean, not like exactly like we did. Like, I don’t I don’t want them to be, like, codependent and really screwed up. Lisa: Aww. Gabe: But I hope everybody finds a BFF. But don’t start podcasts. That’s, we don’t need the competition. That’s our thing. Lisa: That’s true, but this isn’t about panic attacks. This is just more of a golden rule type thing. Be polite. If someone has done something nice for you, say thank you. If you’ve messed with somebody else, even if you didn’t mean to apologize. It goes a long way. Gabe: Are you trying to turn our show into, like a touchy feely, huggy huggy, hippie dippy kind of sunshiny thing? I mean, that’s a. Lisa: Yeah, well, that’s something I’m known for is my sunshine. Gabe: It’s the golden rule. Lisa: People tell me that all the time. Gabe: Do unto others. Lisa: So much sunshine. Gabe: As you would have them do unto you. I feel bad at how often we joke about some of the podcasts that are out there that really are just teaching basic, you know, follow your bliss, be your best self. It’s not bad advice, but no, we’re just we’re snarkier, apparently. Lisa: It’s not my thing. Gabe: It’s not my thing? Lisa: I don’t know. I’ve just never been into that. Apparently, it’s really working for some people and it’s certainly working for the people who make the podcasts. But I yeah, I don’t get it. Gabe: Hey, this is why we are the mental health podcast for people who hate mental Lisa: Mental health podcasts. Gabe: Health podcasts. Lisa: Good one. Gabe: Listen up, everybody. Here’s what we need you to do. If you loved the show, please subscribe. Wherever you downloaded it, rate, rank and review. We would love that. Use your words. You can e-mail us at show@PsychCentral.com with any topic ideas that you have. And finally share us all over social media. And once again, words matter. Tell people why they should listen. We will see everybody next week. Lisa: We’ll see you then. Announcer: You’ve been listening to the Not Crazy Podcast from Psych Central. For free mental health resources and online support groups, visit PsychCentral.com. Not Crazy’s official website is PsychCentral.com/NotCrazy. To work with Gabe, go to gabehoward.com. Want to see Gabe and me in person? Not Crazy travels well. Have us record an episode live at your next event. E-mail show@psychcentral.com for details. View the full article
  22. Long after most people have returned to work, even with social distancing, wearing masks, taking extreme care to wash hands rigorously and often, avoiding crowds, and limiting time in small confined spaces, there’s still the home environment to contend with. According to some experts, it’s more likely people can contract COVID-19 at home than outdoors and in some places long suspect, such as grocery stores. Without minimizing the importance of home cleanliness, excessive home cleaning for COVID-19 can trigger anxiety. These steps can help. Make cleaning a ritual, yet don’t spend hours doing it. Rituals and daily regimens are often helpful for those prone to anxiety or who find comfort using them to cope with stress. As long as the ritual doesn’t veer into the obsessive category, cleaning on a daily basis, or when it’s necessary, such as wiping down surfaces in the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and other frequently used areas of the home, the action can tamp down anxious thoughts. Instead, the act of cleaning can serve as reassurance that you’re doing the right thing to help your family stay safe and healthy, that it’s effective, and it’s something you can control. This is perhaps especially important during a time when there’s still so much uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. We don’t know, for example, when there’ll be a safe and effective vaccine or when therapeutics and medicines to treat the condition will be widely available. So, being able to exert personal control over when, where, and how you clean the home is a positive reinforcement for your mental health. Wash clothing worn in high-traffic establishments outside the home upon return. Since the COVID-19 virus is highly contagious, and people exposed to someone who’s positive for it, even if they’re asymptomatic, and cough or sneeze, it’s possible to return home with the germ still active on clothing. The remedy for this is to remove the clothing and wash it immediately at home. Use the hottest water setting appropriate for the garments, and add color-safe bleach if it’s not damaging to the material to do so. This will effectively kill the germs and prevent them from lingering on the clothing and infecting others in the household through secondary transmission of the virus. Isolate any family members testing positive for COVID-19, even if they’re asymptomatic. The worrying aspect of having a family member who may be positive for COVID-19, yet doesn’t show symptoms, is undeniable. If testing is available and shows positivity for the virus, it’s important for that individual to self-isolate in an area of the house away from the rest of the family. A study from Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases found that the odds that a primary case transmitted COVID-19 in a closed environment was 18.7 times greater than an open-air environment.” Others in the family should also self-quarantine in the home for a period of 14 days as a precaution. If the positive (or symptomatic) family member shows improvement and has no fever, cough, or other serious symptoms for two weeks, the self-isolation and self-quarantine can likely be lifted. Check with your medical provider and follow the professional’s recommendations. As for the rest of the family during the quarantine period, continue thorough hand washing and other COVID-19 precautions even while remaining in place. In fact, it’s more important than ever to do so. This will help ratchet down the tendency for COVID-19 to trigger an anxiety attack or keep you up at night with a stream of anxious thoughts. A survey conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group found that 55 percent of Americans said the coronavirus pandemic has already affected their mental health, either a great deal or somewhat, whereas only 19 percent responded that it hasn’t affected their mental health at all. Interestingly, among women and those under age 50 say their mental health has already been affected, 62 and 60 percent, respectively. Use common household ingredients to clean and sanitize the home. Instead of being triggered with anxiety over the lack of cleaning and sanitizing products at home and if it’s not possible to get to the store to buy the usual cleaning and sanitizing products, or if the store is out of them entirely and you don’t want to go to multiple stores looking for them, use a handy substitute. Soap and water works well for this purpose. In fact, numerous experts on how to clean and sanitize surfaces (and hands, for that matter) recommend using soap and water and scrubbing vigorously. Ammonia and bleach or other disinfectants you may have in the home are good to use on countertops and floors, although they should never be combined. It’s also best to use them after first wiping down with hot soap and water. Then, let the disinfectant remain on the surface for 20 seconds before wiping off. Minimize news consumption about COVID-19 to lessen likelihood of triggering anxiety. While it can be hard to escape the constant news barrage about all aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health experts strongly recommend limiting news consumption about the virus to lessen the likelihood the reports will trigger anxiety. This may be difficult when everyone is staying in place at home and watching TV and consuming social media or perusing the Internet for entertainment and distraction. Indeed, a survey conducted in Nepal during quarantine lockdown for COVID-19 found that prevalence rates of depression, anxiety and depression-anxiety were 34.0 percent, 31.0 percent, and 23.2 percent, respectively. Among those who lived alone, females, health professionals, and people spending more time accessing COVID-19 information were significantly more likely to have comorbid depression, anxiety, and depression-anxiety than the general population. So, while you’re busy cleaning and sanitizing the home as a precaution against COVID-19 transmission, keep entertainment light and steer clear of non-stop news reports and coverage of the pandemic. Your anxiety levels will benefit from such a prudent decision. View the full article
  23. I’ve been up in the middle of the night a lot lately. It’s given me the opportunity to work with my own anxiety and reflect on some of the things that can be most helpful at a time like this, with so many people struggling in personal and collective ways during this pandemic. I’ve been reflecting on the research about what we know about managing stress and coping with adversity. I’ve observed my own, and others’ ways of coping and what seems to be most helpful. Here are five coping strategies I would put on the top of my list. 1. Stay Connected — in real time and in your mind. Social connection and social support are foundational to our well-being. When we connect with others there is often a natural calming of the nervous system that we experience. Both feeling cared for, and caring about others, can help to release chemicals into our body which are soothing and calming. Thankfully our technology can be of help in keeping us connected during this pandemic. Ask yourself — who might you connect with today? When you are not able to connect with someone in the moment, know that even just calling up memories of caring moments in your mind, can be a helpful strategy for cultivating positive emotions and calming in the body. Try this: When I wake up feeling anxious in the middle of the night, I have found it helpful to imagine myself surrounded by the people in my life who love and care about me, and whom I love and care about. Call to mind a person you care about. Picture their face, their voice, a loving word or gesture they might offer you. Imagine being in their presence, as if you could feel their care and support right now. Let those feelings of care sink in and soothe any parts of you that might feel anxious. 2. Come back to your senses. Our five senses help to anchor us in the here and now. When we are anxious, we are often residing in the uncertain future. When we can bring ourselves back to the present moment and engage our senses directly, this can often help to calm the mind and body. For example, doing walking meditation and focusing on the sensations of the feet as they hit the ground can be — well, grounding. Pausing and listening to sounds around us can direct our minds to being here in this moment. Activities that engage the senses, for example, exercising, drawing or painting, cooking, listening to music, knitting, gardening, doing a puzzle, to name a few, can be helpful for many people during times of heightened anxiety. Even if the present moment is difficult, we can work with what is here. It is when our minds reside in the uncertain future, trying to solve problems that can’t be solved, that we experience even greater unease. Try this: Make a list of what engage your senses and brings you into the present moment. Think about things that might take more time (such as an aromatic bath) as well as things that you could do on the fly (putting your hand on your heart and taking three breaths). Use this list often when you find yourself feeling anxious. 3. Identify what is within your sphere of influence and put your energy there. Anxiety naturally mobilizes the body’s fight or flight response and increases activation of our sympathetic nervous system. This, in combination with the tendency of our mind to ruminate on things we can’t control, can leave us in a state of overwhelm or helplessness. We feel over-aroused and we have nervous energy. It can be helpful to identify where and how we can channel that energy into something active that we have some personal agency over, and that we care about. Be clear and intentional about what you can do today that you can influence, that feels nourishing or helpful for you. Try this: Identify things within your sphere of influence including: daily ways you can take care of yourself (from making your bed to going for a walk to preparing a healthy meal or listening to an inspirational podcast); how you might make a small but positive difference in someone’s life today; what you can tend to — your family, a garden, a project; what specific actions steps can you take today that might be positive for your health, your family, your house, your community or your future? 4. Shift from threat to challenge wherever possible. No question, the current circumstances we are facing are posing very real threats for so many people. But, when anxiety strikes, check in and ask yourself if there is an imminent danger right here in this very moment. For many people, the sense of threat and danger lies in the “what if” brain, not the “what is here right now” brain. Name the challenges that are actually here right now, and then make a list of resources that you have to meet these challenges. These resources could be both inner ones (e.g., courage, patience, ability to think outside the box to find creative solutions, commitment to what you care about, perseverance, self-compassion) and outer resources — the circles of supports you have within your family and friends, your community, the healthcare system, and other outside organizations and structures (e.g., workplace, religious communities, supportive agencies, mental health professionals). Try this: Think about a time in the past when you faced adversity and ask yourself what most helped you get through that? What insights did you gain about your ability to handle challenges, what strengths did you draw upon at that time, that might help you now as you face new challenges? 5. Connect to your deepest values. Identify what values are most important to you during this time. Who do you most want to be in the face of fear and uncertainty? How can you show up today in a way that might reflect those values? You don’t have to get rid of fear or anxiety, but as you turn up the volume on what you care most about, what is most important to you, this can help dial down the intensity on the anxiety. For instance, I have found that when I spend time on meaningful endeavors (such as writing this blog), my anxiety doesn’t tend to take front and center stage. Try this: In a recent interview psychologist Dr. Robert Brooks shared a question he often asks people to reflect on: what words would you hope people would use to describe you by (during this pandemic or otherwise), and what might you intentionally do or say today to help make that so? View the full article
  24.  When was the last time you simply enjoyed being in nature? Whether it’s a camping trip to the mountains, a walk in the park or just watching the squirrels from your backyard, being in nature is profoundly healing. In today’s Psych Central Podcast, our guest Richard Louv, a journalist, author and co-founder of the nonprofit Children & Nature Network, discusses the science behind nature’s healing powers. What counts as “nature?” Are pets included? What are some modern barriers to accessing nature, and how can we overcome them? Join us for the answers to these questions and more. SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW Guest information for ‘Richard Louv- Nature’ Podcast Episode Richard Louv is a journalist and author of ten books. Louv is co-founder and chair emeritus of the nonprofit Children & Nature Network, which supports a new nature movement through partnerships with such organizations as the National League of Cities. In 2008, he was awarded the Audubon Medal, presented by the National Audubon Society. Prior recipients have included Rachel Carson, E. O. Wilson, Sir David Attenborough and President Jimmy Carter. 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 the author. To learn more about Gabe, please visit his website, gabehoward.com. Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Richard Louv- Nature’ 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 author Richard Louv. Richard is the co-founder and chair emeritus of the nonprofit Children & Nature Network, which supports a new nature movement through partnerships with such organizations as the National League of Cities. Back in 2008, he was awarded the Audubon Medal, presented by the National Audubon Society. Richard, welcome to the show. Richard Louv: Thank you. Gabe Howard: Richard, it’s great to have you. A lot has been talked about the connection between mental health and nature, mental health and animals, and I kind of want to start off in this place. I’m a big fan of social media. Love it or hate it, it’s probably here to stay. And one of the things that I often see on social media is this meme that says the best antidepressant is a walk in nature. And I know that you don’t feel that nature replaces medical science, but you do feel that a walk in nature has real, real support and real help for people who are suffering from depression. Can you talk about that for a moment? Richard Louv: And that’s new, when I wrote Last Child in the Woods, it was published in 2005, this was ignored. The impact of the natural world on human well-being, on health, on cognitive functioning, all of that, it would have been basically ignored. And I could find maybe 60 studies. Many of them were about the growing disconnect between children and therefore adults, too, and nature and some of it. Some of those studies dealt with the benefits and some of those studies dealt with mental health and physical health. That is a drop in the bucket compared to how much money is spent researching just about everything else. And it struck me that something so large as the impact of the natural world experience on human health and well-being had been ignored. How could that be? And as I looked into it, I was working with some neuroscientists then. They were studying brain architecture development in young children. And they were looking at all kinds of things and how that affected brain architecture development. Everything from parent child attachment to bad day care to dangerous neighborhoods and all of that. And those things they were finding literally shapes the brain in early childhood. And I asked them once. Have you ever thought about how the natural world helped shape the brain in young children? Experiences? Actual contact with the natural world? And they looked at me with a blank face and they said, what’s nature? Richard Louv: And I understand that science has a difficult time defining nature. But, you know, I said to the neuroscientists, this isn’t rocket science. And it isn’t brain surgery. You come up with a hypothesis and test it. One hundred and twenty trees per acre or whatever. They still had trouble with it. So I decided that was one of the reasons why this was so understudied. Is the blind spot in science about nature. The rest of nature of which we are apart. The second reason was, where does the research money come from? What pill can you manufacture? What thing can you commercialize out of that? Now there are some things, I mean parks and outdoor hiking organizations, things like that. There are some. But for the most part, people don’t think about it. Certainly funders don’t think about this as something they can get something out of by funding. That’s changing. Today, if you go to the Children & Nature Network, which you mentioned in your introduction, we have a research library there that we’ve built. And it is for anybody in the world. It Is free. And there are now probably, it’s just tipped over 1000 studies that we have abstracts for and links to the original studies when they’re available. So it’s gone from about 60 to over a thousand in about 14 years after not existing before. Gabe Howard: I think that it’s interesting that one of the things you said, and this really plays to the pessimist in me is we don’t want to tell people to go for walks because there’s no funding for it and you can’t make money prescribing it. You know, we can’t prescribe one walk a day or, you know, hug your dog every day. That that’s not something that you can fill at the pharmacy. And this is kind of counterbalanced against the, you know, medication is important. Look at the advances that we’ve made with cancer by coming up with, you know, better treatments, etc. But I would even argue that taking somebody who is suffering from cancer and completely isolating them, you know, taking away their friends, their support systems, their animals, and even a window would put them in more of a bad way than they already are. And I think that’s what you’re saying. And you’ve talked about in your work how animal assisted therapy is becoming one of the biggest health care trends. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. But you also talk about the controversy surrounding it and then you back it up with science. Can you talk about animal assisted therapy for a moment? Because I just find it absolutely fascinating that people wouldn’t respond to this favorably. But I also understand that this is our culture. Everything is good and everything is bad, seemingly at the same time. Richard Louv: I think it’s more nuanced than that. I think that most people understand that their dog helps them. You know, most people get it at a visceral level. And in terms of organized animal assisted therapy, whether it’s dogs or equine therapy with horses or going outside and connecting with wild animals, no matter what that is. People viscerally understand that. It’s the science is coming now and the science is really interesting. Some of it is controversial, but nobody that has watched a kid with disabilities in an equine therapy or horse therapy, horse assisted therapy setting cannot be not moved. It’s very moving to watch this. One person who works in this field told me that a mother was bringing her child, who is autistic, to the animal assisted therapy sessions, which involved horses. And he would ride horses with a helmet and somebody would lead the horse. And he was, I think, about nine years old and he had not talked ever. And one day when they didn’t go when they were supposed to to the horse therapy, her son walked into the living room and said the word horse, first time she had heard him say a word. So there are moving stories like that. I talk about a woman, another woman who is on the autism spectrum, and she tells quite a moving story about not only how her service dog, whose name is Kobo, helped her, but how she has learned to help Kobo using some of the same techniques that Kobo uses to help her. So often what is occurring is a kind of mutualism is a you know, it’s not one way. I don’t want it to be seen as just what we get out of our relationship with other animals. I promote something in the book called The Reciprocity Principle, which basically holds that for every bit of healing that they give us, that animals, whether they’re domestic or wild animals, give us, we need to give back to them the same. We need to protect them as they protect us. Gabe Howard: And do you feel that reciprocity is what gives people that boost in mental health? Because you’re not just getting, you know, whether it’s love, companionship from the animal, but you are now responsible for the animals. That gives you a sense of purpose. What the science behind that? Or the, well, what are your thoughts on that? Richard Louv: Well, I think that’s a really interesting way to put it. I think you’re right. I think, again, it’s not one way. We know a lot. There’s quite a bit of science about animal assisted therapy when it involves domesticated animals where dogs and horses and even goats and other animals. There’s not much known, there’s very little research about what we gain and what we could give regarding wild animals. And I’m sitting here and looking out the window and there’s a deer path goes through my yard. And I can tell you my endorsement spike every time I see deer go by. And as I walk in this neighborhood, we just moved here about a year ago. The deer are responding to me differently. They don’t run away as they stand and watch. And during those moments, it is absolutely impossible to feel alone in the world. One of the issues I deal with in Our Wild Calling is the epidemic of human loneliness. Medical folks, as you know, have been talking about this for about two or three years. They’ve been saying that loneliness, human isolation is about to overtake obesity as a cause of early death, not just because of suicide and that affects that, but because of all the diseases that are associated with loneliness. Richard Louv: I make the case that, yes, Facebook is part of the problem. Anti-social media is part of problem, that urban design is part of the problem and all of that. But I think that that epidemic of human loneliness is rooted in an even deeper loneliness, which is species loneliness. We are desperate to not feel alone in the world. One of the studies that I find most interesting is of urban parks. And they find that, the study found that, the urban parks that have the best benefit for human psychological health happened to be the urban parks with the highest biodiversity, the highest number of wild animals and plants. Again, I don’t think that’s an accident. We are desperate not to feel alone in the world. And the irony is we are not alone in the world. There is a conversation going on all around us. I call that the intimacy that exists all around us. All we have to do is pay attention. Gabe Howard: I’m 43 years old, and when I was younger, there were parks and recreation centers all over the place. I could walk to one. And as somebody who suffers from bipolar disorder, I was a very depressed child. I was untreated and my family didn’t know. But I did have these parks. Now, I was an overweight child. And I don’t want to convince anybody that I went on a lot of nature walks. But I did go on some and I was aware that they were there and I did have a place to go. And, you know, this is my childhood in the 80s and now here we are and in 2020. And I don’t have a single recreation center within walking distance from my house. And I live in a neighborhood with children, which means the children in my neighborhood don’t have this. This is a trend that, of course, was created to save money. And because we decided that people didn’t want them. And also, I suppose because we wanted people to pay to join gyms or clubs or golf courses, I guess how do we pull this back? Because, again, even though I didn’t use the parks and recreation centers as much as I could of, I did use them a little bit. And now children don’t have this benefit. Many children don’t have this benefit. What say you to that? Richard Louv: Well, I talk about cities. I talk about the idea that cities can become engines of biodiversity. They don’t have to be the enemy of nature. And in fact, more and more wild animals are moving into cities, whether we like it or not. And so there’s an opportunity there. This has a lot to do with urban design, with biophilic design. And there’s a lot going on that is of notice is of, is good. There are more and more cities that are creating wildlife corridors through the city so that animals can pass through. And we can have the connection with them. There are more and more urban gardens. There are more and more native plant gardens. People are turning in their backyards into native plants, which of course is what nurtures the food chain because of insects. And then they can bring back bird migration routes. They can bring back bees. They can bring butterfly migration routes. So there’s a lot going on out there people really aren’t aware of. Now, you’re right, the trend has been against. I mean, even in schools, the trend has been toward either dropping or reducing recess in elementary school or some elementary schools are now being built with no playgrounds, let alone a natural playground. On the other hand, there’s a real trend among many schools to create natural play spaces. Gabe Howard: We’re going to step away and we’ll be right back after these messages from our sponsors. Sponsor Message: 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 discussing the interplay between nature and mental health with author Richard Louv. Richard Louv: You mentioned bipolar. I want to tell you, I’ll try to keep it short, a story about that. My father, my family and I tell this story in The Nature Principle. Our best times when I was growing up were in nature. They were spent fishing or in the backyard, in the garden or in the woods behind our house where I walked with my father and followed rabbit tracks and all that. That garden was particularly important. I remember following him as he would rototiller the back yard and then I would run around and I would pick up bones and other things and rocks out of the ground. He was happy there and over time we moved to a more affluent neighborhood. He got a better job. We didn’t need to garden anymore, supposedly. And he seldom went outdoors. He was a devoted fisherman. His dream was to retire early and move to Lake of the Ozarks or one of the lakes in the Ozarks. They finally did that, to Table Rock Lake in southern Missouri and got a little house and he finally got his dream. But by then, it was too late. He seldom left the kitchen table. He was probably bipolar and he was an alcoholic on top of that. Richard Louv: Which produces some of the symptoms of schizophrenia. It was not a pleasant time, from the time I was about eleven on in terms of my dad, I tell that story in The Nature Principle to confess that I have a bias. I have a bias that nature experience is connected to health, to mental health, to physical health. Because of that early experience now, I don’t cherry pick the studies that I cite and almost all of them point the same direction. But I do admit that I have a bias. He did not have a happy ending. And I wonder sometimes what would have happened. And I asked this question, what would have happened if not only psychiatry in the late 50s, early 60s, had included children in the family, included the rest of the family? They did not. And what would have happened if nature therapy had been popularized by then? Could that have helped him? I asked some eco psychologists that question. They say, of course, they can’t tell. They don’t know. But what they, what one said is that we know for certain it would have made life better for you and your mother and your brother. Gabe Howard: I really like that story and I like what you say there, because there are moments where people are happy and sometimes we don’t give those moments enough do. We don’t pay enough attention to those moments, whether it’s working in the guard and going for a walk, reading a book, making dinner, whether we find happiness in in a mundane task or not. And I know that Richard Louv: Right. Gabe Howard: Especially in America, we really look down on manual labor. As you said, he got a better job. So he didn’t need to have a garden. He didn’t need to work in a garden, even though it was something that made him happy. Do you think that there’s just a bias against gardening or working in nature where people feel that they’re too successful to do it, as you suggested in your story? Is this going on in in droves around America where people just don’t want to do it? Because after all, that’s beneath them or whatever words you want to use, because the average family does not have a garden anymore. Richard Louv: Well, I don’t think that there’s a bias specifically toward gardening. There’s not a bias specifically toward hiking or anything else that people do outdoors. What has happened is these barriers to that experience have risen. And one of them is affluence. One of them, my father, got a better job. It demanded longer hours. It imbalanced his life and ours. So I don’t think it’s really a bias against that. You’re right about manual labor, but not about those experiences that connect us to the natural world. In fact, there’s quite a resurgence in gardening. And as I mentioned, in native plants in our yards and focusing on that more, that’s part of the good news. There is a lot of good news out there, even though the trends may not look like they’re going in the right way. There’s good news in terms of urban design, biophilic design. There’s good news in terms of an awareness now that nature has something to do with our health, our mental health and our physical health, those experiences. I can tell you that did not exist very much in 2005, not among the general population. Richard Louv: There was a study done a few years ago called The Nature of Americans that reproduced research that was done about 20 years ago, and they compared how people felt about different aspects of nature. What they found was that families that people, particularly parents. That their awareness that nature experience is connected to health had skyrocketed since 2005. What has not happened is the barriers have not gone down. They’re still there. Now, there are people working very hard to reduce those barriers, particularly for kids, but for all of us. And they’re working on that all over the world. I think China and Brazil that have launched programs to connect kids to nature and therefore their whole families. You mentioned the National League of Cities. We’re working with that organization, which represents 18,000 mayors and other municipal officials to try to help cities become better places to connect families to nature. Schools. There are now nature preschools have taken off is a phenomenon. They’re sometimes called forest schools. There’s an increase of about 500 percent of those just in the last few years. So there’s a lot of good stuff happening. Gabe Howard: Richard, thank you so much for being on the show. Do you have any last words for people who want to get out in nature more? But as you mentioned, the barriers are just too much. How can they overcome them? Richard Louv: Well, one is to be careful how you define nature. It doesn’t have to be Yosemite. It can be in an urban neighborhood. You know, there was a program a few years ago that the Sierra Club had. What they do is go into urban neighborhoods. They put backpacks on kids and go for a five mile walk in their neighborhood and they would look for nature. They’d always find it. Sometimes in the cracks between the sidewalks, sometimes in the alleyways. If you change your perspective of what nature is, you’ll find it. The second thing is conservation is no longer enough. Now we have to have to create nature to maintain or bring back the kind of biodiversity we need. In the act of creating urban gardens, in the act of planting trees in cities, children and their parents reconnect to nature and they feel really a lot better about themselves, about where they live. All of that. But finally, I would say, you know, in addition to seeking out information on how to do that, because it doesn’t come naturally to the new generation of parents, or at least many of them, because many, most of them did not have much experience when they were kids in nature as I did. So, it doesn’t necessarily come that naturally. And they don’t even know where to start sometimes when they want that. Richard Louv: But it’s possible, particularly if you band together with other families. People are starting Family Nature clubs. Family Nature Club in San Diego now has about, I believe about 3,000 families as members of it. And that’s a pool of families you can dip into and find out if somebody wants to go take a hike, multiple families next Saturday. That deals with the fear of strangers. That deals with the sense that we don’t know how to do this, but other parents do. So there’s all kinds of ways to do it. But it has to be a conscious act. We put sports on the calendar. We should put nature there, too. And finally, and this is the primary lesson, I think, of Our Wild Calling, is to recognize that there is intimacy all around us. There is connection all around us. But to find that, to hear that conversation, you have to pay attention. And that’s why, you know, as we’re talking, a row of wild turkeys just walked by my house. And I pay attention to that. I think about what they’re doing. I think about what they’re feeling. Empathy is the greatest way, I think, to take us out of ourselves. Gabe Howard: Richard, I love that. Thank you so much for being here. Where can folks find you on the Internet? Richard Louv: Well, I have a Web site, RichardLouv.com. And that’s L O U V is the last name, but also the Children & Nature Network, which is ChildrenAndNature.org. And of course, Amazon, you can find me there, obviously. Gabe Howard: Thank you, Richard, for being here and thank you to our listeners for tuning in. Wherever you downloaded this podcast, please rate, rank and subscribe. We would really appreciate that. Share us on social media and use your words in the description and tell folks why you like the show and why you listen. Finally, remember, you can get one week of free, convenient, affordable, private online counseling 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! For more details, or to book an event, please email us at show@psychcentral.com. 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. 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  25. I am a runner. Even with a regular running routine and being in pretty good shape, there are many times during my runs where I start to feel like I am not going to make it. I start to panic a little bit, and I can feel the flood of negative thoughts threatening to overtake me. I know then that I have reached some kind of threshold for this exercise. But I don’t just quit. I look for ways to alleviate the stress I am feeling and look for a new way to move forward. I have found that this little questionnaire always reveals a way forward not only in running, but when I feel like I am losing it in life, too. Next time you are feeling like you’ve reached a threshold, you’re panicking or feeling overwhelmed, or you simply feel like you’re about to lose it completely, try going through this list of questions and making adjustments as necessary. It may just be the thing that helps you get through to the other side. 1. Are you looking up? In other words, where is your focus? One of the hardest things I had to learn about running was to look up. My tendency was to look down, where my feet were landing, to make sure I didn’t make a misstep. Sound familiar? How often do we scrutinize our steps in life so closely, that we don’t even realize we have taken our eyes off the goal ahead of us, and now we are stuck in the rocky terrain we are in? Looking up and looking ahead literally pulls you forward toward your goal. It also creates a more open posture, which leads us to the next checkpoint. 2. Are your shoulders open? Posture is everything. In running, better posture literally opens your body up to receive more oxygen and carry your muscles efficiently through the strenuous movements. In life, posture does the same thing. It opens you up, it ensures you’re getting adequate oxygen, and it expands our hearts to new possibilities. There is a high level of correspondence between our emotions and our body language. It is really difficult to send your body joyful signals if you are always curled into a ball. Yet, proper posture is uncomfortable for most of us, we naturally revert to a more comfortable slump. So we have to be constantly reminded to make the conscious effort to stretch and open ourselves up. 3. Are you expelling what isn’t needed? In any aerobic exercise, expelling hydrogen and carbon dioxide are just as important as your oxygen intake. Build up of these elements causes improper function and pain. Likewise, the tensions we hold in our bodies can slow us down and obstruct our view. In everyday life, these might be regrets, grief, or shame that you have been holding onto. It might be toxic influences in your life, people or media that is simply counterproductive to your goals. It might even be something that hasn’t happened yet, little forecasts of anxiety that cause you to feel unnecessary dread or stress. Whatever it is, take a big, deep breath and let it go. 4. Are you using all your muscles? Or in the case of everyday life, are you using all your resources? Running form is a whole science that when done correctly, coordinates all the muscles of the body for maximum achievement. Sometimes, I forget to lengthen my stride or tighten my core, but when I check in with this question, I am afforded a major boost in speed or strength, because I have called on a new resource for my body to use while running. It is so easy for use to forget what resources we have at hand. We are creatures of habit and become accustomed to using the same solutions over and over in problem solving. But often, there is a new, creative solution right in front of us, if we can take a step back, look at what we have, and give ourselves a true picture of all the resources available to us. 5. Do you need to slow down? Lastly, you may be doing all of these things and more, but still struggling. Sometimes, all you can do to alleviate the stress is slow your pace. Or in some cases, maybe this is a signal you have overcommitted and as a result, you are buckling under the pressure. If so, slowing down might look like scaling back. What things can you reprioritize so that you don’t feel so stretched thin? Slowing down or scaling back doesn’t mean you have to stop completely, it doesn’t mean you quit. But reprioritizing or taking some time to recover is always an option and when done strategically, it can be just the change in gears you needed to find a new way to move forward. View the full article