Posts Tagged: anxiety

How to Handle Anxiety

When I treat anxiety in others, and when I encounter it in myself, I find that anxiety is always rooted in a sense of helplessness. It’s as if our unconscious believes that we truly have no power, that we are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t, and that we are powerless to affect change. Our prefrontal cortex responsible for logic and reasoning, knows this powerless thinking spiral is not completely true and accurate, but the primitive brain is so busy reacting to anxiety provoking stimulus, the logical part of the brain is overridden. The times we feel most powerless, are the times we feel most anxious.

Figuring out how to make yourself feel stronger, more in control, and more powerful is key. But how?

How to Treat Anxiety

Anxiety is rarely a problem that exists all by itself. Anxiety exists in environments where it can grow. Chronic stress, toxic relationships, power imbalances, and poverty are all things that cultivate anxiety and make it grow. There are common ways to treat anxiety like therapy, meditation, relaxation techniques, exercise and cutting down on stimulants (caffeine.) Any and all of these things can be helpful, but I have found one thing that helps immensely.

Make Small Choices for Big Power

Taking back your power is the solution to the anxiety problem. When people find small ways to feel powerful again, they start to feel better.
Anxiety often is a result of feeling trapped in a box of “I can’ts”; feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place; feeling damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. Anxiety’s root is powerlessness. To strike back at anxiety, taking small steps to gain back your power make all the difference.

Try This

  • Brainstorm all the options you have, even the crazy ones.
  • Make small choices on how you spend your time.
  • Make small choices on how you will reframe or think about your current situation.
  • Make small choices on how you respond to others’ dysfunction.
  • Set small boundaries on time, duties, space you share with others.
  • Set small boundaries on how much you allow yourself to think about bothersome worries.
  • Own mistakes you’ve made and commit to making amends. Say yes to things you want to do, and no to things you don’t.
  • Invite help.
  • Invest in a trainer, a consultant, a coach, a counselor, a psychiatrist, an attorney, or an assistant.
  • Off load emotional vampires, time-sucks, and the self-absorbed.
  • Cut your losses on unlucky investments and one-sided relationships.

Taking back your life from the anxiety, isn’t done in one fell swoop. It is done by making one small decision after another, until you feel stronger, more confident and more positive. Psychologist measure remission and success by decreased frequency, duration, and severity of anxiety episodes. With each step toward empowerment and positivity you make, remission from anxiety becomes possible.

Why Do I Feel this Way? Addressing Anxiety Part II

Heart thumping, cold sweat, shallow breathing and mind racing. These are the signs of the fight or flight mechanism at its peak. When the brain’s hippo campus recognizes a stimulus as threatening, it sends messages to the body that prepare it to fight, to take flight, or to freeze.
But what if that stimulus produces a low grade of fight, flight, or freeze nearly all the time? What if the brain gets dysregulated and sends signals to the brain to react even when the stimulus is not dangerous?

You end up feeling terrible all of the time.

Anxiety occurs in people for a variety or reasons, including past or present traumatic events, genetic predisposition, or a life of chronic stress. Whatever the cause, the symptoms can be bothersome at best, and debilitating at worst.

An estimated 19% of Americans suffered from an anxiety disorder in the past year. That’s almost 1 in 5 people. Whether you have suffered with anxiety in the past, are being treated for it now, or love someone debilitated by it, chances are you have been affected by the far-reaching tentacles of anxiety.
Last week, we talked about the symptoms and signs of anxiety. Check it out if you missed it by clicking HERE.

Why do I feel this way?

Finding the WHY is not absolutely necessary to solve the problem of anxiety, but it does help quite a bit. It is accepted by psychologcial professionals that anxiety can be caused by a combination of different factors like genetics, faulty cognitions, chemical imbalance, environment factors, and life events. Wanna dig in a little more? Here are some common factors that contribute to the anxiety you may be feeling.

  • Past little t traumas. I refer to Little t traumas as those less-than-nurturing things that happened consistently over time. Like the constant criticism of a parent, frequent family moves, or trying hard but being benched each year on the soccer team. These are relatively small traumas to the psyche but when occurring with consistency and frequency, can make for an anxious life.
  • Past Big T Traumas- Big T traumas are events most people would consider tragic, de-stabilizing and distressing. Big T traumas are  These are things like car wrecks, dangerous predicaments, violent acts, witnessing traumatic events,
  • Toxic Relationships– When living or working in a toxic, dysfunctional, or demanding relationship or environment, anxiety can start to take hold. The feeling of being trapped in a dysfunctional relationship can make a person feel inadequate, overly responsible, hyper vigilant, and worried about rejection. Often people will feel powerless to change their relationship situation because they fear the cost would be too great (stress to the kids, financial stress, feelings of failure,) Many people will stay in toxic environments and relationships hoping it will get better, however, their emotional and physical health suffers.
  • Feelings of Extreme Powerlessness- Anxiety is always rooted in a sense of helplessness. It’s as if our unconscious believes that we truly have no power, that we are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t. Trapped. Bound. Gagged. We believe things like, “I can’t do anything about it,” “I have no choice,” and “It’s useless.” Our prefrontal cortex, responsible for logic and reasoning, knows this powerless thinking is not completely accurate, but the hippocampus is so busy over-reacting, it overrides logic and stays in a fight/flight spin. The times we feel most powerless, are the times we feel most anxious.
  • Chronic Unresolved Stress- relationships, environments, and stressful situations have a “piling on” affect that over time, drain your resources, energy and motivation. The Hope-Disappointment cycle bankrupts what little resources you have left. Adrenal fatigue, PTSD, depression, weight gain, loss of motivation are all signs of working/living/dealing with chronic stress. Demanding work environments, infertility, toxic relationships, living with someone with untreated mental illness, dealing with chronically angry people, unemployment, poverty, bullying are all examples of environments that cause chronic stress.
  • Survival Fatigue- Since the Hippocampus is getting all sorts of danger signals… ALL THE TIME… even when there’s no danger, you start to feel like a victim in perpetual survival mode. You say things to yourself like, “Just get through it,” and “just keep going.” Fight/Flight/Freeze is a great mechanism to save your life, but not so good for long periods of time. During survival mode, you may go through phases of hyperarousal and numbness, back to hyperarousal again. Maintaining survival mode can cause anxiety over time.

Depressed yet? DON’T BE! Anxiety is a very treatable condition, and with the right attitude and the right help, you can start gaining control over your anxiety symptoms.

I don’t want to leave you hanging, really I don’t, but I’ve got to break this blog into three parts, so I can do things like eat a real meal, go to bed before midnight, and you know, have a life and stuff. Anxiety is a huge topic with a myriad of treatment techniques, so I will give you the best ones next week. In the mean time, check out these links – this one on communication and this one on healing from a toxic relationship .

Are you Dealing with Anxiety?

Heart racing, shortness of breath, lying awake at night worrying? Most people can identify with having anxiety and its symptoms at different points in their lives. In fact, Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 18% of us in the United States age 18 and older every year.

Source: National Institute of Mental Health

How Does Anxiety Feel and  How do you know When it’s Time to Get Help?

Anxiety comes in lots of different forms like PTSD, Panic, Social Phobia, OCD and extreme and frequent worry. It affects all people differently dependent on genetics, biochemistry, age, stage and life events.

Can you Relate?

People with anxiety

  • Find it difficult to control worry
  • Feel restless, keyed up and on edge
  • Become easily irritated and angry
  • Have difficulty concentrating or staying focused on important things
  • Have difficulty falling or staying asleep

People with anxiety may also experience intense panic with increased heart rate, shallow breathing, feeling out of control, and unable to calm down. With all this adrenaline pumping, people with anxiety can experience an intense let down affect resulting in exhaustion and depression. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, let me be the first to empathize and say, “Friend, that sucks.” Because it really does. Since anxiety is largely invisible, it’s hard for others to understand just what is going on inside you. Even though anxiety doesn’t show up on ultra sounds and Xrays, it is real, and it is painful. And you’re not crazy.

How Do You Know When It’s Time to Get Help?

Did you know that anxiety is highly treatable? Yes! That’s the good news. The bad news is that only 37% of those suffering from anxiety disorders actually receive treatment. What a bummer!

Though I had been seeing a counselor since my graduate school days, I didn’t start addressing my anxiety symptoms head on until my mid thirties. (yes, I look like I am barely out of college, haha, but no.) It was then that I saw my worries, restlessness, irritability, going from 0-60 in a red not second, and panic in uncomfortable situations as problematic. The people around me were being affected, and that was enough for me to say, “Stop! In the Name of Love!” So I addressed it calling it the name it was- anxiety.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you think that your anxiety might becoming a problem.

  • Are you tired of worrying about what other people are thinking, about things that never actually happen, or about regrets from the past?
  • Are your feelings keeping you back from moving forward (taking on a new role, public speaking, networking or socializing, getting involved in the world)?
  • Do your anxious feelings make you avoid things that other people do without worry?
  • Do you break down into a puddle more than you’d like to admit?
  • Are your anxious feelings becoming debilitating, or restricting you from normal functioning?
  • Are the people around you tip toeing on eggshells trying not to upset you?
  • Has this been going on for a long time and you’re sorta sick of it?

Well, that’s the down and dirty anxiety checklist. As you’ve guessed, there is a lot more that can be discussed when it comes to anxiety- chronic stress (cool!), triggers, (woo hoo!), panic attacks (yikes!) and my personal favorite, obsessive negative thoughts (love this one! Gimme some more!)
Next week, we will unravel some of the WHYs of anxiety (stressful relationships anyone? terrible boss perhaps? what about how stinkin’ expensive everything is, yeah, that’ll send ya over the edge!) and what to do if it’s happening to you.

Need Help Now? You can check out my books God Unwrapped and Losers, Users and Abusers HERE.

Before There was Bing or Google…

…or the Bible App, there was My Little Scripture Book. Seventeen years ago, I was finishing graduate school, studying for my state board exam, and trying to convince myself that I knew what I was doing. As a Christian counselor, I recognized that the bible has a lot to say about depression and anxiety and relationships and… well… being a human, in general. It doesn’t give the answer to all of life’s troubles, but it does give solace and understanding. 

But, the bible, it turns out, is pretty darn big, and dense and full of tiny writing, so sometimes it’s hard to find stuff. 

Unless you have a mind like a steel trap and you can memorize bible addresses, in which case, you should be on the Bible Jeopardy show, if there was such a thing. But my mind has never been of the steel trap variety.

So I set out to create a handy dandy bible reference for easy topical look up. It was like a mini concordance, but for counselors. It was my home grown search engine. I’m not sure why Bible Gateway didn’t call me when they were creating their software, but anyway, their loss.

It turns out that I used it for ME, much more than I ever used it in a counseling session. My hours of work squished between those thin pages were a labor of love… to myself. When anxious, or depressed, or confused about parenting, those scriptures brought me peace and direction. When words meet you at a deep place of pain, they sprout and grow and root. Those words never go away. They are written on the walls of the heart, and there they stay permanently. 

So here is my little book. I just want to give my 27 year old self a hug, and say, “Thank you, 27 year old Michelle, for making that little book. You are a good gardener. You’ll be happy to know, that what you planted is still growing!” Then, I would take a styling brush and change the way she did her hair. 90’s hair was so weird.

What little gems have you given yourself over the years- gifts you’re thankful for? How have you seen God’s love intervene on the scene and give you just what you needed?

God Is Love, But Not The Kind You Are Used To

“Who among the gods is like you, O LORD?Exodus 15:11-13 NIVIt had been 6 years and two children since I’d gone SCUBA diving, and I knew from the raised eyebrow of the dive master that I should have taken a refresher course before signing up for the coral reef. Sensing my inexperience, she spent the boat ride to our dive destination shouting crash-course instructions over the noise of the engine. I kept thinking to myself, it’s just like riding a bike- it will come back to me. After sinking 25 feet below the surface, I discovered that it wasn’t just like riding a bike. I couldn’t remember what button deflated my jacket, and what button inflated my jacket. No big deal really. All I had to do was calmly pump one button and see if I floated up or down. But “calmly” wasn’t something I could master at the moment.
Panic took over instantly and my only thought was, If I push the wrong button, I will sink, drown and die! That wasn’t really true, but seemed rational enough at the time. I flailed my arms to the dive master, with wild eyes, and signaled to go up. She signaled confusion. Since I didn’t know SCUBA sign for “I’m freaking out,” I signaled with my thumb the strong desire to go back up. She took hold of my jacket and pumped it a few times until my buoyancy was stabilized, and slowly signaled with her hands for me to calm myself down. She waited about a minute and then with an extraordinary gesture of kindness, she held out her hand so we could dive together.
I completely expected that after reacting the way I did, she would escort me back to the surface, chastise my foolishness, and terminate my dive with a “Hmph!” Instead, she held my hand and gave me the security I needed until I could do it on my own. With only the sounds of bubbles and breath, we swam together as she pointed out the things she wanted me to see. Like the activity backstage of a play, I was amazed by the colors and creatures and coral alive with anemone, hidden by the curtain of water. . After we surfaced she told me that she just couldn’t let me leave the reef without experiencing it first. She didn’t know me, or owe me anything. But she stepped into my past to reclaim a lost picture of God- a God that wanted me to know and enjoy him without the fear of falling short- a God that didn’t cut me off for my mistakes but helped me overcome them in grace. God used that experience, among many others to replace the distorted ideas of who I thought He was.
Why did I think my dive master would be disappointed in me? Why did I care? Furthermore, why did I panic to the point of not thinking clearly? Why was I surprised by her outstretched hand? Why do people question God’s infinite love and care? Why do people doubt Him when He’s done nothing to earn their distrust?
Various misconceptions about God are closely linked to the god-figures in our lives: our parents, coaches, older siblings, bosses, teachers and pastors. We understand God based on what we already know. We formulate who the Heavenly Father is and who we are, because of our childhood experiences. Our authority figures while growing up leave the most influential mark of who we understand God to be. We were parented and groomed by imperfect people, and have automatic assumptions of an imperfect God.
We need a bold new approach to know Him.

My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

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