Article by Irving Schattner
Post design and edit by Christy Zigweid
Photo by ADD via Pixabay made using @WordSwagApp
Worry zaps precious energy and motivates us to act against our best interests. When worry takes hold, our mental filter becomes clouded. Our mental filter allows our brains, when properly activated, to focus on relevant life-sustaining tasks and growth-seeking opportunities. When clouded, our mental filter negates what’s truly relevant and important for healthy growth and development.
Our brains function like computers - storing, processing and sorting through data at lightning speed, often on automatic pilot or on a subconscious level. However, when we are riddled with anxiety and worry, our capacity to think and act rationally is impaired. It’s as if our brains, our human computers, are offline.
When this occurs, our logical, reasonable, analytical and problem-solving higher self (mediated through our fore-brain) is hijacked by our mid-brain. Our mid-brain contains our amygdala which regulates our emotions and survival instincts.
Functioning at optimum level, the amygdala governs healthy emotional regulation and our fight-or-flight response. The amygdala can help us to assess real dangers and take appropriate action. On the other hand, if you suffer from excessive anxiety and worry, your amygdala is most likely functioning in an overactive state, assessing danger when there is none or overestimating the probability of danger.
Worry, Anxiety and Stigma
Excessive worry or anxiety can lead one to feel great shame and fear of stigma. The whole world seems normal while you may describe yourself as “crazy” or “abnormal.” Uncomfortable with having physical discomfort noticed by others around you, may lead you to cover-up or avoid your anxiety and worry for fear of being stigmatized, criticized or judged as somehow different or strange. This fear of evaluation by others keeps you on guard, suspicious and even judgmental of others. You may go so far as to avoid situations and people that trigger worry or panic, thus limiting your ability to participate in meaningful opportunities to challenge the very negative thoughts, beliefs and behaviors that are reinforced through continual avoidance.
Avoiding discomforting physical symptoms associated with anxiety and worry further reinforces avoidance. As your avoidance takes on a life of its own and generalizes to new, even unexpected, situations, so too your belief in your ability to gain mastery over your life diminishes markedly. You start to feel boxed in, hopeless, and desperate for anything to take the pain away. Some people turn their worry and anxiety into isolation, depression and even anger. Others turn to various forms of addictions – sexual, chemical, gambling, codependency – as well as other self-sabotaging behaviors to self-soothe.
Feeling shameful and stigmatized by one’s worry, anxiety and depression can lead to the belief that one is “doomed to suffer through their discomfort and that change is not possible.” This negative view of one’s status makes it difficult, if not seemingly impossible, to take steps that can result in a shift in thoughts, belief and, ultimately, behaviors that challenge the status quo and foster change.
In order to change you must acquire increased awareness and clarity into the nature of your discomfort and be willing to take action. Awareness and insight into the nature of your discomfort and what fuels it the first part on the road to overcoming your distress. The second part is acquiring the skills to take action. These two components often require the expertise of a trained psychotherapist to guide you through the process of change. Willpower or letting time pass most likely will only prolong your misery and keep you from moving forward.
A Few Tips for Reducing Worry
These are just a handful of things you can do to reduce anxiety, fear and worry. Try them and see what happens. If they happen to work, continue to do more of the same. As you progress, you can continue to introduce other skills that will, at the very least, help you gain some respite from your troubles and, hopefully, open the door to a new way of looking at and approaching life’s challenges.
About the Author - Irving Schattner, LCSW
Article by Irving Schattner
Post design by Christy Zigweid
Photo by Tabeajaichhalt via Pixabay made using @WordSwagApp
Hello everyone, I’d like to introduce to you Dariusz, a former client of mine, who wanted to share this inspiring and heartfelt letter with my readers...
I’ve struggled with anxiety for many years, which fueled my addiction to pain pills. They made my anxiety diminish, and helped me feel more comfortable. Little did I know that this was a fast road to a miserable existence. Social interactions made me uncomfortable, which fueled chronic depression when I was off the drugs. To put it plainly, I was a mess from a mental health standpoint.
I was broken and ready to give up, but as a last-ditch effort I reached out for help and found Irving Schattner, LCSW, the director and founder of the Counseling Center for Growth and Recovery, in Delray Beach, Florida. With his multi-faceted treatment approach and a caring, genuine perspective, I was nursed back to mental wellness on my road to recovery.
Addiction, Anxiety, Depression
I remember the first time I walked into Mr. Schattner’s office, I was extremely anxious and uneasy. I had successfully completed a detox program so my body was off the drugs, but my mind was craving them to feel better mentally. I did not know how to live life on it’s own terms, without resorting to substance abuse. While I removed the drugs from my system, I was left an empty shell of a person, scared to interact with others and plagued by a history of addiction, anxiety, and depression.
The treatment philosophy pioneered by the Counseling Center for Growth and Recovery, under the direction of Mr. Schattner himself, focuses on getting to the root causes of your emotional or psychological distress. I learned that feeling anxious and depressed at the same time is a common condition, and can be healed through exposure and response prevention therapy.
Together, we examined my negative thoughts and beliefs through cognitive therapy and it’s connection to my self-sabotaging behaviors with cognitive-behavioral therapy. I learned how to challenge these negative thoughts and beliefs, which lead me toward achieving the things I wanted, which was freedom from the anxiety and depression that crippled my life and fueled my addiction.
I learned to face my fears, instead of running away from them and numbing myself with drugs. We practiced a variety of life skills and Mr. Schattner helped me feel comfortable in my own skin again. Slowly but surely, my confidence and self-esteem increased after each session, and I was able to venture out into public and social gatherings without the fear of rejection.
Online Counseling in Florida from the Comfort of Home
After attending face-to-face individual counseling sessions for some time, we transitioned to online counseling in Florida via an internet connection. I used my iPad for video therapy sessions without the need to drive to the practice itself.
This allowed for a continued personalized experience but from the privacy and safety of home. It was much more convenient and I felt ready for this natural progression in my level of care. I still attend Mr. Schattner’s online counseling sessions today and the therapy I receive continues to help me become a stronger person.
I’ve found purpose and meaning in my life instead of dwelling on the unknown and wasting my life away in fear. If you’re struggling with addiction, anxiety, or depression, don’t fear therapy or counseling.
The first step is to find the courage to reach out for help and I know it’s hard because I hated changes in my life or even asking people for anything. But for me it was life or death, as continuing my miserable existence would have certainly not ended well. If I can find the courage to ask for help, then you can too.
About the Author - Irving Schattner, LCSW
Letter printed with permission from both Mr. Schattner and Dariusz
Article by Irving Schattner
Edit and post design by Christy Zigweid
Photo by PixArc via Pixabay made using @WordSwagApp
Too often, people take mistakes as a sign of personal failure. This core belief often comes from messages acquired from family of origin during one's formative years, as well as traumatic or distressing experiences. One then carries these messages through later life, impacting our thoughts, beliefs and behaviors. Coming to define our self-concept and worldview, messages acquired in earlier years may no longer be relevant or adaptive towards healthy functioning in the roles we carry as adults.
So, in our adulthood, continuing to hold on to outdated messages leaves us developmentally stunted and, therefore, incapable of handling the stressors and challenges of daily living.
Healing comes through the awareness that messages acquired in earlier years (our “inner child”) don't serve us in later life, and acquiring the skills to actively challenge negative thought patterns and self-sabotaging behaviors. For many of you this is a most daunting task for which you feel ill-equipped, leading you to give up before trying. Others will make minimal progress in applying knowledge acquired through the internet, self-help materials, or even through well-meaning but untrained mental health professionals, only to slip back into old patterns which reinforce anxiety, worry, frustration, depression, and low self-esteem.
There is Help...
Like many of you, I used to suffer with severe anxiety. My anxiety originated with the messages I acquired early in life, carrying me into adulthood. Like many of you, these negative messages zapped my energy, deprived me of the courage to take advantage of opportunities that came my way, and kept me in a continual cycle of worry and despair from which I could not see my way out. That was until I finally mustered the courage to seek professional help. In doing so, I literally changed my life for the better. I had a mentor who lead by example, one who understood what it was like to live with anxiety, yet mustered the courage and resolve to change. One who made me aware of how my negative messages came to be. One who showed me how to actively challenge (dispute) these messages and replace them with more realistic, truthful and supportive statements. One who made me aware how negative thought patterns led to self-sabotaging behaviors (including avoidance). To my mentor, I am eternally grateful, for I now live with joy, purpose and direction. Through my own journey, I learned not to fear anxiety but actively face it, talk back to it, challenge it, and channel it. My mission, as a psychotherapist who specializes in treating anxiety and depression, is to help other anxiety and depression sufferers achieve the freedom which I’ve come to know.
About the Author - Irving Schattner, LCSW
Article by Irving Schattner
Edit and post design by Christy Zigweid
Photo by Silentpilot via Pixabay made using @WordSwagApp
As we head into a new year, I am reminded of how many people are out there needlessly suffering with anxiety and depression. I also ask myself why so many people are willing to “settle” when their lives could be so much better; filled with joy, purpose and direction. As I ponder this question, I am reminded of my own experience with anxiety and the years it “stole” from me; how it zapped my energy, denying me simple pleasures of life and forcing me to pass on opportunities that could have enriched my life. I remember an old television commercial from the United Negro College Fund stating how “a mind is a terrible thing to waste,” I reflect back on my own negative state of mind and how it colored a distorted lens through which I viewed myself and the world around me. My negative state of being easily led to feelings of frustration, anger, suspicion and, at times, hopelessness and despair. Yes, there were good times, but even the good times were short-lived, as anxiety and its aftermath would once again take hold and bring me back to my reality.
And so, because I struggled with anxiety and feelings of sadness, hopelessness and despair, I contemplated the value of my worth which translated into a poor sense of self. Feeling somewhat lost and disconnected led me to feel sorry for myself and so rather than take action to do something to manage and overcome my negative emotional state, I continued to daydream about what my life could be like. I was living without a sense of real joy, purpose, or connection with myself and the world around me. It was hard for me to imagine anything other than how lousy I felt. Although I made my mark on some occasions and went through the motions on other occasions, I continued to feel unfulfilled and ridden with anticipatory and situational anxiety.
Unrealistically high expectations, a need to be perfect, possessing a strong need for approval, and fearing negative evaluation were the by-products of my anticipatory and social / situational anxiety.
Seeing no way out, there were times when I pondered my miserable existence by entertaining thoughts of departing from this Earth. Fortunately, for me, these were only thoughts as I had no plans of acting on them. Realizing that doing myself in was a one-way trip with no return, I continued to hold out some hope that one day I would overcome my anxiety and live with joy, purpose and connection.
Fortunately for me, that day came. I saw an ad in the local newspaper (this was many years ago before there were computers or the internet) advertising a group for persons suffering with anxiety and depression. Of course, as fear was typically my guide, I came up with a number of reasons why I couldn’t attend:
Despite all these excuses, I finally decided that despite my suspicion and ambivalence about how the group could be of help, I would give it a shot and go.
So, I showed up to group about a half-hour earlier in order to ease myself into this potentially terrifying situation. The last thing I wanted to do was walk in and have all eyes upon me. As each new member showed up, I said “hello” and introduced myself in an attempt to desensitize myself from the anxiety of what was yet to come. When all the members filed in, and the group room door was closed, I felt a wave of intense panic overcome me. My immediate thoughts were “What the hell am I doing here?" followed by “What if they notice how nervous I am?” and “What if I feel the need to walk out and leave?” It was a living hell on Earth.
Despite my intense fear and anxiety, I did stay (probably because I was too embarrassed to draw attention to leaving) and somehow muddled through. Sitting in a group filled with fellow anxiety suffers, my thoughts were focused on how “together” many of the members appeared and how out of place I felt. I was going through the motions while frozen with fear. I listened to people share and when it was my turn, I shared very little and was quite general and superficial. In what seemed like an out-of-body experience, I listened to what others had to share while very much preoccupied with my own internal state of mind and physiological state. When the group adjourned for the evening, I felt relief, said goodbye, got into my car, and went home.
On the way home, my anxiety eventually diminished while my evaluative self remained. Despite my success at attending the anxiety group, my anticipatory anxiety persisted as I continued to ponder reasons for not returning to next week’s group. The closer I got to the day of the next group, the stronger these negative feelings were. Despite my excuses and negative frame of mind, I went back to group the following week, followed by the next week and the week following that, and so on. With each meeting, I shared more and came to realize that no one was judging me; I was the only one doing the judging. And...over time, my comfort level with group increased. I came to realize that despite our different life experiences, we all shared the burden of living with anxiety and were all committed to finding freedom through mutual aid and support.
Attending the anxiety group was a turning point in my life. It led me to pursue individual therapy, where I unraveled the mystery behind what was fueling my anxiety and learned healthy strategies for finding joy, purpose and direction. My most important lesson in therapy was learning that despite my worst fears and scenarios, my anxiety would not kill me. I came to realize that the more I tried to hold onto or “control my anxiety,” the more my anxiety controlled me. (This is known as a “paradox,” which involves doing the opposite of what your brain is telling you to do). And so, despite my initial resistance, with support, encouragement, and even prodding by my therapist, I began to allow myself to feel that which I feared most – my anxiety. At first it was scary as hell. My therapist was asking me to do the very thing I was avoiding, facing my anxiety and allowing it to pass through me while continuing to do whatever I was doing. But with repeated practice, my anxiety came to diminish in intensity, as I allowed myself to “face it, feel it, and let it pass through.” Through this process of walking through my anxiety, I came to the realization that fighting my anxiety was futile, and learning to accept (rather than fear) what I was feeling was my answer to gaining freedom from anxiety.
In telling my personal story, my wish is for you to reach out and seek help. If I can do it, so can you. It takes some courage and persistence, but the payoff is tremendous. Since my recovery from anxiety, my life has only gotten better. Yes, like most people, I still feel anxiety from time to time, but it no longer throws me into a panic. I now see my anxiety as a way of letting me know that something is troubling me and use the skills learned in therapy to channel this anxiety for positive change. And… as a licensed clinical social worker / psychotherapist, I’ve taken what I’ve learned (both personally and professionally) into helping others achieve freedom from anxiety and depression.
Take the challenge… step out of your comfort zone, attend a support group and seek professional help for your anxiety and depression.
Irving Schattner, LCSW
About the Author - Irving Schattner, LCSW
Guest post by Irving Schattner
Edit and post design by Christy Zigweid
Photo by PublicDomainPIctures via Pixabay created using @WordSwagApp
For many people suffering from anxiety or depression, the Holiday season and New Year can be a difficult time. Unrealistic expectations or commitments, family connection or disconnection, social isolation, financial problems, grief and loss, geographic change, and less sunlight can lead to stress, anxiety, sadness, and depression.
Headaches and body aches, over-eating, excessive spending, and insomnia are a few ways in which the inability to cope with the holiday blues can manifest themselves.
During such times, it is important to develop a plan of action to head off or derail the effects of the holiday blues. If untreated, they can last way beyond the holiday season and into the New Year.
For some people, increased social support can be of great benefit. This may include connecting with old friends or family members. Facebook and other social media, as well as the old-fashioned phone call are tried and true methods. The meetup.com site is a great way to connect with people who share your interests. Counseling and support groups are other ways of self-exploration and learning to connect with the world outside of yourself.
For people suffering with season affective disorder (SAD), which is associated with shorter days of sunlight, increased exposure to the outdoors as well as phototherapy 30 minutes daily (25 times as bright as normal lighting), can help increase feelings of well-being.
While for some the holiday season means good, happy times with friends and family, for many people it represents a time of sadness, debilitating self-reflection, loneliness, and anxiety, resulting in fatigue, unrealistic expectations, financial pressures, and commercial expectation to go out and spend money. Too often they are plagued with unfulfilled goals and focus on what’s not right in their lives. The demand to conform to external expectations of what it means to be in the holiday spirit may contradict one’s actual life experience. This leads to internal conflict, somatic ailments, and psychological and emotional distress.
Risk factors for stress, anxiety, and depression include, but are not limited to: lack of adequate social support, recent or past trauma, life changes, substance abuse, balancing the demands and expectations of family vs. setting appropriate limits or boundaries, house guests whose presence creates increased tension, and insomnia or isolation.
Tips for managing holiday stress
About the Author - Irving Schattner, LCSW
As a little girl, I was a worrier. I worried about silly things like spiders in my bed, aliens living next door, whether my friends liked me, and what to wear to school.
As I grew, so did my worries. Boyfriends and jobs, teachers and classes, filled my thoughts, the normal concerns of any young girl. But there were other worries that consumed me, like a brother who ran away, and another who clung to me when parents fought. I worried about our parents, and whether their worries would tear them apart.
I worried myself into teenage anorexia, which became my coping mechanism for dealing with stress. As a teen, I was expected to fit in, eat with my friends, and munch on snacks all day long, which made me eventually give up anorexia, and worry about my weight. Every time I thought about my weight, I exercised, twirled my hair, fidgeted in my chair, and clicked my fingers, my new ways of dealing with anxiety.
I worried so much, I was often sick, sometimes for a month at a time. I missed school, and wondered if I’d get my work done, or even pass my grade. I worried about the flu and colds I often developed, unexplained fevers, and sores that covered the inside of my mouth.
By adulthood, I was a flustered, stressed-out, overthinking mess. Only by now, I was getting better at hiding my worries. I hid them behind too much work and fussing constantly in my home. I disguised my worries in sleepless nights. No one, not my children, parents, or husband, knew the constant brooding in my head. I guess you could say, in some strange way, I had control over my worries. Only I didn’t.
A few years ago, they all came tumbling out. As my husband and I sat in our car, waiting to turn into a tiny fruit stand, another vehicle rammed into us. I don’t remember the crush of metal against metal, or my brain being flung from one side of my skull to another. What I do remember is standing on the side of the road after the accident, and panicking. Heart-thumping, body-shaking, sweat-dripping, panic.
In one brief second, the only control I’d ever had over my worries, was gone, and there was nothing I could do. And to this day, I still have problems controlling my panic.
Recently, a string of events, some unforeseen, some planned, sent me over the proverbial edge. In less than two months, three sets of guests stayed overnight, my husband lost one job and gained another, we went on an out-of-state trip, I was called to jury duty, and I experienced a health scare. To top it off, my children were experiencing their own sets of problems, and though they are adults, I still worried.
I worried about everyone those few months: My guests, whether they were happy, comfortable, and having fun; my husband, his old job, his new job, his salary, his benefits. I worried about my children, and their futures. I even found time to worry about a brother who was moving away.
It wasn’t unusual for me to worry, but now, my worries were different. I no longer knew how to control them. I no longer knew how to hide behind daily activities. Those two months were filled with a shaking body, constant tears, and a temper that flared for no reason. When it was over, I’d fall in bed, confused, and exhausted beyond belief.
Other things had changed in me as well. Worry wasn’t just a part of my life, it consumed me. So much, I’d forget to eat, nap, and exercise. In other words, I’d forget about me.
It wasn’t until I received the envelope from the courthouse that I began to figure it out. I knew what it was before I opened it. With shaking hands, I read the neatly printed words on the page, and began to cry.
“What is it?” asked my husband.
“I have jury duty.”
Thoughts raced through my mind. How could I sit in a stuffy courtroom, next to people I didn’t know? What if I didn’t understand what was being said? What if I got tired or needed to eat?
Instead of thinking it through, I worried about every scenario. “I can’t do it,” I cried.
My husband took me in his arms. “You were called to jury duty a few years ago,” he said. “Your doctor wrote a letter. Call her tomorrow. I’m sure she’ll write another one.”
She did. But until I had that final notice in my hand, the one that said I wasn’t required to show up for jury duty, I was a freaked-out, stressed, worried mess. Unfortunately, I had one more thing to worry about.
The next week, I received a call from a medical specialist I had recently seen. “We found something on your tests. You need a biopsy,” she said.
I hung up the phone, and began to sob. I cried until every muscle ached and my mind reeled with tons of thoughts and emotions. I was convinced life was over, that I’d never celebrate another Christmas, never see another birthday. I was saddened by a family I’d lose, one that I’d no longer be there for, one I wouldn’t see grow and change.
By the time I went to the doctor, I was falling apart. Every crease in my face accentuated, every muscle tensed, every word shook as I spoke. A nurse was brought in to hold my hand during my biopsy.
As I look back now, I am truly embarrassed by the way I acted. It’s true, it was a stressful time. It would have been stressful for anyone. But I wonder if others would have reacted the way I did.
I’ve tried to gain control of my emotions, my worries, my life, but I’m not certain I can. It is a part of who I am, a flaw I am learning to live with. But I know this, I will never quit trying.
If anything good has come from my emotional traumas, it is this: My marriage is stronger, for I no longer hide behind flaws. Each flaw is beautifully displayed, for my husband, and all the world, to see; I am stronger. I am learning every day to accept who I am; and most importantly, I am learning to take care of me.
About the Author
Guest Post by Irving Schattner
Post Design and Edit by Christy Zigweid
Photo by blickpixel via Pixabay
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) involves excessive anxiety, worry, fear, or unease about events or activities. Its duration, intensity, or frequency is disproportionate to the actual likelihood or impact of the anticipated event. People suffering with generalized anxiety disorder experience difficulty controlling worrisome thoughts which interfere with managing tasks at hand. It is common for persons with this disorder to worry about daily, routine tasks and circumstances such as school, job or career responsibilities, health, finances, household chores, being late for appointments, or question or evaluate the competence of their performance in given situations. The focus of their worries or anxiety may shift from one concern to another. as it is common for such persons to complain about persistent thoughts of worry, anxiety, fear, distress or dread, which they feel incapable of shutting off.
Unlike normal worry, persons with generalized anxiety disorder find the excessive nature of their worries of everyday life significantly interfering with healthy, adaptive psychological, emotional and social functioning.
With generalized anxiety disorder, worries are more distressing and longer lasting. This excessive worry may appear to be without cause and be accompanied by physical symptoms such as feeling on edge, being easily fatigued, muscle tension, sleep disturbance, concentration difficulties or having one’s mind seemingly go blank, trembling, shakiness, sweating, nausea, diarrhea, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, dizziness, irritable bowel syndrome, and headaches.
Overcoming Generalized Anxiety Disorder
The good news is that generalized anxiety disorder is highly treatable! With the expertise of a mental health professional who specializes in treating anxiety disorders and utilizing an approach that’s based on proven interventions individually tailored to meet the needs of each client, you will be well on the path to recovery.
Cognitive Behavioral (CBT) is one of the most effective treatments for generalized anxiety disorder. Studies have shown that the benefits of CBT may last longer than those of medication, but no single treatment is best for everyone. CBT examines the interconnection between one’s negative thought patterns, feelings and behaviors, and how they maintain, reinforce, and even intensify anxious thoughts and worry associated with generalized anxiety. Learning to replace negative thoughts and beliefs with more realistic, supportive, adaptive thoughts and feelings leads to less generalized worry and anxiety, which translates into increased behavioral mastery and competence in those same or similar situations.
Mindfulness and applied relaxation are other effective treatments which work by focusing one’s awareness of the present moment (vs. future events) by acknowledging and accepting feelings (whether positive or negatively charged) and deactivating bodily sensations. Being mindful makes one aware of what one is feeling and experiencing in the moment while remaining in a calm, accepting state. Applied relaxation focuses on muscle relaxation and visual cues to maintain that state of calm and acceptance. Yoga and other meditative techniques have proven highly effective in reducing or deactivating the “anticipatory anxiety” normally associated with generalized anxiety disorder.
About the Author - Irving Schattner, LCSW
Have you ever felt like a fraud? Do you treat yourself poorly? This is the episode for you!
In this podcast Lara Heacock comes on to discuss The Impostor Syndrome and The Self Kindness Revolution.
ABOUT LARA (From Her Website)
Hi! I’m Lara Heacock, and I believe, so strongly, in being kind to yourself.
My Kind Over Matter story began after decades of trying to check all the “right” boxes…
I got the degree (in Psychology) and then an MBA. I got a house and a husband, and I poured my heart and soul into a very successful 11 year career as a professional recruiter and leader.
I was the strong one holding everyone else up, determined to maintain the image that I had everything perfectly under control, and could do it all! I was the good one, the reliable one, the one who had it all together, but I wasn’t happy. There was nothing left for me.
Eventually, I was exhausted. I couldn’t fall asleep at night and had no energy during the day. I felt disconnected, misunderstood and angry…a lot…especially at my husband. Even though I’d cultivated this ‘perfect’ image, I still struggled with how I felt when I looked in the mirror, but I thought it was weak to share any of this. After all, I was the strong one! What would people think?
I was not good at asking for help, and kept hoping that staying busy and having nice stuff would make me feel better.
When I realized that I could no longer get out of bed on time to get to work, and that I was procrastinating everything because I felt insecure & anxious, I knew something had to change. My emotional balloon was about to burst!
I started being kind to & taking care of myself, and everything changed. I was happier, felt balanced and got “me” back! My marriage improved and my stress level went WAY down. I even found the courage to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming an Executive Life Coach. It was the start of a journey that changed my life.
I will never forget sitting in my first day of coaching training and admitting that I was afraid everything was fake and there was nothing underneath.
You can’t do it alone either, and you don’t have to.
When I learned to love and take care of myself, everything changed. I found my inner light. I built a foundation of self-kindness and acceptance, and am now better equipped to handle what life throws at me. Through my training, I was able to re-claim my self-worth, self-respect and creativity.
If I can change, so can you!
Since then, I’ve spent hundreds of hours helping others:
Life is short, and you deserve to enjoy yours fully!
Let me show you how.
Click HERE to read about working with Lara
Guest Post by Tim Stoddart
Edit and Post Design by Christy Zigweid
Photo by markus53 via Pixabay - made using @WordSwagApp
In general, anxiety is part of the human experience. It’s a natural reaction to stress. It might show up as sweaty palms before an interview, chaotic thoughts clashing in your head before making a big decision, or a general sense of unease in daily situations like meeting new people. Anxiety spans across a broad spectrum.
One of the most common mental illnesses affecting U.S. adults--about 40 million—are anxiety disorders. When anxiety levels become difficult to control and negatively affect day-to-day living, it can be deemed an anxiety disorder. Anxiety can lead to a host of physical problems, as well as life problems: anxious habits, substance abuse, difficulty with relationships, problems at work.
No matter how it shows up in your life, anxiety can be troublesome. An anxious response can range from uncomfortable to inconvenient to overwhelming. Even in situations of “minor” stress, our brains behave differently and we don’t always think clearly.
Your Brain on Anxiety
Our brains can also trigger an anxious response from something internal—a quiet thought or worry—and experience the same fear, dread, or apprehension. Our bodies still react, and our thought patterns can become clouded by emotions.
Anxiety is a powerful force in your brain. But how you react to it can make a huge difference in the power it has over you. Don’t think of anxiety as all bad! That energy in us can also help us to be more productive, pay attention to detail, and creative. It’s not about beating anxiety, but outsmarting it in your everyday life.
Being told to “just breathe” can be really frustrating in the heat of anxiety, but it’s actually great advice. In a research study, scientists found that certain emotions change our breathing pattern. Similarly, by taking control of our breathing, we can change the way that we feel.
When we’re anxious or stressed, our heart beat elevates and our breathing becomes fast and shallow. If we continue this breathing pattern, we prolong the emotional response. According to the study, the best medicine for anxiety is “deep, slow breathing into the belly.”
Does your mind ever start racing, but you need to get focused again? Grounding techniques are a practice in mindfulness that you can use every day. When the thoughts start picking up speed, ground yourself by focusing on something concrete.
Focus your attention on sensory details around you and stay in that moment. Wiggle your fingers and watch their movements. Tap your feet in a rhythm. Focus on those sensations and the control that you have over your body. Look up at the sky, hone in on the movement of the clouds. Describe the colors and shapes of the leaves—aloud or in your head. Whatever you can do to put yourself in the present and relax, do it.
We spend so much time worrying about the past and the future, but things slow down when we can put ourselves in the present. In general, you can practice mindfulness at any time—while you’re eating, in the shower, on a walk, or listening to music. It can help in any intense emotional state.
It’s easy to lose touch with Mother Nature amidst our busy lives. But, time spent outside is important—it’s a break from our everyday stresses, it can help us to relax and breathe easier, and it’s the ultimate place to get serene and practice mindfulness. Even if it’s just for a short stroll, by stepping outside to appreciate the tangible beauty in our world, we can bring ourselves back to center.
A great activity to practice outdoors is meditation. When we’re tangled up in anxiety, it might seem impossible to sit still, be quiet, and meditate. Like any skill, meditation gets easier with practice.
Think of meditation as personal therapy time—a space to untangle your intense emotions. First, control your breathing and let your emotions settle. Then, quiet your mind. What are you feeling? Are you bothered, angry, fearful, stressed? Taking the time to meditate reminds you that—here, in this moment—you are safe and you are okay.
You can meditate at home, outdoors, or even in a quiet place on your work break. Meditation isn’t limited to sitting cross-legged in the lotus position. You can sit in a chair, lie down, or take a walk. Some people enjoy guided meditation recordings, calming music, or nature sounds, while others prefer quiet. And it doesn’t have to last an hour—try 15 minutes, 5 minutes, or even just 1 minute.
Reason with Yourself
If we can slow down our thoughts, we have a chance to challenge some of our thinking. When you’re feeling nervous, afraid, or overwhelmed, talk to yourself like you would a friend.
What’s going on? What’s inspiring your fear or apprehension? Are your fears posing an imminent threat, are they far-off in the future, or are you stuck on the worst-case-scenario? What can you control, and what’s out of your control?
Take action when you can, but so much in life is out of our control. Ease the panic by identifying what you can do and what you must let go. You can use internal self-talk to get real with yourself; try talking aloud, or writing those thoughts into a journal to make more sense of them. Reasoning with yourself may not “fix” the problem, but you parse through the intense feelings and see things more realistically.
Be Kind to Yourself
Many people, like myself, get frustrated with their anxiety. We perceive ourselves negatively when anxiety has a hold on us. Instead, make an effort to be a patient and accepting friend to yourself. Allow your feelings to exist without judgment. Bolster yourself against negative thoughts, rather than putting yourself down even more.
One of the best ways to practice this is through positive affirmations—statements or mantras that you use to bring positive thinking into your life. You can say them in your head, aloud, or write them down and post them somewhere you can see them. The idea is to practice them daily and change the color of your thoughts. No need to be insincere—use statements you believe in, that will actually help you.
I am safe. Life is good. It’s a beautiful world.
Let it Out
Last but not least, we all need an outlet for our feelings. With any emotion, it manifests in our body as energy—and you can feel that pent up energy and tension with anxiety. Find a way to let it out.
For many of us, this means having a trusted friend you can talk to or call in tough moments, or scheduling time to meet with a therapist. Talking it out is a way to release those feelings and reason with yourself and someone else in the process.
There are also healthy routes of self-expression worth trying. Journaling is extremely effective for many people, helping them to interpret and understand their thoughts. But, writing isn’t the only way—paint, draw, collage, sing, dance, cook a meal. The idea is to find a way to express whatever chaos goes on in your brain so you can lessen the negative impact it has on you.
Anxiety is Smart but You're Smarter
About the Author
Guest Post by Hillary Doerries
Edited by Maureene Danielle
Post Design by Christy Zigweid
Photo by Skeeze via Pixabay CC made using @WordSwagApp
Looking back on my life, I can confidently say that my struggles with depression began when I was in high school. I remember having days when I would cry and cry for no obvious reason. Life was good – loving parents, an attentive boyfriend, and a seemingly bright future. But the sadness would strike out of nowhere, and there was no telling when it would end. My parents – especially my mother – would try to cheer me up by leaving me handwritten, encouraging notes on my pillow; or an uplifting card in my lunchbox.
No one, including myself, had any idea what was going on or how to handle it.
A handful of years later, I started seeing a therapist when I was in graduate school. After a conversation I had with Mark, the man who would become my husband, where I admitted that things that seem easy for other people just aren’t that easy for me, we decided that seeing a counselor was the next best step. We discussed my symptoms one by one: the days where I couldn’t get out of bed for class. My irrational anger and irritation toward the people in my life. My past relationships that failed because of my unfounded jealousy and unrealistic expectations. My extreme mood swings that I could never predict. My tendency to hole myself up in my basement apartment for days at a time. My general solitary, negative outlook on the world and my place in it.
I was a mess. I was never good enough. And I never would be.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helped to rewire my brain and taught me how to look at my world differently. It was tough work. One therapist I saw during my last year of graduate school often gave me homework to take home. Things to ponder, charts to fill out, and lists that tracked my mood at the end of every day. I had to somehow make sense of layers and layers of emotions that were just beginning to surface. I feared those close to me would leave. I learned to look at the hard evidence: what clues or information did I have that confirmed that this would actually happen? Many times, there was no evidence. After a time of practicing this type of mindfulness, my fears lessened, and I realized that I was not so alone after all.
It was also by seeing a therapist that I finally had a diagnosis for my struggles: Major Depressive Disorder, or MDD, coupled with General Anxiety Disorder, or GAD. For me, it was important to have a name for what I was going through, if for nothing else, to confirm that what I was feeling wasn’t my fault.
Therapy was only a piece of my healing process. There were also drugs. Lots and lots of drugs over the years: Wellbutrin, Lexapro, Zoloft, BuSpar, Cymbalta, Klonopin, Effexor, Deplin, and Abilify, to name a few.
It was a constant battle to find the correct combination of drugs. My medications were always being tweaked and adjusted, and each adjustment was always preceded with a crash in my mood. But I picked myself up and was back in the doctor’s office each time. It was also a battle to find a psychiatrist who would listen to me and not just dope me up with the latest drug. I’ve seen every kind of doctor from a general practitioner to a psychiatrist to a psychiatric nurse. Then, after six years of taking psychotropic medications, I gained over 100 pounds and I began to take medicine to counteract the side effects of the antidepressants: fish oil for high cholesterol, Levothyroxine for thyroid, and Metformin to help regulate my blood sugar. Now I was fat, still depressed, and looking for a way out.
In December 2014 I had a plan to end my life. I was overworked, stressed out, mad at the world, and in general, not taking very good care of myself. After an argument with my husband at work, I got in the car, floored it home, and went upstairs to my nightstand. I took a bottle of Klonopin out of the top drawer and through tears and cries of desperation, decided that while a part of me wanted it to just be done and over with, there was a larger part of me that wanted to figure this out. Somehow, I got back in the car, drove myself to my local inpatient mental health facility, and checked myself in. This move shocked some, but for me, it was the safest place to be for a few days. I stayed there for four days and completed all the tasks that were set before me. I met other people who were struggling, saw a new psychiatrist, who adjusted my meds, and cooperated with the nurses. After four days, I was ready to come home.
The next couple of years were kind of fuzzy. I was functioning – going to work, completing everyday tasks, and was social enough to see and be seen by others. But things still weren’t quite right.
Despite continued therapy and my cocktail of medication, I still felt there were persistent, undulating waves of depression that accompanied my everyday being. Sometimes the waves were small and not very noticeable. Other times they were loud and clear. I slept a lot during the day. Often I could only work for a few hours before feeling like I needed to go home and recharge with a nap. My psychiatrist kept adjusting my meds but I couldn’t shake this unsettling feeling that my life could be better. I just didn’t know how I was going to get there. I remained this way for several months - just kind of existing in a fog. It was like looking at myself in the mirror without my glasses, my face blurry and misshapen.
The months rolled by until finally my psychiatrist told me about a relatively new type of treatment for those with persistent depression for whom medication didn’t seem to cut it. It was called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and my own doctor happened to administer it right in his office. I discovered TMS works very much like an MRI. It’s a large machine that emits magnetic pulses meant to stimulate the brain’s pre-frontal cortex so over time, it can relearn how to make those good brain chemicals on its own, therefore possibly eliminating the need for antidepressants. After going round and round with the insurance company, I was finally approved for the treatment.
TMS is a big commitment. I had to be at my doctor’s office every weekday for six weeks in a row for about an hour at a time. For those six weeks, my life and my daily plans revolved around my TMS treatments. I ended my TMS therapy in April 2016 and I can say with confidence that going through TMS was a profound gift of new life for me. First, my mood has stabilized. People that know me often comment that I seem lighter and have more life behind my eyes. Sure, I have ups and downs as anyone does, but I am better equipped to deal with them in a level-headed, rational way. I still take naps, but now I take them because I want to, not because I feel like I have to. The best part is my doctor has started to wean me off of my antidepressants. I’ve been on the drugs for over six years now, so the process is a slow one, but by this fall, I hope to be rid of all of my meds.
While we may not know it as we’re plodding through the journey, we are changing every day. Even the small steps we take to help ensure a better quality of life help us in big ways down the road.
We have to believe, even when we feel stuck, that things won’t remain difficult and stagnant forever. As someone who has just managed to get my head above water regarding my mental illness, I want to tell others to never give up. Keep fighting for your mind and your health. Try new things and be an advocate for yourself, because at the end of the day, nobody else can but you.
And above all, if you are suffering, reach out and share your story. If nothing else, your bravery in doing so will prove to you that you are not alone.
To our health,
About the Author
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