Reinventing the Wheel...
Yeah, so I'm not going to do that. I can improve upon the wheel, bring the wheel to a whole new level, even be part of the evolution of the wheel, but reinventing it is a waste of time and energy.....so....this week's post is another share of a great article that I wish I had written AND will be happy to expand upon AND will share rather than rip off or reinvent:
She had me at "Waking them up" and sealed the deal with “Laundry". For those of you who have ever worked with me, you know you've heard me preach about those two specifically 😉
This post by Amy Carney speaks to one of the biggest challenges in anxious kids and teens lives: competence. I woke up this morning to a blog post by Hal Runkle of Scream Free Daily Pause and he was speaking to this same topic. His title was "Praise Less, Challenge More" (insert a link here http://us12.campaign-archive1.com/?u=058a1f6a50db3d0c5465d323a&id=abdd8e67a8&e=a9692f890d).
Folks, we have to find balance in our parenting. Our anxious kids have to learn to push themselves, to deal with being uncomfortable, to accept that competence doesn't happen on our first attempt, and that effort and experience pay off in ways that taking the easy road does not! This is where we assist them in learning that Anxiety's message of "You must be comfortable and certain" is bullshit!
So, since I keep it simple with three, here are my top three take aways on this topic:
A Friend's Humdinger...
When I posted my survey for parent's of anxious kids (what?, you haven't seen or answered the survey yet? Well you can find it here: http://www.auntieanxiety.com/survey.html) and then shamelessly asked for feedback from everyone that I know by way of email and social media, I expected to get at least a few responses from the community as well as some of my friend's.
So, I did get those responses (and Thank You to all of you who took the time to help an Auntie out) AND I also got some personal contact from friends who shared their personal experiences and who put their own questions on the table for me. While it was not what I expected, I am grateful for the opportunity to provide some useful information for my friend's (and hopefully the rest of you will benefit as well - hey we are all in this together, right?) 😊
Since I love to "preach" about walking toward our fears and talking back to our anxiety, I am, once again, going to walk my talk with this one. I'm jumping into it with both feet, even though it scares the hell out of me to step into the political arena. I am willing to do this, though, because I know this is one of the most current and timely issues for most (if not all) families today! The specific "humdinger" that my friend shared is "how do parent's talk to their older kids about the current political crisis without scaring the hell out of them?" 🤔
Yep, that is a humdinger for sure! Now my friend actually led up to this question by sharing that her sixteen year old had actually told her that she needs to "get a grip" because her anxiety is "over the top" around all of the "political crap that is going on". Wow, what an insightful young man!
So how many of you are aware of how your anxiety impacts your children? I led off my survey with this question "What are your biggest challenges in dealing with your child's anxiety?" and very purposefully the first answer is "dealing with my own anxiety". Folks, Anxiety is part of everyone's life AND we cannot expect our kids to deal with theirs if we are not dealing with ours! I know you've heard it before (and I'm gonna go ahead and repeat it anyway): picture the flight attendant standing there and going through his or her spiel about how you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself if you have any hopes of helping anyone else out. Another way to say that? Deal with your own anxiety first if you want to have any chance of supporting your children (or spouse, or parents, or friends, or neighbors....) with their Anxiety (or anything else for that matter!).
So now you are saying, "Yeah, yeah, I've heard this all before, and I know this intellectually, but how the hell do I put my oxygen mask on with all of this crazy bullshit that's going on right now?". Well, folks....here are my thoughts and suggestions (and they are just that..."my" thoughts and "my" suggestions, so take what works for you and leave the rest....):
What if we start by noticing our tendency to "catastrophize". That's a fancy word for what our anxiety does when it makes a life or death situation out of something that is not a life or death situation. Yes, I know that some scary shit is going on for a lot of people right now and I am not suggesting that we not be awake and alert and ready to take action. What I am saying is that unless death is imminent, we have a tendency to overreact. Our amaygdala is meant to scan the environment for danger and to sound the alert....when there is imminent danger. If we overwork our alert system then it will start to break down. So it is up to us to stay calm (alert, but calm) and use our intellect to plan and respond rather than to react and lose our shit!
One of the tenants that I live by and would like for you to consider is this: mistakes are simply opportunities in disguise. Last night I read a piece on Facebook by a woman named Susan Keller. In it she talked about so many of the "opportunities" that I have contemplated since the election happened. I won't share the whole thing (you all know how to do a search for Susan Keller and the phrase "I can't believe I'm saying this" if you want to see the whole piece), I will simply give you a taste:
"I can't believe I'm saying this, but it looks like Trump is actually making America great again. Just look at the progress made since the election:
1. Unprecedented levels of ongoing civic engagement.
2. Millions of Americans now know who their state and federal representatives are without having to google.
3. Millions of Americans are exercising more. They're holding signs and marching every week.
4. Alec Baldwin is great again. Everyone's forgotten he's kind of a jerk.
5. The Postal Service is enjoying the influx cash due to stamps purchased by millions of people for letter and postcard campaigns.
6. Likewise, the pharmaceutical industry is enjoying record growth in sales of anti-depressants.
7. Millions of Americans now know how to call their elected officials and know exactly what to say to be effective.
8. Footage of town hall meetings is now entertaining.
9. Tens of millions of people are now correctly spelling words like emoluments, narcissist, fascist, misogynist, holocaust and cognitive dissonance.
10. Everyone knows more about the rise of Hitler than they did last year.
11. Everyone knows more about legislation, branches of power and how checks and balances work.
12. Marginalized groups are experiencing a surge in white allies.
13. White people in record numbers have just learned that racism is not dead. (See #6)
14. White people in record numbers also finally understand that Obamacare IS the Affordable Care Act.
15. Stephen Colbert's "Late Night" finally gained the elusive #1 spot in late night talk shows, and Seth Meyers is finding his footing as today's Jon Stewart.
16. "Mike Pence" has donated millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood since Nov. 9th.
17. Melissa FREAKING McCarthy.
18. Travel ban protesters put $24 million into ACLU coffers in just 48 hours, enabling them to hire 200 more attorneys. Lawyers are now heroes.
19. As people seek veracity in their news sources, respected news outlets are happily reporting a substantial increase in subscriptions, a boon to a struggling industry vital to our democracy.
20. Live streaming court cases and congressional sessions are now as popular as the Kardashians.
21. Massive cleanup of facebook friend lists.
22. People are reading classic literature again. Sales of George Orwell's "1984" increased by 10,000% after the inauguration. (Yes, that is true. 10,000%. 9th grade Lit teachers all over the country are now rock stars.)
23. More than ever before, Americans are aware that education is important. Like, super important.
24. Now, more than anytime in history, everyone believes that anyone can be President. Seriously, anyone." - Susan Keller
OK, when I attempted to just share part of it, I couldn't decide what to include and what to leave out so, there, I gave you a gift, you don't have to google it or search for it on Facebook, you now have the entire piece!
So how do you ponder these ideas, work on changing your thoughts (technically you are working to reframe your cognitive distortions), plan for actions you can take as a citizen of the United States, AND how in the hell do you talk to your kids about all of this?
Afraid? Me too! Just remember that we are all in this together and moving toward our fears is the only way for any of us to discover just how courageous and powerful we truly are and, trust me, you can do this 😊
Walking My Talk
So when I set the intention to write a blog, one of my "commitments" was to post on a weekly basis. I have a reminder set to post new content on Monday mornings. That worked out great since I was on fire when I started and had a "bank" of articles written. How many of you have ever gotten super motivated, put a shit ton of effort into a project, and then petered out? Yeah, it's like a behavior pattern or something 😉. So, guess, what, even with all of the work that I've done, I am not immune to falling back into old behavior patterns. You know what else? This is the spot where the rubber meets the road. This is that fork in the road. The place where too many great ideas or intentions flop. This place where the energy has waned and we too often just let the goal fall to the wayside. This is that place where we eat one donut and rather than get back to our commitment to eat healthy, we say "fuck it" and eat the rest of the dozen. This is that place where our inner pain in the ass tells us it is OK to break our commitment, that we suck, or in any way that it can tells us that we are just imposters and that we don't have what it takes to keep moving toward our goals. That voice is just a version of our Anxiety and I, for one, and going to talk back to mine today!
Yep, I woke up this mornng without a finished article to post. I considered just quietly not posting anything. I have maybe two or three people who might be reading my posts anyway, so who will notice? My Anxiety even attempted to pull the "this will be good for your perfectionist to fail at this goal" card (we've done a lot of work, my Anxiety and I, so it often attempts to get in through the back door!).
Well, guess what Anxiety? I'm not playin' with you today. I am going to post and it's not going to be what I planned and I'm going to include a link to someone else's article and here's why: because today the most important thing for me to do is to remember my goal and my commitment to my goal and to be willing to be vulnerable (oh how uncomfortable it feels to be vulnerable 😳) and to still be williing to put myself out there. This is me walking my talk! 💪
So here is a link to an article about "16 Little Ways To Keep Anxiety From Ruining Your Life". Enjoy! https://www.buzzfeed.com/caseygueren/hi-anxiety-can-you-not?utm_term=.psBVQBBmp#.xla5X33jZ
The Amazing Amygdala
I often start my individual sessions and my group sessions with a little "educational" piece about this tiny little part of our brain called our Amygdala. Do you know what it is? Have you even ever heard of it? For those of you who have raised your hand, do you know what it does? When I ask that question in my office, I often get either a blank stare as a response or I get the "well, that sounds familiar...🤔".
So let's do a lesson on the Amazing Amygdala. The Amygdala are an "Almond-shaped group of neurons in the medial temporal lobes of the brain which plays a central role in the processing and memory or emotions, especially fear" (thank you Wikipedia). For our purposes this is where that whole "Fight or Flight" thing takes place. As I shared in a prior post, the Amygdala is like our smoke detector. It's job is to scan our environment and send a signal when it registers DANGER!
So what does this have to do with our Anxiety? I'm glad you asked 😉. So often I have folks in my office who will say to me "I want my anxiety to go away. I don't want to have Anxiety, I just want to be Normal". Wow! Can you hear the pain in those statements? Can you relate? There was a time when I had those exact thoughts. If we have an over sensitive Amygdala, it can be incredibly frustrating and we can find ourselves fighting back or resisting. Here's where it gets tricky. Our bodies are wired to keep us safe from danger. The amygdala does it's job and tells us when there is danger. For some of us it just "perceives" more danger than is "real".
The Amygdala were developed during a time when we lived to survive. Every day brought life or death situations. While we have evolved to a more fortunate time where most of us do not face true life or death situations on a daily basis, our Amygdala may not have gotten the memo!
So how do we send our Amydala that memo? That's where our thoughts get involved (this is the Cognition part of that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - CBT for short - that is recommended to treat anxiety). The Amygdala is doing it's job and sending the Fear Signal that triggers Fight or Flight (or Freeze for some of us) and it is up to us to say "Whoa there! I do not smell smoke, and I don't feel the heat from a fire, so False Alarm and let's reset the system!". You see, it's not what is actually happening in our lives that upsets us or makes us feel miserable, it is how we think about those things that puts us off balance.
P.S. - Has anyone ever told you to "just breathe" when you were panicking? Did you want to punch them in the face? I understand AND the reason breathing is important is that a really deep breath is the signal to the Amygdala that the threat has passed. Think about that....the reason for the deep breath is to turn the whole alert system off...just sayin' maybe you could experiment with that whole "take a breath" thing...
The voice behind Auntie Anxiety is Lynn Dutrow, Courage Coach and Counselor
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