First off, Congratulations! You have officially survived the Holidays. I’m curious….did you do any thriving?
Maybe you were able to KISS your way through?
You accepted and embraced your annoying alcoholic brother in law (and were grateful that you don’t have to go home with him)? Did you take some time for self-care along the way? Now I know that you laughed at least once (or twice 😉), right?
Then congratulations are in order 🎉 You are taking some great new skills with you into 2018!
OK, so speaking of this transition from 2017 to 2018. Do you get caught up in the Hoopla around making resolutions? What is it about this time of year that gets us all wound up about making all kinds of changes, when we know damn well that we are just going to be beating ourselves up before we turn the calendar over to February 😳
I noticed that I was feeling totally overwhelmed yesterday morning as we were getting ready to take a family trip to the grocery store. When I stopped and took a moment (‘cause when I start to feel anxious and overwhelmed, I know that’s my cue to take a moment and check in with my Wise Mind) I had a light bulb moment! A friend had mentioned a book about detoxing and I had gotten it on my Kindle and started looking at recipes. As I was making my grocery list I was adding a shit ton of ingredients fo several of the recipes. Light bulb?
I was attempting to do “all the things” rather than just pick one (maybe two) recipes to test out.
How many times have you let Anxiety talk you into buying into the crazy notion that you can change “all the things” all at the same time? We make resolutions about our health (I’m going to eat better, go to they gym, get more sleep), our relationships (I’m going to stop yelling at my kids, have more sex with my husband, spend more quality family time), and our work life “balance” (I’m going to get my notes done by the end of each day, not be distracted by social media, set up better systems).
What happens next?
We get overwhelmed, throw up our hands, assume that we are a flawed human being, and spend the rest of the winter months back in survival mode and being grouchy and irritable with ourselves and our loved ones. We may even spend our time making excuses and blaming.
Anxiety loves this shit!
It revels in your misery because when you are feeling (and believing those feelings to be real) grouchy and irritable and believing the thought that you are a “failure” then Anxiety gets you all to itself. (OK, that may not be 100% true, because sometimes Anxiety will share you with it’s buddy Depression, especially this time of year 😔).
Anxiety loves to keep you stuck in old behavior patterns and when you buy into all of the insanity of resolutions and even goal setting this time of year, then you are just playing right into Anxiety's trap!
Now I know you are probably thinking, “What do you mean don’t set any goals? I have to have something to keep me going and motivated!” Please, hear me out.
Setting goals and intentions are great WHEN we do them mindfully. First off, pick one, maybe two new goals. All the research on habit change shows that human beings suck at changing more than one thing at a time.
Don’t expect yourself to be a superhuman, stick to whole-assing one new habit.
Once you pick the ONE goal or intention, then clearly define it. Look back at the examples of goals that I used a few paragraphs above. “Get more sleep” or “Not be distracted by social media”, or even “Have more sex with my husband” are just vague notions until you define them.
So let’s use one of these as an example so you can see what I am talking about. Of course I am going to pick that one that gets the most attention: “Have more sex with my husband” 😜.
Now, if I want a chance in hell of this being successful, then I have to spend a little time being mindful of a few things. First, I have to define my “Why?”. Why would I want to have more sex with my husband?
So what might seem like the obvious answer, “I like having sex with my husband”, is not going to cut it here. You have to go deeper. Why do I like having sex with my husband?
Now I am not going to go into all of the kinky details (I know you are disappointed 😜) because the deeper why has more to do with connection. Having more sex with my husband means taking the same 24 hours that I had available yesterday and deciding to reassign more of that time to spending time in an activity that connects me to the person that I love.
Damn! That’s some deep shit there….
Are you still with me? Now keep in mind that I am a perimenopausal woman who, on most days, would rather eat a cookie than put forth the effort to have sex.
This goal is going to take some work. Am I willing to put forth the effort? Am I willing to talk back to the excuses? Am I willing to do what it takes even when I “don’t feel like it”?
These are tough questions and when we are making resolutions and setting goals all willy nilly because that is what we are “supposed to do” this time year. Well, yeah, can you see how that just sets us up for failure? 🤔
So as you finish up this last day of 2017 and head into 2018, my suggestion is to choose one goal, and ask yourself “Why?”.
If I were to actually choose “Have more sex with my husband” as my goal this year (You are just dying to know if that is my actual goal, aren’t you? 😜) I would use that “Why” as my touch stone every time I didn’t feel like it, was making an excuse for myself, and didn’t want to make the effort.
I would also plan out some details that would support me along the way.
Changing our behavior and reaching our goals takes more than just saying. "I am going to do this thing." It takes planning and the willingness to make the effort whether you feel like it or not.
Using my example, I would consider times that might make it easier to be successful. This might mean thinking outside the box like, “Maybe I could wake him up in the middle of the night since we both get up to pee a bazillion times” or “let’s turn off our devices more often when our daughter goes to visit Gramma”.
Remember that Anxiety and it’s buddy Depression will come up with lots of excuses because they don’t want things to change. They think they are protecting you from getting your feelings hurt (“What if he rejects me?”) AND they don’t know how strong and determined you can me.
Maybe you don’t either…..yet 😉
Drop me a line and let me know if you are saying "Fuck Resolutions" this year or if you are going to choose one and go deep!
Are We Having Fun Yet?
So we are just about to the half way mark and I really want to know: Have you been keeping it simple and are you having any fun?
I have to talk to my Anxiety daily about scaling back and keeping focused on what’s really important this holiday season and the conversations are paying off.
Last evening we got caught in a clusterfuck of traffic heading to the Kris Kringle parade and before Anxiety could convince me to stay stuck, I chose to accept the situation and even embrace it! My daughter and I jumped out of the car (leaving my husband/chauffer to deal with the traffic) and got to the corner just as the first band was marching by. I even got a bonus for my effort as I stood behind a police car that was emitting a nice warm exhaust to warm my cold legs 😊
Even before we left for the parade I had a moment where things were getting complicated and I chose to KISS it! Friday evening traffic sucks on a regular Friday, but add another detour (we already have one and the second one was added when a trash truck tangled with the structural integrity of a bridge on the best alternative route we had 😳).
Our original plan included eating dinner in town. When I thought about KISSing dinner out good-bye my Anxiety jumped in with how disappointed my family might be. I KISSed them anyway and we ate leftovers AND the bonus was that my daughter actually thought it was “cool” that we were leaving out house after dinner to go on an adventure! It’s all about the perspective 😊
Today I joined my daughter outside to walk in the winter wonderland and even built a miniature version of Frosty. I could have made excuses using all of the things on my “To Do” list AND I chose to have fun instead. How are your conversations with Anxiety going?
In the spirt of keeping it simple, focusing on self-care, acceptance, lowering expectations, and filling the holidays with humor, I’m am going to keep it short and sweet today:
Go play in the snow, put on some Christmas music (or whatever music floats your boat), watch a parade (or participate in one!), watch silly movies on the Hallmark Channel, sit in front of the fire drinking your favorite warm beverage, discover a new holiday tradition, or participate in any number of holiday “opportunities” that bring you JOY and put you in a position to answer the question of “Are we having fun yet?” with a resounding “Hell Yes!" 😍😘
One Week Down, Three To Go...
How are you doing? We are 1/4 through dealing with the Holiday Hoopla and I know that you are hanging in there 😍 You and Anxiety have worked out the driving arrangements and you are enjoying your role as the designated driver 👍
Thanks so much to all of you who reached out and confirmed my suspicions that many of our Anxious Allies tend to roll toward the Introvert side of the equation🤩 Today I want to focus on more ways you can Keep It Simple (the best way to keep Anxiety from grabbing your wheel AND honor your Introverted nature) so that you can find more recharge time and actually enjoy the Holidays 😘
So last year around this time my daughter begged me to get one of those Gingerbread House building kits. I am not what you might call “crafty” and this was not on my "list of things to do" AND she wore me down. We had done one the year before and she was insistent that she wanted to do another one. I gave in and we brought it home and she went to work. About 3/4 of the way through I noticed that she wasn’t looking so good. She had been eating about as many of the “blocks” (cookies) as she had been using to build the house. I stepped up my game in the builder's assistant role and we managed to finish it off, but she was not a happy camper. The “bug” that was going around school had landed 🤢
Sound familiar? We make all of these grand plans for how the holidays are going to be jam packed with decorating and shopping and parties and all around Hoopla and we just end up stressing ourselves into sickness, which sends us scrambling to figure out Plan B😳 (oh, and Anxiety loves to stand on the side and say shit like "See I told you! You can't handle all of this. This is a nightmare. Everyone will be disappointed and it's all your fault!").
Yeah, remember Anxiety is always looking for ways to use our insecurities against us 😠. This time of year it is even more important to step up our self care game, lower our expectations, accept whatever is actually happening (vs. getting stuck in what we expect to be happening) and to use humor to keep Anxiety from being able to use our content to send us careening off track!
Well, the kind of funny ending to the story is that somehow my daughter ended up associating the smell of the Gingerbread House with sickness and she banished it! We attempted to put it upstairs near the tree and she was having none of it, so outside it went! Just like that her obsession with Gingerbread Houses was over and out 😬
Now if my daughter were some sort of Frank Lloyd Wright in the Gingerbread House world, we would figure out how to move past her avoidance of gingerbread house smells; however, lucky for me, she is not AND our lives are simpler this year. That’s why this “recipe” is perfect for our family:
Now I want to be crystal clear here, I am not telling you to throw out all the fun and traditions and sit at home in your cave until January 2nd 😳. I am suggesting that you choose to focus on the activities of the season that speak to you, not the ones that you think you "should" do or are "supposed to do". Step back, take inventory, and then make a plan (that you write in pencil, 'cause you want to be flexible like that 😉) for focusing on what is really important to you!
I was sharing this concept with a client this week and she shared that she had enjoyed Christmas Day last year as it was spent just with her husband and kids without all of the rushing around to be with extended family (they did that on other days) AND she didn't put pressure on herself to host and therefore took the pressure off of herself to put out the perfect spread!
Just as quickly as I had seen her light up as we talked about what she actually wanted to do (make her favorite meal), I watched her energy drop as she "shoulded" on herself by feeling obligated to invite extended family this year 😔
How did we transform this? By deciding that most of the day (and the meal) would be for she and her husband and kids AND that extended family would be invited for dessert 🤔😍🎉
Keeping it simple can still mean enjoying lots of our favorite traditions, we just have to focus on what they are and be creative in how they fit together to create those "win-win" situations that we all love to be part of 😍
How are you K.I.S.S.in' it this season? Share in the comments 😍😘
How Do You Charge Your Battery?
So how did Thanksgiving go? Any great stories to share? Did Anxiety show up for you or anyone else at the dinner table? Did you recognize it? Did you kick it’s ass?
Our Thanksgiving Day went well. The cold that my daughter had been working so hard to share with me all week decided to park itself in my throat, so I decided to embrace it and be grateful that all of the prior planning and communication allowed the day to run very smoothly without a lot of energy expenditure on my part. I chose to sit back and listen to the stories rather than be the story teller. Our group (which is a mix of family and friends) has done this dance for a few years now and it was amazing to watch each member execute their contribution (the gravy maker arriving just as the turkey was being prepped for carving and capturing it’s savory juices) and how it all came together like a well rehearsed ballet 😊
Being sick is a time for me to put the brakes on and to spend more quiet time reflecting. While I “missed out” on a few things over the weekend, it gave me pause to consider that I can get easily overwhelmed this time of year. There is a lot of “hustle and bustle” associated with he holiday season. Time with family and friends, the incessant advertisements, Santa’s arrival, tree hunting, decorating, parties (and we have two birthdays to throw into the already busy season 😳), and our own expectations of what “should” get done can be completely overwhelming 😳
For those who tend toward the more extroverted end of the spectrum, this time of year with all of it’s busyness and social interaction must seem like an endless source of energy. For those of us who tend more toward the introverted end, this time of year can leave us wanting to crawl in a hole and hibernate 😬
So what do you know about being Introverted vs. Extroverted? The first time that I took the MBTI (Meyer’s Briggs Type Indicator) Personality Test, when I was in college, the one clear indicator (it was not middle of the road like the others were) of the four aspects that the test measures, was on the Introvert vs. Extrovert scale. I was full on Introvert! According to the MBTI, this aspect of our personality measures whether we prefer to live in the outer world (Extroverts) or our Inner World (Introverts).
It wasn’t until years later that I heard this explained better by using the “How do you charge your battery?” explanation. Do you get recharged and energized by being around other people or do you need quiet time (in your own head) to process and recharge?
OK, so if you are now saying to yourself, “What the fuck are you talking about and what does this have to do with Anxiety?”, bear with me 😉
Over the years as I have worked with more and more people who struggle with constant worry, perfectionism, sensitivities, feeling like an imposter, obsessions, fears, and all of the other fun stuff that is associated with Anxiety, I have noticed that many of them have a history of feeling like something is “wrong” with them for wanting to slow down, to do one social activity a day (rather than 3 or 4), or for despising the small talk that is associated with large social situations. When I ask them whether they identify as more introverted or extroverted, many have either not heard of these strange terms, or they say “I’m not shy” (a misconception about being more introverted).
Once we explore this aspect of their personality a little more deeply, I have watched the lines of worry on their faces give way to glimmer of hope in their eyes. They start to nod their head and their shoulders relax as the Rubik’s Cube in their head clicks into place. I love watching people discover a piece of information that allows them to understand and even accept themselves at least a little bit better than the moment before that information was shared 😍. It’s part of the reason that I do what I do!
So what do you think? Does this time of year overwhelm you and leave you either 1) thinking there is something “wrong” with you for not wanting to participate in every party and activity possible or 2) praying for a snowstorm so you can have an excuse for staying home and hibernating? Consider whether you might tend more toward the Introvert side of the equation and give yourself permission to take some time each day to recharge your battery. Introverts are not anti-social, we just have to plan for how we share our energy with others AND how we can get some quiet time to recharge our batteries.
I will be revisiting and expanding on this next week, so tune in “same bat time, same bat channel” 😊
Will you do me a favor? Hit reply and let me know where you fall on the Introvert - Extrovert scale. Do you identify strongly with one or the other? Do you fall near the middle and see yourself as an Ambivert (a mix of both)? I wanna know 😍😘
So frequently when I am talking to clients (or friends, or family, or complete strangers 😳) they will respond to something I’ve said with “I never thought of it that way”! For example, I was doing a workshop on Work Stress and a woman was telling the story of being at the end of her work day and looking through classrooms for an item that she had misplaced earlier in the day, when she happened upon a student who was hiding under a desk. 😬
In her story she was focused on how challenging it was to find someone to help her figure out who was supposed to be responsible for the student. This is totally understandable and definitely stress inducing when you think of all of the “outside” influences like how you are not getting paid enough, how other co-workers attitudes suck, and that you are just plain tired (to name a few!).
However, one thing that I know to be true is that if you take just a moment and look for the opportunity for what to be grateful for, you can decrease your stress by dealing with your “inside” stuff. Who wants to guess what I pointed out to her that I was grateful for in her story (and that left her saying, “I didn’t think of it that way!”)? If you guessed (or knew) that the answer was “I’m grateful that you happened to have lost an item and were in that room looking for it at exactly the moment that the student was in need of assistance!” then give yourself a gold star and move to the head of the class 😉
Yep, good ol’ fashioned Gratitude (you know that word everyone throws around like confetti this time of year 😜) is one of the best ways to flip your Anxiety on it’s head! Anxiety gets fed when you over focus on the external (outside) events rather than focusing on how you perceive (look at it from the inside) the event. When you choose to look for at least one thing to be grateful for when something “bad” or challenging (or that you just plain ol’ don’t like 🙄) then you can put Anxiety on a diet!
Here is another example that is playing out as I type this: I get up early (even on Sunday morning 😳) because, to me, having my quiet time is sacred. You know those memes about people who you are not supposed to talk to until they have had a certain amount of coffee? Well my quiet time is just like that!
So the external (outside) event going on is that my daughter has decided to invade my morning quiet time. Not just a quiet interruption near the end of my time….we are talking full on invasion 😳 She used to get up and come out near the end and I had figured out how to deal with that, but this weekend she has gotten up almost at the same time that I have (which is a good hour before I “expected” her!). This has been building since the time change and we even moved her bedtime back by 1/2 hour to see if we could handle it as a “win-win” situation (she wins by getting to be a “big girl” with a later bedtime and I win by not having to get up at 3:00AM just to get some quiet time 😂). Great idea, in theory, but it is not playing out, at least not at the moment 🙄
So what are my options? I can be really pissy and irritable and carry that into the day. Anxiety loves this approach 😜 Remember that Anxiety wants you all to itself, so the more that it can fuck with your relationships with others, the happier it is 🙄 The approach that I am currently using (and believe me folks, I sometimes default to the former…) is to set some boundaries with her (“no, you may not watch TV” and “no, you may not type on my laptop” and “yes, you can type on the old laptop while you sit quietly next to me”) and then do a whole lot of self talk around what I am grateful for 😍
I am grateful that I even have a child to drive me batty! I was 41 years old when I got married for the first and only time (yeah, that’s another story for another day 🤣) and just shy of 43 when my daughter came along. While being a mom is by far the hardest job I have ever had (and that’s saying something as I used to work at a psychiatric hospital and I saw and experienced some shit 😬), it is also, by far, the most rewarding. When you have a teacher in your presence for as much time as we are together, it can be intense. When I told her that I was feeling challenged by this new behavior of her “invading” my quiet time, her response was “Good, having challenges helps you to have a better life” 😳😬😂 Speak the truth sister!
So this morning I am choosing to focus on being grateful that not only do I have a child to drive me batty, but that she is strong willed, intelligent, sarcastic, creative, tenacious, and a damn fine teacher 😍. She keeps me on my toes and calls me on my bullshit! She makes me want to beat my head against a wall and she makes me laugh until my stomach hurts! I am grateful for all of the mistakes that I can turn into opportunities. I am grateful that I have a story to share with you this morning 😊
As we head into Thanksgiving week, consider whether Anxiety talks you into getting stuck in the external events like how obnoxious your brother-in-law is or whether your pumpkin pie is going to be perfect and see what you can do to change your internal perception 🤔 Do your best to Flip it to something like: “Thank goodness I’m not married to this bozo, I only have to deal with him once in awhile” and “thankfully my family is a bunch of pigs so that pumpkin pie is going to be devoured in about 5 seconds flat so who cares what it looks like”!
OK, so my examples are purposefully over the top to prove a point. No matter the situation, you can always find at least one thing (even if it is totally inappropriate, but funny as shit) to be grateful for. Remember that Humor will get you far as you deal with family this Holiday Season 😉
Why Groups? (Part 2)
Wow! You are awesome 😍 You gave me some great feedback about my Why Groups? (Part 1)!
One of the loud and clear messages was how we have become a society that perceives ourselves as “brave”, but who use the “easy way” of texting or e-mail to avoid what we worry will be awkward situations. Anxiety has definitely sold us the message that one of our top priorities is to be comfortable! This message is what drives us to avoid uncomfortable situations like the plague 😳
Anxiety is such a tricky bitch! We have to keep that in mind and often “do the opposite”. When it tells us to avoid, it is important for us to step up and deal with whatever is going on. When it tells us to just send a text message rather than call (so we can avoid uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, and situations) then it’s important for us to pick up the phone (or even show up in person 😬).
I know, I know….I may have just crossed a line. Are you still reading? You didn’t run screaming from the room with your Anxiety yelling, “See I told you she was crazy!”? 🤣 Just kidding, I know you are still here, and I know this because I know that you know that doing the hard stuff is the only way to deal with Anxiety and to actually live your life (as opposed to being frozen in your fear and staying stuck in sticky situations by not taking effective action)!
This is not new information. I have shared this before: Anxiety tells us to be Certain and Comfortable. Both of these are illusions. We can be relatively certain of some things some times, but not about all things all of the time. We can also be relatively comfortable some of the time, but are definitely not meant to be comfortable all of the time.
We also have to learn to tolerate and even (gulp 😬) expect and want to feel our fear response. This is where our overactive Anxiety jumps into the fray and convinces us that we are not capable of tolerating our feelings of fear and so we do all kinds of crazy and isolating things to avoid feeling fear!
Anxiety convinces us to control our impulses, and that can be a pretty smart decision if your impulse is to jump off of a cliff 😳. However, when Anxiety convinces us to control our impulse to be in a room with other people (unless we have definite knowledge that those people are hungry cannibals 😬) then it is over doing it’s job to control our impulses. We have to work to remind ourselves that Anxiety is overreacting (again 🙄) and that we are going to choose to be part of the group even if it is uncomfortable. Nothing gets easier unless we 1) practice and 2) are willing to accept that yes, there may be uncomfortable and even (gasp!) embarrassing moments!
Society and technology have done a bang up job of feeding our Anxiety. Again, I am not bashing technology. As a tool it absolutely has benefits for making lots of tasks simpler and easier AND we have to remember that, for those of us who tend to have overactive Anxiety, we may have to consciously choose to go “old school” at times and actually put ourselves in less comfortable situations if what we really choose is to live our lives rather than spending so much of our time avoiding it! I appreciate being able to show up in your inbox every week without having to hand write an individual note and show up on your doorstep to deliver the message AND I also appreciate how valuable face to face interaction is for all of us 😍
On my Facebook Business page (“What? You haven’t “Liked” my FB Auntie Anxiety page yet?" Well here’s a link: Auntie Anxiety) I have recently been “Liked” by another business page called Solution to Panic Attack. I don’t know the people behind this page and yet they keep commenting on my posts with messages like "Let us join in the fight against anxiety or panic disorder” and "Its our collective responsibility to support one another . No to anxiety or panic disorder!." I suspect they are actually attempting to get my followers to go to their page AND while their messages are odd relative to my posts (they are not directly commenting about my content, but about Anxiety in general), their message does have value. It is important for us to “support one another" and deal with all of the scary, uncertain, and uncomfortable stuff that life throws at us AND to learn more effective ways to deal with Anxiety so that we can live our lives to the fullest!
So figure out where you are going to get support for living your life to the fullest. Is it to go to the gym, join a team or book club, participate in the PTA at your child’s school, reconnect with friends, take a class, form a group, or find a support group? The key is not so much what the group is about, it is that you find a community where you can find connection and a place to work on those skills that Anxiety would rather you not practice 🙄.
Why Groups? (Part 1)
While sharing with my coach the challenges I have met with filling my groups, she pointed out that “we” (meaning the average person living in the United States) are not a “group culture”. I thought about this for a moment (she is very wise and I often take pause to consider the truth bombs she drops for me 😉) and realized that she had a valid point! While I believe that, on some level, we crave being part of a group or community, we also have a sub-conscious belief that we are supposed to be strong and independent. Being part of a group vs. being strong and independent 🤔 that sounds like a bit of a conundrum...
At first glance those would seem like two opposing thoughts, diametrically opposed if you will, AND YET, what if that is where the challenge lies? What if the key is that we have not yet learned that it is not an "either/or" situation but rather a "yes/and” conundrum?
What if we human beings get stuck in feeling like we have to choose to be either strong and independent OR part of a larger group AND what if the way to move forward is to learn how to embrace BOTH?
While, at times (and I know I have mentioned this before 😳), getting anxious folks to commit to and walk into a group situation can feel more challenging than herding cats! Once they settle in, though, I hear comments like “it feels good to know that I am not alone” and “when I find myself in a stressful situation I think about what other members of the group might say and I feel better”.
No matter how shy, sensitive, introverted, grouchy, or fiercely independent we may be (did any of those describe you? I just reread them and definitely a few of them apply to me 😜) , we are, in fact, social creatures. We want to “belong”. It is a biological imperative. We are not meant to be in complete isolation and are, in fact, dependent on others for lots of things.
So how did we get this subconscious idea that we can do it alone? From lots of different little messages along the way. Our parents, teachers, coaches, and any number of “authority” figures probably encouraged you to stand out in the crowd in some way ( be tougher, smarter, more talented) and to some degree those are noble pursuits AND they are not the whole picture. This is where the “AND” part comes in to play. We seem to have lost sight that just because we can be individuals it does not mean we have to sacrifice the belonging to the group along the way.
Of course a majority of it comes from Anxiety telling us that our #1 priority is a tie between being comfortable and being certain. This is the part that I want to address today. When Anxiety is in our ear it is important to remember that it wants you to make it’s job easier. If you go out into the world and interact with other people you 1) make it’s job harder as it now actually has to be part of your survival system and do it’s real job and send you signals if there is any danger - it would much rather you stay at home and isolate yourself (or just have you hang out with mom and dad ‘cause they are safe 🙄) because then it has your full attention, AND 2) you might actually find out that Anxiety lies to other people and those other people might actually support you in talking back to your Anxiety (and that would totally suck for Anxiety 😳😂).
As technology makes our day to day lives easier, it makes truly connecting to others harder. We can hide in our “virtual world” because it seems safer. Notice how I used the word “seems”. Yeah, Anxiety will convince you that playing it safe and only interacting with others virtually (where you can edit what you type, leave a chat mid sentence with minimal repercussions, and simply “ghost” someone if you get “too anxious”) is the way to go.
Along this line I had an interesting conversation with a dear friend who suggested that offering my groups virtually might be a way to get teens to participate. She shared that she felt her own teens would be “more comfortable” sharing their fears and challenges with an online group as they wouldn’t have to be concerned that their classmates or neighborhood friends would be part of the group (which would mean they want to avoid possible embarrassment). At first I was intrigued by this idea, AND what came to me, though, was that this might just be another way that Anxiety would seek reassurance that all is safe and comfortable. Say it with me folks: “Anxiety is a Liar” and “Reassurance doesn’t work”!
Now don’t get me wrong, technology and the virtual world can make our lives easier and help us to connect in a lot of ways. I have had clients who could not get to my office and they were able to keep their appointments because of technology. I much prefer “seeing” my clients (or friends for that matter 😉) when I am talking to them (rather than simply by phone) as it gives me opportunity to read facial expressions and gestures. Technology can allow me these options. What technology lacks, though, is the deeper connection. The ability to feel the energy of the person in the same room.
So I just realized how verbose I am being with this topic, so I have decided to make this a multiple Part Series so that I can really explore this concept of what I am going to now call Community. The less we have Community in our lives, the more Anxious we have become.
I am going to take a break here and let you sit with this.
Will you do me a favor? Click the Comment button and tell me what you think (if you don't want to share publicly, feel free to shoot me an email instead 😊). Do you use technology to “play it safe”? I want to know what you think about how Anxiety and our not being a “Group Culture” intersect. Tell me about your experiences with being connected and having Community (either in person or virtual).
From "Thing" to "thing"...
Do you have a particular worry that has somehow become a “Thing”? One of my “Things” has to do with getting my picture taken. I don’t remember exactly when it started. I do remember loving to go through our family’s photo albums and seeing all of the goofy pictures of my parents from before I was even a glimmer in their eyes 😉and I even liked looking at the pictures of myself when I was little. Somewhere along the line, though, I decided that I didn’t like having my picture taken. Maybe I went through a stage where I was self-conscious, maybe I overheard someone make a comment about a particular picture, maybe my own inner critic was the one whispering judgments in my ear. Wherever and whenever it started, my dislike of posing for and seeing myself in pictures grew into a “Thing”.
Anxiety likes to take our content (the things that bother us or get our attention…the things that have meaning for us) and use it against us. Remember that Anxiety’s job is to protect us and it will go all CIA psychological warfare on us when it thinks that we may be going outside of the comfort (safe) zone! For me Anxiety thinks that keeping me in the shadows and out of the “pictures” is the way to keep me safe….so having my picture taken became a “Thing”.
Here’s the thing about “Things”. We can know in our “logical” mind that our thoughts about our “Thing” are illogical ("it’s just a fucking picture, who cares” 🙄), others can reassure us until the cows come home (“OMG, you look so beautiful, what a great picture” 😳), and we might even have a part of ourselves that kind of wants to be in the spotlight (as long as we can be assured or “make sure" that all of the pictures will only show off our “best side” 😬). For those of us with Overactive Anxiety, none of the logical thoughts or reassurances from others or even our own desire to do something may be enough to demote the “Thing” from big, bad, and scary back to just a “thing" that we can do with ease.
Are you relating here? What is your “thing"? What is a “thing” with your loved one that drives you nuts? Those of us who deal with Overactive Anxiety know that “things” can be pretty tough to deal with. Some people have a “Thing” around dogs, or going to school, or driving on the highway. Others may have a “Thing” around spiders, or cleanliness, or an inability to make a decision. Sometimes the “Thing” keeps us from living our lives fully. It keeps us busy paying attention to or avoiding the “Thing” and that keeps us from fully engaging in our work, play, or social situations.
Yeah, so my “Thing” with getting my picture taken isn’t huge. I’ve found ways around it at times, like creating Auntie Anxiety and using my logo picture for advertising purposes AND I decided that I wasn’t going to let my “Thing” (which is really Anxiety in disguise) get the better of me. So what did I do? I met my “Thing” head on and I got my picture taken. And then I did things like Facebook Lives and even Selfies on Instagram and Facebook.
So what do we do to deal with the “Things” in our lives? We expose ourselves to them. Yep, there is no magic wand or fairy dust folks! You decide that the “Thing” is only a “Thing” because Anxiety has convinced you of such and then you decide to do the “Thing” over, and over, and over again, until it goes from being a “Thing” to just being a “thing”.
A better story about dealing with a “Thing” would be my Mouse story. The short version is that my mom had a phobia about mice (her “Thing”). I know where it came from. She was the oldest and her younger sisters knew she didn’t like mice and rats, so they would catch them and put them in the feed bin (they grew up on a dairy farm) and then stand back and watch my mom “freak out” when she put her hand in and found the “surprise” inside 😳
Growing up I remember sitting on the kitchen table with my mom until my dad came home because she was afraid of the mouse that had come in by the dishwasher. So whether it was my own fear of mice or I picked it up environmentally, mice became my “Thing”. Fortunately my dad was always around to take care of the little critters. That is until I lived on my own. My journey toward dealing with my “Thing” about mice started when I lived in an old apartment and over one week at Christmas time we caught 13 mice (a family that had taken up residence in our kitchen) 😬. When I say “we”I really mean my father, brother, my roommate’s father and brother, and at least two of our male neighbors and friends 🙄. I stayed out of the kitchen that week. The living room seemed like a good place to hang out and make phone calls when I would hear the trap snap 😳
Fast forward to me buying my first house, finding the pantry to be party central for mice, and having a heart to heart with my Anxiety when I finally decided that I was a Big Girl and that calling my daddy every time I found a mouse in my house seemed over the top ridiculous. If I could own a house, I could figure out how to deal with my mouse “Thing”! So I got started. I bought a plastic trap so I wouldn’t snap my own fingers in it (OK, truth be told I started with having a conversation with the mice about how I was totally cool with them living outside, but that they just were not welcome inside…), and put peanut butter on the trap. When I came home that day it took me at least an hour to decide to look in the panty. Yep, there was a mouse in the trap. It probably took me another hour to decide I was ready to deal with it. I think the first trap ended up in the trash along with the mouse (there was a thick plastic bag involved in the picking up of the mouse and trap). At some point buying new traps got expensive, so I finally dealt with picking up the trap and just letting the mouse drop into the bag. Eventually (there were a lot of mice who wanted to party in my pantry until I met my husband and he figured out how to insulate it better!) my mouse “Thing” was reduced to just and annoying “thing” that I had to deal with every once in awhile.
On some level I appreciate all of the mice who sacrificed themselves by not listening to my plea to just live outside. They helped me to deal with my “Thing”. Do I still do a little dance (which is sometimes accompanied by a little bit of a scream) if a mouse comes within a 10 foot radius of me? Yep. Am I thrilled that my 15 year old car has, on occasion, been party central for our woodland mice when it is cold (and my daughter has left food in the car)? Nope. I don’t have to like mice, I just have to deal with them so that they are no longer a “Thing” that gets in my way of living my life on my terms 😊
What is one “Thing” that you are ready to demote to just a “thing” in your life? You can do this! You don’t have to like it and it will be uncomfortable AND you can have a heart to heart with your Anxiety and start taking the steps to demote your “Thing” back to just a “thing” 😍😘
Once again we (a collective society “we”) are in a position of scratching our heads and asking “Why?” or “What the Fuck?” 😳 Of course we want answers. Answers to our mind’s questions allow us to feel more secure. If we can just understand why, then we can stop feeling uncomfortable and scared. It’s pretty cool that our brains are set up this way. It encourages us to innovate and create. We aspire to know why and then use that information to make things “better” and “safer”.
Unfortunately if Anxiety jumps too far into the game (as it does for those of us who tend to be “sensitive”, “nervous”, “anxious”, or even “empathic”), we get stuck in seeking answers and it can stop us from moving forward in our lives. Did you spend any time last week glued to the news? Did it keep you from getting what you wanted to done? Did it help you feel better? When shit happens (and it does happen on a regular basis) we can hardly help ourselves, but to get sucked in.
You know that the media has made it an art form to present the “news” in ways that purposefully target you psychologically so that you feel compelled to keep watching, right? They have people who get paid big bucks to figure out how to keep you watching, because they have advertisers who pay them big bucks to get in front of your faces (and into your heads) because they want your money. They have products and services that will make you feel more comfortable and safe, or, at the very least, will distract you from all of the pain and suffering in the world. What a bunch of crap! 🙄
See the media knows that what gets our attention in the fast way possible is to trigger our Fear and Anxiety 😳 Did it work? Did you turn on a news source to get answers (so that you could feel better, right?) only to get sucked into a range of emotions that only triggered more Anxiety? Did Anxiety pull out the “What if…?” Game and set up the pieces for a marathon game with you? Folks, it’s time to learn how to step away from the media frenzy and back into your life!
So how does this work? Well, the first step is to accept that shit happens. Shit has been happening since the dawn of time. It is part of the cycle of life. We are not going to be happy and there are not going to be rainbows and sunshine and roses every moment of every day. The first step in dealing with any of the shit that happens (either to others or to ourselves) is accepting that it has happened. It is our denial and resistance to this fact (that shit has, in fact, happened) that feeds our Anxiety.
I know what you are saying, “Wow, thanks Auntie Anxiety, I was actually in a good mood this morning and you just shit all over it 😩”. Bear with me folks, it does get better….
So, let’s say that we accept this idea of accepting that shit happens. Let’s examine this a moment. You know those things I mentioned, rainbows and sunshine and roses? They all exist because of clouds and rain and have thorns to remind us that nothing is without it’s opposite. Some of the worst storms leave us with destruction, but also the stories of just how compassionate and strong we human beings can be when we are pushed to what feels like our limits.
What I am about to say is not new. We’ve all heard it before (Mr. Rogers)….AND it bears repeating: When shit happens, look for the helpers and look for ways to help. Spending time stuck to the media circus is not helping you or anyone else. So stay focused on all of the people who listened to their instinct and did their best under those terrifying circumstances. In the moment Fear and Anxiety do their actual job and work together for your survival. It’s how we are built.
Sitting in front of your computer or TV your Anxiety has a party, winding you up and fooling you into believing that you would not know what to do, and that you would not survive if you were to find yourself in such a horrific situation. I call Bullshit on your Anxiety. It has no fucking clue as to what you would actually do in such a situation.
Folks, you are way stronger than you can even imagine. Anxiety’s job is to protect you and the easiest way to do that is to convince you to stay stuck in one place and the way to keep you stuck is to convince you that you are not competent or capable of surviving. So we buy into Anxiety’s Bullshit and put up our walls and “make sure” to set up our routines and fill our lives with stuff that helps us feel “comfortable” and then we just exist. Really? 🤔
So, if you are ready to call Bullshit on your Anxiety, then I encourage you to Lean In. Shift your focus from the “news” to the helpers and then see what you feel drawn to do to be a helper yourself. Figure out what calls you and then take action, without excuses. Whenever tragedy strikes there are plenty of organizations that could use donations of time, money, or particular items (Brene’ Brown supports Undies for Everyone). Pick an organization and then take action.
For those of you who read the guide, this is all part of the getting ALIGNED with your Anxiety process. Accept, Lean In, Ignite, Get Out There, No Excuses! Taking Action is one of the best ways to get unstuck and move forward. The people who are experiencing these tragedies do not need your sympathy or anxiety. Empathy and Action are what bind us together and allow us to make changes and move forward.
(Auntie Anxiety steps down from soapbox….for now…)
Do you ever find yourself feeling almost paralyzed when you are faced with making a decision? Does Anxiety get in your ear and play the "What if...?" game using every possible choice you are considering and coming up with a list a mile long of why that choice is not the "right" one?
Challenges with indecision and feeling stuck are some of the most common complaints that I hear from my chronic worriers and anxious clients.
Oh Anxiety, what silly games you play 🙄
Here's the deal, one of the tactics that Anxiety uses to convince you to get your panties in a wad (have you ever been able to get much done when your underwear was bunched up? I thought not 😉) is this idea (technically this is a cognitive distortion) that there is an absolute right and an absolute wrong. Folks, I am not here to get into some deep moral discussion about right and wrong. I am, however, going to share my take on why assuming that there is a "right" and "wrong" choice when you are makng a decision is keeping you stuck, and, most often, miserable!
Guess what? Decisions are just decisions. If you decide and then want to make a different decision, have at it. Will it possibly be more difficult or require some extra work on your part? Possibly...AND that is where the rubber meets the road! Being willing to make a decision and then make another decision if the first one is not working out. THERE ARE NO RIGHT OR PERFECT DECISIONS! I have made plenty of decisions that may have worked out for awhile, until they stopped working out, in which case I made another decision!
See Anxiety has you convicnced that if you just make the "right" decision the first time that you will be certain and comfortable for the rest of your life....yeah, I call bullshit on that one! Decisions are just decisions and the more we make then the better we are at just going with our gut AND being willing to change course when we get more information that guides us in a different direction.
Remember that Anxiety wants to keep us in the future and convince us that we can somehow predict and respond without actually having all of the information. Guess what? You do not need ALL of the information, only what is in front of you. Stay in the present and use the information you have to make the best decision you can in the moment AND remember that you can change your mind and change course whenever you want!
Here is a post that I made on Facebook this week that speaks to how decisions are not set in stone and the best thing we can do for ourselves is to be as flexible as possible as we move forward:
"So Sometimes in life you find yourself at a fork in the road and initially you think you are going to go right and then something else pops up and you decide to go left instead….
This summer we had made plans for getting our Anxiously Empowered Teen group back up and running and adding a group for Tweens. You see, all Spring when I had a Teen group running, I kept getting parents and grandparents who wanted a group for their Tweens and I wasn’t in a position to offer one at the time. So we planned and advertised and the Teen group got started, but the Tween group didn’t end up with anyone signed up 😳 The folks who were interested in the Spring were not availabe this time around. So I sat with this dilemma 🤔
A couple of days ago while I was meeting with a college aged client, she shared that she really wished that there was a support group for Anxiety so that she could practice some of the skills she was learning in her sessions….BOOM 💥 There it was….the opportunity to go left instead of right!
Turns out, when I mentioned it to two other young adult clients, they were interested too 🎉
So here’s what’s happening: We have ourselves a Anxiously Empowered Young Adults Group forming right now (no time like the present to jump on this gift from the Universe 🎁).”
Now, if you are one of the folks who has a Tween and are suddenly gasping for air thinking that there will never be a Tween group, that you have lost your chance….please take a deep breath and know that if and when your Tween is ready for a group, we will make it happen. For now, though, I am going to take my own advice and move forward with a different decision than what I originally would happen and work with those that the Universe has placed in my path at this time.
You see, this Young Adult group, which I had thought about previously, but was unclear as to how to go about offering, fills another gap that I had in our services. I guess the Universe was ready for the gap to be filled and so it asked me to turn left instead of right….and I have simply chosen to take that left turn rather than holding on to some idea that the right turn I originally planned on was the “right” choice.
The voice behind Auntie Anxiety is Lynn Dutrow, Courage Coach and Counselor
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