Anxiety

Anxiety: Modern Tool of Survival

Hand pointing at a Anxiety word illustration on blue background.

Now that I finally have my computer up and running again, I have been thinking about the things I wanted to share with you in this blog and I decided that I wanted to explore various aspects of anxiety. Anxiety shows up so much in my practice; it’s clear that a great many people struggle with anxiety in some form or another.

New Anxiety Tool

A while back I completed a program to become proficient in another hypnosis tool, which is called the “Rewind Technique”. This is a tool specifically developed for the treatment of trauma and PTSD. It also is useful for treating anxiety, phobia, and some OCD.

Anxiety Is EveryWhere

I have recently worked with clients bothered by PTSD, nail biting, smoking, social anxiety, and several other forms of anxiety-related problems. I had the wonderful experience of using Rewind recently to help a sweet young woman deal with a traumatic sexual assault from her past. At the beginning of our session she could not even mention what it was that she wanted to rewind. However, by the end of the session she was smiling and commenting that she felt calm and could think about the experience without the distress she has felt every day since it happened. The event was fully de-traumatized for her. Pretty impressive for a single session’s work.

New Series on Anxiety

That experience cinched it for me: I’ll spend the next several blogs sharing aspects of anxiety, the disorders it causes, and ways to deal with it. Join me for this enlightening series. If you have symptoms of anxiety that prevent you from enjoying the life you want to lead, call me to set up an appointment. You don’t have to live with the effects of anxiety for the rest of your life.

             Call now 801-494-7612

Be B.R.A.V.E. to Stop Anxiety

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Hope4theheartalways.com

Everyday I work with clients who suffer with anxiety issues. They come to see me with symptoms ranging from nervousness, shortness of breath, and fears to a racing pulse, heavy sweating, feelings of doom, and a great urgency to avoid whatever it is they perceive as the problem. In a word, anxiety. My treatment is often to ask them to be B.R.A.V.E. No, I am not asking them to pluck up their courage and face the terror that confronts them.

B.R.A.V.E.  is an acronym used to describe several cognitive behavioral therapy methods for coping with anxiety.

Each letter of the acronym B.R.A.V.E. stand for a specific way of approaching anxiety to lessen its grip. Think of a tool chest with many different tools in it. Sure if you are pounding nails it’s good to have a hammer, but what if you need to place some screws? Then you need a screw driver. I like to help my clients develop as many tools as possible because no one method works for every person- in every situation- all the time. So let’s look at the  B.R.A.V.E. ways of treating anxiety.

B

The B stands for body symptoms like a racing heart, shortness of breath, or sweating. Physical symptoms are always a good place to start because coming from the body they will always tell you the truth and suggest a quick way to deal with the problem. Diaphragmatic breathing, postural changes, a drink of water, and movement all can affect the physical aspects of your anxiety.

R

The R in B.R.A.V.E. stands for relaxation. Most relaxation techniques will decrease anxiety; some are easier to learn than others. Some are great to do when you’re alone and not so great when you are in public. So it’s a good idea to have a variety of relaxation methods such as guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, and breath work. And the neat thing about breath work is that it can’t NOT work. It is a biological response that all mammalian bodies have neurologically built in.

A

Another very effective management tool for anxiety is acceptance, the A of B.R.A.V.E. This fall under a category of psych-education. I help my clients understand that the harder they “try to avoid” the anxiety the more anxious they will feel, but acceptance can actually “cure” the anxiety. For example, if you know that every time you go into Wal-mart you feel increased anxiety, and you are able to accept that you are going to feel some anxiety and that it’s OK because your anxiety will not harm you, then you can go to Wal-mart with (reduced) anxiety simply because you are willing to accept having the sensations and beliefs that go with it. Over time, the acceptance continues to reduce the level of anxiety until it is no longer a problem.

V

V stands for viewpoint. A simple way of explaining this one is that we want to move toward relaxation versus moving away from anxiety. It is a small change in your perspective. However, chances are you have been told at some point to “just clear your mind of the troubling fears” or “push those thoughts out of your mind”. Those well-meaning suggestions rarely work, but look at it from a slightly different direction: try gently shifting your attention to the floor or chair beneath you, noticing the sights and sounds around you, imagining your lungs calmly breathing slowly and deeply in and out. Can you see how much more effective it is to not charge straight on at your anxiety like a bull at red flag?

E

Finally, the E stands for exposure and here you finally get to face your anxieties. There are two basic types of exposure: imaginal and real exposure. Imaginal exposure consists of thinking of an image of the feared person, place, thing, or situation. Or it may involve looking at photos, drawings, cartoons or other images. Real exposure is obviously actually having some form of personal contact with the cause of your anxiety. Anxieties that require the use of exposure, real or imaginal, may need the help of a profession to deal with them effectively, but the process of exposure should always be approached gradually, gently, and from a position of the least anxiety producing to the greatest.

Just knowing the acronym B.R.A.V.E. won’t take away your anxiety but it may help to give you hope that there are many, many techniques and tools to help you manage your anxieties. If you have tried on your own without the degree of success you want, consider seeing a counselor. Anxiety is the #1 mental health affliction in America and it is also a highly treatable problem. Don’t suffer another day.

Give me a call and let’s work on helping you find your peace.

Reduce Your Holiday Stress

The leaves have turned, the first football games have come and gone. Fall just fell and the holidays will soon be upon us.  Everywhere you look you see the signs as we slide toward the end of the year. This time of year seems to move faster than any other and as the pace of the year passing seems to quicken, the level of stress seems to increase as well. We all have limited time, energy, and money. How do you slow it down? Is there a way to reduce the amount of stress so that you can enjoy the holiday season?

Family Looking at Laptop Over Breakfast

By taking the time to set priorities and make decisions about what is important for you and your family, you can ensure a calm, rewarding holiday season for you and your loved ones.

 

  • Start by taking a trip down memory lane. Think about years gone by and all the things you have enjoyed doing with your family. Remember who was present at the most enjoyable and meaningful times. Sometimes it is simply the opportunity to spend time together that you remember most fondly. See those activities clearly in your mind.
  • Next, make a list of what you remembered. Make note of who was there, the locations these happy events took place, and anything unusual about the experience. Note if any of these special events involved someone who is no longer present, such as an individual who has died, is serving in the military, or is no longer part of your family due to divorce or other reason. (One of my favorite memories is of the year I made all the Christmas gifts. Later I taught my daughter how to sew and she later made Christmas gifts too.) Either add to your list or make another list of important things that have come up, or that you know will come up, for this year.
  • Hold a family planning meeting. Take your list of special experiences with you to the meeting. Explain the purpose of the planning meeting. Give everybody time and opportunity to say what they wish about prioritizing holiday activities. Be sure to share your list of your special memories and why they are so special to you. If you retired or changed jobs this year, your holiday budget may be smaller than usual and you will need to plan accordingly.
  • Time to decide. If your’s is a democratic family, allow all to vote on which things to keep on this year’s activity list and which things to jettison. You now have the opportunity to decide exactly where to put your time, energy, and money this year.

It’s important to remain somewhat flexible because sometimes things do come up at the last minute. However, going into the holiday with a plan arrived at by those involved in the activities will give everyone things to look forward to, plan on, and budget for (time, energy, and money). Having a plan and knowing ahead of time what you can afford and what is meaningful to all of your family will increase the chances that you will all enjoy yourselves and lower the level of stress that everyone feels.

Gear up! It’s time; get into holiday-mode.

Three Ways to Manage Your Anxiety

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Have you ever wished for a stress-free day? Who hasn’t? Stress is a normal part of everyday living. In fact, some stress is necessary for life. One definition for stress is “the physical pressure, pull, or force exerted on one thing by another”. Without some pressure, pull or force (i.e., reason) we would not even get out of bed in the morning, bother to eat, go to work, or make the efforts we do to fall in love and develop relationships. Some stress underlies everything we do. But what about the level of stress that actually impairs our efforts and causes us to shut down?

Excessive stress can be harmful to the body. It can cause physical symptoms including rapid heart rate, nausea, ringing in the ears, dizziness, muscle tension, and even increased pain. In an effort to manage their anxiety many people stop doing what they believe is causing their anxiety, which oddly enough only makes their anxiety worsen. So what can be done to effectively manage anxiety?

Here are just a few ways to manage anxiety:

  1. Reduce your CATS. This refers to some of the physical causes of anxiety such as caffeine, which is a stimulant closely related to cocaine. Limiting or stopping caffeine intake altogether may reduce your anxiety significantly. Although alcohol initially induces a sense of relaxation, it is another drug that stimulates the central nervous system and causes anxiety. Many people believe that cigarette smoking or chewing tobacco is relaxing but the truth is tobacco has a variety of stimulants as well as other chemicals that increase blood pressure, which can bring on anxiety attacks in some people. And finally, stress which can be placed in 3 categories: a-communication stress (emails, phone texts, people talking, etc), b-environmental stress (the number of people around, voices, light, etc), and c-transitional stress, which occurs when moving from one activity (work) to another (home).

 

  1. Use your brain to deal with the mental aspects of your anxiety. When anxious thoughts start your mind racing, think to yourself, “A feeling is just a feeling and won’t hurt me.” Or maybe it would be more helpful to look for a distraction. Start by saying aloud, “Stop it!” then replace the thoughts with a memorized poem, scripture, or song. Reciting these out loud is even more effective since it takes up more space in your brain. You can also use imagery to help contain your anxious thoughts by visualizing a container with a strong lid into which you place each of your worries or anxious thoughts. Some people like to do this with a real container and write down the thoughts that intrude.

 

  1. Check your beliefs; beliefs drive actions. Listen to your self-talk and if you find a lot of negative beliefs about yourself, challenge those thoughts instead of letting them run around in your mind. You can also try affirmations to counter-act your anxious thinking. Instead of letting, “I suck” just go by when your golf score is low, take time to challenge your thoughts with, “I didn’t score well on this game but I enjoy the game.” Being able to think well of yourself is calming.

Many of the thoughts that cause us to be anxious are incorrect and challenging them is one way to retrain the brain to reduce anxiety. Reducing the chemicals and environmental stressors we are exposed to can also help to enhance calmness. By remembering that a “feeling is just a feeling and won’t hurt me”, you will take pride in tolerating the discomfort of anxiety, another way to empower yourself. The best way to be sure that any of these, or other, techniques help when you need them is to have a plan for what you will do when you become anxious, and practice them often.