What do you do when you “fail” at an exposure, or when you have a particularly difficult anxiety day and wind up escaping back to your “safe zone”?I can tell you what you should NOT do.You should NOT just sit home and recount the story of how horrible it was and how you failed and how upset you are.That is sending the wrong story and signals to you brain.
Realize what you did wrong.
Think about what would have been a better course of action.
DO. IT. AGAIN.IMMEDIATELY.
Turning a “fail” into a “win” is easier than you think. Do not miss the opportunity to turn things around because you CAN and it will matter in the overall scheme of your recovery progress.
Today I’m joined by my friend Holly to talk about common misconceptions and mistakes surrounding exposure. Many people are unaware of the true nature of exposure and how it actually works as part of the anxiety recovery process. Here are the highlights:
1. Exposure is not just “doing things” or “going places”.
2. Exposure is about how you FEEL and how you react to how you feel. Its not really about where you are or what you’re doing.
3. Exposure works when you expose yourself to the thing you fear. In this case, you do not fear the car or the highway or the family reunion. You fear panic and anxiety and fear itself. Your goal is to feel those things in a productive way – without bracing or fighting or resisting or escaping. Your goal is to feel anxiety, fear and panic while doing NOTHING in response.
4. Exposure can happen anywhere. If you are experiencing panic attacks even in your own house, then you can work on that the same way you would work on trying to learn to drive on the highway again.
5. Effective exposure isn’t random or sporadic. Effective exposure involves planned, repeated, consistent, incrementally increasing sessions. Sadly, we can learn to be afraid instantly. It takes time and repetition to unlearn that.
6. Effective exposure involves STAYING in the uncomfortable feelings. Ending the session or running back to your “safe zone” when afraid and uncomfortable isn’t effective. You must stay in that situation, even if its only for 30 seconds, before exiting. You must increase the time you spend in that situation methodically and consistently. This is how exposure works best.
You’ve been doing the work. You’ve been working the process. You’re facing your fears and learning not to be afraid of how you feel. You’re no longer crippled by panic, fear and anxiety. One day you find that that familiar fear and anxiety is missing. Is this what it feels like to feel OK? What am I supposed to do with this? Where’s the anxiety? Should I be happy now? What if it comes back and puts me back to square one?
These are questions I hear all the time from people that have reached the point where they’re having anxiety free moments. Today my friend Joe and I discuss this issue and how he’s dealing with it. We talk about not continually scanning and assessing your state, why you can’t go back to square one if you’ve gone THROUGH the fear, and what feeling “OK” looks like in the real world. Thanks again to Joe for taking the time.
I was joined again by my old friend Joe Ryan as we talk about issues of self-esteem, confidence and competency as they relate to recovery from trauma, pain, anxiety, panic and other related problems. Sometimes those ingrained feelings of incompetency and a lack of confidence can be obstacles that keep you from even starting down the road to recovery. Joe describes his experience with those feelings and how he had to face them to gradually teach himself to have a sense of competence and confidence. Thanks to Joe for taking the time to share with us today!
Its possible to work through anxiety, panic, trauma and pain without having it ruin every day. Today I’m joined by my old friend Joe Ryan. Joe has spent years working this process and offers some great insight on how to deal with anxiety, panic and even past trauma without being crushed by every memory, thought or sensation. Thanks to Joe for spending time with us today!
Anticipatory anxiety isn’t a monster that you can’t resist. It not special, nor is it a different kind of anxiety that requires some different approach. This is not an external, uncontrollable force. As with every other aspect of your anxiety issues, it comes from within. This is not a mystery. Lets break it all the way down:
A panic attack involves being afraid.
Panic disorder is being afraid of being afraid.
Anticipatory anxiety is being afraid of being afraid of being afraid.
In a nutshell, anticipatory anxiety is just the third layer of fear you add to your situation. You do this when faced with situations that you’d rather avoid, escape from, or hide from. You know that the way to overcome your driving anxiety is to drive, but you may say that you can’t because anticipatory anxiety has you “stuck”.
There’s No Magic Tips and Tricks
If you’re thinking that you have to find a way to eliminate anticipatory anxiety so you can get on with the work that needs to be done, you are mistaken. As with the rest of this problem we’re trying to solve, the goal is not to make it go away. The only way that this will go away is when you learn not to be afraid of the your own body, sensations, feelings and thoughts. If anticipatory anxiety has you struggling to get out the door to do your exposures, then the way to solve that problem is to get out the door to do your exposures. Sorry, there’s no magic wand here.
What Can I Do?
While you can’t wipe out anticipatory anxiety, you can learn to move through it so that you can get on with the work you know needs to be done. This involves a few different concepts:
Make a plan. If you have a plan for how you will get ready to “get out the door”, then you can execute that plan even when afraid. Don’t make it up as you go. This leaves you a way out and that is NOT what you want or need.
Learn to live mindfully and in the moment. You do not have to live the events you dread before they happen. By learning to live mindfully while executing your “pre game” plan, you can avoid the trap of speculating and trying to predict the future.
Accept that the only way to overcome anticipatory anxiety is to move THROUGH it and actually do the work required to face your fear and un-learn your bad brain habits.
Many people are under the false impression that they must honor, follow and engage deeply with every thought they have. This is simply not true. When dealing with both anxiety and trauma issues, your thoughts can often be your enemy. Listening to everything you think and acting as if every thought is correct and valid can lead you deeper in the anxiety maze. Monique has some excellent ways to frame this and some outstanding ways to approach this problem. We discuss awareness of our constant thoughts, why we often give them more power and respect than they deserve, and how the nature of thoughts are to be temporary. If you can stop the mental chatter, things will most times get much better faster than you think.
Thank you again to my friend Monique for taking the time with us today!
If you’re in the grips of anxiety, panic, agoraphobia or PTSD you may feel powerless and incapable of doing what needs to be done to change things. This isn’t true. Monique and I talk about how you have power and control even in the darkest moments. You are not stuck. You are capable of making the changes you need. You might just need to change direction, and you can!
Do you worry that your anxiety problems are going to “ruin everything” for your friends and family? Being worried about letting people down or ruining things can seriously stand in the way of taking the steps you need to take to build a better life. I’ve found this to be a common theme among anxiety sufferers, so lets talk about how the happiness of others is NOT your responsibility.
You are not responsible for making people happy or sad, and you are not responsible for the positive or negative outcome of every social event, family function or other situation that involves other people in your life. In this episode Monique Koven and I discuss the origins of this distortion, how it can be an impediment to progress, and what we can do about it.
Thanks to Monique for joining the discussion today!
OCD and intrusive, obsessive thoughts are two of the most common issues encountered by people with anxiety issues. They can be scary, hard to understand and difficult to deal with. Difficult doesn’t mean impossible though, so today I had a chat with OCD specialist Kimberley Quinlan (LMFT). Kimberly was kind enough to share lots of good information and resources in this one, along with a bunch of concepts you’ll find very familiar if you’ve been following me for any length of time. Thanks to Kim for spending this time with us!