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Stop Judging Your Anxiety/Fear

Judging your anxiety/fear only amplifies your overall distress and does not serve you. Moreover, stop trying to condemn your anxiety as irrational, and stop trying to make it rational or legitimate. By the same token, stop judging others’ anxiety as irrational or illegitimate…

No anxiety is any more legitimate than any other anxiety…

I once met an airline pilot with a fear of public speaking. He stated that he would rather be thousands of feet above the earth in a plane that’s just lost both of its engines than speak in front of a group of people. For him, it was more anxiety-provoking to speak in front of people than to be inside of a crashing plane. For some people, public speaking is no problem, but being inside an air plane, crashing or not, would be absolutely unbearable.

Does this sound familiar to you? Do you have anxiety in some situations that is perhaps no problem for others and vice versa?

This is why it does little good to make sense of your anxiety. And judging or comparing your anxiety only produces shame and makes anxiety worse. The best thing you can do for your anxiety is to accept it without judgment and shed the excess distress that doesn’t serve you.

Courageous Gratitude

Gratitude…

What does the word bring up for you?

Maybe it brings up warm feelings of thankfulness and joy… Maybe it brings up a whole bunch of shame shoulding (e.g., “I should be more grateful!”)… Maybe it brings up pain and loss (e.g., “There was a time when I was grateful, but my gratitude was taken from me.”)… Maybe it brings up vulnerability and anxiety (“If I allow myself to feel grateful, then something bad will happen and take it away.”)… Or maybe it does not bring up very much at all. Maybe you just feel neutral or numb to it, and you’re wondering why.

All of these are normal and legitimate responses to the word, “Gratitude.” And we may react to gratitude differently in different seasons of our lives. It’s important to check in with yourself and acknowledge your relationship with gratitude every so often. If you’re noticing some sort of negative tension in your relationship with gratitude, that’s ok. This is just a sign that there is work that needs to be done here.

There is a wealth of empirical support for practicing gratitude as an effective way to manage anxiety and enhance well-being. But how do we practice gratitude?

There are many ways to practice gratitude. To name a few…

-Gratitude-focused meditation

-Listing things you are grateful for each day

-Gratitude journaling

-Gratitude-focused prayer

-Posting gratitude reminders on your bathroom mirror or fridge

-Setting gratitude reminder alarms on your phone

Also, give yourself things to be grateful for throughout your day. For examples, give yourself time with you and/or time with people who matter to you, give yourself nourishment and exercise, give yourself nature, give yourself accomplishments, affirmation, compassion, and joy even in the mundane.

Yes. This sounds so simple and yet it can be really really challenging, especially when we are experiencing challenging seasons in life.

Common challenges to gratitude:

Gratitude takes practice:

In past blog posts, I have discussed the inherent negative bias that is wired in our brains. This bias protects us such that we can perceive threat quickly and effectively, but it’s not so great for our well-being. Gratitude takes time and effort to cultivate. We must practice leaning in and embracing it many many times before it becomes natural and accessible. Don’t expect yourself to get it right away and set yourself up for discouragement.

Do not use gratitude as punishment:

In the past, I used gratitude as a form of punishment and criticism toward myself. I did not do this intentionally, of course… Essentially, when I was struggling, and I received the message from myself or others that I “should” be grateful, I immediately felt ashamed and guilty for not being grateful enough, and I would be very hard on myself as a result. Do you think this motivated me to feel any more grateful? Do you think it made me struggle less? NO! Absolutely not. It just made me sink deeper into my struggle… Do not use gratitude as a form of punishment or shame shoulding. Give yourself grace and acknowledge that gratitude can be tough sometimes. Then, try to cultivate it gently without beating yourself over the head with it.

Do not allow forboding joy to rob you of gratitude:

“Forboding joy” is a process coined by Dr. Brene Brown, shame expert, in which we sometimes feel vulnerable and afraid to feel joy because we’re concerned that joy will be robbed from us, like a torturous tease. We do this with gratitude too. Sometimes, we feel vulnerable to make space for gratitude out of fear that it will be taken from us. But if you let forboding joy prevent you from having gratitude to begin with, then you don’t get to enjoy gratitude at all. Courageously let gratitude in your life regardless of the outcome. Life is short. You might as well, right?

 

This week, practice courageous gratitude.

 

Until next time,

Have courage and kind wishes!

Tannah E. Chase, Ph.D.

Licensed Psychologist

The Anxiety Counseling Clinic, P.L.L.C.

Website: www.anxietycounselingclinic.com

Phone: 830-500-5442

Email: Dr.Chase.T@gmail.com

 

References:

Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly. New York, NY: Gotham Books.

Petrocchi & Couyoumdjian (2016). The impact of gratitude on depression and anxiety: The mediating role of critizing, attacking, and reassuring the self. Self and Identity, 15 (2), 191-205.

Rosemarin, Krumrei, & Pargament (2010). Are gratitude and spirituality protective factors against psychopathology? International Journal of Existential Psychology and Psychotherapy, 3 (1), 1-5.

Ruini & Vescovelli (2013). The role of gratitude in breast cancer: Its relationships with post-traumatic growth, psychological well-being and distress. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14 (1), 263-274.

Courageous Self-Care

Our attempts at self-care usually involve giving ourselves little escapes, such as eating chocolate, taking a warm bath, getting a message, working out, drinking alcohol etc…

These little escapes can be effective, self-compassionate, and fulfilling, and we all deserve to have little escapes now and then. However, the only problem with these little escapes is that they are TEMPORARY. Once they are over, you are back to facing the stress. Also, they are like a band aid. They cover up stress and only work for as long as you keep doing them.

True self-care is not about temporary escapes. True self-care is about building a life that you don’t need to regularly escape from.

 

Build yourself a life in which you are consistently living by your values, so it is easy to be kind to yourself and others.

Build yourself a life in which you are routinely taking care of your body (e.g., eating healthy, exercising, drinking plenty of water).

Build yourself a life in which you are routinely taking care of your mind (e.g., meditating, practicing yoga, exposing yourself to nature).

Build yourself a life in which your work life and personal life have balance (to the best of your practical ability).

Build yourself a life in which you can exercise realistic control, and let go of control when control is not possible or needed.

Build yourself a life in which you routinely surround yourself with the people who truly matter to you, not the people you’re chasing or trying to impress.

 

I live on this planet, and I know this is easier said than done. Otherwise, everyone would do this all the time without problem. It’s important to practice grace with yourself here and to think of this in terms of something that you’re always aiming for, rather than something you must accomplish, as if it’s a black or white issue.

I also know that money and work environment create a lot of hurtles here. We often sacrifice self-care for financial and job security. Many of us choose to stay in a miserable work environment in order to maintain financial security. The thing is that money buys security and fun things, but it does not buy happiness and fulfillment. Even the richest people can often be miserable and unhappy. The thing is, it is not worth it to stay stuck in a work environment where you are miserable. You were not meant to work, be miserable, and die. You were made for more than that, and you deserve more than that. Respect yourself enough to have your cake and eat it too. Your job takes up more than 50% of your waking life. Find and build a job that you enjoy, and make money at the same time… even if you have to take the risk of entrepreneurship… even if you have to miserably work your ass off temporarily to get there.

Finally, building a life of self-care does not mean you are selfish or self-centered, as long as your self-care is as much in the service of caring for others as it is in the service of caring for yourself. Remember this…

You cannot pour from an empty cup.

If you are over-worked and off-balance, how can you effectively and authentically take care of others? If you have nothing of yourself left to give, how can you expect to give to others? Balance self-care and other-care in such a way that self-care comes first in the service of caring for others.

This week, think more globally about self-care and courageously build yourself a life and routine that you do not need to regularly escape from.

 

Until next time,

Have courage and kind wishes!

Tannah E. Chase, Ph.D.

Licensed Psychologist

The Anxiety Counseling Clinic, P.L.L.C.

Website: www.anxietycounselingclinic.com

Phone: 830-500-5442

Email: Dr.Chase.T@gmail.com

Let the Light In

Sometimes we can be so stuck in our anxiety that it becomes like a cloud surrounding us- the very context in which we are living- a cloud that’s hard to see past. The worst part about this is that we become accustomed to our anxiety- that anxiety becomes a habit- our automatic response- our norm for living. We forget that life can be more than anxiety. We forget that WE are more than our anxiety.

Instead of acknowledging that anxiety is an experience, we begin to over-identify with anxiety. In other words, we begin to believe that anxiety is who we are, and we say things like, “I’m an anxious person,” “I’m stressed out,” “I’m just a bag of nerves,” and so on…

Naturally, the coping mechanism we turn to is to try to get rid of anxiety in some way. We may do this by drinking alcohol, binge-watching Netflix, over-eating, working out, keeping busy or over-working, isolating… you name it! It’s not that any of these things are necessarily “bad.” In fact, in moderation, these coping mechanisms can be helpful and even healthy. But when we engage in these coping mechanisms chronically, inflexibly, and in excess, they become an unsatisfying rat race. They begin to drive our lives, and we put more power in them than we do in ourselves. And the ironic thing is that our lives STILL revolve around trying to reduce anxiety and stress!

There is another way- a better, more effective way.

Instead of revolving your life around trying to reduce anxiety and stress, give yourself the power and permission to embrace the light. By “light,” I mean happiness, joy, excitement, laughter, hope, gratitude, love, pride, fulfillment, etc. This is a process that I call, “letting the light in.” When we take this mindset, anxiety may remain to some extent, but it becomes less significant- It is no longer the cloud that we live in. Taking this mindset allows us to experience the various colors of life.

It sounds simple right? So why is this more difficult than it sounds?

Letting the light in entails vulnerability. We struggle with letting the light in because it feels vulnerable. We’re afraid that, if we let the light in, something terrible will swoop down and take that light away from us, and we’ll be stuck in that dark cloud again. Vulnerability expert, Dr. Brenё Brown, calls this process “foreboding joy.”

Think about it. Anytime something good happens to us, we instantly begin thinking of all the things that could go wrong. We put an offer on a house and begin imagining that we’re going to get out-bid or that the loan won’t get approved… We have a child and imagine all of the freak accidents that could kill that precious child… We get our dream job and imagine all of the things we’ll do to sabotage it…

In other words, we rob ourselves of the light because of our fear of losing it. The problem with this is, this is a lose-lose scenario. When we feed our fear of losing the light (i.e., when we feed foreboding joy), then we rob ourselves of the light almost completely.

Again, give yourself permission to let the light in, as vulnerable as it feels. You might even influence the outcome you’re hoping for via the self-fulfilling prophecy.

This does not mean you have to put on rose-colored glasses and ignore the fact that there is a chance it might not work out. You can have a balanced awareness of the negative possibilities while also acknowledging the good opportunities that might come.

This week, I challenge you to remind yourself that you are more than your anxiety. I challenge you to practice letting the light in. Instead of running yourself raged trying to force anxiety out, courageously allow the light to fill you.

 

Until next time,

Have courage and kind wishes!

Tannah E. Chase, Ph.D.

Licensed Psychologist

The Anxiety Counseling Clinic, P.L.L.C.

Website: www.anxietycounselingclinic.com

Phone: 830-500-5442

Email: Dr.Chase.T@gmail.com

 

References:

Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly. New York, NY: Gotham Books.

Kick Your BUT’s Goodbye!

Over the past couple of blog posts, I have been discussing limiting and inflexible beliefs. We also tend to limit ourselves with beliefs and thoughts that consist of the word, “BUT.”

“I want to go to the party, BUT I’m too anxious.”

“I would like to learn how to play guitar, BUT I’ve never played a musical instrument before.”

“I want to trust again, BUT I was betrayed in the past.”

In case you are not familiar with the mechanics of the word, “but,” it essentially serves to cancel out everything in the sentence that precedes it. This not only happens on a grammatical level, but on a psychological level as well.

In other words, this one little word kills a lot of goals, dreams, and valued-actions before we even give ourselves a chance to prove it wrong.

So if you’re interested in living the life you truly want to live in your heart of hearts, I suggest that you kick your but’s goodbye by replacing your but’s with the word, “AND.”

To demonstrate how this works, here are some examples…

I want to go to the party, AND I’m anxious.

“I would like to learn how to play guitar, AND I’ve never played a musical instrument before.”

“I want to trust again, AND I was betrayed in the past.”

The truth of the matter is, you can be anxious AND go to the party AND enjoy yourself at the same time. You can learn to play guitar even though you’ve never played a musical instrument before. You can learn to trust again even though your trust was betrayed in the past.

Kicking away your BUT’s and giving yourself AND’s expands your flexibility and freedom in life. It’s remarkable how just this simple tweak in language can have quite an empowering impact. Give yourself this gift.

I challenge you- don’t let your BUT’s get in the way of your goals and values anymore. Kick your BUT’s goodbye, and give yourself permission to live the life that you want and value.

 

Until next time,

Have courage and kind wishes!

Tannah E. Chase, Ph.D.

Licensed Psychologist

The Anxiety Counseling Clinic, P.L.L.C.

Website: www.anxietycounselingclinic.com

Phone: 830-500-5442

Email: Dr.Chase.T@gmail.com

Stop Shame-Shoulding!

In my last blog post, I discussed the power of anxious flexibility in chipping away at rigid or limiting beliefs. Today, I introduce a tool for expanding flexibility… Stop shameshoulding!

We tend to should ourselves a lot… “I should have known better.” “I should have stopped it.” “She/he should understand me better.” “He/she should care too.” “I should be more like [fill in the blank].”

Sometimes “shoulds” can be helpful for keeping us in line with our goals and values. Sometimes shoulds help us set boundaries and reinforce our inherent worth. For example, no one should have to put up with abuse from another person. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect…

But, more often than not, shoulds put unrealistic and limiting expectations on ourselves and others, and they cause undue stress and anxiety when these expectations are not met. Also, we often use shoulds that come from other people’s expectations or societies’ expectations, instead of our own beliefs and values.

Soooo… when you notice yourself using the word, “should,” ask yourself where this should is coming from. Is it coming from your mother? Is it coming from social media? Is it coming from your friend circle? OR is it coming from your own beliefs and values?

Next, ask yourself whether this should is truly realistic or if it is limiting you or keeping you stuck in some way.

If your should is coming from your personal beliefs and values and is not unrealistic or limiting, this is probably what I call, “a good should.” A good should will help you set an important boundary, reinforce your inherent worth, and/or promote self-growth and fulfillment, rather than anxiety, shame, and resentment.

But, if this should is coming from outside expectations that are unrealistic or limiting OR if the should serves to beat you down rather than build you up, this is what I call, “a shaming should.” If this is the case, then repeat after me…

 

STOP SHAME-SHOULDING YOURSELF!

 

If your should is putting unrealistic expectations on others, beating others down rather than building others up, or if it causes paralyzing resentment toward others, then repeat after me…

 

STOP SHAME-SHOULDING OTHERS!

 

You deserve to have good shoulds in your life. Shoulds that shame are not worth your time. This week, practice good shoulds instead of shame-shoulds.

 

Until next time,

Have courage and kind wishes!

Tannah E. Chase, Ph.D.

Licensed Psychologist

The Anxiety Counseling Clinic, P.L.L.C.

Website: www.anxietycounselingclinic.com

Phone: 830-500-5442

Email: Dr.Chase.T@gmail.com

Anxious Flexibility

In my last blog post, I talked about “the hard thing about faith.” Having faith and uncertainty is such a vulnerable, human experience. To cope with that vulnerability, we tend to give ourselves a lot of “rules” for living life. Rules that make us feel less anxious, less vulnerable, less insecure, and less uncertain…

Rules like…

“I can’t be productive unless I’m feeling motivated and inspired.”

“I can’t talk to people with this anxiety.”

“I can’t move on with my day unless this task is done perfectly or just right.”

“I’m not a good mom, unless I’m taking care of everyone else and putting my own needs last.”

“There is only one right way to do this.”

“I don’t deserve this.”

“I only eat [fill in the blank].”

“I either get an ‘A’ or I failed.”

“Life isn’t fair.”

“I can’t do that.”

“If I don’t run a full mile, then I might as well not run at all.”

 

These rules are what we call, “limiting beliefs.”

What rules or limiting beliefs do you have?…

 

These rules may seem small and harmless, at least in the moment. Sometimes, they can even be temporarily helpful for setting boundaries or motivating us. Sometimes, we’re not even aware of them when we have them. However, they can accumulate to become a big problem by putting significant limitations on our hopes, goals, dreams, and lives. When we use them chronically and inflexibly, they make us rigid, keep us stuck, and suck the fulfillment out of life.

So why do we have these rules- these limiting beliefs?

They give us the illusion of faith. They give us the illusion of security, control, and even courage. But that’s all they are- an illusion. They only have as much accuracy and power as we give them. Sometimes we feel more comfortable in our limitations, and we begin acting in ways that validate this illusion, which is a vicious, self-prophesizing cycle.

So how do we deal with limiting beliefs?

We challenge them. We consider other perspectives and alternatives. We find a middle ground. We expand our flexibility in thinking- A process I like to call, “Anxious Flexibility.” Anxious flexibility is challenging yourself to think differently, to suspend your limitations, and allow yourself to hope and strive for an outcome that is more in line with your goals and values. Allowing yourself to have your cake AND eat it too!

I have received a lot of push back from people when breaching this topic. It’s funny how when you try to offer greater freedom, people will still try to argue for their limitations…

Let me clarify, I’m not suggesting that you change your entire belief system or view the world with unrealistic, rose-colored glasses. I’m suggesting that you don’t pigeon hold yourself to your own rules and that you at least put more options on the table…

For example…

“You can be productive AND feel unmotivated at the same time.”

“You can feel anxious AND talk to people at the same time.”

“Your day can move on even if you didn’t get this task done just perfectly.”

“You can be a good mom and take care of your own needs (and let others take responsibility for taking care of themselves sometimes!).”

“There is more than one way to do this.”

“You are deserving of anything that fulfills you, betters you, and helps you grow.”

“You can try foods out of your comfort zone, as long as they’re not detrimental to your health.”

“Getting a ‘B’ doesn’t mean that you failed.”

“Life isn’t always fair.”

“You won’t know what you can and can’t do unless you try.”

“You can run a half mile today and work up to running a full mile next week.”

 

Just like limiting beliefs, flexible beliefs don’t affect your life in just one instance of use. They take time and practice to become habit and take on an accumulative effect over time.

This week, become more aware of your rules and limiting beliefs and try expanding your flexibility in thinking. Rather than pushing for your limits, practice anxious flexibility.

 

Until next time,

Have courage and kind wishes!

Tannah E. Chase, Ph.D.

Licensed Psychologist

The Anxiety Counseling Clinic, P.L.L.C.

Website: www.anxietycounselingclinic.com

Phone: 830-500-5442

Email: Dr.Chase.T@gmail.com