Tag Archive: anxiety

Don’t take it personally

 

The February edition of Psychology Today has a piece by Toni Bernhard that speaks to me titled “It’s Not About You”. It’s worth reading. Last week I travelled to Michigan to see my friends and partner, as I do pretty much every month. I have a Nexus card for exactly that purpose, and have been using it with no issue for the past 9 years.  This time, I was interrogated for over an hour, threatened, and my car searched.  It was ugly and traumatizing.

Let’s talk about trauma for a second. Trauma is a brain thing, not a mental thing. That is, it directly impacts the brain nerves, and as such, when experienced, there is no way to prepare mentally or emotionally for it. That’s why the best treatment for trauma is lots of support to help the person get through the physical assault to the brain, and get back to a sense of normal balance (for a video presentation you might want to watch Dr. John Rigg explain it.

I experienced trauma, and as such wasn’t functioning well. Within 2 days, I was late for something important, completely missed another thing that was equally important – letting many others down – found myself incredibly tired, and finally had a melt down 24 hours later that lasted another 24 hours.

In that time, I blamed myself for everything and tried to work out what I could have done differently – until I had a talk with my supervisor and friend, who described what I was going through and emphasized that it wasn’t my fault. There was and is nothing I can do to prepare for a traumatizing event, and the physical outcome of that event is also not something I can change.  The only thing that is in my power to do something about is to seek support once I understand what’s happening. AND, to avoid ruminating and blaming myself.

I did apologize to my friend for missing her event, and I sent a note of explanation to the person whose event I was late for. Then I rested and let my body heal. Once my head was clear, I took the kind of action available to me that could best realistically address the issue.

I’d like to say that I avoided ruminating and self-flagellation. Alas, that was too much to ask. However, I did manage to limit it. I am a person who routinely takes on the responsibility of a situation that really isn’t my responsibility. Are you like me?

Who knows what was going on with the border guard, or why they did what they did. I will probably never know. It wasn’t for anything I actually did – my record is clean.  So it had to be something in their lives that did it. In other words, it wasn’t about me!

It’s hard not to take such an event personally, but that’s the point: it really isn’t personal. So don’t take it personally. It was unfortunate, and there was and will likely be fallout. But it isn’t personal.

In Toni Bernhard’s research, she discovered that when we take things personally, we undermine our ability to feel good about ourselves, which in turn, brings on depression and anxiety. It’s associated with greater rumination – that downward spiraling into darkness.

Here’s another example from my life – in this case my young life.  I was testing for a swimming level and was kept back and asked to repeat certain strokes.  I immediately assumed it was because I’d done something wrong and was being given another chance. This thinking made me hyper aware and I nearly drowned.  Even so, what really happened was that I got an extra commendation for excellent form.

The best kind of support for those of us who ruminate is this:

  • Develop and use your own “doubt shout”: Once you recognize that you’re ruminating (and this might take a while), find a way to stop it. I use a “doubt shout”, because it really is about me doubting myself. My particular doubt shout that works for me is “Don’t go there! It doesn’t really matter if there’s some truth in it. It’s simply a waste of time.”
  • Treat yourself to kindness and compassion. Realistic positive reinforcement is a far stronger and more effective approach than negative punishing reinforcement. I think we all know that, deep down.
  • Be clear about what you are actually responsible for. I’m reminded of the Serenity prayer here: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” What I can change is me, my approach and my circumstances. That’s all!

The Power of Reframing

 

 

Quote of the Week

Life picks on everyone … don’t take it personally.

-Steve Gilliland

Announcements

Need more? At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co .

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist and Life Coach.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co.

Don’t take it personally

 

The February edition of Psychology Today has a piece by Toni Bernhard that speaks to me titled “It’s Not About You”. It’s worth reading. Last week I travelled to Michigan to see my friends and partner, as I do pretty much every month. I have a Nexus card for exactly that purpose, and have been using it with no issue for the past 9 years.  This time, I was interrogated for over an hour, threatened, and my car searched.  It was ugly and traumatizing.

Let’s talk about trauma for a second. Trauma is a brain thing, not a mental thing. That is, it directly impacts the brain nerves, and as such, when experienced, there is no way to prepare mentally or emotionally for it. That’s why the best treatment for trauma is lots of support to help the person get through the physical assault to the brain, and get back to a sense of normal balance (for a video presentation you might want to watch Dr. John Rigg explain it.

I experienced trauma, and as such wasn’t functioning well. Within 2 days, I was late for something important, completely missed another thing that was equally important – letting many others down – found myself incredibly tired, and finally had a melt down 24 hours later that lasted another 24 hours.

In that time, I blamed myself for everything and tried to work out what I could have done differently – until I had a talk with my supervisor and friend, who described what I was going through and emphasized that it wasn’t my fault. There was and is nothing I can do to prepare for a traumatizing event, and the physical outcome of that event is also not something I can change.  The only thing that is in my power to do something about is to seek support once I understand what’s happening. AND, to avoid ruminating and blaming myself.

I did apologize to my friend for missing her event, and I sent a note of explanation to the person whose event I was late for. Then I rested and let my body heal. Once my head was clear, I took the kind of action available to me that could best realistically address the issue.

I’d like to say that I avoided ruminating and self-flagellation. Alas, that was too much to ask. However, I did manage to limit it. I am a person who routinely takes on the responsibility of a situation that really isn’t my responsibility. Are you like me?

Who knows what was going on with the border guard, or why they did what they did. I will probably never know. It wasn’t for anything I actually did – my record is clean.  So it had to be something in their lives that did it. In other words, it wasn’t about me!

It’s hard not to take such an event personally, but that’s the point: it really isn’t personal. So don’t take it personally. It was unfortunate, and there was and will likely be fallout. But it isn’t personal.

In Toni Bernhard’s research, she discovered that when we take things personally, we undermine our ability to feel good about ourselves, which in turn, brings on depression and anxiety. It’s associated with greater rumination – that downward spiraling into darkness.

Here’s another example from my life – in this case my young life.  I was testing for a swimming level and was kept back and asked to repeat certain strokes.  I immediately assumed it was because I’d done something wrong and was being given another chance. This thinking made me hyper aware and I nearly drowned.  Even so, what really happened was that I got an extra commendation for excellent form.

The best kind of support for those of us who ruminate is this:

  • Develop and use your own “doubt shout”: Once you recognize that you’re ruminating (and this might take a while), find a way to stop it. I use a “doubt shout”, because it really is about me doubting myself. My particular doubt shout that works for me is “Don’t go there! It doesn’t really matter if there’s some truth in it. It’s simply a waste of time.”
  • Treat yourself to kindness and compassion. Realistic positive reinforcement is a far stronger and more effective approach than negative punishing reinforcement. I think we all know that, deep down.
  • Be clear about what you are actually responsible for. I’m reminded of the Serenity prayer here: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” What I can change is me, my approach and my circumstances. That’s all!

 

Announcements

If you like this blog, you’ll also like my newsletters. It’s written only for my insiders who sign up, and provides weekly insights, not only from me, but from others I admire.

To sign up for my insider newsletter, click here.  If you find it doesn’t work for you, all you have to do to unsubscribe is click on the link at the bottom of the newsletter.

Looking forward to welcoming you to my growing list of insiders!

Maryanne

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

 

Enlightenment always tastes of freedom

“Enlightenment” is a term I hear used a lot these days.  It’s often in the context of gaining some kind of spiritual excellence.

I do wonder about this: it comes close to smacking of superiority and so I’m suspicious of it. So, is this something real and something worth moving towards?

I think so.  The Buddha said that you will know enlightenment because it always tastes of freedom, just as you know the ocean because it tastes of salt. This implies that I achieve enlightenment every time I can flow with the process of life, without feeling triggered or reactive in any way.

Sometimes, I do feel that way. And, no doubt, you do too.

One thing for certain, then, is that when I’m anxious, or stressed, or lost in worry, I’m not in a state of enlightenment. I’m in an opposite kind of state: frozen in time, fighting off inner daemons.

I’ve been there too?  What about you?  If you’ve been in a place of anxious stress, were you able to find your way to a better place?  If not, you may find my online course Burning the Candle at Both Ends worthwhile.

It’s starting now.  Click here if you’re interested in learning about it.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

 

Excitement without oxygen

 

Dr. Margherita Lobb, in a recent talk on Anxiety, defined anxiety as “excitement without oxygen”.  In a visceral way, we can all relate to this: if you’ve experienced anxiety, it’s hard to breathe.  In fact, when anxious, a person either stops breathing, or begins to breath fast and shallow, filling only the upper part of their lungs.

We are excited, and we aren’t filling our lungs with oxygen.

Ms. Lobb then goes on to lay out what happens to our body when we’re in this state: when we deprive our body of oxygen, we must necessarily disconnect. This means we detach our bodies from our brains. To understand this, remember when you were last anxious and what it felt like. The rapid heart-beat, sweaty palms, shallow breathing; but also the mental preoccupation that begins to take over and spirals out of control if we let it.  This is what disconnection feels like. The mental take-over.

Knowing and understanding this is power, because this knowledge is key to reversing the effects of anxiety.

Here’s how:

  • Slow and deep: If we detach through shallow breathing, we can counter it by breathing deeply and slowly.
  • Bra-strap breathing. A “trick” I learned a few years ago and now share with my clients is to do what one client dubbed “bra-strap breathing”: imagine breathing into that area of your back where a woman’s bra strap usually sits, just below the shoulder blades; then breathe out slowly, pushing the sensation down to your belly button. If you take more time breathing out than you did breathing in, then you will also activate your parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for calming and relaxing.
  • Ground yourself… by focusing on your feet connecting with the ground beneath you. This will literally lower your centre of gravity and provide stability.

The next time you experience anxiety, try these three things – slow and deep breaths, bra strap breathing, and grounding your feet – and feel the difference.

 

Announcements

If you like this blog, you’ll also like my newsletters. It’s written only for my insiders who sign up, and provides weekly insights, not only from me, but from others I admire.

To sign up for my insider newsletter, click here.  If you find it doesn’t work for you, all you have to do to unsubscribe is click on the link at the bottom of the newsletter.

Looking forward to welcoming you to my growing list of insiders!

Maryanne

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

On Fear and Power

 

Uncontrolled fear that becomes habitual is a major source of anxiety.

I’m offering a program that addresses this kind of fear – it’s called Burning the Candle at Both Ends. If you’re interested in learning more, click here. It’s starting October 8th; registration closes October 7th .

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

 

Your Beauty

I’m talking about real beauty – the kind that shines through you no matter what your hair looks like, no matter how much you ate last night or all week, no matter what you’re wearing. I’m talking about that quality that attracts the people you want to attract – that inner spark. That glow.

You have it. It might be hidden – from you and the rest of us. But it’s there.

It might be hidden behind anxiety and worry. Anxiety, worry, preoccupation … these states of mind can block that shining that is uniquely yours from blazing forth.

It’s time to remove that block. And shine.

 

Stress and burnout definitely blocks your shining. I’m offering a program that focuses on what you can learn and use from experiencing stress and burnout. If you’re interested in learning more, my online workshop on Burning the Candle at Both Ends can help. It’s starting this October. Click here if you’re interested in learning about it.

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

 

On Anxiety

Stayed up way too late last night…reading a fantasy novel.  That way, didn’t have to think about the things on my “must do” list – way too many things.  Woke only a little late…that’s good.  Having a quiet coffee and letting the day unfold in peace, if only for a short while.  Now what… I can feel my heart begin to race.  HOW AM I EVER GOING TO GET THROUGH THIS?!?!  Two people here in less than an hour, an offsite meeting after that, then pack up my car with stuff for a friend, then research on a new project, then clients …. and I haven’t even got to quality time with loved ones yet!!!!!!

The first thing that has to go is the list…just let it go.  Lists always mean, for me, that I’m too wound up already.  Deep breateh in, ,…..then out.  Ahhhhhhhh.  Priorities.  What is priority today?  My friends, quality time, my clients.  Forget about the rest, for now.

See how it goes.  And to begin, a short quiet walk to remind myself how lucky I am for my health, my loved ones, my opportunities, and this gorgeous day….

Martha Beck – Calm all fear

Quote of the Week
Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.
― Corrie ten Boom

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co . Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist and Life Coach.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Price vs cost – is it worth it?

Imagine this: You’re planning a vacation for you and your friend; you go ahead and make all the reservations, booking the flights for both of you. Then, a few days before the trip, you two have a big fight, and your friend disappears.  You’re left to deal with what to do next.

If that’s ever happened to you, it sucks! It hurts, even if you find someone else to go with. Even if you go anyway and have a great time.

That event cost both you and your friend: it cost you time and money, but it cost your friend a lot more.

Here’s another story that might be closer to home:  the momentary lapse in good judgment.

  • Eating the extra cookie, telling myself I deserve it and that it won’t make much difference.
  • Looking away when I see an acquaintance across the street, telling myself that I don’t have time to chat just now.
  • Trying to fit too many things into a very short timeframe, so that I’m not paying attention to what I’m doing while chopping vegetables with a very sharp knife.

All of those things have happened in my life.  The last one nearly cost me my thumb.

Seth Godin in a recent blog invites us to consider the difference between Price and Cost. Price, he says, is a simple number. Cost is what we have to give up to get what we want.

When I nearly cut my thumb off, I thought I wanted to complete an impossible number of tasks from my to do list.  What I really wanted was to decrease my anxiety that I’d end up not succeeding in launching something important to me.  All that make-work, along with my distraction and energy drain, was the cost.
But if I’m being honest, my real desire was to make this launch a success.
To know that, I had to stop the busy-work, and sit with my feelings. Only then was I able to focus on what really mattered.
The price was a few minutes of discomfort.  The cost was giving up the lie that make-work will make success happen.

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

The price of happiness
worth
Quote of the Week
Now I know what a ghost is. Unfinished business, that’s what.
― Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses

 

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co

Addictive substances – a good coping strategy?

Addictive substances

If you’ve ever been addicted to a substance – coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, prescription or recreational drugs, for instance – you know how you grow to depend on that substance whenever you’re feeling anxious.

It’s a way of coping with difficult feelings – such as anxiety.  We have other ways of coping – some better than others, and addiction is one strategy that can have serious consequences.

I happened across an article by Dr. Joseph Troncale that specifically addresses the connection between drugs or alcohol and anxiety. He talks about how self-medicating with drugs or alcohol in order to calm down ends up generating more anxiety, culminating in a vicious downward spiral: we feel stressed, and medicate this feeling with drugs, which can often lead to feeling more stressed, leading to more drugs to dull that increased anxiety. In his words “This cycle of self-medication and rebound anxiety digs a deeper and deeper hole for the addicted person making treatment and breaking this downward spiral harder and harder as time goes by”.

Using drugs or any addictive substance or behavior generates a spiking pattern, where we swing between feeling high and feeling crappy, with no in-between.  In the normal pattern in a day, we go through a more gentle wave of experience: we notice something, decide to engage with it, engage with it, then withdraw when we notice something new.  The in-between is the connection and the gradual withdrawal.  In the spiking pattern, there is no connection or gradual withdrawal – it’s either all on or all off.

Using an addictive substance or activity lets us bypass any discomfort of contact or withdrawal, we bypass anything beyond the initial sensation, spiking instead to a high provided by the drug. Once the effect of the drug wears off, that feeling we’ve been avoiding – like anxiety – resurfaces and we spike to a low, and we avoid that feeling by engaging instead with the addiction.  The anxiety doesn’t actually go away, but remains suppressed until we stop the addiction cycle.

There are a few ways of stopping the cycle. Dr. Troncale prefers the monitored gradual withdrawal approach. Twelve-step programs offer a different approach that work for many people. A third approach is finding a spiritual path that inspires and supports you. What any one person chooses and finds works for them may not work for the next person.

The important thing is to know what is happening so that you can make an informed decision about how you want to live.

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

The Schizoid Character Structure

schizoid

In the first part of the 20th century, Austrian Psychoanalist Wilhelm Reich developed a theory explaining how we respond both physically and emotionally to the challenges we meet in life, especially in early life.   For the past few weeks, I’ve introduced you, in broad terms, to Character Structures in general, and to the Masochist, or Endurer, and to the Oral.  This week I’ll introduce you to the Schizoid body and character type.

The Schizoid structure is disjointed: one shoulder higher than the other, for instance; the person who has this structure is often much stronger, physically, than they look.

The main issue with the Schizoid is early rejection.  This differs from feeling abandoned (like the Oral): the Oral knows her parents love her but have abandoned her; the Schizoid doesn’t know this and feels rejected by her caregivers. Alone and afraid in a world they never made.  As with the Oral, the parents of the Schizoid may have done something unawares that created this lack for their baby, and sometimes it’s overt – like when the baby is the product of a rape. Covert or overs, the end result is that the child has a felt sense of not being wanted, and not having a safe place in this new and scary world.

The Schizoid is inwardly anxious, and armors herself in a way that protects whatever she feels is being attacked in that moment; as a result, the schizoid will tend to pull inward, away from her extremeties. To the external world she shows a calm demeanor; while inwardly she is trembling.

At their best, the Schizoid person is the visionary, able to see beyond the every-day mundane to the bigger picture. Creative and well-grounded, she is connected to her surroundings in multiple ways. The only true multi-tasker.

The primary challenge for the Schizoid is to learn to love herself – and know she belongs.

Next week, I’ll introduce the Rigid character Type.  If you find this series interesting, and want to know more, I along with my friend and colleague Jane Mactinger will be holding a workshop on Character Structures in the near future.  Stay tuned for a date and time.

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

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