Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Summer Reading Notes

I have something to admit . . . I'm one of those people who likes to peek at the end of a book from time to time. You know, just to know what I'm getting into, to make sure everyone is alright in the end, and because I'm really curious.

So, as I was thinking about a post this morning, I've been drawn to write about the values chapter. What's been sticking with me as I read along is the essential questions of "What's important to you - what do you value in this life -- and does how you live your life reflect those values?" Because, I find that when I'm doing something that might make me anxious, I'm more motivated to go for it if it's important to me.

These past few weeks I've been driving carpool with another family that I don't know as well. Now, you know and I know that anxiety does not affect your ability to drive, but I've just gotten caught up in an anxiety cycle where I have thoughts of, "What if I get anxious and can't drive carpool these five weeks? How will I explain that? What will people think? That would mean . . . . (any number of bad things that I make up in the moment)."

Typically, I feel worst on Monday, anticipating and feeling anxious beforehand. Then, once everyone is in the car and I'm driving it's really fun. The kids are giggly and hysterical with each other the whole way home and I feel great. I just get caught in that imaginary "bad things will happen" cycle before hand and can't seem to stop struggling in anticipation. Then I get upset with myself that "here we go again" and I struggle to stop struggling.

So, two things I've told myself lately: I'm reminded that it's alright to have those thoughts and sensations -- it's ok to feel anxious here -- and I welcomed all thoughts and sensations to stay for the party. Then, I reminded myself that being able to drive my child and her friends where they need to go is important to me. Doing something that might make me internally uncomfortable, but is safe, is an example I want to set for my kids.

We're in the last week and just this morning I noticed some thoughts and feelings creep up. They poked their heads around to see who wanted to play and left when it was clear there was no one around. Tomorrow might be different, but I'm learning that the most important thing is that I'm willing to show up and do my job no matter what.

How are you doing what's important to you this week, even if anxiety shows up?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Even more summer reading - a few wonderful articles

I've added a new sidebar to my blog where I'm beginning to list articles I think are great. Some are from Reid Wilson's newsletters; others are from Dave Carbonell's website; and I've thrown in a few from Martha Beck over at "O" magazine. Enjoy & see you soon to discuss chapters 4 & 5 of our summer workbook!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Summer Reading - Chapter 3

I hope you all are getting a chance to get caught up in the workbook and enjoying it. Chapter 3 is short and sweet with a resounding main message about struggle and avoidance.

"The most critical element that separates normal from problematic anxiety and fear is this: avoidance, avoidance and more avoidance."

Wouldn't it be great if we could just avoid a few yucky emotions and they would just go away? For some reason, avoidance does really feel toxic for the anxious brain. At this stage of the game, for me, I'm almost more afraid of avoiding something than of entering a situation and knowing I'll be anxious. My experience has taught me that even one little avoidance and the slope is feeling mighty slippery. A few years back, I was driving and had the thought, "Uh oh, I'm feeling kind of anxious today. I think I'll take the back roads instead of the highway." Wouldn't you know, the next day, it felt 10x harder to get back on the highway, even though that route had become part of my routine.

Can you relate to the poison ivy analogy? If you've never had poison ivy, consider yourself lucky! If you have, then you know it's almost impossible not to scratch at that insidious itch! Anxiety can feel alot like that. We want to float through it, drop the rope and not struggle, but the urge to fight/struggle/itch is automatic.

I'm looking forward to learning more about the attitude shift and mindfulness techniques that are soon to come. I like how the authors ask us not to be convinced that their techniques will work, but to simply have an open mind.

Although chapters to come will cover these questions, I'm wondering:

*What are you avoiding right now?

*What would you be doing differently in your life if anxiety was not an issue?

*What messages are sinking in for you from this workbook? What resonates the strongest?

*Are you ready to tackle chapters 4 & 5?

See you soon!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Upcoming Fall Workshops

I know it's the beginning of July and crazy hot (over 100 degrees here today!), but let's look forward to two wonderful workshops available this Fall.

For those of you who live in/around the mid-west, Dave Carbonell is holding a weekend workshop for people with panic attacks. It will be held in Chicago, IL on October 23rd - 24th, 2010. For more information, check out this link. I've never met Dave, but his writing style is so appealing to me and I love his sense of humor. I think this would be well worth your time and money.

If you live close to North Carolina, Reid Wilson is also holding a weekend workshop and it's excellent. His workshop is for people with panic attacks and social anxiety. It will be held in Durham, N.C. on September 11th - 12th, 2010. Reid Wilson has more dates listed at this site.

These guys are both excellent clinicians. I attended Dr. Wilson's workshop almost two years ago and got so much out of it. What would have been even more helpful was to have a group of people working toward their goals to jump into when I got back home. Although, I think that's possible to do online. You can expect to jump right in and work on some of your fears while you're at the workshop. If you're considering attending, you can read a little about my experience here.

Stay cool and I'll check back in with a post on chapter 3 this weekend!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Summer Reading: Intro - Chapter 2

So, did you get a chance to grab the workbook? If not, don't worry about being behind, just jump in when you can. I haven't discussed a book "book club style" online before, so I'll start by jotting down some of what stood out for me and I'd love to hear what's speaking to you or creating a strong reaction as you digest the material.

The first thing that I want to make sure we highlight is how the intro tells us "put taking care of yourself on your to-do list". I can't tell you how many times I write down in my planner "make tea & read - 30 min." and how often something else takes priority - dinner prep, email, laundry, a 3 year old who won't nap, or just plain old procrastination. I'm thinking I might need to play around with when I read. Maybe afternoon "quiet time" with three kids in the house isn't going to be where I'm successful. Like exercise, I may need to aim for first thing in the morning.

Something else important to note is taking the time to really read and work through all the exercises, not just skimming. In Dave Carbonell's workbook (another good one), I like how he recommends reading the material thoroughly and not just enough to make you more anxious. How true! How often do we dip into a book, looking for that little piece of wisdom that will make our present anxiety dissipate? As we scramble through the pages, looking at our underlined notes, anxiety can actually increase because we're struggling to make it go away (or is that just me?).

ACT begins by telling us, "If I continue to do what I've always done, then I'm going to get what I've always got." (pg. 11) That makes perfect sense, but it's a fact we rarely think about. This simple truth extends far beyond anxiety and reminds me of how Dr. Phil asks, "How's that working for you?" For our discussion, how is struggling and trying to rid yourself of anxiety working for you?

"Struggle turns out to be the most important toxic element that constricts lives and transforms anxiety from being a normal human experience into a life-shattering problem." (pg. 47)

"ACT is about letting go, showing up to life, and getting yourself moving in directions you want to go." (pg. 13)

"You'll learn how to live out your dreams. You can have that without first winning the war with your anxiety monsters." (pg. 4)

This is so inspiring to me. Since my first panic attack, the good student in me believed that if I worked hard enough and did all of my homework, I could rid myself of anxiety and panic. I thought about what I could accomplish when I was cured and anxiety free. So, I worked and struggled, and did make some big strides. But, I've also felt deep disappointment at times when I looked up and anxiety was still there, running alongside of me.

I've resisted the notion that I just need to accept my anxiety because it felt like surrendering to an anxiety filled existence. But, I think these authors are suggesting that once you're living out what's really important to you, it doesn't matter if you drag anxiety along for the ride. In fact, taking your full attention off of your anxiety can create some lift. Right now, many of us spend too much time managing and trying to cope with anxiety and this takes up precious room when there are many other areas of our lives that are so vital and important.

Going back to the book, I love the use of repetitive themes as a way to sink in the learning. It feels grounding to me and I like the way some of these phrases pop up in my head as I go through my day, anxiety in hand.

"drop the rope
toxic avoidance
false alarms
anxiety needs big thought, fear requires little
I can use my hands, feet, & mouth to move forward, doing what's important to me"

The other night, I drove my youngest home from a swim meet while my husband stayed to cheer on our older two. It had grown late and I was anxious about driving home on a major highway downtown. I was trying to talk myself out of being anxious internally (I've done this one hundred times, nothing bad ever happens, I can handle it, bring it on). Then I remembered that driving my daughter home, on whichever route I chose, and having freedom was important to me - something that I valued highly. I drove the route, allowing the wave of adrenaline to flow through me, and made it home - once again - with no problem.

Finishing up for now:

*How might the ACT philosophy help with your experience of anxiety?

*In what ways do you struggle to control your anxiety and how does that keep you stuck?

*What's so important to you that you'll risk showing up and feeling anxious?

*What's resonating for you in the reading? What's not sitting so well?

Let's read chapter 3 this week!