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!


Ashley said...

This sounds like a book I need to read. All I can think about most days is how I can make this go away. What can I do to be cured. I think I need some new perspective.

I ordered the book this morning. it will be here tomorrow.

Going to target in the morning...I'll let you know how it goes.
Have a happy 4th!


Anxiety Girl said...

Have a great holiday weekend and can't wait to hear about your Target trip. Thanks for sharing your journey with us, too! :)

amy said...

Hi! Another great post! I'm on my blackbry on vacay so can't write much. Just wanted to see how Ashley's trip to Target went?? I'm sure it was fine :) Have a great 4th!!

Ashley said...

Hope everyone is having a peaceful 4th. I wanted to update you on my anxious weekend thus far.

I did not go to Target. I haven't decided if it is because I havent had the opportunity (family visiting and visiting family) or if it's because I am unwilling to have an anxiety attack or experience stong fearful bodily sensations. I'm sure we all know the truth.

I did however face alot of scary situations. I had a hair appointment yesterday that I had been dreading. Not because I was afraid I wouldn't like my hair or that someone there might do somthing to me but beacause..."It would be really scary if I pass out while I'm there. And if that happened, then the ambulance would be called and they would take me away and I would still have all those foils in my hair and the bleach would sit too long and then...not only had I passed out but I'd be bald!!!!!" I tried to come up with every excuse not to go but I had already canceled my May appointment and was too embarrassed to cancel another one. So...I went. I went and took all my anxiety along with me (ACT book). I wish I could say it went well. I had a panic attak while I was under the dryer and it scared me sooo bad. I thought...O.K. this is real. somthing is wrong. why is this happening. I fought and I struggled but in the end I was fine. The panic went away and although I was left with crazy high anxiety I paid the bill, drove home, went to my dads house with my family and at the end of the day had a good cry in the arms of my hubby.

Today was the church picnic. I had imagined some similar scary scenes that might unfold while I was there but after my theraputic cry last night I faced it with renewed energy and willingness. I was nervouse. I did get dizzy but this time I thought...if somthing is wrong with me there is nothing I can do about it anyway so I continued my canversations, I danced with my kids and I enjoyed my self. The feelings went away before they ever got too intense. I enjoyed myself and feel good about the step I took to accept the anxiety and still have fun.

I think I have a long road ahead of me and the thousand mile journey seems like too much to bear but all I can do is take one step at a time.

Amy- I left you a comment on your blog. Hope your having a good vacation.

P.S. I can't spell at all. I wish there was a spell check button :-)

Ashley said...
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amy said...

Ashley, its ok that you didn't make it to Target! And, I was thinking, when you do get around to it maybe you should w/o the kiddies. Baby steps :) Definitely do it soon, but take it slow! I'm sorry about your hair appt. I understand about gotta sit there for an hour plus, its hard. A good cry makes things better sometimes! Please remember that it will take time and learning coping techniques that will get you through this and you will come out stronger! As odd or strange as you may feel, move forward with strength and courage! Oh I want to give you a big hug :) once again, I'm on my blkbry so its hard to type a lot. Lots of prayers coming your way! And, I'm gonna go check out my blog, glad you stopped by. I haven't posted there in a little while! I'll check back here when I get home! Hope you guys are having a good 4th!

Meredith said...

Hi Ashley. I think you should be so proud of yourself for doing all of those things in one weekend. I used to feel really upset if I went somewhere and had a panic attack even if it passed and I didn't have to leave the situation. I think you should be proud that you went to your hair appt and you sat there and let the anxiety happen. I think it will give you confidence for the next time because as bad as it felt, nothing bad happened!

I faced a anxiety challenge myself last week. For some reason since my anxiety came back a year ago I have been afraid to go to the movies. I think it is being trapped somewhere for 2 hours and worrying I will have an attack. I made plans with a few of my friends to go to the midnight movie showing of Eclipse. (Yes, I am 30 something and love the books.. embarassing but true!) So, I went to the movies and had a few feelings of anxiety during the movie but I just let it pass and ended up having a good time and enjoying myself!

I just got the book and I am going to start reading it this week!

Just wondering if anyone has worse anxiety when they are by themselves? For some reason when I am out with my 2 little ones I get less anxious than when I am alone. Maybe it is because they distract me more? You would think it would be the other way around! : )

Anxiety Girl said...

Ashley, I agree with the ladies - I'm so proud of you for staying in your anxiety provoking situation and it will make you stronger for next time b/c all that experience builds on itself. Next time, you might still feel anxious, but your brain is getting the message that nothing bad happened even when your anxiety was high.

I'm already hearing some of the ACT phrases in your language, too. It felt really scary and terrible, but you were willing to show up & stay put. That's a huge deal! Sounds like it helped you at the picnic, as well. You are awesome!

For Target, you can just jump in and go, or you could also take it slow, like Amy said - how about just sitting in the parking lot and letting yourself get anxious the first day -- go inside and use the bathroom (right inside the door usually) the second day -- get a coffee at S-bucks (at the front) on day 3 and read a book -- walk around the 4th, and so on. The goal with each step is to stay and allow yourself to feel the anxiety without trying to make it go away. Check this out, if you like: I really like Reid Wilson & did a weekend workshop with him (N.C.) - I like how he says at the end, "You are successful every time you decide to practice". Go Ashley!

Hey Amy - hope your vacation was fun! Thanks for your great comments/ideas & good energy!

Hi Meredith - Awesome job at the movies! I know lots of people who feel anxious and trapped in movie theaters -- I'm so glad you went & enjoyed Eclipse! Our house is crazy about Harry Potter - gotta love a little magic.

You asked about being out with kids. Most of the time, I'm less anxious when I'm with my kids b/c three little girls demand a lot of my attention and that makes me get out of my head. However, I do seem to get anxious with them if we're going somewhere far away or new. Or, like a few weeks ago, I was with my two younger girls and felt some waves in Target. Once I slowed down, committed to staying and hanging out even longer, it got better.

I'm loving all the conversation from this supportive community!

Anxiety Girl said...

Ashley - I had a highlighting experience back in January, too! Felt panicky, red face, thought about bolting, but ended up having a good experience after riding more waves than I wanted. Here's a post from that week:

Ashley said...

Hi Meredith!
Thank you for your encouragement. I've been struggling with this for a year now. for a long time I was only interested in a quick fix. I did not want to do anything until I knew that I wouldn't have a panic attack. Now I'm trying to look at it differently. This ACT book has really helped to shift my thinking in regards to anxiety and fear. I think the book makes the point that we don't have to win the battle against anxiety/fear to live our lives. there is still a big part of me that wants to just take some magic pill and never feel anxiety again. To be honest I want it gone more than anything but I guess that's why working through it is so hard.

Your not alone in your love of all things Edward and Jacob :-) I also went to the midnight showing of Eclipse last week. My friends and I sat through all three movies (7 hours) in a theater full of screaming teens. It was hard for me too. My husband was in Texas last week and I had severe anxiety about going (I wanted to cancel). I'm glad I did it. It was worth it:-)

Do you think this book is diffrent from The Panic attack workbook and Dr. Clair Weeks?

I was reading about your 30 day challenge last night (WOW!!!) I don't know if I could do it right now. Do you feel it made a signifigant impact on your anxiety? After reading this book would you have done anything different?

Right now I'm feeling frustrated that my panic attacks still scare me so bad. I've had about 8-10 now and I still feel scared. Really scared at times.

Back to Meredith-
My anxiety is WAY worse when I'm alone. I do think my kids distract me.


amy said...

Hi ladies! Back from a rainy vacation in FL...NO sun whatsoever, it was a tad boring. Just went to spend some time with my grandfather, so that's what we did and just sat around. Flying isn't much fun to me anymore, too conjested...I've become a tad claustrophic which bothers me! Believe it or not I used to be a flight attendant for a commercial airline when I was 22...and now I can't stand it, it's amazing how much we change!

Kristin and the other fabulous mama''s very comforting to hear that you manage with your children. Whether it's out in public or wherever you are. I've always wanted children, it's the greatest desire of my heart, but now with this anxiety I have a lot of fears regarding raising children. However, it won't stop me!! I just hope that it would actually be beneficial in helping take my mind off ME and focus on something more important :) I have a ton of admiration and respect for you moms!

Ashley-Hope you're doing ok! I know how scary a panic attack can be, trust me. However, I'm learning that the key to it is to try and not be scared by it! I think that is a huge part to master. It won't have a grip on you if you're not scared of it. And you're so right about just letting your anxiety be, it's a part of you right now, the more you fight it the worse it can be! Positive thinking is HUGE too. As my friend that struggled with agoraphobic said "There is such a thing as a self fullfilling prophecy". If we just know we're going to panic and have this negative thought pattern, we probably will. Words and phrases of positivity/affirmations are wonderful :) I, too, wish you could do CBT! It is short term therapy only and deals with the here and now, it's nice! Even if you have to travel a bit, you should search one out!

I really should go buy this book and read along with you guys...I have a couple I'm reading right now, but I might check this one out!

Kristin, thank you for your time dedicated to your blog to help others. And, thank you for allowing us to communicate here. I'm so grateful to have "met" you ladies :)

Ya'll have a great week (what's left of it). Btw, is anyone on Facebook??


amy said...
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Anxiety Girl said...

Hey there!

Ashley - "Do you think this book is different from The Panic Attacks Workbook and Dr. Claire Weekes?" I'm reading along with you all, but I think it's different in how it approaches the acceptance piece and the importance it places on living a life of meaning regardless of what your emotional state throws at you. That part is sinking in with me more than it has before. I've been on the track of "what can I do to make my anxiety/panic go away and never come back" and realizing that that quest is making it worse (the struggle), is so helpful to know.

I was thinking about your book question & realizing that I've read many books, but it's been a journey of 14 years with anxiety. Different books speak to me at different times and you might need to get a few from the library and see what feels right to you.

One little book that I do think everyone should have (and forgot to mention in the last comment) is "Facing Panic - Self Help for People with Panic" - short and sweet, up to date, latest cognitive therapy research. Here's the link:

It's a shorter version of "Don't Panic" (a really good book, albeit long). Reid Wilson has a weekend workshop coming up this Fall that might be great for you. It fills up quickly & you need a referral from a doc/therapist, but I thought it was helpful. I'll actually post about that one & Dave Carbonell's workshop (also in the fall).

Re: the 30 day challenge - we should all do another one in the fall - what do you say? I thought it helped break me out of a rut and I realized that one downfall was that I was hoping it would make me anxiety free at the end. :) But, I'm taking more risks since then, which ACT would say is getting into your life regardless of how you feel. For ex., a month or so ago, I drove up 95 to see my brother (by myself) & I hadn't done it alone in about 12 yrs. I felt so awful at times that I cried hard while driving, but then made it through & had an awesome time with my brother. The payoff was worth it.

Amy - welcome back from vacation! You are going to be a beautiful Mama when the time comes and your "mama bear" instincts to love and do anything to take care of your babies will make you even stronger. Children do stretch us to take on more than we think we can do. Something really cool is that pregnancy is the perfect prep for new parenthood and each stage prepares you for the next. I'll look forward to hearing all about your journey!

Anxiety Girl said...
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Anxiety Girl said...
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Anxiety Girl said...

Ok, for some reason my comment posted 3x & I had to go back & delete the other 2 copies. Looks like that's happened to some of you, as well. Sorry about that - I'll try to figure it out.

Meredith said...

Hi ladies. It has been so helpful reading all your comments. I was wondering if all of you have "specific" triggers for your anxiety or do you ever get your attacks for no real reason? I have been doing much better with my anxiety the last few months and having twinges here and there, but no big panic attacks. So for some reason yesterday when I was home making dinner I got a bad one. I was so upset because I thought I was through with the bad attacks. It seems like every time I have an attack I can't seem to remember that it will pass and that I will not go crazy! That seems to be my biggest fear during an attack. Anyway, I am feeling kind of down today that I had a setback. I guess that is why I need to read the new book about acceptance!!!

Also, wondering if anyone here is taking medication or is everyone trying to do it without? I decided after much thought to try celexa a few months ago. I have ben on it about 12 weeks and I thought it might be helping, but I guess not really if I am still having attacks! : (

amy said...


Yes, it is verrry hard to remember all the "tools" we know when we're going through the experience! If you can just tell yourself "it's just adrenaline, no biggie". That's all it is, and telling yourself that helps tremendously! I'm no pro, but I'm working on that part of it and it's helped a few times.

Also, try NOT to let a set back get you down!! Girlfriend, it's all about attitude...if you give your setback the attention and respect, it will get the best of you. My second ever panic attack, I pitched an absolute tantrum like a child. It got me in the worst funk for like a week! The more you can move on and just throw your hands up at it and say oh well, the easier it gets and the quicker it passes! Anxiety/panic is not easy to overcome, but there are tools we can use to recover :)

As far as meds doc put me on Zoloft, that lasted like 2 days and I threw it out! It wasn't for me! I have never been depressed and still don't find myself ever depressed. I get highly frustrated and that gets me down, but I refuse to get depressed over it (but I do understand how easily depression can happen)! I know meds are supposed to be good for anxiety and such, but I believe that therapy and self-help stuff works too. Now, I do have Ativan that I take at night to help me sleep. I only take it at night though, not during the day.

As far as triggers go...for me it's just stuff that I've become uncomfortable doing. I don't necessarily have panic attacks just lying around, I get real anxious, but no real panic. Going out to eat (which I used to loooove) is now a trigger for me, it's like I have to force myself through it, I don't enjoy it and I'm so relieved if I actually get through sucks! As my therapist says, I'm relating my first panic attack (in a restaurant) to every time I go into one...I'm trying to break that habit right now!

Anyways, I'm rambling as usual. Just know that panic attacks are just false alarms, no harm done :) It's the same feeling as though someone came up behind you and scared you, the rush you feel with the rapid heart rate and such, is the same feeling like a panic attack. Just a rush of adrenaline :)

I'm praying for you Meredith, and everyone else!



K. Lonopin said...
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