Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mind Traps

"When you go beyond seeing words as words, you're buying into the illusion your mind creates. The thoughts shift from being thoughts to being something dangerously serious. And when that happens, you'll often find yourself trapped in old behavior patterns that are neither helpful nor in your best interest. We call this a mind trap." (pg. 70)

Come again? The idea of a mind trap is actually pretty simple and people (with or without anxiety) do it all the time. Mind traps occur when we make up stories in our heads and respond as if those thoughts are true. If we've imagined something scary, our bodies begin making lots of adrenaline and our physical symptoms kick in, followed by more scary thoughts. Of course, this is a great recipe for a panic attack and, over time, it simply becomes habit.

I remember a few years back, my husband took our older girls to a festival. When I couldn't reach him by phone, I started to imagine that one of the kids got lost and he wasn't answering until he found her. I imagined her lost in the crowd and crying for us - it was horrible. Even though I knew this scenario was highly unlikely, I found myself believing my imagination and feeling more and more anxious until I was able to reach my husband. The reality was that they were having so much fun that he didn't hear the phone and everyone came home happy.

I so identified with Brene Brown's video when she asked the audience "what happens next?" My brain runs disastrous headlines on a daily basis. Sometimes I shrug them off and other times I get a little wave of adrenaline. What if it's a sign?

Leaving the pool with my three year old while hubby and the girls stay behind.

"Little did they know that would be the last time anyone saw them alive".

The phone rings before 8am in the morning.

"And that's when she first heard that (insert name) had passed away during the night".

Even though it doesn't feel like it, we do have a choice in how we respond to thoughts like:

What if?

It would be terrible if . . .

I'm going to have a panic attack and then . . .(this terrible thing will happen). . .

"One of the most courageous things you can do when your WAF's (worries, anxieties and fears) show up is to sit still with them and not do as they say." (pg. 76)

This week, I invite you to just notice when your mind starts to set a trap for you. See if you can simply watch the thought without having to respond to it. There's an exercise on page 76 in our summer book called "Mind Watching" - it's a good one. And, if you're not reading the book, try sitting with some basic meditation every day for as long as you like. I'm going to aim for 5 - 10 minutes a day and see how it goes!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Home again

I'm just getting settled back in after being away for two weeks. My Mom and Step-Dad live by the water and we had the chance to house sit for them while they adventured off to Alaska. It was so nice to be away and long enough that I was excited as we drove back into our cozy, little neighborhood this past weekend. One of these days, we'll have enough money to fly our family of five somewhere exotic, but for now, house sitting in a beautiful location was just what we all needed.

As I was getting our kitchen back in order the other night, I found myself needing to take frequent breaks and pop into some favorite blogs. (Speaking of distraction - this is fabulous ice cream and you can sub 1 tsp vanilla extract for the vanilla bean.) I also found this wonderful video by Brene Brown. I was so touched by her talk and am still processing what she had to say. Enjoy and I'd love to hear what you think.

Watch live streaming video from tedxkc at

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"Intense anxiety is not in itself a problem"

I know, did we read that right on page 60? Isn't that what we struggle and fight not to feel, worrying that we'll be washed away in all that misplaced intensity?

Let's look at that again: "Intense anxiety is not in itself a problem. Many people experience intense anxiety, even panic attacks, in their daily lives and continue to do what's important to them." " Intensely felt emotions need not be a barrier . . . they can be welcomed in as a vital part of you." (p. 60)

We know from research that when people accept or even invite their anxiety, it often dissipates. But this takes that notion one step further. Is it possible to welcome anxiety as a vital part of ourselves? Is there value to our anxiety that we're overlooking? Anxiety, energy and excitement are so closely related. Some even say that anxiety might be linked with their energy source and, used with intention, can be useful.

The other morning I woke up feeling tense and anxious. I started thinking "what if I used my adrenaline to my advantage - you know, jump into my high energy tasks and/or exercise when my engine is already revved up?" I remembered watching PBS's "This Emotional Life" a few months back. During episode two, there was a writer who said that his anxiety started getting better when he realized it was something he could learn to use; his anxiety was like his own personal caffeine pump. Accepting what is and making anxiety work for you - now there's a concept!

Something I'm enjoying about this read is the way the authors are turning old, stubborn beliefs onto their heads. If intense anxiety is not a problem or a barrier to doing what's important to you, imagine the possibilities!