Category Archives: Anxiety

Boundaries

By Paulette Murray, Post Grad Degree DCU, Ireland, OL Degree, Ucc Ireland

Boundaries are the way I know where I stop and you begin.
We need boundaries in every relationship.
To live in a relationship without boundaries is like trying
to drive down the freeway with your eyes closed in a snowstorm.
                                                            Marie Fortune

Years ago as an anxious parent of my young children I was afraid to have boundaries between myself and the people I loved most in the world. My fears were all about what ifs.

What if having boundaries meant that I didn’t protect my children? Did having boundaries mean that I wasn’t a good Mum? What if my children got hurt? What if  I neglected to know everything necessary to keep these precious children safe?

Until I learned how to meet my needs in an empowering way I felt as though I was driving down the freeway with my eyes closed in some very cold snowstorms.

Now, in the present as my fourth child is leaving the nest heading to University for the first time I’m glad I finally gained the courage and knowledge to create healthy boundaries between me and my children.

canstockphoto14163467How did I do it? It took a lot of self control and a lot of mindful breathing to control my anxieties.

I let them lead. I supported each as independent choices were made.

I listened to disappointments when one child didn’t get what he wanted, or when another was unhappy when someone behaved differently from how she believed he should have.

I let them learn. I allowed them to grow and become the truly mature young adults that they have chosen to become.

I learned to trust in me and them. As a result they in turn have learned to trust themselves.

Now our eyes are wide open.  Now we are driving down the freeway  of life gazing at the beautiful landscape that is our family and our family’s journey.

Comparing your insides with others’ outsides

by Dr. Ken Larsen

insides_kenI’ve been with Toastmasters for a couple of years.  One of the most frequently reported reasons for joining Toastmasters is to overcome the fear of speaking in public.

After hearing person after person report the same fear, I began to see this as a “normal” response.

Then when I see the frequently reported hierarchy of fears, with public speaking ranked above death, I am once again convinced this is a normal reaction.

Don’t misunderstand me.  Just because I see it as “normal”, (which is actually a statistical term not a psychological description,)   I wonder just what causes this nearly universal terror that seriously afflicts the mental health and happiness of many.  Especially five minutes before giving a talk in front of others.

I have a suspicion, however, that one cause of this terror is the conviction that to be afraid of public speaking is NOT normal, and it is a sign of weakness or some character flaw.  This is often triggered by seeing an apparently confident speaker seem immune to stage fright, giving a relaxed talk with no evidence of nervousness.

This is what I call comparing your insides with someone else’s outsides.

The fact of the matter is we don’t know what is going on inside the seemingly confident person.  I remember Johnny Carson talking about his anxiety before giving his nightly monologue.  And this was after decades in broadcasting.

Bruce Springsteen talks about using the energy of the pre-performance jitters to push his performance to a higher level.

I believe that once we accept the fact that just about everyone else has the same butterflies before a performance, we can settle down, accept our jitters, and move on.

Buddhists have an interesting insight into suffering from an affliction.  There is the affliction itself, such as fear of speaking, and then there is what is called “the second arrow”.  This second arrow is when we add to our affliction by thinking of ourselves as weak, or inferior, or in some way different than the rest of our species.

If we will choose to avoid this “second arrow” of self-blame, we can focus on doing what others have done before us.  Feel what you’re feeling, understand it for what it is, and then move beyond it.

This is an important part of our ongoing quest for mental health and happiness.

It’s Scary Out There

By Michael Rice

scaryoutthere_mikericeSeveral years ago, when I had become a first-time parent, my son of age 4 was going through that stage of development that Judith Viorst refers to as Separation-Individuation.   Chris had already learned the first separation stage when he learned how to walk and was able to go where he wanted to go and not where others wanted him to go.  He had also learned a few years prior how to say “no” to indicate his own wants.  Yet he was still not very much aware that he needed his parents in order to survive.  He wanted to test his independence.

One night, as I was putting him to bed, he said something, which I don’t precisely recall, that indicated that he wanted to go out in the world on his own.  It was just a matter-of-fact statement he made and not one of defiance or anger.  I played along with him and asked, “Are you sure this is what you want to do?”  In his little boy voice and a nod of the head in replied, “uh huh.”  So I got his little travel case out of his closet and he and I began to pick out the clothes he thought he might want to pack for his trip out into the world.  He was very serious and seemed determined to follow through on his desire to find his own way in his own world.

We headed for the front door.  It was night so I turned on the porch light and opened the door.  Continuing to play along, I said, “Be sure to let us know where you will settle down and if you need anything, just ask, okay?  Write or call us when you find work.”  He stepped out into the darkness and I closed the door behind him yet keeping an eye on him where he couldn’t see me.

He looked around without looking back and it began to dawn on him that he had nowhere to go and no way of getter anywhere.  He sat down on the porch stoop next to his little suitcase and just looked out into the darkness for several minutes.   At the same time, I was struck with a terribly sad emotion relating to exactly what he must be feeling at this moment:  Fear and the sudden realization that he didn’t have anyone to help him as he looked into the dark abyss that awaited him. He was alone. . . a dreadful feeling for a very young child.  I was feeling it too.  He was learning that he wasn’t quite as separated and individuated from his parents as he thought.  And I, too, was realizing that I was feeling the fear of becoming separated from him . . . and not willing to do so.

I opened the door and said something to the effect of, “It’s pretty scary out there isn’t it?”  He agreed and I said, “Why don’t you come back in where it’s not so dark and scary.  I’m glad you came back.”  He came back in the house and we went back to his bedroom and I got him ready for bed and tucked him in.  I was sure glad to have him back home even though I knew he wasn’t going to go very far.

While it has been over 35 years since this happened, I remember it like it was yesterday.  In fact, I couldn’t help but recall the emotions I had at that time while writing this story.  A lump came up in my throat and tears welled up in my eyes.

Several more stages of separation-individuation occur in development that includes adolescence, college/military, and marriage and families of their own.  While it is true that our children grow up too fast, the best memories tend to be those that we have from the early years with them.  Those memories and our children are marvels to behold that will always bring joy and recollection of happy and loving times.

Emotional Self-Defense

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

bullying

As a thirteen year-old girl, I was threatened, mocked and bullied by an older girl (age fourteen) while her posse watched. As far as I knew I had done nothing to provoke this attack, yet on my walk to school or during play time with my neighborhood friends this tormentor would come from nowhere and start. Finally, one day I had had enough. I stood my ground and silently stood up to her. She brazenly walked up to me, slapped me across the face, and turned to walk away. I grabbed her hair in an attempt to bring her back. Much to my horror I pulled great clumps of her over-dyed and over-teased hair out of her head. Without skipping a beat, she walked to her friends and they all walked away. We never exchanged another glance, blow or word.

I wondered if I had triumphed? I was relieved that the teasing, intimidation and bullying stopped. At the same time I was not proud of having made an enemy and in such a violent manner.

During the years since my youth, I have had similar kinds of experiences. Luckily none have ended with a physical battle. I’m too often clueless about what I have done or do to provoke such anger and hatred. However I am old enough now to know that I am not just an innocent victim. What may be my well intended words could be perceived by the other as a threat or attack. With my added experiences and greater (?) wisdom, at least I know enough to offer an apology for what I may have done that has offended the other. Luckily, most times this helps to sooth hurt feelings and misunderstandings. Perhaps a friendship may not develop, but at least we end with better feelings toward one another.

Sometimes however,  there are a few who continue to attack, no matter what. The wonderful world of online encounters through Twitter, Facebook and other social media create many of these possible interactions.

Thanks to Dr. Peter Breggin I now know what to do. Did you hear him interviewed on our Mental Health & Happiness Summit? He offered a great deal of helpful advice and ideas to contribute to Mental Health & Happiness for us all. (Watch Dr. Peter Breggin’s inverview here:  http://www.mentalhealthandhappiness.com/2014/peter+breggin.html) And he also provided me with an incredibly helpful concept and skill.

We are each entitled to the right for unconditional emotional self defense. We can and should expect, demand and ask to be treated with respect and kindness.

The first time I interact and am attached by a person with whom I have had no prior history I will take a step back, literally if I can, or in my imagination if that is the only possibility. Closing my eyes I visualize surrounding myself with a clean and protective space. Some parents teach their children do this calling it the bubble of safety. Some people imagine stepping into a white light space of safety. It’s helpful to experiment and practice this skill before you get into a situation where you need to use your protective space.

Finally, I say, I have the unconditional right to emotional self-defense. I am entitled to be spoken to with respect. I offer you this same respect. 

For me the results have been amazing. Occasionally I am bullied on Facebook. This practice has helped me to stand up for myself without attempting to externally control the other person or bully back. On Facebook I make this statement slightly differently: If you can speak to me respectfully I welcome your thoughts and comments. Otherwise, please leave me alone. 

I’m actually looking forward to the next time I need to practice this skill face-to-face with a someone. Learning this strategy has greatly improve my Mental Health & Happiness.

I have Anxiety

By Dr. Nancy Buck

Isn’t that a funny thought? How can you have anxiety? Is that anything like having brown eyes or red hair? Or is it closer to having a one-car garage or a cell phone?

canstockphoto0527001If you have anxiety where do you get it? When you’ve had enough of it, could you return it?

Have you ever read a scary book or been to a horror movie? Did you leave with anxiety? Did the story give you anxiety? I remember reading a very frightening book in the light of day and needing to stop reading because I was so frightened. I didn’t finish reading the book until I was no longer at home alone. Somehow reading the book with another person in the house was going to keep me from the perils of the villain on the page!

Here’s the miracle I want to share with you. You don’t have to have anxiety anymore. It is not an immutable part of your brain or DNA. You have the ability to change anxiety into some other more pleasant, productive and effective feeling. (But if you enjoy your anxiety and believe it serves you well you don’t have to change anything.)

How? By changing your actions or your thoughts you will change your feelings.

Just like I put the book down and stopped reading the frightening story, I changed my actions and changed my feelings.

Here are some ideas:

• If you’re anxious about money, you could balance your check book even it that means you are in the red. Now start dreaming of the life you want when you have all the money in the world. This won’t permanently change your money worries, but you will fell less anxious while you’re dreaming.

• If you’re worried about turbulence during a plane flight you can start singing calming or distracting songs. You can actually sing quite loudly because the increased turbulence often means greater “white” noise in the plane so no one will hear you.

• If you enter a room filled with tension and discontent you can start smiling and introducing yourself to people you don’t know and saying hello to the people you do know.

Right now you can make a plan to help yourself. What is the next event where you expect to feel anxious? How could you change your actions or your thoughts? Maybe you’re feeling anxious even as you read this blog. Stand up and read, or hum your favorite song under your breath as you read, or spin your chair – now spin it again.

I understand that these strategies will probably not take your anxiety completely away. But I promise you will feel less anxious because of what you do and think. And the more you practice the better your skills and more effective you will be at diminishing and eventually vanishing your anxiety.

Where do you think the above three suggestions came from? They are my own strategies from the anxiety moments in my life. And the more I practice the less I have anxiety and the more I become calm.

Why not give this a try? What do you have to lose but your anxiety?

Go Outside and Play

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

When I was a child my mother use to say, nag, plead and shout Go outside and play. Now, all these many years later I spend time with my grandchildren who say, nag, plead and shout at me to go outside and play. Hmmm. Maybe somebody knows something I don’t.

In fact there is emerging research (our newest barometer for what is true or not) that being outside in nature improves our mood, lessens our anxiety and enhances our thinking and problem solving abilities.There is even more research touting the benefits than what is mentioned here. Do a Google search to find more if you want.

Whether it’s sitting on a beach, watching and breathing to the rhythm of the waves or sitting in a meadow, watching the breeze dance across the wheat field while blowing clouds along the sky, or dipping your bare feet into a bubbling brook, going outside and connecting with nature will  change you.

If you’re looking for solutions to help with feelings of anxiety, depression, unhappiness, anger or stress, go outside and play. This won’t take away your negative feelings all together. It will improve your physical and mental health. This shift in body, mind and spirit will help you handle these negative feelings more effective.

Turns out my mother and my grandchildren all know what they are talking about. I’m making a resolution to start a new habit. I will Go outside and play every day.

My Conversion

by Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

It was going to be a glorious vacation starting by renting an RV in Phoenix, then traveling to the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park, we would camp, hike and experience the wide, wild western part of our country. Our plan was to head back to Phoenix and return home two weeks later.

Three weeks later my husband, 9-year old twin sons and I were safely back in Rhode Island. We had lots of glorious photographs and fantastic memories. The only problem was my vacation included utter terror and abject fear. Did you know that there are no guard rails on the winding, steep high ways through the glorious National Parks of the Grand Canyon and Zion? Did you know that sitting in the front passenger seat of an RV means you are sitting in an incredible tall place where you can look down into the sheer drop so easily visible? Did you know that I am a very imaginative person who spent too many hours visualizing the mis-calculations of my husband’s driving that would lead to the death and distraction of us all? I begged, pleaded, yelled and finally got on the floor of the RV pounding my fists and kicking my legs in a full blown temper tantrum asking him to PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE SLOW DOWN!!!!

Several years later we were planning another similar trip in and RV, this time to visit Glacier National Park in Montana. In addition to all the planning, organizing and arranging necessary for the trip, I was determined to change my terrorizing ways. After all, no one else experienced the same panic that I had. My challenge was to manage my fear without trying to manage my husband who was a perfectly safe and competent driver. But how? I considered medication, but did not want to feel foggy, dopey and out of it for our family vacation. Then I remembered what I knew about behavior, and total behavior.

Our behavior includes acting/thinking/feeling/physiology-ing. These four component work in harmony and simultaneously. I also knew from my nursing background that the physiology-ing of fear is the same as the physiology-ing of excitement. The difference between these two total behaviors is the thinking component. Yes! I needed to change the imaginative story I was telling myself.

I practiced for weeks before our flight west to Montana. We’re going on an exciting adventure that will include new experiences and sights! I’m so excited! This became my mantra whenever I thought of our trip, whether I was telling the story to someone else or thinking and planning on my own. Once we got into the RV and started driving on the first highway, I changed what I told myself slightly. We are on our great adventure. I can’t wait for all the new experiences and sights! This is exciting! Every evening I wrote all I had experienced, seen and been excited about in my gratitude journal. I repeated this mantra as many times as I got “nervous” instead of excited. I repeated this every time I say or did anything exciting. I repeated this mantra frequently and often. I was having a great adventure.

Success! Taking control of changing the story I told myself allowed me to convert my terror and panic. I genuinely enjoyed a family vacation which was a great adventure, filled with excitement, extraordinary sights and wonderful family fun and experiences.

Crisis: Danger and Opportunity Combined

By:  Maria E Trujillo alias Manual DeVie

Suddenly normal events took on pain, awkwardness and new meaning.

I ran into someone I hadn’t seen for awhile and she asked, “How are your kids?”

I shared that my son is now incarcerated for four years.

This is followed by a brief and awkward pause from us both. She then said, “That’s too bad” and we quickly disconnect.

So often these awkward moments equaled disconnection.

crisisWhen I first heard my son was going away to prison and for how long I was speechless, overwhelmed and frightened. Only I couldn’t just walk away and disconnect from this new reality, this crisis. My mental health and happiness suddenly vanished.

I now realize that this has been a blessing and opportunity in disguise. Resources and prevention programs for a prescription pill epidemic are lagging behind the need. Our journey had actually begun twelve years before the incarceration. Being locked up was the best chance my son had of getting the drugs out of his system.

If I had turned my thoughts or concerns about what others thought, fearing their judgment of me as a mother, my worry, upset and concern about my son and his present situation would have been compounded. It could have become a downward spiral. I might I have turned to a doctor asking for pills to help me sleep? I can easily imagine that I might have fallen into a similar trap as my son, relying on medication to help me with my mental and emotional anguish.

Luckily I am so grateful for the training I had in choice theory psychology. Knowing ways I could improve my own mental health and happiness helped me manage myself. I also learned tangible actions to help my son.

Choice theory psychology was everything I wished I had known when I was a kid. It was everything I wanted my children to learn. For me “necessity was the mother of my invention!” I created Manual DeVie to teach our youth choice theory psychology. I was able to use my hindsight into foresight for our kids.

I learned one last surprise from this crisis. Now when people hear my son is incarcerated I am able to use this opportunity to share.

I AM SO PROUD OF MY SON!

 

 

Falling Apart

By Dr. Nancy Buck

My life was falling apart. My husband of 24 years left, saying he wasn’t sure he wanted to be married to me anymore. He needed time on his own to figures things out. My twin sons had left for college. The family dog ran away.

I was alone in our home, but there was no more “our” or “we.” Was there even a home anymore?

I didn’t know what to do. Crying didn’t help. Talking with my sisters and friends gave me only temporary relief.

Day after heart breaking day, the sadness, isolation, failure and oppression was unbearable.

My lifeline, it turned out, was my journal. Every morning I wrote my three morning pages. Every evening I listed five things I was grateful for. Most days my gratitudes consisted of:

1.    I am breathing in

2.    I am breathing out

3.    I am breathing in

4.    I am breathing out

5.    I am breathing in and out

The lessons I learned during that time were many. The most important lesson was to keep breathing no matter what.

You never know what might happen next, what internal strength will be discovered, and what gifts will be revealed in the next moment.

And if you don’t keep breathing you never will know.

So keep breathing, in and out, in and out, in and out.