Surprise! When Anxious Being Alone Is a Horrible Idea. Here’s What To Do Instead

social anxiety

In my 20′s I would often become gripped with fear because of frequent panic attacks, but instead of trying to reach out to people, I’d sprint to my bed and lay there for hours waiting for my anxiety to go away.

But this was a horrible idea given that a lack of social contact, especially in times of high stress, erodes your physical and mental health in a way that makes anxiety stronger.

In fact, you’re more likely to reinforce negative thought processes or even develop brand new fears when you spend too much time alone.

Every time I ran away from the world because of anxiety I gave it power, which allowed it to grow out of control. What changed my situation more than anything was reaching out to other people.

First I started by talking to my girlfriend (now my wife!) and sharing my wacky ideas with her.

Later on I started talking to my mom, my sister, my brother, and even a few friends. Eventually, I ended up speaking with a psychologist who helped tip the scales in my favor.

Strengthening my social support system was a crucial part of getting better.

Some of you might wonder if this is even possible, because isn’t that going to out you as “crazy” or something along those lines?

Listen, the tough guy thing only works in the movies. Everyone has problems of some kind or other, yours just happens to be related to anxiety.

What if a friend came to you during a divorce? What would you say? “Tough cookies amigo, I can’t help you with that!”

No. You’d try to help out, even if that meant simply listening to that person tell their story.

There is at least one person among your friends or family that would certainly do that for you if given the opportunity, right?

There is true power in human connections and it should not be overlooked.

Developing a strong social support system has some clear benefits.

Here are a few:

1. Reduction in negative perceptions. People in your “circle of trust” will hopefully call you out when your ideas are far-fetched.

They can help bring a more realistic view to your anxiety riddled ideas.

2. Increased use of coping skills. If you’re in therapy and/or taking medications having someone there to support and encourage you can serve as an enormous motivating factor when it comes to reaching your goals.

3. It’s good for your health. Isolated people have poorer health outcomes when compared to people linked to others.

The bottom-line is that you’re not alone. Even if you tell yourself that you have zero friends or family there is still someone out there willing to help.

It could be a therapist, a priest, a rabbi, a free help line, whatever, people are out there. The only reason why you would stay alone is because you choose to be.

The hard part is telling someone that you need help, trust me I know, but it can and should be done.

In this week’s episode of The Anxiety Guru Show I interviewed Tanya Peterson, author of the novel My Life in a Nutshell, to help me explore the importance of having a strong social support system.

Listen to this week’s podcast and comment below!

anxiety, podcast

3 Eye-Opening Insights About Meditation and Mindfulness

meditation

When you think of meditation you probably picture something like these guys.

Everyone wearing white, barefooted, and doing a real special kind of zoning out.

Well, that’s one picture anyway. But the reality of meditation is a lot more useful and varied than you might imagine.

In this week’s episode of The Anxiety Guru Show I explore meditation in a brand new way.

Usually I do a little research and combine it with my own experience to deliver something of value.

But this week I went above and beyond. I reached out to two meditation experts to help me understand the real value of meditation as a means of reducing anxiety.

I spoke to wellness expert Kathy Gruver PhD and mindfulness meditation teacher Devon Rath.

Both have years of experience with meditation and shared some really thought provoking ideas during our talk.

They opened my eyes to how meditation can take you far beyond relaxation and pave the way towards true emotional acceptance.

Looking back now, I realize that I was able to achieve emotional acceptance without meditation, but the road I took was crude and inefficient.

I learned a ton during my talk with Dr. Gruver and Devon. But here are the 3 most important things I learned:

1. Meditation teaches you acceptance. When you are meditating you’re not trying to silence your mind, rather you’re trying to train yourself to not judge your thoughts.

Simply thinking about acceptance can make it happen over time but it’s super hard. Meditation is a structured way of doing the same thing.

It requires patience and practice. The two most important parts of learning how to accept your anxious thoughts.

2. Meditation helps you tap into your “inner observer.” It’s the part of your mind that isn’t moved by fear or worry.

If you learn how to identity this part of your mind and make it stronger then you’re better able to contend with any feeling or thought without the urge to run away from it.

There is an enormous inner strength that all of us have but often don’t take the time to cultivate. Meditation helps you harvest the strength that’s already there.

3. Meditation comes in many shapes and sizes. Some people don’t feel comfortable with meditation because it conjures up images of far eastern religion.

But the truth is that meditation can be done in many different places, positions and doesn’t have to involve religion.

Listen to this week’s episode of the podcast and comment below!

anxiety, podcast

Conquering Anxiety: My Story

anxiety, panic, stress

Today’s post was written by former anxiety sufferer Elisa. I am grateful to Elisa for sharing her inspirational story with us here at AG. Don’t forget to visit Elisa at Averageyogini.com and share your comments with her below. – Paul Dooley

My Own Brand of Anxiety

My name is Elisa, and I’m an anxiety sufferer. I say “I am” rather than “I was” because the way I see it, anxiety is a little like alcoholism.

Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic, even if you’re not currently drinking.

I AM an anxiety sufferer, even though I haven’t suffered from anxiety in over eight years.

Anxiety disorders run in my family. It would be weird if I DIDN’T have one. Name a phobia, I’ll name you a family member. Generalized Anxiety Disorder? You got it! Panic? In spades! Hypochondria? You bet.

So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that anxiety would find me, especially after having uprooted myself (and my husband), sold all my belongings and moved to Europe to get an MBA. But find me it did, and it hit me hard.

I’ll never know what triggered it, I suppose. Things were going well. My academic life was going swimmingly. I had plenty of interviews with very prestigious firms lined up for my MBA summer internship.

Sure, our funds were dwindling more quickly than I expected, but all in all my husband and I were not in a bad place.

And then one day, on our way back from a ski trip with a few classmates, from the backseat of our friend’s car I began getting this feeling that I couldn’t breathe.

So I took a deep breath. My lungs filled up with oxygen, and I immediately thought… “Oh my God, I’m not breathing properly?”

So I took a deep breath again. Again, my lungs filled up just as they’re supposed to, and again, I panicked, intensely focused on my breathing.

It had gotten dark and the mountain where we’d gone skiing outside of Barcelona felt a little remote.

My friends could tell just by looking in the rear-view mirror as I kept clutching my chest and taking long, drawn out breaths that something was bothering me.

We got to Barcelona fairly late that night, but despite my not turning blue in the face and passing out from “not breathing,” I made my husband take me to an Emergency Room.

Once there, they checked my vitals, confirmed they were completely normal, handed me some anxiolytics, and sent me home.

I can’t remember whether I took the pills or not. I’d had panic attacks before but I’d never been one to take medication.

The funny thing is, people think it’s because I think I’m too good for it, but it’s actually because I’m afraid of it!

I don’t like the feeling of not being in control of my body, and I don’t like anything that causes me to fall asleep before I’m damn good and ready to close my eyes and do it myself.

The next day was no better, and the days and nights that followed got progressively worse. I stayed home from school for a few days, thinking it would help. It didn’t.

My mind darted from worrying about my breathing, to worrying about someone breaking into our apartment and kidnapping me, to worrying about avian flu because I found a dead pigeon outside our balcony.

What started as an uneasy feeling and irrational thoughts began to snowball into a constant feeling of dread, and eventually continual physical stress. Anxiety was my faithful companion, day in, day out, 24/7, no matter what I did or thought about.

Like many people, I’ve tried looking up anxiety symptoms to “inform myself”. Really I was doing it just to confirm one more time that what I was experiencing was in fact anxiety and not Multiple Sclerosis or an aneurysm… or a stroke…. or some other horrible disease that no one had been able to detect.

From the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed, I had shortness of breath, tightness in my chest, light-headedness, and many of the other lovely, classic symptoms of anxiety.

While researching, I never did find this one symptom, though, that haunted me the most throughout the time I was plagued with panic disorder.

It was like a very heavy weight had settled on my head, around my neck and on my shoulders. And then the crying set in. And the sinking feeling that I would somehow never find my old self again.

I developed a fear of eating. I was certain I would one day ingest something – new or familiar – that would cause a severe allergic reaction and send me into anaphylactic shock.

This DESPITE having had an allergy panel done and having found nothing but a mild allergy to grass pollen.

I began to lose weight – and I was fairly thin already. At the bottom of the barrel, at 5’4” I weighed 100 lbs – at 30 years old, that was 20 lbs less than my high school weight of 120. I looked terrible.

And I felt terrible. My husband didn’t know how to help me. I called my family back home every night crying. My parents didn’t know how to help me either.

And then finally, after reaching out to anyone and their mother who might have an inkling about how to make this anxiety go away, I connected with one of my cousins on my father’s side. Everything changed after that.

Therapy – The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Most people who try to help you through an episode of panic or anxiety will either dismiss your fears as irrational, or hold your hand, coddle you, and tell you everything will be okay.

That it’s just a panic attack and that things are going to be fine. That you are not, in fact, dying of avian flu / going to get kidnapped by terrorists / in danger of being hit by a nuclear bomb any time in the near future.

My cousin did something different. She shared her own story with me (I won’t tell it here – that’s her story to tell), having recovered from her own kind of anxiety many years earlier.

She also recommended a “tough love” brand of Brief Strategic Therapy that focuses on behavioral changes to help anxiety sufferers find their happiness again.

With the luxury of time behind me and many (8 now) years of reflection, I can clearly distill these behaviors into three principles that I continue to apply in my everyday life to keep anxiety firmly in its place: independence, non-avoidance, and acceptance.

Those are my own words, rather than how my therapist would have described them, but the spirit of these concepts remains.

The therapy, which lasted about eight sessions over the course of several months, was less about discovering the root of my anxiety and more about creating behaviors that disrupted the vicious cycle I found myself in.

My therapist – her name was Adela, and her office smelled like PEACE – would meet with me during these sessions and give me exercises to carry out between one meeting and the next that were designed to create new habits reflecting the principles I highlighted above.

I wasn’t allowed to ask why or delve too much into the mechanics of it all, but for some reason I trusted this method from the beginning and jumped eagerly into my exercises.

Eight sessions and many exercises later, I could finally breathe again. The mental symptoms began to abate first, and then the physical ones. I found an occasional spring in my step again.

The depression subsided. My outlook on my life changed, permanently, and when I finished my MBA in the spring of 2007 I felt doubly accomplished in what I’d achieved.

I’d climbed out of a deep hole, on my own, and had finished my studies just as I’d set out to do two years earlier.

Here’s how it all unfolded:

Independence – No One Can Save You But You

Anxious people (or at least this anxious person) tend to reach out to others for help in their worst moments. Well-meaning friends and family offer to hold our hands as we encounter something that makes us anxious – just to take the edge off.

We call our friends and relatives to ask for “advice” on our anxiety. I say “advice” in quotes, because really what we’re looking for is validation. Validation that what we’re experiencing is just anxiety.

Validation that our thoughts are irrational. Validation, even, that we’re making the right choices in our lives – whether it’s about our anxiety or not.

The first thing I was asked to do in therapy was to not under any circumstances discuss my anxiety with anyone but my therapist. If I was afraid, I had to keep it to myself. If I was having a crisis, I had to slog through it on my own.

The one caveat to this was that I was allowed to have a journal where I could write out my thoughts – stream of consciousness – whenever I felt the need for release.

My husband was brought in to this strategy during our first session with the therapist, and he tentatively agreed, and then consistently stuck with it.

He didn’t ask me whether I felt anxious when he saw me fretting or wringing my hands.

He just sat silently and watched me as the hand-wringing rose to a crescendo and then slowly died down.

I didn’t figure this out until later, but reaching out to others for reassurance did nothing but create co-dependence and fuel the irrational fire of my anxiety.

If someone said, “don’t be silly,” I’d think, “what do they know?” If someone offered to get on the elevator with me, I couldn’t get on without them the next time.

Relying on others was useless at best, and it weakened me at worst, making me feel incapable of managing even the most mundane details of my life without depending on somebody else.

It was important, in the end, for me to go through my treatment “alone,” so my victory would be 100% mine. So I could know, in perpetuity, like I know now, that I am capable of dealing with anything (even avian flu) on my own merits.

Non-Avoidance – AKA “Facing Your Fears”

The particular school of therapy I followed is founded on the idea that avoiding the things that cause you anxiety confirms your fight or flight response and increases your anxiety levels toward that particular thing.

Another vector of my treatment was making sure I didn’t avoid anxiety-inducing situations when I encountered them naturally, but rather, that I go about my business and engage in these activities if they came across my path.

For example, if my husband and I went out to dinner, I shouldn’t run screaming from the seafood place, or take the stairs to the 14th floor to avoid the elevator.

During my therapy, my best friend got married on the West Coast of Mexico. It presented a great opportunity to put non-avoidance into practice, given my fear of flying.

Being a bridesmaid at her wedding would require my getting on a 9 hour flight from Barcelona to Dallas, and then on a regional jet (read: TINY) from Dallas to Cabo San Lucas.

I gathered my courage, and bought a ticket. And with some tips and tricks from my therapist, I got on the airplane.

My mission, should I choose to accept it, was to make myself as uncomfortable during the flight as possible. I had to pick an itchy sweater, agonizing shoes, ill-fitting underwear, or anything I could muster up to ensure that I would be uncomfortable throughout the entire flight.

Why? Because anxious minds tend to fixate, and if you give your brain something else to fixate on, it will leave the negative thoughts that trigger your anxiety alone.

I chose to wear a corset. It worked like a charm.

Of the three principles I’ve described, I think this one has served me the most in my post-panic disorder life. I go after what I want, even if I have to go through something uncomfortable to get it. I always ask the question, despite fearing I won’t like the answer.

I try new things, go to new places, put myself out there, without a second thought to my comfort zone.

And I fly. I still occasionally cry while doing it, but it gets me where I need to be – closer to my loved ones. I leave the corset at home now, though.

Acceptance – Your Feelings Won’t Kill You – Even if They’re Unpleasant

Acceptable was the hardest of the three, and it took a long time to get it. It was also the most liberating once I got there, and the single thing I credit for tipping the balance of power in my favor.

Throughout my crisis, I had many fears. But the thing I feared most was never going back to “normal”. Never again having a life where anxiety wasn’t constantly present.

Feeling crappy, always. Everything I did – it was to get rid of my anxiety. All the other exercises, I followed them to the letter so I wouldn’t be anxious anymore.

The thing that really set me free, though, was coming to the realization that even if I NEVER went back to normal – that was ok too. I had a husband and family who loved me.

I lived in Barcelona, for Pete’s sake. Anxiety would be a burden, but it would be a burden I could bear. It could make me feel like crap, but it wasn’t going to kill me and it didn’t have to control me – not if I didn’t let it.

I had to get to this epiphany on my own, but throughout my therapy I was unknowingly going through exercises to drive this point home.

I only remember one of them, and it went something like this: a couple of times a week, I had to find a quiet place and set aside 15 minutes where I wouldn’t be interrupted.

During those 15 minutes I had to think about most frightening things I could conjure, and try as hard as I could to give myself a panic attack.

Week after week I thought long and hard about the worst things I could picture. You name a horrible situation, I thought about it.

I thought about it INTENSELY. The thing is, though, if I kept trying to chase a thought, it would ordinarily get away from me long before the 15 minutes were up.

And without knowing, I’d find myself laying there thinking about sunflowers and puppies, having failed miserably at giving myself that panic attack that was supposed to materialize.

Without my knowing, I was creating a habit of embracing anxiety, on a weekly basis. And by embracing my anxiety, I was undermining the mechanism that allows it to manifest, removing its hold on me permanently – or at least as long as I’m still willing to embrace it.

The Journey Continues – The Aftermath

The physical symptoms of my anxiety didn’t subside immediately after therapy ended. It took a while – months, I think – for me to feel completely normal again. Time passed.

Things happened. I got a high-stress summer internship. I got pregnant. I had a miscarriage. I graduated from my MBA and got a full time job. We moved to London.

I had a son, and nearly died in childbirth. Life kept happening, with all its ups and down, but the panic – the full blown panic I’d experienced – never came back. And even if it did, now I know how to get rid of it.

I’m not going to lie. I still get anxious about things. I can’t remember the last time I had a panic attack, though – it’s probably been years – but I still hate to fly and don’t care much for enclosed spaces.

Still, I get on airplanes and ride in elevators as much as I need to. I eat seafood. And peanuts. I’m not always happy with things, and occasionally I will stress about something and have it twirling around in my head at night, preventing me from going to sleep.

So I go to yoga (it’s been a Godsend), and I play with my son.

Or I go for a good run and drum up some endorphins. And I’m happier and more fulfilled than I’ve ever been before. I was right about one thing, though, in my dark thoughts in Barcelona.

I never did find my old self again. I found a new me, though, and she is SO MUCH better.

Do you have a story that you want to share with the AG community? If you’re interested in spreading hope and knowledge send Paul an email at info@anxietyguru.net.

AG Suicide Survival Guide

suicide

Have you ever thought about killing yourself? It’s a terrifying thought.

I know because it happened to me in the summer of 2007.

I never developed a plan or any intention of doing it, but for about a week I thought “What if?”

What if I move beyond thoughts and develop a desire to die?

What if I can’t stop myself from thinking like this?

At the time I had no idea where the thoughts came from which caused confusion and filled me with dread.

Even saying the word suicide made be anxious. As if just thinking about it meant that I might actually go through with it.

Looking back I realize that I was anxious and depressed rather than crazy. But imagine going through that experience without understanding that.

And what made everything worse is that I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone.

Eventually, I reached out to my sister, but not before I suffered with severe anxiety and depression for months.

Like most people I waited to reach out because I was embarrassed – even ashamed about what I was going through.

Talking about my problems also made me nervous and avoidant, so I was willing to suck it up and trudge along on my own a lot longer than I should have.

The problem is that in the case of suicide silence can kill. Isolation breeds more depression, anxiety, and hopelessness.

Look what happened to Robin Williams, for example.

Over the past week I’ve heard several people that knew him say things like “I didn’t know he was in pain,” or something along those lines.

But that’s the thing, this problem is a lot more common than most people would like to admit. And people keep this problem to themselves far too often.

Here are some important facts about suicide:

Suicide is no joke

  1. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States
  2. In 2010 over 38,000 people committed suicide
  3. In the same year over 1 million people attempted suicide
  4. Males are more likely to complete the act of suicide
  5. People that commit suicide are often between the ages of 24 and 40

What puts you at risk of suicide?

  1. Family history of suicide
  2. History of child abuse
  3. Previous suicide attempts
  4. Alcohol/Drug abuse
  5. Severe Depression and Anxiety
  6. Hopelessness
  7. Isolation
  8. Significant loss such as a death or divorce
  9. Serious illness

What helps to prevent suicide?

  1. Clinical care (psychiatrist/therapist)
  2. Support of friends and family
  3. Cultural or religious beliefs

What makes it an emergency?

  1. You are experiencing severe anxiety or depression
  2. You are having thoughts of harming yourself
  3. You have a plan to hurt yourself
  4. You have access to means needed to hurt yourself
  5. In case of imminent threat to yourself call 911

If you’re suffering with thoughts of suicide I want you to know that there is help.

In the United States you can call 1-800-273-8255. If you live outside the U.S. please do a quick Google search for “suicide hotline” to reach someone near you.

I was lucky that I had someone there to support me and as a result things didn’t get out of control.

But when it comes to suicide you don’t want to rely on luck. If you need help ask for it.

To learn more listen to this week’s podcast by clicking the icon below.

Don’t forget to share this post and comment below!

anxiety, podcast

Confidence and Self-Esteem for Sufferers of Anxiety

self-esteem, confidence

Today’s guest post is brought to you by former anxiety sufferer Jon Jones. Jon began his struggle with anxiety and depression over 18 years ago. And after years of struggling he’s learned how to overcome these two challenging conditions. — Paul Dooley

Being confident and feeling great about yourself are two qualities that make life deeply satisfying.

You have a spring in your step and a twinkle in your eye. People you meet are swayed by your natural charisma and charm.

The good times are better and the bad times not so bad.

You can take any problems life throws at you on the chin and plow forward to reach your goals with optimism and in high spirits.

Socializing becomes enjoyable, and people become attracted to you as you have the confidence and self-esteem to just be your real, genuine, fantastic self.

Being a sufferer of anxiety and panic, these qualities can seem out of your grasp. You feel hopelessness, despair, and maybe even shaky to the core.

Your mind is full of doubts, what will people think of me, will I perform at work, will the economy
recover, and so on.

So the first step in building confidence and self-esteem is learning how to manage your anxiety.

Getting Started

By learning how to deal with yourself in difficult situations that normally cause you to panic or experience anxiety your confidence can begin to grow.

Although you may still be shaky at first and experience anxiety you still managed to get through the situation and make it to the other side.

And this is what you must focus on, the fact that you were able to do it. By learning how to deal with yourself and not the situation you regain control.

By taking action and overcoming your personal battles you will begin to feel good about yourself. You´ll start having good feelings inside you.

Even simple things like walking down the street, going shopping or reading a book will become more enjoyable as you are more relaxed and have a deeper sense of satisfaction.

A Developed Skill

I´m not going to kid you and say that you can instantly develop bullet-proof confidence.

Like anything worthwhile in life you need to work on it. Confidence is grown by repeated practice.

Like a golfer who has learned to perfect his swing by constant practice at the driving range is confident in his abilities, so you too can develop your confidence in dealing with yourself by repetition.

By constantly exposing yourself to situations that normally cause you anxiety the fear dies down.

I´m not saying to grit your teeth and push yourself into anxiety causing situations, but rather to not avoid them. To go into them willingly.

This repeated exposure over time proves to yourself that you can do it. And true confidence can emerge.

But first you need to learn techniques which will allow you to be able to deal with yourself. I used to panic at the thought of different stressful situations.

My confidence was so low and my self-esteem was very weak.

But I no longer cringe at the thought of such things as public speaking, going to social events, or talking to strangers.

And this has all been down to the repeated exposure to situations which I used to dread.

I have built up my confidence of such situations by learning how to deal with myself, and not feed my anxiety.

The techniques that I have used to help me deal with my anxiety are all on this site. I can now do things with a feeling of inner strength.

I no longer doubt myself, but have clarity and purpose.

And it feels great to have this freedom. It has a very enjoyable feeling of lightness to it, as you can make your way in the world with a sense of ease and comfort.

Speak Up

One thing about confidence is that you can´t wait for it. You have to strive for it. Push the boat out.

Don´t wait until you feel confident before doing something, act and the confidence will come.

Although you may feel nervous, take a deep breath, exhale slowly and then speak up.

By doing so you will prove to yourself that you can do it. And will start changing your self-image seeing yourself as a confident person.
You can speak positive to yourself as much as you want, but there is no substitute for action.

You have to firmly decide that you are going to work on being a confident person, and take the necessary steps to becoming so.

So next time you in a anxious situation take a deep breath, let go of yourself, and grasp the nettle, and speak up. Then you will see that you can do it.

That the anxiety you were feeling was false, you were able to do it. And the sense of satisfaction you will feel will be amazing. You will feel fantastic.

There´s nothing better than proving to yourself that you can do things.

Keeping a Journal

A great aid in facilitating this is keeping a journal. In your journal you can write your thoughts for the day.

The moments you felt anxious and what you did to deal with yourself.

You can write down how you felt before you entered a difficult situation, the symptoms you had and the thoughts you felt.

And then you can write about how by dealing with yourself and not the situation you were able to successfully cope with yourself.

By building up positive memories of instances when you coped with yourself and got through situations which seemed very difficult at the time, then you are building true inner confidence and self-esteem.

And next time you enter a difficult moment you can recall these times. This will give you confidence, because if you have done it before, and you now have proof that you can do it again.

It is as if you have a personal cheer-leader standing beside you rooting for you, ¨saying you can do it!¨

And the beautiful thing is you can, because you already have done it many times before.

By constantly exposing yourself to different situations, writing down your successes and reminding yourself of how you were able to deal with yourself before then that little voice which once whispered ¨you can do it,¨ now starts to shout it out loud.

Feelings and thoughts of confidence become second nature, and come to you automatically. And you truly become a confident person with true self-esteem.

And the great things is the more you do this, the more reference points of success you build up the more your confidence and self-esteem will grow. It will snow ball.

So start today, by next week you´ll be more confident and feeling better. And this will continue next month, next year and well into the future. Because these personal achievements happened.

You faced what you thought were difficult moments, dealt with yourself, and proved to yourself that you could do it. So just imagine what other great things you can achieve!

List Positive Things About Yourself

Putting things on paper is a very powerful thing. The mere act of seeing your thoughts on paper and reading it has the effect of ingraining it further into your mind.

So make a list of your achievements, positive attributes, compliments and past praises that people have given you.

This also provides you with evidence to enable your confidence and self-esteem to grow and flourish. These things you have on your list are facts.

They happened and you did them! So when you are feeling low in confidence or self-esteem you can prove these feelings wrong.

When you have a thought of ¨I´m a loser¨ or something similar, you can think of your list and that time you had your boss congratulate you at work, or when you cooked an amazing meal and your dinner guests asked for seconds.

By getting into the habit of thinking of a positive thought when you think of a negative thought then you can make yourself more positive, because you can pick your moral up immediately by flipping it around.

Work On It

Being a confident and high self-esteem person is something you have to work on. It´s like gardening.

You need to start planting some beautiful thoughts in your mind. If not then negative weeds will grow.

Make it part of your routine to devote ten or fifteen minutes a day to work on your confidence and self-esteem.

You can read over your journal, and your lists mentioned above.

Also in quiet moments such as traveling to work, or waiting in line at the supermarket remind yourself of your positive points and achievements.

Doing so will develop a habit of positive thinking in your mind, until it become second nature to you. But you need to constantly work on it. If not weeds will grow.

So, by doing the different tips I have mentioned true confidence and self-esteem can emerge.

No longer would you be feeling inferior or timid. You will be able to walk tall, have an inner smile, and truly connect with people you meet.

A new sense of being will come into your life! Life is fantastic. And by developing true confidence and self-esteem you will also feel fantastic!

To learn more about how you can deal with anxiety and panic you can download my free eBook here.

Do you have a story that you want to share with the AG community? If you’re interested in spreading hope and knowledge send Paul an email at info@anxietyguru.net.

7 Essential Books That Will Transform Your Anxious Life

anxiety treatment

Mastering the art of anxiety reduction takes time.

You might be anxious and frustrated but the process of recovery doesn’t care how you feel.

It doesn’t care what you want. And it doesn’t care how long it takes you to get it right.

Recovery demands that you take certain steps first. Steps that you cannot skip.

And if you try to skip steps you will pay a price.

The price, of course, is eternal stagnation. A never-ending loop of short-term relief followed by more anxiety.

So what is the first step towards recovery? The answer is education. And not just any old type of education, either.

The kind that requires you to actually open a book and act like you care.

First, let me just say that internet research is not all bad. The internet is a useful means of looking up information quickly.

The problem is that if this is your only means of gathering information most things that you learn will become disorganized and unrelated in your head, which renders the information useless.

Books on the other hand, are well organized and hammer a single topic. This is what you want: Expertise, structure, accuracy and focus.

Over the years I’ve read a lot of books about anxiety but only a few stood out.

Here are my favorites:

1. Hope and Help for Your Nerves by Claire Weekes

This is a classic anti-anxiety book. It was written by an MD with bad nerves. What else could be better?

She provides an informative but easy to understand picture of anxiety. She defines it so well that you’ll be nodding your head at least half the time.

Buy this book on Amazon

2. Pass Through Panic (Audio book) by Claire Weekes

I told you, this lady is awesome. I bought this CD about 8 years ago and it never let me down.

She has a no nonsense way about her that tends to bring you back to reality.

Buy this CD on Amazon

 3. At Last a Life by Paul David

This guy has a huge following for a reason.

Paul David will school you on how to accept anxiety and move forward with your life. The book is not well polished but the message is.

Buy this book on Amazon

4. The Science of Fear by Dan Gardiner

Anxious people develop fears about a lot of things, which of course only serves to worsen their anxiety.

Dan Gardiner dives into the human mind and explains how we develop irrational fears.

Buy this book on Amazon

5. Misunderstandings of the Self by Victor Raimy

This book was written in 1975 but remains relevant.

It breaks down how misconceptions develop and provides critical insight into the therapeutic process.

Buy this book on Amazon

6. Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns

Do you want to change your negative thinking? Then read this book.

Buy this book on Amazon

7. The Anxiety and Worry Workbook by David A. Clark

Cognitive behavioral therapy is effective only when you work at it.

This book will help keep you organized as you work towards strengthening your CBT skills.

Buy this book on Amazon

Obviously there are many other books that you could read to educate yourself about anxiety. However, these are a good start for anyone that feels stuck.

I read some of these books when I was really anxious and others I used as research material. But they all provide something of value.

As you embark on your journey toward recovery don’t forget that the first step is to understand what you’re up against.

Blind hope is not a solution to your problems. You have to arm yourself with the right knowledge because it will light the path towards ultimate freedom.

What are your favorite anti-anxiety books? Comment below!

You Know Everything About Anxiety, So Why Are You Still Anxious?

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In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” – Bertrand Russell

You know more about anxiety than 99.9% of the population. Yet, here you are.

The question is why? Why isn’t all your fancy-pants information helping you?

Well it’s not because you’re dumb. I was in your shoes for over 10 years and I consider myself relatively smart.

I was good at filling my head with facts but that’s about it. I had a really hard time moving past this phase.

But you know what? So do a lot of other people. For example, I’d say that most people that I work with struggle with this problem.

The reason this happens isn’t a mystery though. It’s due to something called the backfire effect.

People that work in the mental health field call it confirmation bias, but I’m sticking with backfire effect because it sounds cooler.

Simply put, it means that people tend to favor information that supports their beliefs; especially in the face of contradictory evidence.

In fact, beliefs not only stay the same when challenged, they tend to get even stronger.

For example, say that you started having problems with your balance. Chances are you’d jump on the web and search “balance problems” and come back with a thousand hits.

Next, you’d run into several other related symptoms and before you know it you’d start building a rock solid case in favor of MS or some other disease.

When you experience those same symptoms in the future you’d selectively recall biased information (usually all bad) that supported your twisted views about anxiety.

But hang on, it gets worse.

You then misinterpret all incoming information with “I’m already sick” lenses on, which increases anxiety and reinforces the belief that your specific symptoms are related to a real illness rather than stress.

In short, the backfire effect creates biased searches for information, biased interpretations of that information and creates biased memories.

So when you do come across “good information” you disregard it because it doesn’t line up with your beliefs about anxiety.

Basically, you double down.

The crazy thing is that even if you know that you’re doing this, it won’t stop it from happening. It’s a paradox.

Eventually, I stopped falling victim to this backfire business but it wasn’t easy.

Why this happens

One of the reasons people get stuck on bad information is because they favor “early information” and give it more importance than information gathered later.

So if someone told you that your neighbor was a real weirdo you’d develop an ugly (biased) picture in your head about that person.

A picture that would probably be hard to shake even after you met them.

Biased interpretation offers an explanation for this effect: seeing the initial evidence, people form a working hypothesis that affects how they interpret the rest of the information.” Raymond S. Nickerson

Now, you would still form your own ideas about your neighbor, but he would have to work a little harder to prove that he isn’t weird.

The backfire effect is also strengthened by negative moods like anxiety.

So, the more anxious you are, the harder it is to challenge your tainted beliefs about anxiety.

How do you stop this from happening?

1. Stay Curious. When people encounter information that supports their suspicions, they become certain about things they don’t truly understand.

Staying curious about what’s going on leaves the door to new, probably more helpful information, wide open.

2. Present a counterargument. What would happen if you had to put anxiety on the stand and cross examine it?

I bet nothing but good things. I encourage you to write out a counterargument against your anxiety.

Use all the counter evidence you can find and write a narrative designed to persuade others that your anxiety is harmless.

3. Suspend judgment. Stay neutral and open whenever you investigate whether or not something is harmful to you.

4. Accept the gray areas. One of the biggest reasons why people stay stuck in anxiety is because they are desperately seeking certainty where there is none.

Instead, learn how to tolerate ambiguity. This is a powerful tool.

In this week’s episode of The Anxiety Guru Show I discuss how you can increase your tolerance of the unknown and how to use this skill to decrease anxiety. Check it out and comment below.

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This Is How a Solid Anti-Anxiety Plan Will Change Your Life

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Want to know the secret to recovering from abnormal anxiety?

It’s obvious right?

It’s so obvious that you’ve completely ignored it.

The secret is having a solid plan for recovery.

It doesn’t matter if you experience high anxiety twice a month or twice a day, if you don’t create a plan nothing will ever change.

You might get a break every now and then but as soon as life gets stupid you can easily find yourself in a state of anxious misery.

You probably hope that your emergency internet research will suffice but how far has that gotten you?

People usually have a hard time recovering from abnormal anxiety because they have become conditioned by fear.

This causes people to respond to anxiety, physical symptoms, and worry in a shockingly ineffective and limited way.

This is why developing a recovery plan is so important. It brings reason back into the picture.

Let’s be honest, right now a lot of the stuff you do is irrational.

You’re probably just doing a bunch of random learning, reassurance seeking and cycling between semi-calm and utter panic.

It’s time for change. The problem of course is that change is hard.

Change also happens in stages that have nothing to do with squeezing your eyes tight and hoping for the best.

It has more to do with creating a clear plan of recovery and sticking to it.

So how do you make a good plan of recovery? What are the steps?

In today’s episode of The Anxiety Guru Show I’ll tell you exactly what they are.

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5 Uncommon Ways to Lower Stress

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I often encounter people that want a magic solution to their anxiety problem.

And you know what? I don’t blame them. Who wants to live with bad nerves?

But, sadly, there is no such thing. The solution to abnormal anxiety is less magic and more self-discovery.

Finding out how you became anxious and how to stop it is a long journey.

But that got me thinking. Is there anything that you can do to decrease your anxiety while you seek full recovery?

Of course there is! And the crazy thing is that much of what you can do to lower anxiety doesn’t involve therapy or drugs.

What it requires is that you pull your head out of the clouds and examine your everyday life just as much as you examine your symptoms.

It is easy to understand why people get stuck on the obvious problems that high anxiety poses, but what about the obvious solutions?

In this week’s episode of The Anxiety Guru Show I explore what parts of your everyday life you can tweak to help lower stress.

Yeah, I said stress. People are hyper-focused on anxiety. They are focused on the big stuff as it were. But what about the little stuff?

What about the little doses of stress that smack you square between the eyes on a daily basis?

Could addressing the low hanging fruit of daily stress help you recover from abnormal anxiety faster?

Alright, enough with the questions. Click on the icon below to hear the show.

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