3 Essential Tips for Anxious Parents

parenting, anxiety

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting in my room, grinding my teeth, when my inner voice exploded with anger: Enough!

His screams had made their way deep inside the part of my brain that houses rage and I just couldn’t contain myself anymore.

So I bounced up and stormed in his direction. When I had him cornered I glared at him and demanded silence.

I pointed at him and shouted: Stop! He looked back at me with a quivering lower lip and these sad, sad eyes that made me feel like total garbage.

You see, the guy I was yelling at was my 3 year old son Nathan.

And what’s worse is that it wasn’t the first time I had snapped at him.

At the time I felt like I couldn’t enjoy my son, or my wife for that matter.

And it wasn’t until much later that I realized that my high anxiety had begun to poison my most cherished relationships.

Luckily, over the past few years I’ve been able to reconnect with my family.

But it wasn’t easy. Mostly because anxiety is a consumer. It eats up all the fun, the love, everything. Until all that’s left is anger and resentment.

That’s why it’s important to understand some of the common pitfalls that you could face as an anxious parent.

Fewer Hugs and Smiles

I’m about to generalize, so be warned. But anxious parents aren’t as loving as they could be.

Studies have shown that moms and dads that live with abnormal anxiety smile, hug and praise their children less than their non-anxious counterparts.

It’s thought that the decreased emotional expression in anxious parents stems from a desire to keep control of their feelings.

After all, if you feel too much you’ll go nuts, right? At least that’s what the anxious brain repeats.

When I had high anxiety I would hug and kiss my son (we’ve since had another boy) but I somehow always felt distant and flat.

I went through the motions of being a happy dad but lacked the feelings of happiness that usually come with a good hug, for example.

I’d even see Nathan smack a plastic baseball deep into our backyard and I’d give him the saddest excuse for a smile you’ve ever seen.

Looking back, I think I was trying to protect myself. I was playing defense against the looming disasters that constantly occupied my mind.

But while I maintained my perpetual vigilance my family was paying the price.

Tip #1: Increase warmth and awareness

It takes some practice, but try to get better at spotting when you are self-analyzing too much.

It would be ridiculous for me to ask you to stop altogether, but there’s a good chance that you already notice when you’re lost in thought. Use this as a cue.

When it happens make an effort to engage people around you; especially your kids who need your warmth and affection.

It matters. Hug your kids and tell them you love them. And keep doing it until you can feel the warmth too.

The Invisible Scars of Criticism

When I was a kid my parents were hard on me. It wasn’t unusual for them to lace their parental instructions with insults of one kind or another.

Now I doubt that you’re verbally abusing your kids, but if you’re an anxious parent there’s a good chance that you often make negative comments.

This kind of makes sense when you consider that the anxious mind is over-focused on negativity in general, but harsh criticism can be hurtful.

Tip #2: Embrace the full cup concept

A helpful remedy is to use positive reframing, which is basically looking at the good in any situation.

Reframing won’t change what your kid did wrong, but it can change the perspective that you adopt when dealing with a difficult situation.

This can help reduce the frequency of negative interactions and allow your kids to correct mistakes without feeling ashamed.

My Way or No Way

Anxious parents can also be controlling. Some researchers theorize that this is because anxious parents perceive a lack of control in their own lives.

This can cause some parents to overcompensate and exert too much control over their kids creating an authoritarian parenting style.

The ugly side to this is that kids who aren’t allowed to explore and experience natural consequences (within reason) develop low self-esteem and a more limited belief in themselves.

Tip #3: Let freedom ring

If you want to help your kids develop a strong belief in their ability to succeed in life then grant them more autonomy.

Let them make mistakes and help them to learn from their mistakes rather than shielding them at every turn.

And although there has to be limits, let your kid be a kid. That means letting them be loud and unruly during playtime.

That means letting them express themselves (appropriately) without fear of retribution. In short, don’t be a tyrant.

Show Them How It’s Done

Perhaps the best way to be all you can be in the parenting department is to take care of yourself.

If you address your anxiety problem your family will benefit from having a healthier version of you around.

Plus, when you face your fears and overcome adversity, I believe that you’re being a true role model hero for your kids.

Your recovery will teach them that they are not helpless victims.

It will show them that they have the power to make a positive change when things get tough, which is a powerful gift.

In this week’s episode of The Anxiety Guru Show I talk about my journey as an anxious parent and how I turned things around.

I also have a few extra tips that I didn’t mention in this post. So take a listen and leave your brilliant comments below!

anxiety, podcast

Can a Panic Attack Trigger Anxiety Forever?

panic attack

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

Let me take a wild guess. You’re not exactly sure if you’re going to get better, right?

This is especially true if you were dragged into anxiety by one of those “out of the blue” panic attacks.

Although not all anxiety problems are triggered by panic, many are. That was the case for me.

I remember it well. A crashing wave of fear terror mixed with palpitations, dizziness, sweating and the sense that I just might not make it out alive.

But you know what? I did make it out alive. And so will you. No matter how bad it gets, you’re not dying.

Yet, and I’m just being honest with you, having a panic attack can trigger long-term problems with anxiety.

In some ways you’re just never the same. Panic attacks have a special way of bringing you fact to face with fear and mortality like nothing else can.

But that’s certainly not the whole story.

Although your first panic attack seemed random, chances are that it wasn’t random at all.

Most anxiety disorders are triggered by a perfect storm of circumstances which usually start with family history.

Maybe it was your mom, your grandma, or some long forgotten relative that passed on the fear bug, but usually abnormal anxiety is born in DNA.

That being said, sometimes abnormal anxiety stems from major life transitions which in some people causes a tremendous amount of stress.

Add to that major triggers, like trauma, health problems (real or perceived), even drug use and bang, we have a problem.

The combination of an underlying vulnerability, mixed with real life problems, can open you up to a significant stress response, like a panic attack, for example.

But, of course, that’s just one piece of the puzzle. There’s also the psychological aftermath to contend with.

Panic attacks are a lot of things, including rare. It’s not like most people know what they feel like or even what they are.

So when you were struck with panic you may not have known what was happening to you and therefore didn’t have the words to describe the experience accurately.

What’s more likely is that you used words you already knew to sort out what was happening. The trouble with that is that most words in your vocabulary don’t come close to describing anxiety correctly.

So your panic attack turned into “heart attack,” or “crazy.” There was simply no point of reference.

This leaves a long-lasting imprint on your brain. One that screams danger and death every time anything even remotely close to your panic symptoms reappear.

The good news is that there’s a lot you can do to decrease the impact that your first panic attack had on you.

You can even change the negative thinking that has sparked your long running battle with fear (that’s what this is really about).

Anyway, like good ole Albert pointed out, solving problems takes a new way of thinking. And that’s what I want to help you with today.

So in this week’s episode of The Anxiety Guru Show I explore:

  1. The difference between causes and triggers of abnormal anxiety
  2. Why panic attacks cause long-term problems
  3. How to understand exactly what happened to you
  4. And what you can do about it

To listen, just click on the listen icon. And don’t forget to leave your brilliant comments below!

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Does Exposing Yourself to Your Fears Really Work?

expsure therapy, erp

It’s an interesting question that I’m sure you’ve wondered about before.

I mean, it’s like you don’t want to overcome your health phobia or fear of flying, right? Of course you do. It’s not a lack of desire on your part that holds you back.

More likely, it’s knowing that exposure to your fears could make you feel worse.

But that’s why it’s important to remember that when you use exposure to extinguish your fears it should be done gradually.

That’s the most important lesson I learned from this week’s podcast guest Guy Oberwise, LCSW.

Guy is the mood and anxiety coordinator at Timberline Knolls, a residential treatment facility in Lemont, Illinois.

Guy pointed out that when you use exposure you don’t go directly from a fear of snakes to handling one, for example.

You take small steps towards facing your fears in a controlled manner. The sucky part is that recovery can take a while.

In fact, Guy shared a funny (and insightful) conversation with a resident that wondered why her anxiety wasn’t lowering despite trying meditation a few times.

Well it turned out that she had struggled with anxiety for years. But after just a few attempts at relaxation she expected big results.

And that’s a thing. People expecting quick results when they are wrapped up in a complex problem.

Anxiety reduction, whether through exposure or some other means, comes at a price.

That price includes time, patience and hard work. It may also include a bit of pain and discomfort. That’s just the truth.

But if you are willing to face your fears you will inevitably reap the rewards. You will also find out a lot about yourself and how to move forward.

Not just in terms of anxiety, but life in general. So join me for this week’s episode of The Anxiety Guru Show.

Don’t forget to leave your brilliant comments below!

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How to Harness the Power of Self-Hypnosis (Free Audio Guide)

self-hypnosis

After my talk with Dr. Randolph Shipon, I thought it would be helpful to share a short guided hypnosis.

I teamed up with psychologist Dyan Haspel-Johnson, PhD to create it.

She said this about the recording:

“To use this self-hypnosis recording, find a quiet place where you can sit or lie down to listen.

Please do not listen to this while driving or engaging in other activities.

It would be great for you to incorporate this into your day so you can take a break in your office, at home, parked in your car, etc.

Feel free to listen at whatever time feels best for you and is convenient but it might be interesting to observe what happens if you practice this technique in the afternoon, especially around 3pm or 4pm.

That is the time when many people crave sugar or caffeine or feel tired or stressed. I have found that listening to or practicing self-hypnosis at some point during the day (rather than only just before bed or first thing in the morning) is particularly effective in alleviating anxiety, supporting sleep, and improving an overall sense of well-being.

I believe that this is because it breaks the cycle of the day and trains the body and mind to center itself.

When you build this technique into your life, you may find that you have an easier time breaking the cycles of anxiety or panic that might have felt overwhelming in the past.

Lastly, I have built into this recording some focus on the hands. You can remember that experience throughout the day or night and use it to calm, center, and empower yourself. That is self-hypnosis!”

I want to thank Dr. Dyan for taking the time to create this self-hypnosis recording. I hope it helps you to relax a bit.

anxiety, podcast

Audio Only

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Podcast Version

This Is How Hypnotherapy Lowers Anxiety

hypnotherapy, hypnosis

Last week someone asked me if hypnotherapy was effective and whether or not it could be combined with other types of therapy.

It’s a good question. But I couldn’t answer it since I’ve never had a particular interest in hypnosis.

I guess it’s because I’ve always associated hypnosis with stage acts.

But man, was I wrong.

  1. In 1955 the British Medical Association issued a report stating that hypnosis was a valuable medical tool.
  2. In 1958 the American Medical Association recognized hypnosis as a viable scientific modality.
  3. In 1962 the American Psychiatric Association recognized that hypnosis was a viable modality to treat some psychological problems.
  4. The British Psychological Society wrote a report in 2001 called The Nature of Hypnosis declaring that it is a real thing – it has valid clinical, research, forensic investigation and training uses.

Here’s what else I learned:

Hypnotherapy is a legitimate form of therapy that is very effective when combined with other forms of therapy like CBT.

In fact, in 1995 a meta-analysis of 18 studies showed that when hypnotherapy was combined with CBT it improved outcomes by 70%.

It’s also not magical. Hypnosis is simply focused awareness coupled with guided visualization.

This week I had the pleasure of interviewing psychologist Randolph Shipon PhD,  a New Jersey based hypnotherapist that was kind enough to educate me on the topic.

Dr. Shipon described hypnosis as a way of re-imagining the future.

It’s also practical. You can undergo hypnotherapy in as little as six sessions.

All that being said, I can see why the idea of being hypnotized might freak you out, so it may be comforting to know that hypnosis is nothing new.

One of the most surprising things I found is that its roots go far back into ancient times.

Hypnosis (a type of trance) was originally used as a means of communicating with the gods and healing.

Modern hypnosis can be traced back to German physician Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815).

He practiced something called mesmerism; the act of holding someones attention entirely.

People that undergo hypnosis are not slaves to suggestion though, they are actually hyper-aware.

I can see why this works actually. Anxiety has a nasty way of fixating the mind on the negative.

It robs you of the ability to imagine a future without fear.

As far as I can tell, hypnosis allows you to suspend the fear factor and shape a new way forward.

In this week’s episode of The Anxiety Guru Show I explore how hypnosis can lower anxiety. I hope you enjoy the podcast.

And don’t forget to share your brilliant comments below!

anxiety, podcast

How to Manage Everyday Anxiety

anxiety, stress

It makes sense why people focus their attention on things like panic attacks and crises of the week (COWS).

But what about everyday anxiety? To me this anxiety is far worse.

A panic attack comes and goes in a flash, but daily anxiety grinds on you over a long period of time.

This, of course, can impact your self-esteem, level of resilience and quality of life, which gets old quick.

So on today’s episode of The Anxiety Guru Show I discuss everyday anxiety and what you can do to manage it better.

I also interviewed one of my coaching clients to help you gain some insight into the work I do with people one on one.

I often mention my coaching service on the podcast but not in detail. I guess I was waiting to make sure that it didn’t suck.

The good news is that it doesn’t. The feedback that I’ve been getting has been tremendous.

I brought Tommy onto the show to share his experience with anxiety and my coaching service because like many of you he started out as a listener.

Once I opened the doors to the coaching service Tommy was one of the first to sign up. He has really undergone a significant transformation that’s been amazing to witness.

There’s no doubt that there is a lot of work ahead of him, but it fills me with joy (yeah I said joy) to see him doing so much better.

If you want to learn more about my coaching service visit my coaching page here.

anxiety, podcast

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

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!

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