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!

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

anxiety

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

goals, anxiety treatment

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.

anxiety, podcast

5 Uncommon Ways to Lower Stress

anxiety, blog

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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The Link Between Personality and High Anxiety

Usually I write an introduction for my podcast episodes. But today is different.

I spent a good chunk of time researching and thinking about this topic because it explains a lot about why some people become anxious in the face of life.

If you’ve ever wondered why you became an anxious person then you need to listen to this podcast.

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Is Your Health Phobia Just a Way to Cope With Reality?

Dear Hypochondriac,

Admit it. You’re a symptom junkie. You scrutinize every pulse, twinge, ache or pain that you deem strange.

Unfortunately, you believe that your anxiety symptoms are more than what they seem.

You believe that every doctor, medical exam, article, and loving family member is wrong about your health.

You believe that your symptoms are a sign of serious disease.

Here’s the thing though, anxiety symptoms are not all in your head. The mind has a limited capacity to endure stress and at some point passes on that stress to the body.

The idea that anxiety symptoms are a sign of impending death, well maybe that is all in your head.

But why you? After all, not everyone is walking around thinking they have multiple sclerosis, right?

There are a lot of theories as to why some people are affected by the belief that they have a serious disease when they don’t.

Perhaps you were exposed to death or illness when you were young which planted a fear of something similar happening to you.

Another theory is that maybe your health phobia acts as a psychological defense mechanism, which is just a fancy way of saying that people sometimes distract themselves (i.e., with disease) in order to avoid unpleasant thoughts or feelings.

But that’s not all. Some people, like me, are neurotic. This is an outdated word that was used to describe people who are born with a negative emotional baseline.

I plan to devote an entire podcast next week to this miserable state of being, but for now let’s just say that if you’re neurotic you are prone to anxiety, depression, irritability, phobias, fantasizing and negativity.

This of course means that you have a lower threshold for stress which often ignites your nervous system in all the wrong ways.

And this produces the symptoms that cause you to think that you’re suffering from a catastrophic illness.

I decided to talk about health phobias not just because they’re common, but because I don’t want people to think that their experience is random.

There are specific reasons why people develop a fear of death and disease and the more you know about how this happens the less afraid you will be of your symptoms.

So in this week’s episode of The Anxiety Guru Show I explore health phobias and where they come from.

Enjoy!

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6 Non-Cheesy Ways to Get Rid of Fear and Self-Doubt

anxiety, panic, trust

It’s scary, isn’t it?

The little voice in your head telling you that you just can’t do this anymore; that your anxiety is just too much to bear.

You’re not sure where it’s coming from, but it usually gets louder when you feel anxious.

And you want to know something really weird about that little voice? You created it.

Yeah, that’s you telling yourself that anxiety symptoms are dangerous.

It’s you telling yourself that feeling nervous or panicked means something sinister.

You’ve also convinced yourself that you will never get better. Well, guess what? You’re wrong. You can get better.

But there is a reason why you’re stuck in your anxiety. And it’s due to one major problem. Put simply, you don’t trust yourself.

As a result, you’re often flooded with self-doubt and very little confidence in your ability to withstand anxiety.

You may have dealt with this feeling by relying on avoidance or your network of safe people. But has this helped you?

Could you in fact be wasting your time by leaning so hard on avoidance and reassurance seeking to help you manage your fears?

Well… let’s find out.

Be Your Own Lifesaver

When you doubt what you know, when you don’t trust yourself, it fosters a sense of desperation. So you end up searching for relief in other people.

I don’t believe that reaching out to others for information or reassurance is wrong. There’s no doubt that sometimes you need someone else to help ground you.

But this can’t be your only option. Why? Because when the shit hits the fan you are alone. Maybe not physically, but in your mind, in the midst of your fear, you are alone.

And although you may have wonderful people in your life that can offer reassurance they can’t be there for you 100% of the time.

People have to work, they move, even die. You must become your own go-to person. You have to learn how to be there for yourself.

Before you start the process though, you have to understand a few things.

Like the fact that when anxiety and panic strike you’re hit with a lot more than symptoms.

You second guess yourself at every possible turn. You don’t believe the positive things you tell yourself, which causes all your carefully researched anxiety facts to go flying out the window when you need them most.

You end up betrayed by your intuition and fall victim to the fear emanating from your gut.

Not because you want this, it’s just what happens when you become immersed in anxiety and don’t trust your body, your mind, or your ability to repel the effects of anxiety.

The Non-Cheesy Definition of Self-Trust

A lot of gurus, therapist and motivational speakers say things like “Trust yourself.” But what does that mean?

I don’t believe that anyone can say for sure, but there are certainly important elements to self-trust.

To trust yourself means that you trust your rational thoughts. You trust that you are smart, resourceful, and that everything you’ve learned about anxiety is correct and therefore reliable.

To trust yourself means that you trust your body. You understand how it works and accept the impact that stress and anxiety can have on it.

To trust yourself means that you can remember your past experiences with anxiety yet understand that your greatest fears have never, and will never, come true.

It’s important to build trust in yourself because it increases conviction in what you know to be true, which increases confidence and acts like a buffer against the effects of fear.

Of Course You Don’t Trust Yourself!

It’s hard to trust ourselves because we don’t know how to.

I can’t think of any conversation in my life when someone said anything like “Paul, you gotta trust yourself and this is how you do it.” It doesn’t happen.

It’s also difficult because…

  • We focus on our fears and symptoms
  • We have a deep seated fear that our past experiences will repeat or get worse
  • We internalize our past experiences and assume that it is the only possible outcome. As if there are no alternatives!
  • We get confused, stuck, and often feel helpless
  • We doubt ourselves because we judge our ability to withstand anxiety harshly
  • We overestimate the effects of anxiety
  • We are afraid to fail at recovery so instead we don’t try

Okay, you get why it’s so hard to trust yourself. But what can you do about it?

The Zen of Knowing That You’re Not Dying

If you have an issue with physical symptoms you need to confirm that you’re healthy.

Going to forums and asking people what they think about your symptoms is a waste of time and strengthens your fears.

If you want to stop fear in its tracks then eliminate uncertainty. Stop messing around and make an appointment.

I have offered this tip in the past so it’s nothing new. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s important.

Knowing that you’re healthy is the ultimate in fear destruction.

How to Reduce the Shock of Fear

Here’s the thing. Understanding how anxiety impacts your body makes sense on the surface. Until you actually try to use this information.

Seriously, how hard is it to think straight when you’re scared? It’s not exactly a walk in the park, right?

So I encourage you to learn more than the basics. Stop being lazy and figure out how adrenaline causes symptoms and makes you want to jump out of your own skin.

Get intimate with the facts. The more you know the more ingrained the information will become which will decrease the need for you to dig in your mind for comforting information.

The shock of fear, the one that drives panic and apprehension, gets reduced when you don’t have to guess what’s happening to you.

Stop Hating Your Body

Chances are that you aren’t comfortable with your body. Sitting still, feeling your heart beat, paying attention to your breathing, it all probably freaks you out.

But it’s precisely this discomfort that you have to confront. Each and every day you should take a few minutes to be with yourself.

You don’t have to Zen out, either. Just take the time to pay attention to your body. Listen to how it works.

Get comfortable with the bumps, pulses, and rhythm inside of you. Stop treating your body like some alien entity.

You can decide how to achieve this but I assure you that once you get more comfortable with your body the less it will scare you when it gets aroused by fear.

You Already Have the Answers

How many times have you disregarded everything you know about anxiety? Okay, let’s not count, but way too much right?

You need to have more faith in what you know. After all, you are a world-class researcher and connoisseur of anxiety facts.

You’ve read hundreds of articles, blog posts, and forum threads. Trust me, you know your stuff.

Believe in what you know and remind yourself at every possible opportunity.

Hit Your Brain’s Pause Button

If you’re like most anxious people I know you live in the future. Stop it.

You need to practice how to live in the moment. You need to develop the ability to focus on the minutiae of life.

Whether it’s eating, drinking, talking, writing, or whatever, slow it down.

Why?

Well, when you slow down, so does everything else. Your thoughts, your body, your surroundings even; they all move at a slower pace which fosters a sense of calm.

Obviously you can’t live your life in slow-mo, but you can take a few minutes every day to yank your mind out of the future and help reduce how much you worry in the process.

Be a Pioneer

You can learn to take care of your own emotional needs by being a pioneer. Yes, as in the people in covered wagons.

Isolation breeds fear. That’s why it’s so important to get out more and take on the spirit of a pioneer.

I mean come on, if they could hop onto wagons and head into the unknown, then you can surely put yourself in the same mind frame and visit a Cheesecake Factory near you.

Be willing to explore new places, people and experiences. Always do the opposite of what abnormal anxiety compels you to do.

Locking yourself away erodes self-confidence while getting outside of your comfort zone boosts a belief in yourself and your ability to survive anxiety no matter where you are.

Can You Really Learn to Trust Yourself?

I think you can. The key is to be flexible. A lot of anxiety sufferers act as if the only way to enjoy life is the complete absence of anxiety.

And this simply isn’t true. Things don’t have to be perfect for you to move beyond where you are now. They simply need to be good enough.

The more you challenge your anxiety the more “good enough” turns into what you actually want, which is confidence in your ability to be anywhere, to feel anything, without thinking that something is going to go wrong.

While you head out on this journey of building self-trust I hope you celebrate your small victories.

I hope that you are compassionate with yourself.

And I hope that you learn to leave the past and the future where they belong.

Ultimately though, if you want to get better you have to embrace the feeling of fear in your gut, the scared little voice in your head, and every sensation that anxiety has ever thrown at you.

Don’t run from your anxious thoughts and feelings. The truth is that there is nowhere to run anyway.

Stand your ground. Believe in yourself. And believe that you’re going to be okay.

Of course, I’m not done. Listen to today’s podcast to learn even more about how you can learn to build trust in yourself.

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How to Overcome Your Fear of Crowds, Restaurants, and Strangers

social anxiety

You know that other people don’t bite, right?

Of course they don’t. So why do people with social anxiety run around like they do?

Well, if you fear other people let’s start with why you’re afraid.

You’re afraid of being judged, criticized, ridiculed or laughed at. You don’t like the feeling of strangers approaching or crowds gathering.

So you hide.

You cower in your home. You limit the places you visit. You drown your fears in the mundane but deep down you wish you could do more.

Maybe there’s hope though. Maybe your fear of other people is just an illusion. Maybe you just never gave yourself permission to explore the world without preconceived notions about what’s out there.

The best part is that you can put an end to your fear of people starting today.

You can overcome your fear of crowds, restaurants, movie theaters, or whatever, and it doesn’t require any special tricks.

So in today’s episode of The Anxiety Guru Show I explore what steps you can take to get out of your house and into every fantastic human experience that you deny yourself right now.

Plus, I discuss what a “normal” person is and how to tell if you fall into that category.

Don’t forget to comment below and share this podcast on Facebook and Twitter.

anxiety, panic, podcast