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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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.

anxiety, podcast

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.

anxiety, podcast

 

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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