Bouncing Back From Panic

After experiencing your first panic attack or anxiety symptom you’re immediately faced with a critical decision. You either take action or stick your head in the sand and hope for the best. On today’s podcast my guest Julia Cardoso chose the former.

I spoke with Julia over Skype and I got a fascinating glimpse into her struggle with abnormal anxiety. Luckily for Julia she’s approached her anxiety problem with courage and determination. I hope she inspires you to do something about your anxiety problem if you haven’t already.

In this podcast Julia and I discuss…

1. Her first panic attack and its aftermath

2. The stigma of having an anxiety disorder

3. How anxiety impacts relationships

3. What steps she took to deal with her anxiety problem

5. And more…

I want to thank Julia for stepping up and sharing her story. It’s not easy to come out in public and talk about yourself. It’s even harder to talk about an issue that most people ignore or ridicule. I hope that by Julia sharing her story you gain some insight into what it takes to win the fight against abnormal anxiety.

You can listen to more of Julia on her podcast Anxious Ramblings. Now on iTunes!

anxiety symptoms

How to Create a Positive Mindset in 3 Easy Steps

Most people have cognitive ‘blind spots.’ Simply put, it’s hard to see our own thinking flaws and all the ways we keep ourselves anxious without someone else pointing it out.

It’s normal.

As a therapist (Intern) I see it all the time. Someone mulls over a particular thought pattern or behavior that they’ve never examined before and bingo! They say something like “I never thought of it that way.”

It doesn’t happen as often as I would like, but it does happen. Here’s a question though: Is there a way to do this on yourself? Is there a way to tilt your perspective in a positive direction?

For starters, know this about your brain: It loves patterns and routine. Give yourself 29 days and you can turn almost any behavior into a habit.

Over time your behaviors (thoughts included) end up on autopilot; focused on the same negative perspective until it’s hard not to see the bad in almost everything. In fact, you might have gotten to the point where all you do is focus on the negative.

From Negative to Positive

Step 1: Acknowledge your blind spots.

Are you a pessimist? Do you wake up in the morning and assume that you’re going to be anxious all day? It’s important to recognize your negative mind frame before you can even think about changing it.

This one’s easy to achieve though. Just ask yourself this: Do I think worry about problems that only confirm or support my fears? If so, then you’re focused only on the negative aspects of everything you experience, which reinforces the very problems you despise.

Instead, spend some time thinking about things that disprove your anxiety fueled guesses about the future.

Step 2: Learn how to reframe the negative

Is there any possible way of looking at your stress, anxiety or worry from a positive perspective? Of course there is! For instance, you could be experiencing two panic attacks a week right now.

But if you experienced only one next week would you sit around fearing the next panic attack or could you think “Hey, I only had one panic attack this week. Now that’s progress!”

Alternatively, what if you did have your customary two servings of panic in a week? Could you ever give yourself permission to think that you might have none the following week?

Also, consider this: Are you always panicked? Are you perpetually experiencing chest pain? Probably not right? Well then, how about you start acknowledging the ‘good times.’ Acknowledge that you’re not always feeling bad and that you will feel better soon after whatever you’re experiencing passes.

Step 3: Practice positivity

You ever buy a stranger a coffee? No? Man, you should try it because it feels awesome. Have you ever laughed at yourself for something hilarious that you did because you were scared out of your mind (I know I have).

Whether it’s forcing a big smile in the office on Monday, sharing your food, cracking a joke, or whatever, you have a lot of control over how much positivity you release into the universe. And what’s crucial to remember is that the universe provides excellent return on investment. The more you give the more you get.

Be mindful of the fact that despite bad things happening to us (Part of life I’m afraid), there’s always some small thing you can do to put a positive spin on some aspect of your life. The important part of practicing positivity is actually giving it a try so you can escape the false idea that you’ll always feel bad and never recover.


Planting the Seeds of Change

anxiety, panic, blogPicture this: A young guy sitting in the corner of a bedroom with his knees to his chest. He’s sweating, praying and all alone. The expression on his face is one of utter hopelessness and terror. That was me in 2001 at the height of my anxiety. Luckily, things have changed.

Last night I had dinner with my beautiful wife. We had some good food, we laughed, and I wasn’t at all bothered by the 100 or so people around us. I couldn’t have done this in 2001. The question is why?

What made me a nervous wreck?

I could give you some bloated reason but the truth is I don’t know what happened to me. It could have been genetics, stress, trauma, my environment or some combination of all those things. I still don’t know. I do know, however, that there was at least one thing getting in the way of my recovery. Simply put, it was my imagination. My negative dreams and fantasies stunted my recovery.

This could be happening to you too.

So many of your fantasies don’t involve you being free from anxiety and that alone can play a huge role in terms of what you think is going to happen to you. I don’t blame you though; it can be hard to picture your life without fear and worry. But for me, it was the redirection of my imagination that made all the difference. See, I used to fantasize about having heart attacks or losing my mind. I could even see myself being taken down by faceless figures with white coats.

I had created my reality from threads of distorted thoughts. That is until, randomly I admit, I started to wonder what it would be like to not be anxious. My fantasies became positive and something did change.

“There is nothing impossible to him who will try.”

Alexander the Great

I saw myself get better before it actually happened. What was only a recurring dream became reality. I stopped nibbling on every anxious thought and experience and instead looked to the future with hope. In that regard, my worry turned into positive expectation. I’m absolutely positive that you can’t dream your way out of anxiety but at the same time it can lay the groundwork for recovery.

How do you change your fantasies? The most important step is to give yourself permission to fantasize about something else. Hopefully those new visions will create the space you need to achieve what you think you can’t.



A Message to the Sometimes Anxious Person

Low-level anxiety is still anxiety. For that reason, any kind of anxiety that makes you think twice about it should never be minimized.

People forget that there are those that don’t get panic attacks, chest pain or palpitations that are still hounded my bad nerves. If you’re one of these people you might be tempted to just put up with your anxiety because it isn’t “that bad.” To my mind this isn’t a good thing.

There might be people in your life that say things like “It’s just anxiety” or “Just distract yourself.” But these aren’t solutions. In most cases this doesn’t work because being strong so to speak doesn’t make the anxiety go away.

I can speak from my own experience. It’s for this reason that I can be sure of two things. First, non-action in the face of low-level anxiety is a typical reaction. Second, low-level anxiety is the easiest to treat. So then, take a few minutes – 13 to be exact – and listen to today’s podcast to learn more about this topic.

anxiety symptoms

5 Years of Failed Blogging?

Sad Anniversary Can you believe it? I’ve been blogging for 5 years. I guess the old saying about time moving faster as you age is true. I can remember writing my first blog post in 2008 like it was yesterday.

To be honest I have mixed emotions about this blog now. At first I wanted to create something remarkable. I wanted to create an important anti-anxiety resource. I ended up with something very different.

For years I wrote blog posts and produced podcasts hoping that would grow and evolve and you know what? It didn’t. I tried recruiting people to write, changing the design, asking for feedback, writing different types of posts but, it didn’t seem to matter.

Don’t get me wrong. This blog has grown. I’ve gone from 200 daily visitors to about 3,000. That sounds good I guess, yet in the world of websites that’s tiny. Worst of all I don’t know why. I don’t know what I did wrong.

Part of me wants to believe that this has happened because anxiety is transient. People are only interested in seeking tips when they are in crisis or semi-crisis. Anxious people, it seems, are more into internet surfing. They collect small bits of information from a lot of different places and build whatever they need from those small parts.

Sadly, that makes it less likely that AG will ever grow into a strong community. It can’t be the only reason this blog hasn’t developed more, but it’s certainly a big part of it. And that sucks because I’m not quite sure what to do now. I have failed. I feel defeated in my efforts to create something remarkable. At least that’s how I feel.

It’s hard to accept that something you’ve worked on for so long is futile. It’s downright depressing really. I guess in the end there’s only so much one person can do. Unlike a lot of successful websites AG has no staff, no budget, no nothing. Reality check I guess.

All that said, I still enjoy answering emails, helping people when I can, and receiving a kind message or two. That has never changed. So although AG isn’t what I hoped it would be, it still brings me satisfaction to know that I’ve brought comfort to some of you over the years.

Thank you.

Insanely Easy Way to Stop Anxiety

Have you ever wondered why you’re not getting better? There are probably lots of reasons but the main reason is this: You’re too distracted.

You’re on the internet looking for a solution miracle that’s going to turn things around but, and I hate to break this to you, in the world of anxiety miracles don’t exist. We’re all too different to be helped by the same thing. The “thing” that helps you will be of your own making.

Plus, you probably spend a lot of time reading very interesting information that’s useless. But it’s useless only because you have unconsciously decided to stay in a perpetual state of helpless awe.

I can hear you now, “This sounds good, that sounds good, wait this too.” It all sounds good, for awhile at least. The truth is that none of it is helping you because you’re not actively turning that information into something usable. It’s not your fault though. Anxiety is a master manipulator and once you let it crawl into your head you start to believe all the baloney it puts there.

I want to help you revamp how you go about getting better so that you can get to the promised land sooner. Best of all, my tip is insanely easy to use.

Listen to the podcast to find out more.

podcast, anxiety, blog

Dinner With Panic

I had a friend ask me if anxiety could kill him. He’s new to abnormal anxiety so he wanted to know what to expect. I thought about giving him some kind of “how to” tip but something told me that a story would be better. After I told him the story he seemed to understand the nature of anxiety and how he could deal with it.

Today I want to share that story with you. I got so excited about telling you this story that I decided to produce a podcast instead of writing about it. I think it explains a pretty powerful idea about anxiety that I hope will help you see things differently. Take 10 minutes to listen to it and tell me what you think in the comments section below.

anxiety symptoms

3 Strategies For Stopping Anxiety

Pulled in Too Many Directions Signs Stress AnxietyAre the things you do to reduce anxiety working? I’m going to take a wild guess and say that they’re not. One reason for that is that you’re relying on a one trick pony. It’s called reactivity.

Chances are that you tend to be reactive and explore solutions to your anxiety problem only in the heat of the moment (or soon after).

But is jumping on Google to read more about what you already know really going to help you? If not, what can you do, right now, that will help you get where you want to be?

Here are a few thoughts…

Identify the Problem

What is your problem? To say that it’s “anxiety” is too vague. Get specific. A helpful way to find out what your specific problem is to ask yourself the miracle question. Here it is: If you went to sleep tonight, and woke up anxiety free tomorrow, how would you know that you were anxiety free?

What would tell you that everything was different? Would it be that your palpitations were gone? Or that your racing thoughts had disappeared? Pick one.

Obviously your anxiety is complex and may not boil down to only one symptom but, there’s usually one major problem that is fueling your anxiety. Find out what that is and work on that one problem until you defeat it.

I know “anxiety” is the overarching issue, but think about the benefits of tackling something singular like chest pain. Any diet change, exercise routine, or whatever you decide to use, that heals your chest pain will undoubtedly also have a positive effect on your overall feelings of anxiety.

It’s also less overwhelming to focus on a single problem versus trying to tackle “anxiety.”

Focus On Using Solutions

When you have a big problem it’s easy to get sucked into the “problem vortex.” You get sucked into a world of sameness; the same information, the same pattern of thinking, or the same behavior. But it’s important to ask yourself, “What can I do differently?”

Take palpitations for example, here are a few articles on how to stop them:

Is there a way to stop heart palpitations

How to stop heart palpitations

Natural home remedies: Palpitations

Wonderful, found three great articles on how to stop palpitations. The question is, what do you do with this information? Do you simply keep surfing the net looking for the next interesting tip or do you stop and think about how you might use this information?

Brooding about your anxiety is a waste of time. Getting locked in your head about how much you hate your life, how much anxiety is ruining your existence benefits you how? You need to get pissed and use that energy to find a set of tools you can use on a regular basis.

Small Improvements Are Okay

Folks with problems want quick fixes – that’s normal. It’s also unrealistic. Instead, as you work on your main problem look for small improvements that tell you things are changing. The goal is to make something different.

That could mean having 2 panic attacks per week rather than 3. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You’ll progress one baby step at a time. Plus, you won’t be filled with disappointment every time someone’s advice doesn’t turn your life around on a dime.

The tips I laid out here are simple but effective. If you want someone to give you some magic pill or bullet proof advice then I’m afraid you’re going to be anxious much longer. Don’t fool yourself. Instead, make a plan and stick to it. Time will take care of the rest.



Maybe It’s Not All in Your Head

People with anxiety problems are usually split into two camps: One side is convinced that they’re nuts; the other thinks that they have major medical problems that will attack their brain, heart, or some other organ they can’t live without.

And you know what? The second camp might be on to something. But don’t freak out. Although there are medical problems that do in fact cause anxiety, they’re not all incurable nightmares.

For instance…

Thyroid Problems

Most anxious people like to think big in terms of what might be ailing them. You hear anxious people talk a lot about heart attacks, brain cancer, even multiple sclerosis gets tossed around as a possible cause of their anxiety. But there are other, less dramatic, explanations.

A more likely medical cause of anxiety, fatigue, stomach problems, and irritability is hyperthyroidism. The thyroid is a gland in the neck that produces Thyroxine and thyridodine (T4 and T3). Long story short, the thyroid is important because it keeps your body in homeostasis (“balanced” or “stable”).

If the thyroid produces too much (or not enough) hormone then all hell breaks loose. Thyroid problems can lead to many medical issues, including severe anxiety.

So, if you’re the kind of person that has popped pills, seen a shrink, taken up running or gardening, and still feel anxious then you might want to get your thyroid checked by a medical doctor. A simple blood test will tell you if your anxiety problem is really just a hormonal issue.

Not everyone with chronic anxiety has a thyroid problem, but still it’s something to consider getting checked. You might be scared to see a doctor. I get that. You might be too scared to have a check up because of what could be found. I get that too.

But it’s always better to know what is truly going on with you versus playing perpetual head games with yourself.

This is exactly why if you have severe anxiety you need to start whatever treatment plan you have with one single step: A check up. Once you’ve seen a doctor and have been screened for medical problems then you can start working on your real issues.

If you’ve already been screened for “everything” and still can’t find a reason for your anxiety then maybe it’s time to develop a different plan of action . But that’s for another time.