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5 Steps to Manage Anxiety

If you’ve ever experienced a heart wrenching, shortness of breath, chest tightening, profusely sweating moment due to a “foreseen or imagined” event you’ve probably experienced anxiety. Anxiety can play out in different ways for different people, however one thing remains the same. It’s a fear of the future or unknown. A sense of having no control. When anxiety is at its peak, it can feel debilitating. We can quickly feel captured, and trapped by this. Often, people can pinpoint their fearful thought. When this is done, we can begin to unpack the fears, and restore a sense of control.

  1. Observe the Anxiety: Instead of getting consumed in the thought, merely observe it. Do so without judgement of it, or an attempt to control or rationalize it. Just be present with it. Accept it. Look at it objectively.
  2. Relax your muscles: Progressive muscle relaxation is another tool you can incorporate whether you’re in bed struggling to sleep, or in the office preparing to give a presentation. It involves doing a full-body examination and tightening then releasing each muscle group in your body. You can begin at your toes and work your way up, taking turns tensing one muscle group for a few seconds, then relaxing it for 30 seconds. Move on to the next muscle group until you’ve worked your way up to the top of your head.
  3. Get some exercise: Exercise has a myriad of benefits, one of which is reducing anxiety. Studies have shown that even 20 minutes of light exercise can significantly reduce anxiety. It is essential that we get our body moving, our heart pumping, and our blood flowing in this way. Increasing our body heat as a result of exercise will flood our body with endorphins.
  4. Limit caffeine and alcohol consumption: This is a must! Caffeine is a nervous system stimulant that will not serve you, and can exacerbate anxiety. While alcohol may momentarily help reduce anxiety, the aftermath of consuming a depressant like alcohol will have its negative effects. Alcohol is a commonly used coping mechanism, and will only prolong the feelings of distress and defeat.
  5. Seek help: Speaking to a therapist regularly will help you to sort out areas of your life that are hindering growth. Often people wait until a crisis or catastrophe in order to obtain support from a therapist. Working things out with a unbiased person, who you can safely speak with will offer a tremendous amount of relief in your daily life. Life can throw us many curve-balls and without the necessary support, we can often fall into victimhood and get “stuck” there.

Holistic Therapy Theory

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I’m often asked what it means to work with a client holistically.  For me, it means I examine each of my clients holistically. Holistic therapy theory holds that a person’s consciousness is not housed in any one part of the person but is instead an integration of the mind, body, and spirit. I listen to my client’s core language, I help them gain awareness of the connections between their emotions, thoughts, physical experiences, and spiritual understandings. Helping my clients realize each of these components work together in harmony to support typical daily function is necessary for change. This deeper understanding of the whole self can often lend itself to greater self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-acceptance.

In order to develop awareness through holistic therapy, I work less to help individuals achieve change and more to help them accept the present moment—​who they are and where they are. I offer support as my clients work to accept what is going on within. Once this acceptance is achieved, individuals may be able to let go of their own resistance, which can further allows them to relax and release any fears. Acceptance and relaxation are important components of this therapy. 

Through communication, emotions arise from the release of the bodily tension. As this happens in therapy, we can begin to explore the emotions and the role they play in my clients life. Many don’t realize that the resistance and denial of emotions a can hinder healing.  Once an individual makes a decision (conscious or unconscious) to notice this, then, and only then, can someone accept the emotions as part of the person’s whole self. In short- it’s the awareness, and acceptance of their emotions that we’re seeking to accomplice initially.

The spiritual component is often the most difficult to reach. The goal is to connect the client to a deeper meaning in the world. This process typically involves psychoeducation on philosophy and meditation.

The point of holistic work is to address the whole, and not parts of the whole. If I worked in “parts” I’d merely be addressing symptoms- often this is where medications come into play. This does not heal, this represses, in turn merely putting a bandage over the problem.

 

Fear is a liar

When we fixate on all the things we are not. When we notice only the things we do not have, we weaken our faith. In doing this, we perpetuate the lies we tell ourselves, and repeatedly sabotage growth.  Self-sabotage is alive and well. Without self awareness, without faith, and without hope, we will continue to self-sabotage. Henry Ford said it best when he stated, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t you’re right.” Our thoughts are a powerful thing. They create our feelings, they lead us to behave in ways that lead us to outcomes we dread or desire.

People often act in fear. Without awareness, they walk in fear. Many are paralyzed by fear, so they do not act. Some procrastinate, some make excuses, and some just avoid entirely. Self-defeating, self-sabotage, is all due to the ego. When our views remain narrow and focused only on ourselves, we will continue to edge God out. If I told you the remedy would you receive it? If I told you that Fear is a Liar would you believe me? If I told you that you exist for a purpose greater than the lie you tell yourself will you be open to hear it?

I cannot save my clients from their self-defeat. I cannot save them from the lies they tell themselves, but I can tell them that Fear is a Liar. Allow moments of pain to be lessons. Allow challenges to change your character. Let moments of fear to propel you into hope. Do not allow the ego to take hold of your energy or spirit. Fixate on truth. The truth that you were made for so much more, that all things change, and that we can dictate how we receive our experiences.

Imagine your life is perfect in every respect what would it look like? How would you show up every day if this was your reality? Why not begin to show up this way today? If fear is a liar, faith can become your reality, hope can become the energy that guides you, and barriers around you will begin to crumble. Do not be a slave to fear! Instead shout Fear is a Liar!

 

Getting un-stuck

I hear this often in my work with clients: “I’m stuck.” Their distress over this phrase lingers deep. The feelings of hopelessness often becomes crippling and then begins this cycle of behaviors that repeat. Feeling “stuck” in behaviors that do not serve us can feel defeating. The feelings of defeat lead to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. Inevitably, depression surfaces and takes ahold of our lives. Depression can look differently for people. Some may become lethargic, others may gain/lose weight. Most, isolate, while others seek solace in drugs and alcohol.

You may be wondering, how can one change this? How can one become un-stuck? As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve been trained in methodologies that can support clients to develop better habits. As a Christian, I know that spiritual healing is necessary for all my clients. Whatever my clients religious/spiritual beliefs may be, I know we have to seek spiritual healing. Romans 7:15, 18 says, ““I cannot understand my own behavior. I fail to carry out the very things I want to do, and find myself doing the very things I hate…for although the will to do what is good is in me, the performance is not.”

This is a familiar feeling for those desperately seeking to change their habits. Are you tired of hurting? Are you tired of getting the same result? The pain only increases and wounds unhealed will begin to bleed out. Let today be the day you choose to change the course of your life. Let this moment steer you towards a destination different than the one you’re going down. If you’re wondering how this can be done, here’s what it requires: surrender. To finally surrender ourselves to healing, we have to have three spaces opened up within us and all at the same time: our opinionated head, our closed-down heart, and our defensive and defended body.

Undeclared Language: When Words Go Missing

There are two important times when we’re unable to use words to describe our experience. The first is before the age of two or three, when the language centers of our brain have not yet reached full maturity. The second occurs during a traumatic episode, when our memory functions become suppressed and we can’t accurately process information.

When memory function is inhibited, emotionally significant information bypasses the frontal lobes and cannot be name or ordered through words or language, as Bessel van Kolk describes. Without language, our experiences often go “undeclared,” and are more likely to be stored as fragments of memory, bodily sensation, images, and emotions. Language allows us to corral our experiences into story form. Once we have the story, we’re more able to revisit an experience- even a trauma- without reliving all the turmoil attached to it.

Even though language may be one of the first things to go when we’re overwhelmed, this language is never lost. It sifts back in our unconscious and surfaces unexpectedly, refusing to be ignored. As psychologist Annie Rogers says, “The unconscious insists, repeats, and practically breaks down the door, to be heard. The only way to hear it, to invite it into the room, is to stop imposing something over it- mostly in the form of your own ideas- and listen instead for the unsayable, which is everywhere, in speech, in enactment, in drams, and in the body.”