Info

Your Anxiety Toolkit

Your Anxiety Toolkit aims to provide you with helpful tools to manage anxiety, stress and other emotions that get in the way.
RSS Feed
Your Anxiety Toolkit
2021
June
May
April
March
February
January


2020
December
November
October
September
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2019
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2018
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2017
December
November
October
September
August
July
May
April
March
January


2016
October
September
July
June
May
April
March


All Episodes
Archives
Now displaying: Page 1
Jun 25, 2021

This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 195.

Welcome to Your Anxiety Toolkit. I’m your host, Kimberley Quinlan. This podcast is fueled by three main goals. The first goal is to provide you with some extra tools to help you manage your anxiety. Second goal, to inspire you. Anxiety doesn’t get to decide how you live your life. And number three, and I leave the best for last, is to provide you with one big, fat virtual hug, because experiencing anxiety ain’t easy. If that sounds good to you, let’s go.

Kimberley: Hello there. I have with me a very special friend who is going to talk about something so important. So, so important. I am so excited to have with us Shala Nicely. Oh my goodness, thank you for coming back onto the show.

Shala: Thank you so much for having me. I love being here.

Kimberley: Oh my goodness. Okay. So, probably the reason that I have been so adamant about getting you onto this episode is this topic that we are going to talk about is probably one of the topics that comes up the most with my patients and clients that nobody is talking about.

Shala: Yes.

Kimberley: Nobody. And I am seeing it more and more and more and more and more, which is why I wanted to have you on. So, thank you.

Shala: Yeah.

Kimberley: Thank you. Okay. So, you wrote a blog about depression as a compulsion. Can you tell us what does that mean?

Shala: Yes. I’ll start off by saying that this is one of the many subtleties of OCD. Sometimes OCD takes a long time to figure out. I spent years becoming a therapist. I spent years thinking about my own experience and when I was writing my memoir Is Fred in the Refrigerator?. It wasn’t until after Fred was published, that I figured out this particular compulsion that I had been doing. By identifying it, it’s been able to help me make a huge difference in my recovery, and that’s why I wanted to share it and write the blog.

Kimberley: Right. It’s so important. I mean, I can’t tell you, I’ve been practicing for many, many years and I only came across this in the last year or two. But the more I get to know it and the more I understand it, I’m just like, I feel like I see it in almost all the cases in some way. So, go ahead. Tell us what it is. Tell us what it looks like.

Shala: So, I’ll give you an example that I used in Fred, which is, when I was in my twenties, I was convinced I’d given myself HIV aids because I had gotten cut with a broken beer bottle at a party and I had spent all this time in my head arguing with OCD about whether or not that you can transmit HIV aids through that. It went on for months and months and months. While I was doing all this ritualizing in my head, trying to figure this out and prove to myself I didn’t have this disease, which this was years and years and years ago, the treatments for HIV aids are much better now, they weren’t. This was 25 years ago. I know people with OCD are still frightened of it. I was really frightened of it back then because there weren’t very many treatments for it.

And so I would spend all day long thinking about how I had given myself a fatal disease and how I was going to die. And then I started acting as though I had a fatal disease that there weren’t good treatments for and I was going to get it and die. So I would go into situations and put on a happy face and smile, but in my head, I was thinking, “Oh, this is the last time I’m going to be doing this. Oh, this is so sad. Just wait until people find out what is really going on with me.” So I would focus in those situations on how awful this was and how depressed I was and how this was going to be the last time I was going to do it.

So, I was actually acting as though what OCD was telling me, which is that I’d given myself fatal disease, was true. And the depression that came from that became the compulsion because I took that emotion and I acted on that emotion. So I started acting depressed, making depressed choices, living in a depressed lifestyle, having a depressed attitude as I went out into the world because I had given in completely to what OCD was saying.

When I realized that, again, this was after I’d written the story, after it had been published, and I started seeing this in my clients. I started recognizing I still did some of this. I’m like, “Wait a minute, it’s the depression itself, which was really propping all this up.”  It’s really a very subtle form of compulsion that if you don’t recognize it can sabotage your ERP work.

Kimberley: Yeah. I would admit as a young intern of treating OCD, I think if I saw this, I would have stopped ERP and focused on depression and really worked on that, which is not a bad solution, but without really recognizing it under the lens of OCD, right? So, I would have seen it as separate. I love it.

Let me explain how I’ve seen it a lot. Once I’ve shown them your article, patients and clients have said, “I recognize in the moment that I’m having uncertainty. I try doing a compulsion to make the uncertainty go away and that doesn’t work. So, going into depression is our easy way to just exit out of uncertainty. It’s the worst-case scenario. That’s where I’m going to hang out.” That has been so helpful for people to be able to recognize that. It’s a response to not wanting to be uncertain.

Shala: And I think it’s important to differentiate between depression that comes secondary to having a diagnosis of OCD from this, because a majority of people with OCD will end up with some form of depression at some point, because it’s just so debilitating. It’s the 10th most debilitating condition in the world. So people will end up depressed just because of how exhausting it is to manage this monster in your head all day long.

But that’s very different than being depressed because you’ve decided to believe that the OCD is true because you cannot figure it out otherwise. And OCD just wants certainty. It doesn’t care what kind of certainty it gets. If it can’t get certainty, for instance, that I don’t have HIV aids, it’s just going to go the other way and say, “Well, I’m going to get certainty that she does have it,” and then go from there and then becoming depressed as a result of that obsession. So, I think that’s really important for people to understand. You can have both going on at the same time too, which makes this even more tricky.

Kimberley: Yeah. Even more tricky, but even great to know that we can differentiate the two now, because we’ll talk later about how to manage that. Now, this is where I want to look at insight because, in your blog, you talk about insight. I think that’s an important piece of this, right? Because when you first have the onset of OCD, you might recognize that this is like ego, what we would call egodystonic, like this stuff. “I know it’s not true, but I keep fearing it’s true.” Can you share how insight impacts this specific situation?

Shala: Yes. In fact, it was Jon Hershfield who introduced the two of us years ago, who helped me put this insight about insight together, because I was talking with him about this depression is a compulsion. What he pointed out is that typically, when an OCD obsession starts, you’re doing compulsions to try to prove that it’s false. If you can’t get that to work, which of course you can’t because there’s no way to prove all this stuff that I see he’s worried about, then sometimes you can start going the opposite way and trying to prove that it’s true. Really that’s the difference between insight.

When you’re trying to prove that it’s false, then you know that what OCD is saying in some part of you is nonsense. “I don’t have HIV aids, come on.” Not like in a reassuring way, just there’s a part of you that still recognizes, “Yeah, this is super scary, but this is OCD reacting to an intrusive thought. This isn’t actually a real problem.” So, you’ve got that insight there. You’re still stuck, but you got insight.

When you start trying to prove it’s right, that’s when you’ve lost insight. When you really give in to everything that OCD is saying, really hook, line, and sinker, and you don’t have any insight anymore. That’s really when this depression as a compulsion becomes a big problem. The longer that a particular obsession is maintained by doing compulsions, the more likely you are to lose insight, the longer it’s been going on.

Kimberley: And this is where it’s hard, isn’t it? Because we know the whole story of when you stare at something for too long, it starts to look weird and distorted. I think that’s very much true here. I think it’s true of depression in general and in this subtle compulsion. When we look at things as negative, we notice more and more things that are negative. Is that what you feel to be true here? Or is it just the same story that you hear over and over? Share with me how that might sound in your head.

Shala: I think it starts to sound like a soundtrack for my life because most of my rituals became internal. And the way I see mental rituals, it’s physical rituals taken inside. So you can’t do things physically because you don’t want people to see or whatever. So you start pulling it inside. The more that I would do that, the more I would argue with OCD, of course, the more I’m strengthening in it. So the more I hear it and the more I argue, it just expands to fill every waking moment. It really becomes a soundtrack playing 24 hours a day because I was doing those mental rituals. And then the longer that that went on, the more likely I was to start becoming depressed because I was losing insight, which then also further reinforces this cycle.

Kimberley: So interesting and so helpful. One thing that you talk about is emotions as a ritual. Can you share how this may play out with other emotions such as – you’ve written guilt and shame, regret and grief?

Shala: Yes. So what I’m going to do to describe this is I’m going to take you through the OCD cycle in some anatomical details, so to speak, so we can piece together how this is all happening. So you have an intrusive thought. That is not OCD because everybody has intrusive thoughts. The OCD is the next stage where OCD reacts to the intrusive thought – “Why did I have this? What does this mean? Am I going to do it? Am I going to make it come true because I have the thought?” That reaction, that’s the OCD. Of course, that makes you feel anxious. And then if you haven’t had treatment, you typically do some form of compulsion, something to try to get certainty about what the OCD is bothering you about, because this is all based on an intolerance of uncertainty. And OCD just picks content that you care about and puts uncertainty about it in your mind and then gets you stuck in that cycle.

When you do a compulsion, it tells your brain that this is a dangerous thought, “This intrusive thought I had is dangerous,” and you need to keep doing something about it. These steps just repeat on an endless loop. And then what happens is that when it repeats on the loop long enough, the acceptance of the scary thoughts that OCD is presenting causes you to experience the emotions that you would feel if those stories were true. Those emotions tend to be things like depression, as we’ve talked about, guilt, regret, shame, grief, and others.

And then in classic cognitive behavioral therapy perspective where our emotions and our thoughts and our actions all come together in this triangle, the emotions then dictate how we act, so we begin to act depressed or guilty or regretful or shamed or grief-stricken. Those emotions can then become compulsions because they’re driven specifically by believing the content of the OCD, by acting like what OCD is saying is true. That’s the definition of doing compulsions. So that’s how emotions can become part of the compulsion cycle because you start acting as though they’re true.

Kimberley: Right. This is so true and this is where I see it play out a lot, is when people have an intrusive thought that they’ve done something wrong, and then they feel... Because they start to believe it, they go into regret and then they go into confessing, right? Then they’ll go into like, “Well, I have to confess it because I’ve done something wrong,” instead of that they had a thought that they did something wrong. Or that they feel such deep guilt that they’re saying things like, “I’m a terrible person. I’m terrible. And I’m so guilty. What kind of human am I?” because of a thought like you’ve just described, how then that plays out and keeps playing out over and over again.

Let’s play out because we haven’t really talked about this, but what would the action be as a result to regret? It would be reassurance seeking or confessing. What else would you say?

Shala: Maybe going back in your mind and trying to undo it and, “Gosh, what would it be like if it had only gone like this?” Almost like a wishing compulsion that I think [14:22 inaudible] talks about in his book. All sorts of things like that.

Kimberley: What about guilt? Similar, but what about guilt?

Shala: I think with guilt, it’s a lot of self-punishment as a ritual. “I’m bad. I did something bad.” With guilt and shame, guilt is, “I did something bad,” shame is, “I am bad.” I think in this case, those can get conflated together and people just start punishing themselves. “Well, I don’t deserve this because I did this bad thing,” or “I am this bad person.” They start being very uncompassionate with themselves and treating themselves like they’re this horrible human being.

Kimberley: Right. And that’s a big part of how I see it play out is that the self-punishment is pleasure withholding, like you don’t deserve the nice-- it could be as subtle as you can’t have the nice brand of crushed tomatoes. You have to have the crappy brand because you don’t deserve good things or you don’t deserve the nice sheets or so forth. And that will make you feel-- when there’s no pleasure in your life, you get depressed, right? I think that’s a very subtle way that OCD plays out. I’ve heard lots of people will say, or the flip side is they’ll say something like, “Oh, because I have harm thoughts about my child, I have to buy them the best diapers,” which is treating yourself as if you’ve done something wrong.

Shala: Yes. You’re making up.

Kimberley: You’re making up for something that you had a thought about, right?

Shala: Yeah.

Kimberley: Right. It’s so subtle. What about grief? Can you kind of give an example of that?

Shala: I think with grief, it’s pre-planning things. So, for instance, I’m not kidding you, I’ve pre-planned my funeral in my head – “Well, this is what it’s going to be like. It’s going to be so sad and I wonder if this will happen and that will happen,” as though it’s an event two weeks from now on my calendar, Shala’s funeral. So I think it’s almost like you act like the loss has occurred already and you begin to start going through the grieving process.

People with OCD tend to be really empathic people, so it’s really easy to go there. It’s easy to put yourself in that, “Oh, so-and-so has died. This horrible thing has happened. Let me go ahead and get into that grief state,” because we’re just good at being able to put ourselves in other people’s shoes to imagine what something would feel like, and to feel it as though it were happening.

Kimberley: It’s so good. All right. So--

Shala: Can I say one more thing?

Kimberley: Of course.

Shala: Sometimes I think of these as fake emotion. They’re not, right? But they’re OCD-induced emotions.

Kimberley: They’re manufactured.

Shala: They’re manufactured. They don’t actually fit the truth of the situation. I’m not saying they’re fake like, gosh, the shame you’re feeling or the guilt you’re feeling isn’t real. Certainly it’s a real emotion, but I think it is induced completely by the OCD, as opposed to being induced by a situation that has happened in life.

Kimberley: I agree. And that’s where that insight is really important, right? Is to be able to catch that. I fully agree with you. I’m so glad that you recognize that because people will say it feels real, right? It feels real. And then I’ll always follow up with like, “But it’s not a fact.” But still, it’s important to have that conversation.

Now, I want to just jump in here. Before we talk about how to break this cycle, how might this play out with just Right OCD?

Shala: I can give you an example from yesterday about this.

Kimberley: All right.

Shala: I decided I was going to get these floating shelves and hang them on the wall. It requires using a drill and all sorts of things, which I can do, but I’m not very good at it. I also, I guess, was sort of distracted and I’d had problems with one of them and with the drill, as I went downstairs to do the other one. I put the shelf a couple of inches too high because I used the wrong mark on the wall, probably because I was exhausted from having drilled drywall over the place and making a huge mess upstairs. Once I got the shelf installed, I’m like, “Oh, what’s that little mark on the wall? Oh, that was where it was supposed to be, a couple of inches higher.” I am not redoing it because it made a huge mess in the wall and it’s going to have to stay there. My OCD put this little feeling in my stomach. “That’s just too high. It’s wrong. It’s horrible.” I could feel it. Like, I feel it right in my solar plexus, this little tightening, like, “Oh, we can’t stand this.”

What I decided to do, because I am not moving that, I just say, “OCD, this is great. I am so glad that shelf is at that level. I’m glad, number one, because it’s upsetting you. But number two, it actually probably is a good level because I have a big dog who likes to bounce around on the couch. This is above the couch. If it’s actually too low, he’s probably going to knock his head on it and knock it over. We’re just going to live with it. There are some good things about it being at this level, just like there’s some good things about it being at another level. I’m just going to smile and be happy every time I see that shelf.” So, when I see the shelf now, I really try to have good, positive, happy emotions about the shelf being at that level and tell myself, “We’re not changing it. OCD, if you don’t like it, fabulous.”

Kimberley: Right. But originally, was it that you would slip into a depression as a compulsion?

Shala: Yes. So, what happens with Just Right OCD that can have this same thing go on is we look at the shelf every day and go, “Oh, it’s ruined the house. The house is not perfect because the shelf is in the wrong place. If we could just move the shelf down.” And then you envision moving it down, but then you think, “Oh my gosh, it’s going to open up more holes in the drywall, and then I’ll have to fix that. I can’t do that. If I’d only been paying more attention.” Everybody can’t see this because they’re not watching the video of this, but if you can see my posture, it’s like--

Kimberley: It is. You’re getting low.

Shala: Like, “I screwed up and now it’s bad and I’m depressed.” And then every time you look at it, you have those regretful thoughts and you think about, “Gosh, how I’d like to change that.” And that causes more regret. And then that fuels the whole emotions as a compulsion cycle.

Kimberley: Which is interesting. I think this is true for any subtype. And you may correct me on this. The thought that I hear the most is, “This is going to bother me forever.” That’s where I feel like the depression as the compulsion set seen as like, “You’ll never have happiness again. This is going to be the worst.” And then you go actually, like you sunk down into that. You sunk in and you stayed into that kind of mindset. Is that an example you would give as well?

Shala: Yeah. I think with any Just Right OCD, it’s this feeling that life is somehow ruined because this thing is wrong. Ruined means forever. It’s all blurry, black and white like you were saying. So it feels not only unfixable, but unbearable, and then giving into that and then acting as though this unbearable thing has happened, then becomes the emotions as a compulsion. I think this is probably pretty common within the whole Just Right OCD thing, is having so much regret that it’s not right, then act as though that regret were true.

Kimberley: Right. Well, okay. So, that’s the perfect segue, is how do we break this cycle? How do we intervene? Where do we intervene in the cycle?

Shala: The way that we intervene in this cycle, through exposure and response prevention obviously, is doing the acting as though the content that OCD is threatening you about or bothering you about is irrelevant. Let me start out by first saying how people tend to make mistakes doing this because I think this is important.

So, as we know with exposure and response prevention, we’re exposing ourselves to the uncertainty of the obsession while not doing compulsions. If you have emotions as a compulsion, depression as a compulsion, you can do an exposure. Think you’re not doing compulsions because you’re using scripting to get out of your head. You’re not asking for reassurance. You’re not doing your physical compulsions. But you’re still bummed out, regretful, ashamed. So you’re doing it while in your head, really spending a lot of time in that emotion. So you’re really doing exposure without response prevention. You’re doing some response prevention, but you’re not doing enough response prevention. So the exposures don’t work very well.

People can get stuck in this cycle where they’re doing ERP over and over and over again and they think that they’re getting rid of all these components and they’re not getting better. It’s probably because something like this is going on in the background where they’re still, at some level, believing this and acting as though it were true. So, that’s where people make mistakes.

What we really need to do here is find that little bit of joy because it’s there. It’s probably been so covered up by the OCD, the depression, whatever other negative emotions you’re experiencing, that you don’t think it’s there, but it is there. You can take yourself back to when you were really happy about whatever it is, like, say that you think you’re going to harm your children. And you can remember times that you were with your kids where this wasn’t bothering you. So, you take yourself back to that and you think, “How was I acting? What was I doing? How was I feeling?” You find that and you go do those activities and you focus on that joy. So, when the OCD says, “Oh no, we can’t, we can’t. You’re irresponsible. We were going to kill them. We’re going to harm them. We have to focus on how bad we are,” you’re like, “Nope, I’m going to focus on how much fun my kid is having in the pool. Isn’t this great? It’s a sunny day. Really enjoying it. It feels so nice to be out here. Look how happy my kids are.” You just find all of the joy you can and you focus on the joy.

What we’re trying to do here is act as though the content is irrelevant. So, if you’re acting like it’s relevant, you’re standing in the pool with your kids going, “Oh my gosh, this is terrible. I’m going to kill them. They’re happy now. But just wait until I kill them and their mother finds out or whatever, that it was me.” Or you can be in the pool like, “This is great. I love spending time with my kids. This is awesome. Look how much fun they’re having. They’re doing so well with their swimming. They’re having a great time. They could probably stay in here until they turn blue. This is great.” You’re acting like all that stuff in your head about the fact that you might harm them doesn’t matter. And that’s the essence of good exposure.

It really takes this finding joy because you want to do the opposite of what OCD is saying. OCD says you should act depressed, regretful, ashamed. So you say, “I’m going to do the opposite of that. I’m going to act happy, jubilant, carefree.” And that’s how we do these exposures. It’s not easy, but if you get good at it, it can be really revolutionary in terms of your recovery.

Kimberley: I love this. So, I’m thinking of one particular person right now, and it’s a follower actually. What would you say, because I love everything you’re saying. What would you say to the person who then may start to do that as a compulsion too?

Shala: Yes. I think that OCD can turn anything into compulsion.

Kimberley: It’s so skilled. There’s such skill. So

Shala: Yeah. I think that that is a potentiality for anything that we do with ERP. We are not doing this to make your anxiety go away. In fact, you’re going to be more anxious while you’re trying to find this joy because you don’t deserve to be joyful. It is not responsible to be joyful. It is tempting fate to be joyful. So you’re going to be--

Kimberley: Irresponsible is the word.

Shala: Yeah. You’re going to be having maybe 5% joy and 95% anxiety if you’re doing this right. If you make this compulsive, you’re doing it to reduce anxiety. I’m so glad you brought that up. That is what we’re looking for here, is this is going to make you more anxious. And the more that you do it and really find the joy and act like you’re having fun anyway, eventually, the anxiety will subside. Who knows when? It may take hours, days, weeks, months, whatever. But that is not the goal. The goal is to be in the situation while being anxious. And the more anxiety, the better, right? Because that means you’re giving your brain a good learning experience. That means that you’re doing things that help you tame OCD and reclaim your life.

Kimberley: Right. Thank you so much for sharing that because that’s such a crucial piece – to be able to integrate joy and anxiety in the very same moment. If you could do that, you’re winning, right? You’ve won, because OCD wants you to integrate anxiety and depression at the same time. So, I love that that is the way to give OCD birth ultimately, is to show that you can do that. I love it.

So, let’s talk about one more thing. I want to be respectful of your time. Someone has had OCD for a long time, obviously, because this has gotten so stuck. They’re having a lot of this depression as a compulsion. We’re asking them to find things that used to bring them joy or look back to a time where they could integrate anxiety and joy at the same time. What are your thoughts around “Fake it till you make it”? Is that an approach that you would consider? I know you’ve talked about other ways. Would you like to share your thoughts on it?

Shala: Yeah. I mean, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the “Fake it till you make it” stand, except for if you’re saying you’re faking it, you’re saying that there is no happiness there. And that’s almost giving in to the OCD once again. So, what I like is a different way of phrasing it, which comes from a woman named Heather Hansen who wrote a great book called The Elegant Warrior. We’ve both been on her podcast. What she says is, “Show it till you grow it.” I love that because that acknowledges that the positive emotions are there. The OCD is sitting on them and squishing them and you can’t feel them, but they are there. That also reinforces this notion that the OCD, this is a bunch of content it’s making up. It doesn’t feel like that, but these are things that it has imposed upon your life to make you worry about them. But you’ve got this great life that sort of smushed down underneath it. And you just need to find a little bit of what that great life used to be and find that and grow that.

It’s almost like if you think of a black canvas and then there’s a little pinprick of light, sunlight and it comes through as like a ray. And then the ray comes through and it starts to makes the black cloth start to have the hole, get bigger and the sunlight gets bigger. And then the sunlight comes through and eliminates everything. That’s what we’re talking about here. It’s just a pinprick. It’s a tiny bit, but it’s really there. If you say you fake it till you make it, you’re not giving yourself the empowerment you deserve, that it is in you. It is there. You just don’t feel it because of the OCD.

Kimberley: Right. It is. It’s like a muscle that you grow. I agree with that. I think that that is exactly perfect for it because, like anything, if you’re trying to get 100% joy, you won’t get any joy. But if you give yourself permission-- because we can get perfectionistic about this and be like, “Well, no, this used to bring me so much joy.” So I think you’re right. It’s just little baby steps and little baby pinpricks is the way.

Shala: I’m so glad you brought that up because like all of us with OCD can make things compulsive. We can also try to do our therapy perfectly and try to do these exercises and go out and be like, “But I wasn’t totally happy. I did have some intrusive thoughts. I did feel some depression.” Yes, of course. You’re going to. So, I think recognizing this is a process and what we’re trying to do is find the 1%, the 0.05%, the 3%, the 15%, whatever it is of joy and focus on that. Yeah, you’re going to have those depressed feelings. They’ve been there for a while. By the time you have depression or other emotions as a compulsion, it’s probably been there a while.

So, this process of ERP is also going to take a while and it’s challenging and it’s hard. So, you’re not going to go out and do this perfectly. You’re not going to go have some awesome experience with your kid. You’re going to be acting as though you’re having an awesome time. You’re going to be trying to focus on that in your head. But the vestiges of the OCD and those other emotions are going to be there. Let it be there. We’re not with this trying to shove those away necessarily and not feel them. What we’re trying to do is focus on the ones that actually match the ERP, which is, if I’m going to go focus on being with my kids and having fun, that’s what I’m going to focus on. Not this other stuff that’s going on over there.

But give yourself permission to have this be a messy process because it is and do it imperfectly because you’re going to, because everybody does. It’s going to take a while, because it took a while for all of us with this to get there. It’s going to take a while to unravel it. And then even after you unravel it, it can still come back. I still have to watch for this one. If I get triggered with something that is a really high-level item for my OCD, I have to work on this sometimes too, because it’s easy for me to sink back down to this because I did it for so many years.

Kimberley: Which I’m so grateful that you share that because I think that for those-- and I want to make sure I just did it before we finish up and I want to hear about what you’re up to these days is, the treatment for this is actually similar to the treatment of just depression too. You’re working double shifts here, but in a good way. You’re working on two things using the same tool. So, do you have any feedback on that?

Shala: Yeah, that’s a really good point. I hadn’t thought about it like that before, but it’s very much a behavioral activation approach. Behavioral activation is used in the treatment of depression to help people start to put activities back in their lives that gave them pleasure and that gave them some feelings of mastery. And that’s what we’re trying to do with the added component of “And let’s focus on that pleasure. Let’s focus on that feeling of mastery. Those other feelings are going to be there, but let’s focus on the way life used to be before the depression came in.” So, yeah, it is a very behavioral activation type approach here.

Kimberley: Oh my gosh. I love it so much. It’s so good. I feel like everyone needs to be trained in this specific area because it’s such an important area that gets missed and missed and missed and missed. So, you’re like brilliant, brilliant in my mind, as you already know.

Shala: Well, thank you very much.

Kimberley: Okay. Is there anything you want to add before you tell us the way we can find out about you?

Shala: I don’t think so. I think we’ve covered everything.

Kimberley: Okay. Tell us where people can hear about you, your blog, and all the amazing things you’re doing.

Shala: They can go to shalanicely.com. On that website, you can sign up for my newsletter, which is called Shoulders Back!: Tips and resources for taming OCD. I send it out every couple of weeks and it has some sort of new resource I’ve created or been a part of every time I send it out, free resources to help people learn how to effectively tame OCD and reclaim their lives. So, that is where you can go. If you want to read more about this, this particular blog is on my Psychology Today blog. It’s called The Subtle OCD Compulsion that you might not know you’re doing. Again, you can go on my website and it’ll link back to all the Psychology Today blogs as well.

Kimberley: What about your book?

Shala: Yes. So, both books, Is Fred in the Refrigerator?: Taming OCD and Reclaiming My Life and Everyday Mindfulness for OCD: Tips, Tricks, and Skills for Living Joyfully, which I co-wrote with Jon Hershfield. You can learn more about those on my website or on Amazon or anywhere that you buy books. They’re both available on audiobooks as well.

Kimberley: Right. Let me do a plug for your book because I have had so many of my patients say it’s the first time they wanted to hand their book to everybody because it was exactly how it felt for them. I have so many clients who bought a copy for themselves and a copy for their parents because their parents were like, “Oh, this is what it’s like to be you. Now, I finally get it.” So, I’m so grateful you did that beautiful book.

Shala: Well, thank you. That’s the whole reason I wrote Is Fred in the Refrigerator? because I wanted people to understand how it feels to have OCD. If you have OCD, I wanted you to understand that you’re not alone and that there is hope that you can get better. You can tame OCD and you can reclaim your life.

Kimberley: Right. Oh my God, thank you so much for being on today.

Shala: Thank you so much for having me. It was fun.

Kimberley: Such important information. I can’t say it enough. So, so important that we’re addressing this more. I think that this can open it up to everybody having a better understanding.

Shala: Thank you again.

Website: shalanicely.com

Is Fred In the Refrigerator: https://www.amazon.com

Everyday Mindfulness for OCD: https://www.amazon.com

Psychology Today blog

-----

Please note that this podcast or any other resources from cbtschool.com should not replace professional mental health care. If you feel you would benefit, please reach out to a provider in your area.

Have a wonderful day, and thank you for supporting cbtschool.com.

Jun 18, 2021

This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 194.

In today’s episode, I had the most amazing conversation with Hayden Dawes. Now, Hayden Dawes is a therapist, a PhD student. He is what he calls an “aspiring compassion warrior” – we talk about in the interview what that means. Hayden is just doing some really cool work. As I share, and we go into detail in this episode, he’s really brought out some stuff for me as I’ve watched him and learned from him. It’s been incredible to see this journey that it’s put me on.

Your Anxiety Toolkit Hayden Dawes Compassion Permission Slip

So, I cannot wait to share this episode with you. We’re talking about radical permission, writing compassion slips for ourselves. We’re talking about being petty. It’ll make sense when we get there. It’s just such a beautiful conversation. So I’m so happy to share this with you.

If you haven’t already, please do go and leave a review. The reviews help us reach more people and gain the trust of more people. So, go ahead and leave a review wherever you listen, and let’s get onto the show.

Twitter and IG : @hcdawes
Website: hcdawes.com
FB Group https://www.facebook.com
NEWSLETTER: https://www.hcdawes.com/newsletter

-----

Kimberley: Okay, welcome. I’m actually so excited to have this conversation. This was a really, really great one to me because I have with me Hayden Dawes. He is an aspiring compassion warrior – which I can’t wait to hear more about what that means – a PhD student. He is a social worker and has been practicing for many years. So, thank you so much for coming on, Hayden.

Hayden: I am so excited to be here, no one else can see us, but to see your smile, just to see a little of me. That just makes me even feel more welcome and more excited to be here. So, thank you.

Kimberley: Yeah. I’m really excited. So, let me fan go on you for a second. For those who don’t know, and you’ll hear all of Hayden’s work, Hayden has these really cool Instagram profile. I love the work you’re doing with compassion, but we’re also going to share a couple of other things that I love about your work. We’ll talk about that here very soon, but tell me about the work you’re doing around like an aspiring compassion warrior. Tell me what that means and how you are putting that out into the world.

Hayden: Yeah. So, one of the things, I was raised in the Catholic church and Roman Catholic, and I’ve looked for different faith traditions, things that felt close to me and really fit my experience. So, stumbling upon Buddhism and more contemplative practices like Quakerism and Buddhism, and finding the idea of a Bodhisattva, someone that is willing to just do the tough work of delving deeply into what it means to be human, the suffering piece to it, and learning from that experience and then trying to help others along the way as we’re all on this human journey. So, I said, “Bodhisattva is a mouthful. Why don’t I call myself a compassion warrior?” And part of that is delving deeply into my own stuff, my own pains, and challenges so that I can learn more about myself and be compassionate with that and I can be compassionate with other people.

Kimberley: Yeah, respiring. I actually think you’re a warrior. I don’t think you’re aspiring. You could drop the aspiring.

Hayden: It’s interesting. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. It’s like, I think part of the journey is like, “Am I really aligned with that completely? What does the aspiring mean?” Sometimes taking it out of like, “Let me hold closer to this idea that this is what I am.” So, I think that’s influx too, but I appreciate that.

Kimberley: Yeah, of course. Okay. So, we talk a lot about compassion here on the show, but I love those little twists that you bring into it. So, I’d love if you could share, you’re often talking about the permission slip. Can you share it with everyone, for those who don’t know what that means? Can you kind of give me a little rundown of what that is?

Hayden: Yeah. So, back in 2018, I had a friend of mine share on Instagram, a haiku a day for 100 days. I thought, “I’m not counting out all of those syllables.” But what I can do is following up on the work of Brené Brown. I was like, “I can write a permission slip to myself a day.” I can slow down and center myself and think, “If I think about the whole day that I’m going to have, what is it that I most need? What is the thing that I might need to give to myself?”

I also know from my clinical practice, and I’m sure you can relate to this, people will come in and they’ll say, “I’m thinking about doing this,” or “I’m thinking about doing that,” and like, “Sweetie, let’s slow down. You probably know exactly what you need to do.” “What do I do?” I’m like, “Yeah, you’re looking for me to give you permission to do that.” So, I thought, “Well, what if we can just skip through that step?” What would it be like for me to start a practice that I was like, “I’m going to offer myself this permission to do whatever that I might need in the world for myself.”

Kimberley: Why do you think people need permission from other people first?

Hayden: Yeah. I think there’s a lot of different factors, but I think we have a lot of different noise, societal noise about who you’re supposed to be, who you’re supposed to love, how you’re supposed to walk in the world. I think some of that noise trickles into our family spaces. A lot of us are taught to really trust our own intuition, our own inner guide. I might even argue the God that lives within us. So, we end up delegating that task to someone else because we’ve been practicing that, rather than really slowing down and listening and honoring the wisdom that dwells. I believe in each and every one of us.

Kimberley: Okay. So, I love this, and I think that’s so important, particularly for my community who have a tremendous degree of anxiety. They’ve sort of lost touch with their own guide and their own wisdom because fear runs the show all the time. And I think that’s true for anybody who has fear, but especially the folks who have an anxiety disorder. So, I love that. Okay. So, can you walk us through? What would you do? What do you say like WWHD (What would Hayden do)?

Hayden: Yeah. If I’m feeling really anxious, maybe my permission slip is, “Hayden, give yourself permission to just breathe.” Or if that feels like too much, “Hayden, give yourself permission to feel your anxiety. Hayden, give yourself permission to feel your feet on the floor. Nothing else, nothing more, just feet on the floor.” If your anxiety and sort of the thing that you need, you know you need to do is have that tough conversation. “You know what, I’m going to give myself permission to be assertive and to ask for exactly what I need.”

Kimberley: Yeah. I love that. So, it’s in that compassion realm. It’s got like the real boundary-setting one, but also the gentleness. So, there’s both those pieces to it in many situations. I know on, I think Twitter, on Instagram, you post these. Are these ones that you’re writing because you really needed to hear it yourself, or is it that you had a session with someone and you wanted to put that out for other people? How do you do it?

Hayden: Yeah. What a great question. Honestly, all of my permission slips that I’ve written are generally for myself. I want to think that is what connects with people. They know I’m not a phony. They know I’m not trying to sell them some program that I’m not trying to work myself. I have not scheduled any of my posts really thus far when it comes to my permission slips. So, the ones I put on Twitter and oftentimes the one I put on Instagram, sometimes I’ll pull back an archive of what I did in 2018, just to show people that I too am on this path, because I do think throughout my day, like, “What is it that I need?”

Oftentimes with me, and I’m sure many of your listeners can really understand this, that I am someone that does a lot. So, if anything, I need a lot more like parasympathetic energy, giving myself permission to rest, giving myself permission to foster self-love and self-acceptance. But then there might be some people that your permission slip might be a little bit more of like, you need to get up poo and you need to go.

Kimberley: Exactly. I know it’s true. It’s true. As you were saying that, I mean, my permission slips, I could write them for the next month. It would say, “I give myself permission to rest.” I know it’s going to say that, but there are other people who will need for the-- they’ll probably be able to recognize that their permission will need to say like, “Face your fears and do the scary thing.” So, that’s beautiful.

Hayden: Yeah. So, just to give you a little bit more of the story, I didn’t know how much of a big deal that permission slips would be to my work until I was meeting with someone that was helping me to think about my social media a little bit with more strategy. She said, “Hayden, these permission slips are really cool. This is something that I think I could do,” my friend, Emily. And I was like, “Really? I didn’t see it.” That was maybe two or three years ago.

And then what happened was, last spring when I felt like COVID was making our world so much smaller. I was talking to my therapist and she was saying, one of the themes that kept coming up was this sense of reminding people the autonomy that they have. And so one big facet of this is permission slips remind us that we have the ability to choose. Even if you decide not to do that thing, it’s so much more empowering to recognize that you’re choosing not to do that thing.

So then what happened was, I said, “Well, what if I open the permission slips for 14 days on social media?” My following was much smaller than it is now. I did it for 14 days, just how powerful it is to have a collective practice of people all over the world, all over the country, writing permission slips, because there’s something so magical in that by you seeing me give myself permission. It’s contagious. You then give yourself permission.

Kimberley: I agree. I think that’s why it’s so powerful, right? It’s interesting because-- and I hear people say this to me often too. I think people see therapists like, they’re got it all together, which I most definitely do not. I’m not afraid to admit it. I’m totally fine with that, but I still am shocked. I tell people, I share my story because we’re going to break the stigma that therapy is like this idea that you just get better kind of thing, like we’re still so human. I love that you’re a therapist sharing it, because I do think it helps people to recognize like, “Oh, that’s not the goal. I’m not supposed to be perfect. I’m going to be giving myself permission forever.” I love that you’re doing that.

Hayden: Yeah. It reminds me of-- I don’t know, I was jabbering about something with my therapist. She was like, “Are you trying to hack the human out of this process?” And I was like, “I’m trying to hack the Hayden.” It took me weeks later. I was like, “Gosh, she’s so right. I’m trying to do this without feeling any discomfort.” And that’s not going to be possible. How beautiful is it that I can practice giving myself permission by practicing self-compassion literally for the rest of my life.

Kimberley: Isn’t that beautiful?

Hayden: Yeah. I don’t love it, but it’s beautiful.

Kimberley: It is beautiful. I actually have a book coming out on self-compassion for--

Hayden: Congratulations.

Kimberley: Thank you. Yeah. It’s not out yet. It’ll be out in October. But a big piece of it is, if you can hold space for your pain, you’re sad because you will have pain. We’re not going to avoid it. But if you can always be that frontline person, that’s what these permission slips are, right? It’s you being at the front line.

Hayden: Oh my gosh, I love what you’re saying. Now you’re making me think. If you hold space for your pain, you hold space for everyone else’s. I think so much of the inner work really brings out an outward change. You feel so much more connected to the people in your life, maybe it’s your children, your partner, it’s your boss. And then you see the world just so much differently and you see yourself differently and you stop looking at other people’s thinking. Like you said, they have it all together and they live these beautiful airbrushed social media lives. It’s like, “Oh, we’re all trying to be a part of this world and figure it out.” And no one is ever done. If they tell you’re done, I got this for you. They’re lying.

Kimberley: Well, they’re completely in denial.

Hayden: Right.

Kimberley: Right. It’s so true. So, I think I love that you’re giving this very simple but impactful tool. So, thank you. It’s so cool. It’s so, so cool. I have one more question about that before we move on to the other piece of the work, which is, do you actually write them out? I mean, you do because you’re doing it on social media, but I know with Brené Brown, she has had-- you can actually write the permission slip, like it was like, you’re getting a permission slip to leave school early from your parents. Do you write them? Are you now at a place where you can just stop and think it through? What has been your progression with this?

Hayden: Good question. No one’s ever asked me that. So, for me, I generally write them and I think that has been a good practice for me to slow down and stop. But I had a conversation with a friend who has been writing his permission slips, and he said that he’s noticing that he’ll fall into giving himself permission. And then later he can say, “Oh wow, I just allowed myself to do that.”

Kimberley: It’s just a new habit.

Hayden: Absolutely. I really have to sit back and reflect on that to think about, what are the times that I’m just allowing something to happen that I generally wouldn’t have allowed to happen before in the past?

Kimberley: Right. Oh, I love it. I do. I really do. I really encourage people to go and follow you because I do think it is-- even though I know it’s perfect for us and it’s ideal for us to be doing it on our own, I do think it’s lovely to have it be modeled for other people. I think that that’s really powerful.

Hayden: Oh, I have to jump in. I think for me, if you think-- so I actually had a class assignment where I had to really conceptualize what I think radical permission is. Honestly, I think there’s three levels to it. It’s nested within a community. And then the community has an instructional leader. I think of myself as that leader, as someone that is modeling both how to do a permission slip and also modeling how to support others with their permission slips. And then the final component of that is the self-practice.

Kimberley: Right.

Hayden: But one piece can exist without the other. If not, to me, I don’t think it’s radical permission. It’s just not. We don’t exist in containers. Some of the more Western mental health practices, especially in the last 30 years, are so individually focused.

Kimberley: Yeah. I know I’ve got goosebumps listening to you say that because it is so true, isn’t it?

Hayden: This is a community endeavor. I think that’s one of the elements of what makes it radical.

Kimberley: Yeah, I agree.

Hayden: But yet, one of these components can exist without the other.

Kimberley: Right. It’s the unlearning, isn’t it? Right? So, as a child, if you’re in an environment that doesn’t support this kind of work, if you’re in an environment where there are people, it is the unlearning of that. It’s so important.

Hayden: Yeah. And the unlearning, I just want to validate for people out there, is so exposing, so vulnerable, so raw.

Kimberley: Right.

Hayden: When you push someone trying to help you experience your own power and your own sense of autonomy over your body, your thoughts, and your ideas, and then your behaviors from that, wow.

Kimberley: Yeah. It is. It’s funny. I love when I have these teen clients and we’re talking about a concept. I can see them shaking their heads and they’re like, “Nope, nope, nope. Not going there with you. Nope. No, thank you.” They’ll roll their eyes or something. And then upon second and third conversation, there’s a body shift for them. I’m like, “Really? I can do that? Really?” Interesting, right? And then there’s a total body shift. I think, I mean, I’m just so grateful you’re doing this for people all over the world. So, it’s very, very cool.

Hayden: Thank you.

Kimberley: Yeah. Oh my gosh. Okay. I’m so geeked out right now because I love compassion, but I just really cannot wait to talk to you about this. I’m so curious--

Hayden: You can hear me fumbling around this. I just want to put that on the table.

Kimberley: I’m going to fumble too because really, I don’t-- let’s just fumble together. Right? I follow Lisa Renee Taylor and she always says “Stumble bravely.” And so I’m like, “Yes, let’s stumble bravely.”

You on your Instagram have Petty Tuesday. Now, I’ll be totally open with you. The word “petty,” I had this visceral body experience. When I first saw this, I was like, “What is he doing?” These were like petty because in my mind, “petty’ just had this connotation to it. I think again, it’s the unlearning, right? It’s the unlearning of like, “What, wait, we’re going for petty? What’s he doing now?”

Hayden: Oh my goodness.

Kimberley: But now I’m hooked on it. I love it. I can’t get enough of it. And that’s the thing, right? It’s the unlearning. So, let’s just go from the start. What is Petty Tuesday?

Hayden: So, something was happening in the national headlines and I was just like, “Really? come on.” It was like hearing about one of these talk show hosts having a really bad, toxic culture. I was like, “What on earth?” And so I just started talking on my stories about it. I literally would talk about it with my friends like, “This is a really messy situation. People are being harmed and people are being hurt.” I was like, “Not to be petty about it. I mean, Petty Tuesday.” And then people started DM-ing me and laughing about the fact that I said “Petty Tuesday.” So then I just started incorporating it because I honestly started having fun with it. It feels really playful.

Kimberley: It is.

Hayden: It’s interesting because I looked up the word “petty” and there’s all these different definitions. But the one that I really like is, it’s childish. It really is childish. It’s playful. It’s an opportunity. It’s an invitation not to take ourselves too seriously.

Kimberley: Yeah. You see, this is why I loved it. So, I have a Buddhist training too. I’ve really been working for many, many years – I had an eating disorder – since my recovery on, like trying to read petty. We don’t want petty, right? We don’t want to engage in too much anger because that’s got its own pain and suffering with it. Not that I’m saying any of these things are bad, but then you’re totally leaning in over here.

Hayden: Yeah. I think the sort of idea of toxic positivity and how broken that is, and I think there’s some wisdom about honoring our pettiness. not honoring it to be fixed to it, but to realize that there’s space for it, because you either acknowledge you’re petty or your petty will really rein you.

Kimberley: Yup. I just love-- so the reason that this showed up for me and there was a shift for me, like I said, there was a three minute, like, “What is he doing over there?” And then it was like, “Wait, what he’s doing is he’s practicing non-judgment.” And now I’m watching every Tuesday and then people are posting their petty things, and I’m just like, “This is so great.” We’re having an emotion and we’re not going, “Oh, that’s so bad. I shouldn’t be feeling that way. What’s wrong with me?” and all the things. We’re just going, “Yup, it’s petty Tuesday. That’s what we do.”

Hayden: Yeah. I think there’s something about the discipline of doing it on one day in particular that I have some people-- honestly, I completely stumbled, well, not bravely, but I stumbled into this, and now everyone’s like, “Oh my gosh, I love Petty Tuesday.” I will be honest, sometimes it’s become a piece of, I’ll use a term “brand” that I’m like, “People really like this?” but like, “No, I see myself differently than this. I see myself cross-legged on some mountain.” But everyone’s like, they’re feeling seen by it. It’s not--

Kimberley: I think it’s the opposite of the position. The permission slip, when I think about it, that might be why I’m hooked because, on the permission slip, you’re giving permission to do this beautiful thing. With Petty Tuesday, you’re giving yourself permission to be around emotions that we would usually disavow. You’ve just got this whole spectrum going on.

Hayden: You are articulating some parts of my process that I have not quite figured out yet. How much do I owe you for this session?

Kimberley: No, actually, I’m trying to figure it out myself, right? Because this is why I really think, okay, so I’m a consumer in this perspective. So this has been learning for me. And even noticing in myself like, “Oh, isn’t that interesting?” My first reaction was like, people can’t see my hand over my-- petty.

Hayden: It’s taboo.

Kimberley: Yeah. Like, “What are we doing here?”

Hayden: Yeah. I think part of it is, being a gay man, it’s like, pettiness and kind of cattiness, that’s what the stereotype is of gay men. Yet, it’s part of our culture. I think there’s this idea of why folks love RuPaul’s Drag Race is because it leans into the non-seriousness of living and how really a lot of these constructed boundaries about what’s okay to do and what’s not okay to do is socially constructed. So we have to socially deconstruct them, or to use your term, unlearn them.

Kimberley: Right. I love it, and you do it so well. And this is why I love it, because if I think I did Petty Tuesday, it would just be like a venting session. It wouldn’t look the same.

Hayden: Well, yeah. I mean, it’s interesting. I was going off about a celebrity couple that got back together. And then later, I felt guilty about that. I was like, “You know what? I felt like I went too far with that.” But this is where the compassion works, is helpful. It’s like, yeah, that might’ve been a tiny bit mean-spirited, but in the big scheme of things, it’s not that big of a deal. Also, it’s like, it’s been so transformative for me to recognize that I can use my voice and the power of my ability to communicate. I might hurt people, and there are times that I have hurt people in my past. But wow, does it feel great that I can be accountable to my word and say, I’m sorry? I often think we wouldn’t need a cancel culture if we allowed more space for radical accountability.

Kimberley: Yup. I agree. No, I’m loving it. Don’t change a thing. Don’t, because I think it’s beautiful. I’m really in love with it because again, I think that even from the anxiety-- the work I do, let’s actually look at, you said toxic positivity, it’s so important to address that. I had a lot of this in my childhood. We don’t do petty. We don’t do angry and we don’t do those other things. So, I’m loving this idea of like, I can make space for all of the feelings and I can also just embrace the humanness that is petty, because I don’t think everybody’s thinking petty.

Hayden: Yeah. This morning I went to the gym. This is my petty thought of the day. okay, so the gym has music you can hear throughout the whole gym space. And then you have folks that are walking around with their phones on speaker phone so that you can hear their music, like it’s their own private boombox, and I’m like, “Isn’t that what headphones are for?” And I’m like, “Oh my goodness, whatever. Okay.” But in the grand scheme of things, this is a first-world problem, but the pettiness of me is like, “Come on now, boo.”

Kimberley: Right. So I’m liking this. This is what I’m saying. I was just actually about to say, give me your petty of the day. Yes. And my petty is probably more related to my children. I’m like, “Do I have to say it 12 times? Do I have to put your left shoe on? Come on.”

Hayden: Well, can I ask you a question?

Kimberley: Sure.

Hayden: I hate it when people are on podcasts and they’re like, “Can I ask you a question?” That’s a pet peeve of mine and a petty, right? Like doing it after going through your petty process about, with your children, what does that do for you?

Kimberley: Well, I actually did a post on this, this week because I’ve actually been really working through my relationship with venting. I think this is why-- if I were to really look into it, you probably started this work I’m doing.

Hayden: So you owe me [28:45 inaudible].

Kimberley: I do. We’re actually even at this point, so we’ll balance the sheets out at the end of the session. But I think that it probably was. If I really think it was probably spurred by this, it’s to start to reflect on, when I open up space for this, like, I don’t want to call it a negative emotion because it’s not, but just for emotions that bring up some suffering for me, right? My instinct is to shut it down. I think what that means is it shuts down, it shuts down, it shuts down until I cut to the point where I need to vent. By that point, the boiler has gone and it’s coming out. So, I’ve been working better instead of holding space for the petty. So I don’t have to vent. I don’t want it to get to that place. Not that there’s anything wrong with venting either, right?

Hayden: I love what you just said. I’m really going to slow down and hear that because I think what it brings up for me is-- a lot of our somatic practitioners would tell us that we need the energy to keep moving. Really pettiness is just another form of energy. It’s not good or bad. It’s just another form of energy.

Kimberley: Right.

Hayden: And I think what you’re saying is, and what I’m hearing is like, let’s open up the space to let the energy keep moving, so that way it doesn’t become locked up like a dam, so that when it gets so full-- because I think the issue with that is it can get so full and burst. And then it starts this whole cycle of filling the shame and filling the guilt of a complete eruption.

Kimberley: Right. Exactly. So, if I step into my petty, it doesn’t feel good because of the learned judgment on that. But it’s me learning. I’m learning that if I can stay with the feeling of that – it doesn’t feel good, but it also feels good – it will save me from really not feeling good when I go into vent mode. And so for me, it’s been really-- like I said to you, I just love it. I do. I really do. I think it’s beautiful as long-- I think that the conversation we actually had on Instagram, because I did a post on this was, people’s conversation around like, but you can’t take that away from me. Really I’m at a stage in my life where I need to be a lot petty or a lot venting. I think for people, it’s different.

Hayden: Absolutely. Yeah. Thank you so much for sharing.

Kimberley: Oh, of course. Thank you. So, do you have bigger petty days than other days? What’s the influx of petty for you?

Hayden: I don’t think of myself as a petty person. It’s interesting that I have an experience. I think being an immigrant and being a military child and accepting life as it is, a lot of acceptance energy of things that other people might complain about is part of my story. So, I think there are days where I may have to lean on my petty and get a little bit more. But that’s anger, which feels a little bit different for me. Yeah, I might feel a little bit aggravated a little bit more often some days compared to others. It’s not something that I necessarily am probably the most tuned into. So, you’re offering me an invitation to think about that a little bit more and to contemplate on it.

Kimberley: I love it. Okay. So, is there anything that you feel like we’ve missed here? We’re stumbling bravely. Do you feel like there’s something about Petty Tuesday, the concept of being petty for people that they may want to consider as they move into embracing this?

Hayden: I think the thing that’s really important to know is that it’s vulnerable. Even being petty is vulnerable and allow your pettiness, allowing yourself to come out to your own inner pettiness because you’re unlearning something and you’re trying something else that you’ve never tried before. So, it’s going to feel scary, especially when you’re riding the wave of a new emotion. You don’t know what’s going to come out. You don’t know who’s going to come out on the other side of it. So, I really want to validate and normalize all of that. I do think there needs to be some safeguards on the other side. There’s a difference for me between pettiness and mean-spiritedness and complete toxic negativity.

Kimberley: Okay. That’s helpful to hear. Yeah. How do you differentiate that?

Hayden: Pettiness has a playfulness, for me. I think the playfulness, again, not taking myself too seriously. When you think about children playing and you think of yourself playing, for me, it’s a wide-open field of discovery and mean-spiritedness. The energy just feels like a dark cloud or there’s a monster and it’s like, “Ooh, I don’t really like that energy. I’m not judging it. I’m just saying I don’t really want more of it.”

Kimberley: Right. Yeah. I mean, I think that there’s a small shift in that it’s intended to create harm, right? It’s intended to displace whatever you’re feeling kind of thing. I can feel that too. I think that that’s a really good differentiation. I just love it, though. I can’t help it. I just laugh when I think about it.

Hayden: I mean, you’re smiling about it.

Kimberley: Yeah. That’s not it. It’s so perfect.

Hayden: There’s something fun about it. People look forward to celebrating Petty Tuesday. People are like, “Hayden, please create merch so I could wear a Petty Tuesday t-shirt,” and I’m like, “Oh my gosh.”

Kimberley: You totally should. Yeah. Again, I think it’s one of those important lessons that we have to unlearn, which is, there isn’t really an emotion you can’t touch on. Maybe that for those who are new to this day, permission slip could be, I’m going to allow myself to feel some petty.

Hayden: I love it.

Kimberley: Play with that.

Hayden: Absolutely. I think so much of unlearning and learning something new is play. giving yourself space to try it out. Commit to it and try it out. Yeah. Permission slip to be petty or to be aggravated. I mean, one of the permission slips, and this is a different emotion, that has completely changed my life was right after the murder of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor. I wrote permission slips to myself to channel my anger to rehumanize myself in the midst of dehumanization. I did not recognize the connection.

But after that, I wrote this piece that went viral in the therapist community called An Invitation to White Therapists. It’s completely changed my world. It’s got me in conversations with mentors of mine, people that have huge followings and are famous in my world, because I gave myself that permission and to really, really experience and feel that emotion and to trust that my container, my nervous system, that my body could hold whatever might come out on the other side. I definitely think having relationships that are there to support you in your play of discovering who you might be on the other side is really important and fostering that. That’s made all the world of difference to me.

Kimberley: Yeah. I thank you for sharing that because I really do resonate with that as well. Feelings are scary. I think that we don’t give ourselves permission because we don’t want to feel what could come with that. Particularly around those conversations, those very difficult topics, I think it’s so important that we slow down, maybe write out a permission slip first. I know I have to do that all the time with social media areas. Okay, how do I navigate this conversation? Can I be okay with it being imperfect?

Hayden: Yeah.

Kimberley: Yeah. Thank you. I’m so grateful for you bringing that up because I think that’s amazing. Okay. I actually have one more question for you and then I want you to tell people. So you’ve said when we were pre-having this conversation that you are a curator of radical permission, what is that?

Hayden: Yeah. I have to be honest. Some of this is based on Rising Strong process, a Brené Brown book, but I do think I’ve moved it forward in making it a collective practice. So, I think of myself as the curator because, do I own this? I think our Western way of we own things, like, do I own this? No. If anything, I feel like more of the shepherd of it. I hope that this lives beyond me, honestly.

So, I think I love the word “curator,” thinking about someone that is there to be a custodian of a space and of a process and there needs to be some editing. So, there has to be some power that I hold of the process because you need to make sure that it stays within the pathos and the ethos of really what the values are underpinning it. So, I think that’s why I use the term “curator.”

Kimberley: I love it. Okay. Tell us where people can hear about you. I’m so grateful for this conversation. Really I am. I could literally talk to you about this for hours, but I’m not going to take your time up. Tell us where people can hear your stuff and learn well from you.

Hayden: Yeah. So, you can follow me @hcdawes on Twitter as well as on Instagram. There is a Radical Permission Facebook group that you can search. You can also head to my website at hcdawes.com. I also have a monthly newsletter where I talk about all the things that are important to me, and I hope it offers you value. I always offer something for you to contemplate about your life, as well as there’s always a petty moment, as well as different trainings that I’ll be offering and different upcoming events.

Kimberley: Yeah. Thank you so much. Like I said, absolutely just grateful for you. You’re doing amazing work.

Hayden: Thank you.

-----

Please note that this podcast or any other resources from cbtschool.com should not replace professional mental health care. If you feel you would benefit, please reach out to a provider in your area.

Have a wonderful day, and thank you for supporting cbtschool.com.

Jun 11, 2021

This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 193.

Hello, my loves, how are you?

So, recently, I’ve been having lots of conversations with my patients and my clients around one really helpful metaphor around managing mental compulsions.

Now, before we go into this, let me just do a quick overview. We have obsessions, which show up in the form of intrusive thoughts, intrusive feelings, like anxiety and uncertainty and doubt and guilt and disgust. There’s intrusive thoughts, there’s intrusive feelings, there’s intrusive sensations, which is whatever physical sensations you experience that are intrusive and repetitive, and then intrusive urges. Urges like this urge – you feel like you’re going out of control and you’re about to hurt someone or you’re about to harm someone or do something that is ineffective or not helpful in your life.

We have these intrusive thoughts, feelings, sensations, and urges, and sometimes images as well. It might be a quick flash image of something scary. In effort to either solve that or remove that or lessen the discomfort of that, we engage in a compulsion. Now, the compulsion could be physical, like washing your hands or moving an object or so forth, checking something, or it can be mental. I’m really specifically, in this episode, talking about mental compulsions – the mental compulsion of trying to solve and ruminate on an obsession. A lot of you have said that mental compulsions are one of the most difficult to reduce or prevent or stop, and I think that’s very, very, very common.

When I’m talking with my patients about this, usually, they report that once they have the obsession, because we know that – let’s sort of just preface – trying to prevent the thought or suppress the thought won’t work. You’re going to have these thoughts. Thoughts suppression usually makes you have the thought even more.

We’re not talking about thoughts suppression here, but what we are talking about is, once you identify that you’ve had the thought, how much attention do you give it and how much leash do you give it? This is the metaphor I want you to think of.

When you’ve had this intrusive thought, think of the thought like a really baby puppy, like a really active bouncy baby puppy, and you’ve got the baby puppy on a leash. You’re taking the puppy for a walk.

Now often I’ll ask my patients, “When you take your puppy for a walk, particularly if you live in a suburban or city area, which I do, do you give the puppy a long leash or do you give it a short leash? As you’re walking down the sidewalk, are you letting the puppy walk down the middle of the road with a long leash, and then it jumps over the sidewalk into the garden, it pees on the garden and then wraps its leash around your legs, and then it takes you off into some at the park that you don’t want to go into? Does it walk down a street that you don’t want to walk down? Or do you keep the leash shorter? And what you’re doing there is you’re pulling it back. You’re not allowing it to go into areas that you don’t want it to go.”

Now, that’s what I want you to think of in regards to mental compulsions. Once you know that you’ve had an intrusive thought, your job is to keep that thought on a short leash, meaning you don’t explore the whole neighborhood and what it means and what it could happen, and this could happen, and that could happen, and let’s go down the rabbit hole of trying to figure this out. Instead, you want to keep it on a shorter leash. Again, in this case, you’re being really skilled in what road you’re letting yourself go down or what rabbit hole you’re letting yourself go down. The whole idea here is, keep your intrusive thoughts on a short leash.

You still have the dog. You’re not trying to get rid of the dog. You’re not cutting the leash short and going, “Runaway, I don’t want you.” You’re saying, “I have this thought. It’s going to be here. I’m going to be very intentional on where I allow this thought to go. I’m going to be very intentional on how much I let this thought be the focus of the walk I’m taking.”

As you’re walking your dog, you’re not only looking at your dog. You’re also looking at the path that you’re walking on so you don’t trip. You’re looking at the nature around you. You’re waving to the neighbor or however. You’re engaging with the outside world. You’re not just gripping and holding the leash and fighting it.

This is important for you as you manage your mental compulsion. I’m going to say to you, this may be the most important skill you’ll learn. The skill of managing mental compulsion is so important if you have generalized anxiety, OCD, social anxiety, health anxiety, depression. It’s so important that we are skilled at setting boundaries with our mental compulsions or our rumination and our worry. All of these things are the same. Worry is just a form of mental compulsion.

What we want to do is, if you notice that you’re going way down the wrong street and you’re going in the direction of doing mental compulsions, you may want to yank on that chain and say no, as you would with your dog. “We’re not going down that street. We don’t poop in people’s yards. We don’t poop in our own yard. We stay on the sidewalk.” And then the dog tries to go the other direction into that person’s garden, and you say, “No, sorry. We’re not doing that today. We’re staying on this path. You can be here. The thought can be here, but I will not let it determine what I do on my walk.”

This is so important. Just think of it. Think about when you’re in your daily life, do you allow your thoughts to be on a tremendously long leash and do they go wherever they want and they’re pulling you in every direction, or are you in the practice of shortening that leash and taking more control over where you let your head go?

Now, a major thing to remember: It’s entirely okay if you suck at this. You are going to suck at this. Please, don’t be hard on yourself. This is a practice. There are some days I am excellent at this. There are some days I am terrible at this. That is okay. It’s similar to anything in your life. You’re going to have ups and downs. But really reflect as often as you can, what’s the intrusive thought, what’s the intrusive feeling, sensation, urge, image. That’s the obsession. We don’t want to control that, but we do want to work on being skilled at how we respond. That’s the most important piece.

Be gentle. Be kind. Be diligent. Be patient. You will get this with time. Keep that dog on a shorter leash, if you can. Be gentle with the puppy on the leash too. Don’t yank on it too hard because we don’t want to get into a wrestle with our thoughts. Okay?

I love you. I hope that is helpful. Please, please let me know your thoughts on this. It’s just a metaphor, so it may be helpful for some and some maybe not for others. I just am so grateful that I get to spend this time with you.

Please go and leave a review. I know I say it every single time. I cannot tell you how much it helps me and brings me so much joy to see the reviews. I love them. Thank you so much. I read every single one. Thank you. We will give a pair of free Beats headphones to one lucky person who leaves a review as we hit a thousand reviews.

Thank you so much. I love you, guys. Have a nice walk, my friends. It’s a beautiful day to do hard things.

Jun 4, 2021

This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 192.

Welcome back, everybody. I am really excited to do this episode with you. It’s a little bit different to episodes I’ve done in the past, which might be why I’m really excited about it, but it is a skill I have been practicing for several months. No, maybe more than that. I would actually say closer to six months to a year, and I was reflecting on, what are the things that... I took a lot about mindfulness skills and a lot about therapy skills and cognitive behavioral therapy skills, but is there something I haven’t really talked about in terms of just lifestyle? And I thought this, of all the topics, is probably one of the things that helps me manage my anxiety and depression the most, literally the most. In fact, I would go as far as to say it has been probably one of the most important things that has helped me recover in my recovery, and I’m really excited to share it with you.

Today, we’re talking about how activity scheduling and managing your schedule can be a really important anxiety management tool. Before you completely sign off and say, “Oh my gosh, this is not for me,” please just hear me out because there is so much greatness to being really intentional about your schedule and scheduling.

A couple of reasons I say that is because, number one, if you are somebody who has a job or goes to school or has a mental illness, and that’s really, really debilitating and taking up a lot of your time, or you have children or all of the above, it’s really easy for the day to just come and go. And before you know it, you haven’t gotten done what you wanted to get done. You’re feeling more and more anxious about tomorrow. You’re feeling more and more depressed about yourself and what you’ve got to do. You’re feeling bombed out because you didn’t get to prioritize your time.

And that was exactly me. Every time I opened my eyes in the morning, I had this sensation of dread because I just was like, “Oh my gosh, today’s going to be another huge day. I’m going to run all day. I’m in a rush all day,” or “I’m going to feel anxiety all day.”

Let me tell you a couple of skills that I teach all of my clients because, as I’ve said before, this is something that they talked to me about, at least once in their treatment, is how to manage their time.

Okay. I have learned and I have practiced this, like I said, for almost a year now – the art of scheduling in a way that is in the intention of benefiting my mental health. I don’t schedule because I want to be super time efficient. I don’t schedule because I want to get a ton done. I schedule for my mental health, literally. Forgive me, if you can hear beeping car alarm, it’s been going all day. So I’m sorry if you hear that in the background.

I literally schedule for my mental health. And what I have learned, I took a whole course on this, is one of the biggest mistakes we make with scheduling is we schedule what we have to do first, and that basically means we’re prioritizing work and school and to-do’s, instead of scheduling pleasure first. So that is what I want you to practice first.

That already might be mind-blowing to you. You might be like, “Wait, what? Like pleasure? That’s important?” Yes. Schedule your pleasure time first. Look at your schedule, even write it on a piece of scrap paper. What do you love to do? Make sure you schedule that something. Even if it’s for 10 minutes, you schedule it every single day.

Once you’ve done that, then you schedule what you need to do for your recovery. It may be different for every person. Some of you may need to schedule exposures, and again, be very intentional. Let’s say you have a driving exposure. You have to go driving for your exposure and practice having intrusive thoughts, or you have to practice going and doing a certain thing that concerns you or scares you. You’re going to schedule that time first.

If you’re not someone who’s doing exposures, maybe you have to schedule time to correct your thinking or schedule your time to meditate. Schedule your time to read your mindfulness book. I have almost all of my patients read some kind of book that will complement their treatment all the time, meaning throughout treatment. Once they finish one book, I send them a book to read after that, and I tell them, “You don’t need to read all day every day.” I might ask you to read a page a day or a chapter a week, or whatever works for you, but schedule that in because really literally, I’ll give you an example.

I have a private practice and an online business, two complete businesses. I’m managing up to 15 to 20 people a week. If I worked at scheduling my to-do list first, I would never take care of myself. Never. I would only work for other people. I would only be doing a million to-do’s. I would never get any exercise. I would never meditate. I would never have any time because I would have just clogged up my schedule with that.

Reverse it. First, schedule your pleasure and then schedule your mental health practices, whatever that may be – your self-compassion practices, listening to a podcast, whatever it may be.

Now, when it comes to the things you have to do, this is going to go against some of the advice you’ve been given. I know it will. But hear me out and you can take what you want and leave what you don’t want. What I do is I sit down with a piece of scrap paper and I write a to-do list. Every Sunday, I do this. I write a list of all the things I need to get done this week. I write a list of what emails I need to write and what phone calls I need to make and what bills I need to pay, and who I need to talk to, who I need to consult with, and so forth.

Now, for those of you who compulsively list-write, we’re not writing things that are daily activities, like I’m not going to write “Brush my teeth.” I’m not going to write “Have breakfast.” I’m not going to write “Lock the door.” I’m not going to write things that I would be doing anyway. I’m going to be writing the things that I have anxiety about and that are important that I get done and that I value. I’m not writing down things that are compulsions or things I’m doing to make my anxiety go away. These are just really logical things that I have to do.

Once I’ve got everything down, I don’t keep that list. I transport that list into my schedule. Of course, I have to see my clients. Of course, I have my clients in my schedule weekly. But then from there, let’s say I needed to make an email to, let’s say my website programmer, I would put that in the calendar. Tuesday at four o’clock or Monday at six o’clock or whatever it may be. I take everything from the to-do and I put it on the calendar.

If you’re noticing now that the calendar is full, something has to go, because what’s happened in the past is you put all the to-do list in, and so the thing to go is your mental health, is your self-care. We can’t do that anymore. That’s why I’m telling you, like, that’s why scheduling is so important because if you don’t, you’re going to realize that there is actually no time for self-care and there is no time for your mental health. If that’s the case, like the whole saying is “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” So this is so important.

You may need to ask for help. I’m always talking with my patients about asking for help. Okay, you need to go out for a drive. You need to do your homework, but you also need to take the kids to school. Can you ask someone to help you? Can you pay someone to help you? Can you find creative ways where you take your kids and someone else’s kids one day and they take their kids and your kids the next day? Again, I really love to do this on the cheap, so I don’t want this to cost you money. Can you find ways to prioritize your mental health in your schedule, on the books, and open up time so that it becomes the priority?

I know I’ve told you this story before about, I was at a lunch and I was with my friends and they didn’t have children. They were all talking about these beautiful hikes that they were going on. I said, “Well, I can’t go on a hike because I have children.” He’s like, “Yes, you can. You just haven’t prioritized taking a hike. If you really wanted to, you would take your kids on a hike or you would find some time or find someone to take care of the kids so you could go on a hike. But you haven’t prioritized that. You’ve prioritized being with your kids or working or taking a bath.”

There’s no judgment. There’s no judgment to what he was saying. He was just saying, “You can do it. It’s just that you have to figure out what is a priority.” For me, that was shocking because I was like, the truth is I say my mental health is a priority, but I don’t. That doesn’t show up in my schedule that way. This was many years ago, and it was a crazy aha moment where I was like, “Huh, I say self-care is important, but it’s totally not evident by the look of my schedule.”

The other thing that I have found that’s so fascinating is, once I started doing this, I started actually realizing how much I was working or how much I was doing behaviors that bring me no pleasure. I spoke with a client about this just the other day, is I wasn’t feeling so well. I went to bed early. I laid in bed. I opened up Instagram. And two hours later, two hours later, I come out of a thick fog of Instagram and realize that I’ve lost two hours. The thing to remember here is, number one, that’s neither good nor bad because some people love Instagram and it brings them tons of pleasure. But in that moment, as I checked in with myself, I didn’t feel any better. If anything, I felt more stressed.

So what I was doing was I was engaging in behavior that I could have done that would have felt so much better and aligned more with my mental health, which again is why I say to you, please, please, please, if you take one thing away from today, please schedule your pleasure. Please schedule your pleasure, the things that bring you joy.

Now, some people say, “I can’t do those because my anxiety has taken those things away from me.” Even more reason to schedule them. If you love to read and your anxiety or your depression has sucked the joy out of reading or writing or whatever you love to do, schedule that and work at what’s getting in the way. Talk with your therapist or journal or try and figure out what’s getting in the way and work at making sure that fear isn’t your scheduler. Fear isn’t your assistant who schedules your day. That’s not cool. That’s not kind to you. Do not let fear schedule your day. Do the best you can is what I should say, because there will be times it will. But just do your best to make a deal with yourself.

We’ve talked about transferring your to-do lists onto the calendar. You rip the to-do list up, you take it away. And then your job is to do your best to stick to the calendar. It’s not going to be perfect. In fact, it’ll be far from perfect, but really look at the end of the week or at the beginning of the week, and look at your calendar and make decisions with that.

Now, of course, I understand that there is some degree of privilege involved here. I want to make sure we respect that some people don’t have control over their schedules, and that’s true for many people. But what I want to ask you is, if that is the case, where you have control, can you implement really good exercises and activities during that time, like really resting.

I just read an amazing book where they were basically saying “Schedule rest.” If you’re someone who’s working a double shift and money is tight and life is really difficult right now, maybe the first step is you just schedule rest. Maybe the only step is for you to schedule rest. Maybe we start really simple. This is a lot of change. I encourage you to take baby steps, even if you’ve got full control over your schedule. It’s really important here that we take baby steps and empower ourselves to prioritize your mental health. Believe me, it is going to make such a change.

The other thing is, and I’ll say one more point, what was really interesting to me is, I really then, once I started scheduling, noticed all the “shoulds.” Well, I should work out five days a week and I should go and help other people, and I should be putting this in my schedule, and I should be calling this person.

As you do this, ask yourself, do you really want to? If it’s not a “have to,” meaning you have to go to work and you have to go to the staff meeting and you have to show up for school and so forth, really check in with yourself. Are the things you’re doing on your schedule because you feel like you should do it, or because you want to do it, or because you have to do it? Be honest with yourself about that, because I found on my schedule a bunch of stuff. I would even say a bunch of swear words, a bunch of crap that I really didn’t have to do. I was only doing it because I’d made up a story about the fact that I should, and it wasn’t even a fact and I was doing it out of fear.

That’s why I really, really wanted to chat with you about this. Easier said than done, like I said, but really think about this. Look at your schedule. If you can – I schedule on Google calendar, it’s free –look at your schedule and ask yourself, is it reflecting the level of recovery that I am wanting?

Make small changes. This is really important. If you’ve learned one thing from today, it’s please schedule your pleasure. Really schedule your wellness. Schedule your rest. Work the rest around that.

Okay. I love you guys. Have a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful day. I believe in you. I believe you can do this hard thing. Do the best you can with what you’ve got. I am so grateful for you spending your time with me and being on this journey with me and taking me along with you. Thank you. I know your time is valuable and I’m so grateful.

Don’t forget to leave a review. I would love nothing more than to get your honest opinions about the podcast. So, please do that, and have a wonderful day.

If you’re interested in any of the resources that we have, go over and look at cbtschool.com. Check it out, and have a wonderful day.

May 28, 2021

This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 191.

Well, welcome friends. How are you? How are you doing really? I want you to reflect for a second on just that... on just that question. How are you?

I have not prepared for this episode. I just thought I would sit down and take some time to reflect some of, I’m sure, what I reflect on will be the first time I’ve reflected on it and not just that for reflecting with you.

episode 191 image of seashore

So what I wanted to talk with you guys about is life with a chronic illness or a disability. This is something that has shaken me a lot over the last, I would say two to three months. A lot of you have the background story with me, but if you’re new here, welcome, and I’ll tell you a quick background.

In 2019, I got very sick. Through that process, I also got very... not just medically, but mentally struggled because of the symptoms that were incredibly debilitating. After pretty much every single medical test under the sun, I was diagnosed with a lesion in my brain, that they still don’t know what it is, and a disorder called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome.

It sounds scary and it can be scary, but mostly, it’s a disorder to do with your autonomic nervous system and it basically involves lightheadedness and fainting and headaches and overall exhaustion and nausea and very, very big degree of brain fog. It can be mild and it can be very severe and extreme to the point where you can’t stand up.

For months and months and months, particularly throughout COVID, I have been doing my very best to manage this disorder and this syndrome and have been doing really, really well. I’m not going to lie, I thought I’d mastered this disorder. I really did. I think there was a cocky piece of me that was like, “Oh yeah, look at me.” Once again, hard work pays off. And yes, it does. Hard work does pay off.

But recently, I have been hit with another... I call it an event, another wave of POTS – POTS is the acronym for postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome – and it has knocked me off my feet literally. Not figuratively. I think both.

For those of you who don’t know, I was, two weeks ago, taking a tennis lesson, a part of my attempts to take care of myself as I have cut back immensely with work. I’ve mentioned my kids are gone back to school and my husband’s gone back to work. And so I really decided, I made a conscious decision to put my mental health first.

I had started taking tennis lessons, and in the middle of my tennis lesson, it was very hot. I collapsed and had to go to the hospital. I’m sorry if this is scary for some of you. It had to be monitored and got IV bags and medications and all the things. Again, once again, I really thought this was a short-term thing.

What I am reflecting on today is the realization that I’m not going to manage this. I’m not going to master it. This is something I will probably have to handle for the rest of my life. I was expecting to bounce back and I didn’t. I’ve had many days of not being able to stand. I’m not able to drive. I can drive on certain days, depending on how busy I am, but I have mostly not been able to drive. I am unable to work out.

I wear these most fabulous compression socks right now, the compression socks I’m wearing. I have bright colors in stripes. I have ones with spots and reindeers and all of the things. So, that’s very fun. But no matter how much I hydrate, I’m struggling to eat and so forth.

The reason I wanted to share this isn’t just to... of course, I can share. I want to share with you. But the main reason I wanted to share with you is to talk about what it’s like to wrap your head around long-term suffering. I’m really interested in this because I’ve been really mindful and watching my thoughts about this syndrome. I wonder if this resonates with you guys because a lot of you are dealing with either. A lot of you have reached out and said you have a chronic illness too, or chronic mental illness, anxiety, depression, or any of the disorders.

What has been really interesting for me is to catch the thoughts I have around disability. now, the first thing – and I’m really open about this, and I’m really happy to share how far I have to go – is I didn’t realize I had all this stigma around the word “disability.” I have a career in people with disabilities or struggles or long-term chronic stuff. I wouldn’t judge anybody else, but interestingly, as soon as I had to recognize, I kept saying, “I don’t know why this happened. I don’t know why this happened. Why did this happen? This shouldn’t have happened.” My doctors said, “No, you’re going to have really big ups and really big downs. That’s going to happen. That is a part of this disability.” I really was able to observe how judgmental I was about that in myself.

The word “disability” was not okay with me, the word “long-term chronic illness.” I was like, “Uh-uh, no way, I will solve this,” until I had to be like, “Wait, that’s a lot of energy, negative energy on something that does not serve me and is built around a stigma and a judgment of me having a disability.”

It’s so painful folks to observe that. Thank goodness I have those skills to be able to go, “Okay. That was judgment. Interesting.” I encourage you guys to take that approach when these types of thoughts come in. Because again, I’m always working with my patients and clients and people on social media around the stigma of the word “disorder” or “disability” or “mental health” or “mental illness.” It’s important that we catch those judgments.

Now, once I caught it, to be honest, I didn’t do much with it because I really just had to hold some space there to wrap my head around, “Whoa, okay. This is a long time for me now.” I thought I was the special one who could get through it and it’s not going to bother me again, but it’s not. It’s going to come back. This one has been particularly painful, physically 100%. This was probably my most serious event or wave of POTS. But also, just to be able to really look at how it has impacted me mentally.

Now, here’s the thing. Once I came to the understanding, not just the acceptance yet, but the understanding that this is long-term and something I have that I will have to continue to manage, it was so interesting how my thoughts wanted to go to hopelessness. “Okay, well, now my life’s going to suck,” or “I should give up. This is going to impact my life and terribly impact my life. This is going to ruin my life,” and so forth.

Again, it was being able to observe and catch and watch myself go into hopelessness and be able to... If you could see me, I would smile and go, “Ah, okay, interesting.” That’s the story I’m telling myself because here’s the thing, I’ve had this since 2019. I’ve been managing it this whole time with the thought “I can manage this.” And therefore, I was happy.

Now, nothing has changed. I’m still having POTS. I had another incident. The only thing that changed was now that I had a recognition of this being a problem long-term and I started to think negatively about it. That’s the only thing that changed. I’ve had POTS this whole time. I’ve had good days and bad days this whole time. I happened to have a significantly bad period and I’m still in that. The only thing that’s changed is the story I tell myself, and I have to keep catching the story, catching it, catching it.

Now, I know some of you are saying, “No, but my disability is making my life have a lower quality.” I’m not saying that’s just a story. I understand that it’s a situation and a circumstance. So I’m not discounting that. But what we need to do, and this is why I wanted to reflect with you, is to catch the story we tell ourselves about things that are not true, like the future, because we don’t know. We don’t know the future. There may be a POTS drug that comes out and I take it and I’m happy for the rest of my life.

I am going to recognize that having this disorder has had some benefits. It’s forced me to slow down. It’s forced me to be grateful for my medical health, for my legs and my arms, and for my heart and my brain.

This is where I ponder how wonderful that our body tells us what to eat. How wonderful is that? Because when you have POTS, you have nausea. And when you have nausea, nothing feels good to eat. You have to force yourself to eat. Every meal, I have to force myself to eat. Sometimes, I have to tell you guys, I was cracking up. I eat mostly healthy, meaning I ate all varieties. There is no good or bad food. I have a very good relationship with food. I love food. Food brings me incredible amounts of pleasure. I never judged myself for what I eat.

I was telling my sister, who’s a doctor, she was like, “Well, are you eating?” And I was like, “Yeah, I had chicken nuggets for breakfast.” And she was like, “Why?” And I was like, “It’s literally the only thing I could eat. That’s the only thing I could get down. It’s the only thing that sounded good.” And she was like, “Okay, what did you have for lunch?” And I was like, “I had ribs.” And she said, “Kimberley, what is happening?” And I said, “No, this is how it is. I have to...” It’s so hard. And I’m now so grateful for the pleasure around food that I have experienced and hopefully, we’ll experience it again here very soon.

I really want to watch (1) the story I tell myself and (2) the hope catch the hopelessness in its tracks. I know a lot of my patients and I know a lot of you because you’re going through a particularly difficult season like me. You’re telling yourself this season will never end, and it will. Seasons come and go. Some last for longer than others. Sometimes it’s a particularly chilly season, sometimes it’s not. The main piece here is for me to catch the judgment, the stigma.

Here’s another one guys and I hope this resonates. It’s so humiliating. I collapsed right at the entry of the tennis. People were walking past me, and my instinct was to say sorry to every person that passed by. Even though I was pretty much not in consciousness, I was frequently apologizing to my tennis coach, my husband. My tennis coach called my husband. I frequently apologized to him. I apologized to anybody who saw it. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.” And how much that apologizing was embedded in shame around suffering.

I’m on the floor, completely limp, but I’m apologizing to other people. That is completely related to the shame I noticed that I am carrying around suffering and struggling and not being super, super-duper high functioning. This is dangerous. We have to check this. I’m going to encourage you to check this because the problem with that is it stigmatizes disability in general and it stigmatizes you being a human who suffers, and you will. You’ll have illnesses or struggles like seasons that are difficult. It’s so important that we break down that judgment we have around suffering and disability, meaning when you don’t have the ability to do things. So important.

When we break that down and we work through that, then when we do struggle, there’s not this second layer or fifth layer of pain. It’s just like, “Oh no, I’m just suffering. I’m suffering right now. This is a difficult season.” Instead of, “This is a difficult season. I’m suffering. It’s never going to go away, and I’m weak and dumb and stupid and inconveniencing other people for suffering.”

So, I really want us, hopefully, to learn from my own experience here. Hopefully, this resonates with you where you can really break down the stories and the beliefs and the judgments we have about disabilities. I think it will make a safer place for those who do have a disability. I think it’ll make a safer place for you when you’re suffering. I think it’ll make a safer place for us as a human race around the idea of suffering. It’s so, so important.

The last piece here is when we’re suffering, I noticed this whole back and forth on the solution. Should I do this? Should I go on this medication, that medication, that treatment, these treatments, see that doctor, see this doctor? I’m sure a lot of my patients are like, “Am I doing the right thing? Have I got the right treatment? Have I got the right therapist? Have I got the right medication? What’s happening?” There’s so much indecision around seasons that are filled with suffering.

I just want to validate that. I don’t want to give you advice. I don’t want to guide you in any different direction. I think all I want you to do is to recognize that indecision and not punish yourself by staying there too long. Consult with your doctors. Consult with your therapist. Talk with respected people or people you trust. Be careful of how much mental space indecision takes when you’re in a difficult season because you’re suffering. It’s enough. We don’t need to add. We don’t want to add. We don’t want to make more problems and more suffering for you because you matter and your recovery matters and your healing matters. That’s just something I’m noticing.

It’s funny, every morning, I am negotiating with myself in terms of like, “Will I take my meds today?” I mean, I always take my meds. So I’m not going to ever discard someone from making a medical decision without seeing your doctor. I always do, but I really catch myself going, “Maybe I won’t take it today. This is just too much. It’s too hard. It’s too many side effects. It’s too difficult, too painful, too scary.” And I have to go, “Okay, Kimberley, get your head out of your indecision. Honor what’s right. If you really need to do that, be effective and call your doctor. Don’t spend time in your head.” So, that’s just where I’m at.

What I will say, just in case any of your worries, I am okay. I have a great team. I have tremendous support. My husband, oh my God, he’s just amazing at showing up when things fall apart. He is incredible. I’m so, so lucky. I hope that I don’t worry you with me sharing this.

Someone asked me the other day on social media, “Is it hard for you as a clinician to share this?” And I said to them, “No, really not.” A part of my mission is to de-stigmatize therapy, to take the stigma out of going to therapy. I think a really big part of how to do that is for the therapist to show up as real humans. I think when we do that, when therapists show up as real humans, in the process, we do this stigmatize mental health and therapy because we don’t see the therapist as this person who holds all the secrets and is the knower of all things and is analyzing you instead of just seeing them as humans. You’re just going to therapy to talk to a human who also suffers. I just wanted to share that with you because I think it’s important that I model that to you. That’s one of the things that I hold very strong in my values.

So that’s that. There are my thoughts on struggling and going through a chronic illness and wrapping my head around the stigma of the word “disability” and the concept of disability. So, that’s it. That’s all I have to say.

I hope this has been helpful. I hope that you feel seen and you feel heard. Maybe you have some insight as I spoke. If that’s the case, we’ll then, I’m a happy girl.

All right. Thank you so much for listening. I do know your time is precious, so I’m so grateful to have this time with you. I will continue this conversation as I continue to unpack my own many layers of stuff, of glug around it. I’m very open to continuing to learn. I’m really, really looking and learning around the stigma of disability because it’s something that I have been privileged up until now, not to have to really wrap my head around. So I’ll do the work. I will stumble bravely through this, as I’m sure you are too.

All right. I love you guys. Please go and leave a review. The reviews help other people see this podcast as something of quality. When they see other people’s reviews, they are more likely to click on it, which means I get to help more people, and that is just a blessing. So, thank you. Please do go leave a review.

Please take care of yourself. Please take some time to hold your heart tenderly and nurture whatever suffering you’re going through because you’re not alone and we’re in this together. Okay. All my love to you.

Be on the show

May 21, 2021

This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 190.

Welcome back, everybody. Hello, Happy Friday, for those of you who are listening on the release day, and happy day to you who are not.

Okay. Well, how are you? How is everybody doing? I am sitting in my bedroom. We’ve actually had to completely rearrange because our life is changing so much here at the Quinland house. Kids are at school and people are in and out of the house, and it’s very, very different.

So I’m coming to you from my room, and life just continues to change. Have you guys noticed that? It does continue to change. I cannot keep up with it. We embrace. We adapt. We are flexible. We keep trying. We are gentle with ourselves, and that’s the best we can do.

Today, I wanted to talk with you guys about questions.

episode 190 image

I have been sort of... What I would say is ‘reflecting,’ but I would actually say, a better word is ‘studying’ the art of asking better questions, and this has been life-changing to me. It has been a practice that I have adopted as per advice of a colleague and a friend in terms of catching the story you tell yourself and asking better questions. Catching the poorly written questions that we now ask ourselves on habit, right? We just habitually ask ourselves not very skilled questions.

Let me explain to you more about this.

When something happens – and you can even do it here together – when something happens in your life, let’s say in the last week or so, something unexpected, unwanted, maybe not so ideal happens, I want you to check in and say, “What is the question I ask?” Some of you may say, it’s a really simple what-if thought question. Like, what if such and such happens? What if ABC happens? What if XYZ happens?

Not a super-skilled question mainly because it’s so open-ended and it’s so in the pursuit of removal of that discomfort. We’ve talked a lot about being uncertain. We’ve talked a lot about willingly allowing discomfort.

Other questions that I have observed my patients asking themselves or reflecting on lately are questions like: What is wrong with me? So they have an uncomfortable, unexpected, not-so-great experience, and their immediate question is: “What’s wrong with me?” And that question never ends. Well, rarely would you have the thought “what’s wrong with me,” and then you respond by going, “Nothing is wrong with me, I am a normal human being responding in the way that any other human being would respond.” We don’t answer those questions. The question sets us up for a failure, just like what-if.

Another one is: “How can I make this go away?” Now, in some cases, this would actually be a really adaptive question. So, let’s say you have an ant invasion in your house. It makes sense. Because we’re highly functioning human beings and we have adapted over time, it makes sense that our question would be: “How can I make this go away?” That in and of itself could be a good question, a solid, skilled question. But when it comes to our emotions, it’s really not. It actually gets us into tons of trouble. Asking ourselves how we can make this go away usually means we’re going to probably have more of it and we’re going into resistance mode.

Another one, which I see a lot of, and I’ve actually done a whole podcast on this one before, which is: “Why is this happening to me? It’s such an innocent question, but yet it gets us into so much trouble because the answer isn’t that great. Why is this happening to me? Nobody knows. It’s not the answer we are looking for. Or the answer you probably catch giving yourself is, it’s because there’s something wrong with you. Go back to the first question because you did it wrong or because you shouldn’t have, or because you’re bad, or because you’re weak, or because... The list goes on and on and on. It’s rare that you’ll go, “Why is this uncomfortable thing happening? Oh, because uncomfortable things happen sometimes.” Again, none of these are bad questions. They’re just not super effective.

Another one, and this is the last one I’ll use as an example, is: “What does this mean?” Oh, that’s a really bad one. It can get us into so much trouble. “What does this mean?” And before you know it, you’re 20 minutes in going around and around, trying to give meaning to something, which probably has no meaning at all.

The reason I really want you to first reflect on what questions are you asking yourself is you’ll probably find that the questions you’re asking yourself are setting you up for self-criticism, self-doubt, punishment, a lot of negativity, maybe for some really unhelpful emotions, and we want to get better at asking better questions. We want to be skilled at asking skilled questions. The questions we ask ourselves can then move us to and into an action that helps us and is beneficial and effective and kind and less work. Less work is good. We don’t want questions that, again, can give you more work. Go back to “How can I make this go away?” Oh my goodness. That’s a lot of work.

Okay. Let me give you some questions that I am practicing when uncomfortable things happen, events, experiences, emotions, and so forth.

Okay, first question. What emotion right now am I not willing to feel? So, let’s say somebody you love has judged you. Okay, that’s not going to feel good. Your instinct is to make it go away. But we’re going to say, “What emotion am I not willing to feel here? Oh, it’s embarrassing. It’s vulnerability. It’s sadness.” Okay. That’s the emotion. At least now we know, we know what it is.

Again, what emotion am I not willing to feel? Let’s say you did an exposure and you tried so hard and it fell apart and you had a big panic attack and you couldn’t back out. Okay. Your question would be: What emotion am I not willing to feel? Maybe it’s fear. “Oh, I totally backed out because I didn’t want to feel fear. I didn’t want to feel uncertainty. I didn’t want to feel doubt. I didn’t want to feel dread, impending doom.”

Next question: Is it true? Let’s say you... This was me the other day. I’m unpacking the groceries and I’m so happy because we picked them up and we didn’t have to go into the grocery store. I just love this. It’s one of the silver linings of COVID – the grocery stores are so good at doing drop-offs. I bring in this huge bag of groceries, and off the counter I fell a spaghetti sauce bottle and glass and spaghetti sauce is everywhere. Your original thought again is like, “What’s wrong with me?” And then my next question is, “Uh-oh,” instead, “is it true?” The thought I had is like, “You’re so stupid. Why are you going to be so clumsy? Is that true?”

Now, I’m not asking that question to invite a long layer of rumination. In dialectical behavioral therapy, it’s called checking the facts. When you say a negative thing to yourself, check the facts. If I said that in a court of law, what would the jury decide on? “Kimberley is an idiot. She should have known better.” I’m pretty sure the jury would say, “There’s no way Kimberley would have known the specific weight of that jar, and the edge was so close and that it was going to fall at this angle. We’re actually going to probably let her off.” Is it true? Check the facts.

Now, a quick note there. If you’re having OCD obsessions, we don’t need to check the facts of those because that could become compulsive. I’m talking more here about things we say to ourselves like, “You are bad. You are dumb. You are stupid, what’s wrong with you?” Those kinds of comments and more depressive thoughts like, “The world is bad. My future is going to suck.” You may want to ask yourself, is it true?

Now, if your instinct is to say, “Yeah, it’s true. My past has been crappy. So, therefore, my future will be too,” I’m going to say, “I don’t know if that’s going to stand up in a court of law. Because they did it once does not hold you guilty. If it’s happened a hundred times, it still doesn’t give me enough evidence to convict that your future is going to be bad.” So let’s just stop and check in with what we’re saying.

Another question. This is my favorite, guys. This is the king of all questions. I really want you to get good at asking this one – what in this situation would the non-anxious Kimberley deal? What does the non-anxious you do in this situation or with this emotion? Best question ever. That’s a really solid question right there. It doesn’t mean you have to do it all perfectly, but it at least let you inquire as to how you would act, given that fear wasn’t there to make your decisions. How would your values have you act? How would your character have you act in this situation?

So, if I, let’s say, was going to take a test and my fear was saying like, “What if you fail? What’s wrong with you? You should be better than this. You should be fully prepared. You’re asking not-so-great questions,” and you said, “Okay, what would the non-anxious Kimberley do right now?” It would be: “Okay. She would get a drink and get a piece of fruit and eat it and then go and take the test. She would be kind and she wouldn’t be ruminating about how it’s going to go bad.” Okay, go do that. That’s your blueprint on how you should be acting. That’s the skills and the perfect outline of what direction you might want to go into. Fabulous.

And the last question... You can have more, you can add more to this. I want you to really think about it because I want this to be specific to you. But the last question I want you to ask, the question I think is a really good question, which is: What do I need? Not what do I want, but what do I need? What will help me here? What will help me get my long-term benefit here? Get me to long-term recovery? What do I need?

Let’s use a couple of examples. You’ve just spilled spaghetti sauce all over the fridge and the counters and everywhere and there’s glass everywhere. What do I need? I need to be kind to myself. I need to take my time cleaning this up because my instinct was to clean it up in a rush because I was like, “Oh, this shouldn’t have happened. What’s wrong with me? I’m going to clean it up in a real rush so that I can get to my happy things.” But the problem with that is, it only ended up making me more aggravated because I was rushing. So what do I need? I want to clean it up gently and slowly, compassionately.

Let’s say you’ve just done an exposure and it didn’t go so well and you had a massive panic attack. What do I need? I need to slow down. I need to celebrate my attempt. I need to breathe. I need to reflect on how that went and what got in the way. I need a nap. Sometimes when we do exposures, we need big naps, and that’s fine. What do I need?

Someone just said something really unkind to you. What do I need? I need to cry. I need to feel my feelings. I need to give myself permission to be sad. I need to call a friend. I need to maybe set a boundary with that friend. Much better than saying, “Why is this happening? What’s wrong with me? how can I make it go away? What does all this mean?”

So what I want you to do is I want you to leave today’s episode and I want you to spend the day or the week or the month thinking about what are good questions, how can I ask myself really good questions, better questions? Be really intentional about this.

I often say to my patients, if your thoughts are a dog and you’re the owner of the dog, sometimes we let our thoughts just go all over the shop. We just let them go. We follow them. If the dog is sniffing into one corner, you go with it and you sniff into one corner. Sometimes with our thoughts, not so much the intrusive thoughts, but the thoughts we say about ourselves, the criticisms, the stories we tell ourselves, sometimes we’re going to yank on that chain a little bit, on its leash, and be like, “Come on. No, no, no.” We’re not going over into that corner and sniffing out that horrible hole. No, we’re not doing that today. We’re asking better questions.

You’re allowed to do that. That’s not thought suppression. That’s being skilled with your cognitions. We’re not trying to prevent thoughts. We’re just catching when you’re spiraling on them and you’re yanking on the chain. And then come on back. You’re going too far. You’re resisting too much. Let’s lean in.

I hope that’s helpful. Ask better questions.

Thank you so much for listening. I am going to ask you for a favor. Would you please leave us a review? It would help us so much, us meaning all the team at CBT School. We are working really hard to expand our reach to help more people, provide free content. So if you would be willing, I would love nothing more than for you to leave an honest review on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen. We are going to give away a free pair of Beats headphones once we hit a thousand reviews. So I’d love for you to be in the running for that. Thank you.

All right. I love you guys so much. I hope you’re doing well. I’m thinking of you always. I’m so grateful I get to spend this time. Thank you. I know your time is valuable.

Have a wonderful day. It is a beautiful day to ask better questions and do hard things. Let’s do it.

Have a wonderful day, everyone.

May 14, 2021

Welcome to Your Anxiety Toolkit. I’m your host, Kimberley Quinlan. This podcast is fueled by three main goals. The first goal is to provide you with some extra tools to help you manage your anxiety. Second goal, to inspire you. Anxiety doesn’t get to decide how you live your life. And number three, and I leave the best for last, is to provide you with one big, fat virtual hug, because experiencing anxiety ain’t easy. If that sounds good to you, let’s go.

Hello friends, you are going to love this episode. Holy smokes, I just recorded it, so you’ve got me fresh, and I’m so excited. I just had such an amazing conversation with Mike Heady. He is an LCPC and he treats OCD and anxiety disorders. We talked about shame and shame and shame and shame, and he brought so much wisdom. You guys are going to love this episode. It is packed full of all the good stuff. So, I’m not going to waste your time. I just want you to get straight there and listen to it.

Before we get started, if you haven’t left a review, please do so. I love getting reviews from you. When we get good reviews, it doesn’t just stroke my ego. That’s not the point. It is because the more reviews we get, the more people will come and listen to the podcast, which means then I get to help people with these incredible tools, these science-based tools. Hopefully, even just from today, if you’re first time listening, welcome. We are talking about shame, and you are going to get so much from this. So if you are listening, please do leave a review. I would be so grateful. And enjoy the show.

-----

Kimberley: Welcome. I am so excited to have with us today, Mike Heady. He is an LCPC. That’s correct. Right?

Michael: That is, yes.

Kimberley: Yes. We’re going to have a conversation that actually might be my favorite topic in the whole of the podcast. We’re talking about shame. So, welcome.

Michael: Thanks for having me. I share your passion for the conversation.

Kimberley: Yes. Not that I love shame, but I like talking about shame.

Michael: Yes. I agree. It’s hard to say you love shame. It’s like saying I love fear.

Kimberley: Exactly. So, why are you interested in this topic?

Michael: It’s been a professional evolution for me, originally being trained to treat anxiety disorders and OCD. We talk a lot about fear and uncertainty and we have a ceremonial way of responding to shame. We’re like, “Oh yeah, and there’s a shame too.”

In the last couple of years, I’ve really done a deep dive into like, “Well, what is this?” Because a lot of clients are having a hard time getting better. I don’t think it’s the fear that’s hard for them to get past sometimes. I don’t think it’s the uncertainty. I think it’s the shame. I think it’s a different animal. When I started doing a lot of digging, I realized there’s a whole world of shame out there in the literature, and how it applies to OCD fascinated me. So, that’s my new passion project.

Kimberley: Yeah. Same. Exact same experience. Also seeing how much fear in and of itself is a generator of suffering. But as you said, there’s this shame that’s generating suffering at exponential levels. So, I’m so grateful to have this conversation with you. for those who are listening and who might not really understand shame, would you be interested in giving me your working definition of what shame is?

Michael: Sure. Are you okay if I elaborate on it a little bit?

Kimberley: Yeah. Go for it.

Michael: Okay. I think a good definition is that shame is a really painful, aversive, unpleasant emotional experience. Fear or disgust, it’s natural or instinctive for us to want to back away and get rid of shame. Shame is often brought on by some kind of real or perceived violation of a social norm that we actually believe in. So it’s not this mystical emotional thing. It’s a thing either real or perceived occurred. And then I experienced this negative, painful emotion of shame. That’s the short version of the definition.

I think it’s worth talking about shame as having two levels of shame. We might call an adaptive kind of shame, the shame where we view it as a response to a specific episode, rather than some generalizable character flaw or full-on assault of our identity. I violated something I believed in, I feel bad, which is different than guilt because guilt is about apologizing to the other person for something you’ve done. But I might feel bad for violating a norm I believe in. Okay, there’s nothing toxic about that.

There’s another level of shame that we tend to want to talk about more. It’s the toxic shame. That’s the shame that is unworkable. It’s always unhelpful. It is a response to a perceived or real violation of a norm that has broad sweeping characteristics to it. It is a full-on assault on our identity. It is a condemnation of the self. That’s the toxic shame.

I can wrap up this as saying, what was incredibly helpful for me when I was going deep dive into what shame was is, yes, shame is an emotion. We know what emotions are. We all feel emotions. We’ve all felt shame.

You and I, as therapists, spend our careers trying to help our clients have a different relationship towards painful emotions, and understanding what an emotion is, specifically around shame, I think was really enlightening for me. I derive a lot of this understanding from some work that occurred in the sixties and seventies, probably before then, but the work from the sixties and seventies is what brought it to my attention, that emotions are an emergent experience constructed by an interaction between our biology and our biography.

The biography piece comes out of Silvan Tomkins work in the late sixties where he suggested that, yes, there’s a universal kind of biological experience that contributes to an emotion. But the part that completes it is our own narrative, which is unique to us.

My interaction with the world, as I develop from a child to an adult, the experiences I have, my environment, that’s the secret ingredient to my shame. So what makes me feel shame isn’t necessarily what makes you feel shame.

For instance, if I were to, while talking to you, suddenly break out into a red flush on my face, start sweating, and my voice start cracking, I might experience that as an embarrassment, like a small shame. But if you perhaps had terrible social anxiety disorder and the same thing happened to you, the same exact event, you might see that as a humiliation. Both are derivative emotions of shame. But humiliation is different from embarrassment in orders of magnitude of pain. Humiliation is closer to trauma than it is to anxiety. This is anyway my long-winded way of saying, yes, shame is a complex animal, and that’s the working definition I tend to have.

Kimberley: Yeah. It’s a different way of explaining it. This opportunity makes me so happy. What you’re saying is, it’s on a spectrum, would you say?

Michael: Oh, absolutely. Yeah.

Kimberley: Now, let’s play that out. We’re talking about the biology, and then there’s the story we tell ourselves. Would you give an example for you? You and me, let’s say we both got embarrassed. Let’s say we both made a mistake or something. We embarrassed ourselves in front of each other, which is not going to happen here. But if we did, what might be a difference in the story we told each other which would indicate that higher level of shame or toxic shame?

Michael: Sure. Let me clarify the story. It’s not just how we appraise the shame itself. That’s a part of it. But the story is like my upbringing. I was brought up in a blue-collar family. There wasn’t a lot of room for emotions, especially for the male members of the family. So if I encountered a situation where I felt vulnerable or sensitive or hurt, the expression of that emotion could be shut down. That expression of that emotion could be punished, ridiculed. Not that I was ridiculed, but it could have been.

Someone’s narrative about a negative emotional experience could have been that and ongoing. They could have been bullied for being a sensitive kid, whereas you may not have. now you both may experience the same thing as a generic sense of shame. “I wasn’t the way I wanted to be. I wanted to be put together and intelligent and I made a stupid GAF, and I came across looking silly.” One kind of embarrassment for one is not necessarily the embarrassment for the other. That’s what I mean when I say “the narrative.”

Kimberley: Yeah. Okay. This is wonderful. I think that maybe we want to take a look at, and I know I have a few questions. What I’d love to take a look at is, why would, let’s say someone feel shame for having a mental illness?

Michael: Well, yeah, that’s a great question. I think there’s a whole lot of reasons why someone might feel shame. One of them could be, I feel shame because the mental illness – we can say OCD in particular since this is one of the things I primarily treat – is that the content of my obsessions themselves could have a taboo theme or they could be otherwise conceived as bizarre. That’s going to create a sense of “I shouldn’t have this thought, there’s something wrong with me I have this thought.”

The helping field, in general, commonly misinterprets and doesn’t understand OCD. If you present this set of thoughts to them, you’re going to get a sense of judgment and rejection or humiliation, and that’s not made up fear. That’s a real fear. That stuff happens to people. That’s an example of how someone with a mental health issue can develop shame. It’s because they may have gotten that feedback or fear rightfully so that they would get that feedback.

Another way of looking at it is just, “I shouldn’t have this because having this means I’m not working properly. I’m otherwise defective or broken.” It’s a silent problem for people – these emotional and psychological things. We have a lot more empathy and understanding for people with a physical problem than we do for someone who has a psychological or emotional problem. So, I think that there’s this built-in--

Kimberley: Stigma.

Michael: Yes. Stigma. Right. Thanks. Yeah, exactly. And then there’s the people who’ve tried to get better. I’ve certainly seen a number of clients who’ve gone through years of therapy. They’ve worked diligently with great therapists, all very well-intentioned, and they failed to get better. “What’s wrong with me? I must be really broken.” I’m sure there’s countless other ways, but I’ll pass that off to you, I think.

Kimberley: Yeah. I mean, I think these are all societal expectations that are placed on us. It’s funny, you brought up the question about the concept around being humiliated for having an emotion. Somebody had written a question like: How can I be considered “the man of the house” if I have anxiety? I mean, there’s so much shame in that question. There’s so much societal expectations in that question and stigma in that question.

I think it’s definitely there, and I think you’re right. For the things that are unknown, I see that to be more shame. I think everybody understands sadness. So we don’t feel so much shame around it. But fear of harming your baby – let’s not talk about that. You know what I mean? Let’s push that down.

Michael: Right. And not only because it’s universally taboo. We know that instinctually. We don’t need to really be told that. We know that, because that’s our response if we were to hear that from someone else. Until we have that intrusive thought ourselves and they’re like, “Oh, me too?”

Shame, I think it’s distinguishing shame from the other negative emotions that people have, because I don’t think they’re all the same. Oh, negative emotions or negative emotions – let’s just learn how to handle them. Fear, that’s a tough one. But shame? Shame is the most painful.

Kimberley: It’s ouch because it’s in silence too, I think. My thing I say all the time is that shame thrives in secrecy. One of the best things you could do is to tell it out loud.

Michael: I was having a conversation with colleagues about this a couple of weeks ago, and someone brought up a slogan that comes from AA, which is, “We’re only as sick as our secrets.” It’s such a powerful message. The idea that speaking that secret allowed, speaking that shame aloud can be healing. Now it can also be traumatizing. We can probably get into that later in the episode. But I think that there’s discernment about how and who we share with, and us as therapists creating a space where that’s good and healthy for the person. But you’re right. Absolutely. The things that thrive in darkness are painful.

Kimberley: Okay, so you have a client and they have just very typical symptoms of OCD, even if it’s very typical taboo, obsessions – this is for people listening – any disorder, depression, BFRB, eating disorders, how do you work with that shame with your patients?

Michael: That’s a fantastic question. I’m always evolving on how I figure that out with a particular client. I think if I were to try to distill that down to something helpful to the listeners, I think as a therapist, it would start with the very first interaction I had with the client. The first contact is the first opportunity, probably the best opportunity to provide a safe space that’s understanding, validating, authentic so that the client can then experience this interpersonal interaction that they’re having with this therapist as welcoming towards disclosure of a secret or their shame.

I think that that first contact is vital. You can come across as the kind of person they want to talk to and try to set the stage and make that an effort, build that therapeutic alliance, continue to work on a therapeutic alliance because if you don’t, it might be a lot harder to build the work to let them disclose that shame.

And then from there, I think education about what shame is, like I brought up in the beginning, that shame can exist on this continuum, that there is actually an adaptive kind of shame. We don’t tend to talk about it. We don’t tend to see it because we talk about the toxic and the pathological shame, the one that keeps people stuck in hurt. Through that education, through a demystifying of it, I think, is incredibly valuable.

I’ll talk about the compass of shame in a minute. I don’t want to steal all the time from you. It’s like I talk a lot.

Kimberley: Go for it. No, do.

Michael: I’ve been thinking about this in preparation for our conversation today. I was thinking like, how would I want to set up an ideal way of dealing with shame with a client and again, creating that therapeutic space that they’d want to share that. And then if we have this experience that once we hand our secret or shame over to another person like, “Here you go,” that’s what the clients are doing to us, they’re handing it to us.

If we receive it and hold it with compassion and understanding, if we hold it with acceptance of them as a person, I think we introduced them to common humanity – one of the three things that show up with self-compassion, that common humanity – perhaps for the very first time in their life. Because this is such a secret, quiet problem, this might be the first time they’ve ever been met with common humanity and acceptance when they’ve revealed this. I think that’s immeasurably powerful for the client. I think it helps them create a healthy distance from that narrative that’s been telling them to keep it a secret, keep it a secret, or else you’ll get rejected. “Wait a minute. I wasn’t rejected.”

Kimberley: Yeah. It normalizes it too. Right?

Michael: Yeah.

Kimberley: Sometimes when I hand over the why box that has all the different obsessions, that in of itself can be a shame killer because they’re like, “Oh my goodness, all of the things I have are right here on this piece of paper and you don’t seem alarmed at all.”

Michael: Yeah. I’ve had email interactions with clients who are like, “Have you ever heard of this kind of presentation?” I’ll shoot them links to three books written about it. They’ve written entire books about this so you’re not alone. It’s so helpful for them.

Kimberley: Yeah. Tell me about the compass.

Michael: Yes. I was introduced to this through one of my mentors, and it really rang true for me as a useful concept. The compass of shame was developed in the 1980s by a psychiatrist by the name of Donald Nathanson. I don’t want to bore the audience with the history, but he researched shame basically that was his career. Nathanson had found through his research that there are four predictable and common unhelpful responses to shame. I’ll say toxic shame. We’re all talking about toxic shame. Those four represented the four points of a compass – north, south, east, and west. It doesn’t matter where they go.

One of the points is withdrawal. Withdrawal is when we get quiet, silent, small. Like a dog who got caught chewing on the cash knows they did wrong. They get small, they get quiet. They try to disappear into the moment. That’s one common response to shame.

Another one is avoidance, behavioral avoidance of situations and people and circumstances, but also through substances, through food, through sex, through anything that would be a direct response to a cue, “I’m going to avoid this feeling.”

Then another part of it is to attack others. This shows up when you felt humiliated or embarrassed by someone else. Someone made you feel this way, so you’re going to lash out verbally or physically. In a sense, the way I think of it is in the sense of trying to balance the scales. “You’ve made me feel small and vulnerable and insignificant. I’m going to try to balance that out by making you feel the same way.”

The last one I think by far the most common in the people that we’re going to be working with is attack the self. This is self-criticism, this is berating ourselves, self-condemnation, degrading ourselves. It’s often seen as “I’m going to be holding myself accountable for this failure real or perceived,” and that’s going to make it better, that there’s somehow a utility to this attacking self-response. But when you poke at it just a little bit, it’s completely unhelpful. It’s just a massive perpetuator of the problem.

So, that’s Nathanson’s Compass of Shame. I think his point in bringing this up is, look, everyone’s toxic shame response is going to fall probably into one of those four. Where do yours? if we can bring awareness to that, maybe we can learn to pivot to a more functional or helpful response instead.

Kimberley: Right. I think that that awareness, again, it’s validating and it’s normalizing the normal response to shame, which helps the shame, I think, in and of itself. Okay, so let’s play this out. If something happens, you’ve made a mistake or you’ve had a thought that you’ve deemed unacceptable, or you showed up in a way that created shame, you did all four of those things, what do we do from there? Or you did one of them. Now that we have this awareness, how might we meet shame instead in your thoughts, in your mind?

Michael: I think hearing that from a client and I was watching it unfold in the moment, I might say, “Can we pause for just a minute? I think shame showed up for us.” He might even be able to see some of the behavioral changes in their eye contact and the postures. I think shame showed up. What are you doing with that right now? Because again, it’s silent. It’s not broadcasting this out loud. It’s silent. What are you doing? What’s going on in your mind?

Probably reveal what you said, they did one or all four of those things – I would point that out, give it a name. We understand this process. This is somewhat of a predictable response. Can we hit the pause button and can we now make a choice to pivot to a different response. Pivot to what? Pivot to self-compassion maybe. That might be a teachable moment. What is self-compassion? Can I give you an experiential exercise on meeting this moment with self-compassion? I can model meeting this moment with you with compassion so you can see what that looks like and feels like.

Instead of spending time in the head, in the verbal, in the ruminative come back to the feeling, because that’s what we’re trying to avoid. When we criticize ourselves, we’re trying to avoid and escape criticism, or using criticism to try to avoid and escape shame and humiliation. Okay, let’s come back to that. That’s painful. We can learn how to sit with that without having to beat ourselves up or escape it.

I think people can sit with it in different ways. You can use it as an exposure opportunity for people who are feeling smaller kinds of shame, like embarrassment, like let’s do some exposure towards what it feels like to be embarrassed. If we’re dealing with a much more painful kind of shame, that humiliation kind of shame, let’s meet that with more direct self-compassion in this moment.

I think it gets sticky a little bit when we introduce self-compassion, if we haven’t already introduced it, because like any intervention, it hinges on the client buying into it and thinking that they deserve to receive it.

Kimberley: Right. I’ll give you my personal experience with this because I think, and I see a lot and I would add a fourth point to the compass, which is, now as you’re talking, I think this even different than what we talked about in previous conversations, just the two of us, is I think if I were really to track it, I think that another thing that I did when shame showed up is I swing into perfectionism. The stronger shame was, the more I would do good or be good. It’s an interesting reflection for me because I think the more I felt imperfect and the more shame that brought up, the more it’s like compulsive do good kind of thing, which I think again, might be why some of our clients get stuck around shame because there is that sort of self-punishment. “Well, I did a bad thing. Well, I have to neutralize that with a positive, good thing.” I don’t know. Just something I’m thinking about.

Michael: No, I think that’s really great. I’m sure a lot of people listening are thinking right now, nodding their heads, “Yup, I go into perfectionism.” If I can channel Nathanson for a second, I imagine he would say, “That’s a type of avoidance. It’s an avoidant behavior. You’re doing this thing and it’s a compensation to numb, or to balance the scale.” If I do enough good, it cancels out the bad. The message is that that thing is intolerable to feel, and it’s not.

Kimberley: Good catch. That’s true. It is. It’s like neutralizing the compulsion, right? Yeah. Okay. This is amazing. I have some questions from the audience that I think is a perfect segue, and there’s one that really hit me, really deepened my heart and I wanted to ask your opinion on. Somebody had asked, how do I manage shame for having symptoms? They didn’t express which ones, but I’m assuming it’s having symptoms of being a human of some respect. But I also have privilege and resources and the ability to get care, how do I manage shame when I have privilege?

Michael: That’s a really great question. I think if I can flip that around a little bit, I can say that the cost of your privilege towards access to care, towards a good community of people, the cost of that isn’t more shame. We don’t want to shame ourselves for having opportunities. In a way, it moves you away from doing something about that, about that privilege. If you recognize I have privileged shaming yourself is useless. Who’s that for? That’s a silent response to try to balance out this. It’s an avoidance. It’s a running away from.

So can we try to meet that? I’d say first with patients and then recognition, yeah, there is some privilege here and I feel bad about that, and then move into a “what’s next” kind of a mindset. Like, I still need to work on my own shame about having these symptoms. It’s not like I have to suddenly stop working on that because I also happen to have the privilege and the capacity to work on those.

But I think we throw it into the same mix. It’s like, okay, so you’re shaming yourself. Which one of the four points of the compass are you doing now in recognition of a privilege? Once we get off of that unhelpful response, we can then maybe find a more helpful way to recognize the privilege, to speak out against the privilege, to prop other people up and help other people have access, things like that. But we can’t do that if we’re shaming ourselves, because shaming yourself, criticizing yourself, avoiding isn’t workable.

Kimberley: Yeah. There’s so much of this like self-punishment involved as a response to shame. Like, okay, so I have this one privilege, so I must be punished for that before I can address the problem that I have almost. I’m so grateful that you answered that because I have seen that multiple times, many, many times with my patients and I’m guessing you too.

You’ve talked about shame around lots of emotions. Interestingly, there were two very common questions, and I’ll leave these as the last two questions for you. There was a lot of questions around having shame for anger and there was a lot of questions around having shame for having a “groinal response,” which I’m assuming is in relation to some kind of sexual obsession or maybe even sexual orientation as well. Can you share your thoughts on those?

Michael: Sure. Shame around anger, I think... I’m trying to interpret the question a little bit. I imagine it goes beyond just the feeling of being angry, but maybe the act of being aggressive, if I can make some interpretation there. I helped the client recognize that anger, like any other emotion, is universal. It’s an emergent experience. It’s not really up to you about whether you get angry or not. We don’t have to act on the anger. We don’t have to become aggressive either passively or physically aggressive about it. So, teaching them that there is some workability in our response to anger and that if we accept anger as an emotion, if we make room for anger as an emotion, we don’t need to have a response to it in the same kind of way. We can let it in.

Susan David, in one of her Ted Talks, she said that emotions are data, not directives. I love it. Super helpful way of organizing your thoughts around that. It’s just, let the emotion be data. It’s if you’re responding to something in your life, something happened that it shouldn’t have happened and it wasn’t fair, and then you felt angry. Okay, I understand that process. I don’t need to do something about it to get rid of it because there’s that relationship to an emotion that can be unhelpful. Now I have to find a way to control or get rid of it. Notice we only do that with the negative side of emotions. We don’t tend to be like, “I have to get rid of my joy.”

Kimberley: Too much joy.

Michael: Too much joy.

Kimberley: Unless we feel privileged, so then we’re not allowed to have too much joy.

Michael: Right. Yeah. In response to the groinal stuff, I think, again, it comes down to your biological, your physiological, your groinal response isn’t really up to you. I think Emily Nagoski does a really great job in her talk about unwanted arousal, and such a powerful Ted Talk and really great education around that. Your body’s going to respond, whether you like it to or not. I used to joke around and say, the reason why the 13-year-old boy isn’t standing up at the end of Spanish class is because he wants to get more lessons. It’s because he’s waiting to not be embarrassed when he stands up. It’s not that he’s attracted to Spanish as a language –maybe he is – it’s because he had a response and it wasn’t really up to him.

Okay, so bodies respond to things. Can we separate that out from the thing that was in our mind? Bodies respond to sex generically. It doesn’t matter who it’s with, what it is. Just the idea of it, the notion of it, the hint, and it response. So even people listening to us now, using the words like sex, might respond to the word, and that doesn’t mean you’re attracted to the word or to this podcast. Maybe you are, but it’s probably not. It’s that your body responded to things because of all these associative learning cues that are going on. That education is powerful.

And then, of course, I treat shame the way I treat any toxic shame, which is, the response to it is the biggest problem that needs to try to meet it with something a little bit more akin to self-compassion and common humanity.

Kimberley: I love it. Thank you. Oh, you nailed it. Is there anything else you want to share?

Michael: I mean, not off the top of my head. I’m sure that we could dive into so many different rabbit holes on the subject, but I think this was a good intro to it.

Kimberley: Yeah. Intro, but also with depth. I’m really grateful. I love to give as many applicable tools as we can. I feel like there is some better understanding. The compass is so good. It’s so helpful to be able to deconstruct it that way.

Michael: Yeah. That was a game-changer for me when I heard about that too. I will add a couple of things, just in passing other ways of therapeutically addressing shame. Once we’ve agreed that those four points in the compass are not the way we want to handle it, we have to have a new way. There’s a, what used to be, I think, a Broadway show called Get Mortified. It’s now a podcast, and it’s people sharing humiliating and mortifying personal stories. Again, this is going out to strangers and this is an idea that I’m normalizing these experiences in my life. Maybe someone else can relate to it and maybe we can bring some humor to it. It’s not about making fun of the person or the situation, it’s about saying, can we all just laugh at the fact that we’re busy concealing something that is so universal and ubiquitous.

Kimberley: Yup. Life happens, right? It doesn’t go to plan.

Michael: Yeah. I think that’s the other piece. Once you’re ready for it, humor is hard to think of a more helpful response to shame.

Kimberley: I’m holding back every urge right now to be like, “What’s the most mortifying thing that’s ever happened to you?”

Michael: That’s a different podcast.

Kimberley: I was once on a podcast where he asked that, a very similar question. It was on OCD and he asked me a similar question. I think I completely went into your shame compass, like all the things, “What can I do to avoid this conversation?”

Michael: Yes, yes. I think that would be like a few cocktails and we’re going to record a podcast and maybe we can talk about that. But again, you can see, you can notice how even here, I could easily come up with two very shaming experiences in my life, and the difficulty of sharing that when I think that other people are listening to it. Why should I care? It’s because it’s a painful emotion. So even us therapists have a lot of work to do with personally so that we can show up with the client in a way that’s helpful.

Kimberley: Right. When I was doing one of the Mindful Self-compassion intensives, this is with Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer, one of the activities where we had to stop and do activity with the puzzle we came with if you came with someone. And then you had to turn to a person you didn’t know, and you had to tell them one of the most painful things that’s ever happened to you. They didn’t really give you a lot of choices either. They were like, you’re here, you’re going to do it.

The whole act was there was tears everywhere, flying across the room. But the thing was then, the person who’s listening was not allowed to say anything, except “Thank you for sharing.” It was so powerful. It was so powerful. They weren’t allowed to say, oh. You weren’t allowed to touch them. You weren’t allowed to say anything, except “Thank you for sharing.”

Michael: And again, an immeasurably effective and important thing. That wasn’t self-compassion. That was compassion, right? This is why I think like you with your Instagram work and people like Chrissie Hodges and OCD peers, and anyone who’s an advocate for OCD that is building a community of people where they can interact like OCD has a community of people. These communities allow other people who are struggling with OCD to interact with each other. You create this group acceptance. The group has accepted you in, shame and all. You no longer need to conceal or keep secret this thing. The weight, the anvil that gets lifted off your shoulders, you no longer have to be weighted in the past.

It’d be nice if we could generalize that outside of an OCD community and just say, the community at large has now been sufficiently educated about what OCD is and isn’t, what depression is and isn’t, what eating disorders are and are not, trauma, so we can be a lot more understanding of one another. Perhaps that’s a little Pollyanna-ish to hope for, but I think that that’s the direction we should head on.

Kimberley: That’s the mission. Yeah. Well, I actually think that this is a perfect place for us to end because I think that that is where we’re at. That common humanity, we all have it. You’re not alone. Yes, it’s the most painful thing you’ll feel. You’ll feel like your heart is breaking at the time. All of these things are so normal and part of being a human. So I love that that’s where we’re at. Thank you.

Michael: Thank you for indulging the conversation.

Kimberley: Easily, so easily. Tell us about where people can hear more about you and know about you.

Michael: Sure. As you mentioned, my name is Mike Heady. I’m the Co-Director of the Anxiety and Stress Disorders Institute of Maryland. I work with my other Co-Director, Dr. Sarah Crawley, who’s a Child and Adolescent Psychologist. The Executive Director and Founder is Dr. Sally Winston. She’s written a number of books on OCD. We’re in Baltimore, Maryland. We’re an outpatient, private group practice. We have over 20 clinicians that specialize in depression, OCD, anxiety disorders, and other related conditions. Yeah, that’s us. That’s me.

Kimberley: Amazing. Well, thank you. I really am grateful. I feel so calm after these conversations too because I feel like it’s the more you guess, you get to settle into it. So thank you. I’m so grateful personally, and for the community here, who sounded like they were very excited about this episode.

Michael: Well, thank you for having me on.

Kimberley: My pleasure.

-----

Please note that this podcast or any other resources from cbtschool.com should not replace professional mental health care. If you feel you would benefit, please reach out to a provider in your area.

Have a wonderful day, and thank you for supporting cbtschool.com.

May 7, 2021

Welcome to Your Anxiety Toolkit. I’m your host, Kimberley Quinlan. This podcast is fueled by three main goals. The first goal is to provide you with some extra tools to help you manage your anxiety. Second goal, to inspire you. Anxiety doesn’t get to decide how you live your life. And number three, and I leave the best for last, is to provide you with one big, fat virtual hug, because experiencing anxiety ain’t easy. If that sounds good to you, let’s go.

ep 188 image How to Tolerate Uncomfortable SensationsWelcome back, everybody. Thank you so much for joining me. I know your time is very valuable and precious, so thank you for spending your time with me.

Oh goodness, I have so much to reflect on with you today. I’ve had a few aha moments, which I wanted to share with you because I wondered if I’m having these aha moments, maybe you are too.

Let’s just actually get straight to it. Shall we? Because it’s funny for me to say this to you. I’m sort of embarrassed to say this, but I also think it’s very hilarious.

I consider myself to be a very mindful person. I really do. When I’m struggling, I always practice what I preach. I observe that I’m struggling. I bring my attention back to the present. I engage back into the present and I usually feel better. This has been a profound practice for me in my life. I teach it to you guys because of how much of a huge difference it has made to me.

What has been really interesting is, I have taken some time off. I’m slowing down with work. My children have gone back to school. To adjust, we’ve had some massive, massive adjustments in our family. My husband took a year off work to be with the kids, so he could be their teacher. I, when COVID hit, went deep into just so much work and was really working to support the family in a way that I hadn’t had to do before. I’m so grateful and I really recognize how privileged we were to have this environment and this experience because I was writing a book and I had my clients and there’s just no way he could have gone to work.

So, he’s gone back to work. My children have gone back to school. I’m still finishing up the final stages of the book. So, it’s been such a huge difference for me. Because of this, I actually have been working with a coach, which usually I go to therapy every week. My therapist and I agreed that I would take some time off because I really felt like I was doing everything that she had given me. I was really feeling like my mindfulness skills are really helping me.

What was so interesting was that my coach – and this is not a coach for anxiety, this is more of a life coach – brought to my attention – and this is where it’s really funny – that even though my mindfulness skills are really effective and so healing and wonderful, he felt – and I thought it was shocking to start with, but I think he’s right– that I’m using it to avoid feeling my feelings and avoid feeling the sensations of anxiety.

Now, when he told me this, I’m not going to lie, I wanted to smack him upside the face. I was just really mad about it. I was like, “What? You’re telling me, I’m just this girl of mindfulness?” I don’t really see myself as a girl, but my ego was like, “I’m a guru at this. I’m so good at this. You’re telling me that it’s not effective?” I took some time. I shook off the pride, the pride issues that I was having, and I really let what he was saying to sink in. He’s 100%, right.

I really am so grateful for this opportunity to be called out on this one. So here I am sharing with you that I too am going through a layered experience of recovery. As many of you know, I’ve had an eating disorder, I’ve had anxiety my whole life. I have struggled with depression. I have struggled with medical issues that have been really, really stressful on myself and my family. I have handled them mostly really well, I think, but it never occurred to me in this idea of recovery that I may be bypassing the opportunity to really do some work around uncomfortable feelings and uncomfortable sensations.

Here I am. I’m going to teach you what I’m practicing.

Now, I’ve made some adjustments. Instead of noticing my discomfort and suffering, I tend to it with mindfulness and self-compassion. But instead of jumping straight into those skills, which are so good, by the way, I’m not discounting. These skills are gold. If you have mindfulness skills, it’s better than gold. It’s more valuable than gold or anything else that you could get. So I still am going to use those, but there’s this teeny tiny little space before that where I’m actually practicing feeling, allowing, and tolerating uncomfortable sensations, allowing uncomfortable feelings to be there.

Now, I know the title of this episode is How to Tolerate Uncomfortable Sensations. The reason I’ve done that is because even though I realized emotions was the thing I was avoiding, really when I get down to it and we break down a feeling, a feeling is just a combination of a thought with a sensation.

I’ve done episodes on how to tolerate thoughts, but I really wanted to really practice, and this is what I’m doing: Okay, I’m feeling sad. I’ve had a lot of sadness lately show up in my body. Where does it show up? For me, it’s right at the front of my shoulders. I want to just pull my shoulders forward and curl my spine into a C-shape and just contract and go into fetal position. When I feel sad, I just want to drop my head down onto the table. I want to drop the muscles in my face and I just go exhausted.

Instead of going, “Oh, I’m noticing that I’m sad,” be compassionate to your sadness, but bring it straight back to the present, pull your shoulders back. I’m actually just making space for the sadness. I don’t slump and jump into bed and stay there all day. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’m not engaging in sadness. I’m not just responding to sadness with apathy or depression, but I’m actually just spending time there and just going, “Yes, Kimberley, this is sadness. This is the sensation of sadness. It’s okay to have these.” Let’s stay with them. We don’t have to stay with them all day, but let’s just honor them first. Let’s stop jumping to mindfulness and compassion really fast. Let’s actually stay in the sensations. You can still go about your day. You can still be highly functioning. We still want you to be doing those mindfulness and those exercises. But my question to you is: Are you really allowing that to be there or are your emotions holding you hostage? – which I think is what was happening.

As I’ve always said to you, if you have a fear, stare it in the face. That’s how you get empowerment over that fear. If you avoid the fear, that fear has power over you. And then you’re always going to feel like your fear controls your life.

The same goes for sensations. If you have uncomfortable sensations and you immediately remove your attention from them to the present or other things, now your sensations have control over you. You’re giving them all the power and you’re afraid of them.

This is where I pose another question: Are you afraid of your uncomfortable sensations? If so, let’s practice feeling them as an exposure. Without knowing it, my coach who is not an exposure therapist is technically giving us a mini-exposure by saying, “No practice staying in the sensations of sadness or anxiety or happiness or exhaustion or whatever it may be. Practice tolerating and staying with them and still doing what the non-anxious you would do, or the non-sad you would do.”

Like I said, I’m not going to say, “Oh, I have to feel my sadness. I need to stop what I’m doing, stop this podcast and go and lay in bed.” I’m still going to talk to you guys and do what lines up with my values, which is to talk with you guys, connect with you guys, and so forth. But I’m going to say, “Okay, I’m observing that my shoulders feel that heavy feeling or my head feels that heavy feeling or my heart hurts. Can I just breathe into that?”

Now you may want to set some timers for this and say, once you identify it, “Okay, for the next 15 seconds, I’m going to just do this for 15 seconds.” Then you may say, “Okay, let’s try it for 30 seconds.” While I feel this anxiety – shortness of breath, tingling, tight chest, derealization, lump in your throat, panic sensations, racing thoughts – while I tolerate these sensations, can I practice coupling them with my life? So, while I’m feeling the emotion and the sensation, can I type up my email? Can I couple those two together? And when I do that, I might even say to myself, “Okay, this is me doing an email, writing an email while having the sensations of sadness or anxiety or anger or shame or whatever it may be.” Just by that, you’re having this experience of learning how to have emotions and sensations and you’re learning a sense of mastery over them.

Now, some of you have probably thought like, “Well, she’s told me this before,” which is why I said I’m slightly embarrassed because I know this stuff and I’ve probably said it on this podcast before, but I wasn’t practicing it.

Now, humbled to say that we’re all working this out. We’re all figuring this out. I was just listening to this wonderful meditation from my meditation teacher. He was saying that meditation is really like a huge Ashram. If you had the job of cleaning a large Ashram, you’d start in one room and you’d go to the next one, you’d go to the next one, and you’d go to the next one. You’d slowly get it done. By the time you finish, the first room you cleaned is dirty again. So you got to start again.

He’s like, the goal of meditation is not to get the house clean and be like, “Good, I’m done. I’m all done,” slapped my fingers together. “It’s all good.” That’s not what this is about. That’s not what recovery is. I really resonated with that. I feel like I have to tell my clients these stories as well because recovery isn’t a one-and-done. For me, literally, that’s me. I’ve cleaned every room in the house. I’ve circled back. And now I’m like, “Oh, there’s another thing. There’s another area of improvement for me. Oh no. Oops.” You know what I mean? My son always goes, “Oops.” It is total “Oops, okay.” This is a wonderful opportunity for us.

This is not about learning how to be uncomfortable and you’re done. This is about really having mastery over any sensation, any thought, any feeling that you may have. Any urge, any image, anything – having mastery over that. Not even mastery. Let’s just actually scale back. Let’s actually say, “Just knowing you can,” that’s enough. Let’s not talk about mastery. That sounds too big for me right now. Let’s just talk about knowing that I can. If I had to have anger or I had to have sadness or had to have anxiety, I know I could. Let’s stay there.

I hope this has been helpful. I am more than happy to share with you my shortcomings because I think that it makes me very human. It gives you permission to be very human. You guys know that I try not to take myself too seriously. I am on a journey with figuring this out too.

Hey, let’s just keep cleaning one room at a time and enjoy this learning.

Thank you so much for listening. Please do leave a review if you enjoy the show or not. Please leave an honest review. We would love to get a review from you. I’m just sending you much love. Take care, everybody. These are difficult times. I want to really offer my loving-kindness to you, offer a gesture of kindness and warmth and compassion to you if you are struggling.

Have a wonderful day. I will talk to you soon.

Please note that this podcast or any other resources from cbtschool.com should not replace professional mental health care. If you feel you would benefit, please reach out to a provider in your area.

Have a wonderful day, and thank you for supporting cbtschool.com.

Apr 30, 2021

Welcome back to another episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast.  Today we have on Christian Newman, the Health Anxiety Coach, to continue our discussion on health anxiety.  Christian was on the podcast a while back and because we get so many questions about health anxiety, we decided it would be great to have him on again to answer some of your questions.  On this episode, Christian answers “How do I know if my symptoms are anxiety or something else?”, “Is there anything other than CBT and ERP that I can use to treat health anxiety?”, “How do I stop googling my symptoms?”, “How do I stop focusing on sensations?”, and “How do I learn to accept a doctor’s diagnosis?” Christian also shares a bit about his 30 day detox program to help you recover from health anxiety.

Christian NewmanFollow Christian on Instagram @healthanxiety.coach

If you get a moment, please go over to wherever you listen to podcasts, whether that be Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, Podbean, and leave an honest review. Tell me how you feel about it, whether it's helping you, what you'd like to see. We are going to give away a pair of Beats headphones of your choice of color once we hit a thousand reviews!

ERP School, BFRB School and Mindfulness School for OCD are open for purchase. Click here for more information.

Additional exciting news! ERP School is now CEU approved which means that it is an accredited course for therapists and mental health professionals to take towards their continuing education credit hours. Please click here for more information.

Apr 23, 2021

Welcome back to another episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit podcast.  Today, we are going to talk about BFRB’s. Now, a BFRB is body-focused repetitive behavior. Many of you know, I am an Anxiety Specialist; I specialize in OCD and OCD-related disorders. Those related disorders can involve body-focused repetitive behaviors including hair pulling, skin picking, and nail-biting.

Ep. 186: 8 Tips to Manage Your BFRB

Today, I want to give you eight tips to help you manage your BFRB. This is also really helpful if you have any behavior in your life that you want to adjust and change. It is also helpful if you are a family member or a loved one of someone with a BFRB.

The eight tips we are going to discuss today are:

  1. Identify specifically where you’re engaging in your body-focused repetitive behavior.
  2. Identify when you engage in your BFRB.
  3. Identify what emotions trigger your BFRB.
  4. Identify what thoughts you are having.
  5. Find alternative behaviors.
  6. Block the behavior specifically related to the body part.
  7. Find support.
  8. Practice self-compassion daily.

Above all else, I want you all to remember that you are not your BFRB. You are way more than this thing that you struggle with. You have so many other beautiful characteristics and strengths and abilities. If you can introduce a self-compassion practice, you will find immense benefit from just gently nurturing the suffering that you are feeling. This is so important for everybody, but particularly for those who are really hard on themselves.

If you get a moment, please go over to wherever you listen to podcasts, whether that be Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, Podbean, and leave an honest review. Tell me how you feel about it, whether it's helping you, what you'd like to see. We are going to give away a pair of Beats headphones of your choice of color once we hit a thousand reviews!

ERP School, BFRB School and Mindfulness School for OCD are open for purchase. Click here for more information.

Additional exciting news! ERP School is now CEU approved which means that it is an accredited course for therapists and mental health professionals to take towards their continuing education credit hours. Please click here for more information.

Apr 16, 2021

Welcome back to another episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast.  Today I want to talk to you about a question that recently was asked by one of my awesome Instagram followers.  This person asked me "Kimberley, how do I relax and be self-compassionate when I suddenly find myself with extra time on my hands?" This is such a fantastic question and a really timely one as well.  So today we are going to discuss the skill of sitting still.  Ask yourselves "When was the last time you allowed yourself to sit still?" and "When was the last time you allowed the discomfort you may be feeling to just be there?"

how to sit stillMaybe you are thinking to yourselves that you have done nothing but sit still since COVID began, but even if this is true when was the last time you sat still and created space for your emotions to rise and fall? When was the last time you allowed yourself to experience your emotions and feelings without judgment?  This is key.  You may have been sitting still, but you may have been judging yourself at the same time. True restoration begins when you allow those emotions and feelings to be there without judgment. Are you resisting, pushing away, avoiding, or judging?  Or are you willingly allowing yourself to feel all of the feelings?  Often when we are stressed, we try to busy ourselves.  This is usually an attempt to not feel the discomfort.  Ask yourself, are my actions effective in the long term?  Resisting, avoiding, and distraction may feel helpful in the short term, but is it really effective for the long term?  I invite you to slow down and gently and compassionately make space for the present moment. You may not feel an overwhelming sense of calm and that is OK. Your self-compassion is not done to remove your discomfort, it is done to soothe the discomfort.  I am asking you to try slowing down. To schedule time to just be still. Allow the discomfort and the quiet. Make space for all of your feelings and emotions as they rise and fall.

I hope this was helpful and I hope that you remember to be kind and gentle with yourself.

If you get a moment, please go over to wherever you listen to podcasts, whether that be Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, Podbean, and leave an honest review. Tell me how you feel about it, whether it's helping you, what you'd like to see. We are going to give away a pair of Beats headphones of your choice of color once we hit a thousand reviews!

ERP School, BFRB School and Mindfulness School for OCD are open for purchase. Click here for more information.

Additional exciting news! ERP School is now CEU approved which means that it is an accredited course for therapists and mental health professionals to take towards their continuing education credit hours. Please click here for more information.

 

Apr 9, 2021

Welcome back to another episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast.  Today we have on the amazing Joshua Fletcher who some of you may know from Instagram as Anxiety Josh.  Joshua is a psychotherapist in the UK as well as someone with lots of lived experience with anxiety disorders.  He is here today to talk to us specifically about panic attacks and panic disorder. panic disorder
Joshua shares his lived experience with panic, derealization/depersonalization, agoraphobia, and anxiety.  He tells about his first panic attack and how that led to multiple panic attacks per day. This led him to planning his days around how to avoid having another panic attack.  He shares the importance of psychoeducation for people who are experiencing any kind of anxiety disorder including panic.  This is not for reassurance purposes, rather it is important to demystify the experience of anxiety.  Once you learn what is happening, the anxiety loses some of it's grip.  We know that anxiety thrives in the uncertainty and the unknown so becoming educated on what is happening in your brain and body is really so crucial for recovery. Joshua discusses hypervigilance and how this really is at the heart of anxiety disorders.  He gives some tips and tools to help if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder including panic disorder.  We end the discussion by talking a bit about self-compassion and how important it is to recovery.  I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did.  Joshua has so much wisdom to share and I think you will find his words not only helpful if you are struggling with an anxiety disorder, but also really inspirational as well.

 

Instagram @AnxietyJosh

Click here to find links to Joshua's books, podcast, and more!

 

If you get a moment, please go over to wherever you listen to podcasts, whether that be Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, Podbean, and leave an honest review. Tell me how you feel about it, whether it's helping you, what you'd like to see. We are going to give away a pair of Beats headphones of your choice of color once we hit a thousand reviews!

ERP School, BFRB School and Mindfulness School for OCD are open for purchase. Click here for more information.

Additional exciting news! ERP School is now CEU approved which means that it is an accredited course for therapists and mental health professionals to take towards their continuing education credit hours. Please click here for more information.

 

 

Apr 2, 2021

Welcome back to another episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast.  Today I want to share with you the 5 mindfulness tips that I use with my clients to help manage symptoms of anxiety and depression. The first tip is to observe. Instead of taking thoughts as fact, try simply observing your thoughts. An example may be "I am having the thought that bad things may happen." The second tip is to be curious. If you are able to be curious, you can actually change the narrative. Instead of being rigid, try being open to other possibilities. The third tip is to leave judgment behind. We often make the statement that our thoughts and feelings are wrong. Instead leave out the judgment and try "I am noticing this feeling is making me uncomfortable." This brings you back to a place of objectivity.  The fourth tip is to be present. Bring your attention back to the present moment. Try to not focus on the past or the future.  The fifth and final tip is to catch the stories you tell yourself. Be very careful when you say things such as "I can't handle this." Try to reframe that statement with "I can tolerate the discomfort." or "I can do hard things."  I hope these tips have been helpful to you.  I know that I find them incredibly helpful and use them often myself and with my own children.

If you get a moment, please go over to wherever you listen to podcasts, whether that be Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, Podbean, and leave an honest review. Tell me how you feel about it, whether it's helping you, what you'd like to see. We are going to give away a pair of Beats headphones of your choice of color once we hit a thousand reviews!

ERP School, BFRB School and Mindfulness School for OCD are open for purchase. Click here for more information.

Additional exciting news! ERP School is now CEU approved which means that it is an accredited course for therapists and mental health professionals to take towards their continuing education credit hours. Please click here for more information.

 

Mar 26, 2021

Welcome back to another episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit. Today we are discussing Exposure and Response Prevention or ERP.  So what exactly is ERP?  Well, many years ago a psychologist created exposure therapy, which is where we expose people to their fears. If you were afraid of dogs, we would expose you to pictures of dogs and then videos of dogs and then we would probably ask you to go pet a dog, that is exposure therapy. What is ERP?This was found to be highly successful; however, over the course of time, more research suggested that doing exposures alone is good, but it doesn't completely address the whole picture of OCD because OCD does not just involve obsessions, it also involves compulsions. Exposure therapy did not really address compulsions. So a different method was added on and that is the response prevention. You expose yourself to your fear and then you would do response prevention, which would mean you would not engage in the compulsion to remove the discomfort, uncertainty, or  anxiety that you are feeling.

ERP  is a treatment that addresses both the obsession by exposing and the compulsion by doing response prevention. Now, this is groundbreaking and the research has shown that the outcomes are really good, which is wonderful because for many years, we did not have a great treatment for OCD. Since then we have actually added on other modalities to make it even better. We have inhibitory learning, acceptance and commitment therapy, compassion focused therapy, and mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy. All of these additional modalities really help to increase motivation and help to manage your discomfort as it rises and falls.

A lot of people will ask if ERP can work if you do not engage in physical compulsions because as we know many people with OCD will engage in hidden compulsions that no one can see.  Those are typically avoidance and mental compulsions.  From the outside you may never know that they are struggling with mental compulsions all day because they are ruminating and playing out potential scenarios in their minds.  It is so important to identify the mental or avoidant compulsions you are doing and that would be a part of your ERP as well.

So that's ERP in a nutshell. Is it easy? Oh no, it's not easy. Is it hard? Oh yes, it is hard. But what am I about to say, say it with me everybody, it is a beautiful day to do hard things. Can you do hard things? Absolutely.

If you get a moment, please go over to wherever you listen to podcasts, whether that be Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, Podbean, and leave an honest review. Tell me how you feel about it, whether it's helping you, what you'd like to see. We are going to give away a pair of Beats headphones of your choice of color once we hit a thousand reviews!

ERP School, BFRB School and Mindfulness School for OCD are open for purchase. Click here for more information. Beginning today March 19th and continuing until April 1st, ERP School will be available with bonus material. This will be an amazing training on the motivational skills Kimberley teaches her clients to help them in their treatment and recovery!

Additional exciting news! ERP School is now CEU approved which means that it is an accredited course for therapists and mental health professionals to take towards their continuing education credit hours. Please click here for more information.

 

 

Mar 19, 2021

Welcome back to another episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast.  Today we are so lucky to have Dr. Jonathan Grayson on with us again. Dr. Grayson is a psychologist who has been specializing in the treatment of OCD for more than 40 years. He is also the author of Freedom from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and founder of The Grayson LA Treatment Center for Anxiety and OCD.  He is here today to talk to us about magical thinking. I am actually getting asked a lot recently about magical thinking.  People have a lot of questions about what it is and how it relates to OCD and anxiety. magical thinking with Dr. Jonathan GraysonDr. Grayson starts off by giving us his definition of magical thinking.  He explains that magical thinking is really on a continuum. On one end you may have a person without OCD who engages in minor superstitions and on the far end you may have a person with OCD who has magical thinking that is actually interfering in their daily life.  He says that most of the time with OCD, the magical thinking does not seem to have an obvious connection between the fear and the ritual.

Dr. Grayson spends a good amount of time discussing magical thinking in the context of spiritual and religious beliefs as well as how magical thinking relates to scrupulosity.  He also shares his thoughts on scapegoating as a form of magical thinking. He shares with us a bit about how someone can get better and overcome magical thinking.  He says that this is really just about taking the risk of uncertainty similar to all OCD treatment. He says you should ask yourself "Is this magical thinking actually working?  Is it bringing you any peace?"  This episode is full of such wisdom.  I learned a lot myself and I hope you all will find it helpful.

Dr. Grayson's book, Freedom from OCD, is now out as an audiobook!  Click here for more information.

The Grayson LA Treatment Center for Anxiety & OCD

If you get a moment, please go over to wherever you listen to podcasts, whether that be Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, Podbean, and leave an honest review. Tell me how you feel about it, whether it's helping you, what you'd like to see. We are going to give away a pair of Beats headphones of your choice of color once we hit a thousand reviews!

ERP School, BFRB School and Mindfulness School for OCD are open for purchase. Click here for more information. Beginning today March 19th and continuing until April 1st, ERP School will be available with bonus material. This will be an amazing training on the motivational skills Kimberley teaches her clients to help them in their treatment and recovery!

Additional exciting news! ERP School is now CEU approved which means that it is an accredited course for therapists and mental health professionals to take towards their continuing education credit hours. Please click here for more information.

 

Mar 12, 2021

Welcome back to another episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast. We have a lot to tackle in this episode!  We are going to be talking about a really important topic which has a lot of confusion surrounding it.  Today we are going to explore the difference between an intrusive thought and a mental compulsion.
OCD starts with an obsession. This is an intrusive, repetitive, unwanted thought, feeling, sensation or urge that you cannot control this.  Once you've had that intrusive thought, feeling, sensation and urge, you usually feel anxious and uncomfortable because it is unwanted.  You then have this natural instinct to try and remove the discomfort and the uncertainty that you feel. This is what we call a compulsion. Usually we feel some form of relief from the compulsion, but this becomes a problem because it only reinforces to our brain that the thought was important. Your brain continues to send out the alarm that the thought must mean something. Now many of us are aware of the form that physical compulsions can take such as hand-washing, jumping over cracks, moving objects and so forth. Actually one of the most common compulsions is mental and that takes the form of rumination. The problem people run into is that rumination is sometimes hard to identify. That is why I am doing this episode because so many people have asked, how do I differentiate between the intrusive thought and a mental compulsion? And what do I do? We know we should not be blocking thoughts, so how do we stop mental compulsions. If I'm not supposed to suppress my thoughts, what am I supposed to do if I catch myself doing mental compulsions? Is stopping mental compulsions thought suppression?"
I would say, technically, no. But it depends. Let's go straight to the solution. We want to acknowledge that we're having an intrusive thought, feeling, sensation or urge or an image. our job is to do nothing about it. We need to do our best not to solve that uncertainty or remove ourselves from that discomfort. That's our goal. And then our job is to reintegrate ourselves back into a behavior that we were doing, or we would be doing, had we not had this thought. So here is an example. Let's say I'm typing. I have an intrusive thought about whether I'm going to harm my child. So I have this, I'm going to acknowledge that it's there. I'm actually going to practice not trying to make that thought go away. But instead, bring that sensation or thought with me while I type on my computer. As I'm typing, I'm going to notice the sensations of my fingertips on the keyboard. I'm going to notice the smell of the office. I'm going to notice the temperature of the room I'm in. And I'm going to then catch if my mind directs away from this activity towards trying to solve. If I catch myself trying to solve it then I am going to bring my attention back to what I'm doing. I find that if I'm getting caught in some kind of mental rumination, I get down on the ground and I start playing with my son. The OCD may continue to try and get your attention, but you are going to continue with what you are doing and not engage with the thoughts. It is important to remember that compulsions feed you back into a cycle where you will have more obsessions, which will feed you back into having more compulsion's. It's a cycle. We call it the Obsessive Compulsive Cycle. So we really want to sort of be skilled in our ability to identify the difference.  This is really, really hard work. I think about when you're originally first learning anything, everything is really confusing and everything looks kind of the same. When you first start doing it, these are going to look very similar and it's going to be difficult to differentiate the difference, but once you get better at being around this and labeling it and catching it, you will be able to see the differences in these two things, even if it's very, very nuanced or they look very, very similar.

If you get a moment, please go over to wherever you listen to podcasts, whether that be Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, Podbean, and leave an honest review. Tell me how you feel about it, whether it's helping you, what you'd like to see. We are going to give away a pair of Beats headphones of your choice of color once we hit a thousand reviews!

ERP School, BFRB School and Mindfulness School for OCD are open for purchase. Click here for more information. Coming in March 19th ERP School will be available with bonus material!

Additional exciting news! ERP School is now CEU approved which means that it is an accredited course for therapists and mental health professionals to take towards their continuing education credit hours. Please click here for more information.

Coming March 15th, we are offering our free training, The 10 Things You Absolutely Need to Know About OCD.

 

Transcript of Ep. 180

This is Your Anxiety Toolkit episode number 180.

Welcome to Your Anxiety Toolkit. I'm your host, Kimberley Quinlan. This podcast is fueled by three main goals. The first goal is to provide you with some extra tools to help you manage your anxiety. Second goal, to inspire you. Anxiety doesn't get to decide how you live your life. And number three, and I leave the best for last, is to provide you with one big fat virtual hug, because experiencing anxiety ain't easy. If that sounds good to you, let's go.

Welcome back, everybody. Hello. Thank you for being here with me. We have a lot to tackle in this episode, so I am going to jump in as quick as I can. I know this is such a huge concept and topic, and there's so much confusion around it. So let's really today talk about the difference between an intrusive thought and a mental compulsion. We also want to figure out which ones we want to work with and which ones we want to allow. We want to talk about the difference between allowing a thought and engaging in a thought. There's so much to cover here. So before we get started, a couple of really exciting things, I really want you to keep an eye out for. On March 15, 2021, we are relaunching the free OCD training. It's called the 10 Things You Absolutely Need to Know About OCD.

It's not called the 10 things you need to know. It's called the 10 Things You Absolutely Need to Know About OCD. I have shared this free training multiple times, tens of thousands of people have taken this training. I've gotten nothing but amazing responses back. And the coolest thing is people even said, "I've watched it before. This is the second or third time I've watched it when you released it. And it really reminded me of these core concepts that we have to remember when we're talking about OCD." So even if you've watched it before, even if you're pretty well versed in OCD, I still encourage you to listen and take the free training. It's just jam packed with information and science and all the good stuff. And even if you're a therapist, I encourage you to take it. So if you're interested, go over to cbtschool.com/10things, or you can click the link in the show notes.

I am so excited to share that with you. Now, one more thing, keep an eye out, because as of March 19th, we are relaunching ERP School with some exciting bonuses, which I will announce in next week's episode. So excited again to share this with you. And what an amazing community, what an amazing opportunity I've had to teach so many people about ERP. And now also teaching therapists. We have now got ERP School approved by The National Association of Social Workers. So if therapists out there, you can actually get CEUs for taking ERP School, which is very, very cool. All right, let's get straight to the show. Let's talk about the difference between an intrusive thought and a mental compulsion first. So the first important piece to remember here, as we pull apart what to do with what thoughts, because that's really what this is about.

We must first understand the foundation of OCD. So OCD starts with an obsession. This is an intrusive, repetitive, unwanted thought, feeling, sensation or urge. It's not just a thought. It could be a sensation. It could be a feeling like de-realization or guilt. It could be a sensation like a feeling in your left finger or feeling in your nose or whatever that may be, everybody's different. But it does start with this intrusive thought. And the thing you must remember here is you cannot control this. This is the first experience of OCD, right? You have the intrusive thought, feeling, sensation or urge, and this is the thing you can't control. So there's a really big point right off the bat. The second piece here is once you've had that intrusive thought, feeling, sensation and urge, you usually feel anxious and uncomfortable and it's unwanted. And so your natural instinct is to do something to remove it.

You'll do it to remove the physical discomfort, the emotional discomfort, the uncertainty that you feel. And that is what we call a compulsion. Now, as many of you know, we know the kind of more mainstream compulsions that are known in our society. Hand-washing, jumping over cracks, moving objects and so forth. But one of the most common compulsions is mental. It's thinking. It's rumination. And that's the thing that's really hard to catch. And that's why I'm doing this episode because so many people have asked, how do I differentiate between that intrusive thought and a mental compulsion? And what do I do? Like I said at the beginning, I'm not supposed to block thoughts, but I'm not supposed to do mental compulsions. And that's thinking too, and what this does, right? So let's go back to the cycle. You have a thought, feeling, sensation and urge.

It makes you uncomfortable. Then you do a compulsion to make it go away. And usually you do get some form of relief. But the problem with this is that then it reinforces that that thought was important. Therefore, your brain continues to send out the fire alarm, the safety alarm, the smoke detector, it sets off all of those alarms in your brain and then sends out more anxiety with more of that thought, feeling, sensation and urge. So let's go back to the main concept. You're not to try and suppress your thoughts because the more that you suppress your intrusive thoughts, the more you have them. I've done full episodes about this in the past. So if you want to go back and listen, suppressing your thoughts will only make them worse. But here is where it gets tricky. People will say again, "If I'm not supposed to suppress my thoughts, what am I supposed to do if I catch myself doing mental compulsions? Is stopping mental compulsion's thought suppression?"

And this is where I would say, technically, no. But it depends. So what we want to do, let's go straight to the solution. We want to acknowledge that we're having an intrusive thought, feeling, sensation or urge or an image, right? It could be an image too. And then our job is to do nothing about it. To do our best not to solve that uncertainty or remove ourselves from that discomfort. That's our goal. And then our job is to reintegrate ourselves back into a behavior that we were doing, or we would be doing, had we not had this thought. So let's say I'm typing. I have an intrusive thought about whether I'm going to harm my child, or I have an intrusive thought about whether I cheated on my partner, or I had an intrusive thought on whether I'm gay or straight, or I had an intrusive thought about harming somebody, or a religious obsession, or a sensation, or a health anxiety sensation.

So I have this, I'm going to acknowledge that it's there. I'm actually going to practice not trying to make that thought go away. But instead, bring that sensation or thought with me while I type on my computer. As I'm typing, I'm going to notice the sensations of my fingertips on the keyboard. I'm going to notice the smell of the office. I'm going to notice the temperature of the room I'm in. And I'm going to then catch if my mind directs away from this activity towards trying to solve. If I catch myself trying to solve, yes, I am going to practice not doing that thinking. I'm going to practice not trying to solve it. And then bring my attention back to what I'm doing. I find that if I'm getting caught in some kind of mental rumination, I get down on the ground and I start playing with my son.

He's really into Lego right now. And so I fully, fully throw myself into this. I do my best to fully engage as best as I can. Now, I'm still going to have the presence of intrusive thoughts because I cannot control that. So it's going to sound a little bit like this. OCD is going to say, "Hey, what about this? What if this happens?" And I'm going to say, "Hi, thought. I'm actually typing an email right now. And that's what I'm going to do. You can be there. I'm going to allow this uncertainty to be here and I'm going to keep typing." So then I start typing. And then OCD will be like, if I were to externalize it, would be to say, "No, no, no, no. This is really important. You really have to figure this out."

And I'll go, "No, thank you. I'm really cool that you're here, but I'm going to type." And then it's going to say, "Hey, Kimberley, this is really important. And if you don't give me your attention, I'm going to... Something really bad is going to happen." And I'm going to go, "Thank you. But I'm writing an email right now." And then you're going to be like, wow, I'm doing pretty good. Look at me go. I'm fully practicing the skill of not engaging in my intrusive thought. And then it's going to say, "Listen..." Let's say I'm impersonating OCD. It's going to say, "Listen, I am not going to stop bugging you until you give me your attention." And I'm going to go, "That's fine. I'm actually going to call your bluff on that. I'm writing this email. You do not get to tell me what to do." And it's not going to give up.

It's going to keep going. "Kimberley, Kimberley, Kimberley, Kimberley, you must pay attention to my thoughts. You must pay attention. I'm trying to alert you to a very big danger." And often this is where people get worn down. They're like, "Oh my gosh, it's not going away. Maybe it is right. Maybe I should do it. Maybe I can't handle this anxiety. Maybe this is too much for me. Maybe it's just easier to do the compulsion." But I'm going to be here with you, urging you to keep allowing that intrusive thought to be there. It will basically roll over and start crying and fall asleep at some point, like a toddler, who's too tired and is rejecting his nap. But all he needs is to nap. It eventually will die down, but you have to be willing to stick and be consistent with not engaging in the pleads of OCD, the urgency of the obsession, the catastrophization of the obsession.

Because it's going to be making it into a... What do they say? A molehill into a mountain. It's going to be making a small problem, a big problem. And what I mean by that is the present of a thought is not dangerous. It doesn't mean it's a fact. It doesn't mean it requires your attention. Some people with OCD have a part of your brain that's going to set this thought on repeat. And because we've tried to suppress it in the past, it is probably going to want to be very, very repetitive. And your job is to do nothing at all. If you do, and I'll say this again, if you do catch yourself doing mental compulsion's, it's okay to stop doing that. That's not thought suppression. As long as you're... You don't want to over-correct. So if you catch yourself doing mental compulsions, don't over-correct by also trying to block the thought.

That's where we get into trouble. Instead, you just do a small correction back to what am I doing? What am I engaging in right now? What do I value? Because we do not value compulsion's. Compulsion's feed you back into a cycle where you will have more obsessions, which will feed you back into having more compulsion's. It's a cycle. We call it the Obsessive Compulsive Cycle. So we really want to sort of be skilled in our ability to identify the difference. If you can't identify the difference it's going to be really hard to know which is which, and how to respond in those moments. And a lot of this is when we're super anxious, it's really hard to think logically. It's really hard to think... Is this true or is it not? Or so forth. It's not even helpful in that moment.

Whereas, it may be like three days later. You're like, "Oh my goodness, what was I thinking? That was a bit strange. I wonder why I got so caught up in that." And that's because when we're anxious, our brain has a difficult time coming up with problem solving that is effective. So the more you can be able to identify it, and I encourage my clients throughout the day is catch yourself doing mental compulsion. Don't beat yourself up, but practice this idea of going, "This is me doing a mental compulsion. This is me having an intrusive thought. This is me having an intrusive thought and wanting to do mental compulsion." And being able to label them so that in the moment when you really are at a nine or a 10 out of 10 of anxiety, or uncertainty, or discomfort, you're able to be more skilled in your response.

Super, super, super important stuff here, guys. But we don't want to shame here. Again, this is really, really hard work. I think about when you're originally first learning anything, everything is really confusing and everything looks kind of the same. I always think of like The Devil Wears Prada, this is a crazy example, but the actress is laughing at these people because they're looking at a belt that looks almost the same, but it's very different in their eyes. And the one main character is like, "They're the same belt." And they look at her like she's crazy. And this is the same, right? When you first start doing it, these are going to look very similar and it's going to be difficult to differentiate the difference. But once you get better at being around this and labeling it and catching it, you will be able to see the differences in these two things, even if it's very, very nuanced or they look very, very similar.

Okay, that's all I'm going to say for now. The tools are the same. If you really want to go back and practice and learn these mindfulness skills you can practice, go back and listen to some of the previous podcast episodes. I actually encourage you to go back and listen to some of the earlier episodes, because in those episodes, I totally, I was laying out this awesome content on how to be mindful. Some of my best podcasts are the very first few ones, which is like back-to-back major skills, major tools. It was laying the foundation for how to be mindful with obsessive thoughts. So go back and listen to those or sign up for the free training coming up or, and you can also sign up for ERP School, which is coming back very, very soon.

We also have Mindfulness School for OCD, which is a course that really deep dives into practicing mindfulness related to obsessions and compulsions. So that's there for you as well. Okay. A lot. Sorry, I'm talking so fast. It's something I'm so passionate about and is something that I really wanted to make sure I covered and get very clear on. I've had a couple of you reach out and really be stressed about figuring out the difference. I'm hoping that's super helpful.

One last thing before we go, please do leave a review. I know I keep begging you at the end of every episode, but it really would mean the world to me. If you get anything from the podcast and you want to give back in any way, I would love a review from you. Your honest review, you don't have to fabricate anything. I really love them. I read every single one. And once we get to 1,000 reviews, we will give away a free pair of Beats headphones so that you can hear me crystal clear in your ears. And you of course can pick the color of your choice with those. So all my love to you.

Please do go and leave a review. I hope today's episode [crosstalk 00:17:05] was helpful. And get excited [crosstalk 00:17:05]. All right, have a good one, guys. All my love to you. It is a beautiful day to do the most beautifully difficult hard things.

Please note that this podcast or any of the resources from the CBTschool.com should not replace professional mental healthcare. If you feel you would benefit, please reach out to a provider in your area. Have a wonderful day. And thank you for supporting CBTschool.com.

Mar 5, 2021

Welcome back to another episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast.  Today I want to focus a bit on OCD treatment.  I want to share with you all 8 tips that I think will really help to fast-track your OCD treatment.  The first tip is to get support. Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors

That may people from people in your life or it may be from social media, organizations in the OCD community, or online support groups. The second tip is to pace yourself.  Find a pace that works well for you, not too fast, not too slow.  The third tip is to give yourself time to feel all the feelings about your OCD treatment. You are likely going to ride a wave of emotions and that is OK.  The fourth tip is to stop judging yourself for your obsessions and compulsions.  Being critical of yourself on serves to get in the way of your recovery. So go easy on yourself. The fifth tip is to embrace uncertainty.  Learning to live with uncertainty is key to recovery in OCD treatment. The sixth tip is to stare your fear in the face everyday.  Remember when we turn away from our fear, OCD only becomes stronger.  The key is to do those hard things. The seventh tip is to find your motivation.  What is your motivation for wanting to get better?  The eight and final tip is understanding and accepting that you cannot control your thoughts.  The only thing you can control is your reaction to those thoughts.  I hope these tips will help as you progress through your OCD treatment. If I can leave you with just one thought that would be "It's a beautiful day to do hard things."

If you get a moment, please go over to wherever you listen to podcasts, whether that be Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, Podbean, and leave an honest review. Tell me how you feel about it, whether it's helping you, what you'd like to see. We are going to give away a pair of Beats headphones of your choice of color once we hit a thousand reviews!

ERP School, BFRB School and Mindfulness School for OCD are open for purchase. Click here for more information. Coming in March 19th ERP School will be available with bonus material!

Additional exciting news! ERP School is now CEU approved which means that it is an accredited course for therapists and mental health professionals to take towards their continuing education credit hours. Please click here for more information.

Coming March 15th, we are offering our free training, The 10 Things You Absolutely Need to Know About OCD.

 

 

Transcript of Ep. 179

This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 179.

Welcome to Your Anxiety Toolkit. I’m your host, Kimberley Quinlan. This podcast is fueled by three main goals. The first goal is to provide you with some extra tools to help you manage your anxiety. Second goal, to inspire you. Anxiety doesn’t get to decide how you live your life. And number three, and I leave the best for last, is to provide you with one big, fat virtual hug, because experiencing anxiety ain’t easy. If that sounds good to you, let’s go.

Welcome back, my friends. Hello, Happy Friday. This is when it’s released. If you’re not listening to this on a Friday, Happy whatever day you’re listening, Happy Day.

How are you? Take a breath. Where are you? What are you doing? What do you see? What do you smell? It’s a beautiful day.

Thank you for being here with me. It is a beautiful day to do hard things, as always. But today, we’re actually talking about exactly that, talking about how to do really hard things in the form of talking about the eight things you can do to fast-track your recovery. It could be OCD recovery, it could be health anxiety, panic disorder, eating disorder, whatever it may be. But we’re probably going to put a focus today on OCD, mainly because I am getting ready. This is very exciting.

Let me go off on a tangent. I’m getting ready to relaunch the free training that we offer twice a year called The 10 Things You Absolutely Need to Know about OCD. It’s a free training. We’ve offered it now for almost three years, and I offer it twice a year over... not over a thousand, over tens of thousands of people have watched this training. It’s quite amazing. So many people have given me amazing feedback on it. A lot of people have said that this was their first introduction to OCD and the education to OCD. I’m just so happy to share this with you.

We will be releasing this training again on March 15, so get ready. I will send you all the details when we get there, but for right now, you could just get really excited and you can listen to this episode, which is really again, talking about not the basics of OCD, even though a lot of people who’ve taken that free training said they go back every time I launch it and rewatch it because it’s a really great reboot on these major basic concepts. Today, we’re going to talk about bigger concepts, like really looking at treatment and how to fast-track it. So, let’s get started.

Before we start, actually, again, I’m going to ask you for a favor, if you would have a moment and you feel so inclined, please go and leave a review. I am on a massive... What would you call it? Effort to get more reviews, not because I need the ego stroke at all, but because I have been told by multiple business people that if you want to help more people and get this free resource out to more people, you do have to have a ton of reviews. The more reviews you have, the more likely people are to click on the podcast and try it. My goal is to create really, really good content, but they have to actually click the content to get helped by the content. So if you could help me with that, that would be amazing.

I have offered an incentive. We are having an exciting challenge where we’re challenging ourselves to get a thousand reviews. Once we get a thousand reviews, I’ll be giving away a pair of Beats headphones to one of the lucky reviewers of your color choice as a thank you. So, that’s there. I would love to have you write a review. All right, let’s get into the show.

We’re talking about the eight tips to fast-track your OCD treatment.

  1. Get support. 

This was actually the #8 point, but I actually brought it up to #1. If you are willing to do hard things, which you will because OCD treatment requires you to do many hard things, you will need support. Now I know what you’re probably thinking. “I don’t know anybody who has OCD,” or “I don’t have enough money for treatment,” or “I don’t know who to ask.” And that’s why this podcast is here. This is a free service to help you feel supported. And if listening to this podcast is your form of support, well, I am so, so grateful and blessed to have that opportunity. But even better than that is to get support by people who are in a similar situation and it does not have to cost you money. It does not have to cost you time.

The use of getting support for OCD might look like social media accounts. There are so many advocates on social media, Instagram, Facebook. This is a really wonderful way to get support. You might go to OCD Gamechangers or the International OCD Foundation, where they have programs and free town hall and fireside chats where you can feel supported because you’re in an area of like-minded people. You might join a support group. There are many GOALS support groups. It’s G-O-A-L-S support group. If you Google it, there are many around the country of the United States where they’re free support groups for people. They are online forums. I have a free Facebook group called CBT School Campus, which is a group of the most kind of supportive people who are also on their journey.

So, get support. You can’t do hard things on your own all the time. You can do them on your own some of the time, but it fast-tracks it if you really do have support and people cheering you on.

The other thing to remember is you don’t have to know someone who has OCD. Find somebody who’s also doing something difficult and say, “Hey, I’m doing a hard thing. You’re doing a different hard thing, but I wonder if we could support each other.” Most of the time, people are so relieved not to do hard things on their own. So, get support.

  1. Pace yourself.

When you want to fast-track your treatment and your recovery, your instinct is to go in great guns. In Australia, we call it great guns. Great guns is full-on going in, giving it your biggest effort. And that’s good. Great guns is awesome, but you have to pace yourself. You can’t sprint a marathon. You’ll get into the first mile and you’ll collapse. This is about pacing yourself and having a clear plan.

One of the biggest areas I make as a clinician is when I create a treatment plan for my patient or my client, and it’s not a good pace. It’s not a good beat. You can hear me clicking. You can’t go really fast and then taper out. You lose momentum. So what you want to do is pace yourself at a cadence that feels really right and is doable and is realistic, that you can make a part of your daily life because it’s not realistic to do four hours today and then zero hours tomorrow, and then two hours the next day. Try and find something that you can do a little bit every day.

  1. Give yourself time to be mad, sad, sad, resentful, and have whatever feelings you have about this OCD treatment or this recovery process. 

You’re going to have lots of emotions and you have to prepare yourself for that. You have to be willing to ride the many emotional waves of recovery. It’s not just a matter of sitting down and doing exposures and going on about your life. You are going to have to feel all kinds of emotions, and that can be really overwhelming and painful. So give yourself time to have those emotions.

  1. Stop judging yourself for your obsessions and your compulsions.

One of the things that is the most demotivating actions we can do is criticize ourselves for where we’re at. This is a podcast episode about fast tracking. This means what slows us down, looking at what are the things that slow us down so that we can go at the fastest pace possible that is healthy and realistic. And that involves not being critical. Being critical literally does nothing good. It slows you down. It de-motivates you. It disempowers you. It makes you feel more secondary emotions. It does no good.

I know you know that, but sometimes we have to remind ourselves that in the moment, when we catch ourselves judging ourselves for the thoughts or feelings we’re having or judging ourselves for the compulsion we’re doing is to go, “Wait, that’s not helping. That’s not effective. That doesn’t get me closer to the goal.” Even if I feel that way and it feels true, I am going to catch this and step out because it’s not effective.

  1. Uncertainty is key. 

If you are not being uncertain, you are taking a detour. Think of it like you’re on a road and you’ve got a destination and you’re getting there. Every time you go off the road, let’s say, you’re going from A to B, going off the road, going towards C is the equivalent of going to certainty. You want to get off the road of certainty and get back on the road to being uncertain. And you will naturally, oops. Whoops, it’s easy. As we took a little detour back into certainty land, turn around, do a U-turn, come on back to the road of uncertainty. That is the fastest route to your recovery. Then you’ve got like a GPS. Over the GPS if you had one in your car, it would be like, “Please do a U-turn. You have taken the wrong route. You are on the road of certainty. Turn around and proceed to the road of uncertainty.” That’s how I imagine the GPS lady or man speaking to you when you’ve gone down that wrong road.

Again, when you catch yourself, don’t beat yourself up. The GPS doesn’t go, “Bad you. You’re a bad person for going on a detour.” She just goes, “Would you please do a U-turn and proceed to the route?”

  1. Stare your fear in the face every day, learn to play this game, and it is a gap. 

This is talking about a Reid Wilson approach who I adore. Reid Wilson’s approach is, this is a game. Your job is to accumulate points. Every time you stare fear in the face, you accumulate points. And we want more points. We want to take the points away from OCD.

I’ll often say to my patients and clients, “I want you to accumulate a hundred points a day.” Let’s say if touching... my bike’s right in front of me. So I’ll say, let’s say touching the handlebar of my bike is a 5 out of 10. If I do that, I get five points. Good job. I’ve only got 95 more to get today. If letting myself have certain thoughts, if that’s a 9 out of 10. Okay, great. Now I’ve got 14 points. I’m getting there. I’m getting closer to my goal. You could say 50 points. If you wanted to start early or easier, you could go to 10 points to start with. That’s fine. But learn to stare your fear in the face every day and play the game. We don’t want OCD getting and accumulating and racking up all the points because they win. Because when we avoid, OCD gets points. We want to try and prevent OCD from hitting its 10, a 100 mark every day. We want to be like, “Nope, I’m going to win this game today.”

  1. Treatment requires motivation and fast-tracking requires motivation. 

Your job is to identify what will happen if you don’t play this game and stare fear in the face. Identify what OCD has taken away from you. PS, little teaser. Next week’s episode is all about motivation. If you struggle with this, we’re going to deep dive into motivation. It’s something that I have been asked about so much lately. So I, of course, scheduled to talk to you about it.

Again, the motivation, it does require a ton. If you want to fast-track your treatment, it does require that you get your wheels moving and you don’t slow down. And that will require keeping in your mind’s eye right in the front. Like, I’m doing this hard work because if I don’t, OCD will take A, B and C from me.

Now, little side note, and we’ll discuss this next week. If that feels a little like pressure or shaming or guilt-tripping on you, we can learn to shift the language around that. Your job again is to try not to judge yourself for what it has taken from you in the past. That’s a really important piece here. But again, I’ll pause there because we’ll go through that next week.

Drum roll... The final major thing that you have to remember to fast-track your treatment, and I did originally have this as #1, but I’m going to finish with it because it’s probably the most important.

  1. Your recovery requires a deep understanding and acceptance of the fact that you cannot control your thoughts. 

Most people, by the time they come to me, have wasted so much time and so much of their life in a wrestle, trying to control their thoughts. No judgment there. That is the natural inclination of a human being. But you have to really drop down and recognize that trying to control, which thoughts come in and out of your mind, is a lose-lose for everybody. The only thing you can control is how you respond to your thoughts. Massive, massive point. That is one of the points we do cover in The 10 Things You Absolutely Need to Know about OCD training, but I really wanted to bring it up again because it’s so important. Everyone gets caught in this one. So it’s just a matter of catching it and going, “All right, I’m in a wrestle with my thoughts. I know I can’t control my thoughts. So I’m going to have to try something different.” The only thing you can do differently is to change how you respond.

The answer to that, let me give it to you, is just to do something different. It’s basically to go, “Oh, this is too big. I can’t solve this. It’s unsolvable. I’m just going to walk away.” It’s sort of like, sometimes my son’s doing a Lego and he’s getting really frustrated because he just can’t seem to figure out this next step and he’s getting more upset and he’s getting more upset. Now he’s sort of ripping at it and pushing out it and things are suddenly breaking apart. I’ll say, “Whoa, this isn’t working step away. Let’s go do something else. We’ll come back later.” That’s really important.

I love you guys. That is the eight tips I have for you to fast-track your OCD treatment. If some of that went too fast and too much, get ready, we’ll do the free training here very soon. I strongly encourage everybody to take it, even if you’ve taken it again, because I’ve added a bonus point this time. Really now it’s 11 things you have to know, but you’ll see that when we get there.

All right. I love you so much. Have a wonderful day. It is a beautiful day to do one hard thing. Whether you choose the hard thing or it’s naturally happening, that’s okay. Just do the hard thing. Be in the hard thing. Give yourself permission for things not to be right and perfect.

Okay, I love you. Have a wonderful day and thank you for listening.

Please note that this podcast or any other resources from cbtschool.com should not replace professional mental health care. If you feel you would benefit, please reach out to a provider in your area.

Have a wonderful day, and thank you for supporting cbtschool.com.

Feb 26, 2021

ways to break the cycle of perfectionism with Menije Boduryan

Welcome back to another episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast. Today we have on an amazing guest and therapist, Menije Boduryan. Menije is an OCD specialist as well as a specialist on perfectionism. She is here today to talk to us about perfectionism and to give us some tips on how to manage perfectionism in our own lives.

Menije defines perfectionism as a drive to do things perfectly with anything less than 100% being unacceptable.  It is a desire to want everything to be flawless and in that desire, comes a lot of expectations or rules that people set for themselves.  She explains that perfectionism becomes a mindset and you begin to operate in the world expecting yourself to be perfect, as well as your partner, your best friend, your clothes, your work desk, what you eat, and how you exercise to all be perfect. It becomes powerful because our self-identity becomes so attached to this idea of being perfect. It is not just about the desire to do things perfectly, but it also becomes a belief that once you do things perfectly, then you are enough, you are worthy.

Menije shares with us a bit about her own struggles with perfectionism and how perfectionism impacts our relationships. She describes how it is really possible to fall into a cycle with perfectionism. If you fall short in something you are doing, which you inevitably will, you start into the cycle of feeling shame and that you are not good enough so you then strive to work harder the next time to achieve that level of perfection.

Menije shares with us one of the best ways to break out of that cycle of perfectionism is really to just give ourselves a tremendous amount of self-compassion. Recognizing that whatever happens today, I am worthy and I am enough. She also describes that breaking out of the cycle involves being able to tolerate your imperfections. Really being able to sit with the discomfort and anxiety that will come when you have done something that is not perfect. She describes it as very similar to exposure therapy.

This interview is full of so many amazing insights. I hope you will find it as helpful and as meaningful as I did.

Menije's Instagram @dr.menije

If you get a moment, please go over to wherever you listen to podcasts, whether that be Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, Podbean, and leave an honest review. Tell me how you feel about it, whether it's helping you, what you'd like to see. We are going to give away a pair of Beats headphones of your choice of color once we hit a thousand reviews!

ERP School, BFRB School and Mindfulness School for OCD are open for purchase. Click here for more information. Coming in March ERP School will be available with bonus material!

Additional exciting news! ERP School is now CEU approved which means that it is an accredited course for therapists and mental health professionals to take towards their continuing education credit hours. Please click here for more information.

Feb 19, 2021

long term goals

Welcome back to another episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast. Today I want to talk about a concept that is really important to long-term recovery or just life in general, which is this question: Does this bring me closer to my long term goals? 

Now, human beings are very reactionary. When there is an event, we quickly do a little data check in our brain. Is it safe? Can we proceed? Should we run away? Should we freeze? Should we just freak out? We have the whole process that happens in a millisecond, and then we respond.  Now the fight-flight-freeze system of the brain keeps us alive. It’s a reaction we have to danger. So if there is a lion, we know to either freeze, run away or fight it. For those with an anxiety disorder, we often go into the fight-flight-freeze when there isn’t any real danger. The more we react, the more we enforce our fears and the more that we get stuck in a cycle of reaction.

One of the most helpful things in life for me has been to step back and look at the cycle, look at the trends and ask myself, does this behavior, does this reaction bring me closer to my long term goals?  If you can, just practice slowing down and pausing and saying to yourself “Wait a second. Is there a trend in my reaction?”

I often say to my clients that my job is pretty simple. My job is to help you find the trends, find the patterns. If there is a pattern of reaction, that is where I intervene. I want you to be able to look at the patterns and the trends, and then decide for yourself what is good for you. We cannot live just in reaction because that is when we get stuck.

So I want you to try asking yourself "Does this behavior bring me closer to my long term goals?" Remember to be gentle with yourselves and give yourselves a huge amount of self-compassion.

If you get a moment, please go over to wherever you listen to podcasts, whether that be Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, Podbean, and leave an honest review. Tell me how you feel about it, whether it's helping you, what you'd like to see. We are going to give away a pair of Beats headphones of your choice of color once we hit a thousand reviews!

ERP School, BFRB School and Mindfulness School for OCD are open for purchase. Click here for more information. Coming in March ERP School will be available with bonus material!

Additional exciting news! ERP School is now CEU approved which means that it is an accredited course for therapists and mental health professionals to take towards their continuing education credit hours. Please click here for more information.

Transcript Ep. 177

Welcome to Your Anxiety Toolkit. I’m your host, Kimberley Quinlan. This podcast is fueled by three main goals. The first goal is to provide you with some extra tools to help you manage your anxiety. Second goal, to inspire you. Anxiety doesn’t get to decide how you live your life. And number three, and I leave the best for last, is to provide you with one big, fat virtual hug, because experiencing anxiety ain’t easy. If that sounds good to you, let’s go.

Welcome back, friends. I am so happy to have you with me. How are you doing? How are you all? Sending you so much love. Checking in with you. Hey, how are you doing friend? Number one, thank you for being my friends. It really, really is wonderful. 

Up to this point, let me just reflect on something really quick. When I first started creating the podcast, I would look at the microphone and just talk into the abyss. Just talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, say what I want to say, and get done. The cool thing is I was just reflecting on this before.

Now that I have met quite a few of you at either conferences or events or on social media or on the Facebook group, which is CBT School Campus, you can go to it’s a private group, and I know your faces, now I have this wonderful experience where I can look into the microphone and actually see your faces. It’s been so fun to actually meet you guys and just be like, “Oh great.” I know I have another face. 

Hello, welcome. Thank you for being here. I know your time is so precious and I’m so grateful that I get to spend this time of yours together. Let’s get straight to the episode.

In the last few episodes, these are building on each other. We talked about self-compassion. Last week, I talked about the lies we tell ourselves which, PS, was a really hard conversation. Ain’t going to lie. I hope that was a safe, healthy conversation. If you didn’t hear it, go back because it was me sharing my own experience of telling lies to myself and to my family, and really just breaking down the judgment around that. So, go back and listen. And me sharing with my family and with you guys about how I’m going to change.

Now today, I want to talk about a concept that is really, really important to long-term recovery in or just life in general, which is this question: Does this bring me closer to my long-term goals? 

Now, human beings are very reactionary. This is why we have survived for millions of years. When there is an event, we quickly do a little data check in our brain. Is it safe? Can we proceed? Should we run away? Should we freeze? Should we just freak out? We have the whole process that happens in a millisecond, and then we respond. 

Now the fight-flight-freeze system of the brain, we call it the FFF response, is a part that keeps us alive. It’s a reaction we have to danger. So if there is a lion, we know to either freeze, run away or fight it. We instinctively know this. But what happens is, if we have an anxiety disorder or little glitchy in the brain, often what we do is we go into the fight-flight-freeze when there isn’t danger and we’re in reaction. And the more we’re in reaction, the more we enforce that fear and the more that we get stuck in a cycle of reaction, reaction, reaction, reaction, reaction. 

Now, one of the most helpful things in life for me has been to step back and look at the cycle, look at the trends and ask myself, does this behavior, does this reaction bring me closer to my long-term goals? There’s this moment where if we can, we can just practice slowing down and pausing. This will be really important for you, folks, who do compulsions on autopilot. Slow down and pause and zoom out and go, “Wait a second. Is there a trend in my reaction?”

I often say to my clients and patients, “My job is pretty simple. My job is for you to tell me how you’re doing, for you to explain to me what’s going. My job is to find the trends, find the patterns. If there is a pattern of reaction, that’s where I intervene. If the reactor action is problematic, that’s where we intervene. If the reaction is really helpful and productive and brings you long-term joy and quality of life, I have no business messing up with that. I’m here to look at disorder.” That’s what disorder means, is to look at where there is a problem in the order of your life, to look at the trends.

The question here I want you to do is, take a step back, look at the trends in your life and see what is and isn’t working, and ask yourself: Does this behavior bring me closer to my long-term goals or to my values?

Last week, I shared about the lie that I told myself and my family about, “Oh, I have to work. I don’t have a choice. I have to work this hard.” And then I was like, “Wait a second. That’s a lie. I don’t have to work this hard. I make myself work this hard. I pushed myself to work this hard. I allow myself to work this hard.” 

I have to look and stop and go, “Okay, it’s cool. It’s fun. I get a lot done. I get a lot of fulfillment from it.” But if I step back and go, “Wait a second, does this bring me closer to my long-term goals?” some of it does. Yes, it helps me feel more fulfilled in my work. It gives me more success in my work. It makes me write a good book. But it doesn’t fulfill the long-term goal of me wanting to be a present parent, a good wife, have a connection with my family. This trend has its pros and cons. from that, I’m going to make a decision for myself on what brings me closer to the long-term goal that matters to me most.

Now, again, as I said last week, no judgment here. Last week, my husband said, “I think that maybe you’re pushing yourself a little too hard.” I might go. “Yeah, you’re right, but I’m still going to choose to do it because that’s what I value. That’s my choice.” You get to make those choices. No one gets to tell you what’s right for you as long as you’re being honest with yourself about what is the long-term goal.

Often with anxiety, clients will say to me, “No, no, I know that I’m doing this as a compulsion, but I’m cool with it because it doesn’t impact my grades or nobody knows I’m doing it. It’s just my time. It doesn’t take up all the people’s time. So I’m cool with it.” My job is to go, “No judgment. It is your life you get to choose, as long as you’re comfortable with the long-term outcome, which will be you’re going to keep having OCD or anxiety or panic disorder or health anxiety or social anxiety or phobias, because the more you react in that way, the more it reinforces that disorder.”

Again, I’m not here to judge. I just want you to be able to look at the patterns and the trends, and then decide for yourself what’s good for you. We can’t be just in reaction because that’s when we get stuck. If we’re only focused on short-term relief, we will get stuck. 

I feel really in this moment, I want to just stop and just check in with you guys. How are you doing? What’s coming up for you? Is there a lot of negativity or judgment around yourself? Maybe there’s some defensiveness of like, “What the heck is Kimberley saying? Why is she saying this to me? She’s so mean.” 

Often when I say this to clients, actually, let me share with you. When I’m with a patient and they’ll go, “You know? Yeah, I just avoided it. I’m fine. I’m not going to do it. I’m not ready,” and I’ll go, “That’s fine. I’m not here to judge you as long as you understand the long-term effect of that on your life.” They’re like, “Oh, Kimberley, you just always call it like it is. Why are you going to be so mean?” And then we giggle together a little. 

That’s right. Yeah, I’m not doing it to be mean. I’m trying to be a truth-teller. I’m trying to get them to come on board with just telling the truth to themselves because that’s how we get better. Now, some people will say, “Oh, but I don’t know what the truth is.” True, I get it. But you do know what your values are and you do know what matters to you most. I’m guessing it’s not staying stuck. 

That’s it. Does this behavior bring me closer to my long-term goals? We may need to weigh it up. Like I said to you, with me is, there may be pros and cons to it. We need to have a little conversation with ourselves. We still have to accept that nothing’s perfect, right? I think then we will wrap it up with self-compassion, and then the big bow on top is, it’s not going to be perfect. The long-term process may not look the way you want it to be. Then we just be gentle with ourselves. We can’t have it all, but just really lean into what’s effective, what truly brings you a sense of fulfillment, which brings you closer to your values. 

Sending you guys love. I love you guys so, so, so, so, so much. Got a little secret for you here. ERP School is coming back. It will be available in early March. Get very excited. We are offering ERP School again with bonuses. Even though it’s been available throughout the year, we always offer it twice a year with extra special bonuses. Keep an eye out. We will be offering that in March. 

Now we usually offer it in February. But remember how I told you I was going to walk a little less. There you go. Made some changes. Delayed it a little bit. How do you like that from being honest with ourselves? It will be available in March. Stick around. We are going to give you a little more information. We’ll be doing the free training again and offering some great bonuses. 

Also, let your therapist know. If you have a therapist who doesn’t know how to treat OCD, let them know that we now have ERP School with CEU so you can get continuing education units with the course and an extra training from me on how to be a stellar Exposure and Response Prevention Therapist. It’ll be here in March. So stick around again for that. 

Now, if you want more and more information, and if you want to get a ton more free resources from me, head over to Instagram, I’m most present there. I’d like to be more present in all the others, but again, cutting back on work. Go over there and follow me @kimberleyquinlan. That’s where you get a ton of free content every single day. 

I love you guys. One more thing, please go and leave an honest review either on iTunes, Stitcher, Podbean, all of the places where you can listen to podcasts. We are giving away a free pair of Beats headphones to one lucky person who leaves a review once we get a thousand reviews. I will send them your way. You get to pick the color. I’m very excited about these. Not the teeny tiny ones, the bigger ones. I’m so excited to offer that, that you can listen to the podcast with the best quality into your ears. Yay. 

All right. All my love to you guys. Sending you much love. I hope you’re taking special care of yourself. It is a beautiful day to do hard things. See you next week. 

Please note that this podcast or any other resources from cbtschool.com should not replace professional mental health care. If you feel you would benefit, please reach out to a provider in your area. Have a wonderful day, and thank you for supporting cbtschool.co

Feb 12, 2021

What are the lies we tell ourselves

Welcome back to another episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit. Today we are going to have a hard conversation and it honestly is causing a little bit of anticipatory anxiety for me. I want to talk to you about the lies we tell ourselves. You might be thinking "I don't tell lies. What are you talking about? I am a good person." So I want you to hear me out for a little bit and I want to share an experience I had this week. I realized that I had been telling a lie to myself and to my family about my choice to continue working so hard.

I really want to take the stigma, the judgment, and the shame out of lies and just admit that we do it. That’s my main hope for today. Let’s just acknowledge that we sometimes lie to ourselves. We lie to other people, and we do it, not because we’re horrible human beings, but because we’re trying to protect ourselves. It’s a safety behavior. We’re trying to protect the story we create, and I had created this whole story of why I had to work so hard.

So I sat down and thought about the lies we tell ourselves and I want to share those with you today. The first lie is "I can't." We have to stop saying “I can’t.” We may want to start replacing it with “I won’t” or “I’m not choosing to”. That is actually a better way of saying the same thing without it being a lie.  The second lie is "I am less worthy than other people." We sometimes tell ourselves that we are less than, but that is a lie. We have to catch ourselves before we buy into that story. The third lie is "Just this one time." As we go to do something, even if we know in our hearts it’s not healthy, by just saying, “Oh, just this once I’ll do it.” That is a lie, because typically is not just this once. The fourth lie is "I should be able to do this by myself." Let's get rid of the word 'should' here. If you need help, it is ok to ask for support. The fifth lie is "I can't upset other people." Actually it is not that you do not want to upset other people, you really do not want to tolerate your discomfort that goes along with hurting other people or making other people upset. 

So there are a few lies we tell ourselves. Think about them. Be very gentle and tender with yourself. Take your time with this. You may want to put your foot in the water and pull it out really quickly because it’s too painful, but then practice. I’ve been doing this for several years and it has very much benefited me. 

If you get a moment, please go over to wherever you listen to podcasts, whether that be Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, Podbean, and leave an honest review. Tell me how you feel about it, whether it's helping you, what you'd like to see. We are going to give away a pair of Beats headphones of your choice of color once we hit a thousand reviews!

ERP School, BFRB School and Mindfulness School for OCD are open for purchase. Click here for more information.

Additional exciting news! ERP School is now CEU approved which means that it is an accredited course for therapists and mental health professionals to take towards their continuing education credit hours. Please click here for more information.

Transcript Ep. 176

This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 176.

Welcome to Your Anxiety Toolkit. I’m your host, Kimberley Quinlan. This podcast is fueled by three main goals. The first goal is to provide you with some extra tools to help you manage your anxiety. Second goal, to inspire you. Anxiety doesn’t get to decide how you live your life. And number three, and I leave the best for last, is to provide you with one big, fat virtual hug, because experiencing anxiety ain’t easy. If that sounds good to you, let’s go.

Welcome back, guys. Today is going to be a hard conversation between you and me. Are you ready? Oh my goodness. Thank you for coming. I’m actually really excited about these episodes. 

Some anxiety-provoking. I’m having some anticipatory anxiety. I’m noticing some tightness in my chest, shortness of breath. That’s what we want to do when we’re feeling anxious. We want to just check in, where is it? We want to breathe into it and allow it. We want to honor it. We want to just go, “Yeah, it’s okay to feel this. It’s not my fault, but I’m going to allow it.” And then we want to lean in to do the hard thing. Today, we’re going to do that.

Today, we’re going to talk about the lies that we tell ourselves. Now, your initial reaction might be like, “Huh, I don’t tell lies. I’m a good person. I’m not a liar. Don’t tell me I’m a liar.” That is not what I’m saying, but I am, mainly because I have to tell you something that happened to me this last week because I, myself, am a liar. If you’re not a liar, that’s fine. I am a liar. So, let’s address that. 

This last week, I have been editing, editing, editing, editing. There are so many stages of writing this book. I thought you just wrote a book and sent it in, and were like, “Thank you for letting me write a book. Good luck with finishing it.” It turns out that’s not the case. You write the book. Then they check the book. They send you back notes. You write more. They check it. They send me back notes. You have to change a bunch of stuff. Then you write some more, and you finish the book. You go, “Hooray, I finished the book,” and they go, “Psych, just kidding. Now, we’re going to review the book and edit the book. And then you have to go and fix and correct and approve all the changes we made. And then we’ll do it one more time.” I’m like, “Boo, I didn’t want to do this. That’s not what I signed up for.” Being so naive, that’s what I am. 

Anyway, I’ve been working my butt off. In my private practice, I’m trying to do some really big changes to CBT School and make it much, much better. I’m trying to hire more staff because we’re so busy right now. I really want to make sure we’re not turning people away too. I’m not a specialist care. I want to be a good mom. I want to be able to do podcasts. I want to do social media. I want, I want, I want. And then I get to do this additional book edit. 

Now, on Saturday, I was in a terrible mood. The stress that was overwhelming me was just painful. It was so much. I thought I was being a rock star. I was using all my skills. I was still engaging with my kids. I was breathing. I had meditated. I had taken a walk. I was using all my skills. 

At the very end of the night, my daughter came up and she shared a balm as she often does at the very end of the night like, “Okay, I’m not doing well and I need your support.” Usually, I handle this really well, but on Saturday night, nope, not me. I did not handle it well. My reaction was like, “Come on, you’ve got no problems. I’ve got problems.” Number one, PS, that was not a good response. I don’t encourage you to practice that because that’s not helpful and not kind and not productive.

Of course, I slowed down. I caught myself in my reaction. I am a human. I make mistakes. I caught myself in my reaction. I apologized to her and I sat down and we talked it through and we came up with some solutions. I offered myself self-compassion and her, just like we did in the episode last week. 

And then when she went to bed, my husband sat me down and he said, “You’re working too much. This is not okay. It’s obviously impacting the family.” He said it kindly, but he said, “We try to be as honest as we can with each other.” My reaction was this: PS, it wasn’t great either. So go with me here. I am a, like I said, so much more to learn we’re all on a learning curve. But my reaction was, “How dare you say that? I’m working so hard and I don’t have any choices. It’s not my fault that I have so much work to do. I didn’t ask to do this second edit of the book or the 15th edit of the book. It’s not my fault that the links on the website are broken and blah, blah, blah.” And I stood by my theory. This is where the lie was. I doubled down.

He backed off a little because he could tell I was super triggered, but I doubled down on this lie. And then I had to step back and go, “Okay. That was a lie because I don’t have to work this hard. I don’t have to put this much pressure on myself.” I like to work. I love to work. I love what I do. I love talking to you guys. I love being a therapist. I love having businesses. I really love having a person who does business. I really love the therapy work and I also really love the business side of things. I’m just a bit of a dork that way. I love growing things. I love creating things. 

This whole lie that I was saying, like, “I don’t have a choice,” it’s just ridiculous. It wasn’t true. It was straight up a lie. It got me thinking, well, number one, let me backup. I went to my husband. I said, “I’m so sorry. You’re right. I am working too hard. I am pushing myself too hard. I need to find some better balance. I can’t burn myself down to nothing and have nothing left for you guys at the end of the day,” even though I thought I was using my skills, that’s just not okay.

I will talk about this again next week in a different concept. But I was telling lies when I reacted and I’m sorry about that. It got me thinking, “What other lies do we tell ourselves?” Let’s take the stigma and the judgment and the shame out of lies and just admit that we do it. That’s my main hope for today. Let’s just acknowledge that we sometimes lie to ourselves. We lie to other people, and we do it, not because we’re horrible human beings, but we do it because we’re trying to protect ourselves. 

It’s a safety behavior. We’re trying to protect the story we create, and I had created this whole story. “Oh no, it’s not my fault. I worked so hard because A, B, C, D, and it’s not completely in my control.” It is if I’m going to be honest. Maybe not for you in your case. Maybe you do have a situation where you have to work these certain hours. I’m not talking. I’m just a bit talking specifically to my own lives here. 

So then I thought, “Okay, let’s just go through.” I sat down, got a piece of paper, and I thought, “What are the main lies that I probably tell myself or I’ve heard my patients and clients say to themselves?” I’m going to bang through them really quick. 

1. I can’t. 

This is a lie. Not a good one, not an easy one. Again, when I talk about “I can’t”, I also want to preface that there are certain situations where people can’t do things like certain disabilities, medical disabilities. They can’t run a marathon or so forth. I’m not speaking specifically to that. I’m talking about “I can’t” when it comes to feeling emotions or facing our fears, or doing things that are hard. 

The main reason I say “It’s a beautiful day to do hard things” is to counter the thing I hear the most, which is “I can’t”. Yeah, you can. It’s going to be hard, but you can do hard things. It’s a lie. We tell ourselves.

Now I’m not saying that from a place of criticism or even lacking compassion. There’s deep compassion in what I’m saying here. I’m not saying, “Oh, you can.” I’m not saying it in a condescending way. What I’m saying is, be honest with yourself. It’s not that you can’t. We’re talking here about being honest with yourself so that we can actually solve the problem. 

I can’t solve this problem of overworking until I’m ready to be honest with myself and go, “You know what? You’re right. You’re 100% right.” I have to be honest with myself. I am choosing to work this much and it is impacting my family. That has to change. Let’s say I decided it wasn’t going to change, that’s my prerogative. But at least I have to start by being honest with myself. 

We have to stop saying “I can’t.” We may want to start to replace it with “I won’t” or “I’m not choosing to”. That’s a much more wise way of saying the same thing without it being a lie. Ouch, I know it’s not fun to hear this. I’m saying this to myself. Please don’t feel like I’m bullying you here. I’m also telling myself this, because a part of me wants to go, “No, I can’t. I can’t slow down. I have A, B and C.” It’s like I won’t slow down.

2. I’m less worthy than other people…

Because of my weight, the way I look, my social media, following, my mental disorder, my income.

We tell ourselves these lies all day long, this lie was the absolute basis of the eating disorder I had. I’m less worthy than them. The only way I can get more worthy and be as worthy is if I drop a body size, if I exercise compulsively. For some people, if I can be as popular, or if I could have as much money or have the same car. We tell ourselves it’s a lie, that we’re less than. That’s a lie. We have to catch that we buy into that story, and that when we do, that story can feed many problematic behaviors in our lives. 

3. Just this one time. 

“I’ll just do it one more time. It was no big deal. This one time won’t hurt.” That’s a lie guy. Ouch, I know, right? But we do it all the time. It’s fine. Just this once I won’t do it. Now, let me also stop for a second and go, you’re not going to be perfect. I’m not going to be perfect. We’re humans and we’re going to make mistakes. If there are times where you have fallen off the wagon, or you do a compulsion or you engage in a behavior that’s not helpful, this is not about me saying, “You’re bad for that,” and you get a rap across the knuckles. Absolutely not. We’re talking here about stories we tell ourselves, the lies we tell ourselves. As we go to do something, even if we know in our hearts it’s not healthy, by just saying, “Oh, just this once I’ll do it,” that’s a lie, because it’s not just this once.

I have a dear friend and this dear friend has OCD. I love when I hear this dear friend say, “Kimberley, I’m going to be honest with you. I know I shouldn’t do this, but I am choosing to do a compulsion this time. I know it’s not what’s right for me. I’m going to do it. And then as soon as I do it, I’m going to A, B, C, and D.” That’s the truth. That’s honesty. That’s not saying, “Oh, just this one time. I’m just going to do it once.” What she’s saying here is the truth. “I know I shouldn’t be doing this, but I’m going to do it. And then I’m going to take the consequence for it.” That is so much more healthy for you and honest for you than any other way of saying it.

Some of you may say, “Well, if I say that, then I’ll beat myself up.” Well, a part of telling the truth and not lying is also not beating yourself up for the truth, because the truth is the truth. No matter what you say.

4. I should be able to do this by myself or any other should that you do. 

I hear a lot of people say, “No, I don’t want to get therapy. I should be able to do this by myself.” I want you to recognize that the stigma at play. No, often we need help. We need lots of help. Often people will say, “No, I should be able to do this without medication.” No, that’s not true. That’s you telling yourself a lie because maybe you’re afraid of taking medication. 

These are just ideas, guys. I don’t want you to walk away feeling bad here. I just want you to reflect on, could any of this be possibly true? Maybe even just listening to this is you opening a small door into you being really honest with yourself. I promise you, being honest with yourself will be the most freeing thing you ever do.

When I really made a deal, it was like two years ago, I was like, “You know what? No more easing anyone, Kimberley. Just tell it like it is.” Don’t be mean about it. Don’t criticize yourself. Don’t be unkind. But just be honest with yourself and others, please. 

No more shoulds. “I should do this. I should do that. I should be able to do it by myself.” If you’re struggling to do it by yourself, you need help. It’s very factual. It’s pretty A to B. If you’re struggling to do it for yourself and you need help, there’s absolutely no shame in that. I really hope you can ask for help, whether it be a loved one, buying a book, buying a course, going to therapy, going to a doctor. Whatever it is that you’re trying to succeed with, ask for help. 

Here’s a big one. I have one more to go, then I have a bonus flippity-flop lie for you. I’ll explain it in a second. 

5. I can’t upset other people. 

I often hear clients say, “I can’t do that because it’ll hurt them. It’ll upset them.” No, that’s not the truth. It might be the case. It might be the truth and that is the consequence, but that’s not why you’re not doing it. You’re not doing it because you don’t want to tolerate the discomfort that goes along with hurting other people or making other people upset. 

A lot of this is like teeny tiny details, but I really want to inspire you guys here. Be as honest as you can with each other. It hurts, but it’s better. Then you can actually work with the system. 

Now, here is a flippity flop. When I say flippity-flop lie, it’s often, a lot of my clients will say, “Bad things are going to happen. Bad things can happen. Bad things are going to happen.” Often we will go, “Oh no, that’s just my anxiety talking.” We’re reacting to it in a really negative way. 

I want to flippity-flop lie this one. What I’m saying is, that one’s actually not a lie. Bad things will happen. That is a part of life. We must accept that scary things do sometimes happen in our life. I don’t want you to talk yourself out of that one. Instead, I want you to practice being honest, which is when I’m having the thoughts, “Bad things are going to happen,” I go, “Yes, Kimberley, you’re right.” 

How can we practice being accepting of that? It doesn’t mean all of your thoughts are going to happen. It doesn’t mean if you’ve got an anxiety disorder, your thoughts are on rapid-fire telling you all the 17,000 things have gone wrong. I’m not going to say all those things are correct. But the general idea that bad things will happen is not a lie. I want you to actually settle into that a little bit and be honest with yourself in that, instead of trying to control your life, thinking that that control will protect you from bad things from happening.

See, it’s like a flippity-flop. What I’m saying is it’s not a lie. It’s actually a truth. If you can handle it and respond to it like a truth, then you’re not getting yourself into trouble. I’ll talk more about this next week, I promise. 

So there are a few lies we tell ourselves. Think about them. Be very gentle and tender around these. Take your time with this. You may want to put your foot in the water and pull it out real quick because it’s too painful, but then practice. I’ve been doing this for several years and it has very much benefited me. 

Let me share with you to round the story out. After I had 24 hours to simmer myself down, give myself a talking to, and pull myself out of my own lies, I sat down with my children and I said, “Daddy brought up that he felt I was working too much. How do you feel about it?” I’m not in the business of trying to talk myself into being who I’m not. Interestingly, one said, my son is five and he’s learned the art of expression in his voice, and he went, “Oh yeah.” When I asked, “Do you feel like I work too much?” his response was, “Oh yeah.” So there is an answer. Honesty, thank you, five-year-old. 

My daughter who has more of a need to protect me went, “Uh, kinda, no, but you’re still a great mom and you’re too great and I love that you work hard.” And then her dad was like, “No, please. Mom asked you to just tell her the honest truth and you can be honest with us. How are you feeling about how much mom’s working?” “Yeah, I think she does work a little too much.” “Excellent.” 

Now, my team, the people I care about the most, have shared with me their opinion, whether I like it or not. I hear it. I take it into consideration and I choose whether I’m going to implement it. No more lies. I could go, “My husband is wrong. My kids are wrong. I didn’t even want to know about their opinion because my story is that I have no choice.” I could do that, but that doesn’t help me. It keeps me stuck. It cuts me off from the relationships that matter to me most. So I’m going to choose honesty. Does that make sense? 

Tough conversation, friends. How are you doing? Are you guys all right? Are you having a panic attack over there? Are you breathing okay? Check in. Take care of yourself. None of this is a judgment. This is mostly me giving you real-time on a stuff of my own that I work through. Often when I’m going through something, I want to share it with you because I’m guessing you are going through something similar. I’m trying to be ballsy enough to say, “Hey, let’s just talk about the real stuff. Let’s address the real stuff that impacts our daily lives and our mental health and anxiety.”

I love you so much. Please go and leave a review. We are giving away a pair of free Beats headphones so that you can hear the podcast so clear and wonderfully to one person who leaves a review once we get 1000 reviews for the podcast. So go to wherever you listen, leave your honest review. I would be so, so grateful. I do not take any sponsorships for the podcast. I do not do much sales here at all. This podcast is really here to help people who don’t have access to medical or mental professional care in these areas. Please, if you have a moment, go and leave a review. I would be so, so grateful. 

Have a wonderful day guys. I’ll see you next week.

Please note that this podcast or any other resources from cbtschool.com should not replace professional mental health care. If you feel you would benefit, please reach out to a provider in your area. 

Have a wonderful day, and thank you for supporting cbtschool.com.

Feb 5, 2021

how to practice self-compassion

Welcome back to another episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast. Today I want to talk about something that is so important to me. This is also something I think we all need a little reminder about from time to time and that is the importance of self-compassion. Today I want to share an exercise on how to practice self-compassion.

I want you to imagine that someone you care about comes to you and says that they are struggling or having a hard time. What is your first reaction likely to be? You probably will say something along the lines of "Oh I'm so sorry. How can I help you?" Now I want you to try this same approach the next time you are struggling. You can learn how to practice self-compassion by treating yourself how you would treat a loved one or even a stranger who is struggling. Stop and say to yourself "Ok you are in pain. Let's tend to that pain." Our work is really to tend to ourselves the way we would tend to others. Respect ourselves the way we respect others. There is no exception to this. You deserve kindness every step of the way.

The awesome thing about self-compassion is that it has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety, improve treatment outcomes and improve quality of life. So let's learn how to practice self-compassion and really honor how we are feeling, giving ourselves the same loving kindness that we show to others.

If you get a moment, please go over to wherever you listen to podcasts, whether that be Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, Podbean, and leave an honest review. Tell me how you feel about it, whether it's helping you, what you'd like to see. We are going to give away a pair of Beats headphones of your choice of color once we hit a thousand reviews!

ERP School, BFRB School and Mindfulness School for OCD are open for purchase. Click here for more information.

Additional exciting news! ERP School is now CEU approved which means that it is an accredited course for therapists and mental health professionals to take towards their continuing education credit hours. Please click here for more information.

Transcript of Episode 175

Welcome to Your Anxiety Toolkit. I’m your host, Kimberley Quinlan. This podcast is fueled by three main goals. The first goal is to provide you with some extra tools to help you manage your anxiety. Second goal, to inspire you. Anxiety doesn’t get to decide how you live your life. And number three, and I leave the best for last, is to provide you with one big, fat virtual hug, because experiencing anxiety ain’t easy. If that sounds good to you, let’s go.

Welcome back lovely, lovely friends. How are you? How are you doing? Just checking in with you guys. Thank you again for being here with me. Once again, I am so grateful that you choose to spend your time with me. So thank you so much. 

Today’s episode is a little bit of an impromptu, mainly because I recently did an Instagram post, and it’s on a concept I talk about all the time, but it got a lot of traction. It really made me realize that maybe you needed that reminder. I always think it’s interesting when a concept sticks really heavily with people. It makes me realize like, “Oh, okay, that’s where I need to head. That’s the direction that people obviously need help.”

Let me share with you what this concept was. One of the core concepts of self-compassion is to treat yourself how you would treat someone else if they themselves were suffering. What I want to do is, I want you to go with me on a little exercise, just to check in and see if there are any areas that you could up your self-compassion game, because if you’re going to up your self-compassion game, every single goal of mine has been won and we can all go home really, really happy. It’s one of my core missions. A part of my mission statement is to hopefully create a world of people who have anxiety, who stopped to treat themselves better, kinder, more compassionately, more respectfully, just nicer. 

Here’s the exercise. I want you to think back to a time where someone you love deeply was struggling. If you can’t think of a time, just imagine it. Think of someone who you care about, who you genuinely wish well. Think about them coming to you and them saying, “Hey, I’m having a hard time.” 

Now, when someone you love, someone you care for, someone you wish to be well, comes to you and says, “I’m having a hard time. I am suffering,” what is your immediate response? Usually, our immediate response is, “Oh my goodness. That is so painful. I’m so sorry. You’re going through that. How can I help? What can I do to support you?” That’s the best kind of care. 

Now, for those of you who, when I originally asked the question, had a different reaction, that’s fine too. It’s common that when someone else is suffering, sometimes we may feel defensive or we may feel angry because we haven’t got the space for it. Or we may feel resentful because we assume their pain doesn’t compare to our pain. 

If you had any of those reactions, that’s fine. I’m not here to tell you how to feel. And that may be something you want to go and work through because if those reactions were strong, those reactions need to be tended to with self-compassion too. We don’t want to just judge you and go, “Oh, that’s wrong,” and move on. No, no, no. That does not add to a self-compassionate practice. That just takes you away into self-criticism and self-punishment. So we don’t want to do that. Back up a little. We don’t want to do that.

But let’s just go to this genuine innate reaction that most humans, almost all humans, or actually all humans were born with, which is the genuine care to help and take care of each other, which I know is you. I know it’s you deep, deep down. Now, that reaction, that desire, that impulse to go, “Hey, how can I support you?” that is exactly how you need to tend to yourself when you’re suffering, when you’re having a moment of pain.

Disregarding where the pain came from, disregarding whose fault and who’s to blame and how you could have prevented it, I want you to lean towards speaking to yourself, how you would speak to another person or even a stranger. Sometimes we treat strangers better than we do our loved ones. That’s the truth too. But again, I’m not here to judge. I’m not here to tell you how to feel and how to treat others. I’m here to talk about how you can up your self-compassion game. 

When you’re in pain to say, “Hey, I am so sorry you are going through this. How can I be there for you? What do you need? What will get you through this?” And often the person, let’s say we were talking to a loved one, they would have some wisdom for us often. If I were to say like, if my husband came to me and he was venting and he was telling me how much pain he was in, usually he just wants me to listen and be there. Very few people want advice. 

That’s what I try to do for myself. There will be times when I’m in pain, where I need to stop and go, “Okay, Kimberley, you’re in pain. Let’s tend to this, but let’s also work to solve this problem.” The long-term problem, not the short term problem. We don’t want to just get rid of short-term relief. That usually ends up flopping. We end up falling on our butt when we do that or getting stuck in a cycle of problematic behaviors. But we may want to zoom out and go, “Okay, let’s take a really big look at the big problem here.”

Our work is to tend to ourselves like we would tend to others. Treat ourselves as we would treat others. Respect ourselves as we would respect others. There is no exception to this. You cannot give me one reason why you are exempt. 

A lot of my patients and clients will say, “Oh no, but I deserve this. I did this to myself.” It doesn’t matter who you did it to, why you did it, and who’s to blame. You’re in pain. You’re suffering. You may have chosen this suffering or this behavior that caused suffering because you were in pain. There is no exception. You deserve kindness every single way, every single step of the way. 

That’s all I have to say. Put it into practice. Nothing changes if nothing changes. We really want to focus in on this as being our highest priority. 

A little bit of science, self-compassion helps everything. We don’t have scientific evidence of exactly that, but almost we do. It helps with motivation. It helps with anticipatory anxiety. It helps with treatment. It helps with treatment outcomes. It helps with success performance. It helps with quality of life. It reduces depression. It reduces anxiety. It increases quality of life. Go for it. That’s our in sparks. Don’t stop. 

All right. I’m going to say goodbye. Before I do so, I’m going to let you know, again, please do go and leave an honest review wherever you listen to this. I would absolutely love it. It would be the best, best, best thing for me if you could. We are going to give away a pair of Beats headphones of your choosing of color for one lucky person who leaves an honest review. I’m not just saying the people who leave the best ones, but I have loved reading all of the reviews. Thank you so much. It really does help me find other people who need my help. So, go ahead and leave a review if you feel so inclined.

Have a wonderful day, and I’ll talk to you next week.

Please note that this podcast or any other resources from cbtschool.com should not replace professional mental health care. If you feel you would benefit, please reach out to a provider in your area. 

Have a wonderful day, and thank you for supporting cbtschool.com.

Jan 29, 2021

tools to manage the bully in your life

Welcome back to another episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit podcast. Today I want to share with you all something that has been going on for a while now. For months, I have been harassed online by an anonymous troll who has been leaving really terrible, disgusting comments on my social media accounts. I want to share with you today some ways that I have dealt with this situation and to really give you some tools to manage the bully in your life, whether that takes the form of a real person or if that bully takes the form of fear and anxiety.

Initially I tried doing what I would do when I am faced with fear. I simply tried not engaging. These are the same tools you would use to manage intrusive thoughts and anxiety, which is, you just don't engage with them. You set strong boundaries and you bring your attention back to the things that you value. So I was trying that for a while. Then I realized that I wasn't setting strong enough boundaries. I was keeping what was happening a secret because I was feeling a lot of shame around this situation. When shame shows up, we tend to go underground. We keep it from people. But shame lives in the darkness. It can't survive in the light. So bringing it out into the light is where you actually have less pain because you've shared it with someone and you are validated. That was an incredible lesson to me.

If you have a bully in your life, or if fear is your bully, you can apply the same things, which is, I am not engaging in any bully-like behavior. Not today, not tomorrow because I matter. My values matter. The people I love matter. I'm not giving attention to this, which is ineffective.

I hope that this podcast today gives you some empowerment and permission to set boundaries and disengage with people who are ineffective in your life, who hurt you, who say unkind things, who do not treat you well. 

If you get a moment, please go over to wherever you listen to podcasts, whether that be Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, Podbean, and leave an honest review. Tell me how you feel about it, whether it's helping you, what you'd like to see. We are going to give away a pair of Beats headphones of your choice of color once we hit a thousand reviews!

ERP School, BFRB School and Mindfulness School for OCD are open for purchase. Click here for more information.

Additional exciting news! ERP School is now CEU approved which means that it is an accredited course for therapists and mental health professionals to take towards their continuing education credit hours. Please click here for more information.

Transcription of Ep. 174:

Welcome to Your Anxiety Toolkit. I'm your host, Kimberley Quinlan. This podcast is fueled by three main goals. The first goal is to provide you with some extra tools to help you manage your anxiety. Second goal, to inspire you. Anxiety doesn't get to decide how you live your life. And number three, and I leave the best for last, is to provide you with one big, fat virtual hug, because experiencing anxiety ain't easy. If that sounds good to you, let's go.

Welcome back, friends. How are you? I'm really happy to be here with you. I actually needed this moment to just slow down, settle into my chair, pull out my microphone and say, “Hey, how are my crowd? How are my people? How is this amazing community doing?”

First of all, thank you for being here. Second of all, I'm grateful for you guys. So grateful more than I ever, ever have been for reasons I will share in this episode. I have to first start by saying, I have literally got the best community. You guys are so cool. I have learned this through a very difficult process in the last couple of weeks, months, year, because it's been going on for a while. 

For those of you who don't follow me on social media, I have been just recently public about one or two social media trolls who have recently really heavily and aggressively attacked me both verbally and, mostly verbally, but with significant sexual content. If this is a trigger for you and you have some trauma around this, I won’t be giving details, but I just want to give you a little trigger alert because the degree in which I was being harassed on social media was sexual harassment. I wanted to just reflect on this today. 

I'm always going to be honest with you. I'm going to keep it real. I'm going to share what I feel is helpful, and I hope that this is helpful because there is a really, really powerful message here. I'll give it to you right up the front. 

The powerful message is: Don't ever allow a human being to change the way you think about yourself. That's going to be one of the main messages. 

The second message is, I have been on this podcast for many, many years, telling you guys how to manage intrusive thoughts and anxiety. It turns out the cool news is that you can handle other social media trolls or people who don't really bring a ton of value to your life in exactly the same way that you do intrusive thoughts and anxiety, which is you just don't engage with them. You set strong boundaries with them and you just bring your attention back to the things that you value. It's a cool approach. 

Let me tell you the story. For many months, I am and other OCD advocates actually, probably ones you know very well, have been receiving these most hateful, disgusting, just mean comments and messages, and that's fine. That's okay. I mean, it's not fine, but what I'm saying is, that happens, unfortunately, to anybody on social media. Unfortunately, we live in a world where people can get behind an Instagram handle or a Facebook account and spinelessly throw a bunch of mean hateful words at people. It happens all the time. A lot of my high profile clients that I see in my office have reported this to me for years, that social media can be a really, really scary place. 

Like I said to you guys, and let me segue back to, this has made me appreciate you guys more than ever, because you guys have been nothing but supportive to me, kind, helpful, warm, supportive with each other and me. It is so cool. I'm so grateful for you. I really, really am. But for almost a year, I have been getting these messages, and my approach was, like I said, to do what I do with anything that doesn't bring me value in my life, which is I delete it or I block it, and I don't engage with it. So that's the piece I do with fear. 

Fear can show up. I don’t block that, but I don't engage with it. I'm not going to give it my attention. Often it doesn't require my attention. It's just going to be there. So that's how I handled it each time. 

But what was happening is I would delete and block this person or these people. At a higher and higher frequency, they were creating more and more and more and more accounts under different names and doing the same behavior. The reason I knew it was one to two people is because they were using exactly the same hateful language. 

There's a couple of messages here, a couple of lessons myself, and I just wanted to share them with you and reflect. At one point, it was getting to be so disturbing that I started to share with a couple of really trusted friends what was happening. They immediately said, “Huh, this is very similar to OCD work. You have the thought or you have the feeling and you don't do anything. You just don't engage.” I thought, “Yeah, that's so cool.”

But what quickly became apparent is they started to say, “Why aren't you calling this person out? Why aren't you setting stronger boundaries with this person?” I had reflected on this, and I thought, “Well, I think underneath, I had a tremendous degree of shame around this. I had a tremendous degree of distaste about this and I wanted to just push it away.” 

It got to the point where, one day, I basically deleted probably up to 20 accounts. I spent pretty much the entire day on social media, trying to block this person. They said, “Why would you put in all that effort? Just tell people that you're struggling with this and call it out.” I thought, “Huh, that's such an interesting thought.” It was shocking to me that I had a ton of shame around that. 

I wanted to tell you this, not because I just wanted to blab on about my experience, but I'm just hoping that you, if anything similar, or someone has been unkind to you in person or on social media, that you can recognize that when shame shows up, we tend to go underground. We keep it from people. We hide it from people. But shame lives in the darkness. It can't survive in the light. So bringing it out into the light is where you actually have less pain because you've shared it with someone and they've acknowledged you and they're validated you and they're helping you. You're not alone now. 

That was an incredible lesson to me, which is ironic because I talk about it all the time and I share about this concept all the time. Because it was happening to me, I got short-sided. Again, I'm going to keep saying, if this is happening to you, catch how much you're silencing your own pain. Catch how you're doing it on your own in isolation, not sharing it with people.

What was really wonderful is, once that they said, “Hey, shout it out. Let people know what's happening. You can't protect people from this all day. You can't be blocking this person all day just to protect others from seeing this message about you. Tell them what's happening.” 

You know what shocked me here guys? Within four hours, a whole bunch of people who I know, but not that well, came out in support of me. They were ready to support me, and that blew my mind. It made me realize how incredibly strong this community is. It made me realize how much of a team we are, that they, on a topic that I had a lot of shame around, came out and stood up for me and said, “We stand with you in solidarity. This is not okay.” 

I want you to know that you have a community right here who will do the same for you, who will stand up and say, “Please be aware of your stigma that you're saying about mental illness. Please let me educate you about what OCD is because it's not what you think it is. Please let me help you understand that depression is not laziness. Please let me help you understand that people aren't struggling because they want to, they’re struggling because they're stuck.” There's a part of a community who's willing to stand up for you as well. 

This was just mind blowing to me. And for any of you who have been trolled on social media or harassed, or have any kind of bully in their life, I want to really, really encourage you to treat it with the tools that you've already been given to manage fear. Don't engage in it. Stand up for yourself. Set strong boundaries with it. We just did a huge podcast on that the other day. Set boundaries with it. And then you return back to the thing you value. 

What I noticed is, this was so shocking and horrifying to me that I couldn't stop thinking about it for a little bit. And then I was like, “Wait a second. My children are right here. I don't value this human being. I value my children. I value my husband. I value you guys, my community. I value my work. I value my health.” 

Let's practice. While we have this discomfort, while this event happens, which means nothing about me - it means everything about the person and nothing about me - while this happens, I'm going to go back to engaging in what I value. 

Now my mind kept saying, “Oh no, no. You go back on. Just check, check, check, just to see.” I'll be like, “No, I'm not,” because I'm not going to let that kind of behavior change how I act today. I want to look back on today and say, “I'm really confident and proud of that.” This was huge to me. 

I wanted to share it with you because if you have a bully in your life, or if your fear is your bully, or if you are your bully, you can apply the same things, which is, I am not engaging in any bully-like behavior. Not today, not tomorrow because I matter. My values matter. The people I love matter. I'm not giving attention to this, which is ineffective.

Now, what am I going to say? Totally easier said than done. Let's be real. Totally easier said than done. But I hope that this podcast today gives you some empowerment that gives you permission to set boundaries and disengage with people who are ineffective in your life, who hurt you, who say unkind things, who do not treat you well. 

One of the most important pieces of self-compassion is self-respect. Self-respect comes first, which was respecting that you matter, that you're worthy and that no one's allowed to say bad stuff about you, including ourselves and what we say about ourselves.

Last piece of the puzzle here is that once I came out and said, “Hey everybody, this is what's happening.” I don't endorse it. It's terrible. It's disgusting. Please, if you see it, ignore it. Treat it like an intrusive thought. Everyone came out in drones and supported me, DM to me, commented, was so kind. 

What was so fascinating here is, this person then created another account and said, “Oh, you just took it too seriously. I was just giving you compliments.” I was like, “Wait a minute. That's the definition of gaslighting.” For those of you who don't know, gaslighting is someone doing a behavior or acting in a certain way and then turning around and blaming you for it. It's a huge problem in communication. We want to try to eliminate gaslighting in communication. 

Again, I felt gaslit, and my immediate response was, “Huh, was I being too sensitive?” That last did literally like a millisecond. And I was like, “No, that's gaslighting.” 

If you're in a situation where someone is being a bully to you, and then they tell you you're being too sensitive, that's gaslighting. You're not being too sensitive. You deserve to be treated well. You deserve to be taken care of. Really, really important stuff. 

In those moments, if you do feel like someone's now blaming you for something that they did, your job is to step down into compassion and go, “No, I'm going to honor that that was painful for me.” This is the same for when someone goes, “Oh, I'm so OCD,” or “I'm so bipolar,” or “I'm so psychotic today.” They’re using it as a joke and it hurts you. And then they turn around and they say to you, “You're being too sensitive. Why does everything have to be so pissy?” You're allowed to go, “No, you just gaslit me right. It's painful for me. Therefore, it matters. Therefore, it's real. You can't discount that.” Really important stuff. 

It happens a lot around mental illness. There's a lot of stigma there. I think there's a lot of opportunity for people to gaslight about that. I really want to make sure I brought that in as the final piece of this episode. 

So that's that. I'll keep fighting the fight. This person didn't go away, and I don't care, to be honest. 

What did I learn?

1. You guys are amazing. 

2. I feel so supported by you, thank you. 

3. I don't need to engage in this stuff. It doesn't deserve my time. 

4. Catch when people try to redirect blame on to you because that can help you go down a spiral of self-criticism and self-punishment.

I love you so much. Thank you so much for being here. 

Last of all, I'm going to ask you another favor. I'm going to stop mentioning this often in the podcast. My goal is to get a ton of more exposure with the podcast this year. It is a free service that we offer, offering free tools for those who don't have access to treatment, or if they do, it's to supplement that. 

If you have the time and you're interested, would you do me a huge favor and go and leave a review, an honest review? Let me know what you think of this show, with this episode. I would be so grateful. I have decided that once we get to a thousand reviews, I will give away a free pair of Beats headphones so you can listen to the podcast on full volume and hear my voice full volume. Add just one review by random. I'm so excited to do that, and I'm really excited to get that up and running. 

Go leave a review. I would love to see it. I might even start to highlight some reviews here in the next few weeks because I will be reading them and valuing every single one. Thank you so much.

Have a wonderful day. It is a beautiful day to do hard things that includes also sometimes being bullied by people or trolled. But we are strong, we are resilient and we are able to do this together. I love you guys so much. Have a wonderful day.

Please note that this podcast or any other resources from cbtschool.com should not replace professional mental health care. If you feel you would benefit, please reach out to a provider in your area. 

Have a wonderful day, and thank you for supporting cbtschool.com.

Jan 22, 2021

things to know when starting therapy

Welcome back to another episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast. Today I would like to discuss with you a question that comes up quite a lot when I am starting with a new client. So often my clients will say to me "What can I expect during my first session?" I want to share with you what I tell my clients about the things to know when starting therapy.

The first thing I say to my clients is that your brain can change. You may have a disorder that was inherited or triggered by a certain event, but the good news is that by changing your behavior, you can actually change your brain.

The second thing I say is that no matter your mental health struggle, there is a science proven way to treat that disorder. We have evidence based treatments and you can absolutely can get better.

Thirdly, I tell my clients that no matter what struggles they are going through, it is not their fault. This is not something they asked to have happen. We are going to move away from assigning blame and move towards self-compassion.

The fourth thing I would say is that you should not enjoy coming to see me. The work can be really hard and it will mean facing your fears, so if you are enjoying coming to see me then we may need to look at the reasons why. The goal is to actually give my clients the tools they need so that they do not need me anymore.

Finally I tell my clients that they need to be prepared to do the hard work. There will be lots of homework and a lot of facing your fears, but nothing changes if they are not willing to do the work. I always remind them that it is a beautiful day to do those hard things.

If you get a moment, please go over to wherever you listen to podcasts, whether that be Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, Podbean, and leave an honest review. Tell me how you feel about it, whether it's helping you, what you'd like to see. We are going to give away a pair of Beats headphones of your choice of color once we hit a thousand reviews!

ERP School, BFRB School and Mindfulness School for OCD are open for purchase. Click here for more information.

Additional exciting news! ERP School is now CEU approved which means that it is an accredited course for therapists and mental health professionals to take towards their continuing education credit hours. Please click here for more information.

Ep. 173 Transcript:

Guys, I am so grateful to have you with me today. I know your time is incredibly precious and valuable, and so I'm so happy to just be with you. 

How are you doing? Just checking in. How is everybody? It is well and truly 2021. Lots and lots of happening in the world. Lots and lots of changes. I'm just wrapping my head around them all. 

In this new year, I made a deal with myself to spend a little bit more time on social media, which is so funny because I think most people were saying, “No, I think I'd like to spend less time.” I'm actually saying, “No, I'd like to spend more time on social media.” I hang out a lot on Instagram and on the Facebook group called CBT School Campus or on my Facebook page. I promised myself I'd spend more time there because I'm realizing after last year that I felt really disconnected to you guys and I really wanted to get back into feeling connected. I have loved it.

If you're on Instagram, go over and follow me @kimberleyquinlan, or you can go over to the Facebook group. It's CBT School Campus, or my Facebook is Kimberly Quinlan with CBT School after it. 

That being said, I just wanted to let you know that today, I wanted to chat with you about something I have not talked about, but I thought it would be a really great topic. A lot of people in the new year have been reaching out, looking for clinical services – help for OCD, help for anxiety, help for an eating disorder, or help for a BFRB. We love helping people. I have a great staff of seven licensed therapists who all treat the same disorders that I do. It's just been so wonderful to see all the new clients and people coming in really ready to get help. 

It really came across my mind in that one of the questions new patients and clients have is: What should I expect in the first session? What does the first session look like? What would you tell me in the first session? I thought this would be a great topic to talk to you guys about. 

So I want to share with you the five things I tell every single client or patient in their first session. Are you ready? Let's do it. 

Once I have introduced myself and they've introduced themselves and they tell me a little bit about their struggles and what they're wanting to work on, I, at some point in the session, are going to tell them I'll do a thorough assessment. But I will, at some point, either at the beginning or at the end or somewhere, wherever it's most appropriate, share with them one major piece of good news. 

1. Your brain can change. 

Even if you have a disorder that may be is hereditary, has been passed down from generation to generation, or you have a disorder that was triggered by a certain event, or you have a disorder or a problem that was triggered by societal expectations, such as eating disorders, I always share with my patients and clients the great news, which is you can change your brain. In some cases, for those of us who have anxiety, even though your brain might be firing away, setting off the alarm bells all day long, “Danger, danger, danger,” you can change the way your brain reacts to these misfires.

Now, you can't do it by simply trying to change your thoughts. We know that. Changing thoughts sometimes can be very, very important. I'm not going to deny that. It's an important piece of depression work. It's an important piece of, like I said, eating disorder work and so forth for everybody. 

But the cool thing here is more importantly, by changing your behaviors, you can change your brain. By changing the way you react to fear, you can change your brain. You can connect parts of your brains that weren't connecting. You can strengthen parts of your brain that is weak or they're not connecting and the connection isn't so strong. Your brain can change, and this is good news. This is great news. 

When we found this out in science, we all had a big party because it was really reinforcing that if you do a scan of someone pretreatment of their brain, and then you did a scan of their brain post-treatment, we would be able to see the changes in their brain, and this is really cool. 

2. If you have OCD or a phobia, generalized anxiety, panic disorder, social anxiety, health, anxiety, hair pulling, skin picking, and eating disorder, any of these, any of the mental health issues, that there is a science proven way to treat your disorder. 

This is good news. I fill you with hope by saying, I understand that what you're going through is really painful, but the good news is, we have scientific evidence to prove that we're on the right track and we're going to be administering the correct treatment. 

If you have OCD, the science proven treatment is exposure and response prevention. If you have hair pulling, skin picking or nail biting, the science proven treatment is habit reversal training. If you have depression or an eating disorder, the science proven treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy. If you have health anxiety, you're again going to have a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy with the focus being exposure and response prevention, same goes for phobias, same goes for social anxiety. 

All of these, we're going to, let’s say the frosting on top is that we're also going to apply science proven techniques, such as mindfulness and self-compassion. This is not woo-woo stuff here. This is science. We have tons of evidence to show that you can get better, that your disorder isn't a mystery. Thank goodness. 

Imagine back in the sixties if you had OCD, at that point, or even the seventies, there was no treatment for OCD that was proven. If you had OCD, you were told “Good luck.” A lot of disorders had this. If you had hypochondria, if you had agoraphobia, a lot of times back in those years, people said, “I'm really sorry. You have to just accept that your child is going to be this way.” But no longer. 

2.a We have tons of evidence to show that we're on the right track. 

We're using the right treatment and you can be hopeful. Really cool. 

3. The struggles you're having were not your fault, you didn't ask for this. You didn't want this. This is not your fault. 

The high levels of anxiety that you experienced, that's not your fault. The depression that you're experiencing is not your fault. The fact that you get stuck doing behaviors that you don't want to be doing, but you feel like you have to do, that's not your fault either. This was not your fault.

We're going to work on this treatment journey. We're going to work at not assigning blame to anybody. Mostly you were going to work at being compassionate instead of self-critical. This was not your fault. You didn't ask for this. 

Most of the time, people with OCD or anxiety, panic disorder, health anxiety, eating disorders, they say, “I would never wish this on my worst enemy.” Again, if you wouldn't wish it on your worst enemy, you wouldn't wish it upon yourself. It was not your fault. 

4. If you're starting a journey of recovery, you're in treatment, you're ready to get the work done, here is one thing you should remember: You should not enjoy coming to see me. You should not want to see my face.

I should make you happy. I should make you feel comfortable. I want you to trust me. I want you to enjoy my company. I want you to respect me, but you should not enjoy our sessions together. I know you are probably thinking, “What is she saying here?” But hear me out. The work that I do, and the fact that you're listening to me and hopefully you've listened to me for a while, shows me that you have had struggles with anxiety. This is Your Anxiety Toolkit, so we're talking about anxiety. And the natural response to fear is to run away, is to fight it, is to freeze. Naturally, you are biologically set up to go into fight, flight, or freeze when you have fear. 

The treatment that I use, the gold standard science proven treatment is the opposite of that. Treatment with me and with anyone who's trained in these disorders is going to mean that you are going to have to stare your fear in the face. You're going to have to in-session, be doing scary, hard things. 

Therefore, you shouldn't want to see me. If you want to see me and the sessions are only enjoyable, I'm missing the point and I'm not being the best therapist I could be to you. I really gauge myself. I tell them not to hold me accountable. I don't want to be giving treatment to people where they're not being forced to grow. Not forced, I shouldn't say forced, because I never make my clients do anything. But what I'm saying is, the session should be focused on this major concept, which is the more you lean into fear, the less power fear has. 

And so therefore, I say to my clients, “Please, if at any point in treatment you are looking forward to sessions, let me know, because it means I need to up the ante.” I don't want to be diddle-daddling. I want to be effective. I want to be immediate. I want you to get results. I want you to not need me. That's another thing. 

4.a I want to treat you. 

I want to give you treatment. I want to give you tools so that you don't need me anymore. I want to put myself out of business. I want to train you so well to do this, that you know what I would say and how I would say it and what you need to do.

For those of you who have OCD or a BFRB, you can go and download the courses, ERP School and BFRB school, which is me training you on what I would teach you. The cool thing about the courses is I'm teaching you what I would teach you in session. My goal is to teach you how to do it so that you can do it for the rest of your life, not just for a little while.

I'm beginning to feel like I'm giving you guys a big fat lecture, and I hope that's not the case. I'm getting all empowered here. You can tell I'm super passionate about the first session, and I am. These are key points to treatment. These are key points to providing good care. These are key points to your recovery. So they're really important to me. If you feel like you're getting a lecture, I'm very sorry about that. It's not a lecture. Pulling all the punches here. Sorry, you guys.

So that was a bonus point there for you. 

5. Be ready to do hard work. 

The patients and clients I have hear me say something often, which is nothing changes if nothing changes. Be prepared to do a ton of homework. The cool thing about cognitive behavioral therapy is there is usually a heavy component of homework. I give homework to all my patients and clients every session. I'll say at the end, “What's your homework? I'll put it in your notes. I'll hold you accountable. We'll check in next week.”

Be ready to have an assignment. And then be ready to execute that assignment every single day. 

I recently just finished the book on self-compassion for OCD. Yay! I know I'm really excited. The thing that was right at the very front of the book, and I'm giving you a spoiler alert here, which is, be prepared to do this work for around 45 to 90 minutes a day. That is important. Be prepared to do the work. Be prepared to practice because nothing changes if nothing changes. 

I know it sucks. I know that's hard truths, but I'm only telling you because I really want you to get your life back. I know a lot of you don't have a therapist. I'm telling you this because I want that to propel you into a journey where you feel really empowered and you understand what is needed so that you can get it done. Knowledge is power here. But then once you have the knowledge, you got to put it into play.

Now you guys know what I'm going to conclude here on, and this is something I should say. There are six points here really. So there's actually two extra bonuses.

6. It is a beautiful day to do hard things. 

I say it every day. I say it at every podcast, I say it in every Instagram post. I'm going to leave this podcast episode with that. Be ready to do hard work, but it is a beautiful day to do the hard things every day. I love you all. 

I'm going to ask you one big favor. I am early to announce this, but I'm actually just going to announce it now because I want to get the ball rolling. 

In 2021, I made a deal with myself because I love doing these podcasts and I love doing all these things. But one thing I noticed last year is, in order for these to really pack a punch, my hope and my goal is to get it to more people. The podcast is free. I don't make any money off the podcast. I don't do promotions or anything like that. The best payout here for me is that I get to help more people. 

After research, I'm learning the best way to do that is to get more reviews. The more reviews I have, the more likely someone is to click on the podcast. Once they click on the podcast, then I get to help them. But if they see the podcast and they move past it, then I don't get to help them. 

So would you do me a favor? If you get a moment, please go over to wherever you listen to podcasts, whether that be Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, Podbean, and leave an honest review. Tell me how you feel about it, whether it's helping you, what you'd like to see. I encourage the feedback. I'd love an honest review so that other people can see that we're doing a good job and that you're getting help so that they can too. If you would be willing to do that, I would be so grateful. 

I am actually following what another influencer did, that I love her podcast. She made a deal with her listeners that once she got a thousand reviews, she would give away a free pair of Beats headphones. I was like, “That is a banging idea. Let's do it.” I haven't formally announced it, but I am now. 

We are going to give away a pair of Beats headphones of your choice of color. Once we hit a thousand reviews, we will randomly take a review and we will put you into the competition, the box. I don't know what you'd say. But even if you've already left a review, you will still go in. So for those of you who've already left a review, thank you, and you'll get put into the drawer. 

There we go. You have a chance to actually win something amazing, so we can go from there. Go leave a review. 

Have a wonderful day. I love you guys. I appreciate you guys. Again, really, really from the bottom of my heart, thank you for spending your time with me. I know your time is valuable. I just feel super special that I get to spend some time with you.

Have a wonderful day.

Jan 15, 2021

OCD mindfulness tools

Welcome back to another episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast. Today I am so happy to have Jon Hershfield on with us. Jon is an author and the Director of the Center for OCD and Anxiety at Sheppard Pratt. The second edition of his book, The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD, has just been released and his new book, The Mindfulness Workbook for Teens, is scheduled for release in March. We had a great conversation about both books and Jon shares many of the OCD mindfulness tools that he describes in his books that are used to enhance treatment.

In this interview, Jon explains why he wanted to write a book for teens and how he decided to approach the topics of mental health, OCD, and mindfulness in a way that would be relatable to teens and young adults. He discusses in more detail some of the topics in his book including how to understand your diagnosis, how to respond to intrusive thoughts, and how to incorporate meditation and mindfulness into your daily life.

Jon also shares some OCD mindfulness tools that he describes in The Mindfulness Workbook. These include thoughts are thoughts, not threats; feelings are feelings, not fact, and sensations are sensations, not mandates to act. He shares that mindfulness really involves calling things what they are.

Towards the end of this interview, we discuss Exposure and Response Prevention and the difference between habituation and inhibitory learning. He shares with us the five things we should consider when doing ERP with the goal of inhibitory learning.

This is a great interview full of so many wonderful mindfulness tools to help you manage your OCD. I hope you enjoy!

The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD: A Guide to Overcoming Obsessions and Compulsion Using Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The Center for OCD and Anxiety

IG @ocdbaltimore

If you have some time, I would love it if you would please go and leave me an honest review wherever you listen to podcasts – Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Podbean, or Stitcher. This would really be helpful to me in achieving my goal for 2021 of being able to reach and help more people. Thank you so much!

ERP School, BFRB School and Mindfulness School for OCD are open for purchase. Click here for more information.

Additional exciting news! ERP School is now CEU approved which means that it is an accredited course for therapists and mental health professionals to take towards their continuing education credit hours. Please click here for more information.

Jan 8, 2021

setting boundaries with fear

Welcome back to another episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit podcast. It's a new year and as we settle into 2021, I am actually going to ask you guys to set a little bit of a goal. Not a resolution, a goal. I am so excited to talk with you all today about this topic because I really hope that this will be the goal you set for yourself this year.  I would like for you to start the year by setting boundaries with fear. 

Now why do I think setting boundaries with fear is so important? Think about it this way, if someone came into your home, you wouldn't just allow them to behave any way they wanted. Right? No, you set boundaries in your home about what kind of behavior is going to be allowed and we know that those boundaries must remain consistent. I want you to try setting those same boundaries when fear shows up in your life. I would encourage you to sit down and actually write out what boundaries are you going to set with fear this year? And then the work begins by holding those boundaries consistently.  You may say to fear “No, fear. I see that you're here. It's okay that you're here. I'm not going to wrestle with you and I'm not going to do the thing you told me to do. I'm going to hold that boundary very strongly.” 

I also want to encourage you to to set some boundaries with yourselves in the way that you speak to yourselves. Really try to be compassionate towards yourself and not use unkind words towards yourselves anymore. That's a strong boundary. You hold it, you set it, and you consistently put it into place. For example, let's say you don't hold the boundary very well with fear, instead of using unkind words about yourself try saying, “Okay, I'm not going to beat myself up. I made a deal and that's where I'm going to hold the consistency.”

I hope you will try starting the year by setting those strong boundaries with fear, uncertainty, disgust, OCD, your eating disorder, your body-focused repetitive behavior, whatever it may be. Not letting them walk all over your life. And most importantly, I hope you can start the year by being very kind and gentle with yourself.

If you have some time, I would love it if you would please go and leave me an honest review wherever you listen to podcasts – Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Podbean, or Stitcher. This would really be helpful to me in achieving my goal for 2021 of being able to reach and help more people. Thank you so much!

ERP School, BFRB School and Mindfulness School for OCD are open for purchase. Click here for more information.

Additional exciting news! ERP School is now CEU approved which means that it is an accredited course for therapists and mental health professionals to take towards their continuing education credit hours. Please click here for more information.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Next » 8