Your Anxiety Toolkit - It's a Beautiful Day to Do Hard Things

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Your Anxiety Toolkit - It's a Beautiful Day to Do Hard Things







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Now displaying: December, 2021
Dec 17, 2021

In This Episode:

  • How to identify what your role is in a relationship
  • How to manage a mental illness and set boundaries
  • How boundaries are needed when you are in recovery
  • How to set boundaries with a loved one during the holiday season.

Links To Things I Talk About:

ERP School:

Episode Sponsor:

This episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit is brought to you by is a psychoeducation platform that provides courses and other online resources for people with anxiety, OCD, and Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors.  Go to to learn more.

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If you like Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast, visit YOUR ANXIETY TOOLKIT PODCAST to subscribe free and you'll never miss an episode. And if you really like Your Anxiety Toolkit, I'd appreciate you telling a friend (maybe even two).


This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 215.

Welcome back, everybody. It is the final episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit for the year 2021. I will not be putting out a podcast next week because it falls right on the holidays, and I really wanted to make sure I give you all time to be with your family instead of listening to my voice. If you are in the holiday season and you want to listen to my voice, there are so many, in fact, there are 214 episodes. You can go back and listen to. I just want to be with my family, and I want you to be with the people you love.

Speaking of people you love, today we’re talking about setting boundaries with loved ones or managing our relationship during the holidays. However, I did a whole episode about this last week. You can go back. It’s episode 214, where we talk about holiday anxiety. We did discuss some of this there as well. So, you can go back and listen there. But for right now, I want us to talk about managing relationships, specifically during the holidays, but this episode can be applied to any old day of the week.

Now, before we get started, we always do the “I did a hard thing.” This one is from Rachel. We do an “I did a hard thing” to motivate you, to remind you that there are more people out there going through what you’re going through. You’re not alone. Rachel shared with us today:

“I have somatic OCD.” For those of you who don’t know what that means, it means that you have OCD about specific sensations that show up in your body. You sometimes feel like you can’t stop noticing them or you’re afraid you will never stop noticing them. Sometimes you’re afraid that the feeling will never go away and it can feel really disorienting.

So, Rachel says: “I have somatic OCD, and I always need to distract myself not to notice them. I’ve been able to drive without the radio or calling anyone and it feels so good.”

Rachel, this is so good. You’re doing what we talk about in ERP School. ERP School is our online course that teaches how to expose ourselves to fears, specifically obsessions for people with OCD, health anxiety, and these types of OCD, like somatic OCD, on how to practice facing our fear. In this case, it was her driving, that without using safety behavior or compulsions. So, in this case, the compulsion would be to have the radio on or calling someone to distract her on her somatic obsession or her sensation. So, Rachel, amazing job, you’re doing the work. You’re doing the exposure and the response prevention.

One thing I want to mention to everybody, if you have OCD or an anxiety disorder, is we must do both. We must face our fears and not do the safety behaviors to reduce or remove that discomfort that we feel when we face our fear. So, you’ve explained this perfectly. Congratulations. I am so proud of you. Love getting the “I did a hard thing’s” from you guys. And so, just so thrilled to get that message from you.

All right, let’s go over to the episode.

Setting boundaries with loved ones Your anxiety toolkit

It’s the holidays. You’re anticipating the gifts and the food and the time and the travel and all the things, but what’s worse than that is anticipation of the interactions that you’re going to have with certain family members. Now, if you’re listening to this and it’s not the holidays, it’s the same. You’re anticipating going to work, but you’re dreading the interactions. You’re dreading how messy things get. You’re going to school, and you’re dreading how messy things get with the people you have in your life – your students, your classmates, your teacher, your friends, whoever it may be.

I want you to think about your responsibilities. And I talk a lot with my patients and clients about responsibility because it’s a really important part of recovery. When we think about the holidays, we think about a certain event that’s coming up. I’ll often explain to my patients that really all you need to do is you need to focus on your lane. So, I’ve talked about this before on the podcast, but I want you to imagine you’re driving on the highway, you’re in your car, and the only thing you’re responsible for is to not run into other people in their lane and to stay in your lane and to go at a pace that’s right for you and a speed that’s right for you and in a car that’s right for you.

Now, that metaphor is exactly how you’re going to get through the holidays or get through this event that you’ve got coming up. Your job is to take responsibility for you and your lane. Now, sometimes people in the lane next to us come on over into our lane and they want to tell us how to act, and they want to tell us what to do, and they want to impose on you their beliefs. Now, our job is to remind them and set boundaries that that’s not your lane, that’s their lane. And their job is to stay in their lane. And our job is to stay in our lane.

Now, in addition, we have to be careful that we are not popping on over into their lane and telling them how they should be, and telling them how they should act, and trying to take responsibility for their feelings, and trying to prevent them from judging you because that’s their lane. We talked about this in the last episode. Go back and listen to that. But that’s not your job either. It’s not your job to get their approval because that’s their responsibility. How they feel is their responsibility. We can’t control that.

And so, first, before we even talk about setting boundaries, we have to be really clear on what’s in your lane. So, an example for me is, as I go into the holidays, I am going to be really aware of what is my responsibility, how do I want to show up? And then it’s my responsibility to show up in my lane doing so. But it’s also important to catch when I’m-- often we do this. It’s like, “Well, I’m going to do X, Y, and Z because I really want A, B and C to like me.” But that’s your lane. It’s not your responsibility. It’s not your job to get them to approve of you because we don’t have any control of that. And as we talked about last week, their judgment of us is their responsibility. It’s a reflection of them. It’s not a reflection of us.

So, we have to be really careful of really getting clear on how we want to show up and only trying to control us, because we can’t control our family members. They’re going to do what they do. They’re going to act out. They’re going to be up in your lane.

From there, we can set a boundary to protect ourselves from them coming into your lane. So, when we set boundaries, we usually set boundaries when somebody is imposing their stuff onto us. Imagine if someone came into your house and walked in with their shoes on and put dirt all over the carpet, you might say, “Excuse me, please would you take your shoes off?” There’s like a boundary violation. If they come into my house and they start smoking cigarettes, no disrespect or judgment on people who do smoke cigarettes, but I’m going to say, “I’m really sorry, we actually don’t smoke in this house. Can you please put your cigarette out and go out to the back?” And so, that would be me setting a boundary.

Now, a lot of you brought in and you asked questions about this. Last week we addressed a lot of the questions. So, an example, somebody said, “How can I communicate with my family about my OCD and keep my boundaries?” So, what you might do is first ask yourself. If I was going to communicate about my OCD or my anxiety or my depression or my eating disorder or whatever you may have, panic, is ask yourself, are you communicating with it so that they change the way they act because that’s their lane? The only reason we would need to communicate about our stuff is so that we can set a boundary.

Let’s say a really big one that I have had to practice is when family members comment about weight. I had a couple of family members in my childhood who every Christmas would, “Have Merry Christmas, Kimberley, your weight is blank. You’re up a bit. You’re down a bit. You’re bigger, you’re smaller, whatever.” And it was so incredibly painful and so incredibly unhealthy for me. And so, the boundary here would be to say, “I would really prefer that you don’t comment on my way. And if you do, I’m going to remove myself from this interaction.” So, that’s a boundary and it’s respectful and it’s compassionate, and I’m not doing it to harm them or discipline them or pay them back. I’m doing it because it’s a boundary violation, and it’s in my lane. When I’m in my lane, I want to have a really positive idea about my food and my body.

If a family member is telling you how you should act, you might say to them, “Thank you so much for your thoughts. I am going to choose to do it this way. And I would really appreciate if you didn’t comment.  if you’re unable to hold that boundary, I’m going to have to leave,” or you can say whatever you want. You can just set the limit. Sometimes you don’t even need to tell them your boundary. You might just keep it to yourself. Like, “Oh, if they’re going--” if a family member says, “I’m so OCD about stuffing,” or whatever they say, “I’m so OCD about my cooking,” you might just not even need to express the boundary with them. You might gently just get yourself up and walk away. That’s a boundary. Sometimes we don’t have to verbally express boundaries because we can just remove ourselves from the situation and stay in our lane.

Somebody said, “How to say no to things?” So, you’ve decided you don’t want to do something. We talked about this last week in Episode 214. You’ve decided you don’t want to do something. And so, you say to them, “I’m going to bring baked goods. I’m not going to bake them myself. I will buy them at the bakery. No, I’m not going to hand bake them.” Or you might say, “No, I’m not going to go to that Christmas party,” or “No, I am not going to buy gifts this year.” Okay?

Now, that’s you holding your own boundary. Then your job, and again, this is why I shared about the lanes, is your job is to let them have their feelings about it. They’re allowed to have their feelings. They’re even allowed to act out. If they act out and they say something unkind, you may set a boundary with them. But we can’t hold everybody to our standards. Some people are going to act out. They may not have the skills you have. They may be triggered. They may have expectations of you. And that’s okay. They’re allowed to have expectations, but it doesn’t mean you have to do it. You may choose to follow their expectations. We talked about that again last week. But that’s your decision. You have to be responsible for you and saying yes to what matters to you and saying no to what doesn’t matter to you.

Any time you notice resent, show up, that’s usually because you violated your own boundary. You did something you didn’t want to do and you should have said no to. It’s okay. I’m going to keep saying this to you guys. It’s okay to disappoint people. We will disappoint them. It’s either they get disappointed, or you do the thing they want you to do, and then you’re disappointed. And you have to choose. It’s your responsibility to choose. And we do this responsibility work compassionately.

I speak a lot in my book, The Self-Compassion Workbook for OCD, about compassionate responsibility. That’s saying: “I am responsible for me,” but not in a disciplinarian, like you’re responsible for yourself, you’re alone, you’re on your own kind of way. It’s a compassionate act of, “Yes, I get to take responsibility for myself. I get to take care of myself. I get to say no, I get to say yes. I get to make those choices and I’ll do them kindly.”

Somebody asked a question about managing irritability. This is a great one, because our family members and our friends and our loved ones and the people at our Christmas party or our Hanukkah party, our Kwanzaa, they may irritate us. Yeah, it’s okay to feel irritated by our family members. My husband and I always-- we learned this maybe five years ago. We get caught up in it. I’ll be like, “Why are you acting that way?” And he’ll say gently to me, “Kimberley, I’m allowed to feel this way.” And I’m like, “Oh crap, you’re right. I keep forgetting that you’re allowed to feel what you want to feel.” Or he’ll be upset and he’ll be like, “What’s wrong? Why are you being this way?” And I’ll be like, “I’m allowed to feel this way.” And he’s like, “Oh crap, you’re right.”

You’re allowed to be irritable. You’re not allowed to be unkind. I mean, you are, but you have responsibility, There’s consequences. But ideally, let yourself be irritable. Be compassionate with your irritability. Like say, “Yeah, it makes complete sense that I’m irritable. This is hard. It makes complete sense that I’m annoyed. They’ve said something that annoyed me.” Again, they’re allowed to say annoying things. We get to remove ourselves if it doesn’t feel right or we get to express ourselves.” That really hurt my feelings. That made me upset.” This is why you’re allowed to share.

Let’s see. Someone said dealing with a toxic parent. Well, it depends. My answer to that is it depends on whether you’re a minor or an adult. If you’re a minor, it’s hard to remove yourself from a toxic parent. They are your guardian. You’re legally under their care. But you can remove yourself from them physically in terms of going to another room. You can try and share with them. “That was really painful for me to hear that. If you do that again, I’m going to leave the room.” Or you get to make your own boundaries. They may be physical boundaries where you leave. They may be emotional boundaries where you don’t go to them and you don’t share with them if they can’t hold space for you compassionately and respectfully.

If you’re an adult, you can choose to set as many boundaries as hard or as strong, as light as you need. Some people set boundaries with their family members. Like, “You can’t come here without announcing yourself. You must let us know first. You can’t say those things about me or I’m going to leave.” Or you may, again, you don’t even have to say them out loud. If they’re really toxic, you may say to them, “I’m not going to see you anymore if you keep acting like this towards me and my family. I can no longer put myself through that.” You get permission. We don’t get to choose our family, but you don’t have to see them either if they’re really unhealthy for you. You may want to get some therapy around it and have the help of a clinician to help you navigate what’s a right boundary for you. Everybody’s different.

Someone said, “I get really bad depression during the holidays and people have expectations for me to be happy.” Well, that’s their lane. You don’t have to act or be any way. Be kind, be compassionate, but do the best you can. It’s your lane. You got to just do the best you can with what you have.

So, again, I think that’s a really big part of this, is really take care of you because that’s your job. One thing actually, before we finish up, let me mention, it’s no one else’s job to make us feel better either. I know a lot of this today is going to feel like a lot of hard truths, but I promise you, there is so much liberation that comes from this. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but it’s still a really, really good pill. It’s a good pill. It’s a helpful pill. And so, it’s not other people’s job to make us joyful on Christmas either. That’s our job.

I’ll tell you a story, when I was really a young adult, I think it was quite shocking to me that when you’re a kid, everyone throws you a big party. And when you’re an adult, it’s not as big of a deal. And I used to get really offended that people didn’t throw me a massive party until I was like, “Wait, it’s really not their job.” And so, I started doing it for myself, and I have no shame about it. If I know I want to feel special on my birthday, I always organize something really special for myself. For the last three years, except for the year of COVID, I always rent-- you guys, probably know this. I rent an RV and I invite my three best girlfriends and I have a party for myself, and I’m not ashamed about it. I’m happy to celebrate myself. A

If you are feeling like other people’s job is to bring you joy on Christmas, I would say, no, bring yourself joy. Buy yourself a gift. Make your special meal you want to have. Treat yourself and shower yourself with the joy that you want to feel. That’s a huge liberation, a huge freedom. Such a gift.

Okay. So, that’s it. That’s how you set boundaries. You get to set them. It’s your lane. You get to decide. But other people are allowed to have their feelings about it. And that’s okay. That doesn’t mean you’re bad. They can even tell you you’re bad, and that doesn’t mean you’re bad. They can say, “I don’t like you,” and you don’t think you’re doing the right thing and they get to have their opinion, it doesn’t make it a fact.

This is hard work. I am not going to lie, I am still working on this. I’m still learning from this. I still have to practice it every single day. So, be gentle and remind yourself, this is a journey. This is not a destination that you’re like, “Yay, I’m great with boundaries.” It will be something you’ll have to keep practicing. But the holidays are the perfect time to practice them. It’s so important.

My loves, you probably have lots of questions about this. Do go over to social media. I’ll leave links in the bio. If you want to send me questions, I do a live Q and A every second and fourth Monday of the month at 12 o’clock Pacific Standard Time. So, I’m happy to answer your questions there.

Have a beautiful day. Happy 2021. I will be seeing you in 2022, holy macaroni, but I can’t wait. I’m actually really pumped about Your Anxiety Toolkit next year. I’m going to put a ton more effort into it. That’s where I want my attention to be next year.

So, sending you love. Have a wonderful day, and I’ll talk to you soon.

Oh no, wait. Before we finish up, what was I thinking? It is time for the review of the week. This is from IsaacRThorne, and they said:

“Love this show and I look forward to it every Friday.” Sorry, Isaac, I nearly missed you here. “No matter what you struggle with, there’s more than one episode where your mouth will drop open, your eyes will grow wide, and you’ll shout: “That’s totally me!”

Isaac, this is the best review ever. It just brings me so much joy. “Your mouth will drop open, your eyes will grow wide, and you’ll shout, “That’s totally me!” So, I hope this episode was that for you. Thank you so much for your wonderful review.

Please, if you don’t want to give me any gift of the world, it would be to leave me a review on the iTunes app. Thank you so much for your reviews. They bring me joy, but they also help us reach more people. So, thank you, thank you, thank you so much. We are going to give a free pair of Beats headphones to one lucky reviewer when we hit a thousand reviews. We’re on our way. Please go and leave a review. It would be the best, best, best gift you could give me.

Have a wonderful day, everybody. And now I officially say, have a wonderful day and I will see you in the New Year.

Dec 10, 2021


I had so many people asking questions about how to manage holiday anxiety and stress that I decided to do an entire podcast on this.  This is part 1 of a 2-part podcast Q&A.

In This Episode:

Q&A from this episode include

  • How do I enjoy the holidays?
  • How do I let go of the last Christmas?
  • How do I survive the Holiday blues?
  • How do I survive the holidays?
  • How do I manage social anxiety over the holidays?
  • How do I manage holiday travel anxiety?
  • How to manage the financial stress of the holidays?
  • Mental Health Holiday gift guide?
  • How do I let go of my holiday expectations?

Links To Things I Talk About:

ERP School:

Episode Sponsor:

This episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit is brought to you by is a psychoeducation platform that provides courses and other online resources for people with anxiety, OCD, and Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors.  Go to to learn more.
Spread the love! Everyone needs tools for anxiety...

If you like Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast, visit YOUR ANXIETY TOOLKIT PODCAST to subscribe free and you'll never miss an episode. And if you really like Your Anxiety Toolkit, I'd appreciate you telling a friend (maybe even two).

Managing Holiday Anxiety holiday stress Your anxiety toolkit


This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 214.

Welcome back, everybody. We are approaching the holiday season. In fact, some of you may already be in the holiday season. And if that is so, I wish you nothing but joy and peace and fulfillment. I really do. I hope you have moments of elated joy.

Now, while that is my wish and my intention for you, I also know that the holidays can be pretty dang hard. It is anxiety-provoking for the best of people, let alone if you’re already struggling with a mental illness or an anxiety disorder, or you’re struggling with anything really. It can be so incredibly difficult. So, what I wanted to do is answer some of your questions.

So, what I did is I went on to Instagram and I asked my community: What are your questions? What do you need help with over the holidays? And they’ve given me a bunch of things to talk about, and I’m going to go through each and every one of them.

Now, this is actually a two-part podcast. This week I’m answering general questions about managing anxiety throughout the holiday season, or just general stresses. And next week, we’re talking about setting boundaries during the holidays with family and loved ones. Setting boundaries. However, the truth is we don’t even need to make this specific to the holidays. This is for everybody at any time. So, if you’re listening to this and it’s not the holidays, it’d be probably helpful to listen to it at any point in time.

Before we do that, I wanted to share with you the “I did a hard thing.” The “I did a hard thing” segment is where people write in and they share what hard things that they have been doing. This is a really important part of the podcast. If you’re new, or if you’re being with us for a while, I really want to stress the purpose of this podcast is to inspire you, is to help you feel like you’re on the right track, that you’re not alarmed, that people are doing the hard thing and I want you to know how they’re doing the hard thing. So, I’m going to share, this one is from Marilee and she says:

“I’m facing the fear right now. We moved two weeks ago. Today when I was getting dressed and picked up my socks that were laying on the floor in the living room, a silverfish crawled out from where it was laying. I hate them. It’s probably a phobia. I compulsively checked and cleaned in the previous place to get rid of them. I feel them all over my body.” As you’re listening folks, you’re probably feeling a little itchy and scratchy, I’m sure.

“I imagine them everywhere and anywhere. My hard thing is to feel these feelings. I’m going to give myself permission to feel anxious and freak out about it, to do the reasonable thing and buy lavender scented sachets and place around the house, to not compulsively clean and check to find them. I’m doing it right now. It is hard, but I’m not going to let this fear dictate how I live in my home.”

Marilee, you’re literally walking the walk. This is so good. I love what you said. “I’m going to allow myself to feel the feelings. I’m going to give myself permission to feel anxious.” You’re doing the hard work, and that is the hard work. Even when I’m meeting with face-to-face clients, they often will say like, “But what do I do?” And this is exactly what you do. Somebody who’s doing it in real-time. So, yay. Congratulations, Marilee. You are doing the hard thing.

Let’s get over to the questions. We’ve got a ton of them. So, let’s go through one by one. I’m going to do my best to address each and every one, but I’m guessing each of these could probably have an episode of their own. So, I’ll do my best to manage time here.

1. How do I enjoy the moment?

Some of my thoughts may get somewhat repetitive, but that’s on purpose. So, here is what I’m going to encourage you to do: Going into the holidays, we want to enjoy it. Even the Christmas paper and the stockings, depending on what holiday you celebrate, and we want to be inclusive and uncover all of them, all of them are centered around community and joy and celebration.

I want to give you permission to not have that expectation, to not try to make this holiday Instagramable. I know that’s not a word, but you know what I mean. So, when you drop the expectation that you’re going to enjoy it, then you can start to be curious about what’s actually happening and be present about what’s actually happening. And I want you to notice little things.

This isn’t a real example. Every year, I make the same mistake and I’m promising myself I’m not going to do this this time – I know that putting up all the Christmas stuff is so fun. We turn the music on, the kids get all of the decorations out. In my mind, it’s such a special moment, but I’m rushing the whole time.

I remember last year at the end of the holiday, I actually caught myself rushing and reminded myself, just get in touch with your senses. Of all the decorations, which one do you enjoy the most? Simple. Which texture do you enjoy the most? Which color? Which shape? Do any of them bring back memories? And just get really basic and simple. Don’t worry about the overwhelming joy and the satisfaction of it ending perfectly, but just get in touch with the small things. For me, it’s like, I hate wrapping presents, but I love giving presents, and I’m going to try to slow down and just really focus on the giving. And if I happen to receive a present, I’m going to really focus on the receiving. The receiving of the present. Just get in touch with the simpler things and put aside this massive goal to make this overly joyous. So, that’s that.

2. How do I let go of last Christmas?

Last Christmas I had COVID, and that’s when my anxiety started. So, I’m going to generalize that often when we go into the holidays, we may actually have memories of events that weren’t so great in the past. Maybe you had a huge family fight last year, or in this case, you had COVID last year, or you were lonely and alone last year. A lot of us are probably grieving with what’s going on, and I’m going to give you permission to just grieve.

Your question said, how do I let go of it? And I’m going to basically say, I think it’s important to check in on what letting go will look like. Letting go isn’t going to mean you have any less grief. We’re not going to get rid of the uncomfortable feelings. But what you might do is you might make space for that grief, and then you might put your attention on how you want this moment to be. Only this moment. Don’t even worry about the future and the holiday, but just focus on right now. Where am I? How am I? Am I okay? What’s going on? Again, go back to the sense and the smells and the shapes. And allow grief, validate your grief, pushing it away. It’s only gonna make it worse. So, validate it. Yeah, last year was hard. Last year was really difficult. I’m going to be super gentle with myself about that.

Now, if you find you’re ruminating about it, you might want to catch yourself on that and bring yourself again, back to the present moment. That’s all we can do.

3. Surviving.

Well, it’s funny because I actually like the word “surviving.” What that means is getting through one minute at a time. Just that’s sort of, you’re going back to the bare bones. This is going to be hard. We know it’s going to be hard. It’s a beautiful day to do hard things. You know I was going to say that. And I don’t mind the idea of surviving. But here is where you can make some choices. And this is important for the whole holiday, is we actually do have some choices on how we perceive the holidays. So, if we’re saying, “Okay, let’s just get through it minute by minute. But as I do it, I’m going to walk in with a real positive bias.” So, the thing to remember here is this positive bias and negative bias. Negative bias is, I’m going to look at the negative. Positive bias is, I’m going to look at the positive. You could also have a neutral bias.

And so, what I want you to do is, as you go minute to minute, it’s important that you acknowledge that you have a choice on whether you say, “This sucks. This sucks. I hate it. It’s not good. I wish it was better. Why isn’t it better? This sucks. I wish it was better. It sucks. I don’t wish it was this way.” That’s really negative bias, and that is a choice. Unfortunately, I’m giggling. That is a choice we make.

Now, another choice would be to go, “This is wonderful. It’s excellent. I love it.” But that might not even land either. That’s not super effective either. But what you can do is take the judgment out of it and just be aware of what is happening. Again, be aware and drop the expectations. Be gentle, and find joy in the little things.

Last year, we didn’t get to see my husband’s family. We didn’t get to see my family. It was just us at home, and I thought it was going to be really terrible. But what I loved was making a big deal out of the simplest things. Like, hot chocolate, get your favorite mug, get the chocolate that you like, put the toppings on it that you like, and really savor it and watch the heat come off of it, and find joy in teeny tiny little pots of the holidays. Again, it doesn’t have to be Instagramable. It doesn’t have to be Pinterestable. And yeah, go minute to minute.

4. Winter blues.

Now, this is a big one because some people do have a clinical diagnosis of seasonal depression. Now, if that’s the case, I encourage you to go and see your doctor. There are tests they can do. There are supplements you can take. There are UV lights that you can use that have some science-backed behind it that can help with the winter blues medication you can take. So, I don’t want to gloss over that as like, “Oh, you just feel sad.” No, that’s actually a clinical diagnosis and you deserve to get treatment for it. And so, definitely go and see your doctor and talk to your doctor about that.

5. Social anxiety.

“I panic due to social anxiety. So, how will I manage that?”

Social anxiety is, again, its own diagnosis, and it’s usually the fear of being judged. I will talk about this a little in next week’s episode, but here is the thing to remember: The truth is, people are going to judge you. They are. But that is not a reflection of you. It is a reflection of them, and it’s out of your control.

If I wear fabulous purple boots to Christmas, which I am not going to, but I wish I was now that I think about it. If I wore purple boots to Christmas and a family member judged me, that’s not evidence that my purple boots are ugly. It’s evidence that they don’t like purple, and they don’t particularly like these purple boots. And that is a reflection of their views. It doesn’t make them right, it doesn’t make them valid and it doesn’t make you wrong. The best thing we can do for ourselves is give ourselves permission to allow people to judge us. And then our job is just to feel our feelings about that and be super gentle. Ouch, it hurts when people judge us. Yeah. But that’s very human. It’s a part of the human condition to not be the same as everybody else. Thank goodness. We’d all be wearing purple boots to Christmas. That wouldn’t be so fun after all.

Now, when it comes to panic, we have tons of episodes on panic. I encourage you to go and listen to them and really double down on your practices there because the more you resist panic, the more panic will come. Your job is to allow it, to be kind, to send to yourself, to breathe through it. Don’t catastrophize and wait for it to pass on its own, which it will.

6. “I do not want these holidays.”

It wasn’t really a question. It was a statement. It says: “Everyone is happy and serene, except me.”

This is my favorite one, to be honest, this is the one that actually I think we get caught up in. Number one, there’s a lot of black and white thinking here.

“Everyone is happy.” Well, that’s not true because I have a whole bunch of questions here from people who are telling me that they are not happy.

“Everyone is serene.” Well, that’s not true. Most people find their mental health goes down over the holidays. That’s just the facts.

So you’re not alone. Sometimes I find it really helpful to share with your friends that I find the holidays really, really hard, and they’re going to say, “Me too. This is what I find hard. What do you find hard?” And it might be different. They might find it difficult to get the shopping. You might find it difficult to manage the finances of gift-giving. They might find it difficult because they have food restrictions or an eating disorder. You might find it hard because you have anxiety and you might have anxiety about meeting people or OCD about contamination or whatever it may be, harm obsessions. It could be anything.

And so, everybody’s diagnosis and everybody’s brain come with us through the holidays, which means not everybody is happy and serene. So, I want to just give you permission to not isolate yourself in your thinking and acknowledge that, no, not everybody is happy. And even if on Instagram, they have big, old happy faces. They may have just had a massive fight with their father-in-law or their sibling or somebody. You just don’t know.

7. “I have travel anxiety. How can I manage that?”

Well, again, travel anxiety is no different to social anxiety or any other anxiety. I think it’s about your willingness to be uncomfortable, your ability to be compassionate and coach yourself through it. I would encourage everyone to start to do exposures to their fears ahead of time. That’s really important. We use exposure and response prevention a lot with specific fears like travel and any other fear. I have a whole course called ERP School that teaches people how to expose themselves to their fear. And so, that’s super important. That’s super, super important.

So, yeah, that’s what I would encourage you to do. And give yourself tons of grace because not only are you traveling, but you’re traveling during a difficult time. The holidays are hard to travel in, not including it’s still COVID, not including we’ve had a lot of time where we haven’t seen a lot of people. So, seeing for the first time is really, really hard. Really, really hard. You haven’t had practice. You haven’t been naturally exposing yourself to it, so the anxiety is going to be higher.

8. How to get through the holidays without my therapist?

Here is what I’m going to encourage you all to do. I have a patient who always jokes with her family, and her family always jokes with her. When she’s struggling, they sit down and they say, “WWKD.” WWKD is “What would Kimberley do?” or “What would Kimberley say” is sometimes the acronym, WWKS.

And so, what I’m going to encourage you to do if you have a therapist and you’re unable to see that therapist is to ask yourself, what would my therapist say about this situation? What advice would they give me? What would they tell me to do? If you don’t have a therapist, you might say, “What would Kimberley have me do?” Even though I’m not your therapist, which I want to be really clear that this is a podcast, it is not therapy, but you know what I’m going to encourage people to do. I’m using mostly science-based treatment goals and tools. So, you could say, “What would the science have me do?” or “What would the general treatment look like in this setting?” And try to do that and get through it as best as you can. Again, go back to just getting through moment to moment.

9. “How to manage the financial aspect of the holidays? I don’t want to let people down.”

Well, here is the thing: Whether you have $10 to spend on a family member or $100 or $1,000, it’s important to remember not to spend more than you have. The thing is, the people who love you don’t want you to go broke because of the holidays. Most people don’t want you to suffer and they definitely don’t want you to be under distress financially or emotionally. And I think it’s important that you acknowledge that. And it’s okay to let people down. If you let people down, that’s their business. It’s not your business to try and control how people feel about you and what you give.

The gift of giving is exactly that – it’s about giving what you can, what’s meaningful. If all you can afford is to write a letter to them, and if they’re let down by that, again, go back to the social anxiety conversation. That is a reflection of them, it’s not a reflection of you. And if you want, you can explain to them, “Money has been hard, difficult and it’s tight time, and I really just want you to know that I put everything I have into this,” if that helps you. But again, we are not responsible for other people’s feelings. We’re not responsible for their actions. That’s their responsibility. All you can do is honor yourself and be true to what’s right for you. We’ll talk a lot about that in the next episode.

10. “I’m always so anxious that I’m not showing enough gratitude when I get a gift. I don’t want to seem like a brat.”

Again, be yourself. If other people perceive you as a brat, that is a reflection of them. It’s not a reflection of you. People’s judgment of us is a reflection of them. It is not a reflection of us. If they think you’re a brat, that’s because they had expectations that you were going to act a certain way. That’s their stuff. You’ve got to stay in your lane.

Now, I think the thing to remember here is you’re probably putting so much attention and energy and pressure on yourself that it’s probably feeling really inauthentic. I want you to receive the gift. I want you to thank them for the gift and then allow yourself to have anxiety about whether or not it was too much or not. Again, that’s their stuff. Try to be as true to you as you can. Ask yourself, what would I do if fear wasn’t here and try to do that?

Now, if receiving gifts is so anxiety-provoking and you totally freeze, you may want to practice saying whatever feels right to you. For me, I might say, “Wow, that is so thoughtful. Thank you so much.” That’s really all you need to say. You don’t need to jump up and down and get all freaked out. Just be yourself. You may even be totally calm, and then write them a beautiful Thank You card a week later and share with them what you like about it.

I try to teach my children when they write Thank You cards to just say, “Thank you so much for the t-shirt. I loved the color.” “Thank you so much for my drink bottle. It will fit perfectly in my lunch box.” “Thank you so much for this toy. I have loved playing with it.” This is just basic stuff. That’s all you need. It doesn’t have to be a full-on production. We’re getting closer here. We’re getting close.

11. “The holidays make me feel alone and lonely.”

I am sure you know, I recently wrote a book called The Self-Compassion Workbook for OCD. The reason I bring that up is I’m going to emphasize, so much of the time when we’re suffering, all we need is compassion. So, you don’t need to read the workbook for this, but I’m emphasizing the reason I wrote that book is because when we are suffering, we need self-compassion. It has to be a part of the work. So, as loneliness and aloneness show up for you, really be tender to yourself. validate yourself. Acknowledge this is true for me. I feel lonely. Don’t tell yourself a story about it, though. Don’t go off into the narrative of, “This means I’m a loser and no one’s ever going to love me.” Don’t do that because that’s not a fact. There’s no evidence of that. So, I don’t want you to focus on that, but do give yourself permission to feel what you feel.

How are we going? Are we doing good? We’re almost there. A couple more to go.

12. Another year of suffering, expectations not met.

So, back in the past, we did a podcast on this. It’s called “It’s time for a parade.” It’s really early. It’s like number 14 or 15 or something like that. Go back and check on that, because so often we need to really lean into the present, really lean into dropping out expectations. And again, we want to be compassionate.

Yes, it is another year of suffering. I cannot agree with you more. I have multiple times broken down over the last week into tears because yet again, I’m missing my family. Literally, every single member of my family I won’t get to see. And I know a lot of you have been doing this and are going through even much harder things. This has been a really rough couple of years. So, please validate yourself, acknowledge your suffering, allow yourself to grieve. Really go back to some of the tools we’ve talked about. Being present, getting really clear on the few rituals you want to do, the hot chocolate, the songs. Maybe it’s taking a walk, maybe it’s journaling, whatever it may be.

I just want to take a breath and just really honor you all right now because the holidays are so hard. They’re so, so hard.

13. How to show up for myself during the craziness of the holidays?

Here I’m going to give it to you. I ask you a question and I want you to answer it honestly to yourself.

All of the things that you’ve planned, how many do you actually want to do? And of the things you don’t want to do, how many of the things you actually have to do? And then whatever’s left over, don’t do them.

So often we add all this extra crap and we actually don’t need to do it. You’re allowed to keep it simple. You’re allowed to just make it really easy. You might say to your friends, “You know what, guys, I’m not doing presents this year. I’m only doing gift cards. Buy them online, be done.” Or you might say, “I’m not cooking/baking this year. I’m going to order them from the bakery.” Done. Make it easy. You deserve and it’s okay to drop the craziness. We don’t need the craziness.

Say no to people. We’ll talk about this in next week’s episode. Say no to people. Don’t do what you don’t want to do if you don’t want to do it and it’s not highly valuable to you.

Here’s the thing, and I’ll share a story. This Thanksgiving, while I’m recording just before Thanksgiving right now, there is a couple of things I don’t want to do around Thanksgiving. Now, even though I don’t want to do them, I’m choosing to do them because I think they’re really important for my children, particularly given the fact that they haven’t had a lot of social interaction over the last year and a half. So, I’m choosing to do it. Now, what I’m going to say to myself as I do it is I’m not going to go, “Oh, I don’t want to do this. Oh, I don’t want to do this.” I’m going to say, “I’m choosing to do this because...” and I’m going to answer, “because my children deserve this holiday.” And when you say, “I choose to do this, because...” it brings you into a place where you’re owning what you want to do and why you’re doing it, even if you don’t want to do it. But if it makes you crazy, don’t do it. There’s no need.

14. Gift guide for people with mental illness.

If you go to, we have a mental health gift guide. Go over and check it out.

15. Changes in the schedule.

Now, this is where we use the tool of flexibility, and you have to be flexible during the holidays. Flexibility is dropping your expectations, dropping all of the goals and going with the flow. When things change, stop and ask yourself, what about this change is creating anxiety for me? Can I lean into it? Can I allow it? And go with it. Practice. Use it as an opportunity to practice the skill of flexibility. I’m not sure if I’ve done a podcast on flexibility. So, come to think of it, I will do one in the New Year.

All right. You guys are so cool. I hope you have a wonderful holiday period. Before we finish the show, I want to do the review of the week. If you want to leave a review on iTunes, I would be so grateful. It would be the best Christmas gift you can give me. It’ll cost you nothing. And my wish is that if you do it, not for me, I don’t need the ego stroke, but the more reviews we get, the more people will click on it and the more people I can help with this free resource. So, here it is.

The review of the week is from WalkerMom77, and they said:

“Kimberley is a warm hug. While the content of this podcast is excellent and has inspired me to do further research, read books, etc., it’s Kimberley’s compassion that keeps me coming back. She is so authentic and genuine and her voice just relaxes me.”

Thank you so much, WalkerMom 77. I love, love knowing that I inspire you and keep you moving forward and bring you some compassion.

Well, that’s it for now. I’m going to see you next week and we can talk about boundaries with family members. I hope you have a wonderful day. Sending you so much love. Please be kind to yourself. It is a beautiful day to do hard things.

Dec 3, 2021


Today we have Natasha Daniels, an OCD specialist, talking all about how to help children and teens with OCD and phobias.  In this conversation, we talk all about how to motivate our children and teens to manage their OCD, phobias, and anxiety using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), and other treatments such as self-compassion, mindfulness, and ACT. We also address what OCD treatment for children entails and what changes need to be made in OCD treatment for teens. In this episode, Natasha and Kimberley share their experiences of parenting children with phobias and OCD.

In This Episode:

  • The difference between the treatment of OCD and phobias for children
  • What OCD therapy for kids looks like compared to OCD therapy for adults
  • How to practice exposure and response prevention for kids and teens
  • How to motivate teens and kids to face their fears (using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Special tricks and tools to help parents support their children with OCD and phobias.

Links To Things I Talk About:

Episode Sponsor:

This episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit is brought to you by is a psychoeducation platform that provides courses and other online resources for people with anxiety, OCD, and Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors.  Go to to learn more.

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This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 213.

Welcome back everybody. Oh, so happy to be here. How are you? How are you doing? I’ve been thinking about you all so much lately, reflecting a lot after Thanksgiving, being so grateful for you and this community and for your support. So, thank you, thank you, thank you.

I am super thrilled to have the amazing Natasha Daniels on. Natasha is an OCD specialist. She is an amazing therapist who is skilled at treating children with OCD and phobias. She does an incredible, incredible job. So please do check the show notes to learn more about Natasha. But today, she came on to talk about managing anxiety in the kiddos. We don’t talk enough about managing anxiety with the kiddos. And the cool thing for me was, it was so synchronistic because the day that she recorded and came on, we were prepping in my family from my daughter to do a really, really, really hard thing. So, I needed to hear what she had to say. Even though I knew a lot and I’d been trained a lot on it, I just needed to hear it as a parent. And if you are a parent of someone who has anxiety, you will just love, love, love this episode. So many amazing tips and tools and skills and concepts. I just cannot tell you how grateful I am to have Natasha come on and talk about these things with us today.

Before we go over to that episode, I first want to do the “I did a hard thing segment.” The first one is from Becks, and Becks is saying:

“I have been so anxious that I’ve been carrying COVID without knowing who I’m infecting.” Now I think this is true for a lot of us, myself included. So I think we can all resonate with this story.

Becks went on to say, “Recently, I have been doing five to ten lateral flow COVID tests every day to check before leaving the house. I had run out of tests and had planned to eat with a friend with her three-month-old baby. I was so anxious before leaving the house and considered canceling to avoid the doubt of passing COVID unknowingly. But I gave my fear of talking to.” I just love that you did that. “I didn’t want to get fear to win this time. I wanted to see my friend and her beautiful new baby. I shared my fear with my friend, and without asking for reassurance, I spent the loveliest day with them. I have been ruminating a little since, but I keep reminding myself to return to my values and not let fear win.”

Becks, amazing work. It sounds like you’re waiting through some difficult fear and you totally let values win. So, that makes me so, so happy. Great job. I am so in love with you guys when you share your hard thing with us.


Okay, let’s go over to the episode.

Well, thank you again, Natasha, for being on. Before we finish this episode, I wanted to also make sure we highlighted the review of the week. I so appreciate your reviews. This one is from Paulie Bill and they said:

“So helpful. I can’t describe in words how much this podcast has helped me. Kimberley is so open and accepting even via headphones.” I love that. “She has sent me on the path to recovery in my anxieties. I look forward to do the work.”

Thank you so much. I do love your reviews. We are on a mission to get a thousand reviews. If you would go over and leave a review on iTunes, that would be so wonderful, the biggest gift you could give me. It allows us to reach more people. When people open up the app and they see that it’s highly reviewed, it means they’re more likely to click on and listen. And that means I get to help more people for free with this free resource. So, thank you so much, Paulie Bill, for leaving a review. I love you all. Have a wonderful week and I’ll see you here next week.

Treating Children with OCD and Phobias Your anxiety toolkit

Kimberley: There we go. Well, I am so excited to share the amazing Natasha Daniels. Natasha, I can’t wait for you to tell us about you. I’m going to let you explain about your work. You’re doing such amazing work. I’m actually so excited for this episode because we’re talking about managing OCD and phobias in children. We talk a lot about this stuff, but not specifically around children. So, I’m so happy to have you here. Welcome.

Natasha: Yeah. I appreciate you having me. It’s always nice to talk to you.

Kimberley: Yes. First, tell us about you and the work you’re doing.

Natasha: Well, I am a child and anxiety child therapist, and I have three kids with anxiety and OCD. So, I get it on both hats. And I provide online resources for parents who are raising kids with anxiety and OCD because we need a lot of support.

Kimberley: Right. Your platform is so great. In fact, I’ve taken one of your training, the SPACE training, and it’s so wonderful. So, I can’t wait at the end for you to share about that for people and parents who are struggling, but also for clinicians. Really, really helpful.

Natasha: Oh, thanks.

Kimberley: Yeah. So, I want to talk with you about ERP but also just anxiety management for the kids who are struggling with OCD and phobias. In your experience, is there a difference between how treatment looks for folks who are adults and the children who have OCD and phobias?

Natasha: I think on a fundamental level, it’s very similar. The whole structure is identical, but then we have to take into consideration a couple of different things. One, I think you have to work on the motivation and incentivizing more than you do with someone who’s coming willingly. So, a lot of times we might notice an issue going on with our child, but they’re another person. And so, that approach will look different. And also, developmentally, how they can understand ERP. So, how you explain it, how you gamify it. That looks different. I think as well, we want to engage them. If you don’t have an engaged child, you don’t have ERP. So, that’s another aspect. And then I’d say the third one, the last one is developmental aspects of it. So, we’re very careful with ERP to not do a lot of education because we worry, maybe if I’m educating them, I’m actually assuring them. But with kids, I find at least with myself and my practice and with my own kids, I have to do a little bit of psychoeducation because they may not even know what’s normal versus what’s not normal. And so, I think that piece might be a little bit different than when you’re working with adults.

Kimberley: Right. Yeah. I think that’s so true, particularly even, I remember when my son was really young and had a really severe dog phobia. He was around a lot of dogs, and when a dog ran at him, he actually thought they were going to kill him because they’re the same size. So, it was really important that we educated him on, “This is a dog, but it’s not a lion” kind of thing. So, it was really important for him.

Natasha: Yeah, definitely.

Kimberley: You mentioned gamifying, and I wanted to just-- can you explain what that means?

Natasha: Well, I think we want to offer incentives. And so, because they don’t have their-- most kids don’t have that intrinsic motivation to realize the bigger picture of, “I don’t want OCD. This is going to have huge ramifications in my life.” They just see now. And so, asking them to go, metaphorically, swim with a bunch of sharks, it’s just not going to happen, but if we can gamify it and make it fun-- and I use bravery points or the earning stuff, and they can buy things at my bravery store. I use apps, I take-- I actually like the Privilege app. They should pay me because I promote them so much. Because it’s a chore app, but it’s just really easy for kids to convert it. And then they can have it on their iPad. So, I’m giving my kids points and they can hear the little change going on their iPad, like they just got something. That aspect of it really helps motivate kids to work on and do hard things because they may not philosophically get the benefits. They will long term, and even short term. Once they start doing ERP, they say, “Oh my gosh, it feels so much better.” But that’s not enough. And so, gamifying, it actually makes a lot of kids come and ask me, “Can I do another exposure?” My kids always ask, “Can I do another exposure?” if they want something. “What exposures can I do for this?” And that creates a household where we’re doing ERP for fun.

Kimberley: I love that. You talk about that. I mean, we do live in such an electronic world, and it is an incentive, I know for me, my kids will do anything if there is some kind of electronic reward at the end there, and it’s a huge piece. I have a daughter, I mentioned to you before the recording, who is doing her own set of exposures right now, and she doesn’t want to do them. Then why would she? So, it’s really helpful to gamify it as much as you can. I love that you mentioned that.

Natasha: Yeah, it definitely helps. And I think even people who are raw screen fans and they follow the CPS model. I hear that a lot in the parenting world. He’s not pro-incentive. And I interviewed him and even he was like, for anxiety and OCD, it can be a very important component, as long as you’re constantly, I think, upping the game so you’re doing an exposure that’s harder and harder. So, they’re not just getting A plus B equals C all the time. And then you’re pulling back those incentives over time, spreading them out, using intermittently. So, there are ways to pull it back.

Kimberley: So good. So, let’s say a child at different ages, it could be-- you may even want to distinguish different age groups if that’s appropriate, but let’s say they have a fear of phobia or an obsession about something. Can you share what it would look to do ERP with a child?

Natasha: I think the first part is really getting them to understand what it is, because I think sometimes I have parents that they are ready to go and they forget they have to really educate the child and get the child to meet them where they’re at. So, understanding how OCD works, that the more you avoid, the bigger it grows, and then partnering with them, ideally, if your child is in that space. So, sometimes we have to actually work on communication and trust for a long period of time. And that might be your only step for a long time. And parents miss that. They think, “If my child’s not willing to do ERP, then all bets are off.” And I say, “No, you’re at the beginning of the journey.” So, to educate them and motivate them, work on communication.

But then as we progress – I’ll just use my kids as an example because it’s easy – if they have a phobia or if they have an intrusive thought, we’ll say, “Okay, what are some things--” they get the concept of, “I have to walk towards my fear or towards my discomfort.” So, we want to partner with our kids and say, “What things can we do to upset your OCD, to sit in discomfort?” And so, we might just make a list, might brainstorm.

My daughter had a two-day period where she had this extreme intrusive thought about blood and it wasn’t one of her themes, but it was just-- I’m going to use this as an example. And so, it just went from zero to 60. She had one science experiment. They were online. They had to look at a body with the pathways of the veins and the arteries or whatever, and she couldn’t touch anyone because she didn’t want to stop their blood.

And so, just whatever that is for your child, just sitting at them and saying, “What are some things that we can do?” And she was very resistant. “I don’t want to do anything.” And so, I was like, “Could you look at an emoji of a little thing of blood?” So, we started off making a list. And I would say, “You don’t have to do all this, but let’s just brainstorm some of the things that would upset your OCD right now.” And then some people pick a menu like, “Just pick one today and let’s just start with that.” And that’s how you begin. It’s just baby steps towards learning how to sit in the discomfort.

Kimberley: I love that. Now, during the exposure, what does that look like for a child? I’ll give you a personal example. We were doing a video exposure with my daughter yesterday, and she was all tense up, leaning back, head in the pillow, grasping, gripping, resisting, all the things, and I educated her. So, what would it look like for a parent? How would they maybe, or in a clinician, how would they coach them through the actual exposure?

Natasha: In a perfect really, we want them to take the lead, and it’s so hard when they have that response. And I had done needle exposures too with my kids. And so, sometimes when I see that reaction, I’ll stop, and I’ll just say-- well, actually, my son had to take a COVID test. This is another example. And he wouldn’t stick it up his nose. And so then, of course, I got frustrated. So, I was chasing him and I was like, “Give me your nose.” It was not a fine mom moment. And then finally, I stopped and I was like, “How do you want to handle this? What do you want to do? We cannot do it.” And then he’s like, “I’ll do it.” And so, I just had to walk away. But I think sometimes with exposures, it’s just taking that pause and saying, “Where do you want me to poke you?” if we’re talking about a poking exposure or “Where’s your level of comfort?”

Ideally over time, we want them to start doing these things for themselves. And so, we want them to be on automatic pilot that they’re doing an exposure and we’re sitting back. So, all we’re doing at some point is saying, “This is less for a phobia that’s situational and obviously more for an ongoing thing.” But with my daughter, with emetophobia, the fear of throwing up, I might say, “What exposure do you want to do? Let me know when you do it, and then I’ll give you a brave point.” And then I might hover in the kitchen and just watch her do it, but try to be less involved.

Kimberley: Right. I love that. On our end, I had to keep explaining to her that the more you tense and the more you cringe, the more you’re reinforcing the fear to try and sit still. She’s trying to practice. Again, she doesn’t have to act perfect. I always say, “You don’t have to take the fear away, but you can’t be cringing and hiding behind the pillows and so forth.” That’s a big piece of the work.

Natasha: Yeah. And I think it’s such an important piece that I think a lot of parents miss, is not surviving the exposure. For my son with this anxiety, I’d be like, “Go upstairs to do an exposure. Go get your shoes or whatever.” And this was more anxiety-based, not OCD. And he’d run upstairs like he’s avoiding a killer and then he’d run back downstairs. And I’m like, “All you did was teach your brain that you survived. It’s going to work.”

Kimberley: Yeah. I love that. Okay. So, I love that you’ve already shared like you didn’t have a perfect parent moment, right? Because I think parent is already-- it’s hard to be a parent. We have so many expectations on ourselves. Can you give us some ideas of what to say and what not to say or how parents may support their child better in these examples?

Natasha: It is really tricky. And I think start, and you’re so good at this, the self-compassion piece. And I think parentally, we have to start with self-compassion and say, “You’re not going to knock it out of the park all the time.” You’re going to say things that you’re like, “Oh my gosh, that was the worst thing to say ever.” You might trigger your child inadvertently. So, I think having that compassion first is really important. And that’s why I always often share my mistakes because I’m human, we’re all human. But I think in a perfect world, the ultimate goal is we’re just trying to get our child to be able to sit in discomfort. So, we’re not discounting their fears. And I think sometimes parents here, “I’m not supposed to accommodate,” which they, in turn, view as “I’m not supposed to support them.” And that concerns me because I think a little bit of information can be harmful. So, it’s not that you can’t support them, but you just want to sit and validate. I know this is hard for you.

I’ll take an example, just so I’m all concrete. Let’s go back to emetophobia, the fear of throw up. Sometimes parents will say, “When I say you can’t say--” I don’t normally talk like that, like you can’t say, but it’s not helpful to say, “You’re not going to throw up,” because you really want them to accept that they may or may not throw up and that they’re going to be okay either way. I’m sure they can handle the discomfort. And so, sometimes that confuses parents because then the child’s stomach is hurting and they’re saying, “I’m worried I’m going to throw up.” And then they can’t say anything. So, they’re like, “Got to go to school, get your shoes on.” It’s like turning into robots, but it’s just validating the feelings. “I know this is hard for you. I know that this is really rough and I’m so--” this is how I talk to my kids, “I’m so sorry that OCD is really bothering you right now. And I know that you can handle it, no matter what happens.” And so, giving them that support and validation without the accommodation of “Nothing bad is going to happen to you.”

Kimberley: Yeah. It’s hard. I mean, it’s funny because it’s hard to see your child in pain, right? It’s hard to watch them struggle. You want to take their pain away. You want to come in. And in some cases, I will even disclose, there’s times where-- or maybe I’m not feeling I’m being a good parent in general and I want to rescue them so my kid likes me again. You know what I mean? There’s so many components that can suck us into “Let me just rescue this one time.” Where I really am curious to hear, what I really have struggled with my patients, the thing that they’re working through is when a compulsion or avoidance is done because they want their kid to go to school. Like, “Well, if I don’t do this compulsion for them, they won’t go to school, and I need them to go to school,” or “I need them to get their homework done. So, I’m actually going to do this compulsion for them and accommodate them because school is the most important thing at that point.” So, what, what is your advice to parents who get stuck in that accommodation cycle because they’re trying to keep the kid functioning in other areas?

Natasha: It’s definitely a balancing act because we cannot accommodate everything at once. And so, if the ultimate goal is get them to school, and there might be some things that we have to do to get them to school, but then we have to pull back. And it can snowball. It snowballed with me. I’ll just throw myself under the bus the entire interview. Why not? I mean, Natasha, it looked really good. But when my daughter was, I think, first grade, she had emetophobia, her throw up in sensorimotor OCD where she thought she was going to pee all the time. So, both of those together was a nightmare. And we just needed to get her to school. She didn’t want to go to school. And so, initially, it was just, “I can’t go into the cafeteria.” And so, there were accommodations made, “Oh, if it’s just lunch, then we’ll have you go eat in another classroom.”

But OCD is never satisfied. And so, you have to have that awareness. And that was me as a parent. Intellectually, I knew, okay, you have to be careful with this because we’re accommodating it. But then it was recess. Then it was PE. And then she was spending half the day in the nurse because we were over accommodating, and then we had to start to scale back and then get her back into the cafeteria. So, I think you just have to be aware that it is a balancing act that, yes, there are some things that you might have to accommodate, but then it’s not a permanent thing. You have to start. You have to constantly reassess and pull back those accommodations.

Kimberley: Right. And I love that you share it. It’s funny because sometimes I shock myself as a clinician. I know exactly what to do and I completely forget to do it with my kids. It’s so hard. And I say, I completely forget. I’m not in denial. I actually forget like, “No, no, she’s my child. It’s my job. I have to protect her or protect him.” So, I think it’s important that we talk about that because parents can be really, really hard on themselves and beat themselves up. I know we’ve talked about that in the past. So, thank you so much for sharing that.

Okay. So, what about in the school setting? How do you encourage parents to communicate this with teachers, personnel, or principals, and so forth? How much do you encourage people to disclose?

Natasha: I think it’s really important to help the school understand your child. And I know that a lot of times parents are worried about stigma or their permanent record. And so, they avoid that. But really, we’re setting our kids up for failure and we’re setting the teacher up for failure. So, if they’re young, especially when they’re young, I think it is good to write a little summary of like, these are their issues. But be specific. These are the ways that it will show up in school and these are the ways that you can help. And giving that to the teacher, I always gave that to the teacher. Whenever you’d get that thing in the mail that said, or in their backpack, “Let me get to know your child,” I’d be like, I would staple this whole clinical summary in the back or email them, or I would ask them, “Can I meet with you alone after the parent-teacher conference?”

But I wanted them to-- so, sometimes parents will say, “Well, I want them to get to know my child first before they see them as having a disorder.” And I have found over and over again that it only benefited my child when they knew they had anxiety and OCD, that they weren’t being a problem child. They weren’t trying to go to the bathroom to avoid. They had certain issues that were going to show up. So, I do think it’s important.

Now, my son and my daughter, my older daughter, both also have anxiety/OCD issues. My daughter’s 18. Once she hit an age, I’d ask her, do you want me to notify your teachers? She hit a bump in high school and I offered, “I can go in and talk to the counselor.” And I actually did this past year because we had another issue going on, but there was a respect issue. At that point, that was her life. And my son, who’s 12, now I also ask. But when it became an issue, I said, “I need to tell your teachers. Yeah.” And so, you have to decide.

Kimberley: Yeah. And now there’s no rule, right? And every kid is probably different too. I know for my kids, they’re such different little human beings, so my approach is way different with them. Absolutely. Okay. A couple of questions. I know I’m just coming up because I wanted to ask. So, as a parent managing, it’s hard to see your kids suffer and it’s also hard to see them avoid. I know it’s interesting. My first reaction surprisingly was anger, right? It made me angry that this was happening. What might parents do for themselves to manage their own emotional experience when they watch their child suffering?

Natasha: It could be very triggering and it could impact your relationship with your partner because you’re approaching it differently. It can tap you out because you’re spending so much time helping your kids, that you are forgetting to focus on yourself. And so, that cliche statement of putting the oxygen mask on yourself first actually has a lot of validity because, how you view your child, how you take care of yourself, your health, your emotional and physical health, and also how you catastrophize your child’s issues will impact your child’s ability to have long term success. And so, sometimes I try to get parents to connect their child’s success with their own issues because that’s the only thing I’ll motivate them to focus inward because they’re selfless and they want to focus on their child. “Don’t worry about me. That’s not a front-burner issue. Let me focus on my child.” And I try to get parents to see you’re a pivotal point, because when you’re catastrophizing and you’re seeing a college student in front of you not functioning and they’re in kindergarten, that’s doing something to how you approach that child. That’s creating a lot of anxiety with that. So, self-work is really important.

Kimberley: Yeah. It’s so important. It is so important. I did some reflecting this week in terms of, we have a dentist appointment that is going to be hard. It’s funny, we’re talking this week because this is the week that we have a huge procedure happening. And I’m doing my own work and sitting in like, it is what it is. I can support, I can encourage, I can do the exposures. But when I start getting grasping, I’m like, “No, it has to happen. She has to get it. It has to be done. And it has to be done that day.” And that’s when I don’t show up as the parent I want to be. And it shows up in many areas. It’s not just when I’m with them. It’s like, I’m angry when I’m typing and I’m frustrated when I’m taking a walk. So, it shows up in so many areas. So, I feel such deep compassion for the parent who is anticipating these upcoming events like vaccinations and Halloween being a big one for some kids. Some parents are dreading these events.

Natasha: Yeah, and knowing what your own triggers are. I know what my triggers are. I know I can’t handle choking. I know I can’t handle-- my husband used to take my kids to get blood work because I have a thing with shots and blood work. And so, if you can tap out and have someone else do it, if it’s a trigger for you, that could be helpful. Or knowing how to center yourself, I had to really fake it this past year because there was no help. And they were just sitting on my lap and they can feel my energy. They can. So, I had to authentically do my own work, not fake it because they can feel it. They can feel in your body and just say, they don’t get it done. like you said, if they don’t get it done, they don’t get it done. If they pass out or throw up – because I think that’s my phobia, it’s like, I don’t want them to pass out in front of me because they always do – then it’s going to be okay, no matter what.

Kimberley: Did you, as a parent, if you don’t mind me asking, have to do your own exposures to their exposures?

Natasha: Taking them has been an exposure. It’s actually not an exposure because it’s just happening to me. But I didn’t. I actually didn’t. I just do my own internal work. I find just telling myself that it doesn’t matter if they pass out and they do. And they still do. And it’s all still okay.

Kimberley: You’re amazing. It’s really inspiring actually to know you’re walking the walk, not just talking the talk. It’s really quite impressive.

Natasha: Oh, thanks.

Kimberley: Yeah. So, what do you do if your child adamantly does not want to engage in treatment?

Natasha: It’s really important that we get them to enter treatment approaches on their own, because I really feel like we can break their ability to embrace approaches lifelong if we strong-arm them and we force them and we do things. I’ve had parents say like, “I just take their hand and I make them touch stuff.” And I think that child’s never going to do that on their own then because we’re always going to dig our heels back. So, I think it’s meeting your child where your child is at. And there’s always an entry point. It may not be the entry point you want, and I totally get that because my son, he did not want to do anything initially. And that’s frustrating when your child’s starving to death, but it’s not going-- you can’t force it. You can’t grab the steering wheel and drive for them. And so, what do they need for me to get them to that point? Do they need-- do I just have to work on communication with them? Do I just have to work on them trusting? They say something and I just listen. Can I just get them to watch a bunch of YouTube videos or read a couple of books and give them bravery points for doing that? That’s treatment. That’s education. So, I think it’s just finding out where does your child want to start.

Kimberley: Right. I know I took one of your courses, the SPACE training, which was amazing. And I found that really helpful too, is to just catch-- if they don’t want to do treatment to catch where the accommodation is happening on the parents end. Did you want to share a little about that?

Natasha: Yeah. I think that SPACE Program, Eli Lebowitz’s SPACE Program, is huge because it finally empowers parents to do something, even if their children don’t want anything to do with it. So, you can work on your trust and communication, but then there are-- OCD is a family affair, we often say, and there’s a lot that we can do that OCD wants us to do. And so, working on how we approach it, what kind of family environment do we create in our home? What things do we pull back, our accommodation? There’s a lot of work that a parent can do on their own. And that’s what the SPACE program does. And I have a study guide because I think some people just want a video of like, “Just break it down for me, Natasha.”

Kimberley: That was me. I want the bullet point version.

Natasha: Yeah.

Kimberley: That’s what that does. And it was amazing. Okay. So, thank you so much. This has been so incredibly helpful. I’m wondering if you could give us some major points, things that you really feel that we need to know either as clinicians or parents or loved ones of a child who’s struggling with OCD and anxiety. What are some main points or things that you want us to know of before we sign off for the day?

Natasha: Well, I think you cover a lot in your podcast with such good information. So, I would just add to that and say, don’t forget to make it fun, right? I mean, all this doom and gloom, the kids can feel that. And we can make OCD fun and we can gamify it. So, that’s really important. And I think the other part is not forgetting to highlight the superpowers that kids with anxiety and OCD have, letting them know that there are amazing qualities that come with a person who has anxiety or OCD. And my kids get proud of that. They start to feel like, “I’m intuitive,” or “I’m kind-hearted,” or they’ll even actually say, “My superpower is...” So, don’t forget that part. That piece is important.

Kimberley: So important, particularly because with OCD and anxiety comes so many qualities, right? They can have qualities. They’re so brave. They’re so courageous. They’re so resilient. These are things that will serve them for why.

Natasha: Totally.

Kimberley: Yeah. Well, I thank you so much. Number one, as a human being, thank you, because I needed this this week without even realizing it.

Natasha: I’m glad you need it timely.

Kimberley: It was such great timing, but also thank you for all the amazing work that you do. I think this is an incredible resource. So, can you tell us where people go to hear more about you?

Natasha: Yeah. And thank you for your work. I think that you’re just putting such good stuff out there. People can find, if they want to look at my online courses, they can go to And I provide online resources for parents and courses to teach you how to help your kids crush anxiety and OCD. They can also listen to my podcast.

Kimberley: Great. And I’ll have links in the show notes for anyone who wants to access that. I am so grateful to you. Thank you so much for doing such great work.

Natasha: Thanks for having me.