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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: January, 2022
Jan 28, 2022

SUMMARY:
Today we have Amanda White, an amazing therapist who treats anxiety, eating disorders and substance use. Amanda is coming onto the podcast today to talk about her book, Not Drinking Tonight and how we can all have a healthy relationship with alcohol. Amanda White talks about ways you can address your relationship with alcohol, in addition to drugs, social media and other vices. Amanda White also shares her own experience with alcohol use and abuse and her lived-experience with sobriety.

In This Episode:

  • Do you have a healthy relationship with alcohol
  • Why we use alcohol and substances to manage anxiety and other strong emotions
  • How to build a healthy relationship with alcohol.
  • How to manage substance abuse, anxiety and substance use in recovery.
  • Tools and tips to manage alcohol use and abuse

Links To Things I Talk About:

Easiest place to get Amanda’s book with all links amandaewhite.com/book
Instagram @therapyforwomen
My therapy practice therapyforwomencenter.com
ERP School: https://www.cbtschool.com/erp-school-lp

Episode Sponsor:

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

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Episode Transcription

This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 219.
Welcome back, everybody. I am thrilled to have you here with me today. You may notice that the podcast looks a little different. That is on purpose. We have decided to update the cover of the podcast. It now has my face on it. There were a lot of people who had reached out and said that the old podcast cover art looked like a gardening podcast. And I thought it was probably time I updated it. So, that was something that I had created years and years and years ago. And I’m so thrilled to have now a very beautiful new cover art.

Okay. This episode is so, so important. I cannot stress to you how overjoyed I was to have the amazing Amanda White on the podcast. She’s a psychotherapist. She’s on Instagram, under the handle Therapy For Women. She’s so empowering. And she talks a lot about your relationship with substance use, particularly alcohol. But in this episode, we talk about many substances. And this is a conversation I feel we need to have more of because there are a lot of people who are trying to manage their anxiety and they end up using alcohol to cope.

Now, this is a complete shame-free episode. In fact, one of the things I love about Amanda is she really does not subscribe to having to do a 100% sobriety method. She really talks about how you can create a relationship with alcohol based on whatever you think is right. And she has a new book out, which I am so excited that she’s going to share with you all about.

Before we get into the episode, I’d first like to do the review of the week. Here we go.

We have this one from Epic 5000 Cloud 9, and they said:

“This podcast has absolutely changed my life and made my recovery journey feel possible. After completing ERP, I felt lost and confused as to why I did not feel ‘better’. Kimberley has given me so many tools to build my self-compassion, grow my mindfulness skills, manage OCD, and do all the hard things.”

So amazing. I’m so grateful to have you in our community. Epic 5000 Cloud 9. So happy to have you be a part of our little wonderful group of badass human beings. I love it.

Let’s go right over to the show and so you can learn all about Amanda and this beautiful, beautiful conversation. Have a wonderful day, everybody.

Do you have a healthy relationship with alcohol Your anxiety toolkit

Kimberley: Okay. Well, thank you, Amanda, for being here. I’m actually so grateful for you because you’ve actually brought to my attention a topic I’ve never talked about. And so, I’m so happy to have you here. Welcome.

Amanda: Thank you so much for having me, Kimberley. I’m excited to chat with you.

Kimberley: Okay. So, tell me a little bit about you first. Like, who are you? What do you do? What’s your mission?

Amanda: Yeah. So, my name is Amanda White. I am a licensed therapist. You might know me on Instagram from Therapy For Women as my handle. I’m also sober and I’m really on a mission to destigmatize sobriety and destigmatize the idea that you can question your relationship with alcohol. And it’s really why my Instagram page and everything I do isn’t sober only focused because I want it to be something where people who maybe aren’t necessarily sober or haven’t thought about it can, in a safe unstigmatized, unpressured way, also explore their relationship with alcohol. And that is what led me to write a book. And my book is called Not Drink Tonight.

Kimberley: So good. So, I already have so many questions. Why wouldn’t one question their relationship with alcohol? Because what I will bring here is a little culture. I’m Australian.

Amanda: Yeah. I was going to say.

Kimberley: I live in America. The culture around drinking is much different. I have some great friends in England, the culture there is much different. So, do you want to share a little bit about why one wouldn’t maybe question their relationship with drinking?

Amanda: Absolutely. I think I can only speak for America specifically, but I know enough people in England and Australia, too, that there is a culture of drinking is good, drinking is normal. We watch our parents or adults drink when we’re young. We think that’s what makes us an adult. If you look at the media, you look at movies, TV shows, it’s what everyone does when they’re stressed. Women pour themselves a glass of wine. Men pour themselves a bourbon. So, I think that we’re just raised in the society that doesn’t ever question their drinking, because alcohol use is so black and white, where you either are normal and you should drink alcohol and it’s what’s expected, or you’re an alcoholic and you should never drink alcohol. And there isn’t a lot of space in between. So, if someone questions their alcohol use, people assume that they’re an alcoholic.

Kimberley: And so, now let me ask, why would we question our relationship? What was that process like for you? Why would we want to do that? Some people haven’t, I think, even considered it. So, can you share a little bit about why we might want to?

Amanda: Absolutely. I think it isn’t talked about enough of how much alcohol really negatively impacts your mental health. For a while, I know doctors used to talk about there are some heart-healthy benefits of alcohol, which new studies say is not true. There really aren’t any benefits to drinking alcohol in terms of our health. But really, I think especially anxiety and alcohol are so intertwined and people don’t talk about it and don’t think about it. And what I want people to know is when you drink alcohol, it’s a depressant and your brain produces chemicals because your brain always wants to be in homeostasis. So, your brain produces anxiety chemicals, like cortisol and stuff like that, to try to rebalance into homeostasis. And after alcohol leaves your body, those anxiety hormones are still in there and it creates the phenomenon where you end up being more anxious after you drink. There’s other mental health effects too. But I feel like, especially on this podcast, it’s so important that people realize how intertwined alcohol and anxiety is.

Kimberley: Right. You know what’s interesting is I do a pretty good amount of assessment with my patients. But really often, I will have seen them for many months before-- and even though I thought I’ve assessed them for substance use and not even abuse, they will then say and realize like, “I think I’m actually using alcohol more than I thought to manage my anxiety.” And I’m always really shocked because I’m like, “I swore I assessed you for this.” But I think it takes some people time during recovery to start to say like, “Wow, I think there is an unhealthy relationship going here.” Is that the case from what you see or is that more my population?

Amanda: No. Absolutely. Because I think it’s easy to lie to yourself. Maybe not even lie, just like not look at it because again, it’s so normalized because we have an idea in our head of what someone with a problem with alcohol looks like. We don’t consider ourselves to have that problem. But just because we aren’t drinking every day or we’re not blacking out or something like that doesn’t mean that we might not be using it to numb, to cope with anxiety, to deal with stress.

Kimberley: Right. You know what’s funny is I-- this could be my personal or maybe it is a cultural thing because I always want to catch whether it’s an Australian thing or a Kimberley thing, is I remember-- I think hearing, but maybe I misinterpreted as a young child that you’re only an alcoholic if you get aggressive when you drink, and that if you’re a happy drunk, you’re not a drunk. You know what I mean? And that it’s not a bad thing. If it makes you happy and it takes the stress away, that’s actually a good coping. So, I remember learning as a teen of like, oh, you get to question what is an alcoholic and what’s substance abuse and what’s not. So, how would you define substance use versus substance abuse? Or do you even use that language?

Amanda: I mean, yes and no. I use it in terms of it exists, and it is part of the DSM. So, it is in terms of, I do diagnose when needed and things like that. A lot of times though, I think the current narrative and I think people spend so much time trying to figure out if it’s use or misuse, that they miss out on the most important question, which to me is, is alcohol making my life better.

Kimberley: Yeah.

Amanda: And if it’s not, if it’s right-- I have exercises in my book and I talk a lot about like, what are the costs of your drinking, and what are the payoffs? And if it’s costing you a lot or it’s costing you more than it’s bringing to your life, I think that is where you should question it. And I think your life can change. You can go through different things in your life and maybe that’s when you can ebb and flow with your questioning of it, especially people get so obsessed with the idea of whether they’re an alcoholic or not. And the term ‘alcoholic’ is completely outdated. It’s not even a diagnosis anymore. It’s now a spectrum. So, to me, that word is just so outdated and unhelpful to think about really.

Kimberley: Right. And even the word ‘abuse’ has a stigma to it too, doesn’t it?

Amanda: Right. In the DSM, it’s alcohol use disorder and it’s mild, moderate and severe. But it’s wild thinking back. I mean, I was in grad school. Oh my gosh, I’m going to date. I don’t even know how long ago, 10 years ago.

Kimberley: Don’t tell them.

Amanda: A certain amount of time ago, I just remember being in ‘addictions class’ as it was called and we were talking about what is the difference between use and abuse and what makes someone an alcoholic. And I think people also get very attached to being dependent. It means it’s abuse. And it takes a lot to become dependent on alcohol physically. So, we’re just missing out on so many people. I say often, we can question so many things in our life. I’m sure you do too with your clients. I question how their sleep habits interact with their mental health. We talk about how getting outside impacts their mental health, all these different factors. But for some reason with alcohol, which is a drug, we don’t question it or we are not allowed to.

Kimberley: Right. Yes. I will address this for the listeners, is I think with my clients, one of the most profound road, like if we come to the edge of the road and we have to decide which direction, the thing that really gets in the way is if I put a name to it, then I have to stop. And that can be, a lot of times, they won’t even want to bring it up – be in fear of saying, well, like you were saying before, is that meaning now-- as soon as I admit to having a problem, does that mean I’m in AA? Is it black and white? I think that there’s so much fear around what it means once we really define whether it’s helpful or problematic. That can be a scary step. What are your thoughts?

Amanda: Yeah, I completely agree. And that’s why I really believe in looking at it as a spectrum, especially I think about disordered eating, right? It’s like, we know that based on studies, if someone engages in disordered eating, they’re more likely to develop an eating disorder. So, in my book, I coined this term ‘disorder drinking’ and how I really think we need that term where people can-- it makes the barrier to question your relationship with alcohol much lower, where I find in my practice because I work with a lot of people with eating disorders. People are very open about saying, “Yeah, I’m maybe engaging in some unhealthy, disordered eating. I don’t know.”

But there’s a whole step there before maybe you recognize that you have an eating disorder, where I really think that that is what we need with alcohol. We need to be able to talk about how, like, yeah, most of us in college engage in disordered drinking. It’s not super healthy, the way that we drink. Or we may go through a period of time in our life because we’re super stressed or something’s going on, where we engage in that. And that doesn’t mean that you have, for sure, a substance use disorder or you’re addicted or you have to never drink again. But I think it’s important to recognize when we start to fall into that so we can change that pattern.

Kimberley: Right. Particularly with COVID. I mean, alcohol consumption is, I think, doubled or something like that in some country. And I think too, I mean, when we’re struggling with COVID that we have less access to good tools and less access to social. So, people are relying on substances and so forth. Yeah. So, what is this solution? There you go. Tell me all your answers. What is their options? How might somebody move into this conversation with themselves or with their partner or with their therapist? What are the steps from here, do you think?

Amanda: Yeah. So, I think that the first step is to try to take a break. I think 30 days is a good starting point. A lot of times, if people just start off by cutting back, they don’t really get any of the positive feel-good benefits of taking a break, which is why I recommend starting with taking a break first. Obviously, I believe in harm reduction. And if you are in a place where you can’t take a break, moderation is definitely a good tool and better than nothing.

Kimberley: Can you tell what harm reduction, for those who don’t know what that means?

Amanda: Yeah. So, harm reduction is the idea that rather than focusing on completely eliminating a behavior or especially completely eliminating a substance is we think about cutting back on that. And I think about specifically, if someone is in an abusive situation, if someone has a lot of trauma going on and alcohol is the one thing that’s keeping them afloat, that to me is like, of course, I’m not going to say you must quit cold turkey or something like that. And even if you’re talking about, alcohol is very dangerous to physically detox from if you are drinking every day, which a lot of people don’t know. In those cases, yeah, it’s really important to get support and detox in a safe environment.

Kimberley: Right. Okay. So, sorry I cut you off. Take a break--

Amanda: No, it’s okay. Yeah. So, that’s what harm reduction is. But yeah, in general, I recommend starting with taking a 30-day break, seeing how that goes, see how your health improves, see how your anxiety might be reduced and improved. And really to me, the goal is to learn how to live your life without being dependent on alcohol. Because if we can’t process our emotions, set boundaries, socialize, go on dates, whatever, without the help of alcohol, we never really have freedom of choice over drinking or not drinking because we need it on some level. So, my whole goal is for people to learn how to do some of those skills so that they don’t have to rely on alcohol, and then they can use alcohol in a healthier way for celebrating or in a way that positively impacts their life and they don’t use it as a crutch.

Kimberley: So, that’s so helpful. I’m pretty well-versed in this, but I wouldn’t say I’m a specialist. So, I’m really curious. So, if somebody is using alcohol or any other substance to manage their anxiety, would you teach them skills before they take the break so that they have the skills for the break or would you just start to take the break and then pick up what gets lost there? What might be some steps and what skills may you teach them?

Amanda: I think it’s a bit of both. I think if you only teach skills before, someone might never take the break, which is fine. But I think if you are only teaching the skills, a lot of times, the skills, I think that’s really good to start before you take the breaks. You can learn how to start dealing with your emotions maybe without drinking, for example. But some of the other stuff like going to a party, without drinking is something where if you don’t actually take that step, it’s probably unlikely that you’re ever going to do it until you’ve pushed yourself to take that break. But in general, yeah. I mean, I think one of the most important ones is learning how to cope with your emotions. People use alcohol all the time, especially alcohol becomes a way to deal with loneliness, to deal with stress, to deal with sadness. And I think--

Kimberley: Social anxiety is a big one.

Amanda: Social anxiety. Absolutely. And I think a lot of us literally don’t know how to process an emotion, say no, set that boundary, take care of themselves on a basic level without drinking. So, those are some of the skills I think are really important to learn.

Kimberley: I mean, yeah. And for a lot of the folks that I see because their anxiety is so high, would you say they’re using it to top off that anxiety to try and reduce it? In the case where if you’re not drinking, you’re having high states of anxiety. Is there any shifts that you would have them go through besides general anxiety management?

Amanda: I think the example I’m thinking of is maybe social anxiety. If there’s a specific instance, right? I know you talk about this a lot on Instagram, like exposures can really, really help with reducing anxiety. And I think there are steps that you can take that are small if you have a lot of social anxiety about going to a party and not drinking, for example, and you’re relying on alcohol to deal with going to a party. I mean, some of the things off the top of my head I can think about are like driving to the place where the party is before it happens, talking to someone who is going to be at the party – taking these small steps to desensitize yourself to it so you can build up your tolerance before you go. Or maybe you go, if this is the first year and you only stay for a short period of time, rather than going from nothing to expecting yourself to go and have fun and stay at the whole party the whole time.

Kimberley: Right. What was your experience, if you don’t mind sharing? What were those 30 days like, or can you share it, put us in your shoes for a little bit?

Amanda: Yeah, absolutely. So, I struggled a lot with an eating disorder and I kept relapsing in my eating disorder when I would drink. And I had said to my therapist at the time, “I think that I might have a problem with alcohol. I don’t know.” And she recommended me do those 30 days. And it was really hard for me. I didn’t actually make it to the first 30 days when I originally tried because I was so afraid of the pushback of friends, of people asking me why, of not being able to be fun. A huge part of my identity at that time was all wrapped up in what people thought of me and going out and being the fun, crazy one.

Kimberley: Yeah. And it’s interesting how the different experience, because I too had an eating disorder. But my eating disorder wouldn’t let me drink.

Amanda: Yeah.

Kimberley: That would be letting go of control, and what if I binge, and what if I ingest too many calories? So, it’s funny how different disorders play out in different ways. It was actually an exposure for me to drink. What we quote, I think I’d heard so many times “empty calories” or something. So, that was a different exposure for me of that. But I can totally see how other people, of course again, it does-- I mean, I think that this is interesting in your book, you talk about the pros and the cons. It does make it easier to be in public. It does “work” in some settings until it doesn’t.

Amanda: Exactly. And I think that’s so important to normalize and it’s part of why I wrote my book because there aren’t many books that are, you’ll get this as a therapist. I can think of many different situations where, like you said, I wouldn’t tell a client, “You should absolutely stop drinking,” because everything is unique. So, I really wanted to write a book that took into account different things and really led the reader through their own journey where they get to discover it for themselves because while there’s amazing books out that I love, there aren’t a ton that talk about this gray area, drinking, this middle lane, this truth that a lot of times you can feel lonely when you don’t drink because you’re left out of certain things. And that can cause more anxiety. So, we have to navigate all of that.

Kimberley: Yeah. It’s interesting too, and I don’t know if I’m getting this research correct. And maybe I’m not, but I’ll just talk from an experiential point. It’s similar with cigarettes, I think. There is something calming about holding the wine glass. Even if it’s got lemonade in it, for me, there’s something celebratory about that. And so, the reason I bring that up is, is that a part of the options for people? Is to explore the areas? It’s funny, I remember my husband many years ago that we talk about cigarettes, because he works in the film industry, and he would say, “The people who smoke cigarettes are the ones who actually get a break because they have to leave set and they get to go outside and sit on something and breathe and have a moment to themselves. If you don’t smoke, you’re lazy if you take a break.” And so, is that a part of it for you in terms of identifying the benefits and bringing that into your life? Like, I still now drink sparkling cider or something, an alcoholic in old champagne glass. My kids are always joking about it. Is that a part of the process?

Amanda: Absolutely. And that’s something that I completely agree with you. I think sometimes we don’t even want an alcoholic beverage. We want a moment. We want a break. We want a feeling different or celebratory, which is why we take out the wine glass that isn’t a regular glass, something like that. And that is why I really believe, I mean, it depends on the person. And sometimes if someone has more severe drinking a non-alcoholic beverage initially could be something that’s triggering for them. But I am a big believer too. And yeah, put it in a fancy glass. If you enjoy a mocktail, drink something different than water, you can explore different options. And I think some people are really surprised at how much it’s not actually about the drink sometimes, it’s the ritual of making a drink or the ritual of using that special glass, or the ritual of drinking something that isn’t water.

Kimberley: Right. Yes. Or even just the ritual of the day ending. I always remember, my parents would be five o’clock, right? And at five o’clock they would have the-- this is a big family tradition, is at five o’clock, you’d bring out the cheese and the crackers and the grapes and the wine. And it was the end of the day. And so, I could imagine, if someone said, “We’re going to take that away,” you’d be like, “No, that’s how I know the day is over. That’s how I move from one thing to the other.” And sometimes we do think black and white. It means you have to take the whole cheese platter away as well, right?

Amanda: Absolutely. We can get almost in our heads of maybe we think we’re more dependent on that cheese platter or the wine or whatever, without realizing that what we really like about it is the ritual.

Kimberley: Yeah. So, you can share it or not, how does your life look now? And for your clients, give me maybe some context of what do people arrive at once they’ve been through this process and how might it be different for different people.

Amanda: Totally. So, I’m completely sober. I don’t drink alcohol. I’ve been sober for seven years. And in terms of how the process looks for me, I drink mocktails. I drink out of wine glasses sometimes. I love going to a bar and seeing sometimes if there’s an alcohol-free option on a menu, I think that’s really fun. And for me initially, when I was thinking about this and working on it, like I said, it was very tied to my eating disorder.

But the biggest thing for me is I used to think, well, I can’t totally stop drinking because that’s black and white, and that’s not freedom. Freedom is being able to decide. And I think what is different and unique compared to an eating disorder, for example, is that alcohol is addictive, right? Unlike food, it is an addictive substance that we can live without. And for me, I used to, or for me, I don’t have to think about it if I don’t drink. When I was trying to moderate, it was a lot of decision fatigue. It’s like, “What am I going to drink? How much am I going to drink? When will I stop? Am I going to drink too much?” It was all of these decisions. And freedom for me now actually is just not drinking and not thinking about if I’m going to drink or not.

So what my life looks like now is I’m sober, I’ve been sober for seven years. I enjoy going out to restaurants and getting alcohol-free drinks and things like that. And I used to be really worried that that was too reductive, that I was too black and white if I just said I wanted to be sober. But the truth is unlike food, alcohol is an addictive substance. When you have one alcoholic beverage, it does create a thirst for itself for most of us.

So, for me, the freedom is actually not worrying about whether I’m going to drink or not. It’s so exhausting for some people, myself included, to be constantly thinking about how much you’re going to drink, if you’re going to drink, when you’re going to drink, what you’re going to drink. And now, the real freedom for me is I don’t drink. I don’t think about it. And that’s the freedom because-- sorry, I just got caught up in what I was saying.

Kimberley: No, I think that that is so beautiful. As you were saying it, I was thinking about me in a Fitbit. I will never be able to wear a Fitbit. Because as soon as I know, I could wear it for day-ish. And day two, I’m all obsessive and compulsive. I just know that about myself. And some people can wear it and be fine, and I can never wear a Fitbit. I just can’t. My brain goes very, like you said, on how many? More or less, what’s happening? And so, I love that you’re saying that, is really knowing your limits and whether it’s-- the Fitbit, it’s not actually the problem, but the Fitbit is what starts a lot of problematic behaviors that I know is just not helpful for me.

Amanda: Yes. And I think it’s important to recognize there are factors that make us more likely to be able to moderate successfully or not, right? The amount of alcohol you’ve drank throughout your life, your past drinking habits, whether you have a history of addiction in your family or substance use, whether you have trauma, whether you have anxiety, all of these things might make it more difficult for you to moderate compared to someone else.

Kimberley: Right. I don’t know if this is helpful for our listeners, but I went sober. My husband and I did for the first year of COVID. What was interesting is then I got put on a medicine where I wasn’t allowed to drink and I felt offended by this medicine because I was like, “But you’re taking my choices away.” And so, I had to go back. Even though I’d made the choice already, I’d had to go back and really address this conversation of like, “Okay, why does that feel threatening to you” and to look at it because a part of me wanted to be like, “No, I’m going to start drinking now just because they told me I’m not allowed.” So, it’s so funny how our brain gets caught up on things around drinking and the rules and so forth. So, I didn’t think of it that way until you’d mentioned it.

Amanda: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that that can be why people rebel against “I’m not an alcoholic” mindset instead of it being a choice, instead of it being “My life is better without drinking.” I often say, my drinking was like Russian roulette. A lot of times it was fine when I drank, but the times where it wasn’t fine, I was not willing to put up with it anymore. And I don’t know whether I could drink successfully or not, but it’s not a risk that I’m willing to take. And it’s not worth it compared to all the benefits that I have from sobriety. And because of that, it really feels like an empowering choice.

Kimberley: Yeah. My last question to you before we hear more about you is, what would you say to the people who are listening, who aren’t ready to have the conversation with themselves about whether it’s helpful or not? I think I learn in a master’s grade the stages of change. You’re in a pre-contemplation stage where you’re like, “I’m not even ready to contemplate this yet.” Do you have any thoughts for people who are so scared to even look at this?

Amanda: Yeah. For people who maybe are in that pre-contemplation, not sure if they want to do the deeper work to question their relationship with alcohol, what I would recommend to them is start by just trying to reduce some of their alcohol intake. They don’t have to stop drinking. They don’t have to even think about whether it’s serving them or not, but there are so many amazing alcohol-free beverages that exist now. I mean there’s alcohol-free beers and wines and all kinds of things. And you could just try swapping one of your alcoholic beverages with that when you go out or at home and just see how that makes you feel.

Kimberley: Yeah. It’s a great response in terms of like, it is. It could be. Would you say that’s more of the harm reduction model?

Amanda: Yeah, absolutely. Or someone who’s not ready or really interested in the big conversation. That’s one of the reasons I really support and like the alcohol-free beverages and stuff like that because it gives people, I think, an easier way to step into it. And sometimes even realizing too, like alcohol-free beverages can taste really good compared to the beverage that has alcohol in it. So, you’re not drinking this for the taste.

Kimberley: Exactly. Sometimes when I have drunk alcohol, I’m like, why am I even drinking this? It’s not delicious.

Amanda: It’s true.

Kimberley: It’s not delicious. I love that you say that about-- I think one of the wins of the world is they are creating more, even just the bottles and the look of them are much nicer than the general or dual looking kind of bottles, which I think is really cool. I love this conversation, and thank you so much for bringing it to me because I do really believe, particularly in the anxiety field, we are not talking about it enough. So, I’m so grateful for you.

Amanda: Absolutely. I’m so glad that I got to chat about it because, yeah, the anxiety connection is huge.

Kimberley: Yeah. Tell me about your book and all about you. Where can people find you?

Amanda: Yeah. So, my book comes out on January 4th. It’s called Not Drinking Tonight. And 2022, because this is out.

Kimberley: Yeah.

Amanda: Sorry if I messed up.

Kimberley: No, no it’s good. So, for people who are listening on replay, it will be out as of 2022.

Amanda: Yeah. It’s called Not Drinking Tonight: A Guide to Creating a Sober Life You Love. It is broken up into three different sections so that you can learn in the first section why you drink, and I go into evolutionary psychology and trauma and shame. In the second part, it’s about reparenting yourself or the tools that you need to stay stopped. So, I talk about boundaries and self-care and all of the things, emotional health, how we take care of our emotions. And then in the last section, I talk about moderation, relapsing, the overlap of alcohol use and other substances or ways we numb. So, really though my book is structured around alcohol. I talk a lot about eating disorders, perfectionism, workaholism, other drugs, because I think a lot of it is the same in that sense.

Kimberley: 100%.

Amanda: So yeah. And you can find me on Instagram at Therapy For Women, or my website is amandaewhite.com.

Kimberley: Amazing. Thank you so much. It’s so great to actually have a conversation with you face to face. Well, as face to face as we can be. So, thank you so much.

Amanda: Thank you. This was so great.

-----

Okay. And before we get going, I’m sure you got so much out of that episode. Before we get going onto your week, I wanted to share the “I did a hard thing.” This one is for on Paula, and she said:

“I started ERP School earlier this year. While looking into my OC cycle, I was surprised to find out that I had some overt compulsions. I thought they were mostly mental. And that’s when I figured out I had a BFRB. My loved ones had commented on my hair pulling in the past, but I didn’t realize how compulsive it could be. I watched Kimberley’s webinar on BFRBs, and I got inspiration to be creative. I tried to use hand lotion, so it would make my hands sticky and demotivate hair pulling. I also got a fidget toy to keep my hands occupied whenever I felt like pulling. But what worked best was you using a transparent elastic band to tie up the two strands I used to pull. It’s perfect because it creates a physical barrier to pulling, but also a sensory reminder. If my fingers feel the band, I can say to myself, “Oh, the band, that feels different.” And because I’m trying to make a change, way to go me. Thank you, Kimberley, for all the amazing work you do.”

So guys, this is amazing. If you didn’t know, if you go to CBT School, we have a free training for people with BFRBs. If you have OCD, we have a free training for people with OCD. So, head on over to CBT School, and you can get all of the cool resources there.

Have a wonderful day, everybody. And thank you so much for the “I did a hard thing.” That was so cool. I was not expecting that, Paula. Congratulations! You are doing definite hard things.

Have a wonderful day, everybody.

Jan 21, 2022

In today’s episode, Kimberley Quinlan talks about the importance of identifying catastrophic thinking. The reason this is so important is that this type of cognitive distortion or cognitive error can increase one’s experience of anxiety and panic, making it harder to manage it at the moment. Kimberley talks about the importance of mindfulness and self-compassion when responding to catastrophization also. 

In This Episode:

  • What is Catastrophization?
  • Why is it important that we catch how we catastrophize?
  • How to manage Catastrophization?
  • How correcting our thoughts can help, sometimes..but not always.

Links To Things I Talk About:

ERP School: https://www.cbtschool.com/erp-school-lp

Episode Sponsor:

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

EPISODE TRANSCRIPTION

This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 218.

Welcome back, everybody. How are you doing? How are you really? Just wanted to check in with you first, see how you’re doing. We’re friends, so it’s my job to check in on you and see how you are. Thank you for being here with me again. I do know how important your time is, and I am so grateful that you spend it with me. Thank you. That is such a joy and it’s such a wonderful experience to know that I am spending time with you each week.

This week, we are talking about the danger of catastrophization. Now, I’ll talk with you a little bit more about what that means here in a second, but basically what I want to do in this episode is really to take off from the very first episode of this year, which was the things I’d learned in 2021. One of the points that I made there was to really take responsibility for your thought errors, right? And I wanted to pick one of the thought errors that I see the most in my clients. In fact, in the last couple of weeks, it’s been an ongoing piece of the work we do. It’s not all of the work, but it’s a piece of the work, is for me just to be, I’m still doing teletherapy. So, we’re sitting across from the screen and just reflecting and modeling back to them some of the ways in which they speak to themselves and really looking at how helpful that is and how that impacts them.

So, before we get into that episode, I want to offer to you guys to submit your “I did a hard thing.” Today, as I went to prepare for this episode, I checked the link and we’d actually used up all of the ones that were submitted probably in August of 2021. And so I’m going to encourage you guys to submit your “I did a hard thing” so I can feature you on the podcast. When we first submitted, we had like 70 submissions, and I’ve used all of them up. And I would love to get new ones to share with you and have you be featured on the show. So, if you want to go over, you can click on the show notes for the link, or if you want, you can go to kimberleyquinlan-lmft.com. So, that’s Kimberley Quinlan - L for License, M for Marriage, F for Family, T for Therapy.com. Click on the podcast link, which is where we hold all of our podcasts, and you could submit your “I did a hard thing.” And I’d love to have you on the show. It actually is probably my favorite part. I could easily just have a whole show called “I did a hard thing” and it could be just that.

All right. So, let’s get into the episode. Today, I want to talk with you about the danger of catastrophization, and let me share with you how this shows up. So, I want to be clear that you cannot control your thoughts, your intrusive thoughts that repetitively show up, and you can’t show your fear up. You cannot change your feelings. So, you can’t tell yourself not to be sad if you’re sad and you can’t tell yourself not to be anxious if you’re anxious and you can’t not panic if you’re panicking. But you can change how you react and how you behave. That is a common CBT rule.

The Danger of Catastrophization Your anxiety toolkitNow often, when you have an intrusive thought, a lot of my patients or clients will report having anxiety or having a thought or having a feeling or having an urge or having an image that shows up in your head – because that’s what I do, right? People come to me with a problem. The problem is usually a thought, feeling, sensation, urge, or image. That’s what I do. And what I try to do is change the way they respond. That is my job, right?

Now, what often happens is, there is a thought or a feeling or a sensation or urge, impulse, whatever it may be that shows up, and they often will respond to that by framing it in a way that is catastrophic. I’ll give you some examples.

So, when they have the presence of anxiety in their body, they may frame it as: “I’m freaking out.” That’s a catastrophic thought. When they had a lot of anxiety or maybe they had a panic attack, they frame it or they assess it by saying, “Kimberley, I almost died. I had the biggest panic attack of my life. I almost died.” Or “It nearly killed me. The anxiety nearly killed me,” or “The pain nearly killed me.” They may have tried to do an exposure or they may have tried to reach a goal that they had set, and they’ll say, “I failed miserably. It was a total disaster.” They are trying to recover from a mental illness or a medical illness, and they’ll say, “I’ll never amount to anything. I’ll never get better.” Or they’re suffering.

We have different seasons in our lives. We have seasons where things go really, really well and we’re like winning at life. And then we have seasons where things are hard and we just have hurdle after hurdle, after hurdle, and they’ll say, “There’s no point, my life is not worth living,” or “I’m never going to be able to solve this.”

Now, first of all, if you’ve thought any of these things, I am sending you so much love. Your thinking is not your fault. I’m not here to place blame on you like, “Oh, you’re bad at this,” because our brains naturally catastrophize, because our brain wants to make sense of things and put them in little categories because that is the easiest, quickest way to understand our world. So naturally, we do this to make sense of the world. If I said to my daughter, “How are you doing with math?” She’d go, “Oh, it totally sucks,” because it’s easier to say, “It totally sucks,” than to say, “There are some things that I’m doing well with and some things that I am not. I am struggling with this thing, but I’m finding this part really enjoyable.” That takes a lot of energy to say that, and it takes a lot of energy to hold opposing truths. We’ve talked about this in the past. It’s not the fastest, efficient way to live when you’re living in those types of ways.

So, what we often will do, particularly if we are having a lot of strong emotions, is we catastrophize. Now often a client will say some of these or many others. There’s many ways we can catastrophize, which is to make a catastrophe out of something. When they say it, I don’t say, “That’s wrong. You’re bad for thinking that.” I’ll just say, “I’m wondering what percent of that is correct. Like I almost died. Okay, I’m interested to know a little bit about that. Did you almost die?” And they’ll be like, “No.” I’m like, “Okay.” And I’m not there to, “I really want to model to you.”

I’m never across the screen or across the office with my patient, trying to tell them how wrong they are. Never. That’s never my goal. But I want them to start to acknowledge that the way in which they think and they frame an experience can create more problems. Now if they said to me, “Kimberley, I want to think this way. I like it. It makes me happy. It brings me joy. I’m fulfilled this way,” I have nothing to fix.

But often, once we reflect, and I often will then ask my patients, “So when you say ‘I totally freaked out.’ You had anxiety and you said, ‘I totally freaked out,’ how does that feel?” And often they’ll say, “Not good.” They’ll say, “It actually makes me feel more anxious.” Or if they had an intrusive thought, let’s say they had OCD and they had an intrusive thought and we can’t control intrusive thoughts, and then their response was, “I’m a horrible human being who doesn’t deserve to be a mom for having that thought,” I’ll say, “How does it feel to respond to your intrusive thought that way? How does that have you act?” And they’re like, “Well, it makes me feel terrible and not worthy. And then I don’t want to do anything, or then I just want to hide, or then I have so many emotions. I start freaking out even more. And now it’s a big snowball effect.”

So then we start to gently and curiosity-- sorry guys. Then we begin to gently and curiously take a look at what are the facts or what actually lands to be true and helpful. I want to be clear. We do not replace catastrophization with positive thinking. I would never encourage a client to replace “I am freaking out” with “I am feeling wonderful” because that’s not true. They’re actually experiencing discomfort. They are experiencing panic. They had an intrusive thought. They’re having an urge to pick or pull. They’re having an urge to binge. They’re having depression. They’re having self-harm thoughts.

So I’m not here to, again, change those particularly. But I really encourage them to look at how you frame that experience, how you respond to that experience. What would bring you closer to the goal that you have for yourself? Because usually, when people come to me, they’ll say, “I want to feel less anxious,” or “I want to do less compulsions,” or “I want to pick my skin less,” or “I want to binge less,” or “I want to love my life. I want to feel some self-esteem and worth. I want to take my depression away.”

So, we want to really look at catastrophization and look at the danger of continuing to use that pattern. Now, let me get you in on a little trick here. I titled this podcast “The Danger of Catastrophization” because the title in and of itself is a catastrophization. Did you pick that up? That’s a lot of what happens in social media, is they use catastrophic words to peak your interest. It sells a lot of things. In fact, some businesses sell on the principle of catastrophization. They tell you what catastrophe will happen if you don’t buy their product. They might say, “You’ll have wrinkles. Terrible, old wrinkles if you don’t buy our product.” And that may feel like a catastrophe because they’re trying to sell you their product. They may say, “If you don’t buy this special extra filter for your car, it could explode on the highway.” That’s a catastrophe. “Okay, I’ll buy it.”

So, even my naming of it, I want you to be aware of how it piques your interest, the catastrophes, and how it draws you in because nobody wants a catastrophe. But for some reason, we think in this way. So I made a little trick there. I tricked you into listening. I try not to use it as a tool, but I thought today it would be really relevant to bring it up and see whether you caught that catastrophization that I did to get you onto this episode. I’m a naughty girl, I know.

There it is. I want you to catch how you frame things and how you tell stories about things that you’ve been through or about the future and catch the catastrophization that you do. If you have a supportive partner or friend or somebody in your life, a loved one, and you trust them, you may even ask them to just give you a little wink every time they catch you using a catastrophization. Sometimes you don’t catch it until someone brings it to your attention. Because again, our brain works on habit. Our brain works on what it knows, and it doesn’t really like to change because that means you have to use more energy. But I promise you. I promise, promise, promise you, this is the energy you want to use. This little extra piece of energy is totally worth it, because think about it. If I said to you, “I had a panic attack, it was really uncomfortable. I rode it out. There were some moments where I felt really confident and some moments where I was struggling, but it did go away eventually,” ask yourself how that feels. And then I’m going to tell you a different version: “I was totally freaking out. I totally thought I was going to die. It was so bad. I really think it was the most painful thing I’ve ever been through in my whole entire life.” How does that feel? It feels terrible.

A lot of panic comes from people catastrophizing, using language that feels really dangerous. The danger of catastrophization – remember, it feels dangerous when we use catastrophization. So, just be aware of it. Catch it if you can. Okay?

All right. Before we finish up, I want to do the review of the week. This is by Dr. Peggy DeLong and she said, “Wonderful practices!” She gave it a five-star review and said, “I appreciate that you highlight these skills as practices. Coping with anxiety is not a one-and-done deal. Practicing these skills, even on good days, especially on good days, helps to promote long-term well-being. Thanks for providing this service!”

Thank you so much, Dr. Peggy DeLong. I am so grateful for your reviews. Please, go and leave a review if you have some time. I would be so grateful. It really helps me reach people who, let’s say, look at the podcast and think to themselves, would this be helpful to me? And if there’s lots of reviews, it helps build trust for them that they would then click, and then hopefully I can help them. Okay?

All right. Sending you all my love.

One quick thing to remember is if you go over to cbtschool.com, we actually have a full training on this, on correcting the way that you think. Again, the goal is not to change your intrusive thoughts, but the goal is to work on how you reframe things. So you can go there for that training.

All right. All my love to you guys. Have a wonderful day. It is a beautiful day to do hard things.

Jan 14, 2022

SUMMARY: 

Today we have Windsor Flynn talking about how she realized the benefits of meditation for anxiety and OCD in her recovery. Winsdor brought her lived experience and training to the conversation and addressed how meditation has helped her in many ways, not just with her OCD and mental health.

In This Episode:

The benefits of meditation for general anxiety
The benefits of meditation for OCD
The roadblocks to practicing meditation
How Mindfulness and mediation help with daily stress (especially through COVID-19)

Links To Things I Talk About:

Instagram: @windsormeditates
Instagram: @Windsor.Flynn
Website: www.windsorflynn.com (Windsor is certified to teach the 1 Giant Mind 3 Day Learn Meditation course).
ERP School: https://www.cbtschool.com/erp-school-lp

Episode Sponsor:

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

EPISODE TRANSCRIPTION

This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 217.

You guys, 217. That’s a lot of episodes. I’m very excited about that.

Today, we have with us the amazing Windsor Flynn. I cannot tell you how incredibly by inspired I am with Windsor. She is very cool and has so much wisdom and so much kindness to share.

Today, we have her on to talk about having anxiety and learning the importance of meditation. Now, Windsor speaks specifically about having OCD and how much it has helped her to take up a meditation practice. She goes over the couple of main key points, which is number one, anyone can meditate. And that meditation can be user-friendly for people, even with OCD. And she said, “Especially for people with OCD.” And she actually gives us the amazing gift of a guided meditation at the end, that just helps you bring your attention to the present and learn to drop down into your compassion and your body. And then the third point she makes is that meditation can be integrated into your life, even if you feel like you don’t have time, or even if it’s really uncomfortable. And she shares some amazing experiences and examples of where she really struggled and how she got through those difficulties. So, I’m going to quickly first do the “I did a hard thing” and then I’m going to let you guys get right into the amazing conversation with Windsor Flynn.

So, today’s “I did a hard thing” is from Anonymous, and they said:

“I wear a dress that has been sitting in my closet for months. I was always scared to show my skin since breaking out in hives over my social anxiety. I felt proud for the first time in a long time.”

This is so cool. You guys, I love this so much. They’re really talking about showing up imperfect and all, or letting people judge them and going and doing what you want to do anyway. And that is what this podcast is about. It’s about living the life that you want, not the life that anxiety wants you to have. And often, anxiety will keep your life very small if you only listen to it and only follow its rules. And so, anonymous is doing this work, walking the walk, not just talking the talk. So, yes, I’m so, so in love with this.

Now you guys, you can go over to my private practice website, which is where the podcast lives. It’s Kimberley Quinlan - L for License, M for Marriage, F for Family, and T for Therapist – I had to think there – .com. So, KimberleyQuinlan-lmft.com. And then you can click on the podcast and right there is a link for you to submit your “I did a hard thing” and you can be featured on the show. So, go do that, but not right away. First, I want you to listen to this amazing, amazing episode.

Benefits of Meditation for Anxiety and OCD Your anxiety toolkit

Kimberley: Welcome. I am so excited for this episode. I have a reason for being so excited, which I’ll share with you in a second, but first, I want to introduce to you Windsor Flynn. She is incredible. I have watched you grow over the last what? A year or two years since I’ve known you. It is so wonderful to have you on, so thank you for coming.

Windsor: Yeah. Thank you for inviting me. This is so cool because I’ve spent a lot of time listening to your podcast and, I don’t know, just hoping to be on Monday, but I didn’t know for what. So, this is really cool for me.

Kimberley: Yeah, this is so cool. So, you’re coming on to talk about meditation. And the reason that this is so exciting for me is that is actually what this podcast was originally for – was to bring mindfulness and meditation practice to people who have anxiety. And I did a lot of meditations at the beginning and then I lost my way. So, I feel like you coming here is full circle. We’re going back to the roots of the show to talk about mindfulness and meditation. Do you want to share a little bit about your story with mental health and why you landed on this as being your passion project?

Windsor: Yeah, sure. So, I started-- I guess my mental health story goes way back, but I’ll just start at the beginning when I first came to my OCD diagnosis. I had been experiencing anxiety. Looking back, I will say it was pretty debilitating, but I was sort of just powering through it. I was a new mom. I didn’t have a lot of mom friends, the first in my group to have kids. My parents are across the ocean in Hawaii. I’m in California, in San Francisco with my boyfriend who is shocked at being a dad.

So, I’m very anxious, but I’m doing all the things. And I had started experiencing intrusive thoughts, which I didn’t know were intrusive thoughts. I was just really worried that I was going to become a headline for like moms that murder. I hate moms that kill because I had heard of this story. I’m sure so many people who grew up at the same time as me were really familiar with the Andrea Yates story. I don’t need to go full into detail, but she had some mental health issues and she ended up killing her kids. It’s a very, very sad story, but I had attached to that because I was just so, so scared that that would happen to me. And I don’t know why I was nervous that this would happen to me. But ever since I was little, I just always thought that anything drastic, it would happen to me. I would be there for the end of the world. I would be there to witness a mass murder, or I would be a victim of a serial killer. All these things, I just thought it had to be me. I don’t know why.

So, of course when I have a baby, I’m thinking, “Oh no, this horrible thing, it’s bound to happen to me. I need to pay attention.” So, that’s when the hypervigilance started, all of these things that I now have language for, but I wasn’t quite sure how to explain, and I also didn’t want to explain it to anyone because it sounds unhinged. So, I was doing this alone. I was trying to keep myself very busy. I was doing all the classic compulsory activities that happen when you’re trying to avoid intrusive thoughts and avoid this massive discomfort in fear. And eventually, we moved out of the city. So, not only was I mothering by myself-- not really by myself. I had a partner, but he was working a lot just with his schedule. So, he was sleeping most of the day and gone all night.

So then we moved across the bay to Alameda and then I just didn’t even have friends anymore. So, I was all alone. So, I was thinking, “Wow, if there’s ever going to be a time that I’m going to just completely go off, it’ll be now.” And then it just snowballed. It spiraled into this thing where I couldn’t not be scared and I didn’t know what was going to happen. I was convinced that I was going to kill my son for no other reason. Then I just had a feeling that something bad was going to happen.

So, I looked up postpartum mood disorders because somehow, I knew those existed. And I was hoping that this had something to do with it. I still had hope that there was an explanation. And I found something that said Postpartum OCD, and anxiety. And of course, I hit every single track mark. It wasn’t mild symptoms. I was just, yup. Check, check, check, check, check. And so, I felt a little okay. Not really, right?

And I finally saw someone who ended up being-- she said she was a postpartum specialist, which was great. I signed up with her. We talked. She told me I had OCD. It was cool. But she didn’t give me any tools. She was doing the root cause stuff, which is probably really helpful in other circumstances, not necessarily for OCD. But she reassured me enough that I was cool with my OCD. I was like, “Well, I’m not going to kill anyone. That’s fine. I can go home. I can continue being a mom as long as you’re telling me I’m not a murderer.” Just like, “No, you’re not a murderer.” I was like, “Great, well, we’re done here, I guess.” And I got pregnant again. And of course, I was so scared. I was like, “That’s going to happen again. I’m going to have postpartum OCD.”

So, I couldn’t pause my whole pregnancy, but it was in the name of preparedness. So, I didn’t know that I was making my symptoms worse and worse and worse until I had the baby. This time I’m not scared I’m going to kill anyone. I’m just scared that now I think she’s the devil, which I did not know how to recognize it.

So, finally, I’m experiencing a whole different subset of OCD symptoms. I didn’t know, but I just thought, well, it was OCD the first time. I’m just going to check. And luckily, I landed on my therapist. I still see-- even though this was four years ago, I still see her every two weeks. I love her. She’s the best. She’s given me all the tools I needed to manage my mental health, got me to a place where not only was I totally understanding the disorder, but I felt really comfortable sharing and sharing in a way that I thought would be helpful to other people.

So, that’s when I started advocating for maternal mental health and OCD, and that’s how we know each other, through the internet, social media space. And I guess that was a mouthful, but that was how I landed onto the advocacy part. And eventually, I switched to meditation because I felt like this was a tangible way that I could offer a service that I know to be helpful for the management of mental health. And I know how much resistance there is towards starting this meditation practice because I too went through a number of years where I absolutely said no to this idea of meditation. But once I started, I realized, wow, I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner. There’s really something to it. And it’s very teachable. And I know from firsthand experience how beneficial it is.

Kimberley: I love that. I actually don’t think I’ve heard your entire story. So, thank you for sharing that with me and everybody. I didn’t realize there were two waves of OCD for you and two different subtypes, which I think is common, for a lot of people.

Windsor: Yeah.

Kimberley: I love that. So, I think what you’re saying, and can you correct me if I’m wrong? So, the first wave was reassurance, what you used to get you through. And then the second you used ERP?

Windsor: Yes.

Kimberley: Okay, great. And then from there, the third layer of recovery or however you want to say it, was it meditation, or were there other things you did to get to the meditation place?

Windsor: Well, I was doing ERP and that really helped with my OCD management. I was able to recognize whenever I had a new obsession, and I feel like I could recognize anyone’s new obsession. At this point, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s this, that’s this. It’s tied into this.” So, I had a really great understanding, and that was cool. But I still have two kids, we’re still in a pandemic, I still have communication issues with my partner – all these normal things that ERP doesn’t necessarily help with. So, it was really just about finding that balance between working on myself and stress management and really getting to be that calm, chill person that I’ve always wanted to be. Even when I was doing the best with my OCD, I was still not so relaxed because I had a lot of attachments to how I wanted people to perceive me, how my children were behaving, not necessarily in a controlling way, but just really feeling a lot of responsibility over everything.

And so, the meditation was just this next step that I was hoping would get me there, because I was feeling a lot of stress, not even related to my OCD, just in general. And I wanted to be able to find something that would help me get through that stress so that I could start really figuring out what it is I wanted to do, just even for fun again, instead of just only feeling this overwhelmed.

Kimberley: Yeah. No, I really resonate with that. All I can say for me is, while I had a different story, I had an eating disorder, I was trying to do meditation during that, but the thoughts and everything was just too big for it. And it was hard for me to access actual meditation without it just being an opportunity to ruminate, sitting there, just cycling. So, the main thing I really want to ask you, if you’re willing to share, is let’s say specifically someone with OCD, what were some of the struggles that you had with meditation? Because I know so many people with OCD are really resistant to it because the thoughts get louder when you sit still and so forth. So, what were some of the things that you had to work through to be able to sit on a cushion?

Windsor: Yeah. That’s such a great question because I feel like, had I not figured out that I had OCD and then done all this work with ERP to really learn how to acclimate myself to the presence of intrusive thoughts, I don’t know that I would’ve been successful in meditation. Actually, I know that I wasn’t because I had tried it before, and it was too hard. So, I really-- even with ERP, once I started the meditation journey, the first few weeks were pretty challenging for me because as someone with OCD, every time I close my eyes and I’m not occupied, or my brain is not occupied, it’s like prime time. This is OCD’s favorite. It’s like the time to shine. It’s like, “Okay, here I am. What can we throw out to you today?”

And so, knowing that this was a possibility, even when I signed up to learn meditation, I was like, “Okay, I’m going to do this. I’m going to try, I’m going to give college a try.” Then my OCD was like, “No.” You close your eyes, something could happen, like you could have a breakdown or you could make all these realizations that you are a psycho killer. And then you’ll just definitely kill everyone. Thank God you tried meditation. Now your true self can come out. And I was like, “Okay, I’m going to just do it anyways. I’m just going to meditate because I have to see, not even in a compulsory way, I have to see if this is true. But I can’t-- knowing now what OCD does, I couldn’t-- it was almost I took it as a personal challenge.

Kimberley: Like an exposure, right? It was like an exposure, like, “Okay, fine. I’m going to-- let’s see.”

Windsor: I signed up to learn meditation as a true exposure because now I had this fear that if I come to all these realizations, it won’t be cool. It will be devastating for everyone around me. So, I was like, “Well, I’m going to try. I’m going to try to meditate.” And do you know what? I cried and panicked the first time. I had to turn off my camera because I did not want the teacher to see.

Kimberley: So you did it live.

Windsor: I did it live. It was so hard. It was like a total exposure because this was in front of-- I think there were 25 people in the course and everyone was closing their eyes, I’m assuming. But 20 minutes is a long time to meditate. So, I know people were going to be opening their eyes. So, I was live having this fear that I was going to turn into a psycho killer on the camera. So, I was crying because it was hard. But you know what? I’m so glad I did because also ERP showed me that crying is fine. We can cry when we do hard things. I was doing the hard thing and I was proud of myself. I even shared afterwards. We were like, “Who wants to share?” And I was like, “Me.” I cried and I had a panic attack.

Kimberley: See. That is so badass in my mind. That is so cool that you did that. You rode that wave.

Windsor: Yeah. And it was great because if I didn’t do that or purposely put myself into the situation to cry and do this hard thing, I wouldn’t have been able to get to the good part of meditation, which I love. I like to talk about the good part of meditation. But having OCD makes starting the hardest part.

Kimberley: Yeah. What is the good part of meditation for you? Because I think that no one wants to do hard things unless they know there’s some kind of reward at the end. Everyone’s going to be different, but for you, what is the why? Why would you do such a thing?

Windsor: Well, because I learned this thing, right? That was so valuable. Someone told me, we don’t gauge the benefits of meditation for how we feel when our eyes are closed. We’re more interested in what happens while our eyes are open. How is it impacting? And I noticed almost right away that when tensions were high, when I usually would be the first to participate-- because I’m really affected by the way other people’s moods are. I feel responsible or I have to change it. I became dysregulated really easily. I noticed almost right away that when other people were feeling their feelings around me, I was able to observe them instead of participate in that, which was really cool. And it was just so much nicer to be able to be supportive instead of become one of those people who also needed support in that moment.

And I also noticed right away that I had a higher tolerance for loud noises and just disruptions, because I’m pretty sensitive to lots of different noises at once. It gets me pretty anxious and agitated. So, having kids at home all day isn’t ideal for that. And so, the meditation really helped me a lot with that. I was able to recover more quickly from periods of dysregulation. Maybe I would become dysregulated, but I could calm down quicker. And so, I really loved that.

And I noticed that as before where I would be like, I need wine at 4:30 or whatever time it was. Once I started meditating for a few weeks, then wine just became something that tasted good that I liked in the afternoons. I didn’t need it. Sometimes I would be like, “Wow, we’re having dinner. Oh my God, kids, I didn’t even have wine.” And they were like, “Wow, you’re right.” And so, I would pour myself a glass just because I like it.

Kimberley: Right. Not because you needed it to get through the afternoon.

Windsor: Yeah. And so, I really liked all those changes. And it just is really restful, which I wasn’t expecting. The practice itself, the one that I practice, it’s twice a day. And I find that doing those two meditations really gives me more energy because I’m not a coffee person. So, yeah, I just feel like what started as a thing that I wanted to feel more rested and less stress, it has actually become a tool that I can use to help maintain a busier lifestyle, which as much as I don’t love for everyone, I can’t avoid it. Anyway.

Kimberley: That is so cool. I mean, how amazing that this practice came to you. So, you are talking about this specific meditation practice that you use and the benefits. Do you want to share a little about what specifically you use? I’m sure some people here have heard from me of self-compassion meditations and mindfulness meditations, but do you want to share specifically what practices you are interested in practicing?

Windsor: Yeah. So, the practice that I find the most success and enjoyment out of is a silent meditation, which actually was the most intimidating for me, but I love it. It’s the one giant mind being technique. It’s called a being technique because, I guess the focus of the meditation is to connect with your being, which I guess if you say it without sounding too woo-hoo or anything like that, we’re just connecting to your true self apart from all the thoughts and the ideas and all the conditioning we have. Just getting back to you, which is something that I really wanted, especially after having two kids and being confused in the state of life that’s not really developed yet. So, I love that part. And since I didn’t have to focus on anything like someone else’s voice, or trying to follow a guided meditation, sometimes I feel that takes more energy because I still have to pay attention to something. A silent meditation allowed me to really find that rest and allowed my brain to just slow down.

Kimberley: Yeah. I too. I mean, I love guided meditations for people who are starting off and need some instructions. But I find the silent meditation once I got the hang of it, I could practice it in a minute between clients. I could just sit for-- I could quickly go into that and then come out. Or if I’m presenting and I’m listening to someone, I could just drop down into that. So, I really love the idea of this as well because it’s something you can practice in small pieces.  Not so formally, but drop into just connecting down out of your head into your body kind of thing. Okay, so the biggest question I’m guessing people have is, are you “successful” with your meditations daily? What does it look like day-to-day? Are there ups and downs? How is it for you?

Windsor: Yeah. This is something that comes up a lot when people ask, because we know that, yes, all meditation is helpful. But we also know that to get the most benefit out of meditation, it’s best to have a regular practice. And this could mean meditating once a day, or with this particular technique, meditating twice a day. And it sounds a lot. And I would love to say I meditate twice a day every day, no matter what. But I have OCD, so I allow myself to be a little bit more flexible. I don’t really love rigidity when it comes to things like that because I have a tendency to really grab onto them. So, I do allow myself to skip it sometimes, either for reasons like I forget, or the day just gets ahead of me. As important as meditation is, there’s a lot of things that trumpet, like do my kids need something? Do I have to pick someone up? Is everyone being fed? There’s all these things that are also really important. So, I do try to meditate twice a day. Most days I do. Sometimes I don’t. But that’s okay because I did what I had to do to keep everything going.

Kimberley: What about during your meditation?

Windsor: What, excuse me?

Kimberley: What about during your meditation? Is that an up and a down process? Do you have “good days” and “bad days” with it or is it pretty consistent for you now?

Windsor: Well, I don’t like to talk about the meditations as being good or bad. Some are really gratifying and some are less gratifying, because even the less gratifying meditations are really good for you. You’re still going to benefit from them, even though it wasn’t necessarily easy or didn’t feel good. But that’s just like a lot of things. Meditation can be categorized as something like that, like maybe brushing your teeth or exercising. Maybe you don’t love it all the time, but you do it because it’s good for your body and it helps you reach certain goals. And sometimes it’s really hard for me to get to a good juicy place, and that’s okay. I’ve just started to not expect a certain experience when I go into the meditation. And that makes everything a lot easier because then I’m not letting myself down or I’m not feeling disappointed or I’m not crushing a goal. I don’t go into the meditation feeling like I’m going to feel so relaxed and cool. I just say, “Oh, I’m going to close my eyes and we’ll just see what happens during this session.”

Kimberley: And that’s why I love what you’re saying because it’s so in line with recovery, like dropping the expectations, dropping just the good feelings, dropping goals, having these big goals all the time. I think that’s-- sometimes I have found, what happens in your meditation is like a metaphor for life, right? Like, okay, today is a busy brain day. There’s going to be days like that. And I think that it’s a great way to just practice the tools in a small setting that you would be practicing in the day anyway.

Windsor: Exactly. That’s why I love it for people with OCD too because let’s say you commit to doing it 20 minutes a day or 20 minutes twice a day. During that 20 minutes, you know that any thoughts can come up, any feelings can come up, and you’re just going to let them be there. And this is excellent practice for when you’re going about your daily life and you have no control ever over what comes into your mind or what happens. But since you’ve been practicing this in your meditations, those responses to accept and let go become more automatic. So, not only are you having great meditation experiences or anything, but in your life, you can use those same tools. It’s not just adding another thing. It all works together. The meditation is so helpful in every aspect.

Kimberley: Right. It’s like we go to the gym to strengthen our muscles and we meditate to strengthen our brain muscles, right?

Windsor: Yeah.

Kimberley: Yeah. I love that. So, one thing I didn’t ask you ahead of time, but I’m wondering, would you be interested in leading us through a couple of minute meditation to get us experiencing that?

Windsor: Yeah. And you know what? I was thinking of like, maybe I should think of something to say in case she asks it, but I don’t think she will. So, yeah, we can just do a short-- what I do sometimes when I don’t do the whole 20 minutes is I just do a short mini one, like a minute or two.

Kimberley: Would you lead us?

Windsor: Yeah. Okay. So, for everyone listening and for Kimberley, I just want to show you a little bit about what it looks like to connect to your being and to practice a silent meditation, just for a short little grounding experience in the middle of a busy day or before a meeting, anytime you need to.

So, what I like to do before I meditate is to just get into a comfortable spot. You don’t necessarily have to be on a fancy cushion. You just have to have your lower back supported. And go ahead and close your eyes. And what I like to do before I start any meditation is take a few deep belly breaths. So, we’ll just breathe into our noses right now. Feel your belly. Feel your chest... And release through the mouth.

One more deep breath into the nose... into your belly... and release.

And one more deep breath into the nose. Feel your belly... and release.

So, now you just want to let your breath settle into its own natural rhythm. This isn’t a breathing meditation. We’re not going to focus on our breath. And you can scan your body for any tension that you might be holding. A commonplace is in your neck and your shoulders. Make sure you drop your shoulders, can wiggle your jaw a little bit, and just let all of that tension go.

So, when we’re meditating, we don’t want to put a focus on any thoughts that might come into our mind. But when they do come in, we just want to acknowledge them and recognize that this is a normal part of meditation. We never want to resist any thoughts or feelings that we might have. These are all important.

And just continue following your natural breath. And has any thoughts come into your mind, just remember that we don’t have to engage with them. It’s okay to just witness them and let them pass through you.

Maybe you might notice a sound outside or a body sensation. That’s okay. Just be a witness to that too.

Now you can take another deep breath into the nose... Into your belly... and breathe out.

And you can start to bring your awareness back to your body and see how it feels to be where you are.

You can start to bring your awareness back into the space. And slowly, when you’re ready, you can open your eyes.

Kimberley: Oh, what a treat.

Windsor: And that’s a little meditation, but I was really feeling it for a second.

Kimberley: Yeah. I just kept smiling because it was such a treat. What a treat that I get to have my own little meditation instructor in the middle of a podcast. It’s my favorite. What a gift. Thank you so much.

Windsor: You’re welcome.

Kimberley: Yeah. Thank you. I think I love-- I just want to highlight a couple of things you said, which is, for those who have anxiety, meditation is not the absence of thoughts and feelings, right? You highlighted that and that was so helpful, just to acknowledge that thoughts and feelings will happen, sensations will happen, but we just become an observer to them, which I think again, not only helps us with meditation, but it helps us with response prevention, during our exposures. It helps us during panic. Such a great tool. So, I’m so grateful for you sharing that.

Windsor: Cool. Well, thanks for letting me. I love to talk about it when I have the chance.

Kimberley: Yeah. Okay. So, I want to ask one final question, which is, what do you really want people to know? If there’s something we’ve missed today or if you want to drive home the main point, what is your main message that you’re wanting people to take away from today’s podcast?

Windsor: I guess what I really want people to know about meditation is that you don’t have to be a certain type of person to do this. You don’t need to be a specific personality type or have certain interests to make meditation work for you. You can just be yourself and come as you are and treat this practice as a gift that you’re giving yourself, that you deserve to take part in because it offers such deep rest and relaxation. That meditation can be a part of a modern, busy lifestyle. You don’t have to be common Zen all the time to do it. I think that meditation is for everybody.

Kimberley: I love that. I always remember, I think I could be killing this here, but the Dalai Lama says, and this always gets me laughing because he always says, if you don’t have time for meditation, you are the one who needs to meditate the most.

Windsor: Yeah. I love that one.

Kimberley: I killed the way that he said it, but for me, so often I’m like, “Oh, I don’t have time. Oh, I didn’t get time today.” And he really keeps nagging me in my mind in terms of knowing the more busy you are, the more you may want to prioritize this. Of course, like you said, that happens and priorities happen. But for me, that was the main message I had to keep reminding myself when it came to meditation. So, I loved that.

Windsor: Yeah.

Kimberley: Well, thank you so much. This is just delightful. Really it is. It has brought such joy to me today because like I said, it feels full circle to be coming back and talking more about meditation and doing more of that here. Where can people get a hold of you and hear about your work?

Windsor: So, I have my Instagram, @windsor.flynn, and that’s my OCD one. I talk a little bit about meditation on there, but I know that not everyone is necessarily ready for that. So, I do have my other Instagram, @windsormeditates. And that’s when I focus a little bit more on the meditation. And if you’re interested in taking any of my group courses or private meditation sessions, you can just go to my website, windsorflynn.com. All very easy, just search my name on the internet, and then you’ll find some links for those.

Kimberley: And we’ll have all the links in the show notes as well. So, if people are listening on, they should be able to connect to that. So, amazing. I’m so-- pardon?

Windsor: I was just going to say thank you so much for having me. I’m a big fan of yours and I love the work that you’re doing and I feel so honored that I get to be on your podcast.

Kimberley: No, I feel likewise. I love what you’re doing. There’s so many things I wish I could focus on. And I love when somebody like you will come along and they focus on that one thing. It just makes me really happy because I just love when people are finding little areas, particularly in the OCD and mental health space where it’s like, we need these sources. So, I’m so happy that you’re doing that work. Thank you.

Windsor: Cool. Thank you so much.

Kimberley: My pleasure. And like I said, go follow Windsor. She’s amazing, and I’m just honored to have you here.

Windsor: Thank you.

-----

Okay. So, before we finish up, thank you so much for being here and staying till the end. Before we finish, I want to share a review of the week. This one is from Cynthia Saffel and she said:

“I’m so excited to share these podcasts with my clients.” She gave it a five-star review and said, “I first was introduced to Kimberley’s clear and compassionate teaching style when I took the ERP school course for therapists.” For those of you who don’t know, we have a CEU approved course called ERP School, where you can learn how to treat OCD using ERP. And she went on to say, “In the past 3 weeks since taking the course I recommended both the course and podcasts to my clients.”

Thank you so much, Cynthia, for your review. And for everyone who leaves a review, it is the best gift you can give me in return for these free resources. So, if you have the time, please do go over and leave a review and have a wonderful day. It is a beautiful day to do hard things. Have a wonderful day, everybody.

Jan 7, 2022

SUMMARY: 

Today, I wanted to dedicate an entire episode to the five things that I learned in 2021. I have found 2021 to be one of the harder years, but probably the most transformational for me, and that is one of the things I’ll talk about here very, very soon.

The 5 Things I learned this Year:

  • Recovery goes smoother when you slow down and act intentionally
  • Life is not supposed to be easy
  • It is my responsibility to manage my mind
  • Catch your thought errors
  • I am not for everyone

Links To Things I Talk About:

Changed our name on Instagram
Lots of exciting information on cbtschool.com
ERP School: https://www.cbtschool.com/erp-school-lp

Episode Sponsor:

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

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPTION

This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 216.

Hello, my friends. Happy 2022! Oh my goodness, it is crazy to say that. I’m excited for 2022, to be honest. I’ve had enough with 2021, I’m not going to lie. And I’m guessing that you are in the same boat. I’m grateful for 2021. Absolutely, I’m not going to lie, but I’m really happy to be here in 2022.

Today, I wanted to dedicate an entire episode to the things that I learned in 2021. I have found 2021 to be one of the harder years, but probably the most transformational for me, and that is one of the things I’ll talk about here very, very soon.

Before we do that, you may notice that the show looks a little different. We have new podcast cover art. If you follow me on Instagram, there’s a ton of different visual and aesthetic changes there as well, as well as that we have changed the name to Your Anxiety Toolkit instead of being Kimberley Quinlan. I will explain a little bit about why I’ve made these changes here in a very little moment.

Before we get into the good stuff of the show, the bulk of the show, I want to give you the very best stuff, which is the “I did a hard thing” segment. So here we go. For those of you who are new, every week, people submit their “I did a hard thing” and we talk about it, and we share it and we celebrate the big and the small and the medium wins.

This one is from Kboil, and it says:

“I went to work for the first time in five weeks after a horrendous meltdown where I wanted to take my own life. I am still struggling daily with my anxiety and panic attacks, but I am doing it. XO.”

This is the work, you guys, that may be triggering for some people. But the truth is we have to talk about how impactful our mental illnesses can be and how important mental health is, because if we don’t take out care of our mental health, it can get to the place where people are feeling suicidal. Let me also reframe that. Sometimes we get to those really difficult places and dark places. Not because you’re not taking care of yourself, but for multiple reasons, daily stresses, genetics, medical struggles, grief, trauma, high levels of anxiety.

Kboil is really bringing the most important piece of mental health discussions, which is, when we’re really, really struggling, number one, it’s important to celebrate your wins, and number two, nothing is off-limits. We must be willing to talk about these really difficult topics. Thank you, Kboil. I am just so honored that you shared this and so excited that you’re taking baby steps, and I really wish you well. I know it says you’re still struggling, so I’m sending you every single ounce of my compassion and love to you.

Ugh, it’s so good. My heart just swells for you all when you write in those “I did a hard thing’s.”

5 Things I learned in 2021 Your anxiety toolkit

Okay. Let’s go over to the five things I learned in 2021. The first one is probably the most important, and it does explain why I’ve made certain changes in the way that I run my business, the way that I show up on social media and here on the podcast, and why I really want to make some changes in 2022.

  1. Be very intentional.

First of all, this is proof that people can change their mind. It’s okay to change your mind. Actually, that’s probably the sixth thing I learned. Number one is, it’s okay to change your mind. But really the number one was, it’s important to act intentional.

I did a whole episode on whacking things together, how it’s okay to whack things together. I did that because I found myself becoming very perfectionistic. I am still a massive fan of the whack-it-together model, which is ultimately to practice not being perfect and just getting things done. But what I think I did is I went a little too far in the whack-it-together model and I wasn’t being as intentional. I was doing too much and not doing a great job of the things I was doing. I mean, it was still great and I was still helping people and I was still showing up and I’m so proud of what I did in 2021. But what I really learned is sometimes when you get into moving too fast and pushing too fast and too hard that you lose the intentionality. And when you lose the intentionality, you often lose the real lesson and the growth.

If you’re in recovery for anxiety or an OCD-related disorder or an eating disorder, or a body- focused repetitive behavior, if you’re rushing through and pushing through and wrestling with things instead of slowing down and being really intentional in your practices, chances are, you’re going to miss a lot of opportunity for real growth and real recovery. So slow down and be very intentional.

Some question you may ask is: What is it that I’m trying to achieve here? For me, often I’m like, because I’m trying to reach a certain goal or so forth, it’s like, well, is this rushing? Is this behavior actually moving the needle forward? If it comes to recovery, particularly if you’re having anxiety, I’m going to encourage you to ask: What am I trying to achieve here? Am I trying to get away from anxiety? Or am I trying to be with my anxiety? Because if you’re intentional and you’re trying to be with your anxiety, your recovery will benefit.

Now, how does this apply to me and you guys and us together is, I really don’t want to be as much on social media anymore. One of the things I really learned this year is that it’s not good for my mental health when I push it like I was, and I found that I was showing up on social media. Even here on the podcast, I’m not afraid to admit, I would sometimes sit down and just throw myself into it instead of actually stopping and doing what I originally did, which is I used to, and I used to do this all the time, but I think I fell out of the practice, which was to stop, and before I did anything, get really clear on like, who am I speaking to? What do they need to hear? How can I show up and serve them in a way that also serves me? Am I just showing up here to say that I showed up and recorded an episode so I can say that I did a weekly episode?

That’s not how I want to be anymore. I really want to move towards being intentional and engaging in behaviors that actually push the needle forward and that are healthy for me. I’ve moved Instagram from Kimberley Quinlan to Your Anxiety Toolkit because for some reason, every time I got onto Instagram, I felt like it was about me, even though I know it’s not. And I don’t want it to be about me. I want it to be about mental health and anxiety and tools to help you.

So, that’s how it’s going to shift. We’ve got a ton of amazing guests happening, which I’ve already pre-recorded. And then after that, I think I may even take a little break from having guests and just practice sitting down with you and really talking about the important stuff I want you to know. Like this stuff that sits on my heart, that I really want you guys to know.

So, that’s number one, is become a little more intentional if you can. Don’t become perfectionistic, but move towards being intentional.

  1. Life is not supposed to be easy.

This is a huge one that I learned early in 2021. I was learning from a public speaker, and she constantly says, “Life is 50/50.” And that used to bug me so bad. It used to really make me angry because I’d be like, “No, life is not 50/50. It’s like 80/20. It’s like 80% good and 20% bad.” Until I was like, “Wait, if I’m really honest with myself, it is 50/50.” I think a lot of the suffering that I was experiencing, and I’m guessing a lot of the suffering that you were experiencing is trying to get it to be 80/20 or 90/10, because life is not supposed to be easy. Life happens. Life is hard. Bad things happen to good people, and that was a big lesson to me.

A friend of mine was going through a really hard time. I kept thinking, this is crazy. Why is this bad stuff happening to good people? Until I was like, that’s an era in my thinking. When did I learn that bad things shouldn’t happen to good people? Because bad things do happen to good people, and it’s not their fault.

Sometimes when we can give ourselves permission to drop the expectation of the 80/20 or the 100% or the 90/10 and just let everything be 50/50, it’s so much easier. Even as I parent my children, I think I was parenting them with this expectation that I’m supposed to be really, really good at it. But when I accepted that things will be 50/50, they’re not going to like when I ask them to pick up their room. They’re not going to like when I serve them vegetables that they don’t like to eat, and I can’t be disappointed when they’re disappointed about the vegetables I’ve served them because life is 50/50.

One of the best lessons I can give them is for them not to expect too much either. I’m not saying drop your standards and accept terribleness at all. What I’m saying is, do the best you can. Go for your dreams. Love your life. But still come back to the fact that you still have to brush your teeth and we break things and we spill things and we have to pay taxes and we are exhausted at the end of the day after having a great day at work. You might have some negative parts of it too. There’s pros and cons to everything.

So, that was really powerful for me, is life is not supposed to be easy. I’ve talked about this before. I think it was in the summer of 2019, where I would catch myself throwing mental tantrums in my head like, “It’s not fair. It shouldn’t be this hard.” And I’m like, “That is exactly the problem. Those mental tantrums that I have in my brain.”

The other one, let me add, is I actually had a whole therapy session about this, which was about this entitlement that I caught in myself of like, “This isn’t fair. Things should be easier. Things should be going easier or they shouldn’t be so hard.” And this real entitlement that came with that, and even though we use the word “entitlement,” I’m not using that as a criticism towards myself. It’s just naming it what it was. I felt this entitlement inside me of like, “No, things should be good. I should succeed at everything I try.” And that’s totally not true.

  1. It is my responsibility to manage my mind.

This one really hit me in September. I actually think I read something online that really hit me with this. I’m writing this down as I talk to you just so I make sure I get it in for you in the show notes.

Often, I talk to my patients and clients that you can’t control your thoughts and you can’t control your feelings, but you can control your reaction to those thoughts and feelings. And when you do that, you may find that your thoughts and feelings start to change. It’s a very basic concept of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a helpful modality of therapy for many, many, many different mental illnesses.

But when I talk about managing my mind is being, again, very intentional about the way I respond to problems and stresses in my mind. I’m not saying that you can control your intrusive thoughts, but I’m going to say it is my job to manage when anxiety shows up. It is my job to manage when thoughts and strong emotions hit me and make me want to lash out or project.

A lot of my patients have reported this. They’ll come to session and they’ll say, “You will not believe my husband. He just won’t do A, B, and C, and he knows it makes me crazy. He knows it makes me anxious. So why is he doing it? If he loved me, he wouldn’t do this.” And I have to keep gently reminding them, “It’s your responsibility to manage your emotions. It’s not their job.” We talked about this in one of the last episodes of the year in 2021, which is setting boundaries, you are responsible. You’re in your lane to manage your mind and your emotions. It’s not anybody else’s.

I think what was really hard about this is when I heard this, I used to take offense and I’d be like, “Oh my God, that’s just so mean. What about the people who are really, really, really suffering?” or “Wow, that’s so abrupt and dismissive.” Until I really sat with it. I actually journaled a lot on this of like, what shows up for me when someone talks about the word “responsibility”? I wrote about this a lot in the self-compassion workbook for OCD – compassionate responsibility. And I think the word “responsibility” really triggers us into thinking that if we’re taking responsibility for ourselves, we don’t deserve other people’s support. And that’s not true.

But when I really sat on “It’s my job to manage my mind,” everything changed. I think that’s why I came to the place where I was like, “Okay, I’m going to be way more intentional because it is my job. It’s my job to really slowly and in baby steps, work at changing how I react and having really hard conversations with myself on like, ‘Wow, you fully reacted in a little bit of a crazy way there.’” What was going on for you? What do you need to change? How do you need to show up for yourself different? How can you be intentional around this? Because it’s your job. I’m saying that to myself, “Kimberley, it’s your job. It’s your responsibility.” It’s the most compassionate act you can do, is to practice managing your mind.

  1. Catch your thought errors.

Again, these all tie beautifully in together because once I took responsibility for really managing my mind and really owning what was showing up for me, it was then my job to catch the thought errors. Again, I want to be really clear here. I’m not saying that you can control your intrusive thoughts. Absolutely not. But what I’m speaking about more, and I’m actually going to do a whole episode on this in just a couple of weeks, is catching thoughts like, “I’m going to screw this up. That was the worst. I am a failure. I am freaking out.” These are all often not accurate statements, So I’m talking about the way in which we frame and perceive things, not your intrusive thoughts. I want to be really, really certain. We’re not in the business of correcting intrusive thoughts of anxiety.

When it comes to depressive thoughts or very negative thoughts or catastrophic thoughts, or very black and white thoughts, we can be very intentional and be like, “Wait a second, I catch myself on this all the time. I’ll be like, my husband often comes home in the end of the day and says, ‘How was your day?’ And I’ll often make these sweeping statements like, ‘Oh, it was a really hard day.’ Even if that’s true, how does it benefit me? Was it 100% true? Because what’s probably 100% true is, oh, there are a couple of really, really difficult times that took me some time to come down from. But there were also some really beautiful moments.” That’s the truth. It takes more effort to say that and you have to be more intentional to say that. But if we say, “It was a really hard day,” our brain is going to pick up on that and it’s going to start to feel overwhelmed and heavy.

  1. I am not for everybody (and that’s okay).

I’m going to leave you with this one because this one was the best. That is the lesson I took away – I’m not for everybody. I guess what we could say in parentheses is, “and that’s okay.”

I actually was on a podcast this week with Bryan Piatt, an amazing OCD advocate. He had asked me this question and I was reflecting on it the other day, which is, I think that in my many years of being on the planet earth and being in my human body, I thought that if I was just kind, there’s really no reason anyone could not like me. If I was just kind to everybody and I did my best and I kept out of drama, everybody should like me. There can’t be much to hate. I think I banked on this as a way of avoiding conflict and as a way of getting people to approve of me.

I learned last year that even when I’m kind, even when I show up in the best version of myself and I do nothing, but show up with loving kindness in my heart, I’m still not going to be for everybody. Do you want to know how crazy that made me when I realized that? In 2021, a lot of you may know, but I was very seriously online bullied and shamed and trolled. There is this one particular person who really trolls a lot of mental health accounts, and I seem to be one that they loved to really bully and shame. I kept crying and going home to my husband and saying, “But why am I so kind?” I had to realize it’s that same kind of concept of like, good things should happen to good people and bad things should happen to bad people, until I was like, “Oh, that’s not true.” Life is 50/50, and you’re never going to be for everybody.

So, I’m going to offer to you the same thing. I’m not for everyone. You’re not for everyone. Try to get a good 10 people in your life on your side and the other billion gazillion people, you don’t need to please them. Just be a little intentional there. And I’m too, I’m doubling down now in really just being intentional on who matters and whose opinion does matter and everyone else can take me or leave me.

I hope that those five things were helpful to you. Maybe they sparked some curiosity for you and you may or may not agree with some of those. The good thing to remember here is, these are the things I learned, but they might not be exactly what you needed to hear today. And that’s totally okay. Sometimes we need to hear things at a certain time. At other times, they’re not for you at that particular time in your life. And that is okay.

So, there are the things I learned this year, in 2021. I’m so excited about this year because I have those amazing lessons that I learned. I’m going to be much more intentional about the podcast and I’m going to try to use the podcast to be a little more personal, where people in my podcast are more my insider group compared to social media because again, I want to be really intentional and healthy around social media.

Before we finish, I want to do the review of the week. Please, please, please, please. If you can do me one gift, it would be to leave a review for the podcast. This one is from Kanji96 and they said:

“Thank you, Kimberley. This podcast is very helpful for me, especially when I’m going through hard times. Right now happens to be one of those hard times. Here I am back listening to Kimberley. Thank you.”

I’m so grateful, Kanji, for that you support me. Thank you so, so much. I’m going to leave you all with a quote that Kanji almost used and that I always use, which is, it is a beautiful day to do hard things.

Let’s do 2022 together. I’m so incredibly thrilled to be walking on this path with you. I know that your time is valuable. I appreciate you coming and spending your time with me, and I’ll see you next week.

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