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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: April, 2022
Apr 29, 2022

SUMMARY:

Welcome to the first week of this 6-part series on Mental Compulsions.  This week is an introduction to mental compulsions.   Ove the next 6 weeks, we will hear from many of the leaders in our feild on how to manage mental compulsions using many different strategies and CBT techniques.  Next week, we will have Jon Hershfield to talk about how he using mindfulness to help with mental compulsions and mental rituals.

In This Episode:

  • What is a mental compulsion?
  • Is there a different between a mental compulsion and mental rumination and mental rituals?
  • What is a compulsion?
  • Types of Mental Compulsions

Links To Things I Talk About:

How to reach Jon https://www.sheppardpratt.org/care-finder/ocd-anxiety-center/
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 282 and the first part of a six-part series that I am overwhelmed and honored to share with you – all on mental compulsions.

I have wanted to provide a free resource on mental compulsions for years, and I don’t know why, but I finally got enough energy under my wings and I pulled it off and I could not be more excited. Let me tell you why.

This is a six-part series. The next six episodes will be dedicated to managing mental compulsions, mental rituals, mental rumination. I will be presenting today the first part of the training, which is what we call Mental Compulsions 101. It will talk to you about all the different types of mental compulsions, give you a little bit of starter training. And then from there, it gets exciting. We have the most incredible experts in the field, all bringing their own approach to the same topic, which is how do we manage mental compulsions?

We don’t talk about mental compulsions enough. Often, it’s not addressed enough in treatment. It’s usually very, very difficult to reduce or stop mental compulsion. I thought I would bring all of the leaders, not all of them, the ones I could get and the ones that I had the time to squeeze into this six-part series, the ones that I have found the most beneficial for my training and my education for me and my stuff. I asked very similar questions, all with the main goal of getting their specific way of managing it, their little take, their little nuance, fairy tale magic because they do work magic. These people are volunteering their time to provide this amazing resource.

Welcome to number one of a six-part series on mental compulsions. I hope you get every amazing tool from it. I hope it changes your life. I hope you get out your journal and you write down everything that you think will help you and you put it together and you try it and you experiment with it and you practice and you practice because these amazing humans are so good and they bring such wisdom.

I’m going to stop there because I don’t want to go on too much. Of course, I will be starting. And then from there, every week for the next five weeks after this one, you will get a new take, a new set of tools, a new way of approaching it. Hopefully, it’s enough to really get you moving in managing your mental compulsion so you can go and live the life that you deserve, so that you can go and do the things you want without fear and anxiety and mental compulsions taking over your time.

Let’s do this. I have not once been more excited, so let’s do this together. It is a beautiful day to do hard things and so let’s do it together.

Welcome, everybody. Welcome to Mental Compulsions 101. This is where I set the scene and teach you everything you need to know to get you started on understanding mental compulsions, understanding what they are, different kinds, what to do, and then we’re going to move over and let the experts talk about how they personally manage mental compulsions. But before they shared their amazing knowledge and wisdom, I wanted to make sure you all had a good understanding of what a mental compulsion is and really get to know your own mental compulsions so you can catch little, maybe nuanced ways that maybe you’re doing mental compulsions.

I’m going to do this in a slideshow format. If you’re listening to this audio, there will be a video format that you can access as well here very soon. I will let you know about that. But for right now, let’s go straight into the content.

Who is Kimberley Quinlan?

First of all, who am I? My name is Kimberley Quinlan. A lot of you know who I am already. If you don’t, I am a marriage and family therapist in the State of California. I am an Australian, but I live in America and I am honored to say that I am an OCD and Anxiety Specialist. I treat all of the anxiety disorders. I also treat body-focused repetitive behaviors, and we specialize in eating disorders as well. The reason I tell you all that is you probably will find that many different disorders use mental compulsions as a part of their disorder. My hope is that you all feel equally as included in this series.

Now, as well as a therapist, I’m also a mental health educator. I am the owner, the very proud owner of CBTSchool.com. It is an online platform where we offer free and paid resources, educational resources for people who have anxiety disorder orders or want to just improve their mental health. I am also the host of Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast. You may be watching this in a video format, or you may actually be listening to this because it will also be released. All of this will be offered for free on Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast as well. I wanted to just give you all of that information before we get started so that you know that you can trust me as we move forward. Here we go.

What is a Mental Compulsion?

First of all, what is a mental compulsion? Well, a mental compulsion is something that we do mentally. The word “compulsion” is something we do, but in this case, we’re talking about not a physical behavior, but a mental behavior. We do it in effort to reduce or remove anxiety, uncertainty, some other form of discomfort, or maybe even disgust. It’s a behavior, it’s a response to a discomfort and you do that response in a way to remove or resist the discomfort that you’re feeling.

Now, we know that in obsessive-compulsive disorder, there are a lot of physical compulsions. A lot of us know these physical compulsions because they’ve been shown in Hollywood movies. Jumping over cracks, washing our hands, moving objects – these are very common physical compulsions – checking stoves, checking doors. Most people are very understanding and acknowledge that as being a part of OCD. But what’s important to know is that a lot of people with OCD don’t do those physical compulsions at all. In fact, 100% of their compulsions are done in their head mentally. Now, this is also very true for people with generalized anxiety. It’s also very true for some people with health anxiety or an eating disorder, many disorders engage in mental compulsions.

Mental Compulsion Vs Mental Ritual?

For the sake of this series, we use the word “mental compulsion,” but you will hear me, as we have guests, you will hear me ask them, do you call them “mental compulsions”? Some people use the word “mental ritual.” Some people use the word “mental rumination.” There are different ways, but ultimately throughout this series, we’re going to mostly consider them one and the same. But again, just briefly, a mental compulsion is something you do inside of your mind to reduce, remove, or resist anxiety, uncertainty, or some form of discomfort that you experience. Let’s keep moving from here.

What is a Compulsion

Now, who does mental compulsions? I’ve probably answered that for you already. Lots of people do mental compulsions. Again, it ranges over a course of many different anxiety disorders and other disorders, including eating disorders. But again, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, phobias, health anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder. Some of the people with that mental disorder also engage in mental compulsions.

Predominantly, we talk a lot about the practice of mental compulsions for people with obsessive-compulsive disorder. The thing to remember is it’s more common than you think, and you’re probably doing more of them than you guessed. I’m hoping that this 101 training will help you to be able to identify the compulsions you’re doing so that when we go through this series, you have a really good grasp of where you could practice those skills.

Now, often when people find out they’re doing mental compulsions, they can be very hard on themselves and berate and criticize themselves for doing them. I really want to make this a judgment-free and punish-free zone where you’re really gentle with yourself as you go through this series. It’s very important that you don’t use this information as a reason to beat yourself up even more. So let’s make a deal. We’re going to be as kind and non-judgmental as we can, as we move through this process. Compassion is always number one. Do we have a deal? Good.

Types of Mental Compulsions

Here is the big question: Are there different types of mental compulsions? Now, I’m going to proceed with caution here because there is no clear differentiation between the different compulsions. I did a bunch of research. I also wrote a book called The Self-Compassion Workbook For OCD. There is no specific way in which all of the psychological fields agree on what is different types of mental compulsions. There are some guidelines, but there’s no one list.

I want to proceed with caution first by letting you know this list that we use with our patients. Now, as you listen, you may have different names for them. Your therapist may use different terminology. That’s all fine. It doesn’t mean what you have done is wrong or what we are doing is wrong. To be honest with you, this would be a 17-hour training if I were to be as thorough as listing out every single one. For the sake of clarity and simplicity, I’ve put them into 10 different types of mental compulsions. If you have ones that aren’t listed, that doesn’t mean it’s not a mental compulsion. I encourage you to just check in. If you have additional or you have a different name, that’s totally okay. Totally okay. We’re just using this again for the sake of clarity and simplicity. Here we go.

1. Mental Repeating

The first mental compulsion that we want to look at is mental repeating. This is where you repeat or you make a list of individual items or categories. It can also involve words, numbers, or phrases. Often people will do this for two reasons or more, like I said, is they may repeat them for reassurance. They may be repeating to see whether they have relief. They may be repeating them to see if they feel okay. They may be repeating them to see if any additional obsessions arise, or they may be repeating them to unjinx something. Now, that’s not a clinical term, so let’s just put that out there.

What I mean by this is some people will repeat things because they feel like the first time something happened, it was jinx. Like it will mean something bad will happen. It’s been associated with something bad, so they repeat it to unjinx it. We’ll talk more about neutralizing compulsions here in a second, but that’s in regards to mental repeating. You may do it for a completely different reason. Don’t worry too much as we go through this on why you do it. Just get your notepad out and your pencil out and just take note. Do I do any mental repeating compulsions? Not physical. Remember, we’re just talking about mental in this series.

2. Mental Counting

This is where you either count words, count letters, count numbers, or count objects. Again, you will not do this out loud. Well, sometimes you may do it out loud in addition to mental, but we’re mostly talking about things you would do silently in your head. Again, you may do this for a multitude of reasons, but again, we want to just keep tabs. Am I doing any mental counting or mental counting rituals?

3. Neutralization Compulsions or Neutralizing Compulsions

What we’re talking about here is you’re replacing an obsession with a different image or word. Let’s say you are opening your computer. As you opened the computer, you had an intrusive thought that you didn’t like. And so in effort to neutralize that thought, you would have the opposite thought. Let’s say you had a thought, a number. Let’s say you’ve had the number that you feel is a bad number. You may neutralize it by then repeating a positive number, a number that you like, or a safe number. Or you may do a behavior, you may see something being done and you have a negative thought. So then, you recall a different thought or a prayer, it could be also a prayer, to undo that bad feeling or thought or sensation.

Now, when it comes to compulsive prayer, that could be done as a neutralization. In fact, I almost wanted to make prayer its own category, because a lot of people do engage in compulsive prayer, particularly those who have moral and scrupulous obsessions. Again, not to say that all prayer is a compulsion at all, but if you are finding that you’re doing prayer to undo a bad thought or a bad feeling or a bad sensation or a bad urge – when I say bad, I mean unwanted – we would consider that a neutralization or a neutralizing compulsion.

4. Hypervigilance Compulsions

Now again, this is the term we use in my practice. Remember here before we proceed that hypervigilance is an obsession, meaning it can be automatic, unwanted, intrusive, but it can also be a compulsive behavior. It could be both or it could be one. But when I talk about the term “hypervigilance compulsions,” this is also true for people with post-traumatic stress disorder, is it’s a scanning of the environment. It’s a scanning, like looking around. I always say with my clients, it’s like this little set of eyes that go doot, doot, doot, doot really quick, and they’re scanning for danger, scanning for potential fear or potential problems. They also do that when we’re in a hypervigilance compulsion. We may do that with our thoughts. We’re scanning thoughts or we’re scanning sensations like, is this coming? What’s happening? Where am I feeling things?

You may be scanning and doing hypervigilance in regards to feeling like, am I having a good thought or a bad thought or a good feeling or a bad feeling? And then making meaning about that. You may actually also be hypervigilant about your reaction. If let’s say you saw something that usually you would consider concerning and this time you didn’t, you might become very hypervigilant. What does that mean? I need to make sure I always have this feeling because this feeling would mean I’m a good person or only good things will happen.

The last one again is emotions, which emotions and feelings can sometimes go in together. Hypervigilant compulsion is something to keep an eye out. It could be simple as you just being hypervigilant, looking king around. Often this is true for people with driving obsessions or panic disorder. They’re constantly looking for when the next anxiety attack is coming.

5. Mental Reassurance

We can do physical reassurance, which is looking at Google, asking a friend like, are you sure nothing bad will happen? We can do physical, but we can also do mental reassurance, which is mentally checking to confirm an obsession is not or will not become a threat. This is true for basic like we already talked about and some checking and repeating behaviors. You may mentally stare at the doorknob to make sure it is locked. You may mentally check and check for reassurance once, twice, five times, ten times, or more. If the stove is off or that you are not having arousal is another one, or that you are not going to panic. You may be checking to get reassurance mentally that your fear is not going to happen.

Again, some people’s fear is fear itself. The fear of having a panic attack is very common as well. Again, we’re looking for different ways that mentally we are on alert for potential danger or perceived danger.

6. Mental Review

We’ve talked a lot about behaviors that we’re doing in alert of anxiety. Mental review is reviewing and replaying past situations, figuring out the meaning of internal experiences, such as, what is the meaning of the thought I had? What is the meaning of the feeling I had? What is the meaning of that sensation? What does that mean? What is the meaning of an image that just showed up intrusively and repetitively in my mind? What is the meaning of an urge I have?

This is very true for people with harm obsessions or sexual obsessions. When they feel an urge, they may review for hours, what did that mean? What does that mean about me? Why am I having those? And so the review piece can be very painful. All of these are very painful and take many, many hours, because not only are you reviewing the past, which can be hard because it’s hard to get mental clarity of the past, but then you’re also trying to figure out what does that mean about me or the world or the future. So, just things to think about.

To be honest, mental review could cover all of the categories that we’ve covered, because it’s all review in some way. But again, for the sake of clarity and simplicity, I’ve tried to break them up. You may want to break them up in different ways yourself. That is entirely okay. I just wanted to give you a little category here on its own.

7. Mental Catastrophization

This is where you dissect and scrutinize past situations with potential catastrophic scenarios. Now, I made an error here because a lot of people do this about the future as well. But we’ll talk about that here in a little bit.

Mental catastrophization, if you have reviewed the past and you’re going over all of the potential terrible situations. This is very true for people who review like, what did I say? Was that a silly thing to say? Was that a good thing to say? What would they think about me?

Mental catastrophization is reviewing the past, but is also the future and reviewing every possible catastrophic scenario or opportunity that happened. Whether it happened or not, it doesn’t really matter when it comes to mental compulsions. Usually, when someone does a mental compulsion, they’re reviewing maybe’s, the just in case it does happen, I better review it.

8. Mental Solving

Very similar, again, which is anticipating future situations with or without potential what-if scenarios. Very similar to catastrophization compulsions. This is where you’re looking into the future and going, “What if this happens? What if that happens? What if this happens? Well, what if that happens?” and going through multiple, sometimes dozens of scenarios of the worst-case scenarios on what may or may not happen. Again, it usually involves a lot of catastrophizing. But again, these are all safety behaviors. None of this means there’s anything wrong with you or that you’re bad or that you’re not strong.

Remember, our brain is just trying to survive. In the moment when we are doing these, our brain actually thinks it’s coming up with solutions, but what we have to do, and all of the guests will talk about this, is recognize. Most of the time, the problem isn’t actually happening. We’re just having thoughts that it’s happening. Again, this is reviewing thoughts of potential what-if scenarios.

9. Mental Self-Punishment

I talk a lot about this in my book, The Self-Compassion Workbook For OCD. Mental self-punishment is a compulsion, a mental compulsion that is not talked about enough. One is criticizing, withholding pleasure, harshly disciplining yourself for your obsessions or even the compulsions that you’ve done. Often, we do this as a compulsion, meaning we think that if we punish ourselves, that will prevent us from having the obsession or the compulsion in the future. The fact here is beating yourself up actually doesn’t reduce your chances of having thoughts and feelings and sensations and behaviors or urges. But that is why we do them. It’s to catch when you are engaging in criticizing or withholding or punishing compulsions.

10. Mental Comparison

Again, not a very common use of compulsions, but this is one I like to talk about a lot. Most of my patients with OCD and with anxiety will say that they know for certain that they compare more than their friends and family members who do not have anxiety disorders. I’ve put it here just so that you can catch when you are engaging in mental comparison, which is comparing your own life with other people’s life, or comparing your own life with the idea that you thought you should have had for your life. So, an idea of how your life was supposed to be.

This is a compulsive behavior because it’s done again to reduce or remove a feeling or a sensation or a discomfort of anxiety or uncertainty you have around your current situation. It’s really important to catch that as well because there’s a lot of damage that can be done from comparing a lot with other people or from a fantasy that you had about the way your life should or shouldn’t look. Again, we will talk about this in episodes, particularly with Jonathan Grayson. He talks a lot about this one. I just wanted to add that one in as well.

They’re the main top 10 mental compulsions. Again, I want to stress, these are not a conclusive list that is the be-all and end-all. A lot of clinicians may not agree and they may have different ways of conceptualizing them. That is entirely okay. I’m never going to pretend to be the knower of all things. That is just one way that we conceptualize it here at our center with our staff and our clients to help patients identify ways in which they’re behaving mentally.

Something to think about here, though, is you may find some of your compulsions are in more than one category. You might say, “Well, I do mental comparison, but it’s also a self-punishment,” or “I do mental checking, but it’s also a form of reassurance.” That’s okay too. Don’t worry too much about what section it should be under. Again, it’s very fluid. We want you just to be able to document. It doesn’t matter what category it is particularly. I really just wanted this 101 for you to do an inventory and see, “Oh, wow, maybe I’m doing more compulsions than I thought.” Because sometimes they’re very habitual and we are doing them before we even know we’re doing them. I just want to keep reminding you guys it’s okay if it looks a little messy and it’s okay if your list is a little different.

The main question here as we conclude is: How do I stop? Well, the beauty is I have the honor of introducing to you some of the absolute, most amazing therapists and specialists in the planet. I fully wholeheartedly agree with that. While I wish I could have done 20 people, I picked six people who I felt would bring a different perspective, who have such amazing wisdom to share with you on how to manage mental compulsions.

Now, why did I invite more than one person? Because I have learned as a clinician and as a human being, there is not one way to treat something. When I first started CBT School, I was under the assumption that there is only one way to do it and it’s the right way or the wrong way. From there, I have really grown and matured into recognizing that what works for one person may not work for the next person.

As we go through this series, I may be asking very, very similar questions to each person. You will be so amazed and in awe of the responses and how they bring about a small degree of nuance and a little flare of passion and some creativity of each person and bring in a different theme. I’m so honored to have these amazing human beings who are so kind to offer their time, to offer this series, and help you find what works for you.

As you go through, I will continue reminding you, please keep asking yourself, would this work for me? Am I willing to try this? The truth is, all of them are doable for everybody, but you might find for your particular set of compulsions specific tools work better. So trial them, see what works, be gentle, experiment. Don’t give up. It may require multiple tries to really find some little win. Please, just listen, enjoy, take as many notes as you can, because literally, the wisdom that is dropped here is mind-blowing.

I’ve been treating OCD for over a decade and I actually stopped a few things after I learned this and went straight to my staff and said, “We have to make a new plan. Let’s implement this. This is an amazing skill for our clients. Let’s make sure we do it.” Even I, I’m a student of some of these amazing, amazing people.

How do I stop? Stay tuned, listen, learn, take notes, and most importantly, put it into practice. Apply. That’s where the real change happens.

Now, before we finish, please do note this series should not replace professional healthcare. This or any product provided by CBT School should be used for education purposes only, so please take as much as you can. If you feel that you need more support, please reach out to a therapist in your area who can help you use these tools and maybe pick a part. Maybe there’s a few things that you need additional help with, and that is okay.

Thank you, guys. I am so excited to share this with you.

Have a wonderful day.

Apr 22, 2022

SUMMARY: 

This episode addresses some common questions people have about anxiety and arousal. Oftentimes, we are too afraid to talk about anxiety and arousal, so I thought I would take this opportunity to address some of the questions you may have and take some of the stigma and shame out of discussing anxiety and how it impacts arousal, orgasm, intimacy, and sexual interactions.

In This Episode:

  • How anxiety and arousal impact each other (its a cycle)
  • Arousal Non-Concordance and how it impacts people with anxiety and OCD
  • How to take the shame out of arousal struggles
  • Understanding why anxiety impacts orgasms and general intimacy

Links To Things I Talk About:

Article I wrote about OCD and Arousal Non-Concordance
https://www.madeofmillions.com/articles/whats-going-ocd-arousal

Come as You are By Emily Nagoski, PhD
Come as You Are Workbook By Emily Nagoski, PhD
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 281.

Welcome back, everybody. How are you? It is a beautiful sunny day here in California. We’re actually in the middle of a heatwave. It is April when I’m recording this and it is crazy how hard it is, but I’m totally here for it. I’m liking it because I love summer.

Talking about heat, let’s talk about anxiety and arousal today. Shall we? Did you get that little pun? I’m just kidding really.

Today, we’re talking about anxiety and arousal. I don’t know why, but lately, I’m in the mood to talk about things that no one really wants to talk about or that we all want to talk about and we’re too afraid to talk about. I’m just going to go there. For some reason, I’m having this strong urge with the podcast to just talk about the things that I feel we’re not talking about enough. And several of my clients actually were asking like, “What resources do you have?” And I have a lot of books and things that I can give people. I was like, “All right, I’m going to talk about it more.” So, let’s do it together.

Before we do that, let’s quickly do the review of the week. This one is from, let’s see, Jessrabon621. They said:

“Amazing podcast. I absolutely love everything about this podcast. I could listen to Kimberley talk all day and her advice is absolutely amazing. I highly recommend this podcast to anyone struggling with anxiety or any other mental health professional that wants to learn more.”

Thank you so much, Jess.

This week’s “I did a hard thing” is from Anonymous and they say:

“I learned it’s okay to fulfill my emotions and just allow my thoughts and it gave me a sense of peace. Learning self-compassion is my hard thing and I’m learning to face OCD and realize that it’s not my fault. I’m learning to manage and live my life for me like I deserve, and I refuse to let this take away my happiness.”

This is just so good. I talk about heat. This is seriously on fire right here. I love it so much. The truth is self-compassion practice is probably my hard thing too. I think that me really learning how to stand up for myself, be there for myself, be tender with myself was just as hard as my eating disorder recovery and my anxiety recovery. I really appreciate Anonymous and how they’ve used self-compassion as their hard thing.

Let’s get into the episode. Let me preface the episode by we’re talking about anxiety and arousal. If I could have one person on the podcast, it would be Emily Nagoski. I have been trying to get her on the podcast for a while. We will get her on eventually. However, she’s off doing amazing things. Amazing things. Netflix specials, podcasts, documentaries. She’s doing amazing things. So, hopefully, one day. But until then, I want to really highlight her as the genius behind a lot of these concepts.

Emily Nagoski is a doctor, a psychology doctor. She is a sex educator. She has written two amazing books. Well, actually, three or four. But the one I’m referring to today is Come as You Are. It’s an amazing book. But I’m actually in my hand holding the Come as You Are Workbook. I strongly encourage you after you listen to this podcast episode to go and order that book. It is amazing. It’s got tons of activities. It might feel weird to have the book. You can get it on Kindle if you want to have it be hidden, but it’s so filled with amazing information. I’m going to try and give you the pieces that I really want you to take away. If you want more, by all means, go and get the workbook. The workbook is called The Come as You Are Workbook: A Practical Guide to the Science of Sex. The reason I love it is because it’s so helpful for those who have anxiety. It’s like she’s speaking directly to us. She’s like, it’s so helpful to have this context.

Here’s the thing I want you to consider starting off. A lot of people who have anxiety report struggles with arousal. We’re going to talk about two different struggles that are the highlight of today. Either you have no arousal because of your anxiety, or you’re having arousal at particular times that concern you and confuse you and alarm you. You could be one or both of those camps.

So let’s first talk about those who are struggling with arousal in terms of getting aroused. So the thing I want you to think about is commonly-- and this is true for any mental health issue too, it’s true for depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, dissociative disorders, all of them really. But the thing I want you to remember, no matter who you are and what your experience is, even if you have a really healthy experience of your own sexual arousal and you’re feeling fine about it, we all have what’s called inhibitors and exciters. Here is an example.

An inhibitor is something that inhibits your arousal. An exciter is something that excites your arousal. Now you’re probably already feeling a ton of judgment here like, “I shouldn’t be aroused by this and I should be aroused by this. What if I’m aroused by this? And I shouldn’t be,” and so forth. I want us to take all the judgment out of this and just look at the content of what inhibits our arousal or excites our arousal. Because sometimes, and I’ll talk about this more, sometimes it’s for reasons that don’t make a lot of sense and that’s okay.

Let’s talk about an inhibitor, something that pumps the brakes on arousal or pleasure. It could be either. There’s exciters, which are the things that really like the gas pedal. They just really bring on arousal, bring on pleasure, and so forth.

We have the content. The content may be first mental or physical, and this includes your health, your physical health. For me, I know when I am struggling with POTS, arousal is just barely a thing. You’re just so wiped out and you’re so exhausted and your brain is foggy. It’s just like nothing. That would be, in my case, an inhibitor. I’m not going to talk about myself a lot here, but I was just using that as an example. You might say your anxiety or your obsession is an inhibitor. It pumps the brakes on arousal. It makes it go away. Worry is one.

It could also be other physical health, like headaches or tummy aches, or as we said before, depression. It could be hormone imbalances, things like that. It’s all as important. Go and speak with your doctor. That’s super important. Make sure medically everything checks out if you’re noticing a dip or change in arousal that’s concerning you.

The next one in terms of content that may either excite you or inhibit you is your relationship. If your relationship is going well, you may or may not have an increase in arousal depending on what turns you on. If your partner smells of a certain smell or stench that you don’t like, that may pump the brakes. But if they smell a certain way that you do really like and really is arousing to you, that may excite your arousal.

It could also be the vibe of the relationship. A lot of people said at the beginning of COVID, there was a lot of fear. That was really, really strong on the brakes. But then all of a sudden, no one had anything to do and there was all this spare time. All of a sudden, the vibe is like, that’s what’s happening. Now, this could be true for people who are in any partnership or it could be just you on your own too. There are things that will excite you and inhibit your arousal if you’re not in a relationship as well, and that’s totally fine. This is for all relationships. There’s no specific kind.

Setting is another thing that may pump the brakes or hit the gas for arousal, meaning certain places, certain rooms, certain events. Did your partner do something that turned you on? Going back to physical, it could also depend on your menstrual cycle. People have different levels of arousal depending on different stages of their menstrual cycle. I think the same is true for men, but I don’t actually have a lot of research on that, but I’m sure there are some hormonal impacts on men as well.

There’s also ludic factors which are like fantasy. Whether you have a really strong imagination, that either pumps the brakes or puts the gas pedal in terms of arousal. It could be like where you’re being touched. Sometimes there’s certain areas of your body that will set off either the gas pedal or the brakes. It could be certain foreplay.

Really what I’m trying to get at here isn’t breaking it down according to the workbook, but there’s so many factors that may influence your arousal.

Another one is environmental and cultural and shame. If arousal and the whole concept of sex is shamed or is looked down on, or people have a certain opinion about your sexual orientation, that too can impact your gas pedal and your brakes pedal. So, I want you to explore this, not from a place of pulling it apart really aggressively and critically, but really curiously and check in for yourself, what arouses me? What presses my brakes? What presses my gas? And just start to get to know that. Again, in the workbook, there’s tons of worksheets for this, but you could also just consider this on your own. Write it down on your own, be aware over the next several days or weeks, just jot down in a journal what you’re noticing.

Now, before we move on, we’ve talked about a lot of people who are struggling with arousal, and they’ve got a lot of inhibitors and brake pushing. There are the other camp who have a lot of gas pedal pushing. I speak here directly to the folks who have sexual obsessions because often if you have sexual obsessions, the fact that your sexual obsession is sexual in nature may be what sets the gas pedal off, and all of a sudden, you have arousal for reasons that you don’t understand, that don’t make sense to you, or maybe go against your values.

I’ve got a quote that I took from the book and from the workbook of Emily Nagoski. Again, none of this is my personal stuff. I’m quoting her and citing her throughout this whole podcast. She says, “Bodies do not say yes or no. They say sex-related or not sex-related.” Let me say it again. “Bodies do not say yes or no. They say sex-related or not sex-related.”

This is where I want you to consider, and I’ve experienced this myself, is just because something arouses you doesn’t mean it brings you pleasure. Main point. We’ve got to pull that apart. Culture has led us to believe that if you feel some groinal response to something, you must love it and want more of it.

An example of this is for people with sexual obsessions, maybe they have OCD or some other anxiety disorder, and they have an intrusive thought about a baby or an animal. Bestiality is another very common obsession with OCD or could be just about a person. It could be just about a person that you see in the grocery store. When you have a thought that is sex-related, sometimes because the context of it is that it’s sex-related, your body may get aroused. Our job, particularly if you have OCD, is not to try and figure out what that means. It’s not to try and resolve like, does that mean I like it? Does that mean I’m a terrible person? What does that mean?

I want you to understand the science here to help you understand your arousal, to help you understand how you can now shift your perspective towards your body and your mind and the pleasure that you experience in the area of sexuality. Again, the body doesn’t say yes or no, they say it’s either sex-related or not sex-related.

Here’s the funny thing, and I’ve done this experiment with my patients before, is if you look at a lamp post or it could be anything, you could look at the pencil you’re holding and then you bring to mind a sexual experience, you may notice arousal. Again, it doesn’t mean that you’re now aroused by pencils or pens. It’s that it was labeled as sex-related, so often your brain will naturally press the accelerator.

That’s often how I educate people, particularly who are having arousal that concerns it. It’s the same for a lot of people who have sexual trauma. They maybe are really concerned about the fact that they do have arousal around a memory or something. And then that concerns them, what does that mean about me? And the thing to remember too is it’s not your body saying yes or no, it’s your body saying sex-related or not sex-related. It’s important to just help remind yourself of that so that you’re not responding to the content so much and getting caught up in the compulsive behaviors.

A lot of my patients in the past have reported, particularly during times when they’re stressed, their anxiety is really high, life is difficult, any of this content we went through, is they may actually have a hard time being aroused at all. Some people have reported not getting an erection and then it completely going for reasons they don’t understand. I think here we want to practice again non-Judgment. Instead, move to curiosity. There’s probably some content that impacted that, which is again, very, very, normal.

this is why when I’m talking with patients – I’ve done episodes on this in the past, and we’ve in fact had sex therapists on the podcast in the past – is they’ve said, if you’ve lost arousal, it doesn’t mean you give up. It doesn’t mean you say, “Oh, well, that’s that.” What you do is you move your attention to the content that pumps the gas. When I mean content, it’s like touch, smell, the relationship, the vibe, being in touch with your body, bringing your attention to the dance that you’re doing, whether it’s with a partner or by yourself, or in whatever means that works for you. You can bring that back. There’s another amazing book called Better Sex Through Mindfulness, and it talks a lot about bringing your attention to one or two sensations. Touch, smell being two really, really great ones.

Again, if your goal is to be aroused, you might find it’s very hard to be aroused because the context of that is pressure. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really find pressure arousing. Some may, and again, this is where I want this to be completely judgment-free. There’s literally no right and wrong. But pressure is usually not that arousing. Pressure is not that pleasurable in many cases, particularly when it’s forceful and it feels like you have to perform a certain way. Again, some people are at their best in performance mode, but I want to just remind you, the more pressure you put on yourself on this idea of ending it well is probably going to make some anxiety. Same with test anxiety. The more pressure you put on yourself to get an A, the more you’re likely to spin out with anxiety. It’s really no different.

So, here is where I want you to catch and ask yourself, is the pressure I put on myself or is the agenda I put on myself actually pumping the brakes for me when it comes to arousal? Is me trying not to have a thought actually in the context of that, does that actually pump the brakes? Because I know you’re trying not to have the thought so that you can be intimate in that moment and engaged in pleasure. But the act of trying not to have the thought can actually pump the brakes. I hope that makes sense. I want you to get really close to understanding what’s going on for you.

Everyone is different. Some things will pump the brakes, some things will pump the accelerator. A lot of the times, thought suppression pumps the brakes. A lot of the times, beating yourself up pumps the brakes. A lot of the time, the more goal, like I have to do it this way, that often pumps the brakes. So, keep an eye out for that. Engage in the exciters and get really mindful and present.

A couple of things here. We’ve talked about erections, that’s for people who struggle with that. It’s also true for women or men with lubrication. Some people get really upset about the fact that there may or may not be a ton of lubrication. Again, we’ve been misled to believe that if you’re not lubricated, you mustn’t be aroused or that you mustn’t want this thing, or that there must be something wrong with you, and that is entirely true. A lot of women, when we study them, they may be really engaged and their gas pedal is going for it, but there may be no lubrication. And it doesn’t mean something is wrong. In those cases, often a sex therapist or a sex educator will encourage you to use lubrication, a lubricant.

Again, some people, I’ve talked to clients and they’re so ashamed of that. But I think it’s important to recognize that that’s just because somebody taught us that, and sadly, it’s a lot to do with patriarchy and that it was pushed on women in particular that that meant they’re like a good woman if they’re really lubricated. And that’s not true. That’s just fake, false. No science. It has no basis in reality.

Now we’ve talked about lubrication. We’ve talked about erection. Same for orgasm. Some people get really frustrated and disheartened that they can’t reach orgasm. If for any reason you are struggling with this, please, I urge you, go and see a sex therapist. They are the most highly trained therapists. They are so sensitive and compassionate. They can talk with you about this and you can target the specific things you want to work on. But orgasm is another one. If you put pressure on yourself to get there, that pumps the brakes often.

What I want you to do, and this is your homework, is don’t focus on arousal. Focus on pleasure. Focus on the thing that-- again, it’s really about being in connection with your partner or yourself. As soon as you put a list of to-dos with it is often when things go wrong. Just focus on being present as much as you can, and in the moment being aware of, ooh, move towards the exciters, the gas pedal things. Move away from the inhibitors. Be careful there. Again, for those of you who have anxiety, that doesn’t mean thought suppress. That doesn’t mean judge your thoughts because that in and of itself is an inhibitor often.

I want to leave you with that. I’m going to in the future do a whole nother episode about talking more about this idea of arousal non-concordance, which is that quote I use like “The bodies don’t say yes or no, they say sex-related or not sex-related.” I’ll do more of that in the future. But for right now, I want it to be around you exploring your relationship with arousal, understanding it, but then putting your attention on pleasure. Being aware of both, being mindful of both.

Most people I know that I’ve talked to about this-- and I’m not a sex therapist. Again, I’m getting all of this directly from the workbook, but most of the clients I’ve talked to about this and we’ve used some worksheets and so forth, they’ve said, when I put all the expectations away and I just focus on this touch and this body part and this smell and this kiss or this fantasy, or being really in touch with your own body, when I just make it as simple as that and I bring it down to just engaging in what feels good – sort of use it as like a north star. You just keep following. That feels good. Okay, that feels good. That doesn’t feel so great. I’ll move towards what feels good – is moving in that direction non-judgmentally and curiously that they’ve had the time of their lives. I really just want to give you that gift. Focus on pleasure. Focus on non-judgmentally and curiously, being aware of what’s current and present in your senses.

That’s all I got for you for today. I think it’s enough. Do we agree? I think it’s enough. I could talk about this all day. To be honest, and I’ve said this so many times, if I had enough time, I would go back and I would become a sex therapist. It is a huge training. Sex therapists have the most intensive, extensive training and requirements. I would love to do it. But one day, I’ll probably do it when I’m 70. And that will be awesome. I’ll be down for that, for sure. I just love this content.

Now, again, I want to be really clear. I’m not a sex therapist. I still have ones to learn. I still have. Even what we’ve covered today, there’s probably nuanced things that I could probably explain better. Again, which is why I’m going to stress to you, go and check out the book. I’m just here to try and get you-- I was thinking about this. Remember, I just recently did the episode on the three-day silent retreat and I was sitting in a meditation. I remember this so clearly. I’m just going to tell you this quick story.

I was thinking. For some reason, my mind was a little scattered this day and something came over with me where I was like, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I didn’t just treat anxiety disorders, but I treated the person and the many problems that are associated with the anxiety disorder? Isn’t that a beautiful goal? Isn’t that so? Because it’s not just the anxiety, it’s the little tiny areas in our lives that it impacts.” That’s when I, out of me, as soon as I finished the meditation, I went on to my-- I have this organization board that I use online and it was arousal, let’s talk about pee and poop, which is one episode we recently did. Let’s talk about all the things because anxiety affects it all. We can make little changes in all these areas and little changes. Slowly, you get your life back. I hope this gives you a little bit of your sexual expression back, if I could put it into words. Maybe not expression, but just your relationship with your body and pleasure.

I love you. Thank you for staying with me for this. This was brave work you’re doing. You probably had cringy moments. Hopefully not. Again, none of this is weird, wrong, bad. This is all human stuff.

Finish up, again, do check out the book. Her name is Emily Nagoski. I’ll leave a link in the show notes. One day we’ll get her on. But in the meantime, I’ll hopefully just give you the science that she’s so beautifully given us.

Have a wonderful day. I’ll talk to you soon. See you next week.

Please do leave a review. It helps me so much. If you have a few moments, I would love a review, an honest review from you.

Have a good day.

Apr 22, 2022

SUMMARY: 

This episode addresses some common questions people have about anxiety and arousal. Oftentimes, we are too afraid to talk about anxiety and arousal, so I thought I would take this opportunity to address some of the questions you may have and take some of the stigma and shame out of discussing anxiety and how it impacts arousal, orgasm, intimacy, and sexual interactions.

In This Episode:

  • How anxiety and arousal impact each other (its a cycle)
  • Arousal Non-Concordance and how it impacts people with anxiety and OCD
  • How to take the shame out of arousal struggles
  • Understanding why anxiety impacts orgasms and general intimacy

Links To Things I Talk About:

Article I wrote about OCD and Arousal Non-Concordance
https://www.madeofmillions.com/articles/whats-going-ocd-arousal

Come as You are By Emily Nagoski, PhD
Come as You Are Workbook By Emily Nagoski, PhD
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 281.

Welcome back, everybody. How are you? It is a beautiful sunny day here in California. We’re actually in the middle of a heatwave. It is April when I’m recording this and it is crazy how hard it is, but I’m totally here for it. I’m liking it because I love summer.

Talking about heat, let’s talk about anxiety and arousal today. Shall we? Did you get that little pun? I’m just kidding really.

Today, we’re talking about anxiety and arousal. I don’t know why, but lately, I’m in the mood to talk about things that no one really wants to talk about or that we all want to talk about and we’re too afraid to talk about. I’m just going to go there. For some reason, I’m having this strong urge with the podcast to just talk about the things that I feel we’re not talking about enough. And several of my clients actually were asking like, “What resources do you have?” And I have a lot of books and things that I can give people. I was like, “All right, I’m going to talk about it more.” So, let’s do it together.

Before we do that, let’s quickly do the review of the week. This one is from, let’s see, Jessrabon621. They said:

“Amazing podcast. I absolutely love everything about this podcast. I could listen to Kimberley talk all day and her advice is absolutely amazing. I highly recommend this podcast to anyone struggling with anxiety or any other mental health professional that wants to learn more.”

Thank you so much, Jess.

This week’s “I did a hard thing” is from Anonymous and they say:

“I learned it’s okay to fulfill my emotions and just allow my thoughts and it gave me a sense of peace. Learning self-compassion is my hard thing and I’m learning to face OCD and realize that it’s not my fault. I’m learning to manage and live my life for me like I deserve, and I refuse to let this take away my happiness.”

This is just so good. I talk about heat. This is seriously on fire right here. I love it so much. The truth is self-compassion practice is probably my hard thing too. I think that me really learning how to stand up for myself, be there for myself, be tender with myself was just as hard as my eating disorder recovery and my anxiety recovery. I really appreciate Anonymous and how they’ve used self-compassion as their hard thing.

Let’s get into the episode. Let me preface the episode by we’re talking about anxiety and arousal. If I could have one person on the podcast, it would be Emily Nagoski. I have been trying to get her on the podcast for a while. We will get her on eventually. However, she’s off doing amazing things. Amazing things. Netflix specials, podcasts, documentaries. She’s doing amazing things. So, hopefully, one day. But until then, I want to really highlight her as the genius behind a lot of these concepts.

Emily Nagoski is a doctor, a psychology doctor. She is a sex educator. She has written two amazing books. Well, actually, three or four. But the one I’m referring to today is Come as You Are. It’s an amazing book. But I’m actually in my hand holding the Come as You Are Workbook. I strongly encourage you after you listen to this podcast episode to go and order that book. It is amazing. It’s got tons of activities. It might feel weird to have the book. You can get it on Kindle if you want to have it be hidden, but it’s so filled with amazing information. I’m going to try and give you the pieces that I really want you to take away. If you want more, by all means, go and get the workbook. The workbook is called The Come as You Are Workbook: A Practical Guide to the Science of Sex. The reason I love it is because it’s so helpful for those who have anxiety. It’s like she’s speaking directly to us. She’s like, it’s so helpful to have this context.

Here’s the thing I want you to consider starting off. A lot of people who have anxiety report struggles with arousal. We’re going to talk about two different struggles that are the highlight of today. Either you have no arousal because of your anxiety, or you’re having arousal at particular times that concern you and confuse you and alarm you. You could be one or both of those camps.

So let’s first talk about those who are struggling with arousal in terms of getting aroused. So the thing I want you to think about is commonly-- and this is true for any mental health issue too, it’s true for depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, dissociative disorders, all of them really. But the thing I want you to remember, no matter who you are and what your experience is, even if you have a really healthy experience of your own sexual arousal and you’re feeling fine about it, we all have what’s called inhibitors and exciters. Here is an example.

An inhibitor is something that inhibits your arousal. An exciter is something that excites your arousal. Now you’re probably already feeling a ton of judgment here like, “I shouldn’t be aroused by this and I should be aroused by this. What if I’m aroused by this? And I shouldn’t be,” and so forth. I want us to take all the judgment out of this and just look at the content of what inhibits our arousal or excites our arousal. Because sometimes, and I’ll talk about this more, sometimes it’s for reasons that don’t make a lot of sense and that’s okay.

Let’s talk about an inhibitor, something that pumps the brakes on arousal or pleasure. It could be either. There’s exciters, which are the things that really like the gas pedal. They just really bring on arousal, bring on pleasure, and so forth.

We have the content. The content may be first mental or physical, and this includes your health, your physical health. For me, I know when I am struggling with POTS, arousal is just barely a thing. You’re just so wiped out and you’re so exhausted and your brain is foggy. It’s just like nothing. That would be, in my case, an inhibitor. I’m not going to talk about myself a lot here, but I was just using that as an example. You might say your anxiety or your obsession is an inhibitor. It pumps the brakes on arousal. It makes it go away. Worry is one.

It could also be other physical health, like headaches or tummy aches, or as we said before, depression. It could be hormone imbalances, things like that. It’s all as important. Go and speak with your doctor. That’s super important. Make sure medically everything checks out if you’re noticing a dip or change in arousal that’s concerning you.

The next one in terms of content that may either excite you or inhibit you is your relationship. If your relationship is going well, you may or may not have an increase in arousal depending on what turns you on. If your partner smells of a certain smell or stench that you don’t like, that may pump the brakes. But if they smell a certain way that you do really like and really is arousing to you, that may excite your arousal.

It could also be the vibe of the relationship. A lot of people said at the beginning of COVID, there was a lot of fear. That was really, really strong on the brakes. But then all of a sudden, no one had anything to do and there was all this spare time. All of a sudden, the vibe is like, that’s what’s happening. Now, this could be true for people who are in any partnership or it could be just you on your own too. There are things that will excite you and inhibit your arousal if you’re not in a relationship as well, and that’s totally fine. This is for all relationships. There’s no specific kind.

Setting is another thing that may pump the brakes or hit the gas for arousal, meaning certain places, certain rooms, certain events. Did your partner do something that turned you on? Going back to physical, it could also depend on your menstrual cycle. People have different levels of arousal depending on different stages of their menstrual cycle. I think the same is true for men, but I don’t actually have a lot of research on that, but I’m sure there are some hormonal impacts on men as well.

There’s also ludic factors which are like fantasy. Whether you have a really strong imagination, that either pumps the brakes or puts the gas pedal in terms of arousal. It could be like where you’re being touched. Sometimes there’s certain areas of your body that will set off either the gas pedal or the brakes. It could be certain foreplay.

Really what I’m trying to get at here isn’t breaking it down according to the workbook, but there’s so many factors that may influence your arousal.

Another one is environmental and cultural and shame. If arousal and the whole concept of sex is shamed or is looked down on, or people have a certain opinion about your sexual orientation, that too can impact your gas pedal and your brakes pedal. So, I want you to explore this, not from a place of pulling it apart really aggressively and critically, but really curiously and check in for yourself, what arouses me? What presses my brakes? What presses my gas? And just start to get to know that. Again, in the workbook, there’s tons of worksheets for this, but you could also just consider this on your own. Write it down on your own, be aware over the next several days or weeks, just jot down in a journal what you’re noticing.

Now, before we move on, we’ve talked about a lot of people who are struggling with arousal, and they’ve got a lot of inhibitors and brake pushing. There are the other camp who have a lot of gas pedal pushing. I speak here directly to the folks who have sexual obsessions because often if you have sexual obsessions, the fact that your sexual obsession is sexual in nature may be what sets the gas pedal off, and all of a sudden, you have arousal for reasons that you don’t understand, that don’t make sense to you, or maybe go against your values.

I’ve got a quote that I took from the book and from the workbook of Emily Nagoski. Again, none of this is my personal stuff. I’m quoting her and citing her throughout this whole podcast. She says, “Bodies do not say yes or no. They say sex-related or not sex-related.” Let me say it again. “Bodies do not say yes or no. They say sex-related or not sex-related.”

This is where I want you to consider, and I’ve experienced this myself, is just because something arouses you doesn’t mean it brings you pleasure. Main point. We’ve got to pull that apart. Culture has led us to believe that if you feel some groinal response to something, you must love it and want more of it.

An example of this is for people with sexual obsessions, maybe they have OCD or some other anxiety disorder, and they have an intrusive thought about a baby or an animal. Bestiality is another very common obsession with OCD or could be just about a person. It could be just about a person that you see in the grocery store. When you have a thought that is sex-related, sometimes because the context of it is that it’s sex-related, your body may get aroused. Our job, particularly if you have OCD, is not to try and figure out what that means. It’s not to try and resolve like, does that mean I like it? Does that mean I’m a terrible person? What does that mean?

I want you to understand the science here to help you understand your arousal, to help you understand how you can now shift your perspective towards your body and your mind and the pleasure that you experience in the area of sexuality. Again, the body doesn’t say yes or no, they say it’s either sex-related or not sex-related.

Here’s the funny thing, and I’ve done this experiment with my patients before, is if you look at a lamp post or it could be anything, you could look at the pencil you’re holding and then you bring to mind a sexual experience, you may notice arousal. Again, it doesn’t mean that you’re now aroused by pencils or pens. It’s that it was labeled as sex-related, so often your brain will naturally press the accelerator.

That’s often how I educate people, particularly who are having arousal that concerns it. It’s the same for a lot of people who have sexual trauma. They maybe are really concerned about the fact that they do have arousal around a memory or something. And then that concerns them, what does that mean about me? And the thing to remember too is it’s not your body saying yes or no, it’s your body saying sex-related or not sex-related. It’s important to just help remind yourself of that so that you’re not responding to the content so much and getting caught up in the compulsive behaviors.

A lot of my patients in the past have reported, particularly during times when they’re stressed, their anxiety is really high, life is difficult, any of this content we went through, is they may actually have a hard time being aroused at all. Some people have reported not getting an erection and then it completely going for reasons they don’t understand. I think here we want to practice again non-Judgment. Instead, move to curiosity. There’s probably some content that impacted that, which is again, very, very, normal.

this is why when I’m talking with patients – I’ve done episodes on this in the past, and we’ve in fact had sex therapists on the podcast in the past – is they’ve said, if you’ve lost arousal, it doesn’t mean you give up. It doesn’t mean you say, “Oh, well, that’s that.” What you do is you move your attention to the content that pumps the gas. When I mean content, it’s like touch, smell, the relationship, the vibe, being in touch with your body, bringing your attention to the dance that you’re doing, whether it’s with a partner or by yourself, or in whatever means that works for you. You can bring that back. There’s another amazing book called Better Sex Through Mindfulness, and it talks a lot about bringing your attention to one or two sensations. Touch, smell being two really, really great ones.

Again, if your goal is to be aroused, you might find it’s very hard to be aroused because the context of that is pressure. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really find pressure arousing. Some may, and again, this is where I want this to be completely judgment-free. There’s literally no right and wrong. But pressure is usually not that arousing. Pressure is not that pleasurable in many cases, particularly when it’s forceful and it feels like you have to perform a certain way. Again, some people are at their best in performance mode, but I want to just remind you, the more pressure you put on yourself on this idea of ending it well is probably going to make some anxiety. Same with test anxiety. The more pressure you put on yourself to get an A, the more you’re likely to spin out with anxiety. It’s really no different.

So, here is where I want you to catch and ask yourself, is the pressure I put on myself or is the agenda I put on myself actually pumping the brakes for me when it comes to arousal? Is me trying not to have a thought actually in the context of that, does that actually pump the brakes? Because I know you’re trying not to have the thought so that you can be intimate in that moment and engaged in pleasure. But the act of trying not to have the thought can actually pump the brakes. I hope that makes sense. I want you to get really close to understanding what’s going on for you.

Everyone is different. Some things will pump the brakes, some things will pump the accelerator. A lot of the times, thought suppression pumps the brakes. A lot of the times, beating yourself up pumps the brakes. A lot of the time, the more goal, like I have to do it this way, that often pumps the brakes. So, keep an eye out for that. Engage in the exciters and get really mindful and present.

A couple of things here. We’ve talked about erections, that’s for people who struggle with that. It’s also true for women or men with lubrication. Some people get really upset about the fact that there may or may not be a ton of lubrication. Again, we’ve been misled to believe that if you’re not lubricated, you mustn’t be aroused or that you mustn’t want this thing, or that there must be something wrong with you, and that is entirely true. A lot of women, when we study them, they may be really engaged and their gas pedal is going for it, but there may be no lubrication. And it doesn’t mean something is wrong. In those cases, often a sex therapist or a sex educator will encourage you to use lubrication, a lubricant.

Again, some people, I’ve talked to clients and they’re so ashamed of that. But I think it’s important to recognize that that’s just because somebody taught us that, and sadly, it’s a lot to do with patriarchy and that it was pushed on women in particular that that meant they’re like a good woman if they’re really lubricated. And that’s not true. That’s just fake, false. No science. It has no basis in reality.

Now we’ve talked about lubrication. We’ve talked about erection. Same for orgasm. Some people get really frustrated and disheartened that they can’t reach orgasm. If for any reason you are struggling with this, please, I urge you, go and see a sex therapist. They are the most highly trained therapists. They are so sensitive and compassionate. They can talk with you about this and you can target the specific things you want to work on. But orgasm is another one. If you put pressure on yourself to get there, that pumps the brakes often.

What I want you to do, and this is your homework, is don’t focus on arousal. Focus on pleasure. Focus on the thing that-- again, it’s really about being in connection with your partner or yourself. As soon as you put a list of to-dos with it is often when things go wrong. Just focus on being present as much as you can, and in the moment being aware of, ooh, move towards the exciters, the gas pedal things. Move away from the inhibitors. Be careful there. Again, for those of you who have anxiety, that doesn’t mean thought suppress. That doesn’t mean judge your thoughts because that in and of itself is an inhibitor often.

I want to leave you with that. I’m going to in the future do a whole nother episode about talking more about this idea of arousal non-concordance, which is that quote I use like “The bodies don’t say yes or no, they say sex-related or not sex-related.” I’ll do more of that in the future. But for right now, I want it to be around you exploring your relationship with arousal, understanding it, but then putting your attention on pleasure. Being aware of both, being mindful of both.

Most people I know that I’ve talked to about this-- and I’m not a sex therapist. Again, I’m getting all of this directly from the workbook, but most of the clients I’ve talked to about this and we’ve used some worksheets and so forth, they’ve said, when I put all the expectations away and I just focus on this touch and this body part and this smell and this kiss or this fantasy, or being really in touch with your own body, when I just make it as simple as that and I bring it down to just engaging in what feels good – sort of use it as like a north star. You just keep following. That feels good. Okay, that feels good. That doesn’t feel so great. I’ll move towards what feels good – is moving in that direction non-judgmentally and curiously that they’ve had the time of their lives. I really just want to give you that gift. Focus on pleasure. Focus on non-judgmentally and curiously, being aware of what’s current and present in your senses.

That’s all I got for you for today. I think it’s enough. Do we agree? I think it’s enough. I could talk about this all day. To be honest, and I’ve said this so many times, if I had enough time, I would go back and I would become a sex therapist. It is a huge training. Sex therapists have the most intensive, extensive training and requirements. I would love to do it. But one day, I’ll probably do it when I’m 70. And that will be awesome. I’ll be down for that, for sure. I just love this content.

Now, again, I want to be really clear. I’m not a sex therapist. I still have ones to learn. I still have. Even what we’ve covered today, there’s probably nuanced things that I could probably explain better. Again, which is why I’m going to stress to you, go and check out the book. I’m just here to try and get you-- I was thinking about this. Remember, I just recently did the episode on the three-day silent retreat and I was sitting in a meditation. I remember this so clearly. I’m just going to tell you this quick story.

I was thinking. For some reason, my mind was a little scattered this day and something came over with me where I was like, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I didn’t just treat anxiety disorders, but I treated the person and the many problems that are associated with the anxiety disorder? Isn’t that a beautiful goal? Isn’t that so? Because it’s not just the anxiety, it’s the little tiny areas in our lives that it impacts.” That’s when I, out of me, as soon as I finished the meditation, I went on to my-- I have this organization board that I use online and it was arousal, let’s talk about pee and poop, which is one episode we recently did. Let’s talk about all the things because anxiety affects it all. We can make little changes in all these areas and little changes. Slowly, you get your life back. I hope this gives you a little bit of your sexual expression back, if I could put it into words. Maybe not expression, but just your relationship with your body and pleasure.

I love you. Thank you for staying with me for this. This was brave work you’re doing. You probably had cringy moments. Hopefully not. Again, none of this is weird, wrong, bad. This is all human stuff.

Finish up, again, do check out the book. Her name is Emily Nagoski. I’ll leave a link in the show notes. One day we’ll get her on. But in the meantime, I’ll hopefully just give you the science that she’s so beautifully given us.

Have a wonderful day. I’ll talk to you soon. See you next week.

Please do leave a review. It helps me so much. If you have a few moments, I would love a review, an honest review from you.

Have a good day.

Apr 22, 2022

SUMMARY: 

This episode addresses some common questions people have about anxiety and arousal. Oftentimes, we are too afraid to talk about anxiety and arousal, so I thought I would take this opportunity to address some of the questions you may have and take some of the stigma and shame out of discussing anxiety and how it impacts arousal, orgasm, intimacy, and sexual interactions.

In This Episode:

  • How anxiety and arousal impact each other (its a cycle)
  • Arousal Non-Concordance and how it impacts people with anxiety and OCD
  • How to take the shame out of arousal struggles
  • Understanding why anxiety impacts orgasms and general intimacy

Links To Things I Talk About:

Article I wrote about OCD and Arousal Non-Concordance
https://www.madeofmillions.com/articles/whats-going-ocd-arousal

Come as You are By Emily Nagoski, PhD
Come as You Are Workbook By Emily Nagoski, PhD
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).

Ep. 281 Anxiety and Arousal

EPISODE TRANSCRIPTION

This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 281.

Welcome back, everybody. How are you? It is a beautiful sunny day here in California. We’re actually in the middle of a heatwave. It is April when I’m recording this and it is crazy how hard it is, but I’m totally here for it. I’m liking it because I love summer.

Talking about heat, let’s talk about anxiety and arousal today. Shall we? Did you get that little pun? I’m just kidding really.

Today, we’re talking about anxiety and arousal. I don’t know why, but lately, I’m in the mood to talk about things that no one really wants to talk about or that we all want to talk about and we’re too afraid to talk about. I’m just going to go there. For some reason, I’m having this strong urge with the podcast to just talk about the things that I feel we’re not talking about enough. And several of my clients actually were asking like, “What resources do you have?” And I have a lot of books and things that I can give people. I was like, “All right, I’m going to talk about it more.” So, let’s do it together.

Before we do that, let’s quickly do the review of the week. This one is from, let’s see, Jessrabon621. They said:

“Amazing podcast. I absolutely love everything about this podcast. I could listen to Kimberley talk all day and her advice is absolutely amazing. I highly recommend this podcast to anyone struggling with anxiety or any other mental health professional that wants to learn more.”

Thank you so much, Jess.

This week’s “I did a hard thing” is from Anonymous and they say:

“I learned it’s okay to fulfill my emotions and just allow my thoughts and it gave me a sense of peace. Learning self-compassion is my hard thing and I’m learning to face OCD and realize that it’s not my fault. I’m learning to manage and live my life for me like I deserve, and I refuse to let this take away my happiness.”

This is just so good. I talk about heat. This is seriously on fire right here. I love it so much. The truth is self-compassion practice is probably my hard thing too. I think that me really learning how to stand up for myself, be there for myself, be tender with myself was just as hard as my eating disorder recovery and my anxiety recovery. I really appreciate Anonymous and how they’ve used self-compassion as their hard thing.

Let’s get into the episode. Let me preface the episode by we’re talking about anxiety and arousal. If I could have one person on the podcast, it would be Emily Nagoski. I have been trying to get her on the podcast for a while. We will get her on eventually. However, she’s off doing amazing things. Amazing things. Netflix specials, podcasts, documentaries. She’s doing amazing things. So, hopefully, one day. But until then, I want to really highlight her as the genius behind a lot of these concepts.

Emily Nagoski is a doctor, a psychology doctor. She is a sex educator. She has written two amazing books. Well, actually, three or four. But the one I’m referring to today is Come as You Are. It’s an amazing book. But I’m actually in my hand holding the Come as You Are Workbook. I strongly encourage you after you listen to this podcast episode to go and order that book. It is amazing. It’s got tons of activities. It might feel weird to have the book. You can get it on Kindle if you want to have it be hidden, but it’s so filled with amazing information. I’m going to try and give you the pieces that I really want you to take away. If you want more, by all means, go and get the workbook. The workbook is called The Come as You Are Workbook: A Practical Guide to the Science of Sex. The reason I love it is because it’s so helpful for those who have anxiety. It’s like she’s speaking directly to us. She’s like, it’s so helpful to have this context.

Here’s the thing I want you to consider starting off. A lot of people who have anxiety report struggles with arousal. We’re going to talk about two different struggles that are the highlight of today. Either you have no arousal because of your anxiety, or you’re having arousal at particular times that concern you and confuse you and alarm you. You could be one or both of those camps.

So let’s first talk about those who are struggling with arousal in terms of getting aroused. So the thing I want you to think about is commonly-- and this is true for any mental health issue too, it’s true for depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, dissociative disorders, all of them really. But the thing I want you to remember, no matter who you are and what your experience is, even if you have a really healthy experience of your own sexual arousal and you’re feeling fine about it, we all have what’s called inhibitors and exciters. Here is an example.

An inhibitor is something that inhibits your arousal. An exciter is something that excites your arousal. Now you’re probably already feeling a ton of judgment here like, “I shouldn’t be aroused by this and I should be aroused by this. What if I’m aroused by this? And I shouldn’t be,” and so forth. I want us to take all the judgment out of this and just look at the content of what inhibits our arousal or excites our arousal. Because sometimes, and I’ll talk about this more, sometimes it’s for reasons that don’t make a lot of sense and that’s okay.

Let’s talk about an inhibitor, something that pumps the brakes on arousal or pleasure. It could be either. There’s exciters, which are the things that really like the gas pedal. They just really bring on arousal, bring on pleasure, and so forth.

We have the content. The content may be first mental or physical, and this includes your health, your physical health. For me, I know when I am struggling with POTS, arousal is just barely a thing. You’re just so wiped out and you’re so exhausted and your brain is foggy. It’s just like nothing. That would be, in my case, an inhibitor. I’m not going to talk about myself a lot here, but I was just using that as an example. You might say your anxiety or your obsession is an inhibitor. It pumps the brakes on arousal. It makes it go away. Worry is one.

It could also be other physical health, like headaches or tummy aches, or as we said before, depression. It could be hormone imbalances, things like that. It’s all as important. Go and speak with your doctor. That’s super important. Make sure medically everything checks out if you’re noticing a dip or change in arousal that’s concerning you.

The next one in terms of content that may either excite you or inhibit you is your relationship. If your relationship is going well, you may or may not have an increase in arousal depending on what turns you on. If your partner smells of a certain smell or stench that you don’t like, that may pump the brakes. But if they smell a certain way that you do really like and really is arousing to you, that may excite your arousal.

It could also be the vibe of the relationship. A lot of people said at the beginning of COVID, there was a lot of fear. That was really, really strong on the brakes. But then all of a sudden, no one had anything to do and there was all this spare time. All of a sudden, the vibe is like, that’s what’s happening. Now, this could be true for people who are in any partnership or it could be just you on your own too. There are things that will excite you and inhibit your arousal if you’re not in a relationship as well, and that’s totally fine. This is for all relationships. There’s no specific kind.

Setting is another thing that may pump the brakes or hit the gas for arousal, meaning certain places, certain rooms, certain events. Did your partner do something that turned you on? Going back to physical, it could also depend on your menstrual cycle. People have different levels of arousal depending on different stages of their menstrual cycle. I think the same is true for men, but I don’t actually have a lot of research on that, but I’m sure there are some hormonal impacts on men as well.

There’s also ludic factors which are like fantasy. Whether you have a really strong imagination, that either pumps the brakes or puts the gas pedal in terms of arousal. It could be like where you’re being touched. Sometimes there’s certain areas of your body that will set off either the gas pedal or the brakes. It could be certain foreplay.

Really what I’m trying to get at here isn’t breaking it down according to the workbook, but there’s so many factors that may influence your arousal.

Another one is environmental and cultural and shame. If arousal and the whole concept of sex is shamed or is looked down on, or people have a certain opinion about your sexual orientation, that too can impact your gas pedal and your brakes pedal. So, I want you to explore this, not from a place of pulling it apart really aggressively and critically, but really curiously and check in for yourself, what arouses me? What presses my brakes? What presses my gas? And just start to get to know that. Again, in the workbook, there’s tons of worksheets for this, but you could also just consider this on your own. Write it down on your own, be aware over the next several days or weeks, just jot down in a journal what you’re noticing.

Now, before we move on, we’ve talked about a lot of people who are struggling with arousal, and they’ve got a lot of inhibitors and brake pushing. There are the other camp who have a lot of gas pedal pushing. I speak here directly to the folks who have sexual obsessions because often if you have sexual obsessions, the fact that your sexual obsession is sexual in nature may be what sets the gas pedal off, and all of a sudden, you have arousal for reasons that you don’t understand, that don’t make sense to you, or maybe go against your values.

I’ve got a quote that I took from the book and from the workbook of Emily Nagoski. Again, none of this is my personal stuff. I’m quoting her and citing her throughout this whole podcast. She says, “Bodies do not say yes or no. They say sex-related or not sex-related.” Let me say it again. “Bodies do not say yes or no. They say sex-related or not sex-related.”

This is where I want you to consider, and I’ve experienced this myself, is just because something arouses you doesn’t mean it brings you pleasure. Main point. We’ve got to pull that apart. Culture has led us to believe that if you feel some groinal response to something, you must love it and want more of it.

An example of this is for people with sexual obsessions, maybe they have OCD or some other anxiety disorder, and they have an intrusive thought about a baby or an animal. Bestiality is another very common obsession with OCD or could be just about a person. It could be just about a person that you see in the grocery store. When you have a thought that is sex-related, sometimes because the context of it is that it’s sex-related, your body may get aroused. Our job, particularly if you have OCD, is not to try and figure out what that means. It’s not to try and resolve like, does that mean I like it? Does that mean I’m a terrible person? What does that mean?

I want you to understand the science here to help you understand your arousal, to help you understand how you can now shift your perspective towards your body and your mind and the pleasure that you experience in the area of sexuality. Again, the body doesn’t say yes or no, they say it’s either sex-related or not sex-related.

Here’s the funny thing, and I’ve done this experiment with my patients before, is if you look at a lamp post or it could be anything, you could look at the pencil you’re holding and then you bring to mind a sexual experience, you may notice arousal. Again, it doesn’t mean that you’re now aroused by pencils or pens. It’s that it was labeled as sex-related, so often your brain will naturally press the accelerator.

That’s often how I educate people, particularly who are having arousal that concerns it. It’s the same for a lot of people who have sexual trauma. They maybe are really concerned about the fact that they do have arousal around a memory or something. And then that concerns them, what does that mean about me? And the thing to remember too is it’s not your body saying yes or no, it’s your body saying sex-related or not sex-related. It’s important to just help remind yourself of that so that you’re not responding to the content so much and getting caught up in the compulsive behaviors.

A lot of my patients in the past have reported, particularly during times when they’re stressed, their anxiety is really high, life is difficult, any of this content we went through, is they may actually have a hard time being aroused at all. Some people have reported not getting an erection and then it completely going for reasons they don’t understand. I think here we want to practice again non-Judgment. Instead, move to curiosity. There’s probably some content that impacted that, which is again, very, very, normal.

this is why when I’m talking with patients – I’ve done episodes on this in the past, and we’ve in fact had sex therapists on the podcast in the past – is they’ve said, if you’ve lost arousal, it doesn’t mean you give up. It doesn’t mean you say, “Oh, well, that’s that.” What you do is you move your attention to the content that pumps the gas. When I mean content, it’s like touch, smell, the relationship, the vibe, being in touch with your body, bringing your attention to the dance that you’re doing, whether it’s with a partner or by yourself, or in whatever means that works for you. You can bring that back. There’s another amazing book called Better Sex Through Mindfulness, and it talks a lot about bringing your attention to one or two sensations. Touch, smell being two really, really great ones.

Again, if your goal is to be aroused, you might find it’s very hard to be aroused because the context of that is pressure. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really find pressure arousing. Some may, and again, this is where I want this to be completely judgment-free. There’s literally no right and wrong. But pressure is usually not that arousing. Pressure is not that pleasurable in many cases, particularly when it’s forceful and it feels like you have to perform a certain way. Again, some people are at their best in performance mode, but I want to just remind you, the more pressure you put on yourself on this idea of ending it well is probably going to make some anxiety. Same with test anxiety. The more pressure you put on yourself to get an A, the more you’re likely to spin out with anxiety. It’s really no different.

So, here is where I want you to catch and ask yourself, is the pressure I put on myself or is the agenda I put on myself actually pumping the brakes for me when it comes to arousal? Is me trying not to have a thought actually in the context of that, does that actually pump the brakes? Because I know you’re trying not to have the thought so that you can be intimate in that moment and engaged in pleasure. But the act of trying not to have the thought can actually pump the brakes. I hope that makes sense. I want you to get really close to understanding what’s going on for you.

Everyone is different. Some things will pump the brakes, some things will pump the accelerator. A lot of the times, thought suppression pumps the brakes. A lot of the times, beating yourself up pumps the brakes. A lot of the time, the more goal, like I have to do it this way, that often pumps the brakes. So, keep an eye out for that. Engage in the exciters and get really mindful and present.

A couple of things here. We’ve talked about erections, that’s for people who struggle with that. It’s also true for women or men with lubrication. Some people get really upset about the fact that there may or may not be a ton of lubrication. Again, we’ve been misled to believe that if you’re not lubricated, you mustn’t be aroused or that you mustn’t want this thing, or that there must be something wrong with you, and that is entirely true. A lot of women, when we study them, they may be really engaged and their gas pedal is going for it, but there may be no lubrication. And it doesn’t mean something is wrong. In those cases, often a sex therapist or a sex educator will encourage you to use lubrication, a lubricant.

Again, some people, I’ve talked to clients and they’re so ashamed of that. But I think it’s important to recognize that that’s just because somebody taught us that, and sadly, it’s a lot to do with patriarchy and that it was pushed on women in particular that that meant they’re like a good woman if they’re really lubricated. And that’s not true. That’s just fake, false. No science. It has no basis in reality.

Now we’ve talked about lubrication. We’ve talked about erection. Same for orgasm. Some people get really frustrated and disheartened that they can’t reach orgasm. If for any reason you are struggling with this, please, I urge you, go and see a sex therapist. They are the most highly trained therapists. They are so sensitive and compassionate. They can talk with you about this and you can target the specific things you want to work on. But orgasm is another one. If you put pressure on yourself to get there, that pumps the brakes often.

What I want you to do, and this is your homework, is don’t focus on arousal. Focus on pleasure. Focus on the thing that-- again, it’s really about being in connection with your partner or yourself. As soon as you put a list of to-dos with it is often when things go wrong. Just focus on being present as much as you can, and in the moment being aware of, ooh, move towards the exciters, the gas pedal things. Move away from the inhibitors. Be careful there. Again, for those of you who have anxiety, that doesn’t mean thought suppress. That doesn’t mean judge your thoughts because that in and of itself is an inhibitor often.

I want to leave you with that. I’m going to in the future do a whole nother episode about talking more about this idea of arousal non-concordance, which is that quote I use like “The bodies don’t say yes or no, they say sex-related or not sex-related.” I’ll do more of that in the future. But for right now, I want it to be around you exploring your relationship with arousal, understanding it, but then putting your attention on pleasure. Being aware of both, being mindful of both.

Most people I know that I’ve talked to about this-- and I’m not a sex therapist. Again, I’m getting all of this directly from the workbook, but most of the clients I’ve talked to about this and we’ve used some worksheets and so forth, they’ve said, when I put all the expectations away and I just focus on this touch and this body part and this smell and this kiss or this fantasy, or being really in touch with your own body, when I just make it as simple as that and I bring it down to just engaging in what feels good – sort of use it as like a north star. You just keep following. That feels good. Okay, that feels good. That doesn’t feel so great. I’ll move towards what feels good – is moving in that direction non-judgmentally and curiously that they’ve had the time of their lives. I really just want to give you that gift. Focus on pleasure. Focus on non-judgmentally and curiously, being aware of what’s current and present in your senses.

That’s all I got for you for today. I think it’s enough. Do we agree? I think it’s enough. I could talk about this all day. To be honest, and I’ve said this so many times, if I had enough time, I would go back and I would become a sex therapist. It is a huge training. Sex therapists have the most intensive, extensive training and requirements. I would love to do it. But one day, I’ll probably do it when I’m 70. And that will be awesome. I’ll be down for that, for sure. I just love this content.

Now, again, I want to be really clear. I’m not a sex therapist. I still have ones to learn. I still have. Even what we’ve covered today, there’s probably nuanced things that I could probably explain better. Again, which is why I’m going to stress to you, go and check out the book. I’m just here to try and get you-- I was thinking about this. Remember, I just recently did the episode on the three-day silent retreat and I was sitting in a meditation. I remember this so clearly. I’m just going to tell you this quick story.

I was thinking. For some reason, my mind was a little scattered this day and something came over with me where I was like, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I didn’t just treat anxiety disorders, but I treated the person and the many problems that are associated with the anxiety disorder? Isn’t that a beautiful goal? Isn’t that so? Because it’s not just the anxiety, it’s the little tiny areas in our lives that it impacts.” That’s when I, out of me, as soon as I finished the meditation, I went on to my-- I have this organization board that I use online and it was arousal, let’s talk about pee and poop, which is one episode we recently did. Let’s talk about all the things because anxiety affects it all. We can make little changes in all these areas and little changes. Slowly, you get your life back. I hope this gives you a little bit of your sexual expression back, if I could put it into words. Maybe not expression, but just your relationship with your body and pleasure.

I love you. Thank you for staying with me for this. This was brave work you’re doing. You probably had cringy moments. Hopefully not. Again, none of this is weird, wrong, bad. This is all human stuff.

Finish up, again, do check out the book. Her name is Emily Nagoski. I’ll leave a link in the show notes. One day we’ll get her on. But in the meantime, I’ll hopefully just give you the science that she’s so beautifully given us.

Have a wonderful day. I’ll talk to you soon. See you next week.

Please do leave a review. It helps me so much. If you have a few moments, I would love a review, an honest review from you.

Have a good day.

Apr 15, 2022

In this week’s podcast episode, we are reflecting on the question, “Does anxiety make you need to pee or poop? Yes, you read that right! Today, we are talking ALL about how anxiety can cause frequent urination and the fear of peeing your pants.

Have you found yourself getting anxious you might need to pee or poop in public which, in turn, makes you need to pee or poop in public?

Bathroom emergencies are way more common than you think. I even share a story of how I, myself, had to handle the urgency to 🏃🏼‍♀️🏃🏿‍♂️ to the restroom.

In This Episode:

Why do we need to pee and poop when we are anxious?
What causes the psychological need to urinate or defecate when anxious?
How to stop anxiety Urination
How to manage a fear of peeing your pants or pooping your pants
How to use mindfulness and self-compassion when experiencing nervous pee syndrome

Links To Things I Talk About:

Overcoming Anxiety and Panic https://www.cbtschool.com/overcominganxiety
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 280.

Welcome back, everybody. I am so thrilled to have you here with me again today. Today’s format is going to be a little different. I have fused the “I did the hard thing” with the question that we’re going to address today.

Usually, I sit down to the microphone and I look at my screen and I think about what I want to talk about, and I just start talking about it. To be honest, that is how this show goes. It has always been how this show has gone. But a follower on Instagram reached out to me this week and posed a really great question. So, with her permission, I will anonymously invite you to listen to the question, and then we’re going to talk about some solutions.

The reason I wanted to go word for word is I think you’re probably going to get what she’s saying, because I’ve been in this position. I know most of my clients have been in this position. It’s not the funniest thing to talk about. I mean, I love talking about it, but it’s not the funniest thing for you to talk about, or often people have a lot of shame and embarrassment around this topic. So, I wanted to just, let’s just talk about it.

Now, the reason I say I love to talk about it is, you know probably from previous episodes, I commonly ask my clients pretty personal questions. And often questions are like, are you prioritizing time to pee and poop? Are you holding your pee and poop? My job is to ask the questions that people are often too afraid to bring up. I often ask some personal questions about sexual arousal and things like that, again, because I have been trained to understand there’s a lot of stigma and shame, and embarrassment around these topics. And so I try to de-stigmatize them and take the shame out of them by just addressing them because they’re normal human struggles that we have.

As you may imagine, today, we’re talking about anxiety and pee and poop, and how anxiety can often make us feel like we urgently need to pee or/and poop. That’s the topic of today. I’m going to read you this. It’s a two-part question. I’m going to address them separately, but all from the same situation. It said: “Kim, I hope you are well. I was reading your post yesterday about the hardest part of facing your fear.”

To give you some backstory, I did a post on what the hardest things about facing fears are. I posed this question to Instagram and everyone wrote in. And using the results of what everyone wrote in, I created a post. And number seven was physical symptoms, especially bowel issues, and it really resonated with me.

Why do we need to pee and poop when we are anxious?

“You have said before that when you get feelings of discomfort, to just sit with it and do nothing.” That’s a common theme I talk about, is if you have discomfort, do nothing at all. You just sit with it. “But when it comes to bowel issues or needing to urinate due to anxiety, I get confused at what to do. Should I be sitting with it or going to the loo because that’s what my body needs? There are sort of two parts to my anxiety. With this, I’ll give you an example.” She said, “This weekend, I’m going to a christening and I get anxious for these types of events, like christenings, weddings, theater, anywhere where there is lots of people and they sit together in a certain way. I feel anxious about needing to go to the bathroom. It’s almost like I’m anxious of the symptom of anxiety.”

Yes. Now this is exactly what it is like for so many people, and it’s a really great question. Here is my response. Naturally, it’s a normal part of the human instinct to need to pee and poop when you’re anxious. Hundreds of thousands of years ago, when we were faced with danger or some kind of threat, in order to get away from that threat, usually you needed to be able to run many, many, many miles in a very short period of time. Now, we have cars and planes to get away from danger, or we have technology to help us to get away from danger. But back we needed to run that long-distance and exert a lot of energy. And so naturally, our bodies get rid of weight and waste so that you can be prepared to run a long distance away from the threat. Often the easiest way to get rid of that waste and weight is to defecate (to go poop) and to urinate, which is to go pee, or in some cases, throw up. Some people when they’re anxious, because their brain has detected danger, whether there’s danger or not, you may do one of those three things. That’s a very, very normal approach to the fight, flight, and freeze.

So, in this case, let’s say your brain has set off a false alarm and is saying there’s going to be lots of people there, and what if you need to pee and poop? So now you’re afraid of the symptom of anxiety like they’ve asked. What do you do? So here is my answer to that.

When we have any symptoms of anxiety – increase in heart rate, sweating, lots of racing, thoughts, it could be tummy ache, it could be the need to urinate – yeah, we do want to practice the art of sitting with it, meaning tolerating it without reacting to it in an aversive way, meaning trying to resist it, make it go away, how can we remove this discomfort from our life? When we do that, we get into a cycle where you’re constantly trying to get rid of discomfort and that keeps you stuck.

In this situation, yeah. If you have a slight urge to urinate or to go to the bathroom, if you’re able to, do try to tolerate that discomfort. However, if there’s a strong urge to go to the bathroom, there is absolutely nothing wrong with going to the bathroom. What I would say to you is it depends. The answer is it depends, and it’s a very personal one.

I will tell you a story personally. I know it was probably TMI, but I remember when I was becoming an American citizen, I was overwhelmingly anxious about this situation. I was afraid of everything. I was afraid of the test. I was really emotional about becoming an American. I felt like I was denouncing my country. I was so anxious about the security process. I was so afraid that I was going to mess up and get into some legal trouble, even though I’d done everything by the book. It was really, really overwhelming. The minute I got in line, which were these thousands of people in line, I needed to go to the bathroom, like right now, it had to happen. So, in that instance, yes, I’m going to ask somebody where the bathroom is and I’m going to go to the bathroom. So, I did okay. TMI, but we’re talking about it. Everybody pees and poops, so I’m not embarrassed.

Now, as soon as I got back in line, I lost my spot. I was at the back of the line again. My husband was with me. “Uh-oh, I need to go to the bathroom again.” I already know, I’ve probably dropped a lot of that weight. My brain thinks that there’s a major danger when there’s not. So, my job then is I could have easily gotten out of line again to try and get rid of that discomfort and that fear and that uncomfortableness in my stomach. But because I knew I’d already gone, my job was, I really need to get into this security building as a government building. I can’t keep getting out of line. My work then was to practice seeing if I could just hold that feeling.

Now I’m not here at all saying or suggesting that you should hold for long periods of time or even to be where you’re tolerating an experience of pain. Again, it depends. The answer is, it depends. If you’ve already gone, can you hold on? If let’s say you’re holding on and you’re like, “Oh no, it’s definitely coming, I need to go,” by all means, go. That’s not a compulsion. It’s just you listening to your body. It’s you giving yourself permission to just go with the flow and again, it’s a wonderful exposure of giving your body’s permission to run the show.

How to stop Anxiety Urination?

I think the answer is, listen to your body, see what you can do. Again, we always want to be experimenting with tolerating discomfort for long periods or as long as you can. Bit for no reason should you hold for long periods of time and put yourself in additional pain.

Now that being said, if you’re going to the bathroom, just to remove your anxiety about going to the bathroom, or you’re going to the bathroom to remove your anxiety of whether or not you will pee or poop your pants, that’s a different story. If you’re going to the bathroom to relieve anxiety, not physical, like actual urgency to go to the bathroom, well then yes, you’re giving into fear. We don’t want to let fear win, particularly when your brain is telling us there’s danger when there’s not.

A perfect example, I’m becoming a citizen. I have to take a test. There’s no real danger. The worst thing that could happen is I fail the test or I don’t bring a paper or something. In this case for the ceremony, the worst thing that could happen is you would need to go to the bathroom, right? Or even if you maybe-- again, the worst thing that could happen is you would have to go. But if fear is saying, “Oh no, no, there is really bad possible, maybe possible maybes,” because fear does that, it always gives you the possible maybes – then no, we would not go to the bathroom just to relieve anxiety.

If a lot of people, specifically those with panic disorder, they are very, very afraid of the sensations of anxiety. So, your job is actually, if that’s the case, to practice leaning in and having those sensations, tolerating those sensations. Or if you’re going to do exposure and response prevention, even better, you would purposely try to create the scenario so that you could simulate the anxiety and practice tolerating it that way.

So, my answer, I know, isn’t direct. It is, it depends. But when it does come to fear, it’s always going to be the same – do not let fear make your choices. Do no.

The next part of the question, I think, is another part of this, which I think is really important. So, they said, the second part is, “If I do need it and I have to leave the room during the ceremony, I wonder what people will think of me. I feel like I’m being a disruption. Also, if I have to move past anyone, I sit down, I feel like a nuisance. And then too, so often at the end of the seat--” so they sit at the end of the seat, excuse me, just in case. “Some of my compulsions, safety behaviors around this are needing to know where the nearest toilet is, going multiple times beforehand. Or I may do a certain number of pelvic floor squeezes whilst in the toilet.” They said, “Sorry if this is a long message, I just wanted to explain fully. I think the main thing I’m asking you is, should I be sitting with the feeling or not? If you do not see this up, the rest is just saying about the message.”

There we go. I think there’s so much great opportunity here for exposure and really willingness to be uncomfortable. The first thing is, everyone pees and poops. There is no shame in needing to go to the bathroom. I have a lot of clients who, when they’re anxious, they got to go. They got to go. It’s not anxiety. They’ve got to go to the bathroom or there’s going to be an accident. Not the fear. It’s like, “No, it’s actually coming.” If that’s the case, your job is to give yourself permission to be a human with anxiety and to be gentle and compassionate toward yourself that yes, sometimes people need to leave ceremonies.

If someone behind you is judging you for needing to leave, that is a full reflection on them. It means nothing about you. Human beings are allowed to come and go as they please. If they need to pee and poop, that is their right. What I would encourage you to do is, this is like a social anxiety sort of talk, and we’ve got some podcasts on social anxiety, but your job is to give other people permission to judge us and do nothing about it. Do nothing. Do nothing about their judgment, because their judgment is a full reflection of them and their beliefs, not of us.

The next part is they’ve gone over a ton of safety behaviors – checking the toilet, going multiple times. I would strongly-- if it were my client and you guys do what’s right for you always, take what you need, leave the rest. But if it were my client or if it were myself, I would strongly suggest other than otherwise not doing these behaviors. We don’t want to be doing behaviors. This goes for every topic. We don’t want to be doing behaviors just in case, that just in case behaviors keep us stuck in a cycle of anxiety, that just in case behaviors validate your fear as if your fear is true and important and a fact. We don’t want to do that. We can’t do that because when we do that, we keep the fear cycling.

So, I would actually encourage you to not check for bathrooms, not go to the bathroom before, unless of course you genuinely need to, not just because of fear. If for some reason you have the need, practice saying “I can have it.” If the feeling is the pressure is down in that bowel and that pelvic area, that won’t kill you either.

I always think of when I’m on an airplane to Australia, you know what happens? You get on the plane, you put your bags away. You’re getting ready. And then they say, preparing for takeoff, the seatbelt light comes on, and then immediately you need to go pee. And you can’t get up. They won’t you, so you hold it. People hold it all the time. Again, we don’t want you to push you through pain, but you can hold it. Be really honest with yourself. Nothing terrible is going to happen. If it’s really urgent, of course, I mean, even on a plane, if you’re really going to pee or poop your pants, they’re going to let you stand up. They’re not going to make you sit in the chair. Try not to be doing these behaviors. Practice tolerating the discomfort of other people possibly judging you.

One thing to keep in mind here too is when-- let’s say you go back to my story, I had to leave the line. I could have done a lot of mind reading, which is a cognitive distortion, which is going, “Oh, they think this and he thinks that, and she thinks that about me.” That’s all mind reading. You don’t actually know what they’re thinking. They might be thinking, what a beautiful dress you’re wearing, or they might be thinking, man, I can’t wait for this ceremony to be over. You have no idea, they might be thinking about something so different. So, it’s important that we also practice not mind reading what people think about us.

There you have it. These urgencies to go are normal. Everyone pees and poops. That’s just the facts. It doesn’t matter whether you do it once a day or 20 times a day, depending on if you’re anxious. Give yourself to not be perfect.

A lot of times, we also talk about when people are doing exposures or they’re having a panic attack, they’re like, “Ah, it’s not just the panic attack. I don’t want people to see me having a panic attack,” or “It’s not just the anxiety. I don’t want to have to cry in public.” The work here is you’re a human being. If you’re a human being, you won’t be perfect. If you’re holding yourself to a standard where you, number one, aren’t allowed to cry, you’re not allowed to pee, you’re not allowed to poop, you’re not allowed to disrupt other people, Well, that’s a lot of expectations you’re putting on yourself. That’s a lot of pressure that you just created in your head. No one else is expecting perfection from you. So, maybe adjust the expectations there as well.

Now the last thing I will address, which isn’t specifically to the pee and the poop, is some people get a lot of gas when they’re anxious. They have a strong urgency to pass gas. This is very common for people who have irritable bowel syndrome, same with getting diarrhea or needing to pee or poo. This is very common. If you have IBS, please do speak with a doctor. Let them know that you’re struggling with this. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. They can, of course, diagnose you, make sure they maybe get you some help in those areas. Again, if you need to pass gas, no different. Humans pass gas. It’s not something to be completely ashamed of. Is it embarrassing? Yes, it is. But you do what you have to do. You just have to get through.

I’ve heard so many people tell me stories of their most anxious moment being made more difficult because they had no choice, but to pass gas during that. And if that’s the case for you as well, again, I think any human who ridicules someone for needing to pass gas, which is such a human thing, I think we pass gas 17 times on average a day. Everyone, not select people, everyone, anyone who passed judgment on you for that is probably may want to step up their ability to be compassionate and empathic. Again, it’s not about you, it’s about them. So, be super, super gentle with yourself.

I think I hit my limit of how many times I said pee and poop, and now we’ve added in pass gas and we’ve even used the “diarrhea” word, which I think is epic. I think I’ve checked all the boxes for today’s episode. So, I hope that it was helpful for you. I genuinely hope that it just dropped some of the anxiety and judgment you have about yourself in regards to the urgency to need to go and pee and poop.

If I were to summarize it, I would say it’s very common to need to urinate, go to the bathroom or even pass gas. Lots of people have even diarrhea, very, very strong diarrhea. If that is the case for you, do what you need to do as best as you can. It’s okay if you need to go to the restroom. No problem. If you’re only going to reduce your anxiety about needing to go, I encourage you to try and challenge that some. Again, we do not want to give all of our power to fear. We actually want to ignore fear and give it none of our attention. If you can do that, you’re doing amazing hard work.

I love you all so much. Thank you for holding space for me as we talk about all things, bowel-related and urination-related. Even though it’s uncomfortable, it is so important for us to be having these conversations. I hope again, it was helpful for you, and thank you for holding space for me as we talk about these things together.

All right. I love you all. I hope you’re having an amazing, amazing week. I hope you’re being kind to yourself and really opening your heart to your own suffering instead of shutting it down because you’re suffering matters. It deserves to be held tenderly.

It is a beautiful day to do hard things. I cannot finish an episode without saying it. I encourage you, if you’ve gotten this far in the episode, to practice the hard things as much as you can every single day.

Have a wonderful day, everyone.

Apr 8, 2022

In todays podcast episode, together we do a self-compassion check in.  First, we address what is self-compassion and then, we check in on our needs.  Mindful Self-Compassion involves first, being aware of what we need and what needs tending to.  In this episode, we also walk through a self-compassion meditation together.

In This Episode:

  • What is Self-Compassion?
  • What do I need?
  • How can I give myself self-compassion right now?
  • Self-compassion meditation.

Links To Things I Talk About: https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B08WGW9XCZ&preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_XSDYJ2MCRJBYEFCPS5NF&tag=cbtschool-20 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 279. Welcome back, everybody. Today on Your Anxiety Toolkit podcast, we are talking about self-compassion. We’re doing a self-compassion check-in. It’s been a little while since we’ve checked in on how are you doing with your self-compassion practice. Now, today, we have added a little meditation for you just to supercharge your self-compassion practice. That is my agenda for today. We haven’t done a ton of check-ins lately because life just seems to get away from us. For those of you who do not know, in 2020, I wrote a book called The Self-Compassion Workbook For OCD. It was the joy of life and the biggest challenge of my life business-wise. It was such a huge agenda to have on my plate just as 2020 and COVID breakthrough, but I’m so grateful it’s out. When it was released, I had a lot of stuff out about self-compassion. And then I haven’t checked in with you guys on how you’re doing. So that’s what today is about. Now, before we get into the episode, let’s do the “I did a hard thing” for the week. We always check-in and someone submits the thing that they’ve done that is hard, because what we like to say is “It’s a beautiful day to do hard things.” And today’s is from Anonymous. They said: “I’ve recently been diagnosed with OCD and struggled my whole life with anxiety. Unfortunately, until now I was never properly diagnosed until I was 45. I have started working with a new therapist and we are focusing on ERP. At first, I couldn’t even tell her about my fears and intrusive thoughts. I have harm OCD among other various categories. Now, we are doing imaginals around some of the things I never thought I could even address, and I’m so proud of myself.” I’m proud of you too. “It is changing my life. I cannot tell you how important it is to get a proper diagnosis and never give up. You will get better. You just have to get the right help and be willing to do the hard things.” Anonymous, you are giving me the chills. Now, for those of you who don’t have access – anonymous has access to a therapist – if you don’t have access to a therapist, we do have an online course called ERP School. An ERP School is an online course that will teach you how to practice ERP at home, in your pajamas, all the skills that you need to get you started. Now, it does require you to be self-motivated. But if you are self-motivated and you are ready to learn, head on over to CBTSchool.com and you can get all the information there. All right, let’s go over to the show. It’s self-compassion check-in time.

WHAT IS SELF-COMPASSION?

What is Self-Compassion? It means how have you been treating yourself? Remember, self-compassion is ultimately treating yourself with the same that you would treat somebody else. So, if somebody else came to you and said, “I’m struggling with A, B, and C,” what would you say to them? How would you treat them? How would you respond to them? How would your body language change? Would your voice lower? Would your voice soften? Would you give them a hug if that was appropriate? Would you soften your eyes and let them know that everything was going to be okay, and that you had their back unconditionally? That is how you would treat yourself. So my question is, how are you doing with this? I want you to check in regularly, way more regularly than we are here today. But I want you to check in with yourself preferably every day or multiple times a day and ask yourself, how am I doing? And then we’re going to move into, and I know a lot of you remember this from previous episodes, but I want you to ask yourself the golden self-compassion question, which is, what do I need right now? What do I need? Let’s do this together. I want you to find a comfortable place. If you’re driving, please do not close your eyes. You may listen along. If you’re not driving, you may close your eyes. You may rest your shoulders. You may bring a gentle smile to your face. And I want you just to slowly bring your attention to your breath. And when I say breath, I don’t mean the physical rise and fall of your chest. I want you to bring your attention to the air that is going in and out of your body. You breathe in... The air goes into your lungs, replenishes, restores you. And then you breathe out air. And I want you to become familiar with this air as it enters your body and exits your body, replenishing you, supporting you, feeding you. And as you bring your attention to this air, I want you to gently slowly drop down into where you are and ask yourself, what is it that I need right now? If you notice being bombarded by many, many thoughts, that’s okay. Just tend to one at a time. Each one of them, each one of those thoughts gets a moment. And you are going to use your wise mind to decide which ones you’re going to tend to. As you ask yourself “What do I need right now,” you may notice your mind sharing with you, “I need rest. I need a moment. I need to laugh. I need food. I need to pee. I need water. I need to be kind to myself.” And take one at a time and take stock in acknowledging nonjudgmentally that that’s what you need. Nonjudgmentally, which means we’re not going to judge that we need it. We’re not going to treat ourselves poorly because we need it. We’re just going to acknowledge that’s what we need. Now, if you notice that your mind is coming up with other things like criticisms, a list of things to do, it might be telling you, you should be doing something different and more productive, they’re the thoughts that we maybe don’t tend to because you’re tending to those all day. Now is the time to check in for what you need. Say, “I’ll be right with you later, thoughts. Right now, it’s time to nourish me, to fill my cup so I can go and do those things later.” We breathe in air... And we breathe out air. Now we bring our attention to those needs and ask ourselves, is there anything we can tend to right now? Maybe the softening of your shoulders. Maybe to let go of the to-do list. Maybe to celebrate the wins that you’ve had today or yesterday or whenever. What do I need? Sometimes it’s to cry. Sometimes it’s to feel our feelings. Sometimes it’s to validate our own feelings and that’s our job. That’s our job. What a wonderful opportunity and a wonderful job we have, which is to be our first line of support and care, that we deserve that. Maybe you’re surprised by what’s showing up in what you need. Maybe you’re surprised that you need something and it’s something that you don’t usually need. That’s okay, too. Just be curious and open to that voice inside you. Now, if you’re struggling to identify what you need, I want you to just gently remind yourself that the wish to be compassionate towards yourself is self-compassion enough. If it doesn’t land and you don’t have this powerful experience or gentle experience, and for you, it’s actually quite gritty and edgy, that’s okay. Just the intention of being here and asking is so wonderful. I often think of my husband. If I went to him and he was struggling, and I said, “Is there anything I can do to support you?” he may not be ready to ask for my help. But just me offering it, the intention of being there to support means so much. And we can be that for ourselves. So again, take a deep breath in... And breathe out. And just give it one last time. Is there anything you can offer me in how I could support me? Which is you. Or is there anything you need? You might even offer it to your body parts if there’s particular areas struggling. Mind, what do you need? Tummy, what do you need? Foot, what do you need? Neck, what do you need? Now, as you’ve done this, I hope that you have been kind and non-judgmental, and non-critical. But if you are, I still want you to see this as a win. The check-ins can be so rich even when they’re bumpy. We’re going to slowly open our eyes... We’re going to bring our awareness to what’s around us and come grounded into the present again. And I hope that it’s the check-in you needed. I hope that you got to explore your needs, which are important, and then nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of. It’s okay to have needs. In fact, it’s normal and natural and healthy to have needs. We all have them. Have a wonderful day, everybody. I hope you are doing well. Before we finish up, we are going to do the review of the week. This one is from Jessrabon621, and it says: “Amazing podcast! I absolutely love everything about this podcast! I could listen to Kimberley talk all day and her advice is absolutely amazing. I highly recommend this podcast for anyone struggling with anxiety or any mental health professional that wants to learn more.” Thank you so much, Jessrabon621. I love, love, love, love your reviews. Please do leave a review. I am trying to get to a thousand reviews and I will be giving away a free pair of Beats headphones to one lucky winner who leaves a review. Have a wonderful day, everybody. And I will see you all next week.

Apr 1, 2022

In this week’s episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast, I share what I learned from my 3-day silent meditation retreat. This 3-day silent meditation retreat was rough, I won’t lie.  I had to ride many highs and lows, so I wanted to share them with you.

Links To Things I Talk About:

Tara Brach Silent Meditation Retreat home schedule
https://www.tarabrach.com/create-home-retreat/

Mindfulness Book
https://www.amazon.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.

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 178.

Welcome back, everybody. I am so thrilled to be here with you today. I recently got back from a three-day silent retreat. I was by myself for the entire three days. It was a three-day silent retreat. I have done silent retreats in the past at Buddhist monasteries and Buddhist retreat centers. This is the first time I’ve done it on my own, and I followed the Tara Brach self-retreat website. I will leave the notes in the show notes so that you can check that out. It was amazing. I can’t lie. I had so many mind-blowing moments and I want to share with you each and every single one. I’m going to give you the cliff notes version. Otherwise, I would have you here for days on end. But I am so excited to share that with you.

Before we do that, of course, you know we always do the “I did a hard thing.” This is a segment where someone can write in, submit the hard thing they’ve done. This one is by Mgwolfie1992, and they’ve said:

“I have OCD and ASD. Certain shirts do not feel right. Before starting ERP, when I put on a shirt that’s uncomfortable, I immediately take it off, which was making me late for work. After starting ERP, I have slowly worked my way up to wearing and keeping that uncomfortable shirt on for 12 minutes.”

Mgwolfie1992, this is just you doing the work. I’m so, so impressed. This is exactly what it’s like for everybody listening or watching today, is it is about just small baby increments and getting yourself higher and higher and a little more difficult, a little more difficult. I’m so impressed with the work that you’re doing. This is just so incredibly powerful and rewarding, and I hope that you keep going.

Let’s talk about what I learned from my three-day silent retreat. Just to give you a setup, I rented through Airbnb a small little cabin in the depths of Topanga, which is very close to where I live in Los Angeles. I was following the Tara Brach home retreat that she created at the beginning of COVID. Now, when COVID hit, I so desperately wanted to do this, but I was in the middle of writing The Self-Compassion Workbook For OCD, and so I did not have time or the bandwidth to really go and really be with myself. I just had so much going on. As you probably remember, the world just felt so scary and no one knew what was happening. So I definitely wasn’t ready to do something at that time.

After several years or even months at this point where I feel like I’ve really, really prioritized my mental health and my medical health, I was finally in a place where I just felt like I needed some time to really go and let go of some things. I could be doing this at home. I could do this every day and I have since I returned, but I really felt that I needed these three days to do a deep dive into really some things that I had been working through having a medical illness, a chronic illness. I have postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, really coming down out of the pandemic and so forth. So, I really felt like I just needed this time to really not have the kids around and just drop down in and do that really hard work.

I took with me a journal. I took with me a book called Mindfulness by Joseph Goldstein. I strongly recommend that you try it. It is very heavy on Buddhist philosophy, but it is such an important book about mindfulness.

And so to start off, the thing that I learned the most was I needed so desperately to go back to basics. Everything felt so complex – everything I was teaching, everything I was doing in therapy, the practices of my own. It just felt like there were so many spinning parts. When I got there, I just dropped down to like, “Kimberley, let’s go back to the basics.” So I wanted to share with you what those basics were.

Number one, I went right back to the core of mindfulness, which was mostly me. The main agenda was to observe what showed up instead of being in reaction to it. Here, when life is so busy and chaotic and so many things happening at once, it’s really hard to be an observer. I think I have lost my ability to do that.

And so once I got there, I promised myself and my friends that I would not be contacting them, that I would have just one part of the day where I would text people back. I would check my phone, make sure everybody was okay and my clients were okay and my staff were okay. I would respond back, but very limited. And that throughout the day, if I felt the need to pick up my phone, or I felt the need to call, or I felt the need that I needed to talk to someone, that I had to stay in that feeling. And that’s why I really chose the silent retreat. I wanted to create an environment where I couldn’t rely on anybody except myself, and that no matter what I felt I had to hang on and I had to ride it out and I wanted to really drop down a little deeper and really explore what was going on for me.

Now, the thing that was most profound is the first day was excruciating. I mean, painful. I had every emotion under the sun. At one point at the evening, when I told my husband I would call after me waiting through these emotions all day, I did text and he asked how I was doing, and I said, “This is so hard. I don’t even want to be here.” I didn’t ask for his advice, but he did say via text, “Just keep going.” So, I did. Of course, I did.

But what was so fascinating to me, and one thing I really learned about myself, and I’m wondering if you do the same thing, is I had gone into this silent retreat not exhausted. Usually, by the time I take a break, I am so wiped out that I’m completely like starfish on the bed, completely out of it. This was really interesting because, for the first time, I wasn’t exhausted, and on the first day, I kept having the thought, “You don’t deserve this.” I kept thinking, this is ridiculous. People are at war. There is floods in my home country. So many people have it worse than me. “You don’t deserve this, Kimberley. This is unnecessary. This is actually very silly of you to have asked to do this three-day silent retreat.” I was so shocked at those thoughts.

Now, here is where the observing skill was so helpful for me. Instead of having that thought and then going, “Yeah, you’re right,” and then beating myself up or maybe even going home or feeling guilty or punishing myself, I just observed it and went, “Huh, that’s interesting. I’m having thoughts that this is selfish,” or “I’m having thoughts that this was silly.” Instead of fusing with those thoughts, I just observed them.

And I also observed the feeling and going, “Uh-huh, I feel guilty,” or “I feel selfish.” But instead of saying, “I am guilty and I am selfish,” I didn’t over-identify with those emotions, which is another mindfulness skill that I wanted to go back to the basics, is how much we over-identify with the thoughts we have. If something is uncomfortable, we go, “Oh, that means it must have to go away, and this is wrong. I’m wrong and I shouldn’t be feeling this way.” Instead, I just sat in it and I had this-- I want you to just imagine me. If you’re listening to the podcast, you won’t be able to see me. But if you’re watching me on video right now, I just had my head and kept nodding and smiling, like I was almost dancing with my head and just going, “Uh-hmm, yes, brain, I hear you. Yes, mind, I can hear what you’re saying, but I’m not going to connect with that. I’m going to allow it. I’m not going to push it away, but I’m just going to observe it.” Oh my gosh, I had so many breakthroughs, one after or the other, of just catching these rules and beliefs I have and how invasive they are and how reactive I am to them. Even though I’ve practiced this for years, I just knew I needed this time to let go of all of this.

Now the second thing I learned besides really dropping down into the basics and observing everything and not identifying was, in the Mindfulness book that I was reading, and I had it as my agenda to read it, is I had to practice going back to accepting impermanence. Now impermanence is a Buddhist concept that they talk about a lot. Basically, what it means is that this is temporary.

As I sat and I meditated so much on this three-day retreat, not so much the second day, but the first and the third day were really good meditation days. I sat on my meditation seat and all I would do is just try to stay in the moment and notice the impermanence. So, as a satisfying feeling showed up, I would just notice that this is temporary, that it will go, and I’m not going to cling to it. As an uncomfortable thought showed up, I said to myself, “This is temporary. I’m not going to cling to it. I’m not going to push it away.” Everything that showed up, I just kept going, “This is temporary. This is temporary.” Some people would probably argue that that’s a problem. Like, why would you push away good thoughts? But I had to keep reminding myself that my attachment to good is what creates a lot of my suffering.

A lot about impermanence is also looking at the fact that everything is temporary. In this beautiful rental that I had was these beautiful windows. I would sit right at the edge of the window and I would overlook this beautiful creek, all these trees, and leaves. A part of the meditation that I had practiced and I have practiced for many years is to meditate on impermanence, which is to sit and look. This time my eyes were open, and everything I see, I contemplated how temporary it is.

If it was a leaf that is just newly budded, I would imagine it fully coming into bloom, falling off the tree, and then completely breaking down into the ground where it was mud muddy and sludgy and yucky. And then looking at, let’s say the wood and going, “Yes, that too will break down over time.” Looking at my hand and my face and my body and imagining me too once was very youthful and now looking slightly older and acknowledging that that too is impermanence and that I too will die.

From that meditation, I cried. I sobbed actually, and I let go of a lot of beliefs and values I was hanging onto that really aren’t my values in terms of me having to stay young, that me having to stay liked by people, that I had to hold onto this idea. Instead, I was actually moving towards saying, “It’s okay. You can like me or hate me, because you liking me may actually be temporary. You may only need me for a period in your life. And then you may not need me.” And then again, observing what showed up for me and letting go of that too. It was just this massive cycle and it kept going and going. I would keep hitting these same things that I needed to let go of and learn and practice like observing and recognizing that things are temporary and that it doesn’t mean anything about me.

I know this may actually be a lot, but I can’t tell you how powerful it was. It was such a beautiful experience of letting go, of catching where I’m attached to things, and then letting go of that as well. I’m not saying that because I let them go they don’t bother me anymore. I am now in a cycle and it got me going and now allowing that letting go to be more automatic. Whereas before, I used to joke with my husband and my best friend. When they’d make a suggestion to me, like maybe they would offer me some advice, I would respond a little defensively. And that’s one of the reasons I really wanted this three-day retreat, is I could feel the tension in me on how inflexible I was and how I was being stubborn and holding tight on things. I knew that’s not what my core nature is.

I’m going to keep this short and I’ll give you one more thing that I learned. And this thing has probably been the most beautiful lesson I’ve ever learned. It’s been so synchronistic because so many things have really reinforced things since I’ve returned. This is the idea of independence versus interdependence.

I think since I recovered from my eating disorder, I have made it my goal to be independent. I don’t want to rely on people. I don’t want to ask them for help. I want to be a strong woman. I want to be a powerful human. I want to be peaceful in myself. I want to be self-sustaining, if that makes sense. This has been such amazing growth for me. I have learned so much and really learned my own strength because I made a deal with myself that I would always be my first person. Through that, I have learned to trust myself, to rely on myself, that I’m stronger than I thought. It’s a big reason why I say it’s a beautiful day to do hard things, is because I’ve practiced that my whole life.

But I was reading something from one of these, in the Tara Brach retreat, she has a lot of retreat talks and I was listening to some of these Dharma talks. One of them was that we’re interdependent. Even though we’re independent, we also need other people. And that actually through being interdependent is where we build community. It made me realize that I think I’ve swung too far in the independence. If there was a pendulum swinging, I’d swung too far in the independence and I needed to recognize how much I need other people. I need my friends, I need my husband more, I need my children more in different areas, that I need to ask for help more. It doesn’t mean I have to pay people. It doesn’t mean they owe me. It doesn’t mean I now fully swung the other direction into always being dependent. It’s that I’ve acknowledged that change happens more on the local level.

Since I created this podcast and I have an Instagram profile, I think my mind had very much gone to a large scale. Like, I have to make a huge difference, that I could make a huge difference. Something came through me, a sense of knowing in terms of, yes, I can make a large difference, but I can’t forget the local difference that I can make, the connection with my neighbors, the connection with my school. Particularly since COVID, we’ve become so technological. How can I actually connect with people more on a one-to-one basis instead of a one-to-thousand?

For some reason, that really spoke to me and I’ve never been more empowered and excited to serve you all because I think I needed to come out of the big crowd, thousands of people and really just start to go back to thinking one-to-one and thinking about the person instead of the crowd. I think that that will help me a lot in terms of being more connected, feeling more connected, feeling not lonely in things. They have that whole thing about you can be surrounded by people, but still feel lonely. I think that’s probably why I felt lonely in the past.

They’re the main things I learn. There are so many more, but really, I just want to emphasize, if you can create a one day or even a half-day silent retreat where you sit and really be with your emotions and commit to seeing what comes up, you will be shocked at the explosion of experiences that you have inside you. It doesn’t have to be three days. You don’t have to rent someplace. You could do it in your own home, even in one room if you need it, and really drop down. When those really painful emotions come up, really sit with them and be with them and practice letting them wax and wane as much as you can.

That’s what I learned. I hope that that has been inspiring to you in some way or another. For me, I’m more committed to my meditation practice than I’ve ever been. I’m more committed to my mindfulness than I’ve ever been, and I’m more connected to my business than I’ve ever been, which is really, really beautiful.

All right, thank you so much. I am so grateful for you being here with me today. I just love this work I’m doing with you and I hope that it is beneficial to you.

Before we finish up, let’s do the review of the week. This is from kdeemo and they said:

“This podcast is a gift. I just found this podcast and I’m binging on the episodes. I learn something through each episode, and I love her practical advice and tools. I feel like part of a community-what a gift!”

Thank you, kdeemo. Please, please do go and leave a review. I know you are very busy. I very much respect your time, but the best gift you can give me is just a view and honest review. It helps me to reach more people and that makes me feel so fulfilled and happy.

Have a wonderful day, everybody.

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