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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: July, 2022
Jul 29, 2022

SUMMARY:

Today we talk all about how to manage when your fears appear in your dreams.  This was a heavily requested topic, so I hope it was helpful for you.

In This Episode:

  • Why our fears and obsessions show up in our dreams
  • What to do when your fears appear in your dreams 
  • How to manage the distress when dreams feel “real” 

Links To Things I Talk About:

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

Episode Sponsor:

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

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 295.

Welcome back, everybody. It is Episode 295, which sounds like a whole lot of episodes. It really, really does. Actually, it shocked me when I saw that number.

Today, we are talking about when your fears show up in your dreams. I would say quite regularly, actually, a client, particularly morning clients will often say like-- I’ll be like, “How are you? How was your week?” And they’ll say, “Well, I’m just feeling really overwhelmed. I had the most bizarre dream last night and it’s hard to shake it off.” And so, I’m wondering, I’m guessing. I’ve had this experience, I’m guessing you have too. And I wanted to talk this episode about how we might respond to that situation and what we need to look out for when we have this situation, particularly if you have anxiety. That’s really the specific group of humans we’re speaking to today. And I’ll share a little bit more about that as we get going.

All right, before we do that, let’s do the review of the week. This one is from FullWalrus and they said:

“I found this podcast by Googling an issue I was having, and this just popped up.” FullWalrus, this makes me so happy. Thank you so much for Googling this and finding me because that means we’re doing a good job at being on the internet and helping people in that way. “I had kept away from podcasts about mental health in fear of being triggered or being told I was crazy after all, and that didn’t happen obviously. Kimberley is a gifted presenter and a therapist who introduced me to Buddhism and mindfulness in a way I’d never thought of before. For the first time, I feel like I actually have the tools to help me manage OCD, and this show is sure a beautiful compliment to any therapy you should be currently undergoing because we all need therapy. Thank you for everything, Kimberley. My life is forever changed and I am forever grateful.”

Thank you, FullWalrus. What a wonderful, wonderful review. I just love hearing how I’m helpful. I love hearing what episodes are helpful and it’s really cool that I’m a really-- I love Buddhism. I find it to be exactly what I need every time I’m in a hard time. So, I’m so glad that I’m bringing that in a way that isn’t overwhelming or overpowering. So wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

This week’s “I did a hard thing” is coming to you from Holly. Holly says:

“Last week, I went to court to obtain full custody of my son since his father has become a threat to him. This was extremely difficult seeing as we have been in an abusive past. My anxiety was the highest it’s been in a very long time, but ultimately, I knew I had to take action. I did my hard thing and I couldn’t be more proud of standing my ground and not succumbing to so many fears.”

Holly, sending you so much love. This is 100% doing the hard thing. It’s so hard, because often we’re talking about irrational fears and so forth, but I love that you brought like I’m doing this real thing. This real thing. And I love when you guys share with me both you’re facing your fears related to your disorder, but also just facing fear about showing up and living according to your values and showing up for your family. And Holly, just so good. Thank you so much for submitting that “I did a hard thing” for our “I did a hard thing” segment.

295 When your fears show up in your dreams Your anxiety toolkit

Okay. Let’s talk about dreams. So, again, often people will bring to my attention like, what do I do if my fears show up in my dreams, or even fears you didn’t have right. Like fears that you never considered during the day, but once you go to sleep, it gives it to you, sucks it to you, and whatnot. So, what do we do in this situation?

Most people will report they wake up in a massive ball of sweat, high heart rate. It feels so real. It feels like it actually happened. And it takes some time for that to burn off. It really, really does. Some people say it even takes the whole day to burn off. And so, if that’s the case for you, you’re definitely not alone.

Now, one thing to think about when we’re thinking about dreams is we’ve been fed this belief that dreams are like windows into our soul and that they must mean something, and that some people interpret dreams. In fact, I’ll tell you a story. I’m a clinician, I’m a CBT therapist. I use science-based treatment methods. And I do remember looking for a therapist several years ago actually and asking some colleagues. And one colleague, who knew me really well, referred me to this dream analyst. And I went for the first session. I was like, “This is not going to work for me,” mainly because of exactly what I’m going to tell you.

Now, if you like dream analysis, 100% no judgment. The reason that I had a strong reaction to it is I was going through a very, very anxious time, and I knew that if I engaged in that behavior, it was going to trigger me in ways that I’ll share here very soon.

The way I understand and the way I was trained and the way I’ve researched dreams is dreams, are just thoughts you have at night. So, if you’ve listened to this podcast, you’ll know that during the day, if you have a thought, I’m probably going to tell you, thoughts are thoughts. Don’t give them your attention. Don’t give them too much kudos. And so, dreams are no different. They’re just thoughts that you have while you’re asleep, and do your best not to give them a ton of importance, a ton of weight, a ton of value, because when you do that, you can get in trouble, particularly if they’re anxious thoughts.

Now, let me say here, I am notorious for having the weirdest dreams. My husband often, when we first got married, would sit up in the morning and be like, “Tell me everything you dreamed,” because I dream about like, I once had this dream about turtles and we went scuba diving together. And me and these turtles, they were like cartoon turtles. We’re like going through these tunnels together. Ridiculous stuff. I’ve had dreams of going hot air ballooning with a giraffe, and I have had this dream many, many, many times. I would say tens of times. And so, yeah, sometimes dreams are just silly and crazy. But where they’ve got fear attached or danger attached or catastrophes attached, it can be really hard for us to not get caught up in them.

So, the next question is, is it effective to interpret our dreams? My opinion is there’s nothing wrong with it, but here are the things to look out for. If you have a dream and it’s attached to your obsession and you’re interpreting your dream, it’s a chance that you’re doing compulsions to try and get certainty around that obsession. So, if you’ve already got the fear and the obsession, interpreting the dream actually maybe just reinforcing the fear, giving it too much importance, giving it too much value, and therefore feeding you back into a cycle where you’re going to keep having more of them, and you’re going to keep having anxiety about them, because you’re responding to them as if they’re important and dangerous.

If they’re just random like you wake up, often people say, “I had a dream that a loved one died,” or “I had a dream that a loved one was in an accident or it was my fault or so forth.” If you have that, what I would encourage you to do is look at it curiously. For me, it’s either like a really silly cartoon style dream or it’s that I’m responsible for something, which just is a sort of, if I’m curious about that, I’m like, yeah, that makes sense. I tend to be hyper-responsible. I tend to take responsibility very seriously. So, that makes sense. But I’m not going to go and dig around more than that because now I’m digging around in the content of my fears and giving those fears way, way, way, way too much attention. Way too much attention.

So, is it effective to interpret your dream? It depends. And I will say really clearly, if it is around your obsession, I strongly discourage you from doing it with one caveat, with one exception, which is unless it’s for the purpose of actually doing an exposure that’s scary. So, that would be the one time I would say, yes, it’s cool to interpret your dream. If you’re doing it on purpose in effort to actually induce the actual obsession and fear that you have so that you can practice tolerating the uncertainty and you can practice writing that wave of discomfort.

We can and we do do exposures to the content of your dreams. So, again, if a client has a dream or you have a dream and it’s triggering you, whether it was a part of your old obsession or just a new one, you can choose if it’s really bothering you to do an exposure. You could do an exposure with imaginal exposures. We cover imaginal exposures in ERP School, which you can go and find out about at CBTSchool.com if you’re interested. ERP School is our online course that teaches you how to apply ERP to your obsessions.

So, you could do an imaginal exposure where you write a story about your worst fear coming true and the consequences of that, and you read it over and over and over and you just allow the anxiety to rise and fall. You could do that. Or let’s say if it’s a fear like, not long ago, I had a dream about this one area of the corner of my kid’s school. It was like this really bad thing happened. So, if it’s really bothering me and I’m struggling with reducing my mental compulsions about that. Yeah, I might go into that corner and just sit there and read a book or just wait there for my kids or whatnot. So, yes, you can do exposures to the content of your dreams, particularly again, if they’re really strong, repetitious, and they seem to be persistent.

What we can do in addition to that is apply a ton of mindfulness to the dream content itself. So, this is what this would look like. You wake up, whether it’s from the morning or from a nap. You’ve had a dream. It’s really overwhelming. It feels really real. It might even feel like you’re actually in the moment of this catastrophe or this event. And even though it feels real, we’re actually just going to be mindful of that.

Now, what does mindfulness mean? Let’s do a quick recap. Mindfulness is being present with what’s actually happening. So, within that moment, what’s actually happening is things feel unreal, things feel strange, things feel scary. Your heart might be beating faster. You might be sweating. You might have a tummy ache. So, that’s what’s happening. We’re present with that, but we’re also present with what else is happening. Oh, the birds are chirping. I feel my pajamas against my skin. This is the taste of the coffee I’m drinking. I can smell the coffee as well. We’re just being very mindful of what else is happening, and we’re doing all of that nonjudgmentally.

Key point: We’re doing all of this. We’re having the weird feeling. We’re having the anxiety. We’re smelling the coffee. We’re feeling our feet against the floor and we’re practicing not judging these things as good or bad, even though they might be uncomfortable. When we are acknowledging that they’re here, we’re allowing them. We’re being willing to experience them, not pushing them away, and we’re practicing being non-judgmental.

Now you may need to do this, and this is often our clients will say, “Yeah, I did that, and then it kept bothering me.” And I’ll say, “Well, did you do it again? Could you do it a little longer?” And they’ll go, “Yeah, I did. But then it kept bothering me.” And I’ll joke with them. I try never to be condescending, but I’ll say, “But did you then do it again? Did you keep going?” And that’s the key to mindfulness. Mindfulness, we don’t do these behaviors to make the discomfort go away. We do them moment by moment, minute by minute, 10 seconds by 10 seconds, just to practice being in the presence of this discomfort and giving the discomfort zero of our tension.

Now, the other thing we may want to do here is activate a behavior. So, if you’re feeling totally overwhelmed, totally anxious, everything feels like it really actually happened. A lot of clients will say somebody died in their dream and they actually cry and they’re experiencing grief as if it actually happened. That’s true too. That often happens. We would engage in behavioral activation of going, “If I didn’t have this feeling, what would I be doing?” Such a good question. If I didn’t have this experience, what would I be doing? And go and do that thing.

So, if I didn’t have this dream, I’d be getting up and I’d probably go for a walk or I’d sit down and check my emails or whatever it may be. Make sure you do those things and try not to divert away from the behaviors you would’ve done had you not had this dream. That’s the response prevention piece. If you didn’t have this dream, would you be giving this content your attention?

So, let’s say I had a dream about my child dying, which is devastating, the idea of it. So, when we say I wake up and I feel like it actually happened, my body is telling me it actually happened, even though maybe my child is right in front of me. Then how do I engage with the rest of the day? Am I ruminating about ways to prevent that from happening? Am I actually implementing behaviors to prevent it from happening? Because if I’m doing those things, I’m actually doing compulsions. I’m trying to solve a thought that I had, not an actual thing.

And so, this is why this is so important that we understand that dreams are just thoughts you have at night or during sleep. That doesn’t mean that they’re important and they need to be analyzed and that it’s a sign of something to come, because we wouldn’t do that with an intrusive thought. We’re learning not to do that. So, when we have a thought, we’re learning not to go, “Oh my gosh, that must mean it’s a sign.” We’re learning to undo that reaction and going, “Yeah, thoughts are thoughts.”

So, this is how I want you to maybe consider changing your response to dreams, especially scary dreams. Again, let me be really clear. If you love analyzing dreams and you find it helpful and you don’t find it loops you back into the anxious cycle, wonderful. No problem. I’m definitely not against dream analysis. But for those folks who were anxious, I just want you to know this information, keep it in your back pocket, or maybe even your front pocket for the times when you catch yourself engaging in behaviors that become ineffective.

My word of 2022 is “effective.” I have it written everywhere. It’s a huge part of the decisions I make every day, every minute. Does this keep me in being effective? And so, it’s such a great question when we ask ourselves, is this behavior effective? It won’t always be, you don’t always have to be effective. But sometimes again, when you catch trends that are getting you to be ineffective, we want to see if we can make a change. Okay?

So, that’s Episode 295: When your fears show up in your dreams. I hope it was helpful. Do not forget, it is a beautiful day to do hard things. This work is not easy, friends. This work is actually-- let’s just be real. This work sucks. It really, really does. It’s exhausting. It’s hard. It’s taxing. It beats you down. So, please be gentle. It is a beautiful day to do hard things. Please remind yourself of how brave and strong you are because you’re stronger than you think. And I will see you next week.

Have a wonderful day.

Jul 22, 2022

SUMMARY: 

Correcting thoughts can but a very helpful tool to use when you notice that you have lots of thought errors.  However, in some cases, correcting thoughts can become a compulsion.  In this episode, ask the question, “Can correcting thoughts become a compulsion?” And review what you can do to make sure you are not engaging too much in the content of your thoughts. 

In This Episode:

  • How to correct your thoughts and how this can help people who have errors in their thinking
  • How to determine when it is helpful to correct your thoughts 
  • How to determine when correcting thoughts is becoming a compulsion

Links To Things I Talk About:

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 294. 

Welcome back, everybody. What a special treat to have you here with me today. 

Today, we are talking about when correcting your thoughts, we call it cognitive restructuring in therapy – when you correct your thoughts, when does that become compulsive? Or we could also say problematic. And so, we’re actually going to go into this today, and then I’m going to let you decide for yourself what is helpful and what’s not. But I hope today is really helpful. It’s a very, very, very important topic. It’s often one of the biggest mistakes therapists make, particularly those who are not trained in anxiety disorders and OCD, and ERP. It’s probably one of the biggest mistakes that they make. So, I want to really review this so that you can have the information in your back pocket and you can make the decisions for yourself.

Before we do that, let’s first do the review of the week. This is from Cynthia Safell and Cynthia said:

“I first was introduced to Kimberley’s clear and compassionate teaching style when I took the ERP school course for therapists.” This is wonderful, Cynthia. So, for those of you who don’t know, we have ERP School, which is a course where I teach you exactly how I would do ERP if you were my client. And then it turned out that a lot of therapists were taking this course. And so, we duplicated the course and I added a whole bunch of modules for therapists, so they can become excellent therapists for people with OCD as well. So, I am so delighted that Cynthia has written this review. She goes on to say: “In the past 3 weeks since taking the course, I recommended both the course and podcasts to my clients. So helpful. Thank you, Kimberley.”

Wow, Cynthia, literally, that is the biggest compliment. Really, it is. If a therapist can trust me so much that they would recommend it to their clients, that is the biggest gift to me. And thank you so much for telling me that, because it just brings me so much joy and so much pride. So, thank you so much, Cynthia, for that amazing review. 

Alright, before we move on to the bulk of the content of this episode, we also want to do the “I did our hard thing” segment. This is from Abby and Abby is over here doing some hard things. So cool. Let’s go. It says:

“I have come on holiday. I’m terrified of flying. My anxiety was high. My thoughts were racing, but I did it.” So good, Abby. “I got on the plane and I got on holiday. It was scary, but I did it and I’m proud. Now to commit to the holiday first two days have been hard, but sitting with it and not letting it ruin my time.”

Abby, this is so good. Not only did you get on a plane, but you’re doing all the hard things in addition, and that’s so good. What a treat for you. What a reward for you. You did the hard thing and now you’re on vacation. Isn’t that so cool? Thank you so much, Abby. And thank you so much, Cynthia, for being an amazing part of our community.

Alright. So, let’s get down to it, shall we? So, I am a cognitive behavioral therapist. I love cognitive behavioral therapy. If you haven’t heard what that is, I’m assuming you have, but basically what that means is there is a cognitive component to treatment, which is focusing on your thoughts, and there is a behavioral component to treatment, which is where we focus on changing behaviors. 

Now, in some disorders, we spend a little more time on cognitions and a little less time on behaviors. And in other disorders, we spend a little more time on behaviors and much less time on cognitions. So, I think it’s important for you to know that it depends on your disorder on how much cognitive restructuring or changing and thinking we do. And so, the whole point of today is to explore, is your cognitive restructuring, is changing and challenging your thoughts helpful for you and your set of symptoms? And you get to make that decision. I’m not here to tell you what’s right or wrong, but I do want to give you some guidance. 

294 Can correcting out thoughts become a compulsion Your anxiety toolkit

So, first of all, the big question that my staff bring to me when we’re in supervision, and this was actually inspired by a conversation we had during supervision, was what is the role of correcting distorted thoughts in treatment? So, if someone presents to me a distorted thought, a statement, they might say, “I’m an idiot,” or “What’s the point? I only ruin it and mess it up anyway,” or “I always make mistakes. I never do anything right.” I as the clinician and them as the client may benefit by pausing the session and checking in with them in how true is that statement. Is it really true that you never do anything right? Is it true that you are an idiot? Could we challenge that and could we start to have you practice changing the words you use towards yourself? 

I am a massive, massive advocate for cognitive work because I think that in general, we walk around and we say a whole bunch of stuff that’s not true. I do it too. I actually have put-- in the last 18 months, I have put in massive amounts of time and energy into catching because I was finding I was saying a lot of sweeping generalizations like, “I feel terrible today.” Even though I didn’t feel well, it’s like, okay, I’m saying these words, “I’m so tired.” That was another big one I used to say every day. My husband would ask, “How are you, Kimberley?” “I’m so tired.” And it’s not that that thought was wrong or not true. I was really tired. But I had to check, is it helpful for me to keep saying this? Is there another way that I could maybe reframe this or present this or look at this?

So, yes, there’s definitely a role in challenging and correcting errors in our thinking. And so, it’s important that we first look at what is a thought distortion or a cognitive distortion, or a thought error. It’s usually any thought that’s, number one, not true or not helpful, or keeps you responding in a way that isn’t beneficial. So, again, the thought for me is “I’m so tired.” It’s true. Is it helpful? No. Does saying that actually make me feel a little bombed and a little down? Yes. Could I maybe replace it with something else? That’s up to me. There’s no right or wrong. 

I want to be really clear here in that when we talk about correcting thoughts, we are not saying toxic positivity, like, “Oh, I’m supposed to tell myself I feel fabulous because I don’t.” That’s not what this is about. We don’t do that kind of thing. We just make small little shifts depending on what feels helpful to you. 

So, let’s go through a couple of scenarios. Does correcting thoughts help with depression? Now, based on the research, the treatment for depression is actually really balanced in terms of doing 50% cognitive work and 50% behavioral work. These numbers I’m throwing out aren’t science-based, but just in general, I want you to think about like, yeah, you have to do both. You have to look at correcting the lies that depression tells you, but you also have to look at your behaviors and how can you engage in behaviors that actually make you more fulfilled and happy and not feeling down. 

So, yeah, with depression, we look at a lot of thoughts that are very critical, sweeping generalizations, we look at a lot of thoughts that discount the positive. I thought that’s like discounting the positive like, “Well, yeah, even though I got an A in that test, still, I’m probably going to fail my last year of college.” So, they discount the positive thing and they make another sweeping statement. So, we really want to make sure we’re correcting thoughts when it comes to depression. It’s really important because depression lies. 

Do we correct thoughts when it comes to generalized anxiety? Well, yes, we can. But this is where this topic is so important, is you want to be careful. If you’re spending a lot of time correcting thoughts, there’s always room to correct your thoughts about things. But if you find that you’re trying to correct your thoughts just to reduce or remove your uncertainty, then it’s likely that it’s going to get you stuck in a loop where you have to keep doing that thought correction in a somewhat compulsive way to feel good.

And so, what we want to do here is, yeah, we want to be mindful of our thoughts, and then we may choose whether we want to correct it or not, or whether we just want to observe that I’m having a thought. This goes for depression as well because mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is a huge, huge science-based treatment for depression. So, you’re going to see a trend happening here. So, we always want to observe the thought because it helps us to diffuse from the thought and see it in perspective. And then we can choose to correct it if it’s helpful in that moment. Maybe if you’ve never corrected it before, if it’s a new thought that it’s helpful for you to do a little thought work with. And then again, you’d still do the behavioral piece with generalized anxiety. So, if you’re having a lot of anxiety, you still want to work on not avoiding things and not seeking reassurance and not doing any self-critical behaviors, and so forth. 

So, yes, what I would say is there is some benefit to correcting thoughts. The main thing with this is as long as it’s not the only tool you’re using, because if it’s the only tool you’re using, you’re going to be putting in a lot of work, a lot of time of the day correcting thoughts, and that’s probably going to take you away from living the life you want. Several episodes I did a podcast about your recovery plan and what’s getting in the way. The truth is, if you can identify the things you want to be doing when you’re recovered, once you’ve done that, you can start implementing that right away.

So, I often will check in with myself because I’ve been doing a lot of work too. Okay, I could correct the thought right now, or I could just immediately throw myself into the behavior I want to live by. That’s according to my values. And then I make a decision. What would be most helpful? Should I explore this thought? Or would this be a wonderful time to do my paint by numbers? PS, I love Paint By Numbers. It literally got me through COVID. You have to try it. It’s the coolest thing and it’s so fun. But I ask myself like, do I want to just allow the thought to be there and go do the thing I love? Or would it be helpful for me to correct it? There’s no right answer. But if I’m trying to correct things that I’ve already corrected and that I already know the answer to, yeah, I probably am going to choose to do the Paint By Number, if I’m completely honest. I think that’s a more effective route. You are going to have to think about it and do a little cost-benefit analysis for yourself. 

Then we are going to move over here, and this is very similar. Does correcting thoughts help with obsessive-compulsive disorder? You can see a progression here with depression. Yeah, we do quite a bit of it. Generalized anxiety, a little less because it can sometimes be very repetitive. When it comes to obsessive-compulsive disorder, guys, you have to be very careful about correcting thoughts. Because if you’re correcting thoughts to try and reduce or remove your uncertainty, it will most likely, and I would probably go as far to say, definitely turn into a compulsion that will keep you stuck. Because remember, the treatment of OCD and obsessive-compulsive disorder often involves leaning into discomfort, leaning into uncertainty, leaning into doubt, leaning into tolerating whatever experience of uncertainty and discomfort that you have. 

So, here is what I say to my clients, and this is exactly what I said to my staff. One of my staff had said, “Okay, when do we correct thoughts and when don’t we then?” And here is the thing. If somebody is coming to me and they’re saying something that’s an error in thinking around their ability to cope with discomfort, I would 100% correct that. So, an example would be, if a client says to me, “I can’t handle my discomfort,” I will probably have them challenge that. I might even say, “How do you know? Could this be the first time that you actually do tolerate this discomfort or cope with this pain?” So, I would 100% challenge and correct thoughts around their coping. 

But if someone has a thought, “What if I have a panic attack?” the truth is, trying to correct that is uncertain anyway. You’re not going to be able-- you can’t say, “No, I won’t,” because you don’t know that. You can’t say, “Yes, I will,” because you don’t know that. So, only correct thoughts around your struggle to cope. Never correct thoughts where you’re trying to reduce or remove your uncertainty. That would be my best advice to you. 

Another point here is, if you find you’re correcting the same thought repetitively, chances are, it’s a compulsion or will turn into a compulsion. The reason that I push this so heavily is you’re going to-- here is where I really struggle the most, is you’re going to-- if you’re on Instagram, a lot of you come, listen, you follow me on Instagram. We have an Instagram account called Your Anxiety Toolkit. There are hundreds of accounts that tell you to correct every single thought you have, and I don’t agree with that. I do not agree with that. I think that that is terrible advice. Because number one, you could spend your whole day doing that, particularly if you’ve got bad anxiety or depression. Number two, you could spend your whole day doing the exact same behaviors you did last yesterday and last week that obviously didn’t reduce or remove your discomfort. And the third thing to remember here is we have scientific evidence specifically for obsessive-compulsive disorder, but also for generalized anxiety disorder, that most people who have these disorders, there is a certain set of things happening in their brain where cognitive restructuring just doesn’t stick. The part of their brain that allows them to correct things, there’s a weakness there or there’s this bad connection there, which means if this were to work, it would’ve worked already and they probably wouldn’t suffer because they would go, “Oh yeah, you’re right. That doesn’t make any sense.” And off they go. 

It’s really frustrating because I know a lot of you see your partner or your friend who can quickly correct a thought or quickly do a quick Google search, quickly get reassurance and they’re fine. They get to move on. But the brain of an anxiety disorder is different, specifically the brain of someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder is different. And so, for you, you might get a moment of relief, but then you find the thought comes right back. And so, again, there’s no real point you can. Doing it is like whack-a-mole. If you do it,then discomfort goes away and then it comes back and you do it again. And now you’re just stuck, like weeding weeds that keep growing. 

So, these are the things I want you to think about for yourself. I’m definitely not telling you what you have to do. Again, this is not therapy. But I want you to do a little inventory for yourself and just ask yourself what would be helpful and what’s not.

The last question I have here for myself is, when does correcting thoughts help in recovery? Just like I said before, if it helps you in terms of reducing your self-criticism, increasing your sense of mastery over a task, or increases your ability to feel like you can cope, well then, I think it’s a helpful tool. I’ll give you an example of that. 

I personally hate running payroll. Every month, I have these beautiful 10 and 11 staff. It’s actually more like 13, 14 beautiful staff who work for me. And at the first of every month, I have to run all this payroll stuff. And guys, to be honest, I suck at it. I’m terrible with numbers. I get all the numbers mixed up. It takes me twice as long as it would, but I really do value the importance of me knowing what’s happening in my business. So, I do it. I’m doing it. While I’m doing it, I have a lot of thoughts like, “I can’t do this, I don’t want to do this,” and a lot of like, “Ah, this is too hard” thoughts. 

So, in that situation, I’m correcting my thoughts so that I can embody a sense of like, “No, I’m a really good boss and I’m trying to run a business that helps other people with their life.” And so, I correct my thoughts so that I can embody like, “No, this is important. I want and I’m choosing to do this. This is important for my staff. It’s important for me to get it right. And it’s worth the time.” So, in that situation, correcting the thoughts is really helpful because it helps me with that degree of anxiety. However, if I was having thoughts like, “What if you make a mistake? What if you make a mistake? What if you make a mistake?” correcting my thoughts to like, “You won’t make a mistake or that’s not even true. So, it’s not going to be helpful.” 

So, again, let’s go back. When it will help is when it’s around your coping, when it’s around your capabilities. So, if you’re having a lot of thoughts like you suck and you can’t and you’re not good enough, you’re not strong enough, you’re not wise enough, you’re not courageous enough, yeah, you can correct that into more encouraging statements. But we don’t do it around uncertainties. We don’t do it around uncertainties. That will keep you stuck.

Now the last thing I will say here before we wrap up is, is there a difference between education, reassurance, and assurance? So, let’s just break that down. If a client comes to me and they say, “Oh my gosh, I keep having these horrible intrusive thoughts. Something must be wrong with me,” through the lens of education, I might educate them and say, “Listen, everyone has intrusive thoughts. You’re just like everybody else and you shouldn’t be ashamed. And I really want you to understand that having intrusive thoughts is a normal part of having a really healthy working brain.” I consider that education. And you deserve to get education around things. So, if you have, let’s say, a new illness, it’s okay to go and get educated about the new illness. That’s not a compulsion.

Now, there will be times where you educate yourself and you need to tweak what you know or learn something new, and that is also fine. The thing I would have you as we leave for this episode just continue to think about is the thing that we want to look out for is when it’s called reassurance, which is repetitive over and over attempts to reduce or remove a thought specifically related to your anxiety or your uncertainty. So, that’s the real thing I want you to think about and look out for. Take note. And the other thing I want you to remember is, please don’t beat yourself up if there are days when you do a lot of thought correction and it turns out to be a compulsion. You’re just a human being. There is no right or wrong. Often, I’ll say to a client, they’ll be like, “But what if I do correct a thought?” I’ll say, “You know what, you’re going to have ups and downs. So, try not to get too perfectionistic about this practice.” 

There’s just these general ideas and you’ll know in your body if you’re doing it compulsively. A great and easy way to know if you’re doing something compulsively is, are you doing it with urgency? Are you doing it with an experience of resisting discomfort in your body? Are you doing it to reduce or remove a thought that you’re having? And are you doing it repetitively? Those are things where if you’re doing those things, you will know you’re probably doing a compulsion. And in fact, I encourage you to get really good at catching those things because then you will be one step closer to recovery. 

Alright, my loves, that ends the episode on whether correcting thoughts is a compulsion or not. I’m going to let you really come to a conclusion on your own, or you can go and speak with your clinician and get to the bottom of that for yourself.

Have a wonderful, wonderful day. It is a beautiful day to do hard things, and I will talk to you very, very soon, aka, next week.

Have a good one, everyone.

Jul 15, 2022

This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 293.

You guys, I’ve totally screwed up. Oh my God, it’s going to be one of those episodes where I laugh a lot. Maybe not. Who knows? 

Alright, I totally screwed up. It’s funny because I have for months been thinking about doing an episode and reminding you guys mostly so I could remind myself that I’m a human being, that I’m going to make mistakes, and it’s one of the biggest lessons that I have had to learn over and over and over and over again. It’s really frustrating, you guys. I’m so frustrated by this fact that humans make mistakes. I don’t like it. It makes me mad. If only we could figure out a way where we don’t and we don’t disappoint people and we don’t screw up. If anyone has figured this out, let me know. Just shoot me an email, tell me your special secret, because I haven’t figured it out yet. So funny. 

Okay. Before we get into it, this is actually pretty much a coincidence and I love when big coincidences happen, but the review of the week is actually from Flashcork. They’re writing a specific review on Episode 193, which I think is really cool because this is by coincidence 293. And they said:

“This episode 193 is just what I needed to hear today. I’m stressed and anxious about my upcoming trip and experiencing racing thoughts. This will help me to manage those feelings and practice by shortening the leash.”

Now, if you haven’t listened to this episode, it is probably one of my most favorite episodes. A lot of my patients and clients have said that this concept has helped them a lot. And so, really go back and listen to 193. If you want to practice being able to be in a place where you can manage those thoughts a little better, go back and check that out. It’s just a metaphor. 

Flashcork says: “It makes sense because it has worked for me walking Sally, my Golden Retriever.”

I make a reference to thoughts being like a dog on a leash. So, you can go back and listen to that anytime.

That’s the review of the week. Thank you, Flashcork. So happy to have you join us. 

The “I did a hard thing” is from Allison. Allison says:

“I’m going to go on a job interview next week after applying to a different job, going through the grueling interviewing process and at the end not being successful. I’m working really hard to believe in myself, screw up my courage to attend this interview and be open-hearted about the new possibilities. It’s hard to pick yourself up and try again, but I’m doing the hard thing of trying again. I’m scared, but I’m proud of myself.”

Ep 293 I made a mistake Your anxiety toolkit

Allison, you are doing the work. And I’m actually going to take your advice today, Allison, because this is so perfect for the topic of today, which is like, yeah, sometimes we do screw up and we just have to get up and we have to try again. It’s so important. I’m so, so I’m impressed. I’m just so impressed with your courage and thank you so much for sharing that because I think we’ve all experienced it. 

So, Allison, let me tell you my hard thing. I want to preface this with, I think in my-- if I’m being completely authentic with you guys, I think that I’ve somehow, for many years of my adulthood, without me realizing, and in not a super severe way either, it was a very secret underlying compulsion I think I’ve been doing for years that I didn’t even know I was doing until the last couple of years is I was trying to find a way, constantly striving to find a way that I could live in a world where I didn’t make a mistake. Now I understand I’m a human. I don’t think I’m a superwoman. But in my mind, I think I’ve had-- well, I know I have, let’s be honest. I think in my effort to control my emotions that I’ve engaged in these little nuanced secretive behaviors of constantly trying to find the formula where I don’t upset people and I don’t screw up.

Let’s just take a minute because it’s funny for me to say that because how many times during the week with my clients and with you guys and everything I do is about self-compassion and letting go of control. And all along there was this nuanced little secret slither going through my life. And I think that number one, a part of this is true for a lot of people who have anxiety and are high functioning. Because I spoke to a couple of friends about this and they were like, “Yeah, to be--” when you have anxiety, to be high functioning, you have to put in place systems and procedures and routines to keep you going. And it makes sense that we often engage in other little behaviors that make us feel like we’re getting control when we don’t. 

Everybody knows, I even spoke about it a couple of sessions ago, that I am so in love with calendaring. My life has changed since I’ve been more intentional about my calendar. I’m not compulsive about it at all. Because I’m managing two children and two businesses and a chronic illness, if I can be really intentional and effective with my schedule, I can go into the day. I never worry about what I have to get done anymore. Really, I don’t. It was the best change I ever made because I have a system where I write down what I need to do and I throw that list out because I immediately calendar the times that I’m going to do it. So, I know it’s going to get done because it’s in the calendar. And if I don’t get it done, I’ll reschedule it. And I know I’ll get it done. And through the process, I’ve actually built such trust with myself. I know. I know I used to worry that I won’t get things done. I never worry about that anymore because I’ve gotten really good at this process. You guys know what’s going. 

This week is literally the only week of the year where the things on my calendar cannot be rescheduled because my beautiful daughter, who is a delight, she’s growing up to be this absolutely gorgeous human. I wish you could all meet her. She’s just so good. I know I’m biased, but she is just so wonderful. It’s her graduation. She’s graduating elementary school, you guys, and I’m going to have a middle schooler next year.

So, the one thing this year-- because I’m my own boss. I can schedule what I want. The one thing I can’t miss is her graduation. And last week, you know what’s going to happen here I was prepping to present at this conference and I got on the call and then we were doing this rehearsal and she said, “Okay, great. I’ll see you next Friday.” And I was like, “No, no, no, no. It’s the week after.” And she said, “No, no, no it’s next Friday.” And I’m like, “No, no, it’s not. And I’m always right. It’s in my calendar.” And she’s like, “No, it’s really not. It’s next Friday. You agreed to it on this date.” And I realized she’s right.

Now, I said to her, literally, “I cannot do it with this whole thing. I can’t do it. I’ve totally screwed up. This is not something I can reschedule.” And she was like, “Oh, okay.” So, she had to basically message a whole foundation. They had to change everything. They had to try and figure it out. This is where it was so humiliating, is they had to reach out to the person who was going after me, who is a very, very, very well-known person in the OCD community who I respect and don’t know. So, it’s like I have a relationship and had to ask him to reschedule his entire day because I screwed up. 

Now, I know this is not a huge disaster. This is in the grand scheme of things. This is not a huge problem, but I felt so bad. Oh my God, it was so painful. I was in this meeting and to see their faces of just pure annoyance and frustration and anger of like, “What? You got the date wrong?” They were very kind, but I could tell they were annoyed. 

And so, my question to you, because I love questions, is what do we do when we screw up? What do you do when you screwed up? 

Now you might be thinking this isn’t a big deal. I want you to think about a time when you did screw up that’s a big deal for you, and I want you to ask yourself, what did you do when you screw up? 

Immediately for me, this is the reason I wanted to really do this episode, is there was this interesting shift in me this time where-- because I haven’t screwed up this big in a couple of years. This was a pretty huge screw-up. I looked like a complete fall in something that was organized months ago, we’ve been talking about it, emailing back and forth. How did I miss this? I don’t know. But what was fascinating to me is, once upon a time, I would’ve said some very mean things to myself. Really, really mean. And I probably would’ve-- now that I’m noticing it is I would’ve responded, not just with self-criticism, but I would’ve tightened my belt even more with checking behaviors, rechecking, more controlling calendar, like compulsive calendaring. I would’ve overcorrected because I have been known to overcorrect. If you ask my partner, he’ll tell you I often used to overcorrect pretty bad. If I make a mistake, I would-- if I upset someone, I would go overboard trying to get them to like me again. Or I remember I used to-- if I was worried I offended someone, I would like to apologize over and over and over again. I don’t know if you’ve done any of these behaviors. You might want to gently say, “Kimberley, you’re not alone.” I’m kidding. 

But this time what? I notice this shift in me where I was like-- what I say to my son all the time is, “Oh my gosh, I’m such a ding-dong.” I’ll say you’re such a ding-dong and he’ll say you’re such a ding-dong. It’s a funny thing. It’s lighthearted and it’s not critical. It’s just like, “Ding-dong. You’re such ding-dong.” And what was interesting is I responded by went, “Oh my gosh, I’m such a ding-dong,” but it wasn’t-- I said things that sounded critical, but it wasn’t. There was this giggle to it. There was this acceptance of my humanness to it. It was so playful in my response. And I mean, this is a big deal for me because I very much value the respect of the people in my field and I work really hard to get their respect. Not in a people-pleasing way, but it’s a very big value for me. And it was funny. I just went, “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. I’m a ding-dong.” And then I said, “What can we do to fix it?” It was just a very transactional thing. Whereas before I would’ve, “Oh my God. I’m so sorry. I’m such an idiot. I can’t believe I did this. You should fire me.” I would just go overcorrect. 

So, let’s come here to the questions because I love the questions. If you’re driving, don’t do this. But if you’re not driving, I’d love for you to actually sit down with a notepad and just journal some of this out. So, when you screw up, what do you do? 

The second question is, is it okay for you? Because it was fine for me, and I want you to actually check-in, is it okay for you to make jokes about yourself? Answer it honestly. If it’s a yes, that’s okay. It can be giggly, nothing too harsh. If no, take that and really follow that out when you do make a mistake. 

Number three, is it helpful to apologize? Yes, of course. When we screw up, we should apologize. But how many times? And how do we apologize? Do we say it in a way that’s very factual, “I’m so sorry, this is a huge inconvenience for you”? Or do we say, “I’m sorry, I’m such a mess, screwed up person. I’ve ruined your day,” and make up a whole story about it? Because a lot of us do that when we screw up. Do you apologize over and over and over? 

Catch how do you respond to try and make it up to them. And that’s a really big one. Because if you find that you’re trying to make it up to them that’s okay. But are you doing it because it equals the degree in which you screwed up or are you doing it just to remove the discomfort you feel about the fact that you’re a human being? Make sure it’s in proportion. So, if you, let’s say, forgot to text somebody about something, you wouldn’t need to buy them a $100 gift card. That’s going overboard. Maybe it depends on the situation, but we’re just making an assumption here. If you forgot someone’s birthday. Well, yeah, you probably need to take them out for dinner and do make a big deal about it. But do you need to do that four times this month or throw them a party that puts you out of pocket? No. Don’t try to make it up to people in a way that actually takes away from your well-being. 

This is the next thing, is-- once I did this, I was really proud of myself. I’m not going to lie. I handled it pretty well, I think, and I was like, “Wow, I’ve made some pretty big growth in here obviously.” What was interesting is, once I hung up from them and I was like, “Oh dear.” I have all of these emotions, which I’ll talk to you here in a second about, I had to ask myself. The next question is, how long am I going to be on the hook for this, meaning from myself? How long am I going to hold myself on the hook? When am I going to let this one go? Because what I could have done is I could have said, “Okay, I made a mistake. It was not a good mistake there.” Obviously, I need to make some changes, but I’m going to beat myself up for the rest of the day. I’m going to ask yourself, how effective is that and is it in proportion with what happened, and is it effective? Really, does it make it less likely that you’ll do it again? The truth is, if I beat myself up all day, it’s not going to reduce the chances of this happening again, because it was a human mistake. And then the last question is, what can I do to resolve this if anything?

But let me come back to the emotions because those questions are very much related to these emotions. When you make a mistake and whether-- let me pose a couple of things to you. It could be something you do to somebody else. It could be something you do to yourself. Meaning if you do a ton of compulsions and you are up all night and now, you’re exhausted, or it’s any mistake you make. You had a huge panic attack and you left the party of your best friend and she’s really mad at you because you left her birthday party. It could be that you were depressed and you just couldn’t show up for your friend this day. So, there are so many ways in which this plays out. It doesn’t just have to be with scheduling.

When we upset other people or our behaviors impact other people, it’s normal to feel strong emotions. That’s normal. Often what we do is when we feel those strong emotions, we respond to them as if we need to squash them immediately, because we’ve told ourselves we can’t tolerate them. Guilt is probably one of the most common, shame being the second. There may be some anxiety related to it as well, or maybe some other emotions as well. But let’s take a look at those emotions and just quickly review how they may actually impact you. 

So, when we feel guilt, guilt is usually you’ve done something wrong, and I had done something wrong. So, guilt was an appropriate emotion. But I always think of guilt-- I’ve done episodes on this in the past. I think of guilt as just a stop sign to ask you, is there anything I can do to fix this now or in the future? Again, just really logical. In this situation, yeah, I can reschedule. I can be honest. I can do what I can to apologize. But beyond that, there isn’t anything else. And so, any residual guilt I feel from there, I must just tolerate. I must compassionately ride the wave of guilt.

Often, I see my clients, and I’ve done this myself, is if guilt is here, I’m going to beat myself up for it. No matter what, that’s the conditions. If guilt is present, I will beat myself up. And I want to invite you to have guilt and just be kind and let it ride. It’ll burn off like a candle. It’ll burn itself out and it’ll slowly dwindle away. 

Guilt is “I did something bad.” Shame is “I am bad.” If you do something and you screw up, and you feel shame, your job is to check-in and recognize that mistakes don’t make you bad. Literally, no mistake. There is not a mistake you could tell me of that makes you bad. Even if there was an absolute catastrophe that happened, mistakes don’t make you bad. You’re a human being. You’re going to make them. And I know, like I said to you, if you figured out how not to be human, please email me. I’ll happily take your email into my inbox and I’ll apply your rules. But the truth is, I know none of you are going to email me because it’s not possible and we have to accept it. We have to accept it. I’m just joking really about the email. 

And so, there is really no place for shame. If you feel shame, same as guilt, write it out compassionately. Give it very little of your attention. Don’t get into the content of what your shame is saying. Write it out and let it go. Meaning, like I said to you, there’s really no point in me dwelling on this because it’s done and I can’t do anything about it. All I can do is be kind to the feelings I’m feeling.

Now, a lot of people will say, “Oh my gosh, I wrote this response on an email or call or I presented, or I was in a party, and now I feel nothing but anxiety because I totally made a mistake.” I’ve had people even say like, “Oh, I was at a party and I passed gas,” or “I said something stupid.” I mean, I could tell you some absolutely ridiculous stories. 

Actually, let me tell you a quick, funny story, because I’ll come back to this, is recently, I attended this creative writing course, but it was actually a writing course for people who are business owners, and they were talking about getting really clear about you and the message you want to give and how to tell stories about it and so forth. And he was asking these questions about, who are you? And what’s something that the people closest to you would say? And I was thinking about it and I don’t think you guys know this about me, but I have, not in my professional life, but in my personal life, I have a way of the most bizarre things happening to me, like silly things. I always find myself in these situations where everyone is like, “Oh, only Kimberley would get put in that situation.” So ridiculous. I can’t even-- one day I think if I really let go, I’ll tell you some ridiculous stories. But if something really bizarre is going to happen, it always happens to me. And so, I just wanted to tell you that, because I want you guys to know that as the podcast is where I get a little more personal and bizarre things totally happen to me all the time. But let me go back. 

So, let’s say you have anxiety. You’re having anxiety about something that happened, and you’re thinking like, “Oh my God.” And your brain is just telling you catastrophe after catastrophe, after catastrophe, all of the worst-case scenarios. The truth is, that’s your brain’s job. Its job is to tell you of all the catastrophes, but it doesn’t mean you need to respond as if they’re all true and happening. And so, again, we go back to these core questions, is how can I stay with the facts that it happened? How can I acknowledge that it is what it is and that I can’t solve it, I can’t make it go away? And how can I act in a way that doesn’t overcorrect again, not over-apologizing, not asking for reassurance, not avoiding those people, not saying too many jokes, and so forth? So, we want to catch that. We want to catch how we go into anxiety and respond in that compulsive way. 

As I said to you at the beginning of this episode, I think that I was for many years doing this very nuanced compulsion of over-checking schedules and even being super neutral and kind to people so that I would never offend them. Stripping my personality down just so I would never harm them or never hurt them, which is not me being authentic, and I can see that now. 

So, these are the things I want you to think about. And then once you identify these strong emotions – again, we’ve looked at guilt, we’ve looked at shame, we’re now looking at anxiety – the job is to ride them out, let the anxiety burn out on its own. We don’t need to tend to it. It happened because we’re human and we’re going to allow it to rise and fall on our own. 

So, here is where I want you now to, number one, give yourself permission to be a human. Humans screw up. It’s a fact. It’s something we have to accept. How can we be in these situations and change the way we react so that we are not beating ourselves up and we’re not overcorrecting for the future? 

The only last thing I’ll say here is, if you’re trying to control what people think about you, you’re never going to win because what they think is a reflection of them. So, here is the last point. I screwed up. It’s just a fact. I put other people out. My mistake is probably going to interrupt some people’s time next week. I don’t like that. That doesn’t line up with my values, but it is what it is. There’s not a lot I can do. But what they think about me is completely a reflection of them. 

So, if let’s say this one person goes, “Oh my gosh, she is such an unorganized person and is horrible,” that really shows the degree in which they’re judgmental. Meaning they haven’t allowed me to show them that I’m more complex than that, that I have many other qualities, and so forth. If they were to say, “Oh my God, you’re fired, you’re terrible,” again, that’s not a fact either. And that’s a reflection of them and their struggle to be flexible and find solutions and so forth. Not that they’re bad, it’s just it’s more of a reflection on them because, in this situation, the people were very kind and they said, “We’ll work it out. We’ll see if we can reschedule you to be later on in the day,” and that it really was a reflection of how flexible they are. 

So, I want you to really remember here that you making a mistake doesn’t make you good or bad. Their judgments about you doesn’t define whether you’re good or bad or that they’re good or bad. It’s just we’re doing the best we can and it’s just it is what it is. 

So, that’s it, guys. We make mistakes. It’s terrible. I know it’s hard. It’s really painful, but can we hold space for the pain and the emotions associated and ride them out without beating ourselves up? That’s the real question. 

Have a wonderful day, everybody.

Jul 8, 2022

SUMMARY:

In this episode, we explore how to manage uncomfortable sensations. Many people do not struggle with intrusive thoughts and intrusive images, but instead, struggle to manage intrusive sensations. My hope is that this will give you some tools to manage these uncomfortable sensations and help you reduce how many compulsions you do to reduce or remove these feelings.

In This Episode:

  • What is an intrusive sensation?
  • What is the difference between an uncomfortable sensation and an intrusive sensation.
  • How to manage uncomfortable sensations such as rapid heartbeat, tingling limbs, numbness, lightheadedness, chest pain, etc.

Links To Things I Talk About:
ERP School: https://www.cbtschool.com/erp-school-lp

Episode Sponsor:

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

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPTION

This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 292. 

Welcome back, everybody. Today, we are talking about something that I very rarely talk about that I should be talking about more because it’s like 20% of the conversations I have with clients. And I’ll explain to you why in just a second. 

First, I’m going to do the review of the week. This one is from Linelulu. And they said:

“Grateful. I am so grateful that I stumbled onto your podcasts. Your soothing voice enhances your messages as I am trying to understand more about anxiety, and panic attacks to be a better support for someone very close to me. Thank you!”

You are so welcome, Linelulu. Thank you for that beautiful review. Please, I know I ask you every single episode. If you benefit from this podcast, this is one way that you can help me. So, if for any reason you feel like you have a few spare minutes, please do go and leave a review. 

The last thing before we get talking about sensations is to do the “I did a hard thing” of the week, and this one is from Camille. Camille says:

“I’ve been managing my dermatillomania,” which we also know is compulsive skin picking, “very well. However, I had a very stressful day and picked my skin pretty bad, in my opinion. I had a party to go to that night with a bunch of people. I didn’t know. And I almost didn’t go. But I pushed myself to go and no one said one thing about my skin. I’m so glad I went and got over the fact that my skin needs to be perfect in that instance.”

Camille, this is so good on so many levels, that you showed up and you did the thing that you wanted to do. And ugh, it’s so good. And how wonderful that you had supportive friends. Again, we sometimes were really hard on ourselves and we think people notice everything about us, every flow, but how wonderful that they embraced you and no one said anything. So, thank you so much for Camille for putting in that “I did a hard thing.” I just love hearing you guys doing all the hard things.

Ep 292 Uncomfortable Sensations Your anxiety toolkit

Now, why do we do this segment? Let’s just go back and look at that. So, most of you know that the thing I say all the time is “It’s a beautiful day to do hard things.” Our brains naturally default to this idea of like, “No, I shouldn’t do the hard thing. I should do the easy thing.” Marketing keeps telling us don’t do the hard thing, do the easy thing. Commercial advertising is always sharing the easy five-step way to do something. And we want to flip the script because while it’s good to have things be easy, when it comes to anxiety and these kind of conditions that we’re often talking about, it’s often important that you stare that scary, hard thing in the face. 

Now, that is the perfect segue into this week’s episode about sensations. Now, at the beginning of the episode, I said it’s crazy that I haven’t done a lot of these episodes because sensations is 20% of the work. Now, why did I say that? In total, the clients that I see and that my staff see in our private practice, they’re coming to us for one of five reasons usually. They either have an intrusive thought that they don’t know what to do with, they have an intrusive feeling that they don’t know what to do with, they have an intrusive urge that they don’t know what to do with, they have an intrusive image that they don’t know what to do with, or they have an intrusive sensation that they don’t know what to do with. Five things. 

99.9% of our patients and of the people that we help come with one of those five problems. It doesn’t matter what you call it. They’re coming with, “This is the experience that I’m having.” That’s so overwhelming and difficult and hard that then they go on to do behaviors to try and manage it, and we teach them how to manage those five things in a way that doesn’t require them to do the behaviors that cause them trouble. 

So, let me give you a little more information about that. So, when we’re talking about sensations, we’re talking about-- let’s first get a definition. What is a sensation? A sensation is a physical feeling or a perception resulting from something that happens or that comes into contact with the body. So, really what we’re saying is a sensation is an experience you have in your body and it’s very specific. So often when I’ll say to a client, “Okay, how can I help?” they’ll say, “Well, I’m anxious.” And I’ll say, “Okay, tell me about your anxiety.” And they’ll then usually go on to say, “Well, I’m having these thoughts,” or “I’m having these feelings,” or “I’m having these urges. I’m having these images,” or “I’m having these sensations, and I don’t like it. They make me uncomfortable.” And when I have them, I do these again, like I said, behaviors that kept me into a ton of trouble. Meaning they’ve got big consequences. 

So, often a sensation we consider to be an obsession, just like an intrusive thought, is an obsession. It’s as relevant. And it’s important if someone has anxiety for us to go, “Okay.” This is a common question. If you were my client, this is a common question I ask. I’ll say, “Imagine that I’m an alien and I’ve never, ever once in my life experienced anxiety, and I want you to tell me what it feels like because it doesn’t make any sense to me.” And often clients will struggle with this because they’ll be like, “Well, I just have anxiety.” And I’ll say, “No, we need to understand what specifically, how do you specifically know you’re anxious?” “Oh, I have tightening in my chest or I have shortness of breath, or I have a lump in my throat or I have these butterflies in my tummy.” So, immediately, once we get that, we’re like, “Okay, now we know what we’re dealing with. Okay, now we have specific sensations and now we can develop tools around them so that when you have them, you don’t either engage in avoidant compulsions or physical compulsions or mental rumination or reassurance or self-punishment.” So important. 

Now, let’s slow down here a little and look at what that looks like for many of my patients and many of you. So, this is not scientific, what I’m about to tell you. This is really just coming off of my stream of consciousness and my experience as a clinician, is I’ve broken them down into four main sensations that my patients report to me. Again, this is not a clinical list. So, I want to preface. I don’t want to ever mislead you into thinking this is scientific. But often one of the sensations that people will feel are physical experiences of anxiety, like I listed. It could be butterflies in your tummy, tightness in your chest, as I just said, and I’ve listed them off. 

The next one is specific sensations around what we call depersonalization and derealization. I’ve done full episodes on those in the past. So, go back and check them out. But this is the experience of this weird feeling. The sensation is like, everything feels strange. I feel like distorted, like I’m in a daydream. It feels very hazy and strange, or I feel like I’m outside of my body. Now while we have words to describe derealization and depersonalization, they are also at their most basic form of sensation, a basic sensation. So, I put that in its own category. 

The next one is similar to anxiety and derealization and to personalization, but I’ve put them under the category of panic. Now, the reason that it’s so important for us to talk about sensations is, people who have panic disorder are very sensitive to the sensations that they have because panic is such a 10 out of 10 anxiety. So, it’s like can’t breathe, racing thoughts, major overwhelmed, dizzy, sweating. These are all sensations. These are all things that we perceive or we experience in our body. 

And then the last one is physical pain. This is a sensation too. When you physically have pain, a tummy ache, that’s also a sensation. 

Now, let’s talk about why I separated those, because I’ll give you a really perfect example of how this gets messy. Most of you know that I have postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, which is symptoms of dizziness, lightheadedness, headaches, stomach troubles. And often if you stand for too long, you faint. Now, what does that sound very similar to? You guys are probably laughing at me already. Anxiety. It looks exactly like anxiety except the fainting piece, dizziness, lightheadedness, stomach aches, headaches. So similar. And so, when we have, and this is where it gets difficult, when we have a chronic illness or if we have health anxiety, when we experience a sensation, sometimes we can’t figure out whether it’s real pain and real threat or if it’s anxiety. 

The thing to remember here is the response needs to be similar. So, for me, when I had dizziness and lightheadedness, yes, of course, I’m not going to push myself to a place where I pass out, but I’m going to first stop and go, “Hmm, let me try to dip into these sensations. Instead of catastrophizing them as this is terrible and bad things are going to happen, I wonder what would happen if I just labeled them as a sensation.” 

The thing here is, when we have sensations, and you’re having them right now, believe it or not. It could be an itch. It could be a muscle that’s sore from a workout you had, it could be a stomach ache because you just ate an amazing dinner and you just had a little more than you wish you had, or you’re having anxiety. We all have them. Where we often get into trouble is when we label them as good or bad. So, that’s the main point here first. Are you labeling your sensations as good or bad? 

When I would have my POTS symptoms, I get dizzy. At the beginning, I go, “This is bad, this is bad. Bad things are happening,” which would then give me anxiety, which would make it worse. And now I’ve got this hot mess. Massive hot mess. Same for people with health anxiety. They have tightness in the chest and they go, “Oh my God, I’m dying. I’m having a stroke,” or “I’m having a heart attack.” And when we label it as bad, we get more anxiety, which makes it worse, and now we’re in a cycle. If you’re having a panic disorder and you’re starting to notice that small little tingle of anxiety coming up, this like whoosh of anxiety that whooshes over you when we have a panic attack, and you label this as, “Oh, this is bad, this is terrible. I got to get it to go away,” you can bet your bottom dollar, it’s actually going to feed you more anxiety. So, question whether you are labeling your sensations as good or bad.

Now I’m guessing some of you are thinking, “Well, Kimberley, of course, I’m going to label it as bad. It is bad. It’s terrible. I don’t like it.” And I get you. But we’re here to learn. We’re here to grow. We’re here to recover. So, I want you to think beyond that judgment and look at first the judgment doesn’t help you. Whether it’s true or not, it’s not helpful. It makes it worse. So, let’s work at being nonjudgmental about the sensations that we have. 

The response we have to your sensations can determine whether you get stuck in a cycle of having more discomfort. Let me rephrase that in a different way to make an even bigger point. The response you have to your sensations can determine whether you have anxiety about them in the future. Because if you treat the sensations today like they’re dangerous and harmful and they require immediate emergency, you’re training your brain to perceive those sensations as scary and bad and dangerous. And so next time you have them, your brain is going to send out a whole bunch more anxiety. So important. 

I’ve had my share of panic attacks in my life, but when I have them and if I’m like, “Oh, dear God, please don’t,” I know my brain is going, “What, what, what? What’s wrong, Kimberley? Why are you telling me this is terrible? Okay, it is terrible. I’ll keep sending out anxiety.” But when I can respond by going, “Good one, brain. It’s cool. There’s no amount of sensations I can’t tolerate. It’s fine. I’m going to ride it out.” Again, we don’t know how to bypass it with positivity by going, “It’s great. I love it.” We’re not saying that. But we are saying if we can reframe the sensation as tolerable and manageable, you’re less likely to have anxiety about the sensation tomorrow.

Now, I know a lot of you may be asking, “But how do I know when it’s something to just be uncertain and nonjudgmental about or when I should rush to the hospital and so forth?” Number one, you’ll know. But the other piece, I don’t want to discard you on that one because that’s hard to say, especially if you have anxiety, especially OCD and health anxiety. But the other thing is, for me, if I’m having it and I’ll use me as an example, if I’m having dizziness and lightheadedness, which could be anxiety or it could be my POTS, I just keep on the deferring. I keep on deferring like, “Okay, can I just stay with it nonjudgmental for another few minutes?” If I’m getting to feel really horrible, of course, I’m going to sit down and take a rest. I’m not going to push through and be unkind. But I just keep being curious. Could I it do a little longer? Could I have a little more? Could I be nonjudgmental for another few minutes? 

It’s so important because when it comes to anxiety, the way in which we respond to the sensations is as important as how we respond to intrusive thoughts. Particularly like I said, if you’ve got depersonalization, derealization, panic disorder, physical pain, generalized anxiety, health anxiety, so important. If it’s social anxiety, it’s a big one because a lot of people with social anxiety have an aversion to the sensation of being flushed in their cheeks. But if you respond to your cheeks flushed as bad, you’re probably going to get more of it. It’s paradoxical.

Now, here is one other point I want to make before we finish up, which is there is no sensation you can’t ride out. This was a huge one for me because I’ve had anxiety and I’ve had some pretty bad chronic illnesses. If I go into the day telling myself, “I won’t be able to handle it,” I usually have anxiety about the day. Have you noticed that? I know you can’t answer back, but I really want you to consider the question. Do you notice that in your experience? When you tell yourself “I can’t handle things,” does that actually then create more anxiety for you? And sometimes more depression too, if I can be completely honest. 

Last week, we did a whole episode on depression. I think it’s really important to recognize that. Even I should say other sensations are like depression, that’s that sinking, dark, gray sensation that goes with having depression. I should put that there as the fifth type because that’s a sensation that can be scary too. Grief can be an experience that-- there are sensations associated with grief that feel intolerable. But when we tell ourselves we can’t tolerate them, we actually then create more anxiety and depression. So, these are things to think about when it comes to sensations. 

Now, if you were in an office with me or one of my staff, we are most likely to say, at the end of the day, you’re going to have to say, “Bring it on.” Once you identify the sensation, it really comes to, do you avoid it or do you say it’s a beautiful day to do this hard thing, to experience this hard thing? And so, we would say, “Bring it on.”

Now, in ERP School, we talk about this. I probably should do an episode on this. Let me just actually write myself a note to episode on this. If someone really comes to our office with a stronger aversion to certain sensations, we do what we call interoceptive exposures. We talk about this in ERP School. It’s an online course. But an interoceptive exposure is where we purposely expose you to the sensation that you’re avoiding. 

So, examples might be, if you really don’t like dizziness and you’re doing things to avoid dizziness, we would sit you in our chair and we would spin you around 30 times and then we’d walk the hallway ways with you while you’re dizzy. 

If you’re afraid of shortness of breath, we would give you a very small straw. One of those straws that you use to stir your coffee with, and we would have you practice breathing through that so that you, on purpose, tolerate the feeling of having shortness of breath. 

If you really don’t like the feeling of shortness of breath, like tightness in your chest, we might wrap a bandage around your chest, so tight that it feels like you can’t breathe, just for a few minutes. We’re not here to torture you. But these are examples of interoceptive exposures that we do because not only are we like “Bring it on,” we’re like, “Let’s have more of it.” Let’s practice doing it so we can practice nonjudgment, we can practice non-aversion. We can practice saying I can handle this and learning that we can handle this is cool. So, so cool. That’s the thing. 

So, depending on where you are and how severe you are in your aversion to sensations, there are multiple ways you can respond. I want you just to use this episode as an opportunity for you to check in, where are you in respect to your experience with sensations? Do you have aversion to them? How willing are you to feel them? Questions are my favorite, you guys. You know this about me. So, ask yourself these questions. So important. 

All right. That is it for sensations. I hope that is helpful. I know I took you on a couple of meandering tangents there, but I hope you stayed with me. I love talking to you about this stuff and I hope that that did give you some clarity on how you may handle it in the future. 

All right. I will see you next week. Have a wonderful, wonderful day, and don’t forget, it’s a beautiful day to do hard things. I’ll talk to you later.

Jul 1, 2022

SUMMARY

A few months ago, I posted on social media and asked “What are your best tips for depression” and the response was incredible.  Hundreds of people weighed in and shared their best tips for managing depression with OCD and other anxiety disorders.  

In This Episode: 

  • Hundreds of people with depression shared what skills they use to manage OCD and depression 
  • What skills can become compulsions 
  • How to manage day-to-day depression when you are feeling hopeless (OCD hopelessness) 

Links To Things I Talk About:

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 291.

Welcome back, everybody. So, I want to set the scene here because things are shifting. Things have shifted. So, I am right now sitting in my office, which is in Southern California, in the United States. But as this launches and goes live, I will be in Australia for the summer. I think I’ve talked to you guys about this in previous episodes, but my husband and I made a decision that the children and I will go to Australia to see our family for the entire summer. Oh my goodness, what a huge undertaking, but we’re doing it and I am so excited. So, really, I’ve had to batch 10 episodes ahead of time. 

Now, what I’ve done is I’ve done my best to make these the best episodes I can batch for you, like the things that seem to be coming up the most for my clients, the questions my staff seem to be asking the most, and the things that everyone seem to be really, really liking and appreciating on social media.

And so, in preparation for today, I was thinking about what’s one of the most helpful, most enjoyed, and engaged posts on social media, because I do spend a lot of time over on Instagram. And by far, interestingly by far, my most popular post I have ever made in the whole history of me being on social media is tips on managing depression. What? I’m an OCD and an Anxiety Specialist, but yet my most popular post in the whole time I’ve been there is on managing depression. So, that’s what we’re talking about today. 

Now, in order for me to do 10 posts, 10 podcasts, excuse me, in order, I’ve had to manage my time down to the minute because right now we are leaving in 18-- no, what is it? Not 18 days. It’s like 15 days. So, we’re leaving in 15 days. I have all of this in addition to the work because I usually just do these here and there. I’ve had to manage my time, and what I have relied on the most is managing my time using what we call “calendaring.” I talk a lot about this on my online course. If you go to CBT School, we have a whole course on managing time. 

But the reason I also share that with you is as we talk about skills today, we’re going to be talking about cognitive skills and behavioral skills. And if you have depression, I strongly encourage you to go and sign up for that course. It’s not an expensive course. It’s jam-packed with how to schedule your time so that you can lessen the heavy load that you’re carrying or the time about the lists of things you have to do and get done. So, I do recommend you go check that out. Go to CBTSchool.com and I think it’s /time management. Yes, it is. 

We’re about to get into the show. First of all, let’s do the “I did a hard thing.” This one is from Anonymous and it says:

“I stopped driving and spending time with children because of OCD. But yesterday, I drove my little sister to school. I was scared, but I’m so proud of myself. Thank you, Kimberley.”

This is so good. I can’t tell you how many people when they’re anxious, they stop driving. It’s actually a really common question I get on social media. It actually surprised me at first in that how common it is. It’s one of the first things people stop doing, is driving. So, Anonymous, amazing. You are just all for the correct courage and all for the bravery and I’m celebrating you right now. That is so, so amazing. Great, great job. 

And one more thing, let’s do quickly a review of the week. This is from Robin. Robin says:

“I’m not sure how to condense all of my happiness and thanks, but I’ll try. Was recommended to listen to your podcast by my therapist (who is just superb and I’m grateful she exists) and I instantly fell in love with your genuine desire to help which seeps through the sound waves. I am hooked on the real-life stories that I can connect to my own experience and have gotten my sister hooked as well who struggles with anxiety as I do. Thank you for your tools and support!”

Thank you, Robin, for that amazing review. Please do go over. And if you listen to the podcast, leave a review. It does help me help other people and more than ever, that is my biggest mission. 

Ep 291 Tips for managing depression Your anxiety toolkit

 

Tips to Manage Depression (From Hundreds Who Have Been There) 

All right, let’s do it. So, let me just give you a little bit deeper context here. So, what I did is I did a poll on social media. So, just to give you some context, I have around 75,000 followers on social media. So, I posted: “Please just give me your best tips for managing depression.” Hundreds of people wrote in and the reason-- I don’t give you the numbers because I’m bragging. I want you to know this is not just from me. This is from hundreds of people who weighed in, who’ve been there, who’ve had depression and they shared little nuggets of what has helped them. And I want to-- in fact, we actually had to split this post into two because there was just so many submissions that we couldn’t fit them all in one post. So, here we go. 

The number one tip for managing depression and these aren’t in order, by the way, this is not the one that was most popular. This is just as we went through, these were the ones that seemed to be really coming up for the same a lot of people. The first one is-- this is going to be a fun one for you, is many people reported that having a dog or a cat or a pet helped them to feel like they had a purpose in the world, that they were there to take care of someone, and that that pet gave them an incredible amount of love. 

I loved this one. What was interesting, I’ll give you feedback right away, is there was a little controversy and feedback around this. A lot of people were saying, “Please don’t encourage people to get a pet just because they’re depressed. Taking on a pet is a huge responsibility.” There was a little controversy, a little backlash, I would say, over that point. But I really do agree that those who do have a pet and can commit to taking on a pet have found that that’s really helpful for their mental health. Most people said having a pet is the most mindful they are in the day when they’re petting their pet, feeding their pet, cuddling with their pet, listening to their pet, and so forth. So, that I thought was an amazing, amazing tip or thing you could practice. 

Number two, probably again, one of the most important from a clinical perspective is exercise. Now, yes, I know, it’s hard to exercise when you’re depressed, but we do have a ton of research to show that exercise is in fact as effective as an SSRI. Not to say you shouldn’t be on an SSRI. I actually am on all four meds. But exercise is an additional benefit. And so, I strongly encourage everyone to at least get out. It doesn’t have to be strenuous, but around 25 minutes was what most people who have depression said, that was the ideal amount. If you get to that point, you actually get more benefit, which I thought was really cool. 

The next one is: Practice mindfulness. Now again, so helpful. If you have depression, usually, I’m going to guess, your mind tells you a lot of lies, a lot of horrible lies, a lot of absolute painful lies. And a big part of managing it is using what we call mindful-based cognitive therapy. And so, what we mean by that is, first, we are aware and we just observe thoughts as thoughts. We don’t take thoughts as facts. And then the cognitive therapy side is once we identify that we’ve had a thought, we may actually stop to correct it. So, if your brain says, there’s no point, you’re a waste of space or the future is going to be nothing but terrible or my life is nothing but terrible – when it tells us these lies, we can actually stop and go, “Okay, now, number one, that’s a thought and I’m going to observe that thought nonjudgmentally.” And then you can also go, “Okay, let’s actually check the evidence for that depressive thought. Hmm, do I bring purpose into the world? Is the world going to be terrible?” and look for maybe some holes in this theory and start to be curious about whether that’s in fact correct. It’s so important. Mindfulness. I personally think these two, the exercise and the mindfulness, are key, are major keys to managing depression.

The next one that was suggested by a lot of people was to talk to family and friends, even if they don’t fully understand. And I loved that little caveat to go on. As much as depression makes you want to isolate and shut down, make sure that you are going and you’re just connecting with them. You’re talking with them, you’re sharing what you’re going through, even if they don’t understand, because the truth is they won’t. Even if they’ve been through what you’ve been through, they won’t fully get it. They’re not the ones getting fed the lies of depression like you are. Or if you’re a family member, I want you to understand it’s really not helpful to say to someone with depression, “I totally get what you’re going through,” because the chances are you don’t. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t relate on some level. That doesn’t mean we can’t connect and support each other. So, important. So, so important. 

This one was an interesting one. And I want to-- some of these surprised me, but lots of people reported that attending couples therapy, couples counseling, if you’re in a relationship, was helpful for their depression. Now, I wonder if that is because maybe their relationship was a part of what’s very difficult for them, but I can see the benefit in that. I don’t talk about this very often, but I personally love couples counseling. I have no problem admitting that we’ve been to couples counseling before. It is thebomb.com. It is such a beautiful thing to do with your partner. Is it hard? Yes. Is it bumpy? Yes. But there’s something really cool about knowing that you’re showing up to the same place every week with the same goal, which is to strengthen your relationship. That in and of itself is just really, really cool. And a lot of people responded saying that that was really helpful for their depression, which I thought was really cool. 

Next one, you guys aren’t going to be shocked by this, and I definitely wasn’t, which was to practice self-compassion. You guys, depression is nasty. It tells you nasty. I’m doing everything I can not to swear here, but it’s like BS. It tells you such nasty BS. And one of the best insurance policies against that, or one of the best defenders against that, or I should say offense, the offense against that is to practice compassion for yourself, to practice being kind and respectful and being tender to the suffering that you’re experiencing. Because believe me, I do know, I’ve experienced depression throughout different parts of my life. It’s horrible and it feels-- the only way I can explain it is you can’t understand it when you’re in depression because you’re in depression. But once you’re out of the depression, for me, it felt like someone had pulled this gray veil off my head that I didn’t even know was there until I’d come out of a depression by going to a lot of therapy and so forth. And I was like, “Whoa, I had no idea everything was under a gray veil until the gray veil was lifted.” So, that compassion piece is really important because I didn’t know the depression was there until the depression had lifted, if that makes any sense. And had I known it, I probably would’ve been much, much, much kinder to myself. 

Next point, I love this. It’s very similar to what we talked about before, but it says, no matter how much you don’t want to, get up and move your body. Now, I could have easily put this under the category of exercise. But a lot of the comments weren’t-- this wasn’t talking about exercise. It was saying, stand up and stretch was one of them. Just stand up and swing your body around, move it around, get into the flow, let the blood flow around your body. And they were saying that that is a shift in mentality. It’s a shift in mindset. I know even today as I’m recording all these episodes, I’m going to need to practice this, because if I just stay here and I stare into this microphone and I’m looking at the screen, my brain is going to get a little distorted and strange. I’m going to have to go upstairs, shake it off, get a cup of tea, move around. And so, I love that they distinguish this separate from exercise.

Next point, oh my gosh, this is gold right here. It says, do something you used to enjoy. Now, when we’re depressed, often nothing feels enjoyable. Even food isn’t enjoyable anymore, or company might not be enjoyable. The things you used to love, the vibe is gone. But what a lot of people were saying, and this is again from people who’ve had depression and managed it, is they were saying, whether or not you enjoy it now, continue to do the things you used to enjoy, but also spread out. 

This is one thing I didn’t mention here, is a lot of people said, be curious about little things that you used to enjoy that you never really developed as a hobby. So, an example would be, I think somebody said something to the likes of like, I used to love hopscotch. Of course, they loved it when they were very, very little. So, as they got older, of course, they stopped playing hopscotch into their adulthood. But they were like, “I literally wrote down a list of everything I used to enjoy and I just did it, whether I’ve done it for 40 years or not.” So, little things. It doesn’t have to be grand things. It doesn’t have to be hobbies. It could be going, “I remember as a kid, I used to love boba or whatever.” Go and get some. Do the things you used to enjoy, even if they’re teeny tiny. 

Another huge group of people said sunlight. Sunlight is a huge part of managing depression. Now, thank goodness for these, my community, because if I was putting together a podcast or managing depression, I would’ve completely forgotten about the people who have seasonal affective depression because I live in California and I wouldn’t have thought of that. But so many of my followers are from all around the world and hundreds of people responded saying, you have to get sunlight. You have to get exposure, UV lights. There are all these really cool exposure lights that you can talk to your doctor about getting. So, thank you to everyone who wrote this in because I would’ve forgotten that. 

And for me too, what I will say is I work indoors a lot. I work at my desk a lot. Most of you know I am running two separate businesses at once. My private practice and CBT School. So, the days where I don’t just-- even if it’s go outside and sit in the sun while I have a cup of tea for 10 minutes, I do notice a shift in my mood. Again, don’t do too much. We don’t want you to get sunburn. We don’t want you to have too many exposures to UV rays. But I do believe there’s such a benefit for mental health. 

Okay, next one. This one is amazing. So, many people wrote some variation of this, but we pulled it into this one point, which is write a list of “I can” statements. Meaning, when you’re depressed, depression will tell you can’t. “You can’t do that. You can’t do this. What’s the point of doing that? You can’t. Don’t do it. You won’t do it. Don’t do it.” And so, a lot of people were talking about writing a list of either your strengths or your characteristics or things that you can do. And I think that that is such an amazing shift – to write a list of I can’s. I can work out. I can call my friend. I can get some sun today. I can go to therapy. I can play with my dog. It’s very similar to the term “should.” That simple move of saying “I should exercise” to “I could exercise” like “I should be kinder to myself,” or you could say, “I could be kinder to myself,” those small shifts in sentences can make such a difference. So, I like either of those.

Next one, appreciate the little things you do for yourself. You might start to see a trend here. When you’re depressed, the big stuff feels really hard. So, you got to zoom in on the little stuff. And they were saying, appreciate the little things you do for yourself. So, an example might be, “It’s really nice that you made yourself a cup of tea before you recorded these podcasts, Kimberley,” or “Wow, it was kind of you that you bathed today. Great job. Making sure you ate breakfast. Great job. Getting out of bed today.” Often with depression, we go, “Oh, that’s stupid. Why would I celebrate getting out of bed? Everyone gets out of bed. I’m such a loser because I can’t get out of bed.” I mean, that’s the mindset of someone with depression. And so, we want to shift that away from such critical voices and going, “Good job you got out of bed. That’s a big deal when you’re depressed. Good job on brushing your teeth when you’re depressed. That’s a big deal. Good job on saying no to that thing you didn’t want to do. That’s a big deal.” Really, really important. 

I have three left. The third last one is, take your medication. Hundreds of people wrote this in and I just loved it. It filled me with joy because whether you choose to take medication or not is entirely your decision. But 10 years ago, I remember when I was-- 15 years ago when I was starting to do my internship, there was this article. I think it was like a USA Today article or something, and it was talking like, let’s take the stigma out of medication. And so, great. We’re starting to have those conversations. But to see now how the response was of like, “Just take your medication,” it just really made me feel joyful that maybe that means there’s a little less stigma about it, and I really hope that I help you to take the stigma out. 

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking medication. In fact, I’ll tell you a quick story about myself, when I-- you’ll probably remember I went through a period in 2019 and 2020 where I was very, very sick and I had severe depression alongside it. And I remember the doctor saying, “Okay, we’ll prescribe you such and such for this condition and such and such. And we’ll prescribe you an SSRI for your depression.” And he didn’t really even ask if I was depressed, he just prescribed it. And I was like, “What? You didn’t even ask me if I was depressed.” And he goes, “No, no. Most people who have POTS,” I have pots, “they get depressed.” And I was like, “Huh, that’s interesting.” And I thought to myself, okay, I don’t-- for a second, I thought, no, I don’t really need it. But then I was like, “You know what? What a gift to give myself the help. If it’s going to help, I’m going to do it. What a gift.” Not that I’m at all encouraging you to take medication, but I just want to share with you my experience. I could have seen it as like, “Oh, I’m so bad. That’s weak and that’s lazy and I should try without it.” But I was like, “You know what? I’m really not well. I’m going to take all the help. And if one form of the help is to take a pill, I’m going to take a pill.” I’m not going to tell myself a story that that’s lazy. In fact, I’m going to say that’s pretty badass, that I would accept the help. I’ll get going. Sorry, I had to tell you that really important story from my perspective. 

All right. Two to go. Second last one: Surround yourself with people who help keep sight of what’s important. This is important. If you’re depressed and you’re surrounded by people, whether it’s physically or on social media, people who are very materialistic or they are striving towards things that actually make your depression worse, find different people. You want to find yourself around people who strive for similar things that are aligned with your recovery. 

I’ll tell you again a different story. As a business person, I love business. I really do. I love being a therapist, but if I wasn’t a therapist, I’d go to business school because I just love it. But I notice that if I’m hanging around with other people who are business-minded, it can get really icky and the messages can get really gross. And I can find myself falling into this trap of winning and wanting more. I was finding that I was starting to be hard on myself until I caught this and was like, “Whoa, I need to unfollow these people because this is not good for my mental health. I need to surround myself with people who have the same goals, like what’s important as their goal.” And that was really, really monumental for me. So, do an inventory of your friends, your family, your social media, your colleagues, and try to only surround yourself with people who support your recovery. 

Last one is, when you’re having this feeling, don’t numb it out. I’m leaving this at the end. I probably should have put it at the front, but don’t numb it out. It’s okay. Sometimes you will need to turn your brain off and watch some TV. But if that’s all you’re doing to manage your depression, the chances are you’re going to get more depressed. That’s why I keep talking about scheduling and calendaring. Because often when we’re depressed, we want to just stay in bed and numb the feeling out. Sleep all day, watch TV just to numb the depression. But that only makes it worse. And this is the behavioral piece of managing depression, which is one of the gold standard treatments for depression is what we call time blocking or activity scheduling so that you schedule your day. Nothing heavy, nothing crazy. But you do that so that in doing that, you actually reduce your depression because you feel accomplished and you don’t feel like the day was a complete waste. Again, there’s a balance. You don’t want to overschedule, but you do want to engage in the day. You want to make sure that you’ve got things planned. So, don’t numb. Try to activity schedule. 

If you need help with that, head over to CBTSchool/-- sorry, you’ll go to products and then there’ll be time management there, or CBTSchool/timemanagement. You can learn that in that course. It’s a really pretty cheap course and it’s pretty quick. It’s like a two-hour course and I walk you through exactly how I do it. 

All right. So, that’s it. There are tips for managing depression. There’s like 12, maybe 15 of them. They’re from hundreds of people who have been there. I just love this community so much. If you haven’t followed me on social media, head over to Instagram under Your anxiety Toolkit, and I’ll be there. Thank you. 

All right. Have a wonderful day. I will see you next week. Next week, we’re talking about sensations and anxiety and panic. So, I’ll see you there. Have a good one, everyone.

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