Your Anxiety Toolkit - Anxiety & OCD Strategies for Everyday

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Now displaying: January, 2023
Jan 27, 2023

One of the most common questions I get asked is what do I do during or after an exposure? 

Number One, it’s so scary to do an exposure, and number two, there’s so many things that people have brought up as things to do, even me, this being Your Anxiety Toolkit. Maybe you get overwhelmed with the opportunity and options for tools that it gets too complicated. So, I want to make this super easy for you, and I want to go through step by step, like what you’re supposed to do during or after an exposure.

Now, I think it’s important that we first look at, there is no right. You get to choose, and I’m going to say that all the way through here, but I’m going to give you some really definitive goals to be going forward with as you do an exposure, as you face your fear. Now, make sure you stick around to the end because I will also address some of the biggest roadblocks I hear people have with the skills that I’m going to share. 

321 What do I do after (and during) exposures

Now, a lot of you know, I have ERP School if you have OCD and I have Overcoming Anxiety and Panic if you have panic, and I have BFRB School if you have hair pulling and skin picking. These are all basically courses of me teaching you exactly what I teach my patients. So, if you want a deeper in-depth study of that, you can, by all means, get the steps there of how to build an exposure plan, how to build a response prevention plan. Today, I’m going to complement that work and talk about what to do during and after an exposure. So here we go. 

Let’s say you already know what you’re going to face. Like I said, you’ve already created an exposure plan. You understand the cycle of the disorder or the struggle that you are handling, and you’ve really identified how you’re going to break that cycle and you’ve identified the fear that you’re going to face. Or just by the fact of nature being the nature, you’ve been spontaneously exposed to your fear. What do you do?

Now, let’s recap the core concepts that we talk about here all the time on Your Anxiety Toolkit, which is, number one, what we want to do is practice tolerating whatever discomfort you experience. What does that mean? It means being open and compassionate and vulnerable as you experience discomfort in your body. A lot of people will say, “But what am I supposed to do?” And this is where I’m going to say, this is very similar to me trying to teach you how to ride a bike on this podcast. Or I’ll tell you a story. My 11-year-old daughter was sassing me the other day and I was telling her I wanted her to unpack the dishwasher, and she said, “How?” She was just giving me sass, joking with me. And I was saying to her, “Well, you raise your hand up and you open your fist and you put your hand over the top of the dishwasher and you pull with your muscles down towards your--” I’m trying giving her like silly-- we’re joking with each other, like step by step.

Now, it’s very hard to learn how to do that by just words. Usually—let’s go back to the bike example—you have to get on the bike and feel the sensation of falling to know what to do to counter the fall as you start to lean to the left or lean to the right. And so, when it comes to willingly tolerating your discomfort, it actually just requires you practicing it, and if I’m going to be quite honest with you, sucking at it, because you will suck at it. We all suck at being uncomfortable. But then working at knowing how to counter that discomfort. Again, you’re on the bike, you’re starting to feel yourself move to the right and learning to lean to the left a little to balance it out. And that’s what learning how to be uncomfortable is about too. It’s having the discomfort, noticing in your body it’s tightening, and learning to do the opposite of that tightening. It is very similar to learning how to ride a bike. And it’s very similar in that it’s not just a cognitive behavior, it’s a physical thing. It’s noticing, “Oh, I’m tight.” For me, as I get anxious, I always bring my shoulders up and it’s learning to counter that by dropping them down. So, it’s tolerating discomfort. 

Now, often beyond that-- I’m going to give you some more strategy here in a second. But beyond that, it’s actually quite simple in that you go and do whatever it is that you would be doing if you hadn’t faced this hard thing. 

Here is an example. The other week during the holidays, one of my family members-- I’ll tell you the story. My mom and dad took a trip to Antarctica. This is a dream trip for them. They’re very well-traveled and they were going through what’s called the Drake Passage, which is this very scary passage of water. It took them 36 hours to sail through it and it can be very dangerous. And I noticed that the anxiety I was feeling in my body about the uncertainty of where they are and how far they’ve got to go and are they safe and all these things is I was sitting on the couch and I wasn’t engaging in anything. My kids were trying to talk to me and I was blowing them off. And I was scrolling on my phone instead of doing the things I needed to do. I was stuck and I was holding myself in this stuckness because I didn’t want to let go of the fear, but I did want to let go of the fear. It was this really weird thing where I was just stuck in a sense of freeze mode. And I had to remind myself, “Kimberley, they’re sailing through the Drake Passage. There’s nothing you can do. Go and live your life. Holding yourself on this couch is not going to change any outcome. You thinking about it is not going to change any outcome. Just go ahead with your life.”

And so, what I want to offer to you is—I’ve said this to my patients as well when they say, “What am I supposed to do now? I’ve done the exposure. What am I supposed to do?”—I say, do nothing at all. Just go about your day. What would you do if anxiety wasn’t here? What would you be doing if you didn’t do this exposure? What would the non-anxious you go and do? And as you do that-- so let’s say you’re like, “Well, I need to do the dishes or I need to unpack the dishwasher,” as you do that, you will notice discomfort rise and fall. And just like riding a bike, you are going to practice not contracting to it. Just like if you were riding a bike and you started to lean to the right, you would be practicing gently leading to the left. And if you go too far to the left, you would practice gently leading to the right. And that’s the work of being uncomfortable.

Now, you’re not here to make the discomfort go away. You’re here to practice willingly allowing it and not tensing up against it while you go and live your life. And I literally could leave the podcast there. I could sign off right now and be like, “That’s all I need you to know,” because that is all I need you to know, is practice not contracting. Meaning not tensing your muscles, not trying to think it away, fight it away, push it away. What you’re really doing is allowing there to be uncertainty in your life or discomfort or anxiety in your life and just go and do what you love to do. 

To be honest, the biggest finger, like the bird, I don’t know what you call it. Like the biggest in-your-face to anxiety, whatever anxiety you’re suffering, is to go and live your life. And so, I could leave it at that, but because I want to be as thorough as I can, I want to just check in here with a couple of things that you need to know. Often when, and we go through this extensively in ERP School and in Overcoming Anxiety and Panic, is when you are uncomfortable, there are a set of general behaviors that humans engage in that you need to get good at recognizing and create a plan for. And these are the things we usually do to make our discomfort go away. So, the first one is a physical compulsion. “I’m uncomfortable. How can I get it to go away? I’ll engage in a behavior.” 

So, remember here that exposures are really only as good as the response prevention. Now for those of you who don’t know what response prevention is, it’s ultimately not doing a behavior to reduce or remove the discomfort you feel that’s resulted from the exposure. So, you do an exposure, you’re uncomfortable, what behaviors would you usually do to make that discomfort go away? Response prevention is not doing those behaviors. 

So, the first one is physical compulsions. So, if you notice that you’re doing these physical repetitive behaviors, chances are, you’re doing a compulsion of what we call a safety behavior and you’re doing them to make the discomfort go away. So, we want to catch and be aware of those. 

We also want to be aware of avoidance. Often people will say, “Okay, I faced the scary thing, but I don’t want to make it any worse so I’m going to avoid these other things until this discomfort goes away.” Now, first of all, I’m going to say, good job. That’s a really good start. But we want to work at not doing that avoidant behavior during or after the exposure as well. In addition, we want to work at not doing reassurance-seeking behaviors during or after an exposure. 

So, an example that that might be, let’s say you’re facing your fear of going to the doctor. But as you’re facing your fear of going to the doctor, you’re sitting there going through WebMD or any other health Google search engine and you’re trying to take away your discomfort by searching and researching and getting reassurance or texting a friend going, “Are you sure I’m going to be okay? Are you sure bad things aren’t going to happen?”

Now, one of the things that are the most hardest to stop when you’ve done an exposure or during an exposure is mental compulsions. So, I want to slow down here for you and I want to say, this is a work in progress. We’re going to take any win that we can and celebrate it, but also acknowledge that we can slowly work to reduce these mental compulsions. Now a mental compulsion is rumination, problem-solving, thinking, thinking, thinking. Like I said to you, when I was on the couch, I was just sitting there going over all the scenarios going, “I wonder if they’re going up or down or what they’re doing. And I hope they’re avoiding the big waves and I hope they’re not stuck and I hope they’re not scared and I hope they’re okay.” All the things. All that I hope they are was me doing mental compulsions. 

And so, you won’t be able to prevent these all the time. But for me, it was observing again, when I’m contracting. The contraction in this case was mental rumination. And then again, just like a bike, noticing, I’m focusing in, very, very zoomed in on this one thing. How can I zoom out, just like it would be leaning from left to right if I was riding a bike—zoom out into what’s actually happening, which is my son’s right in front of me asking me to play Minecraft or play Pokemon or whatever it is that he was asking, and the dishes need doing. And I would really love to read some poetry right now because that’s what I love to do. 

So, it’s catching that and being aware of that. And again, it’s not something I can teach you, it’s something you have to practice and learn for yourself in that awareness of, “Ooh, I’m contracting. Ooh, I’m zooming in. I need to zoom out and look at the big picture here. I need to look at what my values are, engage in what I want to be doing right now.”

The last way that we contract is self-punishment. We start to just beat ourselves up. So, you did the exposure, you’re feeling uncertain, you might be feeling other emotions like guilt and shame and embarrassment and all the emotions. And so, in effort to avoid that, we just beat ourselves up. 

I have a client who does amazing exposures, but once they’ve done the exposure, they beat themselves up for not having done the exposure earlier. It’s like, ouch. Wow. So, you’re doing this amazing thing, facing this amazing fear, practicing not contracting, doing actually a pretty good job, but then engaging in punishing themselves. “Why didn’t I do this earlier? I should have done this years ago. I could have saved myself so much suffering. I could have recovered earlier. I could have gotten to college earlier. I could have succeeded more.” Again, that’s a contraction that we do during exposure to fight or react to the fact that you have discomfort in your body. 

And what I really want to offer you, again, let’s go back to basics—this is just about you learning to be a safe place while you have discomfort. So, you’re having discomfort, you’re riding the bike. Please don’t just use this podcast as a way to fill your brain with all the tools and not implement it. I will not be able to teach you to metaphorically ride a bike until you put your little tush on the bike seat and you give it a go and you fail a bunch of times. 

And so again, this is you learning to sit on the bike metaphorically, doing an exposure, noticing you’re falling to the right and learning to be aware of that and learning what the skill you need to use in that moment and then learn how to adjust in that moment. And that’s the work. That’s the work—gently, kindly, compassionately, tending to what shows up to you as if you really matter because you really, really matter. 

Let me say that again. You’re going to tend to yourself. I’m saying it twice because I need you to hear me. You’re going to tend to yourself compassionately because you matter. This matters. You are doing some pretty brave things. Right now, I’m wearing my “It’s a beautiful day to do hard thing” t-shirt. It’s what I wear every Wednesday because it’s my favorite day to record podcasts and to do this with you. So yeah, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to sit together, we’re going to do the hard thing, we’re going to do it kindly. 

But again, let me come back to the real simplicity of this, is just go do you and let it be imperfect. Exposures are not going to be perfect. You’re not going to do them perfect. Just like if I learn to ride a bike for the first time, probably going to crash, but the crashes will teach me what to do next time I’m almost about to crash.

Now, as I promised you, there are some common roadblocks, I would say, that get in the way and they usually are thoughts. Now if you have OCD, we go through this extensively in ERP School because it does tend to show up there the most, but it does show up with panic as well a lot, is there are roadblocks or thoughts that pull us back into contraction because when we think them, we think they’re real. An example would be, what if I lose control and go crazy? That’s a really common one. A lot of times, that thought alone can make us go, “Nope, I refuse to tolerate that risk,” and we contract, and we end up doing compulsions. And the compulsion or the safety behavior takes away the benefit of that initial exposure. 

Another one is, what if I push myself too hard, like have a heart attack or my body can’t take it and I implode? As ridiculous as it sounds, I can’t tell you how many of my patients and clients in the 10-plus years I’ve been practicing—way more, close to 15 years—I’ve been practicing as a therapist, clients have said, “I’ve completely ejected from the exposure because of the fear I will implode,” even though they know that that’s, as far as we know, not possible. Again, I’ve never heard of it before, I’ve never seen it before, except on cartoons. 

So, again, it’s being able to identify, I call them roadblocks, but there are things that come up that make us eject out of the exposure like you’re in Top Gun. I loved that movie, by the way. But that whole idea of like, you pull a little lever and you just boom, eject out of the exposure like you’re ejecting out of an airplane or a flight, fast jet, because of a thought they had. And so, your job, if you can, again, is to be aware of how you contract around thoughts that are catastrophic.

A lot of people, depending on the content of their obsessions, every little subtype of anxiety, every different disorder have their own little content that keep us stuck. Your job is to get really good at being aware of, specifically, I call them allowing thoughts. They’re thoughts that we have that give us permission to do, to pull the eject handle. I call them allowing thoughts. So, it might be, “No, you’ve done enough. You probably will lose control if you do that. So, you can do the safety behavior or the compulsion.” That’s an allowing thought. Your job is to get used to yours and know yours and be familiar with them so that you can learn to, again, have good skills at countering that and responding. Again, think of the bike. That allowing thought is you tilting to the right a little bit when you’re like, “Oops, nope, I’m going to fall if I keep tilting. I’m going to have to work at going against that common behavior I use that is continually contracting against tolerating discomfort.” 

Other bigger roadblocks are fear of panic, which is a common one. Again, mostly, people’s thoughts around “I can’t handle this.” You’re going to have specific ones. Again, I don’t want to put everyone in the same category. Everyone’s going to have different ones. But please get used to your roadblocks or become aware of them, okay? 

And that’s it, you guys. I feel silly saying it, but that is it. Your job is to lean in. 

One other thing I would say, and I often give my patients the option, is I’ll say to them, “Here are your choices. You’ve done an exposure. You ultimately have three choices.” 

So, let’s pretend—we’ll do a role-play—we’re in the room together or we’re on Zoom, and the client has willingly done the exposure and then they start to freak out, let’s say, in one specific situation. And I’ll say, okay, you got three choices. You could go and do a compulsion and get rid of it. Go and make this discomfort go away if that’s in fact possible for you. The other option is you could practice this response prevention and practice not contracting. That’s another option for you. You get to choose. And there is this very sneaky third option, and I will offer this to you as well. The third option is, you could go and make it worse. And I have hats off to you if you want to choose that option. So, the go and make it worse would be to find something else to expose yourself to in that moment. Make it worse. Bring it on. How can we have more? What thoughts can I have that would make this even more scary? How could I do flooding? How could I find ways to literally say to your fear, “Come on fear, let’s do this. I have so much more fear facing to do and I am not afraid and I’m going to do it.” 

So you have three options. Please be compassionate about all three because you may find that you’re choosing the first or the second or the third depending on the day, but they’re yours to choose. There is no right. There is more ideal and effective. Of course, the latter two options are the most effective options. But again, when we learn to ride a bike, no one does it perfectly. We fall a lot. Sometimes if you’ve ridden a bike for a very long time and you are a skilled bike rider-- in fact, we have evidence that even bike riders who do the Tour de France still fall off their bike sometimes for ridiculous reasons, and we are going to offer them compassion. And if you are one of those who are skilled at this, but fall off your bike sometimes, that’s not because anything’s wrong with you. That’s because you’re a human being. Okay? 

So that is what I’m going to offer you. The question, what do I do after and during I’ve done an exposure, is be aware of your contractions in whatever form they may be. Be kind. And if all else fails, just go and live your life. Go and do the thing you would do if you hadn’t have that, didn’t have that fear. It doesn’t matter if you’re shaking, doesn’t matter if you’re panicking, doesn’t matter if you’re having tightness of breath, you’re dizzy, all the things. Be gentle, be kind, keep going. Do what you can in that moment, and you get to choose. You get to choose. 

So, that is what I want you to hear from me today. I hope it has been helpful. I feel so good about making an episode just about this. Number one, I get asked a lot, so I really want to have a place to send them. And number two, I admit to making the mistake of sometimes saying go do an exposure and not actually dropping down into these very common questions that people have. 

For those of you who are interested, we do have ERP School, Overcoming Anxiety and Panic, BFRB School. We’ve got time management courses, all kinds of courses that you can get. The link will be in the show notes. I do encourage you to go check them out if you’re wanting step by step structural trainings to help you put together a plan. If you’ve got a therapist already or you’re just doing this on your own, that’s fine too. Hopefully, this will help lead you in the direction that’s right for you. 

All right. You know I’m going to say it. It’s a beautiful day to do hard things. And so, I hope that’s what you’re doing. I am sending you so much love and so much well wishes and loving-kindness. Have a wonderful day and I’ll see you next week with a very exciting piece of news.

Jan 20, 2023


Welcome back. I am so happy to have you here with me today to talk about mindfully tending to feelings of anger and resentment. 

Sometimes when we have relentless anxiety and intrusive thoughts, anger can feel like the only emotion we can access.  

For those of you who don’t know me, well, you might be surprised to hear maybe not to know that I actually have quite a hot temper. I get hot really quick emotionally, and I don’t know if it’s because as a child I didn’t really allow myself to feel anger. I think societally, I was told I shouldn’t be angry. And so, when it comes up inside me, it heats up really quick to a boiling point. And my goal for this year is not—let me be very clear—is not to say I am going to stop being angry because that is actually the problem. It is not to say I can’t feel angry and I shouldn’t feel angry. It’s actually to tend to my anger and start to listen to what anger is trying to communicate to me. My goal with you today is to walk you through how you can do that. And I’d love if you would stay with me for a short meditation where we mindfully tend to anger and resentment. 


I think the first thing I want to mention here is that anger and resentment are actually really normal healthy emotions. Nothing to be guilty of, ashamed of, annoyed by, nothing to judge, that the anger and resentment are actually healthy emotions. They come from a place of wishing things could be better or improved, and they usually show up when we experience some kind of injustice in the world or in our daily life. Maybe someone hurt your feelings or they acted in a way that made you feel unsafe. Maybe someone stopped you from succeeding. Maybe somebody judged you and you experienced that as a threat.


Anger can show up for many reasons. Maybe it’s because you’re noticing the injustices in the world and that makes you angry. That political things can really make people show up in anger. And again, that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong, but expressing it in a healthy way can be really useful because bottling it up, it usually numbs other feelings, it can wear down your mental health, and it can mean—and I have learnt this the hard way—is that we then explode and end up saying things we don’t mean, or doing things we don’t want to do that don’t align up with our values or showing up the way that we want. And for me, that’s a big part of my goal this year. 

Now, the reason I actually am doing this, this is not a scheduled podcast, is yesterday my husband and I were having a disagreement. And sometimes I have to remind myself like, disagreements aren’t a problem. Because in my mind, disagreement is like, “Oh my gosh, terrible things are about to happen and I’m very scared. Please love me forever.” You know what I mean? And my husband has to keep gently saying like it’s okay that we don’t agree on everything. 

We were having a disagreement and I could feel the anger showing up in my body. And I was trying to really focus on just being mindful of that experience, because when I don’t do that, my immediate response is, “Fight. Let’s go to war. Let me show you how you are wrong. Let me be very clear in my boundary that you cannot cross,” which is all fine. Again, none of that’s wrong, but I could feel myself heating to a boiling point in a very, very short amount of time. I’ve been really trying to instead of acting on anger in certain situations-- again, there’s nothing wrong if you need to act on anger.


Sometimes if you’re in a dangerous position, you need to act on anger. But I’m really working on allowing anger, befriending and tending to anger. Anger can be our friend. Like, what’s the problem? Let’s actually have it, Kimberley. Let’s actually feel it. Let’s actually feel it go through my body. Let’s allow it to burn itself off. And let’s do that, not because we got to make our point and make sure they know we’re right, but because you actually felt it. You allowed it, you rode the wave of it, it burnt off. And it always burns off. That’s the thing. That’s mindfulness—to recognize that everything is temporary. 

If you say-- I’m talking to myself here. If you say what you say when you’re angry, you mightn’t have said it in a way that is effective as if you had said that thing a few moments later when you’ve let a little bit of that anger burn off. Again, I’m not saying here that there’s anything wrong with just saying what you need to say, but for me personally, I’m really trying this year. One of my biggest goals is respect through my words. Respect through my words. Really pausing and being really intentional with my words. And I know that when I’m angry, that is absolutely not happening. 

So, we know that expressing anger is fine. We know that bottling it in is usually problematic. Pretending you’re not mad is also inauthentic. Sometimes my husband’s like, “You’re so clearly mad.” And I’m like, “No, I’m not.” And he’s like, “Yeah, it’s all over your face, my friend.” People can sense it. And then they’re questioning like, “Why isn’t she being honest with me?” 


But I want to acknowledge that anger can feel like an emotional rollercoaster. It does stress out the body. Anger can feel very dangerous sometimes. It can feel very scary to some people, particularly if you have anxiety about it. Some people are really afraid of what they’ll do if they get angry and so they avoid anger and they avoid confrontation and they avoid setting boundaries in fear that anger will come up. 

Now, there are a few ways you can bring mindfulness to anger, and that is, first, to recognize it, to observe it. Another way you can diffuse anger is to use your body. This is a big one for me because when I’m angry, I have so much adrenaline pumping through my body, which is a healthy response. We need that. Like if there was a burglar at my door, anger would show up and my brain would send out adrenaline and that would allow me to either fight or run away or wrestle him or whatever it may be. So, I feel a lot of that adrenaline in my body and it does take time to burn off. And so, sometimes moving my body can be really helpful—stretching, taking a walk, taking some breaths, which we’re going to do today. Some people want to journal, chat with a friend. That irritation and frustration that we feel in our body, it’s okay to move your body and tend to it in that way. 

The last thing I would add is often when we are angry or if we haven’t been mindful in the emotion and sensations and experiences that lead up to anger, we can actually notice that our thoughts are very distorted. Here is an example. 

My husband and I are having a disagreement about a very normal thing. It was a very pretty non-issue issue. But in my mind I could. Once I was really being mindful, I could notice thoughts like, we should agree, we’re going to always fight if we don’t agree. It’s like, okay, that doesn’t have to be the case. I was also having thoughts like if he doesn’t agree, well then, I won’t get my way and then I’ll be held down. I’m having this very catastrophic thought—I’ll be held down and ruled by my husband. It’s like, well, that’s not true either. He’s never going to do that. I’m noticing all these thoughts. If he disagrees with me, that means he’s judging me and thinking I’m bad. Can we actually look at that distortion as well? Because maybe that’s me mind reading.

I’m just giving you some examples. I’m not saying these are all ways happening, but these are some examples. Sometimes we have thoughts like, no, you should not think that way. You need to think my way. My way is the only way. PS, I do that a lot sometimes. I’m just telling you the truth here. But again, that doesn’t mean we have to act on those thoughts. If we can just acknowledge them and be like, “Okay, let’s be in choir.” Is that in fact true? Do we all have to agree? How wonderful is it that my husband and I don’t agree on some things because he has actually taught me how to change the way I think about some things that have benefited me. It just took a lot of stubbornness on my part to be flexible enough to see his side of the story. 

And so, if we can observe the distortions of our thinking, sometimes that can be really helpful. But let’s also reserve some space here for the situations where you don’t have any distortions and the person is being very unkind and they are hurting you. That’s different. Then, what we can do is we can use that anger as information so that we know what we need to do to protect ourselves. Sometimes it’s setting a boundary. “You can’t speak to me like that.” Sometimes it’s saying, “You can’t come into my house and do these things to me.” Sometimes it’s saying, “I’m going to not follow you on Instagram if it makes me angry.” Or if you’re seeing a bunch of things that’s not helpful to your mental health and is making you compare and get angry, maybe you might want to not follow that person anymore. 

And so, anger, again, if you can see it for what it is, is an opportunity to listen to what is going on and be mindful and just acknowledge, and then if need be, make some changes gently that line up with your values. And so, that’s really important for us to recognize. 


Now there’s one-- again, I keep saying that. There’s one other thing I want you to think about, which is, sometimes underneath anger is another emotion—fear, shame, guilt. For me, I actually realized about a month ago, and I’ll just share this with you, sorry, is I was noticing a lot of resentment showing up, particularly—if I’m being completely honest with you all, which I always want to be—a lot of resentment around the fact that I live in America. And I was noticing it showing up and going, “This is really weird. Why is resentment showing up? I chose to live here. I knew that was my choice, but a lot of resentment was showing up.” And through talking with a dear friend underneath this anger and resentment, and I felt myself having a tantrum over it, I realized I was deeply grieving and missing my family. Usually, I just feel miss like I’m missing them and I feel sad, but the anger and resentment was masking me from it. And when I acknowledged that, I realized I’m staying in anger because the sadness was “too painful.” In my mind, it felt unbearable. And so, my brain presented to me an opportunity to stay in resentment and anger and really cycle and ruminate on that instead of dropping down into the sadness that I felt. 

So, again, anger is complex but also quite simple if we talk about it, like two opposing things at the same time. But what I want to offer to you is, all of these feelings are completely normal. If we can just simply acknowledge them with a sense of kindness, if we can stay with the sensation, if we can stay in compassion for ourselves, we can actually write out these emotions and they can be, what I say to myself, it’s not a problem. That’s my new thing. I keep saying to myself like, “Oh, I’m noticing anger. That’s not a problem. It’s totally okay for you to feel this, Kimberley.” “Oh, I’m noticing anxiety. That’s totally not a problem, Kimberley. Let’s stay with it. Let’s feel it.”


And so, let’s begin with a short meditation to where you may practice that. Now, if you’re driving, number one, please do not close your eyes. Number two, if you’re feeling an urge to turn off this podcast now and be like, “I got what I needed,” please just listen. You don’t even have to practice. I just want you to listen to what I’m saying and see if anything lands.

Here we go. We’re going to mindfully tend to feelings of anger and resentment. 

Bring your awareness to whatever is going on for you right now... and allow your body to rest as you feel the pool of gravity down on the chair or the bed or whatever it is that you’re resting on. 

And as you are aware of your weight sinking down to that point of contact between you and the floor, the chair, or the bed, I want you to notice what sensations are you noticing right now. Where does anger show up for you? Where does resentment show up for you? Are they the same or are they different? And just take some time to notice any resistance towards noticing anger and resentment. 

And if you notice any tension or resistance, gently turn towards them. Maybe you offer a gentle hello to them. Good morning. Good evening. 

And as you notice them rise and fall in your body, offer some acceptance as best as you can that they’re there. If you notice that you’re tensing up around them with each outbreath, see if you can let go or release any tension in your muscles or in your mind. Again, not trying to get rid of them, but also not holding on to them. Soften your body as best as you can, bringing acceptance to those sensations. Continuing to breathe in no particular fashion at all, except whatever feels easy for you. 

Notice any thoughts as they arise and they pass through your mind. Notice if there’s any thoughts of blame or shame or guilt or aggression. And notice them for what they are, which is emotions, sensations. See if you can let them come and go, rise and fall without over-identifying with the content of those thoughts, without engaging with the content. Just note them. “Oh, I’m noticing blame. I’m noticing the urge to punish that person. I’m noticing the urge to create justice. I’m noticing the experience or urge to neutralize the pain they’ve caused me by punishing them.” And see if you can just notice them, maybe as clouds in the sky just floating by. No need to rip them out of the sky. Just notice them.

And as you notice they’re floating by, can you let go of them? Can you let go of needing to control them or make them go away? And we want to do this kindly and gently. Sometimes it’s helpful to gently bring the sides of your mouth up and gently smile. Not to make the feelings again go away, but to let your brain know that you’re here, that you’re not going to judge it for what it’s experiencing, and that you’ve got your back here. 

And now, allow your awareness to broaden and gather the whole experience of breathing into your body with ease. As you breathe in, knowing that you’re breathing in, and breathing out, knowing that you’re breathing out. 

Can you feel an awareness that flows through you as you breathe? And can your breath be an anchor in this present moment? Noticing each breath as you inhale and exhale. Noticing any judgment you have for yourself as you have these sensations, any self-criticism. Again, just note them, acknowledge them. Try to remind yourself that anger is a normal and healthy emotion. 

You may also want to congratulate yourself for tending to your anger in this moment, instead of internalizing it or displacing it onto other people. And every time you notice your mind has wandered, gently bring your mind back to the breath or the awareness of these sensations in your body. 

Now again, expand your awareness back to feeling gravity pull you down as it sits and stands or lies. If there’s anything left behind here, some pain, some discomfort, let’s set the intention to keep this practice going where we’re going to be non-judgmental and compassionate towards this experience. We’re going to cultivate acceptance and acknowledgment of this and your entire experience. 

Gently allow the breath to bring you back to the present. 

I want to thank you for having the courage to do this exercise with me. The more you offer this practice to your mind, the more the mind will start to see anger again as nothing but an emotion that is knowledge and information for us to make decisions about how we want to move forward. It’s a healthy action towards decision-making, boundary-setting, self-compassion, acceptance. And you’re doing this for the benefit of yourself and for the benefit of others. 

Slowly come back. Open your eyes. Notice what’s around you. And I’m going to offer to you to keep going into the day with this practice. 

Okay. Thank you for practicing with me today. I wish you nothing but a beautiful day of joy and kindness and warmth and love. Please also remember, it is a beautiful day to do hard things. I will look forward to seeing you next week. Thank you for spending your very valuable time with me today. I hope this was helpful.

Jan 13, 2023

In this week's podcast, I talked with Lynn Lyons about her new book, The Anxiety Audit (7 Sneaky Ways Anxiety Takes Hold and How to Escape Them).

We discuss: 

  • How repetitive negative thinking disguises itself as problem-solving 
  • How catastrophic thinking makes the world a dangerous place and demands you react accordingly 
  • How big conclusions and an all-or-nothing approach make the world smaller and harder to navigate. 
  • How a fear of judgment isolates and disconnects us from people 
  • How being busy and overscheduled both adds and masquerade anxiety and stress 
  • How we blame others when we are irritable
  • How self-care becomes not self-care at all


This editable transcript was computer generated and might contain errors. People can also change the text after it is created.

Kimberley Quinlan: Okay, good. Well, welcome, Lynn Lyons. I am so thrilled to have you on the show today. Okay, so very exciting.

Lynn Lyons: Oh well, thanks for having me.

Kimberley Quinlan: You just wrote another book. I will say another book. It's amazing. Please tell me before we get started. Why did you choose that as the title?

Lynn Lyons:  Well, what happened was we have a podcast called flusterclux. And I do that with my sister-in-law Robin; she's married to my brother. And during the pandemic, one of the courses we created together, she called it the anxiety on it because we wanted to go through the patterns that maybe people were experiencing and they didn't, they didn't have words to them, they didn't know what was going on. And so we did this course, and we put it out there, and then my publisher said, Do you want to write a book? And I said, “Oh, okay”. And Robin and I said, Well, why don't you just make the course we did into a book? It'll be easy because she's never written a book before. Um, so that sort of was the genesis of it. So the publisher like the title, the anxiety on it. So the book ended up being much more expanded than the original course, but the title was from Robin. And the course we did for the podcast.

Kimberley Quinlan: Right. And I loved it because there is a degree of going through your book. We're going to talk today about the seven sneaky ways anxiety takes hold and how to escape that, but I love how it is. It feels like an audit, right? You're kind of auditing through these sneaky ways anxiety can take hold. So, I love that. So, let's go through today's those seven points, and then we will go deeper if we have time. Can you tell me a little about this first main concept of how repetitive thinking disguises itself as the problem?

Lynn Lyons: Yeah, it disguises itself as problem-solving. So when you are doing repetitive negative thinking,…

Kimberley Quinlan:  Aha.

Lynn Lyons is just the lingo we use to describe worrying and ruminating. We generally distinguish between worrying and ruminating in which direction and time they head. So if you are a worrier, you tend to worry about things that haven't happened yet. And if you're a ruminator, you're going back over things, which tends to be both. It can feel pretty obsessive. A ruminator will go back over things and ask those questions. And did I say the right thing? Did I do the right thing? Did I buy the right refrigerator? Did I make the right decision?

Lynn Lyons:  Repetitive Negative thinking. The problem with it is that the thinking feels like the solution. Remember, anxiety seeks that certainty.  If I just go over it, if I just think about it, if I just talk about it, if I just ask people about it, if I just get more information about it, that will lead me to a solution. But what we know is that the thinking is actually the problem because when you overthink,

Lynn Lyons: You're caught in that repetitive cycle. You're seeking that certainty. So you don't move forward, and you don't take action. It just feels like you're doing something productive. But unfortunately, you're when people go to therapy, if they have this kind of obsessive thinking and they get caught in it, is that the therapist will unknowingly say, Well, let's think about this, or Let's talk about this, some more. Let's explore this. Or What could that mean and the anxieties? Like, Yeah, I love this lady. Now we get to do our thing. 

Lynn Lyons:  What we know about people that tend to overthink and get into this repetitive negative thinking is that they are less likely to act on a solution if they come across one in their thinking. So they're saying, “Oh, I'm thinking to figure this out,” but then they never take the necessary action. Yeah. So it's a way to trick you into thinking you're doing the right thing. When you're just feeding your rumination feeding your worry,

Kimberley Quinlan: I love it, and you mentioned in your book Chewing the mental card, which I thought was just classic and…

Lynn Lyons: Mmm. M.

Kimberley Quinlan: hilarious. I grew up on a farm, so that was very appropriate. I love it. Let's go to number two, how catastrophic thinking makes a world, the world a dangerous place and demands. You react accordingly,…

Lynn Lyons: Sure. So catastrophic thinking this is like the meat of the anxiety sandwich…

Kimberley Quinlan: do you want to share about that?

Lynn Lyons: You're always wondering, worrying about, or vividly imagining the worst thing that could happen. And again, this feels like a solution. So if you are a parent and you have this catastrophic way of thinking, you're thinking, all right, so if I can imagine every bad thing that could happen to my child, then I can be ready for it. I can prepare for it; I can prevent it. But what we know is that the more catastrophic you are, the more you think about the bad things that could happen.


Lynn Lyons: The more fearful you are, doesn't mean that you're better prepared to manage things; it means that you start to avoid and remove things from your life. So, Yeah. So it just becomes again. It becomes this way of the anxiety dictating what you do and don't do.

Kimberley Quinlan: Right? You talked in this chapter about the pain. The Pain Catastrophizing Scale and…

Lynn Lyons:  Mmm.

Kimberley Quinlan: that's something that I didn't know a lot about, which I found. Very fascinating. Do you want to share your little thoughts on that?

Lynn Lyons: Sure. So what we know from pain and pain is such an interesting phenomenon, isn't it? It's such a rich place for research and study. If you could testify about your pain. So if you anticipate that your pain is going to be terrible, You will respond as if the pain is worse than it is. And one of the things that's interesting is I work a lot with kids and a lot with families and parents. One of the fascinating things is that, say, you've got a child in pain, and you ask the parent to rate the child's pain. Say the child rates their pain as a four. The parent weighs the child's pain as an eight.

Lynn Lyons: The parent's rating of the pain is a predictor of impairment in the child.

Kimberley Quinlan: Huh.

Lynn Lyons: Completely independent of, you know, maybe the child says Oh my pain is a two and the parent says, Oh the truck might try. I'm so worried about my child. I think their pain is an eight that parents catastrophizing about the pain. Predicts whether or not that child goes to school whether or not they predict an activities how much of their life is impaired by the pain. Even though the child is saying, Well like that, my mom thinks the pain is a lot worse than it is. It's the parents' catastrophizing that actually has the impact. Yeah.

Kimberley Quinlan: That is so interesting. And so what what really showed up for me was is that also true of like the pain of the suffering of anxiety, right? Like is if we are catastrophizing how painful the anxiety will be does that? That still the same concept scientifically

Lynn Lyons: Well, I don't know about the research in terms of the way they lay it out, so clearly with with pain but here's what we do know. Catastrophic parents being a catastrophic parent about anything. Is a high risk factor for developing anxiety as a chart for children. So, if you have a catastrophic parent, it increases your risk of creating an anxious child. We also know that parents who are anxious have a six to seven times greater risk of having an anxious child. We've got some genetics in there…

Kimberley Quinlan: Right.

Lynn Lyons: but there's an awful lot of modeling. So when we when we look at how parents talk about the world. one of the things that when parents talk about the world as a dangerous place, when they talk about their child as being incapable of functioning,

Lynn Lyons: When they step in so that their child doesn't have the opportunity to get to the other side, doesn't have the opportunity to independently problem solve, all of those things increased anxiety. And because we know that anxiety, untreated is one of the top predictors of depression, by the time you hit adolescence and young adulthood, we know that that that's that cycle is just going to continue. So when I am,…

Kimberley Quinlan: Mmm.

Lynn Lyons: when I am working with families and I am trying to interrupt this cycle, one of the things just as you said, one of the things I want to really target is, Is this parent catastrophizing?

Lynn Lyons:  About their child's ability to function and it may be catastrophizing about their mood catastrophizing about them, being upset or being nervous, right? So so my child is so anxious about this. There's no way I can send them off on this field trip or there's no way I can send them off to this summer camp because look they're so anxious. It absolutely is contagious for sure.


Kimberley Quinlan: And that's true of ourselves too. So if we're catastrophizing, when less likely to go on the field trip, ourselves is correct. Yeah.

Lynn Lyons: That's right. Yeah, well, so say, say you're gonna get on an airplane. And you're thinking, Oh gosh I'm going go on this airplane and you start catastrophizing and imagining bad things happening on the plane or the plane crashing and you activate your whole system. So you're having these symptoms and your your stomach feels weird and your heart is pounding. You say to yourself, Oh my gosh, if I feel this bad just thinking about getting on the airplane, it's going to be horrible. When I actually get on the airplane, I better not do it. Right. So we're just watching this scary movie and…

Kimberley Quinlan: Yeah.

Lynn Lyons: it makes sense if you're sitting there watching a terrible movie with a horrible outcome, Of course you want to avoid that thing but we have to recognize that that catastrophic thinking is a pattern of thinking not an actual predictor of outcome. Yeah.

Kimberley Quinlan:  Right.

Kimberley Quinlan: Yeah, and you talked about that about sleep as well.

Lynn Lyons:  Oh, yeah, well, the thing that most the thing, that people who are have difficulty sleeping people with insomnia, the number one thing they worry about is sleeping, right? So you can't sleep. And then you start worrying about not being able to sleep and off off the cycle goes. Yep.

Kimberley Quinlan: Yeah. Yeah of for me actually I remember when I had my newborn baby. It was the fear of being tired.

Lynn Lyons:  Mmm.

Kimberley Quinlan: So I would I would pressure myself to sleep because I'd catastrophized, what tiredness was gonna feel like,…

Lynn Lyons: Yes. Yes,…

Kimberley Quinlan: right. Yeah.

Lynn Lyons: I've certainly many people have that. I interestingly had this client long ago who catastrophized the feeling of being hungry. That she couldn't tolerate feeling hungry so you can you can grab onto anything in catastrophize about it for sure.

Kimberley Quinlan:  Right.

Kimberley Quinlan: Yeah. Fantastic. I agree. Yeah. Okay. Now this is cool and we've talked a little bit about this in the show before but let's just go over it really quick. How big conclusions and all or nothing approach make the world smaller and harder to navigate.

Lynn Lyons:  Mm-hmm.

Kimberley Quinlan: You talk about going global. Do you want to share a little bit about that?

Lynn Lyons:  Yeah. So so global thinking, so if you have a global attributional style or a global cognitive style it means that you come to big conclusions. Usually about yourself or other people, right? So oh I never get what I want or I always screw up or nobody understands me. These are these big huge words that then if you believe that well nobody likes me. Well then you're not gonna you're not gonna step out there and take any kind of risks or reach out to people because you've already come to the conclusion. So when people are global in their thinking, they're much more likely to one break things down into parts, so they can recognize, well, there's a sequence to making friends or there's a sequence to getting a new job, or there's a sequence to cleaning out my basement. So they, they get into this place of like, Well, it's a disaster. I, you know, I can't do it and then they also begin to believe that about other people. So when you're global about other people, it shuts,

Lynn Lyons:  Off. Right. Well, that group of people could never like me. Or that group of people is this or that group of people, is that So, the opposite of global and we know that global thinking huge risk factor for anxiety and depression. When we're confronted with that, or when we notice that we're doing with doing that, we want to back up from it and say, Okay, so I just heard myself using that global language, right? I just heard myself say, Oh, I'll never get this done. Oh, there it was right now. Why am I saying that? Well, I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. It does look like a big project in front of me. Maybe it is a big project in front of me. So now I'm gonna break it down and I'm gonna recognize there's the beginning and a middle and an end, there's a sequence, right? And that moves us out of that big global way of thinking that's just absolutely paralyzing. Yeah.

Kimberley Quinlan: Mmm. Yeah, I love that. Okay. How anxieties fear of judgment isolates, and disconnects us from the from people, right? And I, I will, if you could speak to where you also touched on the disconnection, happens on the inside. You won't share a little about that.

Lynn Lyons: Yeah. So so interestingly when when when people are lonely It can be in two categories, one is that it's situational. So you've just moved to a new city. You don't know anybody. You're starting college and you're there by yourself or it can be more of a pattern of the way you interact with the world. And again the conclusions that you come to, so you look at the way that the world is connecting and interacting and you conclude that one is that everybody does it better than you,…

Kimberley Quinlan: If?

Lynn Lyons: right? That it's easy for everybody that it comes naturally to everybody and that it's not gonna work for you.

Lynn Lyons:  And you go inside and I always say, You know, you have a meeting with your anxiety inside you're having meeting and and during the meeting, you say, You know that. Well there's this is, this is terrible. I don't have the skills. Nobody wants to connect with me and also you fear the judgment of other people. So one of the mistakes that we often make with somebody who's feeling this way who's feeling isolated, who doesn't feel like they can connect is we try and talk them out of it.


Lynn Lyons:  By saying things like, Well people don't judge or, um, you know, nobody's paying attention to you or, Oh, people aren't thinking that, right? That's just not true. People do judge, they judge all the time, and we notice people. And if I'm, if I'm on an airplane and somebody has this really crazy hairdo, I'm gonna be like, Wow, look at that hairdo. Or if I, you know, got an airplane and somebody has this really funky tattoo on their face, I'm gonna say, like, well I wonder how they decided to put that tattoo on their face. We do it all the time. And so what we have to develop is the ability to tolerate being vulnerable and we can do it in small steps, you know, you don't have to, you know, you don't want to share your life story with the person you met two minutes ago.

Lynn Lyons: But recognizing that when our anxiety shows up and says, I can't take a risk, I can't be vulnerable, everybody can connect, but me, you go inside and you convince yourself, not based on what's happening on the outside, but what's happening on the inside that you aren't capable of connecting? And then boy,…

Kimberley Quinlan: Right. Right?

Lynn Lyons: it just snowballs

Kimberley Quinlan: I love it and so true of the pandemic and where we're at in the World,…

Lynn Lyons:  You yeah, yeah.

Kimberley Quinlan: Right? Yeah. Okay. The next two chapters were my favorite. okay, and…

Lynn Lyons:  Yeah.

Kimberley Quinlan: so I wanted to talk about this a little bit, you talked about how being busy and over scheduled, Which like I raised my hand to ads and…

Lynn Lyons: Mm-hmm. Awesome.

Kimberley Quinlan: masquerades anxiety and stress.

Lynn Lyons:  Yeah, so the interesting thing about busy and I raise my hand too. I'm you know so I get it. Um, We love the idea of being busy it because it's, it's this currency now, right? We can't, we can't really brag about how money, how much money we make. We can't say to, you know, if you ran into a friend on the street you and they said, Oh, how are you doing? Kimberley you and say, like, Oh, I'm doing great. I am making so much money this year, it's fabulous because they say, Oh my gosh, that's so tasteless. Why is she saying that? But you can say, Oh I am so busy. My life is so crazy. That's become sort of our currency of importance.

Lynn Lyons: Of how busy we are. So the more busy we are the more we feel like we're worthy and the more busy we are the more we don't have time to feel things that we're going to feel so we keep ourselves busy as a way to just keep that that brain of ours in motion and we have difficulties sort of settling back in but it is interesting. It you know, when I was doing the research for this chapter it a few things were really we're really kind of amusing to me and true you read this. They say of course of course is it a life of leisure that used to be something to brag about right back in the old days…

Kimberley Quinlan: Yeah.

Lynn Lyons: because the farmers and the labors and the coal miners, right? But if you, if you could sit back and and relax and drink a mint julep, right? That meant you had social status, well, sort of flip. Now, we don't really admire people that sit back and…

Kimberley Quinlan: Yeah.

Lynn Lyons: don't work. So, that's an interesting thing I found and then the other

Lynn Lyons: Interesting thing I found is that people who brag a lot and sometimes it's that humble brag, right? Oh I wish I weren't so busy. Oh my gosh. Yeah. Um people who brag a lot about how much they work are very inaccurate about the hours that they work and the more hours that you say you work oftentimes the more you're off. So people say Oh I work a hundred hour week and I always think to myself No you don't right? Because Even if you worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week, that's not even a hundred hours a week.

Kimberley Quinlan: Right.

Lynn Lyons: And so what what they found is those people who say Oh I work 70 hours a week really are working about 40 But it's just it's just indicative of how much we want to keep ourselves busy.

Lynn Lyons: And how how often times it's it sounds kind of backwards in paradoxical but it's true that we really like that feeling of chaos that we create because it means that we don't have to sit back and sort of look at how things are really going. And we do it.

Kimberley Quinlan: Right.

Lynn Lyons: We do it with our kids, for sure. And a lot of kids right now, believe that the way that life is supposed to be in the way that we measure our success is, how busy we are.

Kimberley Quinlan: Yeah, I always think of like I I remember moments where I in early in my own anxiety recovery where I could feel and I've talked about this on the podcast like feel myself, typing really fast and it's funny when you're so focused on what you're doing. You do tend to have less anxiety so it feels like a relief. Almost it's a compulsion, right? It's a relief to your anxiety.


Lynn Lyons: It is, yeah. Yeah. Well.

Kimberley Quinlan: Like I don't have to be up here if I'm typing like crazy or I'm focusing.

Lynn Lyons:  That's right.

Kimberley Quinlan: And I think that that you use the word masquerade down, anxiety, and stress. I think that, that is right on the money, right, that where we are. Busying as an avoidant compulsion.

Lynn Lyons: Mmm. That's right.

Kimberley Quinlan: Do you agree with that?

Lynn Lyons: Yeah. Well because if you're, you know, if you're if you're if you've got a lot going on in your head, And maybe your thoughts are saying, You know, you're not good enough, you're not busy enough, you should be doing this right? You're shooting on yourself, you're doing all this stuff and if you can keep your brain in your body busy and occupied, And almost as if like, you can't keep up and you've got, you've got this little feeling of of urgency or emergency. Oh, I've got to do this, I've got to do this, it really distracts and sort of satisfies. Those thoughts in your head of, I, you know, what's gonna happen next. And it allows you to not really experience the worry and the anxiety because you're just busy, busy, busy busy. Well yeah,…

Kimberley Quinlan: Right.

Lynn Lyons: one of the things it's interesting. We did a podcast episode on this a little while ago, this this term high functioning anxiety.

Kimberley Quinlan:  Yeah.

Lynn Lyons: Which is sort of amusing to me, right? Because it's the city right, everybody wants to have these new categories, right? It's not this. It's this high functioning anxiety and they had this list of The list of symptoms this checklist, I saw in this article which was just silly like you know you chew your lip or you chew gum or you don't make eye contact, you know it's just silly but but when we look at it, high functioning anxiety is no different than any other kind of anxiety. It's just that you're getting the job done and…

Kimberley Quinlan: Yeah.

Lynn Lyons: then people are giving you a lot of positive feedback for that,…

Kimberley Quinlan: Yeah. Right.

Lynn Lyons: right? So yeah.

Kimberley Quinlan: Right. A busyness is another form of like, avoidance of the fear, right? Yeah. Yeah.

Lynn Lyons: That's right, that's right. And it because of the way our culture works It, it feels good in the moment and you get the payoff of somebody saying,…

Kimberley Quinlan:  Yeah.

Lynn Lyons: Oh my gosh, you are so busy. How do you do all that you do? Oh gosh, I've never met anybody. You know what? If we want a job done, we got to give it to Kimberley, she's gonna get it done and…

Kimberley Quinlan:  Right. Right.

Lynn Lyons: all of that feels so good, but it totally burns you out, if you, if you keep it up for sure.

Kimberley Quinlan: They'd like No, I'm just over here doing a bunch of avoidant compulsions.

Lynn Lyons: Yeah, right.

Kimberley Quinlan: That's why Right.

Lynn Lyons: We don't say that. Right? Oh my gosh. You're doing so much Kimberley. Oh no, I'm just avoiding compulsing. Yeah, no. We don't say that. Yeah. Yeah, they would. They would they be like, Oh okay. So maybe we won't give her that next assignment then. Yeah.

Kimberley Quinlan: Right. Well, and that brings me to the next part of this which again these were my two favorite pots and concepts mainly, I think because it's I still like, ooh, there's some truth there. I need to be listening. And I think it links so well together with the last one about being over scheduled and busy talking about irritability, right? Because And you had said here and I'll use your your terms exactly how irritability likes to blame others but can be a red flag for you. Do you want to share that? Because I feel like they go hand in hand with that over scheduling.

Lynn Lyons: Yes. Yeah.

Kimberley Quinlan: Do you tell me your thoughts?

Lynn Lyons: No, I agree. And in fact, like all of these patterns, sort of overlap, don't they?

Kimberley Quinlan:  You know.

Lynn Lyons: Because we can be catastrophic and over scheduled at the same time. Yeah, irritability is, is a red flag. So irritability. I talk about all these patterns and irritability is a sign that perhaps you're really not addressing what you need to address. One of the, the definitions of irritability that I talk about in the book is that it's described as blocked goal attainment. Okay, so that's it. A research term is that you can't get…

Kimberley Quinlan:  Yeah.

Lynn Lyons: what you want and something is in the way the other term that I read, and it's in the book, is they defined irritability as feeling angry and the ability to sustain that anger?

Kimberley Quinlan:  and,

Lynn Lyons: So it's this constant sense of not getting what you want, not being able to feel satisfied. And what happens is you start looking outside to find out why you're so irritable. It must be because my kids aren't doing what I told them to do. It must be because my partner is not fulfilling the agreement that we made. It must be because my boss is such a jerk, it must be because of the traffic, it must be because of the weather, it must be because of this and what we really want to step back and look at is How is this constant level of irritability?

Kimberley Quinlan: You.


Lynn Lyons: How are you sustaining it? What are you doing? Is it your perfectionism is it the fact that you want to compuls and people are getting in the way of your compulsing because you're in your mind if I can only compulsa and I'll feel better but people aren't letting you do what you want to do.

Lynn Lyons:  Is it because inside there is a constant conversation with you about how you're not meeting your own expectations. How are you creating this level of Sort of low-grade simmering this low-grade dissatisfaction that is just eating away both at you and and your your relationships. It's hard to hang out with somebody who's irritable all the time.

Kimberley Quinlan: And what would you suggest somebody do? If they've caught this red flag of irritability, how would you encourage them to navigate that?

Lynn Lyons: So, the first thing you want to do, and I think I say this about a lot of the patterns in the book. Is you just want to talk about it? Openly with the people you live with, because one of the things that's enormously helpful is for you to own your own stuff, right? So if you know that you're struggling with irritability or even just on a busy day you come home and you're feeling particularly irritable to say to the people that you love the people who are in your orbit. Hey you know what, I had a rough day. I'm feeling irritable, it is not you, it's me it's not your fault. So you're really gonna pay attention to that blaming and you can even say to the people around. You give me a few moments, right? I've got to go for a walk or I'm gonna listen to some music or man. I just need to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Lynn Lyons: And then give yourself permission and, and more than permissions, sort of give yourself a little kick in the hello. That says, I'm gonna, I'm gonna work on releasing this irritability without going after other people. And that diffuses it very quickly and…

Kimberley Quinlan: Mmm.

Lynn Lyons: then if you're a parent, you're modeling that for your kids, which is a wonderful thing and…

Kimberley Quinlan:  Yeah.

Lynn Lyons: then you really have to look and see if it's a chronic thing. What do you keep doing over and over and over again? That's making you irritable.

Lynn Lyons:  How are you going to recognize that and accept that? Because a lot of times people say, Well I don't know why I'm so irritable and then we talk about it. And it's pretty obvious why they're so irritable. Now that means you have to adjust or adapt and it might be your schedule. Maybe you're not getting enough sleep. Maybe you're saying yes, too often. When you want to say, no, maybe you are ruminating in your head about how other people have, let you down all the time, maybe you're catastrophizing. So those horrible stories about what the world is going to look like are really making you irritable. So it's it's a way for you to to step back and say What am I doing? That's resulting in this state that I'm in. Yeah.

Kimberley Quinlan: And yeah, yeah. And I'll just for being transparent. I have found as soon as I'm irritable, it's because I'm refusing to feel some feeling like that is for me. I'm like, I don't want to feel this feeling.

Lynn Lyons: You.

Kimberley Quinlan: So I'm gonna be like Real shop and all edgy around everything. So I think that's just such a great point. It's like, I don't want to feel the anxiety. I'm feeling so I'm just like,…

Lynn Lyons:  Yeah.

Kimberley Quinlan: frightened reactionary. So I think that that is such a common. I see it a lot with my patients as well. Just a deep sense of frustration of like you said, they won't let me compuls and…

Lynn Lyons:  and,

Kimberley Quinlan: that. Okay, that's means that you're gonna have to feel some anxiety,…

Lynn Lyons:  Right. Right. Now.

Kimberley Quinlan: right? So I you're on the money there. I love. Okay. This was an interesting one and the last point how self-care is hijacked and becomes not self-care at all.

Lynn Lyons:  If well, and I think that you you sort of teed this up for me very well because oftentimes what we call self-care is really means of avoidance. Right trying to eliminate. So I'm trying to get rid of some feeling. I'm trying to avoid something that I need to address. I don't want to feel this way. We, I talk a lot about our elimination culture and how we're really focused on trying to get rid of things like feelings or discomfort or right. So we take on these practices that we call self care, that are really about getting rid of something or avoiding something and so that can be

Lynn Lyons: Anything from drinking or using other substances to spending money, you don't have to binging on Netflix and not getting the sleep. You need, because you feel like you want to escape, what's going on? When you are doing something that in the moment you're saying, you know what? This is really for me. And then the next day you feel regret about it, probably not self care. Right self-care.

Kimberley Quinlan: Mmm.

Lynn Lyons: If you do it consistently. After after I do something that is truly, you know, one of my good self-care things. I don't say to myself. Oh, I can't believe I did. I can't believe I got eight hours of sleep last night like, Oh, what a loser. I can't believe I went for a walk with my friend. Oh, right. But if I


Lynn Lyons: Spend too much money, or if I stay up too late, or if I skip my exercise, that helps me so much, or if I eat half the chocolate cake. The next day, I'm probably gonna say, Oh honey, like do that, You know,…

Kimberley Quinlan: Mmm.

Lynn Lyons: I should. So that's one of the easy ways to sort of determine for yourself whether or not you're engaged in self-care or self medication, but self care isn't a one hit wonder, right? It's not, it's not a quick fix. It's a consistent pattern. Moving.

Kimberley Quinlan: Right. Right. Yeah, I talk I wrote a book about self compassion and I talk about the same thing as people say. Well this is the self compassionate thing to do to not face my fear or…

Lynn Lyons:  You.

Kimberley Quinlan: to not, you know, to not get out of bed and yes, I understand some days we have to be gentle but I think we also rely on self compassion. Sometimes as a, as a way to avoid our feelings and…

Lynn Lyons:  That's right.

Kimberley Quinlan: wade fear as well. I think that really, you know, is so true. You did talk about self-medicating, and then you would said that, When you're able to identify these seven points, that's a form of self-care.

Lynn Lyons: That's right.

Lynn Lyons: That's right.

Kimberley Quinlan: Right. Do you want to share a little about that and…

Kimberley Quinlan: what that looks like?

Lynn Lyons:  Well, so if you are reading this book, or if you're listening to me now and you're beginning to recognize that you have a few of these patterns that really take over and then and you begin to own them. Just like I was talking about with irritability and you begin to see the pattern. It takes courage to change the pattern. It takes courage to say, Oh gosh, I look catastrophizer or boy, do I get caught up in a ruminating about things, as a way to solve problems? Or you know what? I have been saying that my two or three glasses of wine. Every night is self-care and I'm really noticing that I feel worse the next day, or I don't sleep very well. So once you begin to own them and once you begin to, you know, you can talk about them openly with the people you care about.

Lynn Lyons:  Things start to shift the biggest thing and I'm sure you see this with your patients as well. Kimberley The biggest roadblock that I run up to run up against is when people deny that they're doing the things that I know are causing them to stress. and then, when they blame other people, You know, I I say this all the time, I have this client, The daughter was struggling with OCD, Dad had OCD, he was highly perfectionistic. Things had to be perfect in the house. He would miss his kids, recitals, or their soccer games, because he had to come home after work. And make sure that everything in the house was perfect. And I was trying to explain this to him, this rigidity and his OCD. And he said to me, What's wrong with a neat and tidy house.

Lynn Lyons:  Now nothing except that, that's not what was going on here. But his denial of his patterns and his inability to own them and to talk to his family about them because you can imagine what his daughter did when he said that, right? She like threw herself back on the couch and rolled her eyes got in the way of him, being able to move forward. so, When you know people talk about it, say you say, you're phobic of something, we talk about the courage to face your fears, right? So if you're afraid of bridges, you have to have the courage to go across the bridge. Or if you're afraid of germs, you have to have the courage to touch germs. I feel like the courage is much more, the courage on the inside.

Lynn Lyons:  To acknowledge what's going on and then to work to do the opposite and to really be to really be honest. And vulnerable with yourself. The courage comes not on the bridge or with the germs, but the courage comes from saying, I'm really struggling with this pattern, with this issue with this compulsion, and it feels scary. I'm gonna face what's going on inside of me. And that's gonna help me face. What's going on outside of me?

Lynn Lyons:  Yeah. Yeah.

Lynn Lyons:  Mmm. Yeah.

Kimberley Quinlan: Awareness is the first step but that accountability. That's a hard one. Like it's it,…

Lynn Lyons:  It is a hard one. Yeah.

Kimberley Quinlan: it's a good one, but I had one and I think Do you have like I know where we're close to being finished? I want to be respectful of your time. But do you have any thoughts on how to work towards that accountability, particularly if you're someone who's rigid and doesn't like that,

Lynn Lyons: Well, I mean, one of the, one of the things that I think is really helpful is for people to recognize that these patterns and OCD and anxiety is really common, and people don't talk about it. But gosh,…


Kimberley Quinlan:  If?

Lynn Lyons: how many people have OCD in this world? How many people struggle with the things that we talk about on a daily basis? So I'm I say to people, you know, you're not unique. Your problem isn't special. It's it's, it feels big to you because it's your problem, but there are really a lot of things that we can do to help this. We know a lot about it, it's not mysterious the content of what your worried about or the content of your OCD is meaningless. This is a process. This is a thought process issue and let's just get over this idea that it's so special and that you're unique and that there's nothing anybody can do because you're worse than everybody else, right? So that's one of the things I do.

Lynn Lyons:  And then also really helping people. Learn about Other People's Stories. I think there are some wonderful books and resources where you read about other people's struggles. And you begin to realize gosh, This is so much of what I've experienced it is. It's a matter of being vulnerable in a matter of moving away from this idea that the perfect world that other people are presenting is not so perfect, after all. Yeah,

Kimberley Quinlan: Yeah, so true. So true. Lynn, I have loved getting all your wisdom. Thank you so much. Do you want to tell us where people can learn about you and about your book and all the things?

Lynn Lyons: Sure, sure. So my website is just Lynn I'm on Instagram at Lynn Lyons anxiety. I'm fairly new to Instagram. My younger son is my is my Instagram helper, and then I'm on Facebook. If you go on Lynn Lyons, and just put in anxiety or psychotherapist, we've got the podcast fluster clocks with an X that comes out every Friday. Um, By the time, this comes out, by the time that people are hearing this, the audible book for the anxiety audit. Hopefully we'll be released because they told me it will be out in January. I just recorded it right before our Thanksgiving in November. So I'm excited to welcome that into the world. So yeah there's there's you know, all sorts of videos and things on my website and resources and things you can check out.

Kimberley Quinlan: Fantastic and I'll link all those in the show notes. Thank you so much for coming on.

Lynn Lyons:  Thank you.

Kimberley Quinlan: It's a delight to me meet with you.

Lynn Lyons:  Thank you for having me and thank you for all of your wonderful questions you made it so easy, which is nice.

Kimberley Quinlan:  Wonderful, thank you.

Lynn Lyons:  All right. Yeah, that was great. You are you are super easy to talk to so thank you. Yeah.

Kimberley Quinlan: Oh, I'm so glad I didn't tell you. I beforehand, you've written a book with Read Wilson.

Lynn Lyons: Yeah. He is.

Kimberley Quinlan: He's a very dear friend of mine. Yeah. Yeah,…

Lynn Lyons: Yeah. All right.

Kimberley Quinlan: so I'm

Lynn Lyons: Well, I'll tell you say hello. Yeah. We wrote two books together, I am.

Kimberley Quinlan:  yeah.

Lynn Lyons: I was just talking to him the other day. Yeah, that's how did you, how did you meet him just through working on OCD stuff.

Kimberley Quinlan: Yeah, through ICD. He's been on the show a bunch of times and…

Lynn Lyons:  Oh, that's awesome.

Kimberley Quinlan: and I consider him such a, I know a helpful resource and and support. So I just wanted, I want to mention that at the end.

Lynn Lyons: Oh yeah,…

Kimberley Quinlan: Yeah. Yeah,…

Lynn Lyons: that's awesome.

Kimberley Quinlan: I don't often usually we don't take guess…

Lynn Lyons: That's awesome.

Kimberley Quinlan: unless I'm sort of developed a relationship but your name went underneath the,…

Lynn Lyons:  Yeah.

Kimberley Quinlan: the read seal of approval.

Lynn Lyons: If? Well,…

Kimberley Quinlan: I was so glad to meet with you. And have you on the show? Yeah, you guys trained together.

Lynn Lyons: thank you. Thanks for having me.

Kimberley Quinlan: Is that what it was?

Lynn Lyons: Oh no, he we wrote the books together so I'd never I'd never met him before and we were presenting it. I was we were both presenting at a brief therapy conference. I think when was it like Like, 15 years ago, maybe. And so he just,…

Kimberley Quinlan:  Yeah.

Lynn Lyons: he just popped in and listened to my talk and then he emailed me a little while later and said, I want to write a book on kids, but I don't work with kids, and I need a co-author,…

Kimberley Quinlan:  Sure.

Lynn Lyons: would you want to write a book with me? So I was like, Yeah. So so we wrote the two books together. It was a period of four and a half years of writing. And, you know, the two books and I think God. I mean, I talked to him every day. Probably for, you know, three and a half years. So yeah, we've become, we've become good friends. Yeah, he is a good guy. Super helpful to me,…

Kimberley Quinlan: Yeah.

Lynn Lyons: too. I just, I just love what he's offered me. Yeah.

Kimberley Quinlan: Yeah, and and my clients and…

Lynn Lyons:  Mmm.

Kimberley Quinlan: my stuff to be honest. Like so often when I'm consulting with my staff, they'll like bring up a read Wilson comment.

Lynn Lyons:  Yeah, yeah, and his new OCD program is just amazing. Yeah.

Kimberley Quinlan: And it's really wonderful. Yeah.

Kimberley Quinlan: Amazing. Yeah. Really amazing. That the six the six-part plan is so cool. Yeah. I love the work that you're both doing.

Lynn Lyons:  Yeah.


Kimberley Quinlan: Thank you for all your work. I'm like a learner of your work, right? I'm yeah,…

Lynn Lyons:  Oh thanks. Thanks thanks. Yeah.

Kimberley Quinlan: it's really wonderful. Yeah, yeah, well, thank you so much. I it will be out on the 24th of February,…

Lynn Lyons:  Okay.

Kimberley Quinlan: and we usually link to Instagram. I'm really active on Instagram and…

Lynn Lyons:  Okay.

Kimberley Quinlan: it comes out on Friday, as well. I'll probably please come out and Friday. And so, if you want to have your assistant or a publisher, I'm not sure email me. All of the links to anything you want me to add in the show notes. That's usually an easy way to make sure I get it correct.

Lynn Lyons: Okay, okay.

Kimberley Quinlan: And I think that's it. Yeah.

Lynn Lyons:  All right. Great. Shoot. Me an email. Just to remind me before it comes out, so I can start to promote it on my stuff too. Okay.

Kimberley Quinlan:  Yeah, wonderful. Yeah, and it's really great to meet with you and chat. Alright. Take a have a good day.Lynn Lyons:  Okay, thank you very much. Bye.

Jan 6, 2023

This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 318, and welcome 2023. 

Welcome back, guys. Happy 2023. Happy New Year. I want you to imagine you and I are sitting down at a table and we both have the most wonderful, warm tea or coffee or water or whatever it is that you enjoy, and we are going to have a talk. You’re not getting a talking too, I’m not saying that. But I want you to imagine that I’m standing in front of you or sitting in front of you and we’ve got eyes locked, and I am dead serious in what I’m talking to you about because I believe it to be the most important thing you need for 2023. I really, really do. 

So, let’s talk. Okay, you’ve got your tea. I’ve got my tea. Let’s do this. Okay.

318 The ONE Thing I Want You to Focus On in 2023

So, I want you to imagine that you have a suffering in your life. We all have suffering. It’s a part of being a human. Life is 50/50. It’s 50% easy and 50% hard. We all are going to have suffering this year. But I want you to imagine this scenario. It could be something that’s hard for you that you’re already going through or could be imagined. And I want you to think about that there’s a circumstance or a situation that happened that is out of your control and it’s causing you suffering. Maybe it’s a thought that’s intrusive, maybe it’s anxiety, maybe it’s depression. Maybe you have a hole in your tire, maybe you-- if you hear some people walking, it’s because my whole family are upstairs playing. But maybe you have some financial stresses, relationship stresses. Maybe you feel very alone. Whatever you’re suffering is, I want you to acknowledge that you’re having this suffering. And then I want you to think about, who could I call to help me manage this pain in my life? Is it someone who could support me and nurture me during that suffering? Is it someone who has the solution to that problem? Is it somebody who’s been through it before and they can guide you on what to do? 

So what we do when we have suffering is we gather hopefully a list of people who we can help and we reach out to them. That’s good coping, right? But what I want you to do differently, or maybe you’re already doing this and I want you to do more of in 2023, is I want you to move you to the top of that list. I want you to be the first person you call to offer yourself the support and wisdom and guidance, right? 

I’m not here to say there’s anything wrong with calling the other people. In fact, I am a huge believer in gathering your peeps when things are hard, calling your speed-dial people, right? That’s cool. I want you to be doing that. But I want for this year for you to move yourself to the top of the list and ask yourself, what is it that you need while you suffer? How can I support you while you suffer? What do you need to hear as you suffer? How can I tend to this suffering in a kind, compassionate, non-abandoning way? How can we be that for ourselves? We have to be at the top of the list. And I don’t mean that in any preachy way. I mean it because let’s look at the problems when we’re not, when we don’t show up at the top of the list.

We build this belief that we need other people and we don’t have what it takes to get through it, right? When we put ourselves at the top of the list, we develop and grow muscles in our brain that have us start to see that we can cope really well by ourselves. That we have everything that we need, right? That is so, so beautiful. 

And the reason I’m sharing this with you in this hopefully not preachy way is I was journaling the other day and I was really asking myself like, what is it that I want to talk about? What is it that I’m so passionate about? What is it that lights a fire inside me? And while, yes, I love talking about anxiety and yes, I love talking about OCD and I love talking about mental health and all the things, this one thing I believe is the biggest game changer above and beyond all the tools that I give you in my toolkit. 

Oh, PS, I have to tell you, I was looking for-- I was doing a Google search on Your Anxiety Toolkit because I just had to pull up something and it’s easier for me just to Google it. And when I wrote it in, this teeny tiny wooden kids toolkit showed up, like this little toolbox. And I couldn’t help myself, but I had to buy it because I was like, that’s exactly it, right? This is all about me giving you an array of tools and tools that are super effective and tools that you know when to use them. Because imagine if you had a saw but you were using it for the wrong thing, that would be very ineffective. So, that’s the whole premise of this podcast. But I was thinking about, of all the tools in the toolkit, this might be the most important one, which is the one that teaches you how strong you are. That you are the most unconditional friend for yourself, the most unconditional friend. You are there non-stop, no matter what. No matter what happens, you have the capacity to sit with yourself in compassion while you suffer. 

So, that’s it, you guys. That’s all I have to say. That’s the goal I have for you this year. And I would love to hear and to know what outcomes you get from that. So, as you practice it, don’t be afraid to, if you signed up for our newsletter, reply and let me know. How’s that going for you? How’s that helping? 

Again, I want to really be clear here. We are not showing up for ourselves first because we don’t deserve other people’s help. We’re still going to ask for their help, but we are moving ourselves to the front of the line. We’re moving ourselves to the first person we speed dial, right? And we’re showing up for ourselves as much as possible so that if the person that’s second in line doesn’t have the capacity for us today, that’s all right because we already know that the first-speed dial person, which is us, is there ready to pick up whatever is left over. Okay? 

So that is my hope for 2023. That is my hope for you for the rest of the decade as well. And this is something I feel again so incredibly strong about. Sorry, that didn’t make sense. It’s something I feel so deeply about. Okay? 

All right. I am sending you the biggest love. I have got some super exciting, big things happening in the new year. Big for me, hopefully, helpful for you. Hopefully, that will, again, give you more tools, more effective tools, make you more clear on which ones to use and when. It will mean that the structure of the podcast will change just a little but hopefully for the better. Okay? 

All right. I’ll see you guys next week and we will go from there. 

Have a wonderful day and it is a beautiful day to move yourself to the top of the list. Have a good one, everyone.