Your Anxiety Toolkit

Your Anxiety Toolkit aims to provide you with helpful tools to manage anxiety, stress and other emotions that get in the way.
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Apr 13, 2017
This is a message to you, for those times when you feel like you are failing. This is a little bit of a verbal manifesto for you, if you feel like you are not winning the fight against anxiety and you are lost on where to go next. Maybe you feel like you can’t seem to get relief from your anxiety. Or you are unable to do something that is super scary for you. Possibly you have mastered one struggle and then you have found that a new anxiety or struggle has risen. In this moment, you may feel like you cannot seem to get “control” over whatever it is that you are dealing with.   Because of this, your emotions might be raging, despite your attempts to calm them. Below are my favorite FIVE points to remember when you think that you are failing, or not winning.   I hope they find you some peace and give you some ideas to help you keep moving forward.

FIVE things for you to remeber when you think you are “failing”

Thing #1 You cannot “fail” if you are trying. If you are trying, you are being willing Failing is if you stop trying.  There will be times when you have to slow down and stop your work for a moment. You may need some time to reflect (see Thing # 3 for more information on this). That being said, try to remember that slowing down is not failing either. Thing #2 Anxiety OCD Eating Disorders ERP Calabasas Westlake Village Thousand Oaks Encino Woodland Hills Tarzana Panic Fear WorryThis struggle is real and IMPORTANT.   You are not making this struggle up. If it is hard for you, it IS hard. Just because it isn’t hard for others, does NOT discount that it IS hard for you. Be gentle with yourself. You are not dumb, or stupid, or messed up because this struggle is so hard for you. There is no rhyme or reason why this struggle chose you. All I can say is that it is yours and you are correct. IT IS HARD. Thing # 3 Make the “fail” or the struggle count.  There is knowledge in each struggle. I can be helpful to ask yourself, “What message is there that we could learn from?” Possible obstacles that might be getting in the way could include concepts such as-
  1. I cannot let go of control.
  2. I am struggling with concept of uncertainty
  3. I am struggling with accepting my physical discomfort
Once you have identified the obstacle, you might review (by yourself or with your therapist) if it          would be helpful to go back to identifying and correcting your irrational thoughts about your fear. You might also want to revisit your willingness tools.  An important tool that we often forget is to apply TONS of compassion. Or maybe just a little bit, if compassion is a hard tool for you to access.  You could use this “fail” to dispel the misconception that you should be ashamed of having this struggle.  Can you share it with someone your trust? We all, even those who seem happy and lucky, have struggles. You are not alone. Don’t hide it all to yourself. Reach out and ask for a hug. Allow yourself to be comforted. Brene Brown’s research on trust has shown that others trust us more when we share our own struggles with others. Thing #4 Beating yourself solves NOTHING. Do you look back on past events and say, “I am so glad I beat myself up over that!” I am sure you do not. J  Could you allow this struggle to be hard just for the present moment? Sometime when we allow things to be hard, miraculously, they become jus a little easier, or the heaviness of them becomes less. Some Yoga Instructors say that there are some advanced moves that require you to fall 1000 times before you can master a pose. If you didn’t know that it took 1000 falls to master the pose, you would probably give up pretty fast.   I like to use this as a metaphor for dealing with anxiety.  Remind yourself that you will have to fall a few times at least (more likely 1000) when dealing with anxiety. If you find that infuriating, try not to judge the process. Allow yourself to fall, knowing that the falls are accruing towards a great outcome. Thing #5 “Failing” is a point of view. Remember, you cannot fail if you are trying.   If someone tells you your trying is not enough, that’s ok. They can have that opinion. However, no one knows your struggle. No one gets to tell you how your recovery should look.   Just keep looking at the steps you are taking. Be SUPER careful of looking too far ahead. If you are climbing a mountain (which I am sure this is how it feels to you right now if you are listening this far into the podcast), just focus on the steps you are taking.   If you look too far up the mountain, you WILL trip and then you will feel like you are “failing”. Sound familiar. Try to just stay here, on this one step. Master this one step and give yourself time and compassion for how hard this step is. Consider “failing” as proof of bravery.   If you are listening to this, in my mind, YOU are a winner. You are brave, just for trying to conquer something hard. It takes courage to admit to having struggles. It would be so easy to go and hide and let whatever it is that you are dealing with just keep happening. It takes a lot of courage to fight through something instead of run away or fight it with anger or self-criticism. Open yourself to allowing the struggle to be a part of your story, instead of fighting it all the way. Every good story or movie needs a struggle. I see your strength. I see your possibilities.   Keep your fire alive. I believe you can do this.   I have seen some pretty amazing stuff in my career. I've seen people tell me they "will never beat this" and they did.    Keep trying!      
Mar 11, 2017

Let’s talk about your Brain and Anxiety

When your physical symptoms of anxiety are high, you may feel like nothing works.   You may have moments when you feel like you can’t come back to your rational brain.  When we are all wound up on anxiety, fear can run the show.   You know what I am talking about, right? Despite there being some great tools out there, but one of the most difficult parts of having severe anxiety or panic is the comprehending what IS real danger and what IS NOT. Last month we talked about R.A.I.N, which is an acronym that helps us use some of the most important mindfulness tools.   There is also non-judgment, acceptance, willingness, bringing our attention to the present moment.   These are all wonderful tools. For me personally, if I can understand the mechanism behind what is happening, I can handle it better. That is why understanding what was happening in my brain was SO helpful. Today we are going to delve deeper into understanding our brain and what happens when we experience high anxiety. The problem with the anxious brain is that it often sets of an alarm, making us feel like our lives are at risk, danger is ahead, when really there is no danger at all.   This is a mistake our brain makes, particularly when we have an anxiety disorder like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety or Specific Phobias. Sometimes just understanding a little bit about what our brain is doing can help us with awareness and then allow us to implement the tools better.

A Simple way to Understand YOUR Brain and Anxiety

Anxiety Brain OCD Fear Eating Disorder CBT Mindfulness Therapy Depression I want you to think of the brain like a house. This house is a two-story house, with a stairway that leads us to from upstairs to downstairs, or vice versa. Dan Siegel and Tina Payne wrote a wonderful book called, The Whole Brain Child that coined this concept, but I have shifted them a little to specifically address the management of anxiety. **Please note that scientifically, this is not perfect. It would take hours for me to explain the intricacies of the brain and all the areas that provide different functions. For the purpose of getting a basic understanding, we will use this simple metaphor. The Upstairs of the brain is where we do most of our Executive Functioning. What this means is, in the upstairs brain lives the “Thinkers”. Functions of the upstairs brain allows us to
  1. Regulate our body (speed up or slow down)
  2. Tune in to someone else or something else.
  3. Balance our Emotions and use Empathy and compassion
  4. Have response flexibility (slows down the time between impulses or urges and an action). Basically, this means that we don’t respond based on pure emotion.
  5. Calm our fear: There are inhibitory peptides called gabba that tame our fear and help us interpret the stimuli in a rational, appropriate way. This occurs in the Prefrontal Cortex at the front of the brain.
For kids, I love Hazel Harrison’s idea of giving each of these functions a character name. Hazel Harrison is a blogger for, if you are interested.   You can be super creative with this process and make it silly and fun. In our upstairs brain lives:
  • Creative Cassidy
  • Problem Solving Pete
  • Patty the Planner
  • Reasonable Renee
  • Calming Catarina
  • Kind Kelly
  • Flexible Felix
The downstairs area of the house lives the Basic functions.   While these might not seem as sophisticated as the upstairs of the brain, the downstairs helps us to stay alive. Downstairs brain controls
  1. Bodily mechanisms that are automatic (Breathing, Digestions and Blinking). It is really quite incredible that our whole body can function without us needing to do anything at all.
  2. Fight, flight and freeze mechanisms. This is the most important, for today‘s discussion. The downstairs is the Emotional hub of the brain.  We need to be thankful for this part of our brain, as it keeps us safe from real danger. This downstairs area of the brain is what keeps us from touching the hot plate on the stove or not walking out onto a busy highway.
For the kids (and for use Adult Kids!), our downstairs brain is the home of:
  • Fearful Frannie
  • Panicky Pete (Fight flight or freeze)
  • Sad Sandra
  • Furious Frank
  • Bossy Benjamin
In the downstairs brain lives the Amygdala, which interprets the current stimuli, past memories about such stimuli and the general environment to determine if there is danger or not. If there is danger, the Amygdala sends out a message to the body to prepare for flight, fight or freeze. This message may cause a bunch of bodily sensations that will prepare you for survival. Your heart rate might go up, which is your body preparing to be able to run a long distance in a short amount of time. This message may cause you to have stomach issues such as diarrhea or vomiting, which is your body’s way of emptying its contents, again, so you can be lighter and get away from such danger. Using the metaphor of the house representing the brain, the stairway of the house helps the upstairs and the downstairs communicate together. The upstairs and the downstairs work together to think and feel in a way that is regulated and reasonable. If there is a real danger, let’s say there is an earthquake, the downstairs brain (specifically Fearful Frannie and Panicky Pete) take over to make sure they can send all the messages necessary to keep the body safe. An example of this is, if there was in fact an huge earthquake, the upstairs “Problem Solving Pete” would not stop to pick up the stray shoes that have been left in the middle of the lounge room in case someone trips. Or, “Reasonable Renee” would not signal for us to stop to say goodbye to the people we are standing with before we ran for safety. Our downstairs brain works very hard so it can get us to the safest place in the fastest possible time. Once the danger has gone, we go back to using a more balanced distribution of the upper and lower brain.

What happens when we have an Anxiety Disorder?

In some cases, as mentioned above, our brains interpret that there is danger and sends out these messages when there is, in fact, little or no danger at all. This is VERY common in anxiety disorders. We could say that our downstairs made a mistake and set off the alarms, signaling to the whole body that is must prepare for fight or flight. When I am using the metaphor of the two-story house, I often call this “lockdown”. Sometimes, just as our brains do where there is a REAL danger, when our brains mistakenly set off the alarm bells, it “locks down” the downstairs brain and won’t allow us to access our upstairs brain in a reasonable way. Problem Solving Pete and Rational Renee have no way of communicating with Panicky Patty and this keeps us from questioning if this danger is, in fact, a danger. There is great benefit from knowing this information and being able to notice and observe when your brain is sending you into “lockdown”. Just understanding and observing this can allow us to reset. In fact, identifying that we are in lockdown and that our downstairs brain is being activated instantaneously opens up the stairway a little and allows reasonable Renee to begin doing her work. It is Reasonable Renee who allows us to say “OK, I am in lockdown right now”.    Isn’t that SO cool?! Dan Siegel uses the quote, “you have to name it to tame it” and I cannot agree more when it comes to anxiety. When you (or your little ones) can name what is happening in their brain, it helps them to feel in control and then are able to tame their heightened sense of danger. Now, don’t get me wrong, knowing this information will not make anxiety go away completely. But, the more we can identify when our downstairs is in lockdown mode, the more likely we are to use our mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy tools. Another tool is to practice using you upstairs brain when you aren’t in automatic lockdown. By exposing yourself to the very things that set off the downstairs brain in to lockdown (when there is, in fact, no danger at all), you can re-train your brain to reassess the danger appropriately.   You will use your upstairs brain to regulate your downstairs brain when it wants to send you into lockdown. It is important to know that the upstairs part of the brain isn’t fully built until sometime in a child 20’s. This doesn’t mean that this tool isn’t helpful to those who are children or adolescents. In fact, it is even more important for those who are younger. Understanding your brain can help develop the use of the upstairs brain and can benefit then in many, many ways. The goal is to have an upstairs and downstairs brain that communicate and work together.

Discussing Anxiety and the Brain with your Kids

If you are working with young children, try to make it fun. If your child is in lock down, have Bossy Benjamin tell Panicky Pete to “scram!!!!”. You could say, “You don’t belong here Panicky Pete!”   You might also ask the lovely Calming Catarina to help with breathing and doing a fun activity that engages your child. For little kids (and us big Adult kids), you might ask Reasonable Renee to keep and eye on Worried Wanda. Worried Wanda often spends too much time worrying about the future and all the bad things that might happen. Reasonable Renee can help remind Worried Wanda that her imagination has gone a little wild.   Reasonable Renee might also sit down and come up with some activities that your child can do when Worried Wanda talks too loud and starts to become a bother.   Ideas might include arts and crafts, take a walk, build a lego castle, do a jigsaw puzzle. The trick is to get hat upstairs AND downstairs brain engaged and communicating together! Play around with some of these ideas and please let me know if you have any great ideas or questions.        
Jan 31, 2017

RAIN: A four step Mindfulness tool

Welcome back and Happy New Year everyone! Today we are discussing a very valuable mindfulness tool called RAIN. It can be a super helpful way to manage strong emotions and sensations.   RAIN can help manage anger, shame, guilt, sadness, depression and pain.   I have found this tool to be a particularly helpful tool for those experiencing anxiety or panic, but is also a very helpful tool for strong hair pulling or skin picking urges. RAIN is an acronym. Each letter represents one step and is a part of a 4-step mindfulness tool.


  • The first step is to recognize what is going on in this present moment.
  • Recognizing gets us to slow down, or stop.
  • Often, we are so reactive that we don’t stop to notice if there might be another solution or another was to respond.
  • An example of this might be “Oh, I am feeling hurt right now” or “Oh, I am having a thought about the possibility of me panicking very soon”
  • We stop to recognize things for how they really are.

A is for ALLOW or ACCEPT:

  • First, start by saying “YES”
  • Do not fight that this is what is happening.
  • By allowing, you are not denying it. You are making room for it in your day
  • By allowing, you are also not invested in its removal or exit. You are staying present.
  • An example of allowing and accepting is, “I am going to allow the sensations of anxiety in my body right now. They will not hurt me” or, “This urge to pull my hair is very strong, but I am going to just allow it to come and go. I wont last forever”

I is for Investigate:

  • When we investigate, we take note of what is going on
  • We become aware of the real details.
  • It is IMPORTANT to know that this does NOT mean that you should be thinking about the perceived problem. This does not mean that you should be trying to figure out the perceived problem.
  • Let me explain using a few examples
E.g. #1. Lets say you have OCD and you have had the thought “What if I go crazy and go on a shooting rampage” (a typical harm OCD thought). Before using this tool, you might immediately feel anxious, and then go into a long process of trying to get rid of that thought and find proof that you would NEVER EVER, EVER do such a thing. You might spend hours going over and over in your head if that would appeal to you or if others would think you are capable of such an act. Using the I of RAIN, which is investigate, you would investigate what it feels like to have that thought. You would NOT investigate the validity of that thought. The goal is to investigate by saying something like, “Oh, I notice that thought makes my anxiety increase. Isn’t it interesting that my brain and body is responding to this thought this way?” Example #2: Lets say you have an Eating Disorder such as Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa or Binge-Eating.   It is common for someone with an eating disorder to “feel fat”. When someone “feels fat”, they immediately feel fear, guilt and shame about this experience. Using RAIN, the goal would be to Recognize, “Oh, this experience is here again”. Then, one would work on allowing that experience to be present. Using I for investigate, one who experiences the feeling of “being fat” would then investigate what sensations come along with this experience? Do I feel a sense of my body that is different to normal?” or “Do I notice that this feeling immediately makes my heart begin to race?” The goal of investigate is NOT to investigate if that feeling has any validity by checking in the mirror or body fat checking. Investigate is about asking yourself, “what’s going on for me right now? “How does this feel in my body in this moment?”

N: Non-identify:

  • Non-identify is the act of not taking the experience personally.
  • When we are uncomfortable, we often identify with the emotion
  • If you felt anxiety, you might say, “I am an anxious person”
  • Instead, say, “I am anxious in this moment” or even better is. “There is a lot of anxiety here”
  • If you feel sad and depressed, you might non-identify by stating, “I notice sensations of sadness” instead of, “I am depressed”
  • A trick here is to notice if you ever label yourself as one thing. We are never one emotion or one identity. Our work is to not put ourselves in an identity
One last time, RAIN is a super helpful mindfulness tool.


R is for recognize A is for Allow or accept I is for investigate N is for Non-identify
Jan 5, 2017
  YOUR MINDSET MATTERS: How being in "Yes Mind" can be a game changer for you! My main goal for this podcast is to create a new approach for handling Anxiety and other difficult emotions and sensations. During today’s podcast I am talking about being in YES mind, NO mind and MAYBE mind and what that all means in relation to how we approach anxiety and other emotions. We will conclude with a short mindfulness meditation to help you take on some of the mindfulness skills discussed today. Some may have heard me speak about this idea of YES NO and MAYBE, but during this podcast I am going into greater detail and discuss why this concept is so important when you live with anxiety, depression or other similar struggles such as eating disorders and BFRB’s. In order to make this easy to understand, lets pretend you have been asked to present at the annual conference for the industry you work in and you are terrified of public speaking. You can insert your own story into this story (Contamination OCD and you have to go to the hospital for a family member, for example) You have 3 OPTIONS: You could say YES:
  • PRO to saying YES: You might meet new people or make new connections in your industry, it looks excellent on your resume, and MOST importantly, you are not letting anxiety make your decisions.
  • CON: You have to prepare, and have to manage and tolerate your anticipatory anxiety until the event occurs and the emotions related to worrying how it will go
You could say NO:
  • PRO: You get the relief of not adding this challenge to your plate.
    • While that is a pretty sizable PRO, given that anticipatory anxiety can be hard to manage, try to stay open minded about the fact that saying no gives your short term comfort, but leads to longer term discomforts.
  • CON: You miss out on a huge opportunity to build your public speaking skills and your reputation in your industry.   Colleagues might stop asking you to these events and not give you these opportunities in the future.
  • Biggest CON is that Anxiety wins. Anxiety makes your decisions.
You could say Maybe:
  • We end up spending the entire time mentally ruminating
  • You go back and forth, with no real relief from your emotions and feelings and no real success.
  • Its Repetitious and exhausting.
For those of you who have heard this concept before, or for those of you who are guessing, I am hoping that we can agree that of all the choices, MAYBE is the most dangerous. For those who thought Maybe was a good choice, lets take a closer look at each option.
  • When dealing with emotions such as fear, anger, sadness or physical discomfort, even pain, when we choose NO or to be in “No Mind”, we push away our feelings as if this will allow us to move away from the “problem".  The problem isn't the conference.  The problem is that we are saying NO to the conference
  • There is little mental rumination or review about the decision and if this was the correct decision.
  • While saying no to going to the conference might seem harmless (no one needs to know), it is an avoidant behavior (one that is quite problematic when you have disorders like OCD, or Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety, Anorexia or other eating disorders), it saves you from having to face your fears or other emotions or sensations. The biggest problem is that your emotions make your decisions and before you know it, the emotion has won. Fear or sadness or anger or even guilt and shame decides where you go, who you meet and prevents you from having many wonderful experiences.
Saying MAYBE is SUPER problematic because it gives you ample opportunity to go BACK AND FORTH and back and forth on the pros and cons of the decision. While some may argue that this is a good thing, it is not for those with anxiety. I like to call this back and forth, “MAYBE mind”. Maybe mind is
  • exhausting, time consuming and doesn’t encourage the skill of positive self-assurance (E.g. “I can do this”).
  • leaves us spending the entire week going over the pros and cons of saying YES to going to the party and the pros and Cons of saying NO to going to the party.
  • The truth is, when it comes to anxiety, the pros and cons are often the same, no matter what the feared event or situation is.
  • As mentioned above, the pros of saying “yes” are that you get to live your life, experience more and not let fear make your decisions. The cons are that you having to be willing to experience anxiety. The pros of saying no is that you DON’T have to feel anxiety for the short term, but the con is that you sided with fear and let fear make your decisions (log term consequence).
  If you are wondering how this applies to you, lets take a closer look at Yes mind and see how it can help you manage fear, pain, or other uncomfortable sensations.  To use the example, saying Yes to speaking at the conference allows you to commit to a life where anxiety doesn’t make your decisions. Being in “yes mind” doesn’t mean you just say yes to all events that scare you. It is you saying YES to anxiety in general. It is an offering to let anxiety come with you on your journey. It is the commitment to welcoming fear, which is a human experience, into our days and lots getting side tracked with its presence.  Being in “Yes Mind” is a mindset. It moves us closer to acceptance of our discomfort and improves our ability to just be in our experience, without fighting it, resenting it or pushing it onto other people. Why is acceptance and willingness important?
  • Studies suggest that accepting your discomfort will actually reduce your perceived discomfort.
  • Some studies have even concluded that when studying patients with severe pain, the acceptance of pain resulted in reports of lower pain than those who were medicated for pain. While these studies are very complex with many complex components, the point is, acceptance works!
  • When we accepted fear, we use our energy appropriately and productively, instead of wasting energy going over and over how terrible things are (or might be). PS: Remember, this is “maybe mind”.
So, lets try to catch ourselves in NO mind and MAYBE mind.  Lets try to stay in YES mind as much as we can, OK?    
Jan 5, 2017
Hi there everyone! This months podcast is a guided relaxation meditation.  I ADORE this meditation and is one that I have adapted from several meditations that I love.  It is super easy and doesn't require a lot of effort, except just staying with me. It is particularly easy to use before, during or after doing exposure for OCD or other anxiety disorders.  I also encourage this when practicing mindful eating or intuitive eating.  It is a great way to direct your attention back to your body and into the moment. Try it and let me know what you think. And Happy Belated Thanksgiving! Warmly, Kimberley
Oct 27, 2016

The Skill of Awareness


Halloween is just around the corner and we are moving into the holiday season.

You may notice that you can go the whole day without noticing. You are in what I call Autopilot. Much of the time we are so in our head, we forget to be aware

When we experience stress, we assume that something fundamentally is wrong or that a disaster will happen. We become disconnected. We avoid situations. We stop taking care of ourselves. We get irritated. We mentally ruminate. We judge ourselves negatively.

For those who have OCD, you have more obsessions and do more compulsions

For those with an Eating Disorder, you might restrict more, or binge more, or purge more. If you have a Body Focused Repetitive Behavior (BFRB), you will spend more time in a “trance” state.


Awareness can be a VERY helpful tool to protect us against these behaviors.


What is Awareness?




  • knowledge or perception of a situation or fact.
  • concern about and well-informed interest in a particular situation or development.


I particularly love the second definition.


  1. “concern about and well-informed interest in a particular situation or development”



  • Sometime means anxiety or worry (but this is not the way I like to look at it)
  • Also means interest


The goal is to take more interest in your surroundings or notice the atmosphere of your brain.


  1. “well-informed interest in a particular situation or development”


Well informed:

  • Rational, reasonable, objective
  • If I think it, it must be true


Eg: “I can’t do this” (test, get up, stop a behavior that is problematic, get a new job, go to a party etc).


Thoughts without anxiety= no big deal

Thoughts with fear/anxiety: Must be a sign of trouble to come


Being well informed allows us to identify what is a thought and what is a fact, despite what emotion or feeling it is coupled with.


Often, we have thoughts about events of developments that have not even occurred yet. We try to use our thinking as a way to confirm certainty or find the solution.


Let me ask you…


How successful and productive is your thinking about this not-yet-occurring situation?


Could there be peace in not going over every last detail of the possible disaster?


Are we using up THIS present moment to find solutions, without recognizing that RIGHT NOW is still and quiet and safe?


One of the main reasons we mentally ruminate is FEAR. It’s everywhere.


If you have fear, it may not feel safe, but your job is to watch how caught up you get with it.   Become more aware of the unrealistic and irrational places it takes you.


You can practice awareness simply by bringing your attention to your surroundings. The 5 Senses Meditation is an easy way to practice this tool.


One of my most favorite ways to managing this is with the following meditation.


The more you practice it formally, the better you become at it.


The better you become at this awareness practice, the more you are able to use it during your busy day, or when distressed, or even panicking.   It is an amazing tool.   I hope you enjoy it.






Find a position that is comfortable


Put your feet flat on the ground


Slowly close your eyes,


Soften your eyebrows, your jaw, your shoulders, your stomach, your hands, your feet.


Breathe in


Breathe out


Bring your attention to your breath


Notice the rise and fall of your chest


Imagine that your breath is like a swinging door.   Each time you breathe in, the door swings to the left. Each time you breathe out, the door swings to the right.


Continue to follow this pattern, just keeping your minds eye on the swinging door.


You may find that your thoughts wonder off. That is ok.


Just gently bring yourself back to the image of the swinging door as you breathe in and out.


Continue to breathe, allowing your breath to decide its own rhythm, and while watching the swinging door swing back and forth gently and evenly.


It is important to remember that it is natural for your thoughts to go off towards something completely unrelated. You may notice that your thoughts often go to very scary or disturbing subjects. You may start to go over all the things you have to achieve later today, or in your life.


When you become aware of this, just come on back. Come back to your breathe, as your anchor. Gently come back to the swinging door.


You may find that you have to do this “coming back” quite a lot. Again, this is totally normal and healthy, showing us that your brain is alive and well. Try not to be hard on yourself for this. The goal is to learn the great discipline of coming back to our present moment and not get caught up in thoughts that are not helpful.


Continue to practice this, noticing your breath and the swinging door.


Slowly, bring your attention back to your body


Slowly open your eyes


Congratulate yourself for trying as hard as you did.


May this practice bring you strength and compassion with the thoughts that you have.



I hope you have enjoyed this episode of My Anxiety Toolkit. My name is Kimberley Quinlan.


This podcast is not intended to replace correct professional mental health care. Please speak to a trained mental health professional if you feel you need it.


Have a wonderful day


Sep 30, 2016

Self-Compassion is a helpful tool for managing shame and blame and negative self-talk.   It is particularly, in my experience, helpful for those struggling with OCD, Panic Disorder, Phobias, Health Anxiety, Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors,  Eating Disorders and Depression.

The Center for Mindful Self Compassion ( describes self-compassion in the following way-

“Self-compassion involves responding in the same supportive and understanding way you would with a good friend when you have a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself.”

Self-compassion is Kindness,  Warmth, Gentleness and Care.

When I talk about the practice of self-compassion, I use the metaphor that self-compassion washes away shame and blame like the rain washes away the dirt on our cars. As the rain gently falls, the dirt slowly falls away. Once the rain has come and gone, there is less heaviness and dirt on the car.   It is easier to see out the windows and now you can see the beautiful fields and trees that you pass on your way to work or school.

A part of this metaphor includes this final sentiment.   Even though the rain has come and gone and the car is mostly cleansed of its dirt, there is still slight streaks of the dirt left behind.

As much as I would love to say that self compassion will wash away all of the dirt and dust on the car, this is not realistic.   The tiny little streaks left behind is a reminder that compassion is a job that is never over. It must be practiced over and over, for the years to come.

This podcast offers a meditation that uses the basics of Kristin Neff’s self compassion research, including the three elements of self compassion. For more info go to

Sep 1, 2016

This podcast discusses Uncertainty and how it exists on a spectrum,

The Beginners Mind, Tools to manage anxiety and uncertainty, and the joys that

curiosity provide.  

A short meditation is offered at the end to help the listener practice these skills. 

Jul 26, 2016

Key Points from todays podcast!


What IS the difference between Fear and Bravery?

  • Is someone who has social anxiety, who goes to the party, but is visibly anxious, fearful or brave?
  • Is someone who has perfectionism, who finishes a text without going over and over the answers before turning it in?
  • Is someone who is ashamed of his or her body and afraid of peoples rude comments, but goes to the party anyway in the dress or outfit they love fearful or brave?

My thoughts are….they are both.


Begin fearful is not a weakness.


Allowing there to be both allows for compassion and strength


Brene Brown “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen”


My definition of Bravery is the examples above. Having fear AND showing up.


Vulnerability is not a weakness. It is a measure of courage 


Perfectionism is an attempt to avoid vulnerability with ourselves and others.


Go and be brave, while being afraid. Go and make friends with vulnerability


“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the BRAVEST thing that we will do”  Brene Brown The gifts of Imperfection


“Owning our story can be hard, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky, but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy-the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” Brene Brown 


Jun 30, 2016

It's time for a parade!!! 

Hello and welcome back!!! My name is Kimberley Quinlan and this is Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast, speaking about anything and everything related to anxiety and mindfulness.  Today, in the spirit of the upcoming 4th of July, I wanted to talk about parades!! You know???? Floats and crowds and cheers and lollipops and picnic chairs.   For some, these are some of our greatest memories.

I often use a parade as a metaphor for our thoughts. In fact, I have heard several different clinicians or teachers of eastern philosophy use a parade metaphor to discuss the experience of anxiety, pain, sadness or life, in general.

As I said, for the purpose of this podcast, I am going to use the metaphor in relation to our thoughts.   Lets get straight to it, shall we????

First, I would like you to slowly take a deep breath. If you would like, you can close your eyes, but it is not entirely necessary for this activity.   Again, I would like you to take a breath and imagine yourself at the sidewalk of a street, waiting for a parade to begin. You are sitting or standing behind the yellow ribbon and you have your family and friends with you.   You also have your favorite flavored lollipop in your hand. The morning sun is gently shining of you and the crowd is excited.   This is a great day!

You hear the music start and slowly, you to see the first float approach the crowd lined street.   It slowly approaches you and your friends are waiting patiently to see what it is about and who is on it.   As it gets closer and closer, you experience a sensation of satisfaction. This float it is very appealing and has all of your favorites colors and favorite flowers.   It is simply beautiful! You wave at the children and adults on the float and they smile back at you as they wave.

Up next is a float made out of a trailer bed, with a racecar on it. This float is all about shine and muscle.   The surface of the car is so shiny, you could almost see your reflection in it. Even the trailer bed is sparkling and has sponsorship stickers all over it.   The drivers wave as they rev the car. It is invigorating, but a little loud. Still, you are having a great time. You wave to the two men and one woman on the float who are dressed in their racing outfits and then you slowly turn your head to see what is next.

Coming up next is a very scary looking float. On it, is lots of people and they are yelling at all the spectators. Some a yelling very scary things and others are yelling very mean things. The float is covered in grey and black streamers and there is a cloud of smoke coming from the front of the float. You are surprised to see this float in the parade and wonder, “what is going on?” This float was significantly unpleasant and you angrily consider writing a letter to the parade committee to inquire about the purpose of this float at such a celebratory event.   The float comes and then moves down the street, scaring the people as it passes.  

You have a hard time directing your attention away from the scary, grey and morbid float, but you bring your attention to the approaching city’s marching band that is playing the most festive music as they slowly follow the scary float.   

OK guys, let’s stop there!   What a parade so far, right? There has been beauty, and music, and loud revving car and a float that was quite scary.   It is very similar to our thoughts, am I right? I am sure we can agree that we are sometimes passed by thoughts that bring us much joy. And, in a similar fashion, sometimes our thoughts are down right demoralizing and scary. This imaginary parade is very similar to the way our brain operates. Happy thoughts, scary thoughts, interesting thoughts, maybe thoughts we don’t even notice.  

When we experience thoughts that we enjoy, we often bask in the beauty and festivity of them. The use the metaphor, when looking at the pleasant float, we don’t question why they chose those particular beautiful flowers or what was the purpose of that float.   We watch and enjoy and then we excitedly search for the next float to arrive.

However, when we observe a grey and scary float, we are completely alarmed, we become angry and try to discover who would create such a float. We might even respond my yelling back, thinking that might stop them from shouting OR prevent them from showing up to next years 4th of July parade.   We might also close our eyes and try to pretend the float is not there, or try to think of a previous float that we enjoyed. Simply put, we are being highly reactionary to thoughts that scare us.

This is a particularly troublesome practice.   If we were to experience each of our thoughts as if we were watching floats in a parade, we could see that our experience of the parade is levied on our emotional reaction to each float.   We are completely at the mercy of which float is next.   This can create quite a predicament.   Because we cannot control which float comes out next OR the theme of the float, we are left feeling out of control and anxious about our experience. 

This is true of our thoughts also. We are constantly spectators to a whole range of thoughts that come and go, like floats in a parade.   Going back to the parade metaphor, when being passed by the scary float, you might find yourself trying to get it to pass you quickly. You might even find yourself whispering (or yelling) ”Get outta here!   You have NO place here, in this parade!”  This type of behavior does not make the float pass the crowds faster. It just makes us more frustrated and ruins our 4th of July parade experience. Now, going back to our thoughts, we are going to have a very difficult time if we are fighting what thoughts come and go.

The trick is to create a non-judgmental and accepting attitude towards each and every float. If a float (or a thought) arises that makes us uncomfortable, just notice your experience, similarly to how you did when a pleasant float passed.   For the pleasant float, you noticed satisfaction and the people on the float and how the flowers and colors brought up sensations in your body.

When scary or more difficult thoughts arise, your job is to observe and wave, knowing that that float (or thought) will pass in time also. Sometime we have to acknowledge that just because the float looks scary, doesn’t mean there is actually real danger.   For example, Lots of people LOVE scary movies and will even PAY to go an get scared in a movie theatre, but they can separate their experience of fear and become observers instead of reacting to their fear.

I invite you to move into your day, allowing your mind to be like a parade with many types of floats, meaning, allow all of your thoughts.   I don’t expect you to be fantastic at this. It is like a muscle that must be strengthened. Just practice noticing the temporary fashion of each thought and do not fight them when they are passing you by.   It is the fight that will create your dismay.

Last of all, don’t be afraid to bring your camera to this metaphorical parade!!! Use your zoom to zoom on and out while capturing the ENTIRE scene.   Don’t get too focused on just the floats. The floats alone do not make up the entirety of a parade. The parade also consists of the crowds and their cheers and the streets and most importantly, the lollipops!!

I hope you have enjoyed this episode of My Anxiety Toolkit. My name is Kimberley Quinlan. If you have any thoughts or comments, please feel free to comment in the comment section of my blog.

This podcast is not intended to replace correct professional mental health care. Please speak to a trained mental health professional if you feel you need it.

Have a wonderful day

May 30, 2016


Hello and welcome to Your Anxiety Toolkit.   My name is Kimberley Quinlan.


A big part of my work as a therapist is to help clients tolerate fear and anxiety (or other forms of discomfort such as urges and sometimes pain), instead of doing compulsive behaviors.


In effort to keep this podcast short, I wont go into detail about compulsions. But, if you are wanting more information on compulsive behaviors related to specific anxiety disorders, eating disorders, or Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors, please go to my website under “Areas of specialty”


The reason I decided on this specific topic today is because of the common question asked by clients “If I choose NOT to do these compulsive behaviors, what should I do instead?”.


Well, I like to think of our experience in this life like looking through the lens of a camera. When we are anxious, we often ZOOM in on what is making us anxious or we zoom in to our sensations of anxiety. We FOCUS on the problem. We stay zoomed in, thinking this will solve it.   That makes sense, right? If we could just figure out how to solve the problem, we would then fix the problem, right?   But what if zooming in was not the solution. What if zooming OUT was the solution?? Hmmm, interesting right??


One of my favorite activities for clients (or for myself) when anxious or dealing with discomfort involves just becoming an observer. The following meditation is an exercise of this. It is a meditation of noticing. I like to call it “the 5 senses Mediation. I hope you enjoy it. And feel free to leave a comment in the comment section of the blog that accompanies this podcast.  


OK, I want you to find a place where you can rest, preferably in sitting position, and take a deep breath.   And then another.


You are here because you probably are uncomfortable.  


Something just happened that created a lot of anxiety or distress for you, - or maybe you just finished up doing an exposure.   I can imagine that you are experiencing some pretty uncomfortable feelings. Maybe your stomach is in knots.  Maybe you have a really tight chest or maybe a racing heart rate. Maybe your head is spinning, telling you to “make this anxiety or this feeling go away!” You know from experience that doing a compulsive behavior keeps you in the cycle of anxiety.   So instead, you are here, sitting with your discomfort.


Again, take a deep breath and congratulate yourself for how brave you are.  


After another breath in…and then out, I want you to shift your gaze to your noticing mind. As you breathe in and out. I want you to close your eyes and just notice what it is like for your chest to rise and fall. Continue to breathe at a pace and depth that feels good for you as you observe.  


Now, I want you to shift your attention to what you hear.   What sounds do you hear? Are they pleasant or unpleasant? Try not to get too caught up in your emotions about the noises. Just notice them


You may find that your thoughts drift off, try not to be alarmed or frustrated. This is just your brain doing what it does. Just bring your attention gently back to what you were noticing.   If you find your mind keeps going other directions, that is ok and very normal.   Don’t give it too much attention. Just notice and return back to the meditation.


Again, return to your breath. And now, I want you to notice what you smell? Continue to breathe and observe the scents around you. Did you notice them before? Or are you just now noticing them?


Take another deep breath, and this time notice if there is a particular taste in your mouth. Do you taste the flavors of your most recent meal? Or do you have the freshness of your toothpaste on your tongue as you observe the sensation of taste. What textures do you notice?



So, we have already explored sound, smell and taste. Now I encourage you to gently open your eyes and notice what your see. What shapes do you see? What colors do you see? Are there any particular colors that you enjoy? Or do you notice an aversion to certain colors or textures. Try not to get too caught up in what is the “right” way to observe. Just notice that you are noticing. That is all this is about.


Lastly, I want to you gently close your eyes again and notice your breath again. As you breathe in an out, turn your noticing mind towards the sensation of being pulled down onto the chair by gravity.   Where do you notice the strongest pull of gravity? Is it under your thighs and buttocks as you sit? Or is it under the soles of your feet, if you are standing? Or do you feel a strong pull of gravity under your back, as you recline in your chair? Isn’t it interesting to notice this??? You might also notice what it feels like to touch whatever it is that is close to your hands. What texture do you feel? Is it soft or hard? Maybe crinkly? Maybe spongy. If you like, you might also notice what it feels like for the air to touch your skin, maybe on your arms or on your face. If you find that this creates discomfort for you, gently return to one of the other sensations that you enjoyed.   Remember, there is no pressure with this meditation. It is just about noticing.


Again, return to your breath. Before we wrap up with this meditation, I invite you to slowly open your eyes. Give yourself one last breath, this one a gift for with you just did! Fantastic job!!


As you continue to breath, go into your day using your noticing mind as much as you can. You might work to just observe what flowers you see as you walk to your class? Or you might notice and observe what it feels like for your hands to grip your fork as you eat? OR maybe you just notice your breath, going in and out of your chest.


Enjoy your day!


Please note that this podcast should not be a substitute for professional mental health care. Please speak with a professional mental health care provider for information on what tools would best suit you.

Apr 27, 2016

Lovingkindness is a great way to create more compassion and self care in your life.  

I was recently lucky enough to attend and present at the Trichotillomania Learning Center Annual Conference in Dallas for those who suffer Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors. The conference was filled with a beautiful group people who struggle with hair pulling and skin picking, two disorders that are grossly misunderstood and stigmatized in our culture.  

What struck me over the long weekend was the incredible love between the attendees. There were tears and laughter and hugs and love shared between so many people from all over the world. On the last day, I could see that most of the tears were coming from the fact that they most would leave their conference family, where they were accepted, and return back to their lives, where they feel so alone and were no longer fully understood.

I share this meditation in hope to create or continue an experience of love that that I felt so strongly during such a beautiful gathering. It is a loving kindness meditation that has helped me greatly when I feel alone or misunderstood and I hope it helps you also.

Mar 31, 2016

The First and Second Arrow

During this podcast, I hope to give you some tools to manage judgment, or what is sometimes called “the second arrow”.   My hope is that this podcast can help you have a more non-judgmental relationship with your body and your body’s experience of anxiety and discomfort.  

Intended for those suffering OCD, Anxiety, Panic, Eating Disorders, Depression, Stress and worry. 


Take a long, deep breathe in.   And slowly exhale. Take another. As you breathe in and out, congratulate yourself for taking the time to do this. Just stopping and breathing can be difficult and uncomfortable when you are managing life, anxiety and stress. Good job!

Again, take a nice deep breathe in and slowly exhale. If you find that taking a deep breathe is too uncomfortable, just breathe at a depth and pace that feels good for you. There is no “right” way to do this. 

Now, I want you to continue to breathe in this fashion, but as you breathe, notice where in your body you feel discomfort. Is it in your chest? Your stomach? Your forehead? Your shoulders? Just do a quick inventory and just notice where your discomfort lies.

Once you have identified the areas in which you are uncomfortable, I want you to practice just breathing while you notice these discomforts. Take some time to experience the discomfort.   Try to just be with it, without running away from it.  

Again, good job. This is not easy.

Now, as you notice where your discomfort lies, I now want you to notice if there are any judgments about your experience. These judgments come in the form of thoughts, such as “I cant do this” or “I shouldn’t be this anxious”. Maybe you are having the thought.. “this feeling is awful!” or “I hate that I feel this way and I shouldn’t have to feel this way” . You might start to compare yourself to others, having thoughts like “Most people don’t feel this way, something must be wrong with me”.

These thoughts are all judgments.             Judgments are not facts.         They are usually a person’s personal reflection on an event, often subjective to their beliefs and views. They are often not true at all.

When it comes to judgments, I love the Buddhist parable about the first and second arrow. This parable uses the metaphor that when we experience an event that causes discomfort in us, it is similar to being hit by an arrow.   In this case, we will call that first experience of discomfort “The first arrow”.   The first arrow is something that we cannot control and is challenging, even painful. If we were to look back at our experience at the beginning of this meditation, the “first arrow” would be the physical discomfort you noticed when you first did an inventory of your body.

The second arrow is the judgment that we have about the discomfort we experienced. These judgments are often what reinforces the pain and discomfort. The second arrow is a personal narrative that pulls us into a pattern of faulty thinking about our experience and our ability to tolerate anxiety and the discomfort that is present. 

The sensations and judgments you experienced just a few minutes ago is a great example of this. I invited you to notice your discomfort, and it is common to immediately follow this noticing with a judgment about our experience.     It is the judgments such as “I cant handle this” or “This feeling should not be here” that makes the first event even harder. In fact, we could argue that the judgment is what can keeps the discomfort around….it keeps us feeling fearful, discouraged and sometimes hopeless.

So, lets go back to noticing. Notice again where you are uncomfortable, or remember back to an event that caused you discomfort. When you observe this event or feeling, the first arrow, you might start to notice feel those second arrows coming up again.

 If you were to remove that second arrow, the judgment, you would begin to see that this event or this feeling, is, in fact, just an event or feeling. And also, it is temporary.  

If we strip ourselves of judgment, we can allow this moment to be just what it is; a moment. It is neither good, nor bad.   And now, in THIS very moment, it might be slightly different to the moment you experienced just a few moments ago.

So, to conclude this mediation, I encourage you to go into the day, noticing first and second arrows. You might be surprised how often you are spearing yourself with an arrow that is not necessary.

I will be offering other podcasts that I hope will be helpful for you, so keep checking in. Please feel free to comment below on the blog page

 I hope you have a wonderful day!

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