Tony tackles the touchy topic of anxiety and gives tips on what to do when you're feeling anxious. You can watch this interview on YouTube here https://youtu.be/k1pPHfe3wd4 Please subscribe to The Virtual Couch YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/TheVirtualCouchPodcast/ and follow The Virtual Couch on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/virtualcouch/
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[00:00:00] Hey, everybody, welcome to Episode 250 of the virtual couch. We're going to do things a little bit different today while I am still your host, Tony Overbay, and I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, all those wonderful things. And I'd love for you to go to TonyOverbay.com and sign up for all kinds of things and find me on Instagram, a virtual couch and even go to Betterhelp.com/virtualcouch, get 10 percent off your first month's online therapy experience, all those things. But today's podcast going to be a little bit different. So I get asked to speak a lot. I absolutely love it. I have always loved it. And I will speak at any any opportunity that I can if I can make it work with my schedule. This week alone, I've done a couple of podcasts, interviews. I did have been mixed faith marriage event. But tonight I have a presentation on anxiety to a very large women's group and I may not be exactly as prepared as I wanted to. So I had another podcast planned for today. But then I thought, OK, I did some additional research on anxiety last night, got in here to the office nice and early, did some more this morning. So I am going to prepare it for this very podcast. I thought why not haven't than a podcast on anxiety in a while. So I will do this podcast today.
[00:01:05] I will do the presentation tonight and I will release this podcast tomorrow. Little will the group know tonight that what they heard is actually a repeat of what I'm recording right now until I released this episode tomorrow, the day after the presentation. It's genius, I tell you fool proof. And actually the more I think about it and I thought about this on my run this morning, what if I recorded this podcast so that it could be used as a presentation for any group moving forward? I fired up the webcam. You can find this on YouTube and it's probably not going to be perfect. I can understand that. So if you are looking for a presentation to give to your group, fill in the blank of what that group would be on anxiety. I want to see if with the right pauses, the right laughter, that I can make this a pretty universal presentation. So here we go. Welcome to my presentation on anxiety for insert your group here. Thank you so much for that introduction, Seriously, I appreciate that and I have to be honest in sitting through the introductions are one of the things that I dislike the most about doing events like this. But I just want you to know that I am grateful to be here. And I know I know I'd rather be with you all in person.
[00:02:13] But hey, 2020, how about it, huh? Zoom, Social distancing. I know you're all in your homes right now, but the raise your hand. If any of you guessed that you'd be watching somebody talk about anxiety in the setting rather than all of us being together like we normally would, that that would be the case. Okay, but my bad that question was confusing. I see some of you raising your hands, some of you hesitating. But just quickly, if you can mute your microphones and no, don't worry about it. I'm I'm not sure if the rest of you heard that parenting moment happening there on the on screen with one of your friends there. But we've all been there. Right. So I just have to tell you how grateful I am to be asked to talk about anxiety to all of you. And when I was asked to do this, you're a gracious host. And I just have to say we go way back, or at least I feel like we do simply from the back and forth that we've had in setting up this event. I've heard a lot of good things about this group. So, again, thank you. And I want you to take full advantage of the chat function in Zoom, particularly the direct message. I would love for you to ask any specific questions about anxiety and I promise I will keep it confidential.
[00:03:10] After all, I am a therapist. That's what we do. So before we get to more of the content, I've got some specific content on tips and tricks that you can use when combating anxiety. I wanted to turn to one of my favorite books of all time. It's called The Happiness Trap. It's by an author named Russ Harris, and he's actually someone that I've been interacting with or just trading some emails and want to get him on the podcast. And until that moment, I just have to tell you, his book, The Happiness Trap and his book The Confidence Gap, are a couple of the books that I feel like have really helped me in my practice and kind of change the way that I interact with people in my office. But the happiness trap in the confidence gap really lay out these principles of a therapy modality that I love called acceptance and commitment therapy. And what one of the first things that drew me to really pay attention to acceptance and commitment therapy was the way that Russ Harris lays out why it can be so difficult to be happy. Because I feel like at our core, what anxiety really is about is this desire that we have to be happy, this desire to know that we're doing all that we can. And if you look at anxiety as a protection and this is the part where the brain bless its little pink, squishy heart, really is just looking out for you.
[00:04:26] So anxiety is just trying to pay attention to all the things that your brain can pay attention to and hopes that that will keep you safe. So let me I'm going to read a little bit from the happiness trap on why it can be so difficult to be happy. So Russ Harris says, to answer this question, let's journey back in time. The modern human mind, with its amazing ability to analyze and plan, create and communicate, has largely evolved over the last hundred thousand years since our species, Homo sapiens, first appeared on the planet. But our minds did not evolve to make us feel good so we could tell jokes or write poems or say, I love you. Our minds evolved to help us survive in a world fraught with danger. So he says, Imagine you're this early human hunter gatherer. What are your essential needs in order to survive and reproduce? There are four of them. There's food, there's water, there's shelter and sex. OK, and I see some giggling there on the zoom. But these are your basic needs. But none of these needs matter if you're dead, if you're not alive. So the number one priority of the primitive human mind was to look out for anything that might harm you and then avoid it. So your mind, the primitive mind basically was a don't get killed device.
[00:05:31] And I love that phrase that if you think in terms of your mind is this thing that is there to protect you, it's a don't get killed device, then you can start to see where anxiety comes into play. And so the better that our ancestors became in anticipating and avoiding danger, the longer they lived in, the more children they had. So with each generation, the human mind became increasingly skilled at predicting and avoiding danger.
[00:05:51] And now, hundred thousand years later, the modern mind is constantly on the lookout, assessing and judging everything we encounter. Is this good or bad? Is it safe or dangerous? Is it harmful or helpful? But these days, though, it's not saber tooth tigers or wooly mammoths that our mind warns us about. Instead, it's losing our job or being rejected or getting a speeding ticket or embarrassing ourselves in public or getting cancer or a million and one other things and other common worries. So as a result, we spend so much of our time worrying about things that more often than not never happen. So does that sound familiar? Can you start to get the vibe of what anxiety is really about? And then another essential for the survival of any early human was to belong to a group. So just like we're all here tonight. So if your clan boots you out of the group, it won't be long before the wolves find you. So how does the mind protect you from rejection by the group, by comparing you with other members of the group? Am I fitting in? Am I doing the right thing? And I contributing enough in my as good as the others? Am I doing anything that might get me rejected? So does that that sound familiar? Russ Harris says our modern day my. Are continually warning us of rejection and comparing us to the rest of society, so no wonder we spend so much energy worrying about whether people will like us.
[00:07:08] No wonder we're always looking for ways to improve ourselves or putting ourselves down because we don't measure up. And one hundred thousand years ago, we only had a few members of our immediate clan to compare ourselves with. But these days we only have to glance at. And this is where you can see that the book's a tiny bit dated, Harris says. We only have to glance at the newspaper, a magazine or television instantly find a whole host of people who are smarter or richer or slimmer, sexier, more famous, more powerful or more successful than we are. So insert social media comment here and you can see that we have so much visual stimulus that we can now compare ourselves to, not in a healthy way, and especially when what we're seeing is the best that everybody puts out there. So, of course, it's going to lead us to feel like what's wrong with me? Why am I not having all these amazing times and wonderful experiences and and the family looking perfect and everybody smiling. So when we compare ourselves to back to the book where Harris says these glamorous media creations, we feel inferior or disappointed with our lives. And to make matters worse, this is the part I can so identify with, he said. To make matters worse, our minds are now so sophisticated that they can conjure up even a fantasy image of the person that we'd ideally like to be, and then we even compare ourselves to that.
[00:08:17] So what chance do we have? We're always going to end up feeling not good enough. So he said that for any Stone Age person with ambition, the general rule for success is get more and get better and better your weapons. The more food you can kill, the larger your food stores, the greater your chances for survival. In times of scarcity, the better your shelter, the safer you are from weather and wild animals. The more children you have, the greater chance that some will survive into adulthood. So he said it's no surprise then that our modern mind continually looks for more and better, more money, a better job, more status, a better body, more love, a better partner. And if we succeed, if we actually do get more money or a better car or a better looking body, then we're satisfied, but only for a while, sooner or later, and usually sooner than we end up wanting more. So if we look at it that way, our brains now have evolved to be hardwired, to suffer psychologically, to compare, to, evaluate and criticize ourselves, and to focus more on what we're lacking, to rapidly become dissatisfied with what we have. And to imagine then all sorts of frightening scenarios, most of which will never happen.
[00:09:25] So no wonder we humans find it so hard to be happy. And I feel like that is what is at the core of anxiety, is that we are programed to constantly be on the lookout for things that that we are fearful of because our brain thinks it's doing us a favor, that it thinks that if we can control all the things around us, that that will allow us to be happy. But in reality, the more things that we try to control, the more anxious that we often get. So I'm going to read one more thing out of the happiness trap and then we'll move on into some of the tips and tools for dealing with anxiety. So in acceptance and commitment therapy, Russ Harris lays out two very different views of what happiness is. And I absolutely love these definitions. Well, one in particular. So he says, what exactly is happiness then? We all want it. We all crave it. We all strive for it. Even the Dalai Lama has said the very purpose of life is to seek happiness. But what exactly is it? The word happiness has two very different meanings. The common meaning of the word is feeling good. In other words, feeling a sense of pleasure or gladness or gratification. And we all enjoy these feelings. So it's no surprise that we chase after them. However, like all human emotions, feelings of happiness don't last.
[00:10:37] No matter how hard we try to hold on to them, they slip away every time. And as we will see, a life spent in pursuit of those good feelings is, in the long term, deeply unsatisfying. In fact, the harder we chase after pleasurable feelings, the more we are likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. So the other far less common meaning of happiness. This is the one that I love and identify with the most now is living a rich, full and meaningful life. So when we take action on the things that truly matter deep in our hearts, when we move in directions we consider valuable and worthy, clarify what we stand for in life and act accordingly, then our lives become rich and full of meaning. And we experience this powerful sense of vitality. And this is not a fleeting feeling. It's a profound sense of a life well lived. And although such a life will undoubtedly give us many pleasurable feelings, that's also going to give us a lot of uncomfortable ones, such as sadness and fear and anger. And this is only to be expected because if we live a full life, we'll live a full life feeling the full range of human emotions. So I feel like that's kind of the set up or the start of what causes us to feel anxiety or causes us to feel these anxious feelings and can cause us to feel less than and oftentimes not happy.
[00:11:49] So now let's address a little bit of what has been going on the last year or year and a half, or especially the last year. And that's this. The the world is a different place no one could have anticipated, what are we in now, the end of February? So even a year ago we knew that things about covid coronavirus that the world was was really worried about what was going to happen, but we didn't really know what that looks like. And within a few weeks from now, a year ago, then all of a sudden we're on lockdown and we're in a social isolation. And we've got now the social distancing and we have just this fear of the unknown. We have this ambiguity. We have this these all this gray area. So if you already take what we've laid out here and that our brain wants to know, it wants to anticipate danger and it wants to do all that it can to avoid these fearful, uncomfortable things, we were just handed a whole lot of fearful, uncomfortable things. And so knowing that our brain likes patterns, that our brain likes, it likes to know what's coming next and it tries to anticipate what's coming next. But we're in one of the world's biggest. We don't know what's coming next that we've ever been in, especially in our lifetimes.
[00:13:00] So it's no wonder that our anxiety is maybe even amped up over the last year or so. So what do we do about it? Well, here's a few things that I think are important to note. Number one is you're OK. One of the biggest things that I like to talk about is the fact that you're not broken. And I have people literally come into my office and for a few weeks it's almost like they're saying, I know I am broken and I'm going to convince you that I am broken. But this is one of the core principles of acceptance and commitment therapy that I so love. And not that I want to go off on some tangent of telling you about two different types or modalities of therapy, because you might not even be familiar with the one that I would be comparing. But let me just ask you if this sounds a little bit familiar. So there's a type of therapy that all therapists learn. I feel that all therapists learn in grad school almost the fundamentals, which is cognitive behavioral therapy. And I feel like that's what's at the core of a lot of motivational speakers and really good powerful messages, life coaches and a lot of therapists. I mean, again, most therapists learn cognitive behavioral therapy in school. And what cognitive behavioral therapy says is that your thoughts lead your emotions and your emotions lead your behaviors.
[00:14:12] So in that model, the and I was a cognitive behavioral therapist for years, I'm telling you about six or seven years before I switched over to acceptance and commitment therapy. And so what I found with cognitive behavioral therapy is it does start with the idea of that your you have these incorrect thoughts, these negative thought patterns you have these ANT's, these automatic negative thoughts or there's a clever rhyming piece to cognitive therapy. You have stinking thinking. And so when you come into a situation and you have a certain thought that leads to an emotion and that emotion leads to a behavior, when you're working as a cognitive behavioral therapist, you really want to challenge that automatic thought and say, hey, that's your stinking thinking or that's your automatic negative thought. And so you just need to change it. And then that will lead to a different emotion in a different behavior. And I have found some scenarios where that can still work well. But what I started finding in my life and in my office was that it's just not as easy as waking up one day and saying, I am going to not be anxious, I'm just going to choose to be happy. Now, the reason I'm laying it out this way is you maybe follow some accounts on Instagram or Facebook or whatever the social media platform is.
[00:15:28] Or maybe you've got books, self-help books, motivational books, you've got speeches. You've got all kinds of wonderful things that say happiness is a choice. And you wake up each day and you decide to be happy. And I, I fully agree that I do make that choice every day. But I also recognize that I'm human and life happens and we're imperfect people in an imperfect world. So when things inevitably happen, when you are running late to get to work or when you have technical difficulties, when you're trying to do a Zoom conference to 50 or 60 therapists that you're trying to train, hypothetically speaking, when these things happen and you all of a sudden find yourself not being happy, then instead of beating oneself up and saying, man, I chose to be happy today and now I'm not happy, what's wrong with me that knowing that now you're actually human and so you're going to have the thoughts and feelings and emotions you do because you're the only version of you that's ever existed and you're the only version of you going through the experiences that you're going through. So you can wake up every day and give yourself some good positive affirmations and decide to be happy. And if that works, then I am so excited for you. But if you're like a lot of people, a lot of human beings, life's a little bit messy.
[00:16:41] Life can be a little bit imperfect and we don't know what's coming next. And so we go back to this concepts that I laid out earlier that can lead to some anxious feelings of we want control, we want to know what's happening next, want to control our environment, want to predict everything. We want to watch out for all the things around us, and we want to compare and we want to anticipate and we want to guess and we want to control, we want to fix that. We want a judge. And all those things lead to this overall feeling of anxiety and feeling anxious. So what's the antidote? To know that life happens and to know that you're human and to know that you're going to think, feel and behave the way you do because you're human? And that's OK. There's acceptance because you're the only version of you that's ever stepped on this wonderful earth. And so you're the only one that knows what's going on inside of you and knows your hopes and your dreams, knows that you're this beautiful combination of your nature and nurture, birth, order, DNA, abandonment, rejection, hopes, dreams, fears, losses, that you're the only collection of all of those experiences. So when you step into a situation and it doesn't go the way it goes, instead of saying, man, why, what's wrong with me? Why am I feeling the way I'm feeling? Why am I thinking these negative thoughts? Instead, we want to start to reframe that and say, hey, check this out.
[00:17:59] Look at what I'm thinking in this scenario. And if you're watching this video, then I'm holding my hand up because I want you to be able to take a look at these thoughts because you're a good person. You have amazing days and you have experiences and you have connections with people. But then there's also times where you're human and things happen and you react. So at your core, you're still this good person. But in certain situations, when things happen, it's almost like I think about anxiety or depression or any of these things can descend upon you almost like this cloud. So it'll go away and sometimes it'll be there depending on the circumstances. And you're still a good person. But then check this out. Here's where my brain is going when a certain thing happens. So back to anxiety. What do we do with it? First of all, we normalize it. We accept it. We understand that we're human and we're going to have these thoughts, feelings and emotions that we do. So just like the concept of thought, suppression doesn't work. If I were to tell you right now, whatever you do, don't think of a white polar bear wearing a green hat. Most likely thought of a white polar bear wearing a green hat.
[00:19:04] Don't know what kind of had he was wearing. Might actually just switched right there from some sort of fedora to almost the top hat. Now it has a feather in it, but if I try not to think about it, it's going to be right there. If I try to tell myself, stop feeling anxious, you're your own brain is going to say with this this anxiety, no, it's right here. So instead, it's acknowledging that I'm feeling anxious. I notice that I'm feeling anxious, and that's OK. I can make room for that anxiety. I can make a choice to not let that anxiety cripple me. And that's the part that takes practice. That's the stuff that we're going to get into now. The tips and traits of dealing with anxiety for. The first thing is to know that you're human. Your brain is designed to protect you. You're comparing yourself with all sorts of things around the world because that's how your brain thinks that if it can figure out how to stay engaged or be a member of the group or the tribe or the community, that you're going to survive. But meanwhile, to be a member of the group or the tribe or society, your brain's trying to process a lot of information and figure out how do I fit into here, because if for some reason I don't fit in, then that's going to lead to abandonment.
[00:20:10] And then abandonment is really scary. So our brains are wired in a sense, to have a little bit of anxiety. For some of us, that can be a little bit more because we're thinking about these things constantly. So we first start with acceptance and now let's talk about what to do with that anxiety. I've written down a few different examples of things that we can do. So I want to talk about some steps that we can take. Let me let me cover I used to watch a lot of Wheel of Fortune when I was a kid, and I was I'm old enough to remember when all of a sudden I don't know when the final that's not a showcase, but when they're spinning the wheel, it's only one person.
[00:20:47] They're going to solve a puzzle. Win all the prizes, everyone will pick the same letters over and over. So at some point the showed. Is that right? We're going to give you R T.L. S and N? I believe it was so a lot of times in my practice or when I'm talking about certain psychological situations or things like anxiety, I want to give you the Given's the RCL in and the Given's are if you can get sleep, if you can, it's important to stay hydrated, if you can. Eating well is going to help. So those are the things that are going to help a lot. And getting some exercise actually in my online recovery program for people that turn to pornography as a coping mechanism, I have a clever thing called a successful six and the successful six are: it's food. It's sleep, it's exercise, it's hydration, it's meditation and it's prayer. And those six things can really set the stage for you to be in a good place emotionally and mentally, so that you can take on the challenges of the day. But I understand that, again, life happens sometimes. We don't get the sleep we need. Sometimes we don't feel like eating. Sometimes we. We want to therapeutically eat things that make us happy in that moment. So, again, I understand that. But those those fundamentals are those foundational principles are very important. If anything, just start to work on one, if possible, work on staying hydrated today or try to get a little bit more sleep.
[00:22:15] These are things that I don't I know that you can't just knock all of these out of the ballpark on the first attempt. But so those successful six, if you can get those as a start, that's a wonderful thing. But one of the first things I want to recommend, and I've already alluded to this, is accepting that anxiety. So if you really want to manage your anxiety, the key is to accept it. And this might sound a little bit counterintuitive, but acceptance and I've done some podcasts on this recently, acceptance doesn't mean apathy. If you accept that you have anxiety or you accept that you're struggling with anxiety, then that doesn't mean that all or nothing, OK, this is my lot in life. I'm going to this is what I'm going to deal with the rest of my life. It's actually the opposite. That's why the belief here is that it's a bit counterintuitive to accept it. Once I accept that I have anxiety now, I'm no longer trying to fight the anxiety. I'm no longer trying to look for examples or evidence of, oh, there's anxiety, there's not anxiety. I accept that it's OK to have anxiety. Now, what do I want to do with it? So accepting it doesn't mean that we're resigning ourselves to this life of misery. It just means that once we accept it, then the existence of anxiety and other things are inevitable.
[00:23:26] But they don't have to define us or shape us or it doesn't mean all or nothing, black or white, that this is the way things are going to be forever. So if you experience anxiety, sometimes one of the first things you can do is just accept it and observe it. Think of it like a wave. I have a sign here in my office that says that feelings are much like waves. We can't stop them from coming, but we can choose which one of them to surf. So one of the best things that we can do is start to recognize that we may have some feelings, some anxious feelings or feelings of anxiety in a moment. But if we can over time, we'll talk about this in a minute. Learn to turn to our breathing some good old in through the nose, out through the mouth, breathing that if we're focusing on our breathing, if we're focusing on sounds around us, if we're focusing on touch or feel, if we're focusing on smells or whatever, we can make more of something in front of us and focus on, then we can realize that sometimes those feelings of anxiousness will pass like waves. So which one do we want to surf? What feelings do we want to surf? If we really do look at feelings are like waves, it can feel overwhelming and it can feel like it's going to weigh you down.
[00:24:35] It can feel heavy. But by taking small steps, some of the things we're going to talk about next that you can start to get yourself out of these anxious moments or these sometimes people refer to them as a panic attack a lot sooner than you would if you didn't accept it as a therapist. I'm a big fan of if you feel like you need some tools and techniques that are specific to you, then go see a therapist. There's nothing wrong in that. I'm so grateful that the stigma around mental health, I feel like is continuing to slowly evaporate. So go see a therapist engage in practices that will bring you back to present or that will give you a calming feeling. I cannot stress enough that embracing a daily mindfulness practice is a game changer. I often say that if I could give someone a pill or a shot or something, that would allow them to see what it would look and feel like six months down the road. If you engaged in a daily mindfulness practice right now, I feel like everyone would immediately start a mindfulness practice. And I'm a fan of the app Headspace, but I even recognized last night as I was drifting off to sleep that every night when I'm going to bed, I do the same thing. I breathe in through my nose and I count one and I breathe out through my mouth and I count 2 and I just try to get the ten.
[00:26:01] That's what I do to go to sleep. Or if I have a moment where I'm sitting, standing in a line or even sometimes between clients, that one's a good one to do. And it sounds simple, but in reality, it's not. There times where I never get to ten, I'm in through the nose, one out through the mouth to I can maybe get to three, four or five. And then all of a sudden I'm thinking, thinking about whatever it is. And so when I recognize that I'm not counting anymore, I don't beat myself up. I notice it. And then I come back and I start over at one. Or sometimes I'll notice I'm at fifteen or sixteen. And the same thing I blew right past ten, so I wasn't very present. So I come back and I start at one. And I think one of the biggest misconceptions about mindfulness is that the goal is to clear one's mind. And if that is something that you can do, that's an amazing talent or trait. But the real focus or what mindfulness is about is training your mind that when I recognize that I am somewhere else. So let's say that I'm on a an anxious. Roll or I'm on a depressive thought or I'm ruminating about the past or I'm worried about the future, that if I have this daily practice, if all of a sudden I get myself centered and I start breathing in through my nose and count one and out through my mouth and count 2, then what I'm doing is I'm not thinking about whatever that anxious thought was.
[00:27:17] So it's not that I'm trying to clear my mind, it's that I'm bringing myself back to the moment, bringing myself back to present. And one of the keys to this is that as I'm doing that and I feel myself do it, even as I'm expressing this to you on this, saying this training is that when I breathe in through the nose, then I am lowering my heart rate. When I'm lowering my heart rate, I'm lowering my stress hormone cortisol. So cortisol is there that the more that your heart rate raises, then your stress level, your cortisol levels raise. And what that does is that starts to shut down your logical thinking part of the brain, your prefrontal cortex, because you're getting into a fight or flight mode. So the brain's this beautiful, wonderfully complex device that is there to protect you. So when your heart rate starts to elevate, your brain says, oh, there's danger. So we need to shut down the logical part of the brain because we're not going to be able to logically interact with a saber tooth tiger or a wooly mammoth or a bear or a snake or whatever it is. No, we need to get our fight or flight response going up, our heart rate shutdown the logical part of our brain, and get that fight or flight mode going so that we're either going to fight this wooly mammoth or we're going to we're going to take flight.
[00:28:29] So that's where a mindfulness practice is allowing you to lower your heart rate, get yourself back to present gently. Remind yourself that what what you may be thinking right now is not a productive thought and then come back to the here and now. So find a calming practice and practice it daily because it's not something that comes naturally to us and it's something that does need to be worked on. Some cool studies I remember reading long ago when I first started embracing mindfulness, and I think it's from Dan Harris's book, 10 Percent Happier, where he referred to some study. And I used to have this at the tip of my tip of my tongue, but where I believe it was eight weeks of a daily mindfulness practice of at least I want to say eight minutes a day started to change the neural pathways of the brain so that your brain starts to then know that if you are getting into this heightened state that it already knows, it anticipates that you are going to start breathing and you're going to start lowering your heart rate. So your brain already starts doing that for you as soon as you start to get elevated.
[00:29:30] So it's an amazing feeling that when you this is where I go back to. If I could show you what mindfulness would look like six months down the road when you're driving on the road and somebody cuts you off and you're already getting almost more calm, or when you're parenting teens and they're just starting to really want to push your buttons and see you explode so that we're not going to be talking about the thing that they just did, then you find yourself actually getting calm as they start to elevate. And it's one of the most fascinating and empowering things that I think you can feel. So start a daily mindfulness practice. That would be a wonderful do something you enjoy. I have a thing called the emotional baseline theory, and I can point to podcasts on that as well. But I find that this is so critical and this is where I say self care is not selfish. What the emotional baseline looks like is you're going to be dealing with situations on a day to day basis, regardless of where you're at, if you're in a good place or if you're in a bad place or and not a not a good place. And so the way that you respond is going to be based on, I feel, where your emotional baseline is. When you are feeling on top of the world, you're going to respond much differently than you are when you're feeling pretty down.
[00:30:42] So when I get clients in my office and they're struggling with severe anxiety or severe depression, a lot of times all we do is start to say, hey, what's something that you can do that is self care? And it can be anything from going on a walk, spending a little bit of time with a book that you enjoy, petting a dog. It can be anything. And your brain is going to still be in this all or nothing thinking and feel like, well, that's not enough. That's not a big enough thing to do. But all we're trying to do is start to raise your baseline a little bit, because the higher your baseline gets, then the more apt you are to respond differently to the things that are going on around you on a day to day basis. I have a very unscientific view of this. When it comes to the role that medication can play, I often get asked, should I get on an anti anxiety medication or an antidepressant? And that is up to you and I. I, of course, recommend that you go over that with your doctor, psychiatrist, that sort of thing. But oftentimes I feel like medication can bump your baseline up just high enough that then you can start to do the work, you can start to do some mindfulness, you can start to read some things that you enjoy. You can start to get out and go on a walk.
[00:31:47] So oftentimes the medication can raise your baseline up just enough that now you can start to engage more in life and the things that you enjoy, which that will then raise your baseline more so at some. Point, if you decide I don't want to be on medication any longer, then your baseline, I feel, can be up high enough that then we can just anticipate that if, if and when you get off your medication, you can anticipate a little bit of a drop in your emotional baseline. But at this point, hopefully you've done enough of the work that you know, enough of the self care, enough of the turning toward things that are important to you that then you can, with that anticipation of that, a little bit of a drop in your emotional baseline, you're still in a high enough emotional baseline state that now you can really double down on the work and the efforts to get your baseline back up to a place where it was where you can still deal with all of these things that are going on around you. So that's a do something you enjoy, raise your emotional baseline. And I often give examples. One of the my classic example is someone that I was talking with that was just down and they said that they I said, what do you like to do? And they said they like to read, but they feel like when they read, they need to be reading some deep, heavy spiritual tome or something that will that will, in their minds, some, you know, magic pill or something that will just get them out of this funk.
[00:33:04] But in reality, every time they read something deeply spiritual or something self-help, they found themselves feeling worse because they aren't able to stay focused or they aren't able to implement those things in their life. So I prescribed, so to speak, reading about 30 minutes a day of just something they enjoyed. And so in doing so, then after they read something they enjoyed, they felt a little bit of a pick me up, a little bit of a boost. And from that they could go into another activity they enjoyed in this particular situation. It really was going outside and then taking the dog for a walk. So they start to create this pattern of where they read something they enjoy, go out and take a dog on a walk, then come back in the house that their emotional baseline is up and now they can engage in work was what they were really trying to to get done at that point. So that's a great way to go. Staying connected to others I think can be so important. And I think this is one of the things that we often feel like we want to be isolated and we want to feel like we need to figure things out or we don't want to be so vulnerable and put ourselves out there.
[00:34:02] And a lot of times I understand that it can be for good reason, especially when people are going to should on you. I always say that no one likes to be should on. So if someone is going to say you should do this or you just need to do this, that's where we can start to feel like. But what if I don't want to do that? I'm just going to sit this one out. I'm just going to wait until I feel better and then I'll reengage with people. But we need to be able to find people that you can trust. And here's where you get to self advocate. You get to say, hey, there might be times where I'm going to reach out to you as a friend and I just want to hang out. I don't want you to tell me what I should do or shouldn't do. I just want to know that I can be around someone. I can be in someone's presence. I know that somebody cares about me. And a lot of times I found success where some people can just say, hey, I just need to come hang out or could you just stop by? If you have a moment, we're just going to sit there and watch TV together. We're going to sit there. We're going to play a game together and we're not going to talk about the elephant in the room, which might be this crippling anxiety or these feelings of depression.
[00:34:57] And just knowing that someone is in that room with you oftentimes is enough to bump that baseline up so that you can't reengage more in life. So staying connected to others is important. And so many of these things that I'm talking about right now, the best time to talk about these things with others is when you do feel like you're in a little bit better place. So a lot of times when the waters are calm or when we're feeling pretty good, those are the times where we feel like I don't want to think about anxiety, I don't want to think about depression. I just want to keep living in this moment. I want to keep vibin. I want to keep being what I'm being right now. And I hear you. But those are the times where it would be good to reach out to somebody and say, man, I'm feeling it now and I hope I never get in this situation again. But if I ever am in a low spot, would it be OK if I reached out to you? And if I do that, it would be ideal if they have again, maybe you don't go right into fixing or judgment mode, but you just let me stop by or you stop by. And just to know that there's somebody there that cares about me or that I know I can reach out to. This is where I do feel like positive affirmations are not a bad thing.
[00:35:58] I think sometimes when I'm doing my whole cognitive behavioral therapy versus acceptance and commitment therapy thing, that people get the message that I say that positive affirmations are not positive. Now, in ACT, there are some pretty fascinating bits of data, some studies. I've done a couple of podcasts on these where if you are telling yourself positive affirmations that at your core you don't believe, then that's where things can be a little bit damaging. If you are telling yourself I am the world's most creative person, I am a very powerful person, and I will go out there today and I will I will dominate in sports or I will I will be the the best presenter that there ever was or those sort of things. Then if at your core, that's really not who you are, who you desire to be, then those positive affirmations can feel like they're fake, that they're not really you. And so at the end of the day, if you don't live up to those positive affirmations, then one can actually feel a little bit worse because they feel like they're trying to tell themselves to be somebody that they're not and then they're not achieving that. But if you have positive affirmations that, hey, I'm a good parent, I'm a good person, I'm I'm friendly, I like to smile, I can be there for others.
[00:37:05] And you want that that reminder each day, then, man, that's a wonderful thing to do. And let's talk about gratitude. It is absolutely true that keeping some sort of daily gratitude journal is a very positive thing. Why? Because you have within your day you're looking for things to be grateful for, knowing that I am going to be writing these things down. This is where I like to say that a morning routine is absolutely fantastic. And I know there's a lot of people out there that are not mourning people. But if you can get up and establish a morning routine where there is some exercise, maybe there is some meditation, there is some prayer, there's a little bit of reading. And all of these things, these can be very they can be one minute, two minutes. But when you establish that pattern, there's some amazing things that happen over time. It becomes the default, which is is wonderful. I've been getting up and exercising now for 25 years of my life, and I haven't even really know that. I don't think I noticed how important that was. When I get clients that wake up and they feel anxious because they're unsure about the day ahead of them, that if you start putting in practice a morning routine when you wake up in the morning, your brain already knows this is what we're doing.
[00:38:14] So it's a wonderful way to start the day because you don't wake up and necessarily feel the anxiety of I don't know what to do, what's the day have what is it going to lead to? What's in front of me instead? Your brain knows we wake up and we're going to exercise, we're going to meditate, we're going to pray and we're going to read. And so it just knows that routine is coming and so that that launches you into your day at a higher emotional baseline. And I believe that's going to give you a bigger chance for success. I feel like that's a really important thing to do. Boy, that was a deep dove. I feel like I covered the things that I really wanted to cover. Now I feel like I can't even keep up the ruse or the charade that this is a real meeting. I think I forgot about that part as we were talking about this. But I hope that these these concepts around anxiety are helpful, that they're productive. I was going to say at this point, hey, I see a question in the chat, and I was going to make up a question that somebody would ask, but I can anticipate some of the questions that people are going to ask. A lot of the things that when I'm talking to people that do struggle with anxiety is the a lot of the.
[00:39:14] Yeah, but what do I do. Yeah, but what if people don't understand. Yeah but what if people aren't responding the way I want them to respond. And so here's where I will, I wasn't even going to work this in today. But let me give you my big abandonment and attachment speech because I love this. I love this so much. And and with all that we've covered about why it can be difficult to be happy and these tools to combat anxiety and the whole concepts around acceptance and commitment therapy, if you're the only version of you I want to lay out from the factory setting how what abandonment and what attachment looks like, because I think this is so key. I think about this stuff on a daily basis. I truly do. When we're born, we're talking right factory setting out of the womb. If we don't get our needs met, we will literally die. If we're not fed, if we're not clothed, if we're not held, those sort of things. So we are programed to to cry, to scream. And when we do, people pick us up and our moms feed us and they clean us, they change our diapers and we get that attention. So for the first year or two of life, that's the way things work. People respond to our needs. So that is our wiring. This is where I always want that.
[00:40:26] I love laying this out from zero on because that is our wiring when we hit two, three, four and on, then I love saying welcome to this world of abandonment, that now all of the sudden people you're still emoting, you're expressing yourselves, but people are not meeting your needs. They're not responding like they once were. They're not jumping at your every whim. And so now what that looks like is if I want candy before dinner, if I want to stay up late on the weekends or on any on a school night or if I want to have sleepovers, if I want to do any of the things that I want to do as a kid. But my parents say, no, not today, champ, no, not right now. Then we look at that as well. Wait a minute. I'm expressing myself and you're not meeting my needs. And remember, the factory setting is abandonment equals death. So people aren't responding to you, then that's going to be that's going to feel like abandonment and abandonment is scary because abandonment when equal death, that's our factory setting. So if we if people are not responding the way we want them to respond, then here's where I say that there are two paths, two tracks that are going on. This one that's an abandonment path and one that's in an attachment path on down the abandonment path.
[00:41:36] What that eventually leads to is as we get into adolescence and we get into being teenagers, that every kid is an ego centered, unsympathetic kid. Bless their hearts. That's just the way that we come from the factory setting forward, because we have just come out of this stage of life where the. The world literally did revolve around us, if we cry, people jump. So how do we not come forth and feel like it's all about us. So then the more we express ourselves and people aren't reacting in the way that we want them to, this is what starts to lead to what we refer to as toxic shame, where eventually that leads to if people aren't responding the way that I want them to, then that must mean something is wrong with me, that I must be unlovable, that I must be broken, that something's wrong with me. But instead, we as adults can wrap our heads around the fact that, no, now we're all going through a lot of our own stuff. It's imperfect people in an imperfect world, but we're coming from this abandonment place as a child, bring in our own childhood defense mechanisms and our childhood coping mechanisms into adulthood. So we feel like if people aren't responding the way we want them to, there's something must be wrong with us. And now down this attachment path. How do we get our needs met? How do we ensure that we are going to matter, that we're going to get our needs met so that we aren't feeling abandoned because abandonment equals death again, coming forward from the factory setting?
[00:43:01] How do we do that? It's how do we show up? How do we maneuver ourselves in a situation where we show up as the intelligent person? Do we show up as the athlete? We show up as the peacemaker? Are we the emotional or emo kid or are we the angry kid? How do we get attention? Because that is going to assure that even if it's not good attention, this is where it goes. The kids want attention. They want to be recognized whether it's good or bad, because to them, as long as I'm getting recognized or I'm receiving attention, then I'm I matter and I'm going to that doesn't mean abandonment, which means that I will not die. So then we bring forth those two things into adulthood. And now we're trying to figure out how to maneuver, how to show up so that our our spouses will like us, our friends will like us our religious leaders will like us and our kids will like us or people at work will like us. So we're trying to figure out each way.
[00:43:49] And sometimes we feel like every bit of us is going to be different in the way we show up in these different places. And that can be somewhat maddening because we're trying to figure out this puzzle that we don't have all the pieces to, because there are all of the other people's stuff that is involved as well. They're holding a lot of their own puzzle pieces. So we're of course, it's not going to mesh or it's not going to match up. And then back over on this abandonment side, then we're bringing forth these childhood wounds of where and if people aren't responding the way I want them to, it must be me. I must be broken. I must be unlovable. So now as adults, we need to realize, oh, no, I'm now master of my own destiny charge on my own ship. That doesn't mean that. Forget it. I don't need a partner. I don't need connection. Now, we're still programed to be a part of a group, to be a part of a clan, a society. And if we're booted out of that, here come the wooly mammoths or the saber toothed tiger. So I hope that you can start to put all of these pieces together. And so the more from this attachment angle that we can figure out who we are, then we in an ideal situation, this is where we get to show up as authentic. We need to show up as vulnerable and authentic and raw. And we don't have to try to figure out how do I show up in all these situations. I show up as me and I show up as the unique and only version of me. And I figure out what matters to me. The values that matter to me in this may sound like a lot of me and selfishness, but this is where I go back.
[00:45:09] This selfishness is self care is not selfish. When you figure yourself out, when you learn who you really are at your core, then you're putting yourself in a better position to be there for others, it's the put your own oxygen mask on in the plane before you put the one on your kid. This is how you can lift people up to higher ground is when you get in a better place, when you get on solid ground, and then that's the attachment side. Then that abandonment side is recognizing that if people aren't meeting your needs, it's not because you're unlovable, it's not because you're broken. It's because they're imperfect people. In an imperfect world, if you want your needs met, that can sound again, can sound very selfish and egotistical. But it's OK for you to say, hey, I'd like help with this. I would like help with my anxiety. That's an adult way to show up, the bring in our childhood abandonment and childhood coping mechanisms into adulthood is the man I've withdrawn. Why isn't anybody noticing? Why isn't anybody showing up and expressing concern or care? And so it's important that we can self advocate because that's what we didn't know how to do when we were kids. We get to take charge of our own destiny. We get to take charge of our we're masters of our own ship. And so as we show up and we're OK saying here's what I need, I need human connection, I need help, and then we don't have to figure out how do I say this? How do I do this? We just bring calm, confident energy forward and that's the way we're going to get these needs met.
[00:46:36] I can continue and go on and on on this. But I hope that you have an idea now of a little bit more about where anxiety comes from, what anxieties about what it's like, and that with that, you also I hope you heard some new tools or tips or tricks tonight that will help get you in a better spot. Now, I was going to say, unfortunately, that sounds very dramatic. Just know that by small and simple things, great things come to pass, that it takes time and it takes work and it takes effort because our brains are designed to go to the path of least resistance. Our brains have a really funny idea of the way things work. They feel like that they have a finite amount of energy. And so they want to do things that that cause the least amount of effort so that they can live forever. But the truth is, your brain does not have a finite amount of energy, it has unlimited amounts of energy and potential. So if your brain right now has been thinking of anxious things for a long time, then that is the path of least resistance. That's the path in the field that is deeply trodden. So when left to its own devices, your brain is going to head right down that that rutted neural pathway.
[00:47:43] So every time you do something a little bit different, it's if you're it's as if you're walking one time in the field and in a diffterent direction still probably to get some stickers on you. There's going to be some muddy patches and these new pathways, but over time, with enough of this intention, then that starts to become the new path and then that becomes the path of least resistance, the path of least resistance. You will still feel anxious, but now your brain will immediately start to go to things, connections, breathing, turning toward value-based activities. And the more that you do that and you're still going to be human, you're going to have days where you're not going to do any of it. But when that happens, you just gently bring some awareness to the fact that you aren't doing the the morning routines or maybe you've gotten a little bit off of trying to look for ways to raise your emotional baseline. And you don't say, there I go again, I'm hopeless. Now, you just noticed that. And then you get right back on the path, this new path, because eventually then that becomes the path of the well-worn path, the path of least resistance.
[00:48:41] So thank you so much for joining me on this episode. If you have questions, I love them, Contact@tonyoverbay.com. And I will see you next time.