The Huddle Blog

Sharing thoughts on a cognitive-based understanding of anxiety and how online group support can help us get better, together.

I’ll do that slowly.

By maggie

Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly.Think of the most miraculous of your accomplishments.Getting yourself created. Nailed it. It took 9 months. Walking. Nice job. Another 9 months at least. Talking. You babbled your way through it. Most people didn’t understand you for years. Reading, writing, and learning to code also took years. These are just external milestones. You were still myelinating until you were 25.  What are you working on now and are you willing to take your time?  Whether it’s your mental health, your physical health, your relationships, your schoolwork or career, or all of it, it’s all worth doing slowly.  Many of us like the “I’ll do it scared” concept. It shifts our attitude away from waiting to feel right to pursue what we care about. An “I’ll do it scared” attitude means that we get to grow and change now, regardless of how we feel. Its empowering.  But, also, you don’t always have to be brave. And, in fact, sometimes we should stop being brave, especially if you’re forcing yourself to be brave. Slow down long enough to take care of yourself. Notice that you’re actually already safe.  It’s exhausting to be anxious all the time. It’s exhausting to hang out between bracing against and dreading …

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I’ll do it scared.

By maggie

“I’m not sure what will kill me, but it won’t be shame.” The content typically matters when you’re feeling is shame. If you think a component of your suffering is shame, find a way to get some words around that, either by talking or by writing or both. Then, share it with someone you trust. Use shame as a cue to connect. It’s okay if your shame story changes or it seems like you are saying contradictory things while you’re sharing your shame story. Part of the reason you feel shame is likely that you have an idea about how you or some part of your life is supposed to go, and what’s actually happening is not fitting that narrative. Try to figure out how you think the narrative is supposed to go and how that’s different from what’s actually happening. What’s actually happening is My mind perceived a difference between what is happening and what I think is supposed to be happening. I judged that difference as bad and inferior. I felt shame and worthlessness. If you understand the difference between what’s occurring and what you’re expecting, and you accept what’s occurring, you won’t feel shame. And, then you’ll have options. Then, you can use your shame to connect and …

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Shame is a cue to connect

By maggie

There might be a reason that your anxiety or OCD content is stuck. It isn’t because of the content. It’s never because of the content. It might be because of shame. It’s okay to feel shame. It’s a feeling, not a fact or prediction. Let’s go towards it.  Shame is the feeling you have when you think you are on the outside. Marginalization makes people feel shame. It gives you the urge to hide.  Even if you grew up in a homogenous environment, there’s all kinds of reasons why you could have felt as though you were on the outside of the group you grew up in. Into adulthood, we are all constantly swimming through groups we fit into and groups into which we do not fit. Even more subtly, there are some dimensions of you that fit into some contexts you live in and some dimensions of you that do not fit in. You might feel shame when you notice that. Great job noticing. It’s a feeling, not a fact or prediction. You have a good body. Your mind noticed something and your body gave you a feeling in response. Feelings don’t have to mean more than that, especially the …

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Getting stuck because of over-responsibility

By maggie

You’ve noticed that the thoughts that you’re stuck in are related to your sense of responsibility.Great! Good noticing! Here’s your plan:  Start with the Huddle 5. The Huddle 5 is a break when you’re stuck. Huddle 5 when you notice that you’re in your head, rather than in your life. Huddle 5 when you have urgent, anxious sensations that you are afraid of, you want to neutralize, or that are causing you to avoid something you care about. Take a Huddle 5, meaning a 5 minute break. There’s nothing magical about 5 minutes. Just break long enough to pay attention to yourself, make a values-based decision, and then take action. We’ll continue our conversation about your options for how you can relate to yourself during the Huddle 5 in group.Are my thoughts about the present or the past? Over-responsibility intrusions in the present:  Is this thought-action fusion?Individuals with anxiety sensitivity get sticky, catastrophic thoughts when they are sensitized. Thoughts feel like they are true, regardless of if they are rational or irrational and regardless of their truth. Thought-action fusion is when having a thought feels like its the same thing as behavior. Thoughts and behavior are not the same thing. Our minds can have thoughts …

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Know your OCD

By maggie

This week, several members asked for strategies that help them decide whether or not they were experiencing OCD. Put another way, the topic is: “When I know it’s OCD, I know what to do. What do I do when I don’t know whether I’m bothered by a real problem or it’s OCD?” Let’s come back to this topic this week in Community Time. Here are some ideas to get us started: Is it a real problem? If the thought that you are bothered by hadn’t arrived in your mind, would you still have an issue?  You won’t always know that you are experiencing OCD when you decide to act as though you are. The nature of OCD is that you feel uncertain about something that is not a threat. When you decide to treat your thought as though it is OCD, you are saying, “The uncertainty I feel about this does not mean that there is something wrong. I’m going to act as though there is nothing wrong even though it feels like there is something wrong.”  Try using urgency as a cue for OCD. Real problems are still real problems regardless of when you think about them. If you have …

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The Anxiety Effort Paradox

By maggie

You arrive at this community with the intent of reducing or eliminating anxiety. You have heard that there are tools, techniques, and coping skills that will either help you manage your anxiety or cure it completely. Other people around you seem to be less anxious and seem to use methods like meditation, yoga, nutrition, sleep, and exercise to stay calm and healthy. For some reason, the more you try these methods, the more anxious you feel. Or, you’re having trouble consistency engaging in these behaviors, even though you commit with your whole heart and you completely believe they would be helpful for you. Welcome to the anxiety effort paradox! First off, remember that anxiety disorders in general are a paradox. Don’t think of a white bear. Don’t think of a white elephant. Don’t think of a gorilla. Don’t think about all of them dancing together. When you tell yourself not to think about something, you will think about it more. If you desperately fear specific sensations or feelings, they are more likely to occur in your experience. An example is feeling lonely, then thinking that you shouldn’t feel lonely, and then feeling lonelier. This is a loneliness loop. A loop …

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Shame

By maggie

Shame is a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety. Although very painful, the capacity for shame is healthy and part of being human. The function of shame is to prevent us from damaging our relationships and motivate us to repair them if we’ve damaged them.  As Brene Brown explains, guilt says “I’ve done something wrong.” Shame says “I am something wrong.”  OCD is marked by hypersensitivity to uncertainty, disgust, and guilt. Those that experience the mechanisms that maintain OCD (that is, anxiety sensitivity + intolerance of uncertainty + inflated responsibility + experiential avoidance) not only have sensitivity to the feeling of guilt, but also feel guilt excessively.  Experiencing an unwanted intrusive thought doesn’t mean that you’ve done something wrong. You didn’t choose to experience the thought. If you didn’t choose it, then you are not responsible for it. A crucial belief that maintains OCD is thinking that you should have control over your thoughts and feeling guilty when you don’t control your thoughts. Rather than trying harder to force yourself to control your thoughts, you need to change your belief that you can control your thoughts in the first place. As long as you believe you can control your …

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Predicting anxious patterns

By maggie

As you set yourself up to relate effectively to anxiety, you want to predict the phases of your anxious pattern, so that you know what strategies you will need. The phases tend to be different depending on whether the trigger was external or internal.  Anticipatory anxiety, situational anxiety, and post-event processing In the case of an external or situational trigger, there are 3 phases to the anxious moment. Many people experience anticipatory anxiety, situational anxiety, and post-event processing. We’ve discussed each of these phases in great detail and you can read more about them by clicking on the above links. Here’s your self-talk for an external trigger:  Anticipatory anxiety self-talk: “Anticipatory is a feeling, not a fact, prediction, message, or threat. It doesn’t mean I’m doing something wrong or that something is going to go wrong. If it must mean something, it is just indicating to me that I have had anxiety in situations like this in the past. If I can stay with this anticipatory anxiety, and not do anything to make it worse, I am on my way to having less anticipatory anxiety in situations like this in the future.” Situational anxiety self-talk: “During this situation, I want to …

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Avoidance v. workable behaviors and preferences

By maggie

Avoidance happens. Avoidance creates every type of suffering. You suffer. Suffering is pain plus resistance. Resistance and avoidance are functionally synonymous.  Sometimes acting in accordance with your values and experiential avoidance will be the same behaviors. The difference between your values-driven action and avoidance is your attitude. Workable behavior is a dynamic adaptation based on your context, rather than rigid, rule-based behavior. Anxious sufferers want to know what they need to do in order to cure or overcome their anxiety. The reason that a manual, self-help book, and app can’t offer you a comprehensive plan is not because there isn’t an effective strategy. A one-size-fits-all strategy doesn’t work because your anxiety uniquely shifts based on the function of your behavior in a dynamic way. The meaning your mind gives to your behavior and its consequences is more predictive of an increase or decrease in anxiety over time than the behavior itself. As an example, acting polite, bubbly, grateful, and thoughtful can be values-driven. It can be a challenging exposure and a confidence boost to act in these ways with friends or family no matter how anxious or depressed you feel. And, if you act this way frequently, rigidly, across many areas of your life and in all of your relationships, this value-driven behavior will …

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Fixed Attentional Focus

By maggie

Another response mechanism that creates, maintains and intensifies psychological suffering is fixed attentional focus.  The attentional bias in worry and OCD tends to be threat-related stimuli. Social anxiety is maintained by a self-focused attentional bias. Depression is maintained by a ruminative attentional bias.   When you are worrying or stuck in obsessive content, your mind is hyper-vigilantly scanning for potential threats. As you scan for uncertainties and potential catastrophic possibilities, your mind will generate more possibilities and you will feel more uncertain and anxious. The sensations that come with anxiety create thought-action fusion, making the possibilities your mind generates seem more and more likely. Worrying and mental compulsions create more possibilities and the possibilities feel more and more likely, creating more and more anxiety and possibilities.  When you are experiencing social anxiety, your mind will become self-focused. Rather than focusing on your task (such as speaking in a meeting or joining a conversation), your attentional focus shifts to what you are thinking and feeling. Many people get tangled in their self-focused attention and fight with themselves about whether or not they can complete the task while thinking and feeling whatever they are thinking and feeling.  When you are experiencing depression, your mind …

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