The Huddle Blog

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

I’ll do it scared.

By maggie

Try this self-talk when you’re scared and see what happens: “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 …

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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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Of course I suffer.

By maggie

Let’s talk more about self-criticism and self-compassion.  Your suffering isn’t just because of recurrent unwanted intrusive thoughts, chronic worry, a depressed mood, or another uncomfortable private experience. The interpretation that you shouldn’t have such an experience and that there is something bad, weak, or crazy about you for such experience creates, maintains, and intensifies your suffering too.  This type of self-criticism hurts. Perhaps it started as the voice of a critical parent or some other significant person. Sometimes you continue to receive criticism from that person and that hurts. Self-criticism, though, is you against you. The critical voice is no longer someone else’s. Now it is yours. You aren’t on your own team. The game isn’t fun and none of you is going to win.  You might criticize yourself as an attempt to control a thought or feeling that you don’t like. I suspect it “works” every once in a while, especially if by “working” you mean that you can avoid your thoughts and feelings to get relief from them for a short amount of time. It doesn’t work to alleviate suffering long-term for anyone ever. Trying to make thoughts go away will make them more likely. Suppressing feelings will make them …

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My present is a gift.

By maggie

Let’s elaborate on building a compassionate attitude towards the present moment.  While anxious, so many sufferers have critical thoughts like, I’m supposed to be mindful right now. I should be using my skills. I’m not doing this right. It makes everything worse. If this is you, try cueing yourself with My present moment is a gift I can offer myself right now, rather than a critical I must be mindful. When I see you, I think that as long as you have your breath, your present moment is a gift. Your breath is always there with you. It’s yours to have and yours to hold. You just have to close your mouth. Even when it feels out of control, you can immediately bring it back into your control. If you’re willing to play, you can even hyperventilate on purpose. Your breath is your friend. It reminds you that you are alive.  The present moment is a gift even and especially when you feel anxious.  When I can’t fall asleep or I wake up too early, my present moment is a gift: The memories I’m having are not presently occurring. The content of my worries has not yet occurred and may not occur. My sheets are comfy and my bed is warm. My heart is racing. I have a strong …

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Relationships are long conversations

By maggie

When you’re living with a healthy body, you don’t have to think much about your body. You can fall asleep or wake up when you need to be awake or asleep. You can eat a variety of foods and stay nourished and energized. You can move easily and use your body for activities you enjoy. You can decide whether you want to use substances to alter your consciousness and in what quantity. Your relationship with your body isn’t a relationship you have to spend much time on. It’s a relationship you live in, rather than work on.  Living with a healthy mind is similar. With a healthy mind, you can choose what you attend to and what you ignore. You can perceive all kinds of information from your environment and then make conscious decisions about how you want to respond. You can experience sensations, feelings, and thoughts, accept their existence, and either redirect your attention away from them or use them as data to inform your decisions. You get to decide what you think is valuable and meaningful and how you want to act on that which is valuable and meaningful to you. Like a relationship with a healthy body, …

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Meet Wise Mind

By maggie

Do you have a toddler? When he reaches for the hot stove, do you yell “No!”? Consider yelling “Danger!” Kids, like adults, need to learn the difference between fear and danger. The problem with “No!” is that it doesn’t help you clarify that difference. If, when you feel fear and you think, “Oh no!,” not only are you adding fear to fear, but you also miss the chance to learn from it when it is teaching you that you are in physical or interpersonal danger.  Imagine if, when you were a toddler and a child and you felt scared, your parent noticed and explained kindly, “Your body is experiencing fear. Your heart is racing and you are sweating. You are feeling fear, but you are not in danger. Fear is just a feeling. Let’s observe it together. While you feel this feeling, how can you tell if you are safe or in danger?” It might have happened when it got dark outside, when a dog surprised you, or when you ran a little too far in the wrong direction at the store. These were all big teaching moments for you and your parents. If you then worried about your sensations …

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Self-compassion precedes confidence

By maggie

It takes humility and courage to accurately assess where you are and commit to the next step. If you feel intense anxiety getting out of your house, the idea of obtaining and committing to a job on a daily basis might seem beyond what’s possible for you.  If you feel intense anxiety sending an introductory text message to a potential romantic partner, the ongoing vulnerability required to sustain a long-term relationship might seem overwhelming. Thinking about this, many individuals with anxiety disorders get so discouraged that they lose motivation to take the next step. It’s important to see this as part of the pattern of anxiety’s game. Anxiety (and his allies self-criticism and depression) will tell you: “What you’re currently doing isn’t good enough. This shouldn’t be hard for you. You shouldn’t have to practice this. You’ll never get where you want to be.” You need to be ready for this type of message and say back to it: “Every time I identify, label, and allow an uncomfortable thought, feeling, or sensation, you get less power. What I’m practicing is a new process; it’s not about my outcome in any given moment. It’s okay that this is where I am …

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Setting goals to gain confidence

By maggie

A helpful goal is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. This is opposed to non-specific, vague, emotionally-driven, or unattainable goals. As an example, “I’d like to be more confident” is not a helpful goal, because it is not specific, measurable, attainable, or time-bound. It is vague and unmeasurable and unattainable. Sure, you could measure your level of confidence about a specific task one day and then measure your level of confidence using the same questionnaire at another time in the future. However, you would not actually be able to measure the nuances of confidence, because it is feeling state that changes over time. Just because you feel x amount of confidence on Monday at 4pm and y amount of confidence on Thursday at 10am, doesn’t mean that you’ve become more confident throughout every aspect of your life.  By unattainable, I don’t mean that you could never become more confident, but rather there is no objective binary cutoff where you could say either I am confident or I am not confident.  Other questions I have about this goal include: what does it mean to be more confident? Do you want to be more confident in every area of life or just …

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How values relate to goals

By maggie

In contrast to a goal, which is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound, values are aspirational traits that you’d like to embody. Your values signify your life process, the journey that you pursue during your time here on earth. Your values are not something that you can complete or check off. They are not a place where you arrive. The underlying philosophy of a person who attempts to clarify and pursue his or her values includes recognizing ongoing learning and development as a good way to live life.  Values and goals are related. If you understand these concepts, you can use your values to inform your goals, aligning your goal-directed behavior with your personal life philosophy.  Here are a few examples:  Goal: Complete each homework assignment in x class and turn it in on-time Values: Ongoing learning and skill acquisition Goal: Research and purchase a gift for my partner’s birthday one week prior to birthday celebration Value: Being a loving, thoughtful partner Many anxious people become too bewildered by their anxiety to be able to clarify and pursue their values.  If your fear of your thoughts, feelings, or sensations drive your behavior, you’ll likely be unable to see what you care …

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The role of anticipatory anxiety

By maggie

As you learn to disarm anxiety, knowing its patterns is one of your best strategies. One part of the pattern of suffering that anxious people experience is anticipatory anxiety, which is the feeling of dread about an upcoming thought, feeling, sensation, or situation that might bring about the feared situation. Individuals with anxiety disorders typically have difficulty staying with the feeling long enough to recognize that it’s a feeling, not a fact or prediction. As I’ve discussed, the nature of your anxiety disorder is that your mind is experiencing your thoughts, feelings, memories, or sensations as unwanted and dangerous and is getting you away from them as soon as possible. Whether or not you have a formal self-monitoring practice, identifying and labeling dread when its happening is a powerful step because it is the opposite of avoidance. Here’s a suggestion of what to say to yourself: “What I’m experiencing right now is anticipatory anxiety. My dread is a feeling, not a fact or prediction. It’s an indication that I feel uncertain. The feeling of uncertainty does not mean something bad is about to happen. In fact, uncertain might indicate that something good is about to happen! This is just a …

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