~Book Recommendations are at the bottom of this page~
If you’re an emotional eater, try this mindful eating exercise and then keep it in the back of your mind during regular meals:
Headspace app. There are several free meditations and other specific ones for a small price you might enjoy (work stress, falling asleep, kids, …). Each one also has a video with helpful descriptions about mood and the mind/body’s reaction to distress.
Insight Timer app. This one feels like you’ve stepped into a meditation center. They have an online community to connect you with other meditators meditating in live time, and many guided meditations.
Weighted Blanket. This is great for lowering anxiety and to help improve sleep!
4-7-8 Breath: Take a slow deep breath in as you count to 4, hold the inhale for 7 seconds, and then slowly exhale as you count to 8. Repeat. This is part of Pranayama, a breathing technique you may remember doing in yoga class.
Stop future tripping and get present. Getting into the here-and-now can be be pretty tough. Here’s a way I help clients (and myself) to get there a be in the moment. Orient Times 4: Slow down your thoughts by re-orienting yourself and directing your attention to the very present moment and focus on:
1. Person (are you alone; take note of who is around you)
2. Place (identify where you are: starting from the country you are in, city, street, building, room, furniture you’re sitting on)
3. Time (identify the year, month, date, day of the week, exact time of day)
4. Situation (what’s the current circumstance, purpose, what are you doing there)
Senses: Go through each of your senses and name what you experience (I’m feeling the couch underneath me and the blanket against my skin, I’m smelling the coffee from across the hall, I’m hearing the cars driving by outside, I’m tasting the mint in my mouth, I’m seeing the bookshelf on the left and windows on the right).
Change environment: Step outside, shift your seated position, stand up and stretch, look outside a window, go for a walk, go to a different room momentarily
Label the thought or feeling: Practice naming it, “That’s my anxiety.” Track where it’s at between 0-10.
Train/Clouds: Imagine sitting on a train and think of your anxious or racing thoughts as scenery going by. Imagine laying down on a beach or at the park, and think of your anxious thoughts as the clouds moving across the sky. Imagine sitting outside at a coffee shop, and think of your anxious thoughts as the cars driving by.
Calendar charting of successes: Instead of identifying yourself as an anxious person, begin tracking moments in the day where you felt less anxious or no anxiety.
Replenish your mind and soul with books and YouTube videos that are inspiring and empowering. Anything by Brene Brown, Maya Angelou or Glennon Doyle Melton are a good start. Click on this one -> Brene Brown TED Talk
Slow down: Anxiety is rapid. Meditation is a great way to start training yourself to slow down your nervous system, practice redirecting your thoughts, managing stressors more effectively, improving patience, and decreasing reactivity. You can try this one right now. Do a one minute mediation by setting your timer on your phone, closing your eyes and think about every inhale and exhale moving through your body.
Give yourself permission to have your feelings: Even if no one understands or they get disappointed, remind yourself that you have every right to feel whatever you’re feeling. Don’t wait for someone else to validate your feelings.
“What do I really think about this?”
“Does what I’m about to do really benefit me?”
“How do I feel when I’m not around those people/that person?”
When you receive very difficult news or a big change happens, remember that often “the lowest points in our lives create our highest opportunities.” – Dr. Jeff Blume
As therapists, we assess and diagnose clients based on the criteria mapped out in the DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). It’s the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health providers in the United States, and it gets updated every few years. It contains the diagnostic criteria for every psychiatric disorder recognized by the United States health care system.
A brief anxiety lesson:
To start off, anxiety is a natural feeling that most of us get from time to time. It’s that worry, nervousness, or unease we experience about a circumstance or something that has an uncertain outcome. Yes, it’s a normal reaction to stressful situations. Although, when that feeling becomes obsessive or overwhelming, it can affect many areas of our lives, and can make it unbearable to do everyday things or handle relationships. This is the point at which some of you might have found yourselves googling symptoms of anxiety or how to deal with anxiety.
There’s evidence based research suggesting that both biology and environment can contribute to anxiety disorders. Many adults with anxiety disorders have often reported memories of feeling anxious early on in life during childhood. Anxiety is defined as a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.
“If that’s anxiety, then what’s a panic attack?”
The exaggerated thoughts, and obsessing over “what if” in unknown situations, are often accompanied by physical symptoms. A panic attack is the sudden physical and emotional acute feeling of overwhelming fear and anxiety. Your body will give you strong messages, such as rapid heart rate, hyperventilating, flushed face, sweating, tense muscles, and headaches. Because of its physical symptoms, it’s often confused with being a heart attack, and it’s indeed important to rule out any medical issues (particularly with difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations). Some people feel like they can’t talk or it can be so intense, they are feeling like they are dying. Panic attacks usually feel like they come on out of nowhere, and they typically reach their peak at 10 minutes. Some people just experience it once in their lives, while many others have recurring panic attacks over the years. It may be an isolated event, or a symptom of a specific phobia or anxiety disorder.
The DSM-5 lists several diagnostic categories for Anxiety Disorders:
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Substance/Medication-Induced Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety Disorder Due to Another Medical Condition
Other Specified Anxiety Disorder
Unspecified Anxiety Disorder
“I can relate. Now what?”
The most important thing to keep in mind is that anxiety and panic attacks are treatable. If any of these symptoms feel familiar, the next step would be to have a consultation with a therapist or mental health professional. Assessment and treatment for anxiety and panic attacks can range from individual weekly therapy sessions to more intensive therapeutic support, based on each client’s needs. Treatment includes the use of various therapeutic approaches (such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness Based Therapy, Exposure Therapy) that address cognitive functioning and mood management. Some cases require medication or a higher level of care, if the symptoms of anxiety are severely impacting daily functioning. Feel free to call me for a consultation.
Trauma and abuse are experiences during childhood or adulthood that are less than nurturing. This can range from covert to overt trauma. A person can be distracted by the symptoms (such as alcohol abuse, rage, love addiction, anxiety, depression, process addictions, chemical addictions) and end up switching from one addiction/symptom to the other if the underlying core issues, traumatic roots and faulty belief systems are never addressed. This leads to relationship issues and effects of daily functioning.
Covert trauma: emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment, spiritual abuse, financial abuse, intellectual abuse, covert incest, enmeshment
Overt trauma: physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse
Process addictions: eating, work, spending, gambling, love, sex
Chemical addictions: recreational drugs, prescription drug abuse, alcohol, nicotine, laxatives
Inner Child Reparenting work is one method I use with clients to help in the healing process. Here’s a taste of it that you can try out with this meditation:
One way I like to organize the trauma framework is applying Pia Mellody’s Model of Developmental Immaturity. I’d suggest reading her book Facing Codependence, as it’s helpful in being able to see how unresolved trauma leads to the symptoms we experience today.
Out of all the books and articles and YouTube videos you can look at about improving relationships, I say you start with getting a good handle on the concept of Boundaries. Scroll up a bit and take a look at my Boundaries video to hear more about the two main types of boundaries and ways to start applying them when interacting with the people in your life today.
Karpman Triangle: Chaos and dysfunction will continue to breed when people in a relationship bounce between playing the Victim, Offender or Rescuer roles. The means out of this cycle is to slow down and apply a functional boundary. That can come in many forms, but what often shows up in my office would be: to stop interrupting the other person, take a breath, set your own opinion aside for a moment, try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and get curious about where they’re coming from, think about what you’re doing to contribute to the problem and what you’re doing to contribute to the solution. I’ve found that speaking with the Talking Boundary is one of the most effective ways to both avoid suppressing feelings (imploding/resenting) or exploding (raging).
Conscious Uncoupling: You may have read about Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin using this approach by Katherine Woodward. Sometimes people stay together for longer than what’s healthy for the wrong reasons (fear of judgment, fear of failure, fear of change or the unknown, fear of …… fill in the blank). Sadly, a toxic couple who has made significant unsuccessful attempts to repair, and refuse to take the leap and separate will inevitably lead to a toxic family system. I help couples who are in this dynamic with separating in a healthy, mature and respectful way. This naturally leads to reduced anger outbursts or behavioral issues trickling down all the way to their children at home and school.
Co-Parenting: Regardless of whether parents are married, divorced, step-parents, living together or not, effective co-parenting communication is a must. As we know, children soak up more non-verbal communication than what you tell them to do. By the way you live and behave, you’re constantly teaching them how to express their anger, needs, insecurities, problem solve, take responsibility, blame others, medicate or escape feelings, be vulnerable, and on and on. Remember that a parent’s job is to Nurture, Affirm and Set Limits.
What’s on my Audible app:
Amen (2015). Change Your Brain Change Your Life.
Cohen (2017). A Course In Miracles Made Easy.
De la Rosa (2018). The Monkey is the Messenger.
Duhigg (2012). The Power of Habit.
Ferriss (2008). The 4-Hour Workweek.
Gaiman (2013). The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
Gilbert (2015). Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.
Gilbert (2006). Eat Pray Love.
Grace (2015). The Naked Mind: Control Alcohol.
Heller (2010). Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find And Keep Love.
Hollis (2018). Girl Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be.
Junger (2016). Tribe: on Homecoming and Belonging.
Junger (2010). War.
Kabat-Zinn (2006). Mindfulness for Beginners.
Lamott (2013). Bird by Bird.
Leman (2009). The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are.
Leibowitz (2015). Miracle Man.
Newport (2016). Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.
Perel (2006). Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic & the Domestic.
Shepherd (2017). Stepping Out of Depression and Anxiety with CBT.
Tatkin (2016). Wired for Dating: How Understanding Neurobiology and Attachment Style Can Help You Find Your Ideal Mate.
Thomas (2015). Conscious Uncoupling: 5 Steps to Living Happily Even After.
Yalom (2016). Love’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy.
Yogis (2014). The Fear Project.
My Book Recommendations…
ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION
Burns (2006). When Panic Attacks. Morgan Road Books.
Chapman, Gratz (2015). The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for Anger: Using DBT Mindfulness & Emotion Regulation Skills to Manage Anger. New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Clark, Beck (2012). The Anxiety and Worry Workbook – The Cognitive Behavioral Solution. The Guilford Press.
McKay, Wood, Brantley (2007). The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook. New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Shepherd, Tom (2017). Stepping Out of Depression and Anxiety with CBT – A Workbook With Simple Techniques To Retrain Your Brain. CreateSpace.
Wilson (2001). Stopping the Noise in Your Head. Health Communications, Inc.
Duhigg (2014). The Power of Habit – Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business. Random House.
Hanh (2010). Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life. HarperOne.
Hanh, Vriezen (2011). Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness With Children. Parallax Press.
Kabat-Zinn (2013). Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. Second Edition, Revised and Updated. Bantam/Random House.
Kabat-Zinn (2016). Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment and Your Life. Sounds True.
Newport, Cal (2016). Deep Work. Grand Central Publishing.
Sarno (1999). The Mindbody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain. Warner Books.
Tolle (2006). A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. Plume.
Williams, Kraft (2012). The Mindfulness Workbook for Addiction: A Guide to Coping with the Grief, Stress, and Anger that Trigger Addictive Behaviors. Raincoast Books.
BOUNDARIES, DIVORCE, RELATIONSHIPS AND SELF-ESTEEM
Bradshaw (2005). Healing the Shame That Binds You. Health Communications, Inc.
Branden (1997). Taking Responsibility For Your Life: Self Reliance and the Accountable Life. Fireside.
Cain (2012). Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Crown/Archetype.
Carnes (1997). The Betrayal Bond: Beeaking Free of Exploitive Relationships. Healthy Communications, Inc.
Howes (2017). The Mask of Masculinity. Hay House UK.
Levine, Heller (2012). Attached – The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Fine – And Keep – Love. Tarcher Perigee.
Mellody (2003). Facing Codependence: What It Is, Where It Comes From, How It Sabotages Our Lives. HarperCollins.
Mellody, Miller, Miller (2003). Facing Love Addiction. Harper San Francisco.
Reynolds (2011). Parenting Through Divorce. Skyline Publications.
Perel (2017). The State of Affairs – Rethinking Infidelity. Harper.
Schiraldi, Gerald (2001). The Self Esteem Workbook. New Harbinger Publications.
Tatkin (2016). Wired For Dating – How Understanding Neurobiology and Attachment Style Can Help You Find Your Ideal Mate. New Harbinger.
Thomas (2016). Conscious Uncoupling – 5 Steps to Living Happily Even After. Harmony.
Wegscheider-Cruse (2012). Learning to Love Yourself: Finding Your Self Worth. Health Communications, Inc.
Whitfield (1994). Boundaries and Relationships: Knowing, Protecting, and Enjoying the Self. Health Communications, Inc.
SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH/JOURNAL ARTICLES ON MINDFULNESS
Astin (1997). Stress Reduction through Mindfulness Meditation: Effects of Psychological Symptomatology, Sense of Control, and Spiritual Experiences. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 1997,66:97-106.
Brown, Ryan (2003). The Benefits of Being Present: Mindfulness and Its Role in Psychological Well-Being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 84(4), Apr 2003, 822-848.
Hofmann, Sawyer, Witt, Oh (2010). The Effect of Mindfulness-Based Therapy on Anxiety and Depression: A Meta-Analytic Review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol 78(2), Apr 2010, 169-183.
Witkiewtz, Lustyk, Bowen (2013). Retraining the Addicted Brain: A Review of Hypothesized Neurobiological Mechanisms of Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, Vol 27(2), Jun 2013, 351-365.
Most of these books were either ones that touched my life or they were told to me by clients who said they were very impactful on their lives. If there’s a book that’s really impacted you, please let me know so I can read it and share it here so you can Pay It Forward.