Tag Archive: anxiety



Last night I wrote a poem that I wanted to share on an issue that is relatively a big deal – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Originally, it was thought that PTSD was something only military personnel experience coming back from experiencing the trauma of the horrors of war. Now while this is most certainly the case, and very true, in more recent years, the condition of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has been enlarged to any traumatic experience people go through, experiencing the same types of symptoms common to PTSD.

Anything from a major car crash, to being robbed, molested or raped, experiencing a natural disaster of some kind, major relationship betrayals or abuse, finding out your partner has been having an affair… On and on it goes. The only qualification is that the symptoms of PTSD MUST be present for more than one month.

I will not get into the symptoms in this blog, except for those which are mentioned in the poem I am about to share with you, but you can google the symptoms, or check back with me and ask, as I will eventually get to a whole series on PTSD at some point in the future. I think I have it slotted for November at this point in my Friday blogs! In the meantime, enjoy the poem I wrote just yesterday on the subject.

Locked In

My life just crashed
And fell apart.
Left for broke
I was on my own,
Locked in a cage
Of isolation & fear.
No hope of rescue.
Despair consumed me.
Out of the depths I cried out:
My God, My God
Why hast thou forsaken me?
Locked in a cyclone Of turbulence
Between anger, fear, rage
Forgiveness, hope, despair,
Comfort, isolation, disorientation
Numb, aching, anxious,
Sad, depressed and alone.
Longing for intimacy in private moments,
Guarded from everyone
Not letting a single soul in.
Locked in a cycle of sabotage,
Of self, relationships and love.
Alone, at risk for injury,
Despairing of life, hopeless, anxious
Avoiding, crying, numb again.
Who have I become?
Where did I go?
Why can I no longer feel love?
This is the face of PTSD.
Trauma destroys, demoralizes,
Shreds apart hope for normalcy.
Am I safe?
Can I trust?
Can I risk again?
Flashbacks, nightmares,
Coping mechanisms.
How do I accept this tragic event
That tore from under my feet
The last shreds of belief
That the world was relatively safe
And love was good?
Irresponsible, reckless, wish to die
How can I hide from this awful terror,
This darkest night of my soul?
I awake to relive it over and over again
And wonder will it ever be over?
Will I ever be whole?
Will I be forever changed by it?
Transformed to this new being
So dissociated from life and
All that is around me.
Nurture… Will I ever feel it?
Loved… Will I ever truly believe it?
Disillusioned again by
This whole cycle of life,
Will I ever recover enough to truly sing
‘this could really be a good life’?
“Wake up!” I yell inside myself
Facing a shell that dulls the sounds around me, locking me in a cage alone
Shell shocked and distanced from what is around me
I live, but do not truly live.
I am a shadow on a wall,
Where did I go?
Who am I?
Locked in my cage alone.
Balls drop, nothing is normal.
The new normal is anxiety at little things that are not a threat,
But the threat feels real.
It interferes with my waking hours, my work life, my social life,
All activities.
Can’t seem to keep everything functioning as it did before.
And I don’t even care.
Deadlines, call backs, follow through… Responsibility eludes me.
Trauma consumes me.
Somebody please, reach out and grab hold of me before I fall
Into a pit of darkness
And forever fall into oblivion.
God help me, God help us all.
Reach out and save me,
Breathe life
Into this broken, dying, empty shell.
Bring hope.

If you identify with this, I’ve developed a Trauma Recovery Program for training on tools to help cope with past trauma.  I’d love to hear from you!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach


Believe it or not, worry can actually be beneficial and even helpful if it moved us to take action to solve a problem, or gives us the motivation to complete a task by the deadline. But sadly, and most unfortunately, worry can also be the very cause of decreasing your ability to complete the task at hand, especially when you become centered around your worry, and pre-occupied with the worried thought that cripples your ability to do anything BUT worry!

You can become paralyzed by worry, and almost make a full time profession out of it! Sadly, it doesn’t pay well when it comes to salary! In fact the physical payoffs of worry can be really quite difficult to deal with and can become harmful to our bodies over prolonged worry. Some of us worriers are so used to worry, that we seek stressful situations out, because we don’t know how to function when not in a crisis.

Constant worrying can disrupt healthy sleeping patterns, keep you tense, edgy and jumpy during the day, and interfere with normal day to day routines.

Negative beliefs are often the culprit underneath the worry. It might be useful to dig a little deeper about what is just beneath the surface of your worry. Worrying about your worry only adds to the problem at hand. Worrying may feel like a form of protection to you, but it isn’t true, especially for chronic worriers, when worry leaves you less productive than you could be without it! But we love our coping mechanisms and we are used to them. And they are familiar to us, and what is familiar feels comfortable, even if it leaves you feeling the uncomfortable side effects of the worry habit.

Once you realize worry is the problem, you are halfway there to winning the battle of worry and taking back control over what you allow your mind to dwell on. The Bible has useful advice when it says do not worry about tomorrow for each day has enough trouble of its own!

I personally believe that worry largely has to do with the felt need to control something outside of your ability to control. Don’t mistake my opinion as being one from a distant observer of worry. I have wrestled with worry and anxiety at varying occasions and seasons of my life. I wrestle with anxiety currently in fact, and I need to frequently use tools to manage my emotions, thoughts and physical symptoms during this season of repair in my life. I will touch on some great tips next week for worry and anxiety.

Let me just touch on what is considered to be generalized anxiety vs an anxiety attack to clarify the differences, and help you chart whether you have occasional worry that is useful to you or harmful, and how to know when worry becomes anxiety and what type.

Generalized anxiety consists of chronic worry, like we just talked about, and nervousness and tension in the body. Generalized anxiety is quite simply stated: generalized. It is a general feeling of dread or feeling uneasy but not having a clearly stated aggressor. It just affects your whole life and it affects all areas of your life, everything from finances to career, to relationships, health issues, you name it! It is mentally and physically exhausting and drains you of energy you need throughout the day! It is difficult, almost nearly impossible to feel calm and relaxed. It disrupts normal life… But you have known it long enough to feel like it is normal.

You may have an anxiety disorder if you identify with the following symptoms:

Are you constantly tense, worried, or on edge?

Does your anxiety interfere with work, school or family responsibilities?

Are you plagued by irrational fears but can’t get rid of them anyway?

Do you avoid every day situations because they cause you anxiety?

Do you believe something bad will happen if things aren’t done a certain way?

Do you feel like catastrophe or danger are lurking around every corner?

Do you experience sudden unexpected attacks of panic?

Symptoms of anxiety attacks include:

Surges of overwhelming panic

Feeling a loss of control

Feeling like you are going crazy

Hyperventilation

Heart palpitations & chest pain

Trouble breathing

Hot flashes or chills

Trembling or shaking

Nausea or stomach cramps

Feeling detached, unreal, numb, or removed from the present, stuck in a past traumatizing event.

Post traumatic stress occurs after a traumatic or life threatening event. It does not only include those who have suffered from an extreme accident, physical or sexual abuse, living in a war torn country, or being in the military exposed to traumatic war experiences. It can include anything that brings about the same symptoms. Some people experience extreme trauma after a break up of a significant relationship, or when they become aware of their partner’s cheating, rape, kidnapping, natural disasters etc.

If you feel a lessened awareness of yourself (dissociation, or experience flashbacks of a painful or traumatic event, experience changes in how you think or feel about yourself, disruptions in your level of feeling safe, loss of trust in yourself, anger, loss of self esteem, feelings of chronic emptiness, and feelings of helplessness, are withdrawn from other’s as a result, avoid situations or places that remind you of the event, experience changes in eating habits (weight gain or weight loss) just to name a few, you may be experiencing trauma of some sort. See the attached picture for some more common symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. To be diagnosed as having PTSD you must be experiencing your symptoms for more than 1 month in each of the following categories:

– Re-experiencing symptoms -flashbacks, nightmares, surging heart rate
– Avoidance and Numbing – avoiding places that remind you of the event, feeling distant or numb, difficulty feeling positive feelings such as love, happiness etc.
– Hyper arousal symptoms – outbursts of anger, being ‘jumpy’ or easily startled, difficulty concentrating
– Acute stress disorder – experiencing your symptoms for more than a month
– Your symptoms are negatively interfering with you work or relationships

Only a trained professional can truly diagnose you with PTSD, but if you identify with the summary of symptoms it might be time to make an appointment with your doctor and a PTSD therapist!

Stay tuned next Friday for tips on managing stress, worry and anxiety!

If you’d like to look at another great resource, check out my one-on-one Boundary Development Program which will help bring control back into your life or my Trauma Recovery Program for training on tools to help cope with past trauma! And don’t forget, I also have a free monthly webinar on stress management, Sign-Up Today!! 

Cheers!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach


Have you ever paid too much attention to your breathing patterns when you are feeling stressed or anxious? Likely not in the moment at least, as your mind is preoccupied with the stress you are feeling, increasing the shallow breathing, and increased heart rate and muscle tension developing in your body. The reason all these physiological sensations are occurring in your body is simply because you have activated the sympathetic nervous system in your body which prepares you for fight or flight. It is busy readying the body to take whatever needed action is required urgently. It’s instinctual nature is preparing you for some sort of danger and knows you need to be ready to respond at a moments notice. And perhaps your adrenaline has kicked in too, as you are overloaded at work, have deadlines that you know you cannot possibly meet because all sorts of other issues came up at the office distracting your time and attention away from your current project, and now you feel the mounting stress in your neck and shoulders and the headache or the knots in your stomach as you imagine the worst case scenario, and fear is kicking in about what will happen if you miss this important deadline. Or maybe it’s a person you don’t get along with and there is mounting stress developing between you and this person. You hate working with them, and are afraid of confrontation, because they have a more strong-willed personality than you or they are that workplace bully that you know you will suffer their wrath if you confront the issues you are having with them and the stress builds slowly, like water in a pot on a hot stove, slowly coming to a boil and finally overflowing because of the mounting tension.

These and other situations can cause massive amounts of stress in life. And our sympathetic nervous system, bless it’s soul, readies us for action we need to take. However, our bodies were not meant to maintain constant stress, as all sorts of physical problems arise as a result. But what do you do with the pesky symptoms of stress in order to calm down? Have you ever noticed that most of these symptoms meant to help us take immediate action also have the tendency to backfire on us as well, say for instance by decreasing our concentration or productivity, or even our ability to perform at all? Perfect case in point… Needing to do a presentation in front of a group of people, and you have a fear of public speaking and more than the nervous butterflies in your stomach, you feel frozen in fear, unable to do your job? Sometimes we need to take action and require that boost of adrenaline or increase of oxygen to the heart to take flight or fight. But often the stressors we face inducing the fight, flight or freeze response tend to be counter productive.

What does breathing have anything to do with what I have been talking about this whole time? Some of you may already know, those of you who practice mindfulness exercises will already be familiar with what I am about to say, but for those of you who are curious about what is going on in the body and why what i am about to tell you actually works, will be well informed in just a moment! Deep breathing… Not shallow or even regular breathing, but breathing in deeply to at least a 5 count and then breathing out slowly and deeply as well, triggers what is known as the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the body responsible for the rest and digest functions in the body. Deep breathing activates the part of our brain that tells us to calm down, to rest, to relax, to unwind. You may not be able to take tons of time at work to sit back, put your feet up on your desk and take a nap to get that renewed vigor to carry on, but taking deep breaths for 5-10 minutes (or whatever time you have) can quite possibly be the very trick to enable you to complete that project on time! Once you are breathing deeply, you are deactivating the nervous stress energy in your body which is decreasing your functional ability by flooding your emotions with fear or panic. Once you are breathing more deeply, and less labored, you may find you suddenly have more concentration available to complete the task at hand. Now your energy is being devoted to the project, rather than spending so much effort on worrying about the project!

Stay tuned for more stress tips next Friday!

And don’t forget, if you are relating to this, and feel like you need some additional help, Sign-Up Today for my monthly webinar on stress management!!  If you’d like to look at another great resource, check out my one-on-one Boundary Development Program which will help bring control back into your life!

Cheers!

————-

If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach


Last Friday I blogged about Stress Management by introducing some common symptoms that occur when one is under a lot of stress. Today I want to touch on what is happening in our physical bodies that brings about the symptoms we discussed last week.

The fight, flight or freeze response is how the body prepares itself to deal with stress and anxiety and even fear. Your cerebral cortex (the thinking part of the brain) sends an alarm to the hypothalamus, which then stimulates the sympathetic nervous system to make changes in the body to prepare itself for action -primarily, fight, flight or freeze.

The changes that occur are things like heart rate increase, muscle tension, blood pressure increases, metabolism. Blood is directed away from the digestive system and the extremities and re-directed toward major muscle groups that can help to fight or run.

In each stressful situation we face, our instinctual reptilian brain (which is the oldest part of the brain, responsible for instincts such as fight, flight or freeze) is activated and we instinctually respond with a course of action to deal with the situation, seemingly without thinking about it, as it seems to occur automatically, in a matter of seconds the fight, flight or freeze response is in action, directed by the hypothalamus to trigger the sympathetic nervous system to ready us for attack, alarm, or a perceived attack, readying us to fight the stressor, flee and avoid the stressor, or freeze up, unable to fight or flee.

We may not always freeze up, we may not always automatically fight, just as we may not always take flight from the stressful situation. It depends on each circumstance we face.

If you are afraid of public speaking for instance, once you get up to the podium, you might freeze up, unable to speak. Or perhaps you dance around the subject with your boss, trying to get out of having to do the speech (flight), or you face it head on and fight the butterflies in your stomach and do the speech.

Or if you need to confront a co-worker who is a bully at your work, perhaps you want to avoid the stressor and avoid taking shifts where you work with that person, or you simply feel anxiety the whole time you work with this person unable to confront the situation out of fear. Perhaps you decide enough is enough, I am going to report this bully and take action.

I am not saying ‘fighting’ is always the best choice in dealing with a stressful situation. For instance, if you do not have healthy confrontational skills and you end up verbally or even physically assaulting your irritating co-worker, perhaps fighting the situation via direct confrontation is not the best solution for you, and perhaps you should involve the management team instead.

In a situation where a burglar has entered your home with a gun and already shot someone in your home and he has not seen you, perhaps freezing is the best course of action to preserve your life. If he doesn’t see you and leaves, you can then contact the police and ‘fight’ the situation by taking action. But if the burger enters the area where you have chosen to freeze, it might be useful to look for options to get out and flee the area to avoid getting shot. This is a perfect example where all three responses may be needed at varying times in one situation, and your instinct will tell you what you ought to do. Perhaps you have the upper hand, and are able to come behind the burgled unaware and are able to knock him out and tie him up and take his gun away from him and call the police…. Another example of a fight response.

The point is, our bodies ready us for response and give us the extra boost of adrenaline and energy to face the stressful situation.

Long term stress can be very harmful to our bodies, over time, indicating that it is time for us to figure out how to manage anxiety and stress.

The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for ‘rest and digest’ and is the part of the nervous system that needs to be activated to bring our bodies back to a state of calm after a stressful episode. I will blog more about how the parasympathetic nervous system comes into play next week as we begin to look at simple ways to manage our stress level.

And don’t forget, if you are relating to this, and feel like you need some additional help, Sign-Up Today for my montly webinar on stress management!!  If you’d like to look at another great resource, check out my one-on-one Boundary Development Program which will help bring control back into your life!

Cheers!

————-

If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach


Today, I am simply going to discuss some common symptoms of stress & burnout and include a symptoms checklist at the end.

Cognitive symptoms may include:

  • Memory Trouble
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anxious thoughts
  • Constant worrying
  • Seeing only the negative

Emotional symptoms can include:

  • Feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Depression or general unhappiness
  • Irritability
  • Moodiness
  • Inability to relax
  • Feelings of agitation

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Procrastinating
  • Isolating yourself from other’s
  • Neglecting or avoiding responsibility
  • Using alcohol or drugs as coping mechanisms
  • Nervous physical habits such as pacing, inability to sit still, nail biting, etc.

Physical symptoms include:

  • Trembling, shakiness
  • Aches and pains
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Loss of sex drive

Now let’s take a quick look at burnout.

Here are some common symptoms:

  • Feeling tired and drained most of the time
  • Frequent headaches
  • Sense of failure or self doubt
  • Loss of motivation or interest in your work &/or your usual interests
  • Feeling extremely cynical or negative
  • Sense of dissatisfaction
  • Feeling helpless
  • Detached or numb
  • Feeling alone
  • Procrastinating or taking longer doing tasks or performing responsibilities
  • Getting easily frustrated at others
  • Skipping work or leaving early
  • Using drugs or alcohol to cope
  • Feeling like you have little or no control
  • Getting sick more frequently
  • Constantly exhausted
  • Neglecting your own needs
  • Feeling like you just don’t care anymore
  • Irritability toward people you are are responsible to care for
  • Feeling overwhelmed all the time

Symptoms Checklist:

Instructions: Rate your stress related symptoms below for the degree of discomfort that the following situations would cause you.

Scoring:
1-3 Slight discomfort
4-7 Moderate discomfort
8-10 Extreme discomfort

Symptom.                                                                             Degree of Discomfort.

Anxiety in specific Situations:

Tests
Deadlines
Competing priorities
Interviews
Public speaking

Anxiety in personal
Relationships:

Spouse
Parents
Children
Friends
Other

Worry
Depression
Anxiety
Anger
Irritability
Resentment
Phobias
Fears
Muscular Tension
High blood pressure
Neck pain
Backaches
Indigestion
Muscle spasms
Insomnia
Sleeping difficulties
Work stress

How do you rate yourself on each of the above categories. Record the number for each of the above. What is your stress level? Slight? Moderate? Severe? Do you know effective tools to reduce your stress?

If you are relating to this, and feel like you need some additional help, Sign-Up Today for my montly webinar on stress management!! If you’d like to look at another great resource, check out my one-on-one Boundary Development Program which will help bring control back into your life!

Cheers!

————- 

 If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach


Sometimes in life we go through events that are or at least seem catastrophic at the time, or we keep running across the same negative situation in life over and over again, and we begin to develop distortions in our thinking. We begin to believe things like “I must be cursed”, or “every decision I make ends in failure”, or “I’m not lovable because people keep abandoning me. What’s wrong with me anyway?” Sometimes we believe that we are a mistake, or that we are not beautiful enough, or strong enough, or good enough. Sometimes we believe it is our fault when someone else has wronged us. Sometimes we sabotage ourselves by speaking negative things about ourselves, such as “you are ugly” (talking to yourself) or “you don’t deserve any better, look at what you did… Believing we must punish ourselves for our mistakes, or even believing that God is punishing us for not having been perfect or making the right decisions.

Sometimes we involve ourselves in what psychologists refer to as ’emotional reasoning’, essentially meaning that we believe our feelings are actual fact. Sometimes we magnify a situation and believe based on our faulty understanding that the situation is bigger than it really might be. Sometimes we can’t see any positive possibilities because all we see are the negative situations. Sometimes we jump to conclusions before we have examined all the options, sometimes we catastrophize, expecting the worst case scenario to happen. Sometimes we take everything personal, or label ourselves based on our real or perceived mistakes. Sometimes we use polarization, or black and white thinking, clinging to extreme opposites, like all or nothing, great or awful, never or always. All of these patterns and more are what’s referred to as ‘distorted thinking patterns.’ Basically, the lies we believe.

Now I know on Wednesday’s I blog about my own experiences, my life, etc. Now part of that includes the things I’m thinking about. There have been two major things that have been occupying my attention over the past couple weeks or so, this subject of distorted thinking and cognitive reasoning, as well as researching…and now I’m really gonna reveal how nerdy I really am – the brain and new studies on how to retire and retrain our brains, remapping so to speak. Perhaps I will blog about that next week, as it does relate to this topic about how to change our belief systems.

I’ve been really trying to examine my own distortions and examining how certain repeat situations that occur in my life first build a faulty belief, and then solidify it over time as similar circumstances and life events seem to ‘prove’ my theories and beliefs are true. But as they say, “what you think is what you are.” Do we do it to ourselves by believing a certain way which ends up becoming a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy?’

But what good is it to believe myself unlovable for instance? Or that I will always be betrayed or abandoned? What good is it to self sabotage rather than to have self compassion, and nurture the areas that have felt wounded or betrayed? Does this not add more fuel to the fire?

How much does it benefit us to dwell on the negative beliefs and distortions we hold to so firmly as a belief system? Why do we allow experience to dictate the truth? Why are we often our own worst enemy?

Let’s take a quick look at some of the physical symptoms that can arise simply by worrying or choosing to believe and/or dwell on the negative circumstances in life. For instance we all know that worry, anxiety and depression can result from dwelling on the negative situations in life (albeit some depression is merely a result of lowered serotonin levels for sure), but how many of you are aware that harboring bitterness can cause certain types of cancer, or that self bitterness, self rejection or self hatred CAN be the cause of coronary artery disease or strokes? Fear, anxiety and stress can cause angina or high blood pressure, or heart arrythmias, or ulcers?

Anger, rage and resentment can cause all sorts of physical problems over time. Everything form hemorrhoids to tension headaches, to a lowered immune system, to gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea or constipation, overeating, depression and insomnia. Of course, not all of these symptoms are ALWAYS a result of anger or fear etc. sometimes people have constipation because it is a side effect to a medication they are taking for instance. The point is, we are a whole being, spirit, soul and body, interwoven together so delicately and simultaneously complex. Is it any wonder that some of the issues in our spirit and souls would affect our health, just the same as a lack of physical activity does?

Perhaps God was onto something when he said to “forgive” those who have offended us, as he knew the natural consequences bearing such a heavy weight on our shoulders could have on our mental, emotional and physical health? Maybe there is good reason why the bible says:

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.”
Philippians 4:7-9

For more information on some root causes to physical symptoms, please check out Henry Wright’s book “A more excellent way to be in health”. I confess I started thinking about other possible causes to my back pain than something just ‘physical’ when the orthopedic surgeon looked at my X-rays and CT scans and MRI’s and could not see the reason why I would be in such severe pain with a mild degenerative disc disease. He did mention that it will get progressively worse over time and I may need surgery later on in life, but as he said he couldn’t see why I had such excessive pain, I think I had a little “aha” moment that maybe this was something spiritual, or a root of some kind of lie or belief system I hold onto. Like unbelief for instance. I have always wrestled to believe in miracles because my own experience had not experienced it personally. Perhaps I am stubborn, as I HAVE witnessed others become healed of diseases, but why does my own mind still reject this truth, this reality that it is possible? What is that faulty belief system I hold onto? These and other questions have had me on a quest to find out what other faulty belief systems I hold onto, what lies and distorted thinking patterns I believe, in an effort to reframe my mindset to believe the truth and not a lie.

I have been examining cognitive therapy to make connections between environmental changes/life situations interact with our physical reactions, thoughts, moods and behavior.

For example: environmental situation: death of a father. Physical reaction: cold sweats, pounding heart, breathing difficulty. Moods: anxiety, panic. Behavior: Avoiding places that remind you of him. Thoughts: ‘Something bad will happen to me.’ ‘He died young, and so did my grandfather, so maybe it runs in the family and I will die young too’.

The above example was fictitious… Not a personal experience of mine (although my father did die young, but I don’t hold onto that belief system).

The reality is, our thinking is very important. It is essential to pay attention to what we are thinking about. Our thoughts left to their own devices take on a life of their own, believing any wild connection they make with the circumstances and situations we encounter. Not only our thinking, but our emotions can rule us as well as mentioned earlier about believing that the way you feel reflects reality. Ie. “I feel frightened right now, so that must mean I am in real physical danger.”

Aiko Horman, a Japanese brain specialist, now in her 70’s, did extensive research on early childhood memories and trauma and how to re-route or rewire the brain to overcome painful traumatic childhood memories. There is now so much research on the neuroplasticity of our brain’s nervous system’s ability to develop new neuronal connections, to essentially work toward healing and retraining the brain. This is my intro for next week’s discussion on what I am learning about the brain’s ability to repair itself. But for now, let’s just leave it at this: negative thoughts can actually CAUSE our brain to be dysfunctional.

The good news is: our negative thoughts and negative emotions CAN be rewired, changed, healed. The brain is capable of regenerating itself for repair! Until next week when I get a little more in depth on how the brain works in conjunction with what we tell ourselves and choose to believe, I invite you to make a list of your own cognitive distortions, or the lies you believe about yourself, and hopefully over the next week or two I can unpack further what I’m learning and some tools to apply to rewire our brains! I’m super excited about this, because I have some of my own patterns of thinking that I desperately want to conform to truth.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

Think of a situation you were in that caused you distress, anxiety, fear, etc. where were you? Who were you with? What were you doing? Describe the mood you felt (usually a mood is describable in one word), and what were the automatic thoughts that crossed your mind?

For instance, you might have been on a first date, and you were feeling like it wasn’t going very well, so suddenly your mood is nervous, or gloomy, etc, as you begin to think about your automatic thoughts like “He looks bored”, “He’s going to think I’m so clumsy because I’ve done one or two things over dinner that were clumsy while feeling nervous” or “This is the same restaurant I came to when my last boyfriend broke up with me”, etc. Pay attention to each of these things, your automatic thoughts, your mood, and present or past situations that may be acting as triggers to your current mood. Ask yourself the following: what was going on before I started to feel this way? What am I afraid might happen? What is the worst thing that could happen? What does this mean about how the other person feels about me? What images and memories do I have? All of these things help a person to begin to think about what you are thinking about and out the pieces together as to why you are feeling the way you do, or thinking what you are and what caused it. Oftentimes when we begin to examine our automatic thoughts we see how negatively or self sabotaging or self critical we really are. These automatic thoughts, left unchecked, can form belief systems that are untrue or debilitating to our self esteem.

This is precisely what I’ve been up to in my spare time – trying to determine my thinking distortions, find the origins, retrain my brain in its errors of reasoning, and understand other related factors, such as the mental, emotional or spiritual roots to physical ailments. It bears repeating… I’m a nerd. But I love it! Next Wednesday I will come back to this and explore it further…. I believe it’s an important subject to live a life that is full and meaningful. No point in believing lies when the truth sets us free. Negativity only causes us all sorts of harm.

If you’d like to look at a great resource, check out my one-on-one Personal Development Program which will help you overcome depression, unhealthy thought patterns and so much more!

Cheers!

————-

If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach


“A lot of what we do to not feel bad is likely to make us feel worse. It’s like that thought experiment: ‘try not to think about pink elephants – the kind that are very large and very pink!’. Once an idea is planted in our minds, it’s strengthened every time we try not to think about it.” -Christopher K. Germer, PhD

Were you picturing pink elephants there? I have to admit, I did… and I’m not especially gifted at visualization! One time in church, the pastor asked us to close our eyes and visualize something, and my husband, who KNOWS that I basically SUCK at visualization, laughed when I whispered in his ear, “I see black”. LOL But for those of you who ARE good at visualization, the above experiment about thinking about pink elephants might be quite easy, and difficult to NOT think about when someone mentions to not think about it.

Now you may ask, according to my title, what does all this have to do with mindfulness OR anxiety? Good question! I’m glad you asked! The above quote from the book “The mindful path to self compassion” by the above named author, goes on to say this: “Similarily, whatever we throw at our distress to make it go away- relaxation techniques, blocking our thoughts, positive affirmations- will ultimately disappoint, and we’ll have no choice to set off to find another option to feel better.”

Now before I go any further, since this particular blog is supposed to be about me, I need to mention that anxiety is something that seems to run in my family. I have had my bouts of anxiety over the years as well, everything from insomnia and allowing that to cause anxiety, from ordinary stressful life events to traumatic experiences, to allowing anxiety to hold me back from reaching my goals and dreams because the symptoms of anxiety can feel debilitating.

How have I learned to deal with anxiety? What tools have I come up with? What exercises have I tried? Everything from avoiding anything stressful that causes anxiety, to prescription medications to help deal with symptoms, to counseling, etc. And I have learned a lot from my research and have implemented a lot of great techniques since then. But first, let us take a look at what anxiety is, and some of it’s most common symptoms.

Are you constantly tense, worried or on edge? Does your anxiety interfere with your work, school or family responsibilities? Are you plagued by fears that you know are irrational, but can’t shake? Do you believe that something bad will happen if certain things aren’t done a certain way? Do you avoid everyday situations or activities because they cause you anxiety? Do you experience sudden, unexpected attacks and heart-pounding panic? Do you feel like danger and catastrophe are around every corner?

The above are signs and symptoms of an anxiety disorder. The most common symptoms of anxiety include emotional and physical symptoms which are easily identified:

Emotional symptoms of anxiety:

  • Feelings of apprehension or dread
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feeling tense and jumpy
  • Anticipating the worst
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Watching for signs of danger
  • Feeling like your mind’s gone blank

Physical/Physiological symptoms of anxiety:

  • Pounding heart
  • Sweating
  • Stomach upset or dizziness
  • Frequent urination or diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tremors and twitches
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Surge of overwhelming panic
  • Feeling of losing control or going crazy
  • Heart palpitations or chest pain
  • Feeling like you are going to pass out
  • Trouble breathing or choking sensation
  • Hyperventilation
  • Hot flashes or chills
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Nausea or stomach cramps
  • Feeling detached or unreal

Knowing is half the battle, which is why I am including the above symptoms, as some people don’t recognize anxiety for what it is, or are unaware of most of those symptoms being related to anxiety. For further reading on the subject, I suggest visiting the following website: http://helpguide.org

When I first began investigating tools to help manage anxiety, I came across a lot of great ideas:

  • Practice relaxation techniques
  • Adopt healthy eating habits
  • Reduce alcohol and nicotine
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get enough sleep

I also thought these things were great tools:

1. Create a “worry period”. Choose a set time and place for worrying. Set a start and end time for your worry period. During your worry period, you’re allowed to worry about whatever’s on your mind. The rest of the day, however, is a worry-free zone.

2. Postpone your worry. If an anxious thought or worry comes into your mind, make a brief note of it and and postpone it until your worry period. Remind yourself you will have time to worry about it later, so you can continue on with your day.

3. Go through your worry list during the worry period. Jot down your worries and anxious thoughts throughout the day, and now is the time you get to worry about them. If the worries don’t seem important anymore, cut your worry period short and enjoy the rest of your day.

They suggest that post-poning worry is effective because it breaks the habit of dwelling on worries in the present moment.

Another worry tip: Ask yourself if the problem is solvable. Is what you are worrying about real or imagined? a ‘what if’ type of worry. If the problem is an imaginary ‘what if’, ask yourself ‘how likely is it to happen? Is your concern realistic? Why? Can you do something about the problem or prepare for it, or is it out of your control?

If the worry is solvable, start brainstorming. Make a list of all possible solutions you can think of.

If the worry is unsolvable, remember that worrying helps you avoid unpleasant emotions.  Worrying keeps you in your head, thinking about how to solve problems rather than allowing yourself to feel the underlying emotions. But you can’t worry your emotions away.  While you are worrying, your feelings are temporarily suppressed, but as soon as you stop, the tension and anxiety bounces back.  The only way out of this cycle is to embrace your feelings.

One of the mindfulness techniques I learned was the practice of nonresistance.  Accept anxiety and that you feel anxious.  Be compassionate to your anxiety and embrace the fact that worry and anxious thoughts are normal.  The more you worry about it, the bigger it gets.  If you are able to practice compassion on yourself, the anxiety itself can diminish, merely by accepting the fact that you feel anxious. But just because you ‘feel’ anxious, doesn’t mean you need to let it control you or hold you back.  You can still accomplish your goals, finish your profects, deal with traumatic situations, by simply accepting the underlying emotions and continuing on anyway, despite the fact that you ‘feel’ anxious.  One suggestion I was given was to look at your feelings as if you were watching the clouds in the sky and watching them pass by.  I am still working on this process, as it is still difficult not to feed the anxious thought with lots of attention.  But I am recognizing that feelings pass.  And to embrace what I am feeling in that moment, no matter how painful, stressful or anxious it is.  Resisting it merely postpones the problem, and often intensifies it.  Not dealing with it and avoiding it, makes it bigger than it really is.  It also causes all sorts of health problems.  The best way to deal with anxiety, is to feel it.  And don’t let it stop you from moving forward anyway.  What’s wrong with doing something you feel anxious about, while feeling anxious? Just do it feeling anxious.  Lots of people do.  If every person who ever felt nervous before going onstage to perform gave way to their anxiety and refused to go onstage and perform, they would be holding back their talent and preventing the audience to hear/watch/observe their show.  They also woudln’t get paid or famous.  Imagine Lady Gaga not going onstage?  She would fade off the popularity charts pretty quickly.

There are many tools for anxiety, some work better than others, some work better for certain types of people.  If you see something here that works for you, feel free to try it!

I have two more tools that I have personally tried that I have found helpful for myself.

First, a cognitive approach, as I am wired to think that way myself:

The above mentioned website resource I sited suggests:

Stop Worry by questioning the worried thought:

  • What’s the evidence that the thought is true? That it’s not true?
  • Is there a more positive, realistic way of looking at the situation?
  • What’s the probability that what I’m scared of will actually happen?
  • If the probability is low, what are some more likely outcomes?
  • Is the thought helpful?
  • How will worrying about it help me and how will it hurt me?
  • What would I say to a friend who had this worry?

Cognitive Distortions that add to Anxiety, Worry and Stress

  • All-or nothing thinking -looking at things in black and white categories, no middle ground
  • Overgeneralization- Generalizing from a single negative experience, expecting it to hold true forever
  • The mental filter- Focusing only on the negatives while filtering out positives. Dwelling on the one thing that went wrong, rather than all the things that went well.
  • Diminishing the positive- Coming up with reasons why positive events don’t count “I did well on the presentation, but it was just luck”
  • Jumping to conclusions- Making negative interpretations without actual evidence. Making assumptions
  • Catastrophizing- Expecting the worst-case secnario to happen
  • Emotional reasoning- Believing the way you feel reflects reality.
  • Shoulds and should-nots- Holding yourself to a strict list of what you should and shouldn’t do and beating yourself up if you break any of the rules
  • Labeling- Labeling yourself based on mistakes and perceived shortcomings (I’m a failure, an idiot, a loser)
  • Personalization- Assuming responsibility for things that are outside your control (It’s my fault my son got in a car accident. I should have warned him to drive carefully in the rain)

Mindfulness techniques to try:

  • Acknowledge and observe your anxious thoughts and feelings. Don’t try to ignore, fight, or control them, like you usually would. Instead, simply observe them as if from an outsider’s perspective.
  • Let your worries go. Notice that when you don’t try to control the anxious thoughts that pop up, they soon pass, like clouds moving across the sky. It’s only when you engage your worries that you get stuck.
  • Stay focused on the present. Pay attention to the way your body feels, the rhythm of your breathing, your ever-changing emotions, and the thoughts that drift across your mind. If your find yourself getting stuck on a particular thought, bring your attention back to the present moment.

One mindfulness exercise I try is to breathe deeply.  To allow myself to take 5-10 minutes out of my day to just bring all my focus on my breathing.  I count from 1-10 and then from 10-1 backwards.  All I am doing is paying attention to my breath and then gradually, I begin to pay attention to the sounds around me.  When a thought interrupts the process, I give it my attention for a few moments as it is likely trying to point out something I need to pay attention to.  But I gradually bring my focus back to my breath.  If I am interrupted by a random thought, I begin counting again from 1-10.  This helps me notice how frequently I am being distracted in the process.  And throughout the process, I practice self-compassion.  There is no way to do this exercise wrong.  Just have compassion towards the interruptions and keep breathing.

The purpose of the above exercise is that what is happening in our body as we become increasinly more and more anxious, we are triggering the sympathetic nervous system which generally is responsible for activating the fight or flight response in our body, allowing our reaction to perceived danger to intensify physiological symptoms preparing to deal with the situation (most of the symptoms listed at the beginning of this article). Whereas, the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for things like rest and digest. Deep breathing brings heightenedphysiological symptoms of anxiety, back to a state of rest, by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, initiating a sense of calming the body down.

These are some of the things I have studied and applied to my own life when I combat anxiety. Remember, anxiety is normal. It is a part of life. Whenever we try to deny or fight a natural part of life, we upset the body’s normal way of healing itself. I hope some of these tools help you as they have helped me!

One closing scripture verse to leave you with: “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of it’s own.” Matthew 6:33-34

And don’t forget, if you are relating to this, and feel like you need some additional help, Sign-Up Today for my monthly webinar on stress management!! If you’d like to look at another great resource, check out my one-on-one Boundary Development Program which will help bring control back into your life!

Cheers!

————-

If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Relationship Life Coach

what is strength?


They say that when things are tough, the tough get going.

Well, I hardly would consider myself a ‘tough’ person, although many people have told me I am strong. I’m not sure if I believe them or if they simply say it to encourage me, or if they really DO see a strength in me that I cannot see for myself. Because when I look at what’s inside of me, I see human weakness, and frailty. I see someone who has been broken too many times to count, yet possesses this strange sense of resilience that even I don’t understand.

I have been disillusioned far too many times to count, in areas such as faith, my beliefs, my values and my understanding of morality.

I have always felt like I am a far too dependent person, simply because I allow myself to be vulnerable, real and open with those closest to me. I would also say that I am REAL with everyone, as I have not yet figured out how to hide on the outside what is happening on the inside. And I appreciate authenticity anyway, so I choose to be authentic.

I feel like I am in a sad state of affairs internally, as I currently continue to battle disillusionment in many areas of my life. Perhaps this is what happens when idealization shatters in front of you. Which is funny, really, in an ironic sort of way, because I have always thought of myself as a realist rather than an idealist. Possessing the ability to hope for and believe for the ideal, but to willingly accept the real.

What doesn’t make sense to me now, however, is that though I feel disillusioned, I am picking myself up off the floor, and going on. Damaged by what has harmed me, yet I am picking up pieces and moving towards the goals I have in my life, that are as of yet, unrealized. Perhaps I am placing my hope in something new while the rest of my life feels shattered? Or maybe this is how you move on, and grow. Maybe this is a mark of maturity, an embracing of all that is, no matter how unpleasant, and growing up and becoming someone who is less dependent on other’s, capable of achieving my dreams and reaching some long lost goals.

Maybe I finally am strong enough to accomplish what I have allowed fear, anxiety & insecurity to hold me back from. Maybe I misunderstand the definition of what it means to be strong. Maybe the harshness of life is a training ground to make us tough enough to handle the hardship, while keeping us soft enough to receive the healing & inspiration we need to move forward.

Coming back to my opening line about what happens when the going gets tough… Perhaps they are right that the tough do get going.

In my own life, no matter what I feel I am struggling with internally, on the outside, I see initiative like I have never known before. I used to feel like getting motivated was a tough thing for me. I allowed a lot of things to hold me back- mostly anxiety and fears.

But perhaps going through some of the most difficult things in my life, facing my worst fears, and some I never imagined possible, I came out on the other end finally with the belief ‘what is man? And what can he do to me?’ maybe it’s because it’s all been done… And I’m still standing. (although sometimes I feel like I’m crawling… And then those other days were even crawling out of bed feels like a chore…)

The point is, that maybe I’ve overcome my fear. Maybe my fear of rejection has been solved by experiencing it, and living to tell the tale.

But whatever it is, I’m moving forward. I’m taking my life in my hands and saying ‘I will not allow fear to hold me back anymore’ and I press forward towards the dreams, desires and visions I’ve carried for years, but held myself back from due to fear or negative self talk about myself.

Maybe the confidence I was hoping to get from others, the affirmation and reassurance, is coming from within, instead of from external sources. I feel motivated like never before to accomplish my dreams. My goals. I feel like nothing can stop me. Because the things I thought could, have not destroyed me. Perhaps I’ve been set back a little, but I am pushing forward. There is within me an inner resolve, and an inner resource of life & love I didn’t know I could possess in light of the trauma I endured last year.

It’s my time. To reach out and grab what I have longed for and yet had allowed myself to be held back by for so long.

Is this what they call resilience? Is this what strength is? Perhaps I have misunderstood what strength is.

I want to share a poem with you I wrote a while back about hope in the middle of a storm. Here it is:

Though I am Weak

Though I am weak in my flesh
I feel my spirit coming to life.
Love bursts forth from my heart
Like the dawn of the sun,
Overflowing like a tidal wave
Sweeping over the broken places within me
Making all things new.
Hope arises, is stirring anew
The love for the broken
Makes me new.
When I am rejected, I love all the more
The love of God covers the failures of men,
His light is shining bright in my heart
The morning has come.
His love floods my heart
With his pure love
Covering over my imperfect human
Capacity for loving.
He empowers me anew,
His armor he puts upon me
His strength has come.
‘the journey ahead is too much for you’ he said…
Rest, eat, sleep…
He has come to my aid,
Come to my defense
His shield is upon me,
I rest beneath his feathers,
His wings overshadow me
Like a mother hen,
As he heals and mends the broken
Places in my soul.
I breathe in deeply
A breath of clean air,
Throw my hands up,
Weary from fighting on my own.
I surrender, I trust. I rest in you.
You are my defender,
The one who lifts my eyes up
To the hills
When my head is too weary to lift my gaze upon you.
My strength & my help
Come from the Lord.
His salvation for me has come.
My first love renewed.

-Katie Meilleur

So here is my closing question for the day, and I would really love to invite your commentary and thoughts on the subject. How do you define strength? What is it? What does it look like? Feel like? How does it function? What… IS strength?

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