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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Perfectionism: the Antihero

"The perfect is the enemy of the good." - Voltaire

Perfectionism and anxiety are very close friends.  People who identify as perfectionists often  experience significant anxiety and depression symptoms.   How, you might ask?  Well, perfectionism is about setting extremely high standards in one or more areas in your life, standards that would be difficult for anyone to consistently meet.  Unrealistically high standards typically lead to one or two outcomes.  If you don't meet your expectation, your thoughts likely hold negative themes about not being "good enough" or a being a  "complete failure."  On the other hand, if you meet the high expectation, then your thoughts turn into undermining the accomplishment.   If you were able to do it, then it must not be so special, right?  Basically, a lose-lose situation.

These negative thoughts connected to unrealistic standards are the archenemy of good.  The cycle of perfectionism doesn't typically include praise or encouragement.  The cycle of perfectionism includes, put-downs, critiques, and shaming... all the elements of the antihero.  

So, if you are going to be a superhero, wouldn't you prefer to be the kind that lifts people up, including yourself?  Shift your expectations so that they are more realistic, taking into account that you are human!  Give yourself praise for what you have done well.  Be mindful that no one is perfect.  Remember that mistakes are an unavoidable part of life and excellent opportunities for learning.  Remain kind and care for yourself, so that you will have the fuel to keep pushing forward toward your goal.  Be your own hero, your own beacon of hope and encouragement. 


Tuesday, May 13, 2014


“I wondered what you'd have on the side with a plate of Deep Fried Anxiety. Pickles? Coleslaw? Potato-strychnine mash?” ― Robin McKinley, Sunshine

Anxiety sure is filling, isn't it?  After spending just a few minutes binging on worry, your mind is likely filled to the brim with negative thoughts.  To make matters worse, your body is probably feeling filled with shakiness, restlessness, uneasiness, muscle tension, and perhaps even dizziness.  Sometimes you may even literally feel a fullness in your throat or chest.   And just like after you've had a large meal, you're probably feeling very, very tired at the end of it all.  Despite the utter exhaustion, the discomfort from fullness is a huge barrier to sleep!
Yet, there's no satisfaction.  Anxiety is still very hungry, even if your body and mind are full.    All that fullness is rough on the stomach; you may literally experience stomach problems (nausea, diarrhea, indigestion, cramps) if you have excessive anxiety.
So what helps?  Physical activity may be a part of the answer.  Just like after a way too big meal, getting up and moving can reduce digestive and anxiety problems.  But let's face it, physical activity and regular exercise are great for overall health, so why not incorporate it as a part of your anxiety management tool set?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Live in the Moment

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the 
moment, live in the breath.” ― Amit Ray

Since anxiety tends to be very future oriented, it often shifts your focus to dangers and threats that have not happened yet.  Anxiety will threaten you with the dangers of loosing your  job, even though you currently are employed.  Anxiety will warn you about the pain connected to the ending of relationship that may in this moment be thriving.  Anxiety will scream that your child is in danger, before he or she even walks out the front door.

While you worry about the upsets that haven't yet happened, what are you missing in the here and now?  While the treats of a job loss weigh on you, do you hear the compliment from your supervisor?  As you worry about potential threats to your relationship, are you missing a loving kiss or touch from your partner?  

In this moment, you have the power to savor and enjoy.  You can notice the comfort of your chair or the richness of your drink.  In this moment, you can loose yourself in a soothing song or the taste a decedent chocolate.   You can feel the warmth of the sun, or the chill in the air.  In this moment, you can give and receive kindness.  In this moment, you can breathe and calm your body and ground yourself in all that you have to be grateful. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Rocking Chairs

"Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn't get you very far." ~ Jodi Picoult

If there is one thing that anxiety is good for, it's giving you something to do.   Let's be real, all that worry sure will keep you busy.  When you stop to consider all of the "what if" possibilities, all of the worst case scenarios, there's a seemingly endless supply of material.  What if I get lost on my way to the job interview?  What if I'm late for the interview?  What if they don't hire me?  What if I don't get a job offer for over a month?  A year?  What if I never get a job offer?  What if I run out of money, and I lose my home, and I become homeless?!?  All of these worries are not only time consuming, but exhausting.

The paradox is that although worry will keep you busy, it doesn't necessarily lead to productivity.  If you have been diagnosed with an anxiety problem, (Generalized Anxiety, for example), then your excessive anxiety doesn't shift into effective problem solving.   Anxiety can leave you feeling very much frozen, paralyzed, and stuck.

With some anxiety problems, it helps to shift from thinking to doing.  What worries are completely within your control, where you can exercise agency and enact change?  What worries are outside of your control, which create worry for the sake of worry? What is within your power to mange, and how can you act on it?  What steps can you take to get out of the rocking chair?

Thursday, April 24, 2014


“Every man, through fear, mugs his aspirations a dozen times a day.” ~ Brendan Francis

How has fear been a bully toward to you regarding your dreams?  Has it shifted your focus to all of the possible catastrophes that have not yet happened; to all of the things that can go wrong? Has it shifted your focus away from the very thing that speaks to your heart?

Imagine if fear were an actual person, yelling his or her critiques at you.  “You’ll make a mistake!  You’ll mess it up!  You’ll never be able to do it!  You aren't strong enough, smart enough, attractive enough, good enough!”  You may have the urge to punch him or her in the face since the voice feels so demotivating and downright cruel!  Now imagine someone who you trust and who cares deeply for you is speaking, what would he or she say in response to fear?

Even when fear is present, which it definitely will be from time to time, it doesn't have to have the final word in your plans.  Fear is uncomfortable, but so is abandoning your aspirations.   The good news is that you don’t have to conquer your fear to take steps forward toward your goal... you just need to take steps forward, fear in tow!