Day 20 – To sum it all up…

Down to the wire folks! Here’s a summary of what’s been covered in the Healthy Thinking series. We’ve gone over a lot and I hope everyone has been able to pull out to least a few tips to apply to your lives.

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Here goes:

1) Learn your ABC’s. What does this mean? Well, when a situation occurs and you feel your emotions sky-rocketed, think back to what just took place and identify the following:

  • A) Activitating Event: What was the situation? Describe it either on paper or in your mind.
  • B) Behavior: What did you do?
  • C) Consequences: What did you think and feel as a result?

See Day 2, Day 3,  Day 5 and Day 6 to review this concept.

2) Begin to recognize your Automatic Thoughts vs. Core Beliefs.

  • Automatic Thoughts: These are repetitive thoughts that pop into our minds all throughout the day. They can be either positive or negative and are essentially are knee-jerk reactions to whatever is going on.
  • Core Beliefs: These are deeply engrained, inflexible beliefs we have been holding onto since childhood. These are much harder to change and greatly influence everything we do.

See Day 7, Day 8,  Day 9 and Day 17 to review this concept.

3) Our thoughts have a massive impact on our struggles with anxiety, depression and anger. By understanding our thought processes we can gain a better handle on these other concerns.

4) It’s not always about us! Often times we personalize situations and make assumptions that other people’s problems are somehow related to us. Let their issues be their issues! If you think they have a problem with you, ask them. If they say no, move on! Don’t stew about it because eventually you will become resentful.

See Day 4 for more on personalization.

5) Be your own best friend.If you can’t accept yourself how will you ever expect others to? We are all a work-in-progress so cut yourself some slack for cryin’ out loud! :)

See Day 10 and Day 11 for more on self-acceptance.

See you tomorrow for the last day of the series!

Day 15 – Anxiety and our thoughts

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know I have a passion for helping people who struggle with anxiety. I have dealt with my own difficulties with this in the past so it is important to me to try to pass along some of my own learnings to others. Today we’re going to address how our thoughts are connected to our anxiety.

I’d like to keep this brief since there is a lot of information already on this site in the Anxiety Series. I do feel it’s worth mentioning again though because our thoughts play such a huge role in our anxious feelings. Let’s look at a few of the ways they are linked:

1) Rumination – Yesterday’s topic, rumination, was described as a potential cause of depression but it can also create anxiety. If you’re spending an entire day or evening going over and over again in your mind a small mistake you made earlier in the day, it is likely highly if you aren’t feeling “down,” you’re feeling anxious. I have done this myself. Earlier in the week I accidentally forgot a coffee date with a friend and stood her up! I felt terrible! I apologized of course but it kept crossing my mind repeatedly throughout the night causing a great deal of anxiety until I finally, intentionally, decided to let it go.

2) What If? – There is a post about this in the Anxiety Series. Are you someone that always thinks about the “What Ifs?” What If’s are a huge cause for anxiety, as your mind absolutely spirals considering all the bad things that could potentially happen in a given situation. Yes, bad things can happen and they do happen sometimes. But worrying about every little thing that could go wrong won’t prevent them from happening nor will it give you any more control over the situation. It will only create stress and anxiety!

3) Do you focus a lot on what you don’t want or don’t have? Of course it’s good to have an idea of what we do and don’t want out of life. That helps provide structure and boundaries so we don’t say yes to everything but rather focus on that which really matters. However, if you spend the majority of your time concerned about everything you’re trying to avoid in life or prevent from occuring, you’re gonna miss what IS happening NOW. One of the major struggles for people dealing with anxiety is an inability to live in the present!

Like I said, I am gonna keep this brief. If you are interested in reading more about anxiety, check out the Less Anxiety in 21 Days on this blog. Topics include: types of anxiety, strategies to reduce anxiety, personal stories and more!

Questions? Comments?

Day 12 – Don’t Worry, Be Happy

We have covered a lot of material so far in this series so I want to veer away for a bit and break things up. Rather than continuing to delve into what healthy thinking looks like (and doesn’t look like) let’s remember why we’re even thinking about this stuff. It’s because we want to live long, meaningful lives right? We are trying to grow ourselves personally so we can become healthier people and make positive impacts on the lives of others.

Courtesy of Josephine Tesauro

So… today I want to affirm that by sharing a BBC News article on the benefits of positive thinking. Research is being done which reveals that worrying less could lead to a longer life! Not only is that great news but I can also promise that you will feel better every single day if you stop worrying.

Take a look at the article and let me know if you have questions or comments! Enjoy the weekend and I’ll see you next week!

Day 6 – Taking a closer look…

We’ve covered a lot of information in just five days. I hope it’s been helpful. Today we’re going zoom in on the thoughts we’ve already gone over and take a closer look at what went wrong. Research shows that thinking happier, healthier thoughts makes a difference in our overall well-being. But it’s a lot easier said than done. If you’re absolutely furious about something or in the midst of a panic attack and just casually tell yourself to think of something happy, it’s going to be quite difficult, if not impossible. But, if you can get a handle on the types of thoughts you’re prone to thinking and understand how they relate to your intense emotions, you will begin to gain control. As with most things, this is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight, but by practicing, you’ll notice your anxiety, anger, intense emotions etc. begin to decrease in difficult situations.

Think back to the last time your emotions got out of control (whether mildly or severely). Did you record your ABCs? If not, just think back to what they were…

A) What happened?

B) What did you think?

C) What did you feel/do?

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Let’s focus on (B), since this is a series on Healthier Thinking and all… Now that you know the thought(s) that went through your head, we’re going to examine them. Ask yourself these questions:

1) Can you prove that your thought was 100% true?

2) Was it extreme in any way (i.e. did it include such words as “always,” “never,” “all,” “nothing” etc.)?

3) Were your thoughts perpetuated by how you felt at the time?

4) Was your thought logical?

5) Is there any evidence that exists that does not support what you thought?

Those are just a few to get you started. This may seem tedious but it will be really difficult to gain control of your thoughts if you don’t take a closer look and begin to understand what really happened.

After you do that, the next step is to:

Think of an alternative to the unhealthy thought.

  • Is there something more accurate you could think?
  • If your friend was describing a thought like this, what would you say to him/her?
  • When you are not in the situation that prompted the thought, what might you normally think?
  • If your thought was extreme, is there something more balanced to consider?
  • Thinking back on the past, was there a time when a similar situation was handled differently? What can you gain from that memory?

Now that you have an alternative, how do you feel? Has the intensity of your emotions decreased at all?

Okay… I think that’s enough. Are you sick of ABCs by now? :) Well, I can’t guarantee we’re completely finished with them but we will move on a bit tomorrow. See you then!

Day 8 – I think therefore I am

Do you have any idea how big an impact our thoughts have on our bodies, behavior and emotions? A lot! Let me give you an example. Maybe you’ve done this… I haven’t but I know people who have. (wink, wink).  :)

Let me set the stage… you wake up one day with a headache. It’s not horrible but it’s a definite annoyance all day. You don’t think much of it. The next day you wake up and the headache’s still there. “Hmm,” you think, “Oh well. Maybe I’m a tad under the weather.” This goes on for days. The headache gets worse. You feel tired. You begin stressing about this. “Why hasn’t it gone away?” You go on the internet and look at one of the diagnosing-type websites and learn about all the possible causes for your headache. “Oh no” you think, “This could be serious”. Anything from PMS to cancer! The thought is too much to bear! You notice your heart start racing. You cancel plans that night because you’re just not up for it. You find yourself feeling emotional and stressed out.

Some circumstances warrant a great deal of concern. Illness can be serious sometimes. But I use that as an example to illustrate how things can snowball.

When was the last time you let your mind run away from you? I’ll give you an example from my life. My husband and I moved about six months ago from Newport Beach, CA to Durham, NC. The two places couldn’t be more different. I am not someone who enjoys change by nature. It tends to be hard for me. My dad told me that my first year of preschool I cried every day and begged him not to leave me. My second year, I was like “See ya dad, I’ve got friends to go play with!” (Not sure why I was in preschool for two years but anywho)… For as long as I can remember, I have been someone that takes a bit longer than the average Joe to adjust to new things. So needlessness to say, my impending move caused great stress and worry last year. What’s funny though is that for all the time I spent worrying, this has ended up being one of the smoothest transitions I have ever dealt with. You just never know and worrying isn’t going to do a thing but add gray hairs to your head!

Have you been stressing out and worrying about anything lately? Have you experienced any benefit from it? Have you noticed anything negative that’s come out of it (physically, mentally, emotionally or behaviorally)?

Think about it!

Day 6 – Short and Sweet

I can’t remember where I learned this but it has been AWESOME for me! It was helpful during my high anxiety period and continues to be helpful today during times of heightened emotion or even when I can’t sleep because I have too much on my mind.

The technique is:

Count backwards from 100 by 3. (100… 97… 94… etc) while breathing in a controlled manner. You can’t phone this in because it won’t work if you just do it carelessly! Count down… breathe gently… concentrate on the activity… and position your mind and body in a posture of relaxation.

What this intervention does is help you concentrate on something other than anxiety or anger or whatever undesirable thought/emotion has crossed your mind. I love it! Plus while you’re doing it you can actually feel your body starting to relax and your mind slow down.

See you tomorrow!

Day 5 – Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Okay, on to the good stuff! The first technique known to decrease tension in the body is an exercise called Progressive Muscle Relaxation or PMR. This feels so good!! All it consists of is a process of tensing and relaxing your muscles one by one (or in larger muscle groups if you’re in a time crunch) in order to become fully relaxed from head to toe. (Well, really it’s toe to head which you’ll see in a sec). Anywho, here’s how you do it:


Starting with your right foot, inhale and squeeze your right foot muscle as hard as you can (be gentle with yourself but you really want to become aware of how tight your muscle gets). Focus on tensing up the muscle for 8 seconds. Once 8 seconds have passed, exhale, release the squeeze and all your stress at the same time! It feels great! After your right foot, it is suggested that you follow this progression moving up your body all the way to your head:

* Right foot

* Right lower leg and foot

* Entire right leg

* Left foot

* Left lower leg and foot

* Entire left leg

* Right hand

* Right forearm and hand

* Entire right arm

* Left hand

* Left forearm and hand

* Entire left arm

* Abs

* Chest

* Neck and shoulders

* Face

Some tips:

1) Once you have finished, relax with your eyes closed for a minute or two. If you get up too quickly you could faint.

2) Do this between meals rather than right before or after.

3) If you do this in bed there is a chance you could fall asleep so try it in a comfy chair instead.

5) Do PMR in a quiet place with no distractions.

* As always, seek medical advice if you experience discomfort while doing this or have a pre-existing condition.

This can become an awesome habit to get into and a great way to relax!! Try it and let me know what you think!

See you tomorrow!

Day 2 – Types of Anxiety

In the next 20 days a variety of topics will be covered. Part of what I write will come from personal experiences (detailed briefly in yesterday’s post) as well as from research and what I have learned along the way in working with others. As each person is different, each post will affect each person differently. For some it will be most valuable to learn the facts and stats. Others will gain more from the interventions I’ll outline to ease symptoms. Either way, I hope the next 20 days are helpful.

I found that the knowledge I had about anxiety disorders from my master’s degree and my own research was very helpful in dealing with my own anxiety. As they say, “knowledge is power” and when it comes to anxiety, feeling as in control as possible is huge! So today I am going to briefly describe the different types of anxiety and provide resources for further reading.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

  • As the name states, general anxiety. A sense of worry or dread is with you the majority of the time.  You can still function but can’t seem to shake the constant concern you feel. 
  • Some of the symptoms of GAD are: muscle tension, irritability, headaches, sweating, fatigue, restlessness etc. 

Panic Disorder

  • Out of the blue you may have intense fear or panic. These attacks don’t last long but they are brutal while they are happening! They can also occur in waves over a period of a few hours.
  • During the panic attack, symptoms may include: shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, chest pain, or even fear of dying among others.

 Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

  • Characterized by obsessions AND compulsions
    • Obsessions – recurring thoughts or impulses that continually intrude your mind, even if you know they are irrational.
    • Compulsions – things you do to calm the anxiety that comes up as a result of the obsessions.
  • Example: You may be so afraid of germs (obsession) that you wash your hands over and over to the point that your hands become dry and cracked (compulsion) just to avoid contamination.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • Occurs after experiencing something traumatic. Symptoms can include:
    • Hyper-arousal symptoms – you become easily startled, have trouble sleeping, are easily agitated etc.
    • Avoidance symptoms – you feel numb or “detached” from others, lose interest in activities you used to enjoy etc.
    • Re-experiencing symptoms – nightmares or flashbacks of the traumatic event that took place

Specific Phobias

  • Fear of one specific thing and you attempt to avoid it at all costs.
  • Examples: fear of elevators (so you always take the stairs instead),  fear of doctors or dentists (this can be dangerous if you neglect to pursue medical treatment or necessary procedures) etc. I even saw on the Discovery Channel once that there was a woman who was afraid of her own tattoo.

Social Phobia

  • One of the more common forms of anxiety. 
  • Fear of being humiliated in public.
  • Examples: fear of using public toilets, fear of crowds, fear of speaking in public etc.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. However hopefully it gives you an idea of a few of the types of anxiety.

One more thing – As most medical students can attest to, reading about the body and various illnesses or disorders can suddenly make us feel like we have all of them. We all may experience traits of different disorders from time to time but that doesn’t mean we have something diagnosable! I would say a good rule of thumb is: if whatever type of anxiety you are experiencing is interfering with your functioning on a daily basis, it would be wise to seek professional help.

One resource I suggest to learn more about mental health in general but specifically anxiety disorders is the National Institute of Mental Health.

Questions? Comments? Feel free to post them!

See you tomorrow for Day #3!

Less Anxiety in 21 Days


I had a weird experience a couple years ago. Out of the blue, I began suffering from panic attacks. I had never experienced anything like that in the past and it really threw me for a loop. For one thing, I had just finished my master’s degree in clinical psychology and was in the process of counseling others regarding their anxiety. Therapists aren’t supposed to have these problems, I thought! I had also gotten married that year and was happier and more content than ever. So what was up?!

I still don’t know for sure what caused it but I have a theory… After reviewing some of my books about anxiety, I took a stress assessment which really resonated with me. My accumulated stress level was off the charts due to all the changes I had gone through in the previous six months. (The aforementioned among many others). I had been living my life at a speed of 100mph for a long time and hadn’t stopped to actually deal with anything, let alone smell the roses. There are a variety of causes for anxiety and whether stress caused mine, or some other reason I am unaware of, I knew I needed to do something!

I decided to become a student of my own situation. I researched and discovered some helpful tools to calm my anxiety and regain control of my life.

We all suffer from anxiety to varying degrees. Some people have all-out panic attacks like I did. Some simply get nervous before speaking in public or in certain social situations. I have discovered that anxiety does not have to be a bad or scary thing. It can simply be our body’s way of telling us something.

Now that I have gotten over my own bump in the road, I would like to help others in dealing with it as well. The next 21 days will be devoted to that.

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