First of all, I don’t care what any of you say, adding social media icons to your site is a lesson in pure, unadulterated frustration. I still don’t have mine all working right, but I’m leaving them where they are for now for the sake of my sanity. Anyway, it got me to thinking about anxiety and how different things affect us all differently, but anxiety feels the same whether it’s you, me, or your grandmother. My particular method of anxiety control has been to hyperventilate into a paper bag until I can run to my Dr. who will then inevitably pull out her trusty prescription pad and write me a script for a tranquilizer. All well and good except now, a half hour later, I’m sleepy, and still hyperventilating in the paper bag, just with a little less hyper and a little more ventilation. But word on the street is, changes in behavioral cognitive therapy have moved away from the automatic dispense-o-script. There are Dr.s out there who are actually using methods of dealing with anxiety that don’t automatically involve medication.
We hear the word anxiety so much it doesn’t mean much anymore. It’s like someone saying “I’m so annoyed that my selfie didn’t come out good. I’ll be all anxious until I can get a good shot of my hair blowing just so in the wind.” In other words, “anxious” has become a throw away word, constantly taken out of context so that it doesn’t mean anything anymore. But for some of us, anxiety is really real – to the point of not being able to function real.
Anxiety – The Other White Meat
To get some perspective, I spoke recently with Dr. Stanley Hibbs, an expert on anxiety and he said, “we now understand that the feeling of anxiety itself is not so much the problem. Anxiety is a normal feeling that comes and goes based on circumstances. The real problem is that we hate and dread the feeling so much that we do almost anything to avoid it. Unfortunately, many efforts to avoid anxiety backfire, and you end up feeling more anxious. Plus, the things you do to avoid anxiety are often self-destructive. For example, you might abuse alcohol in an effort to reduce anxiety; but this creates a whole new set of problems (now you’re drunk, sleepy and anxious – still hanging on to that paper bag, though). Or, you might cope with social anxiety by avoiding all social interaction. Again, the solution to the problem is worse than the problem itself.” According to Hibbs, the goal of anxiety treatment isn’t to banish all anxiety from your life forever, because that’s something that’s not going to happen. It’s not realistic. “The goal,” Hibbs says “is to help you experience, manage, and work through normal levels of anxiety and not let anxiety keep you from doing the things you want to do.”
What Does It Even Mean?
He makes it sound so easy. Last night I was sitting in a corner at a party someone dragged me to, clutching my worn-out paper bag, while the friend that brought me had to keep stopping me from putting the bag completely over my head which I was doing in an effort to hide from people, and Dr. Hibbs has written about managing and working through “normal” levels of anxiety. What’s normal? I’m anxious now just writing this post, and those social media icons are staring at me through the monitor, a reminder of my failure as a tech goddess, and it makes me want to scream and throw my computer at the dog who has chosen this moment to decide that she love, love, loves me and keeps sticking her nose under my arm for attention. Is that normal? I think not, but then again I haven’t had my normal breakfast of a handful of tranquilizers with a cold water chaser
Dr., Can This Woman Be Saved?
According to Dr. Hibbs, the hulking monster of anxiety can be better controlled by slicing and dicing that beast into three bite sized morsels. He calls this technique the Three C’s of Anxiety Recovery. The premise is that by understanding the inner workings of anxiety a little more, we’re better able to handle it.
Dr. Hibbs says, “we help clients understand anxiety by dissecting it into three parts:
1. Physiological (what happens in our bodies when we’re anxious,)
2. Cognitive (the negative thoughts that accompany anxiety,) and
3. Behavioral (the things we avoid when we’re anxious).”
He further goes on to say, “we address all three components, the physiological, the cognitive and the behavioral aspects of anxiety in anxiety treatment. I call this the Three C’s of Anxiety Recovery: (which just happens to be the title of his book,) first you calm the body, then you correct your thinking, and finally you confront your fears.”
Tranquilizers? Anyone? Anyone?
Ummm, hmmm, like I said earlier, easier said than done. Slashed down to the bone, what Dr. Hibbs is saying is when you start to get that old anxious feeling, remember that there are physiological things that are starting to go on inside you and at that point you try to calm the body (wait, where’s my paper bag?), then know that the next wave will be cognitive and you have to sweep away those negative thoughts that are coming into your head using Belle from Beauty and the Beast’s magic broom (you ever notice how the dishes ALWAYS helped Belle?), or at least do some deep breathing and go to a quiet place in your head; let’s call it your special place, since that’s what people always seem to call it, and correct your thinking, then be prepared for the behavioral wave. This is the one where you confront your fears or anxieties and make yourself stay at that anxiety provoking party where every other guy looks like a serial killer to you. So, let your friend prop you against the door jamb (at least you look cool), and plaster that smile on your face while you face down the things that are making you anxious, like the cat who has taken a sudden, intense interest in your jean clad leg and you’re sure she’s going to climb you like Mt. Everest. Before you know it, you find you’re having an actual conversation with a real person, and it’s nice. Next day, lather, rinse, repeat, with another anxiety provoking situation. You’ll be a pro in no time.
Leaving So Soon?
Obviously, for time’s sake, I went over the Three C’s of Anxiety Recovery quite quickly, and with a little tongue in cheek. But, it is really a great form of therapy for the treatment of anxiety. Again, obviously, this treatment involves working with a trained therapist, but maybe this little post has given somebody with anxiety issues a little hope for a better tomorrow.
So, talk to your therapist. Print out this post and hand it to her/him and say you’d like to try it. Do something good for yourself.
And give me back my paper bag.
[I find that poetry and short stories are good outlets for the internal pain we sometimes feel. That being said, every now and again, I’m going to post one of my poems or stories. Since this is your site, feel free to send along some of your own poetry or short (emphasis on short) stories, and I may post a few on this blog. I have final say what goes in and what doesn’t, but you retain all your creative rights if one of your poems does end up on the blog. Post a short bio, too. All you have to do is click ‘contact’ on the top of the page, fill in the required information, put your poem in the comments box, and click ‘send.’ It’s just that easy to get published. But of course you know I can’t pay :)]
I am not a Dr., or trained in any way except life experience. If you feel like you’re going to harm yourself or someone else, please go to the E.R. or call 911. I care.