Arnold MD

Practice Self-Compassion To Ease Anxiety

Self-Compassion Helps You Feel less Anxious

Self-compassion helps reduce stress and anxiety.

Self-compassion helps reduce stress and anxiety.

I recently wrote and article for the Severna Park Voice on self-compassion, and how it can help you feel more connected to yourself and others. And it does, but self-compassion can also help you feel less anxious.

By replacing the negative self-talk from our inner critic with more supportive positive messages, we begin to feel more at ease, and at peace with ourselves. When we feel more at ease, our anxiety levels drop, because we no longer perceive potential danger. And our body is able to return to a more balanced emotional state.

More About Self- Compassion And Anxiety

You can read the article in the Severna Park Voice, and more about self-compassion in my blog.

Please leave a comment below to let me know how you practice self-compassion in your life.

If practicing self-compassion does not come easily to you, please call or email me for a free 15-minute phone consultation. 410-340-8469.

Elizabeth Cush, MA, LCPC, is an Annapolis therapist helping people manage their stress and anxiety. Progression Counseling, offices in Arnold and Annapolis. 410-340-8469

The Anxious Traveler

Anxious traveler

Vacation Anxiety

My family recently took an overseas vacation and it got me thinking about the effects of travel on anxiety. Travel is stressful. Many things are beyond our control, and this can trigger anxiety and stress.

Humans And Life Are Messy

The reality is that we can’t control much of anything in our lives except ourselves. We have even less control over situations when traveling with others to an unfamiliar place. Here are a few things that can take control of our vacations in a hurry:

  • Each person has a unique travel agenda
  • Hunger
  • Being tired and cranky
  • Getting lost
  • Stuff is closed
  • Getting caught in the rain and no rain gear because the Weather Channel said there was only a 10 percent chance of precipitation (this happened to us)

During our trip, when it seemed like all of the above messy issues were in play, I began to feel a looming anxiety. My anxiety usually starts in my chest. I feel tightness and then an increased sense of danger or fear. It is uncomfortable, and my first response is to try to figure out how to make it go away. I started thinking of things I could say to make everyone laugh, and to ease the tension. I wanted to try to accommodate everyone’s needs, in order to make them all happy.

How Our Body Reacts to Anxiety

When we’re in a situation that makes us anxious, our brain then goes into protection mode and gets us ready to fight, flee or freeze. The bodily functions that work to keep us safe, and have been around since forever, start cranking. Our heart races, skin gets flushed, breath quickens and muscles tense. Once the process starts it’s harder to get back to an emotional and physical balance.

If you want to know more about the physical affects of anxiety you can read more about it here

And here is an infographic on the body’s response to anxiety.

Using Mindfulness When Life Gets Uncomfortable

Practicing mindfulness can help us to take a step back and check in with ourselves when the anxiety begins. Mindfulness allows us to notice those physical symptoms and gives us a chance to interrupt the cycle.

If we can learn to calm ourselves before the anxiety kicks into high gear, we can maintain emotional balance even in stressful situations.

Allowing your thoughts to come and go like waves on the ocean, mindfulness calms the anxious mind

Allowing your thoughts to come and go like waves on the ocean, mindfulness calms the anxious mind

7 Steps to Help Recognize Anxiety Before It Takes Over

  1. Take note of situations that make you anxious
  2. Ask yourself, “What is the first sign of my anxiety being triggered?” Often it is a physical response.
  3. Pay attention to your physical symptoms, especially if you know the situation would trigger anxiety.
  4. When the physical symptoms appear, STOP whatever you are doing.
  5. Take a slow deep breath. Take another… and another.
  6. Ask yourself in a kind, non-judgmental way, “What’s going on for me, right now?”
  7. Acknowledge the situations that are beyond your control.

So, while we were walking down a beautiful street, filled with shops, people and sights I had never seen before—which I was totally missing because I was so caught up in how to make everyone happy—I noticed I was anxious and took a slow, deep breath and asked myself what was going on for me.

In that moment, I realized that although my family was cranky, hungry, and everyone’s needs were not being met, it was not up to me to make each person happy. Not only was it not up to me, but also it was an impossible task!

Learning to Accept the Things We Can’t Control

As I said, our anxiety is triggered by situations where we feel powerless. In reality, we don’t have the power to control most of the stuff in our lives, and that means we have the potential be anxious a lot. The key to managing the anxiety is to be able to acknowledge that we have no control, and that this is OK.

If we can acknowledge that life and humans are messy and imperfect, and understand that we can’t control a lot of what happens, then we can allow events to unfold naturally and this can reduce our anxiety. By letting go of the need to “fix-it” or control it we can be there fully and appreciate what is happening in the moment.

For the rest of the journey I worked to let go of the need to take charge of everyone else’s experiences. To recognize the value of being together as a family, in a beautiful country, and to take note of the good and the stressful times together allowed me to enjoy each moment as it came along, and made for an incredibly memorable experience.

I will be leading mindfulness groups for women beginning in October. If you're interested in signing up, or learning more please drop me a line.

This blog post was featured in the Health & Fitness section of the Severna Park Voice.

Elizabeth Cush, MA, LCPC, is an Annapolis therapist helping people manage their stress and anxiety. Progression Counseling, offices in Annapolis. 410-340-8469

shhhh, Quiet Down Negative Nelly

Getting Stuck

Our inner critic creates anxious feelings

Often, when I consider doing something outside my comfort zone I start to get anxious, feel a tightness in my chest and I instantly think, “Nope I’m not doing that.” This critical inner voice stops me in my tracks and keeps me from growing personally and professionally. I named this inner voice Negative Nelly.

What Keeps Us Stuck?

  • Anxiety?
  • Social anxiety?
  • Worry?
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of rejection?
  • Lack of self-confidence?

What Is The Discomfort Telling Us?

Where do these uncomfortable feelings come from? It could be our inner critic—that voice that judges, criticizes, ridicules, tells us how scary life is, focuses on our mistakes, tells us we are "less than." These negative messages alert our instinctual fight, flight, freeze responses. This tells our body there is a potential danger, and we stop, avoid or flee the situation. (Some people push forward but we are not those people.)

The Critical Inner Voice

Our critical inner voice comes from life experiences. Maybe our parents were hypercritical, or our best friend pointed out all the times we lost a game, or we had a verbally abusive partner who found fault in everything we did.  We take those messages from loved ones to heart. But we don’t often recognize that Negative Nelly continues whispering them to us, even when they no longer apply, leading us to feel:

Our inner critic can make us feel anxious and overwhelmed
  • Sad
  • Lonely
  • Disconnected
  • Afraid
  • Unlovable
  • Depressed
  • Anxious
  • Overwhelmed

I could go on and on.

It’s Time To Quiet Your Critic

The wonderful thing is that we don’t have to sit idly by and listen! We can challenge and quiet the inner critic who keeps us stuck. With counseling, we can learn to be mindful and begin to recognize the negative messages, and why we hear them. When we begin to pay attention we can then challenge our unhelpful, negative commentator. We can learn self-compassion and to embrace our imperfections.

4 Steps to Recognize Your Inner Critic

1. Take note of your physical sensations when a new situation or opportunity presents itself.

2.  Sense whether you're feeling uncomfortable, anxious, or stressed out.

3. Pause and take a few slow deep breaths.

4. Ask yourself with curiosity and without judgment, "What is the message my body is telling me?"

  • I’m scared.
  • I can’t do this because________.
  • Others will judge me if I don’t succeed.
  • Why try, I will fail.
  • I am not worthy.
  • I will be rejected.

Respond With Care

As you recognize these negative internal messages you can start to question their validity. Is the threat real? A creepy guy or girl? A physical or emotional harm? If it's your inner critic that’s keeping you from moving forward, respond with care and self-compassion. Then you can begin to challenge your Negative Nelly. It’s not always easy to understand what the inner critic wants us to hear, but meditation and mindfulness can help.

Tara Brach’s R.A.I.N. meditation can help you recognize the negative message and respond with care.

How Do We Get Unstuck?

Feeling uncomfortable is necessary if we want to move decisively towards our goals. Those tasks that make us feel unsettled create new opportunities to push beyond our everyday experiences. You might still feel anxious, scared, or worried in new situations. The key is to be able to put those uncomfortable feelings into perspective and to respond from a positive place. 

It’s Time To Grow

Counseling can help you understand how your inner critic holds you back, how to acknowledge the negative thoughts and find the path towards growth.

Are you ready to move ahead, to makes some changes, to challenge your Negative Nelly, to get unstuck?

Elizabeth Cush, MA, LCPC, is an Annapolis therapist helping people manage their stress and anxiety. Progression Counseling, offices in Arnold and Annapolis. 410-340-8469