anxiety

Understanding Attachment And Finding Genuine Connection

Therapy is like peeling away the layers of an onion

Therapy is like peeling away the layers of an onion

Therapy is often like peeling an onion. As we peel away each layer, we’re offered new insights and understanding. Often my clients seek help initially for anxiety and stress, but as therapy progresses, it becomes evident that they’re not just stressed about what’s going on in their lives today. What triggers their anxiety is a feeling that they’re not living their lives as fully or consciously as they’d like. They describe feeling as though they don’t feel connected to themselves or the people in their lives.  

Feeling as if you don’t know yourself, or not being connected to your feelings, are usually the result of very early childhood experiences. From the moment we’re born, our relationship with our parents or caregivers affects our ability to feel at ease in the world as adults.

Feeling unconditionally loved and accepted gets reinforced as our parents respond to our cries and hold us when we’re distressed, feed us when we’re hungry and keep us warm and dry. When parents consistently provide us with unconditional love and caring, we learn as infants that our parents will always be there when we need comfort. We call this “secure attachment.”

Disrupted Attachment

Sometimes parents aren’t able to attend consistently to a child’s needs. This week on the Woman Worriers podcast, Marie Celeste shared her adoption story and her experience working with adoptive families and adoptees. She said that when children are adopted, they often feel an unconscious sense of loss and disconnection because they weren’t able to build that bond and connection with their birth mother.

Some other circumstances that can cause disruption in attachment are:

  • The parents must focus much of their attention on a sibling with physical or emotional disabilities.

  • The parent has mental health issues that limit their ability to be emotionally connected to the child.

  • The parent is overwhelmed by the child’s needs and isn’t able to respond with love and affection.

  • The parent wasn’t given what they needed growing up so they don’t have the internal resources to attach to the child.

  • One or both parents struggle with addiction.

  • Physical or sexual abuse by a parent or caregiver.

The list could go on, but the point is that even when a parent’s intentions are good—they want to have and build an emotionally secure environment for their child—they might be unable to provide it because they aren’t emotionally grounded themselves.

Why Secure Attachment Matters

Does attachment really matter? If the child was raised in a safe secure home and given food to eat, a home for shelter, clothes to wear and parents who loved them, isn’t that enough?

Unconditional love and acceptance is important for emotionally healthy kids

Unconditional love and acceptance is important for emotionally healthy kids

The answer is, it’s not just material needs that matter. If you didn’t feel loved, cared for, and accepted unconditionally, then that impacts how you feel about yourself. It’s more about what you didn’t receive.

When children don’t feel unconditionally loved and accepted—for whatever reason—they internalize the pain and blame themselves. When you’ve been raised in an environment where your emotional needs were neglected, ignored, criticized or shamed it can lead to feelings of disconnection, anxiety and depression in adulthood.

Here are some things I’ve heard clients say about the affect of being emotionally neglected and insecurely attached to parents or caregivers:

  • I am not enough.

  • I don’t know what I need most of the time.

  • I don’t know how to ask for what I need.

  • I want to have a close relationship but maybe I’m just not able to.

  • There’s something about me that’s different from other people.

  • I feel like no one knows the real me.

  • There is this feeling that I’ll never be able to feel at ease in deeper connection. It’s something about me.

  • When I see other people so at ease socially I wonder what is it about me that’s different.

  • I know that if they knew the real me, they wouldn’t like me.

Healing Attachment Wounds

So how do we move forward and find true connection, love and acceptance? To feel grounded, safe and secure in the world?

We need to build, nurture and grow feelings of connection within ourselves. We need to re-parent ourselves, to learn to love and accept ourselves with compassion and understanding. We need to heal the wounded parts of us that weren’t given what they needed when we were children.

Recognizing that our childhood emotional needs weren’t met can open the door for healing. As we learn to love ourselves unconditionally and embrace our imperfectness we can start the process of healing our disrupted attachment and begin to identify, understand and express our emotional needs.

When we can fully connect with our self with love and compassion, it makes genuine connection with others so much easier. It eases feelings of anxiety and depression to help you feel more grounded and present in the world.

If you yearn to feel more grounded, at ease and present in your life, come join our exploration of mindfulness. Mindfulness groups are forming now in Annapolis. If you’re interested you can find out more here.

Here are some additional resources on Childhood Emotional Neglect:

Dr. Jonice Webb on Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN)™

Agnes Wainman, PhD, on Expectations & Anxiety

How to Take Control of Your Fatal Flaw


If you enjoyed this blog post and would like more insights into living with anxiety, tune into the Woman Worriers podcast. In each weekly 30-minute episode, host Elizabeth Cush, LCPC, and her guests explore living with anxiety, relationships, parenting, surviving trauma and other topics and offer insights into mindfulness, meditation and other helpful resources.

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979 

Sleepless On Sunday Nights

Sunday Scaries

Sunday Scaries

Occasionally I struggle with falling or staying asleep. I hate those nights! I can often tell early in the day when I’m going to have a night like that, but I usually ignore the feeling until it’s too late. That’s how I wind up lying in bed on Sunday night, a full week of work ahead, and I’m bug eyed. I’m tired, but my body can’t relax enough to drift off.

If you’re sleepless on Sunday night —or any other night of the week — you’re not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation, women are more likely to report insomnia than men. The Foundation also notes that, “Surprisingly, 24 percent of women say they have woken up feeling well-rested zero of the past seven days, compared to 16 percent of men, despite reporting similar sleep times.” Well-rested ZERO of the past seven days!

Sunday nights, in particular, seem to be a big problem for sleeplessness for many people. I Googled “Sleepless on Sundays” and got a full page of results on the topic. So let’s look at why it’s so hard for us to fall asleep on Sunday nights.

Why Does Anxiety Make It Hard To Sleep?

We’ve gotten very good as busying ourselves to manage anxiety. If we’re always “doing,” we don’t have time to feel the anxiety, the difficult emotions and the stress that build up over the week. Many people work Monday through Friday jobs, so maybe they’re slowing down on Sundays. Slowing down opens the door to feel feelings, to notice anxiety and stress.

Anxiety can make it hard to sleep

Anxiety can make it hard to sleep

If your workweek is stressful or you’ve put off doing things at work that are now looming, the idea of going back to work on Monday might leave you full of stress.

Or maybe you’re stressed because time is moving forward and you don’t feel as if you’ve done enough over the last week, or you hate your job and it’s already time to go back. Then you to lie awake dreading the week ahead.

Another possibility is that you sleep so little during the week that on weekends you sleep more than usual and come Sunday night your body might not be ready to rest.

Get Curious About Your Stress

If you’re not sleeping on Sundays, it’s time to get curious. Set aside some time to sit with the worry about sleep. It’s best if you can do this sometime before bed, during the day. You might ask some questions to prompt your curiousness, like:

 

Journaling can help

Journaling can help

  • Where do I hold the stress in my body? Is it a tightness in your chest? Increased heart rate? An empty or painful feeling in your belly? Tension in your neck? Once you’ve identified the body’s sensations, just notice them without trying to change them.

  • What am I telling myself about the insomnia? Do you tell yourself not to think about it and to push the anxious feelings down? Do you tell yourself that your sleeplessness is your own fault? Maybe you’re telling yourself to ignore the feelings, because they will only make the insomnia inevitable.

  • What am I worried about? Draw or journal about your worries. Getting the words or pictures on paper can help ease the distress. It gets them out of your head and onto the paper.

  • Am I being too hard on myself? Try offering yourself some compassion about how hard it is to be sleepless. If you were talking to a friend or a child who struggled with insomnia, what might you say to them? Maybe you’d say, “I’m sorry this is so hard for you. I know how hard it is to lie awake on Sundays not sleeping.” If what you’d say to others is kind and compassionate, try offering the same phrases to yourself.

 

If it feels like you’re never sleeping, or that the idea of trying to sleep causes you distress, therapy could be a resource for you. Talking about the stressors, learning relaxation skills and understanding that you’re not alone in the struggle can help. 

It’s also important to keep regular sleep routines. If you’d like to improve your sleep habits, check out my Good Therapy article, Can Better Sleep Help You Manage Anxiety for tips on things you can do to sleep better.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does My Sleep Affect My Anxiety?

woman sleeping.jpg

Anxiety can make a good night’s sleep very difficult. Maybe your mind is on overtime and you can’t fall asleep right away, or you wake up at night full or worry. Or maybe you struggle with insomnia and you’re awake most of the night. No matter what the issue, the lack of a good night’s sleep affects your health and your mental health.

Sleep gives your body and mind the chance to reboot, and just like a computer if there are glitches in the system and you don’t reboot the glitches continue. Maybe your stress carries into the next day. Maybe you’re not thinking as clearly as you would like, and maybe you’re just exhausted.

I can remember having trouble falling asleep as a child being terrified when I was the only person awake at night and I still struggle with sleep from time-to-time, but I’ve learned some ways to help me manage.

In my post for Good Therapy this month, Can Better Sleep Help You Manage Anxiety? I share some well-researched and some common sense tips to help you sleep better, and maybe feel less stressed when you’re not sleeping.

In other news, this week on the Woman Worriers podcast I’m talking to Rebecca Wong, LCSW about relationships, anxiety, boundaries and intimacy. You can find the interview here.

This is the work of living relationally: To really show up in relationship with our partners and ourselves.
— Rebecca Wong, LCSW

Also, the Woman Worriers Mindfulness groups begin in this month! Early bird pricing is still available and there are only two  spots left! The group is for you if:

·  You’re always in your head — thinking, planning, reassessing….

·  You believe that your stress and anxiety impact your relationships.

·  Your anxiety holds you back from living your life fully.

·  Your worries wake you up at night or make it hard to fall asleep.

·  You’re tired of your anxiety taking control.

You can reach out if you’d like more information on any of the information above. Please feel free to share this information with anyone who might benefit!


 

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Book Offers Advice On Everyday Mindfulness

Flower in hand.jpg

I recently read the book, The Mindful Day, Practical Way to Find Focus, Calm and Joy from Morning to Evening, by Laurie J. Cameron. In it, the leadership coach and mindfulness expert shares how to bring more mindfulness into all the different parts of your day. The book goes through each part of your day, from waking up to easing into sleep, and each chapter gives specific, practical strategies to help you incorporate more mindfulness into your daily life at home and at work.

Cameron shares how mindfulness can help you find your purpose, bring more focus to work and daily tasks and feel more grounded and peaceful throughout your day.

Each chapter focuses on one mindful activity, explaining the activity and why it’s helpful. At the end of each chapter, Cameron gives you step-by-step guidance on how to bring the activity into your life.

Cameron encourages daily meditation, and I’m a BIG proponent of meditation for managing anxiety and minimizing reactivity. After reading The Mindful Day, I started meditating first thing in the morning, before I get out of bed. It’s allowed me to start my day with more intention and focus.

With repeated mental exercises, you gradually condition your mind to tap into joy more often than fear. Inclining the mind means to condition yourself so that your mindsets shift from being judgmental, anxious or uncomfortable to receptive, appreciative, and compassionate.
— Laurie J. Cameron

I found the chapter on identifying and defining your purpose to be particularly helpful and meaningful for me. Cameron leads you through some questions to help you define purpose for your life.

When big decisions come up, your purpose is your internal compass, and mindfulness is the mechanism that helps you check in with your emotions, thoughts, and feelings about those questions.
— Laurie J. Cameron.

I enjoyed the book so much that I invited Cameron to be a guest on the Woman Worriers podcast. You can listen to our conversation here, and find out more about Cameron and her book here.

Counterintuitive Ways To Manage Anxiety

slow down.jpg

On another note, I was quoted in an article on Bustle, 9 Counterintuitive Ways To Stop Anxiety In Its Tracks, According To Psychologists by Eva Taylor Grant. The article shares strategies that might not be the first things that come to mind when you’re trying to manage your anxiety. I explain how tuning into your anxiety and allowing it to be there might feel like a bad idea, but it’s really the best thing you can do. Mindfulness can help you tune in and tolerate the discomfort. If you want to find out more, you can read the article here.

Most of the time people want to avoid feeling uncomfortable, but the discomfort is our body telling us it’s time to pay attention.
— Elizabeth Cush

If you would like to bring more mindfulness into your daily life I would recommend reading The Mindful Day.

Also, if you’re local to the Annapolis, Md., area, my Women’s Mindfulness Groups will incorporate some of The Mindful Day’s strategies into our sessions. You can find out more here, and tune into my Facebook live videos for weekly mindfulness tips that help you bring mindfulness into your life.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979. 

Photo by Lina Trochez & Daniel Monteiro on Unsplash

 

Anxiety and Anger: Manage Them Mindfully

When you don't express your anger it can turn inwards

When you don't express your anger it can turn inwards

When you’re very anxious and you’ve spent a lifetime pleasing others in order to manage your anxiety, it can be very hard to express anger in ways that feel safe or comfortable. Telling someone you’re angry with him or her can feel too much like an all-out conflict. But if you don’t tell the people you care about when you’re unhappy or angry, your anger can turn inward. Then, that at critical part of yourself might be mad because you always let others have their way. You might say things to yourself like:

  • “I’m a pushover.”
  • “I’m a wimp.”
  • “I have no spine.”

The inner critic will remind you each time you choose to stay quiet. Your critical voice will tell you over and over how you might have done things differently. Or it might wonder, in not so nice terms, why you can’t stand up for yourself.

Anger’s Impact On Relationships

Anger can build inside you if you don't say what you need

Anger can build inside you if you don't say what you need

Sometimes you might hold onto your anger and resentment because you believe that the people in your life should know how you feel, even if you don’t tell them. The anger builds inside you with each event where you don’t say what you need. People you care about might hurt your feelings,; when you don’t speak up for yourself, the resentment grows. You store away each wound, and occasionally you take it out to re-examine it and refresh the hurt feelings.

As the anger builds up inside, it leaves you feeling on edge until maybe something small happens and you explode! You wind up reeling off the list of all of the hurts that led up to this moment. This can be difficult for the person you’re angry with. Chances are that he or she wasn’t aware of how their behavior was impacting you. Now they’re wondering why you didn’t bring it up when it happened.

If blowing up isn’t comfortable for you, you might swallow your anger once again, withdrawing from the people you care about most. This can be overwhelming for you. It’s also difficult for the person you’re angry with because he or she had no idea that you were upset.

5 Mindful Ways Top Manage Your Anger

So how can you do things differently? How can you begin to say what you need, or express your anger in more healthy ways, so that you feel heard and not hurt?

Pause and pay attention when angry feelings show up

Pause and pay attention when angry feelings show up

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  1. When your irritation starts to grow, begin to notice how you’re feeling. Where do you feel the irritation in your body? If you could describe it, what color and shape would it be? What are the thoughts that go with the feeling?
  2. Pay attention when you start to go over all the times this person has irritated you before. If you’re scrolling through a list of all the times you’ve been angry or hurt by this person, notice how those thoughts change how you’re feeling in the moment. Does the irritation grow into full-blown anger or does it lessen?
  3. Take a few slow, deep breaths, breathing deeply into your belly. Belly breathing can calm and relax you in the moment, but it’s also good to practice it when you’re feeling calm. It can stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system, and that helps you feel more at ease.
  4. Try writing down what’s bothering you, or try drawing a picture of the irritation that you’ve come up with from #1, or both!
  5. Ask yourself how old the angry, irritated part feels. Does this part feel like an adult or like a child? Are the angry thoughts and feelings familiar? Do they feel similar to a time in your past when you felt the same way? Is there something your angry part wants you to know? Journaling can help here, too.

Anger and irritation can also be a symptom of anxiety. If you think that you need help managing your anger in healthier ways, seek out a therapist who can help you work through and better understand the root of your anger. Counseling can help you find strategies for expressing your anger and irritation in healthier, more meaningful ways when it surfaces.


In his week's episode of the Woman Worriers podcast we're talking about trauma, attachment trauma and anxiety with Laura Reagan. You can check it out here.

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979. 

Photos by Gabriel Matula & Stanley Dai & Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

 

Stress-busting ABCs: Anxiety, Boundaries And Clarity

Owning your own business can be a challenge because you don’t have set working hours. You could work all the time if you let yourself. Being your own boss is particularly hard if you struggle with setting or keeping boundaries. It’s easy to talk yourself into working past a certain time or to schedule a work appointment when you’ve set aside the time for personal, leisure or self-care. Who’s going to stop you?

Setting Boundaries Sparks Anxiety

The other thing about fuzzy boundaries is that the people in your life come to expect that you will meet their needs when they ask. They might not intend to take advantage of you, but if you’re always willing to do what others ask of you and never say “no,” then the people in your life will become used to having their needs met first and foremost.

Saying "no" can be hard

Saying "no" can be hard

Creating and maintaining boundaries isn’t just hard when you own your business. Saying “no” can be extremely hard for a lot of people. But problems arise when you don’t say “no” enough. Not meeting your own needs can breed resentment, feeling taken advantage of and feeling underappreciated.

When you start setting boundaries, it can be hard on relationships, too. Listening for and meeting your needs can change relationship dynamics. If the people in your life are used to you always doing for them, it will be an adjustment when you begin to speak up for what you want and need. It might even lead to some hurt and angry feelings, because they don’t understand why you’re not doing what they want. And that’s really hard! Not too many people like conflict, but people who have trouble with maintaining strong, healthy boundaries usually hate conflict. They avoid it by putting their needs last.

Learning To Listen To What You Need

Listen to what You need

Listen to what You need

It takes time and practice to really hear what it is that you want and need. You can start by being aware of your resentment, anger, anxious or hurt feelings bubbling up when you agree to do something. Then you can ask yourself these three questions:

  1. “I’m feeling some resentment right now. Did I agree to do this to because I wanted to or because someone else wanted me to?”
  2. “What was it that made me agree to this? Did I want to make others happy? Was I trying to avoid conflict? What was my motivation for agreeing?”
  3. “What does my anger, hurt, anxiety or resentment want me to know?”

Try to be curious without judging yourself. Having some self-compassion can include reminding yourself that the part of you that wants to please others or avoid conflict is trying to protect you. It believes that by always meeting other’s needs you will avoid feeling uncomfortable.

Clarity Helps Avoid Conflict

So how can you meet your own needs and not create a world of conflict?

The answer is, you can’t avoid conflict! It will take some time for the people in your life to get used to you doing things differently. Until they do, they might be confused or angry. But, if you keep doing things the same way, all of the conflict will be alive inside you. You’ll be frustrating the parts of you that want you to see and hear that you have needs, too. Holding the conflict inside can make you feel anxious or depressed.

You can help the people in your life better understand the changes in your behavior. It takes being open and honest about doing things differently and communicating your needs without judging others for wanting you to stay the way you were.

If you’re struggling to know what you need, or want help with creating and maintaining boundaries, therapy can help by providing a safe space to explore and get support.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979. 

Photo by Isaiah Rustad &   Dawid Sobolewski on Unsplash

 

Why Do We Get Anxiety?

Many of the clients I see in my Annapolis, Md., counseling office suffer from anxiety, stress and feelings of being overwhelmed. Anxiety often slips slowly into lives, and it’s not always easy to recognize. I like working with clients who have anxiety because I know what it’s like to experience anxiety, and I realize the impact that it has on me. I also know that there’s hope. You can learn ways to manage anxiety that allow you to feel more in control.

When Anxiety Shows Up

Anxiety shows up in different ways. The most common form is called “generalized anxiety”—that is, you feel anxious about lots of things throughout your day. You might even have an anxiety attack occasionally, where you feel extremely anxious and experience intense physical symptoms.

Anxiety is a response to a perceived threat

Anxiety is a response to a perceived threat

Anxiety is a response to a perceived threat. When you’re anxious, it’s because a situation or event makes you feel uncomfortable, out of control or unsafe. Sometimes these uncomfortable feelings are unconscious and below the surface. Then, the anxiety bubbles up and you don’t have a clear understanding of why. That’s scary and leaves you feeling like you have very little control.

When you feel unsafe—and this might be an unconscious feeling—your body automatically responds as if there’s danger. We are hard-wired to ready ourselves for a fight, to flee or to freeze when we perceive that we’re in a dangerous, potentially lethal situation. This hard-wired response stems from our primal beginnings, when we had to fight off dangerous animals for survival. Today, the danger may be real, or it could just be that something triggered a memory of a previously dangerous time, but our body doesn’t know the difference!

Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety

When you perceive danger, your body jumps right in all on its own. Your brain releases chemical messengers that signal your body to be afraid and ready it to fight or flee. But that’s not all; they affect your heart, lungs, skin and internal bodily functions, too.

  • Your heart rate can increase.
  • You might breathe faster and shallower.
  • Your might skin get hot or tingle.
  • Your mouth and throat get dry.
  • You might have trouble swallowing.
  • You could get a stomachache, or feel nauseous. 

You can find out more about your body’s stress and anxiety responses in this New York Times article on Stress and Anxiety, The Body’s Response.

When Anxious Feelings Stick Around

For many people, anxiety comes and goes. But if you’ve had a lot of very stressful, very difficult experiences in your life, and you weren’t given the opportunity to process them, which can help relieve the stress, then you’re probably carrying anxiety with you all the time.

Anxiety’s Impact On Your Life

When anxiety is a constant companion, your body is living under stress most of the time. You might become used to living this way, but it takes a toll on your physical health, your mental health, your relationships and your interactions with your environment.

Some signs that anxiety might be ruling your life:

  • You’re easily startled.
  • Your startle response is out of proportion to the trigger. For example, you scream when someone touches you unexpectedly.
  • You often avoid people or situations because of uncomfortable feelings.
  • Stepping outside your comfort zone leaves you feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.
  • You experience anxiety attacks.
  • You worry all the time.
  • Your worries keep you up at night.

I know what it’s like to live with anxiety when it takes control of your life. It affected my sleep, my digestion and my relationships with friends and family. If I hadn’t gotten the help I needed, it might still be ruling my life.

How Anxiety Affects Relationships

You might isolate yourself when anxiety shows up

You might isolate yourself when anxiety shows up

As I mentioned above, anxiety can affect the quality of your relationships. It can make you irritable, and you might snap at your partner, children or friends for reasons that are not apparent to them, or even to you. You might isolate yourself because of your worries about stepping outside your comfort zone. You might be depressed with little motivation for new activities, because that little voice inside your head is whispering negative comments to you about your worth or abilities. Or you might think that there’s something wrong with you or that you’re damaged and can never be “normal.”

Whatever the impact, you can do things to move anxiety to the passenger’s seat!

5 Steps That Help You Manage Anxiety

  1. Recognize that anxiety often stems from fear. Try to go a little deeper to figure out what triggered your fear. If the fear seems unreasonable, as if it came from nowhere, or it stems from you feeling a lack of control, gently remind yourself that your body thinks this is a life-threatening situation, but you’re safe right here, right now.
  2. Learn and practice relaxation and grounding skills. Meditation, mindful awareness, deep breathing, taking a bath, hugging someone close to you, mindfully patting your dog or cat, or taking a walk in nature al all great options. Find what works for you, or try a combination of things. Sometimes just changing it up makes all of the difference.
  3. Exercise regularly. I can’t say enough about exercising regularly to help manage anxiety. Exercise releases the body’s  “make-you-feel-good” chemicals. According to the Anxiety And Depression Association (ADAA), “Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. About five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.” Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? You can find out more about exercise and anxiety here on the ADAA website. If you can’t do vigorous exercise, then take a 20-minute walk and try to be present with the environment.
  4. Create regular sleep habits. Getting a good night’s sleep is another great way to combat anxiety. If you aren’t sleeping well, your body doesn’t have a chance to reset and relax. So, you wake up already stressed from the day or night before. The, if you add the additional stressors of the new day, you can get very anxious very quickly.
  5. Eat a healthy diet. A healthy body works better and more efficiently, and the proper nutrition can help stimulate the body’s natural stress responses.

Individual and group counseling can also help because it gives you a safe place to process and difficult life events. It’s a space where you’re heard and seen without judgment, and it can give you hope when it might feel like there’s none. If you are struggling and you think counseling might help you manage your anxiety, call or email me and we can talk about it.

Want to know more? I have a few articles about anxiety, its causes and things you can do to help yourself on my blog and on my podcast Woman Worriers.

New support groups for women with anxiety are forming now and begin at the end of March! You can learn more here.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979. 

Photo by Els Fattah on  Photo by Els Fattah on Unsplash

Woman Worriers Podcast: A New Resource For Women With Anxiety

If you worry and have a hard time getting a handle on your anxiety, I’d like to introduce you to a new resource. I have just launched a podcast for anxious women, and I am so excited to share it with you. My new Woman Worriers podcast is now available on iTunes!

Why “Woman Worriers”?

Woman worriers.png

Research shows that women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and I hope to investigate the reasons why through podcasting. I also want to help women better understand their anxiety, to recognize things that might trigger anxiety and to explore better ways to manage anxiety every day. With this mission in mind, my hope is to reach as many anxious women as possible.

If you read my blog, you know that I struggle with anxiety myself and that I’m an advocate for using mindfulness and meditation as a way to help manage the anxiety. You might also know that anxiety doesn’t just go away, because it’s a part of our natural defense mechanisms that help keep us safe from harm. The problems come when our brain and body think we need to be anxious all the time.

We’ll Learn From Experts

For the Woman Worriers podcast, I’m interviewing therapists, mindfulness experts, and medical professionals. I’ll also be looking at the social, cultural, societal and environmental factors that might contribute to women’s anxiety.

I hope to shine a light on women’s anxiety and give women the power to manage it in healthy ways.

In order to reach as many women as possible, I’m asking you for a favor. New podcasts need help gaining visibility and traction, and the things that help create that buzz are subscribing to, rating and reviewing new podcasts.

You can tune in and subscribe to auto-download new podcast episodes to your Apple or Android (coming soon) device. After you listen to a few episodes, please consider leaving an honest rating and review in iTunes  and let me know how you think this podcast might benefit women.

Thank you for your support and encouragement! 

You can also follow the podcast on Twitter, Facebook and the Woman Worriers homepage.

 Also, there are Woman Worriers support groups forming now to help you manage anxiety.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979. 

What Have You Done For You Lately?

If you’re the kind of person who is always thinking about other people’s needs, it leaves little time to think about your own. It can also leave you feeling resentful, underappreciated and maybe even taken advantage of.

When the realization finally hits that you want more for yourself, it can come as a surprise. Giving to others seemed like it was enough, or maybe it just took up so much of your time that you forgot you had needs of your own. Or maybe you understood that you had needs, too, but it felt selfish to put your needs first.

Growing Up In A Stressful Home

So, how did you get to be a person who puts your own needs last? You see other people who say, “No.” Why is it so hard for you to set boundaries?

Childhood stress impacts adulthood

Childhood stress impacts adulthood

Children who grow up with caregivers who set unreasonably high expectations, who are extremely volatile, or who need their children to take care of them are at risk of becoming adult children who put their own needs last or who suppress their needs altogether.

Children learn at a very early age how they’re expected to be in the world. So, if the message you received in childhood is that your needs don’t matter, or that it’s selfish or even dangerous to ask to have your needs met, you’re likely become an adult who has difficulty seeing yourself as a priority or in need of self-care. It’s hard to undo those patterns of behavior.

It’s All In The Past — Or Is It?

Below are some of the responses I’ve heard from friends and clients when they talk about how their past experiences are affecting their adulthood.

Past experiences can impact adulthood

Past experiences can impact adulthood

  • “I’m over it.”
  • “I’ve moved on.”
  • “I don’t even think about my childhood.”
  • “What’s the point of rehashing old wounds?”
  • “I barely remember my childhood.”

But the past does affect the present! What you experienced in childhood determines how you learned how to maneuver in the world. It’s how you learned how to survive. But sometimes the survival or coping skills you learned as a child to get by and to please your caregivers stop working for you. They might even hurt you in adulthood.

Anxiety From Childhood Stressors

If you feel a lot of anxiety but you aren’t sure what’s causing it, you might be experiencing a flashback or an unconscious past memory that was triggered by a present experience. Or maybe your anxiety stems from your ignoring or putting your own needs last. If you’re constantly giving to others with little consideration for yourself, it can bring up some difficult feelings like anger, resentment and frustration. Those difficult feelings can be hard to tolerate if you’re unfamiliar with expressing them, and that can bring on feelings of anxiety.

Tuning Into Anxiety To Help Heal

Tune into anxiety with compassion

Tune into anxiety with compassion

Anxiety is something we like to avoid, ignore or push through. I get it, I’ve been there. But by tuning into your anxiety, you can hear your body telling you that it’s afraid or feels threatened. When you’re a person who always gives to others with little consideration for what you need, your body is probably telling you that it’s feeling threatened because no one is listening. You’re invisible to yourself and others. That feels scary and maybe a little too much like childhood, where you learned that it was safer and easier to take care of others.

When we learn to listen with compassion and love to the fear that lies below the anxiety, it can lead to a deep healing of old wounds. Meditation, mindful awareness and individual therapy can all help in the healing process.

Self-Care Doesn’t Mean Selfish

Learning new behaviors takes time and patience. Self-care isn’t something many of us learned at a young age. Self-care isn’t selfish; it’s a basic need. If we don’t know what we need, then it’s really hard to take care of ourselves. It takes practice — lots of it — to create a lifelong self-care routine. So be compassionate, loving and kind to yourself in this journey!

If you’d like support on your journey of mindful self-awareness and anxiety management, Woman Worriers Groups are forming now. You can find out more about the groups here.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  host of the podcast Woman Worriers and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979. 

Photo by Katherine Chase & Morgan Basham & Tanja Heffner on Unsplash

 

 

 

How You Can Manage Your Anxiety

My specialty is working with women who have anxiety. But anxiety isn’t just a woman’s issue. Men and women both experience anxiety. The good news is that most anxiety management strategies are gender neutral, meaning anyone can use them! Managing anxiety often starts with good self-care, because if you’re not taking care of your most basic needs, your anxiety isn’t going anywhere.

The First 3 Steps Toward Managing Anxiety

Regular exercise can help with anxiety

Regular exercise can help with anxiety

  • Exercise: Exercise is different for everyone. Some of my clients have physical limitations that prevent them from doing strenuous exercise, and some are able to work out intensely every day. I encourage you to do what you can, and do it regularly. That means at least three times a week. Why? Because our bodies want to be used physically. They are hardwired that way. When you exercise regularly, your body releases endorphins, the chemicals that make you feel good naturally.
  • Nutrition: Our bodies need nutrition, so it’s important to pay attention to what you eat. A balanced diet also balances your body and your mind.  
  • Sleep: Get a good night’s sleep. I can’t say enough about how important sleep is for overall good health, and mental health especially. Research suggests that seven to nine hours of sleep a night is a basic requirement for most adults. Without enough sleep, your body and mind don’t have a chance to “reset.” So if you’re extremely stressed when you fall asleep and you only sleep for a few hours, it’s likely you’re waking up stressed. A good night’s sleep gives your body a chance to recharge and relax. If you need some tips on improving your quality of sleep, check out the National Sleep Foundation.

Daily Anxiety Management Ideas

Day to day, you can do several things to help you keep your stress and anxiety at manageable levels. Here a just a few to get you started:

Constantly searching the Internet can increase anxiety

Constantly searching the Internet can increase anxiety

  • Stop Googling. If you’re a worrier, chances are you check Google (or another search engine) a lot. Maybe you check out a disease symptoms, or plane accident statistics, or mental health issues. Unfortunately, searching for and finding answers that might confirm your worst suspicions only reinforces your anxiety. It tells your anxious brain that you were right to worry. It might even give you things to worry about that you weren’t aware of before your search. So when you get the urge to Google, put the phone down, walk away from the computer, take a walk, or take some slow deep breaths and allow that maybe it’s OK not to know this time.
  • Meditate. Your breath is a cheap, easy way to help you manage stress and anxiety. You can use your breath as an anchor in meditation, or use structured deep breathing methods. Either way, your breath is helpful in easing anxiety. Some other great benefits of meditating, according to this article in Healthline, include: stress reduction, promotion of emotional health, enhanced self-awareness, pain management, blood pressure regulation, increased focus, increased positive feelings toward self and others, controlling addictive behaviors.
  • Move. Anxiety often makes you feels stuck. That’s because when anxiety shows up, you can get caught in the freeze response. You feel powerless or frozen, which adds to your anxiety. I encourage physical movement when you’re feeling stuck. Walking mindfully, moving your arms across your body or swaying can help to activate the part of your brain that helps you feel unstuck.

Calling A Truce With Anxiety

I hope these strategies were helpful for you! I've launched a podcast soon called “Woman Worriers,” where I share more strategies on managing anxiety, but I'm also diving deep into why women are twice as likely as men to experience anxiety. I explore the psychological, biological, social and cultural issues that contribute to women's anxiety. I also share many strategies for anxiety management, like mindfulness, grounding techniques, meditation and other interventions that you can use to help stop fighting against your anxiety and call a truce in the battle.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979. 

Photo by Justyn Warner & Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

3 Simple Breathing Techniques For Stressful Times

The breath is an amazingly powerful tool that you can use to help calm you down when you’re feeling stressed. By tuning into your breath, breathing rhythmically or doing deep belly breathing, you can begin to feel differently. Practicing daily can increase the benefits.

You might be thinking, “I breathe all day long and I’m still stressed!” I hear you. The difference with these techniques is that you’re going to be breathing in ways that promote your body’s natural stress responses and your body will be soothing itself!

Ready to get started? Try the different techniques described below. Notice which one you find to be most helpful and use it any time you feel stressed.

Paying mindful attention to your breath can be calming

Paying mindful attention to your breath can be calming

1. Tune into your breath. Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted for about three minutes. Sit upright, comfortably, with your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands in your lap. You can have your palms facing up or down, depending on what feels good to you in that moment. Close your eyes or gaze softly in front of you. Take three slow, deep breaths, filling and emptying your lungs completely. Then let your breathing return to its natural rhythm. Tune your attention to your breath and notice where you feel it. It might be your chest rising and falling or your belly going in and out. Or, you might feel a coolness as the breath enters your nostrils and warmth as it exits. Continue to pay attention to your breath as you breathe naturally. Your attention might wander, because we’re always thinking. When it does wander, I want you to notice that it has and bring it back to the breath. Continue to do this for another minute or two. It’s that easy (or not!).  If you prefer a guided exercise you can click the recording below.

2. 4-7-8 breathing. This technique can help reduce overall stress and help you feel more calm in times of stress, especially if you’ve been practicing daily. To do this technique, you will breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth with the tip of your tongue placed on the roof of your mouth, right behind your teeth.

To begin, exhale slowly and then breathe in through your nose for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven and then exhale through your mouth, with the air passing around your tongue, making a whooshing sound, for a count of 8. Repeat this 3 more times. Practice each day when you’re not stressed, so it becomes a habit. When it becomes a part of your routine, begin to use it to help manage any stress that arises.

3. Belly Breathing. Take a few deep breaths and pay attention to your chest and belly. If your belly rises and falls with each breath, you’re already belly breathing! If your chest rises and falls we’re going to do a little exercise to teach you belly breathing.

Deep belly breathing can be done wherever you are

Deep belly breathing can be done wherever you are

As you breathe in, try to imagine that your breath is traveling all the way down your spine and into your belly, filling up the space, so your belly fills up like a balloon. Then exhale fully, using your stomach muscles to push all of the air up and out, emptying that belly space. Begin by practicing this when you’re feeling pretty good. Then, as you feel more comfortable with belly breathing, pause and try it when you feel stressed. Here’s a fun video from Elmo to see how it works.

I’ve heard some clients say that intentionally allowing their belly to expand can be an uncomfortable experience. I think that because our culture values fit, tight stomachs, it feels weird to push it out. I suggest that you keep practicing, maybe when there’s no one around, until it feels more natural.

You can adopt one or all of theses techniques to help you live a less stressful life!


Photo by Ian KeefeAndre Hunter on Unsplash

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979. 

 

 

 

I'm A Featured Guest On Selling The Couch!

This week I was the featured guest on Melvin Varghese’s Selling The Couch podcast (STC). The podcast is rated one of the Top 100 Business and Top 30 Career podcasts in iTunes and featured in Psychology Today, Psych Central, and Good Therapy.

STC has been influential in helping me build my business because Melvin interviews people who’ve experienced a lot of the same issues and obstacles that I’ve encountered while building my business, Progression Counseling. We dive deep into how I developed my business and what drives me to continue to grow in new ways.

In the podcast I discuss:

  • Starting a new career in “mid-life”
  • Why I chose to work with clients who are experiencing anxiety
  • Why I’ve moved into group work
  • How managing my own website has allowed me to speak to my clients in a genuine way that comes from my heart. 

I hope you’ll take a moment to listen, and if you feel inclined, please leave a review for the podcast on iTunes. Feel free to leave me a comment on my blog too!


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-340-8469.

Five Journaling Tips For When Anxiety Takes Control

When Your Anxiety Feels Like A Runaway Train

Anxiety can feel like we're on a runaway train

Anxiety can feel like we're on a runaway train

As I’ve shared before, I struggle with anxiety. I’ve learned to manage it most of the time, but once in a while it jumps into overdrive, like a runaway train, with no intention of slowing down. It can be a humbling experience. My job is to help other people mange their anxiety, so when mine takes over, it leaves me feeling a little like a fraud, which only increases the anxiety!

But I believe that because I know what anxiety feels like and what it’s like to experience some relief from anxious feelings, I’m in a unique position to truly help others who struggle.

Anxiety Is Often Your Body Telling You That You’re Not Listening

My anxiety feels out of my control (which is super scary), when parts of me believe that I’m not listening to or hearing them. Maybe I ignored my own needs and went along with something I didn’t want to do, or maybe I overdid it by staying up late too many nights in a row, when I know I need a good eight hours of sleep to feel like myself. Or maybe I ate too much or drank more than I intended because I was stressed. Whatever the situation, a part of me is fearful that I will revert back to my old bad habits — the habits that kept me anxious a lot of the time.

The deep-seated fear that I’ll undo or mess up everything I’ve worked hard to turn around puts my anxiety into overdrive. But sometimes we do revert back to old ways, because we’re human. I wrote in my last post, and I often tell my clients, that personal growth isn’t always a linear process. One step forward, two steps back.

Creating New Habits Through Mindful Journaling

As I said above, my steps backward usually have something to do with ignoring or not recognizing my own needs, which is a habit years in the making.  And old habits die hard because they’re habits. We have to learn or re-learn how to make changes.

Journaling can help you idendtify what's making you anxious

Journaling can help you idendtify what's making you anxious

So, when my anxiety goes speeding down the track, my habitual, go-to response has always been to avoid diving deep into my fears. After all, they’re fears! But what I am learning to do, and what works best, is make a deeper, mindful exploration of the worry or fear. What is it? Why is it showing up now? A great way to be more mindful of what’s happening, non-judgmentally, is through journaling.

Journaling externalizes the issues and gives you a chance to see them with a little more perspective. It also allows you to better understand some of the unconscious thoughts and feelings that might be brewing. Journaling also uses the right side of your brain, and that’s helpful when you’re reacting and not thinking. It allows you slow it down through writing and that can calm down your whole neurobiological system.

Here are some journaling prompts to get you started:

  1. What am I feelings right now? Describe the physical and emotional components of your anxiety.
  2. Draw a picture of the anxious sensations in your body. Don’t worry if you’re not artistic — just draw what you think it looks and feels like.
  3. What part of me is feeling afraid? What are the fears? Fear of failure, fear of rejection?
  4. Imagine soothing that scared part. What can you say to help calm the fears? If you can’t think of something, journal what a friend might say to comfort you.
  5. Draw how the anxious feelings have changed or stayed the same.

If you’d like to practice mindful journaling, and practice with a group on daily mindfulness activities, there are groups starting this fall. Early sign-up discounts end soon. You can find out more by reaching out to me or clicking here.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-340-8469.

Photo by Amine Rock Hoovr and Milos Tonchevski on Unsplash

 

Why Women Are More Likely Than Men To Be Anxious

Women are 2x more likely than men to experience anxiety

Women are 2x more likely than men to experience anxiety

I recently applied and was accepted as an expert contributor for Good Therapy. Good Therapy is a therapist directory, much like Psychology Today. They also have lots of great content and resources, like posts for particular populations or psychological issues. I’ll be writing about women and anxiety.

My first post discusses why women are twice as likely as men to experience anxiety. The human body is wired to respond with anxiety when it senses a threat. Here are some of the factors that make women more likely to be anxious than men:

https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/is-she-more-anxious-than-he-is-probably-heres-why-0912174    

I would love to know your thoughts! You can leave a comment below or on the blog at Goodtherapy.com.

I'm also explore this topic in my podcast, Woman Worriers.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979. 

Photo by Sydney Jackson on Unsplash

 

 

 

The Journey Toward Mindfulness

midnful woman.jpg

I’ve written about mindfulness a lot since I began blogging a couple of years ago. As I entered private practice, I became aware of mindfulness as a concept, but I didn’t really appreciate how powerful it could be until I started my own mindful meditation practice and began incorporating mindfulness into my therapy practice.

I’ve Seen Mindfulness At Work

I’ve seen clients take up daily meditation and report that when they’re stressed they can recover a sense of calm much more quickly. I have clients who’ve experienced trauma begin to tune into their bodies so that they can more easily identify what they’re feeling and where, in the moment. I’ve been witness for clients who were voicing their needs for the first time. And I’ve seen the transformation when clients begin to truly see themselves and embrace all of their parts, not just the parts they like, but even their inner critical part that judges and demeans, and all the other imperfect, messy, human parts.

But I never would have encouraged clients to take up mindfulness if I hadn’t experienced myself just how powerful it can be. Being more in tune with who I am, how I feel, how my body reacts and what triggers me makes me a better partner, mother, friend and therapist. And mindfulness helped get me there.

Mindfulness and Managing Anxiety

Do I still have days when being mindful escapes me? Of course! If things are really difficult or stressful, if I get triggered and revert back to my old ways of reacting, or if I’m tired or anxious, it’s easy for me to lose sight of how to be mindful in the moment.

Self-compassion eases anxiety

Self-compassion eases anxiety

But one of the best parts of being mindful is that it helps foster a sense of understanding and compassion for yourself and for others! So on the days when mindfulness has escaped my attention, I’ve learned to be compassionate with myself. I understand that I will have hard days — everyone does. If I didn’t struggle, I wouldn’t be human. It’s just a part of who I am, and I’ve learned that that’s OK.

So, instead of beating myself up and listening attentively to my inner critic, who always wants to point out just how deficient I am, which leaves me feeling anxious and stressed, I can offer myself compassion and love. I can recognize that maybe I had a bad day and I can just be with that, in the moment. I can allow that there will be good and bad days and that one bad day doesn’t make me a bad person. It makes me human.

Mindfulness Group Practice

I know the benefits of making mindfulness a part of my daily routine and I’d like to share them with you. I have mindfulness groups beginning in October 2017 and I am accepting new group members now.

If you would like to:

  • Understand the components and practices of mindfulness
  • Feel more present in your daily life
  • Use breath, body and emotional awareness to calm your mind and connect with yourself in new ways
  • Be more compassionate with yourself and others
  • ·Use grounding techniques when your stress and anxiety show up

Then fill out this form so we can set up a time to see if this is the right group for you.  Discounts are available for early enrollment. Let’s get things started!


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose.

Photo by Lua Valentia and by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

Anxiety and Fear Complicate Our Communication and Relationships

This week I have Dalila Jusic-LaBerge, LMFT from Westlake Village, CA, guest posting on relationship communication. She tells us that our needs might go unmet if we’re not able to identify and communicate them effectively. Incorporating a daily mindfulness practice into our routine can help us become more aware of how we’re feeling, allowing us to better understand what we need in the moment. Check out her post!


We Were Raised To Be Anxious Beings

We often hear, “Relationships are complicated." But, why are they so complicated? The answer may be simple. Relationships are complicated because we are complicated, due to an upbringing that fostered anxiety. For most people in our society, this anxiety has become intertwined with our being.

This prevents us from being authentic and being in touch with our true emotions, which is essential for successful communication and good relationships. Furthermore, we may be so entrenched with anxiety we may not even realize when anxiety takes over and makes our life a real struggle. When you put two people with this kind of mindset together, communication becomes difficult because the anxiety each of them brings amplifies this struggle.

Anxiety Complicates Communication

anxious communication.jpg

Our anxiety doesn't allow us to communicate openly and authentically. When you feel anxious, or simply when you are less relaxed, you come across in ways you don't intend. Other people may have a difficult time getting your true message, due to the different defense layers that you create due to anxiety and fear.

These defenses protect you from feeling exposed, but they also act as filters that don't allow your true personality to get through to the other person. Don't worry you are not the only one who goes through this. This is quite normal for all of us. In some ways, we were raised to be like this.

Your body language reflects your anxiety and signals caution to your partner

As you try to make sure your vulnerabilities don't become revealed, your body posture is assisting you in maintaining “safety." When you are anxious or have fear, your body is not relaxed. Instead, your body becomes tense, which signals to your partner that you are ready to fight.  This further triggers your partner’s defense mechanisms, and they become tense and ready to fight or perhaps flee.

Have you ever seen your partner in a wide-open leg stance with their arms crossed and their chest puffed? This is one version of how your partner may look when they’re tense. This may also be their natural posture because of your partner’s need to assert themselves due to issues stemming from their childhood.

Thus, don't despair. You are not the only one who struggles with communication. Your partner in the conversation most likely has his or her own fears and anxiety, which prevents them from communicating authentically and understanding where you come from.

Your partner's fears and anxiety put them on defensive and then you get a negative, emotional reaction. Then the situation becomes tenser between the two of you.  The downward spiral continues and the gap between partners may increase. Your anxiety and their anxiety paired with tense body language often lead to difficult communication and potential struggles in the relationship.

This leads to neither party feeling understood or cared for. This is why many therapists and relationship counselors tell you to work on your communication and listening skills.

Clear Communication Requires Authenticity and Empathy

Body and language and empathy impact communication with your partner

Body and language and empathy impact communication with your partner

Another important point we may forget is that the clarity and authenticity of communication are everyone's burden. Clear, authentic communication doesn't only involve you spilling your guts with all your opinions but also making sure that your partner understands you well.

This means being empathetic with your partner. You can understand how they feel when you say or do something. Basically, if you want to make sure your message is heard, you must adjust your communication so your partner gets it the way you meant it.

But, how can you be empathetic towards your partner, when you have a difficult time accessing your own emotions? Listening to your anxiety will help you be compassionate towards yourself first. It will also help you ease up and be able to empathize with your partner too.  Start by practicing mindful communication. This means, you are aware of your feelings, what your needs are, and how you can communicate this so your partner gets it without feeling threatened.

From unaware to mindful communication

You probably never mean to say that they’re is worthless and that you don't like anything that they do for you, but sometimes our partners feel like this when we complain.

Let's analyze a simple example of communication with your partner.

What comes out of your mouth due to your anxiety filters:

You casually mention, "You never take me out on Saturdays anymore."

Here, you probably hope that they will get the hint and show how they care about you by arranging an outing on Saturday.

The unspoken part of your communication:

You may have a difficult time expressing your needs openly due to some neglect in your childhood and you may carry some anger related to this. Although you don't express your anger openly towards your partner, your body language and short complaint tells them more than you know.  You are in some ways projecting this old anger towards your partner.

Because your parents were unable to see what you needed as a child you hope your partner will. But remember, they are not a mind reader. Your partner probably tells you this. In addition, they may have their own anxiety and defensiveness. Due to this they might feel attacked by you even though you’re just hoping they will meet the needs from childhood you felt were ignored or unrecognized.

What your partner may hear, due to your body language, as well as their upbringing and the anxiety that comes with it:

"You are worthless. You don't do anything right. You can never make me happy"

By seeing your body language and hearing your words, your partner will feel criticized. Maybe they were criticized in childhood and never felt good enough either.

So instead, you can meet your needs and help your partner feel empowered by saying something like:

"I really enjoy when we go out on Saturdays like we used to when we were dating."

Or, if you want to be more direct and take the initiative:

"Let's go out on Saturday. We had so much fun when we did it before."

Mindful Communication Starts With Self-Awareness

woman reflecting.jpg

Do you see the difference in the communication style? You truly want to feel cherished and desired by your partner, but they feels attacked when you try to communicate this to them. You may not be aware of your anger due to the neglect in childhood, and thus you may take it out on your partner without ever intending it.

Similarly, their own anxiety and difficult past may not allow them to understand your needs. If you were able to authentically communicate your needs, your partner would feel empowered and honored because you express this to them. We all need to be needed in relationships.

When you become more aware of your feelings, needs, and your value, genuine communication becomes easier. Once you start working on this, your anxiety symptoms will also decrease.

Mindful communication and self-awareness can help you heal

It's important to note that being in a relationship can help you both heal. What matters is you are able to build enough trust where you two can be open and authentic with each other. It takes a lot of personal growth to be in a relationship. Learning how to communicate with your partner will help you both grow and feel empowered.


Dalila Jusic-LaBerge is the owner of Be Here & Now Counseling, and she helps women and teen girls heal trauma and emotional wounding, so they can enjoy life and love in healthy relationships. Dalila specializes in working with accomplished women who yearn for love but feel lost in romantic relationships.

Utilizing mindfulness based body-mind oriented therapy modality, she helps them heal, connect to their own emotions, develop intuition, and be ready to connect on a deeper emotional level. This empowers women to be authentic and in touch with who they truly are. Dalila focuses on helping her clients manage difficult feelings and emotions that come with stress, anxiety irritability, and anger issues, that are preventing them from enjoying life and happy relationships.

Dalila can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose.

Photo by Crew, jens johnsson & JD Mason on Unsplash

Overcoming Feelings of Guilt

Guilty feelings are so much a part of our lives that we take little notice. They show up when we’re feeling like an issue or problem is our fault, or when we’re neglecting things we “should” be doing or “should” have done. Sometimes guilty feelings can prompt us to do things we might not feel like doing. They push us to be pro-social, reaching out to grandparents, parents, partners or friends because we feel we “should,” and we know we’ll feel guilty if we don’t. In these instances, guilty feelings can have a positive effect on our relationships.

Feeling Guilty and Anxious For Things You Can’t Control

But, much of the time the guilty feelings aren’t based on facts or the reality of the situation. They’re often formulated around things we have little control over. They arise when we worry about the way things might be different if only we’d done X, Y or Z. Worrying about the “what-ifs” or “if-onlys” creates guilty, anxious feelings because a part of us believes that maybe we’re the reason things went wrong.

feeling guilty can increase anxiety

feeling guilty can increase anxiety

When guilt creeps in, it can stop you from moving forward and from really connecting with what’s happening inside you. Guilt can leave you feeling incompetent, not good enough or even worse — that you’re worthless; reinforcing what your internal critic tells you all the time. Then your anxiety and depression increase, throwing you for a loop.

The question is, do we really have that much control over the randomness of life? Is it really our fault when bad things happen? Maybe we can start paying closer attention to those times when we’re feeling guilty and be curious about how much control we really have.

Why Mindfulness Is Helpful

Being more mindful can help slow things down. It can make you more aware of how your body reacts to your stress and guilty feelings. It can help you to be curious about what you’re telling yourself when you’re feeling guilty. Being mindful of our emotions can help us identify what we’re feeling and what triggered those feelings. Then you can work toward offering yourself some compassion. Here’s an example from my own life:

My son was leaving our home to go back to his. About an hour after he left, he called to say his car was acting strangely. My husband and I both spoke to him, offering advice, and he continued on his way. Not long after, he called again to say the car had broken down in the middle of a huge freeway, and he was stuck inside it in the middle of traffic. We were panicked, to put it mildly! My husband and I helped him through the crisis. He and the car survived, but it was a harrowing experience.

Afterward I experienced a few moments of worry over how we could have done things differently. I felt a little guilty about things I didn’t say but wished I had. The feelings weren’t strongly present, and I went to bed feeling relieved that my son was safe. I awoke in the middle of the night with my heart pounding. I couldn’t fall back to sleep, because the thoughts of what I “should” have done were circling my brain, leaving me feeling stressed, anxious and guilty as hell. I was telling myself that if only I’d only done X, Y and Z, everything would’ve been different. The car wouldn’t have broken down and all the stress would’ve been avoided.

Now that I see my feelings put down in writing, my thoughts seem pretty ridiculous and grandiose. As if I have that much power over the universe! But in the moment, my responsibility in the crisis felt very real.

Mindful Attention

Mindful journaling can clarify your thoughts.

Mindful journaling can clarify your thoughts.

I was able to go back to sleep after using some mindful deep breathing to calm myself, but the next day the feelings returned. So I slowed things down, I sat with my uncomfortable feelings and, using mindful journaling, I curiously explored what was happening for me in that moment. Here are a few things I discovered:

  • I felt like I had a tight ball of cold energy in my stomach.
  • My mind kept rehearsing the things I wished I’d said.
  • The thoughts weren’t only about the car and his safety. I’d moved into “this proves I’m not a good mom.” And that touched my core.

Paying mindful attention to my physical and emotional reactions allowed me recognize what was going on as I sat with those difficult feelings. I placed a hand on my stomach where I stored the tension. I took some slow deep breaths and then offered myself some compassion. And I felt better! I was no longer obsessing about the “what-ifs” and “if-onlys.” I was able to recognize that, although the situation made me have thoughts about being a bad mom, I could be compassionate about how hard I was being on myself and I could reinforce my self-worth. The tension released, and I slept like a baby the next night.

Practicing Mindfulness

Would you like to learn how to:

  • Slow things down?
  • Be more curious about your experience?
  • Practice more self-compassion?
  • Identify and understand your feelings?
  • Be more present in the moment?

Mindfulness groups will be starting this Fall. If you’re interested in learning more, please reach out so we can get started!


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose.

Photo by Nik Shuliahin and Green Chameleon on Unsplash

When Discomfort From Anxiety Creates Resistance

Stepping Away Routines Can Make You Feel Anxious

Recently, I’ve been considering making some changes in my personal and professional lives. The changes aren’t huge, and some of them only require me to switch things to another day or time. However, the amount of anxiety and stress I’ve felt when all I’ve done so far is to think about making these changes is making me reconsider how much I need routine to manage my stress.

Using routine to manage stress isn’t all bad. It's helpful if your anxiety often hijacks your day. The problems enter when you choose not to do things differently because the thought of change creates anxiety and the uncomfortable feelings hold you back from something you’re excited about.

Keeping Things The Same Might Reduce Anxiety But It Also Keeps You Stagnant

Anxiety can creep, or jump, in when things don’t go as planned, but it can also arise when we intentionally shake things up. The discomfort we feel isn’t really about the changes themselves. It’s about our perception or interpretation of what the changes mean. I’ll give you an example.

riding bikes.jpg

Let’s say that each Sunday morning you dedicate a certain amount of time to getting ready for the week ahead. Maybe you straighten up your house, go to the grocery store and go through your work schedule so you feel prepared for the week to come. This gives you the sense that all is right with the world.

Now, you and your partner have been talking about getting new bikes. You both love to ride but your bikes are old and in need of repair, so you haven’t been riding them much lately. You decide to bite the bullet and buy new ones. Now you have these beautiful new bikes! Your partner suggests creating time to ride on Sunday mornings, before it gets too hot.

You really want to ride your new bike, but now the thought of it makes you anxious and irritable. You might attribute the anxiety to the act of riding the bike or to fear that your to-do list won’t get done. The reality is, your anxiety peaked because your sense of “all is right with the world,” has disappeared.

How We Perceive Change Can Make Us Anxious

When your sense of stability is rocked, your brain thinks that there’s a threat it needs to manage, and your body responds:

Your body reacts to perceived threats

Your body reacts to perceived threats

  • Your heart might race.
  • You might feel tightness in your chest or throat.
  • Your stomach might begin feeling upset.
  • You might become hyper-aware of things touching your skin. 
  • You might get an overwhelming feeling of discomfort.

Our body’s reaction to the perceived threat cranks up the anxiety. It happens unconsciously and within milliseconds of the stimulus. Because it happens so quickly, we often attribute our discomfort to the event or situation where the change occurred, or we might attribute it to the person who suggested the changes. And, without thinking it through, we react.

Using the example above, you might yell at your partner for suggesting Sunday mornings as a time to ride bikes. You might decide you no longer want your new bike or question whether you even like bike riding anymore. You might go along for the ride but resent your partner the whole time, and wind up feeling upset, anxious and unhappy.

So, how do you do things differently? How can you learn to respond in the moment with intention, instead of reacting without thinking? In my next post I’ll discuss how you can slow things down, identify your feelings and begin to recognize the perceived threat for what it is: just your perception and interpretation of the events — not your reality.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose.

Photos byAlexander Mils and by Alexander Mils on Unsplash

Embracing Your Anxious Parts

Listening To Your Anxious Parts Takes Practice

In my last post I talked about your parts — about when they show up and how they can make you feel, whether it’s anxious, depressed or like an angry or sad 16-year-old. I explained that your inner critic is often the most easily identifiable part, but that we have many parts that develop over our lifetime.

woman fragmented in mirror.jpg

Some of our parts are so hidden that it takes some time and practice to listen and hear what they have to say. Other parts feel so comfortable that it’s hard to distinguish the difference between them and our true selves — our everyday-showing-up selves. Yet, when they show up, we don’t feel genuine or truly connected in our relationships or with ourselves. We might feel like we’re responding from a much younger self or that, deep down, we don’t know who we are.

Recognizing and beginning to identify our parts can help us better understand who we are, how we feel and what we want and need in our lives, in our relationships and within.

Noticing Your Parts

Your parts often show up when strong feelings arise. By paying attention, you begin to notice that you have many different parts. You might hear them in the different messages you tell yourself. They may give you a general sense of uneasiness when life is difficult. Here’s an example:

You’ve decided to step out of your comfort zone and join a yoga class. Never having tried yoga, you’re feeling a little nervous, anxious and unsure of yourself. Below is a conversation that might go on in your head:

Voice One: “Good for me! I signed up for that class!”

Voice Two: “It’s about time. I should have done it six months ago instead of procrastinating! I might even be in shape by now if I’d started then.”

Voice Three: “Everyone is going to know I’ve never done yoga. They’re going to look at me and laugh. I just know it.”

Voice Four: “I should call and get my money back. I have no business being in a yoga class and it’s better to quit then to make a fool of myself.”

Voice Five: “Don’t be such a wuss! You’re always quitting before you even try!”

Voice Six: “Be quiet! Why am I making this so hard for myself? It’s a yoga class, not a dissertation!”

Each one of those voices in your head could be a different part, and they all believe they’re helping, guiding and offering quality advice. Unfortunately, instead they often leave us feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and unsure of what we want. 

Quieting The Inner Critic And Other Anxious Parts

woman journaling.jpg

If you pay attention, you begin recognizing the different parts that get triggered when you’re feeling uneasy, depressed or anxious. Journaling, or noting to yourself in an intentional way each time they arise, can help you identify when and where they show up.

Next time a part shows up, instead of telling it to be quiet or arguing with it, I want you to be curious about it. Ask that part, “What are your concerns, worries, or fears? What do you need me to know?” Take a moment to listen, with compassion.

Your inner critic might be worried that by putting yourself out there in new ways you’ll get hurt by others. So it wants to warn you, and keep you safe, but the only way it knows how to do that is by criticizing you.

Your part that wants to avoid, withdraw or submit might tell you to stay home. It worries that being around new people will open you up to their judgment. That part wants you to stay home and avoid anywhere there might be people you don’t know, because that will keep you safe from the uncomfortable feeling of being judged.

Your defensive angry part might yell at you for staying home or not engaging in new, different things. That part thinks that shaming you is the only get you to go out and do the things you say you want to do.

And your true self is overwhelmed, worrying and wondering whether you’re crazy to have all these voices in your head, which leave you feeling unsure about what you want, need and desire.

Listening To Your Self

When you begin to understand that your parts are reacting from deep-seated worries and fears, that they want to keep you safe and protect you, try offering them some compassion for working so hard. Try asking them to quiet their constant dialog, or to step back for a moment to allow you to assess what you really want.

Identifying and dialoging with your parts takes time and practice, because we either accept the messages as truth, or we try to ignore the parts altogether. As your parts feel heard, understood and welcomed, they’ll begin to quiet down. As they become less reactive and anxious, it will be easier to listen and really hear what your true self wants, needs and desires.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose.

Photo by Mike Wilson  and by Aidan Meyer on Unsplash 

Listening To All The Anxious Parts of You

Your Anxious Parts

We all have parts of us that can get triggered when we’re in distress, especially if we’re feeling vulnerable. Lots of my clients tell me that the voices in their head make them anxious, stressed, depressed and feeling as if their brain never quiets. They report that the constant barrage of input leaves them exhausted at the end of the day.

connect to yourself

connect to yourself

These clients come to therapy to help them quiet the noise, to reduce their stress and to feel more connected with themselves. They also say that sometimes the things they tell themselves contradict each other. The confusing, conflicting self-talk leaves them feeling unsure about what they want or need and makes it really hard to connect with and show up as their true selves.

Your Inner Critic Isn’t Easing Your Anxiety

Most of my clients can easily identify the part that I call “the inner critic.” It’s the little (but sometimes quite loud) voice that points out when you make mistakes. Maybe it even calls you names when things don’t go well. For instance, my inner critic is quick to pile on the guilt when I’m worrying about not being a good enough mother, partner, friend, business owner… you name it. It tells me all the things I should have done differently.

My clients will often defend that voice, saying that it keeps them in line and makes them more conscientious about not making mistakes in the future. But they also say that the inner critic can make them feel “less than.” It leaves them constantly worrying and rethinking how things might have gone better, “if only they were… (you fill in the blank).”

The inner-critic part might sound a lot like a caregiver, parent or someone in your life who was critical of you when you were growing up. It’s often the loudest and easiest part to identify. However, it’s only one of many parts of you that can fuel your anxiety.

I Felt Like An Anxious 16-year-old

teenage girl.jpg

Some clients are so aware of these other parts that they can tell me how old they felt at a particular moment when they were triggered. I know that’s happened to me. My go-to response when I sense a potential conflict is to withdraw, and I feel like the hopeless, angry teenager part of me licking her wounds. The problem with responding from your wounded parts is that you repeat patterns of behavior that probably aren’t very useful, and which might even be harmful in your present life.

Family or friends who’ve known you for a long time can often trigger some of your parts, but they can also just pop up when situations make you feel like that younger self. You might find that your voice changes, or you respond with the old coping skills you used way back then, but which aren’t very productive today.

Some of my clients say that younger parts are often angry, easily offended and very defensive. Some say they’re withdrawn, anxious or depressed. So when stuff happens that makes them feel vulnerable, the parts that feel threatened want to jump in and react the way they did in the past. If this happens to you, it can lead to arguments, wanting to avoid situations, or feeling very anxious and depressed, because you’re caught up in one of your parts that wants to protect you or hide from the perceived threat.

What Is This Noise In My Head?

The different parts can make you feel overwhelmed and maybe a little worried that  something might be wrong with you. “Do I have multiple personalities? Why are all these voices in my head?”

There’s nothing wrong with you. We all have different parts. Some people have an easy time recognizing them; for others, the parts are less defined. Our parts developed over our lifetime to help us cope with stressful life events. So, if you had a difficult childhood — if you were emotionally, physically or sexually abused; if your parents emotionally neglected you; or if your life experiences were difficult or traumatic, it’s likely that your various parts are pretty active.

In my next post, I’ll share how you can learn from your parts and build up your true, everyday showing-up part to help you quiet the noise in your head. When you learn to work with your parts and identify their worries, you can truly connect with yourself and live your life with more ease and purpose.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose.

Photos by Cynthia Magana  andElena Ferrer on Unsplash