managing anxiety

A Minute of Mindfulness

It Only Takes a Minute

Take time to pause

Take time to pause

I created this quick video below to demonstrate how easy it is to be mindful. Wherever you are, take a moment to slow down and tune into the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and touch the things that are there with you in the present moment.

No matter where you are — on the street, in the city or country, forest or ocean side, at home or at work — you can take a minute and pause.

If you’d like to do more meditating and don’t know where to begin I have a FREE guide to get you started! Fill out this form and I’ll send it along to you with a free meditation too!

If you’d like a longer meditation that also incorporates your senses this week on the Woman Worriers podcast I offer a guided imagery meditation using your sensory information to create a calm, safe space.


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 and video by Elizabeth Cush



Managing Anxiety For The Long Game

I’ve struggled with anxiety for most of my life and I’ve gotten pretty good at managing it. I recognize many of my triggers and I plan ahead when I know I might encounter a situation that sets me off. I’ve learned self-compassion, so I’m not too hard on myself. I practice mindfulness for relaxation and greater awareness, and I continue with my own therapy.

When Anxiety Pops-Up Without Warning

But  my anxiety still pops up sometimes , seemingly for no reason. It’s as though my body decided all on its own to be anxious! So how do I prepare for that? The reality is that sometimes anxiety is triggered by an implicit or unconscious memory. When that happens, our bodies are responding to a memory we’re not even aware of. Most likely, it’s not an actual threat.

Anxiety can hit you when you're least expecting it

Anxiety can hit you when you're least expecting it

For me, the anxious response often happens when I’m just about to fall asleep. I’m relaxed, tired and so ready for sleep. I begin to slip into that dreamlike state when you think you’re awake but you’re actually between sleep and wakefulness. I’m all ready to drift off and suddenly I’m wide awake, my heart is pounding and I feel like something bad is about to happen. How the heck am I supposed to fall sleep feeling like that?

Anxiety that seems to come out of nowhere is common. I encounter it often when working with my clients. Many of them feel as though their anxiety is hiding, just waiting to spring when they’re least expecting it. When anxiety appears without an obvious reason, they feel like it’s controlling them.

Managing An Anxious Memory

Even though the anxiety stems from a memory, our body responds as if the threat is real. The trigger could be something as small as a sound, smell or touch of something that reminds you of a past experience that truly did feel threatening. So, how do you deal with a threat that’s not actually a threat?”

To first thing to do to help get through those unexpectedly anxious moments is to recognize that the anxiety was triggered by some memory from your past. You can even say to yourself out loud (if no one is around), “OK, Body. I hear you telling me that something just made you really anxious! I can feel it, but I know this isn’t about something that’s happening right now.” Saying it out loud, or even just in your head, reinforces the fact that the anxious experience popped up because your body remembered something from the past, not something that’s happening right now.

Next, take a few deep breaths. Slow, deep breathing can calm your anxious nervous system. If you’d like some practice with deep breathing exercises you can find out more here.

Feel your feet planted firmly on the ground

Feel your feet planted firmly on the ground

Then orient yourself in the present moment. You might be asking yourself right now, “What the heck does that mean?” It means I want you to bring yourself out of your head, where the worry is controlling your reactions, and into where you are physically  — right here, right now. It’s called grounding. Metaphorically speaking, I want you to feel like your feet are planted firmly on the ground at this very moment in time, as if they were the trunk of a tree, with the roots spreading out beneath you to steady you and keep you strong.

There are a lot of different grounding strategies. I’ve detailed some of them in a video here. One of the easiest techniques I’ve found that you can do anywhere is tapping your feet. Tap each foot, alternating them back and forth, for a minute. As you do it, really pay attention to the feel of your feet on the ground, the sound they make as they tap and how the movement feels throughout your body.

Another grounding technique is to bring awareness to your surroundings. Focus on the colors you see, the sounds you hear, things you can touch and how they feel in your hand, and the things you can smell and taste. This can be hard if you’re feeling extremely anxious. In those instances it can help to pay attention in a very specific way. It’s called 5,4,3,2,1. It goes like this: Notice 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you touch, 2 things you smell and 1 thing you taste. 

Bringing yourself back from the remembered state of anxiousness into the present, where there’s no apparent danger, can help your body relax and help your brain recognize that the memory was in the past. You’re here now in the present and you’re not in danger.

If your anxiety is pretty intense, you might have to repeat the grounding strategy for a few rounds, but these exercises should help soothe your anxious state.

Practicing mindfulness is a great way to bring a more present awareness into your daily life.  And being more present can help you manage your anxious feelings. Mindfulness groups are forming now in Annapolis and you can find out more 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 410-339-1979. 

Photos by Alexandra Gorn  & by Ian Baldwin on Unsplash

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

 

3 Grounding Techniques To Help you Manage Anxiety

Have you ever felt like your anxious feelings came out of nowhere? It’s possible your anxiety was triggered by an unconscious, implicit memory. In the video above I explain more about implicit memories, the affect they have on our mental and physical well-being, and 3 grounding techniques to bring you back from the memory and into the present moment.

If you would like to learn more grounding strategies like those in the video,  and would like to be a part of a mindfulness group please reach out! New groups are forming for 2018!


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. Elizabeth provides individual and group counseling.

Managing Anxiety When Things Don’t Go As Planned

When Unplanned Changes Create Stress

I’m not super organized. I don’t have my days planned down to the minute, but I like to know what the day has in store. It brings me comfort and it helps me manage my anxiety. If I know what to expect for the day ahead, I feel more settled. But no matter how organized I am, or how much I plan, things don’t go the way I expect, and that makes me anxious.

I know that life can’t be completely predictable. It would be way to boring if it were. I also know that it’s important to be able to manage change, but anxiety creeps in when you don’t know what happens next. If you’re like me, it’s much harder to manage anxiety in the face of an emergency or even a sudden change of plans.

When your plans do change unexpectedly, you might feel:

unplanned changes can leave you stressed

unplanned changes can leave you stressed

  • Tightness in your chest, or stomach
  • A general sense of foreboding
  • Resistant to doing something else
  • Hyper-focused on how things could have gone differently
  • Worried about the new or changed plans
  • Stuck and unable to “go with the flow”
  • Wary, but unsure as to why
  • Angry about having to make changes
  • Unsettled and upset

Anxiety Builds When We're Not in Control

Many people manage their anxiety by trying to control their environment. Control over your life and environment gives you the sense that things are right with the world. You tell yourself, “I’ve got this, easy-peasy.”

When that sense of control is shaken, it can feel threatening and scary — and that’s a vulnerable place to be. The feeling that the world could turn upside down without warning creates a lot of anxiety and stress. You feel unsafe, sensing that a potential danger lies ahead. Research has shown that being able to recognize and name your fears can calm you more effectively than avoiding or ignoring them.

Here are 5 steps to help you manage your anxiety with self-care:

1.     Check in with yourself with curiosity. Ask yourself, “What’s happening for me right now? What am I worried will happen?”

woman alone.jpg

2.     Name your fears and worries. Use the list of feeling words I shared in my last post and dive deep to get at the root of those fears. Say it out loud to yourself: “I’m feeling ______ because I don’t feel in control of my world right now.”

3.     Allow the feelings to be present. We’re so used to avoiding difficult emotions, especially if we’ve been traumatized or neglected. And our culture and society reinforces that message. Just watch television for a little while and you’ll get the idea that we’re supposed to move on from difficult feelings. But research has shown that acknowledging how you’re feeling, allowing the feelings to be there, can ease anxiety and depression.

4.     Self-soothe. It’s possible you were never taught how to offer yourself compassion or how to soothe yourself. Placing your hand on your heart and saying a few soothing phrases can help reground you and calm your anxious mind and body. Say to yourself, “I’m struggling right now. We all struggle from time-to-time and this is really hard for me in this moment.” Again with your hand your heart, you can also offer yourself these calming phrases: “May I be safe. May I be peaceful. May I be healthy, and may I live my life with ease.”

5.     Check in with yourself again. With curiosity, ask yourself again how you’re feeling. Check in with your thoughts, feelings and your body. It’s possible that you’re feeling better. If not, ask yourself if you need to repeat the steps again.


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 courtesy of Nik Shuliahin and Aidan Meyer for Unsplash.

Do Anxious Parents Raise Anxious Kids?

Anxiety is sneaky — so sneaky that we often don’t realize we have it until it’s a part of our daily lives. I didn’t recognize that I was experiencing anxiety until I was over 40 years old. I just thought I was irritable, stressed, introverted. When I began to recognize that my anxiety caused these things, I took a look back at my life and began to understand how often it showed up. After I saw the impact anxiety had on me, I worried about how much my anxiety had affected my kids.

The thing about anxiety is that you can pass it down to your kids without even trying or knowing that it’s happening.

Anxious Parents = Anxious Kids

kids pick up on anxious parents behaviors

Studies have shown that anxious parents can lead to anxious children. And it’s not genetics; the kids aren’t born that way. One of the ways children learn is by modeling the behaviors of others, then imitating them and internalizing them. Anxiety is one of those behaviors. If your child sees you getting stressed out or irritated before taking them to school, he picks up on your anxious feelings about going to school. If this occurs regularly, , your child might then develop her own anxieties about going to school. Your children can pick up on your anxieties in other areas, too, like social situations, making phone calls, phobias, when things are out of your control — you get it.

My children have manifested anxiety in their own ways: a fear of bugs (me too), anxiety attacks (I’ve had them) and social anxiety (I get it). This is not the legacy I wanted to pass down to my kids.

Learning To Manage Anxiety

The good news is that other studies have shown that parents who learn to model healthy ways of managing their anxiety have children who are less likely to develop anxiety themselves. When kids see their parents managing their anxiety in healthy ways, they learn how to manage their own anxious feelings. When I realized that I’d been anxious a long time, I discussed it with my kids and shared the ways I was learning to manage it.

create mindful moments to ease anxiety

My previous post gives some awesome tips from a colleague on how to help you manage your children’s anxiety. Below are a few suggestions for healthy ways to manage anxiety that you can model for your children:

• Practice calming techniques together when you’re not stressed out. Creating space to calm yourself when you’re feeling at peace helps you access that calm place when you’re stressed.  Involving your children will help them access it too. Meditation, breath awareness, yoga, mindful drawing and sitting quietly are all good ways to practice.

• Pause before reacting. Anxiety can make you very irritable and short-tempered. If you’re stressed or feeling uncomfortable, you might lash out at those you care about in ways you’ll regret later. Take the time to pause and take a deep cleansing breath, acknowledge your anxious feelings, think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. For example, maybe you’re driving in heavy traffic and your kids are singing or talking loudly in the car. Because you’re anxious about the traffic, you might find yourself yelling at the kids to be quiet. Instead, take a deep breath, recognize that you’re anxious and think about what you need from your kids to help ease your anxiety. You might then be able to say something like, “It’s super busy on the roads right now and it’s stressing me out. It would really help me if you guys can keep it down so I can pay attention to all the cars on the road.”

• Be kind to yourself. Anxiety often gets activated when we make mistakes or forget things. Beating yourself up only increases your stress. Try offering yourself words of comfort and support: “Oh no! I dropped the eggs! But that’s OK, everyone makes mistakes,” or “I missed my dentist appointment! That happened because I have a lot on my mind. But it’s OK because I’m human and sometimes I forget things.” Saying these phrases aloud shows your children that no one is perfect, and being imperfect is a part of life.

Therapy Can Help You Manage Anxiety

If you’re having trouble managing your anxiety and stress, counseling can help. It helps you understand what your triggers are and how they developed. Therapy provides support and a safe place to share your thoughts and feelings. A therapist can also help you figure out what strategies work best for you to help you manage more effectively. If you’d like to find out if therapy might help you, please call or email me.


Elizabeth Cush, MA, LGPC 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 courtesy of Caleb Jones and London Scout for Unsplash.com.

How To Use Your Environment To Calm Your Anxiety

I usually spend Sunday as an “off” day. I try not to work on my business or think too much about work. It’s the one day I try to disconnect from work, because on Monday the work week begins and I want to enter it feeling refreshed and ready.

When Your Racing Thoughts Get In The Way

Last Sunday I had trouble letting things go; I was feeling anxious about the week ahead. Thoughts kept popping up that led to other thoughts and, sure enough, soon I was completely distracted and mentally chewing over what I needed to do in the coming week.

Mindful walking can ease anxious thoughts

I decided to take a walk to clear my head and get some exercise. It was sunny and windy in Annapolis, where I live. Leaves blew and swirled down the street, and the wind whipped my hair around. I like walking because it helps to ground me, and it physically relaxes me. I try to pay attention to what I see, hear, smell and feel while walking.

This Sunday, I was still caught up in thought about half way into my 40-minute walk. I live near the water, so during my walks I always try to pause at a scenic spot to take in the river, the boats the birds — whatever might be present. Just a few minutes of reflecting can really soothe and nourish me.

Being Mindful Of Nature Can Ease Anxious Thoughts

I decided that because my mind was so reactive, I would take some extra time to appreciate where I live and what nature provides. I stood for a minute and a half, allowing the wind to blow against my skin, feeling the sun on my face, listening to the sounds the wind made blowing the rigging of the sailboats, the water lapping at the shore and the leaves as they rustled in the wind. That minute and a half calmed my mind and allowed me to continue on my walk without my head full of work. I decided to capture some of it on video because I wanted to share how alive and nourishing the environment can be. You can watch the 30-second video below.

I hope you enjoyed the short video and will consider using mindful presence to help ease your stress, to help you feel grounded and to help you become more aware of the world around you.

If your stress or anxiety makes it too hard to get out of your head and into the present moment, maybe counseling can help. Counseling provides an opportunity to talk about your stressors in an accepting compassionate space; it helps you to recognize your triggers and allows you to see a future where stress and anxiety no longer rule your life.

Mindfulness groups start in October with early bird pricing happening now. If you’d like to talk about how therapy or mindfulness might help you, please call me at 410-340-8469 or email me.


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.

My Struggle With Anxiety

Suffering from anxiety can make you feel alone

This blog post was featured in the November editions of the Severna Park Voice.

Dealing with mental health issues can be hard. You often feel alone, isolated — like no one understands what you’re going through. The reality is, a lot of people struggle. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that in 2014, 18.1 percent of all adults in the United States suffered from some type of mental illness. I thought that I’d share my own experience with anxiety to let you know that you are not alone.

I’ve struggled with anxiety for most of my life. Up until my late 40s, I didn’t call it anxiety. I called it stress, or I’d say I was overwhelmed. So what if the same things got me stressed and overwhelmed, over and over again? Later, as I learned more about anxiety, I understood that those things that made me anxious were called triggers.

Some of my triggers included:

  • Holidays
  • Traveling to unknown places
  • Staying somewhere that wasn’t home
  • When things didn’t go the way I expected
  • When I felt like I was failing, or couldn’t figure something out
  • Unplanned events, like being asked to go somewhere at the last minute
  • Being with a group of people I didn’t know very well
  • Making phone calls

I could probably think of more examples, but you get the idea. When I wasn’t in control, when things weren’t “perfect,” I got anxious. Anxiety presented itself in ways I thought were just a part of my personality. I got really cranky leading up to things that made me anxious, like those listed above. I snapped at my family. I became obsessed with the details — everything had to be “just so” to make me feel somewhat at ease. I avoided situations and events that felt threatening. I’m pretty sure I lost some friends when my kids were little, because I was happier being at home where I could handle any emergency than I was hanging out with them. Later, when the kids were older, I felt uneasy when they weren’t at home. I’d also make my husband call for pizza or answer the phone.

I realize now that anxiety had a greater impact on my life than I was willing to recognize. If someone had asked me examine how anxiety or stress was affecting my day-to-day experiences, I might have gotten help sooner!

Managing Anxiety Day-To-Day

I’ve worked with counselors on and off throughout my life, and it’s been very helpful. (Yes, lots of counselors also get counseling.) These days, my anxiety usually pops up when I have significant transitions in my life. Counseling helped me identify my triggers, so I can start paying attention and begin to relax my body before the anxiety kicks into full gear. In addition to counseling, I also read a lot and learned about anxiety — what causes it, how it presents itself both physically and emotionally, and how to manage it better.

Being aware of the here and now reduces anxiety

Here are some strategies that have helped me manage my anxiety:

  • Using grounding techniques to refocus myself when situations make me anxious
  • Practicing mindful meditations
  • Taking care of myself and recognizing my needs
  • Being more present in the moment instead of worrying about the past or future
  • Practicing self-compassion

My struggle with anxiety pushed me to learn about more about it — the causes, how it shows up in my clients’ lives, and how to help those who grapple with anxiety manage it more effectively. Providing a calm, non-judgmental space for my clients to share their story is the first step.

Managing Anxiety Is An Ongoing Process

Anxiety is a normal response to threats, so it doesn’t just disappear. Different situations will continue to trigger my anxiety, so I have to keep working at managing it. The good news is, I’m more aware of the impact of anxiety when I let it take control, and I recognize what is happening. Now, anxiety no longer rules my life. It’s taken a backseat, where it belongs.

If you’d like help managing your anxiety or stress, call me at 410-339-1979 for a free 15-minute phone consultation.

Photos by Mike Wilson and Averie Woodard from Unsplash.com.


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.