Talk about an attention-grabbing title!
If you follow our Facebook page or our blog, you know that I have been fangirling over Laura and Katy since before I came to work with them.
The gist of the origin story is that I attended a one-day women’s retreat the doctors were facilitating. They began the day by explaining what anxiety is and what it isn’t.
Anxiety is the body’s alarm system, everyone has it.
Anxiety is NOT the enemy.
The actual enemy is the symptoms of anxiety that you are not able to control.
At that moment, I witnessed the energy of the entire room shift. Nearly 100 women had their minds BLOWN. Including me.
We had been made to believe that anxiety was this horrible thing that we could get rid of if only we’d try hard enough.
I mean, we’re defective if we are not able to just CALM DOWN on command, right?
Fast forward to some six years later and I’m still Drs. Fielder and Huser’s biggest fan.
They don’t just offer top-shelf mental health support. They educate, they explain, they empower.
But why am I going on and on about the docs like this?
Because, no matter how brilliant they are and regardless of the proven results of their system, the onus of managing anxiety, managing any aspect of mental health, actually, falls onto the client.
And, it’s a grind.
You work. You work in sessions, you work between sessions. Your therapist is your guide and your support, but progress is fully dependent on how willing you are to shoulder the load.
Am I trying to sell getting help or am I trying to deter you?
Honestly, I want to sell you on it. I believe anyone who needs or wants therapy should be able to get it. I’ve benefitted from it personally and I have seen countless lives changed here at ARC.
I just want to be transparent about the process.
If you don’t believe that you can change the wiring of your brain, think back to when you first got the internet (Or, Google it if you’re under the age of 40). If you’re like me, you had dial-up. Back then you were fine with waiting as long as necessary to get logged on to all that the World Wide Web had to offer.
Now, if we wait longer than five seconds, we’re off to make sure our router is working.
The rapid evolution of technology makes our lives easier. Unfortunately, our brains evolve at a much slower rate.
We have dial-up brains in a 5G world.
The best news that I can give to you about anxiety, other than what you learned from my ‘meet cute’ story with Katy and Laura is that it is NOT all in your head.
Anxiety begins in your brain, sure, but it’s sending messages to your entire body in order to prepare it for potential threats. These messages are necessary but not always accurate. Meaning everything that happens in your body is designed to help you fight, fly or freeze when danger is near.
It’s that thing that scans the environment and starts the ‘Danger!’ alarm, causing you to look a little bit longer at that stick in the grass before determining that it is not a snake.
But what happens when we only see snakes and no sticks?
Then it’s time to take a look at the alarm system and see what needs to be recalibrated so that your brain can protect and alert you more accurately.
Your big, beautiful brain has been working to keep you alive for your entire life. The programs, alarms, and updates have been installed over decades. Rewiring that technology takes time.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A QUICK FIX WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR ANXIETY SYMPTOMS!!!
All of the self-help books, the YouTube videos, the TikToks, the internet-certified gurus, and their overpriced courses are not going to tell you that.
Just like ordering someone to CALM DOWN doesn’t help (It truly does not. Stop saying it. Stop saying it to children. Stop saying it to adults. It actually adds another layer of threat. So, stop it!), there is no one technique, no magic pill, no special way of breathing that will make it all go away forever.
There are scientifically proven techniques that can be done when symptoms become unpleasant and sooner or later, these strategies become second nature.
You just have to do the work.
It’s practicing the strategies you are taught in session.
It’s observing the situations that cause your symptoms, it’s listing your stressors,
It’s acknowledging what you are feeling and how it is affecting you.
It’s breathing and grounding and being mindful and then, doing it all over again.
It’s understanding that the same technique may not work for every scenario so you have to learn several, and you have to practice all of those again.
Did I mention the breathing? That’s super important, the breathing.
Stop for a moment and take a deep breath right now.
Okay, now for the good news.
When you do the work and implement what you have learned, your life does change. I can tell you from first-hand experience that you will understand a freedom that you never knew existed.
You will have a comprehensive understanding of not only the signals that your brain is sending but why they are sending them and how you can change them.
It will help you intercept the messaging at that crucial point so that you can help the wiring of this perfectly designed, yet woefully archaic, organ.
You might be wondering why I’m writing about this NOW. I’ve been working with ARC for nearly four years, and this type of information would have been helpful to share within, I dunno, the first six months of my tenure.
My first answer is easy. We are living in incredibly anxious times. People who have never had issues with their anxiety are having symptoms that are hijacking their lives and are seeking out and asking for help.
This is commendable and should be supported fully.
BUT, going into therapy believing that you are going to be good as new in four sessions or less will lead to frustration, not just for you, but for your therapist as well.
The other answer proves the thesis of this post. After first following, and then working alongside Katy and Laura; living, loving the (re)learning the Know Your Arc® process consistently as I prepared presentations and hunted for nuggets of wisdom to post on social media and in blog posts, I finally know the best ways to deal with my own unpleasant anxiety symptoms when they pop up.
I know how to figure out where I am on my Arc of Anxiety (A3).
I know the questions to ask myself and the best ways for me to soothe my symptoms when they show up in my brain, body, and behavior (B3).
I know that sometimes I have to lean into the discomfort. I have to follow my anxious thoughts to the end so that I can talk them down.
I know the cognitive distortions that harass me when I’m anxious and stressed.
And I know that the key to coexisting with my anxiety is by continuing to practice all of these every single time that I have to consider where I am with my anxiety and my symptoms and then choose the best strategies to best relieve them (C3).
I also understand that I will have setbacks and that I may forgo all of my coping mechanisms entirely and just give in to my symptoms from time to time, but this too shall pass. I know, through what I’ve learned, that giving myself grace and a little space helps me to get back to what works that much sooner.
The moment I realized that this practice takes time, I was more able to absorb and even enjoy the work. Creating urgency increases anxiety. Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to anxiety.
That may not sell a lot of books or weekend courses spent meditating in a yurt, but it will ensure that what you learn and work on with your mental health professional will be effective and will last!
That’s the secret. Doing the work.