Posts tagged ‘anxiety’

June 24, 2019

Flip the Negatives Around and Celebrate the Positives!

Today, I am choosing to celebrate the positives! The method I will use is practicing gratitude. Admittedly, I don’t feel like doing this or feel very grateful so I’m using force of will to get started, but I know the process will shift my focus and I’ll soon embrace the better feelings it will create.

In spite of the amount of body work I’ve done, past trauma leaves me bracing for the worst much of the time. I can feel myself holding feelings back with my steeled posture. If I don’t let negative feelings flow and release them, I can’t feel positive feelings.

The process of practicing gratitude can work for me as a way to slowly and carefully access feelings I’m not sure I want to feel or that I am subconsciously avoiding. I know it’s not touted as a technique designed for that, but I like to use it in this manner because it accomplishes a couple of things simultaneously.

With a structure for getting to the emotions beneath the surface, I don’t feel anxious or frantic. It’s like walking up a gentle slope to the top of the mountain rather than free-soloing the face of a cliff. The other thing that happens is, by the time I reach them, bad feelings are diminished or cushioned by the positive framework of gratitude I’ve created to support me. There’s a real beauty in the way this works.
Here’s today’s process:

I am grateful the rain has stopped. My roof is leaking. I filed an insurance claim two weeks ago, but due to a delay by my agent and then another by the insuring company, an adjuster won’t show up until tomorrow. During those two weeks, wind gusts carried away a whole section of shingles and yesterday it began to rain.

I am grateful that the roof leak is small. The pitch of my roof is very steep so most of the water runs right off. I’ve been able to catch the drips that make it inside in a plastic tub lined with towels.

I am grateful I woke up early. Instead of trying to convince myself to go back to sleep, I made my way downstairs to discover the sound of running water. I followed my ears to the closet that contains my water heater. A pipe is leaking. Water was just beginning to pool. If I had waited until my alarm sounded, I would have had a flooded floor. Instead, I’ll just have a cold shower.

I am grateful I finally found an engineer who may be able to help with the flooding of my office building. The first 12 years I owned that building, the French drain was adequate. Now it floods often. The experts have determined the drain is clear and adding another would not help. What they haven’t determined is what will help. I’m hopeful that this new engineer will have the magic potion.

There seems to be a water theme here. How can that come as a surprise? When it rains, it pours, right? But wait, there’s more! That’s good because I’m not really feeling better yet.

I am grateful I haven’t contracted the stomach virus my son’s family is passing around. Even if I eventually get it, I appreciate the fact that I am not fighting floods while fighting a virus.

I am grateful I have power at my house. Thousands in my state do not because of the storms.

I’m grateful for all of those reusable grocery bags I found cleaning out the water heater closet. I didn’t realize I had so many size options.

I’m grateful I don’t have to do the dishes for a few hours. I tested some recipes and have a few pans that have to be hand washed. I don’t love that task so taking it off the list for awhile makes me happy.

Awww, a glimpse of feeling good!

I’m grateful I tested those recipes because that means there’s food in the refrigerator. I don’t have to think about what I’m going to eat today. All I have to do is reach, reheat, eat!

This makes me feel more secure. Yeah, my association of food availability and a feeling of security is a long story for another day. Suffice it to say I’m painfully aware of the connection.

Now I’ve reached the point where things get real. I still feel sad about the experiences that created that connection. The underlying feeling is grief.

That old grief is not all I feel. I have a load of grief and loss from current events as well. Finding the time and space to process it fully and still meet my obligations is a difficult balancing act. Especially when there are floods to clean up.

So, I’m grateful to understand that I am carrying grief. This is good information because grief often manifests as anxiety which I feel as a pain in my stomach. Knowing the difference allows me to heal my stomach, my spirit, and my psyche.

I’m not alone in experiencing grief as anxiety. Some also experience it as depression or sleep problems. Max Strom has a whole Ted Talk on breathing & healing in which he states that a vast number of us have a grief problem masquerading as anxiety or panic.

When I can reach the feeling of grief that is lurking, I also immediately feel more grounded, centered, and calm. The “bad” brings with it the good. I am no longer willfully focussing on positive. It just appears in my awareness.

That allows me to relax the steeled posture I previously described. I can focus on my breath rather than holding it. This is a great beginning point!

There is much to process. In the moment, grief can feel like slogging in mud with unexpected waves of water suddenly crashing against you. But looking back, I quickly recognize that feeling grief does not crush me. It frees me.

I believe that eventually I will be free enough to revel in joy and I am grateful to be on that path.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

May 28, 2019

Coulda, Woulda, and Should Have!

I’m wondering why my relatives who coulda, woulda, and should have thrown out the trash chose to hang on to it? I just spent yet another weekend in my hometown cleaning out my mom’s cousin’s house. Although I thought I’d already emptied all of the bags and boxes that have to be slowly sorted, I discovered I was wrong!

There were bags behind a chair, boxes under the dresser and the beds, and piles on top of the cedar chest. There’s unopened mail from 1987 mixed with family photos, used Kleenex, financial records for still active accounts, pharmacy bags with prescriptions attached, and pill bottles filled with quarters all in the same box or bag.
In the past 3 years, I’ve been tasked with cleaning out two houses and a 3000 sqft storage building filled with similar mixtures of trash, recycle, shred, keep, and donate. Trash, recycle, shred, keep, donate. Trash, recycle, shred, keep, donate.

I can quickly think of four relatives no more distant than second cousins who have stopped throwing things away. They don’t shop compulsively. They are proponents of recycling. They pay their bills. They have active social lives. And they keep trash. And they mix trash with non-trash. And they leave the trash casserole for someone else to deal with.

This weekend I was joined in the cleanup by my psychologist cousin who thinks this is a form of hoarding or obsessive-compulsive behavior. Of course, my first question was, “Is it genetic?” According to Dr. Nancy, there is most likely a genetic component, but no specific marker has been identified. I know I came home with a compulsive desire to get rid of something.

In my mom’s house, there was an identifiable point in time at which filing and organization stopped. Prior to that, she saved a lot of things, but it wasn’t unheard of for her to pare down. There is an identifiable year when things changed in her cousin’s house as well.

While the cousin’s change in habits seems timed to correlate with the loss of her mother, my mom’s appears to correspond with her marriage to her second husband. I guess the commonality in the two is significant life change.

Logically I understand how loss might trigger a desire to hang onto things that belonged to a person you lost or that hold fond memories of a person lost. It’s interesting that it might trigger hanging onto junk mail or ceasing to file.
I think it’s possible that a triggering change can cause a freeze response that manifests in an inability to take care of yourself in some way. Perhaps it interrupts your maintenance of your environment or perhaps you struggle to feed yourself.

Saying it’s a triggering change implies a previous wound or a latent biological response. Obsessive-Compulsive disorders and Eating Disorders are closely related to anxiety. Anxiety is at its most simple, distress.

Distress can come from old or new feelings of terror, grief, sadness, helplessness, humiliation, danger, distrust, rejection, invisibility, shunning, defectiveness, and unloveability. Old incidents of neglect, abuse, or cruelty sensitize us to anything that feels the same.

All of these feelings can be so powerful that we can become overwhelmed. Pushing ourselves gently into action may seem like the straw that will break us. Of course, the reality is that the only way to heal the distress is to find a way to feel then release the feelings.

Hopefully most of us will find a way to do this instead of ceasing to throw away trash. Living in the midst of clutter weighs us down. The dust collected can irritate allergies. Piles can create a falling or fire hazard.

Neglected kitchens and bathrooms can pose other health risks. During my weekend, I observed that canned vegetables can sit unused long enough that the can begins to disintegrate and leak thick, black tar-like liquid that runs out of the cabinets and drips onto the countertop. I’m not sure I can describe to you how gross this is!

I donned a mask and gloves, but I felt like I needed a full hazmat suit to dispose of the cans. An antique Kerr jelly glass with a metal lid accidentally tumbled into the contractor bag along with a can. I did not go after it. I realize they sell for almost $20 on Etsy. It still wasn’t worth the dive.

Yesterday, I drove the three hours home wanting nothing more than to wash the day off of me and go to bed. Now that I’m back, everything in my house is suspected trash! I’m looking to see if there’s anything I coulda, woulda, or should have thrown away by now.

I sometimes feel like taking the position of my mom’s cousin Jimmy. Jimmy had a barn in disrepair that he wanted to tear down. The barn was located on the original homestead and contained some family heirlooms. Jimmy tried to get the family to come claim those treasures so he could proceed with demolition.

Instead, they stalled, lobbied, guilted, humiliated, and generally made him so miserable that for 15 or 20 years whenever someone mentioned that barn he’d just shake his head and say, “Light a match!” That was almost 40 years ago. He never demolished or torched the barn.

In fact, he finally sold the land to my dad and I now own the repaired, refurbished barn. I have no idea what’s in it. Maybe I coulda, woulda, or should have, but I’m afraid to open the door!

…Light a match?

May 1, 2018

Could Ghrelin be my Hunger Gremlin?

Could ghrelin be my hunger gremlin? For years I’ve been wondering whether my hunger sensor is broken. I can end up with all the symptoms of low blood sugar before I ever feel hungry. On the flip side, I can eat and eat and never feel full. Most likely, there’s a communication problem between my celiac damaged gut and my brain. The question is, what’s the problem and can it be fixed?
Asking this question led me to some reading on the hormone ghrelin. I’ll keep the information here simple, but have placed some links below if you’d like to read about the function of this multifaceted hormone in greater detail.

Initially, I ran across information that indicated ghrelin is known as the hunger hormone. It activates its receptor, growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHS-R), to regulate nutrient sensing, meal initiation, appetite, fat deposition, and growth hormone release. This sounds related to my hunger sensor concern. Perhaps ghrelin is my hunger gremlin. In order to find out, I had to keep reading.

Scientific literature now suggests its functions go well beyond those related to simple appetite stimulation. Ghrelin has been increasingly recognized as having a role in regulating many organs and systems such the process of creating glucose from non-carbohydrate sources (gluconeogenesis) by inhibiting insulin secretion. It can also regulate energy expenditure by signaling a decrease in heat in the body.

This hormone provides a measure of cardioprotection by reducing sympathetic nerve activity which increases the survival prognosis after a heart attack. That doesn’t sound like gremlin activity. That sounds helpful. It prevents muscle atrophy — also helpful. In spite of all these helpful functions, Ghrelin has a gremliny side. It may promote cancer development and metastasis.

And it seems that ghrelin prevents excessive anxiety under conditions of chronic stress. Now we could be getting somewhere. My early years were filled with enough chronic stress to wear out whatever mechanisms were regulating my stress levels. Still, I don’t have enough information to quite put the pieces together to figure out why my hunger sensor is off.

It’s possible that in the future, ghrelin-related drugs will be produced to help with my problem and many others. The wide-ranging roles of ghrelin and GHS-R make them likely targets for drug development.

A paper has already been published showing that in rats ghrelin can alleviate disturbance of glucose and lipids caused by consumption of the party drug ecstasy (MDMA). Sounds like this could lead to a drug to fight the detrimental effects of a drug. That can either be good or bad, depends on how you look at it.

With all my reading I learned a lot, but I did not find a definitive answer. I don’t know if the problem with my hunger signals is primarily in my brain, my gut, my adrenal glands or somewhere else. I still don’t know whether ghrelin is my hunger gremlin.

April 8, 2012

How can change begin when you’re struggling?

First I started feeling frightened – a sort of antsy, anxious feeling at the edge of my awareness.  I noticed that I felt hungry, but I wanted to be very disciplined about my meal times so I decided to wait awhile before eating.  I passed the time by reading an article on anorexia (interesting choice don’t you think?) and looking at some photos of me that I had just uploaded to my laptop.  

 Soon after daylight savings times begins each year I have one of these days.  I feel like my natural body rhythm is out of sync.  Oh who am I kidding, I have days where I feel out of sync at least once a week, but I like to blame daylight savings time.  Anyway, it was Saturday and I hadn’t made a plan for the day.

 I found myself feeling hungry and dissatisfied with how I looked in the photos punctuated by a vague awareness that I may share some emotional characteristics with anorexics, plus I felt anxious and unproductive without a goal for the day.

 How often do I feel this way?  Not often.  But to ask how often and stop with that is to miss the point. The reason I don’t often feel anxiously unproductive is that I manage that anxiety by preventing it.

 A preventative approach?  “That’s good, you say.  How do you do it?”  Now before you get ready to start making a list of what I do so you can do it, please read further.  

 I’m a pretty smart cookie and I can make even the most convoluted adaptation sound good – especially to me. Remember we’re talking about fear of change.  So here’s my pattern:  I fill each day with a To Do List no one could possibly complete.  Once I’ve gotten through 75-80% of the list, I allow myself to feel okay about stopping from exhaustion.  I also congratulate myself for being productive thereby making me more likely to repeat this pattern again and again.  Don’t get me wrong, I get lots of outside affirmation for this pattern of behavior as well because I can handle massive amounts of work without blinking an eye.  No one has ever called me lazy.

 The pertinent question isn’t whether I’m productive or whether I’m well-adjusted to societal expectation.  The real question is:  Is this structure that I’ve created to keep me from feeling anxious also preventing me from being true to myself, experiencing joy, and connecting with people in a fulfilling way?  In other words, is my self-protective system for anxiety prevention actually keeping me anxious and stuck along with preventing me from making change?  

 I know some of you will object to the idea that we willfully create structures of protection that we then become afraid to challenge.  Your response may be to say that you know you use anger to protect yourself, but that’s what you learned growing up in an explosive family and while you may lead with anger, you’re never abusive like they were so what’s the big deal?  Your response may be to feel way down deep that you ARE your persona of protection and it is YOU. To allow one thought of you without that persona attached may be to imagine that you will disappear, die, cease to exist, never have love, or be shunned.  If this is the case, it will feel extremely important for you to prevent that thought from reaching your consciousness and you’ll be willing to use any means necessary to prevent such an occurrence.  If that nagging thought should rear it’s ugly head in the back of your mind, you’ll reach for a distraction so fast you may not even realize what you’ve done.

 It is often at this point that our relationship with food enters the picture.  Some of us use food as a distraction from anxiety or discomfort.  We immediately reach for a sweet treat to fool our brain with a sugar-induced euphoria.  Some of us are aware that we need a distraction so we’ll go for a walk or go to the gym.  Then we believe we deserve a reward or can afford a few extra calories, so we’ll eat an extra yeast roll with dinner.  Some of us will add guilt to the formula.  We feel guilty for eating the treat or rewarding ourselves. Then guilt feeds anxiety which sends us back into our protective structure where the surroundings feel familiar.  

 With all these complicated entanglements, our brains may immediately react to a suggested change in diet as if we are being threatened with death.  According to Cynthia Kupper, Executive Director of the Gluten Intolerance Group, surveys of Celiac patients have shown that a high percentage of those diagnosed believe their Celiac diagnosis to be worse than a cancer diagnosis.  In reality those patients are not facing surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, a need for dangerous medication, or immediate danger of losing their lives.  It just feels that way.

 Now let’s go back to that recent Saturday I was facing without a plan.  Was it tempting to fall back into my normal pattern?  Of course it was.  But it seemed like the perfect day to explore a different possibility.  I decided to change the question I constantly ask myself from what do I NEED to do today to what do I WANT to do today?

 What did I want?  I wanted to lessen my anxiety.  I decided to begin by feeding myself since for me hunger works as an emotional trigger. I also know that when I am in the kitchen preparing food my brain settles down and that vague sense of hunger subsides so I decide that cooking is a good way to move into the day in a different way. I was wanting a really tasty cheese cracker to eat with the soup I had in the fridge, so I grabbed some cheddar cheese, some parmesan cheese, the almond flour and some butter.  As I began to cook I felt myself relax.  Forty-five minutes later, I  plopped on the couch in front of some reality TV with a bowl of crackers beside me.  Yum, the result of asking what I want was deliciously cheesy and crunchy.*

 How did I feel?  I had a much better outlook on the day.  I felt less scared, more full, and like being more kind to myself for the rest of the day.  I could have moped through the day annoyed and dragging my feet, as I have been known to do when I’m not willing to push myself down the To Do List,  followed by feeling guilty on Sunday thus allowing myself to get right back to needing to prevent anxiety by overproducing. Instead, I began what turned out to be a relaxing, renewing weekend by asking myself a different question and being willing to follow where the answer led.

 Big changes really are that simple. They can begin by simply stopping yourself from what you “normally” do.  Knowing this may help you if you are struggling to remain gluten-free.  Our brains trick us into thinking change is hard because we get stuck in the patterns we formed early on to protect us… and we’re scared… and scared feels dangerous.  Always remember – big change is just lots of small changes added together and it’s okay to feel scared.  Once you are willing to feel your fear long enough to do one thing differently, you will have discovered the secret to embracing change.  Rest assured you will not lose yourself in the process, it just may feel that way for a brief moment as you begin to let go of old patterns of behavior.

 The other thing you should know is that I was able to shift fairly quickly on that recent Saturday because I have spent several years preparing myself and learning how to be comfortable with, and let go of, those stories I tell myself that hold me back.  And you will soon be able benefit from my experience so that you can have success with change in a much shorter period of time than I did!  I have taken those years of experience and developed a set of emotional and social support tools to guide you along the way.  They’re called the Cooking2Thrive® Essential Utensil Support Tools and they’ll soon be released for publication. Wouldn’t it be easier to take that first step toward change if you knew that there was a guide to prepare you for the next step and the next?  That’s just what you get with the Essential Utensil Support Tools.  Be the first to learn the secret to becoming your best, healthiest self without a struggle.  Keep checking back here.  We’ll let you know the minute they’re released and how you can get them!  


Cheese Crackers

Empire Waist Cheese Crackers


*My cheese crackers are now called Empire Waist Cheese Crackers and they’re fantastic!