man with random thoughts

Anxious Thoughts And How You Can Stop Them

The words “anxious thoughts” may not truly capture the intensity of what you’re experiencing. The thinking spiral arising from anxiety and anxiety disorders can be frightening. You feel panicked and out of control, even when the anxious thoughts only last a few minutes. That’s all it takes for a spiral to begin.

You may feel bullied and controlled by your own thoughts, but that can change. Anxiety disorders are common, but they are neither inevitable nor permanent. Anxious thoughts are common, and there is nothing to be ashamed of. Rather, you can use this situation as motivation to dig deep and understand the root cause. From there, the path to recovery becomes clearer.

Thoughts Aren’t the Same as facts.

man with random thoughtsThey certainly can feel real, though. That’s where their temporary power lies. A thought is just a sensation—nothing more or less. But that doesn’t mean we always recognize this reality. Anxious thoughts demand our attention. They can appear to be urgent and so real. But such thoughts will not stand up to fact-checking.

Anxiety is a skilled liar who cannot stand up to examination. Take a deep breath and ponder what’s really going on. What is making you worried? Is your inner voice trying to protect you, but is it doing so in a misguided way? Such an interrogation creates space, so you can perceive anxious thoughts with more clarity. It all begins when you remember that thoughts are not the same as facts.

How You Can Stop Anxious Thoughts

Perform a Safety Check

In those times when anxiety starts barking and screaming, it doesn’t mean you’re actually in danger. But how do you know? If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. Whether they talk about it or not, everyone you know understands this feeling. So, why not be the pattern-breaker? Why not talk to loved ones about anxious thoughts?

You can also talk back to yourself. Question yourself. By doing so, you ground yourself. Your mind stops bouncing back and forth between the past and the future. In the present moment, you can better discern how realistic your thoughts are.

Be an Interrupter

Following up on the suggestion above, get comfortable with cutting off the thoughts before they gain momentum. That could be something as simple as yelling “stop” when thoughts arise. If you prefer, blast your favorite song and sing along loudly (dancing is a great option, too). Do not cede center stage to patterns of anxious thinking.

Ground Yourself

If it seems anxiety has gained a foothold, there is a basic, time-proven method of regaining control. Reconnect with yourself and your senses. The most common way to do so is by immediately listing things in your vicinity that you see, hear, smell, feel, and taste.

Practice Relaxation Techniques

Your body pays close attention to your thoughts and reactions to those thoughts. If you slow down your breathing, it signals that no danger is present. You don’t have to wait until anxious moments to get into this habit. Mindful meditation is the type of practice you can integrate into your everyday life.

Physical movement works, too. When anxiety is looming, get up and move. Dance, shake, walk, etc. — whatever feels right for you. The calming effect is awesome.

Take Productive Action

Sometimes, anxious thoughts spring from a material concern. So, why not take steps to remedy the situation? Even knocking one thing off your to-do list can ease your mind enough to resist the lure of anxious overreaction.

Anxiety Help is Available

Everyone worries from time to time. If this has escalated into chronic anxiety, it can be so powerful to make contact with someone who gets it. Anxiety treatment is a wonderful way to learn more about your thought patterns, your triggers, and your options. Reach out today to schedule a time to talk.

man in suit touching head

What Is The Link Between Perfectionism and Anxiety?

The connection between perfectionism and anxiety might be better viewed as a cycle than a link. After all, it can be tricky to discern cause and effect. When perfection is our standard and expectation, anxiety and procrastination are baked into that process. On a parallel track, the presence of an anxiety disorder can provoke us to seek perfection. It feels to us like a protection against potential criticism.

In other words, a link between perfectionism and anxiety exists, and we don’t need to understand the lineage. We live in a world where people admit to taking at least five selfies before deeming such a photo worthy of posting. Hence, we need to take a closer look at the underlying causes.

All the World’s a Stage

man in suit touching headWe’re conditioned to seek approval for everything we do in the digital age. Cooking a meal, doing a pull-up, going on a date, creating some art — whatever it is, we feel compelled to share it and then assess how well it has been received. If there’s ever been a recipe for anxiety and perfectionism to thrive, this is it.

We should and must seek ways to shift this paradigm, but that will likely take a lot of time. In the meantime, there are some powerful personal steps we can take to create a ripple effect.

How to Identify and Manage Both Anxiety and

Perfectionism

Change begins with a change of perception. Anyone struggling with a blend of anxiety and perfectionism will find it daunting to admit we’re caught in a self-sabotaging cycle. That said, it can be quite a breakthrough to accept one’s humanity by recognizing what’s happening and what needs to be done.

Some suggestions:

Be More Mindful

A mindfulness practice is designed to keep us rooted in the present moment. This is beneficial because it can allow us to enjoy the process rather than dreading how others will react.

Focus More on Real Life

Taking regular tech breaks is a useful way to interact with reality. Carefully curated social media profiles and AI images do not pave the path to confidence and fulfillment. A better way to build a sense of identity is to eschew the role of “consumer” that algorithms push on us. Sure, make the most of your online experience, but don’t lose sight of how much more important real life is.

Ask New Questions

Anyone driven by anxiety and perfectionism will ask plenty of “What If” questions. They seek out worst-case scenarios. Meanwhile, you can just shift that dynamic by asking questions like, “What if I have fun/they like me/I feel good about myself?” Here’s another to try: “What if I don’t post a photo of my new haircut?” If your patterns are causing distress, break those habits. Try something new — even if you’re not sure how it will go. Over time, a positive new pattern can emerge

Most of All: Ask For the Help You Need and Deserve

When feeling anxious and unsure, you will do practically anything to avoid being “exposed.” It becomes a full-time job to hide what you see as your flaws. This can make it a challenge to contact a therapist but your weekly sessions are the kind of private, safe space you need. The act of talking to a professional is proof that you can evolve and grow. In one fell swoop, you resist perfectionism and you work on managing anxiety.

Perfectionism is a counterproductive fantasy. When you decide to get guidance on how to live more present and purposefully, you set a potent process in motion. Let’s connect and talk about all of this in anxiety treatment.

Kristy Hommerding

Kristy Hommerding, MA, LPCCkristy@affinitypsych.com

Kristy has worked in the mental and behavioral health field for over 10 years, specializing in eating disorders and the new-to-therapy client who is less than enthusiastic about the traditional therapy process.

Angela Djoumbaye, MSW, LICSW angela.djoumbaye@affinitypsych.com

Angela works with adults that have experienced trauma, those navigating substance use, those with sleep challenges, and the military community. Her goal is to help you overcome and navigate life struggles by challenging you to see the struggles differently.

photo of a smiling woman standing outside with her eyes closed and arms up in the air

4 Ways Mindfulness Can Help Calm Anxiety

It’s been said that nearly 70 percent of all medical visits can be chalked up to anxiety. Of course, on its own, anxiety is a healthy, inevitable emotion. In some cases, it can save your life. However, for someone struggling with an anxiety disorder, it’s a very different story. Anxiety can make it difficult to handle daily functioning, and it causes physical symptoms, too.

Across the world, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition. The people dealing with this reality may be stressed in a general way, or it could be something more specific, e.g., social anxiety or particular phobias. But… what’s mindfulness got to do with it?

The Basics of Mindfulness

There is no shortage of definitions for this practice. However, since simplicity is at its core, let’s keep the wording simple, too. When you consciously pay attention to the present moment, you are being mindful. You become more aware and self-aware — connecting to yourself and to the world around you.

To assist with this process, practitioners of mindfulness use meditation, breathing exercises, and focused intentionality. In this day and age, you can add in the fundamental act of putting away your devices. The notifications, the scrolling, and the mindless consumption of content — all add up to create or exacerbate anxious thinking.

Conversely, having a steady mindfulness practice has been consistently found to result in a palpable reduction of anxiety symptoms. Let’s explore four reasons why that happens.

4 Ways Mindfulness Can Help Calm Anxiety

photo of a smiling woman standing outside with her eyes closed and arms up in the air1. No More Time Travel

So much of anxiety is rooted in the past or the future. We time travel back and forth to alternate between past regrets and future apprehension. Mindfulness, as mentioned above, is all about being present. Whatever method you use to enter this mindset, it keeps us focused on the only place and time we have: here and now.

2. Clearer Thinking

Anxiety is a very skilled liar. Its relentless approach can distort our thought patterns. Let’s say you text someone but they leave you on read. Anxiety tries to convince you that the other person dislikes you and finds you annoying. This false perception can set you off into an anxiety cycle. Mindfulness, on the other hand, guides you to recognize the difference between spiraling thoughts and rational thoughts.

3. A Better Understanding of What You Control

When you’re not bouncing back and forth between the past and future, you are better able to assess your present situation. You can differentiate between what is runaway worry and what is actually within your control. This distinction can be what saves you from defaulting to the worst-case scenario. You address what you can control and resist ruminating over what’s not under your control.

4. A Much More Mellow Nervous System

All the patterns, spirals, and cycles mentioned so far relate to our nervous system. Hence, getting to the root involves keeping ourselves from becoming nervous. Mindfulness helps us identify our triggers along with the signs that we’re getting edgy. This empowers our body to shut down the stress response and refrain from flooding our bloodstream with stress hormones like cortisol.

Good News

Becoming adept at mindfulness is not like learning to play the violin or speak Latin. We are naturally disposed to be mindful so it’s more about reawakening an inherent skill. When aiming to do that while also working to reduce anxiety, there is no better guide than an experienced therapist. This choice enables you to rediscover the skill of mindfulness while taking productive steps to decrease anxiety. It’s the best of both worlds and it all starts with a phone call. Reach out to learn more about anxiety therapy and how it can help you control your anxiety.

photo of a person holding a sparkler

5 Tips For Calming Anxiety About The New Year

According to society’s script, New Year’s Eve and Day are reserved for celebration, excitement, and optimism. Everyone knows this is a forced sentiment but no one knows it like the person with an anxiety disorder. You just got through the holidays and now, the New Year is looming. Visions of the future and change fill your head and that can easily transform into fear. Anxiety and uncertainty are not a good mix.

It’s okay if you feel overwhelmed about all this but you also must take active steps to calm your anxious mind. With that in mind, let’s explore some of your options.

5 Tips For Calming Anxiety About The New Year

1. Skip the Resolutions

Resolutions are a pressure-packed concept. No matter how you’re feeling, you’re expected to articulate clear, attainable goals. When in the throes of anxiety, this can feel like a weight on your shoulders. Do yourself a favor and skip this tradition. You can make plans and formulate aspirations any time of year. If the New Year hoopla has you feeling stressed, this is definitely not the ideal time to create more pressure. Setting small, short-term goals might be the best idea if you choose to indulge at all.

photo of a person holding a sparkler2. Reframe What Happiness Means

We live in a world where people perform happiness on social media. Understandably, this can create feelings of shame and inadequacy. To counter this negative trend, take some time to cultivate your own definition of happiness. Keep in mind that it’s not a destination. There is no finish line. Happiness is an evolving process and you have every right to re-imagine what it means to you as often as you like.

3. Identify Your Rumination Triggers

Anxiety disorders cause overthinking and rumination. A giant step toward quelling this reality involves identifying your triggers. What gets you feeling stuck? When is it hardest to find feelings of gratitude in your heart? It helps to keep a journal as you monitor cause and effect. Recognizing your triggers helps you avoid and/or address them — and thus, reduces anxiety.

4. Make Self-Care a Daily Reality

You may feel particularly drained when you’re anxious. That makes sense because anxiety can be exhausting. An excellent counterbalance is the resilience you build through daily self-care. Some crucial elements are:

  • Making healthy eating choices all day, every day
  • Getting yourself into a steady sleep pattern
  • Engaging in exercise and physical activity daily
  • Developing some stress management and relaxation techniques

In the winter, it is essential to factor in the increased likelihood of the weather bringing you down. So, bundle up and get outside while the sun is out. Do your exercise and meet your friends and take walks.

5. Accept Your Current Situation

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition on the planet. There’s nothing to feel ashamed about and you don’t have to hide it. In fact, it’ll go a long way toward recovery if you accept its temporary presence. Acceptance like this will motivate you to do your homework to learn more and this helps to shatter the stigma. However, if you feel anxiety is hampering your daily functioning, you must ask for help.

Therapy is a Proven Path — Any Time of Year

Anxiety is a proficient liar. It will tell you tall tales about how flawed you are and that you should be embarrassed to feel this way. Connecting with an experienced therapist positions you to start talking back to this inner critic. Your weekly sessions are a safe space to explore your emotions and discover new approaches to help you thrive again. Let’s connect and talk more about your options soon for anxiety therapy.

photo of a family gathered around a dinner table with food on their plates

Frustrated By Family During The Holidays? How To Not Lose Your Mind

Holiday traditions can be such a source of joy. From music to gifts to food and beyond, these annual rituals preserve a sense of connectedness within a family. Unfortunately, eggnog and carols are not the only things that travel from year to year. Complicated family drama and dynamics can turn any gathering into an emotional fiasco.

Of course, we cannot control the behavior of others. Hence, as long as we partake in the holiday festivities, the onus falls on us to not turn losing our minds into a new yearly tradition. But how can we celebrate without risking an all-out family feud?

Self-Care is Fully Under Your Control

Even if you love this time of year, the holidays are exhausting. If you’re like 99.9 percent of humans and you have some frustrating family members, the holidays become draining. Thus, a logical step is to ramp up your self-care. Take care of yourself, build your resilience, and give yourself the love that some relatives can’t offer.

Truth be told, you really should be practicing self-care all year long. But, if you haven’t yet made the commitment, the holiday season is an ideal time to start. It’s the ideal antidote to overindulgence. Whether it’s rich foods, alcoholic drinks, or not getting enough sleep, such behavior will only make it harder to navigate family drama.

Self-Care Basics:

  • Healthy eating choices
  • Daily exercise and physical activity
  • Regular sleep patterns
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Social time with trusted friends and family members

photo of a family gathered around a dinner table with food on their platesHow Else To Not Lose Your Mind With Family During The Holidays

Acknowledge and Accept

If you have family members you don’t like, accept it. Trying to rationalize your emotions and/or waiting for the other person to change will not change reality. You can’t fix them and trying to do so will only exacerbate the situation.

Set Boundaries

You have every right to let others know if there are conversation topics you will not indulge in. If your boundaries are not honored, you’re under no obligation to endure this kind of treatment. Feel free to remove yourself from the discussion. Take a walk if you need or, or if things have truly escalated, you have every right to call it a night.

Ask For Help

Almost certainly, you’re not the only one cringing when a particular relative enters the room. Connect with those who understand and commit together to have each other’s back. Even better, focus your time and energy on those who display mature social skills.

Guard Your Self-Worth

It’s important to maintain civility whenever someone politely disagrees with you. But if you find yourself subjected to abusive behavior, don’t respond in kind. Don’t take this toxicity personally. This kind of family member is probably seeking a reaction. Avoid sinking to their level. You can feel better for a few minutes by attacking back but you’ll regret it later.

Break With Tradition

If the holiday season inspires dread, it may be a clear sign that big changes are needed. Sure, some folks will dig in their heels but who needs more of the same in-fighting. Take the initiative to host a holiday event, control the guest list, and try new things to switch the vibe from contentious to joyous.

When Your Family is More Than You Can Handle

Family conflict can be overwhelming — certainly enough to drain us of holiday spirit. If this is the case for you, there is no reason to grin and bear it. Reach out to speak with us about anxiety therapy. The holidays can be a tough time of year and you deserve to get the help you need. Let’s connect soon.

photo of a stack of presents with holiday decor around it

How To Deal With Stress During The Holiday Season

Who’s ready for the holidays? On the surface, you might reply with excitement about gifts, parties, and traditions. Scratch a little deeper and you’re likely to find some stress. There might even be some angst and dread waiting to emerge. As with most everything in life, when it comes to the holidays, more than one thing can be true simultaneously. You can be excited and stressed at the same time.

End-of-the-year stressors can involve an extensive range of factors (see the list below for a sampling). Regardless, you can find the balance you need. It begins by planning in advance and being as prepared as possible.

What Can Cause Holiday Stress?

  • Financial Issues: You might be traveling to see family or this could be the year you’re expected to host. Then, of course, there’s all the gift-giving.
  • Family Drama: You may be related to them but that doesn’t automatically mean you get along.
  • The Number of People in Your Life: This could mean too many or too few. Either way, this time of year is when it hits home.
  • Time Management: The math doesn’t work. You have a limited amount of time to accomplish what feels like an unlimited number of goals.
  • Too much: Spending, eating, drinking, partying, and more — it’s a season of excess.

2 Big Ways To Deal With Stress During The Holiday Season

photo of a stack of presents with holiday decor around itSay Goodbye to Perfectionism

A giant step toward easing holiday-related stress is to be realistic. Don’t aim to make everyone happy, buy all the ideal gifts, and attend every party. A healthier goal is to enjoy the people in your life. Here are a few tips for making that happen:

  • Make a Plan: It’s inevitable that some plans will overlap. So, get out your calendar and sketch out a schedule you can live with. While you’re at it, create a holiday budget. What can you comfortably afford when it comes to gift-giving and other expenses?
  • Practice Saying No: Even if you were foolish enough to try, you cannot make everyone happy. Thus, make choices that prioritize the people who mean the most to you — and that includes yourself!
  • Sometimes, Silence is Best: When that opinionated uncle goes into his act, it is not your job to set the record straight. Keep the peace and be comfortable walking away without getting involved.

Practice Self-Care

Most likely, you will be more extended during this time of year. Hence, you must take active steps to create a counterbalance, e.g.

  • Stay on Track: The holiday season is not an excuse to slip out of your healthy sleeping, eating, and exercise routines. Be merry without the eating and drinking part. You are under no obligation to conform to unhealthy expectations.
  • Get Outdoors: Winter weather can be harsh but grab every opportunity you can to get some sunlight and fresh air. Studies show that this choice is a proven path toward calming nerves, feeling more focused, and experiencing enhanced mental energy.
  • Relaxation Techniques: Indoors or outdoors, your mind and body will thank you for staying mindful. Center yourself in the present moment by meditating, doing breathing exercises, listening to mellow music, or indulging in aromatherapy.

Talk About What You’re Feeling

Maybe this is an annual problem or maybe this year just feels extra difficult. Whatever the cause, if the holiday season is taking you to a bad mental place, you’re not alone. Connecting with a therapist is a time-proven choice in situations like this. Your weekly anxiety or depression therapy sessions can provide you an outlet and a new perspective. I invite you to reach out to talk soon so you can reclaim your joy at this time of year.

photo of a woman sitting at a window seat with her head resting in her hands

4 Tips To Manage Your Anxiety As A Highly Sensitive Person

High anxiety is a challenge. If you’re a highly sensitive person (HSP), things get even trickier. In fact, it can become a cycle of sorts. At first, you may not recognize the presence of anxiety. After all, an HSP typically feels symptoms that can mirror an anxiety disorder. An HSP can also struggle with guilt and shame — feeling as if there’s something “wrong” with them. Therefore, they don’t ask for help and this can allow the anxiety to escalate.

As a result, it becomes crucial that you challenge beliefs that you’re “too sensitive” or “overreacting.” From there, it can be much easier to both identify and address feelings of high anxiety.

What Is A Highly Sensitive Person?

Everyday life is filled with sensory input — sounds, sights, and emotions. If you frequently find this input to be overwhelming, you might be an HSP. At least one out of every five people is highly sensitive and this is not something to fear. Sure, being overstimulated is not fun. But characteristics of an HSP also include:

  • Rich inner life
  • High levels of empathy and compassion
  • Very attentive and aware
  • Able to pick up non-verbal cues and “read the room”
  • Creative, intuitive, and resourceful

The trick is learning how to manage the hyper-sensitivity to external stimuli. Left unchecked, it can be the cause of chronic stress and thus, puts you at risk for an anxiety disorder. Fortunately, once you better understand the source of your stress, there are proven steps you can take to alleviate the anxious thoughts.

4 Tips To Manage Your Anxiety As A Highly Sensitive Person

1. Self-Education

Become an expert on what it means to be an HSP. The more you know, the less you will blame yourself and the more you can do to self-soothe. A great starting point involves keeping a journal. Monitor your moods, triggers, reactions, and coping mechanisms. When you can recognize what situations are stressful and how to best navigate them, you’ve taken away more than half of anxiety’s power.

photo of a woman sitting at a window seat with her head resting in her hands2. Practice Mindfulness

When an HSP feels under assault, things can spiral quickly. Your thoughts begin to race and tend to be of a negative variety. Mindfulness — the practice of staying rooted in the present moment — frees us to identify these thoughts as temporary signs of high anxiety. Hence, they are almost certainly untrue.

3. Practice Stress Management

Every single person reading this would benefit from having self-care rituals. The HSPs reading this would take a giant step toward reducing anxiety by committing to self-care, e.g.

  • Keeping regular sleep patterns
  • Meditation
  • Making healthy eating choices
  • Journaling
  • Grounding practices
  • Breathing exercises
  • Daily physical activity

Self-care reminds you to prioritize your well-being. It also fortifies you by building resilience which is a valuable weapon against anxiety.

4. Help Others

At the moment anxiety strikes, you might not be able to concentrate on anything except the increasing levels of stimulation. But once you’ve accepted that this is something you want to control, you can make lifestyle choices that contribute to that goal. For example, helping others deflects attention from your feelings to the needs of those around you. Look not volunteer work. Even better, make it a life choice to practice acts of kindness on a daily basis. It’s a win-win option.

You Do Not Have To Struggle Alone

Being an HSP can be tough at times. Struggling with anxiety is never easy. If both issues are present at the same time, it only makes sense that you’d opt to speak with a professional. It’s the ideal path toward better understanding and managing the convergence of circumstances. We’d love to talk with you about it soon through anxiety therapy.

Sam Swafford, MS, LPCC sam.swafford@affinitypsych.com

Sam is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor who works with adolescents, young adults, adults, and those who are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. They specialize in trauma work and those with dissociative abilities. Sam aims to create a safe and comfortable space for all.