Hello, friends! I’m back from my paternity leave. Thank you for the support, the great feedback, and the patience during my absence. Excited to be back at it. Some exciting stuff coming up in the coming months including some really awesome guests. Look forward to that.
I’m moving away from home soon, to a new place with a new job, new routine and new people. What advice would you give for preparing for a big change?
Under the surface, I think the fear that you are expressing here is that you worry about not being able to function as well without the routine that you have established for yourself. I have some good news on that front. You can still have some of your routine and if you have a bit of time before you move, you can actually maximize how much routine you take along with you.
Now I definitely don’t want to dissuade you from having an amazing adventure and flying by the seat of your pants a bit with this if you want to because that can be awesome and powerful. However, there are pieces of consistency and routine that you can establish and take with you no matter where you go.
For instance – your morning and evening routines. I’ve talked about this ad nauseum on this podcast and elsewhere, but I am a huge fan of bookending your days with a consistent morning and night routine. The good thing about it is that you can create some elements of it that are independent of where you are. For instance if you journal every morning – you don’t need to be at home to do that. If you read before bed, you can do that anywhere. I’ve personally come to associate playing games on a tablet or handheld in bed with sleep to the point that if I lay in bed during the day and try to play, I’ll get sleepy. This serves me well when I have to sleep in different locations because I can bring my tablet or handheld with me and still have that piece of consistency. So my first piece of advice here is to establish some good routines that are healthy and productive that you can do independent of where you happen to live geographically and push yourself to stay consistent with them during the moving process and once you get there.
I would also say that it’s important to give yourself permission to have mixed feelings about it. I know that you are supposed to be excited and thankful for new opportunities, but I’d be surprised if there weren’t parts of you that were sad or even disappointed about moving.
Mixed feelings are an integral part of human nature. We never feel 100% confident in our decisions and we often feel a little left over guilt or uncertainty after making the decisions. That’s normal. It’s part of being human that we sort of have to pick a course and run with it even though we never get to know what things might have been like if we made a different choice. All of that is to say that you are allowed to feel whatever the hell you are going to feel. You will want to be careful of falling in the trap of emotional reasoning and coming to the “conclusion” that because you feel negatively about it, it means that you made the wrong decision.
Move forward toward your goals and intentions, continue the elements of consistency that you can, and a lot of the rest will fall in line.
The last piece of advice that I have with regards to preparing for a big change would be to have some small goals and expectations in mind that have nothing to do with your work or home itself. Things like – find a new favorite restaurant in the area, find a good fitness class, or invite new friends over to dinner. Whatever. A lot of people will try to just let the wind blow them where they will go and that’s okay, but it’s also good to have goals for when that wind is only blowing you toward depression and isolation.
So those are my few tips. I’m excited for you and I hope that you are able to give yourself the space to recognize your mixed feelings and then dive into the positive ones. You got this.
How can I overcome trust issues and insecurities related to being in a relationship? I know that mine are also related to anxiety, and I have been on Lexapro and Clonazepam for almost two months, but I know that there is more to it.
When I asked my therapist about it, I didn’t really get much advice besides trying to realize when an issue like that occurs, (a thought that becomes pervasive), and try to rationalize it and ask myself if evidence really adds up to making sense about what i’m thinking. Which is hard to do because in the moment, whatever pervasive thought is occurring, related to those trust issues or insecurities, it feels like what i’m thinking is rational. It’s sort of like a flood that fills my head and it drowns out everything else. A lot of the time after some time has passed, I look back and realize I was being irrational and overly anxious and overthinking.
I feel like I know why I have trust issues and insecurity issues. My immediate family has a history of cheating/unfaithful behavior that I have witnessed from age 8 to 19. I’ve had friends that had situations happen to them in relationships, I’ve seen those things happen around me, I have my own self esteem issues that make me feel like i’m not good enough and that i’m not attractive enough, etc.
But I need to overcome this and I don’t know how. It’s important to me that I can find a way to overcome this issue so that it does not affect me and my relationship ever again, if that is possible. I just don’t know how to do it.
Let me start by saying that you have a good reason to be distrustful. You feel like you have learned certain lessons about human nature given your past that you can’t help applying to your relationship even though the pieces don’t necessarily add up.
First step is to give yourself a little grace and realize that you aren’t being completely irrational. Those thoughts and fears are there for a reason. Now is it reasonable to apply those rules that you learned to every situation? No – that’s an over-generalization, but it’s also the safe option. That’s going to keep you safe more often than the opposite.
Thought logs and noticing your thinking traps are definitely an important piece of the puzzle. The more you practice it, the easier it will become. The idea is that you will be able to make that awareness closer and closer to the present moment- like muscle memory, rather than only being able to recognize it in retrospect like you mentioned.
Here’s the thing, though. There’s another piece of the puzzle that I think has totally been missing from the approach you’re using. Not only will it be necessary to recognize and rationalize your thoughts, but you also need to train yourself to better tolerate the uncertainty.
You don’t need to completely eliminate the insecure thoughts, but you need to put them into the background and not let them dictate your behavior. In talking about anxiety, the term exposure is usually used when we are talking about a specific situational fear like a phobia, or agoraphobia. However, exposure is a major part of any successful anxiety treatment. That means that you need repeated, sustained exposure to the thing that you fear to train your body to stop reacting as if there were a true danger there.
You might be thinking that the feared stimulus is being cheated on, but that’s not it. The feared stimulus is the sense of uncertainty that you feel when you’re not sure if you’re being cheated on. The natural inclination is to run away from this feeling. To mitigate it by any means necessary. This could involve trying to reduce the symptoms of anxiety through coping skills, checking on your partner, or overcommunicating.
What you might want to work on with your therapist is learning how to sit in, or even invite those uncomfortable feelings to teach your body and mind to stop reacting so strongly.
I’d also suggest checking out DARE by Barry McDonagh. It’s about panic attacks, but the fundamental principles still apply here. You can challenge your anxiety and move toward it instead of away, which strips away its power.
Now removing this insecurity can feel like you are leaving yourself vulnerable because you aren’t as over-vigilant to those cues that something may be wrong with the relationship. It’s important to remember that you don’t control other people. If your partner is going to be unfaithful or not honor your agreements in some way, that will likely happen regardless of what you do. Whether or not you worry excessively about it. What you CAN do to reduce the risk of being blindsided by something is investing time and effort into promoting healthy communication between you.
So in summary – you are absolutely not dumb. I think you could just use a slight tweak to your approach along with the strong efforts that you are already putting in and you can see some serious success.
Is procrastination related to anxiety and mental health? How is it that I’m my own worst enemy?! Suggestions?
This is a question that I get a lot, actually. There is a huge overlap between anxiety and procrastination. A great example would be something like calling your doctor to make an appointment or checking the mail.
Anxiety if often fed by avoidance. When you have something that you imagine could be threatening to you, your anxiety steps in and says “oh you can’t do that. Look at how your body feels. Look at how upset you are. Obviously that thing is dangerous and you should just avoid it” and then you do. Instead of pushing through, you don’t do that thing and that actually serves the purpose of rewarding you.
Anxiety can be a cycle. When you don’t do the thing that you fear – you experience negative reinforcement, meaning you feel like you’ve been relieved of something bad, which will increase that behavior of avoidance. Your anxiety says “see? See how you feel relieved that you don’t have to do that thing? I saved you. Let me take control and I’ll continue to keep you safe”.
I also find that people with anxiety sometimes have a high tolerance for the tension that comes with an unresolved task. I like to refer to this as push motivation. For every person that is a certain amount of anxiety that is required to get their ass moving on a task. If you have a paper due, but it’s not due until a year from now – you aren’t going to start it right away. You’re going to have a least of bit of tension to push you and motivate you in that direction. But everyone falls at a different place on that curve of anxiety and motivation. Some people require a hell of a lot of anxiety to get them moving on something.
This is in contrast to what I call pull motivations. These are things like goals, values, and aspirations. Things that pull you along because you want to reach toward them. So both of these together mean that many people with anxiety become skilled in the art of avoidance and it takes quite a while for that avoidance to reach a boiling point. Often that boiling point is when crises occur.
Let’s get to some suggestions. Start small. There’s a catch phrase in ADHD treatment that says something to the effect of “if you are having a hard time getting started, the task is too big.” You can always break things up into smaller steps. You have to find a way to remind yourself that even if you take 1/10th of the step that you planned on taking. That’s still much more than zero. You still did something. People often undervalue the power of taking small steps (which in itself is another avoidance strategy). When you take the first step toward doing something, it sticks with you. if it’s a problem that you need to figure out, you continue to passively work on that problem in the background as you go through your day. It’s also often the case that you simply realize that it’s not t hat bad once you get started and you just keep the ball rolling.
Another good strategy is to ask yourself what you are afraid of. This can take some time to figure out. But picture yourself following through with that task. When you feel the anxiety start to raise within you, ask yourself why? What aspect of the task is scary to you? This can allow you to distill down your fear and begin to confront it.
It’s also helpful to realize that you don’t have to feel a specific way to begin a task. Again we are getting back to emotional reasoning here, but many people will avoid doing something because they are not confident that they will be able to or because they feel anxious about it.
In reality, you can feel anxious throughout the entire process and still get some important shit done. That’s how people get through weddings and other important life events. Rather than reducing the impact of your anxiety, you might also look for other pull motivations to help you reach toward your goals. Identifying your values as a person and recognizing how you can move toward those through the task that you are avoiding can be helpful.It might also help to establish some accountability or tracking. Make it a little more behavioral and clinical so that you are more following the rules rather than waiting for some intrinsic sense of motivation to get started. Social media and apps are great for this.
Want to submit a question for the podcast?
I'm always taking questions for the podcast, so contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have something you want me to talk about.