Three Tips to Manage Overwhelm in the face of Fear

Fear is powerful. It can lead us to react in ways we could never predict, it can lead us feeling debilitated and unable to respond.

The experience of fear is normal and healthy. It often manifests in three forms:

You fight...

When backed up into a corner, you come out swinging! Both figuratively and literally. When you notice fear creeping in, anger soon follows. 

You flight...

When faced with fear you are quick to get out of harms way! You don't stick around to endure what makes you scared, you leave it, avoid it, and simply run away. 

Or You Freeze...

You may find yourself frozen or speechless when met with fear. Your body doesn't appear to be responsive and you are at a loss for words.  

Our fear response is an automatic reflex, and thank goodness for that! It literally is our survival mode, our way of protection and preservation. Our fear response can be triggered by both threats and perceived threats, and regardless of whether or not they are in fact "real"; our body can not always decipher the difference. It can happen during conversations with bosses, spouses, or even strangers. It can occur when we least expect it and without warning.

We can not control what cause us fear; we can control how we experience it. Through practice we can learn how to calm our nervous system in order to process, reflect, and slow down our thinking and reactions from it. 

Three tips to follow when faced with fear. 

  1. Create a self-compassionate inner dialogue that allows you to recognize when fear is creeping in. Giving "fear" a name and labeling it allows you to contain it's impact as you describe and experience it. We often search for words, language, and meaning to aid in our ability to clarify and understand. If you don't have a language or dialogue to identify difficult emotions it's makes it that much more difficult to calm yourself down. To work towards having a compassionate inner dialogue, I like to remind myself that it should be similar to how I would speak to a close friend who is struggling. I utilize kind and caring language.
  2. Allow yourself to experience fear without self-criticism or judgement.  Once you recognize it, acknowledge it with kindness. Judgement and criticism will not make fear go away any quicker, no matter how hard you try. As you much as you may want to wish it away, it's not going anywhere!
  3. Recognize that it is a feeling and not an identity. Feelings are meant to be felt. They may come and go with great intensity and linger for longer than we may hope, but they do not define us. You are still you, no matter what you feel. 

Fear, is a difficult emotion to experience. If you find yourself in need of additional support, or feeling overwhelmed by it, professional counseling can be incredibly beneficial. If you would like to learn how I can be of assistance, please contact me, I am here to help. 

Filling up your cup without the guilt.

Feeling worthy of self-care and putting yourself first. 

Your selflessness, your ability to be there for others when they are in need is a quality sought out by your friends and family. Your caring demeanor, reliability, and trustworthiness are all part of what makes you so special. You enjoy giving and doing for others but frequently struggle with filling up on self-care of your own. Leaving you drained, depleted, and exhausted.  You find yourself feeling guilty when taking the time for yourself as it doesn't line up with what you "should", "need", or "supposed" to be doing. You feel guilty for saying you can't make your friend's event, or that you are not spending your time on accomplishing items on your extensive to do list. Whether it is self-imposed or felt by others expectations; guilt is powerful. Here's the true dilemma:

Your cup is not bottomless...

Unlike your favorite bottomless mimosa brunch spot, you have a limit. Despite how difficult it is to set boundaries, they are critical to prevent burnout. If not, sooner or later you'll find yourself running on empty barely getting by, and still wanting to be there for others. But the problem still remains that you can not give of yourself when you have nothing left to give. In order to be there for others, you have to be willing to be there for yourself. You have to be willing to say no when you are not in a place of being able to give of yourself. It means not always saying yes to everyone and everything, and being okay with that. By actively putting yourself first your making it possible to sustain being there for others. 

Your cup can be replenished...

Identify when you are in need of a top off. Regularly schedule activities that are not only enjoyable but truly replenish you emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Things that allow you to breathe a little bit easier and make you smile. This is uniquely personal, for some it's getting a cup of coffee with their best friend, while for others its curling up with a new book and a hot cup of herbal tea. Whatever your feel good moments are, do more of them! Keep in mind by cultivating more opportunities that bring pleasure makes it a whole lot easier to accomplish the tasks on your never ending to do list.   

Taking the time for self-care allows you to have more to give and share with others. Most importantly, it is needed for your own health and wellbeing! If you are in need of additional support in putting yourself first, let's chat

Choosing a therapist in Los Angeles

LA living has its perks, we have amazing food, access to sought after entertainment, and endless activities and exploration at our finger tips in a culturally diverse and truly one of a kind city. Although, we have plenty to be grateful for and admire in this city we also encounter our fair share of challenges in keeping up with the demands of professional and personal life. A therapist can be of tremendous support to manage your stress and break free from what continues to bog you down and keep you stuck.

There is no shortage of therapists in Los Angeles, and let’s be honest we all start to sound the same! Figuring out how to choose the right therapist can be a daunting task.

Once you have narrowed down the search of therapists in Los Angeles, you probably have a few questions, most importantly of which can be the ultimate question “can this person truly help me?” The foundation of therapy is based on the relationship you build with your therapist. When seeking someone out its important you feel comfortable with them. If your now thinking well that sounds great, but how do I know if I’ll feel comfortable with them, I have a few great tips to follow. 

Request a consultation over the phone

Having the opportunity to speak to a therapist over the phone will give you a more realistic idea of what they will be like in the therapy room with you. During the consultation ask your dire questions but also notice how the therapist responds. Is there a connection? Do you find yourself nodding in agreement or left feeling unsure?

Write down 3-4 sentences explaining what you are seeking support with

You have an extensive and rich life story, and may be experiencing challenges that are difficult to articulate concisely. Take a few minutes before you speak with a therapist to jot down what you want to share during that initial call. Start with the most pressing issue bringing you to therapy, as well as any concerns you may have. When speaking with the potential therapist you want to feel confidant that they will be able to treat the challenges you are facing.

Ask questions, and also notice if they ask you any

Being curious and open is a key piece of an effective therapist. You are an expert of your life, and your therapist is an expert of the therapeutic process and healing. Being able to effectively work together there has to be a sense of curiosity. Take note of whether or not the therapist asks questions or shows a genuine interest in you, and your life story.

I hope this helps you find the right therapist in Los Angeles. If you are still feeling stuck, feel free to call me at (310)-893-4634 for a free 15 minute phone consultation. I’d be happy to hear about what is happening and help direct you to the right person.

Calming the anxiety tornado

How to help yourself, a friend, a spouse, or your child when anxiety spirals

Turning away from and avoiding what scares us the most, oftentimes feels like a great option. If we can avoid what feels negative and unpleasant than temporarily we have some relief.  Because fear is powerful! Our thoughts, emotions, and actions respond to our fear response system in order to keep us safe. Fighting it (i.e. avoiding, numbing, etc) prevents us from experiencing fear as simply an emotion, one that we all feel, and is fluid. Meaning fear, like anger, sadness, and joy comes and goes. Emotions are meant to be felt, and the more we embrace and accept them the less hold they have over us. The more we try to prevent, block, or stop feeling something the more it exists.  

It is in the how we experience them that we are able to find our relief, and getting through it rather than being stuck.  

When we begin to spiral or observe that our friend, spouse, or child is experiencing anxiety, it is difficult to not be swept up in it. We want to acknowledge that the anxiety is there, and have the tools to cope with it. I often hear loved ones say, but it’s not real! Stop worrying! Don’t be scared!  It’s all an attempt to be helpful, but to the one on the receiving end it can feel isolating and dismissive.  Let’s shift our focus to acknowledging and connecting, rather than pushing and deflecting. Once we feel connected, supported and most of all listened to, we are able to talk down the fear. Here are 3 phrases to try the next time you, or someone you care about encounters anxiety.

1) Instead of “this is all in your head, it’s not real” try “I can see how nervous, worried, and scared you are."

Acknowledge it don’t dismiss it. The feeling is real, treat it as such. Providing labels and names to our emotions gives us something to work with. Oftentimes we misidentify a thought for a feeling. Thoughts fuel our feelings and vice versa. Thoughts can be changed and altered, feelings can not. Feelings come and go and reflect our mood. By identifying what we are experiencing through our language and understanding how it affects us physically, behaviorally, and cognitively then we can start to make some changes.

2) Instead of “don't be scared” try “I am here for you."

The best 5 word phrase, “I am here for you.”  Ahhhh sense the relief just seeping in.  In the moment we may want to “fix”, when really what we need is to feel heard and understood by another person. We have the solutions to our problems, but oftentimes can’t see them when we are override by fear. When fear takes over, empathy must set in.  We seek the safety and trust from another individual that they can be there with us through our storm. We need someone to acknowledge and “be there” with us and not necessarily to fix it in the moment. We can do this for ourselves through kindness and being gentle as opposed to allowing our negative self-talk to take over and make it more difficult to experience.

3) Instead of “just stop worrying and thinking about it" try "Let's do something to help you feel better"

It is really hard to "stop worrying", in fact being told to stop can make things escalate, because we are now focusing on the very thing we need to be stopping. So instead shift the focus of managing the stress around it, and start making changes through your behaviors. Go for a walk, take a trip down the hall to get a glass of water, squeeze a stress ball, meditate for 2 minutes. We want to first deactivate, calm down our response system so that we can begin to utilize our executive functioning, the part of our brain that allows for logic and reason. Oftentimes when fear sets in our logic steps out. Once we feel safe and calm we can then begin to brainstorm and problem solve through it.

I hope you have found this helpful. If you or your loved one is experiencing unmanageable stress or anxiety, please reach out. As a licensed professional I can provide you the support to successfully manage your anxiety and find freedom in letting go.