When I was a kid, Mr. Rogers was on TV. To be honest, I didn’t really like him, because I thought he was boring in comparison to Sonic the Hedgehog. But at 5 AM, I’d sit on my heater, shirt pulled over my knees, totally spooked by the deep dark forest reaching toward me from my backyard. In those moments, when what I most wanted was my little safe zone, it felt like the right move to just leave Mr. Rogers on. Once I had children of my own and experienced some of the sorrow of life, I came across a CSPAN-type video of Mr. Rogers addressing Congress. He was requesting funding for public broadcasting to provide therapeutic television for children. I found myself brought to tears as Congress approved his request. It reminded me of a gentle man welcoming me into his neighborhood, where I had always felt safe and soothed.
Fast forward a number of years, and I was reading a news story about a crime that was committed against a child. As a father, I couldn’t help but imagine my children as victims and meditate on the what-ifs: what I would do, how I would feel, what would change in my world. I was privileged enough to be raised by a compassionate father who taught me to put myself in other people’s shoes before I passed judgment. I believe in the importance of this skill. However, my obsession with what I would do in someone else’s situation sometimes comes into conflict with the need to simply acknowledge a terrible thing and move on.
So this particular story kept me up night after night. I found myself muttering while my wife and kids slept about how I’d respond to the situation, and the injustice of it. I realized that this experience in my mind was overflowing into reality with angry words demanding justice for this child. The fact was that my wife and 1-year old, who slept nearby, were subconsciously hearing and feeling all this negativity that I wanted to eliminate in the world. Suddenly this crime one person committed has now been brought into my home by my own behavior!
I would wake up the next day and my head would hurt, my mood was deflated and I had a belief that my day was going to be difficult and that I would take it out on others around me.
Then, it dawned on me: This is anxiety.
Ending the Vicious Cycle of Anxiety
The irony of realizing I am awake after I should be asleep, and assuming that I would make mistakes the next day as a result only made me more angry and frustrated.
Most of the anxiety therapy related articles out there are about anxiety from finances, or anxiety from relationships. But this was more of an existential crisis for me. A situation I could not change or influence because it had already been done. I found myself asking “What do I do? Someone help me.” And at the same time I didn’t actually ask anyone for help.
As I’ve come to know Dr. John Fleming and his team at Southern Colorado TMS I was surprised to find a group of especially compassionate people. Some of whom work at Southern Colorado TMS because of their own anxiety, depression, and traumatic past experiences. I found Dr. Fleming saying “We cannot allow people who reach out to us to be un-acknowledged. We must do everything in our resources to help them swiftly when they do.”
So what did I do about it?
If you’re like me you may be thinking “That’s a compelling story, but all you’re doing is saying you have experienced some things similar to me. Do you have any answers for me?”
Here’s 5 things I do, and one big thing you can do about it. You could call these “positive affirmations for anxiety”.
Step 1: Bench Your Rational Mind
Don’t assume that your rational mind can solve every problem. Allow it to sit on the bench and let your actions lead your rational mind through the next steps. You can unwind anxiety by giving it time to rest, like a baseball player who has been on the field all day. It doesn’t mean he’s out of the game yet, but you can train your mind and physiology to put it aside while you prepare to deal with it and focus on addressing the root problem that’s provoking the anxiety in the first place. More on this below.
Step 2: Ask for Help, Then Wait for It
Ask someone for help, but give them time to respond.
In my case, my anxiety usually appears late at night when I’m recounting my day. Getting a response from family, friends and counselors is often not possible until morning. It’s tough, but you know what? I’m always still here the next day. Because anxiety is temporary and can be overcome.
The team at Southern Colorado TMS gets an email notification within minutes of your request to be contacted. Dr. Fleming and the team check messages at the start of every day. In rare cases when they are unable to reach you while you’re available an additional resource is available. They put their heart and soul into a newsletter series that provides helpful tools, as well as information to get turned around back towards a path of peace and tranquility in your mind and body.
Step 3: Breathe
Study after study shows the process of breathing in through your nose, as deeply as you can, gets oxygen to your brain faster as opposed to breathing in through your mouth. Consequently it naturally begins to overpower your negative physiological responses. You begin to feel calmer. Think more clearly. Feel more powerful.
Step 4: Accept the Paradox
I know this is an unusual title, but pause for a moment and reflect on the reality that a paradox exists when you experience anxiety. Allow me to explain: Despite the overwhelming and consuming effect anxiety has, is there a time you recall in which you had no anxiety, anger or frustration? Where were you? What was the weather? Did you feel the sun on your skin? Who was with you? What did their facial expression look like? What are all the feelings you experienced in that moment?
Go ahead, try this for 90 seconds and then continue reading…
Now, it’s uncomfortable to come back out of that memory and into present reality, but it’s actually something that can give you hope! Why? Because it’s proof that your anxiety is temporal. It exists along with the best moments of your life. Which means you can control it. It’s a paradox.
This is not the same thing as solving the problem that has provoked your anxiety. That will require more tools and support. But it is one ingredient that is necessary to defeat anxiety.
A renowned philosopher once said “Who among you, by worrying, has added even one second to their life?”
The answers to your financial problems, relational difficulties, existential and philosophical chasms definitely provoke us to anxiety. And the problems cannot be ignored or magically resolve themselves. Whether they are solvable problems or not: your anxiety is a solvable problem.
In the same way sports players have to clear their mind before stepping onto the field to conquer a game: you, too, need to clear your mind of the belief that anxiety will stay until you solve the problem that provoked it. It’s so much harder to overcome your problems when anxiety is stuck to you like a leach.
Accept the paradox of wonderful moments in your life and anxiety inducing ones. Then, remind yourself that anxiety can take a seat on the bench while you are up to bat. That will calm the anxiety and begin to create one new routine of anxiety management that you will have in your tool box until anxiety works for you!
Step 5: Try TMS Therapy
Dr. Fleming and the team at Southern Colorado TMS will discuss and teach you about tactics like the ones above, and more. One incredible modern tool they have is the clinically proven treatment of anxiety with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS. It’s not a silver bullet, but it is clinically proven to help people in a substantive way.
Schedule a meeting with the team for a consultation to learn more about what you can expect, and how it may benefit you.
All of us at Southern Colorado TMS want you to experience the tranquility that comes from being free from the anger and frustration that follows anxiety. Please give us a call or send us a message so we can contact you and provide help.. You deserve it! Your loved ones deserve to have the real you back in their lives today.