Alright, last week’s Q&A episode was such a hit, so I decided to answer more of your questions this week in a part two episode, covering anxiety, panic disorder, and agoraphobia recovery questions. And I just want to say, if you didn’t listen to last week’s episode, you’re definitely going to want to listen to that one, too!
And again, I have to mention… These questions came from a survey that I sent out to everyone on my email list. And I got hundreds of good questions that I’m going to do my best to answer here on my podcast, on social media, and in my weekly emails. So if you aren’t already on my email list, I really want to encourage you to jump on it so that you can get free, weekly support from me, and so that you’ll have opportunities to ask me questions and get a little extra guidance and support from me. If you want to jump on my email list, head here!
So when I was going through your questions, I noticed some big themes. Things like a lack of self-confidence, and fearing fear, and feeling overwhelmed, and self-doubt, and a lack of trust in yourself and your capabilities. And these are big areas where lots of people struggle in the recovery journey, so these are all things that I’m going to hit on today.
Okay, let’s dive into your questions!
01. Where can I start to gain some self-confidence?
So the truth is, struggling with anxiety, panic disorder, and agoraphobia can really take a hit on your self-confidence and have you questioning yourself and your capabilities at every turn. And a lack of confidence often prevents you from moving forward on your healing journey. But the question is… Should it? And yes, I’m being serious.
I used to be convinced that I needed to feel confident before doing the hard things (well, really anything quite honestly). And it didn’t help that I had such a lack of it! I used to focus so much of my time and efforts on my lack of self-confidence and how I could increase my self-confidence before stepping out and doing the things that I knew I needed to do in order to heal. And looking back, I can't believe how much time and energy I wasted! Undoubtedly, it feels much better, safer, and a whole lot more exciting and fun doing things when you feel confident, but you don't need confidence in order to do the hard things.
And I know you aren’t going to love this answer, but a huge thing that helped me to gain more confidence was being courageous and just taking the small steps while not feeling capable, ready, or confident. This meant allowing myself to feel anxious and still choosing to do the thing anyway. And working on being more accepting of anxiety just being there, while I was doing whatever it is I was doing. And I know you might be like… Shannon, what are some small steps? I don’t even know where to start. If this is you, I want you to check out episode 2 of the podcast. In that episode, I share lots of small steps that you can take.
But a couple of other things I’ll add real quick that will help you to gain self-confidence… 1) Don’t set unrealistic expectations. To give you an example, don’t set out to do things and tell yourself that you won’t feel anxious. You’re likely going to feel anxious when facing hard things and it’s okay. Remember, feeling anxious or experiencing a panic attack doesn’t equal failure. And please, don’t throw yourself into the deep end when you’re facing the hard stuff. If driving on the highway is your biggest fear, don’t start by throwing yourself onto the highway and thinking that this is the answer. And 2) Actually acknowledge and honor your wins. I often do this thing on Instagram called Wednesday Wins, where I ask you to share your wins. And this is so important because when you’re working to recover, you’re often not even acknowledging all of the amazing work you’re doing, you’re only focused on the stuff that isn’t going so well. So yeah, acknowledging your wins (even when things don’t go how you hoped) is something that will lead to more confidence because it actually helps you to see that you are doing the hard work and you are capable and strong.
02. My anxiety is no longer provoked by everyday events. How do I get to the next level?
I can’t tell you how much I love this question. So my first question to you would be… Is your anxiety really no longer provoked by everyday events, or are you avoiding some anxiety-provoking things? I work with lots of people one-on-one and also in my online courses, and when I ask people this question, we actually end up uncovering that there is some avoidance happening. And it’s okay that it’s happening, but you need to actually become aware of it so that you can work to face it and keep moving forward. So yeah, it’s important to first ask yourself… Am I avoiding anything? Or… Are there things that I’m facing but I’m taking the “easy” way out so that I don’t feel too anxious?
The next question that I think that’s helpful to ask yourself is… How do I get to the next level? And yes, I’m serious. Because the reality is, I’m not in your everyday life, or in your brain. I don’t know everything that you have going on. I don’t know all of the things you want to do in life. I also don’t know your willingness to do these things. So who better to ask and answer this question than you, right?
Something that can be really helpful is to make a list of the things you want to be able to do. What are some things you’ve been wanting to do? What are some places you’ve wanted to go to, or see? What are some things that you used to do that you want to get back to doing? What are things that you enjoy doing? And once you have a list, jot down some small steps that will help you to reach your goals. And along the way, make sure to check in with yourself and ask yourself… Am I actually pushing myself?
And, too, getting to the next level is often about doing what we talked about in number one… By being courageous and just doing things while you’re feeling anxious, not ready, not capable, and not confident!
03. How do I push myself further? I am able to do some things around town. I would really like to do more, like concerts and vacations, but I don't know how to prepare for these kinds of things.
This question is so similar to the last one but I had to include it because it helps to show you a little bit of what I was talking about when I answered the last question. A key for me here is… I am able to do “some” things around town. Well, what are the other “some” things that you feel you can’t do? That would be a good place to start.
But in general, if you’ve consistently been taking healthy steps and you’re wanting to go to a concert or on vacation, give it a shot! But remember, be mindful and realistic with your expectations, and acknowledge that it’s going to be hard. But this type of hard is so worth it because you’re choosing to do things that you value. I’m a huge fan of recovery looking like you continually choosing to do the things that you value in life because they are so important to you. Because when you choose to do the things you value, it helps to motivate you and it helps you to keep you moving forward.
And I also want to mention that it’s important to recognize that you’re wanting to do lots of preparing because you want to make sure that you’re “ready” and “safe” and can handle whatever might happen, but oftentimes what we’re doing is actually making the choice to worry, which is only going to make you feel more anxious and less prepared.
04. “Putting myself out” is something that I struggle with. And the feeling of disappointment that I have when I don’t push myself is even worse. My biggest obstacle is wondering how far the anxiety attack will go. Will I faint? Will I lose my notion of time and space? What can happen to me? It is really hard for me to just stay there and let the anxiety be.
This is such a common fear. How bad can this get? And for lots of people, they remember and think of specific scenarios and panic attacks that were really bad, and then they ruminate over those, and try so hard to make those moments not happen, and then they actually end up feeling really scared and experiencing lots of anxiety.
Here’s a big truth that I want you to really hear… The worst case scenario isn’t passing out, or losing all control, or dying, or needing help and there not being help available. I know that you’re afraid of these things happening, but what you’re actually most afraid of is feeling an overwhelming amount of anxiety, fear, and discomfort. The worst case scenario is feeling anxious, and afraid, and really uncomfortable. And you’ve felt all of this many times before, and you have always worked through it.
And yes, it’s incredibly hard to feel all of this and not fight it, or run from it, or suppress it, but it’s so important to work on having a healthy response to what you’re thinking and feeling, because this is what will help the alarms from sounding off in the first place.
05. Will it ever get easier? It feels overwhelming to think of all that I still have to work on.
I know that it doesn’t feel like it right now, but it will get easier. It’s just so hard to see and believe this when you’re so deep in it, or when anxiety and fear keeps popping up. Something that can be really helpful is to focus on right now, not tomorrow, or next week, or what things will look like two months from now. The work you do today is what will help you for all of the days to come. And focusing on the work you can do today will make your journey easier in the days to come.
And a big key in things getting easier is you practicing having a healthy response to anxiety. I’m talking about your response to your anxious thoughts, the symptoms, panic, and fears, this is the most important thing. How you respond to it all, is what will either have it showing up, again and again, or it’ll have the alarms sounding less and less. Building a healthy response is hard work initially, but with practice, you get better at it and things do become easier.
And in general, an important thing to keep in mind in the recovery journey is that the journey is full of ups, downs, swerves, and curves. And these things are a natural part of the recovery process. And again, how you respond to these things is what will either keep you stuck or it’ll keep you moving forward. Things get a whole lot easier once you learn how to practice having a healthy response to anxiety, and you actually practice taking healthy steps and practicing healthy habits and tools consistently. And this is a great segue into the question!
06. Is being consistent every day the only way to truly recover?
My simple answer is… Yes, but it might not be what you’re thinking so stick with me. I don’t think consistency means that you have to get in the car and drive every single day, or that you have to go to a store every day, or that you have to practice staying home alone every day, or that you have to walk to the mailbox every day. Yes, in general, more exposure is going to be helpful, but I truly don’t believe that it has to be every day. You can be consistent with something without it being every day. And the reality is, there’s lots more to recovery than just exposure work!
For me, consistency is important in the sense that you’re also being consistent with…
How you’re responding to your anxious thoughts, the symptoms, panic, and fear, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Aka whether you’re doing a formal exposure or not.
Resisting safety behaviors
Practicing healthy habits
Being kind to yourself
And the list goes on!
So yeah, consistency is a good thing, but we aren’t talking about throwing you into anxiety-provoking situations every day, especially without you having the knowledge, skills, and tools to be able to face it all successfully.
And I want to say here, all of this stuff is stuff we work through in my 10-week live program, Panic to Peace. We work through this stuff together, because the reality is that you’re often making things harder than they need to be, and there are many things that will actually help to make facing all of this stuff easier.
07. How do you find time to recover? I don’t have any time!
Trust me, I get it! But I think people often say this because they don’t actually understand what the recovery journey looks like. They just hear and see things like… You have to do exposures every day! You have to face your fears! You have to do this! You have to do that! And it’s just all so freaking overwhelming because you think that you need to spend hours a day working on all of it. And especially if you’re a mom, who the heck has the time for it? But the journey doesn’t have to soak up all of your time and it doesn’t have to be so hard! I truly believe that recovery happens while you’re living, and all of the stuff that I teach in my online courses are things that you can practice within your everyday life, without it soaking up all of your time and energy.
But here’s a big truth (of course there’s a but)… If you really want to recover, you have to make you and your recovery a priority. This means that you and your mental health comes first. Yes, even if you’re a mom. Because the truth is, if you and your mental health doesn’t come first, nobody is ever going to get the best version of you, including your kids, your spouse, and most importantly yourself!
So what will help you to put you, your mental health first, and help you to keep taking healthy action? I say creating a why and reminding yourself of it often! And what I mean by this is, answering this question… Why are you working so hard to recover? Seriously. Why do you want to do it? Is it to travel? Is it to be able to go on adventures with your kids? Is it to be able to do everyday things and be at peace while doing them? Is it to be able to do something you used to do and love?
We spend so much time focused on the how, what, and when, and we don’t stop to think of why we’re doing all of the hard work in the first place. I encourage you to spend a couple of minutes after you finish this episode and define your why. Then, write it down and put it in a place you’ll see often and say it out loud! Yes, I’m serious! Your why is something that will help you to prioritize you and your mental health, and it’ll help you to keep moving forward, especially when things get hard.
08. Why is slowing down the pace of life the right thing to do but makes my anxiety go through the roof?
I love this one, and it’s pretty simple, right? Slowing down can feel really uncomfortable because it’s likely the opposite of what you’ve been doing for quite a while now. Because when you actually let yourself slow down, your brain is probably like… Um, this doesn’t feel right. We need to do something! But the truth is, doing things often looks ruminating, and problem solving, and analyzing, which aren’t the healthiest of actions. And oftentimes we do things in an attempt to not feel anxious, which is another not-so-healthy action. Things like cleaning, and scrolling social media, and watching TV.
A huge shift that needs to happen in recovery is learning to slow down so that you can practice being more aware, more mindful, and more conscious of your actions and your behaviors. It means slowing down and checking in with yourself to see what comes up. It means slowing down and resisting those unhealthy actions. It means slowing down and making conscious, healthy decisions. It means slowing down and practicing being present, even if the present is filled with anxious thoughts, feelings, and fear. Because slowing down teaches you a big lesson, and it’s that you don’t need to constantly be going, going, going and figuring things out. Because constantly going, going, going, and figuring things out is what is preventing you from feeling peace.
So is slowing down hard? Yes, of course it is! I have been meditating every day just for a couple of minutes, and I often find it to be really hard, and not so full of peace. But a beautiful thing that I’ve discovered is that although it’s hard in the moment, and often brings up a lot more thoughts and feelings, I’ve found that once I started really making meditation a practice, I’ve been moving through my days much more calmly and peacefully. My meditation friend, Emily Kessler, said it best… The feeling of the actual experience isn’t what gives you the benefit, it’s the practice. And it’s so stinking true!
Alright, that was a lot! But there was so much goodness that I wanted to get to all of it! I really hope that you’ve found this Q&A helpful.
And if you want in on the next round of Panic to Peace, I’ll be opening the doors on 9/12/22. This program runs over the course of 10 weeks. And during the 10 weeks, I show up live each week and I teach, we do Q&A’s, group discussions, we share wins, and I help you to finally push past your anxious thoughts, the symptoms, panic, and fears and start living the life you want to live - a life that is absolutely within your reach. To get on the waitlist, simply head here!
Until next time, keep taking healthy action!