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Is There a Difference Between Anxiety and Depression? With Alison Seponara

Is There a Difference Between Anxiety and Depression?

With Alison Seponara

In this podcast episode, Alison Seponara of The Anxiety Chicks joins me to talk about all things depression and anxiety. Alison is a therapist, author, podcast host, educator, and holistic healer. And she has so much wisdom to share!

Along with her private practice, Alison is the CEO of a health and wellness community on Instagram and is known as The Anxiety Healer (@theanxietyhealer). Check it out!

In this episode, we dig into the symptoms of anxiety and depression, how you can begin to build your toolkit to begin healing, as well as hearing about Alison's own inspirational mental health journey.

Depression vs Anxiety - Is There A Difference?

We hear about depression often in conversations surrounding mental health, but what actually is it? Alison explains how depression can manifest in various ways, and can present with a whole host of symptoms that you might recognize, like a depressed mood, lack of energy, feelings of worthlessness, trouble concentrating or sometimes more severe symptoms.

Oftentimes those struggling with anxiety and agoraphobia will identify with these feelings at some point in their journey. It's common to feel overwhelmed when navigating anxiety, panic and agoraphobia, or have a lot of worry, fear and 'What-If' thoughts that anxiety may lead to depression.

The thoughts we have when experiencing depression and anxiety can often look really similar. Looking back at her own journey, Alison recognizes having lots of similar thought patterns through periods of both anxiety and depression.

Alison explains how anxiety and depression are connected, but have a distinct set of symptoms that affect the brain and body differently. It's important to remember that anxiety looks different for everybody, and so does the healing journey.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety and Depression

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of psychoeducation, which involves recognizing and reframing negative thoughts that can contribute to emotional distress. It can be a great thing to have in your toolkit when working to overcome both anxiety and depression.

CBT focuses around identifying triggers, finding meaning and pleasure in daily activities, and working on negative thoughts and behaviors. It can be so dang hard to find joy when you are struggling, but starting with small achievable goals can make a real difference.

Managing Anxiety and Depression with Therapy and Self-Care

As well as CBT, Alison and I spoke about lots of other healthy ways to support yourself when experiencing anxiety or depression. It can be so helpful to create a personal toolkit, recognizing the importance of trial and error in finding what works for you. Whether it's getting out into nature, a yoga session, or finding a supportive community, take some time to find explore what works best to support you.

Make sure to tune into the full episode to hear all of the helpful information that Alison has to share.

Alison Seponara, MS, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and anxiety healer.

Connect with Alison!

Free tools, support, courses, her book...Head here!

On Instagram: @theanxietyhealer


Feeling like you've tried everything but you're still struggling with lots of anxious thoughts, symptoms, panic attacks, and fears? Take my FREE 60-minute masterclass today and learn 5 shifts that will actually help you to overcome anxiety, panic disorder, and agoraphobia. And I promise, you won't hear any of the usual stuff from me - like doing breathing exercises, grounding practices, cutting out caffeine, and doing more exposures. Let's get you the peace and freedom you deserve without it being so hard!

Learn about my masterclasses here - driving anxiety, toilet anxiety, airplane anxiety, overcoming the symptoms and panic attacks

Join my Instagram Community here!


Shannon Jackson  00:02

Welcome to a healthy push Podcast. I'm Shannon Jackson former anxiety sufferer turned adventure mom and anxiety recovery coach. I struggled with anxiety, panic disorder and agoraphobia for 15 years. And now I help people to push past the stuff that I used to struggle with. Each week, I'll be sharing real and honest conversations along with actionable and practical steps that you can take to help you push past your anxious thoughts, the symptoms, panic and fears. Welcome. You're right, we're meant to be. Okay, today, I'm really excited. I know I say that on just about every episode. But I am really excited because I have a special guest with me, Allison and I will have her you know, give herself an introduction, but I want to introduce her first and then just we'll dive into the topic. So Alison is a therapist and author, a podcast host and educator and a holistic healer. She owns her own private practice outside of Philadelphia. And she specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy, and mindfulness based positive psychology with adolescents and adults who struggle with anxiety disorders, specifically related to health, relationships and grief and loss. Along with her private practice. Allison is the CEO and founder of the mental health and wellness community known as the anxiety healer is which is how I found Allison. This healing community she she has helped raise awareness for mental health while disseminating knowledge on how to holistically heal anxiety from the inside out. The anxiety healer community has over 550,000 healers across Instagram and Tiktok. Allison's book, the anxiety healers guide helps those feeling stuck in their anxiety to create their own holistic healing toolkit. This guide is complete with 1000s of tools and techniques that help calm the anxious mind and body. She also hosts a weekly podcast called The anxiety checks where she uses her experience as a therapist to destigmatize mental health and shares her own story of her anxiety recovery. Alison is dedicated to ending the stigma of mental health by offering a safe space for those around the world to find a supportive community free of judgment and bias. Allison, I am so dang excited to have you here. Welcome to healthy fresh podcast. Thank you. That was like a mouthful for you. Sorry. No, no, it were a lot of hats. Yeah, and there's so much goodness, I know, when I first came across you on Instagram, I was like, dang. And we've talked about this, but I was just so blown away by the fact that you're so open and honest and vulnerable, about your own mental health journey and just your life in general. And as a therapist, that's a really wonderful and relatable and just really cool thing to see. So I've always admired that about, you know, thank you so much. Yeah, I people always ask me, being a therapist, if,

Alison Seponara  03:03

you know, I knew if I if I went into it, because you know, I struggled with my own stuff. And I think every therapist probably does, or if I became a therapist, because I wanted to learn more about it. And I think to myself, You know what I think I always knew I wanted to be a therapist, which is weird. Like in eighth grade, I got voted most likely to be a therapist as a superlative in eighth grade. I guess everyone knew I loved listening. I was a good friend. But yeah, so I kind of this whole journey just I didn't realize until I was late in my 30s that I actually struggled with anxiety my entire life. And so being a therapist preceded that. But it all came together. And now I just share everything about myself and about my practice and how to heal. So yeah, it's really cool. I know, we're gonna get into a lot of it. But today's discussion, we're really going to talk a lot about anxiety and depression, which I'm really excited to talk about this because this is a subject that I haven't really talked about on my podcast, and it's such a big important one and one that can obviously carry a lot of stigma and shame. And so I'm really excited to dive in. Can we start just by talking about like, what can depression look like? And I know like you've said, right, there's a lot of connection between anxiety and depression, but let's start with depression. What can it look like? Okay, so when it comes to kind of like diagnosing major depressive disorder from the DSM, which is basically the therapists Bible, right, we kind of like diagnosed by looking in to this huge book that's very thick. And, you know, in my practice, I have to give her an insurance purposes this diagnosis, right this number, and so not everyone's might fit every criteria that's in these diagnosis. So okay, so for this sake of just talking about the diagnosis of depression that's in the DSM, you know, their symptoms that go along with depression that people might recognize, like depressed mood, lack of interest in activities that they usually would like a decreased appetite, maybe insomnia. Maybe like a lack of energy, feelings of worthlessness trouble concentrating, and you know, more severe symptoms might be thoughts of suicide or something like that. But what's interesting is, you might be listening to this thinking, Okay, well, I actually struggle with anxiety, but I have a lot of that stuff too. So, you know, the way I so the way I like to, and then in the DSM, there's criteria of like, if it has to be two or more weeks that you've experienced these things, and at least five of them, there's all this different, but yeah, I'm gonna go off a little bit of the diagnosis right now and just talk about because, because I think what's so important is that, what I what I promote on my page all the time is that anxiety looks so different for everybody. So everyone's symptoms look different, and everyone's healing looks different. And honestly, that's very similar to depression. So yeah, the way that I explain the connection with anxiety and depression is that they're kind of like siblings. So a lot of, they're so connected, right? And they're very related. But their symptoms look so different. But what's going on in their brain is can be identical. So like, the thoughts they're having, and what's going on inside their head, can be so similar, but the symptoms that they see on the outside or something can look very different with anxiety and depression. So that's kind of how I say it in a term. I feel like terms that people understand. Yeah,

Shannon Jackson  06:46

yeah. No, that's helpful. And I think just I think it would be helpful, right? I know you're super vulnerable and honest about your own journeys with anxiety and, and even depression, and I think sharing that would be helpful because they think hearing like, Okay, this is a real person who has struggled with these things, and what has that looked like for you? Yeah,

Alison Seponara  07:10

so Okay, so it's like I said before, I know now that I always had struggled with anxiety as a kid, you don't know that at when you're a child. You know, as we grow up, we get the verbal capacity to talk about emotions, but no one's born, knowing what emotions are. We're not born knowing how to talk about them. That's why we need our guardians are the most important that can be teachers, for us with our feelings. And then you know, school and some outside sources, that can be really helpful in feeling education and awareness and connecting your mind and your body and all of that. So, when it comes to kids, a lot of their emotions show up physically. So as a kid, I always had stomach aches, I was at the nurse a lot. I had a lot of social anxiety. So anytime I was in social settings, the stomach would start the, you know, throat closing up, happened, I would sweat, I would have like many panic attacks, honestly. Yeah. And so that came out very physical. And so it wasn't until later in life, I still had all of those physical symptoms. Up until my you know, 30, late 20s, when I had my first really horrible panic attack when I was 30, at my 30th birthday party. There's an episode on my podcast about that. So go listen to it, if you want to hear it. It's about my first panic attack experience. And it was the worst day of my life. That was a surprise party and like, 50 people were there. And I spent the entire day in the bathroom, and couldn't couldn't talk to anybody. Yeah. And people got mad at me because I didn't know at that point, I didn't even know it was going on with me. So everyone was like, you know, I was always late for the party. I always mess stuff with alcohol and everything like that. So yeah, at that point, my healing journey started, I'm 43 now and I've so much more awareness and just feel like I'm at this point in my life where I my two, I have my toolkit and I feel so grateful for knowing more about myself and, and feeling staying really true to who I am. But, but also throughout this whole journey, there have been bouts of depression for me. So I had a really bad episode, probably like 10 years ago, where for two weeks I couldn't eat and I couldn't really keep anything down. I was nauseous. I had moved home with my parents for two weeks because I was just debilitated with fear and panic and I didn't really know why but like I kind of did, but I didn't really want to admit it. I was at this point in my life where my parents were getting older. I was getting older. I'm not married. I don't have kids. I do want that at some point in my life. But everyone was moving on. Everyone had families I was feeling very alone very isolated. My career always was like, Okay, I'm kind of the more high functioning like highly ambitious, you know, anxious person. So I buried myself in that for a long time. And then I don't know if there was like a specific trigger for that. But I just remember being so scared of my parents dying, and having no one to take care of me. Yeah, so, so much of what led up to that point was, I had a lot of panic attacks, and a lot of had a lot of anxiety. And again, my symptoms just looked different. So I would have really bad acid reflux. So like, I would get food like stuck in my throat, because like, I would panic so bad when like, I would eat and then like, my stomach would hurt. And then I'd feel so scared about like getting sick. And just all of these thoughts spiraling in my mind of like, if I'm alone, like, who would take care of me if I did get sick? And what am I going to do in life? And how am I going to help myself and stuff like that? And also, I didn't really know how to express my feelings that well yet back then. So I just remember, I couldn't eat I started a medication. Actually, that same. I had known a little bit because about a month before I'd asked my doctor for medication, so I had it for a little while. So then I was waiting and waiting and waiting. And then this whole thing happened. I was with my parents and my mom was trying to help me and I at one point, thought maybe that I should go inpatient. I remember that was such a something I actually haven't talked about yet, anywhere. But I for like, a couple days, I thought, Should I go to the hospital, like impatient? I don't know what's going to help me right now. And I really couldn't eat, I couldn't keep anything down. Everything was making me like so nauseous. I realized now that I was taking the medication that I should have been taking it with food, and that probably didn't know. Yeah, but I had a lot of side effects with this one medication, I don't want to name it, because it was really helpful for a lot of people. Yeah, yeah. But um, I decided, you know, after like, 10 days, I didn't want to be on it anymore. And I was like, I don't know what's going on with me. And I made an appointment with like a psychiatrist, not just my primary care doctor, that's one thing you'll always hear me say is, if you're thinking about psychiatric medications, if you have the resources, please, please go to a psychiatrist to get evaluated and not just your primary care doctor, I know that's not possible for so many people. But it's just so much more helpful. And they know so much more about your brain and about what might be helpful for you instead of going like trial and error with all these meds. Anyway, so yeah, so I don't that's like, just like the long of it. But that's just I've had all of these experiences, like so much and have been trying to get out of it for since then. And I actually how I got out of it was through therapy and doing something called behavioral activation, which is amazing for depression. And I can talk more about that if you want me to, I don't talk go into it, but and I got off medication, and I actually haven't been on medication since then. I do have a small prescription for Xanax. But they but again, Xanax is something that you're only supposed to take as needed very low dose. And if I can tell I'm very aware now of an I know how to self soothe very well now. I don't depend on it. But I do have it just in case. Yeah.

Shannon Jackson  13:29

I of course would love to talk about behavioral activation. But before we go there I haven't. Q So curious. And I know people are probably wondering, I think a big fear with people who struggle with anxiety disorders, especially, you know, when you're struggling with the severe like panic disorder, agoraphobia, you have a lot of worry and fear that maybe it will lead to depression, or that is leading to depression. Or maybe you already have that awareness that like I am struggling with all of these things. It's not just anxiety, it's also depression. And that can feel so incredibly overwhelming. Do you think with your journey that the anxiety led to depression, or what did that sort of?

Alison Seponara  14:18

Yeah, so. Okay, so I think I just always, like I said before, symptoms look different, but the thoughts in your brain can look very similar whether you struggle with anxiety or depression. So, if I were to go to like a psychiatrist or a psychologist at you know, in my 20s, they probably wouldn't diagnose me with depression, because I was out with friends and I was social and I but I was drinking a lot. I was Yeah, blacking out all the time. And I was, you know, I wasn't withdrawing. You know, I had a great appetite. Yeah, actually, some, you know, sometimes I would eat butter Sometimes I was, you know, I would drink a lot, but then I would eat really bad. But then sometimes days, I wouldn't eat a lot. So but still, I wasn't, it wouldn't have been diagnosed as major depressive disorder. But honestly, in my brain, I was having more anxiety symptoms, you know, it's very high, high, higher functioning anxiety, but I definitely had panic attacks, I definitely had restlessness and physical palpitations and racing thoughts. And that's just what it looked like for me. But the thoughts that I had, were the same exact thoughts that I had that those two weeks when I was majorly depressed for those two to three weeks with my parents of like, I'm nothing, I'm, I'm not good enough for people, I can't talk about my feelings. I, you know, I'm never really my life isn't going to be anything, because no one's ever going to want to be with me. I'm disgusting. You know, I, everyone's moving forward and has all these things and says, done this with their life. I'm living in like a small apartment still. And I'm like, in my 30s. And I just feel like no one likes me. And like, nope, and a lot of this also had to do with self esteem with like, around men. So I was bullied really bad when I was in eighth grade, by boys for a long time. And so my, you know, my outlook on men was that they were just always really mean and would never love me for, like, who I was, and my body and all this stuff. And so all that just came, all of those things were always constant in my brain of like, what was causing the symptoms of anxiety or depression. So honestly, there isn't really for me, there wasn't like a cause or effect. And I think with a lot of mental health, everyone wants to find like, this is the cause. Right? This is the reason because then if you know that, then that means you can fix it. Right? And it's too complicated. It's just very complicated. And there's so many different situations and environments and people that trigger certain symptoms that getting to the root of what's in your brain is really what's going to help you come out of it. Yeah,

Shannon Jackson  17:13

oh, my gosh, so much of what you shared. I'm just like, going back to my own journey, right? Because people will ask me, Did you ever struggle with depression? And I still, even now I don't even know how to answer that question. Because I'm like, I'm sure I did. But I was never diagnosed. I everything that you were saying so similar. Like, I drank a ton, I seemed super functioning. I was like, going out and you know, doing things, but what was sort of happening on the inside? was probably a bit of depression. Like, I mean, everything was so hard and the thoughts and yeah, it is so tricky. So when you say like that they're connected anxiety and depression, like, What do you mean by that? I'm so curious.

Alison Seponara  18:04

It's okay. So, so I think so it's about, I think it's like about 50% of people who struggle with anxiety will at one time struggle with depression, I mean, it's very, very high. And I think it's because there's one the with both of them, there's very much this lack of emotional awareness you have about yourself. So it always starts with this lack of emotional awareness. And a lot of that, from my experience in my practice, and what I know is not having the language to express yourself, and which is nobody's fault. Because like I said, before, we are not born, knowing like, the language of emotions, we're not even born with language as a baby, we don't just come out of the womb and start talking, we have to learn words. And that's why reading to your kids is so important, right? And, and your vocabulary is huge. And that's the same with emotional vocabulary. So when you're when you don't grow up in an environment where you are acknowledged for your emotions, and you're taught, this is being scared, and scared is okay. It doesn't mean that it's dangerous. You can feel lonely to like and feeling lonely stinks. You know, I always say that there's no good or bad emotions. There's just ones that don't feel comfortable, such that feel uncomfortable and feel comfortable. So with the connection, I think that both of them you really lack more of an emotional awareness. You also again with the brain. There are some like limiting beliefs that you have in both depression and anxiety about yourself and about your worldview. And a lot of that is very negative, you have a lot of negative beliefs and a lot of fearful beliefs. And so breaking free of that is really difficult. Whether you struggle with anxiety or depression, you can have a lot of intrusive thoughts with both as well, very intrusive thoughts. Feel very real, but they're not. They're like our thoughts, right? So that's why cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most, you know, reliable and effective treatments for both of them. Yeah, because it focuses on shifting your thoughts and rewiring your brain, and all of that. So,

Shannon Jackson  20:36

yeah, and that's such a big one. Because you know, struggling with anxiety disorder, it can lead you spiraling a lot like, this is so bad, am I ever gonna get better, like, I seem to just be getting worse, and then cue that worrying right about struggling with something more, or maybe now this is depression, maybe now I'm also struggling with depression, and the you just pile on top of all of it. And, you know, I know a lot of people have that fear, like, this is gonna get worse, or I'm going to continue to get worse.

Alison Seponara  21:08

Yeah, so So I think that's something to remember to, with, whether it's anxiety or depression, the first thing you really want to notice, if you feel if you feel like, okay, is this, too? Why is this getting worse, like what's going on, and you're just feel more out of control, more out of control. You need to kind of really be aware of it's affecting your daily life. So that's like the first thing you want to look at? Are you able to accomplish your daily responsibilities? Can you get up? And can you take a shower? Right? Can you go brush your teeth? Can you get to work? Are you able to still have functioning relationships? Is it affecting your partner or with your family? Or your friendships? You know, are you isolating yourself isolation with both anxiety? Depression happens all the time? You know, like, there's, it's just all so similar, but but the biggest thing is, how much is it affecting your daily life? And if it is, and you I mean, can you concentrate? Are you realizing that you're at work? And you haven't really been able to pay attention for an hour? Because you're just ruminating? Or you're feeling? You know? Are you constantly on edge? Do you feel like you're constantly in a sympathetic state, which is your fight or flight state, right? Take a look at take a look at those things and your daily functioning and, and listen, we know like I said, in my 20s, I looked like I was functioning. Yeah, I was drinking, I was showing up to work, I was fine. But my relationships definitely were suffering. I was definitely suffering with my relationships. And I was going through different partners very quickly, I was really making choices based on my low self esteem with men. And that was a huge flag that really took me and like the drinking and stuff. So yes, my daily life was affected looking back now, even though someone might not have known that. So even if it's not like affecting your daily life in the way that I'm saying it now. And like the severity, you can always give yourself permission just to go get support and go get treatment. I mean, I'll be in therapy my entire life. And I'm glad because that is something that's in my healing toolkit. And that's a huge part of my, my regulation for myself, I will I might go through a couple different therapists depending on where I am in my life. You know, like, I'm thinking of switching maybe in the next couple of years, because I'm going through like perimenopause, and I want to kind of work with someone who also kind of knows that, you know, so it's okay to like, switch and but really, that should just be something that should just be in your toolkit. Just forever. Yeah.

Shannon Jackson  24:06

Yeah. Oh, I agree. So I am curious. Let's go back to the behavioral activation, because then you're saying that was incredibly helpful for you? What, what the heck is it? Let's start.

Alison Seponara  24:20

Yes, exactly. Okay, so it really is. It's so with CBT it's very much. There's a lot of psychoeducation. So cognitive behavioral therapy deals with learning more about your feelings and thoughts and how they're connected, but recognizing what thoughts are going on in your brain that are connected to your emotions, and then how they affect your behavior is kind of like a triangle. Where you have these thoughts, you have an event that happens or you have something that goes on situation, and then you have thoughts that that spiral that are very we distort it a lot of times when you have anxiety or depression or they're very errored, and then they connect to what your emotions are. They kind of create those emotions and then you act accordingly. So your behavior kind of just goes because you're feeling scared, right? Yeah. For example, like, the same person might go into a party, right? And the one person has severe social anxiety and is thinking, I am. People are gonna laugh at me. Oh, my gosh, that person is staring at me. What are they saying? Oh, my God did Am I gonna say something stupid. This is going to be the most awkward thing ever. I'm so awkward. I never know what to say. And then the same person goes into the party who's a little bit nervous, but is thinking, Okay, I don't really care what people think like, I'm gonna go in here, and maybe I'll have fun. I don't know. But even if I don't have fun, it's okay. I can leave within 10 minutes. You know, I think I'll be okay. Even though even though I might be scared going in there. I know. I'm not in danger. And if people don't like me, okay, well, I know I like myself. Right? That's just two different thought patterns. Yeah. So how is the person B going to feel right? They're going to be confident they're going to be okay, going into it. Person A is going to feel completely scared and debilitated. And panicked. Yeah. So it's just our thoughts are so important in the way that we think about situation. And then our behaviors. Yeah, come after that. So when it comes to behavioral activation, when it comes to depression, sometimes we have so many thoughts that are so intrusive, with both, of course, but with depression, because so much of what you're thinking can really feel isolating, and it can feel debilitating, and feel like on motivating, right? So it can feel like it can keep you really from in this place of isolation. Sometimes you have to, you have to actually do you have to change the behavior before the thought, change. Yeah, so you have to kind of just do the behavior without thinking about it. And then once your body moves, and you actually change the behavior, then you can also work on Okay, well, tell me now what your thoughts are now that you may change that behavior, and let's work on how it how it's helping you or not helping you but you're kind of changing the behavior first. You're working on that?

Shannon Jackson  27:27

Yeah. Can Can you give a good example I, my brain is like thinking right now of all these things, right? But can you give an example of what that would look like? So you're like, This sounds so hard, like, Oh, my God, we're just getting jumped to the behavior like great.

Alison Seponara  27:44

Okay. So, let's think of this. Maybe I can, maybe I can. Okay, so, I'll give you some questions. And if behavioral activation is helpful for a lot of people, but if you answer like yes to any of these questions, then it might be a good fit for you. Okay. So ask yourself, Do I have a sense of what's triggering my mood or my anxiety? Do I generally find myself doing very little with no pleasure or meaning in my life? Are there times that I feel better or worse? And I'm not sure why. Do I have a difficult time working with my negative thoughts, but seem to feel better when I can get myself moving and doing something? Do I have a hard time even knowing what I enjoy or finding meaning in? So if you answered yes to any of those, which there are people say, oh, yeah, probably, then you probably would benefit from this, because it really helps you kind of understand depression more and like anxiety more, and it monitors your daily activities. And it identifies more like goals. So it's kind of more activating in the sense where it's, it's not just having you sit down and like have talk therapy, as much as that's going to be helpful at some point to dive into your thoughts. It's more of physical. Yeah. Because the mind and the body are so connected, like, I don't know, if anyone's read the body keep score, or when it comes to like trauma and stuff, you know, learning so much about your physical body is so important to the healing process, too. So being able to get your body in a different like physical state, and at the same time recognizing like, Does that feel good? Or does that feel good? And like what behaviors actually help that? What are the behaviors that helped me feel a little bit soothed or a little bit? Maybe just suited in a way that's every everything's different? Like I'm thinking like for me, what suits me sometimes is to date That's some people might not like that intensity of dance. Some people might like just walking or doing some slow yoga or something, you know. So, really like scheduling in these enjoyable activities and scheduling in like meaningful behavioral activities, and kind of like problem solving around all of that together. That's what I did. And just really working on like goals and behaviorally working towards goals. And then at the same time also, I did like cognitive work, too, on my brain. Yeah, it wasn't just that. But if that like makes sense a little bit more. Yeah,

Shannon Jackson  30:38

no, it does. I'm just thinking, right? It's so hard, I think, to do this work, because a lot of people aren't very motivated, right? When you're struggling with anxiety and depression, anxiety, or depression. It's like just doing anything. And then I hear a lot, of course, and I know, I felt this way a lot, too. I'm curious what you have to say about this. I honestly convinced myself I didn't enjoy anything anymore. Like, I don't enjoy doing any of it. Because either I would feel anxious. Or I just felt so unmotivated like that. I know I I did like it right, like at the core, but my body and brain sort of convinced me I didn't enjoy anything. It was like nothing is going to make you feel good. Again, like, you're just stuck, right? Yeah,

Alison Seponara  31:28

so it takes it takes. Like I said, it kind of takes a little while for the brain to catch up with your body again. But like you said, there was even that little part of you, that remembers the enjoyment, but you don't know how you're ever gonna get back to it. But you remember that it was there. Yeah. And there was something and so that's what you would dive into. And you would little by little, have your, your therapist or whoever was working with you. Try and set goals to incorporate that behavior back into your life. Without even if you're still having the thought I know, I'm not gonna like it, I'm gonna hate it, I'm not enjoying this little by little incorporating that back into your life. And, and then of course, processing that with your therapist and problem solving through it and working through the thoughts that you have when you're doing it. And then rewiring your brain at the same time. But by by changing the behavior, it just physiologically also can help shift a lot of negative things going on in your body in your brain. But this is also this is also this can be used for a lot of people. But I would say this can be really, really helpful for someone who really is experiencing like major depressive disorder who really, really is struggling. Yeah, it functioning and like for me, I was not functioning I had, I wasn't working, I wasn't sleeping, I wasn't doing anything. I knew I was either going into an inpatient, which I did as a therapist did not want to do. Yeah, they are so helpful and great for so many people. I was so scared, I think because I had been exposed to so many different environments. And I just scared to leave the people I love which I think everybody probably is, but I probably could have benefited from it. And they are there's so many incredible programs out there. But I knew deep down I something I was like, I think I can try something first. Before I do that I want to try so I want to try something. So that is what really I started. And I remember the first night I went home after my parents when I slept at my apartment. That was my first goal. Like I created my therapist. I was like, I think I just want to try and sleep at my apartment again by myself. And I don't know if I can and then she was like, Okay, why don't you go for like an hour first, right? Like, go there for an hour, maybe like, see how you feel? And like slowly went into it. And I was able to sleep within the neck first week or two or something. But it was those behaviors if I didn't change the behavior, I would have stayed stuck in my parents bed. Like yeah, right.

Shannon Jackson  34:16

I know, when you were talking about it, I'm like, gosh, this sounds a lot like exposure work. And really making sure that you're choosing things that hold some sort of value for you and is important and is going to actually motivate you in some way. Because it's like, you know, get up and do this and you're like, Well, I don't want to just, you know, walk to the mailbox every day like, you know, so I always encourage people right pick, let's pick something that you know, you do enjoy and that you used to enjoy, and we're gonna get that enjoyment back. But it is that behavior. Right?

Alison Seponara  34:53

Is Yeah, it's so hard and then it just really is that the practice of changing the way that You think and rewiring your brain? It is, again, like I say I said this to a friend the other day that it's something I work on every day. Yeah, my brain. Yeah, every day I wake up and I choose to think, yeah, I choose what I'm going to do that day and take it one day at a time. And it's like, you can just wake up and make small choices every day that you know, are helpful for you. Yeah.

Shannon Jackson  35:26

And I think that's the thing, right? What's helpful for you, and it takes that trial and error and just, you know, taking small steps and figuring out what is helpful for you, because it's not one size fits all, of course, but I'm so glad to that you mentioned, you know, it's a lot of this is because not solely the cause, right. But a lot of us didn't have good emotional awareness. Like we weren't taught, we weren't spoken to you about these things. And I think, you know, it's a big generational thing. I think, for a lot of people, our ages, like, you know, our parents weren't great at this and not by fault to them, like they weren't taught either. But, you know, that's starting to change. And I think you're right, just having emotional awareness. Like, how am I actually feeling what am I feeling? And I don't remember ever doing that, right. Like, when you were saying, going to school, and you always felt anxious, and I never knew what that was. I just thought like, I just don't feel good. Every time I come to school. I feel like I'm going to puke and I don't want to be at recess and you're going on a field trip, like No, all day long. I will be like, I'm not doing that. I'm staying home today. But yeah, having that awareness now, of course, is so helpful as an adult, to be able to acknowledge for yourself like, Okay, I'm feeling anxious. Okay, I'm feeling sad. And, you know, here's what I can do that I know, it might be helpful to navigate this. So huge. Yeah,

Alison Seponara  36:54

it is, it really is. And that's something I still do everyday to I have, you know, on my refrigerator, a whole list of feeling words, and sometimes I don't know what it is, and I have to look at them. And I'm like, okay, am I angry right now I am. And you can be a lot of feelings at once. But I'm also feeling really disappointed in you know, my mom for not asking me something about something that I really wanted her to ask me about. And you know, that's yeah, deep rooted. But being able to and that's one thing I would say. And that's what I talk about in my book and anxiety healers guide, I, you know, the first chapter is literally feelings awareness is getting that list of feelings, and thinking to yourself and using I statements, I feel blank because or I feel blank when blank. And really getting comfortable with using feeling words sad, scared, worried, frustrated, happy, excited, you know, tired? Guilty. Yeah, what are the words? And that'll help you express yourself better when you can identify them?

Shannon Jackson  38:09

Yeah, I love that. Because I think we immediately sort of jump to Oh, no, I'm feeling something that doesn't feel good. Let me get rid of it. Like, well, yeah, let's get rid of it. Whatever it is, don't care what it is. And

Alison Seponara  38:21

now in 2024, with, you know, people when people are feeling uncomfortable, this is what I've noticed that automatically, I'm feeling anxious. I'm feeling anxious. I'm feeling anxious. Okay. That's almost like, like, what does that mean? Yeah. Are you like, are you feeling scared about something? Because that's probably what Yes, scare anxiety is just a very debilitating fear or worry, right? That's like, how it's categorized. But like, are you also feeling something else? Are you feeling sad about something? You know? Did you just come from like a family event? And you're feeling you know, really sad? Or you're going to it? And are you feeling nervous? You know, like, are you feeling disappointed in something? Or are you feeling you know, envious about someone who's going to be there? I don't know. You know,

Shannon Jackson  39:14

oh, there can be so many questions. I used to everything was anxiety, right. But sometimes I was genuinely excited. Like, there was excitement. And I would just be like, no, like, don't go. We're not doing this like, but yeah, slowing down, right, slowing down to acknowledge what you're actually feeling is just so, so helpful. And I like how you said to write, you really have to work on the beliefs that you hold, because they think those things hugely keep us stuck in the same loops and just sort of, you know, truly believing like life can't look differently. I can't look differently. Things are always going to look this way. I'm always going to feel this way. But being able to change those beliefs. I mean, as massive it changes your whole life. look on you. And also, of course makes you feel more the emotions you actually want to feel.

Alison Seponara  40:05

Well, and yeah, and a huge piece of CBT is challenging the thoughts you have, right, and really trying to find evidence that what you're thinking is 1,000% true. Right. Yeah. And when it comes to anxiety and depression, the thoughts that we have challenging the thoughts as we challenge them to challenge and we realize, well, no, they're not, it's not that true. Like, you know, am I like one that I have all the time as, like I am. I'm too fat. No one's gonna love me because I'm fat. And if I gain this much weight, how is a man ever going to want to, like, have sex with me? This is just like, you know, these, this has gone through my head since I was little, all the stuff about physical and then men being attracted to me. And, you know, now I know right away, I catch them. And I know that's not true. Because I know, I haven't sensitive myself and everyone's beauty is different. And guess what? Everyone's body is beautiful at any size. And that's the least interesting thing about me. Yeah, like my, my body, right? I have so many other but that voice, that voice still there, it's a little bit quieter, which I think that's what I teach my clients is like, we want to learn how to turn the volume down on that a little bit, but also speak to it compassionately. Right? We don't want to try and say like, oh my god, get out of here, like, get rid of that thought. I mean, it's going to be in there. So how can you turn it down? And actually, you know, acknowledge it's there, but then talk to it and nurture it. Right? Yeah. You know, like, and that's some inner child work for me. And that's some mirror work, you know, affirmation work. That's, I'm huge on all of that, too. And so I have this dialog every day with myself. And you know, I started breaking out the last couple of weeks, and I'm just like, What is going on? I'm like, You know what I am? Okay, and nothing's unhealthy. I have, you know, I think of gratitude is also huge. But, you know, I speak to myself differently now. And I think about what would I tell my younger self? What would I tell someone that I loved that was going through it, I would never say all of those mean things to them that I say to myself, right,

Shannon Jackson  42:19

right. I know, it's so hard, though. And like you said, it is a daily practice, because we're so used to talking to ourselves in such an unkind way. It's, it's like, autopilot almost. And it's takes a lot of very conscious mindful work to not do that. So I know you have a whole book on all of this. Allison. Right. But um, I want to ask this question, what I love about your book, is that right, you're creating, you're having people create their own toolkit, and you're saying, there are so many different tools, right? There's not just a set, you know, toolkit, and it's not just these things that you have to use, and it's not stuff ABCDE. So what are just a couple of tools that you found incredibly helpful when you were navigating your anxiety and depression journey? Yeah,

Alison Seponara  43:10

oh, my gosh. And I, you know, it's funny writing this book, too, because after I was done, and I submitted the manuscript, I was like, wait, I want to add a couple more things. You know, there's always I have, I have a lot of, you know, that I researched from, and I'm a holistic practitioner. So I research a lot of Eastern medicine and Eastern world and all that. But there's so many things that are not in there that are so helpful for so many people. But this is a good beginner, the anxiety healers Guide is a good beginner to kind of create it. But it does take trial and error to know what your toolkit looks like. And to know that you're going to be pulling from that for the rest of your life, like you're going to know what you're going to need in certain situations, right, like what I need going into a party with 50 people and how I'm going to regulate myself before that is different than when I'm going to you know, be going to like a yoga class that I'm a little bit nervous about or something right. Like, that's going to be or what I need when I'm sitting alone, and I'm feeling really, you know, just dysregulated to being alone, I need something different than to help me right. But some of the things that have really, I think, just you know, there are certain things that I would say are very helpful for that could be for everybody, which is like community support. Yeah, so your support system is going to be just a theme for everybody that should have on their toolkit is people that they feel safe with, and a community they feel safe with. And a support system is huge. And that could include, you know, some therapy or coaching or something that also helps them, you know, work on that. So, community and support system is huge. Also, for many, many people what's in their toolkit is Medicaid. Session. It's not in everybody's, but medication is a part of someone's toolkit. And so many people, I don't want to be on it forever. I know, blah, blah, blah. And I am the same way. So I was when I took it to and I go back and forth, honestly, every couple of months, you know, do I want to talk to someone about and I still think about it, I'm like, I think I am going to call someone in a couple months, I just haven't done it yet. And it doesn't need to be so rigid, you know. But there's also no harm in just getting evaluated, like going to a psychiatrist doesn't mean that you have to start taking medication, you can go get evaluated and ask them questions, and learn about it, and then have the medication and decide when you want to start it or if you ever do, you know, but that's in a lot of people's toolkit, good for them. So long as it's helpful, right? And you're not dependent. That's another thing about the toolkit, you shouldn't be dependent on just one thing in it. Right? Like, it's my medication. If I don't have it, then I'm not good. No, no, no, like, it's gotta work. Yeah. So for me, specifically, I have I have like a support system, I have a lot of grounding techniques that are very, very healing for me that I do on a daily basis, I have a breathwork practice I do every day, I have, I have some apps that I love with certain meditations. And I am a person who needs to be in nature that regulates my nervous system. So I have to go outside and I have to walk, I don't care how cold it is, or how hot it is, I definitely don't go for as many as long periods of time if it's too hot, you know, or anything like that. But being outside is huge for me. And research has shown how important it is for everybody to get some sun on your face. And to get outside. I have a really, really established and amazing yoga practice. There's a and that's part of a community for me too. In my neighborhood, there is an amazing yoga studio that is not just it, actually, the sole purpose of it is to build people together and to have classes that are based on like the Eastern world with meditation and movement and breath. And it's not actually like you're not going there to burn 6000 calories, like that's not what it's for, is actually like a therapy for me going there. So I would suggest if you're interested in that kind of looking for that space. And then I also have my tools like my actual tools. I mean, I have a little bit of ADHD, so I need fidgets with me, whenever I'm like going somewhere or I need my water. Water is huge. For me, I have my water bottle with me. Essential oils are huge. For me, I use peppermint oil, because I get nauseous a lot when I'm anxious. So sometimes I'll just sniff that and I'll feel better. I want to I want to also make clear that you have to be also aware that these don't turn into like safety behaviors. So I have a good balance of knowing of not being dependent on something like if I don't have my water bottle, oh my gosh, am I going to have a panic attack? No, I'll be fine. So I'm, I'm very regulated. And the book shows you how to do this, how to create this. So you're not dependent on any of these things, or using them as safety behaviors. But it really takes trial and error. So like moving your body is huge, practicing some guided like strategy, grounding strategies, visualization strategies. A lot of first sleep is huge. So like sleep hygiene is in my toolkit, how can I make my sleep environment better sleep is medicine. So what can you do to make your sleep environment better? I know for me, I need a noise machine. And I have like an eye mask and I have certain pillows and like my temperature and I mean, it really I just it's it's perfect because I it's not like obsessive, I'm not obsessive about it. But I know what helps me really get into that state that I need to and if I don't the next day, I'm kind of tired. I know that I have another night I'm going to sleep I know I'll be okay and I'll get through the day and asleep that night. Lack of sleep really used to trigger me I see it really really anxious and nauseous when I wouldn't get sleep now I know I'll make it through the day. I'll be okay. And then also learning boundaries. Learning when you say support system, like who are you around? Who's filling up your copy, you know, what kinds of work to do with your inner dialogue, your self talk the affirmations, the inner child work, tangible items. I mean, there's so many tangible weighted blankets. I mean, there's things I put in my book that's all different. And also other resources like podcasts. What shows make you feel good, what things like make you feel cozy? You know? I'm just like thinking of what's in mind, but you know, I love Yeah, I can watch the office like every day. I'm also just listening to your body. Really, really being that awareness is huge. So I mean, you can see my whole entire like toolkit in my book, I put it all in there of what I have, but in you know what, just look is different for everyone. And you have to really just dedicate and commit yourself to trying things. Yeah.

Shannon Jackson  50:07

I agree. I agree. Yeah. So this has been such a good conversation. Allison, I've loved every second of it. So if people are like, okay, cool. Where can I find Alison? Where can people find and connect with? Yeah.

Alison Seponara  50:22

Oh my gosh. So it's the anxiety healer on Tiktok. And Instagram, I'm trying to be more active on Tiktok. But going so well, so lately, but I'm trying this year, um, Instagram is mostly my my major platform. And I have, you can subscribe to my page, you can find things the anxiety healers guide. on Amazon, the anxiety checks is on podcast on all streaming platforms. I am coming out with another book this year, which I just submitted, which I'm very excited about. And it's actually it's actually for clinicians. So it's for anyone who's in the healing profession, to work on with their clients to help create their toolkit with their clients. So cool. And yeah, and practice a lot of these regulating strategies with your clients in session. And like, help them create their toolkit. So look for that. I'll give you some more information about that later. And then, in April, I'm actually coming out with a course called the seven days of anxiety healing, it's worse, I haven't actually put out since like, 2021, I don't think 2022 Also, grief and loss is a huge thing my dad died about two years ago, I don't even get into that. But that's kind of where I put the pause on that for a little bit. And then, but that's starting in April, April 1 Again, so we talk about facing your fears in seven days. It's amazing. People love it, because there's some exercises, there's video prompts, a lot of a whole workbook about facing your fears and setting boundaries and even with technology, and working on how you talk to yourself everything I talked about today, but it's going to be a very intimate group. So I have you know, coaching calls through that week and stuff too. So if you want more information about that, I would say send me a DM on anxiety healer, I actually do surprisingly answer everybody. takes a little time, but I do so if you're interested in that just DM in and tell me that you want to get on the list the waiting list for that course.

Shannon Jackson  52:33

So cool. So many exciting things. We'll go check Allison out. And Alison, thank you again for coming on.

Alison Seponara  52:39

Thank you so much for having me and for doing what you do.

Shannon Jackson  52:43

Yeah, same. I hope you enjoyed this episode of a healthy push. If you want more, head on over to for the show notes, and lots more tips, tools and inspiration that will support your recovery. And if you're hoping for me to cover a certain topic, be sure to join my Instagram community at Aldi push and let me know in the comments what you want to hear next.


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