As part of Live Happy’s special series 90 Days to a Happier You, we’ve gathered experts from around the country with unbeatable advice about how we (and you!) can change habits and live better in 2016. Below is part one of Kim Baker’s ongoing blog series as she attempts to overcome her anxiety with the help of coach Karen Cassiday, Ph.D.
Heart pounding, palms sweating, breath shallow, shoulders tense … this is not a fun way to feel. In fact, thankfully, it’s rare that I get this way anymore, but anxiety is still present in my life. That’s why I volunteered to put myself out there and be part of Live Happy's “90 Days to a Happier You” project.
I have worked on my worry in the past, but if I can find a bit more joy and learn to breathe and relax through life's ups and downs by working with a professional like Dr. Karen Cassiday, then I am glad to do this!
I won’t worry my life away
I realized years ago that I was worrying too much about certain parts of my life. I really want to live more in the present and settle my racing mind. Jason Mraz’s song "The Remedy" really struck a chord with me, and I try to keep it as my mantra: “I won’t worry my life away…”
The ironic thing is, I am a fairly easygoing person who can laugh about things most of the time, but I am also very sensitive. A simple decision or ailment that would be no big deal for most people could become a time-consuming worry for me. It can be overwhelming and frustrating.
Whatever the reason for my anxiety, I don’t blame it on anyone—my past, my family—or try to find excuses for it. I simply know I don’t like it and want to minimize it as much as I can. Yoga, deep breathing, exercising and spending time doing things I enjoy (hello, shopping) all contribute to keeping me on the calmer side of life. But I am always open to learn new ways and tools to help even more.
What’s the use in worrying?
Enter my coach: Karen Cassiday, Ph.D., president of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and managing director of the Anxiety Treatment Center of Greater Chicago. I learned so much in our first brief conversations. We worry because we are intolerant of uncertainty.
As humans it is natural and necessary to be able to think ahead so we can make life plans. But worrying incessantly about things we can’t control is unhealthy and puts us in fight-or-flight mode. Being stuck in this “high idle” mode, as Karen puts it, has kept me in a “wired and tired” state all the time. She also explained that seeking reassurance for my worry has actually contributed to it. Here I thought Googling symptoms of an illness was actually helping me; turns out it is perpetuating my worry!
Facing anxiety head-on
Now the tricky part: Making myself use the tools she has given me to work on my worry, which she spells out in her own blog. I have downloaded the SAM app, purchased the book Women Who Worry Too Much. But as for “Stop all reassurance seeking”… let's say I am still working on that, but I am determined!
We have spoken one more time since our first meeting and worked on some “worry exposure” exercises, which is the exact thing I have been trying not to do. I have always avoided worry, or anxiety-inducing activity, instead of trying to rid myself of it. This is a challenge for me because it causes anxious feelings. But in the end it should help eradicate them. Well worth it in my opinion.
After all, what's the use in worrying?
Kim Baker is Live Happy's art director.