Follow along with the transcript below for episode: Making Friends With Your Anxiety With Liza Kindred
[00:00:02] PF: Thank you for joining us for episode 365 of Live Happy Now. Not to sound like a broken record, but May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Here at Live Happy, we’re using this time to take on some of the tough topics surrounding mental health. I’m your host, Paula Felps, and throughout the month we’re focusing on tools for better mental health.
This week, I’m talking with Liza Kindred, author of the fabulous new Calm Your Anxiety Journal. Liza is a licensed minister, Reiki practitioner, and meditation teacher whose work has been featured in publications around the world. She’s here today to talk about why we’re so anxious and how making friends with her anxiety can help change the way it affects us.
[00:00:46] PF: Liza, welcome to Live Happy Now.
[00:00:49] LK: Hi, Paula. I’m really excited to be here. Thank you for having me.
[00:00:53] PF: This is a great conversation that I’m really looking forward to because what you have done with your book, Calm Your Anxiety Journal, is mind-blowing. I have read many books on anxiety. This is hands down the best book on anxiety I’ve ever picked up.
[00:01:07] LK: Oh, my gosh.
[00:01:09] PF: So before we dig into what it’s all about and how important this is, let’s talk about you. You teach meditation and you use a lot of Buddhist principles. Can you talk about what led you down the path and how you got to where you are?
[00:01:22] LK: Yeah, thanks. Like so many people I think who end up in this space, I had kind of different careers before. I worked in technology, and I worked in fashion, and then I worked in fashion technology, so wearable tech for a while. I was designing and helping people build these, well, wearable tech devices. At the same time, in my personal life, I had started studying Buddhism, going to retreats, trying to live this kind of uninterrupted life. Then at work, I was really like designing devices that actually interrupt, like they’re designed to be disruptive.
After a while, I was like, “This isn’t adding up. I’m not living my values to be like working.” I think we can all kind of see now with a lot of the downsides are to big technology. I was just starting to feel like that’s not what I want to be putting out into the world anymore. So I kind of have shifted to focusing on the things that are near and dear to my heart and have given me so much benefit, which are things like meditation and mindfulness, which stems from my Buddhist path, and also doing things like helping people with anxiety, like we’re going to talk about today, and just a variety of different healing modalities.
It feels like a really special way to be able to live my values and put that out in the world. So hearing you say those things, it’s like it makes my heart just like sore and like, “Oh, my gosh. I’m doing it, I think. I’m putting some good into the world, so thank you.”
[00:02:49] PF: You’re doing so much good. How did you make that transition in a career sense? A lot of us might start applying these principles and using these practices, but it doesn’t mean that we can parlay that into an actual career like you’ve been able to do.
[00:03:03] LK: Sure. Yeah. I mean, it is difficult, but I kind of took some baby steps. I initially stepped back into focusing on mindful technology, so kind of just baby stepping a little bit out of technology, trying to bring it. I was doing keynotes around the world, talking about how to bring the principles of mindfulness and the practices of mindfulness into technology and really trying to help people to be very cognizant and thoughtful about the tech that they’re building. That was a good baby step into a different zone, but I still felt like I was serving our tech overlords in a way that didn’t feel right. So I’ve kind of taken another step out.
But at the same time, I have not ever been a monk on the side of a mountain. I very much live in this world, in the world of tech, in the world of stressed out deadlines, anxiety. Just recently, I’m not a New Yorker anymore. So my first book about meditation called Eff This! Meditation and this book about anxiety is really meant to meet people who are like, “Yeah, that sounds like a good idea.” But I’m a caregiver. I have a job. I have to do all this stuff. So how do we actually fit this stuff in in like the real world?
[00:04:13] PF: Yeah. I think that’s what’s so amazing about it because you do show us that it can be done with this balance because I feel like sometimes books on anxiety are too academic. It’s like, “Okay, that’s great. But if I’m not a researcher, who’s spending my life hold up studying this, how am I going to actually live this way?”
[00:04:31] LK: Right. If you have to like look up what the words even mean. It’s nice to have like an academic foundation. But, yeah, how do I apply this? It’s like, “Okay, I wrote all those big words, but like now I’m feeling more anxious.” Something else I found out there was like I also just – I looked at like everything out there, and there are some great books about anxiety. No offense to anyone but I haven’t found any other good journals about anxiety. In fact, one of them I found, one of the practices, was like, “List all the things that make you anxious.” I’m feeling more anxious just thinking about listing. What?
[00:05:04] PF: Yeah. Because like what you focus on is what is going to grow.
[00:05:08] LK: Right. Right. Like this need isn’t big enough. I’m already anxious.
00:05:14PF: I’m going to need another journal. So how did anxiety become such a central focus for your messaging?
[00:05:20] LK: Yeah. Well, I mean, we all have it. Increasingly, a lot of the time that I’m spending with my meditation students, it’s like when we’re sitting down on the cushion, and we’re trying to meet ourselves where we are, so often where we are is like super anxious, and it’s for really good reason. Like that’s something else that I really want to be able to get across to people is just how much like anxiety makes sense, looking at what’s going on around us.
One of my favorite quotes was – It’s almost 100 years ago. Indian philosopher and poet named Jiddu Krishnamurti said, “It’s no measure of good health to be well adjusted to a sick society.”
[00:06:04] PF: That needs to be on my coffee mug.
[00:06:06] LK: Yes, yes.
[00:06:07] PF: That’s really good.
[00:06:08] LK: Isn’t it? 100 years ago he said that. So I’m like, “Well, of course, we’re feeling anxious and all kinds of disease and struggling with mental health. Look around us.” But yet when it comes to like my anxiety and my problems, it’s like we kind of blame ourselves for not coping. But it’s like, “Oh, my gosh. We’re coping great compared to what’s happening.”
[00:06:32] PF: All things considered. Yes. Did you start this book pre-pandemic, during the pandemic, or kind of what was the –
[00:06:40] LK: Totally during. Yeah. It was totally during, and I had the opportunity, I mean, during quarantine to go really, really deep into it and really try to create something. Take like the most helpful pieces, the most solid pieces of things like cognitive behavioral therapy, CBT, and ABT, and mindfulness, and really like go deep into what is actually the most helpful for anxiety in the long run.
So I’m really grateful that I actually had the opportunity to do that, like spend some real time and do a real deep dive, because I feel like then the journal and all the practices in the journal and even the order that the practices go in, are very intentionally designed to make a difference in the long term. Like not just in the short term. I think there’s awesome vagal system, nervous system practices we can use to help calm ourselves down in a short term, but like we got to kind of get out of the anxiety cycle for it to make last long term.
[00:07:34] PF: Well, and this is so comprehensive. Like it addresses so many different aspects of how anxiety affects us and how we deal with it. How did you make sure that you were covering so many bases? Because I think that’s what was mind-blowing too. Yeah. I was like, “Man, she just really left no stone unturned here.”
[00:07:52] LK: Thanks for saying that. I mean, I read all. I got very, very academic. Like I really got in there and reading these like six 800-page academic books about stuff and trying to really understand that. It does cover a lot. But I also feel like to really make changes to our anxiety, we have to kind of understand all those different things. Like we were talking just before we started recording. We were talking about how anxiety is actually biological. It’s physical, and that’s not like a metaphor to say it like lives in the body. But it’s actually like physically resides in there. It resides in our tissues, in our nervous system and the way that our synapses are firing. So I think that’s really important.
[00:08:34] PF: Yeah. I think it’s important to there’s been a lot of studies coming out very recently that talks about intergenerational trauma. So my family has a huge history of anxiety, and there was up until this point. I think a lot of people just felt like, “Well, it’s just because your mom was anxious, so you learned anxiety. So you grew up anxious.” But now, you see, it is truly like an intergenerational thing that happens as well.
[00:09:00] LK: When we’re born to someone who was anxious when we were gestating. We’re in the womb. That affects us. That kind of stuff really does pass down. As far as what genes are turned on or turned off, and yet I still feel like so many of us still, yeah, blame ourselves or like maybe blame another person like, “It’s on me,” or, “It’s on my mom,” or whatever. But it is so much more complicated than that, like you’re saying.
[00:09:21] PF: Would you see less shame around it? Because I know, say 20 years ago, you wouldn’t walk around and say, “I’m having issues with my anxiety.” You just didn’t. You could not.
[00:09:30] LK: That’s so true. That’s so true. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:09:34] PF: Now, I see people being a little bit more willing to talk about it. I think that has to help with the healing of it too.
[00:09:42] LK: Oh, my gosh. Yes. Like to be able to – If we’re experiencing something in our body, like we’re in a room or a conversation, and we’re feeling anxious, to be able to say, “I feel anxious,” is the first step of in dissipating the anxiety. To stop fighting it and when we just like let it be, then we are actually do start calming ourselves down. So being able to do that in the moment or even, yeah, in the broader picture. Someone’s like, “How are you?” It’s like, “Oh, man. I’ve been anxious lately.” The response is like, “Oh, man. Me too.”
[00:10:13] PF: Yeah. I don’t think anyone’s like, “Really? I’ve just been chill.”
[00:10:16] LK: Yeah. Why? What’s wrong? Is something wrong? Is something stressful?
[00:10:21] PF: With the Calm Your Anxiety, I guess, I really want you to explain kind of the format a little bit because it’s unlike most books. It’s kind of like a workbook. It’s kind of like a journal. It’s kind of like a study guide. It takes all these different elements. It’s also like having a really good friend walk you through it because the tone of it is not academic, even though it’s very instructional and helpful. But you just kind of walk us through this.
[00:10:47] LK: Thank you so much for saying that. I’m cherishing what you’re saying. I’m so glad that that comes across. I kind of alluded to this, but anxiety is for sure something I’ve struggled with too. In fact, I feel like there’s quite a few meditation teachers who struggle with anxiety. Not all of them feel comfortable talking about it I think because maybe that seems a little bit – It’s like, “Oh, your meditation isn’t working.”
But you can see from the book, it’s like there’s eight sections. Mindfulness is one of them. So it’s like we have more to do there. But it really is about like, first and foremost, understanding what anxiety is. I feel like it’s so important that people understand that, also, anxiety is something that like we’re anxious about something because something went wrong in the past. We’re not making it up. It might not be happening now, but anxiety always stems from a truth.
So it kind of hurts my feelings sometimes to see – Not my feelings but I get a little like sad when I see people posting things like your anxiety is lying to you because it’s not. Our anxiety is telling us a truth. It’s just like maybe exaggerating or bringing it up at the wrong time. But understanding that I think is key.
[00:12:00] PF: Yeah. Because it’s kind of like a warning system that your body created to tip you off because of past trauma.
[00:12:06] LK: And to keep us alive too.
[00:12:08] PF: Yeah. That too.
[00:12:10] LK: There’s like a lion coming. You should run. It’s like the same system. So it is giving us helpful messages, and that’s part of why you can’t just like shut it down because your body’s like, “I need you to hear what I’m saying, or I can’t go away.” So during these practices of like sitting with it and making friends with it, which is kind of where the journal goes next, is like how do we actually listen to our anxiety without like being mad at it. Or maybe we’re mad at it, whatever. But if we’re listening because that can actually start the physical process of our parasympathetic nervous system kicking in and us being able to actually calm down because we all know that we can’t just be like, “Okay, Liza. Just relax. Just relax.”
[00:12:48] PF: Stop it.
[00:12:49] LK: Yeah. Calm down. It’s like that doesn’t work. So we have to actually do things that will work, which is working with our bodies and working with our nervous system, which are all things that the journal covers as well. It’s like how do we make friends with that? How do we understand it? Then how do we step out of the cycle?
[00:13:06] PF: What does it do when we befriend it? Because I love that, the way that that whole chapter walks you through it. It’s like then I started seeing in my head this whole little play of like your anxiety sitting down. You hate it at first, and then you’re like, “Oh, it’s not so bad.” That’s really what that chapter made me do. So tell us what that does when you make peace or make friends with your anxiety.
[00:13:27] LK: Yeah. Or even just the beginning stages of that, like just like paying attention to what it’s saying, like acknowledging, “Oh, did you have something to say?” It’s like a really does – We can’t actually get rid of anxiety totally. Like there’s not like a cure, and that’s because it is the same biologically wired system that’s keeping us alive. It’s like danger. It’s our danger schema. It’s like, “Hey, there’s like something going on here. You might want to pay attention.” If it’s bad, then we’re like – We go into the different responses like fight, flight, freeze, fawn, collapse.
But before that, we’re just like, “Hey, pay attention. Hey, pay attention.” There’s something going on here. So if we’re able to just like, “Hey, pay attention,” if we could just like sit with it and be like, “Okay, hang on. What’s going on?” By listening to it, it gives us the opportunity to then say like, “Okay, I’ve given my signal. I’ve been heard.” When we’re pushing stuff away, it’s like, “Stop being anxious. Stop being anxious.” Like we’re giving all this power to it.
So it’s kind of like, “You know what? Fine. You can sit down. Sit on the couch. What do you need? Okay, got it. I can hear you. I heard you. Got it. Thank you.” It’s like someone that loves us, like overbearing like parents that like, “Hey, be careful. Be careful.”
[00:14:42] PF: I’m just trying to keep you safe.
[00:14:43] LK: Yeah, yeah. Totally. It’s like that’s our anxiety right there. I’m just trying to keep you safe.
[00:14:51] PF: That’s so good. I love what it does in your brain when you start thinking about it differently. Because then instead of when you start feeling your individual triggers kicking in and instead of being like, “Oh, crap. Here we go,” you can react differently to it.
[00:15:05] LK: Yes. For me, I’m always like, “Oh, here we go again. What’s wrong with me? Why is this making me anxious? No one else is anxious,” da, da, da. If we could just like stop that. In Buddhism, we call that the second arrow. So it’s this idea of like we’ve been like hit with an arrow, and that hurts. But then when we like beat ourselves up for being hit by an arrow, that’s kind of like sending a second arrow. So if we can avoid that and just not be like, “What’s wrong with me? Why do I have anxiety?” If we could just be like, “What up anxiety? Okay, what do you need to say,” that creates a sense of ease, where before that it was maybe like all tension. That’s the beginning of it. That feels good. It can feel good.
[00:15:44] PF: Yeah, yeah. It takes a minute I think when we’re good.
[00:15:46] LK: Right, right. No guarantees. It takes a while.
[00:15:51] PF: One of the things that I really liked it, anxiety isn’t one size fits all because we all have our thing, but there are familiar patterns within it. So what really struck me with Calm Your Anxiety is how it personalizes each person’s individual struggle with anxiety and give so many different ways to manage it. So was that designed to let each person find what works for them? Or is it do you want them to use all the things that were – How does this work?
[00:16:19] LK: Yeah. In both of my books, I’m like, “Just take what works and like leave the rest, always.” It’s like everything is so personal. Especially in wellness, there are so many people that are like, “I have the answer. It worked for me, so it will work for everyone.” It’s like we’re all so different, and we all need different things. The way we experience it is different. Where it came from is different.
One of the things I was really fascinated to learn through the research of this book was the different ways that different cultures talk about anxiety. The language that they use is really different. Some cultures, and I’m sorry, I’m not remembering where right now, but in some places, the focus on anxiety is having a hot face is how it’s described. In some other cultures, it’s talked about like a rising wind, which I think must be like a tornado kind of.
Even the way we talk about it, how we experience it, how we talk about it is all really personal. So what’s going to work is personal. So I would just love for people to just try something. If it doesn’t work, it’s like, “Thank you, next.” There’s plenty to do.
[00:17:24] PF: Yeah. That is – It’s like this little toolbox where you can just choose which one is most appealing to you and seems like most reasonable fit into your life.
[00:17:35] LK: Exactly. Yeah. Because people are busy, and we have ups and downs, and highs and lows, and busy times and slow times. If people can just like work through the book as quickly or as slowly as it feels right, there is real change by the end.
[00:17:51] PF: I love how you end it with a graduation certificate.
[00:17:54] LK: A certificate of completion. Thanks for saying that. My publisher was like, “Well, how are they going to know if they’ve earned it?” I’m like, “Even if they just slipped through the book and just see it, they’ve already earned it. So I’m signing it already.”
[00:18:08] PF: Yeah. It just gives you that – It made me smile because it’s like, “What a great reminder.” If you’re having an off day, if you’re having a struggle with anxiety, where you can look at that and be like, “I got this because –”
[00:18:19] LK: Right. I’ve practiced. I’ve got the tools.
[00:18:21] PF: Yeah, absolutely. So one of the things I wanted you to explain to us is about morning meditation. Can you talk about how starting your day with a morning meditation can help us change our anxiety?
[00:18:34] LK: Yeah. I mean, we all have anxiety at different times. But a lot of people do have it in the morning, waking up and just like the day starts, and we start –
[00:18:44] PF: Well, and then we have to go to work. That doesn’t help.
[00:18:46] LK: Yes. I rush. A lot of times, I have to rush, right, which is like the worst for anxiety, rushing. So being able to take some time to like check in and see. Not try to change where we’re at, but just see where we’re at and just be where we’re at. That’s all we’re really trying to do is like, “Hey, Liza.” I talk to myself a lot like, “Hey, self. Hey, me. How are you doing,” and being able to just start the day, checked in, and it was a mindful breathing and a little bit of mindfulness practice in the meditation. We’re really setting the day up for success.
If we can even bring an intention into it before, during, or after the practice where we can kind of come back to that throughout the day like, “Okay, I have this intention,” or, “I had this experience that I know that even if I’m not feeling calm right now, I know that calm exists, and it exists in me, and I can get back there.” It helps us to build confidence in getting back to that place.
[00:19:45] PF: Yeah, definitely. How does it work to set an intention for the day? Because I know on days when I do that, there’s a huge difference, and I don’t know why I don’t do it every day because I see the results.
[00:19:56] LK: Because we’re busy.
[00:19:58] PF: Yeah. Talk about that. When you can set an intention, how do you do that?
[00:20:03] LK: It’s almost like dropping an anchor. It’s like I’ve seen some people, when they set intention, it’s set like pretty long sentence or a couple sentences about like, “Today, I’m going to be calm and open.” We always want to state what we want, not what we don’t want. So we don’t want to say like, “I won’t get angry.” We’re not trying to put our energy or use our words there but saying like, “I will be calm.” So really like giving it some positivity.
I mean, we don’t – We’re not going into like overly, “Everything is great. Everything is great.” But we’re just setting a positive intention, leaving room with a reality of what is, which is all the highs and lows. But like, “I’ll meet things with calmness as best I can.” Or we can list a few things. Or for me, a lot of times, it’s just a word that comes to me when I’m meditating. Sometimes, it’s like the same word peace for a week or – Recently, it was clarity. I was just getting the word clarity again and again.
Throughout the day, I would know if I’m starting to feel stressed out or struggle or just have a quiet moment, just coming back to that intention, whether it’s clarity or it’s a longer thing. It’s like coming back home to yourself.
[00:21:14] PF: I love how you say that. That’s a beautiful thought.
[00:21:16] LK: We dropped that anchor and the weather could get choppy. The boat could go around. But it’s like but we can always kind of pull on that anchor and know that like, “All right, I put this here for myself.” Like, “Okay.”
[00:21:28] PF: That’s great. Yeah. Because we know that we can pull back to it and get there and make it through that day or just through that moment if we have to.
[00:21:35] LK: Yeah. I have a lot of people tell me that they do it in the bathroom. It’s like, especially at work, if we’re in a busy office, just like kind of go into a stall or something and just like have a minute of like, “Okay, I’m coming back to myself, where I am.”
[00:21:47] PF: Yeah. Yeah. That’s so important to do, and we’ve been seeing a lot of material about how high our anxiety levels are, the increase in mental health problems. There was one stat that I saw a couple of weeks ago that talked about if all of the therapists practicing in the US today saw 3,000 patients a year, they would not be able to get through everyone that needs mental health assistance right now.
So we look at it, and that’s just overwhelming to look at that kind of a need. As we think about that, and I know that we get a lot of feedback, and people are dealing with so many different things, so what are the things that you would recommend right now to the people who are listening to where they start to reclaim better mental health?
[00:22:34] LK: Yeah. Thanks for that lead in too because one of the things that that I feel like that really kind of like shocking statistics speaks to is how much more systemic help we could really use. I want every person who wants a therapist to have a therapist. Everyone should have that, and we don’t. So what we’re left with a lot of times are these tools, like personal tools for us to try. Tools like this journal, tools like some practices. So we kind of have to rely on ourselves in a way that we really should be able to be relying on the mental health system.
[00:23:12] PF: That’s a great point. Yeah. That is a really great point because not everyone has the resources to see a therapist. Even if they do, they may not be able to get in. It’s –
[00:23:22] LK: Yeah. It takes a while to find a good fit. Yeah. I mean, I have a therapist I love and I’m so grateful for that because that’s hard to get. We all deserve good help. But I appreciate that lead into the question because I want to share some tools and some practices that people can do. I feel like it’s really important that we all know that like we shouldn’t have to be doing this on our own. To the extent that we can get help and support from other people, I wish that for you. Please fight for it if you can.
But there are things we can also do for ourselves, and so that’s where this book comes in and things like – My absolute favorite, this is the most simple thing that we can do, which is that when our exhale is longer than our inhale in our breathing, so if we’re breathing out longer than we’re breathing in, that triggers the parasympathetic nervous system response and starts to calm our heart rate. It’s a physical message that we send to ourselves. Calm down. It’s okay. It doesn’t work to say it in our heads, but we can actually talk to our nervous system.
Especially doing deep belly breathing, where if we put like one hand over our belly and when we inhale, we really try to fill our bellies up with air, and make them like big and beautiful. Then exhale slow, long and slow. A few cycles of that is one of the most powerful ways to shift the response and to start to be able to calm ourselves down in the moment. Some of the other practices that I like are like self-soothing, like just taking our fingers and gently rubbing our other arm. It’s self-soothing. It feels a little bit. It can feel a little childish kind of. It’s like the thing we do to soothe a child. But we’re doing a bilateral movement, so we’re engaged in both sides of our brain. We’re coming back into our body. We’ll go as fast or as slow as we feel that feels good. So we’re always kind of doing it right for ourselves.
It is actually self-soothing. If you’re in a meeting, it’s something you can do like under the table. Or like whatever. It just looks like you’re kind of mindlessly using your thumb to stroke your arm or something. But these kinds of things where we can actually just really start to just break that like, “I’m freaking out,” cycle coming back to ourselves, coming back to our body, coming back to the present moment. Because anxiety, we spiral out of our body. We spiral out of the here and now. So these really simple practices can help just bring us back to the here and now.
[00:25:50] PF: You have several great free resources on your site. You’ve got some meditations. You’ve got some other little goodies on.
[00:25:55] LK: Heck, yeah. Thank you. Yeah. We’re building a whole resource library. We’re feeling like really good about it. Most of it’s free. Yeah. We have all kinds of meditations, meditation scripts, different journal prompts, things like that. One of the ones that I especially recommend for people who are interested in working with our anxiety is the body scan meditation, which we have on there for free, where we can do a shorter or a longer body scan. That can really help us to take that brief moment of coming back into our bodies and extend it out for even longer, and it can be very relaxing.
[00:26:28] PF: Terrific. You have given us so much to work with, so much to help us manage our anxiety better. I’m really excited for our listeners to discover your site, all those great resources.
[00:26:40] LK: Thank you.
[00:26:40] PF: I hope they check out the journal. As we let you go, what’s the one thing you hope everybody takes away from this talk we’ve had today?
[00:26:49] LK: Yeah. This is it. You are complete. You’re just not finished.
[00:26:54] PF: Love it.
[00:26:55] LK: You are whole. You have everything that you need. You are unbroken. Everything that you need already lives in. You’re just kind of refining it still. You are complete, just not finished.
[00:27:07] PF: I love that. Liza, thank you so much. Promise me you’ll come back and talk to me again.
[00:27:10] LK: I would love that. Thank you, Paula. Thank you to everyone for listening. I’m sending you the very, very best.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[00:27:20] PF: That was meditation guru, Liza Kindred, talking about how to make friends with our anxiety. If you’d like to learn more about Liza, follow her on social media or learn more about her new Calm Your Anxiety Journal. Visit our website at livehappy.com and click on the podcast tab. While you’re on our site, remember you can get 20% off anything and everything in the Live Happy Store this month when you use the code SELF-LOVE 20. That’s SELF-LOVE 20.
That is all we have time for today. We’ll meet you back here again next week for an all-new episode. Until then, this is Paula Felps, reminding you to make every day a happy one.