Whether you've ever had slight moments of anxiety or suffer from full-on panic attacks, dealing with anxiety can be frustrating and confusing.
And, the techniques for addressing anxiety don't work the same for every person.
Even more troubling is that the prevalence of anxiety has seemed to rise over the last few years, in part due to things like "helicopter parenting," the availability of social media, and being inundated with the tragic news around the world.
Alice Boyes, PhD, has written a book entitled, The Anxiety Toolkit,
which gives you actual tools and skills to address anxiety from all its trigger points, including mental, emotional and physical.
Dr. Boyes also gives you techniques for recognizing the symptoms of anxiety before they get out of control, as well as ways to deal with those symptoms, such as mindful meditation or exercise.
Listen in as Dr. Boyes joins Andrea and Lisa to share why she decided to write the book and ways you can get your anxiety under control.
RadioMD Presents:Naturally Savvy | Original Air Date: March 18, 2015
Hosts: Andrea Donsky, RHN & Lisa Davis
Guest: Alice Boyes, PhD
Honest information about living a healthy lifestyle on RadioMD.com. It's time for Naturally Savvy with natural visionary, Andrea Donsky and health journalist, Lisa Davis.
LISA: So many of us have experienced anxiety in one form or another. I remember when I was a child in second grade, especially. For some reason, if anyone ever called on me—a teacher—or, if I had to give a speech, my heart would pound so hard and I would turn bright red. So red that they used to call me "Cherry Face". I was just completely…
A: Oh, my gosh. Really?
L: Oh, yes. And now, I could stand in front of crowds of people and not feel nervous at all. So, it's funny. For some people, anxiety comes and goes, but for some people, it's a real struggle. So, we're so thrilled to have Dr. Alice Boyes. She's the author of the new release, The Anxiety Toolkit.
Dr. Boyes, welcome to It's Your Health. I mean, to Naturally Savvy.
D: Thank you for having me.
L: I can't believe I did that. I'm so sorry.
A: Well, welcome to the show. You know, Dr. Boyes, one thing I find very interesting is I have suffered from anxiety similar to Lisa and, I guess, what I'd love to know from you is what made you decide to write this book? And tell us a little bit about your experience in working with people with anxiety.
D: Yes. So, I had a group practice in New Zealand. I was a clinic psychologist. And, my PhD, actually, was on relationships, but I found that when I started practicing that my writing about anxiety was some of my most popular content that I was putting out on my blog and that I was getting a lot of clients coming to see me for anxiety. So, I just felt anxiety became something that I specialized in and it had always been something that was interesting for me personally. I've always had an anxious nature and I found the techniques that I've learned about in my training incredibly helpful for dealing with that. Why I ended up writing the book is because a lot of the techniques that are used in therapy clinic are also really helpful for people dealing with the lower level anxiety—more everyday anxiety. But, those techniques hadn't really been translated into things that people could use on an everyday basis. So, that is how I came to do the book.
A: Now, I guess, my question before we delve into the book is, do you think that there's more prevalence of anxiety? I mean, I look at my kids and my son, at the age of 8, had a sleepover with a bunch of friends and there were 5 kids and, literally, 4 out of the 5 kids had anxiety. I wonder if there are environmental factors or there are certain things that are coming into play that are causing people to have more of it. I mean, the fact that we're eating these processed foods. It's destroying our gut, which we now know there's a gut/brain connection. From your experience, do you think that there's more than there used to be, but also what could be contributing to it?
D: Yes. I don't know if there's more than there used to be through the ages, but certain things like helicopter parenting don't help. Social medial is often really triggering for people. So, the issue with email and social media is that all the context cues are stripped out of that kind of communication and also, it's often asynchronous, so you email someone and you don't know when they're going to email you back. So, there can be a lot of social media induced anxiety or email induced anxiety. Those types of anxiety [inaudible 3:57] and also the fear-based news and then news about bad things that are happening. I think that certainly that increases certain types of anxiety due to that.
L: Well, Dr. Boyes, share some of the tools in your book. What can we do to help ourselves feel less anxious?
D: Yes. So, anxiety is made up of thinking components, emotion components, behavior components and physical components. Those things sort of operate in a loop and the bad news is that when you start getting symptoms in one of those areas, it tends to cascade into other symptoms, so that if you notice that you start blushing, it will increase your feelings anxiety and your thoughts about anxiety. Then, the good news, on the flip side, is that you can actually choose techniques from any of those different areas to try and turn that back around. So, you might be someone that likes using physical techniques like exercise or mediation. You might be someone that likes using cognitive techniques like simple things. When you've got something anxiety provoking ask yourself if it is realistic and if it could happen. I use that technique all the time like every couple of days when I notice that I'm feeling really anxious about something. Or, you can use a [inaudible 5:28] technique. So, if I notice my anxiety creeping up about something, I'll often do just like a tiny little action toward getting that task done. So, if I've got something looming on my "to do" list for the next day, I'll just do something like 2 minutes into action mode for that task and then I'll often find that my anxiety about do it really dies.
A: Now, obviously, you have a tool kit, so it's something that's a practical guide or a practical tool kit that people can use if they have it or if they're going through it. What would you recommend to people who are going through, let's say, a panic attack or some type of anxious moment? What would you tell them that they should be doing to help alleviate that anxiety?
D: Yes. So, besides having a real panic attack, people confuse panic attacks and heightened anxiety, so a lot of the symptoms are the same but the intensity and the duration is really different. Panic attack is something that's really short and sharp that comes on and it's the type of thing that people often confuse with having a heart attack whereas, heightened anxiety can have similar symptoms that go on for longer. So, if somebody is having an actual panic attack, what I found really useful was learning about how the physical symptoms of a panic attack are all designed to do something. So, you know, there are [inaudible 7:04] like when you get goosebumps. Goosebumps is from our evolutionary history from when we had hair, more hair, on our bodies. You notice that when a cat is scared, its hair will stand up on end. That happens for us, too, even though we don't have that hair there any more. Like, it's part of that evolved response. So, if people can understand that all of those different symptoms of a panic attack have an actual adaptive evolutionary focus, that can make the symptoms a little less scary. Another thing to keep in mind is that you don't need to do anything to stop a panic attack. A panic attack will stop on its own. So, slow breathing is by far the [inaudible 7:48] and slow breathing [inaudible 7:50] deep breathing. Other than that, you really don't need to do anything to stop a panic attack because your body knows exactly what to do.
A: What about heightened anxiety, then?
D: Yes. Heightened anxiety that you can often [inaudible 8:11] is some type of mindfulness meditation. So, a lot of people think of mindfulness mediation is something that they need to do every day. But, you can also use it just when you're stressed out and you need to physiologically calm down. So, that's something that I find really useful. Some people don't like mediation and they prefer exercise as a way of physically calming down and also there's kinds of cognitive techniques I was talking about, so like, really noticing part of the reason you're feeling so much anxiety is because you're just imagining a catastrophe happen that might not actually happen.
A: Hmm. Very interesting. Well, thank you for being on our show today. For those of you who are listening, if you know anybody or you suffer from anxiety, you can visit Dr. Boyes website at TheAnxietyToolkit.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @ DrAliceBoyes.
I'm Andrea Donsky along with Lisa Davis. This is Naturally Savvy Radio on RadioMD.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @YourRadioMD and @Naturally Savvy.
Thanks for listening everyone. I hope you don't have a lot of anxiety in your day and stay well.