Hello, everyone. Welcome to How to Deal with Anxiety in the Midst of Stressful Circumstances. This is the third topic in the 2021 Deer Oaks Pandemic Support webinar series. The name of the series, of course, is Transitioning to the New Normal. I know we've all heard that kind of language a lot as we've continued on during these difficult times. Before we get started, though, I want to make sure that our technology is working for us. If you can please locate the Raise Hand icon in the GoToWebinar software in the upper right-hand corner of your screen. And if you can see my slides clearly and hear my voice clearly, could you please click on the Raise Hand icon now?
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I have four objectives for our brief time together. Number one, I want to help us gain a little bit more insight into the nature of anxiety and other intense emotions. I also want to discuss the importance of acknowledging and appropriately expressing our emotions, including anxiety. And then probably most importantly today, we want to identify and discuss several strategies for more effectively coping with and managing anxiety. And then last but not least, we're going to review the significance of taking good care of ourselves, self-care, in dealing with anxiety day to day.
All right, let's start with an understanding of anxiety. And I know a lot of you will already come into the program today with some knowledge in this area. Some of you probably have a lot of knowledge in this area. But I'm hoping that all of us can take away a few things today that will really help us better understand the anxiety and other intense emotions and how to cope with them and manage them more effectively. So anxiety, as many of you know, is a normal response to a real or imagined threat.
I mean, anxiety is helpful, even though it's uncomfortable. A lot of people get very uncomfortable with anxiety. Because it can feel distressing. It can be one of those emotions that can be really uncomfortable. Because you feel energy and you feel antsy and you may feel a little panicky or a little fearful as part of experiencing anxiety. So that can be uncomfortable for people. But I want us to that anxiety has a purpose. It's a normal response to a real or imagined threat.
What I mean by that is, if you're driving down the road and all of a sudden you hit some very slick, slippery-- let's say you come into a thunderstorm and it's pouring rain and the roads are very slick. It would be normal to feel anxious to alert you to the fact that there's a threat here that you need to slow down, that you need-- it's like an alarm that goes off inside of us to alert us to the fact that, you better slow down here and be careful when you're driving, because the roads are slippery and if you're not careful, I mean, you could have an accident while you're driving. And so, I want us to recognize, even though anxiety can be uncomfortable for us, it has a purpose. Again, it's like an alarm that goes off to make us aware of when there's a threat or something that we need to be concerned or take action about to stay safe.
And there's two kinds of anxiety, folks. Acute anxiety is the easier one to identify. Acute anxiety is the fear of a current situation, something that you're experiencing in the moment or in the present. And so again, let's use the example of somebody walking down the street. And let's say you hear footsteps behind you and it's late at night, and it's dark out. I mean, it would be normal to start to feel anxious. Because you've got someone walking behind you, and you're not sure if they're a threat or not. And so it's an alarm that makes you aware to maybe walk a little faster or maybe get to a safe place in a hurry. Because you don't if the person that's walking behind you as a threat or not.
And so, again, acute anxiety can be helpful in the moment to make us aware of a situation that we need to be careful of or to make an adjustment, get our attention to make an adjustment so that we can stay safe. Now, acute anxiety is easier to manage as well, because it typically goes away when the threat is eliminated. So for example, if you're driving on slippery roads, as soon as you get to the safety of your driveway, typically your anxiety would stop because you're no longer driving on slippery roads. You're home safe. Or if you're walking down that dark street at night and you hear those steps behind you, as soon as you get into a building that's safe, it would be typical for the anxiety to go away. And so, again, acute anxiety would be like an alarm to get our attention in the moment so that we can be careful or take a precaution or take some kind of action to stay safe. But it typically will go away when the threat's eliminated or when we get to safety.
Chronic anxiety is a little harder to manage, because chronic anxiety is the fear of something negative that could happen in the future or something that could be a threat in the future but isn't a threat yet. So for example, let's say that you've met with a guy in the past. You've got a co-worker that's difficult to get along with. And the last time you met with this guy, it was a very uncomfortable conversation. He was very difficult to deal with. He was really bossy. He was condescending. And you really were upset about that conversation. You felt like he treated you very disrespectfully.
And now here it is a month later, and you've got to meet with that guy again next week. And you're thinking about setting up that meeting for next week because you have to talk to him. He's a co-worker. You're working on a project together in our hypothetical. But it would be normal to feel anxious because you had a negative experience with him the last time. It would be normal to think that maybe next week's call will be very difficult as well. So it'd be normal to feel some anxiety about something that could be uncomfortable in the future. Now it may not be, right. I mean, you haven't gotten to that conversation yet. Who knows, maybe the next time you meet with this guy he's more respectful and it goes a lot better. But again, if we've had a bad experience in the past, it would be normal for us to feel anxiety about doing that same situation or meeting with that same person in the future.
Another example of chronic anxiety would be if you have a tendency to worry a lot. And worry is a common mental habit that some people struggle with. I totally struggled with worry. 30 years ago, how I learned about anxiety firsthand was I started to have anxiety attacks. And so I went and talked to a counselor. And I'll tell you a little bit more about my story here as we go on today. But the counselor helped me to see that the reason I was feeling so anxious a lot was because I had a habit of worrying. And he really pointed out to me, you worry about almost everything. He said, you're always worried about if your boss is happy with you or not. You're worried about if your marriage is going to last or not because your parents got divorced. You're always worried about if you're going to pay your bills that month because money is tight.
But he just helped me to understand that I had gotten into a habit of worrying a lot. It became a mental habit. We'll talk more about how to manage those kinds of things in a minute. But because I would be worried mentally, I would regularly feel chronic anxiety. And that's why I started to feel a little bit of panic, because I was worrying so much. It was almost as if I couldn't turn my anxiety off. And that's what that counselor helped me to recognize. And I'll tell you a little bit more about my story as we go on here today.
But again, acute anxiety is easier to recognize and manage because it's anxiety that you feel based on what's going on right now. And it's helpful to get your attention to take whatever precautions or deal with whatever you need to deal with to stay safe or get to safety. But it typically goes away when the threat's eliminated. Chronic anxiety is a little bit more difficult, because it can happen based on the way we're thinking. Like, for example, if we're worrying a lot about the future or if we're about to go into something next week that didn't go well the last time. It can be one of those things where this could be a problem. It may not be, but it could be. And the way we're thinking about that threat in the future could cause us to feel anxious about it until we actually get to that time next week for that meeting.
All right, so part one in our conversation today about managing anxiety and coping with anxiety really is about recognizing the nature of our emotions and starting to learn how to express them appropriately. And so first and foremost, it really helps us, folks, to cope if we understand our emotions a little bit better. I know we've all met people that, quote, unquote, "wear their emotions on their sleeves," where they just tend to live by what they're feeling.
And folks, that sometimes can be hard because emotions aren't always rational . As I mentioned earlier, emotion sometimes can be based on the fact that we just have a habit of worry. Or emotions sometimes can be impacted by our energy level. If you didn't have a good night's sleep the night before, it's not uncommon to have a harder time managing your emotions because you're tired. It takes some energy to manage emotions. Right, it does. Or it could be our state of mind. Let's say you're having a really good week. And everything is going well for you. There's no particular problem you're dealing with right now.
And you hear about a potential situation that's coming into your life that might be difficult. But because you're in a good place in your state of mind, things are going well for you and your family, maybe at that point you don't let that new situation bother you very much. It's like, no big deal. I'll figure it out. It's not the end of the world. And you cope with it pretty well, because you're in a good state of mind. But let's take someone who's going through a difficult time. Let's take someone who is in the middle of a big personal problem, and they're having some struggles at work. And because they're overwhelmed right now, they're feeling a high level of stress right now, all of a sudden they're confronted with yet another problem.
And because they're going through a difficult time, their state of mind maybe is negative right now, or they're not in a great place mentally. They may really struggle with that, that in the moment situation that happens, just because their state of mind is not particularly positive at that point in time. So I just want us to recognize, again, that emotions are not necessarily rational. We experience emotions subjectively. Every individual experiences our emotions objective-- or excuse me, subjectively.
And sometimes it's based on our perception of current circumstances. Like, for example, two different people can be experiencing the same difficult situation. One doesn't let it bother them very much, the other one lets it bother them a lot because they're going through a difficult time. Or one doesn't let it bother them because they had a good night's sleep and they're feeling pretty rested today and have lots of energy, and the other person's exhausted and really lets the problem get to them emotionally. So I want us to recognize, again, that we can't necessarily live by our emotions because they're not always rational. And they're impacted by our perception of what you're dealing with, our energy levels, our state of mind, and other factors.
Also the amount of stress that you're dealing with at that point in time when you're dealing with an issue or a circumstance can determine the amount of emotion or the intensity of the emotion you experience. For example, that fight-or-flight response that people readily when your heart beats faster and you feel that rush of adrenaline in your bloodstream. Fight-or-flight, they named it that way, right, because when we're stressed out, typically we'll feel this fight-or-flight response to either fight against what we're dealing with or run away from it. That's why they call it fight-or-flight. But also part of fight-or-flight in addition to stress hormones and your heart beating faster and adrenaline, it also enhances or intensifies our emotional experience.
Think about this. When you're feeling stressed out, it's normal to be more anxious, more aggravated, more annoyed, more angry, more resentful, more upset. And so again, the amount of stress in our lives can have an impact on our emotional experience. All right, so now the first coping skill I want to talk about is the importance of acknowledging your anxiety and learning how to express it appropriately. This is really important, folks. A lot of people who get anxious, they don't acknowledge it. Because anxiety tends to be an emotion that people feel uncomfortable about. Because, again, it can make you feel antsy, it can make you feel uncomfortable. It can come with fear. It can come with a sense of dread.
And because you're feeling all those things and it's uncomfortable, sometimes people deny it. It's like they don't deal with it. They don't try to process it and figure out why they're feeling anxious. They just either try to ignore it and keep working or go get something to eat to feel better would be an example, right, of emotional eating that we're all familiar with. But a lot of people will not look at and deal with and express their emotions head on. It's important to. Emotions are pure energy. It collects in our bodies. If we don't acknowledge it and express it appropriately, emotions can cause health problems. I think most of us know that.
Repressed emotions. Emotions that we're not acknowledging, that we stuff down inside, that we don't process and express, can cause health issues. There have been a lot of studies around that. So the first step to appropriately managing and coping with anxiety and other intense emotion is to acknowledge, I'm feeling anxious and here's why. And then to express that. We'll talk here more about expression of anxiety. And so, appropriate expression of an emotion like anxiety is very healthy. It's very important. What I mean by appropriate is you need to find safe and appropriate ways to express emotion.
For example, someone at work, right, who gets angry, yelling at a co-worker, would not be an appropriate way to express your emotion in the workplace. I think most of us would agree, right. It's not appropriate to yell at a co-worker because you're feeling angry. And just because we feel something, doesn't mean we can express it any way we want. We need to express emotion in a constructive and appropriate way. That's healthy. And so how to do that is you need to find safe and appropriate ways to express.
So if you're feeling really anxious at work, right, because something's going on in your life or something's going on in your job, an appropriate way would be to pull a colleague that you trust or a supervisor that you trust off to the side and have what you consider to be a safe conversation, a confidential conversation where you're expressing how you're feeling and processing how you're feeling with that trusted colleague or supervisor. That would be a safe and appropriate way to express that emotion. And typically you'd come away from that conversation feeling supported. It would feel cathartic because you're getting it out. It's really important to be able to process and express emotion in a safe and appropriate way.
Aristotle the Greek philosopher over 5,000 years ago, even before the term emotional intelligence was created, he was, of course, a very wise, smart man, right. He had this saying that-- I thought he was way before his time-- that really coined the importance of expressing very well, expressing emotion well. He said that the problem is never with emotionality. So he was basically saying feeling emotional is never an issue. Human beings, we're emotional beings. Feeling emotion is part of our makeup, right. And we have different emotions based on our circumstances, right, or based on how we're perceiving our circumstances.
He said, but the issue is the appropriateness of how we deal with the emotions, how we express them. And so that's the important thing, is to find an appropriate way to express emotion. And maybe there's no one even at work that you'd feel appropriate expressing it to. Maybe you have to wait to get home that night to talk to a loved one or a significant other that you trust. Or maybe if it's a really intense issue that's causing problems in the long term, maybe you even talk to your counselor. Talk to a counselor. And, of course, all of you here on the webinar today have Deer Oaks EAP as your EAP program, your Employee Assistance Program. And a lot of times, talking to a counselor to work through anxiety and express emotion like anxiety is a very healthy way and a very safe way to work through that and cope with it and express it.
All right, next, let's talk about managing your thinking. So the next strategy I want to share for dealing with anxiety and coping with it, managing and coping with it effectively is really managing our self-talk. And so it starts with learning what you feel and why you feel it. So a good practice, folks, is when you feel real anxious or any other real intense emotion, for that matter-- but I'll stay with anxiety for today's examples-- if you feel a real intense bout of anxiety-- just take a step back and ask yourself, why am I feeling anxious right now? Because if you can identify why, rationally, right-- oh, OK.
I'll give you a great example. I was driving home one day. This was about 20 years ago, but I remember this like it was yesterday. And I had had a conversation with my boss that afternoon. It was a Friday afternoon. It was a really, really sunny day, a pretty day. And it was a quick hallway conversation with my boss. And he didn't really have time to talk, and it was a quick interchange. But I didn't give it a second thought. 20 minutes later, I was driving home that night. And it was a pretty day. Again, it was beautiful sunshine. It was one of those June days I think where it was like 80 degrees. A perfect day, sunny.
And all of a sudden, I started to feel very anxious, and my chest was full of heavy full of heavy emotional energy. Right, I felt very uncomfortable and very anxious. And I had forgotten momentarily why-- I'd forgotten that conversation with my boss. And I was confused. I didn't understand. I'm thinking, why am I feeling anxious? I mean, it's a beautiful day. I'm driving home for the weekend. What's wrong with me? Then I remembered I had this brief conversation in the hallway with my boss two hours earlier, right. Or whenever it was. A little bit before I drove home.
And I remembered saying something to him, giving him my opinion about something. And he had a peculiar look on his face. But because he didn't have time to talk to me, he was late for a meeting, I didn't get a chance to really talk it through with him. So I started to feel anxious because I was worried about what my boss thought about what I shared with him in the hallway. And as soon as I realized, that's why I'm feeling so anxious, it's because I'm uncomfortable that my boss might not be happy with what I shared with him in the hallway. I was giving my opinion about something that was going on at work.
As soon as I figured that out, and then I was able to manage my thinking about it and I was able to say to myself, OK, now I understand. But you know what? Maybe my boss isn't upset with me. Maybe he just was in a hurry and maybe the strange look on his face was only because he was in a hurry and he didn't have a chance to really talk to me about the issue. Maybe he was just rushed. And I'm reading into it that maybe he's upset with me. Maybe he's not upset with me at all.
Because the next thing I want to talk about is managing our self-talk. Folks, there's a direct connection most times between our self-talk and the emotions we experience or the intensity of the emotions we experience. So think about this. If I was thinking about my boss being upset with me-- and let's say I was driving home doing this, saying to myself, oh, no, what's he going to think? He looked really upset with me, maybe he's really mad at me. What am I going to do? I mean, maybe I should turn around and go back. I mean, I don't think I'm going to be able to have peace this weekend unless I figure this out with my boss and make sure he's not mad at me.
The more I would think along those lines, the more anxious I would have gotten. And so what I did on the way home was I had more positive self-talk. Is that once I realized I was anxious because I was concerned about what my boss thought about our quick interchange in the hallway, I started grabbing my self-talk and saying things to myself like, OK, I mean, I shouldn't jump to conclusions here. Maybe my boss isn't upset with me at all. Maybe he was just in a hurry to go to his meeting. I'm sure it's not a big deal. I can always follow up with him Monday morning just to double-check what he thought about what I shared with him in the hallway. So I'm not going to lose any sleep. This is not the end of the world.
And so that's the key. It's one of the keys in managing our emotions and managing anxiety, is when you feel intense anxiety, identify why you're feeling anxious and manage the way you're thinking about that situation. And as you do, and as you're more constructive in your self-talk-- let's say you're going through a big problem in your life. If you allow that problem to keep you upset and to keep you thinking negative thoughts like, this is horrible, this is terrible, I can't handle this, what am I going to do? And this is really awful for my family. I mean, this is going to ruin our summer. What are we going to do?
By virtue of thinking really negative thoughts like that over and over and over again, you're naturally going to feel more anxious, more fearful, more upset. But if you can manage that thinking-- what I mean by managing it is take that thinking-- and this is what that counselor taught me when I was having those anxiety attacks 30 years ago when I went to see the counselor. He said, when you start to worry, start to manage that worry. He says it's OK to be honest that you're concerned about something. He says, that's honest. To say I'm not happy that this is happening or I'm concerned that my boss is upset with me. He's saying that's honest. Be honest. But he said, don't let your thoughts and your worries run away. He says, don't just let them go south or don't go down that rabbit hole of negativity.
Like, oh, no. What am I going to do? I can't handle this. What if he thinks bad of me? Oh, what if he's mad at me? Oh, it's going to ruin my weekend. He was saying, catch those thoughts and say to yourself, wait a second. How do I know he's mad at me? I don't know that for sure. I mean, sure, I'm uncomfortable right now because I'm not sure how my boss is feeling about what I shared with him. But let me not jump to conclusions. It's not the end of the world. I'm sure I'm sure it's going to work out in the end, and I'll just go check with them first thing Monday morning and see how he's feeling about this. I'm not going to lose sleep over it. I'm still going to have a nice weekend.
One of the best life skills I ever learned 30 years ago when I had those anxiety attacks and I went and talked to that psychologist, that counselor-- he taught me how to, when I was upset, when I was worried, when I was going through a difficult time, he taught me how to be honest about how I felt about it and what I thought about it in the moment. But then he said, don't just automatically allow yourself to get real negative or to worry day in, day out. He said grab those thoughts and reframe them into something constructive. Like, I'm not happy this is happening, but it's not the end of the world. My wife and I'll figure something out. We always do. We'll get through this.
And that life skill, I still use it. I use that almost everyday, folks. I know a lot of you do as well. And when you do that, most times it's like talking to yourself down. You'll go from feeling intense upset or intense emotion, intense anger and intense fear. And the intensity of the emotions will subside and be replaced by more hopeful feelings, more peace, more calm. And so let's be thinking about that. Let's be thinking about managing your thinking. Be honest about how you're feeling and thinking in the moment, but then manage those thoughts. Don't just automatically go down a rabbit hole of worry or negativity.
And so that was a great life skill that I learned. And it's interesting, there's one more study that I want to mention to reinforce the importance of having positive self-talk, especially when you're going through difficult situations. NIH, the National Institute on Health, did an aging study back in the 90s that was really profound. And they had a group of-- I think there was 500 or 600 women in this study group. And it was a study on premature aging. And these women, these 500 or 600 women, all had the same life stressor. They all had a chronically sick child at home they were caring for, which, of course, is going to be difficult and stressful, right? That's hard. That's something you have to deal with every day. Very stressful.
But what perplexed the folks that were running the study was that only half of the women, even though they all had the same life stressor, only half of them looked like they were prematurely aging, where 40-year-olds looked 50 and 50-year-olds looked 60. The other half looked no worse for wear. And so they were really perplexed, thinking, what's going on here? All of these women in the study all have chronically sick kids, why are only half of them prematurely aging? Having grayer hair or losing their hair, more wrinkled.
So they started doing individual interviews to try to drill down and figure out the difference. And it was interesting, it was all about self-talk. The half of the women that were prematurely aging, they had really negative attitudes and self-talk. They complained a lot. They felt like victims. They worried a lot. They were just really negative about their lot in life. Like, oh, I can't believe this has happened to me. This is terrible. This is awful. I don't think I can handle this any longer. I don't why this happened to me. They felt like victims.
Where the other half of the women in the same study group who also had those chronically sick children at home, they were more positive in their self-talk. They were saying things like, sure, this is hard, but it's not the end of the world. I mean, at least I have a child. Some people don't have children and wish they did. So at least I'm blessed with a child, even though it is hard to have a child that's sick. Our family really bonds together, and we really work together to support our child. And we really love our child. And it is what it is. It's something that we deal with, and we just-- I mean, this is something we just have to deal with as a family. And we get through it, because we support each other and we stay positive about it.
And that was the difference. Those that stayed positive about that chronic stress that they were facing were not prematurely aging. 40-year-olds looked 40 and 50-year-olds looked 50. The women that were really negative and worried a lot based on their life stress or with those chronically sick children, they were prematurely graying, they were losing their hair faster, they were wrinkling faster. They were literally aging at a chromosomal-- or more quickly at a chromosomal level. And so I thought that was really interesting. It really reinforces the importance of having positive self-talk when you're going through difficult times.
And so that's what I want you to be thinking about, is to reframe negative thoughts into something more constructive. And I'm not saying deny how you feel. That wouldn't be healthy. But to say, I don't like the situation, but it's not the end of the world, is what I mean by reframing your thoughts into something more constructive. And to say things like, I can handle this. I've got a good support system. We'll figure it out. It's not the end of the world. The more you can do that in your self-talk, the more you'll be able to manage the intensity of negative emotions like anxiety and feeling upset and those kinds of things.
All right, next is developing an action plan. This is another important coping skill. And so what I'm talking about by creating a plan is to actually move forward to deal with what you're feeling anxious about, OK. A lot of times when people get stuck in anxiety, they feel like they're a victim. And if there's something going on in their life, they feel like it's happening to them, right. They feel like their victim and they can feel sorry for themselves and really get stuck in that anxiety or get stuck in that intense emotion and not manage it very well.
And that's because they're allowing their circumstances to overwhelm them, right. But in addition to managing the way you think about those circumstances, you can also plan to deal with them as constructively as possible or face them, if appropriate, as well as you can. And so what I mean by facing them is a lot of times if you're feeling really anxious about something, facing that situation, not avoiding it-- but if appropriate. There are some situations that obviously are not safe to face. But if it's appropriate and safe to face it.
For example, getting ready to meet with that difficult co-worker. Avoiding that co-worker is not going to make that anxiety go away. OK, but facing that co-worker as well as you can-- if it's appropriate and safe again. And you need to be the judge, of course, based on the circumstances. But being able to say, you know what, I know this person is hard to deal with, but if I just avoid him, it's just going to make this anxiety worse, and I don't want to run around scared of this guy just because he's pushy. But being able to just say, I'm going to face him. I'm going to schedule a meeting. We're working on a project together. I need to figure out a way to work with this guy.
If it's safe and appropriate, again. You need to decide case by case. A lot of times by facing and meeting with that person, that can help you feel in control of your anxiety. And so you might still feel some anxiety going into that situation because it's potentially difficult or you had a difficult experience with this guy in the past. But a lot of times, by facing, it gives you a sense of control and can help you keep the emotion better managed. Another way to deal with something is to create an action plan. To reduce the risk.
Remember, we talked about anxiety happens oftentimes because your mind and your emotions are trying to get your attention. That you're facing a potential risk or a threat. Remember at the beginning COVID-- I know it's all very fresh for all of us, right? Well my wife and I recently turned 60, and we had read at the beginning of COVID that if you're a little bit older, your potential risks of having complications if you contract COVID could be more difficult, more dangerous. And at that point early on in the pandemic, last March and April 2020, we weren't educated. The whole world was learning about COVID and how to deal with it, right. We were all in the same boat together.
So my wife and I basically didn't go anywhere for the first three or four weeks of the pandemic. We really quarantined and shut in. We avoided going to the grocery store or the gas station. And then we got to a place where we looked each other and said, we cannot stop living. This is ridiculous. That, yes, this is a challenge, but we need to educate ourselves and have a plan. And our adult daughter lives with us, and so the three of us came up with a plan where we would never go out without a mask. We would practice social distancing. We would wash our hands. We bought a metric ton full of-- I'm saying that with a smile-- metric ton full of hand sanitizer. We had hand sanitizer in every purse, in every office, in every car, in every room.
And so we got into that. But because we took those precautions, we felt less anxious going out. We were able to resume more of a normal life. We were still very careful, but because we created an action plan, helped us feel less anxious and less threatened by the circumstances. Also, another prudent part of planning to deal with the source of anxiety can be to get the support that you need. So to proactively connect with others who can relate to what you're experiencing.
So when I was having those anxiety attacks 30 years ago, I did two things. I found a support group at a local church. And it was really a support group about dealing with difficult emotions. That was a lifesaver for me, because I was really struggling. I had never had anxiety attacks before, and I really didn't understand why I was having them. And so I was going to counseling. But having the support group on Sundays also in addition to counseling really helped me. I met a whole group of people who also had experienced intense emotion like I was experiencing. And we supported each other. That was very helpful.
So you can always look for a support group. Or you can find an understanding friend. I also found one co-worker at work who had also had panic attacks in the past. And so he and I buddied up and commiserated together and supported each other. And that really helped me get through the difficulty of that as I was working through those emotions. And then last but not least, if your anxiety or other challenging emotions is significantly impairing your day-to-day functioning. And so a lot of times, people say, when should I go see a counselor?
And the common recommendation in the mental health field is as if the emotion you're dealing with or the situation you're dealing with is significantly impairing your day-to-day functioning, or your quality of life, it's prudent to seek professional or helpful to seek professional assistance. To go see a counselor. And so I went and saw a psychologist. But a mental health counselor, a master's level counselor, or a PhD psychologist-- they all have great training. And remember, you have Deer Oaks as your EAP. And so if you don't the 24-hour toll free number for Deer Oaks, just call your human resources office or send an email to HR. Deer Oaks is our confidential services. EAP is confidential, and so you don't have to tell HR why you're calling EAP.
But just ask HR to send you the 24-hour toll free number for Deer Oaks or for your EAP. They'd be happy to send it to you, and they recognize it's confidential. And then reach out to Deer Oaks. And as part of your EAP benefit, all of you, because you're on this call today, all of you have Deer Oaks as your EAP, you all have free counseling sessions as part of your EAP plan. And so, you call our toll free number, and our counselor on the telephone at a call center will connect you with a counselor that you can work with one-on-one to deal with what's causing the anxiety or help you cope with it or those kinds of things.
Very, very helpful. The counseling is one of the best things I ever did. As a matter of fact, I got into the mental health field and I wouldn't be having this conversation with you today. Nowadays I'm even thankful that I went through what I went through 30 years ago, even though it was uncomfortable at the time, because after I got the help that I got from my counselor and that support group and the other support that I had, I decided I wanted to go back to school for counseling and help others the way I was helped. And so, counseling, I'm just recommending counseling to anyone. Counseling is very, very helpful. And since you have the counseling as a free benefit through your EAP, why not take advantage of it if you're feeling like what you're going through is uncomfortable or impairing your day-to-day satisfaction of life or functioning?
All right, last but not least and I'll open up for questions, folks, practicing self-care. Because anxiety can be intense-- OK, like feeling panicky or feeling a lot of anxiety can feel really intense. It can feel very uncomfortable. Make you feel antsy. Make you feel fearful. It can make you feel panicky. It can be uncomfortable. Taking care of yourself can give you the energy to manage that emotion better. If you're not getting much sleep at night, if you're tired the next day, it could be harder to manage your anxiety. I found that when I got better sleep, I could keep my anxiety more under control. I could manage my thinking better because I had more physical and mental energy.
Same thing with exercising. One of the things I did when I was going through a lot of anxiety was I started playing pickup basketball every other day. And not only was I healthier physically, but it really helped me-- when you exercise, folks, you work out not just physically, your cardiovascular system, you work out that energy that comes with intense emotion like anxiety, or anger or those kinds of things. So exercise is very healthy and cathartic and working out emotion, not just working out physically but working out the emotion that comes with intense emotional like anxiety.
Managing your stress level. As I mentioned earlier, the more stressed we are, typically the more intense our emotional experience is going to be. And so keeping your stress level more managed. For example, managing your schedule every day a little bit better instead of overscheduling yourself. One of the things that people do to cause extra stress in their lives that's quickly manageable or changeable, where we can make a quicker fix to get our stress level more under control, is to more effectively plan our days. For example, if you're trying to get too much done in a day, like trying to get 15 things done on your to-do list or you overbook your day with meetings, you're naturally going to feel more rushed throughout that day, more overwhelmed throughout that day.
One of the best time management, stress management seminars I ever went to was with Zig Ziglar, the motivational speaker. Some of you might remember. And it was really about, manage your day as well. That it's prudent to make a realistic plan for the day. Don't put too many things on your to-do list. Don't overschedule meetings. Take your lunch breaks. Pace yourself throughout the day. When you do, your stress level will be more under control. And when your stress level's more under control, you won't feel emotions as intensely. It can help you keep your anxiety under control.
Journaling is another great health habit for expressing emotion. I still do it to this day. I've been doing it now over 30 years. So when I feel real anxious, like if I wake up in the middle of the night because I'm overwhelmed by something going on in my life, the next morning I'll try to remember to journal. And journaling is just another way to express emotion in a confidential, safe way, because no one's reading my journal. It's just me. And so it's a great way to self-regulate your emotions and express your emotions, which can, again, get them out. It's cathartic. Very helpful.
And then last but not least, make sure you keep your life in balance. The more balanced our life is, which means, if you're regularly planning fun activities or times to rest and recharge your batteries, you're naturally going to be the less stressed and feel more content and more rested in life. And again, people that are less stressed and more rested are going to be able to manage intense emotions better, so. All right, folks, I know I covered a lot in a very short period of time today. Let me open it up for questions. If you have any questions, please type them into the question box in the GoToWebinar software in the upper right-hand corner of your screen.
I do want to share, your questions would be confidential. What I mean by that is I will not be reading the names of anyone who asks a question. I know some of this material can be a little bit sensitive. And so I want you to feel free that this is a safe space today. And so if you do type in a question, I'm just going to read the question aloud and then answer it to the best of my ability, not sharing the name of anyone who asks a question to maintain your confidentiality. And I do want to share that we have almost 200 people on the call today, so we may not be able to get to everyone's questions this afternoon, but I'll get to as many as we can.
So again, if you have any questions, type them into the question box in the GoToWebinar software in the upper right-hand corner of your screen. All right, we're starting to get questions in. I've got a lot of good ones coming in already. So here's a good question from one of your colleagues, is that-- OK, regarding the self-talk. Do you have any recommendations for disrupting negative anxious thoughts? Yes. And I'm really glad you brought that up. And your colleague went on to say, as in specific questions to review, like, is this true? What evidence do you have to support this? Something like that.
Yes, you're exactly on the right track. And this is the important part of learning to manage our thinking, is to catch yourself thinking thoughts that are counterproductive. And the psychologists 30 years ago taught me that there's a distinct difference between legitimate concern about a circumstance and excessive worry and negativity. Legitimate concern is to honestly say, OK, I've got a problem. Yes, I'm concerned about it. Yeah, I'm upset about it, or I'm anxious about it. To be honest about that. I'm not sure what to do about this. That's a legitimate concern.
But at that point, you have a choice. Are you going to get real negative and say, what am I going to do? This is horrible. This is terrible. This is awful. Or do you say from that point, but you know what? I'm resourceful. I'm going to go home and talk to my spouse. Whenever we have challenges like this, we brainstorm together. We have each other's back. We figure something out. I'm sure in the end, it's going to be OK. It's not the end of the world. Sure, I'm concerned about it right now, but I'm sure that there are some options here, and we just need to take some time to think them through. It's going to be OK.
That's what I'm talking about, about being honest about how you feel about something. And your colleague here made a good suggestion to say, if someone starts to realize, I'm feeling really anxious because I think my boss is mad at me, ask yourself, do that for sure? Is it true? Like your colleague said. Is it true? Do I know for sure that my boss is really upset with me? Because oftentimes, we don't for sure. We're just jumping to a conclusion. And it's not based on fact, it's based on something we're afraid might be true, but we're not sure.
And so, yeah, those are good questions to ask. Well, do I really know? I mean, maybe I should go check this out before I just start to worry. But again, catch yourself. Catch yourself when you start to overreact. Our automatic thoughts, legitimate concern, is perfectly appropriate to say, this is going on, and I'm upset about it. And then I'm concerned, OK. I'm not sure what I'm going to do about this. That's honest. But from that point, don't go down into chronic negativity and complain to everyone about the situation you're stuck in, how bad it is. Or start worrying about it 24/7.
Try to get constructive and say, OK, what can I do about this? What support can I get? And say things to yourself like, you know what? Yes, right now, I don't what I'm going to do. But you know what? I've got a good support system. I'm going to go get some support, and I'll figure something out. I always do. I mean, this, too, shall pass. It's not the end of the world. And that's the kind of constructive self-talk that can calm you down in the moment and get your emotion under control so you can be more rational about your response to that situation over time. Thank you for that. That was a great question.
OK, so here's another really good question, folks. Will this work with generalized anxiety when you can't figure out what the worrier trigger is? Yes. I mean, certainly it's helpful to be able to identify what the worry-- what you're upset about or what you're anxious about. But sometimes we're not going to why. Right, we're just going to all of a sudden feel this general anxiety and we're not exactly sure why we're worried. And so, yeah. The techniques we're talking about still are effective. And so to be able to, for example, still go get some support, find a safe person to say, you know, yesterday afternoon, I just got really anxious while I was driving home and I really could-- take my example from 20 years ago. And let's say I didn't realize why I was anxious. To go home and tell my wife that night, honey, on the way home tonight, I started to get really anxious and I just couldn't identify why.
It was a beautiful day. It didn't make any sense. And I a good day at work, and so-- and to brainstorm with her, what do you think? I mean, you know me better than I know myself. What do you think? So sometimes brainstorming with another person or talking to a counselor about it can help you figure out why. What triggered it, or why you're having that anxiety. So that can be helpful. And to a degree, even if you don't why you're feeling anxious, you can still manage your thinking and self-talk and say to yourself, OK, I'm upset about something. I can't put my finger on it, but I'm sure I'll figure it out eventually, why I'm feeling anxious.
And you know what? I got a good support system. So I'll get it under control. It's going to be OK. Take having positive self-talk about the emotion and getting support for it or figuring out a way to manage it moving forward, again, in and of itself is going to be helpful in reducing the intensity of the emotion. It gives you a little bit of hope. So thank you for that. Great questions, folks. Let me continue.
Yeah, so one of your colleagues is again sharing-- this person is saying their anxiety attacks usually stem from spinning out around negative self-talk. And mine did too, and we have that in common. And that's very common, folks, when you have anxiety attacks. The way my counselor explained anxiety attacks to me, just in general, was he said, in my case-- it's not the same for everybody, obviously-- but he said, in my case, he said your negative thinking and worry when you would be going through an impending task or event or what was happening in your life, he said, would just be so chronic. You'd just go over and over and over.
He said, literally, you kept your anxiety on. And he said, and then it got to the point it went from feeling anxious in general to feeling panicky. And so he explained, that's the way it works in me. But your colleague is expressing the way a lot of people experience this, is intense anxiety usually stems from something's going on, and we're having a negative response to it or a lot of negative self-talk about it or a negative perspective about it that we're not getting under control. We're just letting our mind go south and getting really negative or worrying a lot over and over and over again.
Because that certainly can exacerbate the intensity of the anxiety that you're feeling. So it is really helpful to be able to learn how to manage our self-talk. And that does help get the anxiety more under control. Someone's asking if you can get a copy of the PowerPoint. Absolutely. All you have to do is hit Reply to your GoToWebinar invitation for today. You all got a reminder for the GoToWebinar webinar today that we're on. And just ask our staff to please send you a copy of the PowerPoint. They'd be happy to. All right, folks, got time for some more questions.
All right, so here's another question that I can relate to, because I experienced the same thing, from one of your colleagues. The question is, when you've been dealing with chronic anxiety and negative self-talk for a number of years, it can be really difficult to flip a switch and embrace a positive attitude. I totally agree. And I was in that same that same boat 30 years ago. And the second part of this person's question is, what are some methods and ways to replace the negative thoughts with positive ones? Let me recommend an old book that still is very, very helpful. It's been around for years, but it's very helpful, very sound. It's called Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns. You can still find it online. B-U-R-N-S. Dr. David Burns, Feeling Good.
And I used that book when I was going to see that counselor 30 years ago. And I used it for years. And he has a lot of suggestions in that book about when you identify having negative thoughts, how to catch those thoughts, recognize that this is a negative thought that's not helping me, and to reframe it into something more constructive. In the book, he's got this list of common negative thoughts, like all-or-nothing thinking. Like, this situation is terrible, or it's all bad. Or this person never treats me right.
And what Burns did in this book that was so great was he helps people identify, if you have a habit of being black and white, right, all or nothing in your thinking, that can lead to intense emotion that's not necessary. Because the world oftentimes is gray, right. It's not always black or white. Sure, maybe that colleague you're dealing with is challenging. But I'm sure they're not always terrible to deal with, right. I'm sure they have some redeeming qualities. No one's all bad. Right, and that book really helped me recognize that I was very all or nothing in my thinking.
Which kept me in negative self-talk, because I would go through a problem and I would just think nonstop 24/7 about how bad the situation was. Where I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. I couldn't, because I was so focused on how bad it was. By learning how to be less all or nothing and more constructive in my thinking, that, yeah, this is bothering me and that's bothering me about the situation. But you know what? Maybe I'm learning something here. Or maybe something good can come from this. Or maybe there is a way out here that I just haven't figured out yet. So let me get some more support. Maybe in the end it'll work out.
I just learned how to not be so all or nothing and to, again, be more constructive in my self-talk. Thank you for that. Now if you've been thinking really negative like I was-- I was 30 years old at the time. By the time I was having those panic attacks, those anxiety attacks, I had been thinking really negatively and worrying 24/7 for years, right. And so, it took me six months to really get it under control, just because it had been such a habit. But I did. And then after a few months just practicing more positive self-talk while it worked for the psychologist, my anxiety attacks started to subside.
And then within a few more months, they started to stop. And then a few more months after that, as I continue to practice better thinking and some of these other coping skills I'm sharing today, I started to feel a lot less anxious in general. But you're right. If you've got a life habit of thinking a lot of negative thoughts or a lot of worry all the time, it might take you a while to start catching those thoughts and getting more into more constructive and more positive thinking. But if you practice it on a day-to-day basis, being more constructive and more positive will become your default.
Nowadays, my default is to stay calm and positive, because I've been practicing now doing this for 30 years. We had a problem in our family last week, and one of my family members was really upset. I stayed real calm through the whole thing because I used positive self-talk in my head, going-- and I verbalized it to my loved one. I said, you know what, I know this is stressful and I'm sorry it's happening, but this is not the end of the world. We'll get through this. It's going to be OK. And that's because I've been practicing that for so long.
30 years ago, I would have totally overreacted to the situation. So I wasn't criticizing my loved one because they were overreacting in the moment, because that used to be me. I used to overreact. But I've been practicing going through negative situations with more positive mental approach for so long, that's become my self-talk, or become my norm and my setpoint. Right, here's another good question, folks. I got time maybe for, let's see, three more questions. And so someone's asking, is EAP counseling limited to a certain number of sessions by issue? Yes.
So now every one of you might have a different plan design. There's different EAP plan designs. What I mean by that is some companies offer x number of EAP sessions per person per issue, and other companies offer other or other organizations offer other numbers of counseling sessions per issue. So depending on what your organization put in place for you, the plan design. But everyone that has an EAP program has x number of counseling sessions per issue per person. And so, yes. So to answer your question, yes. But even if it's just three sessions per issue, that can be very helpful in getting you started towards making some of these changes, so.
All right, time for two more questions, folks. Here's a really good question too, about getting help. And I think this is coming from a supervisor, saying, I have some employees that can't get help because there's no one in their area or they aren't accepting new patients. Any tips? Absolutely. Folks, let me share something with you. The American Psychological Association has done research that the effectiveness of counseling is the same whether you do it face to face with a counselor, whether you do it over a smartphone app, like video chat, or whether you do it telephonically during a telephonic appointment, like we're having this telephonic conversation right now.
Counseling is just as effective in all three modalities. So if you're living out in a rural area, OK, and there's not a lot of counselors around-- and that's not uncommon, right, because there's typically less professionals in more rural areas. Right, because they tend to gravitate towards the population centers in an area. So let's say that you're in a county that doesn't even have a counselor, or if there is a counselor or two counselors, that they're booked because there's not enough resources, call Deer Oaks and do your counseling via video chat or telephonically. Whatever's more comfortable for you. And because those sessions will be just as effective as if you saw a counselor in person. I'm glad you asked that question. Thank you.
All right, last time for one last question, folks. Thank you so much, because just about everyone stayed on till the end here. Here's one more quick note before I take this last question. That one of your colleagues, when looked at David Burn's feelinggood.com, and their recommendation is Dr. Burns has a bunch of great books. And so you can find it at feelinggood.com. So again feelinggood.com. Thank you for that. Thank you for looking that up. Because he's great. I mean, I used that book for years. As a matter of fact, I got a new one. I wore the first one out. It was so good.
All right, so I got time for one last question. Trying to find one more, folks. My apologies, I'm almost there. OK, I'm going to end just with a recommendation from one of your colleagues here about EAP again. I wholly recommend, if you're personally struggling with anxiety or a difficult emotion that's getting in the way of your satisfaction of life and your quality of life and it's getting in the way of your functioning and your productivity, counseling is very helpful.
And since you have Deer Oaks, every one of you has Deer Oaks as your EAP, find out the toll-free number for Deer Oaks. Your colleague was recommending that they use the EAP before to get some covered sessions. And then also got referred after that to talk to a therapist that was part of their medical plan. And this person said, very helpful with an exclamation point. So counseling is very effective. Very helpful, it's supportive. You can learn coping skills. They can help you learn how to manage emotions better, work through difficult situations, give you tips and techniques. I'm a big advocate, so please don't hesitate.
All right, folks, I want to thank you for being with us today. It is a privilege for us here at Deer Oaks to be the EAP provider for your organization. And remember that every employee for your organization and your direct dependents and your household members, anyone living under your roof, are covered by these services. So don't hesitate to use our services. In closing, I just want to, again, remind us, as we continue on during these difficult times, stay safe and healthy. And I'm looking forward to hopefully being with you on another one of these educational programs in the near future. Thank you, everyone. Have a wonderful rest of the day. Take care.