How to Sever Ties with Your Care Provider

Try as you might, sometimes it just doesn’t work out with your care providers. Working with a professional to help manage social anxiety – or a team of professionals, including but not limited to a therapist, psychologist, case manager, and pharmacist – should be an empowering, pleasant experience.

Unfortunately, not all care providers are created equally and sometimes you’ll need to sever ties to seek out options that better suit your needs. Instead of panicking over the thought of confrontation, handle your breakup professionally and with grace.

Speak Firmly and Courteously

Even if your care provider is horrendous, speaking calmly, levelly, civilly and professionally to them and their staff can circumvent any issues. By maintaining your calm, you’re likely to get better results and leave things on civil terms should you need to re-contact them for any reason (like obtaining your records). If you don’t feel as though you can do this in person or over the phone, send a letter to the provider’s practice stating your intent to discontinue your professional relationship and a request for records to be sent to you or to your new care provider.

Take it as an Opportunity

Instead of looking at breaking up with your care provider as a negative experience, look at it as a chance to put into practice the coping skills you’ve learned in your social anxiety journey. You’re recognizing that you’re in a disadvantageous relationship, you have a plan to remedy it and you’re advocating for yourself. Be kind to yourself and congratulate yourself — there was probably a point in the near past where you wouldn’t be able to do that. And progress is always a cause for celebration.

Ask Your New Care Provider for Assistance

If you truly cannot stomach the thought of gracefully severing ties with your care provider, ask your new provider for assistance. The staff at your new provider’s office is likely more than happy to help you request your old records, and your new professional can help you think of the words to say to make the transition easier and calmer – and help you explore why you feel so nervous taking on this task and support you as you do so.

Remember your Care Providers Work for You

It can help to remember that your care providers work for you. You’re paying them for their guidance and services and if it isn’t working out, then you have every right to “fire” them from your team. Handling the severing of ties like the end of a business relationship can help you approach the situation with calm and grace – nobody wants to be fired by an upset boss, so give your care providers the same treatment you would wish to receive when leaving a job. By looking at the end of your professional relationships this way, you may feel empowered and better able to handle the situation.

Leaving Your Care Provider Gracefully

Sometimes it just doesn’t work out with a certain care provider — and that’s okay. But it’s better to at least attempt to let them know rather than ghosting from the practice. Calmly and civilly explaining that you’re seeking out other options can help ease the fear of confrontation and empower you by proving you can advocate for yourself – a victory along the road to living with social anxiety disorder.

Have you ever broken up with a care provider? How did you handle it?

Insomnia and You

Social anxiety is difficult in the best of situations. If you’re excessively tired because you have trouble falling asleep at night, this certainly isn’t the best of situations. Recurrent insomnia makes the symptoms of social anxiety worse, making decisions harder and increasing the feeling that others are upset with you because you have trouble keeping up. Unfortunately, insomnia is very common in those with several types of anxiety disorders, including social anxiety.

Getting the Rest You Need Can Make Social Anxiety More Manageable

Fortunately, it’s possible to overcome insomnia even when you have social anxiety. There are pharmaceutical, behavioral and other options available to help you get the sleep you need. They’re fairly effective, too; a 2012 study published in Psychiatric Times found that both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical treatments for insomnia in those with anxiety disorders were effective in nearly two out of every three cases. Here are a few things that may help you catch some Z’s even when your anxiety is determined to keep you awake.

A Matter of Routine

A bedtime routine makes it easier to fall asleep and may also help with your social anxiety. As much as possible, get into the habit of eating around the same time every night and spend the few hours before bed performing the same general activities. Avoid alcohol and caffeine within a few hours of bedtime, partake in relaxing activities such as reading and avoid the TV and other screens for at least an hour before bed. Go through the same hygiene routine before bed every night and try to hit the pillow around the same time. As your body gets used to the routine, falling asleep quickly becomes much more likely.

Calming Exercises

If your mind doesn’t like to calm down at night, try incorporating calming exercises into your nighttime routine. Guided imagery, meditation and making journal entries can all get things off your mind before you hit the sack. If that doesn’t work, try a few mental exercises such as trying to think of fruits and vegetables that start with specific letters. This can break your previous train of thought, letting relaxation (and sleep) come.

CBT-I Therapy

If insomnia is a major problem, consider getting a referral to a sleep specialist for cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). CBT-I is generally administered over the course of several weeks for a few hours per session and helps you break current bad habits and train your body and mind to get better sleep. If the thought of therapy worries you, self-help books and online resources teaching CBT-I techniques are available as well.

Over-the-Counter Solutions

Not everyone who has problems with insomnia suffers from it every night. If you only have occasional bouts of sleeplessness, an over-the-counter option such as melatonin supplements or non-prescription sleep aids may help. Just be careful to use the sleep aids as directed and consult your doctor if they don’t help or if you find yourself taking these sleep aids regularly. If you regularly need to rely on supplements or medication to get to sleep, you need to consult your doctor.

Prescription Medications

No one wants to take more pills, but sometimes a prescription medication is necessary to break the cycle of insomnia. There are a number of drug options available and your doctor will likely start with a low dosage to avoid giving you more than you absolutely need. If you’re worried about taking medication, just give it a chance; you might be surprised how much of a difference that little nudge can make when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep.

When was the last time that you had a really good night’s sleep?

Tips for Creating a Daily Routine that Works

Tips for Creating a Daily Routine that Works

We’ve all had those days: wake up five minutes after you should be halfway to work, dig through the dirty clothes bin looking for your ID badge, and grab the milk to find just three drops left: no coffee for you this morning. The dog has shredded another pair of shoes; you trip over your bike as you run out the door. You try to start the car, but you forgot to buy gas on your way home four times this week. You need a routine or at least a more effective one.

Then there are those other days: wake up foggy-headed, uneasy, unable to focus. Everything irritates you. What doesn’t annoy you has you feeling as if life itself requires too much from you, with almost no return, so you pull the covers over your head and go back to sleep. Although hiding from the world might work for a day or so, you have to come out sometime. You need a routine.

Before You Open Your Eyes

Do a self-check and a little self-maintenance. First, use the self-care web game “You Feel Like Shit” to walk through whatever might be affecting your ability to function for the rest of your day. Created by mental health self-advocate Jace Harr, the interactive game walks you through whether or not you need food, water, medication, exercise or social interaction to feel well enough to face your day. You can also try Odyssey Online’s “30 Things to Do When You Feel Like Shit.” Or you can stick with the classics and read through “Just for Today,” a pamphlet published by Al-Anon Family Groups.

“Just for Today” is short and easy to use when you need help from moment to moment dealing with PTSD, family problems or trouble with loved ones going through addictions and emotional issues. India Arie sings a simplified version of “Just for Today” on YouTube. The song echoes Natasha Bedingfield’s sound on “Unwritten.”

If you happen to be in recovery yourself, Within Temptation’s “The Whole World is Watching” featuring David Pirner may be more your speed. Pair it with Within Temptation’s “And We Run” featuring rapper Xzibit, and Mass Effect tribute song “Reignite” sung by Malukah, and you have a motivational trifecta to help you drag yourself out of any hopelessness or depression one baby step at a time.

If those feel too positive for the moment, turn to Disturbed’s “Sounds of Silence” and allow that to pull you along until you can rise on your own two feet. Don’t be afraid to use any other song that draws you up instead of pulling you downward.

After Performing Your Self-care

Routines simplify managing stress, anxiety, and insomnia. Schedule time for self-reflection. Allow yourself to work through the various sources of stress in your life: financial, relational, professional and self-created. Set a 10-minute timer. Write down all the things that cause you stress and anxiety, fear and anger.

Be specific about the situation and what has happened so far. Identify the emotions you feel as well as any other people who contributed to the problem. Separate your actions and feelings from what you think the other people involved might think or feel. When the timer goes off, set that journal entry aside. Allow yourself to explore throughout the day, whether you “should feel that way” or not. Emotions are neither good nor bad; they simply exist.

Create Rituals

Do you start your day with quiet time, take immediate action, or take a leisurely approach to your day? Give yourself some rituals, such as sharing coffee with your spouse or coworkers, listening to your favorite playlist on the way to work or taking a morning run. These rituals give you time to center yourself. If the daily hustle bites into your centering time, don’t let it get to you. Stop and take your “you-time” as soon as possible.

Make Use of Tools and Time Frames

Use scheduling software and online artificial intelligence tools such as Cortana, Alexa, and Google Assistant. Create “to do” lists ahead of time or create entries as you complete each task. Using the “completed tasks” option can help you feel a sense of accomplishment at getting things done instead of making you feel anxious or guilty about what you haven’t finished.

Schedule blocks of time for categories, rather than just listing a bunch of tasks. Block scheduling gives you enough flexibility to allow you to get back on track if “but first” takes over your day.

Hit the Reset Button

Finally, allow yourself to restart your day as needed. Instead of feeling angry, frustrated or ashamed of any deviations from your schedule, act as if your day just began two minutes ago. Do that as often as necessary and watch your stress level drop.

What tips for creating a daily routine have been the most helpful for you? What advice would you give to someone who needs to create a new daily routine?

Don’t Let Anxiety Keep you from Enjoying Summer Activities

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. They affect about 18 percent of the adult population. People with anxiety may find they suffer more during the summer months, often because of disruption in routines. Some people feel especially anxious when trying to enjoy summer activities but dealing with anxiety doesn’t mean you need to hide in the house all season.

Spend Time in the Sun

Whether because it’s rained for days at a time or because you’re keeping the blinds drawn against the heat outside, a lack of sunlight can lead to depression and anxiety. Combat the problem by getting some sunlight. If it’s not too hot outside, spend the afternoon reading a book or enjoying nature in your backyard. If the heat is too much, you can stay in the air conditioning, but open the blinds and sit by the window for at least 20 minutes per day.

Keep Yourself Cool

Despite the need for sunlight, heat and humidity can cause you to feel anxious or depressed as well. Cold therapy is the answer. If there’s a pool available that won’t cause you to have crowd-induced anxiety symptoms, head over there to take a dip. Other options include soaking in a cool bath, taking a cold shower or sitting in front of a vent while the air conditioner is on full blast.

Check Out Niche Activities

If you have a special interest, such as collecting comic books or a specific type of art, research local art museums, comic book stores or other spaces that may host activities for a niche crowd. These types of attractions typically have fewer visitors, especially if they happen indoors during warm weather. This way, you can enjoy something you love but deal with smaller crowds. Plus, if you take your own car, you’ll be closer to it in case you need a sensory break.

Visit Attractions During Less Busy Times

Zoos, beaches, parks and even drive-in theaters (if you’re lucky enough to live near one) are more crowded on Friday, Saturday and Sunday each week. Try visiting these types of spaces before Memorial Day or after Labor Day, when the weather is still warm, but more people are still in traditional work or school routines. During peak season, visit during the morning or early afternoon hours on weekdays. Drive-in theaters are best on Tuesday and Wednesday in many places. Avoid visiting on holiday weekends.

Keep a Solid Sleep Schedule

It’s easy for sleep schedules to fall by the wayside during warm weather and longer days. Do your best to keep normal sleep schedules for everyone in the house during the summer months. Set a bedtime for everyone and stick to it, and make sure everyone is up at a reasonable hour in the mornings. Start your day with sunlight to reset your circadian clock and fight depression and anxiety.

Create a Schedule

Keeping a loose schedule in the summer is important, especially if you have kids. Avoid a “go with the flow” vibe that is likely to result in boredom in kids and increase anxiety in you. In addition to waking up at the same time each day, aim to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in the same timeframe each day as well. If needed, plan naps for the kids at the same time and try to plan any outings around those meals and naps. A summer schedule doesn’t need to be rigid, but the more things you can keep to a routine, the easier it will be to keep everyone in the family happy and less anxious.

Take Time for Yourself

During the summer, a lot of anxiety comes from feeling that you need to constantly be social or help the kids be social. It is okay to take some time to yourself. If you have kids, trade playdates with other parents in the neighborhood. This way, everybody gets some free time to take care of chores or relax in the quiet, uninterrupted. If you don’t have children, it’s still a good idea to take an extra day or two from daily responsibilities and have a little “staycation” for yourself.

Above all else, don’t feel like you need to do everything. While you shouldn’t hole yourself up in your air-conditioned bedroom all summer, you also don’t need to say “yes” to every invitation you receive. Never feel guilty for declining an invitation and doing what’s best for you. There will be other barbecues and beach days.

5 Coping Techniques to Try

Coping Techniques to Try Next Time You Feel Overwhelmed

Techniques to Try Next Time You Feel Overwhelmed

Feeling overwhelmed can overtake you when you’re facing more stressors than usual. Living with social anxiety comes with a fairly baseline level of stress to begin with. Add in the unpleasant surprises life has a way of throwing in, and you may find yourself feeling like you just can’t cope. If you’re not able to focus because of how anxious you are, try any one of these 5 coping techniques.

1.  Ground Yourself by Stating Facts

Grounding yourself involves bringing your brain out of panic mode and back to a mindful, present, controlled state. Take a few big deep breaths and will yourself to keep breathing. If you can focus enough to just zone in on your breathing or counting your inhalations and exhalations — say, breathing in for 5 seconds, holding it for 5 seconds and breathing out for 5 seconds. If you can’t ground yourself by focusing inward on your breathing, focus outward. Name off five things you can touch or see.

2. Quiet Your Mind by Using Your Body

Running, exercise and yoga are all great ways to sync your mind and body and lower the revs per minute that come with anxiety. But it’s not always practical to stop whatever you’re doing and go for a jog or do some yoga poses. Keep a fidget toy handy to engage the mind-body connection to calm yourself. If you find yourself without one, try practicing the letters of the sign language alphabet or rubbing the spot between your forefinger and thumb – a pressure point to ease stress.

3. Write or Draw

Both visual and verbal arts are amazing anxiety killers. Keep a pen and notebook handy to draw, sketch, doodle or write as the need strikes you. Even without inspiration, the act of putting pen or pencil to paper can be incredibly soothing and cathartic – don’t judge your art or writing done to quash anxiety, just let it flow out of you and onto the page. If you find yourself without the necessary supplies, remember nearly anything can become art or a medium to write on – from old napkins scribbled on with makeup to food wrappers turned into origami swans. Tuning in to your creativity can help you quiet your worries.

4. Give Yourself Permission to Be Loud and Take Your Space

Social anxiety can feel overwhelming sometimes because you don’t feel entitled to be loud or occupy space at a given time. Excuse yourself from the situation to a safer, quieter place where you can give yourself permission – mentally or verbally – to make your voice heard and take up space. Whether it’s screaming into a pillow in your bedroom or dancing a small jig in the bathroom stall at work, doing something that seems momentous can make the stressful situation at hand feel less so when you return.

5. Use Visualization to Achieve Calm

Sometimes our minds get into this endless cycle of overdrive worrying in which we envision the worst-case scenario of saying or doing something wrong. Shove the negative images out by leading yourself to think of peaceful, calm or positive imagery instead. Try to call to mind your favorite food or smell. Imagine yourself in your favorite place or in a quiet spot in nature. While depersonalizing for a moment can help bring you the calm you need to re-engage in the situation with a level head, it might be tempting to stay in your mental happy place: don’t forget to come back after a mini-visualization vacation!

Using Coping Mechanisms Successfully

Not every coping mechanism works the same for every person, and not every technique will be appropriate for every situation. Use coping techniques as tools in a toolbox: if one doesn’t work for you or the situation you’re in, modify it or set it aside in favor of a tool that does work for the job.

You wouldn’t try to hammer a nail in with a saw, for example. Don’t get discouraged if you have to try multiple coping techniques to try to maintain calm in any given situation: eventually, you’ll figure out which tools in your toolbox do which jobs best.