Health & Wellness Blog

Overcoming Anxiety

Written by Dr. Lee Hildebrand

What Is Anticipatory Anxiety?

Anticipatory anxiety is the habit of looking ahead to try to emotionally anticipate either negative events or the loss of positive things in life that we desire. This tendency to look ahead leads to distress in the mind and the body. This anticipatory anxiety can sometimes feel like waiting for the shoe to drop, for the next difficult thing to happen in our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic has greatly increased a sense of anxiety for many of us. People have been fearful to go to the grocery store, to visit relatives, to eat at restaurants, to go to work, and to do many of the things that seemed very ordinary in 2019. Thankfully, we have made progress and vaccinated thousands to pave the way for a possible return to the lives that we once knew. Even in less trying times, Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue in the United States. 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, that is 18.1% of the population, are affected by anxiety every year. Anxiety can be managed, yet only 36.9% of those suffering from anxiety seek out assistance or treatment. Hence, many continue to live year-by-year with patterns of anxiety which produce distress and limit their optimal functioning.

What Contributes to Anticipatory Anxiety?

Anxiety can trigger your fight or flight stress response in the body and release a flood of chemicals and hormones, like adrenaline, into your system. In the short term, this increases your pulse and breathing rate, so your brain can get more oxygen. This can prepare you to respond appropriately to an intense situation. However, the overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system can become frequent and habitual for some who have experienced trauma. In addition, when we experience trauma there can be maladaptive beliefs which accompany our response and contribute to prolonged future anxiety and negative thinking patterns. Even for those without specific trauma, a pattern of wanting to control the future and fearing undesirable results can become habitual.

How Does Anticipatory Anxiety Disrupt Our Lives?

The stress in our bodies related to anxiety can pose problems for sleep, daily functioning, social effectiveness, concentration, and lead to hypertension and other physical conditions. Many of us are aware of a location in our body, like our chest or back, where we experience tightness and tension when experiencing anxiety and stress. Anxiety can also contribute to depression and a sense that things are not going our way. It interferes with what we are doing in the present and distracts us from taking the next right steps to accomplish what needs to be done in the present.

How Can We Live in the Present?

Living in the present is an appropriate and accurate way to live. If you think about time in terms of a doorway with the door shut, the present is standing several steps in front of this closed door. The closed door is the future which is simply unknowable. We often have a sense of the next step that we are taking toward the future in our minds. However, if we are honest, we really have no idea what lies behind that door. The pandemic of 2020 is a prime example of this reality as well as the real estate crash of 2007. This is why the poets and songwriters speak about this dynamic in describing the “eternal moment.” What is meant by this is that we all live continuously in the present. The past is behind us and the future beyond the door is unknowable. We are continuously residing in the present eternal moment within our lives. Accepting this reality and intentionally focusing on staying in the present is a powerful tool in dismantling anticipatory anxiety. The practice of staying in the present helps us to let go of expectations about what we may lose or what we may not gain in the future. It keeps us focused on the most influential moment that we have, the here and now. We can take action steps in the present that have some influence on the future. It makes sense to invest our energy on action steps in the present verses worry about tomorrow. Living in a manner that places our attention on the present moment is a crucial approach to managing anxiety.

What Are Some Practical Tools to Help With Anxiety?

There are many tools to assist us with the battle against anxiety.

  1. Beginning our day with motivational books, podcasts, and videos can assist us in getting into the right frame of mind. These resources can help eliminate outdated and irrational thinking about our life situations to assist with anxiety management. People who believe that their misfortune is “bad luck” or the fault of others, give themselves little recourse to take corrective actions.
  2. Focus on your narrative about situations. Narrative, or what we tell ourselves about situations in life, is important. What happens to us in life is often less harmful than the negative way we think about what happens to us in life.
  3. Find creative positive mental angles about situations and motivation in facing situations, as opposed to being jaded and despairing.
  4. When you are anxious about something take action steps to influence the situation. Simply getting started with the next step can turn down anxiety in many instances. People often tell me that the hardest part of any project is taking the first step and getting started.
  5. Deep breathing and meditation are also important tools that people use to manage anxiety and stay present in the moment. There are many resources online to assist with learning more about this tool.
  6. Practice faith and prayer. Many people find powerful relief in trusting God with the outcomes of their lives.
  7. Professional counseling and psychotherapy can be another valuable tool in assisting us to reduce anxiety, stop negative thinking, experience validation, and take corrective action when facing challenges in our lives. A mental health professional can also assist with making decisions about whether a medication would be appropriate for you when combating extreme forms of anxiety.

In summary, anticipatory anxiety does not have to be part of your daily routine. Practice these steps to assist in managing your anxiety. We all have the potential to experience relative peace in our lives if we are willing to stay in the present and give intentional care to our thinking and attitudes.

The Benefits of Marriage Counseling

Written by Dr. Lee Hildebrand

Marriage is Not Easy

Marriage is difficult. There is no certificate or degree given to ensure that we are a competent and loving partner. In many cases, we try our best in terms of what we've seen modeled by our parents. Sometimes this is not a helpful guideline. Like anything else, success in marriage takes work, commitment, and action steps. In many areas of life, we have no problem seeking experts for help when we need them. We call dentists, medical doctors, physical therapists, mechanics, plumbers, fitness instructors, business coaches, and tutors for our children. However, in the most important relationship in our lives which also has a crucial impact on our children, we often try to succeed in a vacuum without any external counsel, support, or input on the areas of most difficulty.

Read more: The Benefits of Marriage Counseling

Cultivating Educational Resilience and Problem-Solving During COVID-19

Written by Emily Vander Velden, LPC

School Year Pressures

There is something magical and a little melancholy about the summer-to-fall transition. The summer season of loose structure, easy expectations, and wandering adventures wanes, paving the way for scheduled shifts and schoolbooks. For most families with children, Labor Day marks the swap of summer fun for the structure, excitement, and expectation of school.

The start of the school year evokes excitement for opportunities and new beginnings, as well as definite stresses for students. New friendships, fresh curriculum, and the promise of progress combine with the ultimate realization that these high rewards come with the discomfort of new learning, obligation, and performance pressures. First-day enthusiasm quickly fades into the day-to-day responsibilities, assessments, and effort that education and development demand. Children, adolescents, and parents alike feel the pressure.

Read more: Cultivating Educational Resilience and Problem-Solving During COVID-19

How to Choose Your Optimal Therapist, Counselor, or Psychologist

Written by Dr. Gisela Berger

In order to get the full benefits of therapy, you have to put your mental health in the right person’s hands. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to therapy and the professional that works well for someone else might not work as well for you. There are important considerations to keep in mind through every step of the therapy process.

Before the Consultation

If you’re new to the world of psychotherapy, you’ll probably start by asking friends for referrals, discuss a referral with your physician, or search online. When researching possible candidates, you want to make sure they have the tools to solve your issues. At the very minimum, a therapist’s website should include information about their education, certifications, and specializations. There are different kinds of mental health accreditations, and a counselor’s certifications will be different than, say, a psychiatrist who prescribes medication. The specific credentials you should look for include: a licensed professional counselor (LPC) who has a master’s degree in counseling, a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT), or a licensed clinical psychologist who has a PhD or PsyD in psychology. Therapists typically specialize in specific areas, like substance abuse, trauma, family therapy, couples counseling, or even career issues. These areas should be listed on the therapist’s website.

Read more: How to Choose Your Optimal Therapist, Counselor, or Psychologist

COVID-19 Update

Written by Dr. Lee Hildebrand

We continue to serve our valued clients during the Coronavirus pandemic. We offer options such as telephone, video, or anything else that is of convenience in providing support to our customers during this difficult time. We're also taking new clients who need support for a variety of reasons. We sincerely want to help you navigate these unprecedented times and will provide a free telephone consultation to discuss your situation and questions.