When Anxious, Start at the Beginning

Anxiety is a messenger, a symptom, and a gift. I know that statement flies in the face of everything we learn about anxiety in a culture that is pathologically obsessed with eradicating shadow at every turn and consequently attempts to “get rid of” the symptom of anxiety as quickly and cleanly as possible, but I carry a vastly different approach. Instead of immediately medicating anxiety and its cohort of symptoms away, I seek to understand the messages encoded in its underlayers. Instead of viewing anxiety as a sign of disorder or dysfunction, I see it as a normal, human response to this life that includes stress, fear, risk, and ultimately, death. Can anxiety spiral out of control and make our lives a living hell? Absolutely. I’m not trying to place anxiety on a throne or in a position of worship. Rather, I’m bringing it out of its role as the cast-out, unwanted step-sister and placing it with the other characters who populate the table of psyche. For only when we invite anxiety to the table can we begin to have a conversation with it until slowly, by listening with the poet’s ear and tending with the dreamer’s soul, we begin to decipher its code.

What does this conversation look like? I can’t tell you exactly because a conversation with your anxiety will look very different from a conversation with mine. One reason why people balk from doing this inner work is that there is no script to enact or formula to follow. The very action of turning inward and embarking on an adventure of dialogue with your cast-off, hidden parts is, by its very action, addressing one of the root causes of anxiety: the fear of the unknown and the need for certainly. When we dialogue with our shadow characters, most of whom are saturated in fear, we jump off the known cliff and into the unknown sea. Taking this action sends psyche the message that perhaps we can handle the unknown a bit more than we believe.

What I can tell you is that the dialogue is led by the headlight of Curiosity and cradled in the pillows of Compassion. We start with those two qualities or characters leading the way: Curiosity and Compassion. Imagine a warrior strapping on her protective gear and amulets: a shield, a headband with a gem in the middle, a spear. So we, as love-warriors delving into the uncertain inner realms, strap on the gear of our loving inner parent and sit beside the character who is crying out for attention.

In this case, the character is Anxiety. For those who have taken my courses, you know that I take a four-realms approach to interacting with anxiety (and most other symptoms emanating from psyche), which means I understand that Anxiety is alerting us to an imbalance or need or unexpressed pain that needs attention from one of the four realms of Self: physical, emotional, cognitive, spiritual. Body, heart, mind, soul.

When working with anxiety, I recommend starting at the beginning: the body. In the beginning, as preverbal babies, we expressed our needs, frustrations, and desires through our bodies. Our bodies alerted us to our needs and we expressed those needs through cries, grunts, and smiles. Our bodies are foundational to wellness and when anxiety pipes up it’s best to ask, “Is there a basic body need that needs my attention?” When my kids are off-kilter in any way, I always inquire about the physical realm first: “Did you get enough sleep last night? Have you eaten enough protein today? Do you need to run around the block a few times? Have you eaten too much sugar?” I apply the same line of questioning to myself, with the addition of a question centered around hormones. As a rule of thumb, there’s no point in trying to figure out what might be bothering you emotionally or spiritually if your blood sugar is dropping or if you only slept a few hours the night before.

Let’s talk a bit more about this topic of blood sugar. We need a consistent balance of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and minerals to experience optimal health. We also need to limit our intake of stimulants, especially if you’re a highly sensitive person. By stimulants I mean sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and drugs. What this looks like on a daily basis is some version of the following:

  • Eat a high-protein, low/no sugar meal with some carbohydrates within 30 minutes of waking up.
  • Have a high-protein snack every two hours.
  • Snack on vegetables as much as you want and some fruit.
  • Eat a high-protein, low/no sugar meal with some carbohydrates three times a day.
  • If you struggle with maintaining stable blood sugar levels you may need to eat a light snack before you go to sleep.
  • When blood sugar drops, it takes until the next morning for your body to reset.  That’s why it’s so important to keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day by eating shortly after waking up and eating regularly throughout the day.

Here’s the most important piece of this article. Symptoms of low blood sugar include (from everydayhealth.com):

  • Anxiety: “When glucose levels fall too low, your body tells the adrenal glands to release the hormone ephinephrine (also called adrenaline), which signals the liver to make more sugar. The excess ephinephrine creates an “adrenaline rush,” which can make you feel anxious.”
  • Restless nights: “Nocturnal hypoglycemia, which is very common, can cause a number of sleep disturbances. Symptoms include night sweats, nightmares, episodes of waking suddenly and crying out, and feelings of unrest and confusion upon waking. A snack before bed can reduce the frequency and severity of sleep disturbances.”
  • Emotional instability: “Mood swings and sudden emotional episodes not typical of your normal behavior are among the neurological symptoms of hypoglycemia, including irrational outbursts, random or hysterical crying, uncontrollable anger, and a strong desire to be left alone. Mild mood changes that may not be as severe, such as general irritability or becoming easily annoyed, can also be a signal that your blood sugar may be dropping.”  You may also notice that the feeling of nameless dread and intrusive thoughts become more pronounced when blood sugar drops.

Sound familiar? This is why when you’re anxious, start at the beginning: with your body. Trying to journal or meditate when your blood sugar has dropped is like trying to get a car to run by fixing the engine instead of checking the gas tank first. Your blood sugar is your gas tank, and if you’re on the anxious-sensitive-creative spectrum it would behoove you to keep it full. Of course, taking good physical care of yourself is the responsibility of your inner loving parent, and as many people struggle with accessing this character, we can understand why tending to the physical body could be a challenge. If this is the case, the work first involves strengthening the muscle of the inner character of your loving parent. More on that next week ;).

72 comments to When Anxious, Start at the Beginning

  • Kathy

    Awesome post, I’ve been going through a pretty rough patch for the last 2 weeks or so and I can’t seem to get myself out of this funk. I struggle a lot with the fear that I am sabotaging my relationship as a result of my anxiety and lately it’s just totally consumed my mind. I am hypoglycemic (and have been since I was probably 10 or 11) and can trace my anxiety issues back to around that time. That was also a pretty big transitional period for me so I’m sure that added to it as well. But when my anxiety is at it’s worst my default for some reason is to tend to every realm besides my body, and then I wonder why I can never find relief. I have several unhealthy habits, like most people, and I’ve been trying to break a few of them so I’m making a commitment to put my body first, then hopefully the other three will follow…

    • Excellent commitment, Kathy. And what would that look like on a very practical level?

    • Kathy

      I am already relatively active, I workout 3-4 times a week, but my eating habits are horrible and I’ve gained a considerable amount of weight since my relationship began. So I can be a little more intentional at the gym and chill out on the fast foods and the drinking. My partner believes emphatically that if I can get myself physically healthy then I will start to feel better, and he has really been the definition of a partner through this. I don’t necessarily believe that 15+ years of depression will melt away with the pounds but I’m willing to give it a try.

      The problem is keeping myself motivated, I vacillate between being too easy and being too hard on myself. Even as I write this in the back of my head I’m hearing “You’re already working out and you still don’t feel better”…

      • I’m quite certain that cutting out the fast food and the drinking would have a significant impact. The voice at the back of your head that says “You’re already working out and you still don’t feel better”… is the classic voice of resistance that we all have to fight against!

  • Mike McC

    Hi Sheryl,

    As a groom getting married in under 3 weeks now I’m really grateful that this blog exists. I’ve had the whole range of intrusive thoughts (I’ve even had one reading these stories and thinking ‘do they mean the same if I’m a man or does this mean I can’t relate to the rest?’)

    One of my biggest problems is I recognise that I am marrying a wonderful, caring, loving woman and the anxiety I get shows I’m not worthy of her – I get very angry at myself for not feeling happy, which of course exasperates the issue.

    Thank you so much for all you give us.

    Mike

    • I’m glad you’re here, Mike. To soothe your most recent spike, hundreds of men have taken my courses and benefitted enormously from them. One of the interesting things about relationship anxiety is that it crosses all lines, boundaries, and categories! It’s one of the great equalizers.

  • mhk415

    Thank you for this very practical and important reminder about eating regularly and not allowing blood sugar levels to drop drastically. Whenever I am anxious, I often forget about or dismiss eating full meals, and sometimes lose my appetite completely. I really needed this friendly wake-call. I am going to head to the store to stock up on healthy snacks! Sometimes it’s the small self-care steps that can make the biggest difference. 🙂

  • agnes

    Just brilliant, Sheryl. Thank you. I love the analogy in the last paragraph. I’ve been focusing on deeper work while skipping my essential needs: making art, eating right and moving.

    • That’s exactly right, agnes: essential needs come first. It sounds like you know exactly what those needs are; now it’s time to implement them.

      • M

        This is good to know- that essential needs have to come first. I’ve been working so hard at the deeper inner work but have neglected eating as well as I use to and exercising. I use to only focus on my physical health and now I’m only focusing on my mental health and spirituality.I find it difficult to balance it all but I know I need to (I feel like as an HSP I am really good at focusing on one thing at a time and really putting my all into it). Do you suggest putting the inner work on hold to focus on essntial needs first or do you recommend trying to balance both?

  • Guest

    Oh my god Sheryl,
    I just love you and this post,whenever I visit your blog it is like you are reading my mind with your posts , I am so thankful this is here.
    Thank you so much for sharing your gift with the world.

  • Stephanie

    Hi Sheryl –

    Thanks for addressing the importance of nutrition! I think we all forget how much the state of our bodies impacts our emotional health. Have you heard the gut being referred to as our “second brain”? I think it’s fascinating to think that if our gut flora is in balance, it affects our the balance of our brain chemicals, which is such a far cry from how we are taught to think about anxiety and depression. Anyway, I appreciate your piece on this and will use it as a helpful reminder to get myself a little better on track with my eating, because I definitely notice the difference when I’m eating lots of protein and live things!

  • Katie

    I’m so very guilty of not parenting myself, allowing candy and diet sodas and chips to creep into my diet. I experience all three “symptoms” (anxiety, restless nights, and emotional instability). I’m currently taking your ‘Trust Yourself’ program and while I love the material, I’m not sure what good I’ve been doing when I eat a Reese’s peanut butter cup, drink a Diet Coke, then immediately attempt a body scan meditation practice. I think it’s time to set some loving rules for myself in the kitchen.

    Can you provide an example of what a good meal plan for the day might look like (with specific foods)?

    As always, thank you so much for your beautiful and thoughtful work! 🙂

    • While it’s kind of like swimming upstream when we try to meditate after eating sugar, it’s also essential to be kind and gentle with ourselves through the process of learning and healing. As far as a sample good meal plan for the day, I hesitate to make suggestions as everyone’s bodies and needs are so different. We live in an age where every new nutrition fad claims its place as “the best” and “the one and only”, but I don’t buy it. How can it be that every one of the 7 billion bodies on the planet should eat the same way, whether it be a paleo or vegan or macrobiotic diet? The work, like in the Trust Yourself program, is to find the foods that feel best in your body. I will say as a rule of thumb that it’s good eat a lot of fresh vegetables (organic, if possible), high quality proteins, healthy carbs (whole grains, high starch vegetables like squash and peas), and low sugar.

  • LovingKindness

    Hi Sheryl!! 🙂

    The past two days I’ve woken up with morning anxiety, which is now odd for me … as exciting as that is to say!! Since making a lot of internal progress as well as starting the Trust Yourself course and doing the media diet/changing my evening and morning routines, I really haven’t been feeling anxious in the morning.

    I used to wake up calmly until my brain snapped out of it’s sleepy fog and would ask in barely a nanosecond “Am I feeling anxious?” which would spiral me into anxiety about my partner and my life choices.

    Yesterday, I woke up anxious and I could just tell that there was nothing to assign it to – could not blame my partner or our wonderful relationship or anything else in my life.

    Must have been some morning cortisol release or hypoglycemic effect! It feels good to not assign meaning and just go about my day!!

    Thanks for all you do,

    LK

    • This is great to hear, LovingKindness, and it’s been wonderful to witness the work you’re doing through the Trust Yourself program.

      • LovingKindness

        Thank you, Sheryl. It’s been wonderful to virtually “meet” you and feel like you are sharing in a part of (a BIG part of 🙂 ) my growth. I benefited a lot from Break Free but having personal contact with you through Trust Yourself has been very validating and helpful. I bet that isn’t the last program of yours I will buy… 😀

  • Mary

    Hey everyone! Has anyone been through the experience of feeling that breaking up is the right thing to do? Lately I’ve been feeling that, once controlled the anxiety, I still have major doubts about who I am and if I’m ready to go on with this relationship. I have no doubts about loving my boyfriend anymore, I know I care deeply about him, but I got a fear of cheating on him and when I calmed down I thought maybe this is something telling me I haven’t explored enough. I still don’t exclude entirely the possibility of being a homossexual (or at least bissexual) and I lost my virginity to my boyfriend so I still find the idea of exploring with men enticing. It’s not that I’m dissatisfied with this relationship or anything (he’s perfect and loving), it’s just that I have so many doubts about where I want to be and he has none, so I’m convinced going on with the relationship is not fair to him. People always say I should focus on the present with him, but I have these doubts in the present and I think I should listen to them honestly and this involves exploring and finding out who I am freely. I wish something told me to stay but right now this just seems wishful thinking and denial to me.

    • Kathy

      Hey Mary, I’ve DEFINITELY had some experience with these feelings, and my boyfriend seems to have all the certainty in the world too ?

      I don’t think anyone here could tell you which decision was the “right” decision, as there really isn’t a “right” or a “wrong” here, it’s just your choice. I CAN tell you that the thoughts of “I haven’t explored myself enough”, “what if I cheat?” are for sure fear based thoughts. The fear kind of comes and goes, which is primarily how I know that it is not as urgent as it feels. It’s totally unrealistic to think that you will have this person and never want/desire/look at anyone else. But you know you don’t have to act on those feelings. I read somewhere a while ago that in a long-term relationship you have to choose your partner every day and that’s kind of my mantra when those doubts come up.

      Also I have a couple of articles of Sheryl’s on MBG that are my go-tos when I need a little perspective shift, maybe they’ll help you?

      http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-16994/20-ways-to-love-the-one-youre-with.html

      https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-21222/38-hard-truths-about-relationships.html

  • Catherine

    This is a very timely post for me. I have been terrible with my eating habits over this bad episode I am experiencing. And it is mainly my lack of eating completely. I got to the point where I was so used to not eating, that I would get to 5pm and not have even noticed that I hadn’t eaten… but my body definitely had, as I was more irritable, and more anxious. Funny how that works out! I have started a writing the food I have eaten at the end of the day and how I am feeling on the scale of anxiety, it has really helped me figure out what foods don’t work for me. I have cut caffeine and alcohol right down and I have noticed that dairy correlates with my more anxious days. I really do recommend a food diary for anyone in the depths of anxiety. It has shown a big difference in my mental state! I wish we learned this at school! Food inst just for our physical health! It is so influential to our mental health too! Thank you Sheryl for your blog 🙂

  • Guest

    Sheryl for me it took me a long time to be able to reach my pain and have that conversation.
    It feels like the most intense exhausting thing I have ever done, I have realised after facing this lie head on that part of the reason people remain in anxiety is because they believe that they do not deserve love, self acceptance or happiness.

    I had to decide am I worthy of loving myself unconditionally, am I worthy of a happy life and a confident life.

    I am sober a year and it would not have been possible without giving up addictions that helped me numb my feelings.

    This has felt like the most painful but equally beautiful thing I have ever done for myself and I honestly agree it is an amazing gift, I think like you say anyone willing to feel these feelings is already stronger than they will ever know.

    I am so grateful I am one of those people.

  • Millefeuille

    Hi Sheryl! So, if I understand correctly, sometimes the message anxiety is sending can be as simple as ‘you need to be sleeping more/eating better/getting more physical activity’? I know that something that often gets me stuck is that I think every time I have a bad episode of anxiety, I assume it’s something deeply physiological and become frustrated because I can’t seem to access the ‘core emotion.’ I hope this makes sense!

    • Yes, sometimes anxiety is a result of something that’s off-kilter physically, and sometimes it can be as simple as realizing that you need to eat!

  • Millefeuille

    Sorry – *psychological, not physiological

  • Tom

    Wonderful post Sheryl! This makes so much sense and in way is reliving because of how simple the idea is, as my mind (and many others) almost always tries to come up with a terrifying reason as to why I might be feeling a certain way. When in reality I probably have slept properly for a few days.

    I apologise if this was a little of topic but I recently took the ’16 personalities test’ and fell in love with learning about what my results were as they were freakishly accurate! It really helped me learn about myself, I got ENFP and I was wondering what others were who came on this site and if we were the same or quite similar as we are all quite feeling/Intuitive people ?

    • Yes, Meyers-Briggs can be a very helpful tool for people to understand themselves. I would venture to guess that most people who find their way to my work are feeling types. I’m an INFJ.

      • Tom

        Oh no way! My fiancé Is an INFJ ? Yeah I’ve found it incredibly insightfull and it’s also helped me understand the struggles I face in the way my mind works

      • Sheryl, I am also an INFJ. Though somehow, I had a feeling that was the case. 🙂

  • Ryan Flick

    Such great points. I kind of subconsciously do this already, but being mindful of it in relation to anxiety spikes can only help! Sleep is a big one that our society, confusingly, brushes off. Healthy organic food is cool, exercise is cool, sleep is not cool. It’s not something you can brag to your friends about. Our culture tends to look at deep restful slumber as just plain lazy. There’s a badge of honor associated with how much you can do on the least amount of sleep possible. Curiously, our society is more depressed and anxious than ever. Coincidence? We are not machines. As much as smart tech world increasingly demands us to be producers, we should be more concerned with our souls and bodies. We must work. But work to live. Not live to work. I find most people in their 20’s and 30’s are living life burning the candle at both ends. Working 60-70 hours a week, sometimes in 4 day time span in order to take a 3 day excursion weekend. Flying back home as late as possible sunday night or monday morning to soak up as much weekend time as allowed only to sleep 2 or 3 hours and start all over. It’s crazy. And saying no it due to need of sleep or just rest is shunned. To want to rest on the weekend, or Sunday instead of waking up and going to brunch that turns into day drinking, is considered introverted and anti-social. I just consider it rest.

  • Ryan Flick

    Also, having gone through therapy for anxiety, treating yourself as a child is truly the best place to start. I used to carry a picture around of myself as a little boy, and allowed that image to reside in me. As anxiety would spike or creep up, I would ask myself what that little boy is feeling right now. It really seemed to help, albeit it started off a little weird, but I still ask him how he’s feeling on a day to day basis. To me, this shows where the pain is. It could definitely be as simple as exhaustion, poor diet, overwhelmed with sounds and noises, too many strangers to be introduced to, need for recovery after a vacation, routine is off etc… Sheryl nailed it with looking at simple diet and sleep routines before beginning to self diagnose to deeply. I often find stress is related to not taking care of myself as best I can when life is busy. I tend to fight the busyness by allowing that little boy to rule. He wants to eat candy, pizza, drink coke and stay up late watching TV. I too often let him. The adult in me, needs to realize that what is best is eating healthy snacks, drinking water, exercising and not binge watching TV shows trying to numb the pain. Of course everything in moderation, but children very rarely have moderation, and when I let the child run the show, it’s game over very quickly. The image of the child in me helps twofold in this way. Why does the child want to act out? Why does the child not want to go to bed when there’s a busy hard day ahead? Sometimes it just does not think about the consequences. Other times it’s rebellion. And lastly escape. Thinking these unhealthy things will provide solace. But making those tough in the moment decisions leads to a life with less anxiety and less stress. It’s sometimes difficult to turn the TV off and stop stuffing my face with chips and salsa at midnight, but when I can, I find tomorrow is a much easier day.

  • lucy

    Hello Sheryl

    I wonder if you could help. I have been with my bf for 6 years. I struggled with relationship anxiety for the first 2 years. I worried that I wasn’t attracted to him. He wasn’t funny enough etc. Hence finding my way here. Largely thanks to your website, I got passed it. We had perhaps 1-2 years of stable and secure love. I was so grateful for finding this wonderful man and not letting him go! But now, it appears to have gone full circle. Its like I just can’t trust that he wants to be with me. I constantly look for clues that he’s having doubts. I ask for reassurance constantly. I convince myself that he’ll meet someone else more suited to him eventually – more connected. Any mention of a girl and I freak out. I convince myself that she’s the one. He always tells me he loves me. He is incredibly caring. But he’s also quite fearful. Generally – but also in our relationship. Lots of ‘what ifs’…’what if we don’t stand the test of time’, ‘what if we get a divorce like everyone else’. I try to comfort him in these fears, but of course they fuel my worry that he has doubts. Which makes me panic and need reassurance. Which then makes him feel as though he has to be the strong one all the time. etc Help! What’s going on? Why can’t I just relax and have faith and not look for the cracks all the time? Thank you..

  • This post came at the perfect time for me, Sheryl! Recently I have been thinking about the food I’m putting into my body and the lack of physical exercise. Before I met my boyfriend, I was on a strict schedule of working out at least 4 days per week, I could even jog a mile straight without stopping (something I could literally never do in my life). I started to like the way my body looked and felt great about myself and in general. I portioned my meals and ate healthy foods. When I met my boyfriend and started spending more time with him, I found that I would rather be with him than go to the gym, and I slowly teetered off my schedule. In addition, I began cooking these big elaborate meals for him as I love to cook and wanted to show off my skills.

    Although we are both relatively active – last summer we competed with our fitbits who could be more active – we both gained weight and became more fatigued. During the winter we ate more and walked the dog/hiked less. I am determined to get back to my work out routine, where I was happy with my body and looked forward to sweating out life’s stresses, and I’d like to encourage my boyfriend to get back to his schedule. We will put our fitbits back on again, we will plan out our (healthy) meals during the week, helping our stomachs and our wallets.

    Thank you Sheryl for that extra push I needed! With my anxiety, taking care of my body has never been more important.

    • It’s a common story, Alyssa: we meet our partners and stop taking care of ourselves for a while! It sounds like you’re ready to re-initiate the wonderful routine that you had established before you met him. Go for it!

  • J

    Thanks for this, it’s very helpful. Food has always been an issue for me: I oscillate between anxiety, when it’s very hard to eat anything, and depression, when I eat masses. Do you have any advice about specifically which foods are good? I could consult a nutritionist I suppose, but I’m asking based on your experience working with people with anxiety 🙂

    • It’s not only which foods are good but also which foods/substances to avoid. And keep in mind that this is all an experiment and you’ll need to see what works best for your body/chemistry.

      Eliminate or limit: Gluten, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, marijuana, pasteurized dairy.

      Add: As much fresh and organic fruits and veggies as possible, including dark, leaf green like kale, chard, spinach; high-quality protein (eggs, raw dairy, fish, organic poultry, grass-fed meats, beans); healthy carbs like whole grains, beans, squashes); dark organic chocolate (above 80%); healthy fats (avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts); probiotic foods (sauerkraut, pickles, yogurt, anything fermented)

    • Hi J! “Good” food is of course subjective, but I can offer you the foods I enjoy eating that I believe are “good” and make me feel great! First off, the obvious vegetables and fruits. I’ve found that although some people find these foods incredibly difficult to eat as they don’t taste like pizza and french fries, there are many variations you can eat! For example, I love cutting up sweet potatoes, sprinkle salt, pepper, garlic, and olive oil, and bake them in the oven until they’re crispy; almost as good as fries! This roasting method I’ve found works with almost any vegetable: broccoli, carrots, asparagus, bell peppers, brussel sprouts are all among my favorites! These are a perfect substitute for a carb-ful side dish, plus you’ll get a good amount of fiber and vitamins from the veggies.

    • Another thing I did to inspire healthy eating was to grow my own herbs in my kitchen. Basil is my favorite, as well as cilantro, parsley and mint. They are quite easy to grow, and having them around has inspired me to try new recipes to incorporate them specifically; chances are, you won’t want to add fresh basil to a frozen, preservative filled pizza. Try making your own pizza with whole wheat dough, fresh tomatoes and mozzarella. Or make some basil pesto and bake it on top of a chicken breast, adding tomato and mozz afterwards.

      If you’re craving some dessert, eat a couple chunks of dark chocolate as Sheryl said above. It may taste bitter at first but once your body is used to less sugars, you won’t notice and will come to love the sweetness!

      For me, making small changes at first helped me make larger, long-term changes in what I eat. I used to be a chicken nugget & ketchup fiend, now I crave a good stir fry with pesto and a bit of parmesan. White products (flour, rice) into whole wheat, meats on sale into grass fed organic, box mixed meals into homecooked with fresh ingredients. It tastes better and is so worth it!

      • Great ideas, Alyssa. The thing about healthy eating is that it requires thought, time, and attention. It’s the opposite of fast-food. This is why the commitment of our inner loving parent is essential. In order to eat healthy, we need to have healthy foods on hand and be ready to cook real meals. This requires:

        1. Meal planning
        2. Making a shopping list
        3. Doing the grocery shopping
        4. Unloading the groceries
        5. Making the food
        6. Eating the food
        7. Cleaning up

        It’s nothing to sneeze at but the payoff is SO worth it.

        Of course there are easier meals that don’t require so much thought and effort, like yogurt with nuts and berries or healthy cereal with raw milk. There are great with kids (and even our inner kids).

  • Ishani sharma

    Hey..pls help me…i feel that i cant be happy in presence of my husband.i feel sad when with him and feel myself as soon as he goes out
    .this has been going on since last 2 yrs.
    It was in 2015 that i first felt that i dont love him.our relation is 5 yrs old.pls help

  • Newly Married

    Sheryl I really need your help, all the games my husband played with me with this other woman keep driving me crazy in jealousy anger and even disgust so much that I dont want him to touch me and it drives me crazy, I feel cold and resentful and insecure he has explained everything and apologized but it means nothing to me, this went to the point that it all has caused me to have ptsd over the situation, I already had ptsd but I have ptsd over the situation and I live with immense pain over him and how he behaived with me and this woman also targeting me to tell me mean things, I even have obsessed about this situation and my ptsd doesnt help me because images come with pain and anger. Please help me with any advice you might have, this situation got me to the point that I am taking Geodon 60 mgs because my emotions got out of control, I am doing Emdr but the pain is still there.
    I would appreciate any advice on this please.
    Blessings

    • I’m so sorry you’re struggling. I’m glad to hear that you’re receiving treatment through EMDR; are you also in weekly counseling?

      • Newly Married

        Yes we are I just feel so desperate that I have this feelings and they are so strong that I live in constant pain and insecurity and jealousy.

        • Newly Married

          Sheryl how do you handle the jealousy feelings, the insecurities and the repulsion I feel for my husband the resentment and sometimes the hate?

          • Let me ask you: What are you currently doing to try to manage these difficult feelings?

          • Newly Married

            Well I talk to my therapist about it and we are doing emdr over that and over earlier memories, then when those feelings arise I try to ask what are this feelings trying to tell me, but I cannot seem to find anything yet, all I get is repulsion and insecurity and extreme jealousy and anger for all the games my husband played with this woman into me. I try to breath through them but the pain does not go away its like someone is stabbing me inside in my heart when the memories come as flash backs and I cannot stop them.

  • Katie

    I’m really confused, I’m having a hard time trying to figure out the root of my anxiety, I think it’s stemmed from when we broke up but I’m not completely sure. Before we broke up I guess I was in what we all call “infatuation” and when he broke up with me I was a mess, we were doing long distance at the time, we got back together and like I’ve said before, I’m worried that I accepted it was over on the 5th day of crying and not really eating because I remember saying to myself “I’ll keep him as a good friend” as soon as we got back together that’s when all the thoughts entered my head from “is this a good thing being back together” and then it went in stages “am I in love with him? Do I love him? I don’t love him” I don’t feel the loving feelings as much anymore. The other night we was sat in bed chilling together and I looked at him and felt all warm and I kissed him and I just thought to myself “I love him” I think I’m slowly starting to accept that you won’t feel love all the time but it’s about the times that you do feel love. But can I just ask, I’ve been with him a year and a half, shouldn’t I know by now wether I love him or not? Especially if he is someone I want my life with. Sure I should know I love him and not just know that he is the one I want my life with. I don’t want my life with anyone else.. I do wonder sometimes why he’s with me because he is very handsome. & then my head plays up and will be like “you’re only staying with him because you won’t meet anyone as good looking as him that will want you, only staying with him because you live in a nice house and he has a good paying job” & I know deep down that is all rubbish because when we got together I never thought about any of this. I want to be with him because when I’m around him everything just feels so normal, we are completely ourselves with each other, we laugh, I love the fact we always have baths together, we both look at the same future together, we make a good team, he is my best friend, and I don’t always feel love and yeah sometimes my head will make me believe I don’t love him, but I want him, I want to always be with him and build a loving life together

  • Briana

    Please help. Today I got hugged by my coworker, who I find very attractive. In that moment I think I was checking myself to see if there was a connection there compared to what it’s like when I hug my boyfriend. And there was. I usually don’t feel anything when I hug my boyfriend. I am trying to remain calm but I am worried that means something- please does anyone have perspective on this? I will say though after all of that I still want my boyfriend, he is the one I want to do life with. Is that my truth?

    • If you want to stay with your boyfriend then that is your truth.

    • Leslie

      Hello Briana,

      I’m so sorry you’re struggling.

      All I can speak to is personal experience. In my past, if I was cross-eyed attracted to a guy it meant one of two things: He was either unavailable emotionally or suffered from addiction. For me big lust meant big trouble.

      When I met the man I would marry and the attraction was quieter and less urgent, I took it as a good sign.

      Twenty-seven years later, I’m still attracted. Everyday? All the time? Heck no! There’s work and aging parents and gardens and meals and life. But there are times when I look at him across the room and my heart cracks open like a smile.

      Wishing you all the good things!

      • Beautiful, Leslie. Thank you for chiming in and sharing your experience. I know how much it helps those who are suffering.

      • Briana

        Thank you Leslie and Sheryl! I really appreciate it. I think one of the hardest things for us emotionally driven people is to separate truth from emotion/intrusive thoughts.I always thought if it felt right that is has truth behind it, but as I am learning that is not necessarily true. It really is a process being patient with myself and learning about not being lead by what “feels right”. It’ not an easy journey at the moment, but I am thankful to have a place where people can relate without judgement (here). Thanks again!

  • Lisa

    Hi Sheryl, I have a quick and simple question:
    I’m considering changing jobs so that my work day is busier. My new job would be very deadline driven without any time to ruminate really
    I’ve had a job like that before, then I moved into a slower paced environment and the anxiety surfaced. Now I’m worried that if I go back to the old ways in my career, I will lose this connection to my thoughts and to this ‘messenger’ and it’ll stop me from healing and just cover it all up. Do you have any suggestions?

  • K

    I realize that I have this discomfort towards happiness. Whenever I start to see clearly and feel happiness and contentment, I immediately feel scared and soon enough I find reasons to not be happy. And back to square one. It’s like my mind effortlessly gravitates towards worry and anxiety and mental rumination when when I feel I have gotten over it. Do others feel this similar discomfort with happiness?

    • Kathy

      Hi K, I definitely have experience with this. I noticed it when I was going through a breakup actually. I had a really bad habit of ruminating and obsessively thinking about my ex but one night a few months after the breakup I was out with friends and I just noticed that I was having fun and not thinking about him. I reasoned that this was the start of me getting over it and moving on. And the next moment was like a switch, it was like my mind was telling me “Don’t get too excited, you’re supposed to be sad”. And then I was sad again. The same thing happens in my current relationship, I’ll start to feel at ease and a little more open and the second my mind notices it that little voice chimes in again “Don’t get too comfortable, you were a nervous wreck a minute ago”, “Don’t let yourself get too happy, remember everything sucks”. I’m on this rollercoaster constantly.

      There are a few good posts on this site about “relapsing” but the gist of it is that those ups and downs are normal, everyone goes through them. You’re trying to rewire what you have probably been teaching yourself for years, that ruminating and over-thinking will protect you from pain. I will have weeks of clarity and then spiral back into anxiety like I haven’t been doing any work at all. But just like the ups can be temporary, so are the downs. Be patient with yourself and have faith in the work. In those moments of contentment I’m training myself to notice that I feel a little lighter and in those moments of anxiety I’ll just notice that I’m feeling heavier. Just notice it but don’t immediately search for meaning. I’m no where near good at this but I am learning to get more comfortable with just being at ease because when I’m really in the thick of the anxiety that clarity feels like a gift. Hopefully that helps!

  • Cami

    Lately I have actually been thinking and realizing how sensitive my body actually is and I want to know if it’s normal. I am very aware of my body and its feelings/sensations and I tend to trust my gut feelings when it comes to people or situations, but I have noticed lately that on the physical level, I feel “more” and I seem to be more sensitive than the rest of the people around me. If it’s cold, I seem to feel colder. If I’m doing physical work like lifting heavy things and I complain it’s heavy, they tell me it’s not that bad and that i need to snap out of it and just do the work. If I have allergies, my skin seems to become very sensitive and sore and it makes me think that the sensations I get are exaggerated from what people tell me (it’s not that bad, it’s not that cold, you complain too much, etc). I’ve even thought what if I’m a hypochondriac? Or are people gaslighting me? Should I trust myself or is it really not normal to be so sensitive? So my question is what is normal and what goes beyond the limits of trusting your body and physical sensations?

    • Have you read The Highly Sensitive Person? You’re describing classic characteristic of a highly sensitive person, as well as a lot of sensory sensitivity. It’s normal ;).

      • Cami

        Thank you Sheryl, I haven’t read it but now that you mention it it rings bells, I will try to get it asap!

  • Anxious

    This is a great reminder. Thank you.

    Will you be making any articles on the anxiety tied in with being a caregiver? Or financial struggles, if you haven’t made one already? I am very interested in your suggestions in keeping things together during such stressful times… I believe in my partner but it can be so hard to be the sole breadwinner, even when you know he is trying so hard to get his business going and find work. Anxiety loves to attack these parts of my psyche, especially when my nutrition isn’t at its best, so I’ll be keeping this post in mind.

  • Katie

    I’ve had abit of a funny head for a few days and I’ve been doing what I shouldn’t be and been googling about ROCD and lost feelings. I came across this other apparent ROCD site and the guy said to basically ask yourself if you love your partner and answer it quickly without even thinking, I was already having the whole “I don’t love him” thoughts and then I did what the guy said and because I automatically answered “no” it’s now made me think that’s my truth. Or is it because I was in an anxious state? I know I’m looking to get your break free course but I’m scared, I’m scared it’s my truth. When I slowly start to accept that you won’t feel love 24/7 like I thought you was supposed to, my head tells me I’m wrong and that I should be feeling love.. I’m always checking my feelings, I feel guilty for having these thoughts, I look at him and sometimes I just wanna burst out crying saying “I’m sorry” because he doesn’t deserve any of this, he doesn’t deserve me having these horrible unwanted thoughts. He loves me so so much and I know he does and I just want to be able to feel the feelings back. I keep thinking that because I’ve been with him near on a year and a half that I should know by now 100% that I love him and I should FEEL it. Especially as we are looking to buy a house together. I want to be with him though, I don’t want anybody else. I want my life with him. But I also feel that I should feel love? Today I’ve had the odd few minutes of cuddling my partner and feel warm and happy

    • Katie

      I’ve also just been offered a new job and I’m worried about starting it in case I find any of the new guys there attractive and my heads making me worried I’ll end up liking one of them 🙁 I know it’s ok to find people attractive, I naturally give off an unavaibke vibe anyway

  • Jess

    I’m struggling as a relatively new mom to find the time and energy to do inner work. My daughter is 10 months old.