Listen:

– [Ryan] Welcome to Redeem the Commute, Stress and Anxiety course. I’m Ryan, your host. I hope that you enjoy the course today and get a chance to think about or discuss the question at the end with others. Just as a general reminder, the course includes general tips, and you should absolutely see a medical health professional to understand your specific situation. Course is offered by Dr. Kate Witheridge and here she is now.

– [Dr. Witheridge] So what triggers it, right? Time pressure, right? So, like, what kind of, can lead to us feeling stressed? Time pressures, the things we have to do. Uncertainty is a big one. The what if’s of life. Like, “What if I don’t get a job?” “What if… “It rains tomorrow?” “What if somebody gets in a car accident?” “What if no one at this presentation likes me.” “What if I say something awkward or embarrassing?” “What if PowerPoint shuts down?” Fears of negative evaluation. Right, it makes sense? You know, social anxiety, we want to appear competent. We want people to like us. Fear of negative outcomes, right? Something bad is gonna happen. Or maybe a past negative experience. So Sophie, Donna and I were joking about this earlier, ’cause Sophie and Donna had a bad experience with boiling water, in the past, and so the idea of, like, “Why am I afraid to carry that kettle of hot water?” “Oh, because I’ve had a bad experience.” “Why am I afraid to present in front of people?” “Why am I afraid to drive?” “Why am I afraid to leave my house?” “Because I’ve had a bad experience.” As they said, the what if thoughts. Right, that kind of future-oriented, “I don’t know what’s gonna happen.” “What if that something does happen, “or doesn’t happen.” So we all know stress and anxiety affect various areas. We might have difficulties focusing. So once again what I always say, kind of thinking about the physical symptoms of anxiety, and if I’m being chased by a bear I’m probably not doing math. I’m probably not writing essays. I’m probably not focusing on something. ‘Cause if I’m being chased by a bear, my only thought process is, how do I get myself out of this? We might notice sleep difficulties. Sometimes I’m fine during the day, and then I’m laying awake, you know, no longer distracted and start thinking everything I need to do or didn’t do or all those past things that didn’t go so well. And here I am alone. I saw a great comic that I probably should have put up here. It’s sort of like the memory foam mattress, right, and it’s like all the past memories of things that I didn’t do or should have done. Failures, and it’s like, here I am, and that’s when those negative memories, and those negative thoughts pop up. Why? ‘Cause I’m distracted. Not necessarily ’cause bed isn’t stress inducing, but that’s where all the sudden I get to think about all those things. Might have difficulty completing tasks. Or even approaching it. I hate doing my taxes, and for some reason I keep putting it off. I’m like, I don’t wanna touch it, it just seems overwhelming, right? Or, I had difficulty doing it cause it takes so much effort. And social difficulties. If we think about stress and anxiety it might affect our ability to interact with other people, either because of fears or if I’m isolating ’cause it’s hard for me to leave my house. It makes sense that that would affect other areas of my life. And then the almighty fight part of the fight or flight anxiety response is we get really irritable. Right? So I think we forget about this. So we’re under stress, we lose patience with ourselves, other people. I jokingly say, “Why are people walking “down the sidewalk so slowly? “I have places to be, things to do.” That’s usually why people get angry on the TTC I think, like, “I’m supposed to be at work, the door’s not working. “Why, ’cause I’m stressed I’m gonna be late.” So, as I talk about the techniques today we’re gonna do a bit of, kind of mindfulness, which is what that three minute breathing space is, but I also think it’s helpful to talk about other strategies to begin to work on other aspects of stress and anxiety. So, some of the stuff that I’ma talk about today it comes from, sort of, cognitive behavioral theory as well as, sort of, emotion regulation. But we wanna be able to work on all these difficulties together. So, let’s start this illustration with a bit of a case scenario. So just things to think about, if this were to happen to you. So this situation is that you send or leave a message with someone important to you and it’s been several hours, and they have not responded to your message. So the third happened to you, what thoughts might go through your head?

– [Audience] Not important to them.

– [Dr. Witheridge] Yeah, I’m not important to them. Any other thoughts?

– [Audience] They might be mad at me.

– [Dr. Witheridge] Yeah, they might be mad at me.

– [Audience] Something bad.

– [Dr. Witheridge] Something bad’s happened to them.

– [Audience] What happened to them?

– [Dr. Witheridge] What happened to them? What might you notice in your body? Like physically, how might you feel?

– [Audience] Tight.

– [Dr. Witheridge] Tight, yeah. Anything else? What was that?

– [Audience] Tense.

– [Dr. Witheridge] Yeah, neck tension.

– [Audience] Stomach upset.

– [Dr. Witheridge] Stomach upset, yeah. And how might you behave? Like, how would you respond to the situation?

– [Audience] Try to send them another message.

– [Dr. Witheridge] Yeah, send a few more texts. “Hey. Please respond.” All caps! Lots of emojis. Any other thoughts on this?

– [Audience] Message somebody and they don’t get back to me.

– [Dr. Witheridge] Ghosting, yes.

– [Audience] Eventually they stop talking to me.

– [Dr. Witheridge] Yeah, there’s a term for this. “My child is ghosting me. “But she’s gonna be home for dinner, hopefully.” So what if I gave the same situation, and then I tell you that they have an old phone and the battery dies quickly. What does that do to your thought process? Any other thoughts? Any other thoughts?

– [Audience] Makes me feel like an idiot.

– [Dr. Witheridge] Yeah, little less like a–

– [Audience] The texting gets more worse as it goes on.

– [Audience Man] Depends on those who’s feeling it.

– [Dr. Witheridge] Yeah.

– [Audience Man] Feeling so worried.

– [Dr. Witheridge] Does it do anything to the physical sensations?

– [Audience] I think so, it lightens them.

– [Dr. Witheridge] Yeah, lightens them, yeah. Probably feeling a little less tense. And how about behaviorally? Anything you would do differently in this situation than maybe the first one? Hopefully, a few–

– [Audience] I would let them cost.

– [Dr. Witheridge] Yeah,yeah. Maybe out some angry texts, hostile things, right? Maybe you’d wait a little longer, right?

– [Audience] I’d text all their friends.

– [Dr. Witheridge] There you go! Parental work, right? Someone’s gotta know where my kid is. Or my partner, right? Anybody seen Pam? Is she shopping again? So, the reason why I bring this up, right, and why we wanna talk about this, is that we often interpret those ambiguous situations according to our past experience or beliefs. Right, so if I have a past experience where somebody’s ghosted me or something’s bad has happened to them, or they were angry, that’s probably where my thought process is gonna go. If I know, oh, their phone dies frequently, or they always forget their phone, or they tend to have a workplace where they can’t text, it’s a very different thing. We can also have beliefs about ourselves, other people, or the world. So, if I generally have this idea that people don’t like me, and then they’re not responding, this seems to confirm it. Or if I have a belief about other people that generally they’re jerks, right? Or not reliable… Here’s an example, my friends aren’t reliable, they don’t care about me. Or I can have beliefs about the world. So, in this case, maybe things like the world is a dangerous place. Like, any sort of ambiguous situation, clearly this is a sign of danger, they’ve been in a car accident, they’re dead, and I’m sitting here angry with them, sending them caps with little angry emojis, with, you know, like, the devil, and then I find out something bad’s happened to them. We can also have beliefs like the world is unfair, things won’t change… But, a lot of things around worry, around the world is a dangerous place, or people aren’t reliable.

– [Ryan] Thanks for listening to day two. Hope you’ve learned some things about what triggers stress and anxiety, and our question for you to think about alone or discuss with friends today is, “What triggers stress and anxiety in your life, “and how do you feel its effects?” It’s different for everybody, so it’s a great one to discuss with friends. Have a great day, and we’ll see you tomorrow. Bye, now.

Question: What triggers stress and anxiety in your life? What effects do you feel?


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