WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE? Situational versus Clinical Anxiety

Mental Health Matters Interview

Situational Anxiety

Dr. Katherin Garland,

Host of Mental Health Matters

This week, I speak with one of my dearest blogging friends, Dr. D!

We discuss all things anxiety. She explains the difference between anxiety disorder and situational anxiety.

Dr. Dinardo provides 3 strategies to help us cope with situational anxiety, especially because it may be heightened during the pandemic and times of racial unrest.

1. Video Format of Interview

Watch on YouTube.

2. Podcast Format of Interview

Available on SoundCloud and Apple Podcasts.

Reflection Questions

  1. What did you learn about situational versus clinical anxiety from our interview?
  2. Can you relate to the personal example of heightened situational anxiety shared by Dr. Garland? How so?
  3. Have you experienced increased situational anxiety since COVID-19? In what areas of your life?
  4. What techniques help you cope with unexpected stressors and challenges?
  5. Do you see failure as a positive or a negative? Why?
  6. How does fear, trepidation, and worry manifest physically in your body?
  7. What would you tell your younger self about stress and anxiety?

Compassionate Listening

Even as a psychologist, I often don’t know what to say.

Especially now with so many people experiencing pain and trauma in escalating ways.

So rather than assume what someone needs, I have learned over the years to ask one simple question:

How Can I Support You?

Dr. Andrea Dinardo Empathic Listen

In doing so, I create a safe space for healing and acceptance.

Something we all need right now, more than ever before.

Unconditional love and support.

To be witnessed. To be heard.

All good conversation begins with listening.

Only then can we transformed by what we learn. 🌎💞

Video of Post ⇒ Click Here

The Space Between No Longer and Not Yet

Honour the Space

The time in between is a difficult time for all of us.

Myself included.

A super organized (type A) person like me becomes a little unhinged in the space in between.

But don’t we all?

In Between

Wondering if we still have what it takes.

Hoping we can still make a difference in the world when the pandemic ends.

Which is why I wrote this post today.

Highlighting the shared challenge we all face between the old and the new.

Change is a lifelong process.

The only constant is change.

Let yourself feel what you need to feel.

Take a breath. Enjoy some rest.

Give your monkey mind a break.

In Between Quotes

It’s ok to not be ok.

What comes also goes.

Honour the space in between.

Related Post: Divine Timing

The Power of Breathing Space: You are Safe

Every time we take a long deep breath, we are telling our bodies that we are safe.

Each breath connecting
our mind, body, and heart.

Bringing us back to present time.

Dr. Andrea Dinardo Breathing Space

Breathing Techniques To Try

Follow Your Breath Become aware of each inhalation and exhalation. Focus on the sensations you feel as air passes through your nose and throat. When you feel your thoughts drift, gently redirect your attention back to your breath.

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Stand Up Straight Posture is especially important for breathing. Being upright enhances the rhythmic movement between the diaphragm and ribs. Hold yourself straight. Shoulders back. Feel the power of your breath.

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Think Reassuring Thoughts While Breathing With each breath, think soothing thoughts (“I am inhaling calm”). With each exhalation, imagine that you are expelling your fears and worries (“I am exhaling worry”).

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Abdominal Breathing Breathe through your stomach. Start by inflating your belly by inhaling, as if to fill it with air, then swell your chest; as you exhale, first “empty” your stomach, then your chest.

Breathing Quotes - Dr. Andrea Dinardo

Balanced Breathing At the end of each inhalation, pause briefly while slowly counting “1, 2, 3”. Hold the air in. Then slowly exhale counting “1, 2, 3”.

Source: Scientific American

Reflection Questions

What brings you peace during uncertainty?

What gives you strength?

Breathing Video → Click Here

Emotional Freedom Technique for Social Anxiety & Imaginary Audience

DrAndreaDinardo.com

Have you ever felt like you’re being watched? 

Judged and scrutinized.

Like all eyes are on you and every potential error you make?

Everyone experiences this phenomenon from time to time, especially when trying out something for the first time.

Think back to the first time you gave a dinner party, swung a golf club, wrote a college exam, or posted your first blog online.
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Social Anxiety and Heightened Experiences

Individuals with social anxiety experience this sense of being watched (and thought about) significantly more than the average person.

Independent of skills and expertise.

Why is this the case?

The Imaginary Audience

One potential explanation is a psychological phenomenon called imaginary audience experienced frequently in adolescence.

  • A concept first introduced by social psychologists David Elkind and Erik Erikson in the 1960’s.

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Think back to how easily embarrassed you were as a teenager.

  • If you wore the “wrong shirt” to school, it felt like everyone was gossiping about you and your entire social life would end as a result.

Resulting in perpetual self-consciousness, distorted views of how others saw you, causing in a tendency to conform for fear of sticking out.

  • Limiting your freedom to express outside the norm for fear of collective banishment and reprisal.

What does the research say?

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Using the Imaginary Audience Scale as a Measure of Social Anxiety in Young Adults

Two studies explored imaginary audience phenomenon among college students.

Imaginary audience behavior was found to be related to measures of social anxiety, self perception, and personality.

Furthermore, imaginary audience scores were more strongly related to anxiety than abstract reasoning.

These results suggest that imaginary audience experiences that persist into early adulthood have more to do with social anxiety than with cognitive development.

Original Source: Click Here

DrAndreaDinardo.com
Simple Things on Repeat

The next time you imagine you are being watched, talked about, or judged by others, remember that imaginary audience IS AN ILLUSION heightened by social media, physiology (eg., lack of sleep), and overthinking.

  • When in truth, people are so focused on themselves (and their phones), that there is a 99% chance that no one cares what you are up to or how you are performing.

This is a very good thing!

CARPE DIEM

Today’s Freedom Mantra

Live like nobody’s watching. Love like nobody’s watching. Succeed  like nobody’s watching. Fail like nobody’s watching. Write like nobody’s watching!

Video of Post ⇒ Click Here

Ambitious Mama Podcast: Thriving Under Pressure & Posttraumatic Growth

Dr. Andrea Dinardo Ambitious Mama Podcast

Podcast Details & Show Notes

I was recently interviewed by wellness entrepreneur Christa Realba for her Ambitious Mama Podcast Series.

During the podcast, Christa and I discussed how posttraumatic growth and thriving under pressure are possible for all of us.

In different gradients, and at different times for sure. Depending on where you are on your journey.

Dr. Andrea Dinardo PTG Resources
Click Here for Helpful Workbook & Resources

We also discussed how we all have pain and adversity. It’s universal to all of us.

The key is to not get stuck in the challenge and let pain become your identity.

Dr. Andrea Dinardo Resilience

Instead, with support, encouragement, and the right set of resilience skills (this is what I teach), we all have the capacity to grow from difficulty.

To learn from it. To rise up and begin again when the time is right.

In addition to the podcast, resilience is discussed in more detail in my TEDx Talk and on my Psychology Blog, both called “Thriving Under Pressure”: https://DrAndreaDinardo.com

Listen to Podcast

  1.  Apple iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/thriving-under-pressure-with-dr-andrea-dinardo/id1482282864?i=1000464930886
  2. Anchor FM: https://anchor.fm/ambitiousmama/episodes/Thriving-Under-Pressure-with-Dr–Andrea-Dinardo-ealagi
  3. Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/ambitious-mama/e/67169349

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Your Turn

Do you believe thriving under pressure + posttraumatic growth are possible for all of us? Why or why not? Tune into my latest podcast interview and let me know what you think!

Related Post: Teaching Resilience at School

Celebrate how far you’ve come.

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Today let’s celebrate all the dreams that came true.

Merely an idea 5 years ago.

It’s so easy to get lost in our hopes and motivations for the future.

Without realizing how many of our aspirations we’ve already achieved.
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Together let’s honour how far we’ve come.

Only then will we have the fuel + the faith to keep reaching for our North Stars.

Again and again and again.. 🙏💛 🚀💫

Don’t Give Up!

You are closer than you know. ✨

Video of Blog Post ⇒ Click Here

3 C’s of Thriving Under Pressure

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A map for transforming stress into strength

Dr. Andrea Dinardo THRIVING UNDER PRESSURE

In my TEDx Talk and in the leadership videos below, I discuss how to THRIVE under pressure using 3 stress resilience tools:

1. Commitment

Envisioning a higher purpose above and beyond the immediate stressor.

2. Control

Focusing on the things you can change and letting go of the things you can’t.

3. Challenge

Reframing stressful challenges as opportunities for growth.

Thriving Under Pressure

My TEDx Talk includes all 3 C’s of Thriving Under Pressure: challenge, control, commitment.

Almost at 10,000 views, thanks to you!

Inspiration for TEDx Talk + Psychology Blog

I created my psychology blog and TEDx Talk (both called “Thriving Under Pressure”) in response to rising levels of student stress and anxiety.

The goal is to help students (and you) develop positive coping techniques in fun, interactive, and uplifting ways.

Dr. Andrea DINARDO
By first focusing on what is right, before examining what is wrong, people are motivated to move beyond, and in some cases, be transformed by their challenges and adversities.

Psychology on YouTube

Dr. Andrea on YouTube

PSYCHOLOGY FOR EVERYONE

My number one intention for becoming a psychologist and psychology professor has always been to help people live a better life, no matter their life circumstances.

And since there are only so many hours in a day, I’m always looking for new ways to reach and teach as many people as I can. All at once, if possible.   

Which is why I created a Psychology Tips Playlist on my YouTube Channel that I contribute to weekly.

130+ psychology videos for you to enjoy! ⤵️

Psychology Tips: Video Playlist

Fun Learning Opportunity

The purpose of my Psychology YouTube Channel is to share the key lessons of my 3 hour psychology lectures in 3 to 5 minutes.

  • Giving people far and wide access to virtual classes, especially those who don’t have the money or means to an undergraduate education.

I know how busy everyone is. And I love a good challenge! 

I also include videos of psychology workshops and keynote speeches.

Visit YouTube Channel Click Here

https://m.youtube.com/c/DrAndreaDinardo

Coping with loneliness during the holidays.

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When we feel a painful emotion, our first instinct is to pull away. To numb the pain. To hide from the intensity.

This was the case for Sarah and Jack, two unique individuals with vastly different circumstances. But they each experienced the same emotion: loneliness. An emotion that is heightened during the holidays.

Original Source:

I originally wrote this article for The Drive Magazine.

https://thedrivemagazine.com/posts/lean-into-loneliness/

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SARAH

Sarah was a 42-year-old recently divorced woman who was about to face her first holiday season alone. Living in a new town, miles away from friends and family, she was waiting to begin a new job in January. Hours felt like days.

Days felt like months. Sarah had tried everything to fill the void inside. The mistake she made was running away from the one thing that would help get her to the other side: loneliness itself.

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Knowledge is power

1. Understand the emotion

We need to first understand an emotion before we jump to the conclusion that it’s either good or bad, because in reality, emotions are almost entirely physiological in nature.

There’s not a negative or positive to them. It’s in our mind that we make it one or the other. This concept is supported by Schachter-Singer’s theory of emotion:

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This theory of emotion explains why two people can experience the exact same event and have completely different emotional reactions to it.

What matters most is the person’s interpretation of an event, not the event itself. After all, as they say, one person’s glass-half-full is another one’s glass-half-empty.

In Sarah’s situation, she interpreted her physiological response to idle time as loneliness, while another person might label it as much-needed relaxation. Ultimately, Sarah has a choice. One interpretation debilitates; the other empowers.

2. Witness the emotion

Now that Sarah understands the interpretative power she holds over her environmental triggers, the next step is to witness loneliness in a neutral, curious state rather than fighting it at every turn.

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In doing so, Sarah neutralizes the intensity of her emotions, allowing them to flow through her, rather than getting stuck in a repetitive loop of pain.

Here are four simple ways to create space between triggers and responses:

1. Count to 10

2. Take a long deep breath

3. Make three wishes

4. Look up at the sky

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Taken one step further, each time that Sarah experiences a challenging emotion during the holidays, rather than running from it she needs to lean in and ask that emotion, “What are you trying to teach me?”

3. Reframe the emotion

The final step for Sarah is to learn how to reframe the situations that trigger her loneliness, and understand why sometimes she overreacts, while other times she lets go without a second thought.

Solitude is perceived as isolation by one person and freedom by another.

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Reframing exercise:

1. Identify a situation that triggers loneliness.

2. Imagine the best-case scenario: “This situation is temporary.”

3. Look for evidence of the best-case scenario: “The longest I’ve been single is two years.”

4. Describe the worst-case scenario: “I will be alone forever.”

5. Name the benefits of the worst-case scenario: “I am free to do what I want.”

6. Finally, ask for help in reframing triggers, especially when feeling overwhelmed.

Once Sarah learns how to change the story “behind” the story, her instinctive loneliness lessens. And her ability to choose a higher thought improves.

Watch Video Summary

Click Here

JACK

At 55 years of age, Jack was also feeling the pangs of loneliness. His wife of 25 years died suddenly of a heart attack two years ago.

Unexpected was an understatement. They had run in three marathons together and had spent their weekends sampling new vegan restaurants in their local community. Ever since his wife had died, Jack struggled to face the holidays alone.

Jack’s story is as much about him as it is about the family around him. His family and friends’ automatic response was to feel sorry for him, a response that compounded his feelings of disconnectedness and misunderstanding.

Jack did not want people to feel sorry for him. He was a proud man who was ready to move on.

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Get out of your own head

1. Meet with “experienced” widowers

As much as Jack missed his wife, he also missed his ability to connect authentically with friends and family. Having been treated with kid gloves since his wife died, Jack longed to be seen as a victor rather than a victim

As such, I encourage Jack to connect with like-minded individuals who had been through a similar situation: widows and widowers. Specifically, ones who had been on their own for several years.

The benefits are twofold. One, Jack would learn new ways of relating to friends and family. And two, he’d be given the green light to grow and acclimate to his new circumstances.

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2. Connect with others in unexpected, low-pressure ways

The other component missing in Jack’s life was fun. Simple, cheerful, good-time fun. Everything had become so serious since his wife died, with almost every conversation beginning or ending with his wife’s death.

There was no doubt that he missed her with all his heart. But equally, he longed for moments where he could be free of the loneliness and pain.

I recommend that Jack reintroduce sports into his life. Something non-competitive that would get him out of the house on a Wednesday night. Better yet, if it involved people that he had never met, it would allow him to continue his journey of reinvention and rediscovery.

Equally therapeutic for Jack would be joining a cinema group or regular euchre meetup—both would offer him a chance to be in the moment and enjoy the simple pleasures in life.

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3. Honour the old, create the new

Finally, I advise Jack to examine the memories and traditions that he wanted to keep alive during the holidays—and, equally, the ones of which he was ready to let go.

Jack took the practice one step further. Declaring December a month of renewal and reinvention, he revived a strength and peace inside that radiated out to his entire family.

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Conclusion 

Jack and Sarah have a lot to teach us about loneliness and how important it is to honour the unique ways in which we process adversity.

One size does not fit all. Fellowship and fun were vital for Jack’s growth and recovery, while Sarah needed a more analytical approach to processing difficulty.

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• Lean into loneliness

• Approach it with openness and curiosity

• Make space for the lessons beneath the suffering

Disclaimer: This post and magazine article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. To protect the privacy of individuals, names and identifying details have been changed.

Your Turn

1. How do you cope with difficult emotions during the holidays?

2. What strategies do you use to make peace with the heightened pressures of the Christmas season?

3. What are your unique traditions and one-of-a-kind celebrations?

Video of Blog Post → Click Here