What’s the Deal with Anxiety?

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One thing for sure, when we experience stress and anxiety, it doesn’t feel good.

Many of us just want to get rid of those feelings… because let’s face it, if it doesn’t feel good, it would make sense to want to change it.  Right?

But wait: What if these emotions serves a purpose?

Feelings of stress and anxiety is our body’s way of alerting us to something that we should pay attention to… when it's working as it should.

One way to look at our emotions is that it’s part of our internal guidance system that helps us to survive.  In other words, ALL of our emotions serves a purpose.

Once upon a time when there was a predator chasing us, the feeling of stress would alert us to make a run for it.  To survive.

And while having to run from a predator is no longer a reality for many of us, the same internal stress system gets activated at work when there’s a deadline or having to deal with an unpleasant colleague or boss, or at home when your spouse is mad at you or when your kids are unhappy with you.

Based on any number of factors, however, what unfortunately happens to many of us, is that the warning system has gone awry.

The internal warning system has learned to become overly sensitized to any or specific kinds of stressors, so much so that the warning system finds itself constantly being tripped… which can perhaps be explained as anxiety.  

It could be that it constantly feels like something isn’t quite right. 

Or a sense that something bad can happen at any moment. 

Or a feeling that there are no choices. 

Or those nagging thoughts that completely take over for hours on end.

Feelings of unease, unsettledness, on red alert, feeling like you can jump out of your own skin at any time…
 

So while it definitely doesn’t feel great to be stressed or anxious, it is our internal system doing its job.  Telling us something is off.

But consistent anxiety is when something feels off about somethings that can maybe, possibly, potentially be off. 

Now that we have some understanding as to why we experience stress and anxiety, the larger question might be, Is there something that can be done about it?

The good news is, while the specific answer itself can be different for different folks, it is possible to manage, if not, figure out ways to turn the volume waaaaaaay down on these feelings.

I am very familiar with anxiety, my own and through my years of work supporting others in their unique and individual struggles with stress and anxiety.

Because of this, I am passionate about sharing and helping as many people possible to have a better understanding of anxiety and to spread hope that it can be manageable and better.

But here's where I need your help: If you haven't already, please share in the short survey above about what you would most like to learn about dealing with anxiety.

Your feedback will be crucial so that I know what to focus on to create resources that will be most helpful for you.

And most importantly, I hope you learn that you're not alone and that sharing your experiences can be part of the process for you to know that things can be different.

If you are currently experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety or in crisis, please reach out to one of the resources listed here.

Mio Yokoi is a Registered Psychotherapist, Certified NeurOptimal Neurofeedback Trainer and Total Wellness Coach.  There was a time when the world felt like a brick wall with few options.  With curiosity, dedication and hard work to cultivating her best self, the world now feels like her playground, and with her growth experience and training has been supporting others to thrive since 2009.  Learn more about her here.

It Happened Again...

 So perfect, because it's so true.

So perfect, because it's so true.

I found myself thinking: “I can’t believe I did it again.  I can’t believe that same exact thing I always do happened again.”

Over and over again in my head.

So familiar and so nagging.

Crap.

I was on day 3 of this internal mind torture.

Even though it was familiar, to be fair to myself, it has been a while since I found myself stuck in this kind of torturous thought and emotional loop.

Actually, this kind of thing used to happen to me all the time.

In my younger years, when I worked for various tech and marketing firms, I would beat myself up for “making mistakes”.

Or I would be convinced that what I said to someone was “stupid” and “awkward” and replay it over and over again in my mind...

Even though no one else seemed to care all that much.  

I’d even have people tell me, “Relax, it’s not that big of a deal” or “Seriously, that’s what you’re worried about?”

The self beating would usually continue until some other “mistake” came along that I could renew my self punishment over.

But somewhere along the way, I started to think that this was a hard way to go through life. 

Exhausting, in fact.

I mean, things looked pretty good from the outside:

In the mid 90’s I had seen a 60 Minutes piece on the exciting new world of working in Silicon Valley and decided to dedicate my mind to getting a job at a tech startup here in Toronto.

Check.

After a few years of boom, there inevitably came the “tech bubble burst” and I made the switch to more traditional marketing.

And there I prospered.  I was having experiences.  Eating good food.  Living the life.  Downtown Toronto.  Yay!  … Check... Right?

But this nagging self punishment and doubt thing followed me like a dark cloud wherever I’d go and whatever I’d do.

So I started reading.

And reflecting.

And working on myself.

Pretty soon I realized that I had slowly, but surely developed mental and emotional habits of thinking and feeling in specific ways.

Some of those mental and emotional habits were really helpful.

And others… well others, not so much.

Slowly and surely over years of trial and error, lots of personal development work in psychotherapy, I learned to think and feel more efficiently, with more purpose and clarity.

Or with more presence or mindfulness, if you prefer.  ;)

Developed better and more resilient mental and emotional habits.

This self improvement work was so profound for me that it led me to go back to school and pursue a second career in psychotherapy.

But even with me being so different from that (much!) younger woman in the mid 90’s, there were so still some annoying mental and emotional hanger-ons that seemed to like to keep my company.

Then a few years ago, a dear mentor of mine mentioned neurofeedback.

Neurofeedback?  I’ve been fortunate that one of the things I’ve possessed is an insatiable curiosity...

So I went to work.

Taking a deep dive into researching and reading and searching and more researching and more reading.

I finally found a brain trainer who was located an hour away, but I was determined to give neurofeedback a shot for at least the ten recommended sessions to start.

The first session was subtle, but I noticed a sense of calm.  My mind seemed more… still.

“Well,” I thought, “It was a relaxing experience. It would make sense that I would feel more calm after being relaxed for a while.”  

… But I did carry that feeling into the next day…

The second time, I felt that sense of calm again…

Except, it lasted longer into the next couple of days.

After the third time, I had the calm…  

But I’ll raise you less reactive!  And feeling more light-hearted, too!

Over the next six weeks, I trained frequently.

By the end of the initial 13 sessions, I was convinced of its impact on me.

(I could go on and on, but won’t bore you with all that.)

And that more importantly, convinced that neurofeedback can help others too.

Which leads me back to my return into the familiar territory of being stuck in a negative mental and emotional thought loop.

It’s been a while now since acquiring the neurofeedback system and providing this process for others to experience.

The conundrum has been: I know and full-heartedly believe that neurofeedback is valuable and can help so many people.

Those who are looking to feel, think and perform better.  To enjoy life, work and relationships.  And to feel an ease within themselves.

But how to get the message out there?  

***

Just looked up and realized I’ve been writing non-stop for the past 40 minutes.  And yeah, there’s already quite a bit here.

I can be long-winded and wordy wordy… one of the things I’m looking to improve!

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for hanging in with me.  I’m very grateful for your interest!  But I won’t keep you for much longer now.

I’ll continue the rest of my thoughts in the next post. I hope to see you then!

Neurofeedback for Helping Professionals

You may have heard or read about neurofeedback which may have piqued your interest about its potential.

There are many resources addressing how neurofeedback works, whether on this website, other providers of neurofeedback and others discussing the potential and particulars about neurofeedback in various mediums.

Rather than to discuss the specific process of neurofeedback brain training here, what I would like to talk about in this post are my thoughts and subjective experience of regularly training with the NeurOptimal system, specifically relating to my work as a registered psychotherapist.

Firstly, in my professional work and in my personal philosophy, I strongly believe in our brains’ ability to be reflexive and adaptive.  In other words, my beliefs are grounded in the science of neuroplasticity.

The potential of change work based in neuroplasticity is promising for shifts in mood, beliefs, habits and more.  Further, based on my training in relational psychotherapy, I hold a belief that our relational experiences are impacted greatly by principles of neuroplasticity, specifically the existence and mechanics of our ‘mirror neurons’.

Wikipedia offers the following definition:

“Some researchers in cognitive neuroscience and cognitive psychology consider that this system provides the physiological mechanism for the perception/action coupling (see the common coding theory).  They argue that mirror neurons may be important for understanding the actions of other people, and for learning new skills by imitation. Some researchers speculate that mirror systems may simulate observed actions, and thus contribute to theory of mind skills, while others relate mirror neurons to language abilities.
Neuroscientists such as Marco Iacoboni (UCLA) have argued that mirror neuron systems in the human brain help us understand the actions and intentions of other people. In a study published in March 2005 Iacoboni and his colleagues reported that mirror neurons could discern whether another person who was picking up a cup of tea planned to drink from it or clear it from the table. In addition, Iacoboni has argued that mirror neurons are the neural basis of the human capacity for emotions such as empathy.” (Emphasis added by me.)

How is this possibly relevant to you as a helping professional and practitioner?

Because I work relationally in my practice, I am aware that I am consistently attuning to others in ways that are more concentrated than, in say, social situations.  

And while I work to consciously attune with intention to multiple people per day, I have often wondered: “Is my brain able to finely distinguish the difference between the neural experience of others and my own?  That is, enough to distinguish my own mood, affect and potentially thoughts from those of others?”

While I don’t believe I have any handy and concrete ways of being able to answer these questions, I can speculate that the neural experience of others and my own likely co-exist alongside one another within my brain and mind.

The follow-up question for me then becomes: “If I am consistently adding the neural experiences of others to my own, what might be the potential long-term impact this may have on my personal neural functioning and experiences?”

Again, I speculate that there would be some kind of impact whether it be emotional/compassion/professional fatigue or maybe even burn-out, without a practice in place to address this specific phenomena.

This not only can be problematic for me as an individual outside of my work, but I believe it would hinder my ability to work as effectively as I can professionally as well.  

For me, how I have found to address this concern is neurofeedback.  

In addition to my other mindfulness practices, regularly engaging in neurofeedback training intentionally returns me to my own optimal brain functioning or neural activities.  

I understand it this way: When brain training, the neurofeedback system provides me with real-time information of my brain’s electrical activity and it lets me know when there are signs of dysregulation.  When my brain is provided with the feedback, it is given the opportunity to self-correct... or to self-correct toward my own functioning.

In my experience, neurofeedback has provided me with a feeling and sense of clarity, flexibility in thoughts, and a deeper feeling of being able to separate myself from my thoughts.  Through my own personal work and mindfulness practices, I had learned to not overly associate myself with my thoughts, but neurofeedback deepened this particular practice for me.

Those of us who work in the helping professions do much more than provide the services that we do.  I truly believe that we give of ourselves in may ways, and perhaps in some ways which we may not even realize.

I can see this idea and reality being true for all helping professionals, from psychotherapists, psychologists, MDs, counsellors to mind-body therapists, including and not limited to, massage therapists, naturopaths, osteopaths, and more.

If you are curious about trying neurofeedback to see how it can be beneficial for you as a helping professional, please reach out by email or via the contact form.  I welcome the opportunity of connecting with you.