What a beautiful, laughter-filled, heart and soul connection I experienced during this interview with Ingrid Helander as we discussed her work as a therapist, group leader, author, teacher, and more. Ingrid shared her insights on worry and anxiety, along with helpful information on healing avenues; her book: Calm Your Worries: Unlock Your Secret Code to Lasting Stress Relief and Self-Confidence; and much more.
It was an absolute pleasure to engage in a soulful conversation with Karen Salmansohn to discuss her upcoming book, Instant Calm: 2-Minute Meditations to Create a Lifetime of Happy; her personal story of triumph; the philosophies of Aristotle (along with other fascinating letter-A subjects from Encyclopedia Britannica); and much more.
“Karen Salmansohn is a former stressed-out advertising Senior VP and award-winning designer turned healthy living expert, best-selling author, and longevity research geek. After leaving her successful career in the advertising industry, Karen stepped out on her own as a writer and designer of books.
Karen became a multi-best-selling author, having sold over 2 million copies of her books internationally and has gained a loyal following of almost 2 million people. At the age of 50, Karen realized another dream when she gave birth to her first child.
Karen has been profiled in the NY Times, Business Week, Chicago Tribune, the LA Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Time Magazine, ELLE, Marie Claire, and Fast Company.
As a late-in-life mom, Karen loves to research a wide range of longevity boosters and share with her audience how to slow down the aging process and live not only longer – but better – with greater health and clarity of mind. Karen is excited to head up a tribe she calls “The Wellderly” – a community of people who positively embrace getting older and aging into their happiest, highest potential selves.”
Anticipatory anxiety is where a person experiences increased levels of anxiety by thinking about an event or situation in the future. Rather than being a specific disorder in its own right, anticipatory anxiety is a symptom commonly found in a number of anxiety related conditions, such as generalized anxiety. Anticipatory Anxiety can be extremely draining for people as it can last for months prior to an event. The worries people experience specifically focus on what they think might happen, often with catastrophic predictions about an event. The nature of negative predictions about the event will be the difference between an anxiety level that is incapacitating or merely uncomfortable.
A friend recently reached out to me prior to her drive from Cincinnati to Chicago to inquire about mindfulness practices. As she spoke, she talked about her fears of traveling alone, the possibility of heavy traffic, not knowing where she was going once she arrived in Chicago, and the known fact that she would be driving over bridges. All of which were causing her to experience heightened anxiety. I love it that she reached out to me, trauma-warrior research guru that I am, to discuss options.
I advised her to begin practicing mindfulness as that is my favorite go-to when experiencing anticipatory anxiety. I just happen to be working through my own bout with that pesky little symptom of my C-PTSD right now. We are preparing for a trip to Denver to visit my oldest son. While I am super pumped to see his cute face and the beauty of Colorado, I am also fretting flying, the high elevations, and being far from home.
I am well aware of these fears and why they are present, after my four year stint in EMDR therapy, so I honor their presence and just notice them without judgment. I remind myself these are physiological responses triggered by chemical surges in my brain in relation to past traumatic events. I am working at re-wiring my brain and creating new neural pathways, but that is still a work in process.
Think: brain pep talks! Do what scares you, Teri. You got this, girl!
My personal anticipatory anxiety goes something like this:
Lying in bed. Thinking about staying at The Grand Hyatt in downtown Denver with its rooftop pool and tennis courts. Then my knees start to sweat. Rooftop pool? How does that water not crack the roof and cause the building to crumble? Is there a guardrail? How high is it? Will I be able to ride the elevator up there? Will I feel it swaying? I swear, if that kid of ours goes near the edge, my heart will stop. I wonder how the drive is from the airport? I’m hoping we aren’t in heavy traffic. Especially on a busy highway. I’ll have to sit in the back. You should check out the city and enjoy it, Teri. No. What if you have a panic attack. You haven’t had one of those in a long time.
That all transpires in a mater of seconds. Ah, the joys of racing thoughts. But, then I reach into my coping skills tool box and start to pull out my calming strategies and redirect my thinking.
Deep breath. Closing my eyes slowly, I savor that breath. Now another. A smile creeps into the corners of my mouth. Another breath follows, even deeper. I reach over and grab a grounding stone lying bedside. I love this stone. It’s cool to the touch. And heavy in my hand. So smooth. Other than that rough little edge where it dropped into the gravel on a hike once. I wonder sometimes how long it might take for me to rub it smooth again. My fingers engage in their rhythmic dance along that edge.I’m excited to walk the one block trek from our hotel to the 16th Street Mall. I’ll let John pick a fun restaurant since he’s now a Denver pro. My sweet boy. The best hugger ever. Looking forward to that hug. If something triggers some anxiety, I’ll just hold onto his arm. He knows how to help his momma stay grounded. So blessed to have these children in my life. This trip is going to be amazing. I am going to savor every one of my senses. The sights of the city and atop the mountains in Estes Park. The tastes of new eateries. I wonder how crisp the air will be without Cincinnati humidity? I look forward to breathing it in, smelling The Rocky Mountain flora. We will definitely need to rent a boat on the lake so I can feel the cool water mist splashing onto my face. Oh, to hear the laughter of my children as they catch up with one another after months apart.
My anticipatory anxiety is now silenced. Perhaps it will poke its annoying head out of hiding again. But, I know how to put it in its place.
Back to my friend who was traveling to Chicago.
She called me today as she drove back home to Cincy. I was happy to hear her voice sounding perky. When I asked about her trip, she replied, “Oh, Teri, it was wonderful!” Yay! I then inquired about the six hour drive. She spent the next thirty-one minutes telling me about the strategies she used throughout her trip. How she brought along one of her stuffed otters someone had gifted her from the Cincinnati Zoo, having stuffed the little guy into a pocket of her purse, and reaching for him to touch the softness as she approached a sky-way bridge into the city. She discussed the pep talks she gave herself, You’re fine. You’re doing great. Just stay focused on your lane. The songs she sang along with and the phone calls she made in order to pass the time and keep her mind re-directed from anxious thoughts.
Her friend lives on the fortieth floor of a high-rise condo overlooking Navy Pier so her fear of heights was another anticipatory anxiety. She explained how the elevator ride was smooth and quick and her friend kept the shades shut in the bedroom in order to allow her to settle in. She took stunning photos of the scenery from forty floors above the city streets, but avoided stepping onto the balcony. Honoring her needs. I love that.
She also challenged herself to new adventures, such as an architecture tour of the city from a boat cruising along the Chicago River. Her friend praised her for how well she was doing throughout their escapades. She even watched the fireworks display through the windows of her friend’s condo upon returning from their day of tours and sight-seeing. She told me she continued to use mindfulness techniques to shake off her anxieties and enjoy the present moment. Again, I love this!
Mindfulness as defined by me: reminding myself to re-direct any old habitual scary thought patterns back to this moment, right here, right now, and all the joyous beauty to be found in it by use of my senses. I open myself up to all things smile-inducing in this moment in time.
So, how do you stop anticipatory anxiety? Practice mindfulness. As often as possible. Soon you will be living mindfully aware. And anticipatory anxiety may try to sneak in a word or two, but you can mindfully remind it to sit down and shut up. You have a beautiful life to enjoy without its input.
Sometimes we stumble, tumble and then lie there flat on our face whimpering for a bit. I had a moment of this last week on our family trip to Panama City Beach, Florida. I struggled a bit with being on the highway on the eleven hour drive down, being in open spaces on the beach, and trying to climb a tall white-water-rapids ride. Sometimes my trauma history sneaks up on me. Then anxiety and panic envelop my peace.
So I wallowed in self-pity for half a day and moaned about it all on a personal Facebook post. Then, I did some self-soothing, gave myself a pep talk, and pulled up my big girl pants.
I found the gift within the struggle.
A reminder to keep fighting. This is why I am writing my book. This is why the completed manuscript will be done next month. My God-nudge to keep on going. The universe held up a mirror in front of my face to say, “You can do this!”
So, I did. I made myself practice all of those coping skills I tout in my book. I faced some fears. I walked out into the water, even though I was experiencing body memory flashbacks, and I tossed lacrosse and football with my family. I sat in a beach chair without an umbrella, pushing myself a little further than I was comfortable, in order to test my resolve. I reminded myself that this book and all it promotes for healing would not be filled with positive energy if I was not actually living the words.
So, thank you, God. Thank you for challenging me. Thank you for those hurdles. Thank you for reminding me how strong I can be. Thank you for believing in me enough to nudge me forward just a little more.
My little sister, Katie, and I hopped on a Frontier flight out of CVG, headed for Orlando, FL, on October 20, 2017. This was a big flippin’ deal for me! The girl with a thirty year history of severe panic attacks had decided her dreams were bigger than her fears . . . and the present-day pull on my soul was greater than the haunted whisperings of my past. I sent up a few prayers. Okay. I sent up a few hundred prayers, climbed on board (but, not before caressing the smooth white finish of the jet, peaking out from behind the end of the jet bridge, reminding it to “fly safely”) and strapped myself in, a rosary in one hand and my favorite green fluorite stone in the other.
The flight was smooth. I may have even taken a millisecond glance out the window, just for the sake of saying, “Yeah. I looked.” I lost myself in my Mindfulness coloring book, focusing on the strange joy which dances around my head as I watch the white of the page transition to neon and glitter shades as my gel pen scurries between the lines. Katie and I chatted about writing our books, wondering out loud what awaited us at the Hay House Writers’ Workshop, and celebrated the idea of experiencing our first-ever sister trip. Alone. No parents. No kids. No spouses. We were on an adventure together, reminiscent of those nights before Dad’s bedtime stories, spent pretending Katie’s waterbed, clad in its rainbow comforter, was a boat, lost and adrift on a vast blue ocean. We could see the island in the distance . . . a yellow throw rug in the shape of a hang-ten foot . . . too far to swim toward safely. Sharks were surrounding us. Yet the boat was sinking! We would dive from the bed, belly crawling our way through the shark-infested waters, yelling to each other, “Save the babies! Save the babies!” And one or the other would scoop up the Drowsy Doll, in her pink polka-dotted pajamas, blonde hair sticking straight up on end from too many years of being carried around by those locks. The other would grab the naked doll we had named Johnny, giving his belly a good squeeze so he would return a long squealing doll cry from that squeaky hole in his bottom. We always made it safely to shore, snuggled up and giggling on the foot rug, grateful for the momentary reprieve from our real-life traumas. Our grown-up adventure was bound to be the same.
We worked our way through the maze of the Orlando airport, tired and ready to crash in our resort room, eventually chasing down the Super Shuttle, as it pulled out of the parking space on the transportation platform. Scurrying into the back seat, I buckled myself in, and contemplated throwing my travel blanket over my head. I-4 traffic, at rush hour, on a Friday night. Oh, boy. I do not drive on highways. Ever. Or bridges. I have issues even being a passenger on little highway jaunts. Reminding myself I was on a soul-adventure and my calling to share my “story of hope” far surpasses my over-ingrained phobias, I took a deep breath and prepared myself for departure.
“We must pick up one more passenger,” announced the driver, his accent thick.
Where is this person going to sit? On my lap? I pondered as I tried to scooch over closer to my sister.
As the woman climbed into the backseat, she joked about fondling me, in her attempts to find the seat belt latch positioned under my ass. I laughed along and helped her out by crawling on top of my sister. Cozy. This could either help my highway nerves tremendously or trigger some of my “feeling trapped” anxiety. So, I came up with the ultimate in solutions . . . I closed my eyes!
A voice from my left addressed me about ten minutes into our ride and asked, loud enough for all to hear, “Teri, why are your eyes closed?” Yep. My sister.
Have you NOT been paying attention for the last thirty years?
Deep breath in. “Because I have highway anxiety. Closing my eyes helps.”
Then the voice from my right chimed in, “Really? Do you mind my asking why you have highway anxiety?”
I’m an open book. So, I shared the quick version of my trauma history and resulting C-PTSD diagnosis: alcoholic parent, physical abuse in childhood, multiple molestations, date rape, bank robbery with a co-worker stabbed with a hunting knife, bank robbery with a co-worker shot and murdered. Just the highlights. My eyes sealed shut even tighter.
The voice from the right, even softer in tone than a few moments earlier, “I am a trauma therapist.”
My eyes shot open.
Are you fucking kidding me? Of all the people in the world to squish in next to me on a shuttle ride, through rush hour traffic on a crazy busy highway in a city far from home, she turns out to be a trauma therapist! You rock, God!
My eyes locked onto the gentle gaze of a beautiful soul. Our smiles exchanged in new-found friendship. Paulette, the trauma therapist from Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada, began sharing calming strategies. “Move your right foot up, toes lifted, while keeping your left foot down. Now alternate. Back and forth. As if doing a dance. One, two, three. One, two, three.” My feet tapped to the soft lilt of her instructions. My mind focused on the waltz happening in this shuttle. Far from the traffic zooming by, I was caught up in learning a new coping skill.
Almost an hour later, we halted the conversation, as we pulled into the Omni Resort drive. Our chatting had not paused since the moment Paulette had reached out with a hand to hold in heavy I-4 traffic. I now had an armful of coping strategies to add to my already overflowing toolbox of learned skills. I guess it’s time for a bigger toolbox!