Tag Archives: anxiety

“Baristas at My Coffee Shop Know When I Have a Deadline: I Order the Chocolate-Chip Muffin for Breakfast!”

Interview: Andrea Petersen.

Andrea Petersen is a news editor and feature writer for the Wall Street Journal — she writes about everything from science to health to aging to family.

I know Andrea because we’re in a non-fiction writers’ group together. Over the years, I’ve heard a lot about her book on anxiety as she was writing it, and I couldn’t wait for her to finish so that I could read it.

That book has just hit the shelves: On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety. In it, she deftly combines an honest, wry account of her own challenges with anxiety with a thorough examination of contemporary research.  So many people struggle with anxiety — or are close to someone who does — so this book is a terrific resource.

I love this kind of book — what I’d call a “reported memoir,” when writers use their own experience as a lens through which to investigate the research, history, and thinking around a subject.

You can watch a fascinating interview with Andrea on the Wall Street Journal website here. She describes her first panic attack and about her struggle with anxiety disorder — and she reviews what she’s learned about anxiety disorder, and what the research shows.

You can also read an excerpt from On Edge here.

I was eager to hear what she had to say about how she happiness, habits, and anxiety.

Gretchen: What’s a simple habit that consistently makes you happier?

Andrea: Every night I read with my 8-year-old daughter. Sometimes she’ll read to me; sometimes I’ll read to her. Right now, we’re just starting the first Harry Potter book. I love knowing that, even if the day is super hectic, I’ll have that special evening bonding time with her. It often carries over into the morning, too. On the city bus on the way to school, we’ll discuss our favorite characters and what happened during the previous night’s reading.

What’s something you know now about forming healthy habits that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

Now I know that while screw-ups happen, they don’t need to permanently waylay me. In order to establish a good habit, I’ve found that I often need to keep trying—and failing and trying and failing—before it will stick. I used to think it was all or nothing. So if I promised myself that I was going to work out every day and I missed a day, I’d throw in the towel. I also know that I need to make goals more realistic now. So I’d probably start with the goal of working out once a week. Once I established that, I’d move to twice a week. And so on.

Which habits are most important to you?

I prioritize sleep. I need eight hours a night to function well. I’ve also found that sufficient sleep is critical to keeping my anxiety under control. (There’s a significant body of research showing that lack of sleep can fuel anxiety.) I also make a habit of setting aside at least a half hour each week to phone a friend or two. Between work and family, life can get so busy and friendships can often be neglected. I get so much joy and support from my friends that I try to take the time to nurture those relationships.

Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

I wanted to establish a regular yoga practice. (Research is finding that yoga can ease anxiety symptoms.) And even though a lovely yoga studio was just a few blocks from my home, I found it difficult to get there more than once a week. The classes were an hour to an hour and a half long and it was tough to carve out that chunk of time. Then a friend of mine recommended online yoga classes. Some of these are only 15 minutes long. And I can definitely find 15 minutes in a day! So, now most mornings I start my day with a short online class. During the week, I’ll keep it to 15 or 20 minutes. On the weekends, I’ll explore longer ones. These little bits of yoga may not seem like much, but I can definitely see results. I have more upper body strength and feel calmer and more focused.

Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

I’m a Questioner (Though I think I have strong Obliger tendencies, too.) I do a great deal of research before I undertake a course of action. [Hmmmm…Questioners and Obligers are the opposite of each other, so Andrea, I don’t think you’re a mix. We will discuss another time.]

Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits? (e.g. travel, parties)

Work deadlines are the biggest culprit. If I’m staring down a big one, I’ll sometimes skimp on sleep, skip yoga and ditch my healthy eating habits. The baristas at my neighborhood coffee shop know when I have a deadline: That’s when I order the chocolate chip muffin for breakfast!

Are You a Worrier? Three Tips to Worry Less.

I worry to some extent, of course, but I don’t think I worry as much as a lot of people.

Many people worry about how much they worry!

Today, the New York Times had an interesting article by Roni Caryn Rabin, “Worried? You’re Not Alone.

In it, Rabin points out several intriguing findings in a Liberty Mutual Insurance research paper, the “Worry Less Report.”

Apparently Millennials worry about money. Single people worry about housing (and money). People worry less as they grow older.

Some people — for instance, like my sister Elizabeth — feel that if they do worry about something, they’ll somehow prevent a bad thing from happening. Rabin points out, very sensibly, “Researchers say this notion is reinforced by the fact that we tend to worry about rare event, like plane crashes, and are reassured when they don’t happen, but we worry less about common events, like car accidents.”

Rabin also distinguishes between “productive worry,” which helps us solve a problem, and worry where you’re just, well, stewing in worry.

According to the report, here are some ways to tackle worrying:

1. Break your worry into separate pieces, and tackle them one by one.

Identify the problem (my Eighth Personal Commandment), clarify your goals, try to think of solutions. “Grab a pen and paper and brainstorm…studies have show this approach can help ease depression and anxiety.”

2. Schedule time to worry.

Elizabeth and I discuss this at length in episode 56 of the Happier podcast.

3. Practice accepting uncertainty.

Consider what you can and can’t change or affect. Why worry about whether it’s going to rain? All you can do is bring an umbrella. Relatedly, for me, is the worry that arises when I need to make a choice among several options. Often, I’ll be thinking of one option, and I’ll have some worry about it — then I’ll remember, “This worry applies to all the options, so I don’t need to take it into account.” For instance, a friend told me, “I’m worried that if my daughter goes to college X, she’ll have trouble making friends.” But the daughter will face the challenge of making friends at any college she attends; there was nothing about college X that would make that it more difficult to make friends there. So it’s not a worry to consider in making the decision among colleges.

This discussion reminds me of a wonderful children’s book, Kevin Henkes’s Wemberly Worried.  “‘Worry, worry, worry!’ said her grandmother. ‘Too much worry.'”

Are you a “worrier”? Have you found some good strategies to manage your worrying?

Episode 63: The Problem of Passwords, Why Rewards Can Be Dangerous, and Does Elizabeth Have to Write These Thank-You Notes?

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Update: Big news! (At least for me.) I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. I talk to viewers about questions, comments, suggestions. Any episode; don’t worry if you’re not caught up. You can watch the most recent one here or my video with our producer Henry, look here. If you want to join the conversation live, I’m doing them on Tuesdays at 1:00 pm Eastern. Join in! It’s so fun to have a chance to talk to listeners and viewers.

Try This at Home: In episode 61, we asked listeners for answers to Emily’s question about how to manage online passwords.  The answer: have a strategy.

Better Than Before Habit Strategy: The Strategy of Rewards is a very, very tricky strategy to use. People often mis-use rewards when they’re trying to create a habit.

If you want the checklist for habit change, it’s here, at the bottom of the list.

Listener Question: Nine-year-old Isobel asks “How can we be happier while taking tests?” The book I mention is Kelly McGonigal’s The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth didn’t write thank-you notes after Jack’s birthday party. I contest this demerit!

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I used the Strategy of Scheduling to work on my Four Tendencies quiz. (You can take it here to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel.)

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #63

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Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

How to Subscribe

If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really.  To listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much.

HAPPIER listening!

Podcast 56: Schedule Time to Worry, Beware of Loopholes, and Dealing with a Troublesome Writers’ Accountability Group.

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Update: Elizabeth is with me in the studio, because she’s in New York City shooting a TV pilot. So glamorous! But she’s so busy, I hardly get to see her.

In less exciting news, Jamie and I have a new duvet cover. (Note, when I took this photo, we were one decorative pillowcase short, now we’ve fixed that, too. Victory.) If you missed the kerfuffle related to the duvet cover, listen to episode 52.
duvetcover

Try This at Home: Schedule time to worry.  See above for Johnny Cash’s to-do list.

Strategy for Habit Change: We discuss the hilarious Strategy of Loophole-Spotting. I love all ten hilarious, popular categories of loopholes. We also mention the Evil Donut-Bringer. Which is your favorite loophole?

Listener Question: “I’m an Obliger, and I started a writing group. But some people stopped turning in their pages, and now others have stopped submitting.” If you want a starter kit for launching an accountability group, it’s here. We’re talking about Obligers, which is one of the Four Tendencies.

Gretchen’s Demerit: I narrowly missed getting a demerit for not observing Leap Day — but in the end, I did make a festive plan for my daughters and me. To read about our last Leap Day, which was more elaborate, read here.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth’s iPad Pro is changing her life. Any suggestions for the perfect tote bag?

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

Check out The Great Courses Plus for a wide variety of fascinating courses taught by top professors and experts in their fields. Special offer for our listeners: free access to one of their most popular courses! To watch The Science of Mindfulness and hundreds of other courses for free as part of a 30-day trial, go to thegreatcoursesplus.com/happier

And check out Stamps.com. Want to avoid trips to the post office, and buy and print official U.S. postage for any letter or package, right from your own computer and printer? Visit Stamps.com to sign up for a 4-week trial, plus a $110 bonus offer — just enter the promo code HAPPIER.

1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #56

We love hearing from listeners

 

To sign up for my free monthly newsletter, text me at 66866 and enter the word (surprise) “happier.“ Or click here.

If you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Click here to tell your friends on Twitter.

Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

How to Subscribe

If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really.  To listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much!

HAPPIER listening!

Do You Have an Image that Calms You? Like a Clock During a Thunderstorm.

“Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm.”
-Robert Louis Stevenson

I love this image, and often recall it to my mind when I feel anxious or harried.

Do you have an image that calms you?