I'm charisse!

I’ve been a therapist for 20 years - and in a relationship for 17 - there’s not much I’ve not seen in my consulting room or experienced in my own life. I know how we tick and the traps we inevitably fall into. It’s been my obsession for these last 20 years to come up with tools and strategies on how to overcome each and every hurdle. And I’ve put it all into these online teachings.



Strategies To
Help You Cope 

Anxiety lives in the body and is kept alive by our thinking. Our bodies begin operating in a permanent state of fight, flight or freeze, because anxiety is about a perceived danger all the time. So physiologically, our nervous systems are responding to daily life as if it were warding off deadly threats constantly.

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Anxiety is a normal reaction to danger, the body’s automatic fight-or-flight response that is triggered when you feel threatened, under pressure, or are facing a challenging situation, such as a job interview, exam, or first date. In moderation, anxiety isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can help you to stay alert and focused, spur you to action, and motivate you to solve problems.

But when anxiety is constant or overwhelming—when worries and fears interfere with your relationships and daily life—you’ve likely crossed the line from normal anxiety into the territory of unhealthy anxiety when adrenaline and cortisol are in the system more often than not.⁠

Do any of these describe you? Easily irritated, highly organised (with some things!), driven, impatient, impulsive, aggressive and often angry, neurotic, frantic, rude, workaholic or competitive?⁠

These are the characteristics of Type A personalities, a term doctors came up with back in the day for those people most susceptible to heart disease. And as we all know heart disease is the stress/anxiety disease.

We’ve reached the stage where we are all anxious. The above are personality characteristics, but how might this come out in everyday life? We all know anxiety is about increased heart rate, jitteriness, insomnia, dread, worry, sweating and repetitive thoughts, but not everyone will realise just how pervasive our symptoms can be as they play out in our lives.⁠

Some of us will notice the stress response in our relationships, especially during arguments or conflict; or it can be socially, fearing negative judgement from others and wanting to avoid events. It can be around spending and money, exerting too much control or too little. Situations at work can be experienced as overwhelming, like giving presentations or doing a talk. Or we feel envious of others at work, wanting to get ahead and feeling angry we are not.⁠

Others live with ongoing anxiety issues around OCD, intrusive thoughts, panic, agoraphobia and trauma.

And by and large most of us walk around with the capacity to be reactive, irritated and stressed at any moment, worrying almost all the time.⁠

These are all varying ways anxiety can impact our lives and never has it been more prevalent. Let me know how you experience anxiety in the comments so I can develop on this idea and offer some suggestions and strategies.⁠

Anxiety is generally thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. While triggers are often different for each person, there are some ways of not exacerbating symptoms and increasing or worsening anxiety:⁠

1: Caffeine
– It is a stimulant and can also make you feel nervous and agitated, especially if you have more than 2-3 cups of coffee (I know, life is cruel!).

2: Dehydration
– This can affect your mood, causing you to feel tense, confused and angry, and for some people with an anxiety disorder, body changes caused by dehydration can bring on a panic attack or feelings of generalised anxiety.

3. Skipping Meals – Beware! When you have anxiety, skipping meals can bring on feelings of anxiety due to a drop in the body’s blood sugar.⁠

4: Negative Thinking
- It’s possible to trigger anxiety with your own thoughts. I will discuss this A LOT more in future posts.⁠

5: Stress
- If you are experiencing stress, either in your personal life or at work, your anxiety symptoms can worsen. Self-care is imperative.⁠

Negative Self-Talk is the fuel that keeps your anxiety going. We can have an endless stream of derogatory, unkind and sometimes cruel comments and judgments going on in our heads about ourselves as we go about our lives.

This consciously and unconsciously stokes the fires of our discontent, feeding the voracious appetite of our anxiety, our thoughts activating the body’s survival mechanism and telling it to secrete adrenaline and cortisol over and over. And guess what? Adrenaline and cortisol are drugs, people.

These extremely powerful hormones are pretty damn habit forming. So the more self-talk there is, the more adrenaline is low-level pumping through our veins, the more we want of our drug, so the more we torture ourselves with the negative self-talk. This is a deeply destructive unconscious process that we need to become aware of.

That’s why I lovingly refer to myself and my clients as Anxiety Junkies. Because we all become crazed addicts, at the mercy of our heads that tell us lies and make us behave in ways that will sabotage what we really want, and our bodies are being ravaged by stress hormones all the while. Continuing highly destructive, unhelpful behaviour compulsively despite negative consequences? That’s a definition of addiction if I ever heard one.

Right from the beginning of therapy I ask my clients to start noticing their negative thoughts. They are so normalised we often are not even fully aware of how pervasive they are.

But these are hugely powerful and we need to be serious about noticing when we are experiencing negative self-talk and begin to reduce their severity and in time replace them with a supportive commentary that might actually keep us calm, help us achieve our goals and feel good about ourselves. Much more of this to come in future posts.

Are you aware of any negative self-talk in your head? We often say the same things over and over. And can you feel your body jittery and fizzing with the adrenaline that’s part of anxiety?

Negative Self-Talk is the fuel that keeps your anxiety going. We can have an endless stream of derogatory, unkind and sometimes cruel comments and judgments going on in our heads about ourselves as we go about our lives.

Often we are perplexed about WHY we are anxious. There are a number of possible causes of anxiety:

Anxious Personality Type – We can have certain thinking patterns which are part of our personality that can lead to anxiety and panic.

Learnt Behaviour
– We can learn to worry and be anxious; our childhood experiences and parents’ anxiety, can all ‘teach’ us how unsafe/worrying the world is & how coping with it can be overwhelming. When we are young we are like sponges, soaking up all this messaging.

Stressful Life Events
– These can be unwelcome or traumatic, such as being bullied at work, getting divorced, or being attacked/abused⁠. These can kickstart our anxiety.

– You may be under pressure at home or work, feel trapped or unable to problem-solve certain issues, increasing our stress⁠.

– There is no known specific gene for anxiety, but there has been research that shows that anxiety may be hereditary; this may be through our genes or through learnt behaviour as a child.⁠

Because our thinking keeps our anxiety going, much of our recovery is focused on changing the way we think. A form of CBT called REBT teaches that the root of emotional distress comes from unhealthy beliefs about ourselves, others and the world.

These beliefs are revealed in our thoughts. Unhealthy beliefs are easy to identify because they will contain a must, should, ought, need to (or must not, should not etc). We call these DEMANDS (because that’s what we spend our lives doing without realising it: making unrealistic and pretty rigid demands on ourselves and everyone and everything around us).⁠

Let’s reflect for a moment on how emotionally disturbing and mood altering some of these everyday beliefs and thoughts might be:⁠

When our partner does something ‘wrong’, our irritation and anger (emotional disturbance) may reveal an unconscious demand of: My partner must do what I want, when I want and how I want.⁠

When our sibling is ‘irresponsible’, our judgement and annoyance (emotional disturbance) may reveal an unconscious demand of: They shouldn’t be doing that. They should listen to me. They should do things my way.⁠

When we speak as part of a group, our anxiety and fearfulness (emotional disturbance) may reveal an unconscious demand of: These people must think I am intelligent/entertaining/hilarious.

When we make a ‘mistake’, our upset and disappointment (emotional disturbance) may reveal an unconscious demand of: I must not make mistakes. I should know better. I should be perfect.⁠

Ouch. Pretty strong stuff. But emotionally that is how we are reacting to things and that feeds our negative thinking. How realistic are we being in these moments? We need to start recognising where and how we are placing demands in our life and see the role that plays in maintaining our anxiety. How we think about things and what we unconsciously believe really, really matters.⁠

Because our thinking keeps our anxiety going, much of our recovery is focused on changing the way we think.

STRATEGY AND TOOL: Most people aren't really conscious of the way they're breathing, but generally, there are two types of breathing patterns: Diaphragmatic (abdominal) breathing and Thoracic (chest) breathing.

When we are anxious they tend to take fast, shallow breaths that come directly from the chest. This type of breathing is called thoracic or chest breathing. When you’re feeling anxious, you may not even be aware you’re breathing this way.

Chest breathing causes an upset in the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the body resulting in increased heart rate, dizziness, muscle tension, and other physical sensations. Your blood is not being properly oxygenated and this may signal a stress response that contributes to anxiety and panic attacks.

The easiest way to determine your breathing pattern is to put one hand on your upper abdomen near the waist and the other in the middle of your chest. As you breathe, notice which hand raises the most.

If you're breathing properly, your abdomen should expand and contract with each breath (and the hand on it should raise the most). It's especially important to be aware of these differences during stressful and anxious times when you're more likely to breathe from your chest.

The next time you’re feeling anxious try this simple relaxation technique:

1: Inhale Slowly And Deeply Through Your Nose. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Your abdomen should expand, and your chest should rise very little.

2: Exhale Slowly Through Your Mouth. As you blow air out, purse your lips slightly, but keep your jaw relaxed. You may hear a soft “whooshing” sound as you exhale.

3: Repeat This Breathing Exercise. Do it for several minutes until you start to feel better.

You can perform this exercise as often as needed. It can be done standing up, sitting down, or lying down. If you find this exercise difficult or believe it's making you anxious or panicky, stop for now. Try it again in a day or so and build up the time gradually.”