Archives for Language


Adjust Your Posture This Weekend For A More Confident Monday

So, I own a pet bird. (That's him on the left.)

Actually, I hesitate to call my parrotlet a pet. He's more like a little bird friend -- a tiny little feathered dinosaur who talks.

He's a comical little guy: he knows how to play peek-a-boo, he loves shredding tissues, and he's learned to imitate my laughter with near-perfect pitch.

But when he gets angry -- when he doesn't want to be touched or bothered, for example -- you know it.

And how do you know it? Well, he fans out his tail feathers if I try to touch him. He also fluffs up the feathers on his back.

This birdie non-verbal language lets me know my little featherbutt doesn't want to play. The feather fanning and fluffing makes his pint-sized, hollow-boned bird body look bigger and stronger, as if to say, "Hey! I'm big and powerful, mom! Go away. We play by my rules because I'm the boss around here."


I don't think it's any secret that adopting a "power posture" (say, standing with your hands on your hips or reclining on a chair with your arms behind your head) can communicate a nonverbal message to someone else.

Using a power posture tells others that you're the boss. You're in charge. You're the alpha.

But can these confident postures tell yourself anything? Can they tell yourself that you're in charge and in control?
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I Hate Quotes About ‘Success’ (Except For This One)

Generic platitudes tend to annoy me. You know the kind I'm talking about -- right?

Say you've just been through a bad breakup. It stings monumentally, and you keep hearing crap like this:

"It'll all work out in the end."
"Maybe it's for the best."
"There are plenty of fish in the sea."

Blah. These phrases are so scripted into our culture, and I'm sure the people who use these phrases mean well -- but I can't help rolling my eyes a bit at these saccharine one-liners.
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Lift The Burden By Changing “Should” To “Want”

There's a lot of guilt involved in having an anxiety disorder. (If you, reader, have an anxiety disorder, you know exactly what I mean, right?)

For the rest of you, I'll spell it out clearly: we feel guilty for not being able to keep up with household chores, everyday errands, or taking care of the kids. We feel guilty for giving our spouses or significant others more "blah" time than happy fun time.

More shaking, less adventure. More nausea, fewer vacations. More fear, less novelty.

And that guilt? It sucks.

We feel guilty for so many things: for not being able to grab a couple things at the big bright grocery store. For not being able to work a "normal" job with a "normal" schedule. For RSVPing for a friend's wedding and then chickening out at the last minute because it's a 3 hour drive and you feel too lightheaded to even drive down the street (and I'm still sorry about that, Melissa).

We feel guilty for not being able to do all the things we believe we "should" be able to do.
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My TEDx Talk: Anxiety — Hibernate, Adapt, or Migrate?

Awhile back, I wrote about how nervous I was to speak at my local TEDx event in Williamsport, PA.

I was pretty scared. Would I get lightheaded? Would I pass out? What if I couldn't remember anything I wanted to talk about?

I wanted to talk about panic attacks. I wanted to talk about how hard it was to work in a call center while dealing with panic disorder. I wanted to talk about those dreadful "inspirational" posters on workplace walls and I wanted to...
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Anxiety Society: Finding Strength in Scents, Space, and Sounds

(This is the eighteenth post in a series called “Anxiety Society”, in which I interview everyday anxiety sufferers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.)

Last week, we met Sveta, a young blind woman who grew up in an abusive home. Now diagnosed with complex PTSD and dysthymia, Sveta still struggles as an adult with the effects of her emotional abuse. In this final segment of our interview, we discuss her methods for coping and discover exactly how the Russian language reversed her suicidal thoughts.

SB: Tell me about how you use the four senses at your disposal to calm you down or improve your mental health.

S: Wow. Well, in my purse I have a pocket of things that are soothing. I have a velvet cushion, about the size of a pin cushion, an aluminum guitar that my father made, some perfumes that are solid, and some stones. I love listening to music, especially music in Russian. I have some tactile Russian letters that I use as well.

SB: I sometimes carry around peppermint oil because it helps me to reduce my perception of nausea when I'm anxious. I also really like the scent of Tiger Balm, too -- for some reason, it's grounding and it helps to calm me. What scents do you carry around?

S: There is a company up in New York called "Aromadoc". They make perfumes that are solid, meaning they have a longer shelf-life than liquid ones and aren't messy. I usually carry rose, lilac and lavender with me. The rose is to remind me of summertime, the lilac is to calm me, and the lavender is to ground me. I also carry hematite, rhodinite and rose quartz stones with me.

SB: Do the limitations of your disability affect your mental health at all? If so, in what way?

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Blindly Follow Your Doctor’s Advice, Says Nexium Commercial


I've written before about how important it is to become a competent consumer of prescription medication. Or of any medication, really. Even OTC cough & cold drugs are nothing to scoff at -- they're powerful medicines that can have powerful side effects.

It's important to know what we put into our bodies, right? Of course. Of course it is.

Let me get this message out of the way before I start ranting: I believe it's important to respect doctors -- after all, they have years of education and experience in diagnosing and treating various ailments. They know plenty more about medicine than the average patient does.

But, as patients and consumers of medicine, we need to do our part. We need to play an active role in our own treatment. We can't just close our eyes and let our doctors make the decisions that will affect our bodies.

It's important to ask questions. Why did you diagnose me with this disorder? How do I meet the criteria? What diagnostic tests informed your decision? When will I be well again? Why did this problem develop? Is this medication necessary? What are my alternatives?


But according to Nexium's latest ad campaign, we should simply step back and let our doctors decide what's best for us -- no questions asked:

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Poll: What’s Your Relationship Like With Your Anxiety Disorder?

Is it ever possible to happily embrace your anxiety disorder?

I think about this question often. I mean, we tend to frame our disorders with war-based terminology: I'm battling agoraphobia. John is struggling with panic disorder lately. Casey struggles from social anxiety disorder and gains ground every time he makes a telephone call. Amy is fighting her PTSD in an attempt to resume a normal life after fighting in Iraq.

This kind of semantic habit isn't limited to anxiety disorders, of course. We use war-based metaphors for so many illnesses: depression, the common cold, cancer...the list goes on for miles. Miles upon which an infantry of other illnesses can march.

So, how can we ever embrace anxiety -- or any other illness, for that matter -- when we view the illness as the enemy?
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10 Rules for Coping with Panic: Rule #4 (Part 2)

(Note: this post is part of a series about navigating my way through the 10 Rules for Coping with Panic, which is a nifty little list I keep in my wallet. To read the introduction to this series, check out this post: Coping with Panic: Why I Can’t, and Why I Can.)


In case you missed my last post, here's Rule #4:
Describe what is happening. Notice what is really happening in your body right now...not what you fear might happen.

Look over my little elevator monologue. Only one of my thoughts comes even close to describing the "what is." The rest only describes the "what if." (If you had trouble picking out the single "what is," I'll point it out: "I'm already feeling tense...")

If you've been playing the "what if" game forever, it's not easy to shake. It's automatic. My brownie girl scout handbook told me 22 years ago to be prepared, and I've taken that lesson to heart.


But here's the thing about being "prepared" (and yes, if you heard me read that sentence aloud in real life, I would do air quotes for "prepared"): it's not always good to be prepared for everything.

Yes, you heard me right: sometimes, being prepared is not a good thing. Sometimes, being prepared can take us away from the present moment.
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10 Rules for Coping with Panic: Rule #4 (Part 1)

(Note: this post is part of a series about navigating my way through the 10 Rules for Coping with Panic, which is a nifty little list I keep in my wallet. To read the introduction to this series, check out this post: Coping with Panic: Why I Can’t, and Why I Can.)


This is the rule that pits "what if" against "what is."

And, of course, it's the "what is" that's supposed to win. Falling into the great trap of "what if" only helps our mind to spiral downward into a dizzying fiction.

Case in point: the other day, I had to ride an elevator in an office building to the 8th floor. (I sure as hell wasn't going to walk -- I'm out of shape, and a rapid heartbeat is a panic trigger for me!)

The interior of the elevator was pretty tiny -- tiny enough that only three or four adults could fit comfortably. I stepped in, hit 8, and waited for the doors to close.

At the very last second, some guy scurried between the closing doors and snuck in. He pressed 4.


Immediately, my mind went off into a world of made-up scenarios: what if this guy tries to talk to me? What if he's creepy? I mean, I'm already feeling tense and nervous being here in this tiny elevator. And now, it's a longer ride because we're going to stop on the 4th floor too -- what if I can't handle being on the elevator for that long?

What if I have to stumble out on the 4th floor and then watch this mean watch me as I feign confusion and head to the stairwell? He'll wonder why I'm headed down. And what if he asks me what I"m doing? Or tries to correct me? What if I get lightheaded and I can't answer? What if I start to over-breathe? What if I feel like I'm going to pass out?

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Your Anxiety & Panic Haiku: Keep Them Coming!

A few days ago, in honor of National Poetry Month, I asked for your anxiety-related haiku.
I love haiku as an art form for describing anxiety. While many of us might think of "anxiety" as a huge and heavy long-term predicament -- and, for some of us, it truly is -- even the largest and darkest mountains of anxiety are built from smaller bricks of haiku-sized worries.

Now, I may be mixing my metaphors (bricks don't make up mountains!) in that last paragraph, but oh well. Poetry is about what feels right. And for a concept as complex and nebulous as anxiety, a mixed metaphor feels strangely appropriate: anxiety doesn't cleanly fit into any given metaphor. It's always changing.

So, let the metaphor change along with it. Even within the same sentence. To hell with that "don't mix metaphors!" rule that I learned in 11th grade.

There's only one rule we're following here on Panic About Anxiety for National Poetry Month -- we're writing haiku. A haiku is a short & simple poem that's written 5-7-5 -- five syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the middle, and 5 syllables in the last line.

That's it. The rest is up to you.


You've given me some beautiful haiku throughout the past few days. Here's a sampling of my faves:

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