Today, I’m trying to finish my work at warp speed because my sister, Laura, and her hubby, Jim are on their way over from Little Rock, Arkansas with their adorable dog, Gracie. Tomorrow bright and early we plan on driving to Castroville, TX to go camping together. The facilities are apparently very nice: hot tub, spa, restaurant, etc. Does that even count as true camping? Probably not. I just can’t wait to hang around the campfire together! I’ll try to make a vlog out of it, but no one in my family likes to be filmed, so it might be a challenge.
Before we get to Part Two of the series on anxiety, watch this cute video of Jamie and her assistant, Amy, as they explain how to use Erik’s talking board or “eBoard.” As usual, Erik gives them a run for their money!
Now for Part Two:
Me: What about panic attacks? What can you do if you’re about to have a panic attack? What would you tell a person to do?
Erik: Get out. Remove yourself. If it’s already escalating, it’s gone too far. You gotta go, “You know what? I gotta step outside.”
Kate (chuckling): My favorite thing to do is go sit on a toilet.
I chuckle back.
Kate: That’s my favorite grounding technique because you’re sitting on porcelain and [it’s plumbed] to the ground. It’s a hardcore grounding technique, so even if you’re in a high rise, if you sit on a toilet, you’re connected to the ground.
Me: Interesting. That makes sense.
Or is it overshare?
Kate: Putting yourself in a stall gives you some physical boundaries, too.
Me: Oh yeah.
Erik: Tell little kids to do that. If there are little kids who cry a lot, if you have a kid that’s a crybaby—
Kate: He’s teasing me because that’s what it said on my report card from kindergarten until about grade four. On every report card, it said, “She cries a lot.”
Kate (Laughing): Yeah, I was a little crybaby.
Erik: If you have a child who’s a crybaby, talk to the teacher and say, “We’re teaching this kid how to cope with his or her sensitivity and anxiety, and what we’re saying is, ‘When you start to feel like that, you need to go to the bathroom.’ So teacher, I need you to help us with this. If our kid asks to go to the bathroom, please let them. We’re trying to empower our child.”
Me: Any other techniques?
Erik (laughing): What? You want more?
Me: Yeah. Any thought techniques? Anything else that would help?
Erik: This anxiety, the way to recognize it is your thoughts are spinning out of control so when you’re right on the cusp of an anxiety attack, it’s really difficult to gain control of your thoughts. You’re just stuck in the moment, you know?
Me: But you might be at a meeting giving a big presentation. You can’t just go, “Excuse me. I have to go to the toilet.” So what other exercises or visualizations or, well, anything could keep it from—
Erik: Stand up straight with your shoulders back. Take a big breath in, and push your heels down into the ground. For women, if you’re prone to anxiety attacks, wear flats. Wear flats for your meeting.
Erik: Cuz when you push your heels into the ground, you’ll feel more stable.
Me: Okay. Anything else on panic attacks? I also want to talk about social anxiety.
Erik: Be mindful of how tight your clothing is. It depends on where you are. If you’re a gym teacher, wear snug things that hug you. That can have a calming effect. But if you’re a businessperson and the waistband of your pants is cutting in or your shoes hurt or your jacket is too tight in the back, that’s going to ramp [the anxiety] up. So make sure you’re wearing comfortable clothes.
Erik: And make sure you look good! If you’re going to do a presentation, you make sure you look really good. Wear your best suit. Plan ahead. For presentations, you just practice it. There are famous comedians—and I’m not going to out them—that have panic attacks and throw up right before they’d go on stage. They’d black out, but they’d practice their routine so much that they could black out, go on stage and still pull it off.
Me: Amazing. So what about social anxiety? When some people are at a party or in a big crowd, they just have so much anxiety. What can you tell them that might be helpful techniques?
Erik: First you have to understand that you don’t have to conform to other people’s expectations of where you should be. If what you need to do is be a wallflower at a party or social gathering, just give yourself permission to be one. Pat yourself on the back that you went.
Erik: Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. It’s better to go and give yourself permission to be a wallflower and drink some water or go with a friend. Talk to someone ahead of time so you know you have a buddy to hang out there with. If it’s going to give you anxiety to talk to a plant in the corner, then take someone with you. Plan ahead. Plan ahead.
Erik: There’s no shame in that. A lot of people have social anxiety. If you have to go to a work thing, tell a coworker, “I actually have kind of a tough time with big crowds. I really don’t like these sorts of things. Can we hang out for part of it? I’m not going to want to go otherwise.” You can word it in a way that makes it sound cool.
Me: Any visualization techniques?
Erik: Sucking it in, standing up straight, putting your elbows out—that’s like asking for physical space. It also changes the energy that people give you especially if your super sensitive. So if you’re standing up straight, you’ve got your elbows out and you’re breathing long, slow breaths and pushing your heels into the ground, you’re giving other people different visual cues. They’re going to give you more energy of respect, more energy of interest.
Me: Mm hm. Okay, interesting. That makes sense.
Erik: Rather than—
Kate: Sorry, can you say that again, Erik?
Erik: No, she’s got it.
Erik: Move on.
Me: All right. Well, I know we don’t have very much time left, and I know you wanted to talk about suicidal ideation. What do you want to tell me?
Kate: What were you going to say about that, Erik?
Erik: Okay, what I really wanted to say was that there are so many people who find CE who are worried that something bad has happened to their kid because—
Me: Channeling Erik?
Me: Okay. Got it.
Erik: People who find the blog. I just want to reiterate—I’ve said this before. I’ve said this a million times—nothing bad has happened to anybody’s friend, anybody’s brother or sister or anybody’s kid. Anxiety that really gets out of control, a lot of suicidal thoughts are a result of people feeling like their life is completely beyond their control. I really want them to try to hang on through that feeling of not being in control because sometimes it’s just a period of time that you just have to get through. You’re not necessarily going to know what your life path is until you live through it.
Kate: Does this make sense, Elisa?
Me: Are you talking to a specific person?
Erik: Yeah, yeah. I’m talking to a specific person.
Me: Okay. What else about that?
Erik: There are two different kinds. Some people came in with a life plan to end their own life, and with some people, that’s not part of their life plan and never was. It’s a super extreme, out of control symptom of all we’ve been talking about—all of the anxieties. Ask for help.
Kate: When I was Erik’s age, I went through a suicidal period, which was related to a lot of this stuff. So I can understand. I can understand what he’s saying.
Me: Sure, and you lived through that. You hung on.
Kate: Yeah, absolutely. And there’s no way that I could have known how good my life was going to become.
Me: I know.
Kate: It was like that period of time was the absolutely worst period of my life so you can survive it. Hang on.
Me: Yeah. Wise words. All right, well I guess that’s all the time we have. Erik, thank you so much. Kate, thank you so much. How do you like working with Kate, Erik?
Kate (Laughing hard): He likes that I have really big boobs!
Me: Oh, of course he does!
We both laugh. That Erik!
Erik: No, Kate is a little too mature for me sometimes.
Me: Uh oh! That’s funny.
Erik: She’s got a secret dirty sense of humor.
Me: Oh, okay. Just like me!
Erik: Yours is not so secret anymore, Mom.
Me: Well that’s true. Yours definitely isn’t Erik!