We exist in a very complex world these days, with loads of stressors caused by unsettling events happening around us. The idea of an unknown future due to climate change, a divisive political landscape, the issues our kids face with social media pressures, among other struggles, such as grief, interpersonal relationships, work stress, and more—all impact our health. So, it’s probably not a stretch to say that most of us experience fear and anxiety on some real level, and it can be daunting to know where to turn.
With a specialty in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for adults, families, teens, and children with anxiety, obsessive compulsive spectrum, emotion dysregulation, and other common mental-health problems, Chris Sexton, relocated in 2015 to Kansas City after receiving her PhD and MS from Columbia University in New York City and working for a decade as a research scientist. She has a passion for providing evidence-based therapy that is compassionate and collaborative. Sexton uses principles of “cultural humility” as a foundation of her practice, comprised of lifelong learning, critical self-reflecting, and mitigating power imbalances with her patients. She asks us, “What have you given up in an attempt to control anxiety and other difficult emotions? Some people avoid the very things that give them purpose and connection, while others ‘white knuckle’ their way through the panic attacks and pain.” Her answer is to encourage treatment from the many professionals within the Kansas City metro area. She also recommends helpful books for all ages, and she offers some websites and apps to turn to for aid in anxiety relief. These can be found on her resource page.
Never Say These Things
Jade Wu, a board-certified psychologist, has advice for how to communicate with loved ones who suffer from anxiety.
Some phrases to avoid, even if you have the best intentions, are:
It’s no big deal, there isn’t anything to worry about. Instead, show empathy and communicate in a way that signals you hear them, even by matching their mood in your responses.
I’ve got problems too. While emotional support should go both ways, it can override what they are trying to express and be invalidating. Instead, be a good listener and either share your worries for another time or vent to another listener.
Just calm down. Instead, ask questions to show you’re interested in helping to seek solutions to the problem that’s causing their anxiety.