Anyone feeling anxious, stressed or worried as we shelter at home for what feels like the 10,000th day? So many of us have experienced a real sense of distress about what is happening and when it will end. We might worry about getting sick or losing our income. There are fears about the economy staying closed, but also fears about safety as we venture back out. Stress, worry, fear, anxiety? Check, we are feeling them.
This week’s guest could not have come at a better time. Dr. Jill Stoddard, author of, Be Mighty—A Woman’s Guide to Liberation from Anxiety, Worry & Stress Using Mindfulness and Acceptance, is a psychologist who specializes in anxiety. She is a professor, clinician, entrepreneur, speaker and women’s advocate. Her book is a wonderful tool for any of the estimated 264 million people worldwide who will suffer from anxiety disorders during their lifetime. Her tools are helpful for each and every one of us right now.
Dr. Stoddard uses ACT, or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, to help people overcome the avoidance that often accompanies anxiety. Anxious people like to stay in their “comfort zone,” avoiding all the unpleasant feelings and thoughts that show up with anxiety. If you have social anxiety and get invited to a party, a few things might happen. You might tell yourself that you will say something stupid and end up looking like a fool. You might experience a racing heart or sweaty hands as you think of what could happen. It follows, that you will feel better if you AVOID the party, so you make an excuse and stay home in your pj’s, watching Netflix. But, at what cost?
Be Mighty takes the reader through step-by-step exercises in order to become the “The Me You Want to Be.” It uses mindfulness to create greater awareness of what you are feeling and thinking. The book helps create understanding about the “Inner Critic” and why we all have those mean girl thoughts that seem aimed at keeping us small. You will dig into your values in order to chart a clear path, independent of your thoughts and feelings. You learn to get distance from your negative thinking and uncomfortable physical sensations.
Here is an example of one of the tools Dr. Stoddard used with me during the podcast. Take any negative thought that you might have; something your Inner Critic might say to you. Mine was, “I’ll never finish the book I’m working on.” In its raw form, this thought feels pretty bad. Then she had me add a few extra words to the negative thought. My new phrase was, “I’m having a thought that I’ll never finish the book I’m working on.” Or, even better, “I’m noticing that I’m having a thought that I’ll never finish the book.” This beautiful and simple tool creates space and differentiates between the thinker and the thought. We are not our thoughts, but we have thoughts.
If you want a clear understanding ACT and how it can help you navigate the weird and difficult time we are all in, I recommend you listen in to this interview. As a clinician, I loved all the information I learned from both the interview and Dr. Stoddard’s book. It is not another self-help book that you buy and read 3 chapters of before moving back to your mystery or romance novel.
The most wonderful part of the book, for me, was the inspiring data that Dr. Stoddard gave about what happens if women show up and contribute; if they can get out of their comfort zone and into the world. We have all heard the statistics about how women don’t get paid equally for the same job and how many women are sexually harassed and abused. What I didn’t realized, is how many beautiful statistics there are regarding women and the magical gifts they bring to the table. Women treated by female physicians have lower mortality rates than those treated by male physicians. When women are represented on leadership teams and boards, financial performance improves as does efficacy. If women participate in conflict resolution, peace agreements are less likely to fail.
All this is motivating and empowering. The facts listed at the end of the book, and there are many more than I listed here, could empower women, as opposed to the helplessness we feel learning about inequality and violence. I wish young girls/women were taught the studies Dr. Stoddard lists in the last chapter, and focused on them when deciding what to do in life. I highly recommend the book and the podcast for anyone interested in the topic of anxiety.
You can listen to me talk through this in the podcast by clicking ‘play’ below or in the following places:
You can find Jill Stoddard, Ph.D. in the following places:
- Be Mighty: A Woman’s Guide to Liberation from Anxiety, Worry, and Stress Using Mindfulness and Acceptance
- Instagram: @jillastoddard
- Twitter: @jill_stoddard
Shannon Connery, Ph.D.