SEP Episode 37: Understanding And Managing Entrepreneurial Anxiety With Dr. Russell Kennedy

Hello and welcome to The Story Engine Podcast. My name is Kyle Gray and today on the show we have Doctor Russell Kennedy, also known as the Anxiety MD. Doctor Russell Kennedy has an amazingly diverse background in anxiety, starting as an MD, a medical doctor, but has also studied many different traditions, philosophies, and approaches to anxiety, and really has one of the most cutting edge approaches and systems for managing anxiety and dealing with it that I’ve found.

 

Podcast

http://storyengine.libsyn.com/understanding-and-managing-entrepreneurial-anxiety-with-dr-russell-kennedy


Key Takeaways

[2:24] The incident that propelled Dr. Kennedy to help others

[5:11] What all anxiety boils down to

[8:38] How entrepreneurs and creatives can manage their anxiety

[14:16] The body is an important part of anxiety

[16:24] How to work with your body and mind to control your anxiety

[20:44] Secrets to reducing anxiety immediately

[25:25] The real role anxiety plays in people’s lives

[29:20] How acceptance of your anxiety is the first step to controlling it

[35:05] How to use anxiety to know yourself better

 

Links and Resources Mentioned in this Episode

TheAnxietyMD

The Anxiety MD Courses and Events

Dr. Gordon Neufeld

Ayurvedic Medicine

 

Transcript

Kyle Gray:

I’ve suffered a little bit from anxiety in my own right as a creative and as an entrepreneur. I think this is something that’s really, really common, whether you’re just starting out your business, whether you’ve been running a business for a while or even if you have a large company. I think a lot of entrepreneurs see their business and what they do as art.

Kyle Gray:

I think that Doctor Russell Kennedy is going to have a lot of great information for everybody listening today on how to beat and even befriend your anxiety.

Kyle Gray:

Without any further ado, let’s turn it over to Russell.

Kyle Gray:

It’s such an honor to have you on the show today Dr. Kennedy.

Dr. Kennedy:

Thanks, Kyle. It’s really great to be able to talk about what I love talking about.

Kyle Gray:

Yeah, yeah. Just before we started you were already sharing all of these ideas and blowing my mind and I just had to get the record button to happen and not miss out on any more of your brilliance.

Kyle Gray:

Before we open up the flood gates, I would love to hear a story. I actually got this question from a mutual friend of ours, Connor Beaton.

Dr. Kennedy:

Yeah sure.

Kyle Gray:

I’d love to hear a story from your past that has really defined you and brought you forward to doing what you do today.

Dr. Kennedy:

Well, the story that I’ve told Connor too is a story about my father. When I was about 12 years old, I was watching them load my father into the ambulance. He was profoundly mentally ill. He had schizophrenia and bipolar. But, even in that mental illness, he would come to periods of lucidness for about three to six months at a time. Sometime in a year, he’d be good before he’d be back in the hospital again.

Dr. Kennedy:

But on this particular episode, I was watching them load him into the ambulance. I was about 12 and I started really getting an idea that he wasn’t right. I knew before, but it was really heartbreaking for me at that point because I think around 12, 13 you really start seeing the world a little more for what it is, rather than just being a child. And I could really see that he wasn’t going to get a lot better and this was just getting worse.

Dr. Kennedy:

I just sat there and I thought, well one day I’m going to make this make sense. One day I’m going to make this pain, this deep pain of seeing my dad who taught me how to play baseball, ride a bike, all the typical stuff that dads do, but would often go psychotic. As an eight-year-old or a 10-year-old, I would see this guy who I love dearly just detached from reality. As an eight year old, it’s pretty shocking to watch your dad descend into madness.

Dr. Kennedy:

At this particular time, I was just watching it. I thought, one day I’m going to make this mean something. As I got older I became a medical doctor with the idea of helping people who struggle. And I realize, as a medical doctor, I really wasn’t helping people as much, especially in the mental health field, as I’d like to. I was giving a lot of antidepressants and that kind of thing, and I just really wasn’t getting at the root cause. I devoted a lot of my life from that point on to help people with the root cause of their mental illness rather than just treat it with medication.

Dr. Kennedy:

Now sometimes, medications are great. Sometimes we need medications. I’m not one of these doctors that go, pharmaceuticals are all bad. But it is one of those things that I think when you have a certain amount of time to spend with patients and it’s only seven to 10 minutes, it’s easier to write a prescription than it is to spend an hour with them talking about their childhood, or the things that really caused this illness in the first place, which medical doctors typically don’t do and really don’t have the time to do either.

Dr. Kennedy:

When I was watching them load him into the ambulance like that, it was like, one day I’m going to make this mean something. One day I’m going to make a difference for people, especially with mental health and stuff.

Dr. Kennedy:

So, about five years ago I left medicine because I really got burned out by the fact that I really couldn’t help people in the way that I wanted to and I’ve been building this alternate practice, I guess, and helping people understand the relationships in their mind, and specifically, their anxiety. Studying things like Dr. Gordon Neufeld, from a developmental psychology point of view, and Dr. Neufeld said, all anxiety is separation anxiety, which, when I first heard it as a doctor. But then the more I thought about it, actually, it’s true, all anxiety essentially boils down to separation anxiety, and that’s how it should be treated. It should be treated from a bottom-up perspective, from a body perspective, and a cognitive, a top-down perspective as well. I think that’s what we’re missing in our therapies today, specifically in mainstream psychology and psychiatry.

Dr. Kennedy:

It’s a lot of this talk therapy and they don’t really discuss what we can do from a body based perspective. What we can do from a breathing perspective. What we can really do to ground ourselves first and then once we’re grounded in our body, then we can accept these cognitive strategies.

Dr. Kennedy:

I know I’m going off there from the story, but, basically, it boils down to, I wanted to make a real difference for people. That’s the reason I became a doctor. I got disillusioned with how it wasn’t going the way I wanted to and now I’m changing that and trying to make it accessible in my theories that are a little bit … well, they’re more than a little bit. They’re not against the mainstream, but they really press the fact that we have to start using some more bottom-up, some more body based structures, getting people into their body before we start doing all this talk therapy. Because, unless you’re grounded in your body, all the talk therapy in the world isn’t going to stick.

Dr. Kennedy:

That was the long answer to your question, Kyle.

Kyle Gray:

Well, that’s amazing. There’s so much to dig into there and there are so many interesting things. What I love about what you’re doing and talking about is, I think, I’ve heard you speak before and a lot of what you do and what you say is immediately practical and useful and you can, through working through body based strategies, along with your mind, you can quickly start to reduce anxiety. Where going to see a therapist may help you iron out things over the long run, this can get you calm right at the moment when you’re feeling the strongest.

Kyle Gray:

And, before we got on the call, you mentioned that you love working, in particular, with artists and creatives. A lot of the people listening to this show are just that, they’re either entrepreneurs working on their own business, trying to create their ideal business. There are lots of people who are using their creativity to grow their business, be it with a podcast or through writing great content, writing books. And so, you’re speaking to a really great audience of creatives and I’m sure, as I have and you have, suffer from a lot of the common anxiety that plagues people who are creative.

Kyle Gray:

I would love to focus a lot of the brilliance that you have to share on these particular people. How can we, as entrepreneurs running our own businesses, also, going against the mainstream in many different ways, really help too, not just manage our anxiety, but turn it into a powerful tool and use it to help us in our business journey instead of hinder us?

Dr. Kennedy:

Yeah. Well, I think most of all, we artists, we’ve been given a gift on some level, of being able to see the world in a different way than the mainstream. But it comes at a price. It comes at a cost. It’s kind of a chicken or the egg thing. Did we have childhood trauma or childhood wounding that made us artists? Or where we artists and that wounding has got more and more pronounced as we got older and forced us into doing our art?

Dr. Kennedy:

Really, I think what it comes down to is loving that part of you or having compassion for that part of you that’s anxious. If we judge the anxiety as bad, if we judge it in ourselves as bad, we lock ourselves in that framework and we never escape from it. So the first thing that dealing with anxiety is to completely accept it and have compassion for that little kid who got hit too often by his dad. Or, whose mom was an alcoholic? Or, whose dad was mentally ill and couldn’t give him what he really needed. And going back and being able to access that inner child in us and being able to see that inner child, whether it be two, three, four, 12 years old and look them right in the eye and say, look, I know that you went through a shit storm when you were younger. I know you went through horrible times when you were younger. I see you, I see what you went through. I see your strength.

Dr. Kennedy:

Sort of coming alongside as Dr. Gordon Neufeld would say. I quote Gordon quite a bit because he’s made quite a profound influence on my life. But what he calls it, the coming alongside, and I know it sounds a little bit out there, woo-woo, inner child, all that kind of stuff. But really, I’m a medical doctor and I was grounded in science. I’ve got a degree in neuroscience as well. And I’ll tell you if you can make friends with your inner child, and/or your younger self, or your inner spirit, or whatever the hell you want to call it, it’s gonna make your life a lot easier. Just accepting that part of you that’s anxious because Ayurvedic Medicine talks about this. They talk about anxiety being a lack of focusing on your own creativity or living through your own creativity. Having this creative influence in you and then not satisfying it will create a tremendous amount of anxiety.

Dr. Kennedy:

I’ve studied anxiety from just about every possible angle and Ayurveda really talks about anxiety as being stifled creativity. The more you can be creative, and I’m sure you’ve probably noticed this, if you’re an artist, when you’re in your flow, when you’re in your … there’s no anxiety there. But when you’re out of it, especially if you’re an entrepreneur, there is no … Neufeld also says there is no parenting without anxiety. But there’s also no entrepreneurship without anxiety either. Because we tend to not have … like, I left a pretty lucrative career as a medical doctor to go down to zero and do this. Luckily, I had some money saved and that kind of thing too. Your gift is your art. I think that we artists are the ones that change the world and I think a lot of us artists dealt with a lot of childhood issues. It’s up to us to push the people who don’t realize where their trauma comes from into awareness and an acceptance of that anxiety.

Dr. Kennedy:

I was listening to a guy today who talked about … I guess he was accused, falsely of sexual assault and the shame that he carried from that, the shame, even though he was completely exonerated and her story was really very inconsistent and that kind of thing. I don’t want to get into the whole thing, but, he carried a tremendous amount of shame and I just talked to him and I said, have you accepted and really had compassion for that part of you that feels shame towards himself? Can you grab it? Can you feel it? And just say, you know what, it’s okay.

Dr. Kennedy:

I don’t want this to sound like one of these, woo-woo, I’m okay, you’re okay kind of things, but it really does, unless you accept something, you can’t change it. You’re locked in it. The more you resist something, the more you lock yourself in it.

[bctt tweet=”Unless you accept something, you can’t change it. The more you resist something, the more you lock yourself in it. -Dr. Russell Kennedy” username=”kylethegray”]

Dr. Kennedy:

Again, long answer.

Kyle Gray:

I like that a lot. I want to dig a little bit deeper and actually take it back a little bit further. I think the approach for handling anxiety, I think that that’s a really powerful way. But I think that a lot of people, the problem is, is still a little bit further back. When you’re saying, get into your body, or these kinds of things, what comes to my mind is being able to actually notice what’s happening. I think very few people are immediately aware that they’re feeling anxiety. Maybe ever aware that they’re feeling anxiety.

Dr. Kennedy:

True.

Kyle Gray:

Maybe we could dig into, how does anxiety show up? Particularly for creatives and entrepreneurs. What does that feel like? What does that look like? What are some signs that we could use to maybe alert us to being in anxiety?

Dr. Kennedy:

Yeah. Well, that’s a great question, Kyle, because I remember back when I was about 20 and entering school, trying to get into medical school, and that kind of thing, and I just felt this tremendous pressure in my chest. When I would try and breathe I would feel this constriction in my breathing and my heart would beat quickly and I’d think there was something wrong with me. There’s a whole bunch of things that come up and I think the best way to describe it is, anxiety is really not a great term.

Dr. Kennedy:

The only thing I like about the term anxiety is if you rearrange the letters in anxiety you get any exit. Because people will take any exit to get away from their anxiety. I think it would be more properly described as an alarm. Especially if you have anxiety and you’re trying to explain it to someone who doesn’t have anxiety. Say, if you say I’m feeling anxiety, they probably won’t know what you’re talking about, but if you say I’m feeling alarmed. Everybody’s felt alarmed. Everyone knows what alarm feels like.

Dr. Kennedy:

When you’re going to write an exam or say you’ve had a medical test of some kind and you’re waiting for the results, a lot of that will show up in your body as this kind of tension. Muscle tension, muscle twitches, trouble speaking, dry throat, what they call autonomic activation or sympathetic activation, which is basically fight or flight activation as well. Your muscles tense, your heart races, your blood pressure goes up. There’s a bunch of things that go on and people don’t tend to automatically label that as anxiety.

Dr. Kennedy:

It’s analogist to panic attacks. When I see people with panic attacks, the first few times they have a panic attack they really wouldn’t know what the heck it was. They’d say, well, I feel flushed. I feel weird. I feel like I’m walking around … I’m walking on sponges, all that sort of stuff. It’s not until they started to say, am I having a heart attack? Am I having a stroke? Am I … when they connect the story to it, then they panic because before it was just this disoriented feeling. Then when they hook it into a story, that’s when anxiety or alarm really starts to get going.

Dr. Kennedy:

My theory about anxiety, in general, is that it’s really an anxiety alarm loop or an anxiety alarm cycle. Alarm gets felt in your body, tension, rapid heartbeat, that kind of stuff. And your brain, which is just a compulsive meaning making make sense machine, it reads your body and it goes, hey, we think there’s a lion chasing us. What’s going on? We’ll look in our immediate environment. If there’s no threat in our immediate environment, we will make one up based on our past, typically. We will start making up stories, oh, if I fail this exam, I’m going to wind up failing out of university and then I’m going to wind up alone on the street. It’s just the way that the mind works. It’s just a compulsive meaning-making machine.

Dr. Kennedy:

If we feel this alarm in our body, the mind just grabs that alarm and tries to make a story that’s consistent with that alarm, which is always going to be more alarming, which creates more alarm in the body, which creates more story, which creates more … so you get into this and alarm anxiety loop.

Dr. Kennedy:

The biggest thing that I can tell people that help with anxiety is to see if you can separate the feeling of alarm in your body, which is usually in the midline somewhere. Usually somewhere between your chin and your pubic bone. Feel where you feel anxiety and put your hand on it and then not allow the thoughts to link into that alarm feeling.

Dr. Kennedy:

If I’m feeling alarmed and I start thinking, oh, I wonder if I’m, for example, having a heart attack, or whatever, I just go, yeah, maybe, maybe, it’s possible, but I’m just gonna let the thoughts just go by right now and pay attention to my body. Get into my breath. Get into the moment, as there’s no anxiety at the moment. The anxiety is always about something in the future, and sit with it. When you sit with it, you have a chance to change it.

Dr. Kennedy:

It’s that the problem is here, the problem is down here in your chest. Then you go up to your head to try and figure it out all the time. The problem is here. You’re trying to fix it from here. You’re not even in the same ballpark. It’s feeling the anxiety, seeing the thoughts because you can’t stop the thoughts, but seeing them there, but just letting them go by. I think that’s why meditation helps people with anxiety so much.

Dr. Kennedy:

As a proviso that I don’t recommend meditation for people who are anxious and they’re looking for something to fix them right away. If you’re a long term meditator, great. But if you’re anxious and you go, I’m going to try meditation to try and make me feel better, sometimes that will make you worse.

Dr. Kennedy:

Basically what I’m saying is, I believe anxiety is really more properly called alarm. I believe it’s more locked in the body and we need to release that from the body first and then we can start dealing with the thoughts on top of that. But the best thing that you can do when you’re in anxiety, or alarm, is to realize that your thoughts are just thoughts and that you don’t have to believe them.

Dr. Kennedy:

I’ll tell you a little quick story. If I have somebody in my office, who say is 16, and I say, Kyle, you’re pregnant and Kyle’s just going to look at me and laugh. It’s not going to cause any stress to him at all because he doesn’t believe the thought because he knows he can’t be pregnant. Now, if I have a 16-year-old girl in my office and I say, Stacey, I think you’re pregnant, she’s going to freak out. Unless she wants to be pregnant. But she’s probably gonna freak out because part of our believes that story. It’s only the belief of the story that causes the alarm. If you don’t believe the story, if you hold the thoughts there, if you suspend them and don’t allow yourself to believe them and just sit with the alarm, the alarm will gradually change, especially if you learn how to breathe and do some other things that allow you to move this distress through your body.

Dr. Kennedy:

But, as long as you keep thinking, every thought that you have, every negative thought is like throwing a little bit of gasoline on a fire, that fire is not going to go out. But if you starve the fire for thoughts, if you starve it for gas, eventually, it will just burn itself out. But most of us don’t do that. We’re trained to think that our brain is omnipotent and can do everything and it tries to suck us into fixing the problem with thinking when thinking is the problem in the first place.

Dr. Kennedy:

That is, again, a long answer for I think the fundamental thing that I can tell you that’s helped with my anxiety is basically just letting the thoughts sit there in disbelief and then just really focusing on my body, focusing on my breath and just letting things go by and getting a bigger picture perspective. Because once you get sucked into the thoughts it’s a deep well to get out of.

Kyle Gray:

I think that’s powerful. I just want to try and compress and sum up what you just said to make sure that I got it right.

Dr. Kennedy:

Sure.

Kyle Gray:

It sounds like if, in the moment I am deeply overwhelmed by anxiety, the first thing to do is just to be like, I feel anxiety, I’m feeling this right now. It enables you to then start noticing and just … if you can actually be aware that it’s happening, then it allows it … you can then start to do things about it. Where, I don’t think most people even accept that they’re feeling that, or allow that feeling to be, they’ll cover it up with a different feeling. And so through there. And then there are some different exercises that I’d love to explore a little bit. It sounds like there’s some breathing or other simple ways too, once you notice and you see the anxiety, separate yourself from it or get back into your body.

Dr. Kennedy:

Yeah. The biggest part of it is just basically get out of your head and get into your body. What I do is I just tap my chest. Or I put my fingers together. In my course, I talk about putting your thumb and fourth finger together. Anything that gets you into sensation, because as soon as you get into sensation you get into the moment that you’re in that you can’t feel tomorrow at 3:30. You’re feeling in the moment.

Dr. Kennedy:

The other thing about sensation is that the energy that your brain was using to come up with all these thoughts has now been cut at least in half because now your brain is focused on sensation. Because what’ll happen is your mind will try and suck you into believing that your thoughts are going to get you out of this anxiety when it’s actually your thoughts that are making you worse. If you can get into sensation, I just tap my chest, sometimes I do something called three-part breathing where I would do this thing where I breathe, and I fully expand my chest at the top and then breathe. I take three breaths in, and then three breaths out.

Dr. Kennedy:

When we expand our chest, it sends a message up to our brainstem, which runs our autonomic nervous system, or our automatic nervous system. When your chest expands, it tells your brain, hey, there’s no danger. We’re okay. Because when we get into danger, we start breathing really shallowly. Our chest starts to constrict. When you expand your chest, you’re actually telling your brain, hey, we’re okay. Then your brain will drop your blood pressure, drop your heart rate. It will allow your body to relax. As long as you don’t keep throwing the thoughts in there because as soon as you keep throwing thoughts on top of that, you never actually give yourself a chance to calm down. You never actually let that fire burn itself out because you’re always throwing another little bit of gas on there with the thought.

Dr. Kennedy:

Which is very difficult to do, I got to tell you. This sounds easy. And it is easy. It is simple, but it’s not easy, and that’s the problem. It’s just learning how to separate your thoughts from this feeling of alarm and connecting with that feeling of alarm because a lot of that feeling of alarm is really your younger self asking you for attention.

Dr. Kennedy:

If you have a little three-year-old come up and put his hands up to you and say, hey, I’m feeling really stressed here. Or crying, or whatever. Would you push him away or go on Facebook or whatever? No. Because clearly, this little being needs your help. Well, why don’t we do it with ourselves? Why don’t we ever do that with ourselves? Go, hey, I see that you’re feeling stressed about this exam, or this issue that you’re having, or this relationship breakup. I see that you’re stressed about it. What can we do together? Can we join in ourselves? Can we find our body? Rather than going into this relentless stream of thinking that’s only going to dig us deeper.

Dr. Kennedy:

I do have a great story about that too. About, I guess about 10 years ago now, one of my patients came in to see me. He had just lost his wife. He was in his early fifties. He said, Dr. Kennedy, I’m so stressed and anxious and I’ve got to dig myself out of this hole. And I said, well, you can’t dig yourself out of a hole. When you’re in a hole you have to stop digging. We both sat there for a second.

[bctt tweet=”You can’t dig yourself out of a hole. When you’re in a hole you have to stop digging. -Dr. Russell Kennedy” username=”kylethegray”]

Dr. Kennedy:

And it’s true when you … and I tell my patients this all the time, thinking, much of the time, especially when your alarmed is just digging, just digging yourself deeper. You’re digging down lower and lower and you’re going, why am I getting deeper and deeper into this hole, I don’t know why. I should be getting myself out of this hole by digging.

Dr. Kennedy:

That’s the mind playing tricks on you. The mind tells you, I’ll show you the way out of this anxiety when really it’s showing you the way to go deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole. That level of awareness is probably the biggest a-ha moment that my patients have about their anxiety. Is that they have some control over it by how they think. With that said, is that there’s something in us for the time we’re two years old that says thinking is good, thinking is helpful. But when you’re anxious, thinking is not helpful. Thinking is actually digging you deeper and deeper into a hole.

Kyle Gray:

That’s one of the most challenging things I’ve experienced. There have even been times where I feel like I can notice I’m in anxiety and know that there is a smarter way to deal with it. And still, I think, when you’re … especially when you’re just starting these, your mind is so programmed to respond in the way that it always has. If you’ve never trained yourself to respond in a different way in anxiety, you can know, oh, well if I just did a little bit of breathing then I could feel way better. And you’re like, no, I don’t want to do that. I got to go back to the old ways.

Dr. Kennedy:

And there is resistance too. There is a certain amount of inertia because you got to remember, here’s another huge thing about anxiety. Anxiety isn’t there to hurt you. Anxiety is there as an over … it’s like an overprotective mother. It’s there to protect you.

Dr. Kennedy:

I call it the three worries of anxiety. Which are, what if’s, worst case scenarios, and warnings. Those are the three things that your brain tries to tell you, it tries to warn you, it tries to say what if, or it’s like worst case scenario, this is cancer, we’re going to die, this is … So your brain goes into this alarmed state where you lose about … you lose your prefrontal cortex, you lose your rational thought ability and you start digging up all these horrible survival based … because your brain is in survival, so it’s just going to give you all of these survival based thoughts that aren’t helpful. It’s learning how can I just tap myself? Can I just get into my body? Can I breathe? Can I stay in the moment?

Dr. Kennedy:

Here’s a question I ask myself all the time in the middle of the night, or used to, or still do sometimes when I wake up in a panic is, am I safe in this moment? Right in this moment, I know I’m panicked, I know I’m worried about, deathly worried about this going on, or that going on, or whatever. But in this very moment, am I safe in this moment? The answer is virtually always yes. In this moment you are safe. This moment is all we have, so, are you safe in this moment? Yes. Well, then you’re safe.

Dr. Kennedy:

Getting back to my original thing, anxiety is trying to protect you. It’s your ego trying to constantly warn you of things that possibly could happen because it’s trying to help you. It started off, typically, in childhood, as a coping strategy. What happens as we get older is that coping strategy becomes, instead of adaptive, it becomes maladaptive and creates more and more problems. It’s not coping … I mean, it is a coping strategy that’s what anxiety is.

Dr. Kennedy:

There’s part of us that wants to hold onto it and that’s part of the hardest part of my job in a way is to try and convince people to let go of this anxiety because part of them, deep down, feels like it’s protecting them. I’m trying to convince you to release something that you deep down believe is protective. I’ve got my work cut out for me. That’s probably the hardest job that I have is someone who treats people with anxiety, including myself, is that hole, this is protective. How can I push this away because this is actually protecting me? Even though, consciously, I know it’s not, but unconsciously there is this sense that I’ve had it since I’ve been eight years old and I haven’t died yet. So, it must be protective. That’s probably the biggest challenge that I have at treating anxiety is people’s unconscious belief that it helps them.

Kyle Gray:

Well, at least we can all rest a little bit easier knowing that even people who understand anxiety down to its core struggle with it too. I suppose one of the worst things anybody can do is getting upset at themselves for feeling these things and beating themselves up, which can be a pretty common way.

Dr. Kennedy:

Yeah, it locks you in the cycle. Until you accept something, fully, and actually on some level … now I can actually be grateful for my anxiety because it has shown me the way to connect with myself. That’s all it was really doing all along was showing me, hey, you’ve got to connect more with yourself. If you don’t connect with yourself, I’m going to keep you anxious.

Dr. Kennedy:

As I got more and more connected to myself, my inner child, whatever you want to call it, my anxiety steadily dropped because that was the reason why I had anxiety in the first place. I didn’t feel safe. If I create this sense of safety for myself, then the anxiety starts to not have any use so it starts to just fade away. But if you judge yourself for anxiety, if you berate yourself for it, you’re locking yourself in the same template of not accepting part of yourself. That’s the reason why we have anxiety in the first place. And what I said about Gordon Neufeld saying, all anxiety is separation anxiety. It doesn’t necessarily mean separation from other people. It’s profoundly a separation from yourself.

Kyle Gray:

This also, I want to call back to something you said earlier, I believe around Ayurvedic Medicine. Anxiety is your creativity that’s gone unexpressed or something like that. I think tieing that in with what you were just saying there, this misalignment, it’s guiding you, you feel this anxiousness. I’ve felt this before. I feel it a lot where you want to create, you want to do these things and you want to move forward and you have a lot of ambition and so much creativity and excitement for the world, but you feel it as a gap and it becomes anxiety and being able to, like you said, make friends with that, but also see it as this is truly your gift, your creativity is urging you on to do these things.

Dr. Kennedy:

True. But it took me a long time, Kyle, to really … because for a long time I just hated it.

Kyle Gray:

Oh yeah.

Dr. Kennedy:

For a long time, I thought it was really affecting my personal life. There were points where I didn’t want to leave the house. Going up to have a shower seemed like a monumental task and I’ve … Yeah. The reason I think I know so much about anxiety is that I’ve lived with it. It’s basically, it’s … I wouldn’t say that I was actively planning suicide, but there were points where I thought, geez, there’s got to be a way out of this. It was certainly a consideration at the time.

Dr. Kennedy:

I think you’d be surprised at the number of suicides that are anxiety. I think we do tend to associate depression with suicide, which, absolutely it is, but I think there’s a lot of anxiety based suicides that aren’t really reported or aren’t really known about because people just don’t know, based on the treatments that we have now, which aren’t very good. I don’t want to be to down on my medical profession and the psychological profession, but I think we really are missing the boat in not doing both, not doing bottom-up therapy, which is body-based, breathing, breath, work, Qigong Yoga, whatever you want to do.

Dr. Kennedy:

There’s other less woo-woo out there, breath work stuff that you can do, as well as the cognitive stuff, as well as, yeah, I was beaten by the … I wasn’t, but, I was beaten by my dad from the time I was five until I was 12. Or I was sexually assaulted by someone from the time I was 12 until I was 14 you know. There are these things that, unless we acknowledge them unless we come back to the real facts about things and be compassionate to ourselves, we’re not going to get past them. We have to start accessing the body in that. We can’t just say, okay, well this happened to me, so now that I talk about it, it’s all just going to … it’s all going to … the puzzle pieces are all going to jig back into place.

Dr. Kennedy:

There has to be some framework in the body, I believe, as well as the mind. We have to do both. I think that’s my contention and I think that’s where society, in general, is falling is that we’re not dealing with the body at all. We’re just dealing with the mind because we glorify the mind in our society. The mind alone, psychotherapy alone, is not going to fix your anxiety. You need some sort of … it may fix it temporarily.

Dr. Kennedy:

I heard a joke the other day about a CBT therapist, when they go in crisis, doesn’t see another CBT therapist. It is one of these things where CBT is very helpful, it has its place, but it’s not a panacea. There are so many things to anxiety, or any mental illness, that it requires a multifactorial approach. It isn’t just, I go to see a therapist once a week.

Dr. Kennedy:

I have friends that have been doing that for 10 or 15 years now. Seeing a therapist an hour a week and yeah, it keeps them on a certain level, but it doesn’t get them any … it doesn’t get the better, and really what I want to focus on is how can we get people better so that they look back and go, you know what, I used to be, I used to have a really … I used to really struggle with anxiety and now I still, I see it, but I can recognize it and see it for what it is and that’s how I am. I see it and I recognize it for what it is and then I just turn it into gratitude for myself, compassion for myself. It’s really … the anxiety as a whole was basically there for me to get in touch with myself. That’s what it was trying to show me. It was just a message. Once I started doing that, the anxiety started going away.

Kyle Gray:

That’s a beautiful story and there are lots of treasures and lots of hope in there for everybody listening and we’ve learned a lot. We’ve covered a lot today and I love how much we’ve shifted the paradigm on what anxiety is and how to deal with it to the new most cutting edge ways and beyond to really explore that.

Kyle Gray:

Dr. Kennedy, I’d love, if you have any last closing thoughts to share with anyone. And, where can we go to learn more about you and connect with you in the future?

Dr. Kennedy:

Well, my website is theanxietymd.com. That’s probably the … I have a YouTube page as well and I also have a Facebook page. It’s all the Anxiety MD, so if you go to that I’m fairly easy to find.

Dr. Kennedy:

I think that thing about just being … deciding to really connect with yourself. If you struggle with anxiety, really use it as a way of connecting with yourself because that’s what the anxiety is trying to tell you. It’s saying that you’re not connected to yourself, you’re not attached to yourself, and find ways of being attached to yourself. Sometimes, yoga will do it, Qigong will do it. Sometimes just making a mental intention every day of like, I’m going to be kind to myself. I’m going to accept, just like that guy who was accused of sexual assault, he accepted that part of himself, that felt shame and guilt and that … he fully accepted it and when he fully accepted it, it started to go away.

Dr. Kennedy:

But as long as you reject it, as long as you reject your anxiety, your depression or your mental illness, as long as you reject it, you’re locked in it. As soon as you accept it and actually have compassion for yourself, and sometimes as I said, go back to yourself when you were five, six, eight years old. Look yourself in the eyes. If you have a picture of yourself when you were a child, put it on your phone. That’s what I have on my phone, a little picture of my three-year-old or five-year-old self.

Kyle Gray:

Oh wow.

Dr. Kennedy:

That’s me when I was two and a half years old. And that’s when I connect to and, as I said, I’m a medical doctor, I’m a neuroscientist. I’m not one of these woo-woo out there people. This is the new edge. This is what helps. It’s not going to be medication. It’s not going to be psychotherapy, even though that’s helpful. But it’s not going to be the whole answer. The whole answer is connecting to yourself and becoming attached to yourself.

Kyle Gray:

Wow. Thank you so much for sharing this wisdom, sharing these insights and I hope that it goes on to help a lot of listeners and thank you for sharing that with us today Doctor Russell Kennedy.

Dr. Kennedy:

You’re welcome, Kyle. Thanks so much for having me.

Kyle Gray:

Thanks for listening to The Story Engine Podcast. Be sure to check out the show notes and resources mentioned in this episode and every episode at thestoryengine.co. If you want to tell better stories and grow your business with content marketing and copywriting, be sure to download the content strategy template at contentstrategytemplate.com. This template is an essential part of any business that wants to boost their traffic, leads, and sales with content marketing. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time.

 

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