How To Tame Anxiety, Anger, And Stress so You Can Reclaim Your Focus, Well-Being, and Optimal Functioning

How To Tame Anxiety, Anger, And Stress so You Can Reclaim Your Focus, Well-Being, and Optimal Functioning

Anxiety, anger, and stress are leaving us feeling frazzled. Today’s guest, Dr. Gina Simmons Schneider, helps us understand this state and what she calls Frazzle Brain.

Anxiety, anger, and stress are leaving us feeling frazzled.  Today’s guest, Dr. Gina Simmons Schneider, helps us understand this state and what she calls Frazzle Brain. Why it matters: Being under the influence of Frazzle Brain causes us to experience forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, decreased productivity, and irritability.  It can also affect our ability to make decisions and solve problems. What you’ll learn:
  • The science of what it is and how it could be affecting you
  • 1–2-minute exercises that you can do to counteract it and return to a state of optimal functioning
  • How to recognize when you are amplifying distress (most of us do this without realizing it)
  • How to easily increase mental agility
  • How to increase your feeling of well-being and happiness
  • Dr. Gina Simmons Schneider she is a licensed psychotherapist, executive coach, and corporate trainer. She serves as co-director of Schneider Counseling and Corporate Solutions. She is the author of Frazzlebrain: Break Free from Anxiety, Anger, and Stress Using Advanced Discoveries in Neuropsychology. Dr. Gina is a coping skills expert with more than 25 years of experience helping people regulate difficult emotions and conflicts.
She has been quoted in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and the San Diego Union-Tribune. Laurence Knight interviewed her for the BBC World Service program, “How to Be Angry.”  In addition, she blogs for Psychology Today and writes the award-winning Manage Anger Daily blog. She has blogged for Forbes and Women in Crime Ink which the Wall Street Journal named a “blog worth reading.” Links & Resources:

[00:02] Bobbi: Welcome to UnYielded: Thriving No Matter What where we talk about how to make your next chapter in life your best chapter. I’m your host, Bobbi Kahler, and I believe that the best is yet to come. Have you ever said I feel frazzled? If you are like most people, the answer is yes, and for many people, this is a very common state of being. Today’s guest, Dr. Gina Simmons Schneider, helps us understand the state and what she calls frazzle brain. We dive into what frazzle brain is and how it affects you, your brain, and your life. Gina also shares a few frazzle hacks, as she calls them, that are exercises that you can do in a couple of minutes to calm your mind and return to an optimal state. She also shares how we tend to amplify distress without realizing that we’re doing it, and also what we can do to stop that damaging behavior and instead learn to amplify the good, which increases our mental agility, allowing us to perform at our best, increase our well being and our happiness. A little bit about Dr. Gina. She is a licensed psychotherapist, executive coach, and corporate trainer. She serves as codirector of Schneider counseling and corporate solutions. She is the author of Frazzle Brain Break Free from Anxiety, Anger, and Stress using Advanced Discoveries in Neuropsychology. Dr. Gina is a coping skills expert with more than 25 years of experience helping people regulate difficult emotions and conflicts. She’s been quoted in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union Tribune. Lawrence Knight interviewed her for the BBC World Service program, how to Be Angry. In addition, she blogs for Psychology Today and writes the award winning Manage Anger Daily blog. She has blogged for Forbes as well as Women in Crime, Inc. Which the Wall Street Journal named a blog worth reading. Gina, welcome to the show.

[02:10] Gina: Thank you so much, Bobbi , for having me.

[02:13] Bobbi: Absolutely. I am just very excited for this conversation. As I told you, I started your book, so let’s just start there, because the name of it, Frazzle Brain, really kind of resonated for me. So tell me a little bit about frazzle brain.

[02:29] Gina: Well, that was the word that I kept hearing over and over again from clients that I work with because I’m a psychotherapist and I also coach in corporations. Right. And over and over, I’m hearing how frazzled people are, and that was the term. Well, as I dug into the neuroscience research and looking for remedies for people, it kind of took shape that people have both anxiety, which is kind of a lot of worry, along with irritability. So we’re seeing increases in road rage and explosive anger at work and people losing patience with their children and couples having a lot more conflict with each other. And then on top of that, we had the stress, the external stresses of all the changes of the pandemic and all the disruption that that did to our society and to how we live and work. So I recognized then that really, anxiety and anger for a long time have been researched as sort of going together, anxiety and anger, worry and irritability, worry and irritability. So sometimes you’ll see people who are maybe presenting more with sort of this quiet worry, and their anger is suppressed. And occasionally when there’s a build up of stress, lots of external things going on that are causing additional pressure. Then you’ll see the mild mannered worrying person explode. And then you’ll see the person who maybe leads more with aggressive anger and pushiness. That person has a lot of underlying anxiety and worry. So I saw that as this three headed monster. Anxiety, anger, and stress lead to a lot of feelings of dysphoria. And then when we look at the neuroscience, it affects our ability to concentrate. It affects our ability to focus. It affects our ability to think clearly to problem solve. And what’s really interesting in the research, too, is they found that when we are flooded with these negative emotions, our visual field gets narrow. They trust the people in the laboratory. Yeah. And you know how you go to the eye doctor and you look and the eye doctor measures your eyes? Well, they put people in a similar sort of situation after showing them, kind of triggering different emotional reactions from different films. So they would put people in a sort of negative emotional state, scary movie or something really depressing and sad and dark. And then they would watch where their eyes moved in this visual thing. And then they also tested people who had seen wholesome and fun and cheerful and happy movies and saw where their eyes go. And when we’re under the influence of negative emotions, our eyes don’t move very far. We literally see less in our visual field. So if we see less, right, so let’s just say you’re frazzled and you’re running around the house looking for your keys, you’re not going to see them as well.

[06:18] Bobbi: That’s right.

[06:19] Gina: Calm yourself down and just go, relax. I’ll find them. I know they’re here somewhere. If you relax, then your eyes will span a wider, broader area, and you’ll be more likely to find them.

[06:37] Bobbi: Yeah.

[06:39] Gina: So that’s what happens. Also, in terms of our problem solving ability, we’ve come very black and white in our thinking when we’re under the influence of frazzle brain. So I call frazzle brain that condition where we have irritability, anxiety, stress, and it affects our concentration, and we have trouble focusing. And so when we’re under the influence of frazzle brain, our problem solving ability becomes very binary. Am I safe? Am I not safe? Is this good or bad? And it fence our creative thinking. So the way through that and what I have in the in the book are 23 frazzle hacks, I call them, are 23 ways to calm and self soothe and access more positive emotions. And a lot of times people think of positive emotions as like, I’m happy, I’m so thrilled. I’m excited, I’m elated. But positive emotions can be something like curiosity. Like, I’d like to know a little bit more about that. Let me Google it. That is a mild positive emotion, and that helps expand our problem solving ability if we can tap into curiosity. And they did also research on interesting research on mild joy and contentment, like the mild joy you might experience. My daughter and I just had some mild joy and contentment where we spent a weekend in the mountains in this cabin, and we would sit out and have our breakfast, looking out on this forest with all these birds and just listening to bird sounds in this lovely little cabin. And we just sat there quietly having our breakfast and drinking our coffee. So that’s like mild joy and contentment at just really pleasant moment. And researchers found that that actually counteracts the negative effects of stress on our body.

[08:51] Bobbi: Something so simple.

[08:53] Gina: Simple as just being in the moment in your backyard with a cup of tea, with your feet up, watching the Hummingbird Theater, something like that, where you can just channel a little mild joy and contentment. A lot of times people enjoy that with their pets. Their pets do something funny. The cat does some goofball thing, and you’re laughing. That’s final joy and contentment. And so one of the exercises I talk about in Prazal brain is, why don’t we amplify that, right? So we tend to amplify our worry and we amplify our negative emotions. And what I mean by amplify is ruminate. We think about it over and over and over again. We second guess ourselves, was I rude to my boss at work? Am I going to have this problem when I go back to work tomorrow? And so we Rubinate and ruminate. And what we’re doing when we do that is we are amplifying distress. We’re amplifying in our mind, making it bigger. Let’s say there was a moment where there was a testy exchange with someone in our life, and then the moment is over and we go on. And then we’re thinking about that over and over and over and reliving it and questioning, what does this mean? And going deeper. And when we do that, then we’re amplifying our distress, intensifying our anxiety, and not going to likely be as effective the next time we meet this person, because again, we’re going to be charged up with stuff. And maybe they’ve put down that conversation and gone on to the next thing. And there’s nothing.

[10:49] Bobbi: They’re not even thinking about it.

[10:51] Gina: Maybe they’re not even thinking about you, right? But we’re carrying that around for a long time. So what I talk about for people is we can amplify the good in our life. And I have an exercise called amplify the good where you can in this exercise I have people settle themselves down with a few breathing exercises to just slow the heart rate down a little bit and calm yourself down a little. And it’s a closed eye exercise. And then I have people imagine someone that they really love in their life, someone they really care about, and imagine that person sort of being in front of you and what they’re wearing and vivid detail and all the things that you admire and love about that person. The things that you appreciate about that person the things that warm your heart about that person. You think about that person for a long time and then just imagine feeling this warmth and love and contentment with this person. And then I ask people to then open their eyes and look around the room and notice everything in the room that you appreciate or that you find beautiful or that you find attractive or interesting. And so when you do that, you are amplifying positive feelings that are already existing within you. And then you are also starting to notice more in your own home or in your own office or wherever you do the exercise, that there are so many things around you that you can appreciate right now that we overlook. We overlook because we’re focused in this narrow way on the things worried about. The things we’re worried about. So it’s not that we should never worry, right. It’s more that we want to amplify the positive things because that helps us cope with the things we’re worried about better.

[13:05] Bobbi: Wow. So there’s so much in there.

[13:08] Gina: There’s a lot to unpack, but it’s sometimes the ideas are fairly simple.

[13:13] Bobbi: That’s right.

[13:14] Gina: It’s just try to connect with some mild positive emotion if you’re trying to solve a problem.

[13:21] Bobbi: Yeah.

[13:22] Gina: Rather than amplifying the thing you’re worried about, focusing in on the thing you’re worried about, and hyper focusing on that.

[13:31] Bobbi: That makes perfect sense. And when you said the thing about the ruminating, oh, my goodness, I’ve seen that so many times. I’ve done that, right? You have a conversation, and it’s like two days later, you’re still thinking. It’s like, oh, my God, why am I doing this? Right?

[13:43] Gina: We all do it.

[13:44] Bobbi: We all do, right? By the way, with this last exercise to amplify the good, how long do they need to spend in that state of thinking about a loved one or appreciating the things around them for it to be effective?

[13:58] Gina: Well, you can do this in 1 minute. The longer you linger in the positive emotion, the more deeper the experience. I found with these imagination exercises I have some imagination exercises where you’re using your own mind to generate a different emotional response in your body. So with these exercises, the more details you can summon in your imagination, the better. So, for example, if you’re thinking, I love my mom, my mom’s somebody I really love. Okay, let’s do my mom. Okay. My mom, my mom’s great. And you’re just thinking about your mom. Hopefully you had a great mom. Some people don’t, but whoever it is you imagine, you just pick that person, right? But if you can go into what she looks like and what she’s wearing in that moment that you’re imagining, so.

[15:00] Bobbi: You’Re really getting into the details.

[15:02] Gina: The details. The more you can get into the details, the deeper the physiological effect on your body, because what we’re really doing with our mind is we’re pulling our mind away from the worrying mind. And the Brazil brain, which generates stress chemicals, which increase our heart rate, narrows our veins. It really does prepare our body for fight flight and prepare our blood to create more blood clots if we’re injured, our body just goes off the rails when we’re really worried and anxious. And so what we’re trying to do is activate the part of our nervous system that calms, because we both have the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system. Two parts. One is the arousing part that says, get up and run away from this saber tooth tiger. And the other part is that, okay, we’re safe now. We can calm down. So we want to be able to at will activate the self calming tools. And when people develop anxiety disorders or so much discomfort with their frazzle brain, it means that they need more coping skills to summon that other part of their nervous system, and their nervous system is out of balance. So you’re activating and kind of overtraining on the worry part of your brain, overtraining on the I got to be ready on guard, ready to escape or fight or handle this challenging thing. And so that the body being in the state of readiness or in this state of arousal all the time. If it’s in that state of arousal unnecessarily because you really aren’t in a fight for your life right, then it has some wear and tear on us, and emotionally, it’s very uncomfortable, and it’s not pleasant. So we have the power in our brain. It’s amazing, the power of our mind, that if we learn to harness that, we learn to grab a hold of that and go, okay, I’m over training on this. I’m overthinking and ruminating. Let me access something pleasant right now. Let me do one of these frazzle hacks. Let me calm myself down. Let me sit down and breathe. Let me do something to soothe my body. Let me take a walk, get outside, shift gears. There’s so many small little things we can do that as soon as we start to harness that part of our brain, we are broadening and building our coping mechanisms.

[17:56] Bobbi: Yeah.

[17:57] Gina: And it’s already there within us already.

[18:00] Bobbi: Yeah.

[18:01] Gina: It’s not anything special that we have to learn. It’s just something we have to decide to do and then practice it, because we do get better at it. I mean, I have the advantage of being a long term meditator. As a teenager, I was really curious about meditation, and I really tried it on alert, just out of curiosity. I was trained, and I think that has been just a wonderful mental training that I’ve been able to access my whole life. And people can learn how to do that themselves, anybody how to meditate. But being able to practice sort of these self calming tools, whether you meditate or not, there are other self calming tools you can practice. You get more efficient at it so that you can go from unfrazzled, I’m frazzled, I’m frazzled, to, okay, let me access this part of me that is very calm. Let me remember what that feels like to bring my brain back to this state of calm. And you can do that more quickly.

[19:14] Bobbi: That’s right.

[19:16] Gina: And that’s with practice.

[19:17] Bobbi: It’s with practice. Yeah. I’m glad you mentioned the thing about meditation, because earlier on, you were I can’t remember what it was getting. It just reminded me something you said about it when you were talking. It reminded me of so many times we’re focused on what’s happened in the past or we’re focused on what’s going to happen in the future and we’re not in the present. And so much of our stress comes from that. Right. Not being in the present. That’s what I’ve heard.

[19:45] Gina: Exactly. And if you think about it, if we’re obsessing about something that happened in the past, maybe the recent past, like 15 minutes ago, I had an argument with my husband or something, and now I’m obsessing about my argument with my husband, and that was 15 minutes ago or whatever. I mean, sometimes we do have to solve problems and check ourselves and go, well, do I need to apologize or is there something I need to do? But once you make that decision, yeah, there’s something I need to do about this to make this right, I need to go apologize. Once you’ve decided that you can put that down. Right. We don’t need to carry that tension around with you all the time. And I tell people clients this all the time. I say we can have a safety plan. We teach our children to look both ways when they cross the street to be safe crossing the street. But we don’t need to have anxiety about getting hit by a truck. We can practice the safety plan. Like, we can have earthquake preparedness kit in our house without worrying every day if there’s going to be an earthquake. Right.

[20:57] Bobbi: Yeah.

[20:58] Gina: So we can have coping skills without carrying around that state of arousal.

[21:07] Bobbi: Yeah, that is a really great point. Okay. I’m just making a note of it there. I think that’s becoming harder because I think that the media really plays into it and just almost everywhere you look, there’s examples of like if you’re trying to be prepared or aware of something, it goes to the hyper arousal, and you should be afraid of this and you should be frightened. It seems harder and harder to do that for some reason these days. Is that on track?

[21:47] Gina: Yes. I do think that, for example, the 24 hours television news cycle, they frame things and talk about things in an intentionally alarming way to make it dramatic, to keep you watching, so they can sell soap.

[22:10] Bobbi: Right?

[22:12] Gina: So advertisers will get your attention and it’s an economic decision, right? And that’s what Clickbait is on social media. Clickbait headlines. Clickbait headlines are headlines to alarm you or outrage you or make you go, WA. What is that? I got to know about that. So you click on this thing and it’s just a lot of these articles are written to keep you on suspense and make you dig deeper and stir up a lot of emotion in you so that these pop up ads will attract your attention. And maybe you’ll buy a face cream or maybe you’ll buy those hiking boots or whatever pops up on your social media advertisements. I really teach people about hygiene, mental hygiene, green hygiene, which is what are you putting in your brain and are you intentional about it? So what are you putting into your brain? Are you watching a lot of things that make you afraid of the bad guys? Are you watching a lot of things that get you angry and outraged and are they really helping you to feel informed or are they just making you not feel very happy? So I’ve noticed that unplugging from that, people can be very well informed. If you read just one local newspaper, you can be very well informed about important things that are going on and you’re not going to be stupid, but you’re also not going to be overly aroused. So I do think people can do a lot to lower their frazzle brain by putting their phone down, being in real time in nature, even just the nature, if you have a neighborhood park, taking a walk in a neighborhood park, if you have one, being in real time is the only time we’re really in reality. So if you think about it, and this is something that scientists know, is that when we’re in the world of our thoughts, we are distorting reality. We are describing something based on our past experience and we’re attempting to predict something based on our past experience, but we are not in our experience. So all thoughts, cognitive psychologists, this may sound wacky, but it’s actually true if you think about it, all thoughts are distortions of reality. So all of our thoughts are interpretations of reality. That’s not the pure experience of what’s happening. So we have a choice there then, if we are thinking a lot of negative thoughts and a lot of cynical thoughts, like this person is out to get me.

[25:30] Bobbi: My coworkers out to get me, right?

[25:33] Gina: My coworkers just out to get me. And if we’re thinking a lot of those thoughts. Now, it may be true there are people of bad character who try to hurt other people, and that may be something you have to figure out. But if your mind is dominated by those kinds of thoughts, you’re going to be very unhappy. And you’re going to be also missing out on the people who could be your friends. Or you might be missing out on the people who you could enjoy. So those are the kind of it’s helpful to be suspicious of your thoughts and not fixate on them as if they were true. Or maybe suspicious isn’t the right word. More skeptical.

[26:17] Bobbi: Yeah.

[26:20] Gina: Try not to just fixate on what your thought is as if you believed it and there was no other way of thinking, because the more flexible you can be with your thinking, the more flexible and agile you can be emotionally, and that can help be more effective. So if I immediately assume that my thought about somebody is absolutely true, and now I have a belief that you’re this kind of a person, I’m going to close my mind to any contradictory information that could make me have a more clear perspective about you.

[26:55] Bobbi: I think that’s common. Yeah, that happens a lot.

[26:59] Gina: It does.

[27:00] Bobbi: The other thing, Gina, as you’ve been talking about all of this, what keeps going through our mind is how important awareness is, because you have to be aware of the fact that you’re having negative emotions, that you are feeling the arousal, that you are in this anxiety. And I think a lot of people think, well, I don’t have a problem with anxiety because I don’t have, like, a disorder, and I think we might be misleading ourselves or deluding ourselves.

[27:33] Gina: No, you’re absolutely right. I think there are a lot of folks living their lives at a very hectic pace with a lot of stimulation and not taking time to pause and reflect. And so what happens is they come to therapy maybe because they’re having a lot of fights with their husband or their wife, right? So they’ll come to therapy, and then it’ll often be hard for them to schedule a therapy appointment because they’re so busy, they’re so booked. They’re booked, like, 12 hours a day. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. No time to pause and have that cup of tea in the backyard, right? No time to pause and go, how’s my body feeling? So what happens is there will be pain, a symptom, maybe I got to go to the doctor, my neck hurts, or I’m biting a lot with my kids and my husband, so I need to find out what’s wrong. And so you’re right. Then at that time, we start to talk. And when people have a moment to pause and just sort of examine, how does my body feel, what’s going on with me emotionally that we can find, that it’s just frazzle brain that they’re lashing out because they’re not getting enough rest. They’re lashing out because their lives are too busy to pause and reflect and just be and they’re just too busy being human, doings instead of human beings. And they are also too busy to even pause and reflect on how busy they are.

[29:26] Bobbi: That’s right.

[29:26] Gina: So I think you’re right. I mean, awareness, a lot of the exercises in Frazzle brain are about awareness. Becoming more aware of your own body, taking a moment. And they don’t take very long. I mean, you can do that on a 1 minute body scan where you just kind of close your eyes and say, how does my face feel? What am I noticing in face? What am I noticing in my shoulders and my neck, my chest and my gut? And on and on. And you just kind of scan your body. What am I noticing? And your body will tell you, oh, you haven’t been getting enough exercise. Or you’re sitting in a funny position and it’s it’s wearing on you. Yes, it’s wearing on you. So when we take time to notice, then we can make those small corrections feel better.

[30:18] Bobbi: It’s interesting. I was chuckling there because back in I think it was last December, I went to my dentist. I hate going to the dentist, even though my dentist is amazing.

[30:28] Gina: Does anybody like going to the dentist?

[30:30] Bobbi: My one sister does.

[30:32] Gina: She loves it.

[30:33] Bobbi: And thank God she does because she takes care of her teeth better than anyone, but she has really bad teeth, so she spends a lot of time there, but I’m afraid of it, whatever. And I’m there and he’s like, the crown that we just did, I had two that we’d done in the last couple of years and both like the seal or whatever they call it had popped or whatever, and he’s like, do you clench your teeth a lot? And I don’t clench my teeth at all. He’s like, well, we have to take care of these. And so I went home and the next couple of days, I was really noticing how many times throughout the course of the day by just taking that 30 seconds to just scan? Because I thought, well, I told them I don’t clench my teeth, but is that true? Because we wanted to find out what’s happening. Why didn’t the seal hold? I’m like, oh my God, I do clench my teeth. And then it’s like, oh, well, what was I doing? That led me to be it was like a big light bulb, but without that 32nd pause, I would never noticed it.

[31:38] Gina: You wouldn’t know it. Yeah. And I have an example in Frazzlebrain that’s similar, where I was preoccupied with I was leaving work, driving home from work and long day, I’m really preoccupied with a really challenging case. And all of a sudden I just feel this pain in my neck and shoulders and I’m like, what’s going on with me? And I notice that I’ve been gripping the wheel and I’m not paying attention to where I’m going because my mind is absent. I’m just automatically driving. And I’ve been just so I can just immediately, as soon as I’m aware of that, take deep breaths, loosen up my shoulders, loosen my grip on the wheel. I don’t need to hold for dear life. Yes, we do these unconscious movements in our body or unconscious flexing of our muscles based on our inner dialogue with ourselves. That’s the power also, of accessing some of these self soothing skills because your body will feel similarly.

[32:48] Bobbi: Yeah. And the science behind this is incredible. You’ve done a lot more research than I have, but part of my grad school degree. We looked at a lot of the research from Barbara Frederickson. The whole broadening.

[33:03] Gina: She’s amazing. She’s amazing. Brilliant.

[33:07] Bobbi: It brilliant stuff. But how tapping into the positive emotions, it really does open up our minds. Exactly. Could you just speak to a minute about what broaden and build means from the standpoint? Yes.

[33:21] Gina: It’s similar to that study that I mentioned about how when we are under the influence of negative emotions, frazzle brain stress, anxiety, our vision narrows. We literally see less. Right. When we feel even just mild joy or contentment, we see more. Our eyes scan more, we see more. So when we see more, we can notice more. Right. So we can notice that bird over there in the tree or we can notice the hop that flew by. We can notice what’s going on in our environment, and from there we can build. So the broadening build theory, and there’s a lot of evidence to support this theory is that positive emotions are built into our brain for a really important evolutionary purpose. Our negative emotions, we know, worry and fear are there to protect us. Right. They’re part of our survival instinct. That guy over there is scary. Let’s stay away from him. Or this is a treacherous path. So we understand that negative emotions are there to protect us. Right. That sort of makes logical sense.

[34:33] Bobbi: It does.

[34:34] Gina: We didn’t know until Barbara Frederickson and a lot of other researchers like her, we didn’t know how positive emotions serve an evolutionary effect and are helpful to our survival. So what they found is that positive emotions broaden our perspective, broaden our social network.

[34:58] Bobbi: Right.

[34:59] Gina: So if we’re enjoying people and we’re forming connections like love, attachment, friendship, connection, we are broadening our perspective. We’re learning more from other people. We have people we can draw on in an emergency. We’re cultivating a support system. Our options increase. When we have more positive emotions, our problem solving abilities increase. And so we can build more connections with others. We can build more problem solving tools because of the positive emotions. And again, it creates this sort of mental agility that helps us cope better with anything that we have to face in life. Because, again. The rigid thinking of the narrow minded thinking that happens when we feel worried or anxious or depressed or whatever. That narrow thinking distorts and closes us off from potential problem solving things. So that’s why we really do need to and I talk about this with parents all the time. Joy is a life saving thing. We want to encourage our children to feel joy. We want to give our children ample places to play, be happy, have fun. Because that is a life saving emotion. Because if you think of what the opposite of joy is, is depression, which is a life threatening mental illness.

[36:42] Bobbi: That’s right.

[36:46] Gina: We need to not be so focused on our kids doing well in school and making a good living and doing all the right things and avoid and neglect play, fun, socializing, outdoor activities because those are the things that are going to save their life when life gets hard.

[37:06] Bobbi: That’s right. It’s so funny you say that. When I was always well, through college, I maintained a 4.0 and through grad school, and I was always a good student, even in grade school and everything. And through high school, my mom had this amazing ability to when things were bothering me because I always put a lot of pressure on myself. I always have. She’d say I’d come home and she could just sense I was like tense or whatever. And she’d try to get me to talk, first of all. And a lot of times I couldn’t even name what was going on. And she’d say, you’re not going to school tomorrow. You’re skipping school tomorrow. And she said, you’re going to go out? I mean, she’s like, you’re going to go for a bike ride? You’re going to go fishing? You’re going to go for a horseback? Whatever it was. And you know what? I think those were the best. I needed that. And I know that probably people are cringing because it’s like, no, but you don’t get perfect attendance. But you know what? I got more out of it when I went back because I needed those days. And I wasn’t going to sit around the house. I had to go out and I had to play.

[38:17] Gina: What a great mom. She saw you. She could see how that need to just do everything perfectly. While that’s a superpower and it helped you, obviously academically wonderfully. You needed to be able to give yourself permission to play and not have to feel like you had to do everything perfectly. What a gift. What a gift to have a mom that saw you and really saw what you needed in that moment. And that’s a lot of what I work with, with parents who are having difficulties with their children. I’ll say take a mental health day. Take a mental health day. Your child is dying and stressed. When they’re in that much distress, they’re not going to learn a thing.

[39:01] Bobbi: No, you don’t.

[39:03] Gina: No, it doesn’t hurt your life to take a mental health day. It really does helps. It helps you learn better. You’re going to be more efficient when you go back and you’re learning. And you’re also sending your child the message that you met, not just your performance. I think a lot of parents inadvertently communicate the message to their children that your performance is more important than you are. Yeah, that’s hard and that hurts. That really hurts. Kids, they get this message that all you care about is the social status you’re going to have because you have this superstar student or all you care, but you don’t really care about me and how I feel. So a lot of times it’s wonderful when parents tell their children, look, I care about you more than your achievement and here’s how I’m going to show it to you. We’re going to go on a little trip. We’re going to have fun, we’re going to relax, we’re going to take a mental health.

[40:13] Bobbi: Yeah. I love that I care more about you. And so real quickly, because I know we’re running out of time, you said the thing about joy, how joy is life saving. What are some simple ways that people can bring more joy in to their life?

[40:28] Gina: I suggest that you every day makes stress reduction a part of your everyday routine. And it’s especially helpful to have something comforting and enjoyable that you get first thing in the morning or first thing when you wake up so that you’re giving to yourself. You start your day giving to yourself. So that would be things that you find nourishing, a good breakfast, a quiet moment where you get to play on a crossword puzzle, that you can sit outside and have your cup of coffee and take a few minutes to just pause and enjoy that moment that it’s not a race to the finish line. So I think experiences of awe and wonder are helpful. So sometimes you can have a mild experience of awe just watching a sunrise or a sunset. You can experience awe and wonder from watching. Nature is a great place where I experience it, but it can be watching something really excellent, listening to really uplifting music. But I suggest that people make stress, relieving, enjoyable activities a part of their daily life. And ideally starting the morning with that. A morning walk where you get morning sunlight most of the year and maybe some parts of the world you don’t. But even just getting outside for part of the day and listening to a really inspiring podcast like your podcast, take a walk, listen to a podcast if that’s what sparks a little joy in you.

[42:25] Bobbi: Yeah.

[42:25] Gina: And everyone’s different what sparks joy in them? For some people it might be being out in the wood shop and sanding some wood project that they’re working on or their hobby. So if you have hobby I play guitar, so I might take five minutes and play a song sparks a little joy. So find those things that soothe and comfort you. There’s no formula what you should do. And in fact, if you’re saying I should do this, it’s not the thing that’s sparking joy.

[42:58] Bobbi: That is a great.

[43:03] Gina: One to do.

[43:04] Bobbi: It doesn’t have to be long. Like even we’ll take our coffee on the deck when we hear in Arkansas because we back up to a wooded ravine and there are so many different birds and the bird song and you got the squirrels and the chipmunks and it’s like five minutes and it’s like because not everything is a race. I love that.

[43:23] Gina: And that’s a perfect way to spark a little joy. And you start your day sort of fueling yourself and that helps reduce the resentment that comes with browsal brain of feeling like I’m just do go all day and you’re not doing anything for.

[43:40] Bobbi: Yourself and that’s a huge problem. This has been amazing and I want to give you time to talk about where people can learn more. Yeah.

[43:48] Gina: And your book so you can go to It’s real simple, And you can sign up for my newsletter there. You can read more. I’ve got some articles there. I also blog for Psychology Today and my blog is called Frazzle Brain. And so you can check out some articles that are helpful. I write a lot of helpful articles based on science and new science research and sort of aim people in the direction of sparking more joy in their life. So I’d love to hear from people. Also, you can fill out the contact form and send me a message. I respond to everybody who writes to me. It may take me a little while, but I do. So I would love to hear what anybody feels about this podcast or if they have a question.

[44:46] Bobbi: Perfect. And I’ll put all those in the show notes. And thank you so much for your time and coming on and share because I think many people can relate to the frazzle brain.

[44:59] Gina: It’s part of our human repertoire of emotions. Thank you so much, Bobbi . It’s been a pleasure talking with you.

[45:08] Bobbi: Likewise. I hope that you had a lot of takeaways ideas and tools for how you can reduce frazzle brain and its effect on your life. Our brain is such a powerful tool and there is so much that we can do to intentionally use it to our best advantage and that’s what makes this area of science so exciting to me. I hope that you check out the book and Gina’s website. Thanks for tuning in. I appreciate your loyal listeners who support us. You are the reason that we are in the top 5% of podcasts. So thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope that you all have a terrific week and that you be well.

Subscribe to the Find
Your Forward Newsletter

Find Your Forward is my bi-weekly newsletter to move you forward when you are stuck, facing a crossroads, or adapting to a fast-changing world. No matter where you are, there is always a way forward.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.