Blog Episode #23: Pursuing Calm When You Feel Anxiety

Episode #23: Pursuing Calm When You Feel Anxiety

04/20/2022


🎶 Podcast Intro: Welcome to the pursuing uncomfortable podcast, where we give you the encouragement you need to lean into the uncomfortable stuff life puts in front of you, so you can love your life. If you are ready to overcome all the yuck that keeps you up at night, you're in the right place. I am your host, Melissa Ebken let's get going. 🎶

🎶 Episode Intro: Welcome back to the pursuing uncomfortable podcast. I'm your host, Melissa Ebken. In this podcast, we talk about leaning into all of the difficult and uncomfortable situations and experiences life brings our way, so that we can get them out of our lives and live the lives that really bring us joy and fulfillment. Today I have a special guest. Her name is Jenna Overbaugh, and she treats people who have high anxiety and anxiety disorders, and people with OCD and debilitating compulsions and obsessions. She's going to talk to us today about the value of leaning into those things, and how taking small steps consistently can lead to a changed life and a better, more fulfilled joy-filled life. So without further ado let's meet Jenna. 🎶

Episode

Melissa Ebken  0:04 
Jenna, I am so excited to talk to you today. How are you?

Jenna Overbaugh  0:09 
I'm doing really well. And I have I have chills right now. I'm really excited to get into this. Um, yeah, we talked previously, and we just had a really good conversation, this is going to be a great podcast. So I'm super excited. Thank you so much for having me.

Melissa Ebken  0:24 
Absolutely. And welcome to the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast, where we encourage people to lean into all of the difficult and uncomfortable stuff, so they can just kick it to the curb and get it out of their lives. So Jenna, this is what you specialize in,

Jenna Overbaugh  0:41 
my gosh.

Melissa Ebken  0:42 
This is what you do for a living?

Jenna Overbaugh  0:44 
So I am here to tell all of your audience members that you are basically shouting what it is that I do on a professional basis. Yeah, like you, you know what you're talking about. Um, and so not

Melissa Ebken  1:00 
I did not pay her to say that, by the way.

Jenna Overbaugh  1:02 
It's true. It's true. Um, so yeah, so I am a licensed professional counselor, I work with people who have OCD and anxiety and related conditions. I've been working with this population; Children, adolescents, adults and loved ones caregivers since 2008. So I can't do the math. But a long, long time, I pretty much always known that I wanted to work with those who have anxiety, those who have OCD, in particular, obsessive compulsive disorder. And so, um, you know, I'll start my story just really quickly by saying, and this relates to how I just absolutely fell in love with you was, I've always been an anxious kid, and I've always been an anxious person. Even in school, I'd be fearful of being called on, fearful of being the new kid in school, who am I going to sit with. But even from a super early age, I knew that I didn't like that feeling of anxiety winning. I didn't, it was almost a competition of sorts. And I was like, Okay, I'm leveling up. I'm going to go and I'm going to make sure that I raise my hand first, instead of being waited to be called on, I'm going to go and say hi to the most anxiety provoking person in the lunchroom. And I just knew, you know, early, early on, I'm talking like, elementary school, that things were easier if I just did them. Um, and of course, it's not always that simple, right? To just do it. But I knew that anything was better than letting anxiety win. That anything was better than sitting back with those "What if I would have done it differently" thoughts or regret or feeling bad about myself, or whatever. And so I went to college, and I learned in my Psych 101 course about exposure and response prevention, ERP. It is the gold standard treatment for OCD, anxiety and related conditions. So that just is a fancy way of saying that it's the most effective treatment for OCD anxiety. It's more effective than any other treatment for any other disorder. So as far as behavioral interventions go, ERP is where it's at essentially, an exposure and response prevention is everything, that it is that you're preaching it's, you know, it's exposure, which is, you know, we purposefully assigned in small and gradual, but challenging ways. You know, depending on what that person is fearful of, we will have them do exposures. We have them purposefully and intentionally, and, you know, hierarchically, systematically, push themselves outside of their comfort zone to approach these triggers, and face their fears, while also reducing or resisting those safety behaviors. Or, in OCD's case, the compulsions or rituals that they normally would feel the need to do before, during and after. And so when I learned about exposure and response prevention as an actual thing, I was like, I have to do this, I have to do this, this is in my bones. And so every paper, every assignment, every group project, I would say, we have to do it about exposure and response prevention, we have to do it about anxiety, we have to do it about fear. I've always been just fascinated by fear, and how it's not bad. It's, it's good. If we didn't have fear, if we didn't have anxiety, we would be in rough places. We would all be dead. We wouldn't have values. And so I've always been just very fascinated with this concept of anxiety and fear, and more importantly, you know, most relevant to our discussion together, you know, the importance and the necessity to push yourself and push yourself outside of your comfort zone. So when I saw, you know, part of my job is half the battle of my job is convincing people why it's important to do hard things. I mean, I even have a podcast called "All The Hard Things," because I run into this so often where people I work with who are debilitated by their anxiety. They can't go to work. They can't go to school. They can't have have the values that they want, because of their mental health conditions, and they don't understand. They really don't get it. Like, why would I do something that's hard if I have a choice to do it the easier way? And I, that topic evokes so much in me that I have so much to say. But I also don't even know where to start. So I decided I'd start my own podcast. And I would try to find other people who valued that same thing. And I would try to talk it out and try to hopefully encourage people to do the hard stuff. So that is all a long winded way of saying that everything it is that you're talking about and that you stand for actually has a behavioral basis. It actually is the gold standard treatment for OCD and anxiety. So you're kind of on to something.

Melissa Ebken  5:48 
That's good to hear. So Jenna, you had a lot of different terms in there that we throw around pretty pretty loosely in day to day conversation, things like anxiety, clinical OCD, compulsions. Can we unpack those a little bit so that we can be sure that, you know, I want to be using those words the same way you're using them. And when you use them, I want to ensure that I'm understanding precisely what you mean. So let's start with anxiety.

Jenna Overbaugh  6:18 
Awesome, so anxiety, it's a loaded term, right. But we all have anxiety, it's that fear, it's maybe synonymous with worry, potentially. It's that feeling of discomfort, and that signal in our bodies or in our brains that, whoa, this needs more attention, like tune into this, this might be dangerous, this might be important. And to really respect anxiety, you have to understand and really appreciate all the nuances of our brains, right? So, you know, anxiety serves us, even from an evolutionary perspective, you know, we are wired to search for fear. We have a little almond size piece in our brain called the amygdala, and its function is to, you know, tell us whether there's anything threatening going around, and we are constantly whether we're conscious of it or not, we are constantly scanning for threat. And good thing, because if we didn't, we wouldn't look twice, you know, before we cross the street, and we might die. Good thing, we are constantly scanning for threats, because we wouldn't prepare before that really important job interview that we really care about. We wouldn't, you know, study hard for that test, that's really important to us. So anxiety is a good thing. It's evolutionarily beneficial, and it's not going anywhere. We hope that it doesn't go anywhere, because we need it. It tells us what's dangerous, potentially. And it also tells us what we need to focus our attention on what what matters to us. And so

Melissa Ebken  7:50 
The amygdala creates a response in us that might give us a gut feeling when we walk in somewhere.

Jenna Overbaugh  7:57 
Yep, absolutely.

Melissa Ebken  7:59 
Does it ignite the fight or flight reflex response in our brains?

Jenna Overbaugh  8:04 
yep. And so you know, that fight or flight, there's also freeze, which we're, you know, talking more about, so fight, flight, or freeze. These are various different physiological responses that, again, are very hardwired, we are meant to survive, right. So that's the one thing that our brain is, is, at the end of the day meant for it is meant to keep us alive. It doesn't really care that much that we are healthy. It doesn't really care that we are happy. It doesn't really care that we meditated that day. It cares whether we are able to survive another day. Um, and so yeah, with the amygdala and different brain mechanisms, you know, it's constantly scanning for threat, and interprets that threat. And it sends off certain signals for our body to elicit a fight, flight or freeze reaction. That fight reaction is going to be things like, you know, that adrenaline pumping, like you're getting ready to like fight a bear, essentially. You could also have the flight reaction where you want to get the heck out of there, because you want to avoid that bear at all costs. You could also have the freeze reaction, kind of like a mouse or even a dog or a cat; if they hear a weird sound, they'll just kind of freeze a deer even right, like they kind of freeze so that they can just interpret things that are going on around them. These are very hardwired responses. And so big picture is that anxiety is not bad, it's coming. It's part of us so that we can survive.

Melissa Ebken  9:36 
So when does excite anxiety become something to be anxious about or to worry about or need to pay attention to?

Jenna Overbaugh  9:44 
There's something really fascinating called the Yerkes-Dodson Curve. Anyone can look it up to get a really good visual. So it's called the Yerkes-Dodson Curve, Y e r k e s-Dodson. And essentially, it's just like a bell curve. But on one end of the spectrum, it'll have performance. And on the other end of the spectrum, it'll have anxiety or pressure or stress kind of all synonymous with each other. What we see is at really low levels of anxiety and dist and stress, and, you know, pressure, we have low performance. Which makes sense, you know, if we were anxious about an exam, then we wouldn't study for it. We wouldn't care. I always give the example of I was in a woodworking class in high school. I think it was like an eighth of my GPA, and I had a 4.0. I don't even think I ever went to that class. I most definitely failed that class. I didn't care about it. I had no stress and anxiety about wood working class that I essentially had very poor performance in that area. Now, I'm sure people can also relate to the other end of the spectrum where they have really, really high anxiety. Where they have really, really, really, really high stress or high pressure. Also, you're gonna have low performance in that area, too. So similarly, I was really, really anxious about a statistics exam in grad school, I put that sucker off until the day before, because I was so anxious about it, I was so stressed about it. I put so much pressure on myself to do well, that I ended up again, not having the great performance because I was putting it off. I was putting it off. I was scared. So the Yerkes-Dodson Curve says, anxiety helps us but only to a certain point, and then it starts to have a detrimental effect when it starts to be too high. So we want to try to stay in that moderate range of anxiety where we aren't super high pressure. We can still kind of rein it in. So to answer your question, we start to see it become problematic when it's too high. Where it's, it's leading to less or impaired performance. And it doesn't have to be performance on an exam or on a podcast or whatever. It can be performance with, um, you know, relationships, you know. If you're so highly anxious about a relationship, that you're putting so much stress and so much pressure on a relationship, your performance in that relationship is also probably going to suffer because you're asking a ton of reassurance or you're not being yourself, so on and so forth. So other clinical indicators that, you know, anxiety would be potentially problematic would be, we always look for distress and impairment. So that's going to be a big theme here, and distress and impairment. Distress just simply means, how much distress are these set of symptoms causing you? Is it really, you know, bothering you and upsetting you and causing you to stress how anxious you feel all the time? If that's the case, then it's potentially problematic. And then impairment, so how much is the anxiety causing actual impairments in your everyday life?

Melissa Ebken  12:48 
In my years, as a pastor, I've noticed that people who live in a household or in an environment where there is a substance abuse, if they live with an alcoholic or a drug abuser, then that level of chronic anxiety is very high, and they can't handle too much other stress. They're not as resilient in the face of other stressors as other folks who don't have that constant anxiety in their lives all the time.

Jenna Overbaugh  13:19 
So yeah, everyone's different, everyone's tolerance for it is different. Um, you know, that could certainly come down to the presence of, you know, other diagnoses going on, emotional stability, kind of, in general, social support, so many other things could certainly impact that. But, um, yeah, for the, for the most part, we all have it, we all have that anxiety, and it waxes and wanes with our life experiences, whatever stressors we have going on at the time, but really, when it becomes something of concern would be when it causes a significant amount of distress and impairment in your everyday life.

Melissa Ebken  13:54 
Now, you also mentioned OCD, and I hear a lot of people throw that around quite a bit. Oh, I have OCD. I don't like the picture crookedness. There's a difference between liking things neat, and having clinical OCD, I'm sure. Talk a little bit about that.

Jenna Overbaugh  14:11 
Absolutely. So obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD. You do hear about these typical manifestations, right of, you know, of people wanting things clean, or people being fearful of germs. And while that does happen, it's a drop in the bucket of how else OCD can manifest. What we're seeing and what people are talking about are only the superficial manifestations that are easy to talk about that are maybe a little bit more socially acceptable to talk about. And so I feel like that's where the misrepresentation comes from is well those are maybe two of the hundreds of other ways that OCD can come up that are maybe even a little bit socially okay to talk about and not super embarrassing and super, you know, anxiety provoking to discuss right so. You know, OCD is always going to be ego dystonic. That's a fancy way of saying "We don't like it." So by nature, if someone likes to wash their hands, and they're just, you know, they categorize themselves as a neat person, and they value that and that's part of their identity, that by nature is not OCD, because OCD is inherently meaning that it's discrepant with what it is that they want to be doing with their life. They don't want to be doing these things. It's disruptive. It's debilitating. OCD is actually one of the most, according to the World Health Organization, one of the top 10 most disabling and debilitating conditions in the world, when it's left untreated. And so, you know, I think we'll get into it. But there are so many other ways that OCD can manifest. There's harm intrusive thoughts. There sexual intrusive thoughts. It can really latch on to anything, but it's it's going to comprise of obsessions, which are these intrusive thoughts that are just very sticky. These thoughts that just keep coming back and won't seem to go away. You know, these thoughts, again, I don't want to be having these thoughts. I don't want to have these images, but I just can't get rid of them. I don't want to have them. They feel wrong, but I can't get rid of these experiences. Feel very scary. And they are so scary. They cause so much anxiety that the person feels the need to do compulsions around it. So a compulsion would be like a safety behavior, an escape behavior, anything to distance themselves from that anxiety or to get rid of it. So classic example is, you know, fearfulness of contamination, someone doesn't want to get sick or get other people sick. So you know, after touching something dirty, they go, and they wash their hands. The obsession would be the, I'm going to get sick, or I'm going to potentially get other people sick. The compulsion would be to go and wash their hands. And while the compulsion, the obsessions can be anything, that compulsions can be anything, it's more about the functions that they serve. The compulsion only works for a little bit of time. So that handwash, for instance, may work really quickly and really temporarily in that moment, but it just reinforces to your brain later on, you couldn't have coped with that. That must have been dangerous. I'm I'm glad that you washed your hands next time, I'm going to remind you to wash your hands even more, because that must have been important. So things snowball really quickly out of control. Lots of overlap with just generalized anxiety disorder as well. But that's where ERP comes in. And that's why ERP is the most effective treatment for OCD and anxiety and related conditions.

Melissa Ebken  17:34 
So I'm going to guess that by and large, most of us live somewhere on the non clinical side of that. That a lot of people who have some anxiety throughout the day, or do have some fears, "I don't want to get up and speak in front of a crowd" "I don't want to sing in front of people" "I don't want to be up high" "I don't like heights" or "I don't like tight spaces," A lot of those probably aren't clinical conditions. But how do we lean into those? How do we address them and get them out of our lives? Where do we begin?

Jenna Overbaugh  18:09 
So exposure and response prevention. As we're talking about it, I think people tend to feel like, oh, it's prescribed for OCD, oh, it's prescribed for social anxiety disorder. When we step back, and we look at the big picture of what ERP actually is, it's actually about reducing avoidance, which we all can probably benefit from reducing. We all avoid things due to fear in a way that you know, we really want that thing, we really buy that thing, we would love to be able to do that. But it just feels so scary. And so I'm not going to do it. You know, we can all benefit from reducing avoidance, more than likely. It's pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone, which again, whether you have clinical anxiety, or clinical OCD or not, we can all benefit from that. We can all grow by doing things outside of our comfort zone. If it weren't for that pesky anxiety, overwheighing us right? Or that that doubt that weighs us down. And so I want to move away from people thinking that ERP is just this behavioral intervention. And I it can only be helpful in clinical OCD or anxiety cases. If we think about what it actually is, in the grand scheme of things, if we zoom out, it's a behavioral intervention, that again, can be used for anybody. And the spirit of it is accepting unpleasant emotions, pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone, reducing avoidance and putting ourselves in a situation that is uncomfortable because we know it's good for us. Right, like the willingness to do what's difficult in the short term for the long term benefit. So these exposures that we do, in session with people in the short term, they're awful, right? They feel bad. It feels bad. If you're fearful of contamination to go and touch a dirty floor. It feels bad. It's hard. It's even harder because I'm telling you that you can't wash your hands after. And you may even have to go and eat a snack after with your hands. Right? That's hard. But they're doing it for the long term benefit, because they don't want to live this way anymore. They don't want fear to dictate their life. They don't want, you know, they want to be guiding the ship of their life, they don't want to fear to be the one in the pilot seat. So I think everyone can benefit from the skills. Even if you don't have an ERP therapist. Even if you don't have clinical OCD, or anxiety. This is good stuff. I mean, and everything that is that you're talking about. Like I said, there's evidence to back it up. There's literature to back it up. That the best way to overcome our fears, in whatever form. This also works for specific phobias. So also works for social anxiety. Works for generalized anxiety disorder. Panic disorder. So yeah, the best way to overcome your fear, according to the literature, according to the science and the research, is to gradually face your fears. Put yourself in these increasingly uncomfortable situations. And let yourself learn through experience, not just challenging your thoughts and telling yourself good thoughts or, you know, trying to logic your way out of the thoughts. You have to give your brain new experiences, to let yourself learn that you can handle it. But you're never going to learn that you can handle it if you don't put yourself outside of that comfort zone. So there's so many parallels, like from my scientific world, and your, you know, just, you know, heartfelt passion for it. I had to come on and talk about it a little bit more.

Melissa Ebken  21:34 
And I could talk to you about this all day long. I'm just fascinated and riveted by this whole process. I have something in my life, and it is not debilitating, my life would go on just fine. And I would be thrilled, fulfilled, happy, all of those things. But I do have a little monkey on my back, that I'm working to get rid of. And that's singing in front of people. And people tell me all the time, it's ridiculous. I sing in front of people all the time at church. Well, I do but everybody else is singing too, or pretending to sing or moving their mouths or something. It's just not the same. It's not that I'm the one performing for other people. And the thought of that just makes me break out into a cold sweat. And actually, on Sunday mornings when I am singing in front of people, it's still so much anxiety. And it goes back to when I was in high school. I had an authority figure, a music teacher, tell me "don't ever sing in front of people." And that tape has been in my brain ever since then. So every time I'm singing, I'm listening to other people's voices to make sure mine is okay, or I'm not violating anything, and it just seems bigger than it should be in my life. It is bigger than it should be in my life. And I'm taking voice lessons to try to overcome that. Because you know, I can't tell people to lean into the stuff that gives them problems and not do it myself. So you know, here I am leaning into this thing. And at some point, I'm going to sing a solo in church or in front of everyone. And the thought of it gives me less anxiety now than it did before. But I know that once I can just embrace this thing and get through it, life is going to be a little easier. And again, this isn't a big debilitating thing. I get that. I can wake up and live my life just fine with or without this, but it is going to be better without it.

Jenna Overbaugh  23:37 
But it interferes with your values. Right? So

Melissa Ebken  23:40 
it does

Jenna Overbaugh  23:41 
If it. Who cares if it's not clinical, right? You know, if it's interfering with your values, and if fear is taking away something from you, or making you play small in a way that you don't like, these can all be super, super helpful. Right? So, um, you know, even in your situation, I think this is really helpful. You know, I want people to have an example of like a real life example, someone who doesn't experience clinical anxiety or clinical OCD, but has some room to maybe like, let fear take the backseat, right? Like get out of the seat like this is my value, this is my territory, and how it can still apply. So, you know, I'm not surprised that you have this loop, this tape, like just kind of replaying right, like, "don't ever sing in front of anyone" "don't ever sing in front of anyone." Um, and what you said, which was really interesting was "I'm constantly checking other people's voices to make sure that mine is okay." Or you said something like that. We would call that a ritual, we would call that almost like a safety behavior or an escape behavior. The function of that is exactly what you said, which is "to make sure mine is okay." Mm hmm. And so you're not maybe conscious of this, just as you know, it's such a fleeting experience. But every time you do that, or anytime anyone else engages in a really subtle or really overt, you know, safety behavior of their own for their own situation, their brain it reinforces that for next time, like, oh, good thing you checked your voice that time because otherwise it would have been really bad. That would have been the time that you got made fun of. That would have been it. So next time, we really got to make sure that you check other people, you check other people to make sure that your voice is okay. And so what an exposure might look like, is okay. You know, next time I go to sing with other people, I'm not going to check other people's voices, I don't know what that would look like practically, right? Maybe you I don't know have headphones on or you just like, don't you sing with fewer people. You like sing in front of everyone instead of maybe at the back or around people, but that would be like an exposure. Might also be an exposure, it is an exposure for you obviously to do the voice lessons Rock on, that's incredible. Um, but you know, might even be an exposure to write down that sticky thought of "don't ever sing" "don't ever sing in front of anyone" "don't ever sing in front of anyone" "don't ever say in front of anyone." Sometimes when we force these sticky thoughts, and we lean into it, like you're saying we really egg it on and say I eat anxiety for breakfast. Bring it. Like you want to give me one serving of that bring me two. Sometimes when we lean into it, we kind of habituate to it a little bit, we learned that it's not that bad. So it might even be an exposure for someone in your situation to write out, "don't ever sing in front of anyone" "don't ever sing in front of anyone ever again" "don't ever sing in front of anyone ever again" "don't ever sing in front of anyone ever again." And it just becomes kind of like word soup. Like it loses its flair. It loses its threateningness because it's so persistent. Because it's so it's like when you love a song. And you love it. And it's really important every time that you hear it, but then you listen to it like 80,000 times and you just get used to it. You just don't really care for it anymore; it loses its luster. That's the same thing. So, you know, that is just an example of how like, we could take this really awesome, real life situation that anyone on the street could be struggling with. And we can identify, yep, there, that's how I would do that exposure. And that's maybe a ritual that's kind of perpetuating this. So we all struggle with it. We all struggle with these things.

Melissa Ebken  27:16 
Many of the listeners will know Miss B, my vocal coach. And one of the things she has me doing is singing rounds with her. And if you've ever sang a round, it's just a simple little melody that has a certain meter to it that lasts, you know, just a minute or so. And then there'll be three that have the same meter that lasts the same time. But the notes are different. They're related somehow, I don't know all of the technical stuff, but you sing them at everybody is singing them at the same time. So when you sing it around, you can't listen to somebody else, or you won't be able to do your own. So I know why she's doing that exercise. And it makes total sense. And it's hard. It's definitely an opposite behavior of what I've done in the past. I've had, I have to depend on my own acumen in paint, shut out everyone else in order to do that. And then another interesting thing. I was doing a wedding for a church member a few years ago, and it was at a different venue. And they were having some hymns during their service. So I get to this venue and I'm meeting with the audio people. I was gonna say audio visual, there probably was visual too. But I was meeting with the audio person about the microphones and all this and she was going through all the hymns and everything. And she said, yeah, the mother of the bride. She said, don't worry about it, that there's, you know, this person is really a great singer, they are going to be able to lead the congregation. There's not going to be a problem. And in my mind, I'm thinking, "Oh, wow, we've got a song leader here. This is going to be great." It didn't even dawn on me that she was talking about me. That that was her experience of me. And then it came to a point where I realized this and I said, "Oh, no. We don't have that person. You just have me." And she said, um yeah. And I realized then that okay. Maybe there's another perspective, even if I'm not willing to acknowledge it just yet.

Jenna Overbaugh  29:36 
Mm hmm. Isn't wild what anxiety can I mean? When we're dealing with a perceived threat, which our brain doesn't know the difference? Our brain doesn't know when we're in fight or flight mode like that. It really doesn't know the difference between a legitimate threat and a perceived threat. So your brain is reacting that same way as it would if there was a bear, there, right? You know, it might have been? Yes,

Melissa Ebken  30:05 
yeah, my heart was beating fast, I could feel the blood rushing to my arms and legs, you know. So yeah, I could run out of there and not have to do that.

Jenna Overbaugh  30:15 
And you could have that could have, that was a choice, right? We all have agency. We all have the choice when we're met with fear, and really scary situations. You you could have run away. But you didn't, I'm assuming? No, and that was probably really challenging. That was probably really challenging. You resisted all of your inner instincts, which was to flee, which was to, you know, flight, in the name of doing something that was scary, because it was what you wanted to do, it was something that you valued. I'm dealing with something similarly. I have to fly to Orlando tomorrow, to give a huge presentation on something that I am, I have mad imposter syndrome about. That I have lots of doubts about. That I don't really know what the heck I'm talking about. And everything in me is like "you got to get out of this." "Maybe you can feign sickness", "maybe you can say that you have COVID," "you gotta like make sure that you miss your flight." Because I want to get out of this so bad. But like, that's not even an option. That's not an option. Because I value my work. And I know that it's good for me to do this. It's good for me for anxiety's sake, and for my own mental health's sake, to do challenging things. And I'm not willing to have the alternative where I run away, and I miss this opportunity. And then I regret that. And then I guess what I'm going to feel, if I do, you know, call out of this presentation, the next presentation is going to be that much scarier. Because now I've told my brain that this is scary, and that you can't handle it. And I'm not signing myself up for that. I'm not gonna sign myself up for things to be even harder next time. So I'm so glad that you did that. It's such a great example of how like, in the face of something difficult, if your values are really calling you to it, you need to stick it out, you need to keep going, you need to be courageous. You know, it's okay to do things when you're scared, the definition of courage is doing things because it's scary. Because you know that it's good for you.

Melissa Ebken  32:13 
So, how do we encourage people to make that leap? How do you encourage someone who says, "right here is comfortable? Over there is uncomfortable? Uncomfortable right here? Why would I go over there?"

Jenna Overbaugh  32:30 
Yeah, a couple things come to mind. Um, you know, it's not always one or the other, it's not always "stay exactly where you are, or go over to this really, really scary awful place," maybe there's small inches, maybe there's one small right action that you can take, that will take you just a little bit outside of your comfort zone. I don't need you to, you know, you know, if you're fearful of bees, I don't need you to go and like start, you know, farming bees in your backyard without any protective equipment, like, I don't need you to do that. But maybe you can start by, you know, sitting outside on your porch, you know, without desperately seeking out whether there are bees all around you, right? Um, you know, if you're fearful of, um, I don't know, if you're fearful of dogs, right? If you're fearful of dogs, that doesn't mean that you have to go and like, be all cuddly with a dog and you know, pet a dog that's really potentially aggressive, or whatever. But maybe you just go for a walk, and you don't go on the opposite side of the sidewalk when a dog passes you. So there are small changes that you can make. It doesn't have to always be like, I stay here at my status quo, or I do this 10 out of 10 level of anxiety exposure. Um finding things that are challenging, but manageable. So asking yourself, you know, what are the small inches that I can take beyond my comfort zone, I think is also really important. And I would also challenge people to reconsider, right? Like, is it comfortable there? Right like there, if you're comfortable there, and that works for you. That's great. But chances are, it's not working for you. Otherwise, you probably wouldn't be listening to this podcast, you wouldn't be seeking out information about how to push yourself. So I would reconsider ways that this is not comfortable, right? There are costs and benefits associated with every type of situation. So some of the even when people come to us, some of the beginning work that we do is we have them do a cost benefit analysis of what are the costs associated with getting better? What are the costs associated with staying the same? And likewise, what are the pros of getting better? What are the pros of staying the same? And so I think some careful reflection and like thorough thoughtfulness about you know, what are the pros and cons of status quo, staying where I am versus challenging myself, and also identifying and getting real about the inconveniences that anxiety causes you in relationships in your sleep and your day to day functioning. Um, you know, there are ways to push yourself just gradually beyond your comfort zone. If the if the costs outweigh the benefits.

Melissa Ebken  35:19 
And it sounds like having someone to support you, as you do that work is a real difference maker, I would imagine having you in my corner, as I set out to do something would be a tremendous benefit.

Jenna Overbaugh  35:32 
Oh my gosh, yeah. Well, I, as you can imagine, I get pretty into it. So yes, having a little a little cheerleader, as a therapist, or just as a supportive network can be super helpful. Um, you know, I think it's also important. Someone asked me the other day, if I could have anything on a billboard, what would it say? And I always say like, "do it for your tomorrow self, do it for your three year from now self." So me pushing through my anxiety with my presentation. It really has nothing to do with right now. It has everything to do with God, I don't want to be even more anxious about this the next time I'm asked to do it. I'm always kind of cheering my future self on. I'm a big proponent of challenging yourself now. So that your future self can benefit. Because your brain is constantly picking up that threat that I said, right. So your brain is constantly making new memories. So if I challenge myself now, to go and do this really scary presentation, my brain is going to have that as a memory, that Jenna went to this presentation that regardless of how it went, that Jenna went and she challenged herself and she went so therefore doing scary things, doing presentations, must not be that bad. Because Jenna, the world is still spinning more than likely done and made it, you know, so on and so forth. And I want that Jenna. I want that Jenna who's just a little bit less anxious about those things. And so do it for your tomorrow self. It's it's uh, you know, anxiety is very much based on short term gratification, you know, I want to leave right now, because it's really scary. Um, and this, turning the table on, on OCD, anxiety or whatever, it's all about that long term benefit. So really, just keeping in mind that long term self, I think is really helpful.

Melissa Ebken  37:23 
Thank you for that. That's really encouraging. And you have some resources that can help folks that are listening. Tell us about nocd.com, and the app that you have about Treat My OCD that can help us with some of these things, even if we don't have a clinical diagnosis of OCD, how these things might help us in the day to day.

Jenna Overbaugh  37:46 
Absolutely. And I am a big nerd for the fact that at the end of the day, OCD is not all that functionally different from anxiety or from Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Obviously, these things exist on a spectrum. So there is a level of severity that we have to take into consideration. But what I'm saying is that even if you don't have anxiety, even if you don't have clinical OCD, but kind of diggin what we're talking about, and you want to learn more about it, you want more support to challenge yourself, we have a free app. There's not a seven day subscription. I use the app all the time for myself for my own anxiety. Um, it basically walks you through, like how to create your own little hierarchy of exposures. So you know, you know, if someone was fearful of I don't know, if we are talking about harm OCD, and they're fearful of knives, for instance, I know, we didn't go super far into examples of OCD here. But you know, if someone's fearful of knives, because they're afraid that they may accidentally harm themselves or harm someone else, I might have them hold on to a butter knife first and then hold on to a sharp like fruit cutting knife, and then maybe work their way up into a sharper and sharper knife. So that is all to say, you know, we do things in a hierarchical fashion, we start really small, and then we get bigger, the app will teach you all of that. The app will also teach you how to identify rituals that you might be doing even the sneaky ones, like checking in with other people's voices to make sure that your voice sounds okay. It'll teach you you know, identifying triggers probably going to see your voice coach is a trigger. It's a it's a good way of identifying potential sources of exposure work. Um, and yeah, tons of free resources. We have lots of webinars, if you want to hear. I'm often on them. I love talking about this stuff, obviously. So I'm on a lot of their webinars. And we also have a free in-app community. If you feel like some of the stuff is resonating with you, and you just you know, you feel all alone and you kind of just want to have some more support. We have an in-app community therapists I'm really good at trying to go in there and just give people encouragement and support. Its a really great place. Even if you're not into therapy, you know, even if that's not what's right for you at this moment, we obviously do that as well. But you know, I would just love for people to have an app that they can go to to use. There's an SOS function, which I always forget to talk about, which is like my favorite function. So SOS is really like when you're struggling when you're really peak panic, and you're freaking out, and you don't know what to do, you can just go to this SOS library, and it's our it's Dr. Patrick McGrath, who is our Chief Clinical Officer. He is one of the most world renowned professionals when it comes to OCD and anxiety. And he literally will sit you down and like talk to you through this little guided audio of kind of how to handle your anxiety in the moment. And I think that's just great. Everyone should have this in their back pocket. So you can download that that's treat my OCD. Um on the App Store we're at www.treatmyOCD.com. And I'm over on Instagram, Jenna.Overbaugh if you want to learn a little bit more about that, too, so. So yeah, that's kind of

Melissa Ebken  40:56 
All of these things are going to be in the show notes as well. So check out the description. And the www.nocd.com The website is there, Treat My OCD, the the app is there, and all the links will be there. How to connect with Jenna will be there on Instagram. So check out the show notes and get all of the links that you need. Jenna, what would you like to leave us with today, as we conclude this episode,

Jenna Overbaugh  41:25 
I would like to leave you with really small and consistent actions can lead to significant results. So I read this in the book called Atomic Habits. But that how, you know, small, consistent changes over time can lead to really significant and long lasting changes. So I think the example that he gave was, you know, if an airplane was like a centimeter off course, and it was started in California, and it was supposed to be end up in Maine, but it was just a centimeter off course, it would eventually end up like in Antarctica or Florida or something like that. So, you know, don't get discouraged by the fact that, oh, it's just a centimeter Right? Or, Oh, I was only able to do this much today, you know. If you can sustain that. And you can make that a part of your lifestyle. And you can make these skills part of your lifestyle That you are going to commit to reducing avoidance. That you're going to commit to, every once in a while putting yourself in fear's, a path and and doing the thing that you want to. That every once in a while you're going to do what you did, which is "I want to run and I'm not running, I'm not running, I'm not doing it." It will lead you to really wonderful and miraculous changes over time. So small changes are 100% where it's at.

Melissa Ebken  42:49 
Thank you so much. So there you go friends from a professional, lean into it. And overcome it

Jenna Overbaugh  42:55 
And that is actually I'll leave you with two things. So that's actually one of our therapeutic tactics. So like I said, we encourage people to lean into it. So you know, you you want to make me feel dirty today, OCD, bring it on, bring it on, make me feel dirty from head to toe. So we encourage people to lean into that fear. We have people even sometimes agree with their OCD thoughts like yep, that could happen. Yep, that totally could happen. Bring it on. And so you know, you're you're just so onto something. And if you ever want to be an ERP therapist one day, I think you have everything it already takes.

Melissa Ebken  43:34 
Oh, I'll keep that in mind. All right. Thank you Jenna.

🎶 Episode OutroThank you so much for tuning into today's episode. If this encouraged you, please consider subscribing to our show and leaving a rating and review so we can encourage even more people just like yourself. We drop a new episode every Wednesday so I hope you continue to drop in and be encouraged to lean into and overcome all the uncomfortable stuff life brings your way. 🎶


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Hello Friends!

Hi, my name is Melissa Ebken, and I'm so glad you found your way here. 

I am at home in the difficult spaces of peoples’ lives, willing to listen and to support those who work to grow themselves. I am a trained coach and have consulted with churches in conflict. Not your stereotypical minister, I embrace the Gospel with joy and laughter as I seek to help those around me grow in faith and understanding, always striving to leave people better than they came. An agent of wholeness, I create a safe space for people, especially those who have been marginalized, where they can understand how ridiculously loved and valued they are by God/Higher Power/Spirit, and to experience the difference that makes in life. 

I started the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast to share the stories of people who have faced life's most difficult challenges, to inspire you to lean into and overcome your own. It's helpful to know that you're not alone in your struggles and to see how others have navigated similar circumstances. You can listen to it here.
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