What is it about thoughts, anyway? I mean, they can be so productive, so good. But they can be demons that take us to the very gates of insanity (so we think). Out of nowhere, a Chipur friend delivered wisdom…
One of the things I’ve had to come to terms with recently is that it’s all uncertain. I don’t know what the next minute, hour, day, week, or month will bring. But I can’t let that handicap me; I can’t believe that I’m unable to deal with the future.
So, let’s get right to it. By the way, if you lean toward germ/chemophobia, this’ll be right up your alley.
…My former college roommate, Kevin, recently posted something on Facebook to which I felt compelled to reply. I’m working my CBT, that’s for sure!
Here’s Kevin’s post…
…My most recent freak-out concerned indoor air quality. Are there fire retardants in the couch stuffing? What about that stain-blocker they applied to the upholstery? Should the mattress be organic? Should I buy 3 air purifiers, or are they just expensive fans?
Link below to a not-terribly-scientific article, but I was struck by: ‘For all their high-tech wizardry (some claim to be able to eliminate particles 0.3 microns in size and smaller), air purifiers occupy the same category as faith-based wellness products like nutritional supplements.’
Well, Ben rolled-up his sleeves and got to work. His reply was so comprehensive I had to cut here and there, but you’ll get the drift. Take it, Ben…
Ah, yes: the dreaded “indoor air quality” anxiety. I know it well. In fact, a bout with the exact same anxiety was what directed me back into counseling.
As you have no doubt discovered, going down the internet black hole on this topic is strongly ill advised. Every so often, you’ll find a piece of truth and breathe a sigh of relief, but you’ll be back on Dr. Google a few moments later because you’re convinced that if you would just be able to find that one last piece of information, you’d be well-informed enough to make a decision.
It’s a perfect example of confirmation bias: you were completely oblivious to indoor air quality until you read something about it. But now that you know it’s a thing about which to be concerned, you’re worried – terrified – that you’re not doing enough because that’s what educated people do. And you want to gain as much information as possible to support your new hypothesis – your house is trying to kill you.
Here’s my advice…
- You don’t need an indoor air purifier because your body really and truly wants to help you. You know what does a great job cleansing your body? Your liver. It’s magic, really.
- Remember that the dose makes the poison. If you get some bleach on your index finger, forget to wash it off, and then put your finger near your mouth, you will not die. If you drink a gallon of bleach, that will probably leave a mark. This is my issue with groups like the Environmental Working Group and their ridiculous “sunscreens will kill you” nonsense. It relies on fear and chemophobia to trick people into thinking they’re in danger when, really, they aren’t.
- One of the biggest issues with anxiety is once those emotions hijack your brain, it’s not only impossible to think logically, but also to assess risk. When you’re in full “fight-or-flight” mode, it becomes equally likely (1:1) that, for example, that mild discomfort in your chest is a heart attack as it is that it’s gas. In fact, if you were to go visit a doctor at that exact moment, she would put that gas-to-heart-attack risk at, oh, 1:1,000,000 because she is being logical and thinking clearly – because she’s not terrified that she’s going to die.
- One of the things I’ve had to come to terms with recently is that it’s all uncertain. I don’t know what the next minute, hour, day, week, or month will bring. But I can’t let that handicap me; I can’t believe that I’m unable to deal with the future. The truth is that I’ve gone through some crazy stuff – major moves, the death of my father, job changes, health concerns, family struggles. But I’ve gotten through them (shouting again) JUST FINE. My advice to my students is always this: if you can gain some perspective and pull back a bit, you’ll realize that you have the inner strength, resolve, and resources to deal with anything life throws at you because you have done so before.
- Finally, if you feel the need to go down the Google rabbit hole in situations like this, DON’T. This kind of behavior is called “checking,” and it’s a symptom that those of us who suffer from anxiety and/or OCD believe will help, not harm, us. But here’s the problem: has checking ever made you feel better? No. Has checking ever resulted in something positive happening? No. It is so shockingly difficult to resist the urge to check, but if you can do so a few times you’ll start to see that the link you thought was there between checking and reassurance doesn’t exist. The biggest thing-issue that I overcame (or overcame 95%, at least) was my constant need to check, and it’s changed my life.
Now It’s My Turn
So I guess this is where I’m supposed to chime-in with my two cents worth of insight. But, nah – I think Ben said it all. Just never underestimate the power – good and nasty – of thoughts. And always remember, we have the authority and power to manage them.
Thanks, Ben! Yeah, those Chipur friends. Oh, wanna’ meet him? Here ya’ go.
Hey, how ’bout some Chipur titles that’ll come in handy?
“My God, I can’t be thinking these things!” Relax, they’re intrusive thoughts
Stop Depression and Anxiety | 15 Styles of Distorted Thinking
Wanna’ get better? I’ll teach you! Cognitive restructuring
Why thank you for sharing so well, Ben. I am with you in this particular struggle; there are times when my quest for “just a little more information” so I can create my Ten Step Action Plan, can consume my life. Now it does not matter that nobody can successfully implement a Ten Step Action Plan, or that all I am doing is feeding my perfection/failure monster, it is just a variation on the theme of your “checking” compulsion.
Along the way I’ve learned that there really will never be “enough” because I can’t fill this particular void with knowledge because that isn’t what this is about. In truth this is about control or perceived lack of control. The more chaotic I believe my world is: lack of regular sleep, looming deadlines, high need clients, my own responses to daily stressors, poor diet, irregular or non-existant exercise, illness, the more likely I am to attempt to create a psyeudo-control. When my thoughts begin to spin, when my “tizzy” gets wild, I know my inner Crazy Bone is activated and it is time to talk with a trusted friend and supporter. I’ve got to get some self-soothing in place, and I need to begin to reduce the external factors as best as I can.
I’m grateful you were willing to share this wonderful piece with us, Ben. Take care and I am glad you didn’t purchase one, or more, air purifiers!
Thank you for your visit and insight, Patricia. Always means so much. I say it often, the more reader experience and perspective available here, the more help Chipur can provide to those who happen by. Makes me feel good…
Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your story, too. I was speaking with a friend just the other night and told her that I was amazed to discover that my life didn’t have to be this way, y’know? I always thought that there was just going to have to be something in the back of my mind (or, probably, in the front of my mind) that I’d worry about; that worrying constantly was just a part of life. Imagine my surprise and relief when I realized that wasn’t true!
Ah, there he is. Appreciate you, Ben! And thanks again for contacting me and allowing me to share…
Ok, small difference. Indoor air quality DOES matter especially if you are like me and had monoxide poisoning recently. MTHFR makes it very hard for that lovely liver to detox. And just recently since the monoxide, having my heater fixed and my stove changed have made a HUGE difference in the air quality. But I do not obsess over these kinds of things, when I actually should as I am so sensitive now.
But several things have really helped my anxiety. The first was getting all my chromosomes checked and the second was getting on a genetic diet. It happens to be high protein and fat. I think it is a modified ketogenic diet and it is I think used for autistic kids…or ADD. Anyway, knocked my anxiety flat.
Now compulsive thoughts: I don’t do so good but I am doing trauma therapy and that is helping and another therapist, Robin, actually taught me a good little grounding exercise when thoughts obsess. You think of your special place in your mind and as you do you tap two fingers on each knee in opposite sequence, that is, one knee then the other. Well, it quieted my mind nicely. Yoga and pilates also are helpful.
Good article. My trauma therapist says we all live with trauma; its part of life so learning to manage our states of mind is crucial.
BTW I too have stopped really doing some Googling and ignore a lot of it all. So many hacks out there and many have fancy letters after their names. Shame on them for scaring us all. Right now I am on the warpath over essential oils used as medicine and sold in Multi Level Marketing scams.
Well, there’s Nancy. Good hearing from you once again. You always have good and relevant shtuff for us.
I appreciate your emphasis upon the genetic (chromosomes checked and diet). This is a component of personalized medicine, as I’m sure you know. And it’s definitely the way of the future (even though so many bone-headed physicians won’t give it the time of day). Excellent compulsive thoughts exercise, Nancy – and more.
Thanks for stopping-by for a visit. Please continue, k?
Nancy, thank you for your thoughts, and I’m thrilled that you were able to pinpoint the carbon monoxide issues in your home and fix them. Carbon monoxide detectors are a must for us all (in fact, my state requires them in all new construction).
Ben, I had just put batteries in mine but I think the leak was so close to the floor, out of my oven, that its heaviness did not reach the meter I had 3 ft. up the wall. Now the one they installed is on the ceiling. But as I no longer have a gas range, I am safer even though this new thingy goes off every time I fry…geez.
Just want to add that Ben was using indoor air anxiety as an example. I get that. There are now many, many ways to treat anxiety without medication. Yea!
So noted, Nancy – and I 100% agree with you. Oh, by the way – would you give a more detailed description of the knee tapping routine you mentioned in your original comment?
ok. just wrote a long reply and lost it. guess metal things are ok tho i try to resx and ready for sleep…
the tapping process for intrusive thoughts:
most good patients have learned to create a safe place in their minds. mine is a white, billowy tent in the mountains…
so sitting in a comfortable chair, feet on ground, see that place,
as you do tap, with your first two fingers a knee, first one then the othher.
repeat as lon
Thank you, Nancy. Love your ending paragraph. What the heck, right?