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Physical Symptoms of Anxiety: What You Need To Know

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Anxiety shows up in the body—headaches, tummy troubles, and more. We talk about how understanding the mind body connection can help manage the physical symptoms of anxiety for you and your kids.

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Show Notes

Anxiety is loud and messy. And it’s physical, and it brings with its diarrhea and vomiting and headaches and tummy aches and hives, and all sorts of physical symptoms that can really confuse kids and parents alike.

2:08  Robin references Lynn’s video that breakdown the physical process of anxiety for kids. 

19:23  The Circle lets you set daily limits for different apps and social media. It also controls your kid’s Wi Fi schedules, and you can adjust age appropriate filters for searches from little kids to teens. Our affiliate link will get you $20 off a Circle. 

19:34 Robin reads Lynn a listener question

Join the Flusterclux Facebook group so that you can ask your question on a future episode.

Episode Transcript

Robin Hutson  0:00 

Anxiety shows up in the body. Headaches, tummy troubles, and more. We talk about how understanding the mind-body connection can help manage the physical symptoms of anxiety, both yours and your kids. And we talk about the marks that 2020 might have left on your body.

We’ll answer that question in this week’s episode of Flusterclux with Lynn Lyons, the show for real talk about worry and other big feelings in parenting.

Lynn Lyons  0:24 

Hi, I’m Lynn Lyons. I’m an anxiety expert, speaker, Mom and author. I’ve been a therapist for 30 years.

Robin Hutson  0:30 

You’re here because your family has some anxiety issues, or you want to prevent them. I’m your co-host and Lynn’s sister in law, Robin, and I’m here to ask your questions.

Lynn Lyons  0:39 

Parenting can be a Flusterclux, and I’ll help you find your way.

Anxiety is loud and messy. And it’s physical, and it brings with its diarrhea and vomiting and headaches and tummy aches and hives, and all sorts of physical symptoms that can really confuse kids and parents alike. So, let’s talk about how anxiety is felt in the body, what you need to know about it, and how as a parent, you can really help your child learn to manage those physical symptoms of worrying anxiety that actually show up in all of us at some point.

Robin Hutson  1:18 

Yeah, Lynn, I noticed just from some of the listener questions that we’ve gotten that anxiety really has a physical connection to it.

Lynn Lyons  1:25 

It does. And actually, when we’re talking about anxiety, technically, the word anxiety refers to those physical reactions. You know, we talk about worry, that’s the way we think and how we create that scary narrative in our brain. And anxiety. Oh, my gosh, it brings with us tummy aches, and headaches and hives and chest tightness, and all sorts of physical symptoms, that can be really powerful and really not.

Robin Hutson  1:53 

So why is anxiety such a physical experience then? It clearly doesn’t stay in your head; it goes into your body.

Lynn Lyons  2:00 

Yeah, anxiety is so physical, because our brains and our bodies are connected. We’re designed to have this alarm system.

Robin Hutson  2:08 

I’ve seen your talk. So, I know that you have been able to really break down very easily that physiological process of anxiety in the brain and how that connects to the body, and you actually have a video you’ve made for kids on your website, too.

But once that anxiety is felt in the body, then it starts showing up in different parts. So, give us a bit of an overview on that.

Lynn Lyons  2:32 

Yeah, so the physical symptoms of anxiety can include a lot of things. The most common ones are of course, tummy aches, anxiety wreaks havoc with the GI symptom, you get headaches, people get muscle aches, you can break out in hives, people throw up diarrhea, and kids can experience all of these symptoms.

So, when we think about it is the way to understand this. And the way to the way to imagine this is that the response that we have in our body really makes sense, if we think about the messages that our brain gets when it thinks we’re in danger, and then how the brain signals the body to react in order to protect us. So every symptom that we’re having with anxiety, whether it be that your heart is pounding, or your breathing gets increased in shallow, or your stomach starts to hurt, all of those symptoms are actually the result of your brain saying to your body, Danger, danger, danger, and then making adaptations to protect you from the grizzly bear that’s attacking you. 

Say you’re a little muffin, and you’re lying in bed, and you’re imagining that somebody is going to come kidnap you, because that’s what you’re worried does at night, your little prefrontal cortex that’s making up this movie about the kidnapper signals, another part of your amygdala, and then your body gets activated, because it’s going to protect you from the kidnapper. So, all of these things happen in your body. It’s just that you don’t understand what’s happening. It just feels to you It feels like you have a tummy ache or It feels like your heart is pounding or It feels like you have diarrhea or It feels like what you don’t understand what’s happening.

But it’s actually incredibly well planned out. If there were actually a grizzly bear. But if you’re lying in bed, imagining a kidnapper, there’s no grizzly bear, there’s no kidnapper, but then your body acts as if it is in life threatening life threatening danger. And that’s why those symptoms are so powerful.

And then what happens is you start to have the symptoms, and then you start freaking out that you’re having the symptoms, because who wants to have a tummy ache or who wants to have diarrhea or your heart is pounding and so you freak out because you think you’re having a heart attack. So, becomes unfortunately this vicious cycle if you are actually being chased by a grizzly bear.

And for anybody out there who’s been chased by a grizzly bear, you can back me up on this you’ve actually been chased by a grizzly bear, when you’re running away from the grizzly bear. You’re not saying to yourself, oh my gosh, why is my tummy hurting, or, oh, my fingertips feel a little numb and tingly. That’s odd, you don’t even notice. Because that response is fight or flight. And it’s designed to protect you. And it works that way.

But if you’re not actually in danger, but you’re just worrying or having anxiety, then those responses in your body feel scary. They feel out of place, you mistake them from being for being sick, and it becomes really confused.

Robin Hutson  5:35 

First, your New Hampshire husband has been chased by a bear, right?

Lynn Lyons  5:39 

Not by a grizzly bear, because they’re

Robin Hutson  5:40 

not up in New Hampshire, I suppose.

Lynn Lyons  5:42 

Correct. We have had plenty of bear encounters. But like one time, we are hiking in the Blue Ridge on the Blue Ridge trail in Virginia. And I had a little tiny, tiny baby and a front carrier, and there was a black bear up in a tree. And it was very, very close to us and my little baby. And so, I went ahead, but I’ve never been chased by a grizzly bear, you’re pretty much toast.

Robin Hutson  6:07 

Do you find that with your clients that you see? Do children stick to the same physical patterns? Or is it really kind of up for grabs, and that anxiety can manifest in different ways in different times?

Lynn Lyons  6:22 

Well, generally, it’s kind of interesting, because people do tend to have their go to symptom or pattern of symptoms. So, if you’re a tummy ache person, if you if you get an upset tummy, when you’re anxious, you sort of stay a tummy ache person, there are some people who are headache people. So, when they’re really stressed or anxious, they get a headache, it tends to be kind of a pattern, it can jump around a little bit. A lot of times though, when kids are dealing with this, they experience a lot of those things at once.

So, the way the system works is that it doesn’t just pick or choose which symptom it’s going to give you because they’re all tied in together to help you with your survival. But the ones that bother people tend to be the ones that get the most attention. If you get tummy aches, and you really pay attention to tummy aches, maybe you don’t even notice that when you’re really anxious, your fingers also get a little numb, that’s not really something that gets your attention.

So, tummy aches tend to say tummy aches or as head acres tend to say headaches. There’s a little bit of moving around, but they pretty much stick to the symptom that gets their attention the most. The other thing too, is that it can be really hard for parents and kids to figure out is this anxiety or is it not.

And so, what happens oftentimes is a lot of kids end up at the pediatrician or and then oftentimes they’re even referred to a specialist. And they’re given all sorts of tests and things this happens a lot with Gi stuff going on, because the parents are trying to figure out if there’s, you know, and I’m saying this in finger quotes, really something going on.

And the thing to remember is that if you are having physical symptoms because of anxiety, you’re really having those symptoms. Like if you throw up when you’re anxious, it’s not pretend throw up, it’s not a different kind of throw up. If you are somebody who breaks out in hives, when you get anxious, you really have hives, if you get stress induced migraines, you really get a headache.

And so, we have to be careful that when we’re talking to kids about their physical symptoms, we’re not invalidating that they’re feeling that way. Because one of the things that happens very frequently is they perceive it if you say to kids, a kid gets a gets tummy aches when they’re worried. And we say, Well, I think your tummy ache is because you’re anxious the way they hear that is you think I’m faking? So, we want to make sure that we say you’re really having these symptoms. And when we explain why are you have no symptoms. And again, I explained this on the video, but just as a just an interesting point, right?

So, people say, Well, why does my stomach hurt when I’m anxious? One of the things that happens when you’re anxious is that your digestive system shuts down. And when your digestive system starts, stops processing the food and digesting it makes you feel nauseous. So, when kids begin to understand that when kids can say, Oh, so the reason I’m having this symptom is because this is happening, then it makes it less scary. We always want to demystify this thing we always want to say, Well, of course that’s what your tummy is doing. Because look what happened, the reaction caused this and this and that way we can talk about the symptoms in a way that doesn’t make the child feel defensive. about having them.

Robin Hutson  9:39 

I have another question. When I think of what I’ve learned from you and some stories and examples that you’ve shared. I can think of one where you talk about one of your children going for their driver’s test and he was very nervous and you even made a comment like keeping him in the moment and keeping him grounded because there was an obvious experience, he was fearing he was fearing his exam.

And so, he had this anxious response. But it doesn’t always connect so simply right? Because there’s like an anxious state that someone can be in that those physical symptoms come with. But it’s not necessarily tied to an event, and therefore, the anxiety might be harder to identify.

Lynn Lyons  10:23 

Right? Yeah. So, the memory that you’re having is my son was going to get his driver’s test. And I looked down and his hands were purple with little white dots on them. I said, Oh, look, your, your body is anxious. And so, it’s pulling the blood from your digits and bringing it to your core, and it’s making your hands purple. And he was, you know, you can imagine he’s 16, and about to take his driver’s test. So, he was like, thanks for sharing.

That’s it, that’s a very good point. Because when a child is chronically worrying about something, right, so say you’ve got and remember, I don’t care about the content. But what we know is that anxiety doesn’t like uncertainty. So, if you have a chronic worrier if I if you have what I call an equal opportunity worrier, so a child who we would say probably has generalized anxiety disorder, right? Anything that comes up that’s new or different or uncertain, and they’re always playing this little movie in their head with those worst case scenarios.

This is why we don’t want to be a catastrophic parent, and teach kids to think about worst case scenarios, because we’re teaching them how to worry. And so, when you’re worrying all the time, your little amygdala back there is in a constant state of arousal. I heard somebody once say, your amygdala is open for business. And so, it’s constantly just giving you it’s feeling your body, it’s sending off the chemical signals that it sends off, right, the adrenaline and noradrenaline, it’s telling your body that you’re in danger. And it may not be, you know, full on panic attack thing, but a constant state of feeling worried and anxious, that then gets your body juiced up in that way.

So, they have a tummy ache all the time, or they have headaches a lot, every morning before school, they wake up and they have a tummy ache, it can be other physical symptoms, too. They can talk about what we call vague somatic complaints, which is I feel tired, I feel sick, my back hurts. So, in that case, and again, we don’t we don’t need to solve the mystery of that, in terms of like, what’s making you anxious.

I think I’ve told the story before where people say, you know, well, she’s so worried every morning before she goes to school, she has a tummy ache, and her teacher is nice, and we’ve made sure there’s no bullies, and you know, blah, blah, blah, and they go, we don’t understand what’s making her anxious. It’s just uncertainty. Worriers can be in a chronic state of physical arousal that gives them these physical symptoms for sure you have a child who has chronic tummy aches or chronic headaches.

Robin Hutson  12:51 

Since we talk a lot about you know, the key to mental health being the ability to create distance from one’s feelings. Does an awareness of this pattern help empower a child or an adult to start managing it?

Lynn Lyons  13:02 

Absolutely. Because once you understand the physiology of it again, then it makes it less scary. And one of the things that then happens is that you can talk about the tummy ache without that way of them saying like, they have to prove to you that you’re that they’re sick, and then you’re actually talking about the problem at hand. So, I’ll give you an example.

Oftentimes, when I’m dealing with schools, and we’re trying to come up with a plan for a little kid that that goes to the school nurse all the time. So, they go to the school nurse, and I always have let’s say they go and they have a tummy ache, and maybe they’re going to the school nurse, four times a week, or even just every Monday morning, they show up in the school nurses office.

Part of what I want written into their plan is that when they go to see the school nurse, because the school nurse is a wonderful resource and can be really helpful with this. When they go to see the school nurse, I want them to walk in and say Mrs. Smith, my worry is bothering me, and it’s giving me a tummy ache.

So now Mrs. Smith is going to help them you know, again, externalize and have it do a little role playing with their worry, instead of treating them as if they’re sick. As soon as we give kids information about this, and we can call it what it is. It is really empowering

Robin Hutson  14:20 

in order to have these accommodation plans in place with school nurses. Are there a lot of steps that are challenging, or are the nurses willing to take that information? And are the kids willing to cooperate with that information too, or is that a wish list?

Lynn Lyons  14:36 

No, it’s pretty realistic. I will tell you school nurses are my favorite people to train. I love school nurses because they’re so good at this and they’re such a good resource. One of the things when I talk to them about it, it they have to undo a little bit of their assessment training because when a kid comes in and says I don’t feel good, there’s a series of steps they that they go through to make sure that the kid isn’t sick. But once we’ve identified what we call a frequent flier.

So, once we know that this is a little person who’s got these somatic symptoms, and we talk about it, the school nurses are awesome. You know, the other thing to remember and parents will ask this question like, How do I know if they’re sick? Or, you know, what if it What if they really are sick? What do they have tummy aches, because they’re anxious, and then there’s a time when they really are sick, you know, then that would be terrible to make that mistake?

And what I talk to families about is that there, there may be a time when you miss it, right? Or there may be a time when you’re, you’re not right about it. There was a girl that I saw for a long time, and she was definitely a nurse visitor. And so, the school nurse where she went to school totally had this down like this is a veteran school nurse and I, we had a great agreement that she knew what to do.

And then a new school nurse came in, you know, a young rookie school nurse. So, this little girl starts going down to the nurse again. And the nurse is calling the mom again and saying like, Oh, she’s got stomach pain, she might have an appendicitis and the mom is like, Oh, my gosh, we’ve been done this before. So, I put the fear of God into this new young school nurse, I think and told her, you know, this is what you’re supposed to do when she shows up.

So, a few months later, the little girl goes down to the nurse and she says, I’m not feeling well. And the nurse says, you know, remember, you know, the lines that don’t fall for it. She’s like, I think it’s you’re worried go back to class. So, the little girl goes back to class, and she’s sitting there. And she’s like looking more flushed and more droopy. And the teacher goes and puts her hand on her forehead, and she’s really hot. So, she sends her back to the school nurse again, saying I think she’s really sick. So, they take her temperature, her temperature is like 103, or they call the mom and then she ended up having strep throat.

So, she comes into my office after all this happens, and she is mad at me. She’s like, at school I was sick. If you didn’t believe me, I was really sick. And so I said to her, so I said to the Mom, how long did it take from the time when she went down for her first appointment to when you got the call and retrieved dread school, and the mom was like, I don’t know, it was probably like an hour and a half. And so, I said to this little girl. Alright, so I’ll make that deal anytime. You had to suffer with your strep throat for an hour and a half. I’m sorry that you were sick. I’m glad we figured it out. But the way that we’re you ran your life for the year prior to this, right? I’ll take that hour and a half. And as because the system we have now to recognize how you’re worried takes over your body has been so helpful to you.

Robin Hutson  17:28 

And she folded her arms and went hmph?

Lynn Lyons  17:30 

Yes, exactly. And I think it was a little eye roll in there too. But helping I mean, and that’s the differentiation that we have to do. Now, let me just say this too, if a child is coming to see me, and they’ve got physical symptoms, like they, they’re getting bad tummy aches, or they’re getting bad headaches or things like that. I want them to get a clean bill of health. I’m not the one who’s going to decide that I’m not the one who’s going to say, Oh, well, you’re having these terrible stomach aches, they must be your worry.

Most of the time when kids come to see me, they’ve already been down that route. They’ve already they’ve already gone and gotten examination, there are certain diagnoses that kids get, actually, that in the anxiety biz are sort of like ooh, yet. So, one is called functional abdominal pain. And these are pain syndromes. A functional abdominal pain means that your system is functional. That’s why we call it functional. everything’s working like the food is emptying and you’re going to the bathroom, but you still have abdominal pain. And that’s very often anxiety related.

And there are a few other diagnoses that when I hear them, then that is a little that’s a little like, Oh, of course you have that diagnosis, because it tends to be those things, we see that are exacerbated by anxiety. But once we know that physically, they’re good to go. Then we can start educating and talking and helping the child and the parent make those connections between worry and the physical symptoms in your body.

Daughter  18:58 

Mom, can I have time?

Robin Hutson  18:59 

This is what you’ll hear when you use a Circle to manage your kids’ screen time. What do you think of the circle?

Daughter  19:04 

I hate it. Why do you hate it? Well, I don’t actually hate it. But I feel like it’s good that I’m not spending as much time on the internet.

Robin Hutson  19:10 

It lets you set daily limits for different apps and social media. It also controls your kid’s Wi Fi schedules, and you can adjust age appropriate filters for searches from Little kids to teens. Our affiliate link will get you $20 off a Circle. I love it.

Daughter  19:23 

It’s still annoying in the moment.

Robin Hutson  19:24 

I’m sure it is.

This actually brings up a great listener question that we got that inspired this episode. So, are you ready?

Lynn Lyons  19:34 

I’m ready.

Listener Question

Robin Hutson  19:35 

When your child has physical complaints, It’s so hard to know when to push them stomach aches, headaches, pains to still go to school or a sports practice or to not pick them up from a friend’s house. It feels like you’re ignoring your child’s physical distress when they’re sick or in pain you tend to them when you suspect the pain is anxiety related. It’s near impossible to say to them. Well, the stomachache isn’t one we’re going to allow for you to miss school. But the other day the stomachache was the cause Find that you can miss school for it’s so hard to force them to push through something when the complaint is physical.

Lynn Lyons  20:05 

So, what do you do? How do you tell the difference? And what you want to look for is you want to look for a pattern, if you’ve got a kid who complains a lot of physical issues, so it might be this, it sounds like, this is a little person who can sort of have a headache and a tummy ache and aches and pains, right?

We call those vague somatic symptoms, if this is a pattern, you want to pay attention to that, and are they are they more likely to have physical symptoms, when they’re going to something new, or when they have to go to soccer practice or when they’re going to asleep over. So, trust your observational skills, Mom, that, you know, it seems that there may be something that she’s stepping into, that’s going to trigger some worry, sometimes you might be wrong. And that’s okay, this is not about perfection.

But what you want to work on with your child is you want to have that conversation that says it is really okay for you to be worried about something. And we know that the body reacts to worry in different ways. And so, if you’re stepping into something new, or you’re doing something that feels challenging, I bet we can expect that worry is going to show up and along with worry. Because remember, we talked about that mind body connection, you might have some physical symptoms, too. So really starting with that psycho educational piece.

And I think oftentimes, and it sounds a little bit what this mom is saying too, is that she doesn’t want to feel like she’s not tending and caring and loving her child who’s struggling, I just want you to love and care and tend to do the right thing. So, if your daughter is worrying and has a tummy ache, we don’t want to say I’m not going to pay attention to that tummy ache, you go off to soccer practice, because then we’re not using that opportunity to teach her about how her worry operates.

So, you want to be loving and supporting and occur and encouraging. But you want to help her make the connection between her body and her mind. Now I teach this to kids in my office all the time in some kids are very like, Oh, that makes sense. And other kids are like, No, I have a tummy ache and what are you talking about? So, it’s not an easy sell all the time. And sometimes it’s a process of helping them see that connection. And sometimes when kids absolutely get it. So, they know that they get stomach aches when they’re worried.

There are still times when the mom will say, you know what I think your stomachache is because you’re worried about going to baseball practice and the kids like not. And that’s saying that I mean this, this is not like a nice linear path where kids are like, Oh, that’s so helpful that you pointed that out to me. But we want to just keep helping them make that connection.

One of the things that I do to help kids make the connection is I want to take it out of their experience and give them examples that are a little farther away from them. And so, I’ll ask kids, what are some things that you think your body does in reaction to the way that you feel?

I want to help them understand the mind body connection, we might talk about blushing, we might talk about how if you’re a little bit thirsty, and you see an ad on TV, and they’re pouring some lemonade into a cup with ice and it’s going clink, clink right? and oh my gosh, your mouth starts to feel even drier and you start craving that drink.

Or if I started talking to you about lice, that you would reach up and want to scratch your head on working to help them normalize and see the connection between their mind and their body, their thoughts and their reactions. So then when I’m talking about their worry in their tummy, I’ve already put it into kind of this normal realm of human experiences. And it doesn’t seem so out of the norm for them to have that reaction.

Robin Hutson  23:49 

By definition, are all of the physical symptoms of anxiety still considered psychosomatic? Or is that something different?

Lynn Lyons  23:56 

Yeah. So psychosomatic just means that you’ve got a physical symptom that’s caused by some mental or emotional state, you have a tension headache, or you’ve got butterflies in your tummy because you’re about to compete in something or for me, when I get nervous when I get really anxious about something, I get cold. And I start to sort of physically shake so psychosomatic, those somatic reactions and what happens.

And it really is pretty astounding, like we should be in admiration of this mind body connection, because it can be astounding, where people will have reactions where they’ll lose the use of their legs, or I had one little boy Long, long ago. And this wasn’t really a psychosomatic reaction, but it’s certainly a mind body connection reaction where he came to see me and he was wearing these cute little like Harry Potter glasses and he was so stressed out he was just such a worrier.

And so, then he came back a year I didn’t see him for a while and it came back like a year later because he needed just a little a little boost. A little check in and he wasn’t wearing his glasses. I said to him, Oh, where are your glasses? Did you get contacts or something like that? And the mom says no. Interestingly, after we worked on his anxiety, and he was able to really learn how to manage his stress, we went back for his eye checkup and his eyes had gone back to normal, his stress was so significant that it was impacting the muscles around his eyes and impacting his vision.

It really is, it is a power that we have the connection between our mind and our body. It really is something to be looked at with awe. I mean, it really is unbelievable. And I think when we put it in those terms for kids, that we say, it is amazing what your body does. It is amazing how your body can, I don’t want to say create the symptoms, but have the symptoms based on what you’re thinking or what you’re feeling. It’s because your mind and your body are so connected, it’s really pretty cool.

And then that way we take away again that like, Oh, you say on faking? Because I say no, I don’t think you’re faking. I think this is a superpower that we have. And sometimes anxiety uses it, you know, for its own purposes.

Robin Hutson  26:08 

You know, you always talk about the externalization of your worry, when they understand that connection, these conversations will go a lot better. And if you are skipping this part of the education with them, they’re going to be defensive. This is a real tummy ache, what are you talking about?

Lynn Lyons  26:25 

Right.

Robin Hutson  26:25 

So if you’re a parent, you’re listening to this, Hey, 2020, right, like a lot of people might be experiencing more physical symptoms from their own stress than they had before to so it’s, it’s like a good wake up call to see is your body letting you know that you’re carrying an anxiety load that needs attention?

Lynn Lyons  26:43 

Yeah. And that’s such a good point. Because so say, you know, what, when we get defensive about it, and we say, Oh, you know, I have a real tummy ache, we’re missing the opportunity to say is my body telling me something that I should be paying attention to? It’s really, it’s really saying if your body is having this fight or flight response in a chronic way, and it’s totally you know, making you have chronic chest pain or back pain or diarrhea, your body and brain are like, we think we’re being chased by a grizzly bear all the time. That’s a real wakeup call that maybe a better step back.

But look at your lifestyle, look at your, the pressure you’re putting on yourself, look at your self-care, our body, lets us know if we can teach that to kids. That’s a really important thing for them to understand a really important thing for them to be able to monitor in their set in themselves.

There’s this other thing, too, just to be a little psychobabble. But there’s this other thing called anxiety sensitivity. And that refers to an overreaction to normal symptoms of anxiety in the body. And you have a really hard time acknowledging or connecting that it’s anxiety. So, an example of that might be, say, you’re going for a job interview, and you’re really you really want the job. And you wake up in the morning and your tummy feels a little weird. And you say to yourself, oh my gosh, you know, I’m so nervous about this. And like, tell me feels weird. So, I’m not going to eat any breakfast, or I’m going to skip that cup of coffee, and I’m going to make sure I put extra deodorant on. Right.

That’s you acknowledging that your body has symptoms, when you’re anxious about something, if you have anxiety, sensitivity, you’re going into the job interview, your heart is pounding because you’re you know, nervous about it. And then you start worrying that now you’re having a cardiac event. So, you really get anxious about the physical symptoms that you’re having, that are generally normal symptoms based on a normal level of anxiety. And that becomes this vicious cycle that that kids and adults can get caught in.

Robin Hutson  28:38 

I can’t remember what this what zodiac sign this is in Chinese astrology, but 2020 is definitely the year of the grizzly bear.

Lynn Lyons  28:47 

Well, I think we, you know, are sort of walking around a lot feeling under attack, right. So even just think of when the virus started. And I remember my husband going to the grocery store at first and we didn’t know much about this. And he was wearing gloves and a hat and a mask and just being he said going to the grocery store was so anxiety producing. So, you think about that. Remember, this primitive brain doesn’t know much. It knows danger, no danger. That’s it. So, he’s going to the grocery store. And while he’s grocery shopping, he might as well be in Montana in grizzly bear country, because he’s feeling that way. When I was in Montana in grizzly bear country. I was anxious the whole frickin time.

Robin Hutson  29:31 

Yeah, it’s intense of the psychological heaviness. And then like there’s a whole other episode of for the hypochondriacs out there or like we’re all hypochondriacs in a global epidemic to have Oh, here are the symptoms and then you immediately jump to COVID to so it’s just right. It’s so much somatic awareness is really required this year not to get tripped up.

Lynn Lyons  29:53 

Yeah. And so, the question, you know, the question we could ask in general, what’s your grizzly bear? so certain This was a pretty global grizzly bear, we had this virus. But everybody, it’s so interesting to me how different people have their different grizzly bears, like some people, it’s snakes, some people, it’s heights, some people it’s speaking in public.

And the point of it is, is that if you are stepping in all the time to situations, which your brain perceives, you are in danger, it wears you out. And that’s why we feel so worn out. Like you say, you’re going to the grocery store, trying to figure out whether or not you’re allowed to breathe. You’re, you’re sending your kids back to school, think about all the teachers that were going back into schools, and weren’t sure about this and how stressful it was.

I mean, I think when we talk about how exhausted A lot of us feel, it’s because our body is in this this state of fight or flight. You know, for some people it is, but it’s not like, you know, your heart rate is way high all the time. But it’s this chronic hyper vigilance that we’re all experiencing, and our body is activated. During those times of emotional stress.

Robin Hutson  31:10 

Everyone is just living with this baseline of fight or flight right now. hugs to all of those wonderful school nurses that and teachers and health care workers and parents who are really managing a lot.

Lynn Lyons  31:17 

And let me just say this, because that’s a really good point. Let me just let me just generalize it a little bit more as we talk about sort of parenting and modeling, like I like to talk about, forget about the pandemic for specifically for a little bit.

When I talk about the emotional tone in your house, when I talk about what you’re modeling, when I talk about whether or not you’re a catastrophic parent, just be aware that if you are in that chronic state of worry, so that you’re activated all the time, make sure or pay attention to the fact that that’s contagious.

And so, you’re showing your little cubs how to be in that chronic state as well. That’s how it gets passed down a lot. When we talk about anxious kids and anxious parents. If your amygdala is open for business, you are showing your kids how to do that. And it’s really contagious hard. Now, again, I get it, I get it. But just in general, that’s just an important point for me to make.

Because I really want to make sure that we recognize how contagious and transferable This is both in a positive way in a negative way.

Robin Hutson  32:21 

Positive if we are transferring and being contagious with our strategies to manage it.

Lynn Lyons  32:27 

Right.

Robin Hutson  32:28 

And that’s great to know that those can be just as contagious as the pathological behavior.

Lynn Lyons  32:32 

If you are an adult who has a lot of somatic symptoms, and you talk about them a lot. You’re also showing your kids that. So, I see that in families a lot too. So instead of talking about their feelings are saying I’m feeling so angry or gosh, I’m so nervous that my tummy hurts. If you’re somebody who comes from a long line of psychosomatic people, then that is really contagious, too.

So, we used to call it hypochondriac. Now we call this magnetization disorder. My husband was raised by one. And he was very hypochondriac. When I met him, he had all these terms for normal things like you know, when you get that little bump on your tongue, that sometimes you don’t, they’re annoying, they feel like they’re big. He calls that a herniated tastebud.

And when he has a stuffy nose, he calls it a nasal infection. He’s got all these terms that are totally of like, you just have a little canker sore on your tongue. He’s like, yeah, that’s a herniated tastebud. That’s weird. But his mom is a total hypochondriac. And he recognizes it now, and he’s come a long way. But boy, when I met him, I was like, geez, I didn’t know somebody could have so many maladies in my family.

Robin Hutson  33:46 

One of my grandparents is, you know, all of this to a tee. And fortunately, it didn’t pass on to my parents. But that language of using your health and your symptoms to sort of control your environment around you too, Right? Just to always have a symptom that’s preventing you from doing what you don’t want to do or participating in family experiences.

Lynn Lyons  34:05 

And we’ve got all these phrases that we use, right? So Oh, my God, what a pain in the neck. Or, oh, that is going to be a headache. That made me sick, right? We use that we recognize that and just in our phrases in our language.

One of the psychiatrists that my very first job out of graduate school, Dr. Don West, what a great teacher he was. He said to me, You know what, Lynn, remember, nothing happens from your neck down unless it happens from your neck up first.

Robin Hutson  34:30 

So, I have to share that. As I mentioned, I have this grandparent who is a hypochondriac. And my son when he was like six or seven, after having heard conversations with this grandparent on speakerphone in the car or whatever else. He finally said if I ever know if it’s, you know, my great grandma talking the second she says the word diarrhea. I know it’s her.

Actually, so the second he said that what was funny is this is merging two episodes. I find it stressful hearing her talk about her health symptoms, but my son made it a game. And we talked about this with difficult mothers in law in the last episode. And so, it became a game of how many times she would mention diarrhea in a phone call. And then I shared it with my other relatives who have to care for and hear the health log of  my grandmother and it made us all find like a giggle in something that was otherwise very stressful.

Lynn Lyons  35:38 

Perfect. There you go. Fun with Diarrhea. Anybody can play!

Robin Hutson  35:44 

Join the Flusterclux Facebook group so that you can ask your question on a future episode.

Bye Lynn!

Lynn Lyons  35:50 

Bye, Robin!

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