Dr Raymond Prior: Everything About Anxiety

Dr Raymond Prior is back to talk all things Anxiety and how you can get better.

Dr Raymond Prior: Everything About Anxiety

Dr Raymond Prior is back to talk all things Anxiety and how you can get better.

Dr Raymond Prior is back to talk all things Anxiety and how you can get better. 

After listening to this episode you’ll 

  • Have a clear understanding of what anxiety is on a psychological, neurological and cultural level 
  • The difference between anxiety and nerves and how being nervous can actually help you perform at a higher level while anxiety cannot 
  • Why people have anxiety 
  • What are panic attacks and why do they happen
  • Why anxiety is worse than ever right now 
  • AND Recommendations for managing and reversing anxiety and what has personally helped me out 

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Milwaukee Uncut is produced by Story Mark Studios: https://storymarkstudios.com/

Sponsored by Central Standard Distillery: https://thecentralstandard.com/

In partnership with OnMilwaukee: https://onmilwaukee.com/


Dr. Raymond Prior: That your nervous system just goes into full on power out, right? It’s super uncomfortable, it’s terrifying and that typically happens sometimes for very predictable reasons for people other times. It feels like just comes out of nowhere.

Richie Burke: Hey everyone It’s your host Richie Burke today. I’m back with Dr Raymond Pryor in this episode all about anxiety will touch on how you can manage anxiety and even strategies to reverse it After listening to this episode, you’ll have a clear understanding of what anxiety is on a psychological neurological and cultural level The difference between anxiety and nerves and how being nervous can actually help you perform at a higher level Well anxiety cannot You’ll learn why people have anxiety what are panic attacks and why do they happen?

Why anxiety is worse than ever right now and recommendations for managing and reversing anxiety And i’ll even go into what has personally helped me out This is an episode I’m excited to release as someone who’s dealt with a good amount of anxiety issues over the last seven plus years of my life. As some of you know, I suffered a really bad panic attack when it was stalled.

When an airplane was stalled on a tarmac seven years ago, I’ve dealt with a lot of anxiety issues since then that I never dealt with before, which is included. Getting on elevators, getting back on an airplane. I had to take a lot of medication to do so even being stuck in standstill traffic was triggering for me for a while.

And at times over these last seven years, when I was putting in a lot of work, I made a ton of progress. My anxiety went down. I’ve managed it very well. Other times when I wasn’t putting in the work, it spiked and Dr. Raymond, who. is a performance consultant who works with a lot of top athletes, Olympians, business exec, executives, musicians, Grammy winners, Emmy winners, is someone that I got introduced to about a year and a half ago and was lucky to be able to work with him for about six months.

And he made a huge impact on my life. And my hope is that if you’re struggling right now, that after listening to this episode, you’ll have a much better understanding of Why you’re dealing with anxiety and some real strategies that you can implement right away to get better. Just a reminder. This podcast is produced by Story Mark Studios, sponsored by Central Standard Distillery and in partnership with On Milwaukee.

All right, let’s dive into today’s episode with Dr. Raymond Pryor. What is anxiety?

Dr. Raymond Prior: Are you asking from a psychological, neurological, or, um, cultural standpoint?

Richie Burke: It’s not necessarily the counter response I was accepting. You could go down the line. Sure, sure. I’ll go down the

Dr. Raymond Prior: line. Okay. So, from a psychological perspective, anxiety is worry about the future.

So just a basic definition of anxiety. It’s us playing out the future in these what if or worst case scenarios before it’s even played out. Now it might sound really awful or negative, but if you think about when our brain evolved, which was many hundreds of thousands of years ago when the world was a pretty dangerous place, anxiety was a really helpful survival mechanism for us.

It kept us alive. You know, in that time, um, if you took significant risk, particularly physical risk and you were wrong once, you might end up dead. So what anxiety tried to get us to do was save us from the worst case scenario before it actually happened. Um, how it plays out in our brain is that you can think about our brain in kind of two different sections.

It’s a bit of a, uh, oversimplification, but it’s, you know, It’s helpful when we’re talking about something like anxiety. If you were to make a fist with one hand, this is what represents our old brain. So these are the strongest and the fastest, but also the most primitive parts of our brain. They evolved long before the more outer layers.

And this is our survival above all else areas of our brain, which is why they’re the strongest and the fastest, because you wouldn’t want the slowest and the weakest parts of your brain operating whether you stayed alive. Okay. Ironically though, these are not the parts of our brain that create anxiety.

If you were to take that fist, which is your old brain and then wrap your other hand over it, that represents our young brain. Our young brain is like our neocortex and our prefrontal cortex. It’s the parts of our brain that evolved later with the ability to think ahead, think back, think creatively, think rationally, to imagine, um, to play out multiple scenarios and do all these kinds of really cool things that we kind of associate the human brain with.

But one of the things it can do, is it can start worrying about things before they have even happened to a degree that our old brain goes, Oh man, there really must be danger involved. So the thing about our old brain is it really doesn’t know the difference between a perceived threat and a real threat.

Which is why, when we think about the future playing out in a really crappy way for us, even though it hasn’t actually happened yet, We feel it directly, and it feels very real to us, even though it is not. By definition, anything that’s in the future is not real, because it hasn’t even happened yet. So when our young brain plays out these future scenarios, what if this, what if that, uh oh, don’t let this happen, don’t let this happen, don’t let this happen, enough, Our old brain goes, uh oh, there’s a thing, now we’re on board, now it’s our time to take charge here.

And what it does is it actually turns off our young brain or turns it down. So when we are anxious, one of the downsides is that we become less rational, we become less creative, we become less able to see more options, we become more closed minded because the part of our brain that can do all of that stuff starts to become impaired.

So that’s kind of the psychological and the beginnings of the neurological roots about where anxiety comes from for us on a neurological level. Um, what it looks like is these very high frequency and really high intensity brain waves, which by definition aren’t bad for us, but what it’s a really an indicator of us.

We are thinking a lot. We’re thinking about the past. We’re trying to think about how we can make sure the past doesn’t repeat in the future. We’re playing out 15 million different, you know, future scenarios, all of them worst case scenario. And as this going on, so your brain is working really, really hard, which is in part why anxiety is so taxing for us cognitively.

Like, we get tired being anxious more than we would if we were being present. On a neurochemical level, one of the differences between nerves and anxiety, nerves is our nervous system, our sympathetic nervous system, activating for something that’s important to us. Nerves is adrenaline and dopamine, so norepinephrine and dopamine.

It’s a, it’s a sense of like, oh man, this really counts, but also like, Okay, cool. This really counts, right? Again, dopamine makes effort, struggle, and risk feel good to us. So for anyone who’s, for example, if you have people, um, who have gone to a job interview, or you were gonna go talk to that person that you think is cute, or you’re on the first tee, you know what it feels like to be nervous.

But in all these situations, a lot of people also know what it feels like to be anxious, which is, uh oh, what if this doesn’t go well? The neurochemical formula there is just adrenaline, which is why anxiety feels bad for us. So when people are like, oh, I’m an adrenaline junkie, I’m like, not technically.

You’re an adrenaline and dopamine junkie, because that feels good and you’re amplified. But, Just adrenaline for us as human beings does not feel good. Again, anxiety is a survival mechanism. If something didn’t feel good to us, we tend to get out of there. We escape. Right. And so where anxiety comes into play for us is anytime we’re going to be doing something with meaningful stakes, where there’s risk, there’s sacrifice, there’s vulnerability, there are outcomes that are important to us, but they are uncertain still, when we fill in that uncertainty with it, Oh, can’t go this way, can’t go this way, essentially saying we are unwilling to see how uncertainty unfolds.

That’s a psychological state that is creating a neurological state that starts to impair how well our brain works

Richie Burke: So in a way in those who listen to the goal setting episode, we talked about acceptance anxiety comes in a lot of the time when there’s adrenaline Uncertainty and a very low degree of acceptance for outcomes.

Whereas nerves, which are not counterproductive necessarily, they can actually help us perform better. A lot of people bundle nerves and anxiety together, but they’re different. Yeah. Those are not the same. Yes. Nerves can actually help and that’s adrenaline, but there’s also dopamine and FNF for, and so we’re like.

Yeah, we’re, we’re a little, we’re feeling a little nervous system is activated,

Dr. Raymond Prior: but again, so think about nerves, nerves, um, is our, a physiological response to when things matter to us most, that doesn’t necessarily mean we are in the threat response. Remember our nervous system activates yes to run away from the saber tooth tiger, but also to run toward water or food or a mate or whatever.

So nerves could be fight, flight, or freeze. If I need to right now, not in the future, but now, and let me go get the things I want now, not later now, anxiety is, Oh, what if this in the future? Right? Um, and so how that often plays out in our performances, if by definition, I am worried about the future and I am unaccepting of certain outcomes in that future, my focus is always going to be in part in the future.

Now I’m multitasking between what I’m doing right now. And what might play out in the future while the part of my brain that directs my focus is now impaired. And then you can see why there’s about a, a couple hundred studies that show that anxiety, is what disrupts performance much more than nerves.

Nerves tends to make us more activated, more athletic. If you’re doing something in a physical means, but also it narrows focus and makes us very sharp. Anxiety tends to do the exact opposite. You know, everyone here knows somebody or perhaps have experienced it themselves where you go, wow, that person is really smart.

They obviously know the material in class, but when it comes to taking tests, they take them through anxiety and anxiety. That doesn’t come out. Or that person is clearly a very good public speaker or knows the material that they need to share to clients or a very good golfer, but through anxiety they’re fumbling over their own words and they can’t even get off the first tee, right?

So the downside to anxiety is that as we start to glorify it sometimes, and we are definitely living in the age of anxiety for human beings, is that we tend to be glorifying something that is not very helpful for us trying to thrive. Now in a survival based setting, again, anxiety, very helpful for us.

And we as humans all experience anxiety as times, but when it starts to become a habit for us or a pattern of thought and response to when outcomes matter to us, it can start to disrupt what we’re doing in the present in a way that tends to lead us exactly to the things that we don’t want. And ultimately what it does is it makes the experiences we’re in feel much, much worse.

Richie Burke: And I know you, you work with a, with a lot of golfers, but If someone’s striping everything on the range and then they step on the first tee and spray one 50 yards right and they didn’t do anything near that before, that is usually anxiety and not, not nerves. It’s very

Dr. Raymond Prior: rare that people lose their physical skills in a matter of minutes.

Um, oftentimes if you’re hitting it great on the range or you’re, you’re crushing practice tests or you’re doing whatever, and then when you get to the thing when the actual outcome matters, that is oftentimes. A means of low acceptance. Low acceptance means I’m not willing for certain things to happen.

So what that might translate to directly on the first day is, Oh, you can’t hit this thing left, or you better not fail this test today. Which again, we think about it like, well, the way to move towards success is to avoid failure at all costs. But if you really reel back and take a look at it, we see actually that’s not how it works.

The more we try to avoid the things we don’t want, the fewer paths we have to be present with the things and move toward the things that we do want. And anxiety is an avoidance strategy. If we’re trying to survive, avoidance is super helpful. If we’re trying to thrive, it’s not because it keeps us from taking risk, being vulnerable, and making choices and taking free steps toward the things that we want.

And the Example between the driving range and the first tee on the golf course is one of the most apparent in sports for sure. Why do people have anxiety? We have anxiety because it’s a built in mechanism in our brain. Again, our brain is designed to keep us alive first and foremost, and anxiety is a safety mechanism for us.

Like, you would not want to live as a human being never having anxiety because eventually you would do something that would get you killed. Right. Having said that. Like walk in the middle of the street. You would walk through traffic, you would go swim with sharks at sunset. You would do something that would eventually get you killed.

Richie Burke: But usually we’re not in life and death situations. Usually we are not

Dr. Raymond Prior: in life and death. We live in an age right now where most people, not all people, I realize there are certain things going on around the world where people are experiencing anxiety that is probably more than warranted. For most of us, though, it’s the public speaking, it’s the social interaction, it’s I’m performing in front of other people, it’s there are meaningful outcomes.

The anxiety that is that built in response tends to disrupt us trying to do the things that we really want to thrive in. That’s where it starts to become disruptive. So that’s part of the reason why is that it’s a built in part of our life. neurological system. The other part why so many people feel anxiety is because if you’re not paying attention and you continue to respond to things with anxiety, either because it becomes a habit for you, or perhaps for some people, unfortunately you’re in an environment where you might have to, that becomes your default response.

It becomes my default response to the first tea. It becomes my default response in a board meeting. It becomes my default response when I’m talking to people that I care about and I’m in social settings to retreat, retreat, retreat. And the more you do that, again, it’s not that it’s bad or that it’s negative, but what it does is oftentimes it keeps us from really pursuing the things that we really want to do in the ways that we really want to pursue them.

Richie Burke: So it’s kind of a mix between Genetics and some people have that to a varying degree. Everyone has a little bit of that. We all have the capacity

Dr. Raymond Prior: for it.

Richie Burke: Um, in an environment can play, can play a big role. Um,

Dr. Raymond Prior: it is, uh, yeah, there are many, we call this biopsychosocial factors. The biological part is, it is a built in part of our brain to imagine worst case scenario to try to save us from it.

Right. It’s also a learned behavior and habit that I can reinforce over time. There are cultural underpinnings. There are, um, certain people who unfortunately grow up in environments where you’re just constantly under anxiety and you’re under stress and your stress response fueled by anxiety never gets to turn off.

Again, there are many people around the world right now where this is the situation they’re in. And if you do that long enough, long enough, long enough, your brain and your body learn, Oh, when meaningful outcomes or any risk or any, uh, sacrifice or vulnerability is at stake, we worry about it to try to make sure it doesn’t go a wrong way.

Again, not a bad thing, but when we’re trying to thrive and, and do the things that actually require that vulnerability and that risk in a way where we want to thrive toward them, it can become pretty disruptive for people. The other downside to that is it’s a bit of a mental health issue, too. Mm hmm. If everything in your life or most things in your life is through the lens of anxiety, that comes at a tremendous cost to us physically, to our health, to our mental health, to our nervous system, to our sleep, and there’s a ripple effect to anxiety Um, and then on a larger cultural scale, most of the things we engage with to try to alleviate anxiety are only fueling it

Richie Burke: further.

And I’ve been open on this podcast and a bunch of articles and things but didn’t in my case I think there was some genetics and then I think being locked in a car when I was young and thinking I was gonna die when the sun was beating down for an hour and all of a sudden in my late 20s, I have a Panic attack when an airplane stalled on a tarmac even though I’m in no danger of death I’m gonna get off the plane eventually, but that happened, but your

Dr. Raymond Prior: brain doesn’t know that right it knows confined space for like, you know our the thing about our psychology is it generalizes and It does this again because it’s trying to fill in gaps to try to make sure we’re okay So a car is different from a plane, but your brain goes close enough you know, uh, air conditioned plane is different than a hot car, but your brain goes close enough

Richie Burke: or an elevator or an elevator, right?

Dr. Raymond Prior: So if, you know, claustrophobia is a fear of enclosed spaces, it doesn’t say, well only this size and this, whatever. It’s just, when it feels like it’s enough, it’s enough. Right. And so because our, um, psychology and our neurological system and our neurology generalizes, you can see how it’s very easy for people to bring anxiety to things where it’s certainly not helpful in any way whatsoever.

But your brain goes, well, this is close enough. And unless we start to pay attention to these in a very mindful way, our brain will just keep doing this, keep doing this. And then essentially like, like that neck gets wider.

Richie Burke: Hey everyone. Thank you for tuning into this episode of Milwaukee Uncut sponsored by Central Standard Distillery.

As I said in the last episode, the team and I had a great time enjoying some central standard old fashions with their brandy at our holiday party. I also enjoyed some more of their spirits over the holidays. And if you are looking to cut back or are participating in dry January, they have some great mocktails.

On their menu and they got really good food over at the craft house just outside of the third ward So make sure to check out the central standard craft house Or any central standard spirits if you are out there shopping for booze Also, if you’re enjoying this episode make sure to share it with someone you think could benefit from the information on anxiety The very important information on anxiety and how to get better that dr.

Raymond is giving us on this episode Thanks again for tuning in. Let’s get back to the show Before we um, before we move into things that you can do to manage anxiety and help reverse it or help make it better Um, I want to talk about panic attacks quick. Why? When why and when do those happen? What what are they?

Dr. Raymond Prior: Yeah panic attack is is our nervous system and our brain in a full on threat response Okay, so it’s gotten so bad. It it’s think of um, You might think of anxiety rather than just on or off but in shades Right? And so if you think of it like a dimmer switch rather than an on off switch, and panic attack is dimmer switch, just like full brightness, like all the way on.

It is your brain and your nervous system going, I am under so much threat that the parts of your brain that can go, okay, hold on a second. What is the best way for me to navigate this? Are just off and you’re in just full on fight flight or freeze mode But keep in mind our default response as with most humans Are most organisms in the world when we are in full on threat response mode is not to fight It’s to flight or freeze and it’s starting to figure out what do I do?

And so your nervous system is so activated and again, it’s all adrenaline. No dopamine, which is why it feels Terrible and it is just trying to figure out how do I survive this but I don’t know if I can survive this I don’t and now you’re in freeze mode Right and freeze mode is also a survival mechanism that I if I just freeze and lock up Maybe the thing that’s attacking me will think I’m dead and just go away And that is what panic attack is.

It’s like your brain and your nervous system are so overwhelmed, whether real or perceived that your nervous system just goes into full on power out, right? It’s super uncomfortable. It’s terrifying. And, um, that typically happens sometimes for very predictable reasons for people. Other times it feels like just comes out of nowhere.

Like I’ve had several people tell me I was playing one of the best rounds of golf in my life. And all of a sudden I just started having panic attacks. Seems like it came out of nowhere, right? Other times they’re super predictable, like, I needed to go into this situation, where I, where last time I was in there, it was an absolute disaster, whether it was physically dangerous or something, and you could kind of feel it gradually coming, and then it hits a tipping point, and then goes through it.

So, um, panic attacks are, uh, unfortunately becoming really, really common for people. Um, in large part because we don’t do a very good job of managing our anxiety. I would just say culturally, particularly here in America. And then it’s not surprising that when you do that, you’re going to reach that, that point in the dimmer switch where it’s going to tip over to panic.

More than Than not or maybe not more than not but more often why is anxiety worse than ever right now Anxiety is worse than ever for us as human beings where I might say we’re living in the age of anxiety That’s not just my personal opinion like right rates of anxiety are not just the frequency but the intensity depression for people depression Like we’re living in an age and there are a couple of different factors So again part of it is that we have the built in capacities for these and again I don’t want to pretend that anxiety or feeling depressed are You bad things, like they are coping mechanisms for us as humans.

Even depression, like, there’s a significant, um, survival standpoint, benefits to feeling depressed if someone dies. So if someone, like again, think about back when we were living in tribes, and one of the tribe members dies, and we grieve that person and we honor them, we band together. Right? We have to hold each other up, and then also we go, Oh, well, if, if, if, uh, Someone dies and I feel bad about that, people will feel bad if I die, and then like again, it’s, it’s a glue mechanism for us.

And again, anxiety keeps us from hopefully doing something that gets us killed, right? So it’s not that these things are bad, but when they are running constantly in our lives, like, Feeling depressed about something or feeling a little bit of anxiety towards something, not a bad thing for us. But when they run very, frequently or for long periods of times in our life, it can be really, um, it can come at a tremendous cost to us.

Part of the reason we feel these now is because the things we do to feel good essentially to get dopamine are these, um, very quick and easy means that don’t require us to have to do anything difficult to get to them. So for example, or I’ll just kind of, uh, extrapolate a little bit. So it’s the same dopamine, but think about it through two different pathways.

There’s unearned and earned. Unearned dopamine is I get it directly from a single behavior. So that might be something like drinking alcohol or gambling, or, um, right now the rates of like people watching pornography are through the roof, or it might be something like scrolling through social media. So me just doing the behavior straight to the point gives me dopamine or eating food.

No work to get it. Right. And what that, by unearned, I don’t mean bad, but unearned means I didn’t have to put in any effort. any real effort, meaningful effort. I didn’t have to take any meaningful risk. I didn’t have to take any sacrifice. I didn’t have to be vulnerable. I didn’t have to work for it. And what that does is your brain is designed to get dopamine by the path of least resistance.

The downside to that, again, these are all extrinsic means of motivation, or extrinsic means of, um, dopamine, which means scrolling for a couple of minutes, now I need a couple more minutes, and a couple more minutes, and a couple more minutes in order to feel good. Or, you know, Alcohol, for example, alcohol is one of those things we know for sure people build a tolerance to.

So it’s a GABA inhibitor. The reason people drink alcohol when they’re nervous or they’re feeling anxious is because it works. It numbs the part of your brain that feels anxiety. It also numbs every other part of your brain, which is why you can’t drive when you’ve consumed it. But it works. It does

Richie Burke: feel good.

It’s a good topic.

Dr. Raymond Prior: But here’s the downside with these. So first of all, we build a tolerance to them. So you need more and more of them to feel the same relief from anxiety or depression. At the same time, the more I use extrinsic means to feel an intrinsic state, meaning the more I use an external thing like alcohol or scrolling or gambling to feel good internally or to feel not anxious or depressed, the lower my threshold for anxiety and depression becomes, which means the more things are going to trigger anxiety, the more things are going to make me depressed, the more intense and the more often I’m going to feel them.

You know, it’s kind of like, uh, drinking salt water, trying to feel thirst. Like, yes, initially, you’re going to go, Ah, well, at least I got some water in. But in the long run, it’s actually making you more dehydrated and making you sick. And so, again, I wouldn’t say that social media is a bad thing. I’m not a purist on these.

I wouldn’t tell anyone, don’t ever have a drink. But we have to pay attention to, Well, what are the means that I use in order to feel good? Are they more external or are they more internal? And the more I rely on external means to do that, the lower my threshold for anxiety and depression becomes. And then we also know that depending on what we engage with, not only is there a dopaminergic balance that becomes imbalanced, but the content of it becomes a problem too.

Let’s say, for example, it’s social media. We know for sure that for women, girls and women, usually between about the start of puberty all the way into mid thirties, the more you use social media, the more likely you are to be depressed and anxious. This goes for guys too, but especially for girls. And the reason is, is so not only am I using this external means of scrolling in order to alleviate my anxiety or my boredom or my depression, and my threshold for it is getting lower, but when I look at it and I go, well I’m watching the 3 percent airbrushed bullshit version of everybody else’s life that looks amazing, but my life’s not like that, and you do that repeatedly, you’re gonna feel pretty depressed, right?

On the other hand, when you’re posting things and you go, well, here’s the 3 percent bullshit airbrushed version of my life. And I know it’s a lie that I’m putting that out there, that things are that good when they’re not, there’s a lack of authenticity. And one of the things we know for sure in research is that the less authentic we are, the more depressed and anxious we become because we have to live up to the standard that doesn’t really exist.

So the engagement with a lot of our cultural. Um, kind of milestones right now, oftentimes create, um, a lower threshold for anxiety, uh, external dependence on dopamine, all the while also creating a situation where it’s continually telling us like your life is not good enough.

Richie Burke: I think of all the things you named off as well, you never, even though you might feel good in the moment, you never really feel better after.


Dr. Raymond Prior: know, not to dive too much into it, but it is really important for us as human beings to understand where we get our dopamine and how. If you think about dopamine, it comes on a scale, and that scale, or like a teeter totter, we might say, is between pleasure and pain. When we go, the reason something like working out or having to work for something and sacrifice and be vulnerable for something, the reason we get dopamine from that in a more long lasting way is because it tips the scale toward pain first.

And the way our nervous system work is it’s always designed to try to move toward equilibrium. So if I tip toward pain first, like a painful workout, a challenging thing, a difficult conversation, the reason I feel better afterward is because my nervous system goes, well, I’m going to reward you for your willingness to sit in discomfort and pain and uncertainty with some feel good.

Here you go. Yeah. Right. The, all the things that we just described, they tip the scale the other way first. They go pleasure first, which means our nervous system goes, Oh, that’s too much. We got to tip it right back. And so that’s why you feel worse after. So not only are you building a tolerance to it, but that tolerance is going.

The more, the more you need to feel good, the more I’m going to hit you to come back. And there’s your withdrawal, by the way.

Richie Burke: And you almost always get a natural high after putting yourself in pain. It just kind of hit me as you were talking through it, whether it’s a cold plunge, which sucks for two minutes and you walk out and you feel amazing.

Or in my case, if I’m anxious to go on a plane, I actually go on one and get off and did it successfully. Like, I feel good. You have a difficult conversation that you’re worrying about and you get it done. You feel, you know, That’s a natural spike in dopamine going off of that. Uh, you said this, I don’t know if it was 10 or 15 minutes ago now, but, um, that anxiety can really cripple someone’s life and it, it definitely has to mine and did for mine for a while.

I’ve worked hard at getting, making things better, but. After I had that first panic attack on a plane, I avoided riding elevator, going to events that would have been good for business. Cause I didn’t want to get in an elevator. I avoided trips with, with friends or with, with Brie over here. It’s thing, things like that.

Cause I was avoiding it, which is not the answer and can cripple your life. So I wanted to throw it over to you on if people listening, and I know there are a lot of people listening who are dealing with anxiety issues, what are some things that you would recommend for them to. To help battle through those and get to the other side or at least manage it and get better.

Dr. Raymond Prior: Yeah. So, a couple things. If we are living in the age of anxiety and it’s becoming a thing, we can get better at talking about that anxiety and talking about it with people who are trained to help us with it. So, I would encourage anybody who’s feeling anxiety, that in whatever means you have available to you, Like talking with a mental health professional or, you know, somebody who’s trained in a way where they actually understand the mechanisms behind Anxiety and the interventions that can help you.

So I would always recommend getting yourself in the hands of somebody who is trained to listen, learn, Understand in a non judgmental and in a way that is only in your best interests about that, right? Some of the other things that we can do is just on a fundamental behavioral level Engage with less with the things that fuel anxiety.

So Less alcohol I mean There’s no shortage of research that shows that people that drink more and drink more often experience more anxiety and more depression spending less time on social media. Again, I’m not railing against social media. It’s not a bad thing, but we do know that there are some really adverse effects for our mental health to do that.

And there’s a bunch of research that shows right now that basically if you can abstain from social media for about 30 days, all like just cut it off altogether, your brain starts to rewire your dopaminergic system, begins to repair and you just don’t need it anymore. Um, and so that’s, Staying away from, um, or, or I might say sleeping better.

So everything in our body, both physiologically, psychologically, neurologically, everything restores, replenishes, resets, rebuilds, recovers during sleep. And that includes our emotional state and our psychological states. So sleeping better would certainly be one of them. Exercise, we know it doesn’t have to be anything crazy, but just physical activity we know is pretty important.

One of the most potent, um, interventions for both anxiety and depression. And then what I would also suggest to people is finding means by which you can engage with struggle for short periods of uncomfortable times also starts to tip that scale towards pain first so that you get a more internally, intrinsically based, means of dopaminergic response.

So that could be things like cold plunges. Again, there’s exercise that’s included with that. Those types of things where you’re having to do something challenging without necessarily needing a return on an outcome. Um, start to, what they basically do is when you see that you’re good, if you were measuring people’s, blood levels and the dopamine in them, you would see, uh, spikes in norepinephrine, which is just another way of saying adrenaline, which is just energy and dopamine, which is another way of saying focus.

And it’s a long release. So those would be a couple of things that people can, can start to do, which again are difficult. And the reason they’re difficult is because you’re going to have to go through some discomfort for an amount of time. A little bit of withdrawal, so to speak, to be able to start to shift away from them.

Richie Burke: Yeah. Before, um, we move on to the next topic, I want to just share a couple of things that, that helped me and one, one I learned, one I learned from you as well. That first time when I had that panic attack on the, on the airplane and was scared to ride elevators and be stuck and stand still traffic. The thing that helped me the most was actually going and doing it, but not like going full blown in right away.

Like riding the elevator from floor one to floor on my building five times a day and then working my way up to one to twenty and then riding it without my phone. And I’d make those advances when, um, Um, when I didn’t really have anxiety doing it anymore, which is exposure therapy and that. Yeah.

Dr. Raymond Prior: It’s systematic exposure, which is like, go to the degree that you can handle right now, do that.

And then when you feel like you can do the next one, right? So let’s say for example, you’re really anxious about riding in an elevator and can you go to the elevator? Not in it, but to it. Then once I’m there and I feel like, okay, well, can I just get in it now? I don’t have to travel in it, but just get in it and maybe you get out.

And like I said, you can just kind of work your way up to it. And if need be, you would even start, perhaps there’s a bunch of research where, okay, let’s say for example, I’m just terrified of just even the idea of an elevator. It’s okay. Well, can I just sit with that idea? Not even near an elevator physically, whatever.

Just can I just have the elevator in my mind? Okay, good. Right. And so wherever you can start With that, uh, engaging with that thing that is anxiety provoking to you and then slowly and gradually working your way up to it rather than, you know, the, um, Full on, I’ll just jump in the deep end type of thing tends to be more effective for people because it won’t necessarily elicit a panic attack Absolutely, or you get there.

I did

Richie Burke: have a panic attack for the first I told you about this for the first time and like seven years since that when we were coming back and we were kind of Crammed in the back of a plane. It was delayed installed on tarmac And that was an example of and I didn’t take my medication which I could have done, but I wanted to do it without it Yeah, that was an example of me maybe going Going too far into the deep end where I’m on a smooth flight.

I was I was fine

Dr. Raymond Prior: and and again the circumstances matter Yeah, I would urge people, you know, one of the things that we know increases anxiety for people is trying to just not feel anxious I’ll just turn it off or I’ll deny that I’m feeling anxiety, which isn’t helpful for us. If you were getting ready to get on a plane and feeling some anxiety, I would want you to acknowledge that so that then you could choose how you wanted to do something.

And because you’re acknowledging it, you can go, okay, well, what’s my level of acceptance for this or what timeframe am I focused on? Or what future scenario have I decided is going to happen? And is that really likely, right? So when you acknowledge that you’re feeling anxiety or you’re feeling anxiety, You’re feeling depressed, it offers you the opportunity to then be a little bit more graceful with ourselves and others, and then also choose how we want to respond, which might not be doing that thing, but it might be.

Richie Burke: Yeah. In the, the one other thing I wanted to bring up, which you were essentially just talking about not trying to run from it, but acknowledging it, um, Um, in this exercise in your book as well, but the trigger behavior reward when it comes to anxiety or anger, if you’re having any of those issues and just starting by just tracking it.

So you’re aware of when it’s happening and what’s causing it. What’s the trigger, the behaviors, usually anxiety, the reward is trying to do something about it. Your body’s trying to do something. It’s trying to

Dr. Raymond Prior: do something to save you from what you don’t want to happen. Right? Yeah. Yeah. So what you’re talking about is how our brain learns habits and Make no mistake about it.

We as humans are creatures of habit. And if we pay attention to something like anxiety or depression that can be a bit of a habit for us, you know, particularly anxiety becomes a learned response to things. And the trigger basically means like, what is it that has elicited this anxiety? The behavior is, The anxiety itself, behaviors, can be psychological as well as, you know, physical.

Reward is a term that refers to the reason our brain would choose this response to this thing. So it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is rewarding or that it feels good. What it’s almost like, um, is the reason, right? So if we would say airplane is the trigger, Behavior is anxiety, worrying about, Uh oh, shit, what if this thing happens?

And the reward for that is your brain going, I’m doing something to save you from what you don’t want to happen before it happens. And if we’re not paying attention to that, our brain’s just going to keep running it on automatic. Right? If we want to change our habitual responses. Two things, we have to pay conscious attention to them, conscious attention to them, excuse me.

And when we do that, we can then now begin to pay attention to, well, what do I actually get from this response? Do I get what my brain thinks it’s getting, which is doing something to save me from the thing I don’t want to happen? Or is it actually making the situation worse for me and make me feel worse at the same time?

And then once we pay attention to that, our brain starts to evaluate whether that is or isn’t the best option for us. And if we show it that it’s not, it’s a process in psychology we call disenchantment, which is essentially, I keep showing my brain repeatedly, this anxiety does not feel good and it’s doing nothing good for me relative to what I want.

Then you can start to offer yourself a different option that allows you to engage with. The vulnerability, the discomfort, the sacrifice, the effort, and the risk perhaps required to Pursue the things in a way that move us more toward thriving than surviving So people can check that out in my book golf beneath the surface the primary researcher for that Which I know his research has been really helpful to a lot of people.

His name is Judson Brewer He’s at I believe Brown University both in their medical school and their psychology department He’s got a great book called unwinding anxiety, which goes through that entire process. I wrote the section on my book Um from a lot of his research. And I was actually just very disappointed that he published his book slightly before mine, because he did a better job of synthesizing his research than I did.

Richie Burke: But tracking it made a big difference. And then the trigger behavior, the reward, and then the, what it’s actually doing and physically writing that out, like what’s the anxiety actually doing kind of making me more anxious, not doing anything productive and then writing what’s a better response. A few deep breaths or whatever that might be or engulf, if it’s caused by that, you know, a free swing would be a better response than trying to steer it 50 yards away from the out of bounds.


Dr. Raymond Prior: Right. So again, that then, then what that does is essentially it gets us out of our immediate sensory experience, meaning I don’t feel good and I’m worried and into more cause and effect and cause and effect requires the part of our brain that’s going to you know, That can make logical, rational decisions to stay online, or at least give it a chance to come back online.

So if I can get out of how crappy anxiety feels right now, not by turning it off, but by paying attention to that, and then go, hold on a second, well, how does this making me feel? Do I want to feel this way? And then two, what is this actually doing for me? And you go, well, nothing good. That simple curiosity about your anxiety, rather than trying to turn it off, offers you the opportunity both psychologically and neurologically to go, well, maybe I’ll try this instead this time, right?

And that is one step closer to learning to do something different in all of those scenarios again, because it starts to generalize, our psychology starts to generalize.

Richie Burke: Hey everyone, thank you so much for tuning into this episode of Milwaukee Uncut, produced by Storymark Studios, sponsored by Central Standard Distillery and in partnership with On Milwaukee.

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