62: Mazi Robinson | Managing Anxiety

Mazi Robinson

Mazi Robinson is a licensed professional counselor and speaker specializing in helping women discover their true voice as they navigate self worth/self esteem challenges, relationship concerns, and life stage transitions.

In additon to her work as a therapist, Mazi maintains an active speaking schedule presenting workshops on topics such as anxiety, healing, healthy relationships, personal growth, and purposeful living.

Mazi is the Founder and Director of Cultivate. Through its counseling center and bi-monthly gatherings, Cultivate encourages women to cultivate joy, courage, and freedom in their lives as they pursue emotional, mental, and spiritual health.

Mazi resides in Atlanta, GA with her husband and two sons. She is an avid FRIENDS fan, loves dinner on a porch with friends, and is passionate about telling women they are loved by a good God.


Mazi and I chat about how anxiety manifests itself, practices to manage anxiety, identifying unproductive thought patterns, and how to overcome them.

5:34 You’re here today to talk about some aspects of mental health. Something that we’re all hearing or reading on a daily basis, during this quarantine and unknowns, is the rise in anxiety in people. Talk to us a little bit about anxiety and what you have seen as a counselor during these times, and how to identify that in ourselves.

“One of the things that I’ve been communicating to clients and talking with other people about is that if you are feeling anxious right now, that’s normal. If your anxiety is elevated right now, that’s normal. The reason for that is because we are living in very stressful anxiety inducing times, because what we’re living in is filled with uncertainty.”

“The thing that we have to understand is the way our brain works. Our brains main job is to keep us alive. The way our brain does that is by constantly assessing if we’re in danger or if we’re okay. One of the things that our brain perceives as dangerous to our being, to our security is uncertainty. So whenever our brain perceives that we are being faced with uncertainty, with change, with something that is outside of our control, our brain registers that as a threat to our being. Our brain immediately sends us into fight, flight or freeze mode, also known as our anxiety response.”

Anxiety may manifest as:

  • anxiousness, worry, panic
  • frustration, irritation, more easily annoyed
  • heart racing or pounding
  • changes in appetite and digestion
  • withdrawing, under functioning
  • over functioning 
  • sadness, depression
  • and others

13:25 Once we identify how anxiety manifests itself, what are some practices, some tools we can put into place in our daily lives to help us to deal with it in a healthy way?

  • Structure: “As human beings, we crave comfort and certainty and structure. What recent events have done is they’ve taken all that and thrown them up in the air. If you can try to create some sort of structure and routine in your day, that would be beneficial, because it sends a message to your mind of, ‘Okay, we’re not in control of a lot of things, but we’re in control of when we eat lunch. And I know I’m going to lunch at 12 o’clock and I can count on that.’ “
  • Showering (self-care): “It’s a way of sending a message to our mind that the wheels may have fallen off the car, but I’m still worth taking care of in the most basic of ways.”
  • Emotional Awareness: “Now’s not the time to stuff our feelings. We’re feeling too much. There’s too much to emotionally respond to and so now is not the time to stuff it and not bring it up or think I’m just not going to deal with it. I’m going to sweep it under the rug. It’s really important for us to process our fears, to process our worries, to be emotionally honest with those we are close to in our lives right now.”
  • Remind ourselves of truth: “It’s natural for us to feel critical of others. It’s natural for some of us to feel critical of ourselves. Why can’t I get this routine down? Why can’t I figure out this homeschooling. And so just being very aware of when our thinking is turning negative and reminding ourselves of truth? I’m doing the best that I can. This is so unknown. I’ve literally never lived through this before. So I’m not going to get it right.”
  • Get outside:  “Every day we need to get outside and if you don’t feel like you want to go outside, then that’s the day you really need to go outside.”
  • Consistent face to face connection with people outside of our home: “It is so important that every day we are talking and if we can video see someone, because we are not designed to be physically isolated. And even if you are isolated with your family that still isolation and that in of itself is kind of a different stress because you’re with us all the time.”

24:20 As Christians, we are familiar with 2 Corinthians 10:5  “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. And we take captive, every thought to make it obedient, obedient to Christ.”  While we can be very familiar with that verse, it is much more challenging to practice what that verse says. And so share with us some common unproductive thought patterns and how can we overcome those to walk in joy and freedom, particularly in this time?

Overcoming Unproductive Thoughts Patterns: Free Resource

Examples:

  • All or Nothing Thinking: “How we want to counteract “all or nothing” thinking is find the middle, find the gray. How I like to think of it is living in the duality of this experience. This experience is really hard. It is like nothing we’ve ever experienced before. It is scary in a way that we’ve never experienced fear before AND there are some little gifts in it. Families are getting less disrupted. More time together. We’re learning how to do things that we’ve never done before which learning is always good. That’s how we grow, right? And so it’s learning, it’s learning to live in the duality of I don’t like this season AND I’m grateful for X, Y, and Z.”
  • Focusing on the Negative: “I am only focusing on the negative, I’m catastrophizing here. We want to really remind ourselves that we don’t have a crystal ball, we don’t know the end of the story, remind ourselves of the things that are good in our lives and remind ourselves in a way that does not shame ourselves. For example, I should be grateful I have food in my refrigerator, because there are people in my city who don’t. That is true, but when we shame ourselves into positive thinking or gratitude, it’s counterproductive. And so we want to identify the positive and the things we’re grateful for without shaming ourselves.”
  • Shoulding: “We want to remind ourselves when we hear that thinking that I’m doing the best that I can. I’m doing something new, and I’m learning as I go, and I don’t have to do it the same way as Sally Sue or Julie Jane. My family’s life right now may not include scavenger hunts and that’s okay. That doesn’t mean that I’m a neglectful mom or I’m not “carpe dieming”.”
  • Inner Critic: “…practicing self compassion, receiving the grace that God is already giving us and reminding ourselves again, I’m doing something new. I’m not going to know how to homeschool on day three, we’re doing okay. It’s a new routine. It’s a new schedule. Every day is a new opportunity to tweak and change what didn’t work yesterday, and really just loving ourselves and handling ourselves with a lot of grace in the same way that God loves and handles us.”

32:15 Let’s end with 3 things I am doing and you are doing EVERY DAY to facilitate emotional health.

Amber:

  1. Silence/Solitude and Prayer 3x/day
  2. Outside every day
  3. Reading Scripture and studying every morning

Mazi:

  1. Shower and get ready for the day
  2. Outside every day
  3. Playing games with the kids
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