Idol Hands are the Devil’s Workshop

by | May 16, 2022 | Anxiety, Panic Attacks, OCD, Overcoming Challenges, Self Esteem | 8 comments

KW is a past client of mine who achieved amazing success at understanding the causes and experiencing success at over-coming his anxiety and panic symptoms years ago.

When he walked into my office years ago, he appeared very anxious, but had no idea where the anxiousness was coming from. He had a great job at a major corporation, making good money. After a few sessions, I shared what I felt were possible issues. I was somewhat reluctant to unload my diagnosis on him, but still needing to express my opinions. I remember like it was yesterday, and expected a mixed response emotionally from him.

In so many words, I told him he was a person that had a tremendous amount of creative energy and business aptitude and yet people skills, and I suggested he needed to quit his job and start his own company or companies. He was bored, although a strong performer, who needed to create businesses and not have his energy stifled by others over him. Now was the time to really put his aptitudes and skills to work. I felt he had emotional conflict due to thinking he should settle with a good paying job with longevity even though he has so much potential to do so much more. That conflict created anxiety symptoms, and the anxiety became his focus, instead of the source of the anxiety. He surprisingly took what I said and did just that, created a new person, in control of what he did with his life.

He called me recently and brought me up to date. He in fact had been very successful with his own business, and was in the process of selling it for enough money that he would never have to work again. But he expressed that his anxiety was surfacing again.

My responses was ” You cannot be idle ! “

KW and I are talking once a week as he deals with making changes in his new life to further recognize the sources of his renewed anxiety, which seem to be triggered by new physical health symptoms that although not life threatening, do give rise the same old issue, needing to feel in control of your life.

He has been making progress dealing with his renewed anxiety symptoms, but I feel strongly that each of you could benefit from his experiences. Below, in his words, is his summary of what he has been through and learned which he has offered to share with you.

He will be adding blog entries through me as he travels.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist/Emeritus , Life Coach

……………………………………………………

Hello Fellow Members of RuledByFear.com !

Chapter One of : Idol Hands are the Devil’s Workshop

I have been pestered by anxious responses to physical symptoms since I was 18 years old.  The intensity and duration of my anxiety mental occupation came in and out of my life the ocean tides. Over time and with lots of help from Gene Benedetto I was able to understand myself and what can happen if I am not burning my mental energy.  Once I understood that I looked back and determined something very interesting.  The anxiety “tides” I experienced took place during times when I wasn’t stimulating myself mentally.   The challenge was unlike ocean tides there was no forecasting my anxiety.   Sometimes I wouldn’t respond to thoughts or stimuli at all.  Then other times something as simple as mucous in my throat would send me into full blown panic.  I could walk in an airport jump on a plane and fly 5 hours across the country without giving it a second thought or I could start to worry about a 1 hour flight a week before departure having a hard time stepping into the airport fearing that I would have a panic attack or get claustrophobic while on the plane.  “What if I lose control in the middle of the flight”.   The difference was what my mind was focused on.  What I finally understood is my high energy mind is going to focus on something. If I didn’t give it something productive to focus on it will find something very unproductive to give its attention to.  I guess its like my grandmother alway told me “idol hands are the devils workshop!”

Now to the point of this blog.  How to keep your mind busy during long periods of idol time. 

I would not say I am an adrenaline junky by any means but I do enjoy adventure. I like to experience life.  You know, taste new food, hike, ride horses, boat, kayak, spend time in nature, and do all of it in different places.  Once I had children my wife and I wanted our kids to have a zest for life and experience new things.  Our answer to this was to buy an RV and hit the road every summer.  We want them to see all 50 states by the time my oldest graduated from college. This means lots of time spent away from a “comfort zone” and hundred of hours behind the wheel. Not the ideal scenario for a person that doesn’t do well with idol mental time.   

This summers trip is over 6,000 miles long and just under 100 hours of driving.  So the first thing I need to do is spend time planning.  Not the typical vacation plan.  This plan needs to be specific to keeping my high energy mind focused on productive things.  Planning not only helps during the trip it also helps stay away from pre event negative thoughts.  Like what if this or that happens. Focusing on negative thoughts before an event is like turning a pot of water on high heat and wondering why the water starts to boiler.  Planning takes the pot off the burner.  So what have I find helps to plan.

1.) Plan each day so I know I have enough time to hit my daily goal of 10,000 walking steps.  The daily exercise is good for my physical and mental health.  Makes me feel like I am taking action to stay healthy and it helps me burn off energy.

2,) Plan each day so I am able to eat healthy.  Eating fast food 3 times a day during a long road trip not only makes me feel physically awful it also makes me start to think that I am not doing what I need to do to be healthy.  Which results in me thinking about what could happen because I am not healthy.  Yeah not good for many of us with anxiety.  

3.) I also like to prepare work I am able to perform while driving.  In preparation for the trip I create a call sheet that list people to call, their numbers, and what I would like to discuss with them.  I have found this to be very beneficial and enjoyable.  When in the office everything is so hectic its hard to find the time to call and have conversations that arent’ rushed.  I even purchased a “trucker” headset that has a noise cancelling microphone so no one even knows I am cruising down the highway at 65 mph.  It’s also an amazing time to call old friends and relatives to catch up.  Tip on this one- Don’t call those that would be considered energy vampires.  Bless their hearts, we love them but they will talk about who all is dying or has died, who is sick, who is has fallen on hard times, etc. etc.  Not that there isn’t a time to call that person,  but it is certainly not when you have hours left in your day on the road to think about all the awful things that can happen.  

4.) I like to make a short list of things I’ve wanted to do at work.  This list needs to be less tactical and more philosophical.   For example.  Ways to show people I appreciate them? What is would be needed in rewards program for top teammates?  I will brainstorm and use the notes app on my phone to record my thoughts.  This brainstorm session will usually spiral into other thoughts but if I catch myself drifting to negative thoughts I quickly refocus on my objective.  Even I do start to have negative thoughts I will call a coworker and share some of ideas.  The conversation will quickly get my mind refocused on working on something productive. 

5.) I have tried down loading audible books but my mind starts to wonder after 15 minutes and I don’t realize it for an hour.  Then I have a hard time going back to find where I stopped paying attention.  With that said I have had success with finding interesting podcast to listen to.   They are usually shorter and I can pick topics that I know my mind will stay engaged.  

These are some of things I take the time to prepare prior to leaving in order to keep my mind busy. 

My trip starts today!  Part of my plan for this trip was to create this blog at RuledbyFear.com and keep it update as I travel across the country.  Updating it with how I am doing and what if any techniques I used to stay away from “idol hands”

KW

8 Comments

  1. Coach

    KW, Just remember, your mind will wander and give room for negative thoughts. It is normal for most of us with too much “un-focused” time to feel some anxiety when we allow our minds to drift for too long. We may tend to pay attention to some little ache or pain, and or other body symptom and start the “ WHAT IF THOUGHTS “. IT IS NORMAL ! It does not mean you are failing, but just being human. You KNOW what to do ! Just REFOCUS !

    Reply
  2. KW

    Coach,

    Two days down and 18 hours of driving.

    I have been sticking to my plan by eating my healthier planned meals, walking in the morning and evening, and keeping my mind busy.

    Of course I have had a few occasions where my thoughts started down the wrong path. One example was I had just sat down behind the wheel and I noticed I was sweating more than I thought I should have been. My head and face were wet with sweat. My thoughts immediately went to thinking all of the possible thing that could be “wrong!” I quickly told myself this has happened before. I needed to use a towel to wipe off the sweat so the sensation of being covered with sweat would be gone, turn on the air conditioner to cool myself off, and turn my focus on something else.

    I picked up the phone and make a work call. Within a few minutes of focusing on something else I forgot all about sweating. Throughout the drive I have caught myself drifting. When this happens I quickly put my focus on something else. Something that forces me to be engaged in stimulating thought. Turning idol time into productive time and BURNING off mental energy before it gets to hot and burns me.

    Off to bed so I can be well rested for day 3.

    KW

    Reply
    • Coach

      KW, You have learned well. I know this is a big step for you, but you have learned how to manage your thoughts and not give into the symptoms.

      Very proud of you !!!

      Coach

      Reply
  3. KW

    Hey coach. I am sorry for the delay response and not sending more blogs. Been some exciting things going on. The plan was to meet the family in Denver spend a couple days there then drive to Zion. Well a winter storm came through and we had to change plans as staying in Denver would have thrown off the entire trip as they were expecting up to two feet which could have caused interstate 70 to close. So we decided to drive during the storm right threw the Rockies. It as an adventure for sure. But we made it to grand junction and settled in. Trying hard to stay busy, eat healthy and exercise. KW

    Reply
    • Coach

      KW,

      No need to apologize. Your actions are proving you can over-ride anxiety symptoms when you are focused, as in this case, protecting tour family and getting them through a potential snow storm.
      Coach

      Reply
  4. KW

    Chapter Two : Idol Hands

    I currently have a little over 2,000 miles under my belt as I have stopped at a few cities along the way. Enjoying the new scenery and cooler weather along the way. I try to stop at interesting places to learn things and keep my mind busy.

    In Kansas I was able to stop at a Cold War middle silo to take a tour. It was interesting to learn more about it and all the creative plans the current owner has for its remodeling. I have also been able to enjoy a local mountain bike race (watch. To participate) as well as some amazing mountain hikes.

    The anxiety / negative thoughts have popped up. They always do. The thoughts started popping up during a very long boring drive across the high plains. I felt myself drifting and knew that it wouldn’t be long until some anxiety symptom appeared. I quickly turned on a podcast that covered an interesting subject on focused on the topic. Diving deep into what they were saying and different long term possibilities of different outcomes. 4 hours later i was still deep in thought and the thoughts had nothing to do with some of the common “symptoms” my anxiety throws at me.

    A second time as I was driving through a bad snow storm across the Rocky Mountains. I started to feel closed-in and concerned about what would or could happen if I had a panic attack I wasn’t able to take the time to turn on a podcast and I didn’t have cel service to make a call so instead I told myself to focus on the road and the next five minutes. Putting all my mental energy into driving safely for five minute segments. Focusing on the road, the cars around me and the weather, nothing else. The five minutes turned into ten minutes building confidence that I was going to be ok and before I knew it the thoughts were behind me. I knew if i could control it for 5 minutes, I could control it for 10. If I could control it for 10, I could control it for 20.

    During my hikes I have also learned that my personality would often push myself farther than I should, go quicker than I should to get there. So I have learned to use some moderation at first not letting things swing to far one way. If I did I know that I am sensitive enough to my body that I would start to have concerns about my health. So I take it slower the first couple hikes building my confidence in myself at the higher altitudes. This allows me to enjoy myself without concerns of having something go wrong. Building confidence is also what I focused on while exercising everyday and eating better. Before I know I will be putting miles in on the trails. I feel more in control of an outcome if I have put the work into executing a plan. Which is true in so many areas of life.

    To close todays update I will share something i often say to myself

    Everyone has challenges. This is mine. It’s a byproduct of an intelligent and creative mind. There is nothing wrong with me or anything to be ashamed of. Now get out there and fight like hell because i am the only one that can let the 5% negative beat the 95% positive. Push into the storm not away from it.

    KW

    Reply
    • Coach

      KW,

      I hope that our readers take a hard look at this post. There are some very valuable lessons to learn from what you have learned through your experiences living with and overcoming anxiety and panic attacks. You have gained tremendous insight into how the mind plays games to derail our progress in life. You have learned so much, and this trip has brought it all together. You have gained such a deep of control of your thoughts that, while there will be anxious thoughts, you KNOW you have control over them. Coach

      Reply
  5. KW

    Hey coach I wanted to let you know I just arrived back home in Orlando. I can’t think you enough for all of your help. Without you I wouldn’t understand things or have the tools I have that allow me to do something like I just did! Thank you for everything.

    Reply

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