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Dealing with Stress and Anxiety: Self-Care in the Face of Life's Challenges

life free of anxiety podcast Jul 29, 2023
The Tools to Deal With Life's Stresses


Welcome back to the Life Free of Anxiety podcast where we are discussing stress and anxiety.

Our discussion today is with two seasoned individuals, Dr. Charles Barr, a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in anxiety, and Erica, who has both utilized and benefited from Dr. Barr's expertise. After a significant break, they're back with insights drawn from personal experiences about the need for self-care in times of stress.

Understanding the Impact of Life Changes

Our society often disregards the impact of significant life events, like illness, surgery, or having a baby, pressuring us to maintain our usual pace. But attempting to resume our regular activities without missing a beat can be extremely stressful. Recognizing this, Erica and Dr. Barr took a needed break to take care of themselves and their new responsibilities. This reminds us that while these events can be positive stressors, they are still stressors that warrant attention and care.

Acknowledging the Realities of Stress

Life can indeed be surprising, throwing additional stressors our way when we least expect it. Dealing with sick pets, medical visits, and even societal pressures to appear perfect after major events can add to our stress. For instance, the pressure to lose weight quickly after pregnancy or to bounce back instantly after surgery can be intense and damaging. Remember, we each heal at our own pace, and there is no "right" timeline for recovery.

Using Relaxation Tools

When it comes to stress management, one crucial tool in our arsenal is relaxation. Through techniques like deep breathing, mindfulness, and positive self-talk, we can navigate stressful situations, even medical procedures. The CHAANGE Program offers a range of such tools that have proven effective over the years. Despite the simplicity of some of these tools, their effectiveness cannot be undermined.

Listening to Your Body

Our bodies often tell us what they need if we listen. Ignoring your body's needs can lead to additional issues, like increased anxiety. Cultivating a stronger connection with your body can improve feelings of control and decrease self-judgment.

Avoiding Harmful Comparisons

Comparison can be the thief of joy, especially when dealing with stress and recovery. Each person's journey is unique, and comparing your progress with others can often lead to feelings of inadequacy.


Whether it's dealing with the aftermath of surgery, adjusting to life with a newborn, or managing an aging pet, life will inevitably present us with stressors. The key is having the right tools at our disposal, maintaining patience, and practicing self-compassion. By doing so, we can not only survive these stressful periods but also thrive in them.


EPISODE: The Tools to Deal With Life's Stresses

[00:00:00] Erica: Hello! Welcome back to the Life Free of Anxiety Podcast. It feels good to say that. And welcome to everyone who is new. We know there's a lot of you that jump on it when you just search "anxiety" and find our podcast.

[00:00:12] So real quickly, the Barbie movie, I have not seen it. Kyle and I were having dinner last weekend.

[00:00:19] We actually got away for a date, which was kind of a miracle. But we got away and we went to a restaurant where we had a view of the movie theater. And everybody walking by was just fully decked out for Barbie. It was amazing. But it was cool. People were really into it.

[00:00:34] I think that's one of the most cool, fun things we can do when we have anxiety is go escape in the movie theater, dress up, go see whatever you want, go have fun. Dr. Barr has a lot of fun in his life, he doesn't tell you this, but him and his wife are actually working on seeing all 50 states right now, and they're really close, and they really get away a lot, and they have a good time.

[00:00:52] We can't always all see all 50 states, but we can see a movie, and if wearing Barbie pink is your thing, and seeing the movie, I mean there's other movies out. But anyways, we've got a lot of really good stuff planned.

[00:01:04] I also want to let you know you can always shoot me an email at [email protected]. I respond to every email, believe it or not.

[00:01:11] With that, here's the episode.

[00:01:13] INTRO

[00:01:13] Erica: Welcome to the Life Free of Anxiety Podcast, where each week we'll bring you another discussion to help you on your way to overcoming your fears. I'm Erica and together with Dr. Charles Barr, a licensed clinical psychologist, specializing in anxiety, we'll be your guides on this journey. Because you are not broken, you are not alone.

[00:01:43] And you are on your way to living a life free of anxiety.

[00:01:47] Main Episode

[00:01:47] Erica: We're back. A little bit of a long break. But yes, Dr. Barr is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in anxiety and he's done so for over 30 years in Los Angeles. I met him because he was my therapist. He helped me a lot. That's why we make a podcast now.

[00:02:04] But a little bit about that break, Dr. Barr had surgery. I had a baby. no big deal, but we're back.

[00:02:12] Dr. Charles Barr: Actually big deal. That's part of what we want to talk about. Our society doesn't make a lot of room for illness and surgery and babies and things like that. And the society says we should just keep right on trucking and doing what exactly we were doing before.

[00:02:32] Erica: Right.

[00:02:32] Dr. Charles Barr: It's very stressful to try to do that.

[00:02:36] So we decided that we needed to take a break. To take care of ourselves and have babies. And we talked in our last podcast about positive stress. And so having a baby is a positive stress, but it is a stress nonetheless.

[00:02:53] Erica: It is. And you know what's so crazy and ironic about all of this is I have an 18 year old dog and you might even hear her barking right now, cause I'm not in the room with her.

[00:03:03] She has almost been... she actually might have been more stressed and more work then the baby, since I've had this baby. Not that the baby's been a piece of cake, but this dog is also just a crazy amount of stress on our lives. Between medications, vet visits, trying to keep her comfortable... it's been a lot.

[00:03:28] So it's funny what life will throw you when you've got a stress already, a new stress, and you've got something added on top of it that's almost just as stressful. But, I do love what you said about society wanting us to come back, because I think on social media these days, especially when it comes to having a baby, there's this whole thing of " I had the baby, but look how skinny I am now." Or "I had the baby, but look at me and my four kids all dressed in matching outfits. So look how perfect we are. Look how well I get along with my husband."

[00:03:59] And it's true. It's like have the baby and then look perfect. That's kind of the idea.

[00:04:05] Dr. Charles Barr: That puts a tremendous amount of pressure on people. To not allow time for themselves, for their hormones to re-regulate, your body to get back in some kind of a condition that you used to recognize.

[00:04:18] You know, it's not unusual for women to put on a whole lot of weight during a pregnancy and it takes some of them a long time to get that weight off. Some of them never do. Well, that's life. That's the way our bodies respond.

[00:04:33] Erica: I think with surgeries to, on social media, there might be a post like "I had surgery." And then the next one is "look how well I'm doing on a bike" or whatever.

[00:04:42] But, it's all those moments in between that we didn't see. I think you were even telling me in particular about a procedure you had with your eye, where you were using a lot of relaxation to get through it and, those are definitely the things nobody's posting about.

[00:04:59] But, I remember you sharing that with me. We talk a lot about the CHAANGE Program, and it just goes to show with Dr. Barr's example, when he was going through kind of an uncomfortable eye procedure, and I don't know how much you want to share about that, Dr. Barr. But you were using the same skills that you learned from the CHAANGE Program, how many years ago?

[00:05:20] Dr. Charles Barr: Well, let's see in 1988... so that's a lot of years ago. That's 35 years ago, and I still use them and they still work. And that's the important thing that I want to convey is the skills that you learn and that we talk about, they really are skills for a lifetime and they work for a lifetime.

[00:05:41] They don't quit working. We quit using them sometimes. And think that they don't work anymore because we're not using them anymore. Or we get out of practice and we become unskilled with that skill. But the things that we teach, if you will use them consistently, they keep working and they keep working and they keep working. And relaxation certainly is a cornerstone in my life, that I'm so thankful that I was able to learn.

[00:06:12] And it has brought me through many, many situations, including that surgery, the eye surgery. I had a basal cell cancer underneath my left eye and it was a significant procedure.

[00:06:27] Erica: You were awake for it?

[00:06:28] Dr. Charles Barr: Yes, it's called a Mohs procedure. Lots of people have had that. And they keep taking layer after layer until the layers are clean.

[00:06:38] And they had to go back three times on this one.

[00:06:42] Erica: Wow.

[00:06:43] Dr. Charles Barr: I had to do a lot of relaxation that day and a lot of talking to myself about staying calm and relaxed and being positive and being glad that they were getting all of the cancer out and that kind of thing.

[00:06:57] Erica: Focusing on the positive.

[00:06:58] Dr. Charles Barr: Absolutely. So I guess I've had two pretty good procedures since we've been talking. I also had a radical prostatectomy back in February of this year. And I would say that that has been the most challenging surgery I've ever had, because I did not come back quickly from that. And my body just was not ready to have me up and running around and doing all these things.

[00:07:27] So I had to practice all of the things that I've taught all of my people, and that I've used over the years, because I tend to want to run ahead. Not be patient. And on this one, my body said, "you are going to be patient or you are going to pay."

[00:07:48] So patient, I had to be, and you were talking about the expectations. I had met a man who said, "yeah, I had that done about six months ago. And I was up running around feeling fine at three weeks." Well, at three weeks, I could hardly move.

[00:08:06] Erica: Yes, yeah, you know, it is so funny that you say that, because after I had my baby in January, I had a friend tell me she was breastfeeding twins, which I had all these issues. I wasn't able to breastfeed one. I've actually haven't been able to breastfeed either of my children. So we were doing formula for both, which was a huge disappointment both times.

[00:08:27] So I have a friend who tells me "I'm breastfeeding twins." Like, okay, how do you have that much milk? Fascinating. I feel really bad about myself. And I had another friend say, "I'm just about down back to my weight now after just a few weeks." And it was like, really? Yeah, I'm so happy for you, right? Yeah.

[00:08:45] So it is, it's those comparisons that will stop you in your tracks. And you're like, well, what's wrong with me? This isn't right. I should be like them.

[00:08:54] Dr. Charles Barr: That's right.

[00:08:55] Erica: It takes a lot of good conversation with yourself, I think, to get...

[00:09:01] Dr. Charles Barr: It does. We have to talk well to ourselves and, really try to stop the comparison machine because, boy, that can just eat you alive. I know the whole breastfeeding thing is a big issue. If you're not able to breastfeed, what's wrong with you and that kind of thing. That's no good, because there are lots of women who can't breastfeed for various reasons.

[00:09:22] There was a whole generation of people that were brought up on formula that have done just fine. Thank you.

[00:09:28] Erica: Yeah, exactly.

[00:09:29] Dr. Charles Barr: So there's nothing wrong with using formula and being formula fed.

[00:09:34] Erica: Right.

[00:09:34] Dr. Charles Barr: And, it doesn't mean your child has missed out on any kind of particular thing that's going to have a long term effect that we've been able to determine.

[00:09:45] Erica: Definitely.

[00:09:46] Dr. Charles Barr: At least not that I know of.

[00:09:48] Erica: There's really not.

[00:09:48] Dr. Charles Barr: So the, the message is to those of you who are listening, is listen to your body. Your body is going to tell you what it needs and what it really, really needs. is wanting from you. And if you're listening, then your body will respond well to what you do. And if you're not listening, your body is going to create problems for you.

[00:10:11] And one of those problems that creates is anxiety.

[00:10:15] Erica: That's for sure.

[00:10:17] Dr. Charles Barr: So that's no good. We don't want you feeling more anxious. We want you feeling more in control and more in sync with your body. Not feeling worse about yourself or feeling less than. Yes, some people are better at healing, faster at healing.

[00:10:38] And I used to be faster at healing and my body isn't as fast at healing now as it used to be. And this was a major surgery. I have not had this kind of abdominal surgery before. I've had some abdominal surgeries, but not like this. so it just takes a long time to recuperate.

[00:10:59] Erica: I think just very difficult when surgeries and pregnancies and babies, especially the first three months, it's just that time where your life looks so different. And you kind of have to just go with it, for the time being, because when you have the baby, everything just slows down and you can't go out and you're not sleeping. Your hours are so off and everything looks so different.

[00:11:32] It can really drive you crazy if you let it, and I think the same is true with surgery or after you come home, even sometimes from a vacation, when things are just out of order and out of the ordinary, it just takes that time to let yourself go through the motions. Relax as you're doing it.

[00:11:51] And one day at a time. I know somebody who's very sick right now in the hospital. It's a friend of mine's father. And I just keep telling her, "one day at a time." Because every day is so different that he's there. And every day they're dealing with something different. And, there's not much else we can do.

[00:12:08] I remember a time when one of the things I really hated that people said about anxiety is "you just have to have the right tools." I hated tools. That just sounded so stupid to me.

[00:12:19] I don't need tools. I need to get better! And there's just nothing more true than needing tools in the end!

[00:12:26] You need tools of relaxation because they change your body. They change your nervous system. They slow down all those intense feelings, and they let your body take that break you need. So I realized when we talk about tools, we talk about tools that work, we don't talk about tools that are going to waste your time or going to sound nice. Because that's what it sounded like to me.

[00:12:47] "Okay, somebody tells me to use a tool for anxiety one more time?" But I was really just waiting for somebody to hand me the right tool.

[00:12:55] Dr. Charles Barr: That's right. One of the things I've found true in the CHAANGE Program is that as people encounter the tools there-- and it was true for me too, and I think I've talked about it on a previous episode- -that you hear the tool and you get introduced to the tool and it just seems so lightweight. It seems so stupid, you know it's like, "Hey, I've got this serious thing I'm trying to deal with and you want me to play word games. Because some of the tools that we have are cognitive tools.

[00:13:25] Changing how you talk to yourself.

[00:13:27] Erica: Right.

[00:13:27] Dr. Charles Barr: The thing is that they work. That's the thing that if you'll get past your biases and try the tool, you'll find that it works and it's surprising. It's like, "wow, I'm shocked that that works. I'm, I'm glad it works." Because you're still kind of incredulous about it. " I can't believe that that simple little thing works so well, and yet it does." And it keeps working. And one of the surprising things to me even, is it keeps working.

[00:13:57] Erica: It's always something you keep reaching back to. We have people who used the CHAANGE Program, not just you, 30 years ago, who've reached out who've said, "I'm so glad to see this program has been taken over by someone else. I still use it I think we interviewed somebody, we did, who is still using all these same concepts in her life to this day.

[00:14:17] And she recommends the program to whoever she can. We have a few people who write to us say, I recommend the program to everybody I know because it works so well for me. And just to remind people, Dr. Barr actually was --I love your story--he was a licensed clinical psychologist who thought he knew anxiety really well, and probably did, but not as much on a personal level until an earthquake hit.

[00:14:40] And he was in a second story building. He thought he was going to go out the window because his chair was headed towards the window. And Dr. Barr had an onset...

[00:14:50] Dr. Charles Barr: Most frightening thing in my entire life.

[00:14:52] Erica: Oh, I bet. I bet. And that was something that brought on a lot of anxiety for you. And it was a client that brought the CHAANGE Program to Dr. Barr, not to tell him to do it, but just to show you, right. Like, oh, this is something...

[00:15:06] Dr. Charles Barr: That's right.

[00:15:07] Erica: ...that I've heard about.

[00:15:08] Dr. Charles Barr: She got into therapy with me and wanted me to take a look to see if I thought it was any good.

[00:15:13] And my bias was against it. Heh.

[00:15:15] Erica: Funny how things are.

[00:15:17] Dr. Charles Barr: Funny how the Lord works, isn't it? You know, so she brings this program to me and I ended up using it and used it ever since. And I've used it with hundreds of people.

[00:15:29] Erica: With me.

[00:15:29] Dr. Charles Barr: Yes, with you. And it just keeps working.

[00:15:33] Erica: Who was also against it, by the way, when I came to see you. Is this really what you have for me?

[00:15:39] Dr. Charles Barr: That's right. Okay. You know, Erica, it just occurred to me when we were last together, we were still on lockdown, I think.

[00:15:48] Erica: Oh my goodness, yeah.

[00:15:50] Dr. Charles Barr: So we've gone through a huge societal transition. And personal transitions as well as we've gone through these last two years of reopening ourselves, we shut ourselves up and then we've reopened ourselves and that was anxiety producing for a lot of folks.

[00:16:10] But we're certainly a lot freer now and resuming a lot of our life activities from before.

[00:16:19] Erica: Right. And there is definitely something to be said, too, about the people who just went into financial crisis. During COVID, for whatever reason, their business shut down...

[00:16:32] Dr. Charles Barr: So we still got a lot of stresses out there, don't we?

[00:16:34] Erica: I don't think they're ever going away, but the good news is we're at least back to hopefully give you some confidence in your life and hope.

[00:16:43] And we're going to be bringing a few topics to you in the future, such as postpartum stressors I've dealt with, tips and tricks for various anxiety situations, and hopefully talking about children and anxiety pretty soon, because I know we haven't touched on that yet, and that's a hot topic issue.

[00:17:03] Dr. Charles Barr: Well, it's nice to be back.

[00:17:05] Erica: It is nice to be back.

[00:17:06] Dr. Charles Barr: I look forward to making many more of these with you.

[00:17:11] Erica: Yeah, me as well. And we will be back next week.

[00:17:14] And take care of yourself until then.

[00:17:16] Dr. Charles Barr: All right. See you next week, hopefully.

[00:17:19] Looking Ahead

[00:17:19] Erica: Well, as you heard there, children and anxiety is a huge topic that we're going to be addressing. We know it's something that many of you have questions about. In fact, I can still remember going to therapy as an adult with anxiety and being told that my nervous system has been dysregulated for a very long time.

[00:17:35] So therefore, I needed to do more work to undo all that and when we can catch it when we're children, if we can catch it when we're children and we get the right intervention, we don't have conversations like that as adults.

[00:17:49] So that's the wonderful thing. So we're going to touch on that early intervention and everything Dr. Barr knows and we're going to really dive into children and anxiety. We've got other great stuff coming up as well. Stay tuned.

[00:18:02] OUTRO

[00:18:02] Erica: Thanks so much for tuning in today. I hope that something in today's conversation provided you with a feeling of hope, determination, or purpose. I know what you're going through, and that's why I want to give you some of the tools that helped me in my anxiety journey. To get a free copy of Free From Fears head to to find out more about the CHAANGE Anxiety Treatment Program.

[00:18:28] Find us at Thanks again for listening.

[00:18:33] And remember you are not broken You are not alone and you are on your way to living a life free of anxiety. See you next week

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