Activating the Parasympathetic Nervous System

Today I am introducing the first episode of the Therapy Talk Podcast.  Frankly, as a therapist I usually find it easier to talk than type, so we will see how this goes.  I’ve been doing some research again on the Parasympathetic Nervous System as it relates to the effective treatment of anxiety disorder, and in this podcast I share three of my favorite ways to more effectively activate it.

Therapy Talk Podcast with Larry Quicksall

Therapy Talk Podcast with Larry Quicksall


Anxiety Myth #9

There is nothing you can do to cure anxiety.

Personally and professionally, this myth is very frustrating to me.  It is a closed-door mindset that is utterly false.  “But I’ve tried really hard and nothing works.”  I hear your pain and frustration, but let me ask are you trying the same things over and over expecting a different outcome, or are you trying something different that has worked for other people?

Our experience of anxiety is strongly based upon beliefs, experiential learning, and neurological/biological reactions.  When we correct beliefs and reinforce with new experiential learning, then our reactions can change and the experience of anxiety can fade or even disappear.

Seek out a therapist in your area who can help you develop a treatment and recovery plan that can help you take your next step on a new path!



Anxiety Myth #8

Anxiety only develops from traumatic situations.

It is true, anxiety CAN develop from traumatic situations, but that is not the only means of experiencing anxiety.

First of all, anxiety is not a bad thing.  We were designed to experience anxiety as a means of recognizing a danger or a threat.  Without anxiety I doubt if many of us would make it to adulthood.  Anxiety makes us more alert and aware of our surroundings, and during a true crisis our body is flooded with adrenaline that gives us the ability to fight or flee from the danger.

However, in today’s society we experience anxiety for many reason that have little to do with a true threat or danger.  And we experience much of this for reasons other than trauma.

For example, a person growing up in a family where negativity is always present can inaccurately learn that the world is negative and dangerous and needs to guarded against.

A person who grows up in a neighborhood or community where other races or cultures are always condemned may feel anxiety when they encounter other races at college.

Living in an area where there are actual dangers (i.e. living in the an area heavily populated with rattlesnakes) can lead to unnatural fears and anxiety after moving from that area (i.e. moving to an area where rattlesnakes don’t live).

Spending too much time around overzealous or paranoid people can lead to unrealistic anxiety and even Shared Delusional Disorder (a topic for another day).

You see, problematic anxiety or anxiety disorder can develop for many reasons and often center around inaccurate beliefs.  However, help is available for anxiety.  There is no need to keep living with unrealistic fears.

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Alzheimer’s and Peanut Butter

I came across this interesting video that demonstrates how researchers are using peanut butter as a tool to measure changes in the sense of smell to determine progression of Alzheimer’s Disease.  Changes in the left nostril (right brain hemisphere) when compared to the right nostril is noted and allows physicians to administer medications for treatment sooner than currently available.

Link to the Video HERE


Anxiety Myth #7

An alcoholic drink, prescription tranquilizers, or “medical” marijuana are the best treatments for anxiety.

Well, I can tell you that a lot of people and professionals put stock in these solutions to anxiety, but unfortunately they are creating a new problem while allowing their anxiety disorder to continue.

It is true that alcohol, tranquilizers, and marijuana have a sedating effect when it comes to anxiety, they also have a lot of baggage of their own.  Chemical avoidance is not the best answer when it comes to treating anxiety and anxiety disorders.

Imagine if you fell and broke a bone in your ankle and were experiencing pain….what would you do?  Hopefully, most if not all of you would go to the ER, get an accurate diagnosis of the problem, have appropriate medical treatment so that it would heal, and restore the ankle to it’s pre-injury state.

Instead of the above scenario, would any of you simply go home and drink away the pain?  Or ask the doctor for pain medication alone?  Or drive to Colorado to buy some medical marijuana so you wouldn’t care about the pain or the anxiety of having a broken ankle? Hopefully not!

Anxiety is a natural sign that something is wrong.  Either we are in some sort of danger than needs to be fixed, or we are misperceiving something as dangerous and need effect treatment to correct our misbeliefs.

Don’t just mask the problem with chemical avoidance, do something that actually helps. Effective treatments are available!

Back to the Blog!

After a few weeks off to handle a few high priority items in my life, I am back to the blog and continuing on the list of anxiety myths.  For those interested, in May our older son and his lady were married at our family farm requiring much preparations to get everything in order for the grand occasion.  Following that we hosted a honey bee field day at our farm and apiary for the Crossroads Beekeepers.  Finally, earlier this week I conducted an all day workshop in the Chicago area on anxiety disorders.  So, with all that out of the way, I hope a normal routine starts up again!

Anxiety Myth #6

Anxiety disorders resolve over time.

The reason this is a myth is because anxiety disorders are based in beliefs, and a belief will stay the same until it is changed.  Time alone is not the answer.  Time allows for opportunity to correct inaccurate beliefs, but without the correction the beliefs and the resulting anxiety disorder will last indefinitely.  Some beliefs are easier than others to change.  What I look for most is a person who is willing to consider the notion that their belief is inaccurate, and they are ready to implement strategies for change.

Anxiety disorders can be treated and many time can be completely cured.  Hope is out there!

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Anxiety Myth #5

Avoiding your fears is the best advice.

This one seems to make sense, but it is so wrong.  When a fear is unreasonable, it is most likely due to an inaccurate belief.  Avoiding the fear simply reinforces the inaccurate or false belief.  What a person needs to do is correct the belief and confront the fear with the new found belief…The Truth!  The fear and anxiety will not disappear immediately, but over time is will disappear, often quicker than one would realize.

If your fear is complex, you may need a therapist with training in Cognitive Process Therapy who can help you identify and correct your beliefs regarding the fears….this is a key part of CPT.  The below video link on In-Context Exposure Therapy can offer some insight in how this can work.

Below is an info-graphic you can share on social media to help spread the truth!

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Anxiety Myth #4

Anxiety stems from a bad upbringing.

Anxiety disorders can result from various aspects of childhood including “bad upbringing”, but to imply that is the only cause is ridiculous.

Anxiety is a natural reaction to a perceived threat or danger.  So where do we learn that something is dangerous?  Easy answer….Life experiences.  Some life experiences where we learn inaccuracies about danger can occur in childhood, for example if a parent is fearful then the child can learn similar fears.  If a child is abused, physically or emotionally, for taking childhood risks, then the grown up child may have anxiety issues related to risky situations.

Other anxiety disorders can develop during adulthood and have no connection to childhood at all, for example stemming from various traumatic experiences such as serious injury or death of a child, military combat, or natural disasters.

Anxiety can be complex and to make an overly simplified judgement as to it’s cause is irresponsible and dangerous.

Below is an info-graphic you can share on social media to help others understand the truth about anxiety disorders.

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Anxiety Myth #3

Anxiety disorders are rare.

Holy Cow!  This is definitely false.  According to NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) anxiety disorders are one of the highest reported categories of mental disorders, with a lifetime prevalence rate of 28.8% (

Every therapist has their own unique population, so personal observations have a natural bias, but when I look at the anecdotal evidence from my professional and personal life I also see what I believe is an increase in anxiety issues.  Why?  I believe there are many reasons for a high rate of anxiety disorders, but I believe the primary culprit is a societal obsession with tragedy resulting in an inaccurate perception of fear and danger.

While there has always been danger in our world, we have historically been isolated from the events by distance and time.  Direct experience of traumatic or overwhelming life events use to be limited to our own lives…in other words, you had to be there to experience it.  Newspapers use to bring stories of tragedies to our lives days and sometimes even weeks after their occurrence. News reels from the battle fields of WWII brought live action to our theaters, but long after the battles had been fought.  During the late 1960s, the evening news brought full color horrors of the Vietnam War to our living rooms, and the sanctuary of the home was lost.  Fast forward to 2014, there is no sanctuary from live coverage from every tragic action taking place around the world.  We have several 24-hour news channels available via cable or satellite TV, and an endless number of Internet news providers that we can watch from our smart phones and tablet devices.  Finally, with approximately 20% of the worlds population carrying a smartphone wherever they go, we are exposed to first-person experiences of every bad thing happening in the world on YouTube.

When we watch the never ending parade of tragedies from around the world, it is easy to begin personalizing the experiences and borrowing other people’s traumas.  When we do this enough we experience vicarious trauma, often with many of the symptoms as if it was our trauma in the first place.

While anxiety disorder are not uncommon, we can pay attention to how much we expose ourselves to other people’s trauma.

Below is an info-graphic that you can share through social media to help dispel the myths of anxiety disorder.

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