Exclusive Interview With Author "Natalie Kohlhaas"
Natalie Kohlhaas is the Founder and Director of Integrative Mental Health Counseling (IMHC). It has been a lifelong dream of hers to develop a comprehensive facility where people could be treated as a whole person (mind, body, spirit) by a group of mental health professionals who utilize state of the art, research-based treatment modalities, and who are experts in their respective fields of study.
She has provided psychotherapy for adults and adolescents in a variety of settings since 1996. As a trained psychotherapist she believes in addressing the whole individual, including any underlying emotional issues. She has a unique view on anxiety, in which she specializes, believing that anxiety is watching out for you, and listening to what fear is telling you. By keeping up to date with the newest studies and information and training in the field, Natalie's priority is to provide each client the best treatment possible.
Natalie is a breast cancer survivor, and while in care she suffered almost fatal complications. She was pronounced dead for 9 minutes and came back with more of a purpose - this is when she decided to write her book. Hello Anxiety My Old Friend: Harness your Invisible Superpower is intermingled with stories of her eight miracles, as well as her professional research on anxiety and fear. In it she delves into how you can embrace your anxiety as your guide rather than your enemy. The book will be out early next year.
You've been helping people with their anxiety for over 20 years, tell us a bit about your practice.
I myself have experienced sever anxiety and ended up in hospital rooms with confusing symptoms. Having been misdiagnosed for years I was finally able to understand what was causing the physiological and physical symptoms that doctors were unable to pin point. So when I sit with a client I understand their plight. I have walked a similar journey as them. While my path may have looked different, I am able to navigate direction and help them to find their own way to comfort and possibility.
I work with teens and adults of all ages as anxiety is an emotion we all can learn to understand.
Why did you decided to write this book now?
For years my clients have said, “I have never heard anyone explain anxiety like you. You need to write a book.” So when I woke up in a hospital bed after being clinically dead for over nine minutes I had to once again ask myself, “Why? Why am I still here? What am I yet to do?” And I heard my inner voice say, “Well, you always said you would write that book.”
Now with Covid-19 and the climate of fear we are bathed in, anxiety has hit new levels. As the mental health crisis becomes a new type of pandemic, I feel my expertise is even more needed. So now I am drawn to help as many people as I can, rather than one at a time in my office.
What can people expect from Hello Anxiety My Old Friend: Harness your Invisible Superpower?
A new understanding of this confusing emotion. So many people hear that fear and anxiety are the same feeling. This is so far from the truth that often individuals run in the direction that increases their anxiety and feeds their fear causing panic and a loss of connection. When people use anxiety and fear interchangeably, they lose a depth of understanding as to how anxiety is attempting to point them towards their truth, and instead fall into a dark cloak of confusion.
What is the main message you want readers to take away from reading your book?
Anxiety is misunderstood. Of all of our emotions anxiety is most likely the one we wish to shove in a closet and run away from. In my book Hello Anxiety My Old Friend, I walk people through how to listen to anxiety, understand it’s deep desire for us to walk in our truth and our best life. It can be used as a superpower to find our direction and inner strength. Anxiety is a loud and constant friend that will NEVER give up on us. Do not walk away from your friend. You are not alone.
People often think they are the same thing, but what is the difference between fear and anxiety?
While people experience body sensations they associate with anxiety, these symptoms are often the same ones we experience when excited -- our heart racing, quick breaths, butterflies in the stomach – yet, people do not confuse excitement with anxiety. Why? They have similar sensations; they activate the body in similar ways…so why are they different? Why do we have two different names for excitement and anxiety? Simply because they are two different emotions. This is exactly why fear and anxiety are different. Just like excitement is not the same as anxiety, fear is also not the same. There may be similar body sensations, yet the emotion is completely different.
Anxiety acts as a gatekeeper. It watches over us to let us know when fear is inappropriate. Think of it like this -- False Evidence Appearing Real (F.E.A.R) When fear is inappropriate we will feel anxiety.
You are a cancer survivor - did you use this experience in your book?
My story has helped me find and understand how to use anxiety. In the book, I walk people through my cancer and treatment. I allow them to understand the control each of us is attempting to find, and humanize how lovely, yet impossible, that truly is. That control can only be found in our thoughts, words, feelings, responses and reactions. Nothing else. Not outside of us, in others, or the world. This is how Covid taught everyone that familiar is not control. Familiar is not always there. Change is. We cannot control the world and others around us. We can walk with grace into change and accept each other with love, not fear.
One of your main messages is that we can use our anxiety to help us. Tell us a little about this.
In my book I walk people through the process of understanding what anxiety is and what it is not. It is not fear and it is not despair. It is not to be run from like a plague or virus. Anxiety is a constant friend that never ever gives up on you and your best life. When we stop and listen to what anxiety is saying, how it trusts us to make healthy decisions, how it believes in us, we can see how it is like an ever present friend. We can begin to see how to walk in our own truth, our best life, and our many possibilities. Fear creates a constant chatter in our heads of what will be wrong, how we will never…and why. Anxiety is the opposite. It is trying to get us to see what we can, how we may, and what if it did work? It wants us to argue with fear. Dispute and consider. Look at all the possibilities. Anxiety believes in us. It wants US to make a decision, NOT fear. When we let fear make decisions in our life we lose something.
During the holidays, what do you tell your patients that experience holiday angst or “the holiday blues?"
Today we are experiencing more pressure, worries and fears. For many the lock down decreased the pressure to preform, create or experience family traditions and connections that may have been difficult. While some individuals felt ease, others felt lost and alone.
Now we are starting to see a greater sense of pressure as individuals are reconnecting. When the holidays approach, I have my clients work on awareness of their thoughts or worries. Setting lower expectations, ones that do not require them to jump over hurdles, but rather walk easily over the bumps each holiday brings.
Holidays are always a challenge. Do not set expectations (which are “personal rules”) that set your life up for more stress. Instead, set expectations around laughter and curiosity. Curiosity is a tool to use with anxiety. It helps us explore balance in our life, which is the main goal of our inner superpower. Lower expectations around others and open up to becoming curious, is a main tool to be explored. Once the holidays are over we often look back and review our life and the events of the holidays. When we have set lower expectations, we decrease feeling lost or “blue.” In addition, remembering the kindness we have shown or received helps us to re-experience the positive moments of the past year and to fill our internal self with kindness during these difficult times.
Tell us what you're working on next.
In an effort to provide many the opportunities to walk together with their superpower anxiety, I am working on a seven-day personal retreat that can be experienced online and allows individuals to experience lower stress while harnessing anxiety for their own understanding.
For more information, please visit https://www.natalie-kohlhaas-lpc.com/.