EPPP Anxiety Part 2: The Power of Positive Breathing


In our previous post, ‘EPPP Anxiety Part 1: Anxiety and Your Brain,’ we looked at how to use focused meditative breathing to relieve anxiety, including the type of anxiety experienced by those preparing to take the EPPP. I promised to share research on how this type of meditation can actually increase the size of the brain, improve social skills, make it easier to achieve mental clarity and focus, in addition to increasing emotional intelligence, self-regulation and resilience.

Before jumping into this research, let’s review three reasons why slow breathing is so powerful for maintaining a positive orientation in the mind and body.

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EPPP Anxiety Part 1: Anxiety and Your Brain

Here at TSM we talk a lot about anxiety management, and with good reason. We are in the business of preparing psychology students to take the psychology licensure exam, known as the EPPP. This is one of the hardest exams a person can ever take, with 225 multiple-choice questions spanning topics everything from legal issues to psychopharmacology. It’s not unusual that those studying for this test experience high levels of stress and anxiety.

But even if you aren’t preparing to take the EPPP, we all need help managing anxiety. Ironically, it is often the people who need help with anxiety the most who are least aware of it, since anxiety has become such a way of life that it can start to feel normal.

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How to Discuss Politics Without Alienating Your Friends in 5 Steps

There’s an American maxim which says you shouldn’t discuss religion or politics in polite society. It’s hard not to have some sympathy with this advice, especially during the election cycle. After all, just look at how our political debates have become an emblem of all that is degenerate in our political discourse.

Even among friends, conversations about who should be our next president can quickly become divisive and alienating, while frank discussion of political disagreements rarely proves constructive and edifying.

Well, I’m here to suggest the impossible: political disagreements, when handled right, can actually be constructive and relationship-building.

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Think Outside the Box with Your EPPP Study

Imagine you have a piece of paper in front of you.

Now imagine folding that piece of paper in half. Now fold that imaginary paper in half again. Repeat this process 42 times.

This is a thought experiment because in real life you would run out of paper before you could fold a single sheet 42 times. But assuming that you could fold a piece of paper 42 times, guess how high would it be?

Would it be lower or higher than your hand? Would it be as high as your head? Would it be higher or lower than the ceiling of the room you’re in?

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The CBT Triangle and You

There is ancient precedent for believing that disordered feelings often arise because of prior problems in thinking and behavior. For example, the desert fathers in the tradition of Christian monasticism often taught that the way to address problems in one’s emotional life is to attend to what is happening in the realm of thinking and behavior. Even before them, the 1st century Stoic philosopher Epictetus taught that our interpretations of events have a greater impact on us than the events themselves, so that the way to avoid unnecessary suffering is to engage in correct thinking.

The basic idea is that there was a web of multiple reciprocities between how we think, what we feel and the way we behave.

On one level, this is common sense: it doesn’t take a PhD in psychology to know that because we are whole people, a change in one aspect of the human ecosystem will have an impact in other areas. However, psychology hasn’t always traded in common sense, and for much of the discipline’s history too little attention was given to the notion of changing maladaptive feelings through addressing thoughts and behavior. Continue reading

Gratitude as a Way of Seeing

Complaining is one of those things we do without even thinking about it. Some researchers have suggested that during an average conversation we complain to each other about once a minute.

From a health perspective, this should be concerning. When we complain, stress hormones are released that harm healthy neural connections in the brain. This also occurs when we aren’t actually complaining ourselves but are exposed to someone else grumbling.

In his book Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life, Trevor G Blake shared some Stanford studies showing that being exposed to 30 minutes of complaining each day physically damages the brain by peeling back neurons from the hippocampus (the part of the brain used for problem solving and higher cognitive functions). Over time this can actually lead to the hippocampus shrinking, resulting in decline in memory and adaptability.

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Gratitude and Your EPPP Prep (Peace of Mind Part 2)

Anxiety and stress are a normal part of any EPPP preparation regime. When preparing to pass the Examination for the Professional Practical of Psychology (EPPP) you not only have to contend with normal test-taking blues, but also the stress that comes with trying to stick to an intensive study regime. Stress can become especially acute when you need to protect your study time from friends and family who may not always understand and who may even feel like you are neglecting them.

I know because I’m a struggling PhD student.

As if that isn’t bad enough, when preparing for the EPPP you may also begin to feel like your value and self-worth are hanging in the balance. For example, when you fail a practice test, you may find yourself thinking “I’ll never make a good psychologist – I’m a worthless person.

Thankfully you’re not alone with these types of challenges. At TSM we have your back. We not only provide you tools that guarantee EPPP success, but we also provide resources to help you navigate these types of emotional and mental stressors. For example, last September we provided 10 steps for succeeding at the EPPP without ruining your life in the process. In our more recent post on peace of mind we shared 6 steps for keeping a positive mindset no matter what is happening around you…including the stress of EPPP test preparation.

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Transform Your Life With Baby Steps

In our last post ‘The Kaisen Way to EPPP Success,’ we talked about ways to overcome the human brain’s resistance to change. Although human beings have a side that loves change, innovation and newness, we also have a side that resists change and always seems to revert back to the status quo. This dynamic constantly creates challenges when it comes to implementing changes in our lives.

While it’s easy to commit to big goals that will introduce important changes in your life, it’s much harder to take the steps necessary towards reaching those goals. It’s not difficult to begin taking steps – the difficulty comes with follow-through over the long-haul. If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, get out of debt, keep a regular exercise routine, learn a new skill, then chances are you know what I mean. No matter how committed you might be to changing something in your life, you always tend to revert back to what you’re used to.

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The Kaisen Way to EPPP Success

In the world of EPPP test preparation, there’s a familiar story. It goes something like this.

You finished your graduate work, you completed your internship and now you’re all ready to do what you always dreamed of doing—helping people through work as a psychologist. There’s only one problem, you haven’t passed your licensure exam. Compared to the rigors of grad school and the stress of internship, this final hurdle seems comparatively easy. So you order a box of books and other preparation materials that promise to train you for everything you need to know to successfully pass the Examination for the Professional Practice of Psychology (EPPP) and get licensed.

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How Peace of Mind is a Skill That Can Be Developed With Practice

I used to think it was just me.

I used to think that my brain was an anomaly in the way it always gravitated towards the negative and seemed to fixate on what was wrong in my life instead of being grateful for what was good.

After being worn down by anxiety and thought-induced stress, I decided to study about the brain to see if science offered any solutions on how to turn off my negative brain.

As I began researching I discovered I was not alone: millions of people today struggle with negative thinking and with a running monologue of complaints, anxieties and thought-induced stress.

Interestingly, the research shows that this epidemic of negative thinking does not necessarily correlate to what is actually happening in a person’s life. If someone is weighed down by negative thoughts, they tend to be tormented by their brain even when things are going comparatively well. Similarly, if someone’s brain is filled with positive thoughts like gratitude and compassion, they tend to have peace of mind even when things are going wrong in their life. Continue reading