294 episodes

Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast delivers effective, compassionate, & science-based tools for anyone with Anxiety, OCD, Panic, and Depression.

Your Anxiety Toolkit - Anxiety & OCD Strategies for Everyday Kimberley Quinlan, LMFT

    • Health & Fitness
    • 4.9 • 613 Ratings

Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast delivers effective, compassionate, & science-based tools for anyone with Anxiety, OCD, Panic, and Depression.

    Imaginals: “A Powerful Weapon” for OCD with Krista Reed | Ep. 339

    Imaginals: “A Powerful Weapon” for OCD with Krista Reed | Ep. 339

    Welcome back, everybody. Thank you for joining me again this week. I’m actually really excited to dive into another topic that I really felt was important that we address. For those of you who are new, this actually might be a very steep learning curve because we are specifically talking about a treatment skill or a tool that we commonly use in CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and even more specifically, Exposure and Response Prevention. And that is the use of imaginals or what we otherwise call scripts. Some people also use flooding. 

    We are going to talk about this because there are a couple of reasons. Number one, for those of you who don’t know, I have an online course called ERP School. In ERP School, it’s for people with OCD, and we talk about how to really get an ERP plan for yourself. It’s not therapy; it’s a course that I created for those who don’t have access to therapy or are not yet ready to dive into therapy, where they can really learn how to understand the cycle of OCD, how to get themselves out of it, and gives you a bunch of skills that you can go and try. Very commonly, we have questions about how to use imaginals and scripts, when to use them, how often to use them, when to stop using them, when they become compulsive and so forth. 

    In addition to that, as many of you may not know, I have nine highly skilled licensed therapists who work for me in the state of California and Arizona, where we treat face-to-face clients. We’re actually in Los Angeles. We treat patients with anxiety disorders. I also notice that during my supervision when I’m with my staff, they have questions about how to use imaginals and scripts with the specific clients. Instead of just teaching them and teaching my students, I thought this was another wonderful opportunity to help teach you as well how to use imaginals and why some people misuse imaginals or how they misuse it. I think even in the OCD community, there has been a little bit of a bad rap on using scripts and imaginals, and I have found using scripts and imaginals to be one of the most helpful tools for clients and give them really great success with their anxiety and uncertainty and their intrusive thoughts. 

    Here we are today, it is again a start of another very short series. This is just a three-week series, talking about different ways we can approach imaginals and scripts and how you can use it to help manage your intrusive thoughts, and how you can use it to reduce your compulsions. 

    It is going to be three weeks, as I said. Today, we are starting off with the amazing Krista Reed. She’s been on the show before and she was actually the one who inspired this after we did the last episode together. She said, “I would love to talk more about imaginals and scripts.” I was like, “Actually, I would too, and I actually would love to get some different perspectives.”

    Today, we’re talking with Krista Reed. Next week, we have the amazing Shala Nicely. You guys already know about Shala Nicely. I’m so happy to have her very individual approach, which I use all the time as well. And then finally, we have Dr. Jon Grayson coming in, talking about acceptance with imaginals and scripts. He does a lot of work with imaginals and scripts using acceptance, and I wanted to make sure we rounded it out with his perspective. 

    One thing I want you to think about as we move into this series or three-part episode of the podcast is these are approaches that you should try and experiment with and take what you need. I have found that some scripts work really well with some clients and others don’t work so well with other clients. I have found that some scripts do really well with one specific obsession, and that doesn’t do a lot of impact on another obsession that they may have. I want you just to be curious and open and be ready to learn and take what works for you because I think all of these approaches are incredibl

    • 41 min
    Is Being Overly “Busy” A Compulsion? | Ep. 338

    Is Being Overly “Busy” A Compulsion? | Ep. 338

    Welcome back, everybody. Today, we are going to have a discussion, and yes, I understand that I am here recording on my own in my room by myself, so it’s not really a discussion. But I wanted to give you an inside look into a discussion I had, and include you hopefully, on Instagram about a post I made about being busy. 

    Now, let me tell you a little bit of the backstory here. What we’re really looking at here is, is being busy a compulsion or an effective behavior? Here’s the backstory. I am an anxious person. Nice to meet you. Everybody knows it, I’m an anxious person. That’s what my natural default is. I have all the tools and practice using all the tools and continue to work on this as a process in my life. Not an end goal, but just a process that I’m always on, and I do feel like I handle it really, really well. In the grand scheme of things, of course, everyone makes mistakes and recovery is an up-and-down climb. We all know that. But one thing I have found over and over and over and over again is my inclination to rely on busyness to manage my anxiety. 

    The reason I tell you this over and over is it’s a default to me. When I’m struggling with anything, I tend to busy myself. Even when I had the beginning of an eating disorder, that quickly became a compulsive exercise activity because trying to manage my eating disorder created a lot of anxiety, and one way I could avoid that anxiety and check the eating disorder box was to exercise, move my body. Even though I fully recovered from that, and even though I consider myself to be doing really well mentally overall, I still catch myself relying on work and busyness as a compulsion, as a safety behavior to reduce or remove or avoid my anxiety. 

    I made a post on this and it had overwhelming positive responses. Meaning, I agree, there was a lot of like, “Oh, I feel called out or hashtag truth.” A lot of people were resonating with this idea that being busy can be a very sneaky compulsion that we do to run away from fear or uncertainty or discomfort or sadness and so forth. But then some of my followers, my wonderful followers came in hot—when I say “hot,” like really well—with this beautiful perspective on this topic and I really feel like it was valid and important for us to discuss here today.

    Let’s talk about that, because I love a good discussion and I love seeing it from both sides. I love getting into the nitty gritty and determining what is what. Let’s talk about me just because it’s easy for me to use an example. Let’s say I have a thought or a feeling of anxiety. Something is bothering me. I’m having anticipatory anxiety or uncertainty about something. My brain wants to solve it, but because I have all these mindfulness tools and CBT tools, I know there’s no point in me trying to solve it. I know there’s no point in me ruminating on it. I’m not going to change it or figure it out. I have that awareness, so I go, “Okay, now I’m going to get back to life,” which is a really wonderful tool. But what I find that I do is I don’t just get back to life. I, with a sense of urgency, will start typing, cleaning, folding laundry, whatever it is, even reading. I will notice this shift in me to do it fast, to do it urgently, to try and get the discomfort to be masked, to be reduced. 

    And then, of course, I want to share with you, what I then do is when I catch that is I go, “Okay.” I feel the rev inside me and then I ease up on it. I pump the brakes and I try to return back to that activity without that urgency, without that resistance to the anxiety, or without that hustle mentality. But it is a default that I go to that often I don’t catch until later on down the track. It’s usually until I start to feel a little dizzy, I feel a little lost, a little bit overwhelmed. And then I’m like, “Oh, okay, I’m overusing busyness to manage my anxiety.”

    The perspective t

    • 17 min
    How to be Happy (When You Have Anxiety) | Ep.337

    How to be Happy (When You Have Anxiety) | Ep.337

    Hello and welcome back, everybody. We have an amazing guest today. This is actually somebody I have followed, sort of half known for a long time through a very, very close friend, Shala Nicely, who’s been on the show quite a few times, and she connected me with Dr. Ashley Smith. Today, we are talking about happiness and what makes a “good life” regardless of anxiety or of challenges you may be going through. 

    Dr. Ashley Smith is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist. She’s the co-founder of Peak Mind, which is The Center for Psychological Strength. She’s a speaker, author, and entrepreneur. She has her own TED Talk, which I think really shows how epic and skilled she is. 

    Today, we talk about how to be happy. What is happiness? How do you get there? Is it even attainable? What is the definition of happiness? Do we actually want it or is it the goal or is it not the goal? I think that this is an episode I needed to hear so much. In fact, since hearing this episode as we recorded it, I basically changed quite a few things. I will be honest with you, I didn’t actually change things related to me, but I changed things in relation to how I parented my children. I realized midway through this episode that I was pushing them into the hamster wheel of life. Ashley really helped me to acknowledge and understand that it’s not about success, it’s not about winning things, it’s not about achievement so much, while they are very important. She talks about these specific things that science and research have shown to actually improve happiness. 

    I’m going to leave it at that. I’m going to go right over to the show. Thank you, Dr. Ashley Smith, for coming on. For those who want to know more about her, click the links in the show notes, and I cannot wait to listen back to this with you all. Have a great day, everybody. 

    Kimberley: Welcome, Dr. Ashley Smith. I’m so happy to have you here.

    Dr. Ashley: I am excited to be here today. I’ve wanted to be on your podcast for years, so thank you for this.

    Kimberley: Same. Actually, we have joint friends and it’s so good when you meet people through people that you trust. I have actually followed you for a very long time. I’m very excited to have you on, particularly talking about what we’re talking about. It’s a topic we probably should visit more regularly here on the show. We had discussed the idea of happiness and what makes a good life. Can you give me a brief understanding of what that means or what your idea about that is?

    Dr. Ashley: Yeah. Oh, this is a topic that I love to talk about. When I think about it, I have a little bit of a soapbox, which is that I think our approach to mental health is broken. I say that as someone who is a mental health practitioner, and I really love my job and I love working with people and helping. But what I mean by that is our traditional approach has been, “Let’s reduce symptoms. Let’s correct the stuff that’s ‘wrong’ with someone.” When it comes to anxiety or depression, it’s how do we reduce that? And that’s great. Those are really important skills, but we’ve got this whole other side that I think we need to be focusing on. And that is the question of how do we get more of the good stuff. More happiness, more well-being. How do we create lives that are worth living? That’s not the same as how do we get rid or reduce anxiety and depression.

    In the field of psychology, there’s this branch of it called Positive Psychology. I stumbled on that 20 years ago as a grad student and thought, “This is amazing. People are actually studying happiness. There’s a science to this.” I looked at happiness and optimism and social anxiety and depression and how those were all connected. Fast forward, 15 years or so, I really hit a point with my professional life and my personal life where I was recognizing, “Wait a minute, I need more. I need more as an ind

    • 36 min
    How to handle 10/10 Anxiety | Ep. 336

    How to handle 10/10 Anxiety | Ep. 336

    Hello and welcome back, everybody. I’m so happy to be here with you. This is not the normal format in which we do Your Anxiety Toolkit podcast, but I wanted to really address a question that came up in ERP School about how to manage 10 out of 10 anxiety. 

    For those of you who don’t know, over at CBTSchool.com, we have a whole array of courses—courses for depression, generalized anxiety, panic, OCD, hair pulling, time management, mindfulness. We have a whole vault of courses. In fact, we have a new one coming out in just a couple of weeks, which is a meditation vault. It will have over 30 different meditations. The whole point of this is, often people say to me that the meditations that they listen to online can become very compulsive. It’s things like, “Oh, just let go of your fear or make your fear go. Cleanse away and dissolve,” and all the things. That’s all good. It’s just, it’s hard for people with severe anxiety to conceptualize that. That whole vault will be coming out very, very soon. 

    But this is actually a question directly from ERP School. Under each video of all the courses, there is always a place you can ask questions, and I do my best to respond to them as soon as I can. But I did say to this student, I will actually do an entire podcast on your question because I think it’s so important. 

    Here is what they said: “Hi Kimberley, I love all the information you give us. I get so much more out of this than I do with a therapy session for one hour once a week. That being said, I’m feeling a little bit overwhelmed. There is just so much information and so many tools.” 

    Yes guys, I admit to that. I do tend to heavy-dose all of my courses with all the science. I can bring in as many tools as I can with the point being that I want you to feel like you have a tool belt of tools, in which you can then choose which one you want to use, so I totally get what they’re saying here. 

    They said: “When I’m at a 10 out of 10, I’m hardly able to function and it all seems to go out the window. It either seems that noticing works as I run through my list of tools or I can’t even think straight enough to check in with myself or even think about the tools I could use. So, where do I even start in those terrible moments?”

    This is a really good question, and I think every single one of my clients in my history of being a therapist has asked this question. I know I have asked this question to my therapist because even as a therapist who has all the tools in those moments, it can feel overwhelming.

    What I did here is I pulled all of my followers on Instagram and asked them to give me their tools that they find helpful, and then I’m going to weigh in myself, and then I’m going to encourage you to just practice any of them. Now, often what happens—and this is the case for what obviously someone’s bought a course from me—is when you have all of these options, we fall into the trap of thinking there is a “right” tool to use, and I want to reframe that. In addition, there’s another myth that that one tool will make all your discomfort go away or that will be the tool of all tools for recovery. I want to really normalize that there is no one tool. 

    The whole reason that I do Your Anxiety Toolkit is to remind you that you’re going to have to practice multiple different things, you can’t put all your eggs in one basket, and it’s okay if it’s not a 10 out of 10 win. Meaning, it’s okay if it’s not perfect. Often I’ll say to clients, use the tools, even if it’s 50% effective. That’s still 50% effective more than what it would be in the past, which might be 0% effective or 1% effective. We take any wins we can take and we use it not as a fact that you’re a failure if it didn’t work, but more as just data on what to use for the next time.

    At the end of the day, the goals are: Did it give me a 1 or 2% improveme

    • 20 min
    PMS + Anxiety + PMDD | Ep 335

    PMS + Anxiety + PMDD | Ep 335

    Welcome back, everyone. I am so happy to do the final episode of our Sexual Health and Anxiety Series. It has been so rewarding. Not only has it been so rewarding, I actually have learned more in these last five weeks than I have learned in a long time. I have found that this series has opened me up to really understanding the depth of the struggles that happen for people with anxiety and how it does impact our sexual health, our reproductive health, our overall well-being. I just have so much gratitude for everyone who came on as guests and for you guys, how amazing you’ve been at giving me feedback on what was helpful, how it was helpful, what you learn, and so forth. 

    Today, we are talking about PMS and anxiety, and it is so hopeful to know that there are people out there who are specifically researching PMS and anxiety and depression, and really taking into consideration how it’s impacting us, how it’s affecting treatment, how it’s changing treatment, how we need to consider it in regards to how we look at the whole person.

    Today, we have the amazing Crystal Edler Schiller on. She is a Psychologist, Assistant Professor, and Associate Director of Behavioral Health for the University of North Carolina Center for Women’s Mood Disorders. She provides therapy for women who experience mood and anxiety symptoms across the lifespan. She talks about her specific research and expertise in reproductive-related mood disorders. She was literally the perfect person for the show, so I’m so excited. 

    In today’s episode, we talked about PMS, PMDD, the treatments for these two struggles. We also just talked about those who tend to have an increase in symptoms of their own anxiety disorder or mood disorder when at different stages of their menstrual cycle. I found this to be so interesting and I didn’t realize there were so many treatment options. We talked about how we can implement them and how we may adjust that depending on where you are in terms of your own recovery already. 

    I’m going to leave it there and get straight over to the show. Thank you again to Crystal Schiller for coming on, and I hope you guys enjoy it just as much as I did.

    Kimberley: Thank you so much for being here, Crystal. This is a delight. Can you just share quickly anything about you that you want to share and what you do?

    Crystal: Sure. I’m a clinical psychologist at UNC Chapel Hill. I’m an Associate Director of the UNC Center for Women’s Mood Disorders, where we provide treatment to people with reproductive hormones across the lifespan—starting in adolescence, going through pregnancy, postpartum, and all the way up through the transition to menopause. We also do research. My research focuses on how hormones trigger depression and anxiety symptoms in women. I do that by administering hormones, so actually giving women hormones and looking at the impact on their brain using brain imaging and then also studying specific symptoms that they have with that treatment. We’ve given hormones that mimic pregnancy and postpartum, and we also use hormones to treat symptoms as women transition through menopause and look at, like I said, how that impacts how their brain is responding to certain kinds of things in the environment and also how they report that changes their mood. 


    Kimberley: Wow. You couldn’t be more perfect for this episode. You’ve just confirmed it right there. Thank you for being here. Before we get started, mostly we’re talking about what we call PMS, but I know that’s actually maybe not even a very good clinical term and so forth. Can you share with us what is PMS and What is the difference btween PMS and PMDD? 

    Crystal: Yeah. PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome. It actually is a medical diagnosis and it includes a host or a range of physical symptoms as well as some mild psychological symp

    • 33 min
    Menopause, Anxiety, & Your Mental Health | Ep. 334

    Menopause, Anxiety, & Your Mental Health | Ep. 334

    In this week's podcast episode, we talked with Dr. Katherine Unverferth on Menopause, anxiety, and mental health. We covered the below topics:

    How do we define peri-menopause and menopause? 

    What causes menopause? 

    Why do some have more menopausal symptoms than others? 

    Why do some people report rapid rises in anxiety (and even panic disorder) during menopause. 

    Is the increase in anxiety with menopause biological, physiological, or psychological? 

    Why do some people experience mood differences or report the onset of depression during menopause? 

    What treatments are avaialble to help those who are suffering from menopause (or perimenopause) and anxiety and depression?

    Welcome back, everybody. I am so happy to have you here. We are doing another deep dive into sexual health and anxiety as a part of our Sexual Health and Anxiety Series. We first did an episode on sexual anxiety or sexual performance anxiety. Then we did an episode on arousal and anxiety. That was by me. Then we did an amazing episode on sexual side effects of antidepressants with Dr. Aziz. And then last week, we did another episode by me basically going through all of the sexual intrusive thoughts that often people will have, particularly those who have OCD. 

    This week, we are deep diving into menopause and anxiety. This is an incredibly important episode specifically for those who are going through menopause or want to be trained to understand what it is like to go through menopause and how menopause impacts our mental health in terms of sometimes people will have an increase in anxiety or depression.

    This week, we have an amazing guest coming on because this is not my specialty. I try not to speak on things that I don’t feel confident talking about. This week, we have the amazing Dr. Katherine Unverferth. She is an Assistant Clinical Professor at The David Geffen School of Medicine and she also serves as the Director of the Women’s Life Center and Medical Director of the Maternal Mental Health Program. She is an expert in reproductive psychiatry, which is why we got her on the show. She specializes in treating women during periods of hormonal transitions in her private practice in Santa Monica. She lectures and researches and studies areas on postpartum depression, antenatal depression, postpartum psychosis, premenstrual dysphoric disorder—which we will cover next week, I promise; we have an amazing guest talking about that—and perimenopausal mood and anxiety disorders. I am so excited to have Dr. Unverferth on the show to talk about menopause and the collision between menopause and anxiety. You are going to get so much amazing information on this show, so I’m just going to head straight over there. Again, thank you so much to our guest. Let’s get over to the show.

    Kimberley: Welcome. I am so honored to have Dr. Katherine Unverferth with us talking today about menopause and anxiety. Thank you for coming on the show.

    Dr. Katie: Of course. Thanks for having me.


    Kimberley: Okay. I have a ton of questions for you. A lot of these questions were asked from the community, from our crew of people who are really wanting more information about this. We’ve titled it Menopause and Anxiety, but I want to get really clear, first of all, in terms of the terms and whether we’re using them correctly. Can you first define what is menopause, and then we can go from there?

    Dr. Katie: Definitely. I think when you’re talking about menopause, you also have to think about perimenopause. Menopause is defined as the time after the final menstrual period. Meaning, the last menstrual period somebody has. It can only be defined retrospectively, so you typically only know you’re in menopause a year after you’ve had your final menstrual period. But that’s the technical definition—after the final menst

    • 36 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
613 Ratings

613 Ratings

Mikehillslasveg ,


What a helpfully fantastic podcast

amy cerra ,

Provides so much support!

I was diagnosed with OCD at 10 years old, but lived largely unaffected by it throughout my 20s. Now in my 30s and as a working mom, my OCD has recently flared up, understandably so with having to wear so many hats. I’m in ERP therapy which has been super helpful, but whenever I need a little added support or encouragement, I turn on this podcast and it really boosts my confidence to keep fighting that good fight and not letting OCD control my life. Thank you so much Kimberly for helping me to always pursue my values and for providing me with so much hope. I can’t recommend this podcast, as well as Kimberly’s Self Compassion & OCD workbook, enough!

Carrie24Grace ,

So grateful!

Just started listening but this podcast has been a lifesaver. It is very to the point in addressing almost all my OCD questions. Thank you!! You are so kind to share the wisdom you have and have gleaned from your practice. So appreciative!

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