Kylie unveils her experience of growing up with anxiety, how it held her back and how she learned to overcome it through mindset, strict food discipline and spirituality. It’s an informative hour about living a life with high-functioning & food anxiety.
In this fourth episode, our guest is Kylie Hines from Omaha, Nebraska. She is currently a Math teacher, Volleyball Coach and mentor. She has 10+ years of experience in coaching, teaching and holds a Master’s Degree in Ministry. Taking advantage of their quarantine date nights, she recently started a coaching business with her husband called, "We Well Walk." It is about helping others stop missing out on moments in life that matter the most due to lack of presence, openness and appreciation.
In response to the first question about why she is proud of her life today, Kylie explains that despite her busy schedule as a teacher, coach and mother, she has taken the day for herself! This is a highly unusual decision, as she is just learning that it is okay to experience self-care. Already today, she has taken her kids to the sitter, taken a nap and will spend the rest of day resting however she likes. Kylie further explains how Covid-19 has disrupted every aspect of normal life. As a mother of two very young children, as well as being a wife, coach & teacher who is working from home during the pandemic, she has been quite challenged in balancing these demanding aspects of her life.
Kylie’s anxiety stems from two things:
1. fear of not being perfect, and
2. effect of certain foods on her health.
The podcast starts with Kylie tracing her anxiety back to childhood. As a kid, she loved school. The symptoms of anxiety started when she was in elementary school. She recounts the last day before summer vacation in elementary school when she started having stomach aches. As they worsened, her parents took her to several doctors with no clear diagnosis and presumed it was due to psychological reasons. Eventually, the doctors suggested to her mother that Kylie be evaluated by a psychologist.
Kylie remembers being asked one question by the psychologist that is often considered a way to define an individual’s life perspective: Is the glass half full or empty. Because Kylie had an overall positive outlook on life, her answer was "half full." Unfortunately, the psychologist failed to diagnose her high level of stress & anxiety in the context of her response. As a result, Kylie’s stomach aches persisted; she internalized and adjusted to them being a normal part of her life.
Fast forward twenty years, Kylie’s pain and anxiety worsened after having her second child. On the insistence of her husband, Kylie met with a therapist and finally learned that both food and anxiety were causing her stomach aches.
As Kylie reflects on those twenty years, she can clearly see how anxiety affected her life. As a very high functioning individual, she performed well in school and sports: she was a perfectionist. What she would learn is that perfectionism comes with its own disadvantages; for instance, becoming a procrastinator and a risk avoider.
Kylie was committed to not failing. She didn't want to put herself in situations where she thought she could not or would not perform well. This required a lot of energy, and it was exhausting. For example, even though she was a very athletic individual, and she didn't compete in certain events so that she would avoid potential embarrassment. If Kylie thought she would be socially compromised in some way at an event, she would pre-plan on how to handle it, particularly in larger groups. Stuck up and selfish are ways that Kylie presumes she was perceived because she was so conscientious. These labels exacerbate anxiety.
Kylie shares Stanford Research that shows that children given titles like ‘talented’ or ‘smart’ during their early years can be harmful to them later in life. It posits that such titles make them feel they must perform exceptionally all the time. Kylie felt that such expectations did not allow her creative space and hindered her potential. The dissonance, however, is always remarkable. While some may be proud of their perfect grades, people suffering from anxiety can experience the same experience differently. Nothing ever seems quite good enough and fear of losing status.
Kylie’s mother died at age 48 from a cardiac event, and this was a turning point in her life. It changed her perspective on life and really showed her that life is very short and that many things are taken for granted. Consequently, she realized that she needed to be more appreciative and be more present in life.
Another significant moment for Kylie was one day while helping lead retreats for private school students; she experienced how open and vulnerable the kids were. It made her realize that she too needed to be more open and in-tune with life. Then a friend recommend that she sign up for a master’s in ministry program. Without any prior background, she signed up, and it led her on an amazing journey of self-reflection.
Kylie’s self-reflection process – aided by her spiritual director – helped her work through the inner causes of anxiety so that she could live a more peaceful life. Kylie still remembers the very first question her spiritual director asked her, “Who are you”? This question allowed her to begin seeing herself from a different perspective (the way she is), rather than what others thought of her. This inner journey affected every aspect of her life.
One requirement of Kylie’s master’s program was completing an 8-day silent retreat. She’d never done anything like this and felt immense discomfort. On the way there, she was sick to her stomach, was sweating profusely and felt like throwing up. She had a six-month-old daughter, and the thought of leaving her for almost ten days was outright terrifying.
It was very challenging initially as Kylie had to adjust to being in conversation with only one person, her spiritual director, for one hour each day. This experience allowed her to deeply reflect on herself and her life. For example, she remembered her love for writing in cursive when young and shares that she stopped because everyone else was writing in print and did not want to be different. After the retreat, Kylie continued writing in cursive and started slowing her life down.
The discussion then moves on to how knowing yourself can be quite scary because you don't know what you will find as you confront yourself. Despite its challenges, however, the benefit is that once you start accepting your past, you can stop it from affecting your future so much. You can start by making little changes in your life, like letting go of things holding you back or letting go of things that aren’t really serving a purpose in your life.
Kylie suggests prioritizing what you need to do and says that, “If you are trying to do everything all of the time, you aren't doing any of it well”. She recommends slowly adopting new changes – then the fulfillment will come. She believes you will be far more present for the people in your life who need you to be present the most.
Working through her anxiety has helped Kylie understand her math students much better as well. She can spot anxiety when one of her students feels overwhelmed or is afraid of failing. She describes one of her math students, who struggled with an eating disorder and would go to her classroom every day to vigorously work on homework & assignments because she probably felt at ease there. She could not tolerate anything less than a perfect score. Kylie says that there is always one such student in her class. Because of her experience with anxiety, she is able to help her students understand that discomfort & failure isn't all bad. It's a part of the rollercoaster of life. All you have to do is just let it be.
Nancy (the host) suggests that it is so important to acknowledge & accept what is happening at any given time and resting in that space is a first step towards balancing oneself. Personifying things (like emotions) also helps people recognize the problem. For example, what if your anxiety was a child? Would you say I don't care about you, or I don't care that someone just hit you. It is highly unlikely. Nancy questions, “Why then, do we it to ourselves?”
Kylie then talks a bit about her food anxiety. She believes that focusing on what you can have and knowing what agrees & supports your body/health is key. She also suggests to always look ahead and prepare for possible triggers can help people overcome food anxiety. When you say, "I can't," you are just setting yourself up for failure. Secondly, plan ahead. Sometimes Kylie plans her food intake/meals a week ahead. She also makes sure that she packs food for snacks and sometimes even when going out to ensure she takes care of herself. Living with food anxiety means that Kylie has to be more proactive in life, particularly on long days away from home or when eating out.
In the final minutes of the podcast, Kylie shares what anxiety has taught her about life. She says that it has taught her that it is okay to not be perfect and that discomfort is natural. She says that anxiety may not be pretty all the time, but accepting it allows you see what it has to offer – a perspective rich with human emotions.
Kylie comments that as the pandemic rages on, the world needs people who have learned to cope with their anxiety so they can share with others that it's fine not to know what to do and that it is okay to feel uncertain/anxious because everything will work out for everyone.
We may not know when that will happen, but it will happen. Acknowledging anxiety is the first step to overcoming it.
· [01:28] What about herself Kylie is most proud of today
· [03:30] A brief overview of Kylie’s anxiety in her own words
· [04:51] When did Kylie first recognize the symptoms of anxiety
· [08:33] Kylie talks about the events leading up to the diagnosis
· [11:30] The low-FODMAP diet and how it helped Kylie overcome stomach aches
· [12:26] anxiety because of food: Kylie talks about
· [13:26] How anxiety looked for Kylie
· [16:30] anxiety is everywhere
· [19:25] The value of failure and why it is important
· [22:40] Kylie shares her experience of the Ministry program
· [23:27] what is a spiritual director and how they can help you
· [25:55] How did the point of acceptance lead Kylie to engage with her inner self
· [27:00] Eight days silent retreat explained by Kylie
· [30:30] Kylie talks about the changes her mother’s death brought in her life
· [32:15] Knowing yourself can be terrifying
· [34:00] How Kylie takes the knowledge of self-realization and anxiety to her Maths classroom
· [35:50] Kylie discusses Chop Wood Carry Water Book
· [41:10] How Kylie prepares for life with food anxiety
· [45:54] What has anxiety taught Kylie about herself
Chop Wood Carry Water: How to Fall in Love with the Process of Becoming Great by Joshua Medcalf
We Well Walk Wellness Wheel Assessment: helps identify which dimension of wellness may be adding unidentified stress to their lives.