Empowering Healthcare Workers: Mark Antczak on Anxiety & Self Care

Content Warning: 

This audio episode contains some sensitive content, such as discussions of addiction, the ongoing opioid crisis, suicide, grieving, and loss. As such, we recommend that you listen to it with caution.

As soon as people start to actually learn that they can identify what's happening up here, they could start empowering themselves to actually control a lot of those emotions. Adjust the intensity at the very least, and be able to also just make your body feel a little bit more calm in those moments as well.

Mark Antczak,Registered Clinical Counsellor and Clinical Educator, Anxiety Canada

In this episode of the “Care to Listen” podcast, host Sean Burke sits down with Mark Antczak, a registered clinical counselor and clinical educator at Anxiety Canada. Mark opens up about his own battles with anxiety and how these experiences shaped his career in mental health. He provides an in-depth look at cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and its effectiveness in treating anxiety. Mark also discusses the importance of self-care for healthcare workers, offering practical advice for managing personal well-being in high-stress environments. Additionally, the episode explores the broader societal implications of anxiety, the benefits of community support, and various self-care strategies that individuals can adopt to improve their mental health. Mark shares valuable tools and resources, like the MindShift app, designed to help people manage anxiety more effectively.

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Mark x Sean

[00:00:00] Sean Burke: Welcome to the Care to Listen podcast. Today, I’m joined by Mark Ancheck. Mark is Anxiety Canada’s in house registered clinical counsellor and clinical educator. In this episode, Mark dives into his personal journey with anxiety. He discusses the prevalence of anxiety among healthcare workers, offers tools and resources for anxiety management, and discusses the importance of prioritizing self care.

Today’s episode is being broadcasted to you on the unceded and traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil Waututh Nations. Trigger warning, this episode includes discussions about sensitive topics, including anxiety and depression. Hello and welcome back to another episode of the Care to Listen podcast.

I’m your host, Sean Burke. Joining me today is Mark Anchek. Welcome to the show, Mark. Thanks so much for having me. So, Mark, you are a Anxiety Canada’s in house registered clinical counsellor and clinical educator. Um, tell us a little bit, what, what does that mean?

[00:00:59] Mark Antczak: Uh, yeah. So I’ve been with Anxiety Canada for just under four years.

Uh, and we are a nonprofit that essentially focuses on increasing access to evidence based techniques, tools, uh, to help people with their anxiety. Uh, where I come in is I’m the clinical representative, uh, that goes outside of our scientific community. Uh, committee, which means that I’m the guy that runs our anxiety groups, uh, and I’m also the guy that looks at a lot of resources to make sure that it’s evidence based, to make sure that anything we publish is congruent, uh, with what the research and literature says.

Uh, we generally try and stay away from anything that doesn’t go along with those values.

[00:01:37] Sean Burke: Yeah, well, such an important role that you’re playing, um, and I know just, you know, I You know, society needs more of you, um, which is something that we’re going to dive into in just a moment here. Now yourself, you have a history with, um, anxiety and your, your own, uh, challenges and struggles growing up.

I was wondering if we, maybe we could start there a little bit and you could jump right into that for us.

[00:02:00] Mark Antczak: Absolutely. Uh, I feel like a lot of healthcare practitioners or people, especially in mental health, have some history, uh, of their own. I feel like oftentimes we get inspired either by those that have helped us in the past, uh, and I am definitely no exception to that.

Uh, I’ve always been a pretty, uh, neurotic kid, uh, as my parents would often coin. And uh, growing up, I just had a really tough time kind of managing a lot of general situations. I needed a lot of reassurance. I I Was deemed as quote unquote needy. Uh, and then fast forward to me moving Hamilton, Ontario, which is where I hail from, uh, I moved to BC, uh, to pursue my undergrad and that proved to be really, really tough.

You’re going from a really tiny pond to a ginormous lake or ocean in this metaphor. Uh, and I just couldn’t handle life. Uh, school became overwhelming, making friends was overwhelming, uh, throw in a little bit of like identity crisis where I’m trying to figure out like who I am as a person and who I’m attracted to, uh, became very challenging, uh, and that just kind of made me spiral and essentially made me develop panic disorder.

Uh, I proceeded to see a psychiatrist for a number of years, who I will often kind of say is the mother of CBT, uh, for me. She’s the one that kind of opened me up to that world. Uh, and ever since, I’ve just basically been looking at any opportunity I could to not just support others, uh, but really, Pursue, uh, those that just want to help.

[00:03:28] Sean Burke: Well, and so much to jump into there. I mean, you know, you’re talking about the move being one, um, you know, and really just navigating a lot of unknowns or uncertainties, uh, identity being another, another question there that you might’ve had. So how did you go about, um, you know, discovering that, Hey, this is something that, you know, I didn’t even know that I was anxious or, you know, had some of these challenges to work through.

What was that like for you?

[00:03:54] Mark Antczak: Yeah. Um, I mean, a pretty common narrative right now that’s happening in society [00:04:00] is like neurodivergence. I grew up a lot with, uh, feeling like I’m perpetually behind. I didn’t know back then that the way that my anxiety presented was me just feeling like I couldn’t comprehend concepts or theory, or I just had a really hard time studying.

Uh, so anxiety was often that, and I just kind of thought I was a bit slower, and then it later turned into full blown panic attacks. And if you’ve ever had one before, uh, they’re pretty hard to ignore. Uh, you know, one of the criteria in the DSM talks about people describing it as thinking you’re about to have a heart attack or feeling like you’re about to go crazy, quote unquote.

Uh, and I was no exception to that. So when that started happening more regularly, I Realize that there was something bigger happening. And I went to my GP at the time and basically said, I can’t handle whatever this is.

[00:04:50] Sean Burke: And, and having that person to turn to is such an important part of, you know, kickstarting that, that path to, to help and support, you know, as you talked about a panic attack, I’ll be, you know, honest with myself.

I had had one in university for the first time and I can remember sitting in class. Um, and just feeling this overwhelm of emotion and intense sort of, uh, experience where I was like, Oh my gosh, I did not know what to do here. And had to literally ran to my basketball coach’s office and be like, What the hell is wrong with me right now?

Um, so, you know, then you fast forward a little bit into, you know, going through your education, um, becoming a clinical counselor. What was that really the kickstart to knowing that this was a passion of yours in an area of, of. you know, profession that you really wanted to focus?

[00:05:43] Mark Antczak: Yeah, I would say it’s just kind of amplified basically since I started seeing that psychiatrist.

So when I initially started getting support and she started kind of explaining, here’s what panic is, uh, here’s how our thoughts and here’s how our reactions either reinforce that anxious response or make it, you know, Disappear. A lot of that understanding started kind of invigorating me, making me want to learn more about anxiety in general and being in university.

I was like a residence advisor. I was part of a number of different clubs and it’s everywhere around you, right? Like everyone is just flying by the seat of their pants, trying to figure out the world. Uh, and in those individual roles that often included mentorship, Uh, I just started supporting other people in the ways that I knew how and, you know, whether it’s through some of the learning that I did by myself or it was passing on a tool through my psychiatrist, I just started getting more involved in not just more of those opportunities to help others, but I also started looking into research opportunities.

Uh, where I started actually looking at, uh, individuals, uh, that really kind of struggle with identity around sexuality. Um, I looked at, uh, how attachment style could affect presentations of anxiety. And that just propelled me to basically go into clinical counselling. Uh, I have a very different focus than those things now, but anxiety has always been the constant, uh, at the end of the day.

[00:07:05] Sean Burke: And it sounds like, you know, that curious, your curious mindset really was, um, a catalyst for a lot of the learning, a lot of the education and, and in particular the awareness around some of those topics you discussed. Was there anything in particular that stood out to you or something that was a revelation?

[00:07:22] Mark Antczak: Uh, do you mean like as far as mental health awareness goes or my identity as a

[00:07:28] Sean Burke: counsellor? More so if I’m a broad context, just, you know, overall.

[00:07:32] Mark Antczak: Hmm. I mean, one of the big kind of like aha moments that I had was that people often feel really alone in their anxiety. Uh, that was quite remarkable for me to really kind of grasp the caliber of how prominent that was.

Uh, here I am kind of having these mini crises every single day and I think that I’m completely alone in it. And then when you take a broader step back and you look at how many people are actually struggling with it, people that are fully functional, people that [00:08:00] you are, you know, See, are like professors, people that you see in positions of leadership, people that have a lot of responsibility, um, are struggling with this affliction and just being able to kind of normalize it and recognize, okay, I’m not alone in this was was a huge piece for me

[00:08:15] Sean Burke: and certainly something that we’ve heard, you know, just the stigma, um, you know, with anxiety is Yet it doesn’t discriminate and it happens to any of us at any time.

So when you do work with some of your clients today, what are some of those, um, you know, I know obviously you can’t just. Um, here’s the, the quick fix, the solution. Um, but are there, you know, certain tips or techniques that generally, you know, you might lean on or you might consider through, through some of the conversations?

[00:08:47] Mark Antczak: Yeah. So, I mean, I, I really appreciated that you just kind of casually plug there that it’s not a quick fix, uh, you know, cause I think a lot of people, when they come to therapy, they’re kind of at their breaking point. So life has been really rough, they are really having a hard time functioning, doing the things that are meaningful in their day to day.

And they come to therapy and they’re kind of like expecting me to give them like one or two tools and that’s supposed to like magically fix it all. At the end of the day, what we’re all navigating, all of these different forms of avoidance, all these different coping mechanisms that help in the short term, but costs in the long term, those are things that ultimately we need to address.

So awareness training is the first big thing. We’re saying, let’s start identifying the thoughts. Let’s start identifying the actual worries that are going on in your brain. Because when we think about what our brains are doing when we are anxious, uh, it’s a very automatic process. And we don’t even fully register majority of the worries we’re having.

So even just being able to have people stop and settle and say, Hey, I’m feeling like absolute garbage right now. What am I thinking about right now in this moment? And whether that’s writing it down or whether that’s allowing yourself to just consciously think of the thought itself, sometimes just being able to see the ludicrousness of the thought and being able to say, Okay, that’s not exactly a fair way of looking at it.

Let’s see if we can look at it from a more balanced perspective. Uh, and the other one really kinda lends itself to exposure therapy, which I imagine we’ll get into, but facing your fears. Uh, it’s a cliche, but it’s a cliche for a reason. Uh, CBT lends itself on really acknowledging that when you face your fears, Uh, it’s nowhere near as hard as our brain often makes it out to be and we’re often able to cope with it a lot better than we think that we can, as well.

[00:10:31] Sean Burke: And, and let’s go there. When we talk about CBT, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, you know, for our audience, could you maybe give a little bit of a definition or what CBT is? What that means.

[00:10:41] Mark Antczak: Absolutely. Um, so CBT is kind of like the, the gold standard, uh, the form of psychotherapy that a lot of medical practitioners will especially prefer.

Like if you go to a doctor and you have anxiety or depression, they’re more often than not recommending to you Recommending you to a place like the CBT center, which is where I work, uh, and the reason behind is because there’s so much evidence around it and CBT in a nutshell, uh, is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on identifying negative thought patterns or, uh, forms of appraisals.

So how we make meaning of different thoughts. And it’s also. basically about adjusting those, looking at them from a more balanced and fair perspective. But then we’re also looking at the way that we react to those moments of anxiety. Because if you think about a lot of those anxious moments you have more recently, you’re probably thinking, Oh, I’m just going to like numb out and not think about that thing.

Or, Oh, like, I’m really scared about this party I’ve been invited to, or I’m really scared about going to this doctor’s appointment. We’re often going to run in the opposite direction, or we’ll just avoid it altogether. So, it’s about identifying how some of these coping mechanisms, again, help in the short term, but actually end up costing and making us more anxious in the long run.

So we focus a lot on those.

[00:11:53] Sean Burke: Yeah, that’s such a great, um, you know, way of describing it. And I think when it comes to a healthcare practitioner, [00:12:00] that sense of sometimes of avoidance and avoidance of You know, masking certain emotions because we just need to get the job done. We have a long list of patients that we need to get to and operational efficiency is going to supersede, you know, our own personal wellbeing.

And you know, that debt. It racks up over time and then it becomes something much bigger where it manifests into some sort of episodes. And so from that perspective, how does CBT or how could CBT be applied into, you know, daily lives? Where you know, maybe you don’t have an app necessarily that you’re checking in on regularly, but How can you be present or how can you be mindful of those feelings in the moment?

[00:12:43] Mark Antczak: Yeah, well, we are generally trained to have awareness of emotions and physical sensations, right? So when you’re kind of having a moment when you’re starting to get really overwhelmed, we’re not usually noticing what’s happening up here Generally speaking, we’re noticing our heart rate starting to race.

We’re noticing our chest getting really tight Maybe we’re noticing our stomach and our inability to like have a meal You Uh, we might also just be noticing like the pit of dread that we can’t seem to shake or like all those, uh, Sunday scaries that we might get on the Sunday itself. I encourage folks that when they start to actually experience either of those things, whether it’s a physical sensation or that emotional, uh, sensation, pause and take a second and ask yourself, what is it that’s happening right now for me in this moment?

Like what am I thinking about? What is on my mind? What’s like the thought that’s taking up most amount of real estate in my brain? And as soon as people start to actually learn that they can identify what’s happening up here, they could start empowering themselves to actually control a lot of those emotions, adjust the intensity at the very least, and be able to also just make your body feel a little bit more calm in those moments as well.

[00:13:54] Sean Burke: And I love how you use the word, like, because obviously there’s such a wide range, um, you know, of the intensity of the emotion and how we react to it. Also coming up for me is, uh, the famous Victor Frankie quote between stimulus and response lies a choice. And in that choice lies your freedom. Absolutely.

So how do we, you know, So how do we work, um, on that? What are some of those, uh, tools or techniques to identify some of those, um, emotions and sensations or body feelings, um, that are presenting themselves when somebody might be anxious or, or having a panic attack?

[00:14:30] Mark Antczak: Totally. Um, I think one of the first things you can do is even just kind of reflecting on areas of your life where you notice you’re getting most anxious.

So if you get a lot of anxiety going to parties, if you have a lot of anxiety, uh, you know, taking a test, if you have anxiety, uh, confronting someone, if you’re able to kind of start identifying pockets of your life where anxiety and worry live, especially, you can start developing awareness around it. So maybe even before you go to that party, you’re thinking to yourself, okay, but like, what if this person thinks I’m weird or like, what if I say the wrong thing?

What if someone asks me about this like political opinion? I don’t articulate it properly. The second you even start going into that situation, you can have that awareness to say, right, this is where it typically happens. This is where anxiety and worry likes to nestle itself. And the second you start to develop that awareness, you can actually do something about it.

Like we said, looking at the thought, adjusting it. This could also look like mindfulness, which I know is a very thrown around word right now. Uh, but mindfulness is a way that you can just practice developing awareness in your body. even if it’s saying, okay, I’m not going to go into autopilot mode when I’m just about to go to this party.

I’m going to stop and take a second and kind of ask myself, all right, what am I feeling in my body? What is it that I’m thinking about right now in my mind? Maybe that loans itself to you doing a couple of deep breath or breathing exercises. Maybe that means you allowing yourself to make sure you get an extra good night’s sleep or you don’t skip a [00:16:00] meal before that thing that makes you anxious.

A lot of different elements I would say.

[00:16:04] Sean Burke: And I know that Anxiety Canada does have a really great tool and app again rooted in science through CBT. I believe it’s called MindShift? MindShift, yeah. So, and part of your role is to, to work on, I believe, some of the education that goes into the app. Um, so maybe can you talk a little bit about that tool and how

[00:16:25] Mark Antczak: somebody might use it?

For sure. Uh, there’s a lot of mental health apps out there in the world. Uh, and one of the things that we really set out to do is we wanted to make a resource that made it easier to access CBT. You know, like if you Google CBT anxiety support right now, you’re going to get so much stuff and it’s really hard to figure out even how to use it if you don’t have a background in it.

Uh, and what this app essentially does is it takes a lot of the tools that I would be using in a therapeutic setting and it automates it. So. Mark, I don’t know how to increase awareness of my thought. Well, there’s a cool little feature that, uh, allows you to do like a quick check in and allows you to start gauging, uh, what kind of physical sensations you feel or what intensity of anxiety you’re feeling in that moment and what thought it’s connected to.

Uh, there’s a whole sequence where it talks about like testing your beliefs. Anxious beliefs come from somewhere. They don’t just come from anywhere. So at the end of the day, You know, if we are always convinced that we’re going to get judged at a party, anytime I talk about, uh, this political situation or anytime that I, uh, do this with my face, I’m worried someone’s looking at me in a weird way.

You can start to test those beliefs, pretty much like a scientist or an experiment. And there’s a whole feature in the app where you basically get to kind of come up with these exposure situations to, test the validity or accuracy of those beliefs.

[00:17:48] Sean Burke: It’s such a great tool. And you know, when you hear about some of the barriers, sometimes when people can’t access, um, you know, a clinical counselor or a therapist because of financial constraints or concerns, here’s a free tool and resources.

And it’s not to say that, you know, that tool is, The only tool or should should be solely something that people rely on, but it’s part of the toolkit. So what does a holistic approach to supporting and working through anxiety or mental health look like for you?

[00:18:19] Mark Antczak: Yeah, I think there’s so many variables when it comes to what constitutes managing anxiety.

And I think one of the things to really point out is CBT as much as it is very evidence based, it isn’t for everyone. Um, I’d be remiss if I took like a one size fits all approach because some people are going to need different kinds of therapy. So I think on a very professional kind of high end level, being able to kind of explore and figure out what are the different kinds of therapies that I want to explore.

I’m always going to default to CBT, but there’s a lot of different kinds of therapy, whether it’s acceptance and commitment therapy, mindfulness, behavioral therapy, emotion focused, there’s attachment based therapies, just kind of figuring out what allows you to have a space to talk about it. But from that kind of more holistic perspective, I think the things that people often sit on the most are some of the most fundamental basics.

So, uh, if you’re chronically getting 5 to 6 hours of sleep a night because you’re up on an Instagram coma late at night and you, like, don’t fall asleep until 2. 30. Yeah, truly, like, all of us. Me, during the pandemic, I was, like, in a weird slime algorithm on Instagram where I’m like, why, why am I getting lost in slime?

This is so weird. But weirdly enough, it was kind of like a weird meditative, like, let’s just numb out practice. So yeah, there’s obviously sleep, uh, eating. If you’re eating like a ton of like sugary, uh, stimulating kind of foods, uh, and you’re going into an anxious situation, you’re basically just building on your body.

Developing more anxiety in that moment, uh, in the comparison or the example I’ll give is if you’re going into a really stressful interview or presentation and you down two Red Bulls, uh, your body’s not going to know where the Red Bull starts and where the [00:20:00] anxiety ends because it’s just going to ramp up on each other.

So making sure we’re not eating a lot of substances are going to ramp up our heart rate, but also making sure that we’re not skipping meals because that typically. Uh, Annihilates our threshold or what we can handle in those anxious moments, uh, I would say the other main piece is just connecting to other people, how much support you’re able to have.

Uh, anxiety loves isolation. You know, the second we start to get really anxious, especially when it comes to social based anxiety, we’re not going to want to connect with others because that’s not going to feel safe anymore. So forcing yourself to connect with other people and get perspective and support.

Uh, it’s a really key piece, I think, to,

[00:20:38] Sean Burke: you know, something, you know, for myself personally, when I remember going through my, uh, own experiences and navigating anxiety, it was really this, um, the level of secrecy and the stigma and shame that maybe I had around sharing that I had in those anxious moments was really, you know, You know, the fuel behind the anxiety and, and, and the shame to some extent, but once I was able to, to shed the light on it and expose it, it was like freedom from, and it seems like such a simple concept, but removing the secrecy really doesn’t.

Did it allow, like, the liberation and the opportunity to move forward?

[00:21:18] Mark Antczak: Well, look at where therapy even was, uh, like, 15, 20 years ago, right? Like, if you talked about being in therapy, like, there was something wrong with you. Right. You know, like, only people that were, like, really sick or really severe, that was the social, uh, script in any event.

But then now, you know, fast forward to 2024, like we’ve got like one in four people in therapy these days. Uh, it’s almost kind of like a, like a humblebrag if you talk about being in therapy, um, which I’m fully supportive of. I think it’s a very justified. Why not? Absolutely. Yeah.

[00:21:51] Sean Burke: Well, and so yourself then having gone through your own personal experiences, uh, building your career and following your passion and supporting others.

[00:22:00] Mark Antczak: Mm hmm.

[00:22:01] Sean Burke: Then there’s the, the classic example of do as I say, not as I, I do, uh, approach. And so how do you ensure that you’re keeping your wellbeing, um, in check while supporting others?

[00:22:14] Mark Antczak: Uh, that’s an ongoing battle. I would say that I’m perpetually trying to figure out, uh, you know, We’re taught in grad school, you can’t fill from an empty cup.

And I feel like that’s a pretty standard message that any healthcare practitioner gets. Like, I’ve heard physicians got that in residency, I hear therapists, social workers, psychologists being told that in school. Um, I hear teachers being told to make sure that you’re taking care of yourself. But in every single one of these different scenarios where you’re tending to someone else, there’s this underlying message, uh, that basically saying you need to put your stuff second in order to prioritize the needs of the person that you’re serving.

And I think especially during an event like the pandemic. You know, we already have strained resources for mental health. Uh, but like in the case of me in private practice, uh, my caseload was pretty full, but it wasn’t like, you know, it wasn’t overwhelmingly full, like right before the pandemic hit. And I was able to manage my expectations.

I was able to manage what I can give out. Uh, I typically try not seeing more than five or six people in a day, uh, because I feel like that’s kind of where I tap out and things start to get a little bit kind of loopy and I get a little bit more fatigued. Uh, but. During the pandemic itself, you had this huge influx of people that all of a sudden couldn’t handle life, you know, people that, uh, were stuck in their homes, they couldn’t leave their homes, they couldn’t get groceries, they couldn’t pick up medication that they needed, uh, individuals that needed to get the vaccine, uh, but they were so petrified of getting a needle that they couldn’t go out and socialize, they couldn’t go out and hang out with people because you needed the vaccine passport.

So all of these people’s crises all of a sudden start to feel like it’s your [00:24:00] responsibility. And from an objective standpoint, I know it’s not right. I know at the end of the day, I’m here to support other people. But when you have someone that’s bawling their eyes out or you have someone who’s saying, I just want to be able to get this thing done and I can’t seem to do it.

You feel compelled to often sacrifice your own needs, or just to push a little further, uh, than you otherwise would prefer to, uh, for your own capacity. And I think after doing that for, like, two and a half years, uh, that caught up to me. And I know a whole lot about burnout, but I didn’t quite know what it felt like to experience burnout until I was looking at my schedule and I had six or seven people booked and I, was all of a sudden really overwhelmed at the thought of figuring out how I was going to get to the end of my day.

So, hard life lesson that I think most clinicians will learn at some point in their life. Uh, I’m a lot better with it now, but it still catches up to me every so often.

[00:24:54] Sean Burke: Well, hard life lesson, but also super relatable to, you know, anyone working in the, the healthcare profession. And, you know, if we were to, if you were to put yourself back in your shoes at the start of that pandemic, how might you approach it differently?

[00:25:08] Mark Antczak: Hmm. I mean, I, I think I’d probably try and recognize that I have a, I had a very overinflated sense of responsibility at the time. So because we ourselves are all trying to figure out like this global pandemic, this global traumatic event that we’re all navigating. I think just being able to say, okay, just because everyone around you is falling apart, just because you’re kind of falling apart.

It doesn’t mean that you have to give everything you have to the people that you’re serving. Uh, it’s about being able to kind of acknowledge that we have limits as to what we can do. And just because we have an ethical responsibility to support those around us, we also have an ethical responsibility to make sure that we’re taking care of ourselves.

And so I wish two and a half years ago, um, or however long it’s been, what is time these days? Yeah. I wish someone could just tell me and say, It’s not a must if this isn’t a life or death situation, like your brain is sometimes making it out to be, uh, this may seem really urgent and it may be causing them pain and struggle, but it’s not urgent to a point where you need to sacrifice your own self care for it.

Um, and I think, yeah, like I said, most people in my clinic kind of went through the same thing, but we all had that realization and that learning lesson at different points in different stages.

[00:26:26] Sean Burke: Well, such an important, uh, part of the journey. Um, and then, you know, again, to be able to take that lived experience and share.

You know, some of the learnings and at least the outcomes with your, with your patients, I’m sure that that helps in, in how you approach it

[00:26:41] Mark Antczak: for sure.

[00:26:42] Sean Burke: So let’s talk a little bit about strategies. So for that healthcare worker who maybe, you know, is, doesn’t, is, is trying to pour from an empty cup and they might, you know, feel like there’s no time.

They’re constantly, they got a couple of kids at home and, you know, they’re struggling with life. What’s the first step for them?

[00:27:04] Mark Antczak: Uh, I mean, it’s, it’s kind of a cliche, but like admitting that there’s a problem, um, I think is one of the key pieces first and foremost, you know, uh, we all know what it’s like to have a bad day and we all know what it’s like to come home just feeling absolutely like knackered or just really exhausted when you are coming home every single day and you’re having the same kind of day of like, Ugh.

Okay. Like this is a lot. This is, I’m more tired than I should be. Life is losing a bit of color. I’m becoming a bit more irritable with my partner. I’m less patient with my kids. Whatever slight variation of the thing that you’re used to feeling, asking yourself the question, can I handle doing this for another six months, another year, another five or 10 years?

Because that’s really the question that we need to ask ourselves. If nothing changes, we’re going to inevitably head into burnout. [00:28:00] So if you’re able to identify that there is a problem, I think being able to actually start figuring out how to get support is a great next step. And that might look like a lot of different strategies depending on what severity you’re dealing with, uh, what level of support you need, how independent you can be in that support.

Uh, for some it might just be talking to your GP like I did when I was an undergrad. Uh, for others it might be picking up a book, uh, like a workbook, uh, a CBT for anxiety and starting to work through it yourself and learning those strategies. Uh, maybe it’s learning how to carve out more time for the things that you know are really important to you.

Whether it’s, uh, that gym one or two days a week, uh, getting lost in that video game or PS5, uh, for like two or three hours a week. Maybe it’s you going out for that walk that typically kind of gets ignored because you’re like, nah, I’d just rather veg in front of the TV instead.

[00:28:53] Sean Burke: Well, and what I’m hearing really is the need to have individualized plans that can support your well being.

[00:28:59] Mark Antczak: Absolutely.

[00:29:00] Sean Burke: Now when you talk about, you know, we’ve had some previous guests on the show where we’ve talked about self care, we’ve talked about community care, um, from your perspective, what does self care really mean?

[00:29:13] Mark Antczak: Yeah, you can get, uh, really like philosophical with this one, but I would say self care is essentially making sure that you have your basic and advanced needs met.

So what fills your cup? What are the things that provide you with fulfillment? Not just psychological fulfillment, but what also allows you to have your basic needs met. It’s asking yourself, do I feel like I need more in this life? And you know, kind of going from the basics to the more advanced, Looking at some of those basics, like am I chronically fatigued?

Do I need to prioritize more sleep? Uh, do I need to figure out how to eat more regularly? Do I need to figure out how to connect with my friends more? Do I need to figure out how to, uh, create stricter boundaries at work? And figuring out how to just let go of some of that responsibility and have more downtime in my eight hour workday.

[00:30:07] Sean Burke: Boundaries, you touched on a big one. So many, so many. Um, and you know, then when it comes to that community care, recognizing that yes, while the individual ultimately has the ability to sort of kickstart and, and take care of themselves, Sometimes people need that support, um, they need that support from the community members.

They need the ability to, to lean out on somebody else. And that’s really where I think a lot of the work that, that you’re doing really comes in to play. So maybe you could talk a little bit about the community care side of it.

[00:30:39] Mark Antczak: For sure. Um, the thing about mental health care is that there’s so many levels of care at the end of the day.

Right. Uh, we have take, for example, like other mental health care practitioners, I think a pretty standard status quo, uh, is we’ll get pushed, we’ll get pushed, we’ll get pushed bad day. It’s fine. I can handle it. You might do a couple of like, you know, superficial things to help you, but it eventually reaches a point of no return.

Um, and I think we talked about this quote. If you don’t take a break, uh, when you need it, your body’s going to take one for you at a much less convenient time. Mm hmm. So figuring out kind of like what level of care you need in that moment, I think is a really key point. If that means you going to your GP and saying, Hey, I might just need some, uh, like medication to like take the edge off or blunt some of the intensity of this thing.

I’ll often call meds kind of like a bandaid solution or something that could help with the transition towards mental health. Uh, but I think for a lot of people, they will look at some of these solutions and say, I need more. I need something quicker. I need something faster. So if that thing isn’t helping you go a level up.

Go see that clinician, go see someone that you think you might resonate with, uh, start figuring out what kind of external resources you might need, [00:32:00] uh, whether it’s, uh, some kind of coordinated care. I see an RMT every other week, uh, because one of the ways my anxiety manifests is I have so much tension in my upper back that I just kind of get that beat out of me every couple of weeks.

And that really helps, uh, with my anxiety as well.

[00:32:16] Sean Burke: And I’ve heard so much about, you know, what. Um, therapy is,

[00:32:20] Mark Antczak: Mm-Hmm, .

[00:32:21] Sean Burke: What is, like, what is not therapy is not what?

[00:32:25] Mark Antczak: Hmm. Oh, uh, therapy is not being asked. How does that make you feel all the time? Uh, within the context, uh, of CBT, it is a pretty pragmatic approach.

And it’s not to say like when you look at what therapy is on a foundational level, it’s giving someone a space to not be judged. For someone to be unconditionally accepted. for someone to be able to talk about stuff that the world doesn’t know how to make space for. So when you go to these places and you find someone that you’re jiving with, someone that you really vibe and trust.

You can start to actually talk about the things that are initially bothering you. And then how trust typically develops is as you gain more of it, you’re going to start getting into the harder things to talk about. So I’m kind of flipping the script as to what therapy isn’t, but therapy is essentially forcing yourself to be vulnerable and honest, not just with yourself, with the person that’s trying to support you.

Uh, so they can use the tools to, to help you with that.

[00:33:25] Sean Burke: Absolutely. It’s a really nice way of approaching it. And I think, uh, sometimes that stigma or. The false narrative of what we tell ourselves what therapy may be with never experiencing it can prevent people from getting that that support and reaching and putting your hand up.

So, you know, as we’re sort of nearing the end of today’s conversation, if somebody’s on, you know, thinking about, you know, Um, you know, should I go get some help and support, but haven’t necessarily made that decision yet. What’s your piece of advice or guidance to them?

[00:34:00] Mark Antczak: Oh, I think one of the big things to really hammer home is that it is not going to get better on its own.

You know, a lot of people will kind of hope that things alleviate. People will often just think that if they power through like this hard thing, eventually it’ll get easier. And there’s, you know, I think it’s fair to say that we develop resilience and I think that, you know, I’ve got a pretty tough skin.

But I think a really, really important piece is acknowledging that you’re not weak for seeking out additional support. You’re not a bad clinician for drawing aggressive boundaries, uh, with the kind of caseloads you take on or the type of things that you work with. Um, I think it’s about being able to acknowledge that you’re in this profession to help others.

You should really aim to try and make sure that you’re not going against the advice that you’re chronically giving. Uh, To get the support that you need.

[00:34:54] Sean Burke: Such great advice. Um, you know, just in closing here, June 10th, uh, Action Anxiety Day. I know that it’s a, it’s a big day. Um, do you maybe want to share any sort of messages or key kind of takeaways from that day?

[00:35:09] Mark Antczak: Absolutely. Uh, Action Anxiety Day, uh, basically started, uh, I believe about three years ago, and it’s just a day to commemorate normalizing anxiety and how prominent it is. So it’s about acknowledging all of us are going to have some version of us at the end of the day. We’re all going to have some kind of worry for some people that worry is unrelenting and it impacts their day to day.

There’s different ways you can get involved. So if you go on the Anxiety Canada website, we’ve got a whole tab that talks about the different ways that anxiety Canada is being represented, so, uh, you know, we got proclamations all over the city, uh, we’ve got, uh, the Vancouver Tower that gets lit up in specific colours, we got blue and orange, uh, we got proclamations kind of like all over Canada, and we even have them all over the world, uh, I believe we had, uh, a pretty prominent, um, Uh, [00:36:00] tower in like Dubai that was lit up really intensely, like really literally all over the world.

Uh, so getting involved, being able to show your colors, being able to show other people that this is a thing that they’re struggling with, uh, and being able to maybe learn a little bit more about what anxiety is.

[00:36:14] Sean Burke: I love that. I know. Just normalizing the conversation and spreading the word spreading the message that there are supports But also to the education and awareness piece around what it might show up and look like for some people

[00:36:27] Mark Antczak: 100 because there’s so many different presentations right at the end of the day and If you could learn a bit more, if you can learn how to show up for another person, if you could learn your own tool on how to navigate a situation with a bit more grace, uh, another more like tangible, very direct way of supporting anxiety is by looking at potentially donating to anxiety Canada.

Uh, you know, we are a nonprofit at the end of the day and we really are an organization that tries to maximize all of the funding that we get. We have a very core, small staff of people, and we are constantly just trying to find individuals that can help support us. Provide support for those that may not be able to do it themselves.

So amazing way to do it there.

[00:37:10] Sean Burke: Well, there you have it. We’ll make sure to link in the show notes, um, how to one, learn more about the action anxiety day on June 10th. So mark that in your calendars. And then how to as well, get involved in support, both financially, but also to learn more on the, um, Anxiety Canada website.

So with that, um, we are out of time, but today’s conversation has been super insightful. There’s so many great little tidbits here, uh, tips, tricks, but yes, um, if you’re going through anxiety, um, buckle up, because like you mentioned, there’s no shortcut to truly. So you’re moving through it. But Mark, thank you very much for your time, your energy, your knowledge.

Uh, we just really appreciate everything that you’ve been able to share here today. Yeah,

[00:37:53] Mark Antczak: thanks for having me. It really was a treat. Thanks.

[00:37:56] Sean Burke: Awesome. Thanks for listening to this episode. Be sure to visit the links in the show notes for resources and supports from the Care for Caregivers program. If you’re interested in sharing your story on the Care to Listen podcast, please reach out to us at careforcaregivers.

ca forward slash podcast. And don’t forget to follow us on your favorite podcast platform to be notified when new episodes are released. Thanks again for joining us and see you next month.