Posts Tagged With: anxiety

How To Deal With Worry

toilet paperThere’s lots to worry about right now and if we aren’t careful those worries will swallow us up. The run on toilet paper got me thinking about humans’ thinking process. I have toilet paper. Not a stockpile, the leftovers from my last purchase several weeks ago. But now, I WANT toilet paper. I feel the fear settling in, “Oh my gosh there’s no toilet paper! Will we run out?” and I want more toilet paper. I want to be sure I don’t end up without it. If I let this scarcity/panic side of my brain take over I will become animalistic in my search for toilet paper. I really don’t want to sink to that level. I have paid far too much money for therapy to literally flush it down the toilet. So what do we do? For starters, recognize your thoughts and walk yourself through the following thought and emotion processing technique:

  1. What are you thinking?
  2. What are the accompanying emotions?
  3. Identify your thoughts that are based in reality and those that are based on a created story.
  4. Throw out anything that isn’t beyond-a-shadow-of-reasonable-doubt true.
  5. Now what do you feel? Acknowledge the emotion for a few minutes.
  6. Take a few deep breath cycles, look at nature, and let the emotion go or just know it’s there but not let it capture all of your attention.
  7. Regarding the situation, where do you have control that is healthy, legal and wise?
  8. Do what you can.
  9. Get in some good, healthy, legal and wise self-care.

For my toilet paper scenario, here’s what I did (and am doing as it tends to crop up now and then…this isn’t a once and done practice, it’s a rinse and repeat practice):

  1. I’m thinking I don’t have enough toilet paper because there’s none on the store shelves and everyone is talking about a toilet paper shortage.
  2. I feel anxiety about not having enough toilet paper and confusion about why this is happening…where did all the toilet paper go?
  3. The true and real thoughts are: There’s no toilet paper at the stores I have been to or online. Even the horrible but eco-friendly Who Gives A Crap toilet paper is gone. (I bought a case of that awhile ago. I’m so sorry. I really want to be good to the environment but that is the worst toilet paper ever!). The made up, not true, future-tripping, created story thoughts are: I’m going to run out of toilet paper. I don’t really know this will happen. It could happen but hasn’t and likely won’t for a few weeks. If it does happen we can figure something out.
  4. I don’t need to focus on the coulds because they aren’t in the present and it’s not going to help me at all to focus on this particular could. I’m throwing those thoughts away – figuratively of course!
  5.  Now I feel a little nervous about toilet paper but not panicky.
  6. I’m breathing in “It’s going to be ok” and breathing out “Let it go” (the toilet-paper-fear that is)!
  7. My healthy, legal and wise control is to use our toilet paper responsibly, let go of the toilet paper panic, don’t get caught in the herd mentality, stay aware of my thoughts and keep shushing the crazy-making toilet paper voice.
  8. I’m doing it right now, #7 that is.
  9. I’m going for my daily walk as soon as I finish this post.

For more help on getting control of your thoughts and emotions go to my website 🙂

Categories: awareness, Processing Thoughts and Emotions, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Fluidity

Change can be beneficial. Really. Just because you have always done things a certain way does not mean it hChristmasas to stay that way. This is true especially around the holidays. Think about the areas in your life where you have stress. Is it possible to change something up that will result in less stress? Usually our first answer is, “No!” But stop and ponder the idea for a bit. What would happen if you did things differently? The obvious answer is things wouldn’t be the same but is “same” always good/best/helpful/beneficial?

A stagnant body of water with no fluidity, no change, no movement of water coming in and moving out is a breeding ground for all manner of parasites and bacteria. When I looked this up the first bit of information said it’s a breeding ground for dengue and malaria. I do not want my life to be like a breeding ground for nasty parasites and bacteria. I want to be open to changing. Whether that is related to how I prepare for and celebrate the holidays or how I function in relationships, take care of myself, approach my work or faith.

How about you? What areas in your life need some fresh, clean water running in and clearing out the old stagnant parasite breeding ground? Let this holiday season and your entire life embrace and thrive with change 🙂

Categories: Boundaries, co-dependency, Growth, holidays, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Freaked-Out? Sad? Angry?

human_mindNot happy about current circumstances and want to navigate well? You don’t have to just wallow in your misery, you can do something productive. First, clearly identify what you are feeling (anger, sadness, fear…) and the thoughts that are dictating the emotions. Emotions don’t just show up all on their own. They are linked to cognitive thought: you have a thought and an emotion will follow. We sometimes notice the emotion and not the dictating thought so it’s super important to get back to, “Where did this feeling come from?” The reason? If the thought isn’t based in reality, it’s not worth entertaining and neither is the accompanying the emotion. We often feel these not-based-in-reality emotions anyway and develop incredibly unhealthy neural pathways that become ingrained in our brain and feel like a reflex when in fact they are an unhealthy learned behavior that we keep feeding.

For instance: “With this new President-elect, our country is going down the tubes, freedom will be lost, this is horrible!” What is true at this moment that you know for sure beyond a shadow of a doubt? We have a new President-elect. That’s it. We don’t actually know what he will do. We know what he said he will do, but nothing has actually been done yet. Breathe. Remind yourself of what you know for sure. Let go of all the places your mind is going with the “what ifs”. They are crazy-making and completely unhelpful. You can mourn the loss of your candidate if you did not vote for Trump. You can celebrate that your candidate won if you voted for Trump. That’s it. Nothing more. Don’t get too puffed up about all that is going to happen or too depressed about all that is going to happen because–none of it has happened yet. Stay with the here and now and breathe deeply and slowly.

Next, after feeling the emotions based in reality, take a deep breath, splash some water on your face and ask yourself, “Where do I have control? Is there anything I can do about the situation that is healthy, legal and wise?” At the very least, we always have the ability to choose how we are going to react, what kind of attitude we are going to have, if we want to smile and find the joy in our life. Always! Viktor Frankl learned this in a Nazi-run concentration camp during World War II. If he learned this concept in the very worst of circumstances then we can surely do this in our circumstances. I know, if you are reading this, you already have way more freedom and more to find joy in than a concentration camp prisoner.

Now, move on. Surely you have something you need to be doing or could be doing that is productive. Maybe it’s time for a good dose of self-care (something you can do that fills you up in a good way–healthy, legal and wise!). Go for a walk, pet your dog/cat, talk to a friend, listen to music, feel the sun/fresh air, read a book, knit, play piano, write…the list could go on and on. Be good to your body and your mind. Fill up and restore so you can reset. You will deal with whatever happens when it happens and until then, you can take care of yourself, anchor to the present and bring joy into this world in your own unique way 🙂

Categories: Acceptance, Depression, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Processing Thoughts and Emotions, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Panic or OK? Mind Over Matter!

I had dental work done last week. I generally don’t like going to the dentist. I don’t like poking, scraping, prodding or pain. After the dreaded shot of novocain, the back of my throat felt like it was swelling to the point where I thought I couldn’t breathe. I was not having an allergic reaction but my mind was telling me to panic. I could feel it starting to take over. Then I remembered to think this through. If I didn’t focus on the swelling sensation, I could take a deep breath through my nose. I put my hand on my stomach and began to take slow, easy, relaxing breaths. I told myself, “You can breathe. You are OK.” The swelling sensation was still there but as long as I kept my focus on “You are OK” then I was OK.

human_mindOur mind is so powerful but we don’t often spend time thinking about how much control we actually have over it. It’s a potent weapon that, when unchecked, can cause devastating damage; however, when we learn how to manage its potency we become Jedi masters (not like we can make things move with our mind but you get the reference!). We can stop intrusive, unhealthy thoughts. We can shift our focus from grumbling to appreciation. We can recognize and live out our own freedom. Life is full and rich and satisfying when we use our brain’s influence for us, not against!

Categories: Acceptance, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Processing Thoughts and Emotions, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fear or Freedom?

Notre Dame Paris France

Notre Dame in Paris, France with David (my husband), Anna (my daughter) and Sebastian (Norwegian son)

I have returned from my European adventure. I did not want to come home I enjoyed it so much! The irony here is that before I went I did not want to go. That sounds snobbish to me…countless people would love to have the opportunity I had and I was whining about it. I had an attitude problem and it was rooted in fear. Traveling away from home is scary for me. It isn’t paralyzing fear because I go but before I leave I think of all the reasons I shouldn’t be going. I think of better uses for that money, I think I shouldn’t leave my clients for long, I think I shouldn’t give up the chance to make money (when I don’t see clients, I don’t get paid – the pros and cons of the self-employed), I think I shouldn’t put myself in harm’s way, I think I should just stay home and play it safe. Oh my! As one friend recently said, “There’s a lot of crazy in here!”

I believe the crazy thoughts have only as much power as I choose to give them. I got on the plane bogged down with anxiety. The moment I settled into my seat for the long journey over the Atlantic I was at peace and noticed excitement taking root in every cell. I began to think of all the sites we would see, food we eat and people we would meet. The fear vanished and was replaced with the anticipation of a fresh experience canvas being filled in.

Living in the fearful should/shouldn’t zone is life-quenching. It brings with it those nasty bindweeds that strangle joy and freedom. Recognize this when it’s happening to you. Name it for what it is then reclaim your freedom. Remind yourself that life is meant to be lived with depth and richness, with experience and risk, with freedom and joy!

Categories: Acceptance, Growth, Healing, Recovery, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your Mind: Friend or Foe?

Taking a break from the “I Have A Question” series to remind you about the power of your mind. Most of us, barring any major mental health disorder, can choose what we want to believe. It seems like we don’t but we do…always.

Be aware of your thoughts and notice how they affect your emotions. Emotions follow thoughts. If the thought is negative, the emotion will be, too. For instance, if you make a mistake, then start thinking of every mistake you’ve made and end up in a depressed tailspin, you have chosen to go down an unnecessarily brutal path. Keep your mind focused on the one mistake you just made and use it as an opportunity to learn something. You can be mad but don’t dwell on it for too long.

The dialogue, either audibly or in your head, might sound like this: I totally screwed up the report. Ugh! I am so mad at myself! This is going to take time I don’t have! Ahhhhh! OK, take a deep breath in and out…in and out. Now, what can I do about this and what went wrong? Oh yeah, I didn’t double check my work. I was in a hurry, rushed through it and skipped proofreading. That’s on me. I don’t need to beat myself up over this, that won’t help. Just recognize it and learn from it. Deep breath in and out again…let go of the anger…and move on. I have other things I need to be doing right now and wallowing in this will not help me at all. I am human. I make mistakes. I can learn from my mistakes. Now, I’m going to work on this next task. You will need to repeat this each time the negative thoughts start creeping back in. They are kind of like cockroaches…hard to get rid of but if you’re persistent you will!

If you veer off the path and start recounting every time you screwed up or start telling yourself you are a loser, STOP! That won’t help you one bit. Literally say stop to yourself. Say it aloud if you can and start the above dialogue to get out of the old way. I can tell you from personal experience this works! Every time I use it, I have success and feel so much better. An added benefit is I usually have more clarity and energy to use on productive, life-giving tasks.

The shift is not easy. Meaning it won’t come naturally. We all have many horribly unhelpful neural pathways that are as strong as the fastest highway you can imagine. When we get on this learned neural pathway it seems like it’s a reflex but it isn’t. We learned it over time from a young age. It was likely modeled for us or it’s just part of how we are wired or it’s both. Knowing the origin and working through it can be helpful but you don’t have to in order to change the pathway. Be super intentional. Take this seriously and you will see results!

 

Categories: Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Processing Thoughts and Emotions, Recovery, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Grief Revisited

Grief is a fascinating experience.  I have felt it several times in all its intensity but never with the death of a deeply loved and intensely close being.  I went through the ups and downs of my daughter’s failing health, lung transplant and cancer.  We came close to losing her, but we didn’t and still haven’t.  She’s doing really well!  I have been grieving the mortality of my dad as his health has been failing significantly in the last few months, but he’s still here and I get to have sweet special moments with him.

Mighty Maya!

Mighty Maya!

My current grief is a result of my tiny seven pound dog being snatched out of our yard about two weeks ago most likely by a coyote. There have been sightings of a mountain lion in our area but we didn’t see the creature only its paw prints in the mud near our fence and on the top rail of our fence. Whether coyote or mountain lion, it leaped from the field next to our house right into our yard and decided to take Maya. We were spared the gruesome remains of her but there was plenty of evidence to indicate she had been mortally wounded and removed.

It was a normal morning. I let her off the bed onto the floor (she was too tiny to jump), and she promptly headed outside to go to the bathroom. That’s all she ever did in the morning. Just a quick trip out and right back in. She has been doing this routine for the eight years we have lived in this house and never had a problem. But on this day, she didn’t come back in. When I went to look for her, she was gone. Vanished. I had no idea at that moment what had happened to her.

As the details came together, I was heartbroken. I sobbed and sobbed for the first two days. I was useless. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I got a warning for speeding. I told the officer I wasn’t paying attention to my speed only thinking about the death of my dog…I guess my authentic tears really got to him. He said he had to walk away before he started crying, too. He was sweet. That was no excuse for speeding, and I owned that I was being unsafe. I decided I better limit my driving for a few days and when I did drive I had to intently focus.

I thought about her tragic death which brought on heaving sobs. At first I was just really sad, then I moved to beating myself up for not going outside with her. If I had been there maybe I could have shooed away the animal. Then I moved to being mad at the circumstances because I just want my dog back. I want her to be curled up on the couch, taking all of about a 10 inch radius of space. I want her cute little face to look inquisitively at me while I ask her questions or talk to her. I want her company on my walks and I don’t want to have to go through the trouble of deciding if I want another dog (do not read that as I want someone to surprise me with a puppy! No, no, no!).

I am now deathly afraid to walk out on my deck at night because I’m literally gripped with fear that something is out there looking for something to devour. I don’t feel safe. When I go on walks, I am looking around, certain I’m going to get attacked. I never worried about these things before. I thought about it at times because we live in an area where coyotes live, too but I was never afraid of running into one. I’m only 12 days into this particular grief process and I realize that most of what I’m going through is normal, but when you’re going through it, it doesn’t feel normal!

The best thing I can do for myself is bring others into my grieving, which I have done. I am also allowing myself to feel all the emotions that come up. I let the tears fall. I notice the fear and understand why it is there. I feel the anger and get why I would be mad. As time is moving on, I’m noticing the intensity of the emotions is dissipating. I can focus on tasks again (including driving!) and I’m accepting reality, well, sort of.

It’s interesting to grieve the untimely and tragic death of a pet. I did not expect the intensity to be like this. My husband’s uncle died last week. I was sad for him and his family but he wasn’t in my life on a regular basis. I had only known him for eight years and saw him briefly a handful of times. I felt more sad for others in that situation than myself. My dog has been a constant companion. She adored me. I was definitely her favorite and everyone knew it. I’m realizing now how much I bonded with her. Our bonds can be with skin or fur…and the loss of either can be painful. I also believe we learn to connect with others more deeply when we are willing to connect with our grief.

Categories: Acceptance, Emotional Healing, Growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Stumbling? Need Help?

I just listened to this song, thanks to a friend’s post. I had such a sweet time of worship. Life can be so challenging. We feel overwhelmed and incapable. At times we wonder if we can make it one more step. The answer today is: Yes!

Categories: Depression, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Recovery | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Do You Worry About What Others Think of You?

Ending the practice of worrying about what others think of you is much easier said than done. I could tell you to stop worrying because it doesn’t serve you, but the next time you want to speak up at a meeting or present an idea or simply be heard, you will revert back to your old way of thinking (to worry about what others think) because this action is deeply entrenched in the neural pathways in your brain. The “worry” reaction now feels like an instinct for you. This likely stems from an event or a collection of experiences in your childhood that essentially sent you a message that you are not enough. If you believed the opposite, that you are enough, you would not be bothered by what others think of you because you wouldn’t have the need to prove you are enough. If the words that come out of your mouth aren’t earth shattering or no one likes your idea, you would be fine because your worth and value aren’t tied to how others define you.

A few steps you can take to change:

  1. Do the deep work of figuring out where the “I’m not enough” belief came from. It may have been spoken directly to you or you assumed the meaning. Replay the memories and tell yourself you are enough. (This practice may require the help of a therapist if the memories are non-existent or cause you emotional or mental distress. Attachment-based approaches, Emotionally Focused Therapy and EMDR are powerful methods for transforming negative messages from past experiences into positive ones.)
  2. Remind yourself that you are enough when you feel the exact opposite. For awhile you will continue to worry about what others think of you. Over time, as you continually refocus your mind on “I am enough” you will diminish the voice of the “I am not enough” neural pathway in your brain.
  3. Invite some friends you can be real with (who probably have their own “I’m not enough” issues) to join you. We heal most profoundly when we are on the journey with trusted friends. Share your experiences with each other and remind one another that you are enough.

This seems so simple when presented in black and white. The reality of this journey is it took a long time to solidify the negative belief, it’s going to take a long time, filled with intention, to change it. The journey is so worth it! Stay in there!

Categories: Acceptance, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Recovery, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Series on Guilt Part 1: What is Guilt?

For starters, guilt is not an emotion, it is a state of being.  For the average person it may seem that I am splitting hairs, but for the therapy world, it’s helpful to know the difference.  If you are sick, you don’t necessarily need to know that much about your body to describe it to your doctor; however, your doctor better know details about human anatomy and system functions in order to treat you.  Emotions generally fall into four categories: joy, anger, sadness and fear.  Notice guilt isn’t one of them, nor is shame, the paralyzing cousin of guilt.  The common denominator of emotions and most states of being is they are all centered in your brain.  Each is a result of thoughts.  The thoughts are generally a reaction to an outside stimulus, either in the moment or any amount of time later.

Guilt is a function of our brain when we have done something wrong or something we perceive is wrong.  This function helps shape us to move toward the common good rather than just benefitting ourselves.  Guilt is imperative for the health of a community.  A person with Antisocial Personality Disorder (Sociopath) sees himself as above the law in all respects. He does not feel guilt or remorse for his actions.  Without guilt, we have an ‘It’s all about me” attitude.  Every person has this attitude some of the time but those with Antisocial Personality Disorder have it in nearly all circumstances.  This can be taught or it can be a malfunction of the brain; some people with Antisocial Personality Disorder are a result of their environment, some are a result of DNA and some are a result of a combination of both.

Guilt is often misunderstood.  Some see it as bad, but it’s not.  No more than the emotions of anger, sadness or fear.  These functions of our brain help us live in community in a healthy way through being authentic and connecting with others.  When we eliminate any one of them, we damage ourselves and healthy interactions.  The movie, Inside Out portrayed this beautifully.

Your first action is to notice your guilt.  Ask yourself some questions about it.  What did I do that I am feeling guilty?  What is the standard by which I am measuring my actions?  Does this system make sense – is it in the best interest of both myself and the common good? What if someone else is telling you that you did something wrong, but you don’t see it that way?  Find out what that person’s reasoning is.  Is it for both the good of you and the common good or is it some arbitrary set of rules that don’t make any sense?

Next week I’ll continue this series with how to process your guilt in a healthy way that leads to restoration.

Categories: Depression, Emotional Healing, Forgiveness, Growth, Healing, Recovery, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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