The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Anxiety.

 

Are you having a tough week? I know several people I have spoken to this week seem to be suffering in one way or another. Maybe it’s time to switch off the news, chill out a bit and try to focus on getting rid of the old ‘worry monster’.

Everyone worries but does that make it okay? It seems like worry and anxiety have been woven into the fabric of our society and has become a recognised problem to many. It appears in many forms – parents worry about their children – many of us worry about our health and well-being – our work and even just the routine of daily life. We worry about so many things we cannot control.

But control is an illusion, and the amount of things outside of our control is overwhelming. You can’t control the other drivers out there so you worry every time you drive along the road. You can’t control your child’s actions so you worry about them every Friday night. You can’t control the economy so you worry every time the next hint of redundancies comes floating through the office or, if you are self-employed, when your source of reliable work inexplicably dries up.

Anxiety creeps in when we don’t get what we want or something happens to us and we ask: ‘Why me?’ When injustice is done to us (and it’s done far too often), anxiety can settle on us like an oppressive blanket, choking out any joy and happiness.

But because we can’t control a lot of the things we worry about maybe we should turn the way we look at these things around – admit we can’t control this or that so worry is just a waste of time and more importantly, energy. There is nothing more tiring than worry and anxiety – trust me on that one! It’s a vicious circle too – you worry endlessly- you get tired which then makes you more prone to worrying more!

Although worry and anxiety may surround us we can get over these feelings.

So here is my cheat list for fooling the ‘worry monster’ into thinking you are oblivious to his dark ways:

1. Learn to live with it but don’t give in. Allow a certain amount of time a day to think about what is bothering you and know you have a choice to do something about it. Acknowledge that you are a worrier from time to time – you are just being human. If you have a partner tell them you are feeling anxious but are working through it. Try not to shut people out as they may feel they are somehow at fault.

2. As soon as you get out of bed in the morning, do something straight away. Prepare a healthy breakfast, look after your appearance, get on with the chores if you are at home, or try and go out of the door with a spring in your step even when you don’t feel like it. Dwelling on things doesn’t help and just by being active you will feel better. Take action by doing something. Don’t forget how good exercise is too for changing your mood. It doesn’t have to be over strenuous – just walking in the fresh air will be beneficial.

3. Find someone who needs you. It’s amazing how helping someone else can make both them and you feel better. (Be sure not to spend too much time commiserating with each other over all your joint woes though!)

4. Talk to someone. I have mentioned this so many times and I can’t say it enough – unload your worries occasionally to someone you trust – it really does help.

5. At the end of the day, write down the things you have been grateful for. Really think about all the little things that made your day go a bit better. It really is the small things that count – those small acts of kindness that come from unexpected places. And write down all the names of those you love and care about and finish with a smiley. 🙂 You will all benefit.

6. The opposite of fear is faith. Find some faith. Believe in something and devote some time to mindfulness. Believe things will get better – sometimes that is all you need, but never underestimate the power of prayer or visualisation. Think about it – people have cured themselves from severe illness with visualisation so it must work with anxiety too. You don’t have to be devout or religious to gain help from the Bible – so much wisdom has been passed down to us that is really worth keeping close by.

Just think about these words written so long ago…..

‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body, more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?……..Therefore do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’

Matthew 6:25 – 34

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.

Proverbs 12:25

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When Looking Back is Good – Helping You Through Anxious Times…

Nothing good is ever lost….

 

How many times when we are feeling down or anxious do we look to the past? Perhaps we look for something or someone to blame for our lives not being perfect. When we talk to counsellors or have therapy we are encouraged to look to the past and dig out old and sometimes forgotten hurts or betrayals from the deep and darkest corners of our minds. Often this may be completely necessary,  for some are unlucky enough to have suffered terrible or haunting traumas that they cannot begin to move on from until these have been brought into the light and examined so the person can then, hopefully, start the process of healing and move forward.

Sometimes, though, looking into the past can reveal happy, long forgotten times. This has been made plain to me this week. I have been going through old photographs that I found in an old suitcase underneath my Dad’s bed when sadly having to sort out his things.  Last night I took a huge trip down memory lane and realised the past has many fragments of stories to tell us if we are lucky to be able to be left a bundle of forgotten keepsakes as I have been.

As our parents age it is easy to forget they were young once; starting out and meeting life head on. They had a life with their own parents and aunts, uncles and friends, a career and a love life. They had expectations and plans.

I looked at pictures of my dad dressed in his naval uniform and saw the eagerness and enjoyment of life portrayed in his physical (and bearded!) appearance! Standing on the ship’s deck with his arms around the shoulders of his compatriots, fit and healthy and tanned by the sun,  I saw that just as the waves around him propelled the boat forward so was he being propelled into his new life.

My parents met just after the war in 1949 so were still enduring rationing and austerity when they met, but I think they were full of hope for the future. I looked at pictures of them at a time which must have been early in their relationship and I could see the happiness in their eyes. In their wedding photographs they are surrounded by their smiling families, all celebrating a wonderful and happy day.

No matter how close we are or were to our parents, we often may wish we had asked them more about past days and realise we have missed the opportunity to learn about our family history. But sometimes, if we are able to delve a bit, the signs of the past are there for us. We may never know the full story of how we came to be and even who or what we are fully made up of, but maybe none of us ever really know our full history. We are the sum of many parts and in a way that is the mystery of life.

         ‘From the hidden depths of your kindly eyes, I see a glance I’ve known from years gone by. When you stop a moment and pause just there, There’s an age-old smile I see you wear.’

I knew I always had a love of the beach and the Cornish way of life, and that Cornish blood runs through my veins, but quite how much I hadn’t realised until looking at countless photographs of my parents and me on Polzeath beach. And I can understand now why I am always drawn to the same corner of the beach  when I return there, for we were always ensconced by the same rock pools, picnic box at the ready, judging by the pictures. Grandparents were there often, and aunts, uncles and cousins.

 

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My dad preferred us NOT to play on the running board….(I’m in the middle in the stylish romper suit!)

 

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Apologies for the blurry picture – like me, it’s a little elderly!

I think a good thing for us to remember, is that most of us start out in life full of good intentions and full of hope for a happy and fulfilling life. That must be what our parents, grandparents and great grandparents did too. We are in modern times now we say. But they said exactly the same in their time too. People don’t really change. Times may change, but I still think whatever era we are born into we start out wanting the same things, which are, to be happy and to be loved. Wherever life takes any of us we can only do our best – we can try not to focus on regrets, keep as healthy as we can, both physically and mentally, and be compassionate and forgiving.

        ‘When you are born, your work is placed in your heart’.    – Khalil Gibran

I look at the old pictures of lives laid before me, some now over, in this world anyway, and I am thankful that they gave a life to me. Maybe they didn’t feel they got everything right, maybe they felt they made mistakes, but they showed me how to enjoy a sunset and how to ride the waves.

If you are going through a hard time right now and feel uneasy, maybe about your past, I hope you can find a new way of looking back sometimes and remind yourself that there were good things. And even if you have had a troubled past, this too can make you strong going forward once you have learned to leave that behind you. And you may have forgotten good times, but I wouldn’t mind betting there are some good memories  somewhere you can shine a light on. As I have said before, nothing good is ever lost.

 

This week I am pleased to announce my handbook ‘Best Foot Forward – Moving On From Anxiety’ is now available to buy. If you would like a copy it is available at http://www.fast-print.net in the bookshop, and will be available on Amazon by Monday 5th March. Alternatively, if you would like me to send you a copy please contact me at lmhalvo@aol.com . I would love to have your feedback!

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 Best Foot Forward – Moving on From Anxiety –  is a handbook written with warmth, compassion and humour for anyone suffering with anxiety and the stresses of everyday life. A combination of helpful observations taken from the author’s blogs, interspersed with a little bit of advice and some uplifting quotes, Lyn’s book looks at some age-old problems that can affect us all and then encourages us to take the spotlight off them and move forward.’

 

Surviving Treacherous Times…Finding your own compass…

If you were washed up on a desert island and desperate to survive, I wonder what survival technique would serve you best? No matter how fit and strong you were, if you weren’t mentally strong you would find it difficult to keep going. Bulging muscles and gym enhanced fitness might help you bounce around the sand for a while but without mental fitness you would soon start to panic or go into ‘freeze’ mode. You would only be able to run around searching for ships on the horizon, and an immediate solution, for so long. While it is certainly good to keep physically fit, there is much more to survival than that. Often the person with hidden strengths survives against the odds.

Just as we would find it hard to cope alone on a desert island, this time of year especially, with all the extra stresses and strains, we may feel we need to go into survival mode. We may not be lost on that desert island but we may feel just as stranded and panicked. It may not only be the stresses of Christmas that bring us down; there could be more serious worries in our lives; worries about finances, health, relationships or body image may become more pressing during the festive period. There is something about Christmas that heightens our emotions and makes us feel things, both good and bad, more deeply.

The strongest survival skill comes from managing the mind. Everything you do and experience comes from your mind after all. It is hard at times I know, but there are some basic tips to help you settle your mind and feel more in control. Just as when trapped on that island, if you worry too much you may panic in stressful situations. In times like this just STOP.  Stop and find a quiet space and take a breather. Pause and do nothing and think about your situation and what is really bothering you. Think carefully about what to do next. Are you stressed by loud music and crowds in a shopping centre for instance? Can the shopping wait to another day? Is it really that important? Think about finding a quieter area to regain some calm. Remember most things aren’t as crucial to get done as you think.

If you were stranded somewhere you would probably make yourself a base camp – somewhere where you felt safe and could shelter from the storm. In the same way so it is also needed in normal life – make sure your surroundings at home are peaceful and comfortable – create your own safe haven and your own ‘go to’ place. Escape to this place from time to time and especially during frantic days, and feel the calmness there. If you work in an office keep your own space uncluttered and perhaps keep a photo on your desk of loved ones or have a framed positive quote that you like. Have a little corner that is just yours and rest your eyes on a scene that is tranquil. If you can go for a walk at lunchtime and play some peaceful music on your headphones you will feel more able to cope with the day.

Make a plan – in  the desert you would formulate a plan so that you could attract help and the possibility of rescue. Do the same in your mind to help you ease your worries. Think of who may be able to help you in your current situation, whatever it may be. Be open to advice. Put out feelers  – you will be surprised where help may come from.

Work out your everyday survival techniques. Have an imaginary compass in your mind – picture it pointing you in the right direction – the calm and happy direction. If you have a problem that is really worrying you, picture your compass rotating until it points you to a place where you can work out your problems. Picture it pointing you to a friend who is ready to receive you with kind and open arms. Imagine it sending you towards your own personal North Star where peace and contentment abounds. It is amazing how this can help you find a way forward and calm your mind.

Every time you leave your own particular safe place, your ‘base camp’, and venture out in a calm and peaceful way and can cope with what ever is outside you will be building confidence and more able to take control of different and even anxious feelings. Also, knowing you have a place to retreat to and recharge your batteries will help, even if you just go there in your mind when you are in a chaotic place.

So next time you feel you are anxious or jittery, put your mind to survival and find the path you lost.

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Finding Patience

Do you find you have times when you find yourself coming across coincidences? Then again, I have heard it said there are no such things as coincidences. Maybe we are led in certain directions for a reason. This week I have read several bits of advice urging me to find patience, so I thought I should take notice and ask myself whether I am a patient sort of person, and what showing patience really means.

      ‘We can be bombarded with all sorts of new ideas and clever thoughts and these more than have a place, but sometimes a handful of patience shown to us can be far more helpful.’

I think of myself as a patient person generally, but then I think of certain recent examples where I have struggled to keep my cool. This very day I was held up in my car for several miles, driving behind a slow moving tractor carrying an enormous pile of manure; I squirmed behind the wheel, straining my neck trying to look around the vehicle for a chance to overtake safely when there was none. My hand hovered over the steering wheel, itching to beep the horn. I asked myself why the  driver wouldn’t pull over to let the long stream of traffic overtake. I huffed and puffed and felt annoyed. But eventually  I got to where I was going and soon my equilibrium returned. I soon forgot about the incident until now. Now, I can see that yes for a moment there was a bit of a hold up, but was it really worth getting annoyed about; allowing the blood pressure to go up and the adrenaline to flow? Definitely not. I would have been far better off keeping calm and listening to classic FM. Ah well, maybe next time.

This was a relatively minor incident, and fairly common to all of us from time to time. Mostly we learn to calm down and move on in these situations. But what about the situations where patience is really important? For anyone in a position of relative power, it is easy to feel full of a sense of importance and forget that others also have something important to say. I remember a small child at school, stricken with shyness, being told to hurry up and give her answers to a question and being made to look silly as she stumbled over her response. Had she been shown patience and kindness, she would have had a chance to get her answer right and gain confidence. We see examples of impatience around us on a daily basis –  and none of us are immune to it. When people are busy and workloads are heavy it is easy to fall out of step with how we should treat others. Will the hard working doctor with a long queue of patients always remember to treat each one with compassion and realise that every person coming into his waiting room may be harbouring worries about their health? Will the politician dealing with a hundred questions a day treat every person he comes into contact with with the same tact and interest? Will the busy vicar treat every member of his flock in the same way after a busy day visiting parishioners? We hope so but we can understand if they sometimes fall short of what we expect.

When trying to develop more patience I am going to  try a few tips :

To take a day where I make patience my goal for the entire day. Make a concerted effort to take my time and think about everything I do, be mindful and live in the moment.

Practise slowing down.

Practise delaying quick outcomes.

Practise thinking before I speak.

Ways to BE patient:

I will:

Pay attention to what makes me feel like I am in a hurry.

Take my mind to obedience school and learn to be still and quiet for a while.

Learn to let go – it doesn’t always matter to me that I need to be right about everything.

Be patient about learning patience!

Plan ahead – that way I will not feel as stressed if I allow plenty of time i.e. to get to appointments etc.

I am going to take time (perhaps next time I am stuck in traffic!) to notice all the good things that life offers.

So the importance of patience should be realised. Patience when learned, can help us to reach for the stars. With patience we can stop ourselves making hasty decisions we may later regret. Life is not about living in the future – it is about slowing down and taking each day as it comes.

 

When Worries Floor You…

I’m continuing my theme about anxiety this week. If you can find anything here to help you then I’m very glad and wish you well.

Just when you think you are doing okay, when you have life worked out at last and have a spring in your step again, do you find yourself ‘floored’ by a comment you hear in passing or by an unexpected letter stuffed through the letterbox? It may not be anything serious but enough to make you jittery.

Sometimes we can feel we are on a fine balance, and find it hard to cope with extra pressures. Or maybe we don’t like the world to see us looking anxious or worried and so we bottle things up inside. This is worse than letting go and having a meltdown;  emotional turmoil can be damaging to us if not released.

I read this explanation of anxiety somewhere this week and it really resonated with me:

      ‘Anxiety is not being able to sleep because you said something wrong two years ago    and can’t stop thinking about it.’

This may or may not be true for you but I know I have had times when I’ve lain awake tossing and turning worrying about past mistakes. Maybe mistakes is not the right word; perhaps it is ‘perceived’ mistakes. Those things which may not have even been important at the time and certainly aren’t now. Then there are the worries that creep in about tomorrow, next week or next year. The ‘what ifs’ and the ‘how is that?’ Before I know it an hour or two has passed and then I start fretting about the fact that I can’t sleep and worry about being a wreck the next day. Thinking ‘I must get to sleep’ doesn’t help!

The good news is there are things that can help:

Repeat your worries over and over rather than try to push them to the back of your mind. Instead, rumble them around until you are bored with them. It may not be a cure exactly but it is better than being overwhelmed.

Think of the worst thing that could happen in a situation you are worrying about, for example, forgetting what to say when giving a speech. Imagine making light of it and joking with your audience – see yourself relaxing and letting the words flow – people usually understand, they’ve often been there themselves.

Don’t judge yourself if you feel you are feeling a bit crazy. You may think a little strangely at times, but that doesn’t mean you are going to act upon your thoughts. Realise that no one is ‘normal’ and what is normal anyway?

Remember that most things you fear do not come true. If and when they do, then that is the time to take action. Not now. Those panicky feelings you are feeling are not going to kill you or give you as heart attack, but if you can deflect them by telling yourself most things you are worrying about won’t happen you are saving yourself some angst.

Be a casual observer. View your worries from afar and make light of them. See them drift off into the distance and wave them goodbye.

Realise you can’t take control of everything. If you feel you’ve done or said something tactless or silly ( most people probably haven’t even noticed) don’t fret about it. Just be warm and friendly, and smile.

Breathe deeply and slowly when you are anxious – I know you have probably heard this many times before, but it does help. If nothing else, it slows you down and calms the nerves.

Don’t let anxiety take over and stop you enjoying things. Even if you think you have a major worry, divide your time – set some going out time to spend an uplifting hour or two with a friend, and then go back to the worry when you get home. Chances are it won’t seem nearly so bad.

Most of all, whatever is happening in your life, remind yourself – this too will pass. Nothing lasts forever in life whether good or bad, whoever and wherever you are in life. That is a fact.

What can you still do in life when you are anxious? Actually, almost everything!

Be gentle with yourself. You are doing the best you can.

 

Imagine the sight of a rainbow,

     Shimmering in the rain,

    Like a painting stretched across the sky,

     Bringing colour to your world again.’

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Blessings to you.