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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Finding Courage When You Need It

So many times we are encouraged to be fearless and bold.

 

Courage is the foundation of freedom.

Thucydides (460BC-395BC) wrote: ‘The secret to happiness is freedom…And the secret to freedom is courage.’

Today for various reasons I have been thinking about courage. Letting go, not blaming others, and taking responsibility for your own life takes courage, but until you find that courage you will find it difficult to enter the calm and happy place in your heart where you can just ‘be’.

So many times we are encouraged to be fearless and bold. To follow our desired path. Many life coaches and authors focus on the need to be fearless and authentic and that’s wonderful advice. We all appreciate that friendly push to find the strength to be authentic; be fearless and inspired. But what if the fear soon returns? Then we hear our inner critic return again which fills us with the old doubts. The thing to remember here is that no one is truly fearless, but the people we admire – the ones who seem brave and do amazing courageous things, are the ones who have learned to move through their fear. And so bravery is in feeling fearful but doing what you want or need to anyway.

We all have ‘free space’ in our minds, a place which we can choose to go into and be calm, but it takes a while to train ourselves to use that space and not just resort to old familiar feelings when we are stressed or worried. In that calm space we can make our own conscious decisions without reacting to negative situations coming from outside. We can be in charge. This involves not making snap decisions and assumptions i.e. ‘that person was very rude to me in the queue, there’s no excuse: he’s not nice.’ The person may be nice normally but may have had a bad day or bad news. When you are in the free space, you cut people some slack, or at least do not let their behaviour get to you.

For a long period of our lives we may have handed over the responsibility of our lives to others; we may have created a certain belief about ourselves and the world in a way which was not benefiting us. Perhaps we didn’t believe we were free; free to live in love, abundance, and good health. Because of this, it takes courage to re-introduce yourself to the world and to let go of all the old energy blocks and take back the power for yourself. It can be overwhelming to adjust and to take back the power that you once gave away. That is why we say –‘it takes courage to be, it takes courage to do, and it takes courage to have’.

Courage ‘to do’ is relatively easy to understand; we may be afraid to contemplate bungee jumping, or public speaking for example; these are things we can be frightened about but we can picture doing them without having to change our lifestyle. However, if we want to change and be different do we really need courage then? The answer is yes, because unless you are really ‘being it’ you cannot live it. A lot of people dream about having or doing different things but they look from the outside; often we are looking at a façade rather than looking at what is real. It can take a long time to decide to change – to cast away all the old thoughts and ideas we have clung on to for so long.

Who are you really? What is your essence and your purpose? Do you dare to say you are unique? Not only is your fingerprint different from any other, so are you! You are extraordinary. There is only one you. Remember also, that trying to be someone else or putting on a different persona will not help you long term.

So do you really have the courage to be yourself? Only then will you be able to feel really free – be free to decide what you want to do, to be or to have. This sounds simple, but is it?

Admit Your Scared

It’s important to admit it to yourself when you are stuck in fear. Too often though, this process allows you to let the fears become worse. By admitting you’re fearful you will be asking yourself what being scared means to you and you will start filling in the blanks with the answers that don’t help, such as: ‘I’m scared I can’t handle this.’ Whatever your story is – it is just that – a story. It can be changed. Aim to stop adding to your negative storyline and get rid of any over dramatic feelings. Remember that being fearful just means you’re human.

Once you have admitted you are fearful it doesn’t mean necessarily that you just need to move past the fear without a backward glance. It may be nature’s way of making you check something out. Take time to get your thoughts clear. If the fear is groundless then you can tell yourself all is well. If you have a genuine worry then find the time and strength to run your worries past the right person that can help you. (That takes courage too, I know, but once you put into words whatever is bothering you, you are on the road to healing).

Recognise you aren’t alone.

You are in great company. Everyone, even your greatest role models have had to cope with fear at one time or another. So don’t put yourself down. Recognise you are part of a tribe of people who have, through time, taken a risk and moved beyond perceived safety to something more rewarding. To join the tribe of the brave, don’t focus on what you feel, focus on what you can do about your situation. Once you have ruled out any danger you can take fear as a good sign, a marker that you are alive and engaged. You are completely present in the moment. You are out of your comfort zone but in a funny way, you can actually take comfort from that!

Keep the free space in your heart.

The word courage is related to the French word ‘coeur’ which means heart. When you experience those anxiety filled moments remember to connect with your heart – your core. This is the place where all your emotions flow from – love, warmth and wisdom, and where you get to the heart of the matter.

                        ‘Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.’       August Wilson 

Forgiveness takes courage.

I’d like to think a little bit about forgiveness too and how showing forgiveness is the pathway to freedom. Showing forgiveness is not easy for any of us to contemplate and real forgiveness takes a lot of courage. But again, when you are coming from that free space in your heart you find a new way of moving forward. Think about a situation in your life – perhaps when you have felt you didn’t deserve the upset that came your way – then think about letting go of old hurts and resentments – the churning of old turmoils and the bubbling feeling of being hard done by that lies not far from the surface – let them go – let them really go. Wish the situations you encountered love. Show forgiveness and tell yourself you have no further need for resentful feelings in your life and feel yourself grow.

I urge you to think about your life, to go through the issues that need your forgiveness. Take the time to ask yourself if you are really ready to be the person you want to BE, to be ready to DO what you want to do and are really ready to HAVE what you want to have. It takes courage to be ready to receive. But if you are prepared go deeper with your thinking you will understand that with courage you will have the necessary requirements to BE.

So we are all individuals, each with our own way of accepting and facing our fears. Most of us are by no means always masters of control but if we think about going into our clear space – let go of our fears and aim to be courageous and bold, we will feel much more alive and vibrant and our new found inner strength will shine through.

Are you willing to allow yourself to be more courageous? You may just find you are more bold and courageous than you knew. In fact, I think you already are.

‘Though an ordinary woman,
Nothing about me is plain;
Like a single fingerprint traced in dust,
No other is the same.’
© Lyn Halvorsen

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Ways of Coping with Stress.

We have to remind ourselves that we need to keep a positive self-image….

Do you have days when worries creep up on you and you just can’t shake them off? Yesterday was okay, you had a good day and felt content and optimistic but today you woke up knowing the old ‘worry monster was lurking in the shadowy corner of the bedroom?

Perhaps the cause of the worry monster’s reappearance should be addressed which isn’t that easy I know. Sometimes, you’d rather get up and try and get on with the day even though you know it won’t be perfect. But perhaps the cause of what’s worrying you should be identified and scrutinised; sometimes a change in attitudes could resolve the problem. Adapting to stress can bring about changes which are often all to the good. Other stresses, particularly those that aren’t of our making, could be eased by taking definite steps such as changing jobs or moving house.

Sometimes, there is only one solution and that is to come to terms with unpleasant realities that may be there to stay for whatever reason. Occasionally there are things we just cannot change. Accepting that once and for all can actually take the pressure off and lessen the impact.

We have to remind ourselves at times that we need to keep a positive self-image.  We can train ourselves not to indulge in self-fulfilling negative prophecies with a bit of practise, and not indulge the worry monster. When you attempt a new way of coping with stress and whether you succeed or not, do a kind of de-briefing afterwards. Ask yourself what went well and maybe what went wrong; how you could have done things differently; think about it and tell yourself all the positive and useful aspects of what you did. Don’t forget, you can learn from anything – good or bad.

It is important but often difficult to pinpoint the relevant triggers of stress – sometimes we spend too much time trying to work on one thing when really we need to turn the spotlight elsewhere. It’s good but sometimes painful to be really honest with yourself. That is why the wretched worry monster reappears with monotonous regularity if you are not careful to really look at what is bothering you.

Stress in one circumstance may spill over and influence another situation. For example, if you are feeling stressed about your work you may get irritable about other things that really aren’t the main problem. Factors can interact and stress builds up in all areas, so it helps if you can really identify the main problem so that you can tackle it.

As far as stress is concerned, how we see ourselves is often more important than the reality of our situation and can be the main factor as to whether we can cope or not. Isn’t that an interesting point? How important is image to us and why do we worry about how we appear to other people? If we can find a way to accept ourselves as we are we are on the way to becoming more self assured and comfortable with ourselves. Stress responses are largely determined by, for instance, the perceived threat to emotional security or to self-esteem. Changing the perception of the stress – how one views it and views oneself  – can mitigate the effect of anxiety and sometimes neutralise it more or less completely.

So this week, if the worry monster lurks nearby maybe you could just turn your back on him and go about your business. He has a big ego so just watch him shrink when you don’t look his way!

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The Shadow of the ‘Worry Monster’.

Sometimes, a little light is all you need…

When I started my blog a few years ago now, it was intended to be quite generalised. It was about pursuing the gentler path in life and concentrating on kindness and compassion, and I guess, the twists and turns we all experience in everyday life.  These topics are still close to my heart and I will write about them from time to time; life throws up all sorts of weird and wonderful things at us and there will always be new subjects to ponder on! Sometimes we need a bit of humour too to send us on our way!

One thing I have noticed, though, is the feedback that comes from my comments on anxiety. It seems, unfortunately, that many of us suffer from anxious times and there is a real need for ongoing support and backup for those battling with anxiety. Because of this I want to concentrate mainly on this topic for the foreseeable future.

If I can reach out to any of you who need support then I feel my words are doing their job. It’s amazing to think that with all the help at our disposal, we still need good, down to earth support. And it is ongoing. Anxious feeling may come and go. We are not suddenly cured from having unsettling feelings no matter how good the counsellors or the gurus we turn to. Sometimes, other occurrences in our lives just tip the balance between feeling ok to feeling unstable and miserable. Then, we can get despondent too and ask ourselves how we are going to cope with the latest situation that has cropped up. The lurking ‘worry monster’ is difficult to shake off. He doesn’t have much else to do but hover in the background. I feel sorry for him really – he doesn’t really have a life. You do! Once you meet him head on he will shrivel, trust me.

What we have to remember is this: ‘Sometimes, just a little bit of light is all you need’. We can take strength from so many places if we reach out and look for it. Be open. Be open to people – it makes a difference to how they treat you. Be honest. Say you aren’t feeling your best. Don’t give masses of detail. I find you don’t need to. Sometimes, less is more. Just tell who you are dealing with at the time that you aren’t having the best of days. You would be amazed how people can push aside their own ‘stuff’ and give you their kind attention. Most people are genuine and will do all they can to help you, but you have to give them a chance. Find your inner voice somehow. Be brave and help will come to you in spades.

I do appreciate that everyone has different issues going on. I have had a bereavement this week and it has taken all my power just to keep going. But I do keep going somehow. Going through the motions of everyday life helps. I say this countless times, but it does really help. However bad you feel (unless you are physically incapacitated) keep to the simple routines and try and get some things done, however small. It will help and give you a feeling of achievement when you can tick off a few things on your ‘to do’ list.

Funnily enough though, I will add this here: don’t worry too much about standards. This is something I struggle with. I have always felt appearances are important. Makeup on, hair done, house tidy, fridge full of food etc. But, here’s the thing. You can give in a bit! Let a few things go – it’s not the end of the world if you are not looking pristine! Friends may even quite like to see you not quite at your best, it shows you are human. I’m not talking totally let yourself go, but just cut yourself a bit of slack. Sop worrying what people think! They are busy with their own lives; they may love you but they still have their own stuff going on and they are not sitting there thinking you have gone to pot. (Unless you really have, in which case if they are a good friend they are on their way round right now!)

So this week I ask you to focus on this. You are loved. Honestly you are. You may be feeling bad but someone cares, really cares about you, even if you don’t feel it to be true. Get out a piece of paper. Doodle a bit. Make a pretty border. Leaves, bows, swirls, whatever. In the centre of the paper, write this is your best handwriting : ‘You are loved’. Use some coloured pencils if you have them. Be fancy. Then put your picture in a prominent place and look at if often. I promise you, it will help.

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So, this week. Leave the ‘worry monster’out in the cold. Do not feed him no matter how much he badgers you! Whatever is going on, if you feel bad, talk to someone who cares. Or look up online help sites if you need to. Or see your doctor if you are worried about anything. Ask and it will be given.

     ‘When the north wind blows, And your world is grey, My friendly heart hears all you say. Call my name, In your darkest night, I’ll find a way to bring you light. And if your world Is tumbling down, I’ll wrap you in a cosy gown. I’ll feed you soup , And bring you wine, For your life is a part of mine’. 

                                       (C) Lyn Halvorsen