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Allowing Food to Nourish You

Sally was overweight, unhappy, and on the brink of emotional exhaustion.  After numerous counseling sessions, this is what she decided to do:

One, I started eating a simple, healthy breakfast each morning.  This was my only guideline; that it had to be healthy.  No list of special foods, no restrictive diet, no calories to count, lie about or eat.  Nothing.  What surprised me was that I was being asked to make my own decisions, and not rely on someone else’s idea of what I should consume.  I was given complete freedom to eat when I wanted, and how much I wanted.  It just had to be healthy.  Actually, this frightened me, because I wanted to be told what to do.” [1]

Sally was really frightened when I asked her to make her own decisions about food and about making food the right kind of friend.  Here’s the rest of Sally’s story:

So I chose to eat a large breakfast of whole grain cereal and lowfat milk and some fruit each morning.  It was bulky so it made me feel full.  It wasn’t sugary, so my insulin level did not increase.  I knew all about this theoretically, but it wasn’t easy to put into practice.  A big part of me (which was most of me) hated it.  I missed my usual two jelly donuts and three cups of coffee with lots of cream, followed in a few minutes by grazing in the fridge for a few leftovers from the night before.  But I’d made an agreement with Dr. Jantz to do this, and besides I was desperate.

The second thing was even more amazing to me.  I was asked not to weigh myself at all in between sessions.  I’d already sent my scale “on vacation,” so there was no way to weigh myself at home.  But I was not to weigh myself anywhere.  This was difficult.  How would I know if I was making any progress if I couldn’t weigh myself two or three times a day as I’d done most of my life?  I didn’t understand it, but I said I’d stick with the program and obey the rules. [2]

I’m happy to report that Sally is doing quite well, self-correcting along the way as she’s still tempted to return to her old way of thinking about food.  She’s rediscovering what food is all about — it’s there to nourish her body and is not a substance for abuse.

When recovering from emotional exhaustion, you quickly learn the benefits of decreasing the amount of fat and refined carbohydrates in your diet.  Additionally, when you start to take seriously the reports of increased risk of heart disease and cancer associated with these high levels of fat, I hope you will quickly choose to self-correct.

You will read food labels more carefully and seek to interpret the wealth of information they contain.  This is a far cry from the ineffective calorie counting and roller-coaster dieting you may have engaged in before.  You will also stop frying your foods and breading your meats.  You will learn that broiling and baking are better alternatives to cooking foods in fats and oil.  You will also begin to investigate food supplements that are specifically designed to help rebalance the body chemistry of those who are emotionally and physically exhausted.

Sally had to learn that dieting and bingeing were terrible obstacles to her stressed physical health and mental stability.  Each round of dieting caused increased hypertension and a rise in her blood pressure.  When she finally understood that dieting and bingeing were making her more prone to stress-related illnesses, heart and kidney disease, and stroke, she knew she had to make a change.  To do this, Sally had to start listening to her body.  She had actually forgotten what it was like to eat normally.

This all began with a commitment to a proven, effective program of permanent weight loss and a deep desire to join the 2 percent who succeed in losing weight permanently.

Can you relate to Sally?  Perhaps now is the time that you, too, need to learn to see food as healing you, making you strong, and filling you with vitality.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 37 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.

[1] Jantz, Losing Weight, 110.

[2] Ibid.

 

Ten Questions to Ask About Your Virtual Relationships

Ironically, the very thing we turn to for increased connectivity with others is proving to be the biggest disconnection point in our lives.  Not only are we distracting ourselves from face-to-face interactions, but the virtual relationships we’re prioritizing are often lacking in the most important connection point of all–the intimacy of in-person warmth and sincerity.

To detect the presence or extent of your virtual void, ask yourself the following ten questions:

  1. How am I connecting with others online?
  2. What is the content of that connection?
  3. Would I be willing for my spouse or members of my family to view all of my online activities and content?
  4. What emotional needs are being met through these online relationships?
  5. How would I feel if I were unable to connect online for a day, a week, or even a month?
  6. How many non-family relationships do I maintain?
  7. Of those relationships, how many do I keep strictly online, meaning I don’t talk or visit but only connect online?
  8. Are there any online relationships or activities that pose a threat or provide competition to my in-person relationships?
  9. Am I willing, within the next week, to modify, limit, or sever any online relationship or activity that poses such a threat?
  10. If I’m not willing, what is holding me back?  Be specific.

As difficult as it may be to face your answers to these questions, do not underestimate the power of these truths to naturally lend themselves to your transformation.  Simply observing and accepting your behavior as it exists now will naturally inspire you to make more informed, and healthier, decisions in the future.

Do not be afraid to examine your virtual relationships and reevaluate the role they’re playing in your life.  Through an honest assessment, you can come to better understand why you are seeking online connection.  And if there are barriers you need help overcoming, do not hesitate to seek professional help.

If someone you know is suffering from technology addiction, depression, or anxiety, remember that there is HOPE.  There are professionals ready to help.  For more information about treatment call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today. The Center • A Place of HOPE.  The Center was recently ranked as a Top 10 facility in the country for the treatment of depression, and our team is standing by to help you and your loved ones.

 

 

 

Examining Your Anxiety

It may seem that our current, crazy, stressful lives produce a bumper crop of anxieties, concerns, and worries.  Because we think our present circumstances are unique, we use them as an explanation and, frankly, as an excuse.  We use them as an excuse to justify hopelessness, for staying stuck.  Life today is just so hard.  This is just who I am.  I’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work.  No one can really help.  What I go through is just too weird; no one can really understand. 

Anxieties speak a language of absolutes.  A possibility is a certainty.  What could, will.  What might, will.  But if anxieties speak a language of absolutes, it is not a universal language.  Some words are not translatable.  Anxiety does not have a word for peace.  It does not have a word for relief.  It does not have a word for rest.  It is a language of negativity, of hopelessness, of despair.  It is a language of defeat.  Anxieties force us to surrender before the true battle is even engaged.

There is an axiom: know your enemy.  I’d like you to anthropomorphize your anxiety, your phobia, your panic attack and think about it as something other than yourself.  This is a way for you to examine your anxieties and their consequences through an imaginary buffer.  Put them outside of yourself and give yourself permission to examine them without triggering them.

Anxiety disorders have an anatomy.  They have shared traits and unique features.  What I’d like you to do now is get to know yours.  As much as you’re able, think of it in the third person.  Use “it” instead of “I.”

  • What are the physical characteristics of anxiety?  What does it do to you?
  • How often does it happen?
  • What do you do to help yourself feel better?  Does anything help?
  • Does anything make it worse?
  • How long does it usually last?
  • Have you ever talked with someone about it?  If so, who and why?  If not, why not?
  • How long have you been hoping it would just go away?
  • Do you really believe you’ll ever be able to get over it?

Hebrews 11:1 says that “faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” (NLT). Anxiety is a perversion of faith.  Anxiety is the confidence that what we hope against will actually happen; it gives us assurance that what we can’t yet see will be bad.  Hebrews 11 is a chapter replete with the victories of faith.  Anxiety doesn’t produce any victories; it only accomplishes defeat.  This is not the life God has planned for you.  The life you’re living now is not the one he wants you to live.

The faith life God intends for you is not the perverse life of anxiety.  He does not want you to take your capacity for faith and distort it into a belief in the least possible or the worst imaginable.  He does not want you to sacrifice your life on the altar of anxiety, giving up more and more year after year, hoping to appease anxiety’s appetite.

Instead of trusting in the catastrophe of today and the terror of tomorrow, God asks you to trust in him.  As you continue to to examine your anxiety and what effect it’s had on your life, I ask you to transfer as much trust as you can from anxiety to God.  You’ve trusted in your anxiety’s capacity to cause you grief, fear, and stress.  Take a part of that trust and turn it over to God.  Trust him to be with you through this journey, to know the face of your fear, to be strong enough to help you overcome it and loving enough to deeply desire to help you.

If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, or fear in your life, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help.  For more information, call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

 

Unclothing the Lie that Words Can Never Hurt

“My God! You are so clumsy! What is wrong with you?” Once again, Angie had spilled her milk. Her siblings popped up out of their seats, as much to get away from their mother as away from the milk, which was now spreading across the table and threatening to drip on the floor.

“Get out of my way!” their mother yelled as she grabbed a kitchen towel and headed for the spill. “Don’t just stand there! Pick up those plates so I can make sure it doesn’t get on the carpet! Angie was afraid to move, afraid to do anything else wrong. No one looked at her—not her mother, not her brother, not her sister— until the spill was mopped up and the table put back together.

“Oh, no you don’t,” her mother said as Angie started to sit down at the table. “You cannot be trusted.” After picking up Angie’s plate, her mother went into the kitchen and placed it on the floor, next to the dog bowl. “You can just eat with the dog until you can eat like a person.” With that, her mother marched back into the other room, leaving Angie thinking about a meal she no longer had any interest in.

Emotional abuse happens when an adult humiliates a child for actions consistent with being a child.

Children require correction from adults to learn the right thing to do. Emotional abuse happens when correction meant to help the child is turned into humiliation meant to punish the child. The definition of humiliation is to cause a painful loss of dignity, pride, or self-respect. Children have not yet gained the maturity to withstand the damage of humiliation, which can be difficult even for adults to endure. Humiliating a child is taking advantage of someone younger and more vulnerable out of a distorted desire for control and power.

More than twenty years ago, I wrote a book on emotional abuse because I wasn’t finding much acknowledgment regarding the damage I was seeing in my clients from emotional or psychological abuse. One question I asked in that book was why emotional abuse was so common. I concluded that emotional abuse was so prevalent because some people categorized emotional abuse as normal. How could something normal be considered abusive? So what if you were yelled at growing up, wasn’t everyone? Who cared if you were regularly dismissed as worthless? You just needed to try harder. If you didn’t grow up feeling loved, that was just a generational thing you were supposed to get over. If you weren’t beaten within an inch of your life, you had nothing to complain about. So people didn’t complain; they moved on with their lives. Yet some of those people kept having difficulties, difficulties that eventually led them to my office.

People are slow to admit the obvious in cases of emotional abuse for various reasons. When I was growing up, years of groupthink said that adults, especially parents, had the right to deal with children however they saw fit. You weren’t supposed to involve yourself in another family’s “business.” If adults spoke harshly to children, well, they must have had a reason. It wasn’t your “place” to object—and certainly not in public.

My generation also grew up learning that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” I remember repeating that rhyme to myself when other kids were mean to me. I learned the lesson well and determined I wasn’t going to let other kids get to me. That rhyme wasn’t as successful when it came to hurtful words from adults, and certainly not my parents.

When I started my practice over thirty years ago, I committed to unclothe the lie that “words can never hurt.” They can and they do, in stunning and devastating ways. When society collectively comes to that conclusion, the emotional abuse of children will become less common.

If you or a loved one is struggling with past abuse, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help.  Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues, and bringing healing to the whole family. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

Are You Experiencing Burnout and Exhaustion?

Perhaps you are a single mother who’s working full time.  Your kids are with a babysitter or in day care all day.  You feel angry, bitter, guilty.  Or maybe you’re a pastor or youth worker in a church.  You spend every single hour serving God, loving people, and making a difference in the lives of others.  Yet your own marriage is a disaster.  You’ve lost the art of communication with your spouse.  Passion is only a word in the dictionary.  You’re ready to call it quits.

Perhaps you’ve gained thirty pounds over the last year, and you’ve finally admitted that food is your only true friend.  You may have a problem with drinking, or are afflicted with a sexual addiction, or find yourself emotionally or physically abusing others.  Whatever your challenge may be, it has you in a nice grip from which you can see no escape. One thing for sure: You are exhausted.  Each day is another twenty-four hours of pain and struggle.  You scream inside but no one can hear you.

When our lives start to sputter and we forget to follow our dreams, we tend to become stagnant.  We stop thinking, caring, observing, and reaching out to others.  This is usually subtle, but it’s the first critical stage of coming distractions.  Because of this stagnation and cessation of emotional growth, we stop giving our bodies and minds the proper stimuli they need.

Fear, feelings of guilt, animosity, an unforgiving spirit, loneliness, frustration, or a Lone Ranger mentality can siphon off our energy, potential, and zest for life.  Left unresolved, these attitudes develop a life of their own, creating stress that over time can lead to emotional exhaustion.  Thoreau once said that most people “live lives of quiet desperation.”  They look good on the outside but internally they are a seething mass of pain and fear, walking a tightrope of emotional instability, hoping against hope that no one removes the safety net, because they know they are heading for a fall.  Until this quiet desperation is dealt with, the exhaustion will remain, and there will be little hope for inner healing.

What do we do when life seems hopeless or out of control?  We move into areas we think will help: more work, more alcohol, more obsessive/compulsive activity, more entertainment, more frantic escape from reality.  But it’s always more and more of the wrong thing.  Instead of helping us regain control of our lives, it produces an internal environment that evolves into burnout.  We feel an uncontrollable sense of disease, but because we’re on a vicious cycle of unproductive activity, we keep doing the same unproductive activity over and over.  When our burnout and stress builds to a level at which we cannot endure pain any longer, we cross the line to physical and mental exhaustion.

Before long we forget who we are and what we’re about.  We start to decompose.  We no longer feel special.  We wonder if God has even taken away our giftedness.  We look into the mirror, and we don’t like what is looking back at us.  We no longer see a beautiful creature, designed in the image of a loving God.  Instead, we look through bewildered eyes and see only what is wrong.

We forget that joy comes from within, never from external sources.  We fail to remember that spiritual emptiness produces impotence.  And because we have selective amnesia of what is truly good, loving, and kind, we become displaced persons, every bit as confused and alone as hapless refugees who stumble onto a foreign shore.

If you are struggling to find joy in your life, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Our team is skilled at navigating issues surrounding addiction, depression, stress and anxiety.  For more information, call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

Physical Motion and Depression

No matter what you call it, physical motion is vital to a healthy life.  It is also effective in relieving depression.  The British Journal of Sports Medicine reported that walking thirty minutes each day alleviated symptoms of depression more quickly than many pharmaceutical antidepressants. [i]

Many of you may have difficulty imagining exercise as part of your life.  You may have visions of gigantic weight lifters or slender long-distance runners and conclude you were never meant to be an athlete.  Healthy movement is not defined merely by athletic competition.  Rather, it is starting from wherever you are and gradually adding more motion.  Keep in mind for the following principles:

  • Start Slow – By starting slow, you give your body a chance to catch up to your mental decision to begin moving more.
  • Pick Your Motion – Try walking, low-impact aerobics, swimming, or modifying a favorite activity, such as golf (choosing to walk part of the way instead of riding in the cart).
  • Maintain Consistency – Physical motion needs to become a life choice.  It’s not about the next few weeks, or the next few months, or the next few years.  It’s about establishing a routine, a ritual if you will, of being good to yourself through movement.
  • Find A Friend – If you find motivating yourself to exercise a challenge, ask someone to join you.  Personal interaction, as well as physical movement, is of tremendous value.  You may soon find that you are going farther and doing more than you ever imagined, because you are concentrating more on the other person than on the exercise.
  • Be Prepared For Aches – While it is important to start out slow, you don’t want to stay so slow that you’re not accomplishing anything physically.  Ideally, you want to be able to work into an exercise routine that will produce a light sweat.  Sweat is one of the main ways the body detoxifies itself.
  • Watch Out For Pain – While aches are to be tolerated, be aware of any pain.  Pain is the body’s signal that something is wrong.  If it has been a while since you’ve engaged in any physical activity, consider going to your primary care physician and obtaining a physical examination.  Ask his or her guidance in planning the type, duration, and frequency of exercise.

To learn more about how nutritional support and hydration can impact depression, visit our previous blog post.

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety, and others.

[i] F. Dimeo, M. Bauer, I. Varahram, G. Proest, and U. Halter, “Benefits from Aerobic Exercise in Patients with Major Depression: A Pilot Study,” British Journal of Sports Medicine 35 (April 2001): 114 – 117.

Can Nutritional Support and Hydration Help with Depression?

As mentioned in our previous blog on healthy eating, I have been able to identify five lifestyle choices you can make that will dramatically improve your health.  Below, let’s discuss #2 and #3, nutritional support and proper hydration.

Eating healthy is a wonderful beginning, but overcoming depression will require the additional nutritional step of supplementation.  There are four categories of supplements important to good health in general, and also in overcoming depression specifically:

  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Amino acids
  • Essential fatty acids

Deficiencies in these substances have been clinically shown to produce symptoms of depression.  There are specific tests that can determine what your levels of various nutrients are.   These can be ordered through a certified nutritionist, registered dietitian, or physician.  Naturopathic physicians can be an excellent source of help because these doctors are specially trained to integrate nutritional strategies into wellness.

In addition to nutritional support, we must consider proper hydration.  Most people don’t drink enough water.  Experts disagree on what constitutes enough, but most of them agree, we’re not drinking as much water as we should.  Rather than try to nail down “enough” to a specific amount of water for every person, I tend to have people check their own bodies for adequate hydration.  How do you do that?  Check your urine.  If your urine is routinely dark yellow, you’re not drinking enough.  Your body is well hydrated when your urine is a light yellow or even clear.

I recommend keeping a BPA-free water bottle with you at all times.  If you find water boring, you can flavor your water with pieces of fruit.  Find the way you like you water best and keep at it, increasing your consumption by eight ounces at a time until your body says you’re getting enough.

A word of caution, however, is needed:  it is possible to drink too much water and dilute important nutrients in the body, like potassium.  If in doubt, check with your primary care physician about the range of hydration right for you.

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety, and others.

Healthy Eating and Depression

While the number of potential factors in physical depression is large, the good news is a small number of positive changes can bring about enormous benefit.

Over the years, I have been able to identify five lifestyle choices you can make that will dramatically improve your health.  They are not complicated and are based on age-old common sense.  Let’s first begin with health eating.

Healthy eating means choosing as many whole, unprocessed foods as possible:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Dairy products (eggs, milk, butter, cream, cheese)
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes (beans)
  • Lean meats, fish, poultry
  • Nuts
  • Oils

Eating healthy is not only what and where you eat but also how you eat, so keep the following in mind as you make whole-food choices:

  • Don’t eat too much.  Stop eating before you actually feel full.  Intentionally start out with smaller portions and wait a few minutes before deciding if you need more.
  • Eat a variety of whole foods. Healthy eating is not limited eating; rather, it is intentional eating that encompasses a medley of choices.  Remember, produce is more than just apples and lettuce.  Many times our choices are dictated by what we are used to, what we grew up with.  Be adventurous and try different whole foods.
  • Choose a healthy ratio of food.  Eat more fruits and vegetables than breads.  Eat more breads than dairy products.  Eat more dairy products than meat and poultry.  Eat more meat and poultry than sugars and fats.  Choose healthy fats, such as those rich in omega-3s, and avoid trans fatty acids saturated fats.

Depressive thinking is tied to reactive thinking.  Eating patterns can also be reactive.  Just as recognizing, promoting, and sustaining optimism, hope, and joy are intentional choices, so is eating healthy.  One supports the other. It is empowering to know that you can choose everything you put in your mouth.  In overcoming depression, you want to make each bite count.

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety, and others.

Part 1: Intellectual Integrity and Depression Recovery

Consider a single trip to the grocery store.  On your list today is a new toothbrush, soda, sandwich bags, ground meat, milk, bread, eggs, and tissues.  Pretty standard.  Should be an easy trip, right?

  • There are 15 types of toothbrushes, all different colors, from extra soft to extra firm.  Which is the right one?
  • Regular or diet or caffeine-free soda — and which brand?
  • Sandwich bags come in 50 or 150 or 300, fold-top, single or double zipper-top.
  • Ground meat is available as extra lean, lean, or regular, in varying package sizes.
  • Milk can be whole, 2 percent, non-fat, skim, fat-free, enriched, in regular, soy or almond.
  • Bread in plain white or honey wheat or 7-gran or 12-grain or multigrain all in different brands.
  • Seven types of eggs – organic and how many do you need?
  • Tissues come in small square boxes or medium boxes or large rectangular ones.  They could be scented or non-scented, colored or not, with lotion or not, in 100-count or 200-count boxes.

Then when you’ve overcome all of those choices and make your way to the checkout, do you choose the regular line, express line, or the self-checkout line?  Paper or plastic or both?  Cash, credit, or debit?  Any coupons?  Cash back?  Need any help out?  Groceries in the front seat or trunk?

We live in a complex world that has the capacity not only to trigger our emotions but also to inundate our minds.  The more we feel compelled to do, the more energy our lives require.  A hurried, fast-paced life is draining.  Bit by bit, detail by detail, the sheer weight of our lives can wear us down, leaving us feeling inadequate and devastated.

The pace of life can be daunting, threatening to overwhelm even the resilient.  Keeping your emotional balance from jumping from task to task, demand to demand, can be acrobatic even for the resilient.  But what happens when you take a stressful life full of tasks and demands and add onto that a belief system that “knows” you’re not good enough, that “knows” you don’t deserve to be happy?  Or what happens when you take that stressful life and add onto it a belief system that says happiness can only be found when you’re in total control?

In order to recover from depression, understanding the role of emotions is vital, but you must also understand the role of the intellect, of the mind.  Recognizing what you feel is one step in the recovery process, but another step is recognizing what you know — what you believe to be true — because what you “know” may not, in fact, be the truth.

Let’s look at the example of a half-empty glass.  The truth is, yes, the glass is half empty, but is that all there is to it?  If the glass is half empty, isn’t it also half full?  The truth of a half empty glass is that the glass is also half full.  Those people who see a half empty glass actually see an empty glass because, to them, the glass should always be full to the brim.  If the glass is not brimming, then that glass is unsatisfactory; it will always contain emptiness and loss.

No one’s glass is ever truly filled all of the time.  Life simply doesn’t operate that way.  instead, the truth is even a half empty glass has fullness.  Those who are depressed don’t see half empty, they see completely empty.  Some will rage because the glass never seems to be full.  Others will despair because they are convinced they aren’t worthy of even a half empty glass.  Others will quietly accept the fact that the glass will never be full for them.  They look at the glass and see what isn’t there instead of what is.  They focus on the lack of what is absent instead of the presence of what is there.

To learn more about intellectual integrity, and how it assists in depression recovery, read Part 2 of this article.

If you are struggling with depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call us at 1-888-771-5166 to speak confidentially with a specialist.

Finding Relief by Writing Your Own Script

In the play As You Like It, William Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts.”  Put another way, life is a drama.  Sure, there are light moments, but most of us don’t live within some sort of frivolous sitcom.  Each of us is called to deal with serious issues and handle difficult situations.  That’s just the way it is.

For too long, you’ve allowed your anxieties to set the stage of everything that happens to you.  For too long, you’ve allowed your fear to act as the director of your life, determining how you act and respond.  For too long, the producer of this play that is your life has produced little relief from the unending concerns and stress.  You’ve allowed yourself to be played, to be directed instead of insisting on taking charge yourself.  You must decide to write your own script and set your own stage.

As yourself, when you wake up in the morning, whose script you are following, whose stage you are walking on to?  Anxieties, fears, and worries set a dark and ominous stage with a script full of negatives.  That doesn’t have to be your life.  You can refuse to play along.

Every story is told from a particular point of view.  Each one of us has an attitude about life.  We’re either optimists or pessimists.  We expect either good things to happen or bad things to happen.  Now, you might say, aren’t there people who expect neither good things nor bad things?  What are they – optimists or pessimists?  The absence of expecting good things isn’t all that positive, so I would say those people are really not neutral; they are pessimists.

If you’re anxiety-driven about something, you’re a pessimist about it.  The more things that cause you anxiety, the more pessimistic you are about your life.  This is the script you’ve been operating from.  It’s time to fire those scriptwriters and take over yourself, switching from a negative, pessimistic worldview to a positive, optimistic one.

One of the best ways I know to reorient your attitude is to have a heart-to-heart with yourself.  Some people do this silently, inside their own minds, and others prefer to hold an audible conversation with themselves.  One woman I worked with would argue with herself like an opposing attorney, talking to herself out loud.   She said it helped to hear what she had to say out loud because she had an easier time detecting the emotions underlying the various arguments.  If something didn’t sound right, she would stop and repeat the statement to herself, working through it until it made more sense.  So she didn’t disturb other family members, she would often do this while taking a walk.

Another woman I know would hold her conversations with herself in front of a mirror, looking herself directly in the eye.  Other people, will have conversations privately, in the confines of their own minds.  There is something valuable in articulation, in requiring yourself to produce the reasons behind what you do and then making those reasons visible and examinable.  It’s not unlike what people do with their therapists, or when they talk with trusted friends.  All these dialogues can be extremely useful, but you have got to learn how to have these conversations with yourself.  Start building trust with yourself.

As you engage in inner dialogue, don’t forget to control the volume.  Pay attention to the volume of the negative and the positive.  Be aware of when you need to change the dials and allow in more positives.  This is especially true when problem-solving.  You’ll need to crank up optimism, hope, and joy so you can find the motivation and courage to find and implement a solution.

If you aren’t verbal and don’t process things in an auditory way, I encourage you to articulate how you feel through writing.  Many people find great freedom of expression through journaling.  This has an added benefit in that you have a written record of your inner discussions that you can review and refer back to.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.