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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.

 

The Road to Happiness

In this world of difficulty and doubt, of struggles and hardships, of compromises and second choices, of injustice and affliction, each person comes to a crossroads in life.  There are two roads with signposts on each that say, “Way to Happiness.”

On the one hand is the road championed by the world, which promises much and delivers little.  This road is taken by the vast array of people who are tricked into believing the billboards along the way.  Those inducements, even in your own internal dialogue, for taking this road can be compelling because of all their glitzy promises.  Instead of happiness, though, this road can lead to depression, anxiety, and addition.

There is another choice, another road.  However, this road can appear less attractive when compared with the first.  Because of this, it is a road less traveled.  This is the road of faith, which uses a cross for a talisman.  It does not say, “Take this road to avoid your pain.”  It says, “Take this road because of your pain.”  The one road promises you’ll be in control.  The other says you must give it up.  The one appears all about pleasure.  The other appears all about sacrifice.  In the heat of the moment, it can be hard to make the right choice.

In other words, you’ve come to a fork in the road — two paths promising to lead you to your desired destination.  However, the one you choose may not be the most popular, but it may lead you to true happiness.

Taking the road less traveled will make all the difference.  The world’s road eventually leads to a literal end.  God’s road leads to eternity.  Because it can be so difficult to choose the road less traveled, here are just a few things to remember as you stand at the crossroads each day:

  • Happiness is not a response to life that comes from the inside of a person, not from outside circumstances.
  • Happiness is a gift from God, based upon His goodness and mercy apart from circumstances.
  • Depression isn’t something you live with; it’s something you get help for.
  • Worry and anxiety are a learned response to life that can be acknowledged, understood, and overcome.
  • Addictions both mask and amplify the pain; they never heal it.
  • What you tell yourself becomes who you are, so be careful what you say.
  • Relationships are meant to support you, not drag you down.
  • Taking care of your body helps you take care of your heart, soul, and mind.
  • Stop trying to control your own life, and start trusting in God to get you where you need to go.
  • An attitude of optimism is a choice.
  • Each day presents you with a new opportunity to be happy.
  • Sometimes the clearest lesson you receive today is confirmation of where you don’t want to go tomorrow.
  • Don’t wait on others to hand you happiness; take hold of it yourself.
  • Don’t let anything get in the way of what you need.  Ask, expect, and act.

As you embrace a new way of thinking, living, and responding, may you recognize that there is hope.  Optimism can lead you down the path to happiness and joy, and it can overpower the strongholds of depression and anxiety.

If you or a loved one is struggling with depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help.  The Center was voted in the top 10 facilities for the treatment of the depression in the United States.  For more information, call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

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.