Posts Categorized: Posts About Mojo

Are you Dealing with Anxiety?

Heart racing, shortness of breath, lying awake at night worrying? Most people can identify with having anxiety and its symptoms at different points in their lives. In fact, Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 18% of us in the United States age 18 and older every year.


Source: National Institute of Mental Health

How Does Anxiety Feel and  How do you know When it’s Time to Get Help?

Anxiety comes in lots of different forms like PTSD, Panic, Social Phobia, OCD and extreme and frequent worry. It affects all people differently dependent on genetics, biochemistry, age, stage and life events.

Can you Relate?

People with anxiety

  • Find it difficult to control worry
  • Feel restless, keyed up and on edge
  • Become easily irritated and angry
  • Have difficulty concentrating or staying focused on important things
  • Have difficulty falling or staying asleep

People with anxiety may also experience intense panic with increased heart rate, shallow breathing, feeling out of control, and unable to calm down. With all this adrenaline pumping, people with anxiety can experience an intense let down affect resulting in exhaustion and depression. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, let me be the first to empathize and say, “Friend, that sucks.” Because it really does. Since anxiety is largely invisible, it’s hard for others to understand just what is going on inside you. Even though anxiety doesn’t show up on ultra sounds and Xrays, it is real, and it is painful. And you’re not crazy.

How Do You Know When It’s Time to Get Help?

Did you know that anxiety is highly treatable? Yes! That’s the good news. The bad news is that only 37% of those suffering from anxiety disorders actually receive treatment. What a bummer!

Though I had been seeing a counselor since my graduate school days, I didn’t start addressing my anxiety symptoms head on until my mid thirties. (yes, I look like I am barely out of college, haha, but no.) It was then that I saw my worries, restlessness, irritability, going from 0-60 in a red not second, and panic in uncomfortable situations as problematic. The people around me were being affected, and that was enough for me to say, “Stop! In the Name of Love!” So I addressed it calling it the name it was- anxiety.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you think that your anxiety might becoming a problem.

  • Are you tired of worrying about what other people are thinking, about things that never actually happen, or about regrets from the past?
  • Are your feelings keeping you back from moving forward (taking on a new role, public speaking, networking or socializing, getting involved in the world)?
  • Do your anxious feelings make you avoid things that other people do without worry?
  • Do you break down into a puddle more than you’d like to admit?
  • Are your anxious feelings becoming debilitating, or restricting you from normal functioning?
  • Are the people around you tip toeing on eggshells trying not to upset you?
  • Has this been going on for a long time and you’re sorta sick of it?

Well, that’s the down and dirty anxiety checklist. As you’ve guessed, there is a lot more that can be discussed when it comes to anxiety- chronic stress (cool!), triggers, (woo hoo!), panic attacks (yikes!) and my personal favorite, obsessive negative thoughts (love this one! Gimme some more!)
Next week, we will unravel some of the WHYs of anxiety (stressful relationships anyone? terrible boss perhaps? what about how stinkin’ expensive everything is, yeah, that’ll send ya over the edge!) and what to do if it’s happening to you.

Need Help Now? You can check out my books God Unwrapped and Losers, Users and Abusers HERE.

A Life Hack to Make Hard Times Better

Most people can handle a few stressors at a time, without being completely sidelined. But have you ever felt like some stressors just keep coming, like wave after wave not giving you a chance to get back on your feet? Today we are talking about how to get through hard stuff by developing the Life Hack that can change your life.

I’ve heard it said that gratitude is an attitude, and thankfulness is a state of mind. True- but I think gratitude is a skill first and foremost. It is a muscle that needs regular exercise- a behavior that needs routine practice- a decision that is made over and over, day after day.

Not very sexy, I know. Really, more exercise?

A study I recently read about took two groups of un-medicated depressed people: the control group participants were to change nothing about their lives, and the experimental group participants were to identify something for which they were grateful three times a day. Three months later, as you can guess, the gratitude group felt much better than the control group.

So gratitude is a medicine. When you can’t do anything about the stressors in life, or the frequency in which they come, you can simply notice the good and take your medicine. When you’re out of control of external things, you can be in control of your internal state of affairs. When you begin to take account of the good in your life, the hard seems to lose importance. When I do this, I find my priorities shift and I remember the deep things, the wise things and the growing things. When the good occupies my mind, instead of the hard, I feel happier.

I don’t believe this happens over night, but I do know there is some science behind the “practice of gratitude” making a big difference over time. Science tells us that endorphins are released with this 3x a day gratitude exercise, and the release of more endorphins over time changes the brain chemistry of depressed people, making them feel better.

Here are some FOR INSTANCES:

Lucy: My friend who is feeling sick after her most recent Chemo treatment, posts a picture of her dad with the caption, “Thanks for taking care of us for a few days. I love you, Dad!” Though cancer was cause for the visit, my friend exercises the skill of gratitude in the face of it.

Marge: Divorce may have ended the assurance of holidays spent together, yet my friend calls each child on Christmas and birthdays telling them what she appreciates about them. More than anything, she wants to be with them on these special days, but she chooses to practice thankfulness instead of bemoaning the circumstances.

Luke: His internal suffering seems insurmountable at times. He even has nights he wants to give up. But he thinks about the things that really matter to him, and choses to give thanks for them even when his feelings are far from grateful.

Rebecca knows that being unemployed could be a big problem, but she choses to see her recent unemployment as an opportunity to reinvent herself, learn something new, and create something out of nothing. She chooses to be grateful for the opportunity, instead of fearful over the problem.

How about you? The stressors of relationships, work, raising children and your own health can be overwhelming. Imagine yourself stopping three times a day to offer up a prayer of gratitude. Give it a week and see how your perspective and mood have changed. Yes, there’s science behind it. And a little magic too.

How to Recover Your Self Esteem After a Toxic Relationship

Improving the way you think about yourself and the way you interact with the world around you is a key element in growth, healing and influence. As you feel better about yourself, you will attract healthy people and positive outcomes. Your perspective will change, as well as your self-respect.

When people come out of a dysfunctional or destructive relationship, they often scrape what’s left of their self-esteem up from off the floor. It has been questioned, put down and even attacked. If this describes you, you may have even lost trust in yourself. Maybe you lived through crazy making, brain washing, and psychological manipulation. Or maybe you were the “last to know” about your partners’ affairs and you feel like the fool.
No matter what, finding yourself in a dysfunctional or destructive relationship causes a major hit to the self-esteem. If you are recovering from a bad relationship, you will need time to heal. Your self esteem requires some care and attention in order for that healing to happen.

What is a healthy self-esteem, and how do you know when you’ve got one?

I really like a quote I read by President Truman defining humility, “Humility is an accurate assessment of yourself.” This means that you are not blind to your faults, but you are not consumed by them either. A healthy ego is able to sustain some course corrections, some negative feedback and some insults without falling apart. A healthy ego is not self obsessed, or aggrandizing, but is able to practice self-respect, self- confidence, and positive view of self. Having a happy sense of self means that you know how to hold on to yourself through the good and the bad, and you count yourself as equal to others.

Recovering your healthy sense of self after a toxic relationship, requires intentional effort and consistency. You can do it! Here’s how.

Limit Exposure to Toxic People: exposure to toxic people can vary in severity, duration and frequency. If you have brief encounters with a jerk, your self esteem could pretty much stay in tact. However, if you feel powerless to affect change in a jerk’s toxicity toward you, and your exposure to said jerk was enduring, severe and frequent, your self-esteem injury could be deep, infected and scarring.
Enduring toxicity may include psychological game-playing, slander, bullying, abusive control, punishing silence, personal attacks, pathological lying, and intermittent love/abuse cycles. These toxic patterns keeps their victims always guessing, uncertain, and helpless feeling. This relationship poison causes the victim to stop trusting themselves.  Even people who start out confident and self-assured, can sustain a self esteem injury when exposed to persistent, deliberate psychological abuse.

It’s important to get free from the toxic environment/relationship as soon as you can. Your sense of self can not fully heal if you stay in the toxic relationship hoping it will get better.

How to Heal the Wounded Self:
It is hard to know where to start after leaving. If you have children from the relationship, a lot of time will probably be spent making sure they are safe and cared for. But it is important to think how you will keep yourself safe and cared for as well. Here are some steps to recover your lost sense of self.

  • Find what you like to do and do it
  • Decorate your new space
  • Exercise to make your body feel alive, energetic and strong
  • Create by planting, crafting, sketching, cooking, or writing
  • Let Nature Nurture by spending time outdoors or with animals
  • Let Music be a powerful source for reflection, encouragement and outlet
  • Surround yourself with positive, caring people
  • Nurture yourself with things like a bath, candles, massage, long walks, cups of tea
  • Adopt a SELF CARE plan that includes all of these things and a schedule of how and when to do them.

It’s not just WHAT you do to recover your sense of self, it is HOW you do it. People who are able to accomplish these self-care tasks in a spirit of love and gratitude will make them that much more effective.  Since you are in the process of recovering who you were, who you are and who you will be, you will need to do any of these activities with great love and care. Say to yourself, “I love the water feels on my body,” or “I will receive this beautiful music as if it were written just for me,” or “my heart is really pumping and alive today, “ or “I’m grateful for the way my dog shows me attention,” or “the sun is shining through the trees so beautifully right now. I’m glad I am here to experience it.” Receiving these small gifts to our self esteem make them stick.

Once leaving a toxic environment or relationship, you may be tempted to isolate yourself. Instead, make small consistent steps toward openness, acceptance, connection and strength. With slow, consistent self-care exercises, you will recover your sense of self and you will reinvent for your future.

Six Simple Ways to Improve Self-Confidence

Insecurities and self esteem issues can cause a lot of problems in life. You may over extend yourself, say yes when you need to say no, or talk yourself out of goals and dreams. The good news is that Self Esteem is not fixed and inflexible- it can change and improve. With the right people, practice and positivity, you can change that pesky sense of self-doubt once and for all. Whether you’ve suffered with low self esteem you’re entire life, or you’ve recently gone through something hard and you’ve lost your confidence, you can make simple changes that will improve how you feel about yourself.

Why do I struggle with Self Esteem Issues More than Other People?

The development of self esteem over the course of a life time can be complex. A combination of personality type, nurturing experiences, peer influence and skills attainment affect a person’s self esteem. My blog post last week addressed this in detail and is worth the read if you want to understand the development of self esteem better. Once you discover where your Self Esteem may have gotten delayed or off course, you most likely be ready to start practicing ways to improve.

People who struggle with self esteem rarely count that at their only problem. They usually complain that their self esteem affects their performance at work, their  confidence as a parent, who they chose as a spouse, and how satisfying their friendship are. If you feel negatively about yourself, your relationships, career and meaning in life will also suffer. Improving your own sense of self worth is an essential task in life to experience significance and happiness. Here are Six Simple Steps to Improve your Self Esteem and start feeling better!

How to Improve Self Esteem

  1. Get free of toxic people: Toxic people are those who are so self-absorbed and/or empty that they use up your energy, your good-natured generosity, or your positivity in exchange for their negativity, criticism, gossip or control. Their dysfunctional behavior patterns do more to bring you down, than up. It is impossible to heal or improve your self-esteem when you’re too close to the poison of toxic, self-centered and vampiric people.
  2. Nurture Positive Relationships: It may be impossible to eradicate toxic people from your life entirely, but maintaining other uplifting relationships is an essential task to improving self-esteem. Once you untangle yourself from negative people, it’s time to find healthier people who will add to your sense of self instead of take away from it. You may find these people while you volunteer in non-profit organizations, or participate in book clubs, writing groups, neighborhood or exercise meet-ups. Many churches have recognized the need for community, and have structured means to connect to support that need.
  3. Self Esteem Exercises: Whether you’re good at bargain hunting, decorating, painting, programming, hosting, training dogs, or hiking, to improve your self-esteem, you’ll need to practice the things you’re good at, and start adopting a few things that you’re not. In the context of doing something you’re good at, add something that you’re not so good at, like surfing, cooking, or art, and start learning. Learning and perfecting a new skill is highly gratifying and confidence boosting. It may require taking a class, going to a workshop, and getting certified at something you’re interested in. Many people who are healing from a broken relationship, will “re-tool” for a fresh start. Maybe they acquire a Pilates certification, or go back to school to change careers, or join a writing critique group. Learning and becoming competent at a new skill energizes all the right areas of brain and soul, and will help boost positivity and hopefulness.
  4. Change the Brain: Negative and critical thinking plague the person with a struggling self-esteem. But the good news is that even an old brain can learn new tricks. The brain likes to streamline and go into auto pilot. It doesn’t like to work hard, so it tries to go the easy way. So if your brain has a habit of thinking overly critical thoughts about yourself or others, or if it jumps to negative conclusions, worst case scenarios, or self-ruin, it can change with the right intervention. If your brain is in auto-pilot-negativity mode, it’s time to take back the controls and train it to respond in a new and better way. Stopping old cognitive patterns and replacing them with more helpful and effective thoughts will re-train the brain to streamline in a more positive way. The more you exercise these new patterns, the more automatic they become.
  5. Trauma Work: Self esteem development can get arrested, detained and imprisoned by traumatic events. Trauma can not only stunt healthy growth, it can also make a person distrusting, hyper-vigilant, and over-reactive. Treating the effects of trauma with proven trauma therapy like EMDR, LifeSpan Integration or Bio Feedback can release the imprisoned energy from the trauma memories and reset it to neutral. Finding a counselor or psychologist who have experience and training treating trauma is a great first step.
  6. Embrace Spirituality: There are many faith persuasions, and each person must decide for themselves about their belief system. I have found a few things that are helpful here. Though some refer to God as a Higher Power or the Universe, I like to see God as not only my benevolent Higher Power, but also someone I can talk with when needing rescue. Sometimes we are unable to muster strength, confidence or faith enough to do the hard things required of us in life. It’s those times that faith in a personal God can add to our sense of connection to Someone and something far greater than ourselves. In that spiritual connection, our sense of feeling loved, seen and cared for rejuvenates our esteem and confidence.

Improving the way you think about yourself and the way you interact with the world around you is a key element in growth, healing and influence. As you feel better about yourself, you will attract healthy people and positive outcomes. Your perspective will change, as well as your self-respect. Next week, we will talk about how to build your self esteem after a toxic relationship. See you then!

Improve Your Self Confidence: Key Ingredients to Healthy Self Esteem

Do you ever wish you could be more confident, more self assured? Do you with that you didn’t doubt yourself, your abilities, your value, or your place in the world? We all know that healthy self-esteem is important to healthy relationships and happiness, but if you struggle with self-confidence, you may not know how to improve it.

This, and the next two posts will address:

  1. How Healthy Self Esteem is encouraged in children, and the key ingredeints we all need for healthy psychological development.
  2. How to Improve an injuered sense of self through routine psychological exercises.
  3. How to Recover your self-confidence after a toxic relationship.

Let’s start by asking yourself these questions:

Do you…

  • Feel less talented, attractive, intelligent, successful than most people?
  • Compare yourself to others often, wondering how you rank?
  • Beat yourself up after simple mistakes, oversites, or embarrassing moments?
  • Talk to yourself like you’re the worst person on earth?
  • Struggle with toxic shame and guilt?
  • Feel responsible for other people’s happiness?
  • Rehearse to ad nauseam self-criticisms?

If you answered yes to these questions, you may have a wounded sense of self, or in other words, a poor self-esteem. 

Understanding Self Esteem

Self Esteem is developed in children over a period of time by way of three factors: 1) Positive regard and affirmation from family of origin, 2) Attainment of Skills and Competencies, and 3) Acceptance by Peers. That’s the short answer, but there is actually a lot that goes in to building one’s self-esteem. Here’s the deets.

1)     Positive Regard and Family Affirmation: Esteem deposits drop into a child’s core self through consistent affirmation, guidance, love and discipline from parents. Parents and care-givers don’t have to be perfect, they just need to be good enough- guiding, loving, listening, correcting and encouraging their children. However, if the environment is over bearing, coddling, overly critical, emotionally unsafe or unpredictable, the child could develop some serious ego wounds. If, for example, a mother rarely lets her son do hard things for himself, he will likely grow up believing he is incapable of overcoming challenges. On the other hand, if a father is overly critical of a child who works hard, the child will grow to feel like her best is never good enough. One caveat here: there are some adults who grew up in a loving and supportive home and who developed a positive self-esteem, however during adulthood, encountered something so negative, traumatic or abusive, that over time, their self esteem was injured. People in toxic work, marriage or cult environments who start out confident and self-assured, can be so afflicted by persistent, deliberate psychological abuse that the self-esteem injury can take years to heal. 

2)     Attainment of Skills and Competencies: Just as important to building self-esteem, is consistent mastery of developmental tasks. As the child grows in emotional self-regulation, physical maturation, and attainment of new skills, he/she will be confident to try new things. As the child experiments with music, sports, building things, drama, art, animals, etc, the child will discover natural talents and gain in proficiencies. When a child feels he is good at something, his self-esteem rises. If a child is not encouraged or allowed to become competent in his interests, or is steered toward something he is not good at or interested in, his self-esteem will struggle.

3)     Acceptance by Peers: By ages 10, 11, and 12 the voice of the peer group begins to speak louder than the parents. Children who are generally accepted by their peers will glean self-esteem through the adolescent years from the feedback they are getting from their peers. If they feel excluded, like they don’t fit in, or in the worst case, bullied, then their self esteem can take a big hit. Many teens who didn’t succeed socially, will do so in young adulthood, thereby repairing the damage to their self-esteem. If not, a child could grow up feeling socially inadequate, anxious in social situations, and generally undesirable.

If you are well past your 20s you may think the Self Esteem Ship has sailed, and that if you didn’t develop a healthy self-esteem when you were younger, it’s too late for you. The great news, is that it’s not too late. You can work on your self-esteem at any stage in life and achieve the confidence you need to set boundaries, to resolve conflict, to achieve deeper intimacy, and pursue big goals.

With the right people, practice and positivity, you can change that pesky sense of self-doubt once and for all. Now that we’ve talked about what goes into the development of healthy self- confidence, we are ready to learn the basics of IMPROVING self-confidence. Next week, I will be offering 6 Simple Ways to Improve Self Confidence. Talk to you next week!

 

 

 

My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

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