Posts Tagged: stress

How to Handle Anxiety

When I treat anxiety in others, and when I encounter it in myself, I find that anxiety is always rooted in a sense of helplessness. It’s as if our unconscious believes that we truly have no power, that we are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t, and that we are powerless to affect change. Our prefrontal cortex responsible for logic and reasoning, knows this powerless thinking spiral is not completely true and accurate, but the primitive brain is so busy reacting to anxiety provoking stimulus, the logical part of the brain is overridden. The times we feel most powerless, are the times we feel most anxious.

Figuring out how to make yourself feel stronger, more in control, and more powerful is key. But how?

How to Treat Anxiety

Anxiety is rarely a problem that exists all by itself. Anxiety exists in environments where it can grow. Chronic stress, toxic relationships, power imbalances, and poverty are all things that cultivate anxiety and make it grow. There are common ways to treat anxiety like therapy, meditation, relaxation techniques, exercise and cutting down on stimulants (caffeine.) Any and all of these things can be helpful, but I have found one thing that helps immensely.

Make Small Choices for Big Power

Taking back your power is the solution to the anxiety problem. When people find small ways to feel powerful again, they start to feel better.
Anxiety often is a result of feeling trapped in a box of “I can’ts”; feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place; feeling damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. Anxiety’s root is powerlessness. To strike back at anxiety, taking small steps to gain back your power make all the difference.

Try This

  • Brainstorm all the options you have, even the crazy ones.
  • Make small choices on how you spend your time.
  • Make small choices on how you will reframe or think about your current situation.
  • Make small choices on how you respond to others’ dysfunction.
  • Set small boundaries on time, duties, space you share with others.
  • Set small boundaries on how much you allow yourself to think about bothersome worries.
  • Own mistakes you’ve made and commit to making amends. Say yes to things you want to do, and no to things you don’t.
  • Invite help.
  • Invest in a trainer, a consultant, a coach, a counselor, a psychiatrist, an attorney, or an assistant.
  • Off load emotional vampires, time-sucks, and the self-absorbed.
  • Cut your losses on unlucky investments and one-sided relationships.

Taking back your life from the anxiety, isn’t done in one fell swoop. It is done by making one small decision after another, until you feel stronger, more confident and more positive. Psychologist measure remission and success by decreased frequency, duration, and severity of anxiety episodes. With each step toward empowerment and positivity you make, remission from anxiety becomes possible.

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.

Perfection Rebellion

Good morning! You make Wednesday mornings my favorite time of the week. I have the privilege of interacting with the best people on earth on Wednesdays. Joy! I have a SURPRISE for you at the end of this post…. You may want to sit down.

Is it just me, or is Autumn especially spectacular this year? Do you ever feel like God wrapped the trees in color just for you? Or that the sunset delivered pink and purple clouds as goodnight kisses? Or that noticing nature change is heaven’s way of getting your attention?Like the girl who flips her hair and blushes toward the boy across the room, nature is just dying for you to notice her.

And when I stop to notice, I’m never disappointed. While uprooting tomato plants, composting leaves, and chopping down giant sunflowers last weekend, nature taught me some powerful lessons. Here they are in a nut shell.

1. Nature doesn’t have to be perfect, it just grows toward the light. Growing things are scraggly and misbehaving. They often grow where they are not supposed to grow, sprout where they are not supposed to sprout, and bloom when they are not supposed to bloom. But these responsibilities belong to the Gardener, not the growing thing. The growing thing is just supposed to grow toward the light. The Gardener takes care of the rest. The Gardener plants and waters and prunes and snips. The Gardener protects and nurtures and tends to His plants, expecting His plants to be unruly and growy and wild, with a mind of their own. 

Don’t set unreasonable expectations of yourself to”get it right this time.” Let the Gardener take care of it. Just submit to the process, and let God do the rest. As a recovering control freak, I know that surrendering control to God is hard.  But resisting God’s gardening in your life turns out to be a lot more painful in the long run. You don’t have to be perfect, or be right, or be good, or be wise. You just have to be. Let the Gardener take control of perfecting you.

2. Nature doesn’t have to try to grow, it just stays attached. I’ve never seen an apple or strawberry or tomato try to grow. I’ve never seen something work hard or stress out or make goals to ripen. The only thing fruit does to ripen is stay attached to the branch. No striving, or trying or stressing. Just connection and protection and closeness. I’ve found that keeping connected to God throughout the day, keeps me grounded, focused and at peace. No matter what mistakes I make, or stresses that come my way, attaching myself to the Life Giving source keeps me strong, centered, and growing. Jesus used this analogy.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers…

— John 15:5-6

Staying connected to Jesus, the Source, is really all we are required to do. The work and growth that flows out of that relational attachment is the true and eternal fruit. I know that it’s the American way to WORK HARDER! I know that its the corporate way to “PRODUCE RESULTS!” I know that it is the “Christian” way to IMPROVE!  I get that. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I think we really miss the point when we Christians are so busy trying to become like Christ instead of being filled with Christ. Becoming like Christ seems like pressure to say the right thing, do the right thing, and be the right thing. Being filled with Christ feels like a no pressure surrender, don’t have to “be perfect” or “get this thing right” feeling. It’s just letting God lead.


3.  Nature doesn’t have to hurry or slow down time, it just follows the seasons. There is no rush to grow. There is no hurry to get-er-done. There is no, “Wait, I’m not ready!” No matter what- growth, death and rebirth is bound by the laws of nature and no amount of stress, worry, control or anger will stop seasonal change. Acceptance is key. Time will have its way with us, no matter how we fight it. Time will force us through the seasons, so accepting them with hopeful expectancy is the key to happiness. What would it be like if we, like nature, could enjoy the passage of time? 

The Serenity prayer says that “Hardships are the pathway to peace,” and that “Accepting this sinful world as it is, and not how I want it to be,” is key to serenity and happiness. I believe it. Acceptance of the people around me, of myself, and this world takes the pressure off to perfect it all.

This is me plus 40 years- just enjoying the passage of time. ! I know, right? Awesome! Don’t be jealous! You can print this and hang it up for inspiration.

Our constant striving to get stronger, get skinnier, get richer, get better, get more of whatever is the particular currency of the moment- sucks the joy right out of life. Reaching “Perfection” is a silent, pulsing temptation that never seems far from anything I do. But with any temptation, reaching perfection is just a facade- an imaginary ideal impossible to grasp.

I’m learning to fall in love with the REAL in each moment, instead of striving for the illusive IDEAL. I’m actively rebelling against anything that promises happiness by means of “perfecting” one’s self. And when I find myself depleted, harried and stressed, I connect back to the Source, the Vine, my Friend Jesus, because within the context of this relationship, I grow without trying.

How about you? What has Nature taught you about life, about yourself, and about God? Are you struck, like me, with out beautifully imperfect nature is? How will you stay connected to God through the next week?



Becoming a Pro at Self Care

Good morning to the Super Moons of my life! Did you know that the recent super moon appeared 14% bigger than usual? Well, that’s who you are to me- bigger and more special than just the standard stock moon. You are SUPER moons! 

Last week’s blog about over functioning got a ton of response. It’s like I hit a chord or something. Who’da thunk? So this week, I’m going to talk about Self Care. As if all the Over Functioners out there might need a little of that. Pshaw.

I’m not just talking about the tired, old self care stuff like “Get a massage,” or “Get a sitter,” or “Get some exercise.” No! This post will be WAY different.

And if it’s not, it’s still going to be exactly what you need to hear, because there is not a person I know ANYWHERE that doesn’t need a PUSH toward good self care. You care about a lot of things and a lot of people. You want the best out of life and the best out of yourself. So why not be the best at Self Care? Why not be the gal that people talk about asking, “How does she find the time….?” Why not be the guy that is posting fishing selfies all the time? Why not make everyone jealous of how good your take care of yourself?!

·         Lop it off. A principle of gardening says to cut off the dying leaves and flowers so they don’t drain the energy from the thriving plant. You may be tempted to keep a relationship or activity going even though it’s sucking you dry. You have to weigh how much energy this thing is sucking out of you compared to how much life it’s giving back. Don’t be afraid to lop it off (or aspects of it) so it will make room for healing, recovery and nurturing.

·         Prioritize it.  Once you’ve gotten rid of the thing that needed pruning, you will have more time and space for your thriving, wonderful self. Buckle down and get serious about your self care. Make sure that you prioritize yourself, cuz ain’t nobody gonna do it for ya.

·         Schedule it.This sounds like a no-brainer. You and I both know that if it’s not on the calendar, it’s not going to happen. The calendar is King, and self care doesn’t exist unless it makes it on the calendar. Schedule it daily or weekly and write it down. Once it makes it on the calendar, treat it like a sacred appointment that you don’t monkey around with. 

·         Sometimes it hurts. No one likes dentist appointments or physicals, or blood draws. But when was the last time you got your skin mapped, your weird mole looked at, your breasts squished, or your colon scoped? These routine appointments aren’t the funnest self-care activities, but they are important. Prioritize your health, and do the hard thing by getting yourself checked out. Sometimes we find ourselves avoiding medical attention because we are afraid of what the doctor might find. Don’t let this fear get the best of you. Information is your friend.

·         Pay for it. We value what we pay for. There is a lot of power in paying good money for self-nurture. When we pay for Self Care, we are telling ourselves, “you are worth it. Your emotional, spiritual, physical health is worth it. Your happiness is worth it.” If Self Care doesn’t cost you anything, then ask yourself why not?  You’re spending your money on something. So what are you prioritizing above Self care? And why? 

·         Make it a habit. Putting it on the calendar and paying for it is just the beginning. Lots of people get a massage now and then, or go away with friends every couple years, or get their nails done, or belong to a gym. These things are for amateurs. Making self care a habit is for the pros! Daily and Weekly Self Care is where it’s really at. When Self Care becomes a habit, you reap the emotional, spiritual and physical benefits like happiness, peace and health.

Let’s face it, we’ve all got some baggage in our past. Whether its baggage that someone else packed for us, or its baggage we’ve packed ourselves, there’s plenty of it there. Taking time, energy and money to nurture ourselves takes care of some of that baggage. I get it, that some baggage has to be unloaded piece by piece, memory by memory, hurt by hurt. That’s what counseling is for. But other baggage just needs some nurture, patience, time, and quiet. Every time you offer yourself some nurturing in the present, you’re soothing some kind of pain from the past. That’s just the way it works.

Some Self Care You May Not Have Thought of Yet…

·         Art Journal– doodle, write, color, paint and don’t display it. Keep it for yourself.

·         Meditate with Music– let your mind focus on one good thing at a time.

·         Silent Retreat– I dare you. Click here for the one I went to.

·         Read and Write Poetry- if you write some, send it to me. I love the stuff.

·         Enjoy Nature– this is God’s ongoing letter to me.

·         Feed the birds– seriously. Just feeds some birds. It makes you feel good.

·         Create something cool– maybe something with barn wood. It’s #trending.

·         Clean out a corner or a closet, and make it your own space- you know you want to!

·         Grow something- taking something from seed to fruit slows you down enough to be present.

I wonder how God will bless the little sacrifices of time you make for good self care. Each hour you spend getting in touch with yourself, with God and the spirit He’s put in you will bless you back double. Let me know what you are already doing to take care of the Valuable You. What will you change? What will you prune? 







Can the American Woman Really Have it All?

“You have a condition that usually only occurs in people over 60,” my doctor said as she typed in her lap top. “Have you been under a lot of stress lately?”
Hmmm, does she mean balancing the needs of my family, and my growing business? Or does she mean the PTA meeting I skipped so I could meet a writing deadline. By “stress” could she mean the lists that don’t get checked off, or the emails that don’t get opened, or the dog that doesn’t get walked? Which stressful event was my doctor alluding to, and how could I answer “yes” without shouting, “Isn’t every working mother- are you crazy?!!”

“You know,” she continued, “You will probably get this again if you don’t do something about your stress level.”

Shingles. That’s what she diagnosed me with. Shingles is this terrible burning sensation that attacks the nerves underneath your skin until you eventually erupt into mischievous oozy bumps. Awesome. I’m a therapist. I preach self care. I believe in balance. I teach people how to make and keep healthy boundaries. And I have a stress-related, immune deficiency condition that no 38 year old should get.

Wake up call.

Come-to-Jesus moment.

Time to take some things. Off. The. Plate.

So, when Marissa Mayer of Yahoo announced no more working from home, I paid attention. When Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandbert told American women to “Lean In”, I listened.  What are the women at the top saying about their positions, their work-life balance? What are they saying about their priorities? How do they balance it, and what are their secrets?

Turns out, they probably experience the same things I do (expect for the salary… that’s probably a little different.)

Erin Callin, former CFO of Lehman Brothers before the crash, recounts in her New York Times piece this weekend that “Work always came first, before family, friends, and marriage- which ended just a few years later.” She goes on to say, “Until recently, I thought my singular focus on my career was the most powerful ingredient in my success. But I am beginning to realize that I sold myself short… there were diminishing returns to that kind of labor.”

Though admired by many young women who see Mrs. Callin as a hero and an over-comer of the gender barrier, she is fraught with regret.

University of Michigan business professor Marina Whitman and corporate executive says in a recent CNN article by Todd Leopold, “I think this thing about ‘can women have it all?’ or ‘can’t they have it all?’ is kind of a silly argument. Yes, you may have it all, but not all at once.”

And what about Marissa Mayer banishing the working-from-home flexibility? She certainly has gotten a lot of back lash. Some of my working mother buddies say she ought to be ashamed of herself. But it has got me thinking that maybe “working from home” for the working mother, is just playing into the illusion that women really can have it all. That there is some ideal out there that a woman can be at home with her smiling contented children playing at her feet, while sitting at a desk with phone in hand, lap top open while climbing the corporate ladder. Maybe we’ve bought into the illusion that we “should” be able to do it all. Maybe we think, “if only my work schedule was ‘flexible enough’ then I could make that PTA meeting, I could take that work call while mixing the baby formula,” or in my case, I could schedule myself to being two places at one time and be half committed to both. Ugh.

So what did I learn from Shingles? Well, for one thing, I’m taking the Sabbath. I’m working my tail off Monday through Friday 8:30 to 3 until Sweet and Sassy get home from school. I’m shutting my lap top until they go to bed at night, and I’m wearing them out on Saturdays with chores, sports and lots of family fun. I schedule a date night with Mr. Dashing and make deposits into the marriage bank account. Come Sunday, I don’t return e-mail, I don’t write blogs, I don’t do anything that could remotely seem like work. I go to church, I go out to eat, and I read for FUN, not for work. Then I try to catch up on some Duck Dynasty, which really puts me into relaxation mode, because I’m pretty sure they haven’t worked a day in their lives, unless you count catching bull frogs as work.

Everything has a price tag. Everything worthwhile requires sacrifice. Some of us choose work, some of us chose family, and then the crazy ones, like me choose to work out the balance of both. The sacrifices I make as a working mother are continual and on-going. The fact is, if I throw the soft ball with Sweet, then I’m not going to get that blog post done. And if bring home work to do, I won’t be available to hear Sassy’s original song on the piano. What am I going to forfeit? What am I going to give up? Something has to go, which one will it be? I’m the last to cast a stone at working mothers’ choices. But I’m the first to say, life is about choices, and values, and about consciously making those choices according to your values. Could I be further along in my career if I chose to spend more time at the office? And if I spent more time at work, would Sweet and Sassy be as well adjusted and fantastic as they are now? I wonder. We make choices, some good, some bad. But most times we don’t know they’re bad till we feel the pain of them. Like the pain of Shingles. I didn’t know I was burning at both ends until I actually felt the burning.

My prayer is that you won’t have to.

** The first time I published this post was about a year ago to www.thinkspace/blog to a reach of about 10,000 people. I thought I’d be a literary genius and really use some vivid language to describe  shingles and the pain it causes. Instead of “oozy bumps” (which is what you read now), I used the word “puss” to describe it, and then I put the letter “y” at the end. Then I wrote something about bumps, and lead the whole world to believe that Shingles and STDs were somehow the same thing, and I was the lucky recipient of both. And wow, she must be so brave/crazy to admit that on a blog… Lawd have mercy. For the record, I had Shingles. Only. And I’ll never use the word “puss” with a “y” at the end to describe anything for as long as I live. Cheers to all the working mothers out there who like to make mistakes with the whole world watching! 🙂

Article in New York Times by Erin Callin

Article in CNN by Todd Leopold

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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