What to do When Anxiety Strikes

We all experience anxiety at one time or the other and we can have an impact upon how long it will last and how intense it will become. There are basically two types of anxiety: normal anxiety and chronic anxiety. Normal anxiety is what we experience when we are hoping for something or waiting for something but do not see the response coming in the way that we desire or as quickly as we hope. I can also be that we are dreading something that is coming in our lives or that we need to do and thinking about it causes us to be stressed and uncomfortable. Chronic anxiety is a state of mind in which we are always worried about something bad happening or dreading some possible negative outcome at all times. This is a constant state of “expecting the worst” or “waiting for the other shoe to drop”.

We have the power to affect both types of anxiety. Often we can completely eliminate normal anxiety by questioning our thoughts and replacing those thoughts which are unreasonable or untrue with the truth. Chronic anxiety is another matter, although we can question our thoughts even with chronic anxiety. Our thought life is very important to the state of our minds. Healthy minds will generally maintain a state of homeostasis or equilibrium, also known as calm balance and when we experience anxiety our goal is to return to homeostasis. We can do that by questioning our thought life. Analysis of our thoughts helps us to identify why we are where we are and how we got there. It can also help us to question erratic or unhealthy thoughts which have lead us there. Maybe our thinking is flawed or it stems from “voices in our head” from the past. Now I am not alluding to hearing voices, but that critic whom we all have that will often sabotage us with negative or anxious thoughts. We have the power and responsibility to ourselves to quiet them.

Chronic anxiety is less affected by questioning our thoughts because often the person with chronic anxiety recognizes that their thoughts are unreasonable and untrue but feels helpless to control them. Medication can be helpful but questioning those thoughts can often be used in conjunction with medication for the most effective treatment. Medication on its own is not as effective as medication and examining our thought lives. Those with chronic anxiety are often also dealing with the voice of a negative critic. That voice is often a parent or authority figure that was critical or disparaging. When we feel anxiety which tells us that we will fail because we are a failure or that things will never work out in our favor because we never have good things happen to us or we never have good luck.

Any time that you find yourself thinking in absolutes or “black and white thinking”, as we counselors like to call it, question the truth in that thought. No one always fails. No one is always incorrect. No one always has “bad luck”. No one always makes bad decisions. No one always comes up short of their goal. No one always gets bad news. Not all men are bad. Not all women are bad. Not all relationships end badly. Not all people are untrustworthy. Not at people are mean or angry or stupid. Life is not always unfair.

“Black and white thinking” is always a problem because it is always untrue and unreasonable. If you find yourself using it often or at all, question where that comes from. When do you remember first feeling and thinking that way? Often you can trace this thinking back to childhood. Not that we are blaming our parents but most of our conditioning began in childhood and unless we recognize the need to change it, we don’t.

Another effective tool in dealing with anxious thought is to stop the thought before you begin “spiraling” or “going down the rabbit trail”. Spiraling when used in conjunction with the thought life, is when you begin with a negative or anxious thought and your imagination is allowed to run wild and take this thought to its worst possible conclusion. I have often referred to this as “going down the rabbit trail” as it is similar to proceeding in a direction without conscience thought as to the path that you are on. When one negative thought leads to another and so on and so on . . . you can find yourself sinking in anxiety over conclusions that will never take place in reality.

We do have the ability and the responsibility to steward our thoughts. We get to decide which thoughts we allow to live in our minds and take up valuable real estate there. We do not have the ability to control the thoughts that drop into our heads but we do get to decide what stays there and how we process it. Mindfulness practice is helpful in this area. Mindfulness with the thought life is just stopping to be mindful of what you are thinking and why without judgment of yourself for thinking the thought. We need to practice mindfulness often but especially if you find yourself feeling anxious.

• Stop!
• Examine the thought and where it came from.
• Decide if it is true and reasonable.
• Decide if it is something that you want to think on.
• Throw out or replace with something more positive.

Your thoughts determine your words, your words determine your actions and your actions determine your life.


Valentine’s Day and the Single Woman

Well, it is here again, the dreaded “holiday” where Singles feel the most rejection. If you have any rejection issues in your life, they are triggered today. The expectation and disappointment of being single at Valentine’s Day can really get to you if you don’t take control of your thoughts and put things into prospective. Just because you are single at Valentine’s Day does not mean that you are unwanted, unchosen and unloved. We do, however, sometimes need to remind ourselves of just that.
We are loved! We are loved by a Heavenly Father, loved by our children, friends and family (for the most part) and our pets (yes, even your cat loves you). Some of us struggle more with rejection and the feeling of not being loved than others but there is someone in your life who loves you. There is someone who counts on you and your presence to help them to have a better day and when they think of you, they smile. There is someone who looks forward to seeing you and knowing that you are in their lives. There is someone who misses you when they haven’t seen or spoken to you in a while. There is someone who would love to hear from you today.
We may be single on Valentines by choice. Maybe your being single is by choice because you have chosen to free yourself from a relationship which is toxic or codependent or even abusive. Maybe you have not met anyone worthy of your time and energy or just not the right fit for you and your life. Maybe you have chosen to focus on raising your children, furthering your career or finishing your degree and just do not feel that it would be fair to someone to not be available to them. Maybe you are in between relationships and have resisted the urge to just date someone to have a date a Valentine’s Day. Well for whatever reason you find yourself single on Valentine’s Day, take heart, there are many of us out here, single and yet not rejected, nor unloved, nor unlovable. Just single and sometimes 1 is a complete number. Happy Valentine’s Day!

What are you doing with your “Blank Slate”?


“New Year, New You!” “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” “What are your New Year’s resolutions?” It is January 2nd and they are everywhere, the kitschy phrases and weight loss ads, the marketing schemes that seem to capitalize upon the new year. It is nice to begin again, but what are you doing with your “clean slate”? Some people set goals for the new year, such as weight loss through exercise or diet, smoking cessation, returning to school or other worthy goals. Some people avoid New Year’s resolutions because they have “been there and done that” too many times.

So, what are you doing with your “clean slate”? It is a fresh and shiny new 2019, with only one day under our belts in which we have succeeded greatly or failed miserably. I do believe in setting goals and making “business plans” for our work, relationships and life, in general. “You can’t hit a target you can’t see.” (Zig Ziglar) Is this, however, too much pressure for some? I believe that it is. While goals are there to guide us and help us to have success that matter to us, resolutions being shared with all of our friends are often too much pressure.

The downside to those resolutions is when we fail and we often do, research shows that most people fail at their New Year’s resolutions and quickly. I believe that failure is a good thing but the key is to not beat ourselves up over failure. If we never try to attain those goals that are in our heads, we will surely fail and while we may not feel like a failure if we don’t try, we truly are. “You never fail until you stop trying.” (Albert Einstein) This quote is true in life. Every success is preceded by many failures. There are very few people who succeed upon their first attempt at anything that is difficult. History reveals many successful people who indeed failed many times prior to reaching their goals. Thomas Edison, for one, failed numerous times before he succeeded at inventing the light bulb, as did Abraham Lincoln, Bill Gates, Charlie Chaplin, and J. K. Rowling, just to name a few.

So, what are you doing with your “clean slate”? Not sure where to start? I say start with last year, 2018, was it a success or are there things that you still hope to accomplish? What were your goals last year or were you just surviving? Are there things that you wish you had done but just didn’t get around to them? Are there things that you tried to achieve but didn’t quite succeed? Maybe it is time for a second chance or a third or fourth try. Things that are worth accomplishing are worth failing at and getting back up and trying them again. “Nothing worth doing comes easy.” (Theodore Roosevelt) I say, be thankful for the failure and what you learned as a result of it. Brush yourself off, look at what you did well and what worked and adjust what you did poorly and what did not work.

Maybe you have to look further back to find the things worth doing with your “clean slate”? What have you always wanted to do but felt there was not enough time, or energy, or money, or whatever kept you from accomplishing the goal? Maybe now is the time to pursue it. What did you try, fail and put away a long time ago, believing that your failed attempt made you a failure? Making a mistake, falling short or failed attempts do not make us failures. Maybe it is time to dust that idea off and go at it again.

So how do you begin? I like to have clients write their goals and keep them in a prominent place. Viewing goals and thinking about them often helps to increase success rate. Also talking about your goals with others increases your chances of success. Often wise, encouraging friends and/or family will have some insight into ways to meet your goals. After determining your goals, set out the steps that you believe will be required to attain them. Often this takes some tweaking as you go along in the process. Setting time/money/energy requirements also helps to increase the success rate of reaching your goals. Not counting the costs is often the reason that people fail to meet their goals. If you have made attempts previously, write down what you have done in the past, what has worked and what has failed. Give yourself credit for any strides that you have made toward completing your goals.

Your goals can be relative to anything. People often have fitness/nutrition goals, relationship goals, savings/debt resolution goals, academic goals and many others. There is a way to begin to fill the “clean slate” with positive and affirming goals and steps toward your success. The difference between resolutions and goals is that we don’t beat ourselves up when/if we fail to reach them. Sit down today and think about what you desire to accomplish in 2019. Take a step toward those goals. Sometimes it is as simple as buying the running shoes or the journal to begin to write them down. Good luck! May your failures eventually lead you to success!


A Holiday to Remember

We are a week away from Christmas Day and everywhere you go there are a mixture of feelings among the people which you encounter, joy and stress. This time of year can be one of the most joyful times of the year, with gatherings with family, presents, decorations, more special events than one can attend and opportunities for giving and sharing of one’s resources. This time of year can also be one of the most stressful times of the years, with gatherings with family, presents, decorations, etc. . . . Well I think that you get the picture.
There are more suicides during the Christmas session than at any other time of the year. There are also more disappointments, more pressure to overspend and overcommit than at any other time. Christmas can be a really terrible time if we lose perspective or if we place too much pressure upon ourselves. There are certainly more expectations this time of year, which press the buttons of those of us who are people-pleasers and perfectionists or who have not quite developed the ability to say no and exercise good, healthy boundaries.
Please remember that there are very few people who are actually living those idyllic lives that we are seeing portrayed in the movies or in the Lexus commercials. Christmas is stressful, some of it is positive stress, such as, trying to attend all of the wonderful opportunities available this time of year or buy all of those gifts which you want to give to your friends and family. Some of the stress, however, is deadly, such as overspending and going into debt in order to buy those gifts, time with toxic family members, disappointment due to unrealistic expectations and the press to create the “perfect Christmas”.

I would like to encourage you to spend more time during the next week doing the things that you want to do with the people which you want to be with. Enjoy time with those who feed your soul doing things that you love. There are many opportunities to find ways to give back to those who are less fortunate than you. There are also simple ways to give and to show love which do not “break the bank”. I have known for quite some time that experiences are worth more than things and I try to employ this philosophy into the Christmas season. Enjoy a meal or a walk with the one you love rather than exchanging gifts. Some people, me included, would rather have a nice meal or take a walk on a sunny day with the people which I care about than to receive presents. Handmade or personal gifts are also a good way to bless someone without spending a fortune.
For those who have friends and family who spending time with causes damage to you, consider taking a break this year from them, if possible. Sometimes those visits would be better placed after the holidays when they can be less volatile. If there is no way to avoid spending time with Aunt Jinny who always makes you feel like you need a bath after your time with her due to negativity, then limit the time you spend alone with her. Intentionally steer conversation away from matters which might cause discussions to become heated or only visit with her in the presence of someone else as people tend to be nicer in the presence of others.
Don’t spend the holidays alone, unless you will enjoy the alone time more than being with others. If your family is not an option, seek out activities around other people or maybe reach out to that person whom you know might otherwise also be alone. Start a new tradition. If you always spend Christmas Eve with family but you know that doing so will be harmful to you, find a more helpful way to spend the time. Go to the mall for last minute deals or just to people-watch, or find a place that is serving the poor or homeless where you can volunteer. Check out some of the attractions which are open Christmas Eve, as they are often less crowded and more enjoyable. Maybe visit a hospital or a retirement center. You are not alone; there are many people who find time with family is the last place that they want to be.
Find the joy! It is there but sometimes you have to look for it. Find a way to give to others. Find the simple pleasures of the season. Let go of expectations. Only you can make this a holiday of peace and joy. Prioritize so that you spend time and money in the ways that are true to your values and needs. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! May you find the Peace and Joy of the season!

Be Grateful for Being You

Happy Thanksgiving! Heading into the holidays, how are you feeling? Hopefully, you can find something for which to be grateful in this season of reflection and the beginning of the season of celebration and togetherness.

This season brings families together and while that is a good thing sometimes it can also be a challenge. I would like to encourage you to enjoy the holidays and to remember who you are and what your life is about rather than to give in to the stress of the season.

Take the time to reflect during this season upon the things and people in your life for which you are grateful. Often we get so caught up in the stress of the season that we miss the joy and connection that is possible. Set some goals and boundaries on the front end and it will be a much more enjoyable and fruitful holiday.

Take time to reflect. Set some time aside to think about what this season means to you and remind yourself to reconnect to your values. If you find that you have slipped in prioritizing your life according to your value system, this is a good time to make the adjustment. What has been good in your life and what have you done well this year? Also, what is not so good and where have you gotten off track? Maybe it is time to course correct and head into the holidays with purpose.

Focus on your goals for the season. What is important to you during this holiday season? How do you want to spend your time and with whom? Is there a tradition which you want to continue or add to this time? With whom do you want to spend some extra time? Take time to schedule what is important to you before life and someone else’s priorities take over your seasonal calendar and you find yourself wishing you had been able to do something which there was just no time for.

Be present. Whatever you decide you want to do and with whomever you decide to spend time, be there. Be there not just in body but in spirit, with your whole self, mind, body, emotions and spirit. Be mindful of your presence and the presence of others. What are you feeling? What are they showing you? The gift of being present is the most valuable gift you can give. Often we miss real connection because we are not fully present.

Don’t lose yourself. Remember who you are and don’t lose yourself as you try to meet the demands and desires of others at the expense of your own. Love is often about sacrifice but it is also about presenting your authentic self. If you have to be someone else to be accepted and loved, there is a problem and you need to reassess why you are willing to give yourself away to make someone else happy.

Enjoy yourself and your friends and family! Family can sometimes be difficult so be mindful of who you are and that life is short. Don’t allow others to steal your peace and your time. This is your holiday season, make it memorable in a good way.wp-1479836848154.jpg

Summer is Coming to an End

Summer is officially over which leads many people to a new mindset. Children are back to school and vacation season is over for most so where’s your mind taking you? Are you reassessing your life in any way? Maybe you should be? Not everyone feels the need to wait until January 1st to reassess and set new goals. Today is as good of a time as any to begin. What in your life is not working? What is making you feel stressed or over-burdened? What things or relationships are no longer serving you?

We have a limited amount of both time and space. Have you thought about it? Well, maybe you should. There are only so many hours in the day and we have only so much space in our homes, lives, and minds. Are you spending your time wisely? I am reminded of the idea that instead of dollars, we should assess the cost of things based upon how long it takes us to earn that amount. It changes your shopping and spending when you consider this. Is that handbag worth a week’s salary? Is that dinner out worth an hour of your time at work, or two? How much time would you be willing to invest into that piece of jewelry or workout equipment?

How about spending time with people either on the telephone or in person? Given your limited amount of time, is this someone with whom you want to spend your time. To some it sounds selfish but in truth, we are responsible to steward our time just like we steward our money. If you want to give some time to a person, but it is a person who often takes more of your time than you want to give, consider setting boundaries with your time. It is ok to set a time limit for telephone calls or even face to face visits.

Have you ever considered that your “stuff” could be causing you anxiety? Many of us are visual and clutter or excess can actually cause us stress. It is a great time to clean out your children’s rooms or even your own. How about your closet? How long has it been since that dress has fit you or those shoes were in style? Sometimes the things that we are holding onto that are bringing clutter and stress into our lives can actually be a blessing to someone else that really needs them. How about all of those knickknacks aka tchotchkes you are keeping because they belonged to grandma or they were from a special trip. Do you really love them and do they add to your decor or are they just clutter? If you decide you don’t want to hang onto them but they have sentimental value, consider giving them to someone else who may enjoy them or feel a similar sentimentality. If it reminds you of a great trip with family or friends, do have pictures from that trip which would do the same thing and take up less of your space? Your space should be a reflection of you and should allow you to be relaxed and peaceful not stressful.

Now to expand upon the idea of limited space, have you ever thought of your brain as having a limited amount of space? We actually do have a limited amount of grey matter and we can choose how to appropriate that brain space. If you find yourself forgetful or stressed it may be because you have too many things on your mind. There are several things that you can do if you suspect that this is the case. First, write things down. This works in two ways, one by getting things written somewhere to which you can later refer when needed and two by getting them out of the forefront of your mind. Your brain works a lot like a computer in that there is only a certain amount of bandwidth or memory and like a computer sometimes you have to clean out the junk and cookies. Some of the things that are rolling around in there, you might need to just let go of or file away for another time. Taking the time to examine your thoughts is often easier than continuing to allow them to “hang out”. Sometimes the things that you are thinking about are causing you stress and making you depressed because you are trying to figure everything out today only to feel defeated. Often, organizing our thoughts into categories, such as: what I need to look at today; what I need to look at next week or in the future and what I need to throw out as junk can be helpful. Businesses have a fiscal year which can begin at most any time and I suggest we also need a fiscal year, when we press the reset button and re-examine our time and space. We can use the time that we might have spent on the beach or at the pool to look at our life. Moving into the fall season, which is quickly followed by the holiday season, could be a good time to reassess and clear the clutter. You will feel less stressed and maybe feel ten pounds lighter.


Hope: Where Has it Gone?


In light of the recent news of the apparent suicidal deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, I think that this is an appropriate question. I think that these unfortunate and very sad deaths are a reminder that a lot of people have lost their hope. I am a movie buff so this sad thought takes me back to a scene from a cult favorite, The Big Chill, where old college friends reunite for the funeral of a friend who has recently committed suicide. The scene is the funeral and a pastor is asking this question, where has hope gone for this generation. That movie previewed in 1983. Losing hope is not a new idea but the increase of hopelessness is incredibly sad and must be addressed.

The Bible says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life”. There are many times in life where things appear hopeless: in times of physical and mental illness in which a cure seems impossible or a long time in coming; in times of extreme grief; in times of insurmountable indecision and confusion; in times of heartbreak, only to name a few. This list can go on, but it is a question that I think we need to ask of ourselves. Where does your hope lie?
If your hope is in the economy, in the government, in yourself, then I understand your hopelessness. I usually avoid preaching in my blogposts, but faith is a stream that runs through all of my posts. Believing in someone or something greater than yourself keeps hope alive. I choose to believe in a God who created the universe and loves each of us because we are His children. I believe that He gives us the ability to choose within the life that we live and He also intervenes at times. I believe in prayer and that prayer has the power to change things. I believe that God cares about the things that concern us and He encourages us to not lose hope. I believe that most people are inherently good, even though I have had many negative experiences with people in my lifetime. I do not put my hope in people, although God often uses them to keep my hope alive through their encouraging and truthful words and thoughtful deeds.

If you are feeling hopeless, please reach out to someone!!! I have read that there has been a 65% increase in people calling suicide hotlines since the deaths of these famous people. I hope that this is a good thing as there is also proof that when suicide is publicized that there is, indeed, an increase in the suicide rate. Sometimes hopelessness propagates more hopeless but it is my desire to increase your hope through this blogpost. There is always hope. Yes, I will say that again. There is always hope! There is hope, that is, unless you choose to end your life, in that case there is no longer any hope. There are always solutions, there are always answers, there is always comfort, there is always choice, there is always change. No situation is permanent, things change or if not then you have the power to change them. Most physical and mental conditions have solutions, treatments, medications. Grief never fully leaves but it lessens and becomes more manageable. All questions have answers. Heartbreak heals. Pain subsides. The sun always shines again.

I am not discounting deep pain or deep depression, as the hurt is real, but I am offering that there are answers and there is hope. If you think that I just don’t understand because I have never been there, you would be wrong. I have experienced several times of deep hopelessness in my life where I have actually thought about ending my own life. Those times were almost debilitating and hard to break free from and as a result of those times and my love for you guys, I want to offer hope. Hope does not spring eternal and I am not sure that hope floats but hope is alive as long as we are alive. Choose life because hope wins. Sounds like a cliché but it is true. I believe that hope is attached to love and love wins. God gives us hope because of His great love for us and our love for each other has hope attached to it. I care and therefore I want to help you to know that tomorrow is a new day, with new opportunities for positive change. If you think that no one cares, that is a lie which you choose to believe. We all have someone who cares. If you can’t name a person who cares if you live or die, please call or email me because I do. I value human life because God does and I have come to realize that each life is precious and full of potential.