LEARNING WHAT YOU NEVER KNEW

Last post we discussed addressing some issues we may not have known we had inherited from our family, neighborhood or other influences. It may make some people uncomfortable to think they are changing or God forbid, improving something about themselves. I get it. In today’s world it can be hard to admit we are anything less than perfect, even if it is through no fault of our own. Nobody likes to admit they have something to work on. Do you know what nearly everyone likes? Realizing they are getting better at something. It can be close to downright exciting to think you may be working on mastering something. Here is some great news, there are plenty of areas in which we can do this!

If we stop and think of the very important issues in life, how many were we taught or have we stopped to research? What do you think is important in your life? Where did you learn how to do it well? Did you ever stop to learn how to do it well? Relating to others is one of the most important skills a human can have. How well did you do in your ‘relating to others’ class in school? Do you recall when your parents sat you down and explained some of the many aspects that go into a healthy and sustainable relationship? Me neither. How about communication? The ability to both convey your thoughts, feelings and emotions to others as well as hear and understand theirs is skill that is as rare as it is valuable. How many years did you study that in school? If your education was anything like mine, that answer would be less than one. . What good is learning our alphabet and how to spell words if we are never taught how to effectively convey and use those very words.

It would seem a great deal of important subjects are left for us to learn by chance, or for far too many of us, by trail and error or not at all. The problem with this is that the stakes are far too high for most of us to learn that way. One mistake in how we relate to others can not only cost us a job, it can ruin relationships and cause emotional trauma to others, including those we truly care about. We occasionally get some instruction on interviewing to get the job we are seeking, although even that is limited. Did ever seem odd that nobody ever told us how to ask the right questions to discover if someone would be the right life partner for us? The same holds true with maintaining a healthy mental and emotional state. As far as I know, there exists very little, if any, instruction in public education on this subject. Is it any wonder, as the stresses in life continue to rise, we are seeing a host of people with mental health challenges. We were never even told how to deal with the stress that is all too prevalent in our lives.

We repeat here the axiom from the last post that fault does not equal responsibility. It is certainly not our fault we were never taught how to succeed in some of the most important areas in life. This is not a knock on our teachers and parents. They were never taught these things either. It is, however, our responsibility to educate ourselves on these very subjects. If a healthy relationship is important to us we need to learn what the components of one are and how to get them. If being able to communicate to others and have them understand you may be valuable, don’t you think it might be worth a few hours of research? How much effort is living a life with less stress and more joy worth to you? What other areas are important? Do you think being a great parent to your child is important? Do you think you may have received some bias or incomplete information on that subject growing up? Would you like to give your children the best possibility of success as they grow up?

When I share this information I hear a lot of groaning about having to dedicate additional time learning. “I spent enough time studying in school.” is a refrain I hear all too often. If that is your mindset you must then become comfortable at the thought you will not develop past the person you were when you left school. “I don’t have time.” is another answer I hear. To that I say this – it is not that you don’t have time, it is that it is not a priority for you. If I told you that you could have ten million dollars but I would need 2 days worth of your time starting tomorrow at 6am, where would you be at 5:59?

Dedicating time for study in these subjects is worth more than that ten million dollar price tag mentioned earlier, it is priceless. Being able to better understand, and even more importantly meet, the needs of your spouse? How much would you pay for that? Not feeling so stressed out at the end of every work week, or even every work day, how much would that be worth to you? You see, studying the main topics in life is like digging in a vain of solid gold. The knowledge you get can not only positively transform your life, it can do the same for lives of those you care about. Can you imagine sitting down to share topics like these with your children while at the same time listening to what concerns they may have? How valuable would that be? How about learning how to help people feel good about themselves? Would that be skill that might come in handy with the boss at the office or the one you love at home?

Here is the grand upside to all of this. The knowledge on all of these subjects is readily available and it is free. All it takes is some time and effort on our part. There are literally millions of books available in the public library system at no charge to us. There are forums, articles and experts available online with a click of a mouse. There are audiobooks we could listen to in the car, seminars we can attend, videos on YouTube we could watch while we are in line at the grocery store. There is so much information out there, in so many different forms that there is no excuse not to become an expert in any area of life that is important to us. Learning one new thing a month, which is painless to do, can give us 12 tips to a healthier lifestyle. Can you imagine incorporating 12 new things this year to improve your health? How much of an impact do you think that would have? What if we learned one new way to improve our intimate relationship a week? This is still insanely easy to do. Do you think adding 52 improvements to your relationship in a year would positively impact your love life?

There is no excuse not to begin to become an expert on the important areas of our life starting today! How important is the success of your children? How important is the happiness of the love of your life? How valuable would having extra energy and health be? Decide what is important to you and begin to study today! Your life is far too valuable not to.

DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME ON NONSENSE!

As we grow older we realize what we thought was important in our youth may very well turn out to be quite less important in later years. If we think about our own lives we undoubtedly will realize that this is true for us. I have heard people say “Ask yourself if this will mater 10 years from now.” Some things in life that seem make or break we can’t even remember a year from then. Gossip, even work related issues that can certainly be tricky at the time, can pass by to be forgotten. In looking back, I have been upset by some pretty silly and stupid things. How do we know what not to waste our time on? How do we know if the issue we are currently dealing with will even matter a year from now? After all, in the heat of the moment, most things do seem pretty important. There is a simple way to reduce the time we spend getting upset with, and wasting our time on nonsense. This will not only reduce the amount of time we spend upset, thus reducing a good deal of stress in our lives, but will also allow us to put that formally wasted time to better use.

A great way to make sure we do not spend time on what does not matter is to spend some time deciding what does matter. This is best done when you are not emotional. Being able to reflect on what is truly important in your life will allow you to often see the nonsense of life for what it truly is. This is helpful when you find yourself in a highly emotional state. If what is important to you is your spirituality, your family and your health, does it really matter what foolish thing a politician does? Is it worth wasting your time arguing the point with your coworker or the guy standing next to you at the bus stop? Probably not. Then again, if your politics are very important to you, it might be. If you can spend an afternoon (or whatever time of day works for you) pondering what you value in life and writing it down, this could pay great dividends down the road. When you find yourself greatly upset about something, refer to your list. If it is not on there in some capacity, find a way to let it go.

These are one of those times that recognizing that we are different in this regard will also save you a lot of stress. All of us place importance on different things in life. If it frustrates you why your spouse does not get as upset as you do about a certain issue it may serve you well to consider it just might not be that important to them. Although that might also frustrate you, it could certainly help you to understand your spouse and the situation better. If you are in the market for someone to spend your life with, this is also a great exercise to do. Finding someone who is passionate about the same issues as you do, could save a lot of stress as the years progress. If you are already in a relationship, being able to articulate what upsets you in a clear and concise manner to your partner will be helpful in both reducing upsets, but also getting to know one another on a deeper level. Like most relationship tools, this does not only work in an intimate relationship, but in other relationships as well.

As we grow older it is helpful to realize what is important to us and what becomes nonsense can and should change. As we mature, so does what is worth our time and energy. When I was younger, I placed great importance on solving every issue with people in my life. As I grew older, I began to value my own peace of mind more. When there was an issue that involved a conflict of values, or some unnecessary drama, the question went from “How can we solve this?” to “Is this an issue that really needs to be solved?” Sometimes we just have to agree to disagree. On a few occasions, when the other party refused to do so, it was sadly time to let that person go. My own peace of mind was more valuable than maintaining a relationship full of conflict. As a result of getting clear what is most important to me, I have been able to not only reduce the stress in my life, but use the time that would have been wasted on this unproductive conflict to further and deepen the healthy relationships in my life. One secret to an amazing life is periodically checking in with ourselves to ask “Are there some issues in my life that I spending time on that are just a bunch of nonsense?” As the years go by that answer will change and develop as we do.

DRIVING HOME THROUGH THE TROPICS

FIJI

Most of you know I live in the city of West Allis in the state of Wisconsin in the country of the United States. The weather here can best be described as 9 months of winter and 3 months of poor sledding. That is to say it is cold or at the very least rather cool here most of the year. Personally, I love the beach, warm and sunny climates and the overall vibes of tropical locations. To that end, I am forever looking for ways to bring the tropics home to where I live.

One of the great axioms in life that I follow is “There is no law of physics that state your mind and body have to be in the same place at the same time.” This began as a sort of tongue in cheek thought at my day job. While laboring away at the post office physically, my thoughts were drifting to sitting on a beach drinking out of a coconut. Once you realize that unlike your physical body, your mind does not have to suffer the same physical limits, it becomes very freeing. Taking these ‘mental vacations’ throughout the day help save me sanity and maintain my positivity.

One of the more difficult situations I face as the weather grows colder is my daily commute. Roughly 35 minutes long, driving on snow covered roads or surrounded by trees that have lost their leaves and brown grass can become less than inspiring. To fill this void of cheer, I often listen to music I enjoy or some inspiring or self-improving content in my travels. This past Friday, I decided to try something different and it made a positive impact. On the way home from my day job I decided to play a recording of ocean waves with birds from the sea shore. I believe it was recorded In Thailand, but that was not as important as it being a tropical ambience.

As I drove along, some interesting things happened. First of all, I felt more relaxed than normal. This was to be expected as the sound of ocean waves are generally considered a relaxing sound. That means the drivers who cut me off or drove recklessly seemed to bother me a little less. Stopping at another red light? That’s ok. Speaking of red lights, when stopping at a red light I could feel the warmth of the sun on my driver’s side arm. The wind blowing through the window felt like a tropical breeze. It was all I could do to keep from closing my eyes and picturing laying on a beach. I am sure the motorists behind me would not enjoy that once the light turned green. Even more amazing is I swear I could smell the ocean! I was surrounded by exhaust from other vehicles, a chicken place on the side of the road and other city scents. Still, I swear I could smell salt water blended with tanning lotion. I am sure that was my mind somehow connecting the sounds I was hearing, the warmth of the sun and the slight breeze and using that to create the scents I was experiencing as well.

The grand result of the experiment was that I arrived home feeling much more relaxed and in a better mental state than had I just drove home in the regular way. I have always know that although our bodies are confined to occupying the physical space they are in, our minds are free to travel wherever they may want to go. The result of my 35 minute commute home between 2 Wisconsin cities by way of several tropical beaches refreshed my spirit and kept my stress level low. I think I will add a coconut air freshener to the mix to make it more authentic. It was so good, if were not for the sexy lady meeting me at the door, I might have wanted to add a few more minutes to the commute. Now if only I can convince Margie to come to the door in her swimsuit.

I would love to know what destinations you would like to travel on your mental vacation. What steps could you take to make them feel like a reality? Think of using as many of the 5 senses as you can. Much like my journey using the sound of birds and ocean waves, the feel of sun on my skin and a gentle breeze and perhaps the scent of a coconut air freshener. I am next going to try this same experience on the way to work and see if it will help me enjoy the work day even more.

WHATEVER SOOTHES YOUR SOUL

Whatever soothes your soul

We began the week by discussing how important taking care of our mental health was. If you do not understand why that is important, I highly suggest you go back and read Monday’s post again. One of the fun, life-changing things I advocate in my second book, Living the Dream, is to create lists of things that sooth your soul. The picture above gives us some great ideas. Although I am not sure about “taking a nap with your loved ones” not sure what kind of polygamous situation the author has going on, but finding yourself sleeping with too many people could lead to a very stressful situation.

Back to the lists I was speaking of earlier. This can be movies that make you laugh. Creating a Happy Playlist on your MP3 player or other device of songs that put you in a good mood. It can be creating a list of friends you can call in an emotional emergency. One of the things people do not think to write down is a list of places where you feel at peace. These can be vital in times of distress, but are just as important as a preventative measure. Keeping your soul happy can help you deal with stress better which can lead to a stronger immune system and a healthier you overall.

You may think creating these lists as something you don’t need to do, but that would be overlooking a very important aspect of human nature. You may wonder why you would need to write down what movie makes you laugh or where you feel most at peace. You already know those things. Whenever the human brain is under stress, it does not operate at its best. That is why you see game show contestants with blank looks on their faces when asked how much 2 +2 equals. Of course they know the answer, but with prizes on the line and the what seems like the whole world watching their minds go blank. Have you ever studied all night for an exam and when you get to class you forgot everything you read? I think we have all been there. This weekend, take some time to write down what sooths your soul. It will not only be helpful, but it is actually quite fun. You can edit these lists as you grow through life, but having the information on hand can shorten the intensity and duration of many a stressful day.

WHAT IS YOUR ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION?

Who is this charming fellow you may be asking yourself. Although you may easily confuse this as a picture of me when I wake up for work at 4:30 every weekday morning, the black and white nature should tell you that is not so. This fellow is Arthur Schopenhauer. He was a German philosopher in the early 1800’s. In my research and study of self-improvement, I come across many of these fellows. Notice the happy grin on his face? Most western philosophers share his gloomy demeanor. In fact, on doing research on the western philosophy thoughts into happiness, I discovered much of this gloominess also creeped into their thoughts and outlooks on the subject.

Art here did have a depressing but somewhat interesting take on what to do when pursuing happiness in life. His answer, in short, was this – don’t. Not too surprising considering his cheerful disposition. He did, however, have some advice that at first blush seems a little on the negative side but may help us find a new way to look at life and to increase the joy in our lives. His advice can be wrapped up in the following statement. “Don’t seek out happiness, but instead seek to diminish your misery.” Way to go Art! Focus on being ‘less miserable’ than ‘more happy’. I think if you go through life with your most inspiring thought being “How can I make life suck less?” you will end up with a life that leaves you looking like our good friend Arthur here. Not really that good of a look, if you were to ask me.

So I sat down to think about this idea a little more. That is actually me. You can see it is a little less scowl and a little more pensive than our German friend above. Wouldn’t making your life less miserable make it happier? I think it is much like a budget. If you wish to have more money in your life you can approach it in two entirely different ways. You can either focus on saving money and cutting expenses (like focus on reducing your misery) This is a very important aspect and will end up with you having more money in your pocket. If all you do is focus on where can we cut costs, you are not only limiting yourself, but you are also focusing on sacrifice and lack. Just like focusing on making life less miserable. It may be worth noting that when facing trouble, businesses tend to focus mainly on cutting costs and that seldom works long term.

If you want more money in your pocket, there is another thing you can do and that is focus on ways of increasing your income. In terms of happiness, this would be looking for ways to add more joy to your life. When you are looking to increase your income there are two options. You can earn more for what you already do, or you can find additional streams of income. Same with your ‘Happiness Budget’. Just made up that term by the way, kind of like it. You can look to find more joy in what you already do in life and you can also look for additional sources of joy. If you enjoy going for a walk in nature, would listening to some meditative music be helpful? Maybe trying to spot as many animals as you can? Maybe just focus on the sites, sounds and smells more? If you don’t get to walk in nature as much as you like, maybe you could try adding that to your life.

If the budget analogy doesn’t quite work for you, think of a garden. Stress, challenges and things that generally make you unhappy are like weeds in a garden. No matter how great of a gardener you are, there will always be some weeds. If you spend every minute in the garden of life pulling weeds (that is getting life to be less miserable) and not focused on helping your plants grow (like growing your happiness) your garden would be mediocre at best. That is like focusing on reducing misery and leaving the growth of happiness to chance. Sure, life may throw a few things your way every once in a while but your life, much like your garden, will be mediocre.

When it comes to a strategy for happiness I am going to say that the cheery Mr. Schopenhauer’s thoughts are not without merit, but merely one side of the coin. I think we should both look to reduce our misery in life while looking to grow our happiness. Just as in our income example, if we want more money in our pockets we should both look to cut expenses as well as increase our income. While tending your garden of life, certainly address picking the weeds, but also make sure to water your plants. Doing so will allow you the greatest harvest. The same can be said about removing the misery as well as growing the happiness, it will give you the greatest harvest.

STRESS? HERE’S WHAT TO DO

One of my favorite philosophers, Mr. Rogers has a good suggestion when it comes to stress. This, I must confess, sounds easy but is not. When we see others under stress, it is easy to be compassionate and understanding. At least for a person reading this blog I assume it would be. However, if you are one of two or even several people involved in a stressful situation, this becomes quite a bit more difficult. There are two parts of this equation and I think we deserve to look at each of them here briefly.

The first part tell us in times of stress we should listen with our ears and our hearts. This means not only hearing the words the person is saying, but really doing our best to understand where they are coming from. We should never make assumptions and always ask for clarity if we do not understand. We should also be aware that in a stressful situation, most things said that seem angry, hurtful, or just plain mean, can be veiled cries for help. Not everyone is skilled at communicating in regular situations, much less when they are under stress. When we think of listening with our hearts, that involves a great deal of compassion for the person sitting across from us (or on the phone, or in a text or email) This can prove very difficult especially if that person seems to be attacking us or, as Norman Vincent Peale used to say, “Using biblical terms in a very unreligious way.” This difficulty is multiplied several times if we also happen to be under stress. What a difference it would make if we were able to accomplish it? Even putting forth the effort will make a great impact.

The second part is just as important. We must be assured that our questions are as important as our answers. When we provide an answer, we are more addressing the other party’s concern that getting an answer to our own. How great does it feel to know that our feelings and concerns are important to the party we are talking to? How do we think the other party would act if they felt their questions and concerns were not as important as our own? I can’t imagine the discussion would be very healthy or productive. We must not only tell the other party their questions are important, we must also show them. We do so by repeating them back to make sure we are addressing them. By listening, not just to reply, but to understand. This is a small difference that has a huge impact on the conversation.

While involved in a stressful discussion, let us do our best to remember the party we are involved in the discussion with has feelings and concerns that they need to know are important. They need to be heard with both our ears and our hearts. It is not easy, especially if we are also under stress, but it is necessary. We may not succeed 100% of the time, but that does not mean we shouldn’t do our best 100% of the time. It may help to sing this very popular song from Mr. Rogers before we begin our discussion.

THE VACATION YOU SHOULD PLAN NOW!

Ah.. vacation

Ah vacation. Who doesn’t love a good vacation? I have been longing to travel to a tropical destination to perfect different expressions of repose. With the current pandemic and travel restrictions, I find myself stuck in the less-than-tropical environment of Wisconsin where I live. In this post we are going to explore a different kind of vacation and how to prepare for it.

Fun in the islands

Before we get to that, let’s look at your typical vacation. 2 long years ago, Margie and I traveled to Jamaica. It was our first international vacation together and we had a blast! We met so many wonderful people and ate some delicious food.

I love the sun and the water. As you can see in the pictures above,there was plenty of both. To plan this vacation we took our time. We visited a local travel agency. We compared resorts. We looked at prices verses amenities. We organized our schedules to have time free from our many labors and Margie being Margie, we also did a lot of shopping for things we needed and even some we didn’t. All this planning and activity took longer than the actual vacation, but was certainly enjoyable.

You simply must purchase this album

Last post I mentioned during my employment as a telemarketer, I often listened to Bob Marley as a stress relief option. Fast forward 27 years, or so, and we find myself listening to Michael Franti for the same reason. Today I was listening to his latest release Work Hard and Be Nice to People.

There is a wonderful track called daycation that mentions taking a one daycation to get your head on right. How many of us have felt that way a time or 500? I know I have. (Did I mention I work for the Post Office?) How many of us have really acted on that thought? Not many I would venture a guess.

The question is, why not? Taking some time off can reduce stress and even increase productivity once you return. Is it a question of feeling guilty for not being at the office? Trust me they would feel no guilt in replacing you. That’s why you must take care of you first. Make sure your physical and mental health are doing great. It will help you be more productive at the office, but more importantly, it will help you enjoy your free time more and live longer to enjoy it. Don’t believe it? Look up scientific evidence for the benefits of vacation. Print one out for your boss too.

My quandary has always been how much can you really do in one day? The answer is plenty, if you plan it right. On my days off I am usually involved in a literary pursuit, doing a project at home or, like today, having my car repaired. It will not shock you to know this does not feel like a vacation.

What we should do is develop a plan for several one daycations. Whether that is a fancy dinner out followed by a trip to the spa or a day at the water park with friends followed by a nice hotel after. Maybe a picnic in the park with the one you love? The important part is to plan this. Write down your itinerary. This can be fun. Usually it helps to make it away from the house if possible. This way you will be free of the many distractions that await you there.

Taking several of these one daycations can help you unwind and recharge. It can help you return to be more productive at the office and at home!

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE SONG THAT INSPIRED THIS POST

HOW IT HAPPENS

Obviously not me as I am a man

Many of you who have read both my book and these blogs may have questions as to how some of the material comes about. Trust me when I tell you that on some days I find myself asking the same thing. With that thought in mind, I am going to share with you a personal epiphany I had the other day that shed light on how I began practicing an early version of one of my main tools of self-improvement. I began doing this years before I was in the self-improvement field, and even more years before I knew what the heck I was doing.

This is what a phone used to look like

The year was 1993. Recently graduated from high school, I was exploring the work world as a telemarketer. You think it is annoying receiving those calls, try making them 8 hours a day, 6 days a week! The best way to prepare for a career in telemarketing is to call a friend repeatedly and have them yell obscene thinks at you and hang up. Do this over and over again for hours. That’s pretty much what it is like.

As you can imagine a day like that can be tough on the nerves and tougher on the self-confidence. Even though you know it is not personal, hearing what people hope the proctologist does to you and your family gets a little exhausting. I do suppose it was a little better for me as I tend to be a friendly sort of chap. I refused to follow the “If the potential customer says ‘no’ then you say ____” This is also why I am no longer a telemarketer.

On lunch I needed to find a way to escape. Recently, my life-long friend Kevin had introduced me to the musician Bob Marley, and therefore reggae music. For those of you unfamiliar, most of Bob’s music has a very positive and almost spiritual aspect to it.

The most popular album people know from Bob Marley is Legend, which is a greatest hits of sorts. I can tell you that I listened to this recording on repeat for my entire lunch hour. I did this nearly every day. Changing my mindset to one of a more positive and hopeful one allowed me to take the second half of the verbal onslaught that awaited me. On many occasions this required another listen when I arrived home at the end of a day.

For some reason, it took about 6 years for the thought to occur to me that creating a happy Playlist, that is a collection of songs that bring joy to your heart might be a good idea. I explain the idea in my book, A Happy Life for Busy People, and have even updated that on my new book as well. With technology, this is now even easier than ever. With MP3, YouTube and streaming services, you can have a happy Playlist in seconds! It took a conversation with my Rastafarian friend, David, for me to remember how this all began.

CLICK HERE FOR A POSITIVE BOB MARLEY VIDEO

THE SECOND STEP IN COPING WITH ANXIETY

We have been discussing anxiety and ways in which to approach healing from it. Last post we discussed using physical strategies. Today we will discuss social coping strategies for anxiety. We began with physical coping strategies because they are a good first step. It requires very little use of the mind and thus can be easier to put into action. Anxiety can have us feeling keyed up and jittery. Expelling some of that energy through physical exercise, or consuming a calming tea can be a good first step. Ironically, anxiety can leave us feeling both mentally and physically exhausted. It can have us feeling completely drained. Changing our diet to a more healthy option as well as removing things like caffeine and alcohol can give us an energy boost.

When you are suffering from anxiety, being social with others may be one of the last things you want to do. The difficult part, is it can be one of the best things for you. There are ways to mitigate the additional stress often occurred when socializing. Certainly, we are not advocating attending a business networking event filled with strangers giving you highpressure sales pitches. A small gathering at a familiar place with close friends and family can help us feel calm and collected. Discussing our feelings with those who care and we know we can trust can help us feel less alone in battling the challenges we are facing. There are occasions when focusing on the anxiety can only prove to make it worse. The focus does not have to be, and quite often should not be your anxiety. Spending time trading jokes, recalling fond memories or even fantasizing about a future vacation, trip around the world or what it would be like to win the lottery can help change our focus, even if only for a moment.

You may not feel comfortable sharing some of your inner most thoughts or feeling with your friends. Maybe it is uncomfortable to feel that vulnerable with someone you are that close to. Those are understandable and valid feelings. If you are not ready or feel comfortable seeking out a professional counselor or therapist, there are still plenty of good options. As a friend and reader of this blog mentioned on our first post on the subject of anxiety, it would be wise and helpful to talk to your priest, rabbi, shaman or other spiritual leader. Not only are they generally the most compassionate people, but if we are honest, helping those in a challenging emotional state is in their job description. Depending on the the source of your anxiety, life coaches can be another good option. Although they do not deal in challenges of the past, they certainly can help you map out a plan for the future. Sometimes knowing where we are going and having actionable steps to take can relieve a lot of the anxiety we feel.

The challenge with all of these options is that often when we are suffering from anxiety we do not even feel like leaving the house. Thanks to modern technology, and even more so because of the current pandemic, all of these services are available online. As a life coach, I have had several meeting via zoom which not only allowed my clients to feel safe, but allowed me to service individuals across state and even international borders. There are services that allow you to speak to spiritual advisors as well. You can do so through the telephone, online or a mix of the two. There are also plenty of online forums and groups that you can join. There are even ones specific for people dealing with anxiety. I have included a link from verywell mind that lists the top 7 online anxiety support groups for 2021 at the end of this post. Knowing you are not alone is a very important element when experiencing anxiety. Knowing there are several options to explore, I encourage you to reach out and try one. It can be as simple as clicking the link below.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN THE TOP 7 ONLINE GROUPS FOR STRESS IN 2021

MAYBE I CAN HELP

Today we are going to discuss something that touches the lives of everyone – anxiety. In these crazy days of political bickering, health worries due to the pandemic as, well as financial and job worries, it would seem you fit into one of two groups. You have some degree of anxiety or you know someone who does. It is not just the 3 big factors we mentioned either. Each one of us has a whole host of small worries and concerns that we become anxious about. Children and other family members, bosses and coworkers plus a million other issues that can creep up. Maybe even just reading that sentence caused a feeling of anxiousness in you. Trust me when I tell you the one thing you can be certain of is that you are not alone in feeling this way. In the United States alone, 40 million adults suffer from some form of anxiety. That is roughly 18% of the population. That is the bad news. The good news is that anxiety disorders are highly treatable. Sadly, only about 37% of those affected receive treatment.

I am certainly not a doctor or psychologist. I recommend having an honest and open conversation with, at the very least, your general physician. As a certified life coach with over 2 decades of self-improvement experience, I am confident I can offer some tips that will help. As with any challenge in life, I recommend a multi-faceted approach to treatment. In the next few posts we are going to look at several of these starting today. The first thing is to recognize that having anxiety is not something to be embarrassed about. As we discussed you are in some very good company. With all that we experience, it is completely natural to reach a state where we are totally overwhelmed. The next thing that is important to know is that anxiety is treatable. With a proper plan, you can begin to regain control of your life.

Where did it come from?

One of the first steps in treating anxiety is understanding the source of that anxiety. It may be a single source, but oftentimes it comes from several different sources. Looking at the pictures above we can see several of them. Some come from genetic and family backgrounds. Some are organic in nature, meaning it can involve chemicals in the brain. Even these are treatable with proper medical care. A portion of anxiety can be onset by a tragic or very emotional life event. PTSD is a very serious and complex issue. It may involve several different methods of treatment, but can certainly be treated. In today’s world, there is also a good deal of social anxiety. This can come in the form of things like cyberbullying. It can also be an over exposure to negative and fear driven social media. Speaking of social media, we can even feel a good deal of anxiety viewing our friends social media pages. What people post on social media tends to be their best lives. We see the end result, but not very often the struggle that goes into it. That can leave us feeling like we are failing or falling behind. You see the couple that is always posting loving photos while you sit eating fast food for one.

Which brings us to our first major question, “How do I discover the source of my anxiety?” There are several paths to explore discovering your source of anxiety and you will have to discover what will work for you. I am going to look at 4 to get you started. Do not feel limited by these, but at least explore them. The first is the obvious one, talk to a trained medical professional. This can be a trip to your regular doctor who may have some answers or be able to steer you in the right direction. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to your doctor or may be looking for something more specific or confidential, I suggest taking advantage of your workplace’s Employee Assistance Program or EAP as they are often known as. Most large companies have one. If you are not sure if that is something your workplace offers, check with your boss or human resources department.

Perhaps seeing someone in person is a little too uncomfortable for you. There are 2 other methods we are going to look at. There are doctors and professionals available in a virtual setting. You could speak to someone over the phone or even have an online session. With all that is happening in the world these resources are expanding at a tremendous rate. A simple Google search will offer you many options to get you started. Many are available for little or no cost to you.

If you do not feel comfortable sharing yet, there is one therapist that I use and recommend to everyone – a journal. It is private, it is extremely low-cost and can be a valuable tool in self-discovery and treatment. Often recording our feelings can result in a great deal of clarity. When we take the emotions and anxiety we are experiencing in our heads and put it on paper it can diffuse a lot of the emotion or offer us a clearer picture of what we are feeling. I relate it to taking a step back or taking a moment to breath. This makes a journal not only a great tool for discovering the source of anxiety, but can do a great deal to treat it as well. Journaling has some added bonuses too. Should you discover you may want to speak with someone in the future, having a record of your thoughts for the last few days/weeks/months can help them better understand and assist you. Not sure how to get started? It can be as simple as sitting down and beginning to write down how you are feeling and what comes to mind. Some moments, even getting started can be difficult. Do not worry, there are plenty of sites that offer free prompts to get you started such as the ones pictured above from our friends at journalBuddies.com.

Discovering the source of our anxiety can be a very liberating and helpful first step. I encourage everyone to take that step. Even those of us who feel we have a good handle on our anxiety can benefit from developing a relationship with someone, even if that is a journal, for when life overwhelms us. Discovering the source of our anxiety is just a first step. Next post we will begin to look at the three different methods for treating anxiety and which one may be right for you.