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.

ARE YOU AN EGG OR A POTATO?

Life is tough my friends. This week we are going to look at a couple of strategies that may help us to deal with all of the tough times we are facing. There is still a pandemic, there are chaotic situations in many workplaces and a million other daily stresses we face. Even if it appears someone is ‘doing better’ than we are, chances are they just have different life challenges, or are better at hiding what they are going through.

I like to think of this quote when I am facing a challenge. Will I let this control me, or will I control it? You might think “How can I control losing my job?” or for that matter any of the other challenges we face? In my latest book, Living the Dream, I talk about asking yourself the question “How can I use this?” You could also think of this quote, or maybe even have a copy printed out to look at. There are 2 ways that I make use of this quote in stressful times and I would like to quickly share them with you. Feel free to share anything you have come to mind. I am always interested in new perspective.

The first thing that came to mind was that the egg was made stronger by the boiling water and the potato was made weaker. Stress can be like an emotional workout strengthening our resolve and resiliency. It can, however, break us down and leave us drained. Much like if we workout too hard. When stress comes I ask myself that question recommended in the book – “How can I use this?” I know that it can prepare me for a similar experience in the future. I give myself a little pep talk. “I’m not going to let this stress get the best of me. I am going to use it to make me a more bad ass motivator.” Not always those words, but something like that.

The second way I view this quote is that the egg becomes harder. Stress and challenges make some people hard and uncaring. It is really a manifestation of fear. You are afraid to get hurt again, so you become less emotionally available. Much like our egg in the boiling water, you become hard. On the other hand, the potato becomes softer in the boiling water. Usually, it is not a compliment to be called soft. In this case, I think the word soft could be replaced by the word compassion. When you go through a stressful situation, you immediately become more compassionate to those going through something similar. In this case, being soft could be a good thing.

When it comes to stress, which can often feel like you are being put into boiling water, are you an egg or potato? I guess depending on how you view this statement, you could be both. Let challenges be an emotional workout for you making you stronger and better equipped to face things in the future. Be careful, however, not to let it make you emotionally hard and lose your sense of compassion and ability to relate to others.

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

FINAL STEP IN COPING WITH ANXIETY

3 methods for anxiety

Today we tackle the third and final strategy for coping with anxiety. Before we jump into today’s topic, I would like to take a moment to discuss the last few posts. The subject of anxiety has been front and center in the media as of late, and judging by the high level of engagement I have received in these posts (which I love) it has been front and center in your lives as well. I am honored and appreciate the responsibility of being asked to write about this subject. In speaking with many of you, it has become apparent that anxiety exists in some form in the lives of everyone. Personally, this time of year I face the highest levels of anxiety I face all year. Suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder and living in a cold climate make for a stressful situation. While writing about these coping strategies, I was reminded of some methods in which I can employ to assist me. I welcome – no I encourage – you all to continue to share your methods for coping with anxiety as well as other topics you would like to see discussed on this blog. It is you, the reader, that can take this blog to the next level.

Emotional coping strategies is our last category we are going to discuss. Anxiety, being an emotion, can make thinking of doing anything emotional as a formidable challenge. That is why we suggest you start with physical and social coping strategies. If you are like me, you start with anything and everything you can. Anxiety doesn’t play fair and neither should you when treating it. After all, this is YOUR life we are talking about here. The first suggestion I have for attempting to change your emotional state is one I use in my life-coaching and motivational speaking career. That is creating lists. This does not initially sound inherently powerful or sexy, but trust me, they work wonders. Ideally, the time to make these lists is before anxiety rears its ugly head, but if it is too late for that, there is no time like the present! There are many things that create powerful emotional reactions in our lives. Create as many lists as you can think of in regards to them. There are two types of lists to make. The first is a list of things that can trigger your anxiety. This is important to know for two reasons. First, and what should be obvious, is that it will help you avoid situations in which these may be present. Second, you can share these lists with people you regularly surround yourself with. Hopefully, these are also people who care a great deal for you. Letting them know what triggers your anxiety will help them better understand why you may not want, or be able to, do certain things. It will also better help them help you in addressing these concerns.

The second set of lists are not only very powerful, but can be fun to create. What a bonus! These are lists of things that put you in a positive mental state. One of the first I recommend creating is what I refer to as a happy playlist. Which is simply a list of songs that make you feel happy. The only caveat here is that they should be songs without negative lyrics. Seek and Destroy by Metallica may make you happy on the treadmill, but subconsciously the brain latches on to funny things when in a stressed emotional state. So for this exercise, do your best to only include songs with positive lyrics. Then when anxiety first begins to creep in, close your eyes, put on your headphones and just push play.

Begin to think of other items which have a powerful emotional reaction in your life. A list of movies that inspire you. This doesn’t only have to be comedy, although I would imagine a great deal of those would make the list. Think outside the box a little. Does watching Braveheart make you feel like you can overcome great odds? The Pursuit of Happiness may remind you that even the worst situations do not last and if you persevere great things can happen. How about foods that put you in a great mood? As we discussed in physical coping strategies, it helps if they are also healthy. At least a few of them anyway. Another list that is fun is places that make you happy. Sometimes a change of scenery can help do the trick. I, personally, like the grocery store. Parks and walking in nature have been proven scientifically, increase the positive brain chemicals we talked about in the post of physical strategies. Make as many of these lists as possible. Sometimes music may work. Sometimes you may need a movie, or a park or an ice cream cone. Have as many weapons at your disposal in the fight against anxiety.

Another great way to change your emotional state and increase the feelings of control in your life is the accomplishment of small goals. I understand if the word ‘goals’ may cause a slight feeling of anxiety in some. It sure used to in me. It is important to note the world small in front of them. Cleaning your entire kitchen may seem overwhelming and fill you with anxiety. Break this challenges down into smaller goals. It is like the old cliché, “How do you eat an entire elephant? One bite at a time.” I don’t have a personal palate for pachyderms, but you get the point. How you accomplish large goals is by doing one small goal at a time. After a few you gain momentum and find yourself closer to your large goal. This also does one other thing, it gives you a win and a feeling of accomplishment. It allows you to know you did something positive and took a step in the right direction. You may not have got that entire kitchen clean, but you organized that drawer so all of your spatulas fit with no fear of not being able to open the drawer once it is closed.

When all else fails, and quite frankly even when all else doesn’t fail, there is one thing you can do that will help you through some of the toughest and most anxiety filled periods of your life. I experienced this first hand. There was a period of my life when everything seemed to be flying south for the winter. This was made even worse by the fact that it was July. My job, relationships, money, transportation all seemed to be filled with problems that were causing a great deal of anxiety. Questions like, “Am I still going to have a job? If so, how am I going to be able to get to that job if my car is broken? If I can’t get to the job I might or might not have, how can I afford to fix the car that gets me to the job?” Those were just two of the many areas of my life that seemed upside down. There seemed to be no solution and I was getting more stressed by the minute. What did I do? Something I am going to implore that you do – find a way to help others.

Taking our focus of our own problems, even temporarily, can provide a great deal of relief. It also provides a sense of purpose, a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of value. When my life was upside down, I had the great fortune to be able to help at a meal program feeding the homeless and economically challenged. It not only gave me the feelings I mentioned prior, but did a great deal to put my problems in perspective. It also allowed me to see that we all have a great deal of problems in life, but there are always people out there who care and are willing to help. It may take a while to find them, but they are out there. While you are searching for the kind of people that may care and help you, it certainly helps to be one to others.

The last few posts we have explored the three categories for coping with anxiety. We looked at physical methods in the first post, social methods in the second and emotional methods today. We looked at many activities in the realms of these three methods. These posts have only begun to scratch the surface. Through a little research and effort on your part and the inclusion of a professional, you will discover many other options as well. Anxiety is nothing to be embarrassed of, ashamed of or feel hopeless about. We all experience to some degree in our lives and with treatment it is curable. I encourage you to share these posts with those you think may benefit. The conclusion of these posts is not the end of the discussion, but perhaps a way to begin a discussion on the topic of anxiety and how we can help ourselves and each other.

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

3 CHOICES FOR 1 SOLUTION

Last post we looked at discovering the cause of anxiety. Today we are going to begin to look at ways in which we can begin to treat our anxiety and take back control of our emotions, our mind and our life. We are going to take them one at a time, starting today with Physical coping strategies. Please know that the methods we will be discussing, although very valuable, are not all that is available. Before beginning any lifestyle changes it is important to check with your doctor to make sure they are safe and right for you.

Why start with physical coping strategies? Quite often anxiety can cause a paralyzing effect when it comes to mental and emotional changes. There are, however, some physical tools we can use to ease the level of stress that may allow us to then begin to explore methods more directly associated with the mind and emotions. As with any challenge we face in life, anxiety can best be approached using several methods and what works for one may certainly not work for everyone. The order in which you utilize the methods we discuss is less important that your willingness to try them. There will be enough options in each category to find something not only helpful, but enjoyable. Just because we are utilizing these tools to help us become less stress and anxious does not mean we cannot enjoy the process. Quite the contrary. The more we enjoy the method we choose, and the easier it is to incorporate into our lifestyle, the more likely we are to stick with them and the more successful we will be.

The first physical coping method we will look at is being physical. Do not worry. I am not going to tell you to go to a gym, an activity that causes anxiety in some, or run in sandals like the lady in the picture above. Both of those would be helpful, but there are so many other options. One of the main symptoms of anxiety is feeling tired. Believe it or not, this will only be made worse by not moving. Newton’s first law of motion says that an object at rest tends to stay at rest. That is as true of human beings as it is of planets in the universe. The important thing is to just move. Find a physical exercise you enjoy. It could be basketball, swimming, hiking, roller skating, dancing or just going for a stroll in the park.

Why is exercise important? Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. Not only does it increase energy and provide a boost to your immune system, two things that can suffer with anxiety, but it also releases endorphins. Endorphins are a type of neurotransmitter which is a fancy term for a chemical messenger of the brain. What message does this neurochemical transmit? When endorphins bind to receptors of the central nervous system, a pleasure hormone called dopamine is released. As you might guess a pleasure hormone helps relieve pain and manage stress making you feel good. In addition the chemical serotonin is released when you exercise. Serotonin helps regulate mood, body temperature and appetite. These three areas are also affected greatly by anxiety. There are even more beneficial chemicals released during exercise. As you can see, exercise can help you feel better from the inside and you don’t even have to think about it, you just have to move.

Another physical action many people do not consider is their diet. High processed foods such as chips, snack cakes and fast food can increase anxiety. A diet rich in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other such items can not only increase your good health and immune system, they can actually decrease your level of anxiety. A healthy diet is something we can all benefit from. It will not only help our waistline, it will help our bottom line when it comes to reducing anxiety. Start by adding additional healthy foods to your diet. Swap out a bottle of water for your usual soda. Enjoy a nice healthy protein bowl instead of a burger at lunch. If you try to transform your diet all at once that can cause additional anxiety. Meal prep is another great way to take a lot of the stress out of healthy eating. On what is your slowest day of the week try putting together a few healthy dishes to make cooking and eating them a breeze.

These are but two physical actions you can begin to take today to help cope and treat your anxiety. As with any major health change, make sure to consult the appropriate professional. Physical actions are a great way to begin to reduce anxiety because they do not put additional stress on your already taxed mind. Here area few more you may consider. Quit drinking alcohol. It may seem to relax you, but from a physical standpoint can stress your body even further. Ditch the caffeine. When we are feeling a little tired because of how anxious we are feeling, it may be tempting to reach for a coffee or energy drink. That can leave you feeling jittery and increase the level of stress in the system. Practice deep breathing. Another action that can benefit anyone. By paying attention to your breathing you refocus the mind off of the anxiety and focused solely on the breathing. Plus, deep breathing has a host of other benefits as well. I encourage you to try some, if not all, of these actions to find which ones work for you. Do not stop there. A simple Google search of ‘physical treatments for anxiety’ can open up a lot of other options for you.

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.

WELL WATER CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE… AND YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE TO DRINK IT!

I’ve been in the self-improvement industry, professionally, for 2 decades now. Everyday, I listen to motivational recordings, I watch motivational videos and I even have a day-by-day motivational calendar. You would think after 9 years of motivational blogs, writing 2 books and teaching many seminars I would not need to learn more. Why continue to expose myself to so much self-improvement material? In fact, with so much self-improvement material out there, why do I feel compelled to continue to add my own contributions? The answer can be found in the graph above on well water.

Here is a saying that most of us have probably heard before. “Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” I used to think this line was a bunch of nonsense. Now, it is one of the axioms I live my life by. How else do you explain the same situation happening to two different people, one is devastated and the other shrugs it off and keeps going? Some people allow challenges to make them bitter, some use it to make them better. Yet another self-help cliché. A man’s father is an alcoholic so he becomes one too. Yet, just down the block a woman watches her mother lose her job, her relationships and slowly drink herself to death. The pain this woman sees and feels makes her never desire a drop of alcohol her whole life through.

Here is another saying that used to annoy the hell out of me. If I stand on my head and look at the jerk in the office, he still is a jerk…only upside down. How about those people who can look at someone who is constantly putting them down, or saying rude things to everyone and all they can manage to say is “That person must be my personal emotional trainer who is helping me strengthen my patience.” No Sally, that person is just an ass. Funny thing is, Sally could be around the office jerk and remain completely at peace. That’s when I began to see the power in this. One of my favorite life coaches is Tony Robbins. I recall him saying something about reality not being reality in actuality, but reality to the individual. That is not it word for word and if anyone can find the quote please share it in the comments below. What it does mean is that reality is how we choose to view things. In our example of our jerk office worker, to me they were a jerk that was upsetting. To Sally, they were an emotional trainer helping her increase her chance at nirvana.

That brings us right back to our well water example. I have included another graph so you don’t have to scroll all the way back up. Here at secret2anamazinglife we care about you that way. What I learned today was that well water maintains a temperature of 68° (or 20 for our Celsius friends) This temperature stays the same despite the ambient temperature around it. Sunny and hot in the summer? 68°. So cold you could freeze fire? 68°. It is as if well water has reached some point of nirvana where it is unaffected by its surroundings.

In addition to serving as a great example of not changing to reflect your surroundings, this example serves us a two-fold lesson. 68° is the same no matter what, right? Not hardly. Just like our example of the unpleasant coworker who was completely a different person depending if you were talking to Sally or myself, the same is true of the well water. If we fell in the well in the middle of the summer, that water would probably feel cool and refreshing. If, however, we slipped on some us and became a ‘human bucket’ of sorts plummeting down the well at a high rate of speed to water that would seem rather warm all things considered. You see our situation can change how we would view the exact same water. We would still be stuck at the bottom of a well which would suck. Unless, of course, you are Sally who would look at it as a chance to practice her survival skills. Yet another examples of viewing life in 2 totally different ways.

This is why I encourage everyone to keep an open mind. Read all the books, listen to all the speakers and expose yourself to as much motivational material as you can. Someone might say the same thing you have heard for years in just a slightly different way that can make all of the difference. Remember how we view life is 10 times more important than the actual facts of life itself. It can not only help us deal with the challenges of life better, but let us be like Sally, who can maintain her inner peace even in the face of an annoying coworker.

  • P.S. – this is an entirely made up example. Although I have a few annoying coworkers, I do not have any named Sally who can remain in a state of inner peace.