Category Archives: Anxiety

Fear: The Upgrade of Worry

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We all know what fear feels like: that burning, hot, paralyzing sensation that erupts in the tummy and flows through the veins like lava; that weak, jelly-like feeling in the limbs; that shaky heart-throbbing Oh my God emotion; that I can’t breathe dizziness episode, well, need I go on? No one escapes fear.

Fear is often like a stow-away…it jumps on every other emotion for the ride.

Are you bummed out? Chances are fear is one of the feelings responsible. Anger is always accompanied by fear, and so is guilt. Wondering about getting hurt in a relationship? Getting laid-off? Getting dumped? Losing a loved one? Fear is the main ingredient there, too. Fear has many other names: terror, worry, apprehension, alarm, concern, fret, uneasiness, anxiety, distress, dread, and panic.

Fear is probably the worst feeling, along with depression, to encounter because it’s experienced physically as well as emotionally.

Psychiatrist and author of Worry: Hope and Help for a Common Condition, Dr. IMG_0727Edward Hallowell thinks people worry when they feel vulnerable and powerless. Worrying is used as a means to restore some sort of control—an attempt to reverse vulnerability and powerlessness. If we’re busy worrying, we feel a sense of control over the problem, even if that’s all we do about the dilemma—worry.

A type of worry—the worry or fear of uncertainty—has been shown to cause a devastating result.

Uncertainty is not knowing. It’s a situation that is unpredictable so an individual can’t determine what to think or do. Over a period of time this causes feeling of helplessness. Mounting evidence published in The Complete Guide to Your Emotions and Health, by Emrika Padus, shows that:

Worry over life’s uncertainties—those future “what-ifs” and past “if-onlys” that can drive us crazy with speculation—creates a particularly devastating kind of stress response…It’s what we don’t know (and can’t do anything about) that can really hurt us.

IMG_0322Uncertainty keeps a person in a constant state of semi-arousal which places an extreme burden on the body’s adaptive resources and resistance systems. Not knowing when something is going to happen or what is going to happen means having to stay on guard—tensed.

 

When worry escalates, the result is fear.

Fear floods the body with epinephrine. It’s most powerful effect is felt on the heart—both the rate and strength of contractions increase. Blood pressure soars. If the fear is intense enough, all systems can fatally overload.

Individuals who experience an intruding level of fear have one thing in common: a need for control.

Anxiety is a future-focused state and control has to do with uncertainty. We IMG_0307seek control of people in efforts to influence or guarantee the outcomes to situations that we want. Worry is often viewed as an attempt to control the future. In some cases we can even think that if we worry enough, a dreaded event won’t happen. The amount of fear and anxiety that we experience is influenced by our perceived ability to cope with what we fear.

The minds of worriers become dominated by fear.

But worrying does not provide security or safety. There is no way to eliminate uncertainty.

Think about it.

 

©All rights reserved, 2014, Dr. Sandy Nelson, E-Couch.net
Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com

Aren’t we worried about what might happen tomorrow, and aren’t we occupied with what happened yesterday?

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Margaret Bonnano¹, famous author of seven Star Trek novels, wrote: It is only possible to live happily ever after on a day-to-day basis.

Do you live day-to-day? There’s much attention placed on the catch phrase “One day at a time,” but do we really live that way? Aren’t we worried about what might happen tomorrow, and aren’t we occupied with what happened yesterday? Our brains feel like a swarm of bees bringing back and forth to the hive worries about yesterday’s fiasco, and tomorrow’s anxiety about money. All this buzzing going on while we try to face today’s demands while sustaining sanity.

IMG_0702Most of our blunders from yesterday, last month, or last year are rubbish–we forget them. We make mistakes, we learn, we grow. The End. But sometimes, the memory of a past fault creeps into our minds and tortures again with its pain and regret. It makes us feel shame, depressed and unworthy. Don’t let that memory of the past have its reign over you again. It’s true that we face the future with our past. But a huge part of who we are today, what we stand for, and what we believe about ourselves and life comes from the lessons we acquired from screwing-up, yes, even those major debacles. Those of us who show up everyday in life expecting the best, doing our best, and giving our best have not been discouraged by yesterday’s failure, or reduced in value by its hurt.

IMG_1614Former New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan² once said: Life is one day at a time. And thank God! I couldn’t take much more. Doesn’t that describe most of us? There’s enough to sort through, solve, organize and work-out in one day, imagine if we were expected to handle the toil of two days in 24 hours? There’s enough to be concerned about today so adding worry about tomorrow and regret from yesterday isn’t a good use of time and energy.

Monitor your thoughts and notice how much time you’re spending dwelling on yesterday and how much you’re thinking about tomorrow. Deal with what’s happening now and what needs attention now so that when you awake tomorrow morning you’ll have energy to do it again.

Think about it. In caring, Sandy

 

¹http://www.margaretwanderbonanno.com/
²http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Patrick_Moynihan
©All rights reserved, 2014, Dr. Sandy Nelson, E-Couch.net
Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com

What’s so bad about Perfectionism?

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People are scrambling to be the perfect employee, the perfect asset, the perfectperfect2 person, bent on seeking achievement and anticipating rewards for flawless performance. The paradox is that the reward remains out of reach because they never obtain the flawless standard set for the prize. They end up chasing rewards like the proverbial dangling carrot always within reach but not quite obtainable. Such is the never-ending spin of those caught in the cycle of perfectionism. Check out these signs of a Perfectionist:

____ I beat myself up or punish myself when I fail.
____ I hide my flaws, limitations, or weaknesses.
____ Accepting myself is only possible if I don’t make a mistake.
____ It’s hard for me to admit that I was wrong about something.
____ I’d like others to view me as not having faults.
____ It bugs me if things are out of place.
____ If I can’t do something perfect I don’t want to do it.
____ There’s a right way that most things need to be done.
____ Oversights are not acceptable.
____ If it’s not perfect I must keep trying.
____ People respect me when I’m flawless.
____ I’m often amazed at the incompetence of other people.

If the above list sounds like you, it reflects that you may be caught in the spin cycle of perfectionism. That makes you prone to procrastinate, relationship difficulties, controlling behavior, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, low self-worth and physical illness.

As a recovered perfectionist, it‘s easy to see perfection disease in others. Some perfect3years ago, one particular woman in my office captured my compassion as she struggled to understand the thinking that could free her from the compulsive need to be perfect. I recall a conversation I had with her where I said a few things about her present mind-set in the direct, yet hopefully caring way I’m known for. And what she said I still recall today. She was angry with me because what I said upset her. She viewed her upset as sinful and in her snit she barked “You made me sin today.”

I remember being still in amazement of that statement, and that amazement remains with me now because I do not believe it’s what God intends for us to think. After a pause, I replied to her in a low voice, “Gee, I sin every day.”

Many Christians believe that they are to live as perfect beings. Their doctrine sounds like this… After all, Jesus Himself said it, right? It’s in black and white—perfectright there in Matthew 5 verse 48. From His own lips Jesus said Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. See? Be perfect—just like God. Not half right and half not right—perfect! That’s why mistakes are bad and failure is so shameful. That’s why all this talk about accepting your limitations and weaknesses, and laughing at your mistakes is not right! Errors tell the story of faults and inadequacy. Shortcomings are an outrage and certainly short of the command Jesus made: Be perfect—just like God!

perfect18Here’s the problem with that thinking…Be perfect just like God? Wouldn’t that mean be like God? If we were like God, wouldn’t that mean we’d be equal with God? And heck, if we were equal with God then we wouldn’t really need God for anything because we’d be our own gods. Hey, that can’t be what Jesus is requesting. That can’t be right. The emphasis on the command to be perfect is not on a flawless performance or a perfect moral nature. The Greek word translated as perfect in this passage means “to mature and grow in wisdom.” The word perfect is defined as completion or maturity, not sinless perfection.

Living is not a mandatory pursuit of perfection. God does not expect you to be perfect and He knows the truth about you—that you are imperfect and that you’ll remain imperfect this side of heaven:

Don’t be eager to tell others their faults, for we all make many mistakes. James 3:1
If you claim to be without sin, you deceive yourself, the truth isn’t in you. 1 John 1:9
Admit your weaknesses to one another. James 5:16
If we say that we have no sin, we make God a liar. 1 John 1:10
For all have sinned and fall short. Romans 3:23
I have come not to call the righteous, but the sinners. Matthew 9:13
They are all under sin. Romans 3:9

Neither you nor I can ever be perfect on this earth. What we can accomplish is wisdom from mistakes, maturity from errors, good judgment from bad judgment, freedom from the lies by believing the Truth. This means accepting that mistakes will continue—yours and others. It means accepting that you’re flawed and so is everybody else—even those who can’t admit it.

Jesus never said that Godly maturity is a lack of mistakes. To be perfect means perfect7to acknowledge you don’t know a lot of stuff and you’re willing to learn more. There’s no gaining His approval by your performance. You cannot earn His favor—you can only receive it. God’s love for you is about who you are, not what you do. And this is what motivates people with healthy mind-sets to grow in wisdom—they’re not motivated because of their perfect efforts, they’re motivated because they’re loved.

Think about it! In caring, Sandy

Share your opinion about perfection!–Just click on “Leave a reply” found at the top of this page.

 

What’s your worry?

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A man interviewing for a job found himself in the presence of a nervous, fidgety factory owner who looked anxious, gloomy, and grouchy. “The only vacancy here,” he told the applicant, “is a Vice President position; and the person who takes that job must shoulder all my cares.” “That’s a tough job,” said the applicant, “What’s the salary?” The factory owner replied, “I’ll pay you a million a year if you’ll take on all my worries.” “Done! I’ll take the job” the applicant said, “When will I get paid?” “That my boy,” answered the owner, “is your first worry.”

stress-441461_640With all the effort and energy needed to worry, it’s unfortunate that worry doesn’t work. I wish it did. For many of us worrying is like a second job. It would be nice to get some compensation for all those hours spent losing sleep. Regrettably, its benefits are zilch, nadda, zip. There are no benefits for worrying, but there are plenty of consequences to add to a worried soul: insomnia, panic attacks, anxiety, tummy disorders, cardiac conditions, increased illness, and a shortened life-span. Worry seems to keep our adrenaline churning and that’s not a good thing.

In confronting problems, worry is a dysfunctional strategy; not to mention a complete waste of time. When we worry, we’re not thinking, we’re feeling. We’re feeling fear from “what if’s.”  When we worry, we usually don’t make sense because our feelings are irrational and reactive. We’re not problem-solving or coping, we’re obsessing, we’re ruminating. It’s like the mouse frantically running on and on, faster and faster on its tread wheel–all strung out, frazzled and going nowhere.

IMG_0932 - Copy - Copy - CopyWorry starts to brew when efforts to maintain control of our lives are met with resistance, unexpected circumstances, or the on-going stress of employment. A need to stay in control creates a variety of worry because we fear our problems can’t be solved, and then what? Add to that any rigid thinking, unrealistic expectations, and impatience, and it’s no wonder we’re worry warts. Rather than respond to situations, worriers react with feelings that assume the worse case scenario.

The good news about worry is that it can be tamed. The first step is a willingness to let go of all that negative turmoil in your head. If you’re ready, this practice will remove worry from your life.

First, get a notebook–size 8×10″. Using the notebook forces you to look at your notepad-538870_640worries with a much more objective eye than you’re used to. It makes you an observer of your own life and you’re able to distance yourself from intrusive thoughts. On the first page write Worry #1 and give it a date. Now write down the worry. Example: I’m worried my car will not survive much longer. 

After writing Worry #1, in your notebook provide the answers to these questions: When do you worry about this situation? What scares you? Why does it make you nervous? Why is it a problem? What is out of your control about it? What are you afraid will happen? What will it mean if it did happen? It doesn’t matter whether your answer to each question fills several pages or half a line. What’s important is that you write it down.

brainstorming-413156_640Your next entry is Possibilities and Options, and represents what you think is possible action to resolve the problem and thus end the worry about the situation. Here is where you problem-solve, brainstorm, and get things in perspective. Here is where you THINK, not feel. Be objective. Be reasonable. Write down the facts.

The last entry is People To Consult and Outcome. Here you write down supportive individuals that you can contact to assist in sorting out your options. These people are not on the list to rescue you or fix the problem for you. Their assistance ought to be geared to keep you focused on the facts. Remember that something based on a “maybe” or a “might be” is a myth, not fact. Something based on an assumption is also a myth, not a fact. Problem-solving is seeking solutions based on the facts. Write down possible solutions or steps necessary to obtain more facts before making a decision. Sometimes the end result will be out of your control and will require you to “let it go.”

Every time you’re worried about something or mind-boggled about “what if’s” IMG_0186enter it in your Worry Book and complete the four entries. This will help you avoid the emotional worried state of “worst case scenario” where many worriers go first, and stay. If you really want to remove worry from your life, you’ll commit to using your Worry Book. It works! Sleep at last!

Think about it. In caring, Sandy

©All rights reserved, 2014, Dr. Sandy Nelson, E-Couch.net

 




					

What causes anxiety attacks?

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There is no emotion more deadening than the anxiety that evolves out of the fears in life. Anxiety comes from many places within you. It arrests your life as it steals possibilities and deceives your competence. It would have you think little of yourself and even less of your potential.

Anxiety wants you in a corner, hiding in a heap of paralyzed stillness; not attempting, not pursuing, not deciding. Episodes of anxiety attacks can be mild or severe and are marked by trembling or shaking. You feel like you can’t breathe and your heart is pounding out of your chest. You feel dizzy or faint. You start to sweat and may feel nauseated. You fear a loss of control of yourself or that you will die, or both.

IMG_0884Although you think you will not survive these attacks, you will, you do. You must try to breathe through it, keep breathing as deeply as you can. It will pass. The attack will end.                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The symptoms of anxiety are often the result of fears that possess you – fear of embarrassing yourself, fear of appearing stupid, fear of not being able to stand up for yourself. You may avoid situations you fear. Persistent anxiety may signal unresolved issues in the past or present. It can occur when new situations alter your current life.

Bryon Janis, the American Classical pianist said, “The first thing I had to conquer was fear. I realized what a debilitating thing fear is. It can render you absolutely helpless.” Fear can only dethrone you as the ruler of your life if you permit it. Don’t succumb to its deception that you’re weak and worthless. Promise to restore yourself, befriend yourself, and rally support. There are many successful treatments today for persistent anxiety and anxiety attacks that I can point you in the direction of, just ask.

If you have suggestions or aids that have helped you manage fears or anxiety, please share them. Your comments may help others. –Dr. Sandy

©All rights reserved, 2014, Dr. Sandy Nelson, E-Couch.net

Are life’s unknowns knocking on your door?

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One summer night during a severe thunderstorm a mother was tucking her small son into bed. She was about to turn the light off when he asked in a trembling voice, “Mommy, will you stay with me all night?” Smiling, the mother gave him a warm, reassuring hug and said tenderly, “I can’t dear. I have to sleep in Daddy’s room.” A long silence followed. At last it was broken by the boy’s shaky voice saying, “The big sissy!”
IMG_0926Fears of the unknown can cause total havoc in life. As a rule, men worry more about what they can’t see than about what they can.¹ We have a need to know; a need to be prepared–a need to control. But reality tells us that we also have a need to learn to live with uncertainty. When life is sunny, we do not worry if we will be able to handle the happiness or get through the joyful experience. There are few frets when life unfolds as we planned. We feel in control of our lives.
Likewise, when the storms of life occur we need to believe that we will handle the havoc and get through the unplanned. We can not see what tomorrow will bring. In fact, there are oodles of things we can not see or have future knowledge of despite the control of details in the present.
Remind yourself that whether today is sunny or stormy, you will and can handle whatever knocks on your door and survive it.
If you have found this post helpful, please pass it on! -Dr. Sandy

¹ Julius Caesar, Roman General and Statesman, 100-4 B.C.

©All rights reserved, 2014, Dr. Sandy Nelson, E-Couch.net