Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Anxiety: Prisoner of Your Own Mind

If you're like me who suffers with anxiety attacks, then you probably suffer from your mind constantly yapping away until your body starts feeling it physically. I've read so many self-help books and articles on how to "conquer anxiety" and how to "still your mind" -- but all of them held a similar message: meditate. Let's face it, most of us don't even have the time to sit down and have a cup of coffee, no less meditate. Some of us just can't get rid of all that chatter going on in our little noggins. It must be nice to live in some peaceful commune where all you do is mediate and practice the art of silence. But that's not reality. Our reality is here -- in this world -- with all the loud sounds, angry people, deadlines and children to take care of. We're swamped, and even if you're lucky enough NOT to be swamped, you are indeed, swamped with your thoughts. Even if you work from home like me, your mind can really throw a tantrum about nothing.

For instance, this morning I woke up with a dreadful feeling again. This time, I noticed I had a stuffy nose felt a little feverish. Instantly my mind raced over to: "Ugh, not again! I've been sick since October and I can't take it anymore! Not another doctor or hospital visit! What if I have an asthma attack today? What if I get sick again? What if I get pneumonia? What if, what if?" My throat felt raw, my chest felt tight and I was on the brink of crying. When everyone left the house, I sat down in my prayer room and just sat there meditating at first, or just sitting there in silence. I started to pray and bring it to God. Once I start giving my problems to God after my gratitude prayer, immediately, I feel this sense of peace over me. The dreadful feeling left, even though I still felt like I had a cold. No big deal. Maybe allergies, like, who cares right "now." And that's the key: the now. I can list all the "what ifs" till the cows come home, but it'll never give me peace. I got up, cleaned the house, took a shower and started working and immersed myself in what I was doing in the present, trying not to think about 'what ifs' or past aggravations. Remaining in self-pity makes the symptoms worse. Just keep going and immerse yourself in whatever it is you're doing. Don't make any task a means to an end. Be fully present experiencing every aspect of it. Your life will pass you by if you make everything a means to an end.

This even goes with your relationship with God. Don't make God your means to an end. You can experience God and heaven right now. Your life isn't meant to zigzag your way into heaven. It's meant to experience heaven right here, right now. Heaven in the physical realm is a state of mind. Heaven in the spiritual world is something our minds just cannot comprehend. There are many religious people who walk around aimlessly searching for "happy moments" while waiting for their ticket into heaven. Your happy moment can be right now. I'm trying to develop this type of thinking, where even if you are going through a negative experience, it can be a positive experience with a different perspective, or at least, a learning experience. One of the things I learned that is very important is to not react right away to an emotional charged situation, or perhaps disturbing or negative news. Let it sink in and don't let your mind judge it right away. I had a bad habit of reacting too fast with news I didn't care for. It never ends up good. I almost did that yesterday, until I realized, that the info I was receiving may not be true. The info I was listening to may be elaborated, or perhaps, misconceived or misconstrued, knowing the people involved. I kept an open mind and chose not to judge it. Now, if I chose to judge it and to react to it right away, there would have been a large argument between 5-7 people. Sometimes, silence is the best answer.  Usually, the issues dissolve on their own.

When you have all feelings of resentment, bitterness, sadness, anger and jealousy, these feelings are all non-forgiveness that stems from the past. The past = depression. Thinking about what to do with these negative feelings and planning or plotting ahead are all thoughts of the future. The future = anxiety. It's your mind's way of protecting its ego and reputation. It's your mind's way of enabling the ego to "be right" in any situation. It's the salvation of your character. Once you let go of what other people think about you (lose the grip on your salvation of your character) -- you start to feel this sense of freedom. There's nothing attaching you to that situation that you have to protect. You're off the hook, if you choose to stay in this type of mindset. When you add alcohol into the mix of repressed resentment, bitterness or even jealousy, most likely it'll rear its ugly head at the most inopportune time. Alcohol stifles your state of consciousness. And then it's always picking up the pieces of the shards of embarrassment or shame. Our reactions are so important when it comes to our past feelings about whatever -- the ones that can be brought up in the present time.

For me, it's a constant struggle to stay present and to remain nonreactive. Even a couple of weeks ago, I found myself uptight and very agitated with anything. I go through these tidal waves of grief, leaving my judgment clouded with past hurts. Grief can leave you in the state of the past, leaving you to become depressed. It's totally normal! That's what grief does! But to be AWARE of this is important. You're allowed to grieve. But remember, crying may go on all night, but joy cometh in the morning, as the Bible promises us. Try to be present in your midst of grief. Try to pray while you're grieving -- be in God's presence while grieving. This what I'm trying to do, sometimes it works, and other times, my mind wins out and I have myself a good ol fashioned pity party.

If you're a believer, then you know that if anything happens to you -- if your body should fail you or if you get into some trouble where you're facing death itself: God. will. catch. you. This is the message I received while praying the other day. The basis for the message was to get rid of my fear. I conquered a few phobias of mine this week and I was quite shocked at myself. I made my way into crowds places, I actually shopped in Walmart (which is a HUGE phobia of mine) and drove by myself to a different town. All of these things gives me a feeling of accomplishment, as well as a hope for more fear-conquering adventures. My psychiatrist said something I kinda rolled my eyes at -- he said, "So you're scared to drive by yourself to another town? Just do it anyway." I didn't get his logic. He didn't give me a strategy or technique -- he just said: DO IT. And as lame as that sounds, because instantly your mind says, "Ha, easier said than done" -- it's true. Do it in fear. Now, some psychologists and psychiatrists will suggest visualization techniques like, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) to get you moving, but nope -- not my doc. He was just like, "DO IT." And I did. I remembered what a motivational speaker said once about anxiety... The worst place to be when you suffer with anxiety is in your own house. If you're worried about passing out from an anxiety attack, then what's the best place to be in? ---- In the PUBLIC. Makes sense, right? The phobia stems from the fear of death and the fear of not being saved. So why do so many people have agoraphobia? I have some degree of it and can completely understand both sides.  I also think, "What if my heart starts palpitating while I'm driving and I get distracted from the panic?" So there's another side of my jabber jaw of a mind that signals "danger."

Anxiety will never go away. This, I realize. The key is never giving up on coping skills -- whatever works for you. For me, it's staying in the present, acknowledging all things that I am seeing, hearing, feeling and sensing at that very moment. Take your mind out of the past and future and acknowledge all things in front of you right now. Smell the flowers on your way! It's something very difficult to do in the beginning stages, but if you practice it enough, you'll start to realize that time doesn't go by so slowly as it used to, because you used to make everything a means to an end. This way, you're making everything an experience, not a means to an end, which sometimes can feel like it lasts forever. This is why grounding techniques are so important. They force you to be in the present moment, by noticing objects in the room, listening to anything, even the silence and feeling the ground beneath your bare feet. Many people choose to go barefoot a lot so they can feel "grounded" -- more in tune to the earth's vibrations. There are scientific truths to this -- you may want to go on Youtube or Google stuff about "grounding." So much to talk about on that. Maybe on another blog post...

So my coping skills for today is: just be HERE in the NOW and FEEL everything, LOOK at things differently and LISTEN to all noises as well as all silence. And remember, the word listen has the same letters as silent. I think that's fascinating actually.

Ok, carry on and enjoy your day -- wait -- enjoy THIS MOMENT. Don't be a prisoner of your own mind.

Thanks for reading.

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