Nothing creates fear monsters faster than when we constantly go over and over a problem focusing only on the anxiety it creates to the exclusion of looking for potential solutions. Fear is healthy and keeps us safe. But when it goes beyond its intended purpose, it soon takes over our lives.
What are you saying to yourself about your situation?
While sharing with friends can release some of the tension we feel and can help us gain a new perspective, it is what we say to ourselves that is critical.
We are often unaware of that continual stream of conversation we have with ourselves 24-7. If that self-talk remains focused only on the fear and anxiety we feel, we will not find the solutions we need.
Our brains respond to the thoughts that stream through our consciousness. If you constantly repeat to yourself how bad things are, how little control you have, how helpless you are, how others are so much better off than you, etc. etc. etc. you will begin to respond accordingly. If you think there is no use in trying, you will have little creative energy to move forward.
Our thinking can produce a self-fulfilling prophecy. Negative beliefs soon become a reality. We can perpetuate the problem or we can find ways to resolve it. We can give up or we can generate determination and an “I can do it” attitude and mindset.
Tell yourself, no matter how hard it is, giving up is not an option. Focus on the things you can do, not what you can’t do.
On your list of wants and needs, where do you place happiness?
We think of all the things we want to have or think we must have in order to be happy. But do they really make us happy in the long term?
In fact, “things” in general typically leave us wanting, disappointed and dissatisfied after a short period of time.
Being happy is a choice we make on how we want to live.
As we go through life, we form beliefs and worldviews and act upon them. In the process, we can look for the positives or remain focused on what went wrong, what didn’t work out, how bad the world is or how mean people are. We choose our focus and our responses.
Research on the body-brain connection reveals the impact thoughts can have on our overall health. Our thoughts create a chain reaction throughout the mind and body. What we think, believe and say to ourselves has profound physical consequences. If we are hopeful no matter what happens, our body responds in kind. If we allow hopelessness to become the norm, it too has a profound reaction to our health.
We just celebrated Independence Day – a day bought and paid for by the lives of people who loved freedom and fought and died for it.
We get together with family and friends and enjoy the fireworks displays that were a culmination of the day’s festivities.
But what does freedom mean to you?
“What alone remains is ‘the last of human freedoms’ – the ability to ‘choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.” Victor Frankl
Victor Frankl was a psychiatrist and Jew who lived during the Nazi regime in Germany. He along with his entire family was sent to Nazi concentration camps. He was taken to Auschwitz, one of the most dreaded of these camps. Except for his sister and himself, his entire family perished in those camps. Every possession was taken from them, and the Jews who weren’t shot or sent to the gas chamber endured years of unspeakable horror.
Yet, in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, Frankl writes:
Years ago, when I was helping design and write a ten week class on living with chronic illness for a large HMO, I designed the following handout. I share it with you today.
LETTING GO – TAKING CONTROL
“If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death, human life cannot be complete.” Victor Frankl
To experience freedom and create meaning in our lives, we must “let go” of the past while taking “control” of the present and future.
Years ago, I struggled with a degenerative disk in my lower back. We had just finished building our new home and were in the process of unpacking boxes and putting things away.
Walking around was painful and sitting was never my forte. But now surrounded by work I was anxious to do, I was frustrated. What could I do while I waited for my surgery date?
“I know what I can’t do but what can I do?
I didn’t just want to sit there doing nothing and I wasn’t able to unpack boxes and put things away.
Then it occurred to me. I had a couple of boxes of prestigious cooking magazines I had wanted to go through and remove articles and recipes I wanted to keep but never had the time. Now I had the time. In fact, this was “the” perfect time. It not only kept my mind occupied with something useful and productive but completed a chore I had wanted to do but may never have gotten around to. I still have those selected articles and recipes and continue to use them.
Learning from our past
As I recover from a fall that wrenched my back last week, I thought of that earlier time. How could I use this time productively while giving my back time to rest and recover? I realized this was a perfect opportunity to look through the articles and blogs on writing I had saved to review. I could think about how it applies to me and my writing.
Acceptance means we let go and stop struggling so we can make new choices. We consciously acknowledge the situations we find ourselves.
Acceptance is where we stop fighting the reality that my spouse has died, my marriage is over, my teen is hooked on drugs, my finances are in the tank and the outcome of my medical tests was not what I wanted to hear. Nothing I do seems to work out. The list goes on and on.
Acceptance is not dismissing our loss, pain, anger or frustration. It just means we stop fighting or resisting what has happened, and recognize the reality of our circumstances.
Your world may have been brought to an abrupt halt. It is often a painful place full of unanswered questions, confusion, and doubts. It isn’t denying how we feel but purposefully moving through the pain. In coming to terms with whatever has happened, we find new ways to take charge of our lives.
Acceptance says I don’t have to have all the answers or need to pretend that I do.
Acceptance is not the end. It is the beginning. It is where we take from the ashes of our tragedies and losses and begin the process of creating something new. Letting go does not diminish what we had. It doesn’t mean we are giving up. It just frees us to take the next step.
When I took some of my son’s art in to be framed, I was surprised at what a huge difference each frame made. Even with the black and white pictures, each demanded a border that would showcase that particular picture, highlighting the important elements.
The wrong frame would do the opposite. When the right frame was put together with the picture, it was one you wanted to hang on your wall to look at over and over again.
How we frame the events in our lives can also make a huge difference in the outcome. We can take that slice of life that challenges us and put a frame of strength, perseverance, and problem-solving around it. Situations that seem impossible can be turned into a major centerpiece of triumph on the wall of our lives.
Habits – they can work for you or against you. They can either be an asset or a deterrent. Over time, whatever we do on a continuous basis becomes a habit.
Our habits become a lifestyle.
But are you achieving your goals? And if not, why not? Have you considered how you currently spend your time and energy? Do you have good intentions, but fail to follow through?
So, how do we move from good intentions to productive habits?
We continue doing the things we do because we get some kind of reward. If our rewards are immediate and pleasurable they soon dominate our life and we don’t bother with long-term goals. We grab a bite to eat at the deli instead of fixing dinner at home. We are tired after work and spend time on social media or mindlessly play video games. We convince ourselves we deserve this downtime. However, it is easy to become addicted to doing whatever feels good at the moment.
Sometimes it seems no matter what we do there are lingering doubts, fears or anxieties that won’t go away. How should we respond?
Emotions give us valuable information. It is important to pay attention to them. They tell us to stop and think before acting. They warn of danger, tell us to be careful, and to tread lightly. We may experience a gut feeling that is telling us something isn’t quite right. Before dismissing your feelings, take time to assess the facts surrounding them.
What is your brain telling you
Our brain is wired to keep us safe and prepares us to fight, run or stay frozen in a matter of seconds when it senses danger. We need to pay attention to authentic doubts, fears, and anxieties. Stop and question. What is happening? Why am I concerned? Am I over-reacting, or should I investigate further?
Past experiences teach us to be cautious. What did I learn before that can help me make a better decision today? Is this an appropriate response to what I am currently facing? Unless we stop and consider thoughtfully, we can become so reactive that we turn every little thing into something bigger than what it is.
We are constantly communicating, whether on our cell phones, facebook page, twitter or socializing over a glass of wine. But are you aware that you are also constantly communicating with yourself?
From the time we wake up in the morning to when we go to sleep at night, there is an internal dialogue going on inside of us.
What are you saying to yourself? Are you hearing affirming words that encourage and motivate you? Or do you hear words that constantly sow seeds of doubt, misgivings, and fears?
Your Internal Critic
Each of us has an internal critic, some more aggressive than others. It tells us how bad we are, how incompetent and unreliable. You might hear things like, “you can’t win, you are not good enough, blah, blah, blah.” The critic’s job is to remind you of all the reasons why you can’t succeed, so don’t waste your time trying. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
An internal critic has been around a long time and simply keeps repeating messages it has taken from our past and put onto a continuous tape. The messages are always negative, pessimistic, demeaning and discouraging. This internal critic has been around a long time and it has nothing of value to tell you.
Doubts and Fears
It is normal to have doubts and fears. Like all emotions, they have a purpose and it is important to pay attention to them. They warn us to stop and investigate before going on. They keep us from making knee-jerk reactions.We need to be able to assess and evaluate the information they are giving us.