Stop thinking and stop analysing.
My husband will tell you, I over analyse everything – and think something to death. I view it from this angle, and that angle, and then from another angle. He hates it and he is right. I need to learn to just accept things and not over think or over analyse. It is dangerous to do this.
One of the best quotes I have ever read was:
“Do not over think things – you’ll create a problem where none existed…”
I have such a strong tendency to do this.
Yesterday, I had a wonderful email yesterday that told me God is on my side, that He will fight the battle and that I need to trust Him. Today I get an email telling me I have to confront my fears or keep running, and I start to panic thinking God is telling me to get divorced. God would not do this. He is totally against divorce. I know this because His Word has told me so. Over and over and over again. And so, in the face of my anxiety, I will trust Him. I know that He gave my husband to me and I know that my anxiety is more over the fact that my mother left and I have been conditioned my whole life to be just like her. And I know that I love this man – more than anything. I feel so good being with him. And I know that he is God’s gift to me. I know why God has not healed my from this anxiety – it keeps me praying.
And then I think of my husband reading this blog and I feel so ashamed and so embarrassed, because the last thing on earth that I want to do is to hurt him – I love him and want to protect him at all costs.
I read a blog yesterday where the blogger also battles with anxiety and she says that we need to be careful not to define ourselves by our anxiety. And that is exactly what I am doing. I am allowing myself to be defined by these anxious feelings – instead of moving past that and accepting them as fleeting moments and feelings that come and go.
“Balance begins by knowing how you feel but not being so swayed that you are ruled by every passing incident of anger, worry or resentment.” –Deepak Chopra
Since childhood, I’ve struggled with frequent bouts of anxiety and panic. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if my predisposition to worry began in utero. (As a foetus, I probably worried incessantly about whether or not I was developing properly.) My anxiety has played such a dominant role in my life that, at times, it has become all-consuming.
But I work at it—each and every day. Having spent the better part of my life navigating the rocky waters of my anxiety, I’ve learned a thing or two. And although I know that there are some parts of my emotional makeup that I may not be able to change, I can—and do—view it in a more productive light.
Fact: I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks.
Fact: I am not my anxiety and panic attacks.
Though I spent many years believing my anxious thoughts made up the whole of me, I have come to realize the faulty logic behind that notion: Emotions, by nature, move with fluidity—dancing in and out of the mind, carefully orchestrated by the tide that is an ever-evolving state of consciousness. So how can any single emotion define a person?
I now know and expect that throughout my life, I will experience emotional ebbs and flows; some emotions will feel good, some will feel crappy and some will just flat-out trounce me. But they are fleeting; they are not here to stay. Emotions stop in for a visit; hang around for a bit then move on their merry way, making room for the new ones to take their place. Just because I feel anxious, scared, or depressed in any given moment doesn’t mean I’ll feel that way forever. It doesn’t make me who I am.
While I do still grapple with my emotional health, I know that I am making strides towards finding a greater inner peace. I used to define myself by my anxiety. Not anymore. Today I see my anxious ways as part of what makes me who I am today, but not who I am as a whole. There are many characteristics that, today, I use to define myself—and anxious is not one of them: I am kind; I am loving; I am extroverted; I am sentimental; I am blond-haired and brown-eyed; I am (sometimes) funny; I am cautious.
I am not anxious. I am simply someone who experiences anxious thoughts on occasion.
I am many things, but I am not my emotions.
And that is where I need to be. And in order to do that, I cannot analyse every fleeting emotion and thought and cling to it for dear life in case it may mean something dark and sinister that I am hoping to not to confront.
What I need to do is focus on enjoying my life.
And then, one of the most profound blogs I have read, is this:
The solution to a problem is not in its solving
I have been contemplating this notion for quite some time and just a moment ago, it occurred to me, that the way to transcend a problem is not actually done but the process of solving it.
I have found that the more interested I become in the specifics of a problem and the more energy and effort I put into solving it, the longer it takes to overcome. Then, when I realize that the problem is no longer present, when it is no longer an issue, I discover that it came about not by the process of trying to solve it but by getting distracted out of the obsession of dealing with it and trying to find its solution.
This of course ties in directly with the concept that what you give energy to is what you give life to. If you focus on a problem then you will have a problem to solve for as long as you remain focused in that direction, because that is the frequency you are operating on.
This law shall we say, is a completely practical and functional formula that works without fail, all the time and under all circumstances and conditions. It works not by denial of a problem but from the complete removal of all attention to it.
One great example of understanding this concept was displayed in the wise words of Mother Theresa who once proclaimed something along the lines of;
“If I am asked to join an anti-war protest then I will not come but invite me to a rally for peace and I’ll be there”
So, now, I need to give life to my thoughts on my marriage, on me, on my husband. Easy decision to make – not so easy to implement. But I have to.
I am also not going to continue with this blog. I feel too much guilt keeping things from my husband that I know would hurt and devastate him – I need to get a handle on my thoughts, focus on what is good, and share and be open with my husband on what I can without hurting him or my marriage. I have another blog that I will share things on, and I will focus on the good – ignore and rest. And not allow myself to be defined by my anxiety – which this blog is encouraging me to do.
Managing panic and anxiety disorders
Anxiety disorders are a common yet misunderstood mental health issue. Here’s how to identify the signs and how to get help.
By Joanne Lillie
“I have been anxious my whole life, but my anxiety really got out of control in the last three or four years. I had to resign from my job as a teacher; at one stage I could not pick up the phone, drive, or face people. Going out was out of the question. My anxiety levels were so high I would just shiver with fear,” says Elaine (36) from Johannesburg. Elaine has generalised anxiety disorder in addition to a particularly challenging type of major treatment-resistant depression. “I had very little motivation, drive or self-esteem, my anxiety had a devastating effect on my quality of life.”
Depression runs in her family, and stress is her main anxiety trigger. “I am someone who works well under pressure, and it has taken me many years to work out where the fine line between productive pressure and an anxiety trigger is,” she says.
Elaine now sees a limited number of students at home for extra lessons. “I am not completely myself yet, I am not functioning at my best, but medication is keeping me stable and I am gaining control of my anxiety and depression.”
Like Elaine, people who suffer from generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) experience an exaggerated sort of tension and extreme worry without an obvious cause. People with GAD often seem unable to relax or fall asleep and may also experience lightheadedness, shortness of breath, nausea, trembling, muscle tension, headaches, irritability, or sweating.
Everyone feels anxiety at some stage as a normal reaction to threatening, dangerous, uncertain, or important situations. Some anxiety can even enhance your function, motivation, and productivity; such as those people, like Elaine, who work well under pressure. But, when you have severe anxiety, which is excessive, chronic, and interferes with your ability to function during a normal day’s activities, your may have generalised anxiety disorder. (Generalised anxiety is different from phobia because it is not triggered by a specific object or situation.)
Symptoms of GAD
- Excessive anxiety and worry for a large portion of the day
- Difficulty controlling worry
- Restlessness or feeling on edge
- Being easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
- Muscle tension
- Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless unsatisfying sleep)
Another type of anxiety disorder, and probably the most common kind, is panic disorder. Brief episodes of intense fear which are accompanied by physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, dizziness, nausea, tingling, feeling out of breath and chest pains characterise panic disorder. These ‘panic attacks’ are believed to occur when the brain’s normal mechanism for reacting to a threat – the so-called fight or flight response – becomes faulty. Most people with panic disorder also feel anxious about the possibility of having another attacks and avoid situations in which they believe these attacks could happen, this can start to impact their lives quite dramatically.
Panic disorder affects one out of every 75 people and usually starts during the teen years or in early adulthood.
Initial panic attacks may happen in ordinary situations or when you’re under a lot of pressure, or feeling stressed from an overload of work, for example, or from the loss of a family member or close friend. The attacks may also follow surgery, a serious accident, illness or childbirth. Too much caffeine or the use of cocaine or other stimulant drugs can also trigger panic attacks. Nevertheless, panic attacks usually take a person by complete surprise. This unpredictability is one of the reasons they are so confusing and devastating; many people seek help at an emergency unit.
Panic attack symptoms
A panic attack is a sudden and strong feeling of overwhelming fear and apprehension…
During a panic attack, some or all of the following symptoms occur:
- A sense of being overwhelmed by fright and terror, with accompanying physical distress for between four and six minutes
- Racing or pounding heartbeat
- Chest pains
- Difficulty breathing
- Tingling or numbness in the hands
- Flushes or chills
- Sense of unreality
- Fear of losing control, going ‘crazy’, or doing something embarrassing
- Fear of dying
Strategies for coping with panic
Remember that although your feelings and symptoms may be very frightening, they are not dangerous or harmful. What you are experiencing is only an exaggeration of your body’s normal reaction to stress.
Do not fight your feelings or try to wish them away. The more you are willing to face them, the less intense they will become. Do not add to your panic by thinking about what might happen. If you find yourself asking “What if?” tell yourself “So what!”
Remain focused on the present. Notice what is really happening to you as opposed to what you think might happen. Label your fear level from zero to ten and watch it fluctuate. Notice that it does not stay at a very high level for more than a few seconds
When you find yourself thinking about the fear, change your ‘what if’ thinking. Focus on and carry out a simple and manageable task such as counting backwards from 100 in three’s or snapping a rubber band on your wrist.
Notice that when you stop adding frightening thoughts to your fear, it begins to fade. When the fear comes, expect and accept it. Wait and give it time to pass without running away from it.
Panic and anxiety self-test
If you think you may have a panic or anxiety disorder take this self-rating questionnaire and discuss the findings with your mental health expert.
Anxiety self-rating scale
This scale is designed for your personal use; there are no right or wrong answers. Usually your first response is the best.
For each item decide if it NEVER applies to you (mark 0); SOMETIMES applies to you (mark 1); HALF THE TIME applies to you (mark 2); FREQUENTLY applies to you (mark 3); or ALWAYS applies to you (mark 4).
When you are finished add up your totals in all 5 columns to get your TOTAL SCORE. Make sure you base your answers on how you actually behave in your daily life, not on how you would like to be.
1. I feel tense, nervous, restless, or agitated 0 1 2 3 4
2. I feel afraid for no apparent reason 0 1 2 3 4
3. I worry about bad things that might happen to me or those I care about 0 1 2 3 4
4. I have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up early 0 1 2 3 4
5. I have difficulty eating too much, too little or digesting my food 0 1 2 3 4
6. I wish I knew a way to make myself more relaxed 0 1 2 3 4
7. I have difficulty with my concentration, memory or thinking 0 1 2 3 4
8. I would say I am anxious much of the time 0 1 2 3 4
9. From time to time I have experienced a racing heartbeat, cold hands or feet, dry mouth, sweating, tight muscles, difficulty breathing, numbness, frequent urination, or hot/cold flashes 0 1 2 3 4
10. I wish I could be as relaxed with myself as others seem to be 0 1 2 3 4
SCORING: Total the number of points in each of the columns. Add all columns together to get your TOTAL SCORE
0 to 8 points = MINIMAL ANXIETY
8 to 16 points = MILD ANXIETY
17 to 24 points = MODERATE ANXIETY
25 to 32 points = HIGH ANXIETY (Warning Level)
33 to 40 points = EXTREME ANXIETY (Warning Level)
For more information, support, telephone counseling, or referral to a doctor, psychiatrist or clinic in your area, please contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group on 0800 21 22 23 or 0800 70 80 90 seven days a week, from 8am to 8pm.
The thing about thinking positive is that it has to be an active choice. You can’t just passively sit by, try to not allow negative thoughts and feelings to invade your space. You need to counteract each negative thought and feeling with actively thinking something positive. While you may stop eating junk food, you have to actually physically get off your butt and start exercising in order to get fit. One is passive – you’re just stopping doing something. But how long with that last if you don’t proactively fill that void with something else? If you want to quit smoking, you actually can’t just stop. You need to fill that void that quitting makes with something else. Many people, for example, start exercising when they quit smoking. And are then quite successful in never smoking again.
There is a passage of scripture that speaks about casting out a demon and if you don’t fill that void with something else, seven times more demons will come back.
Hang on, going to Google it quickly.
43 “Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. 44 “Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. 45 “Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”
And so it is with negative thinking. You need to get rid of negative thinking and negative emotions, but you also need to fill that void with something positive – if you’re not going to fill the void that getting rid of negative thinking and emotions create, you will just find yourself with even more negativity that in time will be more difficult to get rid of. Seven times more difficult if this passage of scripture is anything to go by. So start proactively getting your mind and your emotions fit. But actively and proactively thinking and feeling positive thoughts and emotions.
What works for me – and you will have to find what will work for you – is I have positive conversations with myself. I am always talking to myself, so I might as well make it work for me.
A negative thought flits into my head – I won’t eat, I’m sick, I’m going to die (believe it or not, I used to wake up with such fear and anxiety with these three thoughts running around in my head). Instead of just trying to get that negative thought out of your head – try to focus on the opposite and positive. Of course I’ll eat – I eat every day at every mealtime without any problems (see how I’m backing up this positive thought with everyday evidence that supports that), and I am not sick. I don’t feel sick and there is nothing wrong with me. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I saw a doctor or actually needed to see a doctor. And yes, I am going to die one day. But today is not that day. And even if it is today, I’m sure of my salvation so there is really nothing to worry about. Then take a deep breath and force (or allow) yourself to feel relief and something positive. Then distract yourself and go on with your day.
You need to be conscious every time a negative thought or feeling comes into your mind – so that you can actively and proactively react with something positive, based on truth and based on faith.
But it will take time. I have been negative for the last 40 years, allowing myself to be lured into the fantasies of negative thinking – I loved the drama it created within me . Sometimes my fantasies or thoughts would be so negative, I would find myself crying in the car on the way home. For heaven’s sake, no wonder I battle with anxiety. Because you see, those emotions I created with negative thinking and fantasizing have to go somewhere – they don’t just evaporate. It is energy being created, and well, it is coming out now. So, this not something that is going to change overnight. But, I figure I have the next 40 years to try to get it right.
Rather than thinking or fantasizing about a car accident, and having my entire family killed, and be drawn into the allure of this fantasy, think about all of us having a picnic together and having fun and enjoying ourselves and each other. The positive feelings associate with the picnic fantasy will go along well to emotional health and wellness and should the event arise – a picnic in the park – you will enjoy it so much more.
Training your heart and feelings
I am still busy reading Emotional Gravity by Angela de Souza. It really is an excellent book and I would highly recommend it (and I am not even half way, yet). And yesterday, I was reading about how if you have a leaning toward a negative emotion, how you need to focus on the opposite positive emotion and to start training yourself to feel, believe and think in that opposite emotion. So, that you can start to have positive feelings, and positive thoughts – and lead a positive life. As Joyce Meyers says,
“You can’t live a positive life thinking negative thoughts.”
Now, I battle with anxiety and fear. For whatever reasons, I do. And I understand all the reasons, and I know how and why I came to be at this point, but none of this has miraculously relieved me of the anxiety and fear that I feel. That is where I feel this book is coming in handy – it is the realisation that I have to control my thoughts, and train my emotions – as if I am training to run a marathon. I cannot give into the anxiety and fear any longer. I need to acknowledge why I battle with this, forgive those that need to be forgiven and now train my mind and feelings.
So, the opposite of anxiety is:
Assurance, calmness, composure, contentment, ease, happiness, nonchalance, peace, tranquillity
So, I need to focus on feeling calm, composed, content, happy, peace and tranquil.
Easier said than done when living with so much financial stress, and working in a very stressful environment and battling family politics, etc, etc, etc…
But, this I can do. Take a deep breath, and allow the calm and peace to flow over you and allow yourself to believe and have faith.
This I can do. I can learn to not have this anxiety that has plagued me virtually my whole life. It is not going to be easy, because I am constantly aware of this anxiety that sits in the corner like a naughty child, just ready to come out and take over.
13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.