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.
It is too intriguing and thrilling to look at the poster on the left – the force of the negative emotions keeps drawing you back. Looking at the poster on the right, gives me freedom that I cannot yet fathom, nor understand. And negative emotions are so powerful, that I am instinctually drawn to the poster on the left. The one filled with anxiety, panic and negativity. Oh, how I long for the freedom to just walk to the poster on the right and be filled with peace, love, calmness, power and a sound mind.
Today is a bit of battle. You see, I have two anxiety triggers, there are other minor ones but these two can set me off at any time. The first is my marriage – you see, I grew up in a home that had lots of fighting and ugliness, with both my parents threatening divorce as early as I can remember. I lived in that environment for 30 years before they finally did split up (just after I got married). And ever since our daughter was born, the anxiety regarding my marriage has increased ten-fold. You see, I love this man, but I play these mind games – what if I don’t love him, what if he doesn’t love me, what if, what if, what if… When I know – in my heart of hearts, I know that I love him and will never leave him, and want to spend the rest of my life with him. And yet, I still play these games with myself. And you know the result? Well, anxiety and panic. You see, it is much easier to keep looking at the poster on the left. It’s what I’ve inadvertently trained myself to do my whole life. When I can and am able to draw away and look at the poster on the right, I feel great, our relationship goes well, I eat well but then, lurking in the back of my mind are these thoughts that explode into my consciousness, and before I am even aware of it, I find myself gazing longingly at the poster on the left.
My other trigger is eating. When you come from such a stressed filled background, drowned in anxiety and stress, I grew up not eating a lot. Meal times were never pleasant and I am not the type of person to eat under stress – and we were always under stress. We always had this burden of a strained marriage and the pressure of trying to keep things normal (even though we could not articulate that in words when so young). The result was that I was terribly skinny and was teased so much for being skinny, and then your mother taking you to a doctor for anorexia when you have never been on a diet on your life, kind of makes your relationship to food and weight not a healthy one. You see, I had anxiety back then due to the background I grew up in but everyone – even the doctors – looked at the outward appearance and treated me for an eating disorder that I never had. I grew up in a shitty home, with a shitty home life – that was what needed to be looked at. I needed coping skills to cope with the stress and anxiety of what I grew up with. However, now, the whole concept is so messed up in my head, I can’t tell it apart – the anxiety automatically goes with eating/not eating and not eating/eating goes with anxiety. All goes so nicely hand-in-hand…
And these two triggers are so inexplicably linked now. I need to disassociate the two.
I suppose it’s like training for the Iron Man when you’ve never run, walked or cycled in your life. If I have trained my whole life to be focus on the negativity and anxiety, and I’m only now learning HOW to give a voice to these feelings, then I’m not suddenly going to wake up tomorrow and be all positive. I need to train my mind, thoughts, emotions, spirit, subconscious mind, etc to do this – and soon all I will be able to look at is the poster on the right. But, it takes about a year to start from nothing and to train to do a full Iron Man – that is a 3.8 kilometre swim, a 180-kilometre cycle, followed by a 42-kilometre run. Actually, I would say it would take about 18 months if you have never done exercise in your life before – hubby took about a year to train, and he is a seasoned athlete who had been cycling and running quite extensively, (he had to start swimming from scratch).
So, I am estimating now, but I would guess it would take even longer to train your mind. Reading the right books and constantly being aware of focusing on the positive are tools you can use to help you train your mind. Prayer also helps, and reading and watching feel-good movies (as opposed to scary thrillers that get the adrenaline flowing), and watching what and how you speak.
So, I guess I can’t be too hard on myself just yet. I just find it odd, on Tuesday I was praying and thanking God that I’ve finally reach the point in my life when I can wake up in the morning and feel so grateful for the life I’ve got, for my hubby and daughter, and ever since then I’ve been battling now to do just that. Odd.
And perhaps all this is coming out now because of all the stress and pressure surrounding our daughter’s birth – which is for another post.
And perhaps I should’ve called this blog, “Peaceful Motherhood” – just perhaps…
Pin Pricks on my head…
Negativity and negative thinking causes anxiety. A thought – negative or positive – causes a feeling. That feeling – negative or positive – causes an action to follow and that action can be as simple as pulling your face, or as forceful as a full-blown panic attack.
That is why the bible teaches us to be careful what we think about. If you are a young girl and you daydream about being attacked and raped, even fantasize about it, how do you suppose that will act out in a loving relationship? No matter how loving the relationship is, you will always feel anxiety if that is what you are thinking. However, if you think about loving and kind sex, you will be excited about an intimate relationship – because your mind, soul and emotions are geared up for that. It is so important to guard our minds.
Every time I have a negative thought, now that I am aware of what the repercussions can be, it feels like pin pricks on my scalp. Our little daughter is growing up and soon she will be on her own – and I am expecting that to cause me huge anxiety. It’s always a thought first – I think, how am I going to cope without her? So, then I start to fear that event happening, then I start of feel anxious, and that brings about another round of fear and anxiety, which then starts this whole cycle.
And you know what?
At the end of the day, all is going to be okay. Yes, it is sad that she is growing up so quickly, but while the sadness is felt as one cycle in life ends, there most certainly is joy in watching her become a beautiful young woman, leading an independent and strong life. Yes, there are always many trials and tribulations to go through – life is hard. I think it is meant to be hard, to sift out the “survival of the fittest”…
But, as soon as I push the negative thoughts aside, and the fear and the worry, and start focusing on the positive – you know what happens? I start to feel a whole lot calmer. In fact, I may find myself starting to enjoy some time out with hubby or by myself. I may even surprise myself.
And that is what I have been trying to say all along.
If you keep putting stress, negativity and anxiety into everything you think and do – well, that is all that you will get out.
I KNOW that everything will be okay. I believe it because I must. And because I can. And I believe it because the history of my life has taught me that it always works out in the end. It always does. And because there is, a part of me that knows it is true. I can’t stress about what may or may not happen in the future, I can only focus on this moment. Right now. In essence, it is all I have. So, with God’s grace, I need to put aside all my negativity and fear of the future, and focus on this little moment I have right now. And it’s amazing how the anxiety that’s always pressing like pinpricks against my skull suddenly feels quite a bit less threatening.
Negative thinking – no matter how unrealistic – conjures up negative emotions. And negative emotions can and will lead to negative actions or reactions.
If that is true, and I have no doubt that it is, then surely, the converse is also true. Positive thinking – no matter how unrealistic – will conjure up positive emotions. And positive emotions can and will lead to positive actions and/or reactions.
Having said all the above though, it is one of the most difficult things in this life to control your thoughts. Sometimes the alluring feelings that come from thinking negatively entice you to entertain that thought – for far longer than is healthy.
And it’s not just a case of positive thinking – you need to get yourself to a point of totally believing the positive thoughts, believing and having faith – so it’s just not just superficial positive thinking, but something that infiltrates your mind, your soul and your emotions. But it is not easy. Not at all and that is why we need to be disciplined and not give in when a negative thought comes our way – we need to focus on the positive, and distract our minds and emotions from the negativity.
Does any of this make sense?
So, my belief is that as our daughter is growing up, and will slowly start to move away from the family fold, I know – deep in my heart – that whatever anxiety I may feel, hubby and I will welcome some much need time to rekindle our flame and nurture our marriage and our relationship, as well as nurture some time alone for ourselves. And those are all good things.
So, I will be strong – I will focus on the positive, because through focusing on the positive, the belief and faith will follow. And the outcomes of whatever situation I feel anxious about will surely be different, than if I just entertained the negative the whole time.
And that is my prayer – thank Heavens the good Lord is on my side.
More Than Conquerors
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?