Preceding and following the recent election I noticed the anxiety and discouragement of many people. During that same period of time I was noticing things I saw and heard that were encouraging to me. So I begin thinking about starting a new hobby – Collecting stories or items of hope and encouragement. I am hoping that you will help me with my collection. I will start off with a few from my collection:
1. I heard an interview with Rinaldo Brutuco as he talked about an new way to approach business with a triple bottom line – people, planet and profit.
2.I also heard a presentation about Otto Sharmer’s work on organizational leader ship which he calls “Theory U”. He builds his approach on the belief that good leadership comes from the essence of the person, not from power skills.
3. I watched the film, “Choice Point”, which presents and expands on the idea of us (personally, national, globally) making some of our best and most important decisions when we are at a crisis point, or as they call it “choice point”. If you want to check this out go to choicepointmovement.com.
4. There is a website that is called www.LookingForLight.net . It is another way of doing what I am doing here. It refers to it as a game of finding good all around you, every day.
A common issue for Americans is anxiety. We are bombarded with messages encouraging us to be afraid, nervous, anxious, and worried. All day long we hear these messages….”cancer is on the rise,” “the financial future of our country is bleak,” “if _____ wins the election we are in trouble,” etc. Due to these messages and our own life experiences anxiety is at epidemic proportions in our country, (oops, there it is again – be afraid).
When we are anxious it is because the Fight/Flight/Freeze mechanisms in our brain has been triggered. When this primitive part of our brain is triggered a chemical reaction occurs that causes changes in many parts of our body: our heart beats faster and harder, our breathing becomes faster and more shallow, our digestive system slows down, oxygen rushes to heart, lungs and large muscles and away from our prefrontal cortex (the reasoning part of our brain), and the body pumps an increase of arousal hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol. As a result of these changes in our body we may have difficulty with concentration, or remembering things. We are likely to have difficulty making decisions. It may be difficult for us to relax and go to sleep. If we are chronically anxious it takes a toll on our body and can result in health problems.
What are we to do to calm ourselves when we are being bombarded with messages and experienced that trigger anxiety? There are many things that can help and you may need to try several to discover which coping skills are most helpful to you. Here are a few suggestions:
- Soft belly breathing – Soft belly breathing is when we focus on our belly as we breathe diaphragmatically, relaxing our belly.
- Meditation – there are many forms of meditation: Centering Prayer, Contemplative prayer, Transcendental meditation, Buddhist meditation, and many more.
- Mindfulness – Mindfulness is the practice of staying present in whatever you are doing, i.e. if you are eating, your focus is on experiencing the food rather that focusing on television.
- Recognizing distortions in thinking and replacing them – there are 10-plus patterns of thinking that are considered distorted. These distortions actually contribute to anxiety. By replacing these distorted thoughts with more accurate thoughts we help to reduce our anxiety. Example: A girl runs across a friend while out shopping. She speaks to her friend but her friend barely speaks to her. The girl begins to think things such as, “She must be mad at me. She probably doesn’t want to be my friend any more,” etc. The girl may feel anxious about being rejected. This pattern of thinking can spiral into some very unpleasant experiences. By replacing this distorted thinking with thoughts such as, “I guess___ must have other things on her mind. I’ll call her later to see what is going on with her, “ she decreases her anxiety.
- Reduce carbohydrates in your diet – An excess of carbohydrates in your diet tends to contribute to the feeling of anxiousness due to the chemical changes it makes in your body. Dr. Andrew Weil is a good source for fuller understanding of this process.
- Exercise – most forms of exercise can help reduce anxiety but yoga seems to be especially helpful.
- Balance active and quiet in your schedule –Most of us do not need to be encouraged to be busy but we also need times of quiet in addition to when we are asleep. If you are very resistant to having times of quiet in your day this may an indication that you would benefit from talking to a professional about what is causing that resistance.
- Seek professional help as needed – if you need assistance with any of these coping skills you can talk to a professional about how to develop these skills. I would be glad to assist you in this process.
Nearly all people struggle with self esteem at least part of the time. The fear of not being enough or good enough is almost universal. We usually base our value on what we think our parents, family, school, church, and community have said about us, and how well we meet their standards. If we base our worth and value on these external sources we will continue to struggle with our self-esteem. We may have moments when we feel we are measuring up to these standards fairly well. Or perhaps we are getting positive feedback from these external sources that suggests we are good enough. But this sense of being good enough does not last because we cannot maintain the expected level of achievement these outside sources have set for us. The problems with maintaining our self-esteem based on these standards include:
• the standards are made up, created, by subjective external sources
• the standards change from time to time,
• the determination of whether or not we have met them is subjective.
All of this leaves us floundering and struggling with, “Am I good enough?” The way out of this dilemma is to change what you believe. When you can begin to believe that your value is based on your being-ness, your essential existence, you sense of value, worth, esteem does not fluctuate because you continue to “be”. You are always “being” and this has nothing at all to do with meeting your or anyone else’s standards of performance.
Some may think that is too easy, “what about people who don’t try to do good things, who don’t try to please others?” Asking this question probably shows that they haven’t changed what the way they think and that they still don’t believe in their own value. I think people tend to either live the life they think they SHOULD live, or live their life according to who they honestly THINK they are. If they think they have value because they exist as a created being they are likely to love and to be loved. If they think they are of little or no value, the life they live will reflect that false belief.