Balance, sanity, stasis.
Have you reached a place in your life where your first thoughts are excitement over the coming day?
Have you found yourself without dread, negative thoughts, fear, and anxiety?
According to the overwhelming majority of medical professionals chiming in through medical and popular publications, more human beings are suffering from anxiety and depression than ever before….and with the economy, the struggle for self and family, who can say it’s not expected?
But imagine it for a moment. It’s the morning when you wake up and you are at peace. You feel balanced and ready to face the day. You are assured, confident of your ability and in your faith in a healthy way. Life as you know it isn’t perfect; but it is good. Like fresh southern fried chicken with mashed potatoes and field fresh corn on a summer’s day, it sticks to the ribs and carries you throughout the day. You are satisfied. My friend Jeff calls it “the sweet spot.”
Is this your game state?
Here is a snap shot of what chaos can do – see if this sounds like anyone that you know. Jane is a friend. She’s tall, dark eyes, and very attractive. She’s been successful in the corporate world; a graduate degree hangs on her wall. Her life looks “perfect.” At that moment, Jane who is an intelligent, married parent of three children, is sitting slumped over, face buried in hers hands, near the breaking point of stress and life. “My mind is so messed up.”
Is it? How about Joe, the former high school football player, military guy that bounces from acting normal to a manic high to suicidal lows, all based on his perception of threat. Life, failure, not measuring up, they all haunt him. Locked in chaos, he’s run to hide in the most respectable job he can find where everyone assumes that he’s nearly perfect. He puts on a solid and outgoing front, yet as he loses himself to all of the “should” expectations, finds himself in a survival mode as he drops his head and wonders how much longer he can survive life. He dreams of just driving away. “My mind is so messed up” he says, wishing more than anything that he could change his circumstances.
Jane and Joe share common demons. The inner chaos and imbalance tears them apart, day after day. It is true, life is a great big mess, but the mind isn’t nearly as bad as one often thinks. Lack of balance will make you feel crazy. Lack of proper boundaries, a need for family of origin therapy and being emotionally overextended has many people running at all angles.
Let’s address the anxiety mess realistically, the first step in finding balance. I will go first.
I was “Jane.” Past tense.
My early childhood was – well, a mess.
Affirmation in growing up? None.
My twenties were – well, a mess, but I did start with some therapy. Got married, started working really, really hard. Did well. Glossed over all of the anxiety and fear with over activity and alcohol. Husband left. Uh-oh, self worth in the dumpers ~ work harder, prove that he was wrong. Where is the peace in that?
The thirties? Better, much better. I sought help. Enter mood stabilizing drugs and the label of “clinical depression.” Note to self** they were right about the clinical part, but, I am not my depression. I am Alison. Go figure. Married my best friend, who I adore. He taught me most of this stuff through modeling it. Even better, was found and fell in love with the Christ of the Christian bible. A real honest to him relationship without religion…faith, grace and peace. Very cool.
Our other example, Joe, has toughed life out. He’s been prescribed antidepressants before. They were an unwelcome part of his life. He’s been through addiction and back. Part of the mess is a deep, empty loneliness that encompasses him, coupled with a terror of failing. Part is the lack of deep insecurity and developmental retardation stemming from a very dysfunctional family of origin. He battles many unfinished ends, all zapping his faith and self confidence on a pretty consistent basis. His diet, like most people with depression, varies widely from high sugar, caffeine and carbohydrates to chemically laden preprocessed foods. His family life is strained, largely the result of impulsive or compulsive decisions he has learned to live with. His finances are a mess. Trapped in over his head, he tends to become manic and act out in overwhelming emotion. While my picture of Joe is a merge of several people that I’ve known through the years, it’s tough to image that this fictitious person doesn’t resemble many of us. We are often trying so hard to tread water, just to find that it is four inches deep.
If you find your mind in this sort of disarray, my first recommendation is to seek the competent, confidential help of a non-biased counselor, after you’ve examined their practice and done your due diligence. It’s really easy to get tapped with psychological labels like “manic” or “bipolar” when in all actuality you aren’t displaying the criteria for the DSM – IV, the standard criteria for diagnosis by the American Psych Association. Be cautious and ask questions and really commit to following through with your therapists plan. Don’t stop as soon as you feel better.
Many people just want to find balance…they’re not mental, they’re just unhappy. Life has got them strapped to the adrenaline button. They have horrible relationship building skills, low trust and unrealistic expectations about life from the media. Mania is the opposite of balance, and something each of us faces on the days that life is too much. It’s not the first time I have heard or read such a statement; in fact, it is a story told throughout time, with no regard to gender, faith, financial resources or even age. In the days of the bible, Jesus’ brother wrote at the opening of the Book of James, “do not be like the wave of the sea, caught by the wind being tossed to and fro, for it is unstable in all of its’ ways.” It’s not our natural game state as a human ~ it is where we find ourselves when we’re in too deep, out of our pay grade.
Ready for the good news?
With the right balance, you can do almost anything that you set your mind to. Burning through life deeply steeped in chaos is an unhealthy way to engage with your present and future.
Can we quantify several “can do” steps that will make your life more manageable, sane? Yes.
It’s important that you consider these new “habits” in your life that are intended to replace the toxic ones currently in use. Only do one at a time, or you will overload your senses and do none of them well. Remember, multitasking is for lazy people. Yep, I can do more than one thing at a time – I can multitask like other people breathe. Still, that means that nothing gets 100% of my attention, therefore less than 100% of my ability.
1. Positive mental outlook. If you’re like the person who feels their brain is just so messed up, the first thing to do is to quiet the conversations in your head. How many negative statements are you making about yourself or others? What type of demands are you placing on them? When it’s just you in the car, what are you thinking? In the shower, before bed, while you’re eating a sandwich, what is going through your head? Are you considering the worst case scenario? Worrying? Anxious over something or someone that you can’t control? What you think and the quality of the questions that you ask yourself drastically impact how you see life.
I am an incurable optimist. I believe that there is something redeemable in every minute of every day, something worthwhile in every soul on earth. It’s in that passion for the creation that I find my own energy. I don’t have to solve the world’s problems, yet I hesitate to contribute to them. I help wherever and whenever I can. I love relentlessly, and often with nothing in return. I hold the highest image of a person not so that they can fall, but because I believe that once they know someone believes in them to that extent, they might find it easier to believe as well. So, pay attention to what you think. No criticizing, gossip, backbiting. If you’re using your mind to control or hurt someone, stop. What you put out into the universe will come back to you, amplified.
How do you change what you think? First be aware of what you’re saying to yourself. Are you beating you up? I just read in Glamor magazine that a high percentage of women survive negative self talk every day. “You’re so stupid, fat, lazy…” A running critique of everything that they aren’t perfect as or at. Folks, you have to love you as you are. I am truly comfortable in my skin, happy to be myself. I feel sexy, desirable and smart. I am proud of being a girly girl, a woman and a clothes horse. My confidence shines like a diamond from the bottom of my coral painted toenails. Really, there is not a negative thought in my head and I don’t focus on the negatives in life. How? Pay attention to that dialogue in your mind. Stop demeaning and point out your great qualities. It’s okay to be okay with you. It’s okay to have your hair, your nose, your thighs, your voice, job, weight, etc. I may read the magazine, but I don’t want to be the girls that I see in it; I just like the clothes. Great shoes. I’m not going to spend my life starving to be a size 0. I like being me.
Negative circumstances can really affect how you think. Say your day is going askew. Ask, “What can this situation mean?” and give the benefit of the most positive explanation. In this, you will find that you free people to be themselves in grace, and not in control. A note: watch for those passive aggressive things that you might do. Be transparent and out in the open with your actions. Be accountable. Moreover, when you feel that overwhelming feeling of guilt, doubt, self regret or failure coming your way, ask where it is really from? Is this a lifelong pattern? Is the voice that of a critical patent, employer or coach? Who taught you to beat up on yourself? Make a journal and study your thoughts. Turn the tide and pick ten things that you want to focus on about yourself that you really like, and four of five to walk away from. Practice being in the present, positive state of mind. Let everything else go.
2. Get up, get out, get moving. Yes, I have said it before and I will once again. Clean your house. Cook your own meals. Engage with your life. Get some exercise. Cut out smoking, drinking, and chemicals of any kind. Do not cook from a box who labels their salt content in the 700% of daily use. Take a walk, ride a bike, swim, climb, do something. Benefits: you will feel better, tone and begin to build self esteem. Bad news: if you’re obsessing about something while you work out, change your thoughts to positive encouraging ideas solely about yourself or your faith. Have moments that are exceptional by noticing that they are there. Today, as I rode my new bike down our street from the community pool, I smiled over at my little daughter on her bike, training wheels blazing away. She smiled back and chirped “I love you, Mom!” There on that tree lined street in the golden of the afternoon, there was not a more perfect moment in the whole of the universe. It was better than the best movie. So many moments are like that if you’ll just lose the electronics and become active together. Go for a walk, notice the sky, help clean a park, find the beauty in life. Breathe. Allow yourself to be blessed.
3. Accept. This is a tough one for many people. Accept what you cannot change, and survey your options in life. Accept that the girlfriend or boyfriend you once loved has moved on, and that they actually love their new life. Maybe you are right and the job that you wanted is either out of reach educationally, or has been downsized. All subject to change and growth. New love, new job, it’s all part of the cycle of life. The hopes and dreams that you have are still there for you – and accepting that you need to work and have faith to accomplish them requires commitment. I know the negatives and hear them often. But what CAN you do? What CAN you dream of? What is your long range plan, given that everything stays the same? If you’re married, picture your relationship ten years from now, based on its current level of love and commitment. Is this where you want to be? Are you fulfilled? Accept what you need to change and find the courage to change it, even if that means laying it all on the line and being the first to humbly ask for more time, more physical contact, more emotion, more communication. Accept others where they are without anger.
4. Choose to be balanced. If you have no idea what balance feels like, attempt one morning or afternoon where you promise yourself that you’ll live in peace. Change the diapers, write the report, listen at the meeting, write, study, ride your bike…all in peace. When an emotion comes up, examine it. Think it through. Ask it questions. What is it telling you? Set it to the side and do not react. Just watch life with heart and eyes wide open. What are you learning about people? What do you notice that you didn’t see before? Step outside of the maelstrom of emotions and breathe for the day. Do your work, be with your loved ones but set that one boundary. “Today, I will be at peace. Today, I am balanced.” Say it over and over again. Things that will trip you up? Too much coffee, any form of mood altering substances (I’m not including prescriptions from your doc) and any type of alcohol. Just relax, have a day off of caffeine and too many carbohydrates.
Start being balanced by being kind to yourself.
These are the first four ideas on a really long list, but a good place to start. One woman asked me this week “How do I tell my husband that I feel empty and worthless inside?” Here is my response.
Telling your husband isn’t the problem. How can you love yourself? Then ask your husband to affirm you, to walk with you as you work through these questions, given that this is the type of relationship you have. Your husband probably knows that you’re feeling down. So you might start with these ….
How do you process what I feel…is it negative self talk? What is “empty?” What questions are you asking yourself? When did it start? What is it based on? Can you pull out a piece of paper and write yourself a love letter? Do it, set it aside and then return to it tomorrow. Write what you want to be, who you want to be if that appeals to you. Love yourself and give grace liberally. Really pay attention to the negative thoughts and refuse…yes, refuse to believe any of that crap. You are perfect to someone in your life, trust me. You were made for a purpose, for a lifetime, and you can find balance and be happy.
So when you wake up in the morning, take a deep breath and repeat after me….
This is the best day.
I am here.
I love myself.
I am going to be balanced, present and ready for blessing or challenge.
Today I will live my life in joy.