Anxiety Doesn’t Feel Like Anxiety

For a while last year, especially after a head injury, I started feeling like my whole world was falling apart. Like everything was fragile and everything was dangerous. I felt terrible doubts and fears about so many things I’ve trusted and depended on for years. At first I really thought something was terribly wrong–like my life was a lie and like everything was a day away from coming crashing down around me.

Turned out I was just having anxiety. The world was no more dangerous than it had been before, people were no less trustworthy, everything was going to be okay.

I think one of the toughest things about having anxiety, though, is that–when you’re having it–it doesn’t FEEL like “anxiety.” Even if you know you have it.

When you’re NOT feeling anxious for a while, you can understand what you’ve been going through, and you can say “I was just having anxiety.”

But when you ARE anxious, all those fears and doubts and threats are VERY, VERY REAL.

When you are experiencing anxiety, “just having anxiety” isn’t a thing.

Just because something is “just anxiety” doesn’t mean it won’t feel 100% real. But hope is in the flip side: Just because something feels 100% real doesn’t mean it’s not just anxiety speaking. You may still be totally safe.

Understanding this doesn’t necessarily solve anything. But it helps me be compassionate with myself, and it gives me a hopeful perspective to hold on tight when the waves come: It will feel sickeningly real, but even that is okay.

It also helps me understand others who may experience anxiety, a lot or a little. It helps me to appreciate and respect the sincerity and gravity of their feelings. And I think I now have a better idea than I used to of how to be there for them–to hold them a little tighter when their own waves come and they’re trying to keep from drowning–to just stick with them in their episodes of darkness and walk with them toward the light at the end of the tunnel.

I hope it helps you, too.

Need Someone to Change? 5 Things to Know

Marilyn Ferguson - cannot persuade others to change

When I was younger and knew everything, I was pretty sure I could change everybody’s minds by arguing with them using things like logic.

When I was a little less young and naive, but still knew just about everything, I thought I could still kind of control people’s beliefs and actions by appealing to their feelings and emotions about things.

And now that I’m a little older and hopefully even a little bit less naive than before, I’ve learned that you really can’t make other people agree with you.

You can’t. They might, but you can’t.

You’d be surprised how many times I’ve had to relearn this lesson.

I want to share with you five things I’ve realized as I’ve come to terms with my inability to control what others think, feel, and choose:

1. It’s a good thing I can’t control what others think or do–because I feel like every few days I realize that something I thought I knew was totally wrong.

2. The task of changing and controlling people is exhausting and frustrating anyway. It’s so much nicer to not have to do that.

3. You may as well just accept where people are, understand them, love them, and make the best of it. Loving and getting along is easier after you realize you can’t control others. People are amazing if you love them for who they are.

4. If there is a thing you can’t healthily accept into your life about somebody, that is okay. You cannot change them, and it will only get worse if you try. But you can set boundaries, little or big.

5. If you would still love for someone to make a change, for their sake or yours, be the change you would like to see. Be the proof, the hope they might need, that they’d be okay and safe if they end up changing. And then if they decide they want to make a change, they’ll know they can look to you for help and encouragement.

Hope this helps!

“No one can persuade another to change. Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside. We cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or by emotional appeal.” – Marilyn Ferguson

 

Social Media: How Does It Look In Your Life?

Sharing this recent speech to…

– Provoke some reflection about the role social media is playing in our lives: Do YOU use IT? Or does IT use YOU?

– Pique your interest in Toastmasters. If you’re in the Twin Cities, come join us on a Wednesday at noon in Apple Valley and learn how to present, give feedback, and communicate confidently in any situation. If you’re not near me, click here to find your local clubs–visitors are always loved! :)

– Brag on myself a little! I LOVE speaking/presenting and am working on building confidence and skills, which I’ve learned requires a little showing off. 

– Get feedback! I’d like to start doing some online videos soon (different format than a Toastmasters speech of course) so I’d love any and all suggestions on my presenting, content, etc.

– Start a conversation. What’s your take on Social Media? Experiences? Suggestions? I’d love to hear, and we’re all in the same boat–so please comment and share!

#socialmedia
#socialmediaeffects
#socialmediabenefits
#unplug
#publicspeaking
#toastmasters

PS–if you don’t have a whole 10 minutes, skip to the end for 3 practical social media tips that I have found very helpful. Happy scrolling! :)

My 100th Post: A Few Thoughts About Writing

I hope you write some things sometimes. And maybe even share your writings with the world. Finding words to express what’s in your heart can be so freeing, healing, and inspiring. And you never know whose life you’ll touch…

Tonight, I’m writing my 100th blog post. Looking back at my experience as a writer, I’ve come to realize a few things: Some surprising, some encouraging, some useful, and some inspiring…

 

Writing can be an incredibly freeing outlet.

Sometimes what you think is your best work is your worst. And sometimes what you think will be your worst work ends up being your best.

Three years from now, you may look back at words you wrote today, and be reminded of a life-changing truth you had forgotten.

Keeping at something–no matter how unimpressed you are with your results–is the surest way to get where you want to go. Lots of little steps add up.

One of the most effective ways to learn, think, clarify, and explore ideas is by writing about the thing you’re learning.

Feelings are vital. Write from your heart. Yes, it’s cliche, but I promise it makes for the most powerful and effective writing.

You will get just as much (or more) from what you write as others will get from reading it.

Other people want you to succeed and will support you.

You never know who your words will resonate with on any given day. Sometimes, in the randomest way, they were exactly what someone else needed.

It’s fascinating and eye-opening to look back at what you’ve written through the years. Even if it hasn’t been Dear-Diary subject matter, it still acts as a journal in some surprising ways.

Don’t be afraid of saying what you really think.

You can be great at writing, love writing, and feel that it’s the easiest thing–and still some days, weeks, months, or even years it can be very, very, very difficult.

You don’t always have to follow the same formula or write what people have come to expect from you. Sometimes a little change or surprise is perfect.

Short and sweet is often best.

Persistence is key, but be prepared for persistence to feel next to impossible when inspiration decides to take the week off.

You will look back at something you wrote and you’ll blush and you’ll cringe and you’ll think “I put that out for the whole world to see?!?” And then you will realize that it didn’t actually do you any harm and that everything is okay.

Sometimes a thing you wrote long ago turns out to be the perfect solution to a problem you’re having today.

Confidence is good and it’s important to learn to brag on yourself a little.

It is okay to say “I am a writer.” (“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” – Richard Bach)

Having a hundred different pieces you’ve written can prove very useful later on, like when you’re asked to give a talk, or like when someone asks for advice and you realize you’ve already written down your answer.

There’s no right or wrong way to write. Sometimes you should just rattle off what’s inside and click “Publish.” And sometimes you should plan, think, draft, scrap, draft again, edit, proof-read, worry a lot, and then click “Publish.”

People want to know about you more than you think.

Even if you don’t feel like it, your life has given you so much wisdom and experience and help to share!

You are not writing for the people who will disapprove of what you write. Don’t get stuck on them.

“Mean it. Whatever you have to say, mean it.” – Neil Gaiman

I owe this one to a dear friend, but it’s been proven time and time again by my experience blogging: People connect at the level of their struggles!

Discovering that you helped just one person makes all the hours and energy you’ve ever spent on writing more than worth it!

 

If you have a message burning inside you, try writing it down. You may experience all these good things I’ve experienced. And you may find other good things of your own. And your words may do you and the world a whole lot more good than you expect. Good luck!

(Shout-out to my fellow bloggers and writers! You make the world a better place!)

Neil Gaiman - As Only You Can

7 Ways Meditating Has Helped Me

Jon Kabat-Zinn - Time By Yourself

I love meditation.

But I feel like that’s a strange sentence. It’s kind of like saying “I love sports.” There are a million different kinds of meditation: Body scan, mindfulness, mantra, loving kindness, transcendental, breathing, visualization, contemplative, affirmations, etc. Meditations ranges from the very scientific to the very spiritual, from the very basic to the very ritualistic, and from the very thought/idea-filled to the very quiet/empty.

There are also so many different purposes in meditation: Releasing stress, freeing yourself from constant judgments, slowing down, finding peace, appreciating life, building confidence, accepting yourself and the way things are, feeling present and thankful, increasing physical or mental health, and the list goes on.

So to say I love meditation is to make a very broad statement. I’m not sure I want to narrow it down much, though, because I haven’t yet found a type of meditation that, when truly embraced, doesn’t seem to provide some good and some peace.

I personally have done more mindfulness meditation, breath awareness, mantras, and contemplative meditations than other kinds, so that may be worth knowing when I share a few of the ways meditation has helped me. But at the same time: I’m not you. I encourage you to try (“try” might be the worst word to use about meditating) various kinds meditation with an open mind and see if one helps you. Keeping in mind that many kinds of meditation will not feel like they “work” for a very long time, if ever. In fact, for some kinds, not having to “work” or “make a difference” is the exact point.

I’m no guru or yogi and it’s not like I spend hours every day meditating. But meditation has become a pretty regular part of my life, and I’ve found that it has helped me in more than a few ways. Here are just seven ways it’s helped me that I hope might pique your interest:

 

1. Releasing physical tension and pain.

I’m starting with an interesting one, because I have found a lot of peoples’ experience with “spiritual” and “out there” things has turned them off to meditation: It’s too weird. It is weird, but it can help even the most down-to-earth realist (which used to be me).

Meditation has actually made a significant difference for me with chronic headaches and muscle tension. Like many others, I “carry my stress” in my neck and shoulders. Massages and hot showers help because they relax tense muscles. In the same way, meditating can help by relaxing your tense muscles. Body scans and deep breathing have been especially helpful for me in calming and relaxing tense areas, and they often provide quick relief. Other meditations that help with developing peace and acceptance also provide more lasting help in relieving the stress that causes physical tension.

2. Stress relief and management.

People have a million different strategies for “stress management.” Stress seems to be a universal part of the human experience. For me, meditation has done more than almost anything else in the world to release stress–both in the moment when worked up or anxious, and longer term through regular practice.

Often mantras, chants, and other similar meditations which reflect on a hopeful, calming, relieving truth or idea really help to reduce stress. What has been especially helpful for me in this area, though, is mindfulness meditation. Jon Kabat-Zinn has created an entire program called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) that has been used in work places, hospitals, and more to help people reduce stress, which in turn leads to many other health benefits. One of the key aspects of mindfulness meditation is the incredibly simple allowing and accepting of things, relaxing from the constant strain of wishing everything was different.

For those of you who experience times of intense stress (so, all of you), various forms of meditation can be very helpful in the moment to calm down and regain clarity.

3. Getting through anxiety

I’ve dealt this last year with a lot of anxiety, and mindfulness meditations, deep breathing, mantras, and guided meditations have definitely been in the top three or four things that have helped me deal healthily with and find hope and peace during anxious times. I know anxiety can be a very dark and scary and draining experience, and I hope that if you sometimes experience it, you’ll try some meditation for yourself. I’d encourage you to look up some guided meditations Thich Nhat Hanh or Jon Kabat-Zinn and try it–see if it gives you a little break and helps you find some peace and strength in your anxiety.

4. Getting and staying in touch with myself.

All of life is crammed full of noise, ideas and thoughts and emotions being forced on you, people trying to influence you, events shaping your mood and impacting your mental health. I bet you totally get when I’m saying when I say it’s all to easy to lose touch with yourself.

Meditation can be extremely helpful when it comes to regaining self-awareness and staying in touch with yourself–your emotions, your dreams, your desires, and your own thoughts. Body scans and contemplative meditations have been very helpful for myself in this area. A lot of people think that meditation is about trying to get rid of all thoughts, but many types are not. In fact, some meditations are all about providing space for your mind to wander and think thoughts it doesn’t usually have the time or safety to think. One of the most helpful practices I’ve ever incorporated into my day-to-day life is sitting alone in silence for ten minutes with no agenda, just allowing my mind the time and space to run free.

5. Noticing the little things.

Meditation is a really great way to slow down your mind. It is hard not to get carried away in the fast pace of daily busyness, constantly having to worry about a hundred things and keep track of a hundred more. One of the healthiest, happiest things you can do is slow down enough to start noticing and appreciating the little things around you again. Meditating has really helped me with this.

When you just be quiet and sit in silence, your mind is sometimes able to calm down further and further, to let go of some of its intense stress about the past or about the future. And then, at least in my experience, the Present around you suddenly comes to life. You remember that there is a giant world full of beautiful present moments all around you, every day, a world that you don’t usually see. And the more frequently you get quiet enough to see it, the easier it becomes to find.

6. Developing the ability to quickly re-center or re-focus when needed day to day.

Somewhat related to the last one about finding the little things in this present moment, getting in touch with the Present also helps find perspective that we are too often missing. Slowing down and stepping out of the mind’s busy cycle of manufactured stress offers helpful reminders that everything really is okay, that life is more than our current chaos and worries, and that we are safer than we feel.

The more frequently you visit this place of perspective in quiet meditation, getting practice stepping outside of the constant rushing mental stress cycle, the easier it becomes to access this perspective and peace at any time you need it during crazy day-to-day life. The more regularly I have practiced meditation, the easier it is for me to refocus and regain a big picture perspective when I’m busy stressing about little chaotic life things. Stress has a way of completely blinding you, and meditation can help you to keep a clearer head.

7. Becoming more compassionate toward myself and others.

Meditation has a way of making you feel very deeply human. It strips away outer layers of styles and plans and accomplishments and messages and everything else that we see and judge every day. Mindfulness meditation particularly has really helped me accept things just the way they are without needing to constantly be judging–myself or others. It is an active practice of observing without judging, of fully accepting. Learning this and practicing this makes being compassionate to yourself or to other people very natural.

Mindfulness meditation doesn’t change life. Life remains as fragile and unpredictable as ever. Meditation changes the heart’s capacity to accept life as it is.” – Sylvia Boorstein

 

So what do you think? Have you tried any kinds of meditation? What has it done for you?

I hope that if you haven’t already, you give meditation a shot. Or that if you’ve tried and been discouraged by distraction or invisible results, you’ll give it another shot. I hope that if you try meditation, you find it helps you as much as it has helped me. If you want any suggestions or pointers on where to start, let me know!