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Archive for August, 2012

Anxiety is a very common part of everyday life. This time of year in Florida approaching hurricanes can cause a lot of anxiety. It would appear that some people handle it in different ways by celebrating all the way down to being down right scared and hunkered down. So what is this all about? How come some people are very afraid and others are not?

Some underlying factors are at play and very legitimate. If a person has ever been exposed to a natural disaster and witnessed or experienced what is perceived as a life threatening situation, then they have good reason to feel anxiety during an approaching storm. These survivors can be experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder commonly known as PTSD. Now, some anxiety before a storm is a pretty typical response. However, if the anxiety reaches a point where a person begins to recall memories of past traumatic events into the present one then it can warrant taking a better look at what is going on.

There are some signs of what to look for such as those involving intrusive memories. This is identified by bad dreams of the event, sudden thoughts and images of the witnessed event known as flashbacks, feeling on edge and on high alert constantly checking and rechecking supplies, locked doors and constantly watching every update on a storm. PTSD is commonly heard of when thinking of war veterans, emergency workers, survivors of terrifying car accidents, plane crashes, fires and those who have survived a natural disaster. Anytime a person believes their life is being threatened in a dangerous situation is being exposed to traumatic stress.

What happens with trauma is current anxiety being experienced is a response based on past events. With trauma, the brain records the past event and stores it into memory at the moment the trauma occurred. So when a current situation arises that is similar, such as an approaching hurricane with a natural disaster victim, this memory is recalled and produces feelings much like they were at the moment they were originally recorded. It is the minds way of preparing the body for the perceived threat, based on the condition of the last known event.

Here are some ways that may be helpful in preparation. Before this gets too far just a word of caution, in no way is a hurricane to be taken lightly. This is not about making light of something serious; this is about managing feelings of anxiety. Compare the imminent danger to the last known threat. How is it the same and how is it different? Am I blowing things out of proportion or jumping to conclusions? Utilize self reassurance phrases, for example, by repeating “I am okay.” Develop realistic positive talk; “I have been through this before, I can do it again.” Try to be as realistic as possible and replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Instead of thinking all doom and gloom, think of what needs to get done in order to be ready. If you have family and children, turn it into a game with each person preparing The Fort. This helps change the focus of thoughts from excessive worry to being pro-active. Prepare for the event so last minute stress and pressure of having to prepare have been taken out of the equation well in advance. Like the old Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared” can go a long way in relieving anxiety. Try breathing techniques to calm and slow the body by breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. Get a support group and work together with a plan of action to be at one person’s home should a storm have a direct impact. Much of this has to do with switching the focus of the thought of the perceived danger to thoughts of doing something active.

While some of these techniques can be effective to relieve anxiety in the moment, they may not be efficient to someone who has been deeply impacted by a past traumatic event. PTSD can be a serious and long term condition that requires therapeutic intervention. Trauma focused therapy can be effective in helping work through and re-record the trauma events to lessen the future effects.

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“I used to spend so much time reacting and responding to everyone else that my life had no direction. Other people’s lives, problems, and wants set the course for my life. Once I realized it was okay for me to think about and identify what I wanted, remarkable things began to take place in my life.” ― Melody Beattie, The Language of Letting Go: Hazelden Meditation Series

1 Corinthians 10:29
I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience?

How many times have you heard a young child when asked or told to do something respond with a rebellious “NO.” Okay, lets take it to the next level, how many times have teenagers been asked or told to do something and they responded with a rebellious “NO.” Okay, lets try this one more time, how many times has a grownup been asked or told to do something and they responded with a  boisterous “NO.” Ironically these 3 answers have something in common and that is the person responding all have the ability to say “NO.” On the other hand, that would mean that they may also have the ability to say “YES.”

Sometimes, however, this is not so simple for everyone. If you can say “no” without feeling guilty, remorseful or having strong thoughts that maybe I am a bad person then you most likely have the ability to draw some personal limitations. Chances are those who are afraid to say no or have feelings of guilt, shame and remorse are playing life by a different set of internal rules. Those who have the ability to say or express themselves without remorse have a sense of freedom that allows them to do so. For others who do not feel this way and are not able to express themselves freely, there are some areas to look at that may shed some light on the subject.

Not having a sense of freedom and self self expression can come from many different areas of our lives. Often feelings of lost freedom presented by guilt, shame or feeling bad about self expression is learned behavior. This stifled way of living creates the idea that a person must tip toe around others afraid that they are somehow responsible for other people’s behavior. This leads to not being able to say things like “yes” to a simple request when a person really wants to say “no.” The reason for this is the person who is not being truthful of what they really want to say or do based on the idea that if they choose otherwise then other people may become offended or react in an unpleasant way.

There are many underlying experiences that contribute to learning how this works. The following are examples of some possible situations that can contribute to going through the world in in fear of other people’s reactions.

  • Growing up it was not permissible to talk about problems and feelings were not allowed to be expressed freely. This results in learning to not effectively express the self and leads to avoiding problems.
  • There was a lot of tension in the house growing up without any real arguments or talking things out were not allowed. Feelings or activities are minimized such as “big boys don’t cry” and “real ladies don’t act like that.” This creates the belief that it is not okay to be ourselves and it’s appropriate to be cut off by others.
  • Unrealistic expectations such as I must, should, ought or need to be perfect at some activity. This is about being removed from what is realistic and puts a person into an unrealistic perfectionism that is unattainable. This can also translate into the belief that perfection is what is expected and places unrealistic demands on others. This way of thinking crosses many relationship borders and is found beyond the family unit. Perception of being a failure often leads to feelings of shame and guilt.
  • Stop being so selfish. This thought pattern often leads to putting other people’s needs ahead of your own. This is about putting yourself off to the point it begins to cause a great deal of stress or hardship. Internal feelings of resentment begin to build and often leads to anger and problems with relationships on many levels.

Identifying with these behavior patterns can ultimately lead to a person not getting their own needs met. It can lead to low self esteem and difficulty expressing what is important to others.

So what can you do about it? First of all begin to self examine and take a look at the self from a non-judgmental perspective. Awareness and acceptance are often the first step toward self improvement. The next step is to practice self forgiveness. This is instrumental in learning that it is okay for me to be me without worry or fear of what others are thinking or doing. Learning to have freedom of expression can be very liberating. It frees us from ourselves and the confinement of disabling learned patterns of thought. It allows us to be able to find comfort in letting “no” be “no” and “yes” being “yes.”

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When meeting a person for the first time everything is exciting and brand new. It can seem like the feeling of true love is in the air. It is as if “Ah, finally, I have met the one true person in my life and this is it, the one who will make all the difference.” Let the counting begin how many times this has happened time and time again. Interesting, there appears to be a pattern developing.

The new person is exciting to be around, lots of fun and gives us something to look forward to. In the story Bambi I believe the word was “Twitter-pated.” Human beings are social creatures and we enjoy spending time with others especially when it is romantic and new. But what happens when that love feeling in the beginning begins to turn into a scene like the Bad News Bears? The players take the field in nice uniforms and suddenly the scene changes to one of disruption, deception and dirty tricks. The person appears to fit all of the qualities we look for in a person, or do they?

When entering a new relationship people often put their best foot forward in the beginning; however over time the truth of what they really are becomes exposed and begins to erode the relationship. The character and integrity of who they are begins to leak out and they expose their true nature, in other words, they stop putting their best foot forward and start being themselves.

Then it becomes apparent, again, I have picked not only a person who is “toxic” to relationships, but now I realize I keep picking this same type of “toxic” person over and over again. Unfortunately, the reality of noticing this pattern of behavior appears only after a person is becoming angry and resentful after many past relationships that end up in pain. Maybe it’s time to get a relationship detox and understand why I keep picking what turns out to be the wrong people.

What often attribute to this are unresolved issues from the past that makes a certain “toxic” type of person attractive. There are many places to look and often childhood can be a good place to begin. Look at the relationships you had with your parents, do you see a similarity? Sometimes we seek resolution to pain from our childhood in the way we pick our mates. There may be certain themes such as caretaking or feeling responsible for the other person emotionally or financially. Do you find yourself apologizing constantly over what you say or do? Does the relationship provide a needed void in life such as not feeling happy unless I can fix, rescue or save someone from themselves? Does it make me feel better when I take care of someone else because I get love in return? Often the way out of a toxic situation is to change some habits about who we are.

If you find yourself in this type of behavior pattern there are some steps to take that can help. Detaching yourself from past thoughts and behaviors helps tremendously. Sometimes we become attached to certain “comfortable” patterns in life not fully realizing what is happening, we just see and feel the undesired results. It’s time to live outside the box of your personal comfort zone. Cultivate yourself by changing the way you live your life. Take a break from relationships and spend some time with yourself to explore things that help create and mold you as an individual. God has given us a beautiful Earth to live out our lives and enjoy. Find activities that you feel would be completely different from what you would normally do such as going to a museum instead of the movies. Go to a symphony concert instead of a rock concert or join a small group through church. Adopt a pet, take up canvas painting, join a kayaking club or go on a hike instead of the mall. Travel, see the world and find something that sparks an interest in an area that has never been explored. Go to the mountains instead of the beach or volunteer to help the less fortunate. There are countless ways to cultivate who you are as a person.

What this does is it changes who we are by adding value to our lives. It changes the focus of putting too much value on others and places more value on accepting ourselves. Over time this builds self confidence and begins to define who we are as a person and strengthens the ability to be comfortable in a relationship. So the next time you are at a dinner engagement with someone of interest and they ask “so, what do you like to do,” what will your answer be?

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