Background Shadow

Anxiety is a Mental Storm with False Forecasts

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the Worry Train, a mental locomotive that holds so many of us captive during waking hours.  Perhaps we find it so alluring because sometimes a little worry can be helpful.  Predictions about Frankenstorm prompted some of my neighbors to prepare generators for duty, while others stocked up on bottled water and non-perishable food.  Most of us have flashlights and extra batteries handy.  And if our worry is not excessive – meaning we haven’t stepped on the Worry Train – we go back to enjoying life with the electrical power we possess in the present moment…

When worry becomes excessive, anxiety often becomes our constant companion, and our lives change. [Read more…]

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How to Stop Worry in Its Tracks

Stuck on the Worry Train?

Are you stuck on the Worry Train?

It’s an illusive mental locomotive that takes many of us on a captive ride during waking hours.  We long to disembark, but the wheels of the Worry Train spin faster and faster – powered by an endless supply of what if  fuel:

What if I lose my job?  

What if I have a wreck?  

What if I look foolish or stupid? [Read more…]

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Mindful Monday Tip #15: How to Breathe Away Anxiety

Breathe Away Anxiety

Many of us start the school or work week feeling as if we’re stuck in a reality described by the Bangles’ 1986 hit, Manic Monday.  As soon as our eyes pop open, our minds become busy-busy-busy anticipating (or dreading) all that needs to get done during waking hours. [Read more…]

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Mindful Monday Tip #14: A Mindful Walk

Explore the Relationship between Mind and FeetCan something you do for a few minutes everyday really improve your life?  Many people affirm that daily mindful practices make a big difference in their lives: they feel less anxious, develop a growing sense of safety and security, and gain deeper personal insight from living more mindfully.  [Read more…]

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How to Take Care of Yourself – Overlooked Steps

When we were little, sometimes a band-aid and a kiss were all we needed to make a boo-boo go away.   Solutions were simple.   Sadly, solutions aren’t always so simple for anxiety, depression, and all the other things that hound us as we grow up.

But what if there were some simple things we could all do to give each of us a healthier mental edge?  

Three basic contributors of brain health are often overlooked:  sleep, a good diet, and regular exercise. [1]  Healing things happen while we sleep: most of the production of our neurotransmitters and brain cells occurs while we get shut eye. [2]  To maximize the healing process, establish a calming bedtime routine: reduce evening consumption of caffeine and other stimulants,  stop using digital devices about 1-2 hours before bedtime, and choose quiet activities that help your mind and body unwind. [3]  Since the body has to process whatever we put into it, eat well and regularly, balance food groups, and try to avoid excessive sugar and stimulants to help diminish mood swings.   Last but not least, aerobic exercise releases endorphins that promote brain growth as well as counteract a down mood.

So now we have 3 ways to take care of ourselves and nudge us towards a mentally healthier future:  sleep, a good diet, and regular exercise.  They don’t provide a panacea, but they may give us a leg up.

How are you challenged to take better care of yourself?

 


[1] Daniel Siegel, Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation (New York, NY: Bantam Books, 2010), 87.

[2] Margaret Wehrenberg,  The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008), 47-48.

[3] Siegel, 88

 

 

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Mindful Monday Tip #4: How Do You Use Your Financial Resources?

 

Becoming mindful of money in a plastic age is a worthy goal.  Money is a top cause of stress for about 75% of adult Americans (American Psychological Association).  Clearly too many of us seem to experience stress and anxiety about how much money we lack. Yet how often are we truly aware of how we use  money?  In their Anthem “For the Love of Money”, the O’Jays declared that “money is the root of all evil”, but the Bible says that “love of money is a root of all sorts of evil” (1Timothy 6:10, NASB).  While the O’Jays’ declaration resonates with some people, I think the ancient writer was on to something: how we use money can be a source of all kinds of trouble – especially if we use it mindlessly.  So this week’s tip is about becoming aware of how you use your financial resources.

Mindful Monday Tip #4: Mind your Money

  1. For one week, keep a record of each purchase you make: cash, credit/debit card, or check.
  2. Record the date, amount of purchase, and what you bought (without changing your habits).
  3. Do this with curiosity and without judgement.
Becoming mindful of how you use money is a first step to creating financial change and reducing financial stress.
 
What might you discover when you become more aware of your spending habits?
 
If you try this tip and find it helpful, please let me know on my Facebook page or leave a comment here.     

 

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Mindful Monday Tip #3: Use Nature to Combat Sensory Overload

Are you living in sensory overload?  It could wind up your anxiety by taking your body where you don’t want to go.  After all, our bodies process whatever we take into them – from substances we ingest to high stimulation from the environment.  Read my article here  about how changing intake can reduce anxiety, and try today’s tip.  Maybe it’s time to cultivate presence by becoming mindful of nature.

Mindful Monday Tip #3: Observe Nature

For a few moments each day, pay close attention to one aspect of nature.  (Do not attempt to multitask during this experience).  That’s it.

When I gaze into the star studded sky from the edge of a sand dune on Lake Michigan, a peaceful sense of presence fills me.  Pesky worries retreat and chaotic mental chatter flees from my mind.  A similar calming effect occurs as I mindfully gaze  at a tall tree in my Northern VA  backyard.

What might you discover by observing nature for few moments each day?

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Mindfulness: Being in One Place at One Time

In  A Walk to Remember, Landon shows Jamie a painless way to be in two places at once.  In reality, many of us experience this dynamic without straddling a state line: our minds draw us away from the present moment.  Maybe it’s not so stressful when we daydream while driving, but it could be dangerous.  And our bodies and behavior may change in uncomfortable ways when anxiety directs our awareness to the future, or when regret focuses our awareness on the past.

What can help us focus awareness in the present moment – so we can be in one place at one time?  We can practice mindfulness – the state of being fully present in the moment in which we live.  Below is an exercise I learned as a mental health intern.  It has helped me and some clients recognize that the present moment can be a safe place.  I’ll write it as I do it.  It’s all about focusing on the answers to three questions: 

  1. What 5 things do I see in this room?
    1. A Green Cheeked Conure
    2. A laptop
    3. A tribute to my deceased Bedlington Terrier
    4. A Staple’s bag
    5. A library book bag
  2. With eyes closed, what 5 things do I feel?
    1. The comfort of jeans with spandex
    2. The weight of my watch
    3. The pressure of my left palm on my laptop
    4. The softness of carpet on bare feet
    5. The crispness of my shirt
  3. With eyes closed, what 5 things do I hear?
    1. The refrigerator’s hum
    2. My Coonhound whining
    3. Family talking
    4. Outside evening noises
    5. Ding of the microwave

Nothing magical has happened as a result of completing this exercise, but my awareness was engaged in the present moment – not engaged in worries.   What helps you to be fully present in the moment in which you live? 

   

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Attitude…

Recently, I’ve come to regard attitude as a valuable, but often overlooked commodity.  A week ago, the following quote arrived in my inbox via a financial independence newsletter:  “The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives”(William James).  A few days ago, my aunt relayed the following story (without providing any attribution):

 An old lady woke up one day, looked in the mirror, and saw only three hairs on her head.  “I think I’ll braid my hair today, and have a good day”, said the lady, and that’s just what she did.  The next day the old lady woke up, looked in the mirror, and saw only two hairs on her head.  “I think I’ll part my hair in the middle today, and have a good day”, said the lady, and that’s just what she did.  On the third day, the old lady work up, looked in the mirror, and saw NO hairs on her head!  She immediately exclaimed, “Oh goody! I don’t have to do my hair anymore, I think I’ll have a great day!”, and that’s just what she did.

In my neck of the woods, anecdotal data suggest that it’s far easier to expend one’s energy attempting to control/influence external realities, while ignoring one’s internal attitude.  Could it be that we too easily get the cart before the horse by failing to challenge our attitudes?

 

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