Category Archive: Christian Counseling

Apr 03

Video Blog: Anxiety and Philippians 4, Reading it Differently

This week I am trying something new…a video blog….and now apparently a YouTube channel. Yikes! Not sure about this. It feels super vulnerable but I’m hoping it is a new way to share helpful content with you guys.

Anxiety is something we all face and I am sure you’ve heard Philippians 4:6 and maybe you even get irritated with that verse because it is asking you to do something that seems impossible. How can I really be anxious for nothing?? I want to challenge us to look at this scripture with new eyes as we start in verse 4 to get the full context.

What stood out to me the most as I was talking was how God does this work in us of reducing our anxiety….it’s not from us…it’s from Him. Now that is good news.

Things I have learned already about video blogging: landscape mode is best!! Oh well, one take and here it is. Please feel free to leave comments or direct message me on topics you would like to see covered.

I’ve attached the scripture (with my notes) below!!

Anxiety and Philippians 4

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/philippians4/

Mar 01

How to Get the Most Out of Counseling

How to Get The Most Out of CounselingCounseling is an investment. It’s an investment in you. An investment in the healing of present and past pain so it doesn’t continue to impact you in the same way.

Counseling is an investment. It's an investment in you. Click To Tweet

Counseling isn’t just another person to talk to but sitting with a highly trained person who is skilled to be fully present with you, fully attuned to what you say (verbally and non-verbally), and trained to see connections and patterns that you can’t see. This just scratches the surface of what a counselor does and doesn’t cover the hours of research or prep that they do for each client they see.

Counseling isn't just a person to talk to but a person trained to be fully present with you Click To Tweet

Since counseling is a big investment, you want to get the most out of the time (and money) you spend in therapy. Here are some suggestions about making the most out of counseling.

Since counseling is a big investment, you want to get the most out of the time (and money). Click To Tweet

Take the time to choose the right therapist.  The research suggests that one of the greatest factors that contribute to therapeutic success is the relationship or rapport between the counselor and the client. Now that’s a fancy way of saying, you need to click with your therapist and feel safe and comfortable with them. This means that if you take the time to call and speak with different counselors on the phone, ask them questions about their approach, tell them what you are looking for, and see who you feel most comfortable with….you will improve your chances of success in therapy!!! Who you choose as a counselor matters

Who you choose as a counselor matters. Click To Tweet

Know what you are looking to gain. Know what you are looking for. Are you looking to reduce anxiety, heal a past hurt, mend a relationship? Whatever it is, have some idea. This gives both you and your counselor a goal to work towards. Now you very well may find other goals along the journey. This happens frequently. Having an initial idea of what you are looking for, makes it easier to measure progress.

Be ready. Most of us want change but not all of us are ready for it. We may be scared of change or doubt it is even possible. I know it is scary to consider a change. But if you are looking for life to be different, what do you have to lose? Readiness to change is a combination of both openness and willingness. Open to go down whatever road the healing journey takes you and willing to do the work necessary to create change.

Readiness to change is a combination of both openness and willingness. Click To Tweet

Be honest with your counselor, what do you have to lose? Counselors are an interesting breed of people. They aren’t shocked or surprised by hurt, trauma, and pain. They don’t judge. They want you to feel safe to share your deepest pain and secrets. They are bound by confidentiality and won’t share it with anyone. Why not be completely open and honest with them about what is really going on? If you aren’t, you will delay your healing and lengthen the amount of time you are in therapy.

Be open to try what the counselor suggests both in session and out of session. Counselors spend a lot of time researching interventions that will help their clients on their healing journey. Interventions may be homework, letter writing, breathing skills, calming skills, journaling, art therapy, education, or experiential in session interventionsThey may ask you to talk with an empty chair or close your eyes and visualize something. Whatever it is they ask you to do, I promise you, it is to benefit your healing journey. So be all in.

Don’t try to rush the process. Counseling isn’t a quick, instant fix. It takes time to build the relationship, time for patterns to emerge and time for interventions to done and processed. Gaining insight and healing wounds takes time and isn’t a linear process but more of an up and down journey. So, don’t be in such a hurry that you don’t allow yourself the time to really sit with new insights and let them deepen.

Build momentum. Counseling works by the momentum of meeting weekly. Insights are processed over the course of a week and built upon during the next session. If you don’t meet weekly with your therapist then the momentum slows down and the process takes longer. Sometimes the process loses it’s effectiveness because of the loss of momentum. My goal with my clients is to meet weekly, build momentum and the relationship, until it becomes therapeutically beneficial to take more time between sessions. Meaning, I want to work myself out of a job and am constantly assessing where I am with each client. Weekly momentum makes a huge impact on the time it takes to reach counseling goals.

Be open to talking about the counseling relationship with your counselor. If you are uncomfortable or have any concerns about the relationship with your counselor bring it into session. You will notice that a lot of counselors automatically do this and are attuned to your shifts. Discussing the  relationship in session is a big part of the counseling process. If you are reacting to a counselor in a certain way, you’re  probably  reacting to someone in your life that way as well. Process it with your counselor so you can better understand you. Not sure that you are making progress or clicking with your counselor? Ask, talk about it. We’re trained to talk about the relationship and are completely okay with it!!

Take note of insights you gain during the process. Counseling generates a lot of insight.Therefore,  I would encourage you to write your insights down. You could take note of them in session, right after session, during the week as you reflect on the session, or all of the above. Insights are powerful and help us mentally shift and change. Taking note of them will help solidify the insights.

Counseling is a valuable investment anytime you find yourself stuck and struggling in life, especially if you’ve had a complicated and painful life story. You may spend a season of time in counseling that changes your quality of life for the present and the future. Just take a minute to really think about that!!  If you decide counseling would benefit you and live in the McKinney, Texas area, reach out and schedule a free phone consultation. If you don’t live close, I hope these tips help you make the most of your counseling journey. God doesn’t want you to live broken, ashamed, and stuck.

God doesn't want you to live broken, ashamed, and stuck. Click To Tweet

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

Still not sure if the counseling investment is one you are ready to make? Click the image below to read a great article by my friend and colleague Allison Hutson, LPC-Intern supervised by David Dickerson, LPC-S.

Why Do Therapist Charge So Much

 

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/get-the-most-out-of-counseling/

Feb 07

Wanting an Instant Fix: How Our Instant-Upload Culture has Distorted Our Perspective on Change

Instant FixInstant fix. Sounds nice doesn’t it? Isn’t that what we’ve come to expect….a instant quick fix. I wonder if we have the right view of change? That may sound like a silly question. But seriously, how long do you think real life change takes?

You see I’m wondering if we have unrealistic expectations when it comes to a lot of things, especially change. It’s not our fault. The rapidly changing world of technology has lulled us into this mindset.

Today we can quickly take a picture and immediately edit it and share it with all our friends. There’s an actor’s name we can’t remember or some information we need…no problem, just grab your phone and search for it. Need to know how to get somewhere, just type it in the maps app and bam, up come directions. Want to see a movie? Check for times quickly on your phone and even get tickets.

The rapidly changing world of technology has lulled us into a instant fix mindset. Click To Tweet

I know I’m about to sound really old…but I remember a time when we had to WAIT for all of those things. We had to drop film off (praying and hoping we took one good picture) and wait a week to pick it up. We had to drive to the library to research anything. We had to find a map, figure out the route ourselves, and figure out how to fold the darn thing back up. We had to call the movie theater and hope it didn’t have a busy signal (that’s the beeping sound when the line was busy…man I’m feeling old) so we could sit through the list of times recorded by the theatre….or better yet and simpler, we would just drive to the theatre and pick a movie that was showing.

I’m not even scratching the surface of how life has changed over the last 30 years.

Now I am a HUGE fan of this advancement in technology. Cell phones and apps have revolutionized everything and I am grateful. So much has been simplified and streamlined. Yet, we’ve lost a few things along the way.

 

So much comes easy now that we’ve forgotten life's not that simple. Click To Tweet

So many things come so quickly and easily now that we’ve forgotten that not everything in life happens that way. Sometimes things happen in life and there isn’t an instant fix. In fact, an instant fix would not really even solve the problem. Some things in life are meant to take time.

Some things in life are meant to take time. Click To Tweet

Now we are willing to wait for pleasant things (aka…standing in line for concert tickets, roller coasters, meeting someone famous, really good food, etc.) But, are we willing to wait for things that aren’t as easy but take time? Things like:

Healing from Betrayal

 

Healing Relationship Problems

 

Healing from Anxiety

 

Healing from Depression

 

Healing from Trauma

 

Healing from Abuse

 

Changing Distorted Thinking

 

Healing from Perfectionism

 

Walking through Grief

No one wants to walk through those hard things. No one. But we all will face one if not several in our lifetime. So many come into counseling and want to rush the process. They don’t like the emotions they feel, it takes too long, it’s not easy, or simple. So they avoid, numb, deny, or distract themselves with more technology, another relationship, or some other dysfunctional coping strategy. This delays real healing.

So many come into counseling and want to rush the process delaying healing. Click To Tweet

Healing the body, the mind, the soul, or relationships takes time. It’s not a quick insta-change process. Yet real healing and real change is worth the wait and perseverance it takes to get there. Don’t be afraid of a slower process. It’s normal, good and necessary for lasting change.

Yet real healing and real change is worth the wait and perseverance it takes to get there. Click To Tweet

 

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/instant-fix/

Jan 09

The Troubled Journey: A Parable of Life, Obstacles, and Hope

This week I am excited to share a parable written by my son.  It’s an amazing picture of what I’ve observed personally in my own life and as a counselor who sits with many people on a troubled journey.

Troubled Journey

There was once a person, who sat, troubled. For this person had been on a journey, and had come to a cliff blocking their path. They saw no bridge to cross it, and saw no way around it for the air was too dark. So they sat, wondering if their journey had come to an end. After what seemed like a very long time of sitting and staring, they began to question if they need only walk off the cliff. And up they stood, with rash, to walk off. 

But then they saw something approaching them in the darkness. A spirit had come to them. The spirit seemed to have a familiar face and they greeted the spirit as one does. Then the spirit turned them around. And all of a sudden, they felt comforted by a presence that had always been with them but they had never noticed. They saw that the path behind them was light, and they saw many faces all smiling towards them. Many faces of which they knew as old friends, and many faces of which were unknown to them.

Guided by the comforting presence they walked to the smiling people and told them their problem. Then all of the smiling people walked to the edge and began to form a bridge. All together the smiling people formed a bridge and for the first time the person, once troubled, could see the other side of the cliff. So they walked across the bridge with the comforting presence. While walking across, they almost fell many times, but whenever they did the comforting presence carried them back to balance.

Eventually, they crossed the bridge and stood at the other side that once did not exist to them. The smiling people stood together with them and they began to walk the new path they saw. And through the time walking this path they crossed many cliffs where the smiling people made bridges for them, and they helped make many bridges for others of the smiling people who then frowned. But they could always tell that the comforting presence was with them, either guiding or carrying.

Written by Nathan Thompson

Everyone sees something a little bit different in this parable. Please comment below with your thoughts and reflections. Like it? Please share it on social media. There is always hope!

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/troubled-journey/

Oct 30

Seeing a Counselor/Therapist? What’s Wrong with You?

counselor/therapist investment in youYou’re seeing a counselor/therapist? What’s wrong with you? I think this is the automatic thought most people have when we find out someone is seeing a counselor/therapist. Frequently this thought is accompanied by judgment. For those who decide to seek counseling, the shame and fear that comes with that predominant thought may contribute to many choosing to avoid or delay getting help. This breaks my heart because I spend time with really good counselors and the help available out there is amazing. So in this blog, I want to spend some time challenging the counseling/therapy stigma.
Let me ask you a question. If you have something wrong with your car and you can’t fix it yourself would you feel shame and guilt for needing to take it in to the repair shop?
Of course not. You have limited knowledge about cars (and a lot of other things) so you go to someone with more knowledge about that subject and pay them help you solve your car problem.
Now let’s say you are struggling with overwhelming stress and fear. So much so that it is beginning to impact your ability to function in life or maybe even leave your home. Telling yourself to get over it hasn’t worked and you really aren’t sure what to do next. You’ve talked to your friends and family but they don’t know how to help you either.
What if I told you that is one of the areas I specialize in. I help people understand how anxiety impacts the body, learn coping tools to calm the body, look for what is underneath the anxiety and deal with that.
A counselor/therapist is trained to do the following:
  1. Normalize: Everyone that comes in struggles with very normal life issues
  2. Educate: Knowing what and why things are happening
  3. Listen and ask the right questions: There is great power in being really listened to and understood
  4. Teach new coping skills: Learning new tools to deal with life’s challenges
  5. Look at root causes: Figuring out what went wrong and healing, growing, or changing.
  6. Facilitate a safe place to heal and grow. This is the ultimate safe relationship to explore who you are and who you want to be.
Not Crazy but Normal
People seek counseling/therapy not because they are crazy but because they are dealing with hard life circumstances, thoughts, emotions, and relationships. They recognize they need more knowledge and insight to solve whatever problem they are experiencing. The good news is there is so much hope for those who do seek help. It’s not a weak person that seeks therapy but someone who is:
Brave
Strong
Growth Minded
A Hope Seeker
Wise
 It’s not a weak person that seeks therapy but the brave. Click To Tweet
Now, I want to speak to the Christian crowd for a minute. There is a group of believers that do not believe in counseling/therapy. They feel that only prayer and scripture can solve life’s problems. I strongly value prayer and studying God’s word. Yet we don’t apply that line of thinking to any other profession. We wouldn’t refuse to go to a doctor and just pray. No, when a loved one is sick we go to professionally trained person to find healing. Why would we discourage others from finding help with the brokenness that we as believers know is a part of this world? We, as believers, know that the world is broken and people are impacted by that brokenness. Brokenness and sin’s impact is everywhere and sometimes its effects are so impactful that it’s normal to need support and help to deal with it.
I felt a specific call by God to counsel. I pray over my counseling room before I see clients and invite God into the session. I am a theology nerd and spend a lot of time learning and studying, theology and psychology. I believe that since God designed the world and humans, that true and honest scientific/psychological/sociological studies will validate and give us insight into what God has designed and laid out in scripture.
I am honored to do what I do. It is a gift to sit and walk with those struggling. It is exciting to see people grow, change, and heal. It’s amazing to be a part of God’s work of pushing back darkness and lies. I pray that if you are considering counseling, you will reach out, talk to a counselor on the phone, ask questions, and find someone you feel comfortable working with. 
“True wisdom is knowing what you don’t know.” Confucius
“True wisdom is knowing what you don’t know.” Confucius Click To Tweet
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates Click To Tweet
“How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight than silver.” Proverbs 16:16
“How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight than silver.” Proverbs 16:16 Click To Tweet
“A person’s thoughts are like water in a deep well, but someone with insight can draw them out.” Proverbs 19:5
“A person’s thoughts are like deep water but someone with insight can draw them out.” Prov. 19:5 Click To Tweet

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/counselor-therapist-stigma/

Oct 12

The Happiness Myth: Embracing The Power of Radical Acceptance

radical acceptanceAre you happy? How much time do you spend thinking about happiness? Everyone seems to be chasing it. The pursuit of happiness is ingrained in Americans. Do you think happiness is an achievable, permanent state? I think a lot of us do. Most clients mention happiness as one of their goals for counseling. I hear a lot of people say things like “I’m just not happy”; “I just want to be happy”; “Life shouldn’t be so hard”.
As I listen to people speak about happiness, I’ve observed a common definition of happiness. Most view happiness as the fulfillment of personal desires and pleasure and/or the absence of struggle, conflict, or pain.
Unfortunately, this definition of happiness describes a fleeting, temporary experience not a permanent state. This collides head on with our expectation that happiness be permanent. We freak out thinking something is wrong with us because we aren’t happy. If our expectation of life is perpetual happiness, we will find ourselves continually frustrated. Because life is full of difficult circumstances, painful emotions, and challenging people.
There’s a great concept in psychology called radical acceptance. I’ve thought about this idea a lot this week. Basically radical acceptance is accepting all of what is instead of resisting reality. You may not think you resist reality but you probably do. Radical acceptance involves accepting your circumstances, your emotions, your past, and your pain.
You see, we add to our pain by resisting. We resist reality, we resist emotions, and we resist our circumstances. One way we resist is by dwelling on how awful something is and wishing it were different (or desperately praying for God to intervene and change it). Take a moment and think about what situation or emotion you are resisting? How are you resisting? Radical acceptance involves accepting reality for what it is even if it isn’t what we want it to be.
Radical acceptance involves accepting reality for what it is even if its not what we want. Click To Tweet
Acceptance isn’t approval. Much of life falls outside our control: we may lose a job, a close family member dies, a marriage ends, a traumatic event happens, or we may become ill. All of these situations are not things we would choose or approve of. However, we can radically accept that they are a real part of our life. Failing to do this actually increases our suffering and delays healing, growth, and problem solving.
Acceptance isn’t approval. Click To Tweet
Acceptance is also not surrender. We accept what is in our past and in our present moment. Change comes by what we do next…in the future. Accepting reality allows us to let go of what we have no control over and look at the power we do have. It is a shift towards resilience which is the ability to recover from difficulties. Resilience first begins with accepting that the difficulty exists.
Acceptance is also not surrender or hopelessness. Click To Tweet
This is not easy. Radical acceptance is a deeply internal and difficult experience because our nature fights against this idea.
Radical acceptance  involves accepting:
  • reality for what it is
  • that everything has a cause
  • that life can be worth living even during painful circumstances.
Now I think radical acceptance is a part of faith for the Jesus follower. The Bible teaches that God is sovereign and that suffering is a part of life. Jesus radically accepted that he must go to the cross even though he experienced suffering and betrayal. Paul radically accepted tremendous hardship for the sake of spreading the gospel. Nowhere in scripture is happiness taught. What is taught is contentment in all circumstances (Philippians 4:11-13).
So here’s what blew my mind this week….contentment requires radical acceptance. Contentment is a deeper satisfaction despite circumstances. This is sustainable.  Unlike happiness, contentment is rooted in acceptance: acceptance of reality as it is and the acceptance of God’s unchanging truth.
Unlike happiness, contentment is rooted in acceptance. Click To Tweet
Contentment requires radical acceptance of reality and God's unchanging truth Click To Tweet
These two ideas increase the power of radical acceptance
  • I can radically accept reality. We live in a broken world with broken people.
    Whatever is going on in your life that is outside of your control, accept it. That difficult person, accept them for who they are. You may wish they would change but you have no power to change them.
    That challenge you are facing (loss of job, physical disability, loss of a relationship, unfair treatment, large amount of work for school, the political chaos right now etc), accept it. It is what is.
    Wishing circumstances were different doesn’t change reality and doesn’t empower you for the next moment. Accept it. Change, growth, and hope begin with acceptance.
    You can radically accept reality Click To Tweet
  • I can radically accept God at his word. God is good and works all things for his glory and my good. His definition of my good may look very different than mine. Yet, I can trust what God says and walk by faith regardless of what I feel.
    I can radically accept myself because of who God says I am (Psalm 139, Ephesians 1).
    I can radically accept that I am saved, justified, and made right because of Jesus.
    I can radically accept that I live in a broken world and will have trouble. I can radically accept that God has overcome (John 16:33).
  • Radical acceptance brings contentment, peace, and rest. (Matthew 11:28-29)
    You can radically accept God at his word. Click To Tweet
What are you resisting accepting?
How has this resistance increased your suffering?
How might acceptance empower you for what’s next?
Struggling or want to learn more about radical acceptance? Follow my social media this week for additional articles and information. Need help, reach out and contact a good counselor.

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/radical-acceptance/

Aug 26

Struggling? Experiencing Trouble? Need A Very Present Help??

Present HelpI’ve decided to write occasionally about thoughts God shows me during my personal Bible study time. This week I’ve been really thinking about Psalm 46:2. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” This is something I think we as Christians have a great intellectual understanding of but struggle to really grasp it with our hearts and soul.

We know God is for us and gives us strength and we know that we can turn to Him in times of trouble. Yet, I’m not sure we really believe He is a present help. I mean we know eventually it will all work out when Christ returns but do we believe He is a present help? Not just a present help but a very present help? If we really believed it, I think we would be less worried and stressed. So what keeps us from experiencing God’s very present help?

I think it may be connected to our ability to surrender to Him. We like to be in control and we like to know what is going to happen next. If we know, then we can prepare for the bad or rest in knowing that it will work out. Right? But God doesn’t help us in that way…He doesn’t tell us what is coming or what is next. So maybe we don’t experience God’s present help because we don’t surrender to His way of helping us.

God is a Sheild“This God—His way is perfect; the Word of the Lord proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him. Psalms 18:30

This passage indicates that God wants us to take refuge in Him. We go to Him. He wants us to confidently “draw near” as Hebrews 4:16 tells us. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need.” So maybe God’s help isn’t always taking away our trouble but being with us in our trouble. Perhaps He wants us to come to Him, seek Him, and find that He is enough.

God is not for my comfort or my easy happy life. God is for God and His glory. He gets glory because He creates, love, saves, is merciful, extends grace, is patient, redeems, and restores. God is doing big things and wants us to join Him. He is working in good times and bad to change us and mold us. He wants us to be a part of ministering to broken people and saving lost people. We weren’t promised an easy happy life without trouble. But we were promised God’s very present help in trouble. You may not feel it but it’s there. Scripture is very clear on that. It doesn’t say you will feel differently as God is a present help OR that God will take away your trouble….it just says He IS a present help IN trouble.

So draw near (Heb. 4:16). Gaze on the beauty of God (Psalm 40:2, 2 Corinthians 3:18). Remind yourself of His truths (2 Peter 1). Meditate on how much He loves you (Psalm 139, Ephesians 1). Worship God, know He is near, tell Him everything, surrender to Him, and He will give you peace (Philippians 4:4-7).

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” Proverbs 18:10

Maybe God’s help isn’t always taking away our trouble but being with us in our trouble. Click To Tweet

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/present-help/

Aug 16

Small Steps to Big Change. Pushing Past the Overwhelm.

Goals. Change.

Do you want to make a big change in your life? Do you have a goal that seems so far off that you’re overwhelmed by the very thought of taking steps to reach it? So many of us don’t take steps to our goals because we are overwhelmed by change and all that it takes to reach it.
So many of us don’t take steps to our goals because we are overwhelmed by all that it takes to… Click To Tweet
Pause.
Take a deep breath in. Slowly exhale.
Visualize your goal.
Is it growing as a person? Dealing with anger, resentment, bitterness? Healing from a past pain or trauma? Is it finding a new job? Going back to school? Improving a relationship?
Whatever it is visualize it and visualize you’ve met the goal. What emotions come up when you think about achieving that goal? Write them down.
Now imagine you are a year in the future and you’ve taken no steps toward this goal? What emotions come up?
Now write down the emotions that come up when you think about starting to change and move toward your goal?
What is one step, one change you can make this week that is a small step toward your goal?
See small changes and small steps get us to big goals. No one ever leaped over a mountain. They climbed it one small step at a time. Overwhelm is a normal experience when facing a big climb. Yet, nothing ever worth anything came easy.
See small changes and small steps get us to big goals. Click To Tweet
You can do it! You can take one small step after another. Before you know it you will be able to see your mountaintop. Grab your bravery, strength, and perseverance and take a step!
Grab your bravery, strength, and perseverance and take a step! Click To Tweet
“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14
What do you need to forget? What do you need to focus on? What is the next small step toward your big goal? You got this!

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/change/

May 10

Guard Your Heart. A How-To Guide.

Guard Heart

We hear this phrase a lot: guard your heart.
What does this mean?
Is guarding your heart a defensive maneuver meant to shield us from hurt?
If that is true, does it mean isolating ourselves from others?
Is it strictly for those that are dating?
If it is about protection, that seems to contradict what God tells us other places in scripture. God commands us to love, be light, have compassion, and be humble. How can we do that and guard our heart? How on earth does this all connect? C.S. Lewis captured the tension in his book The Four Loves. 
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
To love is to be vulnerable. Click To Tweet
Loving clearly puts our heart at risk and yet God calls us to love Him and love others. So, what on earth does guard your heart mean? I’m not sure I know the exact answer but I have discovered a few things that I think are key:

How to Guard Your Heart

  • Anchor your identity in Jesus: We could end the conversation here really. The first part of Proverbs 4 talks repeatedly about gaining insight and wisdom. Proverbs defines wisdom as the fear of the Lord and insight as the knowledge of God (Proverbs 9:10). So in context, we guard our hearts by knowing, loving, and pursuing a relationship with God. This relationship is the only secure, safe relationship. The only one that won’t hurt or disappoint us. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us how deceitful our hearts really are. As a result of our deceitful hearts, we seek to find our identity in things other than God. In doing so, our hearts are left unguarded. Life and relationships are full of hurt. The intensity of the hurt and the ability to recover depends on where you place your identity. Is it in God? If it is, then when life becomes hard and painful your boat won’t sink. Is it in a job, talent, or relationship? Watch out…you anchor is thrown into a neighboring boat and a storm is coming. Anchoring your identity in the depth of God’s love for you allows us to love, be vulnerable, and risk because we know we are first and foremost forever loved by God. Perhaps thats why God commands us to love Him first before we can love others. (Luke 10:27). Click here to read more: We Dig: The Daily Struggles with Addictions and Idolatry and Identity Attacked.
  • Know and pursue your passions: We are all different…we have different strengths, different weaknesses, different temperaments, different life experiences, and different passions. Frequently, we compare ourselves to others and feel less than. Comparison can drive our heart away from God and cause us to miss the unique person He created us to be.
    Comparison can drive our heart away from God and cause us to miss the unique person He created… Click To Tweet
    guard your heart expectationsKnowing and celebrating how you are uniquely made serves to protect us from comparison and guide our choices. Not sure about how God designed you…seek out personality tests that can help you figure it out. Draw close to God and ask him to show you. Consider what gives you energy and excites you. All these things will help you on your journey to discover your purpose and passions.
  • Have realistic expectations: Expectations unconsciously drive our emotional reactions. If what we expect happens, then we tend not to notice it. BUT, if what we expect doesn’t happen….then watch out….we feel violated, irritated, annoyed…and we react. All of this happens in a split second without a lot of thought involved. The problem comes if our expectations are unreasonable and unrealistic. See we live in a broken world with other broken people. We want (and need) others to give us grace but we often don’t expect to have to give it to others. People demonstrate who they are over time. Whether you agree with how they choose to be in the world or not, they are who they are. Are your expectations based on the real and not what you wish or hope for? Life involves difficulty and struggle. Do you expect things to be difficult at times or do you have idealistic expectations? Realistic expectations help guard our hearts from unnecessary emotional reactions and pain. Read more about expectations and reactions.
          Expectations unconsciously drive our emotional reactions. Click To Tweet
  • Keep safe friends: Safe people accept us for who we are and don’t try to change us. They are trustworthy, compassionate, real, and care for us as guard heart with boundarieswe care for them. These are (or should be) your best friends. These friends help you guard your heart because they love you, know you, and accept you. If you find yourself withdrawing from these safe friends, think about why. Reflect on the person or circumstances. Pulling away from safe people is a warning sign that we may not be guarding our heart well. If we are in close relationship with people who are not safe, than our heart is unguarded because we are in relationship with someone that doesn’t love the real you. This can leave your heart unnecessarily exposed. Read more about safe people here.
  • Set boundaries when needed. Fences around our yards are the best visual for boundaries that I can think of. If a tree falls in my yard, than I know it is my responsibility to clean it up. If a tree falls in my neighbor’s yard, that’s not my responsibility but his. We all have personal boundaries around our soul. They are emotional, physical, mental, and relational. Just like a fence, we all have imaginary gates that allow things in and out of our soul “yard”. Some of us never learned we had a gate and so our gate is stuck open….everything comes in to impact our soul. Learning how to close your gate, learning what is yours to own, and learning what to take in or let go is all a part of boundaries. Boundaries guard our hearts. Read more about boundaries here.
       Boundaries guard our hearts. Click To Tweet
  • be real guard your heartBe real: We all love people who are real. Who don’t hide…who share their imperfections…and own their strengths and weaknesses. It draws us to them. These people appear confident and we envy their confidence. It’s not confidence as much as embracing who they are and being real. Hiding our imperfections and weaknesses while only presenting our strengths or a mask breeds shame and self-criticism. This is highly toxic to our heart.  “Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.” (Brene’ Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection). Embracing who we are (warts and all) and bravely sharing that with the world guards our heart. “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”  (Brene’ Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection). Read more about embracing imperfection.
    So guarding our heart is more complex than most people think and it’s definitely not about  isolation and protection. It’s loving God first and then loving others in a healthy way. So how are you doing at guarding your heart? Need help with any of these ideas….seek out solid resources or find a counselor. There is always hope!
Guarding your heart is about loving God first and then loving others in a healthy way. Click To Tweet
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Apr 10

5 Anxiety Management Tips

anxiety management tipsSeeking anxiety management tips that really work? Tired of struggling? Worn-out and exhausted by anxiety and stress? Want something different? We all struggle with anxiety and stress on some level. Yet, some of us experience it at more intense levels. These anxiety management tips are the most frequent things I teach in my counseling practice. I’m going to give them to you for FREE! So take a deep breath, get comfortable, relax, and keep reading.

Anxiety is a powerful emotion that can develop into a vicious cycle.  It may start for one reason but the cycle can continue for different reasons.  See my previous post on anxiety to understand how this cycle starts and continues.

anxiety cycleNow, understanding anxiety is helpful but what someone struggling with anxiety really needs is in the moment help!  When in the midst of anxiety, the natural response is to escape NOW whatever situation you’ve decided is causing this response.  Unfortunately, this  can lead to increased anxiety either now or in the future.


Aaaah! So what can you do?  What does the Bible say?  What does the research say?  Is there hope?

YES!  There is HOPE for those brave people willing to try something different.  Let me tell you, I am serious about the word brave!  It takes incredible bravery to face any kind of fear head on and I am humbled by those I’ve seen take these steps.  To me, you are a real hero!  

It takes incredible bravery to face any kind of fear head on! Click To Tweet

Below are methods for dealing with anxiety that I teach in my counseling practice. These are proven techniques that are both psychologically and Biblically sound. 

5 Anxiety Management Tips

  1. Accept the anxiety. Stay with me…I know it sounds crazy but give yourself permission to experience the anxiety. Instead of trying to distract or get rid of the anxiety…acknowledge it…expect it. This emotion is trying to speak to you. What is it saying? This turns the tables on the anxious experience. Instead of anxiety being the uninvited guest barges in your house, it becomes the welcomed messenger.

    Instead of trying to distract or get rid of the anxiety...acknowledge it...expect it. Click To Tweet

  2. anxiety management tipsCalm the physical body:  The physical response to anxiety is so overwhelming that it’s extremely scary.  Fear is a physical experience because our body is preparing to fight or run. That is a natural and normal response to fear. When we experience fear:  all the blood in our body moves to our legs, our breathing and heart rate increase, and certain hormones are released. This all happens to protect us but often in our culture, we don’t need to run or fight. So how can we short circuit this physical cycle? With deep slow breathing. Take a deep slow breath in (count to 4)….Hold (count to 4)…Breathe out slow (count to 4). Repeat as many times as needed, till the anxiety comes down. Pay attention to your breath…imagine you are breathing in calm and breathing out fear. Practice this type of breathing when you are not anxious so it is easier to do in the midst of panic. Scripture tells us we have the power to calm ourselves in the face of fear.  “I have made myself calm and content like a young child in its mother’s arms. Deep down inside me, I am as content as a young child…put your hope in the Lord both now and forever.” Psalm 131:2-3

    How can we short circuit the body's response to anxiety? With deep slow breathing Click To Tweet

  3. Focus on the Present Moment:  This just means being fully present in the current moment.  So much of our worry and fear is focused around something that happened in the past or what might happen in the future.anxiety management tips

    The present moment is all we really have power over. Focusing on the present moment brings us into a space we have power in and it focuses our mind. The psychological term is mindfulness.

    For the Christian, this has two parts:

    Being fully present with yourself in the current moment.  This involves taking the focus off of your anxiety/fear and placing it onto the observable world around you.  Using your senses, evaluate what you hear, see, taste, touch, or smell.  Start describing you immediate present moment.  Name 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you touch, 2 things you smell, and 1 thing you taste. Sometimes just observing the world with our senses can bring mental calm.  When Jesus deals with his disciple’s anxiety, He points out what He observes in the present moment around them.

    So much of our worry and fear is focused around the past or what might happen in the future. Click To Tweet

    Observing the world with our senses can bring mental calm. Click To Tweet

    “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?   Matthew 6: 25-30

    Being fully present in the current moment with God.  God is always with you no matter your experience.  Remembering that in the middle of panic is one of the ways the Bible instructs us to handle the difficult situations we encounter.  Jesus reminds his disciples of this in Matthew 6.  God calls us continually to come to Him for REST.

    God is always with you no matter your experience. Click To Tweet

    Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”  Matthew 6: 31-34

    “Be still, and know that I am God.”   Psalm 46:9

    “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him, fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices.”  Psalm 37:7

    You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.  Isaiah 46:8

    Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28

    “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

    You can read more about mindfulness, here.

  4.  Challenge anxious thoughts:  Thoughts are powerful and most of us believe whatever we think.  In addition, we develop thinking habits over time.  Do any of these habits sound familiar to you:

    Negative thinking

    Jumping to conclusions

    Predicting an outcome

    Comparing yourself to others

    Reading other people’s minds

    Critical internal voice

    Catastrophizing

    Harsh judgments of self and others

    Thoughts are powerful and most of us believe whatever we think. Click To Tweet

    If you identify with any of these thinking patterns (and let’s be honest, we all do this on some level) then let’s start here.  You may anxiety management tipsnot even realize that those thoughts are leading to anxiety….but it is! That is why anxiety must be accepted and listened to. It is telling you that something is off…often what’s off is our thinking. Learning how to challenge our thoughts and change our internal dialogue will dramatically change our experience.  

    But how?  Start by:  1) Giving yourself permission to question your thoughts 2)Journal your thoughts, 3) Question whether your thoughts are true  or balanced, and 4) Consider alternative self-compassionate thoughts.  If you struggle with this, find a good counselor who can help you.

    Scripture tells us to:

    Pay attention to our thoughts:  “For as a man thinks within himself, so is he” Proverbs 23:7

    Renew our mind.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  Romans 12:2  

    Evaluate  and recognize truthful and beneficial thoughts.  “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:32  “Finally, my brothers and sisters, always think about what is true. Think about what is noble, right and pure. Think about what is lovely and worthy of respect. If anything is excellent or worthy of praise, think about those kinds of things.”  Philippians 4:8

    Read more about challenging your thoughts here.

  5. Look at your heart:  What we are anxious about reveals what we value and treasure.  I know that’s tough to hear but it’s truth.  Matthew 6:21 tells us that “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Jesus tells people this right before he instructs them not to worry.  Our worry reveals what we value.  For some people, it is safety, for others control, for some it’s how they perform, and for others it’s the image others have of them.

    Worry reveals what we value. Click To Tweet

    What is deep behind your fear?  What are you placing at higher value than God?  Do you really trust that God is good?

    God is enough. God is in control.  God is good.  God is at work. God can be trusted. Your identity is settled.

    anxiety management tips“My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.”  Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!  My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.  But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,  “therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3: 18-24

Cling to GRACE:  All of the above things will help you manage and deal with your anxiety.  After some consistent work, you will start to see your anxiety reactions decrease.  However, anxiety may still sneak up on you.  None of us are perfect nor will we achieve that status till God makes all things new.  You know what is awesome?  “There is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)  and your perfect record before God as a Christian is the sin free life of Jesus! Cling to that grace! Take a deep breath and start again!  There is always hope!

Your perfect record before God as a Christian is the sin-free life of Jesus. Click To Tweet

Don’t be afraid.  Don’t give up.  The Lord your God is with you.  He is mighty enough to save you.  He will take great delight in you.  The quietness of his love will calm you down.  He will sing with joy because of you.”  Zephaniah 3:16-17

If you like what you read, please comment below or share on social media. ❤️

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