Tag Archive: fear

Jun 13

Emotions Don’t Define Us: Reconsider Your View of Them

Emotions Don't Define Us
I’ve written quite a bit about emotions and their purpose for us. They give us information and they are wise friends who speak truth into us. Yet this morning I am reflecting on the idea that often we allow our emotions to define us. Emotions were never meant to define….that is a distortion we create when we misunderstand their purpose.
Emotions were never meant to define us. Click To Tweet
They are information givers. I love this quote I heard on Anne with an E (an awesome show on Netflix): “Emotion is rarely convenient and often intolerable but I find in the moment that I don’t mind it. Grief is the price you pay for love.”
Grief is the price you pay for love. Click To Tweet
Emotion is rarely convenient and often intolerable but I find in the moment that I don’t mind… Click To Tweet
She gets it. We don’t have to feel good to be okay. We can be okay no matter how we feel because emotions are not definitions. They indicate something has happened in our past or present that needs attending to.
Emotions indicate something has happened in our past or present that needs attending to Click To Tweet
Maybe it’s grief that is being processed to incorporate loss into life. Maybe it’s shame from abuse in the past that needs to be challenged. Maybe it’s fear telling us something is wrong and we need to look at it. These are valuable tools for growth and change. Listening to them and seeing the problem helps us grow, mature, and change.
Listening to emotions and seeing the problem helps us grow, mature, and change. Click To Tweet
I’ve walked in my own story of grief over the last two months and I am sure it will continue. I find sadness and grief come at unexpected times, indicating to me it’s time to stop and honor my memories, my sadness, and acknowledge my loss. I sit with many people whose emotions give them clues to healing and change that needs to happen.
Please don’t dismiss your emotions as invaluable or unimportant. Please don’t let them define who you are but allow them to be what they are…beautiful signals communicating to us information that we would be wise to consider. Need help understanding what your emotions are saying, a counselor can help.

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/emotions-dont-define/

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. ❤️

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/anxiety-management-tips/

Sep 01

Feelings: What’s the Point??

feelingsI can’t begin to tell you how many people come into my office with problems because they:
  • think they are crazy for having feelings
  • ignore their feelings and now they are too big to ignore
  • they see no useful value in feelings yet are confused as to why they are stuck
  • they are frustrated with some relationship in their life
Let me first say, EVERYONE HAS FEELINGS!!!! (There, I FEEL better).
It is perfectly normal to feel, emotions don’t make you crazy but actually NORMAL. Click To Tweet
It is perfectly normal to feel, emotions don’t make you crazy but actually NORMAL. Yes, that is right, feelings are perfectly normal. WHAT?? Even the “bad” ones like anxiety and sadness and anger? Yes, even those are completely and totally NORMAL!
Somehow, we have lost an understanding of the purpose and benefit of emotions. We have decided that they are for the super emotional, nurturing types (like touchy feely counselors) but that “normal” people don’t talk about, acknowledge or express feelings. Unfortunately, this has led to a lot of problems like: clinical anxiety disorders, major depression, relationship problems, and addiction issues.
Emotions are a God given, God designed signal system, similar to our senses. Click To Tweet
Emotions are a God given, God designed signal system, similar to our senses. We collect information about the physical world through our five senses (sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch). No one labels one of these senses as bad, just because they smell something bad. They just give you information. There is a bad smell; I think I should leave the room (this may or may not happen a lot in my house…boys).   Our senses serve to protect and guide us through the physical world.
Emotions work in a similar way. We get information about the relational world through feelings (sad, angry, afraid, happy, content, shame, safe, love, alone etc.). Emotions give us information. They tell us what we need and give us energy to take action. Emotions serve to protect and guide us in the relational world.
Emotions serve to protect and guide us in the relational world. Click To Tweet
If you ignore a feeling, because it is trying to give you information and you aren’t listening…it will get LOUDER. I mean, wouldn’t you get louder if you were trying to get someone’s attention?? So ignoring, stuffing, numbing, or denying a feeling only creates louder feelings. These louder feelings are what send some into panic, depression, or fits of rage. Not only that, if you ignore, stuff, numb, or deny the “bad” feelings…then you mute the “good” feelings too. YIKES!
Another reason people avoid emotions is because they don’t like the feeling and are concerned they will get “stuck” in a certain emotion. Emotions are not permanent states of being. We feel a variety of different things throughout the day. Emotions ebb and flow like running water.
Emotions are not permanent states of being. Click To Tweet
So what can you do to start paying attention to the signals your emotions give you:
  • Give yourself permission to feel.
  • Pay attention to the emotions as they flow throughout the day, name them, write them down.
  • What message is the emotion giving you, what do you need?
  • Share your emotion and need with a safe person (someone who loves you as you are, flaws and all)
  • Watch the movie Inside Out for more help on understanding feelings and their purpose (such a good movie…I can’t even begin to say how much I love it).
  • Seek help. Counselors can help give you language for emotion and will walk you through this process with a specific focus on you, your history, and your issues.
Emotions serve to help us identify needs, connect in relationships, and heal from hurts and traumas. To deny this aspect of your self is like living life on mute instead of full stereo sound OR in black/white instead of full color!
“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. ❤️

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/feelings-whats-the-point/

Mar 18

Help! My Thoughts Won’t Stop!!

As a counselor, one of the common things people struggle with are what I call spinning or out of control thoughts.  The psychological term for this is rumination and we all struggle with this.  Usually we ruminate about a fear or worry.  We are worried and afraid, so we continually think about it to try and solve it or fix it.  Often we are trying to think our way out of a feeling!
Mindfulness is very big in psychology right now and has proven very helpful with rumination.  Mindfulness has personally helped a lot of clients.
Mindfulness Overview
Mindfulness has to do with the quality of awareness that we bring to what we are doing and experiencing, to being in the here and now.  It has to do with learning to focus on being in the present, to focusing our attention on what we are doing and what is happening in the present. We have to learn to control our attention. Many of us are distracted by images, thoughts and feelings of the past, perhaps dissociating, worrying about the future, negative moods and anxieties about the present.   It’s hard to put these things away and concentrate on the task at hand.
So the One-mindfulness skill is an effort to help us focus our attention on the here and now, to be able to absorb the DBT information and take part in the present. Please do not judge yourselves about this. This can be a difficult skill for people to learn. It requires lots of practice and willingness. Be patient with yourself.”
From DBT Self Help
Mindfulness is a Biblical Idea.  Although, these concepts are fairly new to psychology, the principles and concepts are found in scripture.
  • Be Fully Present in the Current Moment with God
    • “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
  • In the present moment, notice how God cares for the world around you and for you in very practical ways! God wants our focus to be in the present of today’s moments!
    • “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? 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: 25-34
    • When Jesus deals with his disciple’s anxiety, He points out what He observes in the present moment around them. Look at the birds, consider the flowers. Sometimes, just simply observing the world with our senses (smell, taste, touch, sight) can bring mental calm. If nothing else, counting your breaths and slowing them can bring physical calm. Jesus keeps them in the present moment by telling them to only focus on today.
  • Christian Mindfulness is Rest for your soul! In emotional distress, the Bible indicates that God wants us to come to Him and find rest. What specific activities keep you in the present moment with Jesus and give you rest?
    • “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.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7
  • Don’t assume your judgment of your thoughts or feelings is truth (just observe your thoughts or feelings without judgment in the moment). Observe the thought and test it against God’s Word
    • Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered. Proverbs 28:26
    • “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
    • “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthythink about such things.” Philippians 4:8
Mindfulness Examples
Mindfulness involves:
Awareness: What is going on around me, what do I see, what do I smell, what do I taste, how do things feel as I touch them?
Nonjudgmental View of Thoughts: Thoughts or feelings aren’t bad or good, normal or abnormal. They are  just thoughts and feelings.  They flow in and out like water.
Staying in the Moment: This may be the hardest part for those that focus on the past or worry about the future.
Takes Practice: This takes practice during non-emotional times so that it becomes easier to do during emotionally overwhelming times. Practice staying in the moment and observing what you notice with your senses during showers, brushing teeth, or during daily chores. Click Here for samples of mindfulness exercises.

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

rest and hope in God

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

Sep 06

Anxiety

ANXIETY!

What an ugly word that conjures images  of stressful moments, failures, fears, and bodily anguish!  Those that suffer from it know that it is the uninvited guest that completely destroys the present moment.  And, unless you’ve battled this monster, you don’t completely understand the intensity or cyclical nature of this problem.  So for all fellow strugglers  and for those that love someone who struggles, this post is for you!

funny-anxiety-girl

 So, what is ANXIETY exactly?

Anxiety is FEAR.  Ok, blog post over.  See ya next week!  No really, anxiety is fear but fear without a direct threat.  An example of fear with a direct threat would be standing in front of someone with a gun pointed at you ready to pull the trigger (Yikes!).  This is a direct threat to your safety.  When that happens, your body starts preparing to fight or flee.  Your heart rate rises, your blood pumps faster, your body releases chemicals to help you respond and protect yourself.  This happens instantaneously as your brain processes the fear response.

ANXIETY is a fear response without a direct threat.

So, how does one develop a fear minus a direct threat?

Well, the brain has different places that serve different purposes.  There is an emotional brain (the amygdala) and a logical brain (the cortex).  Most of our conscious thoughts and decisions happen from our logical brain.  The emotional brain is different.  It has the ability to sense danger and produce the fear emotion without letting the logical brain in on the process (uh oh).  This part of your brain also stores emotional memories and learns not by reason but by the pairing a specific situation with a specific emotion.  Because the emotional brain can bypass the logical brain, many of us don’t know what started the fear and anxiety process in the first place.

Now anxiety is always based on a perceived threat.  Your emotional brain determined that something was a threat to you and initiated the fight or flight physical response.  But that physical response is so intense and scary without a direct threat starring us in the face that we become afraid of the physical anxiety reaction itself!  Now the vicious anxiety cycle has begun!

Anxiety cycleWhat makes this cycle hard to break are TWO things:

  • Your emotional brain has paired fear with whatever the internal/external trigger was and it can not be undone unless that trigger is paired with a different emotion.  This is not a logical process.  

  • You usually flee whatever the situation is that is causing this anxiety (fleeing is a natural response to fear), HOWEVER, this tells the emotional brain that it is correct to be afraid of the situation and reinforces the pairing.

Now many things can lead someone into this cycle and a skilled counselor can help you uncover what got you to this point.  Yet, just knowing the why behind anxiety can’t undo or stop the process because it isn’t a purely logical process.  The good news is that there are several things you can do in the moment of anxiety that can help regardless of the why behind your anxiety!!  I will elaborate in more detail in the weeks to come on each of these ideas.

  • Since anxiety has a physical response, there are physical things that you can do to help combat that fight/flight reaction.  Slow down your breathing.  If you slow down your breathing, than your heart rate will follow.  I like to do a counting breath of 4.  Breathe in 2, 3, 4…Breathe out 2, 3, 4…. repeat until your heart rate has slowed down.

  • Focus on the present moment by observing what you see, taste, smell, touch, and hear.  These are often things that we over look but are a great way to help refocus our thinking, which is often catastrophic by this point.

  • Be with a trusted/safe person while in the anxiety producing situation (no fleeing).  Young children deal with the anxiety of learning about their world by having the secure base of mom and dad.  Watch a child crawl around to explore a new room; they will continually check back to make sure mom or dad is still watching.  We are wired for connection and we heal/grow through being connected to safe people who help us process our stuff.

  • Tell yourself the truth.  Go back to my previous explanation of how the emotional brain learns.  It learns by pairing.  Each of the above suggestions helps the emotional brain pair new experiences with the feared trigger.  Not only that but using your logical brain to question your fear can also help calm down the emotional brain.  Just because the emotional brain can bypass the logical brain when reacting, doesn’t mean that the logical brain can’t come in and help calm down the emotional brain with the truth.  However, this only works after the physical symptoms have come down to a more manageable level.

    anxiety to restHang in there friend, there is always hope!

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

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/whats-behind-anxiety/

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