Monday, December 31, 2012

New Years Cheers!

2012 was eventful for sure! My family grew with weddings happening and children being born. I became an uncle. My family shrank with a divorce. I never thought I'd be going into 2013 without Heather Diehl. My world grew with my relocation to South Carolina, a new job, and many great experiences. It's been a year full of ups and downs. I know that everything happens for a reason. I am yet to learn the reason for everything that has happened, but one thing is for sure: these things have made me a stronger man and changed me for the better.

It is easy for me to be down about life, but that wouldn't be doing justice to all the great things that have happened in 2012. I love my life! It's been a wild ride, but I wouldn't change a minute of it. I plan to forge ahead, with a bright horizon ahead. There is no looking back. I look forward to the start of a great career in 2013. I look forward to seeing my little brother get married, and to being his best man. I look forward to starting a new life as a single man. I look forward to the second half of the season of The Walking Dead (we all need our silly distractions). I look forward to exploring my new, beautiful home state of South Carolina. And I look forward to continuing to connect with my people via my blogs and social media.

Social media and blogging have given me a fantastic new outlet and a some amazing new views on life. I appreciate you all so very much: This journey would be so much without you! Here's to 2013! I hope that it brings us all much more joy and happiness than 2012 did. Sometimes life has to knock us off the path that we are on in order to put us on the path that we need to be on. Sometimes this knock is gentle, sometimes it is violent and painful, but we have to rest assured that there is a purpose behind it.

I wish you all the best in 2013!

-Aaron

Monday, December 3, 2012

This Too Shall Pass



"Your problems will seem inconsequential and trivial
when you realize one thing.
We are just a speck of dirt on this golf ball called Earth.
So get stupid and sing!
This too shall pass."
-311


You feel like your problems are overwhelmingly huge? How big do they seem from this view? Sometimes all we need is a little perspective. When you allow yourself to take a step back, you will see that the problems that are plaguing you at the present moment don't even register as a blip on the radar of the world as a whole. This may not give a ton of consolation, but when you look at them in terms of the timeline of your own life, you will see how small they really can be.

When you're old and there isn't much life left for you to live, you will look back on your life. Only the most epic and memorable moments will stand out and all others will be long forgotten. Hopefully, you'll be able to be looking back on many more good memories than bad ones, and chances are you'll even be seeing most of the bad ones through rose-colored glasses. The embarrassing time you had a panic attack at the mall surely won't be one of these major life events passing through your mind.

We all just need a little dose of perspective now and then. It is almost never as bad as it seems. Take a step back and look at the situation. If it's truly not one of those epic life-changers, give yourself permission to take it easy.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Peaceful!




Source: turquoisetulipsandbliss.tumblr.com via Connie on Pinterest










Just a beautiful pic from Charleston, SC! It looks so peaceful! I hope y'all are having a wonderful day today!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Choosing Your Life (Part 2)

If you have not yet read my original post titled Choosing Your Life, please do so! I promised to continue that train of thought with a follow-up post. Some of the things I talked about in that post needed a little time to sink in and do their work. If you did read it, hopefully you have applied some of the positive thinking strategies to your life and worked on rejecting negative beliefs and thought patterns. You must do that first, before making any more tangible changes to your life or you will find yourself wondering why you still aren't happy.

If you don't change your perspective of the world, you will find yourself falling into the same old rut. Moving to a more beautiful climate, acquiring wealth or possessions, meeting the man or woman of your dreams. You may think these things will make you happy, and for some they can be a component of happiness, but if you still have that self-defeating or negative outlook it will never be good enough. So it's important to examine yourself and be sure that you are ready to know happiness when you find it. The things that I discussed in the last post are just a start. There will be much more work to do and it won't be easy but it will be rewarding every step of the way.

Self-defeating beliefs and negative thought patterns need to be eliminated before you can get down to the real work at hand: getting to know and love yourself. It sounds simple, but we all know that it isn't. We all have flaws and we tend to be our worst critics. Mental illness such as an anxiety disorder is not helpful and can make confidence hard to find. But as you learn to think in more positive terms, it will become easier.

Getting to know yourself-


Before you can love yourself, you need to get to know yourself. You don't spend more time with anybody in this world but yourself, yet it often takes people a long time to figure out who they really are. The reasons for this and how to attain self-discovery could easily fill up their own post, so I won't delve into it them here.

“He who knows others is learned;
He who knows himself is wise.”

Lao-tzu

Here are some basic things you can do to get to know yourself better:

Look at those around you. Or more importantly, look at how you view them. Often attributes that we find positive in others are the things we really like about selves, and the things that irritate us about others are attributes that we may be unhappy with in ourselves. Take a look at how these relate and you may find some very positive attributes hiding in the shadows, waiting to be developed. Or you may find some areas that you will want to work on, but at least this gives you a starting point.

Journal. Expression is a great way to get more in touch with your emotions, your wants and needs, and your personality. Starting a journal or blog can be a great way to do this! It has definitely helped to make a lot of things clearer for me! I suggest giving it a try. It may feel awkward at first, but once you get going you may not want to stop.

Spend time with yourself. Humans are social creatures. We tend to spend most of our lives surrounded by other people. And even when we are alone, we aren't really alone. We're strapped to a computer or in front of a TV if not occupied with some other task. And don't even get me started on smart phones! They are great. I have one and use it often, but the smart phone keeps us constantly connected and occupied. It's important to spend some time alone once in a while, without these distractions. Spend some time in thought and spend some time without even that, just listening to your heart beat or concentrating on your breathing.

Learning to love yourself-

It's important to love yourself. You're going to be spending a lot of time with yourself. You can't really avoid that. Everywhere you go, there you are. So if you don't love yourself, how can you expect to be happy? Much of the things already address will have done a lot of the work for you. By adapting to more positive ways of thinking and getting to know yourself, your self-esteem will be on the rise. You simply have to take that momentum and keep going with it. Here are some ways to improve your self-image, self-esteem, and love for yourself.

Forgive yourself. We've all had disappointments and failures in our past. You have to forgive yourself for these things. Holding a grudge against yourself won't get you anywhere. I have written another extensive two-part post on forgiveness and self-forgiveness. I highly suggest giving that a look-see.

Let go of the past. Get those skeletons out of your closet and move on with your life so you can focus on the present. Grant yourself a tabula rasa or blank slate. Today is a new day. Leave the worries of the past behind.

Start working toward living your life the way you want to live it. Clear out all the "can't" and "what-if" ideas in your mind and just ask yourself "what do I want in life?" Let me be clear that I am not referring to material things or ideas here, but core values. Too many people spend their lives living out of harmony with who they really are. We conform to who we think we should (there goes that word again!) be or are confused as to who we want to be because we haven't yet fully gotten to know and love ourselves. In either case, it's time to realign your life with who you really are.

Be yourself. Live, love, laugh, enjoy life! Don't apologize to anyone for being you!

Treat yourself like you treat your best friend. Don't be your own worst enemy, be your own best friend. Give yourself the same respect, understanding, and compassion that you give to ones you love most. Whenever you catch yourself beating up on yourself emotionally, and think of how you'd talk to your best friend.

Love others. Being kind to those around you boost your spirits. You'll likely find that the way that they react to you on a daily basis will reflect your own kindness. These positive responses from others will make you feel like a million-bucks. You get what you give in this world.

Adopt an attitude of gratitude. November was the season for being thankful, but it really should be practiced year round. Identifying something that you are grateful for each day can lift your spirits up a great deal. Identifying something about yourself to be thankful for can increase your self-esteem.

Once you've come to know, understand, and love yourself the world will open up for you. You'll be back in alignment with who you really are more positive experiences will naturally find you. You'll be free to choose the life that you really want. This can mean many different things; following your dreams, changing your surroundings, or just embracing all that is you and living a fuller life. Realize that great power comes from becoming in touch with yourself. A person who truly knows and loves his or her self is a force to be reckoned with. The sky is the limit! You'll be able to pull out the barriers that have been stopping you from doing the things you've always wanted to do by realizing that they were never there in the first place.

Stop taking "no" for an answer. If you can daydream it, you can achieve it. The only thing stopping you was yourself! Today is the day to get after it! Best of luck!

Thank you for reading.
-Aaron





Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a topic that I find discussed often in mental health circles. It is a very powerful concept, yet extremely simple. When was the last time you stopped to listen your breathing or to focus on your heartbeat? Most of us live very busy lives, whether we are busy chasing after our dreams, busy tending to our families, or busy being anxious and depressed. We seldom take the time to just listen to our bodies. We rarely take the time to focus on the current moment and the current moment only.

Mindfulness is Buddhist idea that focuses on living in the present moment and becoming fully attuned to the body's primary functions, feelings, and awareness itself. Another more modern definition calls mindfulness a psychological quality that involves bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis. It is something that can be very soul-cleansing and therapeutic if used properly.

It is very simple in concept, but not so simple in application. It calls for focusing on the current moment and only the current moment. It sounds easy, but if it was so simple there would not be all this talk about it. It requires casting aside all thoughts of the past and future in order to think only of the present moment.I think we've all discovered this to be easier said than done.

It very closely mirrors the ideas of meditation. I have not have tons of success with meditation yet myself, for the same reasons. It is hard to dispel those past memories or ideas of the future. It causes anxiety for me at times, at first, when I try. But when I am able to get past that initial nervousness and realize that it just comes from this being such a different experience for me, I am able to relax. We just spend so little time in this state in our regular lives that this (entirely natural) state becomes extremely foreign to us.

Meditation, however, is a whole different animal. Mindfulness is relatively easy to achieve and to achieve satisfaction from. It starts with just listening to your body's autonomic functions that you take for granted. Listen to the sound of your breathing, watch as your chest inhales and exhales. Listen to your heartbeat and feel it in your chest. Even if you can feeling beating in your abdomen and that worries you because it is a symptom of your anxiety. Just listen to it until it abates and goes back into your chest where it belongs.

It is so rarely that we take the time to just stop. Stop and listen, look, and appreciate what is going on around us.  By becoming fully attuned to what is going on with your body and around you in the present moment you can open up a new appreciation for the world. It is such a simple solution to such a complicated problem, but I promise that by spending even a few moments in each day in this mindful state you will see improvement in your everyday life.

-Aaron




Worry Well

I stumbled upon this video on YouTube this evening and found it very interesting. The guy talks about some very interesting things and explains the correlations and differences in anxiety, stress, and worry.

 Enjoy!

Thanks,

Aaron


Jimmy V Week


Watching my Purdue Boilermakers destroy the Clemson Tigers in basketball tonight on ESPN reminded me of something. This is Jimmy V Week!

Jimmy Valvano's 1993 ESPY speech was and still is one of the most moving and inspirational things that I have ever seen. If you have not before seen it, it's a MUST! You'd have to Hitler to not be moved by this man speaking. If you have seen it, I encourage you to watch again. It is just as inspirational the 100th time as it was the 1st.

In honor of Jimmy Valvano, this week make an effort to laugh, think, and cry every day. As he says in his speech, "that's a full day!"

Choosing Your Life

Life is a great teacher. Often it puts obstacles in our path in order to redirect us to where we need to be. I believe that anxiety can be a sign that something in your life needs to change. If you are experiencing anxiety there may be something out of balance about the way that you are living your life. Most likely, this is something so simply complicated as the way you view and react to the world around you. But sometimes there can be external factors as well. You will probably find that these situations you find yourself wanting to change are symptoms of some patterns of flawed or negative thinking, which is why it is important that you address these things first. It is crucial to carefully examine yourself before seeking to change the things around you. So first we will address what these flawed thinking patterns may be and how to overcome them, then we will get into where you can go from there to choose a more positive and happy life.

Self-defeating beliefs and flawed thinking patterns-

Our beliefs are with us all the time. They are our core values that have developed and grown with us through our entire lives and influence every decision that we make. Most of your beliefs are probably very positive, but most people hold onto and develop some harmful ones throughout life. If you believe that your value as a person depends primarily by who you are as a person and how you treat those around you, those are beliefs worth holding onto. But if you believe that your self-worth relies on wealth or popularity, these might be beliefs that warrant some examination.

There are two types of self-defeating beliefs: Intrapersonal and interpersonal. Intrapersonal beliefs have to do with how you view yourself and interpersonal beliefs deal with how you perceive relationships with others. Intrapersonal beliefs deal with expectations you have for yourself and deal with things like perfectionism or drive for success. Self-defeating interpersonal beliefs deal largely with fear of how others perceive you and striving to meet their expectations.

It's important to identify what your beliefs are. I would encourage you to actually write them down. This exercise won't do you any good if you are not able to be completely introspective and honest with yourself. Then identify which beliefs are healthy ones that you wish to keep, which are unhealthy ones that need to go, and which have potential to be healthy but need a little healing. Work daily to embrace the positive beliefs that you hold. Do something each day that directly enforces one of these beliefs. Put forth effort daily as well to resist the negative ones. Embracing the positive ones will often help with combating the negative as many times they conflict directly with each other. The ones in the "potential" categories require you to actually "split them up". Identify what are the aspects that are worth keeping and rewrite these as their own separate positive beliefs. Identify what needs to go and put that part in the "trash pile". Changing these beliefs will require some persistence. They have been, after all, developing unchecked for some time so it will take some time to effectively replace them.

EX: A belief that I hold very dear to my heart is that it's important, above all else, to be good to those around me. Daily I make an effort to do something to do something good for someone else.

A negative belief that I have been trying to get rid of, is a desire to "keep up with the Jones'", and achieve superficially to show that I am a successful person. I try and replace this everyday with another positive belief: The best kind of success one can have is to live a life that makes them happy. I'd rather be a poor man with a smile than a rich man with a scowl. 

An in between belief for me was a drive for perfection and achievement. I see both good and bad in this. It is important to me to be productive and achieve good things in life. I choose to hold on to this and discard the part of that belief that calls for perfection. Total perfection is a myth, and very self-defeating. So to the trash it goes.

Negative thinking patterns are different in that they are not with us at all times. They simply surface from time to time when called upon by certain situations. For example, if you hold a self-defeating belief of striving to over-achieve, you may be happy as a clam when you are achieving the success you crave, but when set-backs occur you may blow them out of proportion and get overly discouraged my them. Being aware of the situations which trigger these negative thought patterns is a good step toward overcoming them. If you can identify when these negative thinking patterns are taking hold, you can simply turn them around and send them back where they came from. Examine your negative thoughts and ask yourself if they are legitimate. Do people really see you as a failure? Probably not.


 

"All-or-nothing" thinking- 

This type of thinking can be harmful as it causes us to see things in purely black and white terms, ignoring the grey areas that exist in life. It causes us to see only perfection or failure, with no in between. Nobody is perfect, so we are doomed to see primarily failure if we continue this way of thinking. Words like always, never, or impossible don't allow much flexibility. We'll say things like "I always mess that up!" "I never do anything right!" or "that's impossible, so I won't even try!"  The truth of it probably lies somewhere in the middle. I'm sure you do lots of things right, just not this one thing at this time that you're honed in on. While many things are difficult and require immense sacrifice, few things are impossible.

Some more positive alternatives might go something like:
I can be a strong person even if I have some moments of weakness.
Just because I forgot to pick up Charlie up from school doesn't mean that I don't love him!
I can love my wife and still have disagreements.
I'm a smart person even if I do make some mistakes.
Even though I had a panic attack today, I am still making great progress.

There is always a grey area. Allowing yourself to think in more flexible terms will allow you to acknowledge the good as well as the bad in your life.


Words to beware of-

 

Should. Should puts a lot of negative judgments upon ourselves. We tell ourselves that we should have a better career, should make better grades in school, should be a better friend. This focuses on where we see ourselves as not good enough. If we seek to improve these situations, we should replace should with could, followed with a positive outcome: "I could apply myself more at work to get that promotion." "I could spend a little more time studying to ace that chemistry exam." By adding this possible outcome to the end of the statement, we push our focus onto the positive aspect of the situation.

But. Many times we tack a "but" on the end of a positive statement to take it for a turn to a negative.  "I beat my personal best time, but it still wasn't as good as Jenny's." "I would go and ask this girl out, but she might say no." "I would go to the gym today, but (insert excuse here)." Leave those buts alone! By putting those "but..." statements on the end of your sentences you just give yourself a negative to focus because you may fear the positive statement standing alone. Just take them out of your vocabulary, turn around and face that original positive statement. Embrace it! Celebrate your personal victories! Ask that girl out! She could be the love of your life or a complete troll, but it's like the lottery; you can't win if you don't play!

Can't. Can't is an extremely harmful word. We tell ourselves that we can't do something. The best way to ensure that you can't achieve your dreams is to sit at home and tell yourself that you can't do it. Remind yourself that you can do anything you put your mind to. You want to become an oceanographer, what's stopping you? Many of us look around our everyday lives and see a lot of mediocrity or even failure, or we see successful people as inherently having something that we do not. While sometimes it may be true that the well-to-do people of the world seem to have been handed the world on a silver platter, wealth and fame are not synonymous with success. If your dream is to become a high-school teacher and you achieve that dream, you are arguably no less successful than someone who achieves their dream of becoming an Olympic athlete. By achieving your dreams, you are doing you think will make you most happy in life, whatever that may be. People all over the world have come from complete poverty to become successful in life. Aside from leaping tall buildings in a single bound, there isn't much in this world that is out of your reach if you choose to go out and get it.



I am going to leave off here for now. I feel this stuff needs a little time for digestion. I hope you will take some time to examine your beliefs and thought patterns. I think you will begin to see positive changes in your life if you implement the more positive ways of thinking into your everyday routine. I will continue later this evening with a part II as promised discussing how to implement positive change and choose the life you want.

Thanks for reading,

Aaron




 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Little About Me.

A Little About Me.

Hello and welcome to Misdirected Anxiety! My name is Aaron. I originally created this blog as a way to express and share my thoughts and feelings about my battles with anxiety and panic disorder. As my journey has progressed, though it has begun to turn into so much more! I have found myself in my love for writing.

About two years ago, I was at a very low point in my life. Panic attacks were consuming my life. In many other ways, I had a lot to love about my life. I was newly married, my career was moving along nicely, and money was not a major worry in my life. I was loving my life and making grand plans with my wife. But I was quietly grappling with anxiety on a daily basis and my world was becoming smaller and smaller as the panic attacks became more intrusive. My relationship with my wife was becoming strained. Although she was a complete angel and as supportive as could be, I knew it was taking it’s toll. My job was becoming increasingly difficult as well. I began to avoid most of the things that I used to enjoy because of associations established with panic attacks. I was now spending most of my days alone at home and when the panic attacks began to find me there, in my own bed, shower, on the couch, or while eating dinner I really began to lose hope.

I spent a lot of time diligently reading book after book on anxiety. I was on a mission to understand just what was happening to me and to find a way to reclaim my life. I tried just about everything under the sun. Some things worked, some did not. With time I was able to learn a lot about my mind and body and come to a good understanding of this anxiety disorder that was destroying my world. Writing about it also became a great way for me to gain better understanding of it all.

Fast forward to present day… Anxiety is but a shadow in my life. I’m mindful that it is still lurking somewhere, but it doesn’t hinder my everyday life. I have not had a panic attack since April. The world has opened back up and I am able to do all of the things that I had before been afraid of. Life is good again! Best of all, I feel very strongly that I have become a better person as a result of all of this. The path I am currently on feels remarkably better than the one I was on when that first panic attack jolted me from my comfort zone. I am unapologetic and shamelessly positive about life. I have always been this way, but had become complacent. I needed panic disorder to come into my life and wake me up. And that it did! It forced me to dig deep inside and re-learn who I am.  For that I am truly grateful.

I now find great love in sharing my experiences and positive outlook with my readers. I have been overwhelmed by the support that I have found online. The mental health community consists of some of the most welcoming and warm individuals you’d care to meet. I hope that my blog is able to help others, even if in just a small way.


Enough with the intro! Get to reading! Thank you so much for coming!


-Aaron

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Linden Method

I do not and will not promote a program that I have not used myself. I have the Linden Method and have used his audio program countless times during road trips and long commutes to work (which many of my readers will know is the single most persistent trigger for my panic attacks).

The Linden Method is a very good program for eliminating anxiety and panic attacks. It is yet another that advocates an all-natural approach. I will always say that this is a decision that needs to be made internally.  Medication works very well for some, and for others it causes side-effects that outweigh the benefits. I do believe however, that whether you are or are not on medication, that an internal strategy such as Linden offers is absolutely crucial. Anxiety and panic can be overcome with or without medication. It cannot be overcome without changing the way you think and react to stress.

Charles Linden explains anxiety disorders in a very clear and real-world way. I am very much a fan of this more "every man" type of discussion. Material written by people who have actually experienced the same things as I have are typically much more helpful for me. It focuses a lot on making changes from within to eliminate the sources of panic once and for all. I believe that this is extremely important and equally tough to do. Charles lays out a method that is fairly easy to understand and with the correct focus, can be accomplished by anyone.

Another minor perk to this program is Charles Linden's very soothing voice. I listened to his audio program often in the car and the voice alone helps to calm me down and put me at a state to be receptive to the things that he talks about. This may seem like a trivial thing, but to someone on the verge of panic, something as simple as a soothing tone of voice can be very helpful!

Best of luck! If you have any questions or would like me to send a sample portion of the program, please let me know!


Watch the video as he explains it very well.Click here to learn more about the Linden Method.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Dealing with Panic Attacks & Anxiety | Zoella


This video was really great so I thought I would share with you. Zoe simply explains panic disorder.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Going Through Hell

"If you're going through Hell, keep going." Winston Churchill.

Often when something makes us uncomfortable or anxious, our first response is to retreat. It's a natural response, but often not a helpful one. Sometimes you really do have to face that fear. This is especially true for people with anxiety disorders, because what has us worked up is usually not jumping out of an airplane or staring down a man-eating shark. It's more likely to be something like driving during rush-hour traffic, standing in a long line at the grocery store, meeting someone new, or speaking in front of a group.

If we allow ourselves to retreat from these everyday things because they make us anxious or even stir a panic attack, we allow our world to shrink. We avoid going out for fear of facing these things. The real problem is that the anxiety is within us. It is not out there in the cold cruel world that we are retreating from. So when we hide at home or avoid stressful places, eventually we find that the anxiety is still right there with us. It still finds a way to come out. Then we begin finding new triggers and new things to avoid. Our worlds continue to shrink, and this viscious cycle can cause more stress and more anxiety.

This is where old Mr. Churchill's words of wisdom come into play. We've seen that freedom from anxiety does not lie in retreating. You're going through Hell so the last thing that you want to do is stop and just stay where you are. So you're left with one option, keep going. Move forward until you're out of the flames.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Surviving the Holidays

The holidays can be a very stressful time! While we may love our families, they can have the capacity to drive us nuts as well. Then there's the pressure of all the get-togethers and events you are expected to attend. Seeing friends and family that you don't see throughout the year can bring it's own pressures. Questions about how your life is going or painful reminders of what you've lost in the past year. Gift buying can bring financial stress galore, especially if you have children. If you have to travel, that can be a nightmare. Malls and airports are crowded and hectic, not ideal situations for people with anxiety disorders. And on top of it all there is this overbearing expectation of happiness and glee, which can amplify any stress or depression you may be feeling.

Don't get me wrong, the holidays can be joyous and fun. If they were really all just stress and greed, why would we all continue to put ourselves through this? When you strip all the materialism and get down to the what the holidays are really all about, they can be very enjoyable. This may mean different things for different people. People celebrate different holidays. People celebrate in different ways. And people have different things that they value. Keeping those values close at heart can help the holidays to be less stressful. If material things aren't the core value you hold for Christmas, don't go beating up soccer moms just to get the "must-have" toy of the season. Focus on what is important, and leave the rest for the mobs.

For me, the holidays are about friends and family. Being with the people who really matter most to me. Being recently separated from my wife and in the process of divorce, I am particularly dreading this upcoming holiday season. At every corner there awaits a new happy memory turned painful for me. Every tradition leaves me thinking about the most important component that is missing from the picture. I have decided to attempt to strip away all of this stuff that I really don't need and that would surely leave me worse for the wear. I am going to the beach for Christmas!

This may be avoidance. Actually, there's no maybe about it. It clearly is. But I'm alright with that. I'm not one to run from my problems rather than face them, but sometimes before facing a problem you have to ask yourself "is there a point to facing this? or am I just doing it for the sake of doing it?" I am going to start a new tradition this year. My parents and my Grandmother (who has also been dreading the holidays a bit due to the loss of her husband this year) will be spending our holiday in Myrtle Beach and I could not be more excited about it!

Now I'm not saying everyone should escape to the beach for your holidays (although I'd love to see you there!), but I am saying that keeping things simple can reduce some of that holiday stress. Before going all out with something and putting yourself in a stressful situation, ask yourself if it's really necessary. Evaluate what is important to you this year and strip away all the rest. People get caught up in expectations too much and trying to keep up with the Jones'.

Opposite Action

Opposite Action is a term I see thrown around a lot lately and one that I find very interesting. I have been applying aspects of this for some time without even realizing that is what I was doing. I want to discuss opposite action here because it some great applications to anxiety and panic attacks.

What is "Opposite Action"?
It's really a very simple concept. When you begin to feel anxious, your first instinctual reaction is usually something very counter-productive. Your primal fight-or-flight response kicks in and your actions will often fuel the panic further. By consciously taking the opposite route you have a much better chance at reducing that anxious response before it blows up into a full blown panic attack.

Example:

My number one panic trigger is interstate driving. I tend to get very anxious when driving on highways (although I absolutely love to travel. Ironic, huh?). When I start to get anxious while driving my first instincts are to turn down the radio, slow down and move into the slow lane, and get really fidgety. I start pulling on my seat-belt because the source of many of the physical symptoms of anxiety are in my chest and I feel constrained by the seat-belt. I will reach for the shifting handle even though my car has an automatic transmission. I drove a stick-shift for many years and I suppose that control gave me some comfort.

My mind now associates all of these actions with previous panic attacks. When I start to go through these actions, it is just like going through my classic panic-attack checklist. I am taking the cues one by one. Once that last check mark is put down, panic goes to work. There really is no stopping it at that point. The flood gates break down and that wave of panic comes crushing down.

By identifying these impulses and realizing that they come from the irrational part of my brain that controls panic I take first step to stopping that panic before it starts. I've learned to replace these impulses with consciously thought-out actions from a more rational part of my brain. On a recent road trip, I put this into action. Instead of turning the radio down, I turn it up and allow myself to focus more on the music, maybe change the track to something more positive. I resist the urge to fidget and become restless, instead becoming mindful of my body and allowing my muscles to relax. Instead of grabbing for the shifter or pulling on my seat-belt, I put my hands squarely on the steering wheel and keep them there. By doing this I have been able to stop the panic from progressing. I continued along on my drive with no further anxiety.


Key steps to mastering "Opposite Action"-

1. Acknowledge what you are feeling.
2. Identify what actions or reactions go with that feeling.
3. Ask yourself "do I want to stop or reduce this feeling?"
4. Figure out what the opposite action is.
5. Do that opposite action ALL THE WAY!

I would recommend going through this analysis while in a calm state of mind so that you will be prepared with the appropriate opposite actions in advance of the onset of anxiety. You aren't very likely to be thinking rationally when you are anxious.

Opposite action can be applied to many things, not just anxiety. Often we put ourselves into positions where we become our own worst enemy. It may be possible to use this technique on a wide range of feelings or emotions that you want to rid yourself of but may be feeding without even realizing it.Try this approach sometime and see if it works for you! Best of luck!


 
 


Friday, November 2, 2012

Geert- I Love Panic Attacks

Another book that helped me a lot with panic attacks was How to Stop Anxiety & Panic Attacks: A Simple Guide... by Geert Verschaeve. He speaks very simply and clearly on panic and anxiety. He also advises against medication in his book. Again, I will say, make this decision for yourself. But these techniques he talks about are helpful with or without medication. Medication can help, but you won't completely be free of panic attacks without also learning mindful techniques to calm your mind. Watch this video, visit his website as well.

Steve Pavilanis- A Life Less Anxious

One of the first books I read when I was really desperately struggling with anxiety and panic was A Life Less Anxious by Steve Pavilanis. This book helped me tremendously when I was having a really tough time. It got me through many a shaky night. I still have it stored on my phone and review it from time to time.

Steve talks about his experiences with anxiety and panic, which were so easy for me to relate to. Many of his experiences with anxiety were much like my own, and it felt awesome to know that I was not alone.

He also talks extensively about natural techniques for stopping panic attacks and anxiety. Changing the way you react and think is crucial to overcoming anxiety and getting your life back, and he explains how to do this. I highly recommend trying his program.

His guidance on staying away from medication should be taken with a grain of salt. That is a decision to be made individually. I have been taking medication and it has helped me greatly, but it is not a cure all. These natural techniques that Steve teaches are also key. Enjoy!


Click here to check out the A Life Less Anxious Program!


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Patience. It's a Virtue. No, Really.

If you're like me, patience is not a mental resource that you have an abundance of. I think that's a common thing in this age. We're grown to become so used to having things instantaneously that we get very impatient any time that we have to wait at all. Twenty years ago it may have taken you twenty minutes to "dial-up" to the internet and pull up this site. Now, you can usually pull it up instantly from the phone in your pocket from wherever you're at. But the one time that your service lags and it takes twenty seconds, if you're like me, you may be cursing your computer (or phone or tablet) and furiously pounding that keyboard or pressing those buttons. Patience just isn't a virtue that most people have a lot of these days. That's why constantly design everything to be quicker. Nobody likes waiting.

Now there's nothing wrong with that. Waiting for things is no fun. You've got better things to do than wait in line at the grocery store, while the lady in front of you fumbles in her enormous purse for her checkbook. We lead busy and demanding lives. But do you find yourself getting impatient and cursing slow drivers and stoplights even when you don't have anywhere special to be? Sure you do! It happens to us all at times. But for someone with panic disorder this impatience can be the start of a massive panic attack.

Impatience and anxiety are old friends. They go way back, went to the same summer camp as kids and have kept in close contact ever since. When impatience gets you tapping your foot on the bathroom floor, while you wait wait for someone drying their hands with the air-dryer that was installed in 1981, impatience is on the phone with his old buddy anxiety. "Hey bro! This sucker here is so ripe for you! He's on the verge of a meltdown, come quick! This is gonna be awesome!" You're getting worked up over something that really doesn't matter, but your amygdala doesn't know that. Your being worked up makes that old "dinosaur brain" of yours think that there is a threat of some sort. It responds accordingly and that's when panic starts.

Impatience is a natural reaction. It hits us all at times, and some of us more often than others. But it doesn't get you anywhere. Have you ever seen that impatient driver who speeds and weaves recklessly in and out of traffic to "get ahead", and then you end up strolling up to that next stoplight right next to him? He didn't really get anywhere, except a little closer to that next fill-up. Sure he may end up getting to his end destination quicker by continuing to do this, but at what cost? It just isn't worth it to act this way. An impatient lifestyle like this will only cause you anxiety and bring you down. But how do you fight off impatience?

Some tips:

Breathe: When you feel yourself getting worked up, just take a deep breath and let your muscles relax. You will more calm and able to deal with the frustration before you.

 Plan: If you are running late for work, of course you are going to be tense and impatient. Set your alarm and get up a few minutes earlier so that you can take your time and still be on time.

Exercise:  Exercise is proven to make people more happy. It is also a great stress reliever. Being happier and less stressed will make patience come much easier.

Realize: The people or things that you are frustrated with usually aren't the actual source of your problem. Realizing this will make it easier to calm down. You may be frustrated with the people in the drive-thru who can't decide what they want to order, but there's probably an underlying issue there. Maybe you're really unhappy with your job or upset with your husband for leaving his socks on the floor again. Identify what the real problem is and deal with that. And in the moment you can let the indecisive Taco-Bellers live another day.

Sometimes the frustration can be very persistent. Sometimes you really do have reason to be upset. People can often be inconsiderate and rude. You may be able to talk calmly with them and sort it out that way, but usually this won't end well. The best thing to do is just take a deep breath, and say to yourself "this too shall pass". It's probably really not that big of deal in the grand scheme of things, so it's best to just let it slide. The jerk jumping in front of you to take the last grapefruit may have your blood boiling now, but when you're old and on your death bed will you still be thinking about him, wishing him ill? Doubt it. You probably won't even remember it all the next week.


Just don't let impatience get the best of you. Keeping calm in the face of frustration, no matter how big or small, will always benefit you in the long run. So keep your head held high, and try to live a more calm and happy life.



Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Introversion

Now this is not strictly related to anxiety and panic, but I thought it was worth sharing. Many people with social anxiety may consider themselves introverts and will probably relate very much to what Susan Cain has to say here. I found this to be pretty life-changing myself, having been a very introverted person all my life.



Enjoy and discuss!
Thank you,
-Aaron

Monday, October 29, 2012

Anxiety Judo!

In the movies, there is usually a "good guy" and a "bad guy". Usually the good guy starts off appearing really strong. Then as the plot progresses, the bad guy increases in strength until the point comes where he seems utterly invincible. But in the end, that strength is always revealed to be nothing but a house of cards. The fight may be epic, but the good guy always wins. Usually the seemingly strong foe has a simple weakness that the good guy able to exploit rather easily once he figures it out. This is a lot like anxiety. Let me explain.

It shouldn't be a surprise that the bad guy in this analogy is anxiety, and the good guy is you, the person struggling with anxiety. Anxiety usually comes on small, with just a little nervousness that can be easily dismissed as nothing to worry about. With time, though, it increases in it's intensity until it engulfs your life and your situation seems absolutely hopeless. The important thing to realize is that you are the good guy, and the good guy always wins in the end. The strength that you possess may not seem like a lot, but you have one major thing going for you. Your strength is real. It is grounded within you and cannot be taken away.

The strength of your anxiety or panic may seem overwhelming. But it's not real. It's a house of cards that be blown away with the same breath that you'd use to blow out birthday candles on a cake. It's not real because anxiety has no real power. It relies 100% on YOUR power to fuel it's attacks. Anxiety comes totally from within. It's your brain, and your mind, and your body that are being used against you to cause you to panic. Once you realize this and you see the anxiety for the house of cards that it really is, all you have to do is blow and you'll watch it fall.

It's a lot like Judo. Judo is a form of martial arts that focuses on using an opponents strength against them. You don't have to be strong to practice judo. Instead, you simply rely on the strength of your opponent. You just have to predict how your opponent is going to use their strength and divert it so that their own strength is used against them. This is what anxiety and panic are doing to you. They have no real strength of their own, so they trick you into using the considerable strength that you have on yourself. The harder you try to fight your panic, the more the panic wins and the worse your panic attack becomes. The winning strategy is to not play into what anxiety is leading you to do. It's predicting your attack, and it's waiting and ready to knock you on your back. All you have to do is what it does not expect: accept. It will have no counter for this. This is much like instead of attacking when it is goading you, just put down your weapons and stand there. Realize that it is unable to attack you on it's own, because it lacks strength. If you stand there and wait, it will go away.

If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment. 
                        -Marcus Aelius Aurelius 

My Story- Discrimination Hurts.




A guest post by @discrimination6


I first began having panic attacks in high school. My mom took me to the doctor, who's determination was that I had Asthma. So, he gave me an inhaler, yes, a stimulant. That catapulted my anxiety to a whole new level. I stopped the inhaler and continued to self medicate through high school and college which ultimately made my anxiety and my decision making worse.

By my senior year of college, I could no longer function in a social setting. This was difficult since I lived with four heavy partiers. I often had to lock myself in my room and literally hide from everyone I knew. I couldn't breathe and I felt paralyzed. No one understood. I even went to a hotel near campus for a weekend to be alone and in a quiet room, no one even noticed I was gone.

It wasn't until I was sitting in a psych class in college that I diagnosed myself as I listened to a lecture on anxiety disorders. I remember being elated. Aha! I know what it is! So, I made an appointment at the school clinic to find out how to "cure" this awful thing and surely I could get on with my life.

The doctor prescribed me an enormous amount of Xanax as a four time per day regiment. I was numb. My anxiety was gone but now I was a zombie. Eventually, I saw a different doctor who put me on Paxil, an anti-depressant that also made me numb but in a different way, I just had no emotion.

Years past and I decided I'd rather feel something rather than nothing and got off of Paxil. Have you seen Trainspotting? I'm pretty sure the withdrawal is equivalent to heroin. I ended up on a more mild anti-depressant for a few years then decided I was ready to try to go off the meds.

Apparently, reality had set in because as it turned out I'd married an asshole in my anti-depressant fog and had a baby on the way. But, I handled a crazy, no, beyond crazy, divorce with an infant without anxiety and I came out stronger! I was a single mom and began a career that resulted in numerous promotions. Wow, who would have thought I could do this?!

Ahem...then comes the depression. Oh, anxiety too, and insomnia. The numbness faded and I began crying, uncontrollably, in front of anyone in my path. I'm guessing you can imagine how work was going. I am unable to go into details but I was discriminated against because of my illness and no longer have my job and career that was going so well. The disability insurance company denied me after a few weeks despite mounds of medical evidence. When I appealed, they sent surveillance to my home and, get this, they saw me take out the trash! I must not be ill if I can do chores and go grocery shopping.

What they don't see, or choose not to, is the constant pain I feel daily due to depression and anxiety. My anxiety gets so bad that I cannot bear to hear sounds or deal with little things like putting the dishes away. I often want to crawl out of my skin. Oh, and remember that infant? Well, he's now six years old and wants to know why mommy's crying and why mommy can't come out to play this time. I force myself as much as humanly possible to stay strong enough to be a good mom and wait for moments when I can get to a bathroom or my bedroom to cry but there are days when I have to crawl into bed and cannot move. Luckily, I have an amazing support system who can help when I can't function.

The mental anguish is so amazingly terrible that it wreaks havoc on my body. I often have a heating pad on or just have to lay still in a quiet room to make all of the pain subside. There are also cognitive effects, I would switch words around and slur my words.

I've been cleared to go back to work but I cannot find a job and my savings is dwindling. I've begun relapsing into depression and having anxiety attacks again. My doctors have literally run out of medications to try and I'm faced with an indefinite mental illness sentence. At least, that's how it feels. I refer to it as the cancer of my soul.

I have always been one of the strongest people around. I'd gone through hell and back and not only survived but came out on top. Then I started pushing my body physically to become as strong as I was mentally. I had turned my life into something to enjoy and had an awesome kid to share it with. Imagine if I weren't as strong deep down?

I have a long road of recovery ahead but one of the main lessons I've learned throughout my battle is that mental illness is such an unknown or even taboo in this world. I'm determined to find a way to fight this stigma and hopefully help others through their battle so that no one gives up. Having hope and support goes a long way.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Divorce Care

I know I have been writing a lot about my divorce lately. It has had a major impact on my life. It affects me daily and probably will for some time. I have however found some connections between anxiety and divorce. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has been through either. Divorce inspires anxiety and panic in even the calmest individuals.

I have been attending a Divorce Care class at a local church. I am not a religious person by any means, but I have found that this group offers a lot of help and guidance. I will highly recommend Divorce Care to anyone going through a divorce and only wish I had found the group sooner. Many of the other people I have met there also say they wish they had not waited so long to attend. A guy I met the other day, who was also a newcomer to the group, put it very well. "When you get a divorce, you should immediately be taken and locked in one of these groups. It comes as a shock, and leaves you not knowing what to do. Anxiety and panic take over and you do a lot of dumb things in the wake of divorce. If I had found this group sooner, I would be so much better off."


A lot of the reading material I have read on divorce talks about panic. Divorce gives the gift of anxiety and panic to everyone who goes through it to some degree. This makes me think on how wonderfully prepared I am for this situation that I have found myself in. I, more than most who go through a divorce, am already very well prepared to deal with panic and anxiety. I have been dealing with it in my daily life, after all, for quite some time. There's always a silver lining if you know how to look for it.

There are a lot of different feelings that come up in divorce or a break-up of any kind for that matter. I felt betrayed, abandoned, shocked, sad, angry, hurt, and most of all confused. There was an overwhelming sense that I had lost control of my life. I found myself sitting and asking myself "what do I do now?". And for the first time in my life I had no answer to this. So I repeated it over and over. Still no answer. Uncertainty like this breeds anxiety. Panic begins to set in when you literally don't know what your next move should be. Worrisome questions just rain from your mind like a monsoon. Where am I going to sleep tonight? Where is SHE going to sleep tonight? Where did it all go wrong? What can I do to fix this? Each question leads into more questions.  Anxiety and panic.

The first few days were stressful. There's no way around that. It's just going to be that way. Divorce is awful and I don't recommend it to anybody. But it does get better with some time if you let it. I did some dumb things that I now regret deeply in the wake of my divorce. I acted out, fueled by panic and emotion. But as time goes on I am beginning to sort out my feelings. Dealing with and understanding my feelings has become something that I am very good at. A major key to my overcoming anxiety and panic has been to identify the way that I think and feel and make changes as needed. Identify the harmful thoughts and feelings and let them go. I identify the good ones and let them shine out. Let's break it down.

Anger: Anger is a big cheerleader for anxiety. It does not do you any good to hold onto anger. You have to let it go. Find an appropriate outlet for your anger and let it out. Screaming and yelling at the person you are angry with is NOT going to make things better. It will probably lead to more anger. And in many cases, if you really examine that anger, much of it doesn't belong to that person anyway. You may find you are more angry with the situation than you are with the person. It's just easier to put a face on the anger because you can't lash out at a situation.

Physical activity can be a great release for anger. Go the gym and exercise. Play a sport or do something active that you enjoy.

You have to make a conscious decision to let go of the anger. It does you no good to hold onto it. So just let it go and forgive. I have an entire post on forgiveness, but it is an extremely important life skill, and most people have a confused understanding of it. Many people think of forgiveness as a gift that you "give" to the other person. This is not the way it works. Forgiveness is not for them. It is for you. In order to effectively forgive you must realize that. It is merely the act of taking that anger and resentment off of your back and setting it down, never to be picked up again. It must not depend on an apology or other action on their part. Do not let your healing and moving on with your life depend on the actions of another. This gives them control. By letting it go, you are keeping control of your emotional well-being. It does not even require you to tell them that you forgive them. Forgiveness is not a statement. It is a personal decision.

Now, I realize it's not always that easy. It's easy to forgive someone for eating the last zebra cake, but maybe not so easy to forgive someone who has done you serious wrong. It may take a while before your emotions will catch up with your mental decision to forgive, but it will come with time.

Sadness: No matter which side of the divorce you are on, sadness is going be there. This, again you have to let go of. But, I'll be honest with you, I've never found this to be so easy. As with any bad feeling that you want to rid yourself of, you have to first make the conscious decision to let that sadness go. Give yourself permission to be happy again, realizing that this is not a betrayal of the reason you are sad to begin with. You can still miss a person while allowing yourself some time to be happy. It will take time for the sad and lonely feelings to go away. A person needs to grieve. Do no deny yourself that. But don't shut yourself up in your room all day feeling sorry for yourself either. Let your emotions out. Talk about how you feel with someone you can trust. Then go on with your day.

Again, physical activity can be helpful. Exercise causes your body to release endorphins, which give you feelings of well-being and happiness. Although going to the gym to workout may be the last thing you want to do when you're feeling down, I promise you will be glad that you did.

I do not recommend trying to force yourself to "get out there" too soon. You may think you can force happiness by going out and partying, drinking, or simply being social. Make sure you are ready before you do this. Ask yourself what are your reasons for wanting to go out. If you want to go out simply to forget your troubles or because you think it will make you instantly feel better, it won't. I tried this shortly after my divorce. I got all spiffed out and went downtown to explore and eat out and see some nightlife. It made me feel awful. I was not ready for this yet. I ended up on the verge of tears as I left early to go home and a complete wreck once I got home. Just wait until you are ready. I recommend trying to occupy your time instead with hobbies and things you used to enjoy doing. This is also a great time to pick up that hobby that you used to tell yourself you'd like to try if you "only had the time". Whatever you do, it's important to keep busy. You will have sad thoughts, but keeping occupied will help you to not dwell on them, to not let that one, lone, small, sad thought grow into a whole story of sadness. In the moment when that sad thought comes up (it may be triggered by a song on the radio, or seeing something that's a reminder, or it may just spring up out of nowhere), you can make a simple mental "shift", as long as you're keeping your mind occupied with other thoughts to "shift" to.


Lastly, I just want to reiterate how highly I recommend attending a group such as Divorce Care immediately after divorce. I wish I had known about this prior to my divorce so I would have known to go there sooner. I would be much better off.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Other Side of Things

I vividly remember sitting on my bathroom floor, staring at the wall. The world was looking dark as can be. I was in the midst of a bout with a panic attack in my own home. Anxiety was tearing apart my life. I was essentially unable to leave home on my own without panicking. I wasn't eating right, or much at all. I wasn't sleeping well. I felt horrible about the toll this was taking on my relationship with my wife. I was depending on her for so much and that was not fair to her. I was positive that all of my career and life goals were now about as attainable as riding a dolphin to the moon. And I was quite sure that a normal life was surely beyond my reach. There didn't seem to be much point in anything.This was less than a year ago.

It was at that point, while sitting on my bathroom floor, that something dawned on me. Something that would change my life forever. As I was trying to dig through the gloomy haze of panic and find something to drag me up off of that floor, I thought about the future. I realized it was still there. Despite all of the pain I could still not see there not being a future. And something occurred to me. It was the thought that if I could get through THIS, the most impossible challenge I have ever faced in life, nothing could stop me. If I can find the strength to get up off that floor and go on, what other obstacles could possibly be waiting out there for me that are going to be tougher than this? Is a day at work going to present challenges that I can't handle? Surely not, if I can get through this.

I look at this day as the turning point in my battle with anxiety. I had hit my rock bottom. There wasn't anywhere left to go but up. I'd love to say that I just stood up, dusted myself off, and never looked back, but of course it wasn't that easy. There were bumps, hurdles, and setbacks all along the way and it was a slow and sometimes painful journey. But I've kept with it, and this vision of the future that came to on the floor that day has been what has gotten me through the hard times. I had resolved that I was going to see this through so that I could become the better, stronger person that I would never have been able to become without having this adversity put in my path.

Now I am still on this journey. I still live with anxiety. But it doesn't hinder me in my everyday life any longer. It simply reminds me to take care of myself and keep on moving. It's not nearly as debilitating as it once was and I am well on my way to achieving those dreams that were hatched that day on the floor in my bathroom. I'm on the other side of things.











"What if it were true that you weren't so blue?
And you felt like you could just do anything?

We're facing the sunset, and for a moment it
looks like it's rising, and we are on the other side of things."
-311 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Get Some Distraction in Your Life

Driving on the highway has always been my number one anxiety trigger. My first panic attack did not happen behind the wheel of a car, but all of them since then have. To this day I get very anxious when approaching an on-ramp to the interstate. The thought of a long road trip used to horrify me. I've always loved to travel (ironic?) and as a kid I even enjoyed the journey as much as the destination. As an adult with panic disorder, I've come to dread the journey. I love the destinations, but that love is dampened by my fear of getting there.

I have made some large strides lately, however. A few months ago, I wrote about my road trip to Charleston. I was extremely excited that I successfully drove the entire way there. Since then I have traveled to Indiana, and most recently Charlotte without a single panic attack. I'm still holding on to my streak, with my last one occurring in April and confident that there isn't one on the horizon.

During my trip to Charlotte (yesterday), I had a little bit of a rough start. I attribute this slight setback to the extreme amount of stress I have gone through over the past few months. Divorce is no fun! I don't recommend it. I started off just fine, the first stretch is familiar territory for me now, but after about 15 miles I started to feel that familiar old feeling. My thoughts became fuzzy and unclear, my heart started to race, my breathing got shallower, and I began to fidget in my seat. "OH NO! IT'S HAPPENING!" is what was being screamed inside my head as I looked for the nearest exit.

Of course I was nowhere near an exit, so I had to tough it out. The first instinct is to clench up and try to "fight" the panic attack off. I know from experience that this doesn't work. It will just bring the panic rushing on faster. So I reached into my mental bag of tricks. I started to focus on my breathing as I took deep breaths. I practiced acceptance. Refusing to fight the oncoming attack allows the worst of it to pass.

Then, I switched to the passing lane. While going faster seems counter-intuitive here, it actually helps me. It gives me something to focus on while I am passing some cars. Slowing down into the slow lane will give your mind little to focus on besides the panic. Having some distraction is crucial. Using numbers as a distraction is something that I have used with some success in the past. I am not a math whiz by any means. This may contribute to the effectiveness of math as a distraction. For others, it may be a different topic that causes their mind to work harder. For me, it's numbers, usually money. If I need a distraction, I start plotting out my finances in my head or thinking of a plan to save for that new car that I really want.

Now, finances might not be the best distraction for you if your financial circumstances are particularly bleak. I'd choose something else. Anything that can bring positive thoughts but which causes you to have to think deeply. Planning something usually works well.

After I overcame this initial bout of panic. I was able to coast the rest of the way to my destination and was almost sad when it was over. I was having a good time thinking about things. The thoughts had gone from money to planning out what I will do for the rest of the week to thinking of ideas for my blog (and thus Stigma Smash was born!).

Smashing Social Stigmas

A topic I have been thinking a lot about lately is the social stigma associated with mental illness such as anxiety or depression.

I look back on my own experiences with anxiety and panic disorder. The social stigma (or my perception of it) did a lot of harm to me. It increased my anxiety, because I was always afraid of what people would think of me if they found out what was going on inside of me. It also set me back a lot in my recovery. I delayed seeking help for a tremendously long time because I was afraid to talk anyone about it. I did not think anyone would understand. I was afraid people would label me as crazy or unstable.

I have created a partner blog project called Stigma Smash with the intent of increasing open discussion of mental illness and mental health related issues and thereby smash social stigmas associated with them. The first step to doing this is to encourage people not to be ashamed of their mental illness.

Studies have shown that 50% of adults will experience some sort of mental health issue in their lifetime. So I think you'll find people to be more understanding that you think. Chances are very good that anyone you come across knows someone who has a mental illness, or has dealt with this themselves!

Please show your support and get out and talk about your mental illness so that we can create a more open environment where people won't be discouraged from getting the help that they need! Please take the time to view my partner blog, Stigma Smash. Also follow on twitter @StigmaSmash and spread the twitter love with hashtag #stigmasmash. Thank you for your help to Smash these stigmas!



Sunday, October 21, 2012

Gandhi Quotes

Mahatma Gandhi was a wise man who had a lot of great things to say. He was most well known for his views on peace and non-violence, but he had so much more to say than even that. I figured I would post some of his more epic quotes here as a little boost of positivity. Enjoy!

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it--always.”

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.” 

“A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.”

“The future depends on what you do today.” 

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” 

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” 

“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.”

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” 

“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” 

“Let the first act of every morning be to make the following resolve for the day:

- I shall not fear anyone on Earth.
- I shall fear only God.
- I shall not bear ill will toward anyone.
- I shall not submit to injustice from anyone.
- I shall conquer untruth by truth. And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering.”

“To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.” 

“It is easy enough to be friendly to one's friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.”

“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.” 

“You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results.”

“It's the action, not the fruit of the action, that's important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there'll be any fruit. But that doesn't mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.” 

"Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it."

“The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.”

What are some of your favorite inspirational quotes?

The Truth Your Panic Attack Doesn't Want You To Know: IT WON'T KILL YOU

Panic attacks can be terrifying. The first time that I had a panic attack I was pretty convinced that I was about to die. Many people have ended up in hospital emergency rooms because they mistook their panic attack symptoms for heart attacks. The symptoms can be similar. People often experience frightening symptoms such as chest pains, rapid heart beat, or shortness of breath. But, assuming you've been seen by a doctor and deemed healthy, you probably don't have much to worry about.

Your panic attack itself does not have the ability to kill you. There is one simple reason behind this. The panic attack itself is created by your body. It is a natural reaction to a perceived threat that starts in your amygdala as a defense mechanism. It may be misdirected. It may be unwanted at that time, but it's primary purpose is to protect you from danger. Your internal body does not have the ability to self destruct.

Don't believe me? Think about your heartbeat and try to make it stop. It can't be done. Likewise, you cannot will yourself to stop breathing. You can hold your breath, sure. But eventually, no matter how hard you fight it, your breathing will continue. You body and mind have the power to do many amazing things but willingly shutting themselves down is not one of them.

Once you realize this, you can take a lot of the wind out of your panic attack's sails. Your fear will decrease and it's really your fear that feeds the panic attack monster. Stop feeding it and it will go away. It's like when you were a kid and afraid of the boogeyman in your closet at night. You were scared, sure that whatever this horrible creature was lurking in the dark was going to get you at any minute. You screamed for your parents and they come and turn on the lights, and you see that the "boogeyman" was all along just one of your toys with a blanket draped over it. The fear goes away.

Feelings


Friday, October 19, 2012

How to Deal with Panic Attacks: Panic Attack Self-Help - HealthyPlace

How to Deal with Panic Attacks: Panic Attack Self-Help - HealthyPlace

Now on Facebook!

My goal is to turn Misdirected Anxiety into an active social network where people can discuss their experiences with anxiety. I have been helped tremendously by the resources I have found online and by allowing myself to share my thoughts and feelings on my blog.

I have just recently created a Facebook page for Misdirected Anxiety! I would love if some of my readers would visit the page and let me know what you think!

Thanks,

Aaron

Facebook

P.S. I also am very active on twitter under the name @realignanxiety! Feel free to follow or message me!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Great Infographic! How Stress Affects the Body

Stress does have a lot of physical effects on the body. This infographic is great to highlight this.

I once had a boss (still a good friend, actually) who told me that he was a firm believer that holding stress inside will in fact shorten your life. I totally agree with him and I remember that conversation vividly to this day. I was holding stress inside and it was killing me. I knew something had to change.

I Pray For You: Jaron and The Long Road to Love


My sister sent me a link to this music video after my wife left me. The message may be a little bad, but it's funny and helped me to feel better. 

No Control

One of the things that can cause anxiety for many people is a lack of control. People don't like feeling out of control of a situation, but there are inherently many situations in life that we have no control over. The anxiety sufferer has to realize when it is necessary to let go of control. Fighting for control over someone else's actions or something that is out of your hands will cause you so much unwelcome stress and pain.

You can gain control by giving it up. When you realize that there is nothing that you can do in a situation, you can actually become empowered. Ex: In my divorce I have come to realize that I have no real ability to affect my wife's actions. At least not in the way that I want. When I realized this it brought to light that there IS in fact something that I have a lot of control over. ME. I can control my own actions. Fully and completely. When you focus in on this, you can do a world of good for yourself. Apply yourself more aggressively to the things you can control: your job, your family, friends, hobbies, and most importantly being who you are. If you take pride in being an honest person, don't let adversity change that.




Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Forgiveness: Part Two

Forgiving Yourself!

The most important person to be able to forgive is yourself. You can avoid others if you harbor resentment and hurt feelings, but you're stuck with you. Wherever you go, there you are! So it is important to let go of your mistakes, let go of regret, and forgive yourself.

You cannot change your past actions any more than you can change the actions of another. You have to find a way to come to peace with them and move on. Everyone makes mistakes. They're in the past though, so take whatever lessons you can learn from them, and leave them in the past where they belong.

Making Ammends

Sometimes doing something to "make things right" can help you to feel better about yourself and move on with your life. A charitable action, a gift, a good deed, or even a simple apology could help. But don't take it too far. You could spend your whole life trying to "make things right" if you let yourself get wrapped up. Allow yourself one shot, whatever it is, and then dust off your hands and call it a day.

An Effective Apology

I've been going through a particularly rough time lately with my pending divorce. During the first few days, I was a wreck. I lashed out towards some people who did not deserve it. When I had some time to think more clearly, I felt awful for my hurtful actions. I decided an apology was in order, so I wrote an apology letter. A very effective one, both for making the other people realize that I am sincere and for making me feel at peace with the situation once again.

The keys to an effective apology:

NO EXPECTATIONS! You won't get the peace of mind you want and you will not come through as sincere if you create your apology expecting some sort of action or response from the other party. Just apologize and leave the rest up to them.

HAND-WRITTEN- If you're trying to apologize to someone, there's a good chance they aren't happy to hear from you. A phone call can be ignored, an e-mail or text easily deleted, and in-person interactions can spiral out of control. A hand-written letter is unique in this day and age. If someone sends you a handwritten letter, you will read it.

ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR FEELINGS- Do not simply address the actions. This will come off as the forced playground apology. "I'm sorry I pushed you down...(reluctantly with mom scowling over). Take a little time to address how your actions may have affected this person. How do they feel? Address their feelings in the apology letter.

ADDRESS YOUR FEELINGS- Let them know that these actions have affected you as well. They must have, if you were so motivated to write an apology letter, but you must let them know how.

OFFER NO DEFENSE- You being defensive will only bring their defenses back up. Are you looking for their forgiveness or are you still trying to make them see things from your point of view?

After sending this letter, following these guidelines, I did not receive a response. I did not expect one, and I made that clear in the letter. I saw these people for the first time since all of this today, however, and received a heartfelt hug and a solid handshake. They expressed how much they appreciated the note I had sent. A little apology goes a long way to make everyone feel better, as long as it's truly meant. I'm sure I will never see them again, and that's fine. I think we all have come to peace here.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Forgiveness: It's More Than Saying "Sorry"

Rebellion done for it's own sake
does not a true free thinker make.
To go against for it's own sake
you're still controlled by the course that the other man takes
-Nick Hexum


 Regret and anger are often common themes in the lives of people who suffer from anxiety or depression. Another way to take a look at these would be as lack of forgiveness for yourself or lack of forgiveness for someone else. Any way you look at it, holding on to grudges, whether toward yourself or someone else, is not a healthy way to live. Letting go of those grudges and regret will help you to become a stronger and happier person.

The reasons why we withhold our forgiveness:
The main reason why people withhold their forgiveness is because they feel the other person doesn't deserve it. Well, you have to get that out of your head. The forgiveness is not for them. It is for you. Their life will go on with or without your forgiveness, will yours? You have to be willing to let go of the hurt and anger for you, so that you can move on with your life.
Holding that grudge is often an exercise of control. You say to yourself something like "I won't forgive them until they apologize" or until they do something to make amends with you or maybe just stop what it is they are doing that has you so worked up in the first place. You feel that if you give them that forgiveness, you lose all power in the situation. In fact, the exact opposite is true! You aren't controlling them with that grudge. They are controlling you. You actually have no control in this situation. You are allowing their actions to dictate how you move on with your life. (Trying to control the uncontrollable things in life is a MAJOR source of anxiety as well) Once you are able to truly forgive, you will feel better, regardless of the actions of another. THAT is power.

Now, I realize it's not always that easy. Some actions are easier to forgive than others. Forgive and forget is not realistic. You don't need to forget in order to forgive, simply move on. You must remember the things that caused you to be angry or upset (whether towards someone else or yourself) in order to make changes to avoid the same things in the future. Some of the more serious offenses will take time to forgive, but until you let go of depending on someone else to initiate that process, it won't happen and you won't be able to heal.

I have a job interview to prepare for right now so I will continue tomorrow with discussing HOW TO FORGIVE YOURSELF and why it is so important.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Don't Wait! Deal with it now!

As I have already discussed a little bit, I am in the process of going through a divorce. Now that a little time has passed, I have had a chance to really think about what happened. Initially, I was just angry and could not see it clearly. I was simply angry with my wife and blaming this loss on her actions. I know that's not the case. I am responsible for the rift in our relationship. I did not give her the attention and love that she deserved. I forgot my promises to her as a Husband and I let her down.

My struggle with anxiety goes back longer than I like to admit. I suffered with it for years before doing anything about it. I was unsure of what was happening to me, and didn't know who to talk to about it or even what to say. I thought people would think I was crazy and part of me was scared that I would find out that it really is something serious such as a heart problem (since much of the symptoms manifest in the chest.) So I kept it inside until it blew up into full-scale debilitating panic attacks. And even then I was reluctant to seek proper help. I was afraid nobody would understand. It affected my career, my family relationships, my personal life, and my marriage.

My wife was understanding. EXTREMELY supportive actually. I was grateful every single day for having her there to help me. But to be honest, I was afraid for a long time that she would leave over it. But she didn't. I don't think she could leave me in need like that. She is too kind hearted. So she stuck with me, despite being unhappy herself, and when I seemed to be getting better and she felt I would be OK without her, she left. I understand now how I was responsible for pushing her away. I let myself get wrapped up and overwhelmed with life and I wasn't able to be there for her the way a good husband should be.

I didn't intend to rant so long on that subject, but it's important and setting up my point. Do not wait to get help. It could be too late by the time that you actually do. Your life can suffer in a lot of ways from putting it off and not dealing with it. People lose jobs, lose friends, ruin their relationships, and sometimes lose themselves. There are tons of resources out there and people will understand much more than you think. So talk to someone you can trust. It's actually an increasingly common problem. Here is a list of some celebrities who have dealt with anxiety disorders.

Reading through my blog, I hope you will find some help. Also the blogs I have links to are ones that have helped me a lot. Read a Life Less Anxious, it has tons of good tips for mental well being that can be applied to anxiety disorders as well as any other tough situations you may face in life. Take it with a grain of salt though. It advises heavily against medication. Medication won't cure you on it's own, you have to apply changes to the way you think as well, but it has helped me. Consult a doctor. You don't have to see a specialist or anything so it doesn't have to cost a lot. As I said, it's a common enough problem that your general family doctor should be able to help you with it.

Best of luck and don't hesitate to reach out if you need support!