Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘anxiety’

A Series of Events

51ABoAle4SLHope & Possibility Through Trauma by Don Shetterly. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

This is an insightful collection of essays, combined with a workbook and discussion guide, of how to live with hope and possibility after experiencing trauma. The trauma that Mr. Shetterly experienced was sexual, physical, and verbal abuse from his father and brother as a child. This trauma is spoken of briefly at the beginning of the book, but is not the focus of this work. It is primarily, and gratefully so, concerned with how we can heal, understand, and care for ourselves after having experienced such events.

“It is not a book with scientific facts and research,” states the author. “This book is about life and the struggles we face. It is also about the healing, hope, and possibilities that exist within us.” Some of the chapters included in this recipe for insight, and growth, are: “Self Acceptance”, “Rewiring the Brain”, “Personal Growth”, “Our body Connections”, “In the Moment’, and “Listening”. There are clear explanations of different issues that arise when we decide to stop running, or numbing, the pain of abuse, and a clear path on how to make it out of the valley of darkness and despair.

“Life is a series of events, choices, reactions, and growth. While one event can impact our future, it does not mean that it will control our future.” To take the step of acknowledging what has happened, can be terrifying, and the reality of not acknowledging what has happened, can fill one’s life with constant fear, anxiety, anger, and confusion. The author also speaks about healing the body, emotions and mind, by including body work, music, and affirmations. Some of the sections I found especially helpful were those that involved a guided relaxation exercise (body scan), how to calm one’s self, be mindful, and focus on the breath.

There is a lot of personal resonance with this book, and the author’s words. I have nine foster sisters that were all sexually abused in their biological families. Our adopted daughter experienced a variety of traumatic events with her birth family. I have written extensively about grief, loss, and trauma, and worked as a bereavement and trauma counselor with hospice, in hospitals, mental health facilities, prisons, and overseas with survivor’s of multiple traumas. Hope & Possibility Through Trauma, by Don Shetterly, is a welcome addition to the resources now available for those most in need of such sustenance, insight, and inspiration. Do not hesitate to get a copy for yourself or another.

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Breathe Through the Story

51Zxe5MHNvL._SX385_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgAnxiety & Panic Workbook: Stop Stressing, Start Living by Jodi Aman. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

It’s one thing for friends, books, family, TV, counselors, or others, to tell us what we should do or not do about a problem, and something entirely different when they show us “how” to do it. Changing our habits, conditioning and fears, isn’t easy. If it was, we would have done so on our own a long time ago. Enter Jodi Aman and her Anxiety & Panic Workbook, which not only clearly defines anxiety, but shows us how to overcome it.

Ms. Aman has lived with anxiety herself for many decades, thus she is speaking from experience, and not some theoretical therapeutic idea about what it is like, or how to live with it. The National Institute of Mental Health has shown anxiety to be the number one mental health problem in the U.S. Thus, there is a large audience of people who can readily relate to how difficult anxiety/fear can be and how often it stops us from living a complete fulfilling life.

There is lots of space in the workbook for readers to answer the thoughtful, and important questions that are asked, and help clarify and identify how anxiety effects us personally, and to what extent. Ms. Aman talks about the importance of motivation, and having a vision of what life can be, as opposed to simply wishing to be free of what is. She says, “‘Want’ and ‘can’t’ are ideas, not truths.'” The book helps us get to know anxiety, as opposed to trying to avoid it or get away from it.

The Anxiety & Panic Workbook is laid out in an easily accessible manner, is clearly well thought out, and can help many. Her five rules for a happy life are: 1) Make people important. 2) Step back. 3) Have fun. 4) Be Creative. 5) Practice doing hard things. It is, of course, easy to come up with five “rules”, and another to learn how to practice them. That is the gift of this book – it shows us how, and not just why. The following was especially poignant, in referring to anxiety, and what we tell ourselves about it. “It is all just stories. The story is not over. It continues to change. Breathe through the story.

It’s In Your Hands

515gry9akYL._AC_US218_Tapping Success Scripts: EFT SECRETS to Create Wealth, Work, Weight Loss, Physical & Emotional Well Being For You, Your Loved Ones & Pets. By Colleen M. Flanagan. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

So, yeah, the title is a mouthful, but the book covers every one of the aforementioned subjects, and beyond. If you’ve tried one thing after another to deal with fear, anxiety, and other emotional difficulties, without any relief, consider Tapping Success Scripts, and EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques).

“Stanford engineer Gary Craig founded EFT after learning Dr. Roger Callahan’s taping acupressure algorithms to relieve emotional distress (called TFT – Thought Field Therapy). Mr. Craig simplified the Callahan method by creating one simple acupressure procedure for relief of all conditions.”

I was interested in Tapping Success Scripts to see how it differed from TFT, which I’d learned from Dr. Callahan years ago, and have been using and teaching others for many years, especially those experiencing trauma and grief. Like TFT, many practitioners of EFT claim that it works for everything from fear of loss, to curing cancer, or becoming wealthy. In my experience, TFT has been helpful for anxiety and trauma, but not as much for depression and other issues.

Ms. Flanagan describes the EFT process; what to say to yourself for an issue (such as fear); and where to tap on the body for each specific ailment, be it emotional or physical. I especially appreciated her top 10 tips to make EFT more successful, and her awareness of what we tell ourselves, and getting to the core of our concern, such as the thought that we often think we need to be perfect to be loved, accepted, or obtain something we desire.

The advantage of EFT (and TFT) is that it does no harm, you can do it yourself, and though there are a variety of steps to take for each specific ailment, or issue, they are well explained and described throughout, and repeat many of the same actions for each. You do not have to “believe” these techniques work, or have some magic explanation for why they do. Simply give them a try and if you notice any difference, then you (and others) will be better off in every aspect of your life.

There Is No Normal

GoodGrief_180WAn excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter.

Sometimes people ask right away. “Is this normal?” Others take their time, until they feel safe enough, and then ask essentially the same question. “Am I going crazy?” “Do other people ever feel like this?” “Will I be OK?”

What they’re referring too is the intense, overwhelming, and often bewildering experience of separation and loss. The physical and mental reactions of shock, numbness, shortness of breath, racing heart, stomach upset, difficulty sleeping or eating, lethargy, exhaustion, forgetfulness, inability to focus, clumsiness and confusion, can all be part of the journey of loss. The emotional swings in mood, from intense anticipation of what will happen next (anxiety), to extreme pain, non-stop tears and sadness; are the bodies’ natural response to a death, or separation, from a loved one.

For many, whether you have had previous deaths in your life or not, it can be a frightening, bewildering and alienating experience. It feels like everything is hitting you at once, and you aren’t sure what to do next. Overnight, your entire world has changed. Life seems to be out of control.

Though grief and mourning are our bodies’ natural reaction to separation, they can also resemble and/or mask symptoms of anxiety and depression. If, after a period of time, you are unable to function in daily life or are in doubt, do not hesitate to seek help, information and support.

More than likely, whatever you are experiencing is to be expected, and there would be far more concern if you were not reacting at all. Having someone we love torn out of our physical presence, or the thought of such a thing happening, can bring the strongest person in the world to their knees.

Find ways to externalize your emotion and thoughts. Use safe ways to “get it out”, such as talking, crying, screaming, walking, creating something, and/or sharing with a friend or someone you trust. Stay hydrated. Grieving can release a lot of water. Stop and take three slow deep breaths throughout the day. Stay connected to the person who has died (or left) in whatever healthy manner is right for you.

Feeling the full impact of loss, in some respects, seems to be the initiation fee we pay to be part of the human race.

Further support at: Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter.

Man Up

An excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter.

“Be strong.” “Bear up to pain.” “Be dominant and decisive.” “Provide for others.” “Endure.” “Don’t give in.” “Compete and win at all costs.” “Don’t cry like a baby or a girl.” “Remain rational, unemotional and logical.” “Accomplish, achieve, perform.” “Be assertive, in control and one step ahead of the next guy.”

man-crying-crop

These are some of the messages given to young boys and men for thousands of years. We’ve heard it from lovers, parents, families, friends, religions, governments, the media and other men since birth. Some of the messages of expected behavior are blatant and others more subtle. Some are proclaimed orally or in print, and others are non-verbal and observed by actions and deeds. “Don’t cry.” “Never, ever, express or convey fear, dependence, loneliness, emotion, weakness, passivity or insecurity.”

It’s only been in the last forty to fifty years, since the modern women’s movement (in some areas of the world), that these cultural, familial and religious norms and expectations have been questioned, debated, challenged and/or changed. Within this short span of freedom from such rigid conditioning, some men have chosen (consciously or unconsciously) to embrace these norms and continue the cycle. Others have revolted against them altogether and thrown out the positive attributes of such expectations, along with the negative. And others swagger back and forth between the past and the present, in a state of confusion, bewilderment and loss.

Regardless of how one lives, when a man loses a loved one, by death or separation, they can be thrown into an unknown world of pain that casts their beliefs, personal expectations and accepted ways of being, into an ocean of doubt, turmoil and isolation. Loss causes an eruption of feelings, fears and thoughts that fly in the face of what it has meant to “be a man”. Feelings of fear, anxiety, depression, emptiness, doubt, confusion, helplessness and indescribable pain can assail our very concept and perception of who we are.

Efforts at avoiding, “toughing it out”, controlling or “getting rid” of the pain of loss, only result in temporary relief, often at the expense of long-term health, and rarely change the reality of our condition. The pain of grief is one of the few kinds of pain in life that are best dealt with head on, by doing something men are often taught to avoid. The pain of grief and mourning tend to change and heal with time and attention, when we can honestly acknowledge what we are feeling, thinking and believing and externalize such reactions in a positive, healthy environment and/or manner.

Men and women all experience the pain of grief and loss, and both genders feel its impact in many of the same ways. What tends to be different about the sexes is the way in which we talk about and verbalize such feelings and experiences. We may filter them differently. Men often talk about the things we did for our loved one, how we took care of them, what we’re “doing” now and what we “plan” to do in the future. We blame others or ourselves for something that did or didn’t happen, or something that could have been different; something that would have spared us the pain we are now experiencing. Our anger, guilt and reasoning; are ways we try to control and make sense out of our grief and the situation it has put us in.

Though it is a generality and never true at all times, with all men or all women, men tend to speak “about”, instead of “of” or “with”. If I asked a gentleman how he’s been “feeling” or what had been the “most difficult” about the loss of his wife, partner or parent, he might look at me as if I was speaking Russian (unless he speaks Russian). If, on the other hand, I questioned his “reactions” or asked him to tell me a story “about” the deceased, he would begin to take the road to the same valley of pain that a woman experiences, but get there from a different route.

Ironically, men often seem to be more emotionally dependent on women for their sense of self, than the other way around. Remember that I am speaking in generalities. There are thousands of exceptions. The women in a man’s life are who he tends to share his most intimate needs, desires and fears with, as it is seldom safe or accepted to talk about such things with other men. Thus, when a woman mate, friend or mother dies or leaves, men have nobody to whom they feel they can acceptably turn to, and their need for intimate human contact and emotional well being is left in a desert of thirst for companionship, friendship, validation and/or physical contact.

Many men, though not all, also connect physical touch with sex, because it is one of the few occasions in their lives when they are permitted, or expected, to touch or be touched. To hug, kiss or embrace another man or woman, aside from sex, is frowned upon and charged with a variety of expectations, judgments and fears. Thus, after the death of a loved one, men often do not know how, where or when it is acceptable, or possible, to have any human contact that is not sexual.

Luckily, there are people, men and women, who are willing and able to listen to men’s lives and experiences surrounding grief and loss. There are places where a man can be held, without any sexual involvement or expectation of such. There are people within families, churches and communities that honor and respect our gender’s differences without putting limits or expectations on what those differences can or should be.

If you, or a man you care about, has experienced the loss of a loved one, give yourself, or him, the comfort, permission and love that all humans need, regardless of gender and provide the personal or community resources that can help the hurt change to healing and positive action.

Further reading at: Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter.

Crazy With Grief

Sometimes people ask right away. “Is this normal?” Others take their time, until they feel safe enough and then ask essentially the same question. “Am I going crazy?” “Do other people ever feel like this?” “Will I be OK?”

What they’re referring too is the intense, overwhelming and often bewildering experience of separation and loss. The physical and mental reactions of shock, numbness, shortness of breath, racing heart, stomach upset, difficulty sleeping or eating, lethargy, exhaustion, forgetfulness, inability to focus, clumsiness and confusion, can all be part of the journey of loss. The emotional swings in mood from intense anticipation of what will happen next (anxiety) to extreme pain, non-stop tears and sadness; are the bodies’ natural response to the death or separation from a loved one.

For many, whether you have had previous deaths in your life or not, it can be a frightening, bewildering and alienating experience. It feels like everything is hitting you at once and you aren’t sure what to do next. Overnight, your entire world has changed. Life seems to be out of control.

Though grief and mourning are our bodies’ natural reaction to separation, they can also resemble and/or mask symptoms of anxiety and depression. If, after a period of time, you are unable to function in daily life or are in doubt, do not hesitate to seek help, information and support.

More than likely, whatever you are experiencing is to be expected and there would be far more concern if you were not reacting at all. Having someone we love torn out of our physical presence or the thought of such a thing happening; can bring the strongest person in the world to their knees.

Find ways to externalize your emotion and thoughts. Use safe ways to “get it out”, such as talking, crying, screaming, walking, creating something and/or sharing with a friend or someone you trust.

Feeling the full impact of loss, in some respects, seems to be the initiation fee we pay to be part of the human race.

Afraid of Fear

Even though anxiety, fear and apprehension are a reality most Americans live with, in varying degrees, we do not have to let these feelings control, manipulate or ruin our lives.

Pain and loss or the thought of future pain and loss, can at times feel like an unbearable burden. Waiting for the next shoe to drop or wondering when the shoe that already dropped will ever go away, is a normal human reaction to the discomfort and weight of anxiety. Questioning whether such intense apprehension and fear will subside can keep our bodies and minds on ever-vigilant overload and cause numerous physical, emotional and mental difficulties.

There are numerous factors that can contribute too or create anxiety. Some are obvious – the sudden or expected death of a loved one, friend or colleague; the loss of a relationship; an act or threat of terrorism; divorce or separation; sexual and/or physical abuse; combat; changing, losing or starting a new job; and moving to a different part of town, the nation or another country. Less blatant, but potentially as nerve-racking are – the pace of our society, constantly moving faster, faster and faster; our diet and the foods we eat and how quickly we eat them; and the sadness and helplessness that can arise when we acknowledge the inequality and suffering in the world and the possibility that all life on earth is in jeopardy.

I remember jumping at loud noises for several months after my friend died in a car wreck. I also found myself excessively worrying about something happening to members of my family and thinking that I could be next every time I got behind the wheel. I had difficulty sleeping, which decreased the amount of energy and awareness I had the rest of the day and made me irritable and bossy with others in order to have some sense of control and stability.

What a relief when I recognized what was happening and that I wasn’t alone. According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, “anxiety is now the most commonly diagnosed mental illness in the country” and one of the least treated. It is estimated that only about 25% of adults experiencing mild to severe forms of anxiety seek or receive any treatment for it. Luckily, there are means and ways to decrease, relieve or transform anxiety, panic and fear.

The first step and perhaps most important, is to acknowledge, admit or identify when or if you are anxious, scared or fearful, though this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Sometimes we have been anxious for so long we can’t see it for what it is and point the finger at someone or something outside ourselves. It can also be clumped together with depression, anger, sadness, guilt, etc. Once we can see it for what it is, we can then choose to take some constructive action.

One of the first actions we can make is to consciously “take a deep breath”. Yes, it’s an old cliche, but it turns out to have some merit, especially in relation to anxiety. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that slow diaphragmatic breathing (similar to Yoga breathing practices) was just as effective in reducing anxiety as an antidepressant drug.

Some people find that medication, carefully monitored for side effects with their doctor, is a valuable and efficient tool to eliminate panic attacks and chronic anxiety. They can be helpful for months or years, depending on each individual’s tolerance and reactions.

Cognitive or Talk Therapy (in which triggers that create anxiety are identified, reduced or re-directed) has helped some people reduce, if not eliminate, many of their fears and phobias.

There is also a techniques such as TFT (Thought Field Therapy) that involves identifying what it is that one is fearful or anxious about, either remembering the feeling from a previous event or at the time it is happening and tapping five times, in succession, on specific points. These points correspond with meridians used in Acupressure. Like deep breathing this seems very simple, yet research and clinical practice have consistently found it to be effective in eliminating anxiety and nightmares.

A number of studies, including one in The American Journal of Psychiatry, have concluded that mindfulness meditation effectively reduces panic and anxiety symptoms. Mindfulness meditation combines breath and awareness to notice what we are experiencing moment to moment and learning how to neither push our thoughts, feelings and sensations away or hold on to them.

The famous presidential quote from the 1930’s that, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”, doesn’t adequately portray all of life’s realities. There are countless things to fear besides fear itself, but when anxiety, apprehension and fear control our lives it can seem like it is all that exists.

I urge you not to run away from your fear and anxiety, but to see it eye to eye and find what works best to put it in context with the rest of your life and experience some peace, serenity, joy and hope.

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