Beating Anxiety: Living Boldly

Emotional well-being (and what I like to call emotional-wisdom) is definitely a journey.

Recently, I experienced another bout of anxiety – which is never fun! – but it made me realise just how much I’ve learned about emotional-recovery and emotional self-care over the past five years. I am so thankful for all the wisdom I’ve picked up from the counsellors and mental health professionals I’ve interacted with, the excellent authors I’ve read, and the trial-and-error experimentation I’ve been forced to try out.

I love these two proverbs:

Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice. (Proverbs 1:20)

Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
and call insight your intimate friend.
(Proverbs 7:4)

I find idea that wisdom is out there, and that all we have to do is make friends with her and treasure what she says, a combination of exciting and reassuring. Personified wisdom is a really captivating image! Well, at least to me it is.

Reflecting on the last few months, I’ve realised that when my mental and/or emotional resources are stretched too far, my brain’s strategy is often (to attempt) to control everything, because it subconsciously believes that a controlled-world will relieve my over-stretched resources. It is wrong, of course.

The problem is that most of the time, the things that are stretching my resources are simply out of my control (or at least that’s my perception at the time) and so anxiety and panic start to rise. Then the anxiety causes me to feel exhausted and gives me a perpetual splitting headache. The physical symptoms then fuel my panic and anxiety: “I’ll never feel OK again”, “I just can’t cope with the pain!” in an endless horrible spiral.

Emotional/mental pressures + attempt to control my environment = a feeling of helplessness

Slide1
This CBT diagram is often drawn with only one arrow from ‘situation’ down to ‘thoughts’, but my experience is that a situation can affect my feelings (or my behaviour/body) before it affects my thinking; that can come (much) later.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is based on the way that situations, thoughts, behaviours, physical response and emotions all interplay. So when I recognised recently that my anxiety had snuck on me again, I swung into action and CBT’ed myself.

  • I made the ‘radical’ decision to tell people how I was feeling, including my line-manager who was able to help me make changes to my workload, one of the situations that I perceived that I was utterly at the mercy of. (Situation)
  • I reintroduced some low-key spontaneity back into my life, stopped browsing Facebook, and endeavoured to embrace my HSP temperament rather than just pushing through feeling frazzled. (Behaviour)
  • I endeavoured to change my thinking about myself, the world and my own physical symptoms by writing big bold cards and putting up various combinations of them propped up on my desk. (Thinking)
  • … which included a reminder to “Celebrate every bold move and success” and intentionally paying attention to the good emotions. (Emotions)
  • …and another reminder to ‘Embrace feeling tired – it’s nothing to be afraid of’ and ‘A headache is a blessing and a signpost, and not a curse’. (Physical Responses)

In case you’re wondering where God fits into all of this, one of the two cards that sits on my desk pretty much permanently now, rather than being swapped in and out, is this one:

Image

My anxiety makes me focus on myself and my own resources, so seeing this over and over is so helpful. He’s a loving, generous Father, and so I should expect to see evidence of that every single day and over the long-haul of life. Once I start looking, I see his fingerprints everywhere.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. (Proverbs 9:10)

The other card that sits on my desk all the time is this one:

Image-1

It’s so easy to hate such a significant element of who I am when it feels like a limitation, so the reminder to honour and love that intrinsic part of myself has been so helpful. I’ve been re-reading ‘Quiet‘ by Susan Cain and ‘The Highly Sensitive Person‘ has just arrived in the post, which is reminding me of the things I learned before but I’d forgotten.

For those of you interested (and still reading this post), the others cards read:

“The ‘bad’ thing is bursting with potential to be an amazing thing.”

“You can’t anticipate everything. You can’t know everything… delight in the thing in front of you.”

“You always have permission to tell someone that you’re struggling/not OK – bring them onto the team.”

“You never have to prove yourself to anyone. You are valuable simply by existing.”

“You can’t understand everything; and understanding everything doesn’t make you safe.”

“You don’t have to be approved of – your way of doing things is valid.”

“Embrace uncertainty – that’s where joy and excitement lie – there is every reason to expect something good.”

“Browsing Facebook does not make you happy.”

“Mix it up! Break up the routine. A happy Charissa is a spontaneous Charissa!”

“It may be a challenge, but it’s not a threat. Deep breaths.”

“You do not have to prove anything! Not even to yourself.”

“It doesn’t matter.” … that one can be applied to all kinds of things! I tend to see things far too seriously.

So my unhelpful thinking says, ‘Don’t post this, people will think you’re weird and go on about this kind of thing too much,’ the new thinking says ‘Be bold!’ and ‘You don’t have to prove yourself, carve your own path’ and ‘It seriously doesn’t matter anyway, just get on with it!’

Have a fabulous weekend everyone!

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