About three months ago I realized a good majority of my thoughts had been worrying. Worrying about my finances, my fears of failure in my personal life and my business, my fears of disappointing others, not “being there” enough for the ones I love, fears of not getting things done on time, fear of not making time for God and being far from Him, and other general fears of not being “enough”. These fears and worries turned into immense amounts of stress and anxiety that quite literally took a major toll on my life. It affected my physical health, my mental health, my spiritual health, and my relationships with those around me. I had lost my joy and happiness telling myself that once I “finish my (never ending) checklist,” it would be ok. But the list kept piling up.
Through a bit of a wake-up call via my mother and fiancé, I realized I needed to change. Through a journey of learning these last few months, the biggest thing I’ve walked away with is that I can’t always control the situations around me, but I can always control how I deal with those situations.
I made a decision that I would no longer allow stress to control my life. It was not an overnight thing, and it’s something I daily have to work on, but it is so worth the peace I have today. Worry and stress are part of our human nature, although we do have a choice to fight for joy and to fight for our peace. I hope that this post can encourage even one person to fight for that in their life as well.
According to the “National Institute of Mental Health,” the US is now officially the “most anxious nation in the world”. According to The Economic Burden of Anxiety Disorders, anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year, almost one-third of the $148 billion total mental health bill for the U.S. Robert Leany (psychologist) stated, “The average High School student today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950s.” A world mental health survey showed people in Nigeria are up to 5x less likely to show clinically significant levels of anxiety than the average American, despite having significantly more “basic life necessities” to worry about. These statistics are a bit shocking.
Better than medicating the problem, I think it’s time we rip off the band-aid of the issue and really get to the core of this problem infecting our society. Medications certainly numb the pain, however, in most cases they will never be able to fix the true root of the problem. Through hard work and dedication to looking inside of ourselves, I truly believe we can solve many of these issues.
Here are a few things that I started doing to address my issues of anxiety and stress in my daily life. These have helped immensely over the past couple of months:
1) Get quiet
Yoga is not one of the most popular forms of exercise just because it gives you a great butt. Anyone who has done it long enough knows that along with the body improvements it also works wonders for the soul and mind. It practices the elimination of day to day distractions and quitting yourself. Today we have Facebook, twitter, instagram, snapchat, vine, blogs, emails, txting, calling, our jobs, our families, television, movies, news, the radio, and even billboards always flashing in our face calling for our attention. It’s not at all that these are bad things, of course, but so often they can start to take over our lives to the point where we forget about taking care of ourselves.
When do we ever get a chance to be quiet? When do we ever get away from the noise & technology? Many of us are on our phones or watching TV right up until we fall asleep. Do we take the time to listen to ourselves? Our bodies will tell us what we need if we will take the time to listen.
I recommend taking at least 1 hour of the day to turn it all off. Personally, I take an hour just to talk with God and read my Bible without any distractions. However, I know this looks different for everyone. An hour a day of yoga, silent meditation, writing/journaling, or reading can do so much for you mentally, physically, and spiritually. We have 720 minutes per day, give yourself just 60 for quite thinking time with just yourself. If you need to wake up an hour earlier, do it!! You will see the benefits.
2) Allow yourself to feel
Along with the last point, often we are so “busy” that we don’t allow ourselves to feel through things. At least speaking for myself, when issues in my life come up I often push them to the side and avoid confronting them as much as possible. If I can focus on everything else that I need to “do,” then I don’t have “time” to worry about fixing my own problems. This has been a habit of mine for as long as I can remember although when I take the time to sit down and deal with things face to face, it’s amazing the amount of peace I have without those things lingering over my head.
Sometimes you just need to take few days for yourself to process, eliminating any other distractions. Mourning over things you need to mourn over, and then allow yourself to start to move on. Obviously, there are many things that take years (and lifetimes) to heal, but the sooner we can deal with them, the sooner we can have peace with them. (Side note: therapists do help so much with this! May people look down on therapists thinking you have to be “really messed up” to see a shrink, but that’s not at all the case. Having someone to help you process things in a different way than you’ve ever thought of can be a wonderful thing!!)
3) Surround yourself with others
When I start to stress out the first thing that I do is isolate myself. When you push people away though, it only makes the situation worse. Sometimes you just need to put the work down and be with people you love. It’s ok not to be ok. It’s also ok to ask others for help or just to be there when you need someone to talk to. Having people surround you that are encouraging and uplifting is so good for your spirit. If you don’t have friends like that, think about eliminating toxic relationships and building healthy ones. We were not created to be alone; humans were created to be with one another.
4) Focus on the positive
Although it’s good to deal with the negative in our lives, it’s important to focus on the positive. Even the small joys of life, take the time to appreciate them. The more positive I am as a person, the less worried and stressed I am. There is ALWAYS something positive in our lives. Put aside time each day to focus your mind on at least 5-10 positive things that you are grateful for per day.
5) Remember that the God of the universe knows every hair on your head, has unconditional love for you, and has a plan for your life!
“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” – Luke 12:7
“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and hope.”
“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give peace to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”
“Trust your work to the Lord, and your plans will work out well.”
“I will lie down and sleep in peace. O Lord, You alone keep me safe.”
“The Lord will give strength to His people. The Lord will give His people peace.” -Psalms 29:11
(Photo by Mike Monaghan)