Loving Yourself to Overcome Anxiety

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

Anxiety is a common problem in American society, perhaps globally. I have dealt with anxiety over the years and while I have learned to master it most of the time, there are occasions still, where it rears it’s ugly head. Like many people, it leaves an ugly after taste of shame and sadness.

What I have learned as an anxiety sufferer and a Family Therapist is that every feeling and bodily reaction has a corresponding thought behind it. It happens so subtly that we don’t recognize the mind-brain-connection. It takes practice to follow the train of thought and to take back control of your thoughts.

This is part of the spiritual nature of who we are. God created us to be powerful thinking, creative people. Dumbing us down is not the answer. Most of us use medicines and entertaining distractions to avoid thinking as the only tool to self-mastery. This is really body slavery. The appetites rule us instead of ruling our appetites. This results in a vicious cycle of addiction and destructive patterns.

The Truth of the Matter

The truth will set you free! You have to BEGIN to look in the direction of who were designed to be in order to be the architect of your life. ACCEPT the truth that our souls (defined as your mind/will/emotions) are part of our original design and when subject to our spiritual-ness we can put things in right order. When we are in right ORDER, we are in our right minds. Our right minds allow us to rightly control our emotions and bodily reactions.

The bible says it this way: “For God did not give us a Spirit of Fear but of a Power and Love and of a Sound Mind”. 2 Timothy 1:7 (New Heart English Bible)

Wouldn’t you like to stop emotional mood swings? Aren’t you tired of panic attacks and living a fear-induced life? It’s time to get to the truth of the matter.

What You Say About Yourself is Who You Are?

The biggest hang up in anxious thinking is believing that this is our fate. This negative reality is our only reality and others just don’t understand. That latter part might be true, however…Your belief of being stuck in this reality can create the very problem you are wanting to manage. Start catching your anxious thoughts even if you have to stop and re-trace your anxious thoughts. Where, what, who, how, when, why did that anxious feeling first start? Just notice what the situation was that got it rolling. Over time you will discover a pattern of negative thinking that triggers you. There is usually a major root thought that if pulled out of the ground of your mind will give you a sound mind.

If you can’t identify these thoughts, ask someone you feel safe with to help you. It is easier for others to spot them when they are not in the middle of them. Just the act of noticing will begin to give you power over them.

Learning to Love Yourself

God gave us a power to control our thoughts and he gives us Love. Do you love yourself? It’s a missing commandment in the Word of God. Not because it isn’t in the book but because it is missing in our lives. We are ready to love others. We can love things. We are not as good at loving ourselves.

If we are willing to practice what we preach, we must commit to trying without self-judgement. what happens when we practice a new skill, make a new resolution, decide to change, we get discouraged because we don’t get it perfect. Perfectionism is a major root of anxiety thinking!

Choose today, without judgement, to love yourself, your body, your life, your finances (yes, those too), your future with these simply daily practices:

  1. Use kind words when talking about yourself to others. This is different that learning to talk about yourself when no one is around. That might be a bigger discipline to take on but for now, start referencing yourself with positive comments in social situations. Don’t self-depreciate. If you find this difficult, remember your mothers words: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”.
  2. Notice beautiful things. The bible recommends that we spend time contemplating “whatever is true…noble…right…pure…lovely…admirable…praiseworthy. Think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 (New International Version)
  3. Take care of your body. Your body is a nasty ruler if we let it control our thoughts and emotions. It takes over our will and demands toxic products and doesn’t want to get off the couch. Start eating right, exercising even it is walking around the block, and getting a good nights sleep. No staying up all night and sleeping till noon. This perpetuates the toxic hunger cravings.
  4. Smile. Research shows that the act of smiling is hormonally equal to a good nights rest but don’t substitute one for the other! Smiling is a known stress buster. Children naturally smile over 400 times a day. How many times do you smile per day. It can even lengthen your life span. Really!
  5. Say “Yes!”. We have a negative root in our thinking that says its all about saying “no” to bad things. Start saying yes to healthy, wise thinking. Take 40 days to eliminate the work “no” from your vocabulary. Say it now. See, not hard.
  6. Give yourself a hug. This isn’t creepy. Just hug yourself and lightly stroke the sides of your arms and you picture a place, real or imaginary that, makes you feel safe. This is part of my NeuroResilience Program called “The Safe Place” technique.
  7. Read inspirational and positive stuff. Turn off the news, cancel the news paper, stop focusing on negative headlines. Take 10 minutes every day to read something that is inspirational and positive. It can be a daily reading book. There are thousands out there. Find an app for your phone that has positive quotes. Listen to positive podcasts. We live in a informationally flooded world. You can control what stress of thought you want to focus on. The old adage: “Garbage in, garbage out” is still true today.

Did you notice that there are 7 ways to love yourself and also 7 days of the week? Coincidence? Maybe, but try a new loving yourself practice each day and then rinse, repeat.

The poet Rumi wrote that “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers without yourself that you have build against it.” Let’s eliminate the barriers to getting back control of your thoughts and living the truth of having a sound mind.

NOTE: Be on the look out for our my new video training series: “Freedom From Anxiety”. Sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss out. Click here now. 

Using Your E.A.R.S. to Help Children Problem-Solve

Someone once joked that God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we could listen twice as much as we talked. Not bad advice actually. Many parents would do well to heed that advice. This doesn’t mean that parents shouldn’t talk to their children. It’s just that they shouldn’t be so quick to give advice or lecture of the right and wrongs of a problem. Listen first, then talk. Better yet, ask questions to get at the solutions to children’s problems. This causes them to feel as if they came up with the answer and take more ownership for the problem. E.A.R.S. is a helpful acronym for parents who want to improve their problem-solving skills with their children.

E = Elicit

The starting point for problem-solving with children is to elicit possible solutions that already exist in the child’s repertoire. Ask questions such as, “What would you think would make the situation better?” This implies that there is a solution and that the child has the ability to utilize it. If they don’t have an answer to this question, try this one: “What would your _______ (supply a relevant name here) say you are doing about the situation?”

This implies that the child is already solving his problem. The fact of the matter is that every response to a problem is a solution to a problem. Only some responses are better than others and have fewer severe consequences. The job of parents is to acknowledge children’s efforts and then direct them to use better responses.

If the child persists that there wasn’t anything good about what he did in the situation, then ask, “What was the part of the situation that was better than the other parts?” And if the child does recite some ‘better than other parts’ of the situation, ask, “How did you do that?” This encourages the child to learn from their own behaviors and increase positive responses.

If the child suffered severe consequences for his response to the situation, ask, “What did you learn from the situation?” Most successes are the result of trial and error and determining what doesn’t work.

A = Amplify

Amplify refers to the use of questions to get more details about any positive efforts toward problem-solving. Use who, what, where, when, and how questions. For example, “Who noticed you do that?” or “When did you decide to do that?” or “How did they respond to your solution?” Never use why questions. Why is a very judgemental word and will stop all attempts to help the child problem-solving because he feels bad about his efforts. Over time this can develop into a pattern of behavior where the child never tries anything new because he is afraid of failing. If he doesn’t try, he doesn’t fail. At least that is the rationale.

R = Reinforce

Years of behavioral change research have taught us that there are two ways to create change in others. Reward desired behaviors and ignore or mildly punish undesirable behavior. So be sure to reinforce any effort to solving a problem. Even failed attempts are worthy of acknowledgment. The child must want and value positive change. Reinforcement will be the motivating force for this value. Be sure, though, that you use verbal or social reinforcement. Don’t give in to bribes (candy, toys, and money) to reinforce the child. This will reinforce dependent and manipulative behavior and decrease independent problem-solution. The best reinforcers are a surprise. When children do not know when to expect a reinforcer (a compliment or public acknowledgment) they will be more motivated, ready for reinforcement at any moment in time.

S = Start again

Learning to problem-solving and listening to our children to help them, is a process. It can’t be done once and then left alone. It must be done over and over again. Repetition is a fundamental principle of learning. The more you do something the better you get at it. And now that the child has found a solution to a problem, plan for the next one. Most problems pop up again in life. Brainstorm solutions for the next time. And finally, treat every problem as an experiment where new and clever solutions can be tested. So use those two ears to listen more then you talk but when you do talk, ask solution-focused questions to help children problem-solve.