Decision making is the stable anchor to the emotional storms that brew on the popular tides of drama and outrage that carry us out to turbulent seas. Making firm decisions, and sticking
to them in times of emotional upset is like the eye of the storm around us. It is possible for us to have chaos all around, yet remain calm and in control, as long as we realize that we are in control of ourselves, and no one else. We are not puppets, unless we choose to be.
How many times do we find ourselves playing the victim to life’s drama, or the martyr? Sometimes we are in the midst of chaotic situations, and conflicting options by ever changing life situations; while other times we can find ourselves playing out our part in our own or someone else’s drama. Do we realize how much we are drawn into someone else’s drama by our own choices? Do we see patterns of habitually being drawn into others drama, or do we find ourselves in the all too familiar role of self-inflicted drama ourselves?
Let someone else dare to have a different opinion that we have, and there lies the negative seeds of conflict. Water these with our thoughts, and there we go, off again to our next dramatic event, triggering our own self-sabotage emotional wound. Poor us.
It does not have to be this way. You and I are not victims to life. On one hand we know this. We jump on the band wagon of the power of the positive thinking train, and can quote with the best of them, all the modern day guru ideologies. But our train can get derailed, and sometimes can get totally off the track, if we do not take better care of our own emotional health. How can we do this?
Helpful tips for stronger emotional health:
*Just because someone else is mad, sad or any other negative emotion, does not mean that you have to be too. This is not compassion, nor empathy
* Now is not forever
* In overwhelming situations, the thing to remember is, “People before things”
* Moods follow thoughts, ALWAYS. If you don’t like how you are feeling, change how you are thinking
* Jump off the merry-go-round of dysfunction, drama, and anything we do not want in our life
* Decide from now on, exactly what and who we want in our lives
* Life is too short to be manipulated or abused by others
* We are in control of our own life, not other people
* Stop being a people pleaser. It is not our job to sacrifice our own happiness in order to make other people happy
The bottom line is, it all starts with making a decision of what we want in our life, and sticking to it.
We need to take care of our mental health, in addition to our physical health. Our mental health is important. We need to take better care of it. With physical health issues, we tend to take care of the things we need to take care of. If we ignore the first symptoms of a problem, the pain associated with the physical problem usually sends us to the doctor, even if it is inconvienient.
But those with mental health issues often have another hurdle to jump. Our pride, which is fed by our insane ego, suggests to us that if we were mentally strong enough, then we could simply wish our problems away, or worse yet, our insane ego might suggest that you are feeling so good, you should get off your medications because you do not need them anymore.
NEVER GET OFF ANY MEDICATIONS WITHOUT THE ADVICE OF YOUR DOCTOR WHO PRESCRIBED THEM.
The following considerations work both for people currently on medications, and for those who are not on medications.
Let’s go back. Twice now I’ve referred to the ego as the insane ego. The ego very much wants to have a loud voice, no matter how shy you might be, in order to keep you alive. It does not like to have its voice squelshed. However, our ego can make its presence known so loudly that we trip over it time after time. So I will be refering to our unbridaled ego as the insane ego.
Our insane ego can rear up when we first become aware that we might be mentally unbalanced, overly frightened or overwhelmed, by suggesting that this problem “is all in your mind,” and that “It will go away.” Guess what? Problems, mental or otherwise do not go away when we do not deal with them.
It is important for good mental health, to acknowledge our feelings. Feelings are not right or wrong. They simply are. Unpleasant feelings like guilt, unworthiness, grief, and depression do not magically transform themselves by stuffing them deep, down inside you, or denying them. First we need to acknowledge them. Sometimes these feelings are so strong they create a physical pain, but that’s just the symptom of the emotional pain. Know this, once you identify the source of the problem and deal with it, the pain begins to lessen, while your personal power grows stronger.
Whatever you focus on grows. The more you focus on the anxiety, the more the anxiety grows. The good news is, the more you focus on relaxation, and doing the things that bring on the relaxation response, the more you will unwind and heal.
While it is not healthy to pretend we do not have anxiety, it is healthy to have a conscious plan including self-talk and mantras, simply phrases we keep repeating to ourselves to re-train our mind in how we think. Yes, there are times medications are needed, but quite often using these simple self-help tools work to reduce stress, restore mental balance and increase self esteem without them.
For panic attacks, remember to breathe. Nowadays we do not breathe right. When we do breathe, we do not get the same amount of oxygen as we did a century ago due to so much pollution in the air. Plus we are cutting down the rainforests in the world, which are the lungs of the planet. So, remember to take slow, deep breaths. After taking 15 slow, deep breaths, your blood pressure usually returns to normal.
You need to know, if this hasn’t occurred to you already, that you are not going to “feel” like doing any of this. Once the negative habit of anxiety has rooted in you, a little voice inside of you will start by telling you, “This is stupid,” or “It won’t work,” or “I don’t feel like it.” It’s like you have the negative you on one side, and the positive at-least-wants-to-try-to-be-positive you on the other side. Realize this before hand so you expect it, then consciously take the steps to get better anyway.
Yes, you can get better.
To reduce stress, make sure each day includes stretching, Yoga or walking. Remember to move your body in five different directions. For example, you could do a forward bend, arch your back backwards, lean from the waist to one side sliding your hand down your outer calf or whereever you can reach, then do the same thing on the other side. Lastly, do some sort of twist, gently. None of these moves need to be extreme. They just need to be done. This helps you by releasing those feel-good endorphines. Start by doing this for five minutes, then gradually over a few days increase to 15-20 minutes each day, rain or shine.
Listen to happy music you like. Relaxing music helps a lot.
Know too that the world is not going to come to an end if you do not get everything on your to-do list done. Your head already knows this, yet somehow we place enormous burdens on ourselves, out of a mis-guided goal of perfection. Accept yourself right where you are, right now, with all limitations you see. Ask the good God who made you for the assistance you need. It is not that you are perfect if or when you get 900 things done in a day. Give yourself permission to be you and enjoy the wonder.
Do you ever find yourself sailing on through life just fine one day, then all of a sudden you feel like a derailed emotional train? What happened? Here is a list of emotional
traps to watch out for. But no worries; there is a remedy for each one of them, with or without medication. There is a big push these days for drugless therapies. I am trained and certified in drugless therapies, which I will share in this post. But I have also witnessed personal, emotional crashes from people deciding independently to take themselves off their medications without their doctor’s approval. While I promote drugless therapy as much as humanly possible, if you are on medications, you must have an honest conversation with your doctor, and decide the best course of action for you safely. You matter.
These emotional traps will be addressed in this article:
emotional quick sand
when friends are not friends
SAD ~ Seasonal Affective Disorder
Here are some emotional triggers where you might derail yourself:
speaking before thinking
Now for the self-help remedies that work every time, with or without medication:
become the observer of your moods and attitudes
decide to feel better
take positive action to feel better
realize you are not a victim
adjust your thinking
grow in virtues: integrity and honesty (especially with yourself)
allow for mistakes
have a plan
First, it helps to recognize the emotional traps: hijacking, quicksand, sabotage, self sabotage, pressure, friends, and seasonal affective disorder. These things can happen to us before we even recognize it is happening. We go along through life, happy and fine. Then before you know it, you find yourself hijacked by someone else’s agenda, without a conscious decision from your own personal power.
Emotional quick sand can happen both when we are alone, and when we are with others. The tone of the day or events can become so daunting, that they over-shadow you and your outlook. If this is not addressed head on, we emotionally begin to sink, right where we are in our spirit and soul, depleting us of much needed energy and our life force.
Emotional sabotage is like hijacking, only more sinister. With hijacking, we unwittingly go along with someone or something, ultimately in a direction we do not want to go in, until we have experienced that we do not want to go there. With sabotage, someone else intentionally seeks to rob us of our self control and self empowerment with the sole purpose of manipulating us to get what they want.
However, there are times when we want to appear to be trying to move in a particular direction, but in our hearts, we are not convinced we actually want to do this, so we intentionally, consciously or unconsciously, defeat ourselves. This is especially obvious when we are trying to get over addictions: gambling, over eating, drinking, drugging, and sexual and every other kind of addition. This also happens when we willingly let our lack of self confidence taken over our confidence. We see this when people try to better themselves, either with employment or personal gains, then sabotage themselves out of fear of success.
With pressure, it is not just peer pressure that can trap us emotionally. Family members pressure us, as do friends, but we can also get pressures from society, and from people we do not even know. When we care more about what others think of us or what we are doing, more than we do what we feel we want or should do, we give into pressure that is not necessarily good for us. Just because someone or something else has a different opinion of what we are to do, that does not mean that they know better than us what we should do.
When we feel weak we often turn to friends. But sometimes friends are not friends. Take a look at your friends. Are all friends good for us? Do all friends have our best interest in heart? Do our friends have other agendas, whether trying to keep us stuck so that we reach out to them? Do our friends keep us stuck with them, because misery loves company? Sometimes when we begin to heal ourselves, we need to separate ourselves with the very friends who we thought were our friends, but really, we not. Drinking buddies is a good example.
Seasonal affective disorder is a real disorder that affects our mood in a negative way. As the seasons change with less available sunlight, our moods can match the earth’s decreasing brightness. In order to naturally balance us out chemically within us, it is helpful to use light therapy lamps with full spectrum light, in order to maintain our circadian rhythms. Scotopically enhanced light has been proven to stimulate the eyes photoreceptors increasing visual acuity making this light more comfortable to use while lowering melatonin levels that directly affect energy levels in the body. But without realizing what is going on with us during the months of the year with less light, we might think we need to deal with a depression problem, when in reality, we need to deal with a natural lighting problem.
Consciously noticing our triggers is the beginning of the healing process. First, take a full week to observe what hits your emotional buttons. Don’t do anything different in this week. Simply notice your emotional responses to everything, good and over the top. This is a very enlightening week. Sometimes our triggers are not what we thought they were, other times we will find we were right on. Very often we think we are upset with someone or something else that tripped us up, but by observing, we might find we are upset with ourselves for not standing up for ourselves, or not fully expressing what we wanted to say, in a way others could understand us better.
Begin by observing your thinking. Again, at this point, you are not looking to change how you think, merely observe. Are you defeatist in nature? Are you a bully? Are you a door mat? Are you your best cheerleader or villain? Do you act like a two-year old throwing emotional temper tantrums in arenas where they do not belong? Do you call yourself a loser or a winner? Do you believe the lie that if you are having a bad day that means you are a horrible person? What are your intentions? Do you expect to fail, or to succeed? Do you receive failure as a normal part of life, or do you take that personally? Do words fall out of your mouth before passing through your brain because, “that’s just the way I am?” Do I do what I want, or only what others want?
We have already begun the first step in self healing, by becoming the observer of ourselves in this first week. Now in week two, decide to take positive action, to get back into your skin so to speak, and get back in control of the rest of your life. Take a moment to thank yourself for taking the time to recognize where you have been emotionally, where you are, and where you want to go. Now that you have decided to grow in character development, to grow as a more full, conscious aware person, decide which actions you will take to go in a more positive direction. You might decide to stop that negative inner voice from making self degrading thoughts, or speak up for yourself in situations where others, by habit, try to put you down emotionally. Speaking up can be done calmly and with dignity. Speaking up for yourself does not need to be done with hostility and anger. You can speak up for yourself with a sweet smile. However it is done, it is better to speak your mind as opposed to choking back unspoken words.
Come to a full realization that you are not a victim anymore. You and I cannot control what horrible and unspeakable things have happened to us in the past. We need to come to terms with this. We may have been a victim of war, robbery, assault, or worse. But to choose to stay emotionally living in the past, is to choose to self inflict ourselves with injury that does not need to keep happening. We do have a choice to move forward in a more positive direction. Even with post traumatic stress, there is a road to recovery. But that is not what most of us are dealing with, those who choose to live with the victim mentality. This is the case where we might have adopted sick thinking, like, bad things always happen to me, or I’ll never get better, or no one has it as bad as me. The only way out of this thinking is to come to the realization that you and I are not victims, unless we choose to be.
So how do we get past all these traps and triggers so we can transform like a butterfly? If you do not like how you are feeling, change how you are thinking.
I will continue in the next few articles how to help yourself with self improvement, self healing, growing in self esteem, and growing in virtues like integrity and honest, especially with yourself. You can spend thousands of dollars going to counseling to get to know why you are the way you are. I studied under Dr. Dolores Seymour, who wrote a book, “Who Cares Why?” This is such a good point. Who cares why you are they way you are? What matters is, what are you going to do from this day forward, to improve, to get better, to get healthier, to grow in faith, hope and action, whatever you choose.
You may have noticed you are not perfect. Who ever said you had to be perfect? Was it friends or family? Was it yourself? So, why beat yourself up for being fully human. We all make mistakes. We trip up on our pride here. I say, get over it.
The answer? Make a plan. Plan to say enough to all the things that bring you down. Make a plan for all areas of your life, financially, socially, with family and friends, employment, spiritually or in matters of faith, and any area you see that you wish to tackle. Nothing is impossible with God.
From time to time it is good to assess how we are doing in the area of character development in order that we can improve our thoughts, words and actions to better reflect where we are at this stage of the game. Are we maturing? As we all know, life is not stationary. Change is inevitable. Yet so often we can mentally, physically or spiritually get stuck. We even sometimes dig our heels in, because, after all, that’s just they way we are, right?
Well, yes, if you are a cement statue.
Has my mind expanded with new concepts since my last formal and formative educational experience?
Am I able to process complicated mental tasks, remaining focused, while keeping my cool?
Am I in control of my emotions or are they in control of me?
How is my ego?
How is my self esteem?
Am I puffed up with a false pride/ego to fill in any voids I may feel I have?
Do I realize that just because I feel insecure does not means that I do not possess the mental tools I need?
Do I see, think or feel that other people are better than me?
Do I see, think or feel that I am better than other people?
How do I process mental conflict within myself?
How do I make decisions?
Do I wait until other people make them for me?
How do I handle my emotional self?
Do I allow myself to be wrong sometimes?
Do I gloat if I am right?
Am I a perfectionist?
Am I hard on myself? Why?
Do I hold myself up to unrealistic expectations? Why?
Do I see, think or feel that showing emotion is a sign of weakness?
What does love mean to me?
How to I express love?
Am I fully able to receive love?
Am I able to give and receive compliments?
Am I always critical of others and situations?
Do I allow others to make mistakes while keeping dignity and grace both for myself and others?
Do I find myself stuck in bad moods?
Do I realize that my moods are the reflections of my thoughts?
Do I realize that I can change my thoughts at any given moment?
Am I in charge of my emotional well-being?
Have I given away my personal power for my emotional well being to others, like family/friends/counselors/doctors?
Do I understand that at any given moment I can reclaim responsibility for my emotional wellbeing (working WITH my doctor if medication is prescribed)?
Do I self-sabotage myself in work or in my personal life?
How are my relationships with others?
What kind of people to I attract in my life?
Do I have mentally healthy friends?
Do I fully comprehend that I can make any changes to better improve my relationships?
How do I handle change?
Do I see, think or feel that I am in an emotional rut?
Am I always late?
Am I always too early?
How do I use the gift of time?
Am I in control of my schedule?
Is my schedule in control of me?
What changes would I like to make with my schedule to make life run more smoothly?
Am I able to delay instant gratification of being lazy for a higher purpose of running on time, or any other positive character development goal?
How are my cleanliness habits?
Am I a clean freak?
Am I a slob freak?
Am I mentally organized?
Am I organized in care of my mind, words, actions and things?
Is not being organized, or tidy giving me grief?
Do I accumulate too many things?
Am I able to let go of things I do not need?
Do I own things or do things own me?
Am I willing to make the necessary changes in my life in order to have more of a positive effect in my life?
Am I accountable for my actions and my non-actions?
Do I see that the image I have of myself has been shaped by my growing up years, people and situations in my life?
Do I fully understand that someone else’s perception of myself is not the real picture of who I am?
Do I realize that I am continually adapting to people, places and things around me, consciously and unconsciously?
Do I realize that I control complete possession of myself in all situations, until I give my will and personal power away?
Do I know that I do not have to give my will, nor my personal power/ego, over to anyone else simply because they demand it?
Do I realize that I can tell people “No,” and retain my calm resolve and integrity?
Do I react to people, places or things?
Do I know that if I stop reacting to everything, my life will be more peaceful?
Do I know that I can decide ahead of time how I choose to present myself to my inner circle and outer circle of people in my life?
Do I know that I can change destructive behaviors by deciding ahead of time how I wish to think, speak and act?
This is just the mental meditation. Tomorrow and the next day we will meditate on our physical and spiritual selves.
Are you ever motivated, intimidated or crippled by fear, or frozen by life changes?
Our emotions are our thermostat, an indication of how we are getting along in our life. Life in general seems more fun with the happier emotions. Yet there are moments that can catch us by surprize and pull the rug out from under us. Other times our emotions can build ever so slowly and sneak up on us, so that we don’t even recognize the drain of energy they are causing. We just know we are off. How we react to fear is also affected by our personality, how we are shaped by our upbringing and circumstances, and one of the biggest fear factors, change.How well do you handle change? I believe how you handle change is an indicator of how long you will live.
Breathe. I can’t ever say that enough. When we go into fear, or talk about fear, we subconsciously begin to shallow breathe, which amounts to not breathing at all.
Relax as you read this. I am not going to tell you anything new that you do not already know here. But with this gentle reminder, you can make some resolutions that will help you get your head on straight.
Whether it is losing weight, or going outside of your comfort zone, placing yourself in new social situations, or dealing with recurrent or new phobias, or anything that pushes your emotional buttons, realize that you are perfect, right where you are, right now, in this exact moment.
You and I have to start somewhere. The best place to start in accepting where you are right now, with all of the limiting conditions you may or may not like. Take an honest look at yourself. What are your good qualities? What are things about yourself you would like to keep as you move forward? What are things you would like to change? Are your desires realistic? Are your desires unrealistic? This honest look might be the first time in a long time, that you take stock of where you are at, and where you want to go.
Fear not. Jesus says fear not. I say fear not. Fear immobilizes you, shuts you down. It is possible to move past fear of change. This is a major comfort to those of us who are faced with immediate and unwanted change, like the death of a loved one, loss of job/home/marriage, or traumatic accident or major health crisis, or mental or spiritual breakdown.
There is hope.
When you take stock of your situation, keep breathing, and realize that fear grows by not taking a close look at yourself. Fear diminishes when you shed a light on the situation. When you deal with the loss of finances, loss of your job, or any other fearful change, fear diminishes.
Make a plan, keep breathing. Your plan just might work. If it does not, make a new plan.
Invite in your spiritual helpers, your spiritual team. You are not alone. The Divine is closer to you than your next breath. Jesus says the spark of the Divine dwells within you. The kingdom is within you. Fear cannot stand against any of this. You win.