Friday, August 14, 2009

Worries, Anxieties, and Fears...

Paul's story is familiar to many. "I have the constant fear and worry that my life is being ruined because I don't know what it is like to have normal, secure relationships with people nor can I just relax and have fun and enjoy. I can't really imagine what it would be like to live and not have anxiety all the time. I avoid all sorts of situations. I often worry about things that aren't all that important and I shouldn't be thinking about them at all. It was just last week that I could not go out with friends because I have this paralyzing fear that I would be hit by a car or something even worse! I worry about people dying, my pet dying, friends leaving me because I am crazy!! Basically, I worry about everything. I have lots of trouble falling asleep most nights because my brain won't shut off. Oh, how I wish I could control what I was thinking so I could live a normal life..."
Notice what Paul has 'struggles' with:
1. Attempted to control or stop worrying...
2. Can't stop worrying even if it does not seem to solve anything...
3. All keyed up...
4. Easily fatigued...
5. Difficulty concentrating...
6. Irritable...
7. Problems sleeping...

Let me offer a radically new way of looking at this problem of anxiety. Thoughts and feelings of fear, panic, anxiety are intense, unpleasant, overwhelming, and often terrifying. But the thoughts and feelings are not the problem! I repeat, the thoughts and feelings of terror, panic, fear, and anxiety are NOT the problem. The problem is the rigid, toxic, avoidance of fear and anxiety. The majority of research today shows that excessive avoidance is the most important toxic element for morphing worries, anxieties, and fears into truly debilitating disorders.
Toxic avoidance of fear looks different depending upon the person or situation. Some avoid people, places, activities, or situations that "make them uncomfortable" and might lead to anxious feelings. Others use substances (three or four glasses of wine will "work", as will Lortabs, etc...) to minimize the effect and 'turn off the brain.'
Einstein (as in Albert) is reported to have said, "problems cannot be solved by thinking within the framework in which they were created..." With this notion let me offer a radical new way to look at the problems of worries, anxieties, and fears. It begins with acceptance. Yes, acceptance...accepting the 'fact' that life is full of situations that lead to fear and worry. Accepting the fact that I am able to face my fear and not allow it to define who I am and how I live! In fact, let me ask a question that all my patients hear: "Is it possible for someone who has SOCIAL PHOBIA to be a successful public speaker?" Of course you know the answer and it is YES! What is the answer? It begins with the attitude of acceptance.
The Serenity Prayer states: "accepting hardship as a pathway to peace and taking this world, as it is, not as I would have it..." That is the beginning of the pathway to serenity.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Telling the Children You Are Getting Divorced

Telling the children that you are going to get divorced can be a very difficult obstacle to overcome, but it is something that must be done in order for the children to begin to accept this dramatic change in their life. Research shows that children reared in an environment where there is tension and reactive emotion will be struggle maybe even more than a child reared in a emotionally calm divorced home. Children, who see and witness their parents constantly abusing each other, suffer.
Children are resilient and they can thrive in a divorced home. A proper parental environment that offers a safe and reasonably anxiety free ‘growing space’ allow children to blossom. One of the first ways that a parent can help a child is by telling him or her about the divorce. Remember, children of all ages will be affected by their parent's divorce. Following are some tips on telling the children.

Telling the Children

• No matter what the age, it is important that the parents tell the children what is going on.

• If one parent has played the main parenting role, then it is more logical for that parent to break the news to the child, lessening the disturbance.

• It is very important that no blame be assigned to either parent for the separation, because this may indirectly give the child a reason to choose sides. It is unhealthy for the child to feel that there is a good and bad parent.

• As a parent you must explain to the children that they are not to blame for the divorce. Initially almost all children feel that they are responsible. The parent must explain that the divorce is between the parents and not the children and parents. If this is explained correctly, the children will also realize that if they are not responsible for the divorce, then they cannot be responsible for their parents reconciling.

• Don't, I repeat don’t tell the children that you are divorcing unless you and your spouse are absolutely certain that the decision is final.

• It is important that you tell the children about the divorce when you can be together for a long period of time. A non-school day would probably be the most preferred time, because they are going to feel very alone and they will need someone there to feel a sense of safety and security.

• After you have told them the news, you may, without going into great detail, want to give them some idea what they should expect in the future. A child may want to know about school and future living arrangements.

• If they ask "why?" this usually means why is this happening to me. It does not mean why you are getting a divorce. The children initially really don't need to know why, so eliminate details.

• Be sure to ask them if they have any questions. They may have questions, but will be reluctant to respond at that time. Remember, it is important to field questions again and again.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Anxiety...deal with it!!

The chronically anxious person is impatient. Escapist thinking looks for quick and easy answers to life's greatest challenges. The quick-fix mentality flees from a challenge and is overly simplistic in viewing life while at the same time focuses outwardly (not inwardly). Avoidance is a strategy chronically anxious people utilize...if I hide or if I avoid or if I act like it ain't there, then it will go away. The chronically anxious person has a very low threshold for pain. In fact the amount of chronic anxiety is inversely related to the person's capacity for enduring pain. What makes chronically anxious people is not the pain but how they deal with the pain. The root word for anxiety means pain (angina, anger, anguish, angst) and pain, in this life, is inevitable, however, misery is optional!!

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