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Anxiety

Anxiety: How Journal Writing Helps

Anxiety: How Journal Writing Helps.

My first diary may have been pink or blue with flowers or peace signs, I’m not sure. But I know the mounted metal lock and flimsy key made me think it was secure. As a fourth grader who liked a boy in my class, it was a treasure box for my secret desires. It later became a way to process anxiety.

Anxiety Journal

Handwriting in a journal is one of the most intricate and complex things our brains can do. Without an outlet, those neurons can take you on trails of negativity, worry, and harsh self-talk. Even when you write down a list or phrases in a journal, you release those unwanted thoughts and focus on more important things, like the project or task that needs your full attention.

Then you can close the journal and use your mental energy toward living in the moment. The toxic thoughts transfer from your head to the journal.

Learn to live in the moment. Transfer uninvited thoughts from your head to your journal. Click To Tweet

Anxiety Appointment

For those who struggle with anxiety, I encourage them to find a 30 minute time frame at the same time every day to write in a special journal just for those anxious moments. You begin to train your anxious thoughts to associate a physical journal as a place to land.

When anxiety rears it’s ugly head at uninvited times, you can tell it, “I’m busy now. You’ll need to wait for your appointment later today.”

Journal Writing – Growth Beyond Anxiety

When your anxious thoughts are written down and closed up in a physical book, you can put it on the shelf or hide it under the mattress. It’s there when you need it again. Or it’s there when the anxiety is no longer haunting. Or it’s there when you’re far enough removed from it that you can look back and celebrate how far you’ve grown out of them. Like looking at a picture of your immature self that doesn’t even look like you any more.

Handwriting in a journal is one of the most intricate and complex things our brains can do for well-being. Click To Tweet

From Anxiety to Gratitude 

The authors of The Five Minute Journal consider daily journal-writing as good for your mental health as brushing and flossing your teeth is for your dental hygiene. You build up plaque in your brain if you go days without writing what you’re thankful for.

The mind is so intricately complicated and we can’t possibly be aware of every automatic thought that takes us on a trail of negative ruminations. But we can direct our thoughts that serve us well. The habit of writing down what we’re thankful for every morning primes our brains before starting our day. We learn to look for amazing things as we reflect and write them down right before going to sleep at night.

Write for Well-being

Our minds are now more complex and stressed with patterns of thinking than our ten year old selves. We’ve outgrown our fourth grade anxieties and diaries with peace signs and flimsy locks. Let’s continue to outgrow our current worries. Let’s appoint a time to write and give our ourselves the well-being to live fully in the present.

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Family Stress

5 Ways to Relieve Family Stress During Holidays

Family stress during holidays can range from mildly challenging to overbearing.  Sometimes it’s traumatic losses such as  divorce, death, or past trauma. Or invisible tension from emotional abuse, arrogance, manipulation, negativity or other issues.  Our personal history can make us vulnerable to reactions and old relationship wounds. We end up with feelings of dread.

These five ways to relieve family stress takes courage, practice, and planning. For some, it takes professional help. If you find yourself overly stressed at the thoughts of being with family, here’s five things to consider.

  1. Be open and curious about different perspectives.

We’re not even aware when we bring our internal stories and judgments into our heads about others and ourselves.  We all desire to be heard, understood, and validated. It’s challenging for us to hold the viewpoints and experiences of another when theirs is radically different from our own.  

It takes being intentional to be curious about another who is different than we are. Being open and curious instead of an “I’m-right-and-you’re-wrong” attitude. Curiosity and openness is the beginning of humility and understanding. Click To Tweet

  1. Take deep breaths.  

When someone does or says something that instantly stirs your insides, take three deep long breathes – easier said than done. We’re triggered by an embarrassing comment or an unintentional put down. Without knowing it, your brain tells you wordless messages like: “Youre not safe. Youd better walk away. . . or fight.  Stand your ground. They are the enemy.  Heart rate and blood pressure rises. The fight, flight, or freeze reaction strikes like lightning.

Deep breathing slows all this down. It only takes 90 seconds for the neuro-pathways to connect with the reasoning part of the brain. Three or four deep belly breaths help make this happen.

Rational thoughts about the same offense may sound like, “I must have been misunderstood . . . they may not be aware of how I just experienced them .  . . I’ve said impulsive things before . . . this reminds me of _______ . . . I wonder what’s really going on. . .”

  1. Be intentional about positive thoughts and actions.

We need about eight positive interactions to cancel out one negative. You’d be surprised at how contagious our thoughts and actions are. Most of us don’t realize how we invite others to respond negatively to us. We’re unaware of our own facial expressions, mood, and tone.  Our internal thoughts affect others. Attitudes show up like a proud peacock.  

  1.  Look for divine encounters.

Be willing to look for a loving and welcoming God in the midst of relationships. I believe divine encounters happen in the present moment and among relationships with others.

My favorite way of doing this is being with my little grandchildren and seeing the world through their eyes. It’s easy to be with them because they’ve not developed the defenses that grown adults have learned. Of course, it’s challenging to see the little girl or boy inside a grown adult’s body.

When we see a hurt child underneath another’s stern gestures, we can choose to make loving eye-contact. Too often our own child wounds keep our gaze away in fear.

Imagine allowing conflict with another to be an invitation from the Holy Spirit to grow and heal. Honor the other person with the viewpoint of meeting God in the interaction. You open yourself up to transformation!

  1. Be willing to say “no thank you.”

In some cases, family stress can be poisonous to one’s emotional and mental well-being. If you struggle with overwhelming anxiety, it’s necessary and appropriate to say “no thank-you” to family gatherings. Some situations are so severe that it’s important to get professional counseling. Get help with how to say no and make alternate plans in a way that nurtures your soul.  

Remember to practice: be open, take deep breaths, have positive thoughts, look for divine encounters, and say “no thank you.” May your family stress be turned into opportunities for awareness, positivity, and personal growth. 

Questions to Ponder

What has been most challenging to you in the past?

What is one take-away for you from this list of 5 ways?

 

Grief

Lessons of Grief From A Clay Cup

Loss can be mysterious and unexpected. In this case, I learned lessons of grief from a clay cup. Click here for audio version. 

It wasn’t just any cup. My 23-year old son who moved out to Seattle two years before gave me this treasured gift. The unglazed belly of the clay cup made my coffee vibrant with flavor. The handle fit my hand perfectly along with indention for my thumb at just the right angle. 

The artisan-crafted clay cup held depth of meaning in ways I didn’t realize.

It was a daily ritual to write in my prayer journal drinking from my clay cup with a lighted candle by my side. While on my front porch rocking chair these tangible items helped me meditate and pray. My heavenly Father and my long-distance son were invisible, yet present. I felt close to both.

At the time, my younger son was getting married and my daughter and granddaughter had just moved across the country.

Adult children moving or getting married is not an easy transition for any mom. Click To Tweet

And then, while in the kitchen, the unexpected happened. I was totally caught off guard. It was like a slow motion movie clip when each frame passed by in focused terror! My beloved cup fell off the crowded countertop and shattered onto the wood floor; gone in an instant. The shock made time stand still.

A nauseous pit in my stomach screamed out. An uncontrollable floodgate poured out of my red splotchy face. My husband picked up the pieces to assess it’s fixability.

Nothing could be done.

My tears wouldn’t stop.

I woke the next morning missing my cup. The uncontrollable tears and gut-wrenching feelings came in waves like an ocean tide. It lingered for several days.

This is crazy, I thought. It was just a clay cup. Why am I reacting like this? What is wrong?

I scheduled a counseling appointment with my therapist.

She encouraged me to make a mosaic out of the shattered pieces. Although I’d never be able to drink out of it, I could make it a piece of art; something new and beautiful. 

My therapist helped me identify the meanings I attached to that clay cup. She helped me gain focus to my loss. I became more aware of what I was really grieving.   

Here’s what I’m learning about grief.

  1. Grief is universal and unique. We all experience loss and we are all affected by it. Loss is not only the death of a loved one. It’s the death of a relationship, a season of life, a dream, or an attachment.
  2. Grief is meant to be felt. Willingness to feel the sadness and cry the tears makes us more whole as human beings. Feeling depth of loss gives us capacity to live and feel fullness of joy. Click To Tweet
  3. Grief is necessary. It tunes us into the value of our relationships. It gives us clarity. It helps us let go and make something beautiful where sorrow existed.
  4. Grief has meaning. When we take time to face our loss and pain, we gain clarity. We appreciate others more. We’re able to hold the preciousness of “now”.

It’s been three years since the initial sting of my shattered cup. Waves of grief settled and joy came back. I can live in the “now” and embrace the emerging adulthood of my children. I enjoy this “empty nest” stage of life with my husband. It feels free and full.

My husband and I make our trips across the country visiting my long-distance children, cherishing the time we have. Tears still flow with our “good-byes.”

I now drink from another clay cup with more awareness. Whether it’s loved ones, relationships, seasons, or dreams; all are meant to transition and grow. Be thankful for now.

Questions to Ponder

What are you learning about grief?

What are things that hold meaning for you?

How has a loss become something new and beautiful?