COLUMN: Addressing anxiety

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Helpful solutions and resolutions

By John Lapp

Anxiety is a dilemma that all of us have faced some time in our lives, and we wonder “is this who I really am? Are there others like me?”
Why do some people become more excited than others, although each may have experienced, relatively speaking, the same factors ? Well, people react differently due to heredity, perhaps biological factors, or even how each was raised as a child.
I wonder if one of the readers was raised in a home where a parent would say to a child who is about to embark on a visit with a friend or relative: “Have a good time, enjoy yourself, but make sure you do this and avoid that but always make sure you do this. But have a lot of fun.”
This sort of ‘send-off’ message to the child can be very confusing and may actually be a source of anxiety to have a good time, but make sure to do everything mom said or else the time won’t be so “good.”
I always have wondered why, when I was ready to leave for a trip some place, I would hear, “Drive safely.” What? Am I not usually a safe driver, with a safe record? What is the warning going to do? Maybe I should hold the steering wheel in the correct way I was taught. You know: “Place your hands at 10 and 2.” Of course, these days it also may be a warning not to text message or be too consumed with a cell-phone conversation.
Now, that is only one possible way we may have learned to anticipate some anxiety, and not be as relaxed as we should. Another common dilemma is when you are faced with a serious choice as it relates to a medical report. You’re in need of treatment or surgery and you’re faced with decisions and questions about the decisions. Should you take the medicine that has been suggested? Could you become addicted to it? What are your chances of getting better? What if you don’t get better after all of these suggestions from the different medical sources?
Often, there is a factor of mistaken beliefs that can set up a dilemma of confusion, and these can lie at the root of what people experience as anxiety. Most of the beliefs are deeply ingrained and pervasive and can cause the person to develop a decreasing sense of self-esteem and confidence in self.
One of the statements on an evaluation I often administer has the person rank on a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 being occasionally to 4 being almost always, the occurrence of this feeling: “I should always be the perfect a)employee, b)parent, c)partner, d)friend.”
While I use the results to this and other statements, I will often question the person who answers with a “4” on any of these areas, “How do you plan to be perfect in any of these areas?” Frankly that’s too much stress, and will produce a lot of unnecessary anxiety as you strive for that impossible goal.
You will never be perfect in any of these areas and you may believe that, but you may also end up with too much self-induced pressure to attain what is ultimately impossible, and develop other problems over the time and effort you have put into this program of yours. God does not expect perfection of us, although he does expect us to do as well as is possible in any and all of the four areas. We have limitations and are deficient in many ways, although we will always keep trying to do better.
What about if you actually believe and think: “I am nothing unless I’m successful.”
First of all, ask yourself some questions, like:
What is success?
How will I know when I have arrived, if ever?
If I become successful, what will I have gained, and also what will I have lost?
You see, that type of thinking in many areas of your life may cause you to develop a serious case of anxiety, produced by placing yourself under a load of stress, which could kill you physically, and cause you great psychological and emotional harm. Our society places too much on the word success, and yet no one, at least no one I have heard of, has come up with a comprehensive definition that fits all of us.
The Bible has more to say about this subject in the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon. You might want to read those books if you are looking to find what the word success really means in its totality.
Always be aware also that stress is a serious problem, and can cause anxiety and depression.
If you continue to put yourself, including your body, under a major load of stress (although stress, in and of itself, cannot be avoided), you are only human and cannot put your body through a continuously increasing load of stress without eventually paying a deep price, either physically, emotionally, or spiritually. You may suddenly collapse under it all, and then where will you be — either personally, or as a member of your family?
Stress is when you stretch yourself (and you know it) beyond your limitations.
It’s okay to say no. This has yet to be defined as a cardinal sin. “No” is a limit word and can often be as healthy as a hearty “yes.”
But, until I have found any legitimate reason to not have that word in my vocabulary, I will use it when it’s for my own good and safety. If you don’t allow that word in your language, then you get busier and busier, and have no time to relax and enjoy.
Finally, try to remember that the cares of this world, (and we all have some) can distract you from recognizing that you can’t do it all. And, along with that, you need to remind yourself and attempt to concentrate on God and who he should be in your life.
In the scriptures, which are continually designed to be the guide for my life, it says “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). That, dear readers is enough to relieve me of the overwhelming factors of anxiety. Practice the presence of almighty God, and make that a way of life.
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