How to Have a Midlife Crisis in 10 Easy Steps

I’ve never been overly concerned about my age, or aging in general.

It’s true. A lot of people have something of a rude awakening when they turn 30. Not me. I was fine with it–it was just another year in my life. The same was true at 40. So, for me anyway, age and aging hasn’t really been much of an issue.

Until now…

Over the last few months, something has changed with me. My mind isn’t processing things the way it used to. Specifically, it’s not dealing well with the now undeniable truth that I am getting older. My normally nimble cerebral cortex has become a cloddish, lumbering, sometimes even doddering lump, completely disoriented by what’s happening around it.

Most days lately, I just don’t feel like me anymore.

I don’t think it’s necessarily my age, though. I turned 48 in November–not really one of those milestone ages. But, even before my birthday I had begun to notice that something just wasn’t right. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin, a fact I found terribly disconcerting because I’d only started feeling comfortable in it about 10 years ago.

Yes, something definitely changed this year, and I’m now more aware of my age, and of the aging process, than I’ve ever been. And now, unlike before, it bothers me.

A few weeks ago, I found myself standing in front of the bathroom mirror, looking at a face I thought I knew, but one much less familiar to me. It was at that particular moment when it dawned on me–an idea I’d always eschewed as an excuse for bad behavior was coming to fruition in my own brain. . .

I’m having a midlife crisis.

It was a bit of a whirlwind. So many thoughts and emotions cropped up all at once and without warning. It felt something like that scene in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles when Steve Martin and John Candy have no idea they’re driving the wrong way down the interstate until they’re face-to-face with two semis barreling toward them. Their car goes between the trucks, both of them scream bloody murder, lightning flashes, sparks fly, Martin becomes a skeleton, and Candy becomes Satan. . .

Yeah, it felt something like that.

But, like I said before, it’s not just my age. And in that moment it wasn’t just my furrowed brow, the crow’s feet next to my eyes, my receding hairline, the hair in my nose, the out-of-control J.R. Ewing eyebrows. No, it wasn’t any one of those things. It was and is all of those things, and so many more things, some of which I can identify and some I just can’t. Yep…I’m definitely having a midlife crisis.

I wasn’t at all prepared for this, and I am an extremely detail-oriented person who likes to plan for things. I don’t do anything without a plan, but this…no, there was definitely no plan for this, and that bothers me as much as the fact that it’s happening.

I began to ask myself some serious questions: how does one go about having a successful midlife crisis? How long should I plan on this crisis lasting? What will life look like on the other side of this crisis? These are all worthwhile questions, but regrettably I found, questions for which there are no answers–at least not easy ones anyway.

I can remember hearing people talking about men having midlife crises when I was a kid. Most of those men ended up cheating on their wives, buying expensive cars, or getting some sort of plastic surgery. That’s all well and good, but for me there are a few problems with that:

  1. I’m not married, and even if I were I don’t think I could bring myself to cheat.
  2. I just bought a used Toyota Camry–I can’t afford a Corvette.
  3. I didn’t even want them to operate on me to repair a broken arm; do you seriously think I’d let someone peel my face off my skull just to stretch it back?!

No, those things just are going to work. It looks like I’m just going to have to muddle through the crisis as best I can without all of those accouterments. I will just have to settle for a plain vanilla midlife crisis. Sorta boring, but on the bright side, I won’t cost as much.

So, I’ve compiled a list of 10 easy steps to help you have a successful (and economically friendly) midlife crisis:

1. Become middle aged (this might actually be the hardest step of all…)
2. Lose hair in places you want it, grow hair in places you don’t
3. Start waking up at least once a night to use the restroom
4. Stop sleeping when it’s bedtime, start sleeping when it’s not
5. Have mysterious pains on/in various parts of your body
6. Get at least one new medicine from your doctor when you go for a check up (and require a pill-keeper to organize them)
7. Have at least one new test run during or after each doctor visit
8. Listen to your doctor say, “You’re at that age when…”
9. Make the self-help section your first stop in your local bookstore
10. Become acutely aware of all the ways your life has not turned out at all like you planned it

 While I am purposely presenting this with a bit of levity, it is very much a front burner issue for me right now. All of those 10 things have happened or are happening to me even now. Standing in front of the mirror that day, I was flooded with a sudden awareness of the passing of time. I’m getting older; I’m changing; people I care about are getting older and changing; the world is changing–nothing looks even remotely familiar to me anymore, and it scares the hell out of me.

Being the predominately left brained person I am, I started doing some research on midlife crises, their causes and implications for men. I didn’t find a lot of answers to my questions, but I did find a lot of confirmation for the way I’m feeling now.

In a 2018 article titled “Midlife Crises Affecting Men and Families” by Dr. Lynn Margolies, in mid-life, “We are faced with loss — loss of youth, previous roles and opportunities. Midlife transition often is associated with a shift in our sense of time, leading us to reflect on our lives so far, decisions we’ve made, and the future.” This is an uncannily accurate description–at least for what I’m experiencing now. I am keenly aware of the things I’ve lost, the passage of time, and I constantly second guess decisions I’ve made or am faced with.

Although midlife crises happen in both men and women, men experience them much differently than women. For men in mid-life she writes, “Men in midlife crises feel hopelessly trapped in an identity or lifestyle they experience as constraining, fueled by an acute awareness of time passing. Finding themselves in a life that feels empty and inauthentic, they feel pressure to break out, and may desperately grasp at a chance for vitality and pleasure.”

Empty. Needing to break out. That pretty much sums it up.

But, this is serious business. According to the American Society for Suicide Prevention, men are over 3 times more likely to commit suicide. In 2017, there were, on average, 129 suicides per day in the U.S., and men accounted for almost 70% of those. Suicide rates were highest among middle aged white men.

Let me be clear, I’ve never been suicidal and I’m not now; but, I can understand why these thoughts, emotions, and massive changes that I’m experiencing now could lead someone to consider taking his own life. Despite how they are portrayed in the media, they are, at times, overwhelming and not curable with an affair or a new car.

1,300 words into this blog post, six months into this midlife crisis of mine, and I still don’t have any answers to the big question. . .

What the hell am I supposed to do with this?

The truth is, I don’t know if there is an answer. All of the literature I’ve read assures me that this is only temporary; that it will pass; and that, for the vast majority of people, midlife crises are followed by what Dr. Margolies describes as, “an upward trend in life satisfaction.”

God, I hope she’s right?

So….what say you? Can you relate? What’s your experience with midlife crisis (or midlife in general) been like? My hope is to start a meaningful conversation about a serious issue that is, all too often, ridiculed.


I hope these posts are helpful to you, whomever you may be. If you’re struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression, there is hope to be found. You can call the Panic Disorder Information Hotline at 800-64-PANIC (72642). (The page links to more information about anxiety and panic disorders.)

As always, if you or someone you know is suffering from any sort of mental illness or disorder, please reach out for help because there is help to be found!

Please share this post! Even if you don’t suffer, or don’t think you know anyone who does, you might just reach someone you didn’t even know and offer them HOPE! Thank you!!


Works Cited

Margolies, Lynn. “Midlife Crises Affecting Men and Families.” Psych Central, 8 Oct. 2018, https://psychcentral.com/lib/midlife-crises-affecting-men-and-families/.

“Suicide Statistics.” AFSP, 16 Apr. 2019, https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/.

Not Dying Was Easy. Surviving Was the Hard Part – 17 Years Ago Today

17 years ago today my life changed forever. What follows is that story…

Not Dying Was Easy—Surviving Was the Hard Part

I wonder sometimes what might have been if I’d taken my normal route home; if I’d swerved faster; if I’d not been driving on the spare; but, I didn’t, I couldn’t, and
I was, and everything in the world changed because of it.  

“What time is it?” I asked. Everything was dark, but I knew someone was in the room with me. I tried to open my eyes, but my eyelids felt like they were made of lead, and what little light penetrated them was so bright that it hurt.

“It’s 4:30.” It was my mom’s voice. “You were in surgery for about seven hours,” she continued. “Do you remember me telling you about it when they brought you back to the room?” She asked. What she said didn’t make any sense. The last I remembered it was about one in the morning. How could I have been in surgery seven hours if it was only 4:30?

“4:30 in the morning?” I quizzed her—I was too confused to say more. 

“No. It’s 4:30 in the afternoon.” She was standing next to my bed and had her hand on my right arm. She wasn’t crying, but I could hear the worry in her voice. With her blocking the light from the open door, I was able to open my eyes enough to see her standing there. My brain was foggy, but I understood now what she meant.

“What did they do to me? I don’t remember if you told me.” I heard her take a deep breath and clear her throat. “Shit,” I thought to myself, “my arm is gone!”

“Mom, did they take my arm? Just tell me,” I said in a more demanding tone.

She squeezed my right arm, “Shhhh. I’m going to tell you, but you can’t scream in here.” I guess moms never stop being moms, even when their babies are hurt.

She told me that the surgeon spend the first two hours of the operation suctioning “bone dust” out of my arm. Every bone in my left arm from my shoulder to my wrist was shattered, and I literally had no elbow left. They implanted two titanium plates, sixteen screws, and a six inch titanium rod was inserted into the radius. The incision started in the middle of my upper arm and extended to about three inches above my wrist. She also told me that my left lung and kidney were both bruised, that there was extensive bruising on my torso and left leg, and that I had a concussion. 

“You have a long recovery ahead of you,” she said as she wiped the streaming tears from my face. “The doctors say probably a year or more until you’re fully recovered. But, you didn’t die, and that’s a miracle.” Not dying was the easy part—surviving was going to be the real trick.

Less than twenty-four hours earlier I was on my way home from my family’s Christmas celebration. I had dinner planned that evening with a friend whom I had not seen in some time. I was running a little later than I’d hoped and was driving above the speed limit. I never saw the small piece of metal in the middle of the highway, and the next thing I knew, I was struggling to stay in one lane. I pulled off the road. I got out and walked around to the passenger’s side of the car. BLOWOUT! The right front tire was completely shredded. Now I would be late for sure.

I opened the trunk to get the jack and spare tire. It was full of boxes and when I finally reached the spare tire, I discovered it was nothing more than the “donut” that car manufacturers included with new cars. My frustration growing by the minute, I unpacked it and the jack and went to work. As I tried to maneuver the jack under the car, I realized that where I pulled off the road was uneven and that the right side of the car was resting on a small hill. There was no room for the jack to fit. I tried it under the front bumper, but it was too small and wouldn’t hold sturdily to the car there. 

Thankfully, an old man passing along the road saw the trouble I was having, stopped and offered to help. I rode with him to his home not far away to get a big jack like I’d seen in mechanics’ shops. He told me that was the only way we’d get the car lifted to change the tire.

As we returned to the car, I saw my sister’s green Ford Expedition pulled over near it. She, my mother, and my niece were headed to Dallas for shopping and happened to notice mom’s disabled and abandoned car. As the old man put the toy spare tire on the car, I stood and talked to them. 

My mother tried her hardest to convince me to turn around and go back to her house. She was worried about me driving on the toy spare. I promised I would be careful and that I would go first thing the next morning and get a new tire. I pulled back onto the highway and headed for Dallas. 

As I reached the Stemmons/Highway 183 split, I noticed a small, gold-colored sedan traveling almost parallel with me for some time. Somewhere between the Walnut Hill and Royal Lane exits, the little car swerved and collided with my right front quarter panel. The impact wasn’t that hard, but the little toy spare couldn’t handle its force. I was stranded. 

I stepped out of my car and noticed that another car was stopped just behind mine. A young woman was behind the wheel. I motioned for her to wait and began walking toward her. She was driving a brand new silver Lexus with the dealer tags still on it. I walked up to her passenger window. I leaned in and asked if we could use her phone to call 911. She said we could and handed me the phone. I made the call and reported the accident.

“Do you know where Frankford Road is?” the Good Samaritan asked. I leaned into the window again and began to tell her how to get to Frankford. Then I heard the noise. . . like metal grinding followed by a gunshot. I looked up just in time to see the front end of an eighteen wheeler barreling toward us. Before my brain could process what was happening, the truck slammed into the back of the Lexus. Then, darkness.

photos of two wrecked vehicles On the left, the car I was standing next to. On the right, the truck that hit us.

I felt myself get hit, first from the right and then from the left. Everything moved in slow motion. There was no light and no sound, but I was not unconscious. I was keenly aware of what was happening, but at the same time there was nothing. It’s not true what they say–my life didn’t pass before my eyes–nothing did–it was just dark, and still, and deafeningly quiet. I never lost consciousness. I knew when my body was thrown into the air and I knew when I came crashing to the ground with a thud. 

In just a few seconds my brain assessed that I was still alive–I could feel my heart beating and I could hear myself breathing. I was hurt–badly, and I was still in the middle of the freeway. “Jason, get your ass up before you get hit again!” I don’t know if the voice I heard was my own, my mind, a guardian angel, or some other celestial sentry charged with saving my life. Whoever. . .whatever it was, I trusted it and picked myself up off the pavement.

My glasses were gone, but the rest of my clothing seemed intact: shoes, check; pants, check; belt, check; shirt, check. But, something was not right. I only felt one arm. I looked down at my left side. The arm was there, but I could not feel it attached to my body anywhere. I began to panic, thinking that the only thing holding my arm off the ground was my shirt sleeve. I heard myself scream in terror, “NO!” Almost simultaneously I realized the fingers on my left hand were moving. I couldn’t feel them moving, but I saw them moving. Left arm, check.

Traffic was completely stopped. I walked toward the right shoulder where I could see the back of the truck peeking over the ledge of the deep ditch between the freeway and service road. It was burning and people were rushing around from side to side. 

It was then that my head cleared and all of my senses returned. The smell of rubber and diesel burning filled the air and irritated my eyes and the inside of my nose and throat. The entire left side of my body, from shoulder to knee, felt like someone had smacked me as hard as he could with a baseball bat. It was an intense, burning and aching pain. I grabbed my left arm with my right hand and bent it at the elbow. I could feel the bones moving freely under my skin. As I brought my arm to my abdomen, I could hear them moving. It was a nauseating grinding and cracking sound.

“Somebody help me!” I screamed for my life. Until that point I don’t think anyone knew I was there. A man who was standing nearby ran to me. He grabbed my shoulders, and a lightning bolt of pain shot through me. I nearly collapsed, but the man caught me and sat me down on the pavement and leaned my back against the metal guardrail.

“Where are you hurt?” he asked calmly.

“I think my arm is broken,” I said, now writhing in excruciating pain. “No, I know it is, but what about my pupils? Are my pupils dilated?” I don’t know why I asked about my pupils, but I asked at least three times before the man assured me that my pupils looked fine. 

Before long, paramedics, firemen, and police officers descended on the scene. As they attended to me, I noticed a familiar voice. I opened my eyes and squinted. Through the strobe of red and blue lights and the smoke from the truck, now completely engulfed in flames, I was able to make out a familiar face. “Ben Roberts?” I asked. Ben was a friend from high school whose parents were the youth leaders at my church. I had not seen him in over ten years.

After a moment he recognized me, too. “Jason Walker?” He asked. “What are you doing here?”

I grabbed his hand and squeezed as tightly as I could. “Don’t let me die, Ben. Please.” I began to cry—the first tears I’d shed during the entire time. Ben assured me I was not going to die, but was honest and told me that I had significant injuries and that they needed to get me to the hospital quickly. I asked him to ride with me in the ambulance and he agreed.

It was surprisingly quiet and calm on the ride to the emergency room. Ben asked me to tell him exactly what happened. I told him the whole story: the first of about ten repetitions of it that night. Then, I took Ben’s hand again and asked him to pray with me. He agreed and proceeded to ask God to protect and heal me, and to give me peace and comfort. I did begin to feel peace—finally, peace. When he finished, I asked him to call my mother and tell her what happened. He reached her on her cell phone and told her where she would need to meet us. I could hear her crying on the other end of the call and Ben assured her that everything would be alright.

We finally arrived at the Parkland Memorial Hospital Emergency Room. Ben and the other paramedic wheeled me in on the stretcher and we were met almost immediately by a nurse who jotted down the vital signs Ben gave her. After they transferred me to a hospital gurney, Ben told me that he had to leave, but that my mom should be there soon and that he would check in with me the next day. I thanked him again and closed my eyes as he walked away.

There were what seemed like hundreds of people milling about in the hallway, and from time to time I would hear blood-curdling screams coming from down the hall. Since the accident happened, time had stopped. My watch was gone and I couldn’t see a clock. I had no concept of how long I laid there on that gurney in the hallway waiting. Waiting for someone to help me; to give me something for the horrific pain I was in; to tell me I could go home and get me out of that hellish place. 

Home. Five days later I was on my way, but not to my home. I was being released from the hospital and was headed to my mother’s home. I couldn’t take care of myself at all. On December 30th, the day I left the hospital, my left arm was still tightly wrapped in bandages. A drain tube and bag still collected the blood and puss which constantly oozed from the wound. I couldn’t take a shower or bath. I couldn’t dress myself. I could eat, but only if it was something which could be easily manipulated with my right hand alone. I was helpless, and if it hadn’t been for the wretched physical pain I was in, I would have felt that way. I had a fabulous apartment full of nice things which I’d worked hard to get, and something inside of me knew I’d never be back there again.

The first two weeks after I arrived at my mom’s house were spent in bed in various stages of consciousness and alternating between hydrocodone for the pain and Phenergan for the nausea that it caused. During the day, while Mom was at work, my sister would come and stay with me. Every other day for those two weeks, Eric, a friend from high school who still lived in town, came to help me get cleaned up. The entire situation was demoralizing and humiliating. I was ready to get out of bed, get moving, and get back to my life, but that wasn’t going to happen for months.

At the end of January, my doctor, who I had been seeing once a week since I left the hospital, released me to begin physical and occupational therapy. In the beginning I went three days a week. It was the hardest work I’d ever done. Even the simplest tasks wracked my body. My therapist began each session by having me lie on the floor. I held on to one end of a Theraband, and she held the other while I stretched my left arm as far across my bod as I could. The goal was to touch my right shoulder with my left hand—it took almost three weeks before I could do it. Each time I tried my weakened body would tremble, sweat would pour from every pore on my body, I would be as short of breath as if I’d run a marathon, and I cried like a brokenhearted schoolgirl. 

During those days, victories were small, and they were few and far between. Tying my shoes, spreading peanut butter on bread, combing my hair, and shaving were cause for celebration. But, there were many days when victory was nowhere to be found. After one particularly difficult session, I called my mom at work. “Mom,” I said, sobbing, “why didn’t you just tell them to cut my arm off.” I was sitting in the floor of the bathroom where I’d collapsed trying to get into a hot shower, the only thing that seemed to help my arm. The physical anguish was bad enough, but nothing compared to the unbearable sadness I felt the day I sat in my mother’s living room and watched most of the things I owned being sold to complete strangers for pennies on the dollar. There was no victory in that.

My adult life up to the point of my accident had been largely directionless. I played around at college for almost ten years before giving up and going to work full time. I had a good job, but not a career, and certainly not what I felt was my true calling. During the nearly nine months I was recovering, I had a lot of time to think, to reevaluate my life, and to consider my options. In an odd way, the same accident which turned my world upside down had also cleared my head about life. I finally had an appreciation for what I’d heard people say all my life—it’s too short to waste a minute. 

I was released to go back to work in early September of 2004, and I secured a job at Southern Methodist University that November. I was responsible for the operation of the Information Commons in the Hammon Arts Library. It was a dramatic cut in pay and responsibility from the job I had before my accident, but every day I was surrounded by people who valued education and hard work, including my boss, the library director. He knew my story and knew my goals. In November of 2006, after two successful and empowering years, I sat in his office and tearfully handed him my letter of resignation. I had finally saved the necessary money and was headed back to school full time. I was scared to death about what his reaction might be.

“Jason, I think this is wonderful, and I’m so happy for you,” he said with an enormous smile on his face. Not only was he gracious and encouraging, as usual, he gave me the biggest surprise of my life when about a month later, just before Christmas, a package arrived for me. It was a brand new computer with the latest software installed. It was from him. There was a note inside which read, “You are greater than your past. Love always, Tim.” I was overwhelmed.

Many things about the accident and the two years which followed it overwhelmed me. The worst thing that ever happened to me turned out to also be the best thing. Coming literally within inches of losing my life saved my life. Working to regain the ability to use my arm for the most menial tasks taught me that those things are not to be taken for granted. And, the day I walked across the stage at Texas Tech University, all of the pain and all of the heartache seemed somehow worth it.

In the end, surviving was the hard part. But, I could, I did, and everything in the world was better because of it.

 

Struggling, Discouraged, & Generally Feeling Like Something of a Nobody

Yeah….sorry about the melodramatic title, but if you’ve been reading my blog long enough then you know I have a penchant for drama. *shrug* It’s who I am. I apologized for it for years. I’m not going to apologize anymore.

I’m struggling…

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. There are a lot of reasons for that: I’ve been busy (not really, but sorta), I haven’t felt like writing anything (totally true), and as hard as this will be to read for many of you, I’m a little miffed that more people don’t read my blog and that the people who do won’t share it (sorry, but y’all said you like my honesty and transparency…that’s just honesty).

More honesty – it’s not only writing that I don’t feel much like doing. I don’t feel like doing much of anything. I’m pretty much phoning it in both with my teaching and with my schoolwork. I don’t have a lot of motivation to do either. Fortunately, I’m naturally gifted at both, so I still do better than most who actually give a damn and try (yeah…more honesty *shrug again*).

So, I’m struggling. I’m struggling to find much of a purpose in what I’m doing or a plan for what is coming next. Right now I’m teaching just for the money. I don’t really care about much more than that. I’m going to school because I set a goal 10 years ago and this is the last step. But, I don’t even know now if it’s a worthwhile goal to have. *shrug 3x*

I’m discouraged…

My anxiety is getting worse, not better. I go to counseling every single week and talk about all the stuff in my life that bothers me and all of that stuff is supposedly the stuff that is making me anxious. But, so far, yacking away….blathering on and on and on about shit that happened when I was a kid, about how out of place I felt most of the time and about how worried I was that people in my family were going to die…none of that psychobabble horsecrap is helping me feel less anxious.

I’m starting to wonder if I can be helped at all. *shrug quadrilateral*

I feel like something of a nobody…

This really isn’t anything new. Growing up a completely un-athletic clod in a town that valued nothing but sports made me feel like something of a nobody from the age of about 10 on. But, it’s intensified now.

Being stuck in the house all the time because of anxiety means that I get to watch my “friends” live their lives and progress and move forward while I sit at a tiny desk in front of a $12 map of the world and pretend like my job teaching ESL online is important….and that taking two online graduate courses and writing discussion posts about semantics and pragmatics and communicative intent and cross-cultural communication actually means that I’m a scholar. Who believes that? Not even me. *shrug quintuplet*

There you have it. That pretty much sums up how I feel about life right now. I’m not going to put any of my usual “Hey let me know what you’re thinking” BS at the bottom because nobody ever does and it’s just a waste of my time.

Pencils Down, Your Time Is Up: 5 (+1) Strategies to Overcome Test Anxiety (A Reader Request)

For the first time in almost 10 years writing this blog, I’ve had a reader request that I address a particular topic! So, of course, I am very happy to oblige, especially since this particular topic is one that is very important to me as both an educator and a student–TEST ANXIETY!!

I suppose that I’ve been fortunate in this particular area. With all of my anxieties, and there are many, test anxiety is not something from which I’ve ever suffered. I’ve always performed well on tests and taking them never produced much stress for me.

However, that is certainly not true for many friends, family members, and my students. I personally know a large number of people who suffer from test anxiety–some of them experience severe, adverse effects.

What is test anxiety exactly?

In his book, Test Anxiety: The State of the Art (1993), Moshe Zeidner defines test anxiety as, “a combination of physiological over-arousal, tension and somatic symptoms, along with worry, dread, fear of failure, and catastrophizing, that occur before or during test situations.”

That’s a whole lot of what my grandmother used to call $5 words that basically means when you go in to take a test, you’re so worried about failing or not doing well that your sympathetic nervous system (that part of the nervous system that controls our “fight or flight” response) kicks into overdrive causing both psychological and physical symptoms in the body.

It’s important to note that these symptoms don’t only occur during tests. Often times, people experience anticipatory anxiety (symptoms of anxiety prior to the event) which can cause problems for days or even weeks ahead of time.

What causes test anxiety?

According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA), some of the causes of test anxiety include: fear of failurelack of preparation, and poor test history.

Fear of Failure
Often times, students who have high expectations for themselves, or whose parents, guardians, family, colleagues, etc. have high expectations for them, have an intense fear of failure. This fear is directly linked to those expectations. Although the expectations are a constant in that student’s life, fear associated with the thought of failure intensifies during tests.

Lack of Preparation
Some students are anxious about tests simply because they did not adequately prepare for them, or because their preparation was hurried or “crammed” into a very short period of time close to the date of the test. As the student becomes aware of their lack of preparation, anxiety sets in about the outcome of the test.

Poor Test History
Of all the causes of test anxiety, poor testing history has been the most common among my students and people I know. Without getting into the quagmire of opining on our education system’s obsession with standardized tests, suffice it to say that students now days are tested far more than when I was in school. And, the truth of the matter is now, just as it was back then, that there are some students who just don’t test well. After multiple experiences with failure on tests, many of these students develop a mental “block” about testing, which leads to anxiety, which leads to poor performance…and the vicious cycle is born.

What are the symptoms of test anxiety?

According to the ADAA, symptoms of test anxiety may include (but are not limited to):

  • Physical Symptoms–“Headache, nausea, diarrhea, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, light-headedness and feeling faint can all occur. Test anxiety can lead to a panic attack, which is the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort in which individuals may feel like they are unable to breathe or having a heart attack.”
  • Emotional Symptoms–“Feelings of anger, fear, helplessness and disappointment are common emotional responses to test anxiety.”
  • Behavioral/Cognitive Symptoms–“Difficulty concentrating, thinking negatively and comparing yourself to others are common symptoms of test anxiety.”

These symptoms are, of course, not all present in every student; and some students may experience symptoms which are entirely different.

To read the ADAA’s entire page on Test Anxiety, click here.

5 Strategies for Avoiding Test Anxiety

  1. Be prepared. The biggest mistake I see my students make when it comes to taking tests is that they don’t adequately prepare. When they do assignments leading up to the test, they simply complete the assignment and then move on. They don’t study what they learned from the assignment while they’re doing it, or when it is returned to them after being graded. Students often wait until a day or two ahead of time, or even the night before a test and “cram” for it. According to researchers at UCLA, cramming for tests, and the “trade off” with lack of sleep, is one of the least effective ways to study for tests. They say that the best method for test preparation is “maintain[ing] a regular study schedule” (UCLA Newsroom, 2012).
  2. Use good test taking strategies. This really isn’t rocket science. In fact, you’ve likely heard this since your very first days in school. When taking a test, you should do all of the following:
    • Read the directions. Too many students don’t bother to read the directions and miss questions because they didn’t.
    • If you don’t know it, skip it and come back. As a general rule, I allow myself about one minute to read and think about a test question (depending on the number of questions and how much time I have to take the test). If I’m not sure of the answer by then, I flag it–mark it to come back to later–and move on. Then, if time allows, I return to the question and give myself a little more time. If I still don’t know it…..I MAKE AN EDUCATED GUESS! Never leave a question blank. If you do, you have a 100% chance of missing it.
    • Keep your focus on the test. It’s important that, while you’re working on the test, you stay focused on the test…on your test. Don’t get hung up on what other students are doing or on which students have already finished. Your job is your test. Just focus.
  3. Keep yourself healthy. I wrote in one of my other posts how important it is to be physically healthy in order to maintain good mental health. Fighting test anxiety is no different. Before your test be sure that you’ve a) had enough sleep the night before–don’t stay up cramming, and b) you have a good, nutritious meal. Yes, your grandmother was right! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Be sure that you eat it, even if you think you’re too nervous to eat! That goes for other meals during the day if your test isn’t in the morning.
  4. RELAX!! Part of the reason that many of my students who consistently performed poorly on tests did so is because they couldn’t relax. They got themselves so worked up over the test that they almost certainly doomed themselves. It is important to be as relaxed as possible. Some nerves are ok…they mean that you care. But, getting so nervous that you lose focus is not good at all. Before the test, if possible, find a quiet place. Close your eyes. Try not to think about the test. Take some long, deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth, allowing at least 2 seconds for each. If you don’t have a quiet place to do that before the test, just sit at your desk, be quiet in yourself, close your eyes, and breathe. Then, while you’re taking the test….keep breathing!
  5. Stay positive. There really is no substitute fora positive attitude. If you walk into a test believing you’re going to fail, you probably will. But, if you walk in telling yourself that you know the material, you’re prepared, you’re going to focus and try your hardest, then you dramatically increase your chances at success.

And now, your +1

Examine  and evaluate expectations. One of the traps that people with anxiety disorders often fall into is the trap of unrealistic expectations. From time to time, we must take time out to examine and evaluate not only our expectations of ourselves, but also the expectations that other people have for us.

When examining and evaluating expectations ask yourself 2 questions:

  1. Is this an expectation I have of myself, or is this someone else’s expectation of/for me?
  2. Is this expectation realistic or achievable?

It’s OK to say “No.” No is a sentence all by itself. If the expectations that you are laboring under are either a) someone else’s for you, b) unrealistic/unachievable, or c) both, them dump them! Just say no! Reevaluate and regroup. It’s OK to change your expectations and to change your mind!

Don’t Ignore Warning Signs

Changing your mindset, your habits, and your focus can and will help curb test anxiety. However, if your anxiety has reached the point where it is impacting your ability to function and succeed in your education or job, it is very important that you seek help.

As with any other type of anxiety, there are professionals available who can help you overcome this severe anxiety. Don’t ignore warning signs! They are the same as with other forms of anxiety: chronic sadness, thoughts of suicide, feeling hopeless about your life, separating yourself from the outside world, diminishing physical health. These are all signs that your anxiety has reached a level where professional help is necessary. Seek it out. There is hope!

I hope that something I’ve written here will help you overcome anxieties about taking tests. I know this is a big problem for many students, but I also know that it can be overcome.

If you have any thoughts, suggestions, or encouraging words, please leave them below in the comments section.

Until next time…

Love and light,
Jason


I hope these posts are helpful to you, whomever you may be. If you’re struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression, there is hope to be found. You can call the Panic Disorder Information Hotline at 800-64-PANIC (72642). (The page links to more information about anxiety and panic disorders.)

As always, if you or someone you know is suffering from any sort of mental illness or disorder, please reach out for help because there is help to be found!

Please share this post! Even if you don’t suffer, or don’t think you know anyone who does, you might just reach someone you didn’t even know and offer them HOPE! Thank you!!

 

 

Self-Care Isn’t Selfish: Finding the Time and Tenacity to Get Well

Most people who suffer from anxiety and/or panic attacks (panic disorder) are the typical, tightly wound, Type a personality. Actually, all personality types have some level of tendency toward anxiety and stress about some thing according to Tanya J. Peterson, author of The Mindfulness Workbook For Anxiety. But, Type A’s are highly susceptible to the stressors that typically lead to anxiety and panic attacks.

I am somewhere in between a Type A and Type C personality (yes, there really is a Type C personality). I am highly driven and goal oriented, but I am also incredibly detail-oriented, a perfectionist, and fear criticism (all traits of Type C). Each of these personality types is susceptible to anxiety, panic, and depression.

This week during my session with my counselor, we talked a great deal about my fear of criticism and the way I react to seemingly insignificant triggers–blowing them out of proportion and treating them as if they’re the end of the world. I’ve been that way since I was a pretty young kid. I probably noticed it first around age 15 or 16.

While it’s impossible to say that these are the things that caused my anxiety and panic, it’s a pretty sure bet that they didn’t help minimize or prevent it. That’s why it is so important for people like me–for people like all of us who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks to take care of ourselves both physically and mentally.

But that’s not always easy to do….

Self-Care Isn’t Selfish

One of the things that I struggle with most is guilt. I feel guilty about many things; some of those things don’t even have anything to do with me–I just take them on as my own because…well, I guess I think I can worry about them better than someone else.

Because of those intense feelings of personal responsibility and guilt, I find it very difficult to take time out for myself. In fact, I’ve been thinking about this blog post for well over a week, but I couldn’t seem to bring myself to write it because there were so many other things that I “needed” to do.

The real problem with this is that when I get consumed with these feelings of guilt, I become completely ineffective, even in the things I feel responsible for. I shut down. I can’t get anything done at all, and that just intensifies that guilt all the more.

It is vital that we learn to take time for ourselves, even when it feels like the most selfish thing in the world to do!

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “Improving your relationship with yourself by maintaining your physical and mental health makes you more resilient, helping you weather hard times and enjoy good ones” (NAMI.org, 2018).

We are the only people who really know what we need in the way of care. We must advocate for ourselves, and we must be willing to endure criticism that comes our way when we choose to take care of ourselves.

That starts with learning to say “NO.”

No is not a dirty word. We’ve just been made to believe that by a society that, once upon a time, valued a sense of community, but which has now morphed into an increasingly codependent society, completely unhealthy and devoid of any emotional boundaries.

Saying no doesn’t mean you don’t care. It means you care enough to know when you’re too busy or too tired to really help.

Finding the Time and Tenacity to Get Well

I’m busy! We’re all busy! I don’t know anyone in my immediate circle of friends and family who isn’t going all day from sunup to sundown most days of the week. Finding a few minutes free during the day is hard enough, much less a few hours…and forget about a few days!

But, we must.

There is nothing more important to our mental health than our physical health. If our bodies are worn out and worn down; if they’re out of shape and out of sync with our lives then it is impossible to be mentally healthy.

Taking care of our physical bodies requires 3 important things:

  1. Healthy Food
  2. Water
  3. Adequate rest

I’ll write about food and water later, but for now I want to talk about rest.

Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep at night (NAMI, 2018). This can vary, of course, but as a general rule it’s true. I don’t know many people who get that much sleep at night, so NAMI also notes that a short nap (20-30 minutes) during the day can help us recharge if we didn’t get enough rest the night before.

Rest and relaxation are not optional! 

Maybe we can go for a while on 2 or 3 hours sleep. Maybe we can go for a while with never-ending schedules that have us meeting ourselves coming and going, but eventually we will wear outOur bodies will start to shut down and fail us. So, it’s important to find the time to rest and relax.

Be a pit bull!

As important as it is to find the time to rest and relax, it’s even more important to find the tenacity–to find that sense of dogged determination that leads us to do things we know that we need to do, but that the people around us tell us we just can’t do because it would be selfish.

HOGWASH! 

Don’t be a jerk about it, but be very clear that you need time to relax. Their problems, their issues, that work will still be there tomorrow and the world won’t end if it doesn’t get done today. Stand firm. Advocate for yourself!

If you don’t, who will?

Suggestions for Finding Time & Tenacity for Self-Care

  1. Schedule time to rest. No kidding, it’s as simple as that! Block out time on your calendar for rest and relaxation. Then, once you do, don’t book over it–EVER!
  2. Do things you enjoy doing on a regular basis. We all have things that we love to do. So…GO DO THEM! Just like rest, we need to block out time to do things that edify and enrich our lives. Schedule it if you must, but don’t book over it–EVER!
  3. Be assertive, but not aggressive. If you have someone who or something that is too demanding of your time, speak up for yourself. Don’t wait until you’re angry and resentful about it to say something. Rehearse what you’re going to say ahead of time (no, I’m serious), take that person aside, and tell them what you need and why you need it. If they care about you, they will understand. If not, then maybe you need to set some boundaries for that relationship.

Remember, it is not selfish to take care of yourself. In fact, it is the most natural human instinct we have. Unfortunately, our modern culture has beaten that instinct into submission, which has resulted in a society so wound up that we fight and argue about everything.

Take care of yourself so that you can take care of others! It is the right thing to do.

Until next time…

Love and light,
Jason

Tell me what you think. In the comments section below, share your thoughts about self-care. How do you practice it? What are some things you would suggest for others? Click in the “Leave a reply” box and leave your message there.


 

I hope these posts are helpful to you, whomever you may be. If you’re struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression, there is hope to be found. You can call the Panic Disorder Information Hotline at 800-64-PANIC (72642). (The page links to more information about anxiety and panic disorders.)

As always, if you or someone you know is suffering from any sort of mental illness or disorder, please reach out for help because there is help to be found!

Please share this post! Even if you don’t suffer, or don’t think you know anyone who does, you might just reach someone you didn’t even know and offer them HOPE! Thank you!!

The Things We Say to Ourselves, part 2: 5 Positive Statements You Should ABSOLUTELY Say Every Day

Last week I wrote about 5 Negative Statements You Should Stop Saying Right Now.  So, I wanted to follow that post up this week with 5 Positive Statements You Should Absolutely Say Every Day.

When I was in high school, there was a skit on Saturday Night Live called “Daily Affirmations with Stewart Smalley.” Stewart Smalley was a character written and performed by Al Franken–yes, that one, the former U.S. Senator from Minnesota.

Stewart Smalley was a caricature of the typical power-of-positive-thinking sort of self-help guru that really started becoming common on TV and radio in the 1980s. He wore bleach blonde, overly styled hair; dressed in an Oxford-style shirt buttoned all the way to the top with a powder blue v-neck sweater over top. Smalley sat in front of a stand-up full length mirror, gazed longingly at himself, smiling a goofy smile, repeating his catch phrase, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonit, people like me” over and over again.

self talk posterI know, sounds goofy, right? And, it was. The character and his show were meant to poke (innocent) fun at this new self-help industry which seemed to have cropped up over night.

But, as silly as Stewart Smalley was, the premise of his “show” and his method were based in some fact.

There have been numerous studies done on the impact of self-affirmation on both mental and physical health. While the results are mixed and would require far more explanation than I have time to write here, Psychology Today summed up several of those studies in a 2017 article:

 

By enhancing the psychological resources of self-integrity, self-affirmation reduces defensive responses to threatening information and events, leading to positive outcomes in various areas such as psychological and physical health, education, prejudice, discrimination, and social conflicts . . . Repeated use of affirmations in a meditative state can help to rewrite messages—but only if an individual is ready and willing to manifest positive change (Gupta, 2017). Click here to read the full article.

It is important to note, however, that there are several conditions (for lack of a better word) that need to exist for these positive affirmations to be effective. Here are a couple of important ones:

  1. The individual making the affirmations must be willing to make the changes. This reminds me of that old joke: how many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the bulb really has to want to change. Funny, but not far from fact. In order to make positive changes, we must be willing to receive them.
  2. The affirmations must be positive statements. Avoid using words like “not,” “don’t,” or “can’t” in these statements, even if the net meaning of the statement is positive.

Have positive affirmations worked for me?

I’ll admit to you now that my use of positive affirmations (or, positive self-talk as it is often called) is pretty new. I’ve only been consciously working to replace negative self-talk with affirmations for a couple of months now. I knew about it before, but I had never earnestly tried it.

steart smalley that's ok gifI have had pretty good results. Why only pretty good? Well, I have about 40 years of brain retraining to do, so it’s going to take a while for this habit to become deeply ingrained in my day-to-day life. As Stewart Smalley would say, “And, that’s…OK.”

I can definitely tell a difference in how I feel when I use them.

So, what about you? What can you say to yourself to replace those negative thoughts? Well, I’m glad you asked. Here are….

5 Positive Statements You Should Absolutely Say Every Day

  1. I am worthy of goodness. Because that is the truth! You are worthy of having good things and good people in your life. Tell yourself that every day and you will be far more likely to surround yourself with good people and manifest good things.
  2. I am healthy. Because that is the truth! Now, I don’t mean to be Pollyanna about it and ignore actual health problems. But, the truth of the matter is that, most likely, you ARE healthy despite the symptoms that your anxiety, panic, and depression produce.
  3. I will endure/overcome. Because that is the truth! Whatever situation it is that you’re going through right now, the good news is that you’re GOING THROUGH it. You will endure and you will overcome, just like you have countless times before.
  4. I can make it on my own. Because that is the truth! Most of us don’t like being alone, and loneliness is a terrible feeling. But, the truth of the matter is  this: we can all make it on our own. We just have to learn to enjoy the company we keep when no one else is around. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.
  5. I am a strong person. Because that is the truth! Even when we don’t feel very strong, we are remarkably resilient and more than capable of coming back from the toughest of times. You are strong, and you will survive.

As corny as it may seem to you now, saying these things to yourself out loud every single day can have a significant impact on your overall mental and physical health. It’s awkward at first, but just keep doing it. You’ll get the hang of it and you’ll be glad you did.

Until next time – stay positive and say good things to yourself!

Love and light,
Jason

PS – Give yourself 6 minutes to watch the video below. It will make you smile, and maybe even laugh a little. 🙂

So, tell me what you think. Do you say positive daily affirmations to yourself? If so, do they help? If not, are you willing to try just for one week and see how it goes? Leave a comment below and let me know, or just leave a positive encouraging word!


I hope these posts are helpful to you, whomever you may be. If you’re struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression, there is hope to be found. You can call the Panic Disorder Information Hotline at 800-64-PANIC (72642). (The page links to more information about anxiety and panic disorders.)

As always, if you or someone you know is suffering from any sort of mental illness or disorder, please reach out for help because there is help to be found!

Please share this post! Even if you don’t suffer, or don’t think you know anyone who does, you might just reach someone you didn’t even know and offer them HOPE! Thank you!!

It’s Not ALWAYS Anxiety: Recognizing, Owning, and Dealing With “Real” Emotions and Symptoms

Sometimes it’s easy for those of us who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks to blame everything on anxiety. It’s easy for our friends, loved ones, and even our doctors, too. But, I want to let you in on a little secret. Are you ready?

It’s not always anxiety.

It’s true. Not every emotion and not every symptom we experience is a product of our anxiety. One of the most important keys to managing our health, both mental and physical, is knowing the difference between anxiety/panic and “real” emotions or symptoms.

man holding his head as if in painOf course, all of our symptoms and emotions are real. We’re not imagining any of them or making them up. When I use the word real I’m talking about emotions or symptoms brought on as a direct result of anxiety and/or panic vs. those that have their origins in an external pathological stimulus beyond our control.

I could think of a ton of examples of times when I’ve experienced emotions or symptoms that I wasn’t sure were “real” or driven by anxiety. This is especially true for people with panic attacks because, often, those attacks happen out of the blue and don’t seem to have any trigger.

But, it’s important that we know the difference and that we stand up for ourselves when we recognize the difference. There are three keys to that end…

  • Recognize “real” emotions and/or symptoms.
    This is a tough one because we (folks with anxiety and panic disorder) frequently have unexplained emotions and symptoms, especially when we’re in the midst of a panic attack. Every person is different, so there’s no one sure-fire method of determining whether your emotions or symptoms are driven by anxiety or are pathological in nature. That’s why it is so important to seek professional help. A trained counselor or psychologist can give you the tools you need to know yourself well enough to recognize the difference. That is really the foundation of this step–knowing yourself enough to know what looks, feels, sounds, and acts like anxiety and what doesn’t. I cannot stress enough how important it is to seek professional help!! It is vital to the healing process.
  • Own those “real” emotions and symptoms.
    When you know yourself well enough, you’ll know what’s real; and when you know what’s real, OWN IT! Don’t second guess yourself, and don’t let anyone else second guess you. Even people with anxiety get sick. And even people with anxiety get upset, angry, hurt, sad, happy, excited–our emotions are intact just like everyone else’s. There really are external stimuli which cause those feelings; and there really are germs and bugs out there that can make us sick. If you feel a real emotion, own it. Let yourself feel it. If you get sick, own it. Go to the doctor, get some medicine, and let yourself get well. Don’t ignore the real things!!
  • Deal with it.
    This is maybe the hardest step of all, because when I say deal with it, I mean deal with the people who doubt you when you tell them something you’re feeling is real. We know they mean well…..most of them anyway. But, they really don’t know best–YOU DO! Stand up for yourself and for your health. Don’t be aggressive, but be assertive.  If you need to speak with someone about something they said or did that caused emotional pain, be assertive and insist that they listen. If you need to see a doctor because you’re sick, be assertive (yes, even with the doctor if necessary) and insist that you see them. Deal with it–don’t let other people deal with it for you!!

I know. This is difficult. There are so many questions we ask ourselves, and so many answers we give ourselves that may or may not be right. But, it is nonetheless important.

Never make assumptions where your health is concerned. Never make apologies for your feelings. People who really love and care for you will either understand, or you might need to move them out of the way.

YOU MUST TAKE CARE OF YOU!!

Until next time…

Love and light,
Jason

Tell me what you think. In the comments section below, leave your thoughts and experiences about “real” emotions and symptoms vs. those produced by anxiety. Do you have specific ways of determining which is which? Tell us! Or, just leave a positive word of encouragement.


I hope these posts are helpful to you, whomever you may be. If you’re struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression, there is hope to be found. You can call the Panic Disorder Information Hotline at 800-64-PANIC (72642). (The page links to more information about anxiety and panic disorders.)

As always, if you or someone you know is suffering from any sort of mental illness or disorder, please reach out for help because there is help to be found!

Please share this post! Even if you don’t suffer, or don’t think you know anyone who does, you might just reach someone you didn’t even know and offer them HOPE! Thank you!!

The Things We Say To Ourselves: 5 Negative Statements You Should Stop Saying Right Now

People with anxiety and depression are notoriously bad about saying terrible things about ourselves. Most of the time, we say those things to ourselves

Oftentimes we excuse this negative talk by saying we’re just being “realistic” or “trying not to get our hopes up” about something. But, the problem is that with every negative word we speak, we’re only exacerbating the cycle of emotions and reactions that put us in the positions we’re in.

About 10 years ago, just after I first started writing this blog, I wrote a post called “The ne’er-do-well.” Basically, it was 1,000 or so words of me comparing myself to my friends and then trashing myself for not being like them. The following is just one of the paragraphs:

It’s Homecoming weekend at my high school alma mater and many of the people I grew up with and graduated with have come back to town to see friends and family they don’t often see. I’m here because on occasion I get a notion in my head that this time will be different – that this time I will have something to say, something to offer in conversation beyond meaningless platitudes about how great someone looks or how lucky they are to have such a beautiful family. For some reason the thought creeps into my mind that this year someone will say I look good or ask about my fantastic new job or how my writing is coming along. Keep looking, though – that’s me in the corner over there looking into the crowd with nothing to say. After all, what is there for me to say when I am as disinterested in my life as any of them are? There’s no question to ask to which they don’t already know the answer. The job is just that – a job. I get paid ten dollars an hour to listen to people gripe about their $400 telephones that don’t work and then I get to tell them to take the battery out and put it back in so that, as if by magic, it works again; and for that one brief moment I am their hero! I am their champion because I fixed their phone and now they can play Brickbreaker while their kids practice soccer or gymnastics. What more do they need to know about my writing? I write thousands of words each week and no one reads them. No, the questions are not necessary because the answers are always the same.

Holy cow! Even reading that now, all these years later, gives me the creeps. And trust me when I tell you, that is one of the more benign paragraphs! Those are an example of some of the things I said to and about myself on a regular basis.

Negative self-talk is poison!

Studies have clearly demonstrated that negative self-talk can do serious damage. It leads to increased stress, anxiety, and depression. It can damage our ability to succeed at work or school. And, negative self-talk can have devastating impacts on our relationships with family, friends, and boy or girlfriends, partners, and spouses.

Here are a just a few of the potential effects of negative self talk according to this 2018 article on VeryWellMind.com:

  • Limited thinking. You tell yourself you can’t do something, and the more you hear it, the more you believe it.
  • Perfectionism. You begin to really believe that “great” isn’t as good as “perfect,” and that perfection is actually attainable. (In contrast, mere high achievers tend to do better than their perfectionistic counterparts because they generally less stressed and are happy with a job well-done rather than picking it apart and zeroing in on what could have been better.
  • Feelings of depression. Some research has shown that negative self-talk can lead to an exacerbation of feelings of depression. If left unchecked, this could be quite damaging.
  • Relationship challenges. Whether the constant self-criticism makes you seem needy and insecure or you turn your negative self-talk into more general negative habits that bother others, a lack of communication and even a “playful” amount of criticism can take a toll.​

Additionally, for those of us who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, perpetual negative self-talk can lead directly to increased anxiety and even panic attacks through increased feelings of inadequacy.

In order to combat our anxiety, we must learn to 1) recognize negative self-talk, and 2) replace it with positive affirmations that build us up rather than tearing us down.

To help you combat negative self-talk in your own life, here are…

5 Negative Statements You Should Stop Saying Right Now

  1. I am not worthy/I am worthless. This is a LIEYou are absolutely worth every effort and every good thing that comes from those efforts. Simply by virtue of the fact that you are a living human being, you ARE worthy, you have worth, and you are worth the effort it will take to get better.
  2. I can’t do it. This is a LIE! You can do it! Whatever it is, you can certainly do it if you try; if you put in the work it takes to get it done. So what if you don’t succeed the first time? Who ever does? You can do it, you should do it, and you will do it.
  3. I can’t live without him/herThis is a LIE! Trust me when I tell you that you most certainly CAN live without him or her. One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn in my life is to overcome my fear of being alone. Now, not only do I not mind being alone, most of the time I appreciate that quiet, alone time. As much as it may hurt in the beginning, you can live without him or her.
  4. I have to change who I am for people to like me. This is a LIE! Anyone who requires that you change who you are in order to be your friend is not your friend. Be proud of who you are. Here’s a secret: not everyone will like you! It’s another hard lesson I’ve had to learn, but it was liberating when I finally did. Surround yourself with people you care for and people who care for you just the way you areLet the others sort it out on their own. It’s OK that everyone doesn’t like you.
  5. I wish I’d never been born. If you say that to yourself, I want you to STOP right now, pick up a phone, and reach out to someone for help! I’m serious! If you think that you should’ve never been born, or that you don’t want to live anymore, or that you wish you would die, then you are at a point where you truly need help. There are some resources listed below, including the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, please use them! Or, call a trusted family member or friend, a pastor, a teacher–it doesn’t really matter who it is, just call someone you trust and let them help you find help!

There are millions more I could list, but these are a few of the things I’ve said to myself over the years. Most of them I don’t say at all anymore. One or two of them I still catch myself saying from time to time, but I immediately replace them with positive thoughts.

Next time, we will focus on the positive thoughts you can use to replace this negative poison in your life. Until then…

Love and light!
Jason

 

Tell me what you think! In the comments section below, talk to me about negative self-talk and how it has impacted you. Tell me how you’ve overcome it, or what you’re still struggling with. Or, just leave a positive word of encouragement. Just click “Leave a Reply” and write away!


I hope these posts are helpful to you, whomever you may be. If you’re struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression, there is hope to be found. You can call the Panic Disorder Information Hotline at 800-64-PANIC (72642). (The page links to more information about anxiety and panic disorders.)

As always, if you or someone you know is suffering from any sort of mental illness or disorder, please reach out for help because there is help to be found!

Please share this post! Even if you don’t suffer, or don’t think you know anyone who does, you might just reach someone you didn’t even know and offer them HOPE! Thank you!!

 

Removing the Anger Quotient: Being less affected and more effective

Ok….I confess it. I get angry pretty easily. It doesn’t take very much at all for inconvenience to slide into annoyance; for annoyance to turn into irritation; and for irritation to morph into Incredible Hulk like anger! Even the smallest things can turn me from a relatively calm person, to a complete a**hole.

You know that’s common with people who suffer from anxiety, right? Well, now you do.

Not too long ago, I was in a local big box store (I won’t say which because they’re all the same). I don’t like going in those stores. I find them to be frustrating and major triggers for my anxiety. Unfortunately, where I live there are not many other choices.

picture of bill bigsby turning into the incredible hulk

You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry!

It wasn’t all that crowded–it was the middle of the day. But, somehow or other, I managed to find myself on every aisle that had either employees stocking shelves, or customers…you know the ones…who stop their buggies in the middle of the aisle and look. Juuuuuuuuust loook…and never really decide on anything! 

I’m not kidding. It happened over and over again that day, and I had a pretty long list. That coupled with my already short patience for big box stores and customer in them proved disastrous.

After being stymied time and again, I had it! I pushed my semi-full buggy into the middle of an aisle, slammed my fist against the plastic flap where little kids are supposed to sit, and said, “MORONS!” at the top of my voice.

Wow…..nice, Jason.

Do you know what I accomplished in doing that? Precisely nothing! In fact, the people in the aisle didn’t even look at me.

Anger is often a symptom of fear or anxiety

I wasn’t angry because people were in the middle of the aisle in the store. I was angry because my anxiety was peaking, and anger is an easier emotion to deal with than fear and anxiety.

Joshua Nash, a counselor based in Austin, TX wrote in a 2014 article on GoodTherapy.org, “Anger very oftentimes is indeed a symptom — it’s the expression of judging another emotion as too painful to address.” (Link to the full article by clicking here.)

The problem for me and many others who suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, and depression is that we already have trouble controlling our thoughts and emotions. So, when anger enters into the mix, it can get out of control and ugly really fast.

We end up saying and doing things that, ordinarily, would never be things we’d say or do. We end up hurting people (emotionally or physically) that we care for and love the most.

We become so affected by our anger that we fail to be effective in controlling the situations that frustrate us.

Be less affected and more effective

I’m not perfect. I haven’t mastered any of what I’m about to tell you, but I am trying, and I have found it to be helpful. So, hopefully you will, too.

When you feel angry, ask yourself:

  • Is this situation really something that should make me feel angry? Am I really angry, or am I anxious?
  • Is anger useful in this situation? Will it lead to the resolution I desire?
  • What is the outcome that I desire in this situation?
  • Is this a situation I can or cannot change? If it is a situation I cannot change, wouldn’t I be better off just ignoring it and walking away?
  • Did the person who angered me do it on purpose? If so, was it because of some inner turmoil of their own?
  • If I hope that my anger at someone will hurt them, am I really accomplishing anything? Will it end up hurting me just as bad?

Before you react, do these things:

  • Wait 10 seconds to 24 hours before you respond to someone who has hurt or angered you. YES, I really said 10 seconds to 24 hours!
  • Sleep on it. Oftentimes, situations that seemed particularly bad yesterday don’t look so serious the next morning.
  • Think before you speak or write. Choose your words very carefully and consider their possible ramifications.
  • Use “I” statements and not “you” statements. “I felt angry yesterday when we argued about….” “Sometimes I get frustrated when I feel like I’m not being heard…” “YOU” statements tend to be accusatory and rarely accomplish anything.
  • Ask yourself again if you’re really angry or if you’re anxious.

Finally, and most importantly: if you have trouble controlling anger, and if you find yourself doing serious physical or emotional harm to yourself or others, please seek help. There are trained professionals who can offer effective treatment. Here is a good article with some more information about anger and anxiety.

So, tell me what you think! In the comments section below, tell me about a time when you became angry about a situation that didn’t warrant it. Or, tell me about techniques you use to control your anger. Or, just offer an encouraging word. REMEMBER: YOU DON’T HAVE TO LEAVE YOUR NAME OR EMAIL ANYMORE IN ORDER TO COMMENT! 🙂 (You’re welcome!)

Until next time…

Much love!
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3 Things People With Anxiety Do That People With Anxiety Should Never Do

Generalized Anxiety Disorder, panic attacks, and depression can be a real mine field for people who suffer with them. Often times, the very things we want to do and feel an irresistible urge to do are the very worst things to do. That’s what is so insidious about these illnesses–they become a vicious cycle of self-defeating behaviors that only make them worse.

I’ve engaged in those self-defeating behaviors many times over the years. When I first began having the types of panic attacks that have dramatically impacted my life at age 19 (my history with panic attacks is complicated and goes much further back — you can read about it by clicking here), I had no idea what was going on, and I did everything you’re not supposed to do.

I ran. I convinced myself that everything was hopeless. I failed to recognize the need and reach out for help.

In short, I sabotaged myself before I ever knew what I was doing. That has continued for almost thirty years, and I’m only just now recognizing the mistakes I made.

I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did; so, to that end, here are…

3 Things People With Anxiety Do That People With Anxiety Should Never Do

1. Engage in avoidance coping.

woman with worried look resting head in handAvoidance coping refers to refers to choosing your behavior based on trying to avoid or escape particular thoughts or feelings (Psychology Today). Often times, people who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks choose to avoid potential triggers for their anxiety.

I am an absolute PRO at avoidance coping. When I am in what I refer to as a “malignant period” with my anxiety (a period of time where my anxiety and panic attacks prevent me from living my life fully), my go-to reaction is to avoid going anywhere or doing anything that might possibly cause anxiety or a panic attack.

However, while this may sound like good common sense, it is, in fact, a means of self-sabotage. Avoiding those triggers, or potential triggers, often causes people with anxiety and panic attacks to walk away from things (and sometimes people) that are important to them. This becomes a form of negative reinforcement. While avoiding those triggers can stave off unwanted feelings, it is self-perpetuating. In other words, once it starts it never stops.

It is vitally important for those of us who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks to overcome avoidance coping and to face our fears in order to lead and full and happy life. You can read more about avoidance coping by clicking here.

2. Engaging in negative self-talk.

This one is HUGE for me!

Negative self-talk is the act of, consciously or sub-consciously, focusing on potential hazards or dangers and convincing oneself that every possible bad scenario will be what happens.

Studies have shown strong links between negative self-talk and anxiety. According to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology’s Mental Wellbeing and Counselling Services, “Anxiety can easily and quickly be generated by repeatedly making statements to yourself that begin “what if”, which make you anticipate several scary scenarios that make you want to avoid the situation all together” (RMIT).

Oftentimes, I don’t even realize that I am engaging in this negative self-talk until I have “talked” myself into a panic attack. It very often occurs on a completely sub-conscious level. That is why it is so important to learn to recognize it and to replace the negative dialog with positive, self-affirming statements.

I will be addressing negative self-talk in more detail in a later post, but in the meantime, I encourage you to take a look at this PowerPoint put together by the RMIT Mental Wellbeing and Counselling Service.

3. Failing to recognize when it’s time to seek help.

man with worried look with hands on sides of headWhen I first began having really bad panic attacks, I didn’t tell anyone. What would I have told them, anyway? I had no idea what was going on, and I was scared to death that I was either dying or going insane. I kept my problem hidden for years, until it finally boiled over in 2002. That was the first time I ever sought help for the problem, and by then, it had dramatically impacted my life and the lives of many people I cared for.

Recognizing when it is time to seek help, and then seeking that help is absolutely imperative in overcoming anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.

According to Tammy Heilemann, LCSW,  and Therapist at Memorial Care Center for Mental Health & Wellness, Community Hospital Long Beach, “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in America – affecting close to 20 percent of the population.” That means that, chances are, either you or someone close to you suffers from one or more of the 11 recognized anxiety disorders (Heilemann/Memorial Care Center).

Unfortunately, because of the stigma attached to mental health treatment, about 1/3 of people who suffer from these disorders never seek treatment. If you are experiencing the symptoms of anxiety disorder, and especially if anxiety, panic attacks, and/or depression are having an impact or your ability to cope with everyday life, seeking help is vital.

Some symptoms of anxiety disorder/panic attacks are:

Emotional Symptoms:

Feelings of apprehension or dread
Feeling tense and jumpy
Restlessness or irritability
Trouble concentrating
Anticipation that something bad is going to happen (looking for signs of danger)

Physical Symptoms:

Pounding or racing heart
Shortness of breath
Upset or tightness of the stomach
Muscle tension
Dizziness
Fatigue
Insomnia

There are numerous avenues of assistance available. I have listed some of those resources below. If you are suffering, or if you know someone who is, please seek help immediately! There is help, and there is hope!

So, tell me what you think. I want to hear from you! Please leave your thoughts, questions, experiences, or words of encouragement in the comments section blow. Simply click on “Leave a Reply,” enter your name and email address (I promise I won’t spam you), and write away. Also, please remember to like and share this post!

Until next time…

Much love!
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Resources to Get Help!

I hope these posts are helpful to you, whomever you may be. If you’re struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, and/or depression, there is hope and there is help! You can call the Panic Disorder Information Hotline at 800-64-PANIC (72642). (The page links to more information about anxiety and panic disorders.)

As always, if you or someone you know is suffering from any sort of mental illness or disorder, please reach out for help because there is help to be found!

Please share this post! Even if you don’t suffer, or don’t think you know anyone who does, you might just reach someone you didn’t even know and offer them HOPE! Thank you!!


Are you, or someone love headed back to school? Be sure to check out…

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Written from an educator’s perspective, but these tips are helpful for teachers, students, and parents alike!

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