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!
jason walker's signature

 

 


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…

man sitting at a desk biting his nails and looking anxious5 (+1) Tips to Reduce Anxiety on the First Day of School

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

You might also enjoy…

a meme of darth vader and c-3po Lessons from Star Wars–“You Must Unlearn What You Have Learned”: How Self-Perception Can Change Everything

The way we see ourselves can have a dramatic impact on our reactions and responses, and especially on our relationships with others. Learning to change your perception can help relieve anxiety!

5 (+1) Tips To Reduce Anxiety on the First Day of School (with COVID-era upate)

It’s that time again…

Back to School!

The first day of school is just around the corner (already here in some places), and for students, parents, and teachers alike, knowing that first day of school is coming can produce a lot anxiety and sometimes enough stress to make you sick!

But it doesn’t have to be that way…

jason walker wearing shirt and tie standing in front of projector screen

Mr. Walker on his very first first day of school as a teacher!

When I was still in the classroom teaching, I dreaded the first day of school. I never felt prepared and I always felt like I was going to crash and burn as soon as the first bell rang!

No matter what I did, the first day of school always seemed to be the most daunting day of the entire school year.

I remember my first day teaching in my first year teaching. I didn’t sleep at all the night before, and when I finally got out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to get ready to go, I thought the world was going to end. I had major anxiety: dizziness, upset stomach, cold sweats, headache, racing heart, shortness of breath…

You name the symptom and I had it!!

But, somehow I got through that first day, and the other 175 days that came after it. Somehow, I always got through the first day of school every year, and I was always glad I did.

And, believe me when I tell you that if I did it, YOU CAN, TOO!

Here are 5 Tips to Reduce Anxiety on the 1st Day of School:

1. Don’t stress about being prepared — you won’t be!

It didn’t matter how much time I spent on lesson plans, setting up my classroom, gathering materials, cleaning, making copies….I never had everything done on the morning of the first day of school. And, guess what? You won’t either!

But, the great part about that is that, it’s OK! Your students will probably be too worn out from summer and overwhelmed themselves to notice. Not being 100% prepared on the first day will not permanently damage any of your students. So, give yourself a break. You will get it done…another day!

2. Make sure that you are well-rested.

Notice I didn’t say, “get plenty of sleep the night before”…right?

If you’re anything like me, you just can’t sleep when you’re nervous. And, if you’re like me, you’re going to be nervous the night before the first day of school. If you don’t sleep 8 hours, DON’T PANIC! There are ways to mitigate the damage.

Take a good nap during the afternoon before. Hey, who doesn’t love a nap? At least your body will get some rest that day.

Don’t do anything major on the day before the first day of school. I once had a colleague who ran a charity 5K every year right before school started. Several of them happened on the day before. I really don’t recommend this.

Use the day before the first day to let your body rest. Don’t do anything stressful–especially anything like preparing for the next day. Take it easy. Watch a good movie. Have a good meal. Spend time with your family.

RELAX!

3. Give yourself plenty of time.

One of the biggest mistakes that a lot of people make, not just teachers, is not giving themselves enough time in the morning. Being in a rush, even if you’re not running late, creates more even more anxiety.

If it normally takes you an hour to get ready in the mornings, give yourself an hour and a half on the first day.

If your commute is 30 minutes, give yourself 45.

If you know there will be a line at the copy machine–do your copying several days ahead, or better yet, do an activity on the first day that doesn’t require making a bunch of copies.

Whatever you need to do, be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to get there and get down to work. No one ever made a difference by being in a rush!

4. Eat something–ANYTHING, even if you don’t feel like it.

You remember what grandma used to say: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”

Well, guess what? She was right!

There have been numerous studies that have shown students who don’t eat a good breakfast in the morning before school don’t perform as well. The same thing is true for teachers.

If you go to school hungry, even if you don’t realize you’re hungry because your nerves are on edge, you simply won’t perform well. You know what I’m talking about. You’ll end up with a headache, upset stomach, lethargy, and you’ll be a bear to your students in the class period before lunch!

Even if you don’t feel like it, be sure to eat something. Some crackers and cheese, or peanut butter; a piece of toast and cheese…eat something with some protein and carbs so that you’re full and have plenty of energy.

5. Remember, there is only ONE first day of school!

This is maybe my favorite one of all!

Whatever happens; however terrible (or terrific) the first day of school is, remember: there is, and will ever be, ONLY ONE first day of school. You will get through it. The last bell will ring. The students will go home, and you will, too.

Yes, the first day is stressful. Yes, you will be nervous and anxious and excited and worried and thrilled and all of the other emotions at the same time. And, yes, at the end of it you will be exhausted…but, it will be over, and it will be the only one of the year.

Remember that while you read the note little Johnny’s mom wrote to you complaining that she has to spend her money on “school supplies for other kids.” She’ll only write it once!

And, just for you, my readers….

BONUS TIP…..BREATHE!!!

That’s right. Whatever you do, don’t forget to breath.

In through the nose for four seconds. Hold two seconds. Out through the mouth four seconds.

Purposely slowing your breathing accomplishes three things:
1. It lowers the heart rate.
2. It lowers the blood pressure.
3. It ensures that your brain and body are getting enough oxygen.

All of those things reduce anxiety.

2020 Update: The First Day in the COVID-19 Era

If you had told me last year at this time that in one year’s time I’d not only be teaching fully online, but also taking classes fully online; and if you would have told me that almost six months would have passed since I would’ve eaten inside a restaurant; and if you would have told me that millions of people around the world would be dead from a virus that, until February, I (like most other Americans) had never hear of — I would have probably laughed in your face and told you that you were crazy.

But, I am, it has been, there are, and that’s the way we begin school in the COVID-19 era…

I wish I had a magic wand to fix this. Or, at the very least, I wish I had a crystal ball to tell you when it would all end. But, I don’t have either of those things. In fact, since transparency is the name of the game here on the Anxiety Diaries, I’m going to be complete transparent and tell you that I’m not handling this well at all. I’ve taken some major steps back in my battle with depression and anxiety. Thankfully, I’m attending school and teaching at a university that has seen fit to allow students and professors to decide what works best for them and I can do everything online for now. But, if that weren’t the case, I don’t know if I’d still be teaching or going to school at all.

For millions of teachers and students around the country, the first day of school is just around the corner, or has already started, and they’re back, in the buildings, in some Twilight Zone existence featuring masks, keeping six feet apart, not touching, constantly washing or sanatizing hands, and in some cases separated by plexiglass bariers attached to their desks. Alfred Hitchcock couldn’t have written it better for a movie. If that’s you, and if you’re anxious and nervous and not sure about any of it, here’s what I suggest:

  1. Educate yourself. Make sure that you are up to date on the latest information about and recommendations for staying healthy in the midst of a pandemic.
  2. Enforce boundaries. You know what you’re comfortable with. Don’t let people guilt you into doing something you don’t feel safe doing: if you don’t want to hug, don’t; if you don’t want to shake hands, don’t; if you don’t want to eat lunch at a full table, don’t. Do what you need to do to be calm.
  3. Take time for yourself. Don’t allow yourself to get inundated like you normally do during the school year. Leave some free time in your schedule to decompress–you’ll need it.
  4. BREATHE! This is always most important. Don’t forget to breathe!!!

As cliched and trite as it sounds right now, we will get through this. It’s going to take time, but we will. And, I firmly believe that when we do we will be better for it.

So, those are my tips for getting through the anxiety and stress of the first day of school, even in this COVID-19 era. Be well. Be safe. Be happy.


Tell me what you think. In the comments below leave your thoughts, share your experiences, offer other tips that have helped you. Or, just offer a word of encouragement for all the teachers and students heading back to school in the next few days! Click on “Leave a reply,” enter your name and email (don’t worry, I’m not going to spam you or sell your email address), and then write away.

And, as always, if you’ve found this post helpful, please be sure to like and share!!

Have a great year, everyone!

Much love!
jason walker's signature

Changes — They Are a-Comin’!

Change is good, right?!

I started this blog almost 10 years ago when I was in the midst of one of the worst periods of anxiety and depression that I’d ever experienced. In the beginning, the blog was a way for me to get my thoughts out of my head and on to “paper” — well, virtual/electronic paper, anyway.

Before long, people started reading my thoughts…people I didn’t even know! They started reading and then they started commenting and sending me emails thanking me. These people I didn’t know, people who also struggled with anxiety and depression, were writing back thanking me for being honest and transparent.

It helped them realize they weren’t alone.

So, my mission became even more important. I wanted to give a voice to the voiceless. I wanted to be their champion–a fellow struggler who was doing his best to get better.

Somewhere along the way, I got lost. My blog morphed into an unrecognizable mish-mash of posts with no consistent topic and no clear focus.

It’s time to change that!

wooden blocks with letters spelling the word change

Change is good, right?!

Over the last several months, I’ve come to realize that I am in a unique position to help people. I’m not a physician or a licensed counselor. But, I know about anxiety and depression. I know how harmful and destructive they can be. I can speak openly and honestly to people who are struggling like me. And maybe, just maybe…I can help.

 

In the next couple of weeks, you’re going to see a lot of change here–a whole lot of change.

I’m getting back to my roots. I’m getting back to the whole reason I started the blog in the first place. I’m going to write about anxiety, depression, my struggles, my triumphs, my failures…I’m writing about it all.

What does that mean for you?

Well, hopefully you’ll stick around and keep reading!

While my focus will be to help people with anxiety and depression find their voice and find an advocate, I think that the content I post here can and will be helpful to anyone who reads.

You can still read some of my “old” stuff.

I will be archiving my old posts that don’t really fit into the new blog mold, and don’t fit with the focus of the blog. I’ll create an archive page and you can go there and find sort of a Best of the Redneck Sophisticate. Poems, short stories, random thoughts and musings. They’ll be there for you.

Who knows? Someday I might start another blog where I just write whatever comes into little brain. But, that’s down the road.

For now, I need to get focused so that I can accomplish the things I want to accomplish to help other people. I hope you’ll stick with me because….I don’t know what I’d do without you!

Have any thoughts, questions, comments begging me not to change…or, hey, even some encouragement? Please use the comments section below!

Much love! Jason 🙂

 

Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 8: Making Amends and Knowing When It’s Time to Stop Apologizing

In traditional 12 Step recovery programs, two of the steps are dedicated to righting the wrongs that have been done–or at least acknowledging them, apologizing for them, and, if possible, making some sort of reparation (not necessarily monetarily) for them.

Step Eight: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step Nine: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

-12 Steps of AA

I don’t know a lot about the 12 Steps, but in my mind, these two would be near the top in importance (you can correct me if I’m wrong and you’re familiar with the program).

This last week, since my complete failure at returning to the classroom in a new district, I have been on something of an apology tour. I apologized first to my family, then the principal who offered me the job, then to a new colleague who’d been helping me, then to friends who’d vouched for me as references, then to some generous friends who’d offered direct support and encouragement, and finally, to all of you. I truly felt it was necessary to make all of these apologies.

What’s the difference between apologizing and making amends, and why is making amends so important?

Although I’ve sort of equated making amends with apologizing, truly making amends is far more than offering an apology. Just look at the word a-MENDS…you can see the difference in the very word itself. When we make amends, we MEND something that has been torn or broken–we fix it–or, we at least try to fix it. An apology, however sincere, can’t really mend something that is broken. It offers, at best, a temporary reprieve from the hurt that has been caused.

According to SoberNation.com:

Making amends is an integral part of personal growth and healing. It is so imperative to make amends with those people whom you have wronged that it is outlined, clearly, in Alcoholics Anonymous. Steps eight and nine of the Twelve Steps specifically call for amends.

The Difference Between Making Amends and Making Apologies

I won’t go into the different types of amends here, although I do suggest reading the article quoted and linked above, which explains them in detail. I’m writing about them now because it’s time for me to start making them to the people I’ve hurt.

It’s important to know when to STOP apologizing.

I am deeply sorry for any pain my actions have caused. But, it’s not enough to be sorry anymore. Now, I need to fix it. I need to make amends.

There are a few people I need to make direct amends to, and I am in the process of doing that. But, there are many more people for whom making amends will mean getting well, getting healthy, and moving on. For those people, seeing me stand on my own without their constant support will be the only real amends.

I suspect that for all of us who suffer from anxiety/panic disorder and/or depression and OCD, there are many people to whom we owe amends. I encourage you to sit down and think about those people. Stop apologizing and start making amends.


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!!


Previous Posts in this Series:

Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 1
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 2
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 3
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 4
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 5
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 6
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 7

Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 7: Sometimes We Fail

Sometimes, we fail.

When I started this series over a year ago, I made a commitment to total transparency. Share everything (that is appropriate to share), hide nothing. Because only when we are totally honest with ourselves, with the people who love and care for us, and with the people who are helping us, can we totally heal. This post honors that commitment.

It’s been a long, difficult four days.

As most of you who regularly read this blog or follow me on social media know, I was to have started new hire orientation at a new school district on Monday. I was excited. It was going to be a huge step forward for me both financially and professionally. You’ve probably notice by now that I’m writing in the past tense…

I thought I was ready. I thought I could power through my anxiety and make it work. I was wrong.

By Sunday night, I was a complete nervous wreck. I didn’t sleep at all that night. I tossed and turned, and was up and down all night long. I finally drifted off into a fitful sleep around 4 a.m. My alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. I got up and got myself ready. By the time I needed to leave, I was in a full-blown panic attack, and I couldn’t get it to stop. But, I got in the car and headed out anyway–thinking, hoping, praying that I would settle down and be able to do it. I couldn’t.

I won’t belabor this story. The long and short of it is that I walked away from what likely would’ve been the best job I’ve ever had–certainly the best teaching job I’ve ever had. My anxiety. My panic. It won this time. So, this week, I found myself back at square one.

What does this mean for me? Where do I go from here?

The short answer is, I’m not sure.

The school district has the option and the right to place a sanction on my teaching certificate, and it could be suspended for a year. My hope is that with a note from my doctor and counselor, they will elect not to sanction me. But, if they do, then I will understand and accept that decision.

I don’t know what the future holds for me with regards to teaching. For now, I have to focus on the present. I have to focus on getting better. I have to focus on healing.

I’m still going to start work on my PhD in a few weeks. And, I’ll have to find a job working from home for the time being. I do have some longer term plans which I will share with you later. But, for now, what matters is the present moment and getting better.

I know some of you will be disappointed. Some of you may even be angry or feel betrayed in some way. Believe me, I understand that, too. I’m alternating back and forth between considering myself a total failure who shouldn’t be trusted and considering myself smart for recognizing a potential disaster (entering a classroom in a state of panic is not good) and doing what I could to avert that disaster, even if it meant damaging my immediate situation.

I only ask one thing of you: don’t give up on me. I’m in the fight of my life and I need people around me who love me, care for me, and support me, even if they don’t understand me. I’m human. I’m flawed. Sometimes, despite my best intentions, I fail.

Sometimes we all do.

More later.


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!!


Previous Posts in this Series:

Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 1
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 2
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 3
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 4
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 5
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 6

Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 6: The Myth of Safety

In my previous posts in this series (links available at the end of this post), I’ve written a lot about many of the facets of my struggle with anxiety and panic attacks. But, one of the things I haven’t yet addressed is one of the myths that people who suffer with anxiety and panic attacks believe: the myth of safety.

As I’ve told you before, when I’m feeling anxious or having a panic attack, my first and strongest instinct is to flee the situation or the place I’m in, whether or not either has anything directly to do with the anxiety or panic. Even the most benign situations like sitting in a restaurant having a leisurely Sunday dinner with my family has ended with me getting up and leaving the table, either temporarily or permanently.

In those moments of panic, no matter when or where they are, I don’t feel safe. In my mind, getting out of that situation or space is the only safe thing to do. Once upon a time, home was the only safe place to be; and my family members were the only safe people I knew. When I felt panicked, I had to get home, or at the very least, I had to get near some family member. But, then, something awful happened.

Humans live through their myths and only endure their realities.

Robert Anton Wilson

After years of running when panic struck, panic followed me home! I started having panic attacks in my house and around my family; and worse than that, when I felt anxious away from home, running home didn’t fix it. The myth of safety that I’d constructed crumbled and I realized the truth…

There are no safe spaces and there are no safe people.

One of the things I’m struggling with on this road to wellness is rewriting the narrative in my head. Learning that the story I told myself for years is just that, a story; and learning that I am and must be my own safe person, and that whatever space I’m in is a safe space because I am in control of my thoughts, my emotions, and my reactions to whatever physical response my brain and body team up to produce. I’ll tell you that it’s not easy, but it can (and must) be done.

But, how does one go about completely rewriting that narrative that has existed for so long–in my case, for nearly 40 years? The answer is as practical as the answer I give my students when they ask what they need to do to revise and edit their writing: take out the words that don’t work and replace them with the ones that do!

Those of us who suffer with anxiety and panic attacks must retrain our brains to throw out all of the narrative that turned out to be a myth and to rewrite a new work, an autobiography, a true story of who we are and who we are meant to be.

For me, that means actually saying the new words out loud (or if the situation requires, internally):

  • This is anxiety. You know it is because you’ve experienced it before.
  • You are OK. You are not having a heart attack or a stroke. You are having a panic attack.
  • BREATHE! This will pass soon. Just let it be what it is, and let it run its course.
  • DON’T RUN!!! You are in control of this situation. No one else offers anymore safety than you. Nowhere else will be safer for you. DON’T RUN!

Not everyone requires that active level of verbal reinforcement, but most probably do–at least until we’ve retrained our brains and rewritten the narrative. Like I said, it’s’ not easy. It takes time and effort, and it won’t happen overnight. But, I believe it will happen. (Resource: The Power of Positive Self-Talk)

Talk to yourself like you would talk to someone you love.

In the end, it’s important to remember that, as adults, our individual safety and security rests solely in our own hands. We must learn that whatever space we are in is a safe space because we are in control and we are our own safe people.


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!!


Previous Posts in this Series:

Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 1
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 2
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 3
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 4
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 5