CompassionateLove Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2016 Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry
Anxiety is one of those mental illnesses we beat ourselves up for having, and with which we play the disastrous comparison game. We tend to adopt an “I should be able to” mindset. I should be able to get to work like other people do. I should be able to make that appointment. I should be able to watch TV with my spouse. The “I’m not”s quickly follow.
Instead of tearing yourself apart over perceived weakness, how about trying something new?
(1) Next time thoughts of holiday preparation, political fears, a memory, or anything else triggers your anxiety, visualize placing those thoughts and concerns into a container. You design the container any way you want. If you are aware of specific history that brings about anxiety, especially if you have never processed it, pour all that into the container as well. Now mentally set your container in a corner.
By the way, this also works if you prefer to write it out and actually tuck those notes away.
(2) Realize you will return to that container later to address the triggers and strong emotions. Set a date or time period to revisit the container so you will not forget about it or procrastinate too long. For some, scheduling an appointment to open the container with a therapist is a good idea. You get to decide when, where, with who, and how much at a time to open it. Expect its contents to look different from today – less scary – because you are in charge. You will open it in a safe place.
(3) After your anxiety and concerns are safely stored away, start moving your feet. Literally. You can do this anywhere, anytime. Make walking movements with your feet, and visualize walking right through the anxiety you are feeling in the moment. You know how to do this; you’ve picked up one foot after the other regardless of how you feel for years.
This time though, something is different. You are not carrying the load of all your what ifs, shoulds, and I’m nots. They are in the container in the corner and cannot bother you unless you pull them out. Keep walking. In your business meeting, while on the phone with your mother, laying in bed – it doesn’t matter where you are, you can walk through your anxiety.
(4) If you can, try to name some things for which you are thankful.
I have found that when I invite him, Jesus makes a way where they seems no way. His hope for me is my full trust in him for everything; it is in his embrace that I find more strength for the next step.
After the worst of your anxiety has passed, you will find you were victorious! Did you jump up and down and gleefully become outgoing and unstoppable? Likely not. What you accomplished is perseverance through the moment. Maybe you avoided a full-blown panic attack, or eased out of it a little faster. Your phone call with mom went more smoothly, or you experienced a taste of calm in your meeting. Feel your emotional muscles – they’ve had a workout and you are stronger for it.
You are powerful in your weakness. With practice, this exercise becomes more potent and your skills will increase.
Today’s Helpful Word
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…”
“Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.