November 13, 2009

You’re Anxious Because You Choose to Be

Action expresses priorities. — Mohandas Gandhi

Welcome to the bad news about the endless vicious cycle of anxiety.

It’s the awful, secret truth. And if you’re like me, you’re not going to like it much. But if you want to be free, you must face it.

You remain anxious because you want to be, because you refuse to act. You keep getting the same results in your life because you either refuse to act or you aren’t practicing useful action.

I don’t care what explanations you have about your anxiety. You can attribute it to bad genes, bad upbringing, bad breaks, bad body chemistry, bad relationships, or a bad economy.

Look, it’s this simple: If you have spent your life struggling with anxiety the way I did, there comes a time when you have to decide whether you want a better life or not. It comes down to a simple choice. Either I’m going to take control of the situation, or I’m going to spend the rest of my life getting exactly what I’m getting now.

It’s Time to Get Angry

Let me share my story with you.

I grew up in an anxious, fearful household. I experienced severe anxiety and depression from the age of 8. by the time I reached my teens I’d decided that everyone must feel exactly the same way. I had no idea it was possible not to awaken in the morning miserable because I was either terrified to go to school or sunk into an awful blackness — or both.

Later, in college I discovered that drugs and alcohol could deaden the pain. Truth be told, they did work for awhile. Unfortunately, I used and abused them with a desperation that nudged right up against insanity.

By the time I reached 32 the honeymoon had been over for at least five years. I managed to get clean and sober. That was a landmark event for me.

Trouble was, I still had the anxiety hanging over me. And this time I had no crutches to fall back on.

Life Goes Boom

If you’re like me, you’ve spent a lot of time in therapy. Years in therapy. I coughed up all my junk in therapy. I also tried every anti-anxiety medication available. I got more frustrated because none of them worked for me.

I stared wondering whether I’d ever find release. I started trying alternative approaches in the same way I desperately sought relief in drugs and alcohol. Hypnotherapy, crystal gazing, astrology, regression therapy, inner child therapy, and a few other things that did nothing but waste my time.

Even prayer and meditation failed me.

Then one day the light went on.

In the midst of a life-changing crisis I came to understand two important principles:

  1. Nothing is dependable except my ability to choose and act.
  2. The correlation between insight and change is zero.

Let me explain.

Self-Knowledge Does Not Create Change in Your Life

The concept that insight does not lead to change may or may not be new to you. It was an extraordinary moment for me. I came to realize something that shook me up.

I was anxious because I chose to be.

How was that possible? I didn’t want to stay depressed. I didn’t want to awaken in the middle of the night seized by terror and panic.

The truth hit me square in the heart. Did I really want to be anxious and depressed? Hadn’t I scoured the earth looking for answers.

The answers weren’t out there. They had to be inside me. Answers could not exist anywhere else.

Habits of Mind, Habits of Body

It seems obvious to me now. The release I sought could only come through a careful assessment of the way I lived. I discovered that the causes of anxiety and depression are unique to each person.

We each have Habits of Mind that determine our sense of well-being and purpose, that set the ways in which we respond to what happens in life.

We each have Habits of body that determines how we feel and the subsequent quality of life.

So I paid attention to my habits. I decided I would treat every thought, act, or physical sensation as something I owned. I was at choice about these things. I could be responsible for my perceptions, my actions, and my choices.

I suddenly owned the anxiety and depression with which I had always fought.

And That’s When I Decided to Get Mad

That’s exactly it. Change was never going to happen unless I made it happen. The only one who could change me was me.

Untenable Habits of Mind and Body do not change by themselves. They have momentum and inertia. A body at rest tends to remain at rest.

And a body in motion tends to remain in motion.

Movement requires energy. The power to change had to come from somewhere.

I became unwilling to live in the confines of the anxiety and depression I had allowed to take over my life.

Then I got mad. I put the fires of frustration and anger to work on my behalf. Anger isn’t always a destructive force. I committed myself to reclaiming my mind and body, to remodeling my life in the image I chose.

As it happens, that mental shift was…

The Way Out and Through

It takes a bit of a perspective shift to own one’s state of mind and body. It takes a leap of faith to accept responsibility for anxiety and depression.

My story and resulting decision may sound harsh to you. “Where’s your compassion for suffering?” you may ask. “My situation is different.”

Stop deluding yourself.

You are where you are in your life because you made choices that put you there. If you can’t accept that, then you have to be aware that you are choosing to stay there.

Maybe it’s time to get angry about it. Maybe it’s time for you to stop pitying yourself and take wild, decisive, useful action.

Or you could just stay where you are and be miserable.

The truth is if I can do it, you can, too. There is no way on this green earth you could be lazier than I am. All you have to do is get fed up with being sick and tired of being sick and tired.

If now now, when?

A Simple 7-Step Action Plan for Change

Do you want to change? Are you really ready to take ownership of what is happening in your life right now? If so, here’s a simple but effective prescription for you.

  1. Write the following on an index card and put it where you can read it several times each day: I get what I get because I choose to get it. I live how I live because I choose to live it.
  2. Decide right NOW that you are going to take radical useful action to change. Get angry about the lousy choices you’ve made. Get remorseful. Don’t coddle yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror and know you can choose to change. Cry and wail. Then forgive yourself and get moving.
  3. Practice observing your thoughts without trying to change them or wishing them to be different. You are not your thoughts, but you can become what you think about all the time. Keep a log or journal of anxious or depressing thoughts, noting the time of day, location, and what’s happening around you.
  4. Immediately eliminate news from your life. That means no newspapers, no magazines, and especially no television news programs. You are what you consume. In fact, it would be wise to stop watching television for one week. If you’re nervous or angry at the thought of doing so, make it two.
  5. Immediately eliminate sugar from your diet. That’s sugar in all forms: white or brown, honey, stevia, and so forth. Stay away from sugar substitutes, too. Trust me on this one — managing blood sugar is one of the keys to feeling better. You may feel lousy for about seven days. It will pass. Seven days from now you will awaken in an improved mood. While you’re at it, eliminate white bread, too.
  6. Start your day with simple, gentle stretching. A few minutes is all it takes to open up the joints and get blood flowing. I’ll provide the morning sequence I use in another article.
  7. Take a five-minute walk (or longer if you like) outside every day. Yes, rain or shine, but do use a little common sense. We don’t want you blown away in heavy winds or caught in a snow storm.

Nothing here sounds difficult or intimidating, does it? Of course not. Little actions taken together create momentum of their own. For now, focus on being aware of what you think, consume, and do.

You can reclaim your life.

You can at last be free.

Action expresses priorities.

– Mohandas Gandhi

You’re Anxious Because You Choose to Be

Welcome to the bad news about the endless vicious cycle of anxiety.

It’s the awful, secret truth. And if you’re like me, you’re not going to like it much. But if you want to be free, you must face it.

You remain anxious because you want to be, because you refuse to act. You keep getting the same results in your life because you either refuse to act or you aren’t practicing useful action.

I don’t care what explanations you have about your anxiety. You can attribute it to bad genes, bad upbringing, bad breaks, bad body chemistry, bad relationships, or a bad economy.

Look, it’s this simple: If you have spent your life struggling with anxiety the way I did, there comes a time when you have to decide whether you want a better life or not. It comes down to a simple choice. Either I’m going to take control of the situation, or I’m going to spend the rest of my life getting exactly what I’m getting now.

It’s Time to Get Angry

Let me share my story with you.

I grew up in an anxious, fearful household. I experienced severe anxiety and depression from the age of 8. by the time I reached my teens I’d decided that everyone must feel exactly the same way. I had no idea it was possible not to awaken in the morning miserable because I was either terrified to go to school or sunk into an awful blackness — or both.

Later, in college I discovered that drugs and alcohol could deaden the pain. Truth be told, they did work for awhile. Unfortunately, I used and abused them with a desperation that nudged right up against insanity.

By the time I reached 32 the honeymoon had been over for at least five years. I managed to get clean and sober. That was a landmark event for me.

Trouble was, I still had the anxiety hanging over me. And this time I had no crutches to fall back on.

Life Goes Boom

If you’re like me, you’ve spent a lot of time in therapy. Years in therapy. I coughed up all my junk in therapy. I also tried every anti-anxiety medication available. I got more frustrated because none of them worked for me.

I stared wondering whether I’d ever find release. I started trying alternative approaches in the same way I desperately sought relief in drugs and alcohol. Hypnotherapy, crystal gazing, astrology, regression therapy, inner child therapy, and a few other things that did nothing but waste my time.

Even prayer and meditation failed me.

Then one day the light went on.

In the midst of a life-changing crisis I came to understand two important principles:

  1. Nothing is dependable except my ability to choose and act.
  2. The correlation between insight and change is zero.

Let me explain.

Self-Knowledge Does Not Create Change in Your Life

The concept that insight does not lead to change may or may not be new to you. It was an extraordinary moment for me. I came to realize something that shook me up.

I was anxious because I chose to be.

How was that possible? I didn’t want to stay depressed. I didn’t want to awaken in the middle of the night seized by terror and panic.

The truth hit me square in the heart. Did I really want to be anxious and depressed? Hadn’t I scoured the earth looking for answers.

The answers weren’t out there. They had to be inside me. Answers could not exist anywhere else.

– Habits of Mind, Habits of Body

It seems obvious to me now. The release I sought could only come through a careful assessment of the way I lived. I discovered that the causes of anxiety and depression are unique to each person.

We each have Habits of Mind that determine our sense of well-being and purpose, that set the ways in which we respond to what happens in life.

We each have Habits of body that determines how we feel and the subsequent quality of life.

So I paid attention to my habits. I decided I would treat every thought, act, or physical sensation as something I owned. I was at choice about these things. I could be responsible for my perceptions, my actions, and my choices.

I suddenly owned the anxiety and depression with which I had always fought.

And That’s When I Decided to Get Mad

That’s exactly it. Change was never going to happen unless I made it happen. The only one who could change me was me.

Untenable Habits of Mind and Body do not change by themselves. They have momentum and inertia. A body at rest tends to remain at rest.

And a body in motion tends to remain in motion.

Movement requires energy. The power to change had to come from somewhere.

I became unwilling to live in the confines of the anxiety and depression I had allowed to take over my life.

Then I got mad. I put the fires of frustration and anger to work on my behalf. Anger isn’t always a destructive force. I committed myself to reclaiming my mind and body, to remodeling my life in the image I chose.

As it happens, that mental shift was…

The Way Out and Through

It takes a bit of a perspective shift to own one’s state of mind and body. It takes a leap of faith to accept responsibility for anxiety and depression.

My story and resulting decision may sound harsh to you. “Where’s your compassion for suffering?” you may ask. “My situation is different.”

Stop deluding yourself.

You are where you are in your life because you made choices that put you there. If you can’t accept that, then you have to be aware that you are choosing to stay there.

Maybe it’s time to get angry about it. Maybe it’s time for you to stop pitying yourself and take wild, decisive, useful action.

Or you could just stay where you are and be miserable.

The truth is if I can do it, you can, too. There is no way on this green earth you could be lazier than I am. All you have to do is get fed up with being sick and tired of being sick and tired.

If now now, when?

A Simple 7-Step Action Plan for Change

Do you want to change? Are you really ready to take ownership of what is happening in your life right now? If so, here’s a simple but effective prescription for you.

  1. Write the following on an index card and put it where you can read it several times each day: I get what I get because I choose to get it. I live how I live because I choose to live it.
  2. Decide right NOW that you are going to take radical useful action to change. Get angry about the lousy choices you’ve made. Get remorseful. Don’t coddle yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror and know you can choose to change. Cry and wail. Then forgive yourself and get moving.
  3. Practice observing your thoughts without trying to change them or wishing them to be different. You are not your thoughts, but you can become what you think about all the time. Keep a log or journal of anxious or depressing thoughts, noting the time of day, location, and what’s happening around you.
  4. Immediately eliminate news from your life. That means no newspapers, no magazines, and especially no television news programs. You are what you consume. In fact, it would be wise to stop watching television for one week. If you’re nervous or angry at the thought of doing so, make it two.
  5. Immediately eliminate sugar from your diet. That’s sugar in all forms: white or brown, honey, stevia, and so forth. Stay away from sugar substitutes, too. Trust me on this one — managing blood sugar is one of the keys to feeling better. You may feel lousy for about seven days. It will pass. Seven days from now you will awaken in an improved mood. While you’re at it, eliminate white bread, too.
  6. Start your day with simple, gentle stretching. A few minutes is all it takes to open up the joints and get blood flowing. I’ll provide the morning sequence I use in another article.
  7. Take a five-minute walk (or longer if you like) outside every day. Yes, rain or shine, but do use a little common sense. We don’t want you blown away in heavy winds or caught in a snow storm.

Nothing here sounds difficult or intimidating, does it? Of course not. Little actions taken together create momentum of their own. For now, focus on being aware of what you think, consume, and do.

You can reclaim your life.

You can at last be free.Action expresses priorities.

– Mohandas Gandhi

You’re Anxious Because You Choose to Be

Welcome to the bad news about the endless vicious cycle of anxiety.

It’s the awful, secret truth. And if you’re like me, you’re not going to like it much. But if you want to be free, you must face it.

You remain anxious because you want to be, because you refuse to act. You keep getting the same results in your life because you either refuse to act or you aren’t practicing useful action.

I don’t care what explanations you have about your anxiety. You can attribute it to bad genes, bad upbringing, bad breaks, bad body chemistry, bad relationships, or a bad economy.

Look, it’s this simple: If you have spent your life struggling with anxiety the way I did, there comes a time when you have to decide whether you want a better life or not. It comes down to a simple choice. Either I’m going to take control of the situation, or I’m going to spend the rest of my life getting exactly what I’m getting now.

It’s Time to Get Angry

Let me share my story with you.

I grew up in an anxious, fearful household. I experienced severe anxiety and depression from the age of 8. by the time I reached my teens I’d decided that everyone must feel exactly the same way. I had no idea it was possible not to awaken in the morning miserable because I was either terrified to go to school or sunk into an awful blackness — or both.

Later, in college I discovered that drugs and alcohol could deaden the pain. Truth be told, they did work for awhile. Unfortunately, I used and abused them with a desperation that nudged right up against insanity.

By the time I reached 32 the honeymoon had been over for at least five years. I managed to get clean and sober. That was a landmark event for me.

Trouble was, I still had the anxiety hanging over me. And this time I had no crutches to fall back on.

Life Goes Boom

If you’re like me, you’ve spent a lot of time in therapy. Years in therapy. I coughed up all my junk in therapy. I also tried every anti-anxiety medication available. I got more frustrated because none of them worked for me.

I stared wondering whether I’d ever find release. I started trying alternative approaches in the same way I desperately sought relief in drugs and alcohol. Hypnotherapy, crystal gazing, astrology, regression therapy, inner child therapy, and a few other things that did nothing but waste my time.

Even prayer and meditation failed me.

Then one day the light went on.

In the midst of a life-changing crisis I came to understand two important principles:

1. Nothing is dependable except my ability to choose and act.

2. The correlation between insight and change is zero.

Let me explain.

Self-Knowledge Does Not Create Change in Your Life

The concept that insight does not lead to change may or may not be new to you. It was an extraordinary moment for me. I came to realize something that shook me up.

I was anxious because I chose to be.

How was that possible? I didn’t want to stay depressed. I didn’t want to awaken in the middle of the night seized by terror and panic.

The truth hit me square in the heart. Did I really want to be anxious and depressed? Hadn’t I scoured the earth looking for answers.

The answers weren’t out there. They had to be inside me. Answers could not exist anywhere else.

– Habits of Mind, Habits of Body

It seems obvious to me now. The release I sought could only come through a careful assessment of the way I lived. I discovered that the causes of anxiety and depression are unique to each person.

We each have Habits of Mind that determine our sense of well-being and purpose, that set the ways in which we respond to what happens in life.

We each have Habits of body that determines how we feel and the subsequent quality of life.

So I paid attention to my habits. I decided I would treat every thought, act, or physical sensation as something I owned. I was at choice about these things. I could be responsible for my perceptions, my actions, and my choices.

I suddenly owned the anxiety and depression with which I had always fought.

And That’s When I Decided to Get Mad

That’s exactly it. Change was never going to happen unless I made it happen. The only one who could change me was me.

Untenable Habits of Mind and Body do not change by themselves. They have momentum and inertia. A body at rest tends to remain at rest.

And a body in motion tends to remain in motion.

Movement requires energy. The power to change had to come from somewhere.

I became unwilling to live in the confines of the anxiety and depression I had allowed to take over my life.

Then I got mad. I put the fires of frustration and anger to work on my behalf. Anger isn’t always a destructive force. I committed myself to reclaiming my mind and body, to remodeling my life in the image I chose.

As it happens, that mental shift was…

The Way Out and Through

It takes a bit of a perspective shift to own one’s state of mind and body. It takes a leap of faith to accept responsibility for anxiety and depression.

My story and resulting decision may sound harsh to you. “Where’s your compassion for suffering?” you may ask. “My situation is different.”

Stop deluding yourself.

You are where you are in your life because you made choices that put you there. If you can’t accept that, then you have to be aware that you are choosing to stay there.

Maybe it’s time to get angry about it. Maybe it’s time for you to stop pitying yourself and take wild, decisive, useful action.

Or you could just stay where you are and be miserable.

The truth is if I can do it, you can, too. There is no way on this green earth you could be lazier than I am. All you have to do is get fed up with being sick and tired of being sick and tired.

If now now, when?

A Simple 7-Step Action Plan for Change

Do you want to change? Are you really ready to take ownership of what is happening in your life right now? If so, here’s a simple but effective prescription for you.

1. Write the following on an index card and put it where you can read it several times each day: I get what I get because I choose to get it. I live how I live because I choose to live it.

2. Decide right NOW that you are going to take radical useful action to change. Get angry about the lousy choices you’ve made. Get remorseful. Don’t coddle yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror and know you can choose to change. Cry and wail. Then forgive yourself and get moving.

3. Practice observing your thoughts without trying to change them or wishing them to be different. You are not your thoughts, but you can become what you think about all the time. Keep a log or journal of anxious or depressing thoughts, noting the time of day, location, and what’s happening around you.

4. Immediately eliminate news from your life. That means no newspapers, no magazines, and especially no television news programs. You are what you consume. In fact, it would be wise to stop watching television for one week. If you’re nervous or angry at the thought of doing so, make it two.

5. Immediately eliminate sugar from your diet. That’s sugar in all forms: white or brown, honey, stevia, and so forth. Stay away from sugar substitutes, too. Trust me on this one — managing blood sugar is one of the keys to feeling better. You may feel lousy for about seven days. It will pass. Seven days from now you will awaken in an improved mood. While you’re at it, eliminate white bread, too.

6. Start your day with simple, gentle stretching. A few minutes is all it takes to open up the joints and get blood flowing. I’ll provide the morning sequence I use in another article.

7. Take a five-minute walk (or longer if you like) outside every day. Yes, rain or shine, but do use a little common sense. We don’t want you blown away in heavy winds or caught in a snow storm.

Nothing here sounds difficult or intimidating, does it? Of course not. Little actions taken together create momentum of their own. For now, focus on being aware of what you think, consume, and do.

You can reclaim your life.

You can at last be free.

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