scaredy cat wired for happyNobody is born calm. And life gets messy from that first breath on.

If you’re fortunate enough to be raised by stable, loving parents, you may grow up with heightened expectations about how life should be, which could cause you to fall short in the thick skin category. And if your parents were Fly-Off-the-Handle Harry and Worried Wanda, well, you’re straight-up screwed. And if you grew up with one stable and one unstable parent, you’re probably okay like half the time, except when you’re constantly doubting yourself.

So what are you really saying, Linda?

Being an emotionally healthy human adult is hard work. And on that level, we’re all equal. Those who make emotional wellness an intentional part of their day in day out, do better at life. Sorry, but mental health is kind of like exercise: if you have to force yourself to do it, then it’s going to be a drag.

With that said, I’d like to make a point about thinking about your thinking. And I’m going to be blunt: Why people who are incessant worriers and don’t want to be…are incessant worriers and don’t want to be.

AKA, the “Stop Being Anxious!” post.

Just kidding, I would never say that.

Then again, I probably have…(just not like that).

So roll up your sleeves, get comfortable, and pull up your Big Boy or Big Girl pants ’cause I’m cutting to the chase.

 

1. You don’t believe things could be different in your life.

Your happiness depends on the quality of your thoughts. So if you lack faith that a calm, stable central nervous system can be yours, guess what? You will continue to live in fear, and believe that you are impotent to change the very thoughts you create every day. And you do realize that nobody can get inside your head but you, right? I’m a headshrinker and all, so if I can’t persuade you to close your eyes and examine your thoughts against reality, who can?

Caveat: If you’re three years old—you’re right. It’s a tall order to believe you exert any control over your environment. And yes, there probably exists some evil, external force (a monster, or a monkey on your back, maybe?) that compels you to do bad things like rip the covers off your sleeping infant brother, or pull the cat’s tail until he runs away for good this time.

For the non-toddlers, let’s leave preschool where it belongs—behind us, okay?

Part of adulting is taking responsibility for your happiness. It’s recognizing that you have issues and help is available. The first step is changing your mindset. If you’re unsure about the thoughts –> feelings –> behavior connection, read this literary masterpiece.

 

2. You swear deep-breathing makes you more anxious.

wtf?

This one’s dedicated to those commenters on the Psychology Today Facebook page, regarding this article I wrote, 3 Essential Breathing Exercises to Calm An Anxious Mind.

In my decade+ years practicing psychotherapy, I’ve never heard that one before. I mean, sure, there’s the surly teens who roll their eyes at the thought of exerting more energy than it takes to bend their necks toward a mobile device. Or the worried-well-ers who sigh and sheepishly reply, “Yeah, that breathing-meditation-mindfulness thing, that, uh, that doesn’t do anything for me.”

Code: Tell me I’m not paying you to teach me how to inhale and exhale.

But breathing as an anxiety-inducer?

That’s like owning an American Bulldog who doesn’t heave, snort and barf after taking seven steps. Or feeling worse after diving ass-first into a tub of Trader Joe’s Belgian Chocolate Pudding after work. Hello?

About the only solution I got for that is the following Zen proverb, “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”

And while you’re sitting, check out these relaxation resources:


 —3 Tips for The Best Sleep Ever + Relaxation Mp3

—Meditation for Beginners (Video)

—The Walking Meditation

You’re welcome.


3. You see yourself as a victim.

In all my years of blogging, I’ve never found a proper way to say that without coming across like I’m insensitive, or I’m a person who actually would walk around and say things like, “Stop being anxious!”

But here’s the rub—let’s say you experienced a substantial amount of childhood trauma, or your life was pretty good but then tragedy struck one day. As awful and unfortunate as those events are, the reality remains the same: if you see yourself as stuck and imprisoned by those who wronged you, you will remain stuck and imprisoned by those who wronged you.

And that’s giving up a lot of power.

Life is unfair, and no one deserves to be abused. Tragically, that shit happens every single day. But people are resilient; it’s our nature.

So the next time you’re feeling bad, reach out. Tell someone about your pain. It’s okay to not have the answers, but the other side of misery is paved in doing something differently. And because there’s no way to say the following without sounding like Tom Hanks in that box of chocolates movie, here goes: your mind is like a parachute, it only works when it’s open. Cheesy AF, I know, but true.

If you don’t believe me, ask yourself when was the last time you felt good about yourself when someone felt sorry for you. One of the best lessons I learned as a rookie therapist was that ‘there are very few victims in this world.’

So there you have it. If you want to feel more calm and less stressed out, do the following: Believe that life could be different, inhale the good and exhale the bad, and pull up your Big Boy or Big Girl pants and get to steppin.’

*****


Until next time,

—Linda Esposito