Growing Gratitude 

Garden of the Mind

When I am struggling with anxiety, this Bible verse has come to mind many times in my life and reminded me to be still…

Psalm 46:10 

Be still and know that I am God…

When I am reminded to be still, I also can calm myself by “knowing” or reminding myself that:

  • God loves me.
  • I am child of God.
  • I have a loving family.
  • My dog is a wonderful companion.
  • I am alive and well.
  • No weapon formed against me shall prosper. (Isaiah 54:17)
  • I have a safe home.
  • I have a dependable vehicle.
  • I am mobile and independent.
  • I have many gifts and talents.
  • I have friends who love me. 
  • I have a heart for helping others.

Wow! After writing those few positive things down to affirm that life isn’t spinning around me in chaos after all or that I’m not failing at everything (the opposite of what my anxious mind tells me) I start to feel lighter and more hopeful…and less anxious. 

Writing lists of gratitude or keeping a gratitude journal has been a trend for many years now. Oprah is a believer in this practice and usually by the time it catches on in self-help/pop psychology it becomes eye-roll worthy when suggested as a method of self-care. Many nod their heads and say “oh yes, I’ll do that one day”…but then life gets busy and one gets caught up in their anxieties all over again and forget to “be still and know.”

If you are struggling with anxiety, stress, busyness, etc. try this exercise below if a list or a daily practice of gratitude journaling is too much:

  • Write down and/or visualize just one positive thing in your life. 
  • Clear out all the other negative thoughts and focus on this one shiny thing. 
  • Feel all the positive feelings that emanante from this positive object, memory, person, or experience. 
  • As other thoughts trickle into your mind, let them pass, wave to them if you need to, but focus on your positive thought. 
  • Meditate on this thought for at least 1 minute, but stay focused on it for as long as you like. 

How did this exercise make you feel? Please share in the comments if it helped you in any way. Do you keep any type of journal? Do you have a habit of expressing gratitude or try to cultivate a thankful heart in other ways? 
ūüíúūüĎ©ūüŹĽ‚ÄćūüĆĺ

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Midnight Mindfulness

Garden of the Mind


I read lots of self-help articles when I’m in bed with insomnia that help me sometimes. Some of these articles have experts who explain that that living in the present moment leads to an increased sense of contentment.  I am working on mindfulness and figuring out if it works for managing anxiety and overall contentment.
Last week, my therapist walked me through a mindfulness technique during our session:

  • We chose a point in the room to focus on.
  • We took slow deep breaths in for the count of eight
  • held the breath for the count of eight
  • and then released the breath for the count of eight 
  • remember to breathe from the diaphragm-not shallow breaths in the chest alone
  • Repeat 8-10 times or just as many as you need unless your mind calms. 

This was not the first time I had been taught a similar technique for managing anxiety. I needed a refresher since it had been about 6 years since my last lesson. 

My therapist told me to use this exercise to become more mindful and we would talk more about mindfulness in our next session. 

Mindfulness. What is it exactly? 

 

How do you practice mindfulness in your life? Please comment. I’d love to hear from you. ūüíúūüĎ©ūüŹĽ‚ÄćūüĆĺ

Deadheading 

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A little stream of consciousness is about to ensue so get ready…this blog post has a different tone than¬†usual, but it’s still a post about how I deal with stress and how my OCD, anxiety, and depression can be calmed or aggravated.

(DEEP breath and pause…..)

Lately, I’ve been using deadheading my petunias as a stress management technique. ¬†It helps me zone out on searching for the spent buds in a mass of colorful blooms, pinch or snip them, and then toss them into the empty flower-pot I use as a trash bucket.

It’s helpful for times when I find myself becoming obsessive about things. ¬†Running past conversations in my head over and over, checking things multiple times (my email account, Facebook pages, etc.) Sometimes my obsessive thought is something like, “Did I turn the water off outside after watering?” and then some days I’m so absorbed in my anxiety that I actually forget to turn the water off and it runs for about 5 hours (shaking my head at myself).

Deadheading helps me calm my inner voice and slow down my thoughts as I physically focus on one thing instead of the storm of thoughts that are swirling around inside my head.

By definition, deadheading is “to¬†remove dead flower heads from (a plant) to encourage further blooming.”

For the last year, I have removed or “deadheaded” a stressful relationship from my life by putting necessary (healthy) boundaries in place with this person. ¬†It was hard at first as I felt guilty often for not returning emails (that were obviously manipulative and did not show any remorse for the things that lead to this “deadheading.”) ¬†Today is that person’s birthday. ¬†I can pray for her and send her good vibes, but do I send the sweetly worded card I’ve always sent and be the supportive person I’ve always tried to be (even though it didn’t do me a bit of good long-term)?

No. ¬†Despite my best efforts to have a healthy relationship with her my entire life, I still ended up being manipulated by her destructive behavior over and over again…so…no more. ¬†I’m not playing anymore. ¬†I’m off the merry-go-round and there is nothing that can be said or done to entice me to get back on it. ¬†I’m protecting myself once and for all.

Boundaries are empowering! (After you get over the initial guilt and people-pleasing habits) ūüíúūüĆ∑

 

Like dandelion seeds, scatter your cares in the wind.

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This is so true! I hope that whatever may be burdening you is released today! Just as you would blow on a dandelion and watch the seeds scatter and fly away in the wind I hope you can harness the power of your mind, body, and spirit to help whatever is weighing you down become lighter and disappear. It could be as simple as taking a few minutes to visualize your ideal self, getting out in the fresh air, or saying a prayer to get you one step closer to emotional freedom.  I’m going to take my own advice and get away from the screens and do at least one or two of these things today! 

When I was going through a very difficult time a few months ago struggling with panic attacks and depression I started doing visualizations and meditation for stress relief.  I talk about that in another post.  I have returned to the visualizations almost nightly and found myself to sleep a lot better. 

When I was in the stress pit I didn’t realize how much life was weighing me down.  As the quote above says, I only realized exactly how much stress I was carrying when it started to release its grip on my heart.  It took making some life changing-decisions such as resigning from my job, many prayers and hours of therapy to get to the place I am in today.  I am not where I ideally want to be, but I am at least in the ballpark garden walls.  

Thanks to my mental health conditions I have issues with motivation and self-esteem often.  When I read others’ blogs about struggling with these issues it makes me feel more normal and for a moment makes me less hard on myself.  I want to release the burden of self-doubt and fear of the unknown today. What burdens are you carrying that you need to release?  What suggestions do you have for releasing stress, emotional burdens, etc.? 

I hope you have a care-free Saturday! 

Are you on the right path?

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I noticed a trend on inspirational websites today in my Facebook newsfeed this morning.¬† Three of the sites I follow had posts about following a “path” in life and images of roads and trails with inspirational quotes. One site had an article entitled “5 Signs You’re on the Right Path” and¬†another had a photo of a train track with the quote “Never run back to what broke you” written on it.¬† Tonight I¬†realize that¬†when reading those items God¬†might have been¬†preparing my heart for a phone call I would receive this afternoon.

Two months ago I resigned from an anxiety-provoking,¬†stressful job without looking back.¬† You can read about that here.¬† Since then, I have slowly returned to a person I used to be.¬† I’m happy again on a regular basis.¬† My family has even commented on that fact.¬† I haven’t had to take my anxiety medication except to attend a funeral and deal with the occasional anxiety hiccup, a marked improvement from taking my medication almost daily before resigning from my job.¬† I’m still going to therapy regularly which I enjoy for the most part since I’m not crying the¬†majority of the¬†time as I was when working.¬† Crying is a good¬†release at times so even those sessions weren’t that bad.

Life is truly looking up since I am out from under the¬†stress and I am starting to actually enjoy life again rather than just endure it.¬† I said¬†to my husband last night, “We have a¬†really nice life.”¬† I am so thankful to be able to say those types of things to him since he had to endure heartache watching me¬†struggle through my hard times.

Today, I got a phone call out of the blue from an old coworker from the job I had before¬†my most recent job.¬† She wanted some help preparing for an interview doing the same type of work¬†from which I had just resigned.¬† I explained to her that I would be happy to share with her the good, the bad, and the ugly of the field but that I had resigned from my position two months ago.¬† She asked what I was doing now and I proudly replied, “I’m being a housewife for now.”¬† She got really excited about the fact that I am unemployed and told me I needed to apply for the position as the director of the¬†job she¬†was applying for so that I could be her boss.¬† I was flattered and excited at the prospect of being qualified to be the “big boss.”

I told her that since it involved a move to another city it would most likely not be possible for me since I am married now and with no disrespect to my husband at all this is one reason¬†a spouse¬†is sometimes called a “ball and chain” –¬†one can’t pick up and move as¬†easily as when one is single.¬† She insisted that I look into the job since the pay was considerable and I am highly qualified.¬† Again, I felt flattered.

I spent the rest of the afternoon thinking about this job, other work options and how I felt about being “just” a housewife (or homemaker as is now a more PC term I hear).¬† I also started questioning the new path I have chosen.¬† The same path¬†that less than 24 hours before I was telling my husband how much I was enjoying.

path sign

Even though I had a few doubts today about my recent change of direction from career woman to housewife I have peace again tonight.  If I had not had to hike such a treacherous path for so long being unhappy and stressed I might not be as grateful as I am now for being feeling so free and happy again.

If you are going through a hard time now, please know that good times are ahead.¬† You might have to change paths as I did, but trust that¬†life can’t be uphill forever.¬† Who knows, you might have a “mountain top experience” like this one ahead.

path view

I took this photo on vacation last fall.  We were driving to a cabin rental for the first leg of our trip and followed the GPS directions which unexpectedly took us over the top of the highest peak in the area and through a forest.  I was not mentally prepared to drive up the narrow, winding mountainside, so I had not braced myself for the momentary terror excitement.  It was a bit tense at times when meeting other cars along the way up and when there was zero guardrail to hold us back from plunging to our deaths if we accidentally left the road.  I had not driven in the mountains in a long time so it was a shock to my system.  The photo opportunity above was well worth the scary parts of getting there.

I believe that whatever scary or uncomfortable things that are on the paths we travel are momentary and that we all will have views like the one above at the end of our trials.

These ARE the good old days.

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These are the good old days

I was driving yesterday through the beautiful spring scenery listening to the radio and heard a message about enjoying life where we are today.¬† It talked about not trying to fast forward through life waiting for the next stage to bring us happiness, fulfillment, peace…

I am working on breaking myself of the habit of thinking things like:

  • I’ll be happy with myself when I lose the weight.
  • I’ll feel accomplished when I get 1,000 likes on Facebook.
  • I’ll feel peace when…

What thoughts like this do you have in your mind?  How are they holding you back from being happy, fulfilled, peaceful, today? 

Have you looked through any old photos lately?¬† I have.¬† When I look at myself 10 years ago I don’t see the same things (flaws) that I saw when I first had a photo taken/printed.¬† At the time, I usually saw fault with the muffin top protruding through my shirt or my bad hair day. Now, I see the feelings I had that day and the memory that was made.¬† A field trip with family, the last birthday I celebrated with a loved one, the happiest days and the seemingly mundane days.

The message on the radio yesterday¬†included a story about a man who was feeling exasperated and exhausted¬†raising his children and has a conversation with an 80-year-old friend who tells him how she would love to hear her house filled with the pitter patter of little feet¬†and rock her children back to sleep again.¬† Those days were precious and fleeting…and so are these.

What I took away from the message was to enjoy each day and see the happiness, fulfillment and peace in¬†it even if you do not feel happy, fulfilled, or peaceful. Here’s my first try:¬† Today I am happy that it is spring, I am fulfilled by the fact that I had a creative thought today and actually followed through with it, and I have peace that God will take care of me¬†whatever the future may hold.

There’s a Fungus Among Us

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I heard this saying “There’s a fungus among us” as a child an always thought it was funny.¬† Today, fungus is causing a problem on my violas and pansies.¬† Can you see the white dusty stuff on the leaves in the photo?¬† That’s fungus.¬† I have a trip to the gardening supply in my future today, but before that I had to type out this blog about how little things like this remind me that just as we have to tend to our plants to make sure they are not becoming diseased (I hate that word) we have to check and treat¬†our hearts literally and figuratively for disease as well!

Sometimes we can buy a cure like fungicide or pesticide to fix our problem but what happens if that’s just a band aid for a recurring issue?¬† Maybe this plant needs more sun and warmth and that’s why it’s moldy.¬†No matter¬†what drug we apply it will not be healthy and thriving. Are you seeing my not-so-subtle attempt at crafting an analogy here between our environments and our plants’ environments?

I had a similar issue with my most recent job.  First, let me back up a bit and give you a little history on myself.  About 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and through the years I have gone through cognitive behavioral therapy and just good old talk therapy to get a handle on it.  In recent years after receiving a promotion (go me!) and adjusting to restructuring and change of work environment I started having panic attacks for the first time since graduate school.  I had never taken prescription drugs for these bouts of anxiety since they were often fleeting, but they started to become so frequent that I found myself taking a prescription anxiety medication for them.  The infrequent use turned into needing to take one several times per week and despite therapy and prayer the anxiety and panic attacks kept coming.

I found myself pinning inspirational quotes on pinterest for hours and then rereading those quotes on a bad day to help me through things thinking that I just had to change my mindset, my perspective, myself and I could change my physical reaction to the stress.  There is a lot of truth to that idea, but sometimes no matter how hard you try to be a cactus you are a fern and you cannot survive in the desert.  I then began to realize that no matter how much I tried to change my mind about the situation, the environment was not going to change.  Despite my best efforts, I was trying to shine light onto a negative (dark) situation and instead of me illuminating the situation, my light slowly started to burn out.

When¬†I think about “being a light to the world” and “light driving out darkness”¬†it sounds easy.¬† In my current situation it was not because there were few people willing to fight the fungus among us.¬† So, as the viola I chose to stop trying to spray fungicide on myself several times per week to survive in a toxic environment and move to sunnier spot in the garden¬†better suited to help me grow and thrive.

During the process of resigning from my job I was well aware that not everyone has the luxury that I had to be able to take such a leap of faith.  Thankfully, I was not the sole breadwinner in my family and I was not relying on my income to pay bills.  Plus, my family and friends were all supportive and encouraging of my decision to resign because they had seen me hurt for so long (years) and had watched my natural talents wilt because I was not able to use them and they were not valued in my current position.

I am now reviving old hobbies including writing and journaling and feeling more confident in my ability to help people with my story while doing things I enjoy:  writing and photographing plant life.

To end on an encouraging note as I hope to always do here, I want to say that quitting my job was not easy since I have never been a quitter.  I had to reframe that thought a lot (and still do) to tell myself that I was not quitting, I was changing direction.  A quote that helped me a lot:

There is a difference between giving up and knowing when you have had enough.

This was one of the many quotes I came across on Pinterest that I still go back to on days when I need a pick me up.  What quotes help you when you need inspiration or are struggling?