Hope in the Midst of Life ~ July 2017

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Welcome summer! For many of us, the “weather report” is… hot and sunny with lots of busy young people at home!

I hope this finds you on-purpose, setting some time aside from business and slowing down to be together! Maybe it is a picnic, or just playing catch in the yard or going for a hike or a bike ride.

Perhaps your dream of summer is something like mine… hot, slow and maybe sometimes lazy days of little structure and lots of fun! But what I know is that many people see it differently. Instead of being thrilled to have the “problem” of what to do with the kids… it is more of “another worry”. This, added to an already full plate, can be very challenging.

When I say “worry”, it reminds me of a report I just read that says “anxiety is now the number one mental health problem instead of depression”. Anxiety is characterized by a constant and overwhelming worry and fear, and it is now 800% more prevalent than all forms of cancer. (Mercola) That’s a whole lot of worry!!

Depending what you read, you will find many things listed as the cause; from social media and pressures to succeed, eating too much sugar, dyes and chemicals, not having a healthy gut, the fact that our country has been at war for over a decade and a half, to finances, and the list goes on. So, all that said… what we know is – anxiety – I’ll call it – significant, constant, or nearly constant worry – is an issue for many many people and it is miserable. One author wrote, “Worry can be one of the most common causes of suffering in the U.S.” Isn’t that an interesting perspective?

What can we do to help ourselves and/or our children with anxiety or worry? We older adults can see that young persons today clearly face more pressure situations than we may have, and everything seems to be moving so much faster and busier. How does one cope and NOT worry or get involved in anxiety?

Let’s start by considering not watching the television news or shows where people are in danger or get hurt. Instead of TV, let’s get outside! One of the most helpful tools I have found is to do something that I enjoy so much that I “lose time” in it. What hobby do you have that you enjoy so much that time “just gets away from you”? Maybe it is working in your garden, or wood carving, or needle work, or a musical instrument. For many today it might be the popular – coloring a picture. But the very best thing I have found for me personally and for clients I have worked with … comes back to purpose. Is there something I can do that is purposeful, especially something that helps someone else? What I know is that if we are busy doing something that we find purpose in, we worry less. This is my little brain telling me – the little bit that I do, can make a difference, and therein I find hope!

How can you help yourself and your children worry less? Get them involved in making something that they enjoy. Help them find something they can do that is purposeful to help someone else, because then they are making a difference, and whether they recognize it or not – they will worry less and have more hope.

I am reading a book about the Shackleton Trans-Antarctic expedition. Their ship became frozen in the ice. This was December 5, 1914 – May 1916 and nobody knew, let alone was going to come and save them. For more than an entire year these men lived in extreme danger and bitter cold. They lived in the ship until it broke up. Then they lived on a half mile wide ice flow, until it became only 200 meters wide. When I think about being in a situation like this I feel anxious! The leader and several of the men eventually risked “the most dangerous seas in the world” in a little life boat and made it back to South Georgia Island. From there they tried three different times, in three different ships, to rescue the other men until they succeeded. I can’t imagine being that cold and that wet and in a situation that seemingly looked like there was no hope to survive, let alone for more than a year! At the same time this was happening, there was an expedition in the Arctic with similar fate, but they didn’t fare as well. The difference was the leaders. Shackleton kept his men focused; busy doing things that would help them get home. Which is like saying – he kept them purposeful and thus hopeful.

One author wrote, “Anxiety is energy without a goal.” So, with this information, give the children, and yourself, a goal to help someone. If we can find purpose, these activities that will divert our attention from our problems, and fears to knowing we have the power to make a difference, then we can cope! And if we can make a difference, maybe we don’t have to worry about everything.

Thankfully we don’t face the dangers of Antarctica, but when persons deal with anxiety, it may seem like it. If you find yourself or a loved one or friend who is suffering from ongoing worry, you might encourage them to talk with someone who is used to helping people who worry. But let me suggest to you, that you make a plan – to intentionally do some fun things with your family and enjoy as much of every moment with them that you can. It will not only build relationships, but help you cope.

Have a wonderful summer and may it be with less worry and more fun because you are working in a purpose!!

 

Janet Miller  MA LPCC

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