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How I Overcame Social Anxiety

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You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do. ~Eleanor Roosevelt

I’ve always been shy. I’ve become accustomed to being called “the quiet one.” My mum tells stories of me hiding my face away whenever we had company when I was just a wee toddler — a toddler who, through genetic build up and perhaps social conditioning, acted on his instinct to cover up and hide away.

As I grew, so did my anxiety. From my childhood innocence, I transformed into a more receptive, sensitive young man. These were optimum conditions for anxiety to grow, like warmth and dampness to bacteria.

My older brother’s bar-mitzvah exposed and perhaps exaggerated my anxieties. As obligated by tradition and expectation, my nine-year-old self took to the stage to deliver the brother and sister speech.

The speech was received well, but my nervous laughing gradually turned to crying, the situation too overwhelming for my anxious little soul. I once again took to hiding my face — my sister’s arm a shield against the nerves and embarrassment I felt looking into the crowd.

The episode was laughed off by those in attendance, put down to my shyness and my youth. But as I grew older, with hair growing where it once didn’t and muscles starting to show up, inside I was still this shy, scared boy of nine.

3 Ways to Declutter Your Mind

Photo by Shelby U
What a liberation to realize that the “voice in my head” is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that. ~Eckhart Tolle

We all lead busy lives. In today’s world, it’s as if it’s a badge of honor. Always rushing to the next thing. Working late to meet that deadline to please a boss or client. Driving from one kid’s soccer practice to the other.

With all of the busyness that fills our days, weeks and months, our mental space begins to fill simultaneously. Internal thinking begins to pile high collecting dust. Stress and anxiety begin to form, ultimately, transcending into our outer world. Our days become even busier with stress and anxiety layered on top.

This is especially true during times of personal struggle. Our mental space becomes so cluttered with thoughts of reality, sprinkled in with fictitious inner-ramblings that we often find it hard to decipher between the two.

When my wife and I decided to sell our business of three years, it put us in a not-so-desirable position financially. As we found ourselves struggling, I, without even knowing, handed the keys of my outer world to my inner world’s chattering ego.

A DIY Guide to Art Therapy

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Art is not an amusement, nor a distraction, nor is it, as many men maintain, an escape from life. On the contrary, it is a high training of the soul, essential to the soul’s growth, to its unfoldment. ~Lawren Harris

Have you ever felt anxious about starting open-ended tasks?

Do you feel lost without a step-by-step guide for new projects?

How about a blank canvas? Does it throw you into panic mode?

Regrettably, this has been the story of my life.

Getting the perfect shot as a portrait photographer, creating a flawless website as an Internet marketer or even seeing a blank canvas in an art class — any new endeavor that had no template would make me panic.

How to Be in the Moment

Photo by Máté Holdosi
Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday. ~Dale Carnegie

I had been picturing the day for weeks, adjusting to the changing date, trying to avoid the palpable feeling of desperation that sat heavy on my chest when I thought about the long months ahead of us.

It was deployment number two. This one was decidedly more dangerous and carried with it more uncertainty, longer periods without communication and far more anxiety than deployment number one.

Military deployments, and the period leading up to them, are a constant wrestle with time — you dig your heels in, praying for time to creep forward at a snail’s pace, then you wish for the clock to speed through the next seven to 12 months of your life.

It leaves all those involved in a constant state of being out of the moment, thinking of the past and then looking forward to the future.

But while the tendency during this time is to discount the present in favor of the future or the past, it also opens the door to awakening to the now like few circumstances do.

3 Tips for Keeping a Journal

Photo by John O'Nolan
People who keep journals have life twice. ~Jessamyn West

A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend who said she wanted to keep a journal. She’d read that all successful people have that in common. Later on that day I saw an Internet meme that said exactly that. Afterward I realized how many people in my 30 Day Challenge group have wanted to write every day as their challenge.

On and off since I was about fourteen, I’ve been keeping a journal. But it wasn’t until about a year and a half ago I started writing consistently — three pages, every day.

I’ve noticed that not only has my writing improved, but I have way less anxiety and my depression has become a lot less pronounced. It’s become part of my routine for self-care.

Many people struggle to keep a journal and write habitually, but it is pretty simple once you have the hang of it. I’ve found that remembering a few things can help you get into writing every day and I want to share them so you can reap the benefits of journaling.

How to Cope When Little Things Overwhelm You

Photo by 9042004 Duke
It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are the most important. ~Arthur Conan Doyle

I have always been wary of the little things in life. The little things can steal my serenity, rob me of peace of mind and kill my joy.

At the same time, I have been aware of the little things in my life:

  • The smell of freshly brewed coffee
  • The overheard laughter of a stranger
  • A spider web glistening with morning dew

How can I be defeated by little things or more likely, how can I LET little things defeat me? I identify with the concept of Chinese Water Torture as a method of ultimate despair — the premise being that drops of water fall onto the forehead of a restrained individual and ultimately render them insane.

7 Ways to Escape Feeling Overwhelmed

Photo by Steven Ritzer
Remember how far you’ve come, not just how far you have to go. You are not where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be. ~Rick Warren

Have you ever felt so overwhelmed that it felt like a ball and chain locked to your ankle, keeping you down? I know I have.

If you’re imprisoned by overwhelm, it can kill your productivity and steal your happiness. Feeling panicked and stressed affects not only your mental health but your physical health as well.

Here are seven ways I have found that really work to unlock your ball and chain.

5 Tips to Increase Your Emotional IQ

Photo by Phil King
You can’t calm the storm, so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass. ~Timber Hawkeye

Have you ever felt so angry you lashed out and said words you regret? Felt so hurt, you couldn’t talk past the lump in your throat?

So frustrated, you weren’t able to form a coherent sentence? Or tried to communicate something important, and it landed like a dead fish?

I’ve been there. In my teens, I was a tempestuous young woman. Hormones had me flipping from rage to despair in a heartbeat. I sprayed emotions around me like a machine gun sprays bullets.

I couldn’t even talk to my then-boyfriend about anything important without losing control. I frustrated even myself.

So I learned to keep emotions under lock and key. I rarely expressed how I felt, and aimed to just keep the peace and ensure everyone was happy.

Except me.

8 Questions to Feel More Free

Photo by Caroline Sleeper
Maybe the life you’ve always wanted to live is buried underneath everything you own. ~Joshua Becker

As a full-time nanny of four, I typically used the family’s van when picking the kids up. One day, however, I unexpectedly found out that I needed to use my own car.

This wasn’t a problem for me. I just had to put some stuff in the trunk and say my least favorite phrase: “Please excuse the mess.”

As I suspected, the children weren’t thrilled. But at least it gave us something to talk about.

“Wow, your car is, like, rotten!” the six-year-old boy immediately exclaimed.

“Where do I put my feet?” his older sister asked.

I thought surely the next time would be better. They’d be used to it.

How to Succeed Through Acceptance

Photo by Antoine Robiez
Of course there is no formula for success except, perhaps, an unconditional acceptance of life and what it brings. ~Arthur Rubinstein

I’ve spent a great deal of my life trying to figure out what I should do next, determining where I stand in relation to those around me, creating a harsh comparison between where I am and where I should be.

In these moments of contemplation, I’ve always found a way to diminish the beauty of where I stand today. What is out there always seems a little brighter, a little more impressive than what already surrounds me.

And this way of thinking and interacting with the world plants the belief that action is king — action is the only way to change and change is the only way from point A to point B.

But what if you’re supposed to stay at point A for a little while?

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