Christa Johnsen, Author at Challenge Life Better
Christa Johnsen

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How to Start Overcoming Anxiety

How to Start Overcoming Anxiety

If you had told me five years ago that I would be sharing my thoughts with the world as a writer, I would have scoffed at you. Suggesting every reason as to why that wasn’t something I could do and at the end of that self-loathing statement, I would express my wish for it, saying if I could get past my anxiety then maybe one day…  I was in a valley with no bridge between the cliff sides.

My  anxiety had gotten so bad that I had lost hope that I would ever be free. I know when the fear finally grabbed me with its jaws and slammed me on the ground. I remember when pain threw me in the air, opened up its throat and swallowed me whole. I’m aware of what kept me back every time I started finding the courage to break free.

I stayed in the belly of the monster for long enough to know that I needed to either cut it open and escape or be digested and die. The symptoms of an anxiety disorder can be crippling. I still fight with the reality of the events that took me into the depths of the darkness, because that presence still lingers in my life. It just doesn’t have the same power over me that it once did.

I understand the struggle and isolation of social anxiety and to reflect on it is like remembering a night where you drank too much of something and have decided never to touch that particular alcoholic beverage ever again. My body reacts to that place of shadows and despair.  

No one wants to journey through those depths, but there you are, desperate within the silence, praying to come alive.

Not only are you thinking of everything that makes you inadequate but you also demand a reason from yourself. What happened? What is wrong with me? Blame, guilt, shame, tightening the imprisonment that is your mind.  

Lost Identity to an Anxiety Disorder

You start to identify yourself with your fear and anxiety. You initially find freedom in the label, because with labels there’s hope for a treatment, right? With this tragedy of the mind, it can lead you to be too afraid even to go and seek the help that you need so badly need.

Treatments for Anxiety Disorders

Through a multitude of online tests, reading articles and books or visiting with the doctor you are identified as having social anxiety, and it’s something that you now must manage. But you don’t manage something like that. You find ways to avoid your triggers which slowly becomes everything.

If you can catch your anxiety before it becomes that crippling, then what? Medications that mask the neurons firing off in your brain, giving you side effects like nightmares or suicidal thoughts? Or do you go through cognitive therapy where you have to force yourself to be in situations that set off your fight or flight system so badly you feel you’ve been hit by a truck afterward or worst, you start to become numb?

People mistake feeling better when they push their anxiety past their threshold of withstanding. You’re glad that it’s over, your proud of how strong you witness yourself being. However you don’t go back for more because the anxiety has gone away, you go back because you recognize what you can handle.

Moments of you being yourself are freeing, being yourself involves loving yourself. It’s what your soul has been begging for you to be. But it’s short lived when you go home and once again began to analyze everything you’ve said.

The thoughts don’t go away from your exposure; the relief comes from the way you change the tape in your head. When you succeed by sitting through an uncomfortable situation, past the point of your threshold, you congratulate yourself. You acknowledge your accomplishment.

This new self-talk is really at the core of escaping the belly of the monster. We continue to put ourselves through situations where everything in our being is screaming for us to stop and end up coming out that much more apathetic, but still, anxiety-ridden people.

This method especially without building up your confidence and tearing down the internal lies, is so against your spirit yet we continue to ignore what our soul is trying to tell us. Deciding that the best way to conform back into the world is through more self-punishment.

That’s why so many people give up and fall back into their patterns. Because the fear never goes away because it’s lies within your mind. You’re showing your physical body that there’s nothing to fear, but you haven’t proven anything to your soul. The only thing you’re proving is that you can endure hurting yourself.

So when you do take steps backward, it becomes even more hopeless because you’ve already put yourself through copious amounts of torture to be “normal.”  You don’t want to experience that again, so maybe people choose not to, and they are disintegrated inside the belly of the monster.

If that type of therapy worked so well, then it would heal the root cause of your social anxiety. If it were a good solution, when you took steps back, you’d be optimistic, willing and hopeful to turn around and continue towards the path forward.

Anxiety Help Don’t be a Bully

You’re not alone even though you probably feel more alone than you ever have in your life. If you’re reading this, you still have that fire within you, that willingness to fight. That’s worth something. It’s worth a lot actually.

Let me ask you, and answer to yourself honestly; what type of thoughts do you have towards yourself? What kind of words do you hear about you from other people? Do you believe them? Do you believe yourself when you tell yourself again and again throughout the day that you’re not good enough? I want to help you help yourself by changing the tape.

I wish I would have known what I know now sooner, but I can’t change the past or the future, all we have is now. If you’re willing to keep holding out for hope then recognize that. There’s a part of you that knows how screwed up it is for you to allow anyone to smother you out.

More than anyone, you can’t be that person to yourself either. I bet you would stand up in outrage to a bully picking on someone and mentally abusing them. I want to teach you how to stop being a bully to yourself.

Every time you look in the mirror and say ew, and point out everything you don’t like about yourself, you create more mental anxiety. Every time you question every little thing you say to someone and relentlessly criticize yourself you are being a bully and cause yourself more anxiety.

You would never be friends with someone who spoke about you the way that you talk about yourself. It’s not nonsense to be kind to yourself; it’s necessary for the survival of your spirit. Your well being depends on it. Think about that for a second. The more lines you cross with yourself without putting a stop to it, the more harm you’ll end up doing because who’s to stop you?

A Deeper Understanding of Anxiety

The word anxiety comes from the Greek word “dipsuchos” which means to be double-minded, wavering, two souls or two bodies, doubting and can be summed up with the power phrase, spiritual schizophrenic.

Social anxiety comes from a place of double-mindedness plus fear and shame.

Each of us has a different background, heck you could’ve even had a decent childhood but been “too much” or “not enough” by society’s standards. Whatever the case may be, you’re at war with yourself. I don’t believe that this war is all bad. It is better to be in a place of battle to fight for the highest good of yourself than asleep.

However the low vibrating thoughts of fear and doubt and depression are clashing with who you really are; thus you feel it physically, in a big way.

Your Thoughts Can Cause Your Anxiety

The thoughts you have after “I am,” are incredibly powerful, for good or for bad. To put it in its simplest form, your either listening to the bad thoughts, or the good ones.

So how can you tell? If you think a thought that’s in opposition to the truth, your body will react.

You will feel fear, anger, hate, disgust, confusion and the like. When you are thinking thoughts that are in the true alignment of God, you feel light, free, and great warmth in your chest.

So even if you never read a book or weren’t taught anything at all, you still have within you a compass that guides you to the truth. The issue is that most of us are taught many things that are not of the truth of who you are or we adapt to suppress the feelings that our spirit is trying to express.

You have to practice saying things in opposition to your negative thoughts. This isn’t arrogance or an unwillingness to be a better person to other people; this technique acknowledges the truth of who you really are.

Note that the longer you’ve been in this place, the longer it will take for your mind to be renewed but you can achieve freedom. It starts with little steps every day.

I remember when I first started on my journey to break free from crippling anxiety and fear a few years ago. Some days I would forget to give myself positive self-talk. As soon as I remembered how important it was, I would continue. If you’ve had these thoughts for long enough, they become a habit. Your brain rewires itself to light up areas most used and follow pathways most traveled.

It just depends on the patterns your mind has created and how deeply etched in they are. So give yourself grace and patience. , and it will become manifest for you if you keep the faith and don’t give up.

Remember, chains are being broken and who knows how many chains you’ve got wrapped around you. It’s a process; the most important thing is to keep moving forward.

A New Way of Thinking to Ease Anxiety

  1. When you look in the mirror, say something nice to yourself. If you can’t seem to look at your reflection without insulting yourself, then stop looking in the mirror. Look at your legs, look at your feet, look at your skin, look at a spot on your arm and tell yourself, “I love you.”
  2. Find something to appreciate about having a body in the first place. If you aren’t sure, think about what it’d be like without arms and legs or eyes or ears and then turn that around and appreciate it. “I’m so glad I have hands.”
  3. When you wake up in the morning, find something to be glad for. I was so bitter that when I started all I could say was, “meh, I have a ceiling there above me.” But hey, that was enough to get the ball rolling!

You may not be where I was but if you are, here’s some things you can say to step into appreciation:

  • I like my bed sheets.
  • Oh look, another day
  • I’m glad I woke up in a bed
  • I woke up

That’s literally how I started. I don’t want to say I’m grateful that I woke up in a bed because I want to help you get to a point where it really doesn’t matter if you wake up on a bed or on the ground, you woke up! This is about changing the tape. Again, depending on where you are will depend on what things you will find to be grateful for. Like I said, I was incredibly bitter and absolutely hated “being stuck” in my life.

Looking back now I was absolutely blind, my life was actually pretty awesome! But we can so easily let that stuff pass up by if we aren’t giving it attention.

Over time I promise this will become easier for you, just keep finding things, even if you think they’re stupid at first, keep finding things. Keep giving yourself compliments, keep telling yourself that you can!

Motivate yourself and change the way you think of yourself by saying these phrases:

  1. I am really good at that!
  2. I am really good at this!
  3. I am learning this and will get better!
  4. I am practicing and will get stronger!
  5. I may not be perfect at this now, but I keep getting better all the time!

Anything else you can say that’s in opposition to the thoughts you currently have that are destroying you. Being a bully to yourself only creates more pain and anxiety, that pattern has to be tackled first.

Years later, I still fall back into old wavelengths (thought patterns), but that’s fine, when you realize you’re doing it again, just pick yourself back up. I’ve had self hate since I was a child, so that’s a lot of very deep flesh patterns.  

Sometimes I don’t know what I’m even anxious about, as if my body is just reacting like clockwork. That’s where prayer and meditation comes in handy, not just for anxiety but for every day stress.

Pray and Meditate to Quiet a Mind Swimming in Anxiety

The value of being able to quiet your mind and spirit is beyond anything you can gain on earth. “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Practicing meditation was what really helped to propel me in a positive direction because at the time, I couldn’t quiet my mind. If your mind is buzzing, that’s one thing, but if it’s buzzing with negative thoughts, that’s down right dangerous and destructive.

There is unspeakable power in prayer.  Go to a quiet place where you have privacy and pray. When I later came to prayer, that became a new powerful force in my life.

If you don’t know what is causing you anxiety, ask. Ask for you to gain awareness over it, or however you feel comfortable asking. It will be revealed to your heart, if you become quiet and listen.

You can also do these exercises to focus on gratitude or the truth of who you are as I talked about earlier.

Set Boundaries For People Who Encourage Negative Self Talk

Boundaries are a major player in having social anxiety. So many of you feel obligated to other people because you were leaned on too much as children. You became slaves to humans even though it was packaged pretty as selflessness and honorable.

There is a line, and if you experience terrible social anxiety it is incredibly likely that your line was crossed again and again. You may have even known how wrong it was or known when that particular person was being “crazy”. Projecting their insecurities and needs on you.

Maybe your spirit felt this and you “rebelled” and was then punished for trying to get away from it. Whatever your story is, you don’t have to be bound to other people anymore. There’s a big difference between love and codependency.

How can you tell the difference? Love is genuine, the yoke is light and the so is the burden. Codependency however makes you feel ashamed and guilty if you don’t oblige the other person. You are trained and conditioned to serve others through a place of fear, not love.

You have to learn how to set boundaries with people and at the same time, combat the lies that you’re horrible, selfish, a bad child or spouse or friend. You are standing up for you for the first time. Not in a combative way, but in a way that says to your soul, I love you.

I’ve seen so many people in families who excuse cruel behavior saying it’s all in good fun. The words we say to each other, especially to children matter. If you visit a family member and they always have something to say that makes fun of you or hurts your feelings and they know it bothers you, then you’re completely justified in not partaking.

This isn’t you being a sissy just because you’ve decided stuffing it down and blocking it out isn’t creating a healthy mind for you. Now I will say that once you break away from those words and no longer believe any of it, it won’t matter to you and that person will stop anyway.

If you don’t feed the beast, they starve and move on. But until your in that place, it’s best to set your boundaries.

You’re someone who feels deeply. You can probably feel other people when they walk into a room, when someone is upset and get worn out by spending a lot of time with negative people.

That’s why it’s so important for you to set boundaries. As you practice changing the tape, taking time to be still, you will gain more confidence and your boundaries won’t be based on self preservation but rather on love. Over time you will gain confidence in your ability to set boundaries through love and you will become freer and freer.

I’ll be writing another article on Boundaries since this is another complex topic.

Change What comes into Your Ears

I wanted to talk a little bit more about sound. I recently got ahold of noise cancelling headphones… oh, my, gosh, they are amazing!

Not only do they block out the sounds of buzzing electricity, the furnace and other random noises, they make music sound even better. When outside noise becomes too much for me, I slip them on and enjoy the silence.

With all the different types of stimulation we’re exposed to, it’s not hard for our senses to get burned out. Especially if you are more spirit than body. Maybe you never considered that you are. 🙂

It’s also wise to monitor the type of music you listen to as well, especially the lyrics themselves. They are words that are entering into your mind and lyrics do have an affect on us.  

Join an Anxiety Group Online

Probably about three years ago I joined a facebook group for people with social anxiety. I only connected with one person, but being able to talk to him made such a huge difference in my life. I will never forget Rozan. This friendly guy from Nepal who wanted to overcome his social anxiety so that he could become a doctor and help people in his country.

We talked a lot about our struggles, our families, our dreams to help people. I wasn’t great about keeping in touch with him, but it made such a huge difference in my life to know I wasn’t alone.

Before that group, I was utterly alone. I was too much of a mess to put it on anyone else, and my double-mindedness was so intense that anyone I had to talk to I just stressed out. Getting better isn’t about venting necessarily, although I do recommend some creating or journaling.

It’s about the thoughts themselves. Complaining to people won’t solve your problems if you’re someone who suffers from terrible anxiety. It just releases the energy pint up inside of you.

I would see read his messages and hear where he was in his moment and would encourage him. To help him fight the battle in his mind. He would do the same for me. Having someone to encourage took the focus off of myself. I wasn’t yet in a place where I could go volunteer somewhere, but at least online, I could feel good about making a difference in someone’s life.

We both hated our social anxiety. We used our words of grace and encouragement to cut it down with our swords of truth. I became motivated to handle the lying voices in my head so that I could give my friend hope.

You can start off as a fly on the wall, but to encourage others is a powerful. It reminds us that we’re in this together and more than just our cardinal selves.

You’re More Than You’re Anxiety

I’ve had anxiety that made me want to curl into a ball at the thought of sharing my thoughts with you.

If you’ve read this far, it’s because you want to. Otherwise you would have clicked off immediately, and I’m so grateful that you’re here. My desire to help you change the course of your life is 100% genuine. I don’t want anyone to suffer alone, it’s just so freaking painful.

But I couldn’t share yet. I had all of these negatives thoughts that felt like they had enough truth to actually kill me. It’s such a shame how we torture ourselves. But there’s a way out, I promise you that. I’m going to keep writing. I want to journey with you. Even though we’re screens apart, I’m thinking of all the things you might be thinking and going through and I’m extending my heart out to you.

I was often alone. I had no one much of the time. A lot of times it was me who went away from everyone else but I just didn’t have it in me to be a part of anything and reach out. I was told my only option was to go see a doctor which I was too terrified to do. I realized then that we needed more connection online, its the resource at our fingertips.  

I’d like to encourage you to try some of those things I talked about. Please feel free to leave a comment a let me know how your journey is going. See that you aren’t alone. And I hope you come back to TheMayProject. Even if you only ever read this one article, I hope it’s helped. If there’s something else you’d like me to write about, just let me know.

You’re more special than you know, you’re not what the enemy and the negative thoughts have convinced you that you are.

Keep fighting, it’s not time to give up yet. You are meant for so much more than this. I send you off with one final phrase. Come Alive.   

 

How To Stop Intrusive Thoughts

How to Stop Intrusive Thoughts

They’re there, they’re unwanted, they’re dreaded. Intrusive thoughts come in without permission and without warning.

How can you turn your mind from being engulfed in the uninvited? How can you stop intrusive thoughts?

If you’ve been dealing with this for a while, the prospect of being free from the captivity of your mind can seem like something you can only imagine.

You don’t have to continue to be a prisoner of your mind, there is relief.

Get to know about what intrusive thoughts are, how you can take actions to be free of them and start to live with peace of mind.

What Are Intrusive Thoughts

It’s never asked for but there it is, plaguing you and keeping you up at night.

One of the worst aspects of this is that it’s set on replay. Thoughts that when you try not to think of seem to come at you with an even bigger punch.

They’re obsessive and can compel you to act. Even if you don’t want to or you see the absurdity in it.  

It can ruin your relationships, cause you to isolate, cause incredible fear and paranoia. Some people will elevate these thoughts with repetitive actions and that can steal your life from you.

Anyone Can Have Intrusive Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts are usually associated with those who have anxiety disorders such as PTSD or OCD but really, anyone can have an episode of intrusive thoughts.

Say you’ve met someone at work and you want to make a good impression. You may repeat the events of the day examining if you left a good impression. Or you may assume that you didn’t leave a good impression and end up replaying events that didn’t even happen, over and over.

You may be stressed out over taking an exam and experience intrusive thoughts.

Anyone can have intrusive thoughts and no one’s experience is exactly the same.

Common Intrusive Thoughts

Some people have intrusive thoughts about being exposed to germs, catching a deadly disease and it killing them.

You can have intrusive thoughts about what kind of impression you’ve left on someone. How many likes you got on a Facebook post, or if your business proposal went over well with your potential clients.

Some people experience it while they’re driving, afraid they’re going to purposely drive themselves off the road.

Or, it could be in the form of hurting your own child, spouse or yourself. It’s completely unwanted, absolutely intrusive and can be paralyzing.

I used to constantly have intrusive thoughts over the majority of my social interactions. It was heartbreakingly crippling.

However, any intrusive thought can become a serious problem. 

3 Steps to Overcoming Obsessive Thoughts

If you want to overcome obsessive thoughts the biggest things you must understand is it will take some time and it won’t necessarily be pleasant.

But you can move into a place of healing. You have to ask yourself how badly do you want to be rid of your obsessive thoughts? Obviously bad, bad enough to fight?  

Intrusive thoughts are 100% fear based and are also 100% nothing but lies.

You weren’t made to have the spirit of fear but one of power, love and a sound mind. And you living in truth is your right.

Maybe it feels like you’ll be stuck with these horrible looping thoughts forever and you’re just crazy.

You’re not. And yes, there is hope.

These are powerful exercises I want you to commit to doing every day. It’s about fighting for yourself. You have to fight because you can’t keep being a slave to intrusive thoughts.

Can your brain physically change?

Absolutely, thanks to neuroplasticity. Your thoughts patterns create the neural network in your brain. If you have deep-rooted pathways carved out it can take time to change your brain. However, these techniques to stop intrusive thoughts are effective.

Over time you will start to conquer, overcome and find peace within your own mind. This may take months, but don’t let that deter you. Keep doing the exercises and keep having faith. Tell yourself that you will overcome. And you will.

1. Don’t Ignore Obsessive Thoughts

Take note of what your possible triggers are, the duration of the episode and the specifics of your thoughts. This will empower you in the long run. Allowing you to become more aware of your intrusive thoughts, and help you to avoid situations that trigger you. 

I also suggest keeping a journal. When you get stuck in a loop, write down what it is. Or, say it out loud to yourself, bringing all those nasty lies to the surface, exposing them. 

When you expose these lies they hold less power over you.

You can’t ignore the thoughts to overcome them. You have to bring them to the light by acknowledging they’re there. This can be so incredibly painful but this exercise is necessary for you to gain control over what you think.

Have you ever had a song replay again and again in your head? The more you try to bat away or ignore the song, the more it seems to persist.

It’s time to really hear those lyrics and then, play a new song. 

2.Think Worst Case Scenario With Intrusive Thoughts

I know this can be terrifying. But you’re taking this darkness in your mind and standing up against it. If the worst case scenario plays out in your head, then those thoughts can’t gain more momentum. Facing the unknowns which lead to more fear feeding these lies even more.

Allow yourself to experience the worst case scenario and sit in that feeling for a few moments.

Then challenge that reality with what is true.

So if your thoughts are “I always feel like I’m being watched and something is going to jump out and grab me”, the opposing thought could be something like, “I know that I am protected by something more powerful than this fear and nothing is allowed to harm me.”

Or if your intrusive thought is something like, “I may accidentally drop my child…” and then the worst case scenario is played out, follow that thought with something like “my child is safe and protected in my arms. I’m so grateful for this life I’ve been giving to look after. I can never be made to do something I don’t want to do. I am kind and patient, I myself am love.”

My examples are extreme, but that’s how detrimental this can be. This will be unique to you. Keeping a journal will help you to identify what thoughts of truth you will need to speak over the lies playing in your head.

This is incredibly powerful and many people find relief that shows up shortly after. Thoughts that were there no longer re-occurring. Again, this is about taking your power back and overcoming the lies.

Let Your Mind Play Out the Best Case Scenario

Now that you have brought the darkness to the light this exercise is designed to give you even more control over what you think about.

Do this exercise similarly as the one above.

Let’s say you’re repeating thoughts are based on a real event. Take some time to sit down and think about it, but this time, change the ending.

If it’s a childhood trauma, go in as your adult self and change the outcome of the ending of that event. Or, imagine God being there and handing over the situation to the source, allowing the creator to handle that trauma.

This is a powerful technique that brings power, light, love, and justice into your psych showing your mind that there are other avenues of thinking, creating a mental and spiritual freedom.  

You can develop control over your thoughts, and it’s your right to do so.

3.Think Thoughts That Are in Opposition to the Lies

People who suffer from bouts of intrusive thoughts have shown to have issues with chemicals in the brain responsible for sending communication between the neurons. Chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.

If you have a pattern of thinking does it affect the brain physically? You betcha. But the brain was molded in that way over time and can be molded back towards a healthy functioning brain too.

It’s monumentally important that you take time out of each day, hopefully, right when you wake up to practice some positive I ams’.

Claim your truth!

-I am love

-I am strong

-I am kind

-I am patient

-I am disciplined

-I am protected

-I am good

-I am cared about

-I am precious

Craft your I ams around negative thoughts that you have throughout the day. This is going to help strengthen your being and strengthen new pathways in your brain so when you come up against those intrusive thoughts you’ll be better prepared to battle them. This exercise alone, with or without unwanted thoughts will change your life.

The Dark Side Of Big Pharma

Why don’t people approach mental health problems with these techniques? Well, there’s big money made by the pharmaceutical companies and other agencies that are intertwined in mental health. It’s much better for them to keep you sick.

This isn’t to say that there hasn’t been some good intentions and breakthroughs in the field, but it’s been abused and the number one priority for big pharma is to help you maintain, and numb your emotions, not cure you.  

However, you’re not about that and this is about healing the wounds and renewing the mind, not just putting a band-aid on a broken bone.

The potential issue with medications is one, the side effects. They can promote a person to do the exact thing the medicine was designed to combat and as the brain is numbed, the problem can and often does become worst, calling for higher doses because the root of the problem has not been solved.  

Depending on how your brain is performing, medicines can be helpful but if you don’t do the work it’s going to get worse, not better.

Beat Disturbing Intrusive Thoughts

Having unwanted thoughts didn’t happen overnight so it’s important during this process that you give yourself some grace. Be kind to yourself during this process.

With these techniques, sometimes intrusive thoughts disappear overnight and sometimes the battle goes on for longer. But it’s your battle to win, don’t back down from the fight.

The peace and the freedom that you’ll experience in profound and it’ll only show you even more of who you are and the reality of this world we live in.

Be it a real trauma or something plaguing your mind at random, no, it’s wasn’t ok, but it did happen. Now it’s time to take your freedom back and find peace of mind.

Don’t lay down to the negative, don’t spend another day giving your power away.

I’ve been there and you aren’t alone, I promise. I know you can overcome this, keep moving forward. Sending you light and love always, be blessed.