What do you do when you’re anxious?

What do you do when you’re anxious?

Two dogs shouting at each otherHave you noticed? Lots of people are feeling anxious these days.

Some people are feeling anxious because in not so many days we’ll have an inauguration that will lead us into uncharted waters. What will it mean for us as a country? For the world? What will it mean for me as an individual?

Some people are anxious because no matter who is president, the problems at home are still the problems at home. The car is still making that funny sound. Every time you start to get an emergency fund saved up an emergency comes along to wipe it out. You don’t quite know what’s happening in your relationship and the not knowing is as anxious as dealing with the problems. There’s still the matter of that test the doctor ordered. The lab is being awfully casual about getting your results back, not knowing that you can’t sleep until you know.

Some people are anxious because, well… it’s just what they do.

One of the keys to dealing with anxiety is to identify what’s under your control, which probably a lot less than what you think in your imagination. Once you identify that, focus on taking concrete actions where you do have control.

Sometimes those actions feel small and useless in the face of worldwide events. Sometimes they seem to be hopelessly inadequate baby steps in light of the mountains we have to climb in our lives.

But take enough small actions and they  add up.

This summer I went to a birthday party for a friend. Included in the guest list was a family whom she’d been helping. I watched the children playing soccer and saw their wide eyes as they surveyed what was probably the biggest birthday cake they’d ever seen.

And then I thought about other children, the hollow eyed children of Aleppo. You see, this family was a Syrian refugee family. They were here because of the work of a lot of people but also because my friend had decided to do the things she could do. She couldn’t broker peace in Syria but she could help one family find a new start and a new life. Or maybe find life itself, away from the bombs.

This month I’m offering a webinar on anxiety, “If I love Jesus why do I need Xanax?” We’ll look at what causes anxiety, how our brain feeds it, what faith has to do with it as well as talk about some tools for dealing with it. I’ll also share one of the roots of anxiety that I’ve discovered in over ten years of working as a therapist. It’s not one people talk about a lot, but it can make all the difference in how you handle anxiety.

Click on the link to register. You’ll have three different chances to attend, and the webinar will be both live and free all three times.

https://my.demio.com/ref/4C6tOUT8I2EeSuAU

In the meantime, what helps you when you’re anxious?

 

 

Let’s Stop the Grief Shaming

grievingRecently I’ve been introduced to a new term: grief shaming. Grief shaming happens when someone ridicules you for not grieving enough or the right way or the right thing. It’s been pretty prevalent recently.

If you grieve a service dog who was lost in the Paris attacks, you are shamed on the assumption that you don’t care about the people who died.

If you grieve the loss of life in Paris you are shamed because it is assumed that you don’t care about the people who lost their lives in Lebanon the week before.

If you care about what happens to Syrian refugees then it is assumed that you don’t care about homeless vets or struggling seniors right here in our own country.

Folks, we don’t live in a binary world. If I chose A it doesn’t mean that I also cannot choose B. I just might not be able to express both at the same time.

There are legitimate questions to be asked about how we frame the events of this world and how race, religion and culture plays parts in those decisions. There are legitimate questions to be asked about national priorities when more people vote for an American idol winner than the people who will represent them when decisions are made that affect them, their homes and their families.

But those questions don’t get any easier by using shame to ask them. Shame doesn’t open us up for dialogue and discussion. Shame shuts us down. Shame stops the conversation.

So if your friend changes her Facebook picture to show support for Paris, instead of shaming her ask her if she’s heard about the other places that are also suffering after public attacks. If your friend shred the tribute to the slain service dog instead of shaming him, understand that many of us have powerful connections with dogs and we feel the loss of anyone’s dog. Oddly enough, we can care about both dogs and people (although some dogs make it easier than some people.)

The truth is, I think most of us are muddling along the best way we know how right now. Some of us are reverting to old coping mechanisms of fear and anxiety. Some of us are struggling with what our faith demands of us in such a time. Some are just angry. Some are just sad. Some are just afraid.

Some of us need to find the courage of our convictions. Some of us need the courage to step out of old and familiar and limiting comfort zones. All of us need the wisdom to bring thought, reflection, compassion and resolve to the knotty problems of the day.

No one needs to be shamed for grief.

 


 

If you’re struggling with grief this holiday season I’m offering a free webinar next Tuesday, November 24 @ 11 am EST on “When the Holidays Are Tough Days.”

I know the week of Thanksgiving can be crazy in its own right, so the webinar will be recorded and everyone who registers will get a link for the playback.

You can learn more or register here

Stupid Stuff Jesus Says

When a young man in our church was killed in Iraq while serving as a Marine I had the honor of participating in his memorial service. The pastor called to give me my assignment.

“I’d like for you to lead in the prayer for our enemies,” he said.

“Can’t I do something easier?” I asked, “Like raise Andrew from the dead?”

It’s one of the most difficult prayers I’ve ever had to pray in public or private, not made easier by the rows of blue uniformed Marines at the service. In the prayer I confessed to praying though clenched teeth.

When a Marine angrily challenged the pastor for having such a prayer in the service for a fallen comrade, the pastor replied, “But we are Christian. This is what we are commanded to do.”

(Recently as a part of my own spiritual journey I started praying for my enemies. Very quickly I realized my prayers were not so much for their well being but for them to be more like me. I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant.)

That’s one of the stupid things Jesus said. Love Your enemies. Pray for them that persecute you. (And I don’t think he was talking about plain red coffee cups, but if you feel the need to pray for Starbucks have at it.)

Praying for people who hate us? Praying for the candidates that you feel would be absolute disasters for our country? Praying for people of other countries and other faiths who may even want to kill us? Who does that?

Evidently we who are followers of Jesus are supposed to do just that.

There’s more stupid stuff Jesus said. There’s the one I can’t get out of my head this week: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” So as a Christian I am supposed to care about refugees not because it’s a nice thing to do but because that’s where I’ll find Jesus. Who can live like that?

Apparently we who are followers of Jesus are supposed to live just that way.

Fear is our common currency these days. And yet we’re supposed to buck the trend and live not out of fear but out of faith and love?

“You don’t have to be so scared,” Jesus said in the Cotton Patch Version of the scripture, and he meant it for any language. But who does that?

Actually, I think he’s looking at us.

I am reminded this morning that being a Christian is hard stuff. Oh, I’m not persecuted in this country. I can worship where I will or not worship at all. It’s hard because Jesus said stupid stuff like this, and what’s more, expects me to follow him anyway.

I am continually called to go beyond what is easy or cheap or self serving. I am called to consider the world beyond the sound bite or campaign slogan. I am commanded to take into account the welfare of those who have no money, no resources and no standing, because Jesus stands among them.

Who does something so stupid?

God willing, we will.