A Step-By-Step Guide To Shedding Your Emotional Baggage And Living Your Best Life

What is it with us and that enormous emotional baggage that we tend to carry around? For a second, imagine yourself standing in the heavy pouring rain with an empty bucket. The longer you stand there holding the bucket, the heavier it gets. It gets heavier rather quickly, doesn’t it? How long can we hold it for? There comes a moment when we need to release it before it gets too much…

Sometimes we think that what happens to us and what goes to our emotional baggage is what defines us.

We have our bag of sorrows about the past and this striving desire to go back in time and change a few things for the better. Why? Because reality looks nothing like we have imagined. We have this image in our mind of the way things should be and it’s daunting us down. Some of us have trouble accepting what happened in the past and how things turned out because of that. And our emotional baggage grows with new sorrows.

So what hides in our emotional baggage? Isn’t it all about fear?
Isn’t about the fear of getting hurt again? Or making the same mistakes and going through disappointments and betrayals?
 And we then find ourselves trapped in that damaging and “protective” mechanism that keeps us away from living our lives free from used patterns.

How Much of Emotional Baggage Do We Carry Around?

We all have emotional baggage. Some of us have 3 suitcases of heavy things, some of us have just a tiny bag… Everyone has them. Sometimes we feel as if we were carrying a lifetime’s heaviness of sorrows, pain, and anger.

Painful emotions tend to shape us and the way we see others. Those memories and emotions influence what we seek and draw to our life and the way we interact with people. Painful memories from the past create a blueprint for the subconscious mind, which prevents us from fully taking part in new situations and relationships. Meaning that we might treat people we’ve just met as the “guilty” ones whom we feel anger towards because of the past. Or we recreate look-alike experiences to relieve and work out the past. 

Memories are just thoughts that have a tendency to rise like dough when it gets hot, but they aren’t real. It just happened and your past has no effect on you in the NOW. We can release ourselves from the tight grip of worrying by focusing on being present.

We don’t have to be tortured by guilt and things that happened in the past. We couldn’t comprehend back then how to handle things better. We tried our best at that time because no one can act beyond their level of consciousness. There is nothing worse than being tremendously upset with ourselves all the time.

We can’t change the past. There is no future in the past anyway. What we can do is to define our sorrows, release the pain and clear space for better things that life has in store for us.

Spotting Emotional Baggage

1. Endless Comparing Cycle – How often do you compare yourself and your life with others? Do you worry that you are not good enough?

2. Utter Deficiency  – It’s sharply experienced when we pay too much attention to our faults, shortcomings, and weaknesses feeling inadequate compared to the others. It turns into a habit and even obsession. We tend to go on a quest and dig up something new that we think is “wrong” about us. I certainly know the feeling…

3. Swinging Swords of Bad Moods – it happens when we feel contempt towards new situations, uncertainty about the future, people, and negative outlook on life as a whole.

4. Relocating Emotions and Feelings – Have you ever flipped out at someone because of something when you felt annoyed about something completely different? If we feel angry or annoyed with something or someone, we tend to transfer those emotions to someone else.

5. Terrified of Being Alone –  when we are uncomfortable in the company of ourselves, we jump into relationships we don’t care about, we work till we burn out completely, we even exercise extensively, we do-do-do… whatever it takes to distract ourselves from our thoughts. We run the race against ourselves and feel busted when we learn that there is no escape from our thoughts. And we need to learn to deal with them and that emotional baggage that we carry.

How to Deal With Emotional Baggage Effectively

1. Identify The Triggers & Acknowledge Your Emotions

Now. Imagine a crochet hook. Think about the hooks that yank unpleasant emotions. Make a list of all the things you could think of that weight you down. Think about your limiting beliefs and what caused them. Look for the similarities and the patterns. Then pay attention to your emotions.

The more we pay attention to the way we react to things and why the more we control our reaction and what triggers it. Identify the reality which is a direct reflection of your thoughts. And then, think about your new behavior that would enable you to live more freely from the sorrows of the past.

Emotional baggage is often framed as a “story” we tell ourselves. The more you challenge those stories, the faster you accept that you don’t have to carry that heaviness. The more you understand that you can leave that unnecessary heaviness out there on the carousel of the baggage claim and away from you and your life.

2. Do You Have a Desire to Heal and Be Free?

Our conscious desire to heal and be free from emotional baggage is crucial. We cannot heal unless we know what healing should feel like.

Ask yourself this: What will it feel like when I let go of the heaviness and leave my emotional baggage behind? How would I act and think since I don’t have to carry it with me anymore? How would my relationships with people look like?

Take your time to think and reflect on those questions.

Have your desire to heal and to be free at all times in your mind.

3. Forgiveness is Vital

Make it your goal to release yourself from all the weight of the emotional baggage. If you refuse to let go then all you do is sniff rotten milk you should have thrown away ages ago… 

Tap into your awareness and stay vigilant of your thinking process. Be aware of what exactly goes into your bucket and make sure you release it on time.

Bless your past, wish it well, forgive and let go…

When you forgive, you in no way change the past,
but you sure do change the future. – Bernard Meltzer

4. What Did You Take From The Experience?

Let’s take a look at our past experiences. What did you take from them? What lessons did they bring you?

It’s up to us how we choose to see the world: through the glasses of fear and contempt towards the future… or we can choose to embrace it with all the hope and forgiveness of the past.

The process of letting go and healing takes time. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes a lot of courage and dedication to face the fears and sorrows. But it’s worth it. The moment we start shaping our decisions – our destiny changes.

Emotional baggage is all about fear. But remember that on the other side of fear your freedom is patiently waiting for you to come and claim it. 

8 Reasons Why Anxiety Isn’t Just In Your Head

Anxiety: a dreaded feeling you never want to experience. Yet, over 33% of the U.S. population will experience anxiety in their lifetime- that’s 40 million Americans. However, a holistic and functional approach to health can help explain why anxiety isn’t just in your head, while addressing and healing chronic anxiety disorders.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety describes an inner state of emotional turmoil. It’s a mental, and often physical, response to stress, fear, and worry. In many cases, anxiety is a normal and healthy reaction to unknown situations or danger. However, deeper trouble arises when anxiety becomes chronic and debilitating.

Different Kinds of Anxiety Disorders

When anxiety starts to negatively impact day-to-day activities, a formal anxiety disorder might be at play. The most common kinds of anxiety disorders, include:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Feelings of excessive anxiety and irrational worry
  • Panic Disorder (PD) – Panic attacks and feelings of intense fear
  • Social Anxiety Disorder – Fear and anxiety in social situations
  • Phobias – Persistent fear of an object or situation
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – Frequently repeating thoughts or actions
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – Fear triggered by a previous traumatic event
  • Major Depressive Disorder – Over two weeks of experiencing low mood

It’s important to work closely with a health professional to accurately diagnose and manage any anxiety disorder.

8 Uncommon Reasons Why Anxiety Isn’t Just In Your Head

Although anxiety can feel primarily like a mental or emotional issue, there is much more going on beneath the surface. Meaning, your anxiety isn’t only in your head. In fact, there are many root causes of anxiety. Some of the most common ones are:

Mental or Emotional Stress 

Stress comes in many shapes, sizes, and forms. And, it can be in response to previous life experiences. Some of the most common sources of mental/emotional stress are:

  • Learned behaviors as a child
  • The result of different parenting/attachment styles 
  • Childhood/school experiences
  • Isolation
  • Lack of healthy boundaries
  • Not enough downtime/rest
  • Social, financial, relationship stress
  • Negative self-image
  • Trauma

Ongoing and acute stress (due to finances, work, family, relationships, etc.) can also contribute to anxiety symptoms.

Thyroid Disorders

The thyroid gland affects every physiological function in the body. When thyroid hormones become imbalanced, consequential dysfunction occurs. This imbalance can have a major impact on mood regulation. For example: an underactive thyroid can result in low mood or depression, while an overactive thyroid can create anxiety or fear. Autoimmune thyroiditis can trigger both under and overactive thyroid symptoms.

A functional medicine practitioner can help you identify and address any imbalances within the thyroid through functional testing.

Hormonal Imbalances

In addition to thyroid dysfunction, other hormonal imbalances can be a primary root cause of anxiety disorders. In many cases, these physiological changes create a chronic stress response in the body, leading to chronic anxiety. The most important hormone imbalances to pay attention to, include:

  • Dysglycemia (blood sugar dysregulation)
  • Adrenal Issues
  • Caffeine sensitivity (ie. an intense adrenaline rush when consumed)
  • Estrogen

Inflammation

Inflammation is the root cause of all chronic disease, including anxiety. Common causes of inflammation include: unhealthy lifestyle choices, an inflammatory diet, chronic infection, acute sickness, autoimmunity, and more. 

In the case of anxiety disorders, cytokines play a starring role. Inflammation causes a dysregulation of cytokine production and can lead to cognitive imbalances, like depression and anxiety. More so, the concept of psychoneuroimmunology further explains the role of inflammation on the central nervous system and brain. GABA deficiency has also been associated with anxiety disorders. 

Gut Issues

Hippocrates once said, “All health starts in the gut.” Hence, poor gut health is a breeding ground for a host of health issues. Regarding anxiety, the following gut imbalances should be addressed:

  • Food Sensitivities 
  • Gut Infections (ie. Candida, SIBO)
  • Leaky Gut (or Intestinal Permeability)
  • Nutrient Deficiencies (ie. Vitamin B12, EFA Omega 3)

Brain Imbalances

Unsurprisingly, imbalances in the brain largely influence mood and anxiety. Common examples of brain imbalances, include:

  • An overactive mesencephalon (midbrain)
  • Excessive CO2 levels in the body
  • Increased amygdala function / limbic system activation
  • Underactive frontal lobes 
  • Neurotransmitter imbalances (ie. GABA deficiency)
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome
  • Vestibular, Balance or Eye Tracking issues

Environmental Toxins

Unfortunately, toxins are all around us. We find them in our air (pollution, mold, mycotoxins), food (pesticides, herbicides), water (heavy metals, pharmaceutical drugs, bacterial, parasites, viruses), cleaning products (chemicals, fragrances), cosmetics (endocrine disruptors), and more. Chronic exposure to these toxins in everyday life can greatly alter brain, immune and hormone function.

Socioeconomics

Various socioeconomic factors can play a role in anxiety disorders. The most common factors, include:

  • Financial burden
  • Systemic oppression
  • Lack of access to healthcare
  • Community safety
  • Discrimination, racism and bias
  • Cultural influences and expectations

It might feel like anxiety is all in your head. However, it’s clear that anxiety stems from other imbalances in the body. The key is to identify what is causing anxiety, so that it can be effectively addressed and healed.

How to Heal Anxiety (from a Functional Approach)

Anxiety can feel like a life sentence, but it doesn’t have to be. When looking at anxiety from a functional medicine approach, it’s important to understand and address the root cause, starting with:

1. Improving Gut Health:

You may not be able to change all external factors that contribute to anxiety. But you can somewhat control what you eat. An inflamed gut and brain will have a much harder time managing stress and calming anxiety. 

First and foremost, it’s critical to adopt an anti-inflammatory diet when anxiety is present. Minimally, this means removing inflammatory foods (ie. gluten, dairy, soy, sugar, corn) from the diet. However, for those with a chronic health condition, an autoimmune disorder or severe anxiety, the Autoimmune Protocol might be the best option. 

Additionally, it can be beneficial to include plenty of gut-healing foods in the diet, like:

  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Chamomile
  • Lemon
  • Green tea
  • Fermented foods
  • Bone broth
2. Practicing Mind-Body Exercises:

Clearly, the mind-body connection is strong. Practicing mind-body exercises is an effective way to address both chronic anxiety symptoms and acute anxiety attacks. Try these exercises to expedite healing:

  • Vagal nerve exercises
  • Deep breathing- Breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 2, breath out for 8, hold for 2, and repeat.
  • Deep pressure application- weighted blankets, hugs, massage, applying pressure to your own body

3. Implement Natural Remedies:

Naturally remedies, like supplements and essential oils, are foundational in functional healing.

  • Supplements- GABA deficiency is very common in those with anxiety. Precursors to GABA, like glutamine, magnesium, and zinc, can help the body naturally produce more GABA. Additionally, adaptogens, like ashwagandha, are helpful in regulating the nervous system and stabilizing mood. For those who are sensitive to nightshades, opt for eleuthero root, instead.
  • Essential Oils – Essential oils are an effective and enjoyable method of aromatherapy for anxiety. Specifically, Lavender, Wild Orange, Lemon, Ylang Ylang, and Melissa Frankincense have been shown to reduce anxiety and improve stress response.

4. Consider Therapy:

Arguably the most well-known treatment for anxiety is therapy. Various methods of therapy, like talk therapy, neuro-based therapies (EMDR), and energy psychology techniques can be beneficial. Explicitly, EMDR has been shown to help people heal from the past traumas and experiences that cause anxiety in the first place. 

Unaddressed anxiety can affect every part of your life. To fully heal from your anxiety disorder and get your life back, it’s necessary to take a root cause approach. And, sometimes, we need help doing so. 

Disclaimer:

*All content and media on ellestoj.com is created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice.

Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. Never disregard the advice of a medical professional, or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website.*

This Is What Someone With Anxiety Really Looks Like Because It Isn’t Always Struggling To Breathe

Anxiety has one goal, and it’s to destroy people. And sometimes it does.

Anxiety takes away their ability to breathe and it makes you watch as it cripples them. But sometimes it’s sneaky. Sometimes it’s destroying a person and the scariest part about it is you have no idea that it’s happening. Because sometimes anxiety isn’t always as obvious as a person gasping for air as they struggle to breathe.

Sometimes anxiety is a person simply sitting there. It’s a person staring off into space as if they’re caught up in a daydream, when in reality; they’re suffering from their own personal nightmare. Anxiety isn’t always falling apart on the outside, even when you’re shattering on the inside. It’s racing thoughts and irrational fears that clutter your brain and sink your heart. It’s nothing that can be seen unless you live inside that person’s head and nothing that can be felt unless you feel that person’s heart.

Sometimes anxiety is a person lashing out at the people they love in an unexplained rage for no apparent reason. It’s reacting out of anger instead of rationality. It’s snapping at people when that’s the last thing you want to do. It’s regretting the harsh words you said ten minutes later. It’s the tremendous amount of guilt you feel when you realize you can never take those words back. It’s dwelling on everything small and obsessing over anything that could happen and forgetting everything that hasn’t happened. It’s asking ‘what if’ constantly and only listing the worst possible case scenarios over and over again until you convince yourself the worst possible case scenario is the only scenario that makes any sense.

Sometimes anxiety is a person feeling paranoid even when nothing’s wrong. Anxiety is running back inside the house to turn off the oven that’s already off. It’s hitting the lock on your car doors three times before you’re convinced they’re locked. It’s over analyzing every word someone said, and constantly worrying everyone hates you. It’s going over every conversation you’ve ever had and the irrational fear that at some point you must have said or done something wrong. Anxiety isn’t trusting anyone, including yourself.

Sometimes anxiety is a person who pushes love away instead of letting love comfort them. It believing you don’t deserve love and even forgetting to love yourself. It’s the fear of losing everyone around you and never feeling good enough. It’s believing moments are too good to be true and experiencing fear when everyone else around you is experiencing happiness. It’s waiting for the next thing to go wrong even when everything is right. It’s never feeling at peace, and always feeling on edge.

Sometimes anxiety isn’t seen but it’s always felt. Even in a person’s best moments, anxiety is still there.Sometimes anxiety is gasping for air, but sometimes anxiety is a person laughing. Sometimes it’s a person speaking eloquently to a large group of people. Sometimes it’s a person showing you their passion, and sometimes it’s a person creating beautiful pieces of art. Because sometimes anxiety is taking over the last person you’d expect.

Sometimes anxiety terrifies everyone around us as we gasp for air and struggle to breathe, but sometimes anxiety can look like nothing, and not even the people we love the most can tell.

And that’s why anxiety is the greatest destroyer of all.

6 Ways To Take Charge Of Your Fear And Anxiety

Fear and anxiety.

You’ve heard these words, and you most likely have experienced one or the other—or both.

These are not interchangeable words. You may have experienced fear and anxiety together, but they are not one in the same.

Let’s look at their definitions. Fear relates to a known or understood threat. Anxiety is what follows an unknown, expected, or poorly defined threat. Another way of looking at the difference is to think of fear as an emotional response to a real or perceived imminent threat and anxiety as the anticipation of a future threat, whether it’s real or not.

For example, you’re on an airplane, flying across the country. It’s a smooth flight, but you can’t stop dreading that the plane is going to crash. Your mind has convinced you that it’s possible you could be in imminent danger. You begin to sweat, your heart rate skyrockets, you feel as if you can’t draw in air, and you’re sure you’re going to pass out any minute. Your symptoms exacerbate because you’ve still got a lot of flight time ahead of you. Anxiety has set in because of your perceived danger and the feeling of being trapped.

Now you’re on an airplane, flying across the country, and the plane hits turbulence. It’s bad, and carry-on bags are tossed around, as are food trays and other objects. You spot the flight attendant and she looks panicked. Fear kicks in because you believe the plane will crash and your death is imminent. There is a clear and present danger.

These are the differences between the two; however, fear can cause anxiety just as anxiety can cause fear.

Almost everyone experiences fear and anxiety together at some point in their lives, be it something minor or something far-fetched. Such as doing a speech in front of the entire school. This is minor anxiety and fear that doesn’t last.

Conversely, many of us have been in fearful situations, such as severe weather, a car accident, an animal attack, or any number of legitimately threatening situations that set our fears in motion.

But when fears and anxieties are amplified to debilitating levels, it’s important to get to the root of the cause. For some people, professional therapy is the answer. For others, it’s about learning how to take control.

The Linguistics of Fear and Anxiety

The emotional vocabulary we use to describe our fears and anxieties are usually code words to describe our true feelings. For example, you’re anxious about your upcoming wedding and you’re displaying symptoms of anxiety. When asked about your visible signs, you respond, “I’m stressed, that’s all.”

As well, you might admit to suffering from “extreme terror” when you see a bee, even if you aren’t allergic to them. You’re definitely terrified of bees, but your emotional response is exaggerated.

How you describe fear and anxiety is not as important as long as you aren’t using other terms as a means of denial. What is important is how you cope with your feelings.

The Fear Circuit

It’s helpful to cope with fear and anxiety when we understand it’s not all in our heads. We aren’t going crazy, and we aren’t going to die. There are logical, biological reasons for our thought patterns.

Researchers have concluded that there are specific neural circuits hardwired in our brains that control fear recognition and the renewal of fear even when the fear no longer exists.

So, what does that mean?

Research has shown there are two areas of the brain for processing fear. Known as “fear circuits,” they split the responsibility when dealing with threats, depending on the type of threat.

Distant threats, such as the above-mentioned scenarios, allow more time for thinking and strategic behavior. These threats are the responsibility of the cognitive-fear circuit. Without getting too scientific, the cognitive-fear circuit has connections closer to the front of our brains.

The reactive-fear circuit is located near the center of the brain and it handles threats that require a quick-thinking response, known as fight, flight or freeze.

Recognizing this will lead to more research into how better to control our fears and anxieties. Until then, there are steps we can take to overcome these emotions.

Overcoming Fear and Anxiety

We live stressful lives. We rush here and there, we measure our success by the success of others because social media has placed a figurative and literal filter over how we perceive their lives. We see so many people with “perfect” spouses, “perfect” children, expensive vehicles, new homes, only the best of everything. We begin to question ourselves and doubt our own happiness.

We dwell on our problems, which no one else seems to have, and don’t take the time to appreciate what we have. We compare ourselves to Jane and her super kids under the age of 12 who have accomplished everything but scale Mount Everest. We compare ourselves with John, who’s living the single-stud life, going to the gym every day in his Ferrari as he flaunts his physique.

Allowing this to get out of control is what leads to social anxiety, fear of failure or embarrassment, and panic attacks. This may seem more self-driven than brain-driven, but it is certainly a brain-driven response.

When fear and/or anxiety consumes us, we need to seek professional help before it exacerbates and turns into depression or other mental illnesses.

But when it’s not an everyday occurrence, and you recognize it for what it is instead of suppressing or downplaying it with insincere linguistics, you can control these feelings.

As children, you may have feared the boogeyman or the monster under the bed. These are fears we outgrow. Sometimes as adults we can “outgrow” the causes of our childhood fears, while at other times, it might take more work than simply growing up.

Here are some ways to start working on managing your fear and anxieties:

1. Start Exercising

We don’t need to elaborate on this, as we all know by now (or should know) that exercise is good for us both physically and mentally (or emotionally, in this case).

2. Take up Hobbies

Doing something you enjoy can really take your mind off your anxieties. When you immerse yourself in a craft or project, you can free your mind. It’s very therapeutic.

3. Create Lists

This may sound like the same old advice, but it really does work. Make a list of all the things you appreciate in life. You’ll be surprised at how much better it can make you feel.

4. Get Outside

Take a walk in your neighborhood or find somewhere you can hike. Not only will it have a calming effect, but it will allow you to breathe deeply and relax. You’ll become more aware of your surroundings and develop a greater appreciation for them (and you can add them to your list).

5. Face Your Fear

This might not be as easy as it sounds, but if you can identify your fear and it’s feasible, you can face it. For example, if you have a fear of flying that keeps you from traveling, take it one step at a time. Start by getting onto a plane that isn’t going anywhere. You can check for flight schools or clubs, and there are classes you can take to overcome the fear of flying. Once you’ve accomplished that, the next step is to take a short trip or a simulated flight. Ease into conquering your fear. That’s how you beat it.

6. Be Positive

Negativity breeds all sorts of emotions, but so does positivity, with far better results. Shed your negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. Positivity gives us a broader view of our surroundings and our situations.

If your fear and anxiety is caused by severe trauma, then it’s best to work with a therapist. Be sure to make an appointment before it turns into something more severe. It’s already been mentioned, and it’s worth mentioning again. Sometimes, situations necessitate professional intervention.

Conclusion

Fear and anxiety are like the cognitive and reactive fear circuits. They each take responsibility for our emotions and our reactions to those emotions.

Emotions can often offset one another. For instance, love, anger and fear are all emotions of jealousy. When someone we love pays more attention to someone else, we not only become angry, we develop a fear of losing them.

This is an exaggerated response, of course, and this fear can also result in anxiety. It also demonstrates insecurity and a lack of self-confidence, both triggers of fear and anxiety.

Before we can begin to self-healing, we need to appreciate who we are and recognize our worth. We all have flaws. No one is perfect, nor can we expect to be. But we can start to focus on everything that’s good and accept the flaws we cannot change.

We need to stop paying attention to what everyone else is doing, and direct that attention to ourselves. Misdirected attention can lead to low self-esteem and social anxiety.

Take a deep breath and look in the mirror. See yourself for who you are. Appreciate your inner beauty and everything that you are on the outside. Learn to love yourself and be comfortable with who you are.

Take social media with a grain of salt and remember that you are the salt of the earth. You can and will overcome your fears and your anxieties. The first thing you need to do is recognize them, and then you need to recognize yourself.

You can live a happy and satisfying life if you face your fear and anxiety, and if you can’t cure it, learn to manage it.

A Letter To God, From My Anxiety

Dear God,

These past few years have been so difficult. You knew that I hit rock bottom. I barely survived as those raging storms seem so endless, sometimes I don’t even know whether it’s still going on. I know I shouldn’t complain like this, but I know that you are The Most Merciful and I know that you hear me.

Today, God, I’m tired.

I’m tired of faking my smile and pretending that I’m fine all the time. I’m tired of holding back my tears each day so no one will tell me to stop being weak. I’m tired of hiding all my insecurities and telling everyone that I’m strong enough to handle everything by myself. I’m tired of struggling on this battlefield which I don’t know how to win. I’m tired of facing those rejections and disappointments. I’m tired of having a heart which always needs mending.

So, God, please help me to go through this.

God, I’m scared of what will happen to me in the future. Will I survive this storm? Will I be content with what I have? Will I still be able to help other people? Will I ever be happy?

You’ve shown me how the real world works. You’ve shown me that this world is cruel. You’ve shown me how humans can be so greedy and ungrateful for your blessings. You’ve shown me how so many people are glorifying money and power and you’ve shown me they will do anything to get it.

You’ve shown me how the majority of society forgets that this life is too short to be lived as someone who is materialistic. You’ve shown me people who make artificial things their ultimate goal and I don’t want to be one of them. God, please make me one of the people whose ultimate goal is to be closer to you each day.

You know me better than I do. You know my deepest secrets, you hear my whispers, and you listen to my prayers even if I can’t say them out loud. You know the brokenness of my heart, the scars left by people, and the disappointments left by expectations.

You know what’s best for me and you have planned my life. I believe that you are the best of planners and if you ask me to wait, then it only means that there is more in store for me. Although sometimes it feels unbearable, I know that you will never abandon me, even on the days I have abandoned you.

So, when the time comes, I hope you’ll finally make me understand why you put me in hard situations. I hope you’ll make me find peace with what you decreed for me. I hope you’ll make me realize that those storms are one of the signs that you love me and you only want the best for me.

I hope you’ll always be near me whenever I have one of those days where I couldn’t carry on and my heart is so torn with anxiety. I hope you give me patience and an infinite belief that eventually, you’ll give me everything in the most mysterious yet beautiful way ever.

God, whatever you give to me in this world, I hope that you’ll always bless me with beautiful patience.

May I always believe in You, for indeed, in Your remembrance do hearts find true rest and tranquility.

Why Trauma Survivors Can’t Just ‘Let It Go’

It seems the deeper I journey into the healing and recovery process, the more I find that much of our cultural and conventional wisdom does not help trauma survivors. All the trite platitudes and sayings that might help someone having a garden-variety bad day can actually become giant triggers for someone living with trauma.

Let’s assume everyone wants to live a healthy, pain-free, abundant and productive life. There are hundreds of motivational books and centered on “fake it ’til you make it” principles, which encourage people to “think positive,” “let it go,” “don’t sweat the small stuff,” etc. They may have helped some people. Judging by book sales, they have probably helped many. Yet, for many trauma survivors searching for relief, these books and motivational coaches don’t help. In fact, many, like myself, feel more depressed, broken and impossibly disconnected after reading them. Here’s why.

Trauma survivors are often highly motivated people. Many are conditioned to be hyper-aware and hyper-vigilant out of survival. They are often overly critical of themselves because they were held to impossible standards by their abusers, and their attempts to please them often went sour. Some become overachievers, yet never feel like what they achieve is enough. Because nothing is ever good enough to appease an abuser, some survivors give up trying, becoming the self-fulfilling prophecy of whatever their abusers told them they were. Many survivors internalize that they are “lazy” when it’s not a lack of motivation that keeps them from their goals, it’s trauma. Trauma causes the nervous system to fight, flee or freeze, and for many survivors, their bodies are either stuck in one of these, or alternate between the three. Holding this pattern together is a web of toxic shame that is extremely difficult to break. Think of a race car stuck in first gear, with a foot on the gas and a foot on the break. That’s how many survivors get around.

To a survivor, telling them to “think positive” sounds cruel. I mean, that’s exactly the problem for anyone recovering from any type of abuse. Their thoughts were hijacked by someone else, and now they are fighting for their sanity to get their own thoughts back. And it’s not just their brain that was taken over. Emotional trauma gets hardwired into the physical body. Not only does it cause mental anguish, it creates a lot of physical pain, which can sometimes morph into serious long-term disease. Doctors and scientists are currently making great strides in connecting the dots between trauma and disease, but the general public is years behind in understanding and accepting this reality.

“Positive thinking” shields the reality that sometimes people feel shitty. In order to heal, survivors need to let down their shield and feel their feelings.

Here’s the other problem when a trauma survivor feels pressure to “think positive.” Often, for a survivor, this can sound like it’s not OK to feel whatever they are feeling, so they stuff it away, often relegating it to the subconscious. Trauma survivors are experts at burying their feelings. But burying feelings doesn’t mean the pain goes away, it means the survivor is less able to access what they need in order to heal. Many survivors experience dissociation. Dissociation is a common coping mechanism that needs to be broken by actually facing the terrible thing that caused so much terror that mentally “going away” was the only option.

Similarly, minimization plays a huge role in coping, either by the survivor or the people around them. Usually, it’s both. “It’s not that bad, ” or “It’s not as bad as X has it…” is not only a huge roadblock to recovery, it’s a road block to being aware of the trauma in the first place.  So, when a survivor decides not to “sweat the small stuff,” the small stuff turns into a giant, insurmountable mountain of shutdown feelings and emotions. Getting into a pattern of not speaking up, whether to keep the peace or to avoid uncomfortable emotions means more skeletons for the pile in the subconscious mind.

Survivors need to pay attention to the small stuff.

Here’s another one. “Just let it go.” If only it were so simple. If survivors could, they would gladly be doing it. While this is actually the end goal for resolving trauma, it often gets waved in front of the trauma survivor’s face like some shiny, magical, yet unattainable talisman. Too many people are trying to let go of trauma they haven’t yet fully grasped. To let go of something means you need to be aware that you’re holding it in the first place. Trauma that is stored in the locked closets and cupboards of the subconscious mind continue to control from within, often without the survivor fully understanding what’s happening. The process of letting go can’t happen until those things are dragged into the light and fully processed. Once again, that means feeling uncomfortable feelings. It means grieving. It means giving yourself the kind care and attention that no one else did. Sometimes, it means wallowing for a little while. The harsh inner-critic of a survivor usually doesn’t allow this for very long. It means sending the critic away. It means bringing all of our subconscious thoughts into our conscious awareness to objectively take stock of what we’re working with.

So, next time you feel compelled to encourage someone to “let it go,” don’t. Instead, see if you can encourage them to lean in to whatever it is and feel it. Letting go will happen in its own time. That is, if you allow them to give their brain and body what it needs to heal.

Mental Health Is Physical Health

Mental health is physical health.

I preach that a lot on my social media because, simply put, it’s true.

At the risk of sounding educational and writing this like a school paper, I want to inform you of just a few things.

1. Mental health is physical health. I said this already. Got it. But knowing this could help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. There are still so many people who believe depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc. are all made up and that people with those illnesses are just “crazy.” And that’s another thing: stop calling people who live with mental illnesses “crazy.” It’s not appropriate nor is it even remotely accurate.

2. Mental illnesses are not only mental, they are physical as well. Ask anyone with an anxiety disorder. I’ll use myself as an example. I battle with severe anxiety. It keeps me from having a job like any other “normal” person. When I go out in public, I feel physical symptoms. It’s not just “I’m so nervous!” It’s also sweating, racing heart and dizziness. That doesn’t even include the symptoms from a panic attack I may have.

3. Depression can be fatal, just like any other physical illness. Yes, for real. Suicide is not just something people do to “get out,” “get bailed out” or do just for “attention.” I can promise you if someone dies by suicide, they struggled… bad. For some people, suicide is the final symptom of depression. Not everyone with depression dies by suicide, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t struggle too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen on social media, even from friends on Facebook, that people still believe that suicide is selfish and that the person who passed away “took the easy way out.” Come on. That’s not fair and it’s undermining the battle that the person might have fought literally on a daily basis.

4. “You’re making it up to get out of doing (this) or (that). Just smile!” OK… first, that’s just not that easy and you know it. Second… don’t you think if we could “just smile” and everything would be fine that we would have done it a long time ago? Depression can take away your energy. You have to make yourself to do anything. So no… we’re not just “making it up” to get out of anything.

Think of it like this.

Just like you can sometimes “see” other health conditions on tests and scans, PET scans have shown you can see the difference between a “depressed brain” and a brain without depression. Just because depression is “invisible” to other people (because as we know, depression shows physical symptoms as well), does not mean you don’t deserve the help, whether it be with therapy, medication or even ecotherapy. Broken bones heal and they’re good to go after a month or two. But unfortunately, mental illness often isn’t that simple.

Please stop thinking depression or any other mental illness is not as important as physical health. It is physical health. The brain and the body should not be categorized into two totally separate types of healthcare. Mental health is physical health and physical health is healthcare. Healthcare is healthcare.

The World Health Organization defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

There is no health without mental health.

A Short List Of Things I’d Do If I Didn’t Have Depression Or Anxiety

There are many moments in my life when I’d just stare into space and think about how my life would be so different if I didn’t have depression or anxiety. How I’d take more chances. How I’d stand up for myself when I need to the most. How I’d be more secure, more decisive, and just happier.

I wouldn’t think about the thousands of ways I could possibly die. I wouldn’t be afraid to make drastic changes for my health, sanity, and overall well-being. I wouldn’t keep self-sabotaging. I wouldn’t let the most excruciating pain of the past drag me even further behind. I wouldn’t isolate myself from others. I wouldn’t let my irrational fear of scarcity control the way I think or force me to accept a fate that keeps me wandering off to dead end after dead end.

Instead, I would live a life that’s closer to the one I envision for myself instead of surrendering to all the constraints of a harsh reality that keeps me paralyzed and fearful of uncertainty. I would take better care of myself and do more of what’s valuable to me and cut out any thought that’s extraneous to my future, irrelevant to my true self, and toxic to my mental health.

I often wonder how my life would turn out differently if I didn’t have depression or anxiety. But what I wonder about more often is how I can start to act upon the best interests of my future self, moving and taking control as if I didn’t suffer from severe depression or crippling anxiety. These are all the things I’d do:

Network with people

I’ll be honest here – I view networking as disingenuous and sleazy. I always stop myself from reaching out to people because I somehow equate advocating myself with “using other people for my own selfish gain.” Which is why I don’t do it at all and don’t even talk about the skills I have. My insecurities keep telling me that I have none – they tell me it’s because I’m worthless, I’m irrelevant, and I don’t deserve to ask for anything better in life, since I haven’t proven myself worthy yet. But recently, I’ve gotten so fed up with keeping myself stifled, silent, and small that I can’t move on with my life to greater things because of my irrational fear of being judged as incompetent and unqualified. If I didn’t have these thoughts of the worst possible outcome or feelings of worthlessness, I’d network my butt off. I’d tell people what I can do, even when I may not be a master at anything yet, because I have to start somewhere. I have to believe in myself and stand up for myself because otherwise, I’d be stuck in the pitiful stage of paying my dues for a lifetime.

Write more, even when depression makes me abnormally exhausted

I’m tired of keeping myself stuck with writing. I’m tired of holding in the thoughts that I still have yet to share – thoughts that have the potential to turn into thousands of articles, essays, and poems if I allowed myself to be even more vulnerable, resolute, and honest with myself. But my mind is a never-ending war zone, and every time I self-sabotage, my mental exhaustion manifests itself physically, and I shut down before I have a chance to express myself and share more of what’s on my mind. If depression didn’t affect me this way, I’d definitely write more and write my way to the freedom I’ve always craved – the ultimate freedom from my treacherous enemies that keep making their home in my mind.

Create more solutions to recurring problems

If I didn’t have depression or anxiety, I’d create more solutions to problems that always recur in my life: I’m too shy. I don’t stand up for myself. I let myself be a doormat. I let people make me feel grossly inferior and wallow in self-pity because of it. I avoid confrontation, even when confrontation is the only way to solve the problem of me not advocating for myself when I need to. I’d act in spite of the overwhelming feelings of inferiority, which tells me that I’m never going to be good enough to get what I deserve. I’d be a more solution-oriented thinker instead of a problem escapee and work my way out of my problems.

Love myself as I am, regardless of how others are doing “better”

I’d be bolder and claim that I am worthy, I am healing, I am evolving, and I am capable of freeing myself from what hurts me the most – the past, the deep-rooted terrors that control me, and agonizing self-hatred. I’d love myself for who I am and not beat myself up for lagging behind others who seem to be more outwardly successful and have what society considers as “better lives.” And the truth is, my life isn’t worse than someone else’s, but if people evaluate me harshly for it, I shouldn’t give their opinions any weight because my life is mine, and I will not spend the rest of my life hating myself or contorting myself just to fit into someone else’s agenda. If I didn’t have anxiety over how poorly I’m fitting in and if I didn’t get easily depressed about how worthless I seem on the outside compared to other people, I’d love the hell out of myself first and foremost, and then I’d build a life upon this abundance of love and settle for nothing less than that.

But now, it’s no longer a matter of what I would do.

It’s a matter of what I can do.

I’m Not Angry. I’m Not Hangry. I’m Paingry.

No. I’m not angry. No. I’m not hangry. I’m paingry.

A whole lot of paingry. I’m paingry because my back is spasming (again). I’m paingry because this pain flare-up seems to have no end in sight. And I’m paingry because I’m not motivated to finish this article.

There. I said it.

I’m PAINGRY.

Yep. All caps PAINGRY.

Chronic pain SUCKS.

No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Whether you’ve suffered for three weeks, six months, 25 years, or longer, chronic pain can, and more often than not does, take a toll on your mental health.

It is not something to be ashamed of.

Studies show people with chronic pain experience depression and increased anxiety at twice the rate of the general population, often resulting in a lower health-related quality of life.

Living with chronic pain is often stressful. Daily pain equals daily stress. Daily, or chronic, stress can change the levels of hormones and neurochemicals within your brain, affecting your mood, thinking and behaviors. Picture chronic pain and stress like a computer virus attacking and damaging your central processor.

In other words, depression, anxiety, and moodiness is the result of altered brain-biology and is not something people with chronic pain can control.

It is not something I can control. Much to my dismay.

The mind and body are connected.

When one is malfunctioning, the other is usually not too far behind. Pain can cause mental illness, and mental illness can cause pain. Vicious meet cycle. Not the merry-go-round you want to be on, my friends.

Unfortunately, sometimes diagnosing and treating chronic pain conditions and associated mental health problems tests the medical community’s skills and abilities. Add in personal biases, heavy patient loads, and long wait times for referrals, and some patients may suffer for months or even years without proper physical and/or mental care.

Now add to that the general population’s lack of understanding of what people with chronic pain go through daily, and it’s no wonder we sometimes get PAINGRY.

And warning — unless you want to be on the receiving end of a paingry outburst, telling someone with chronic pain to soldier on is risking a poke at the paingry bear most of us try to keep caged. Putting one foot in front of the other does not fix this shit, especially when that first step results in severe hip pain.

Healthy living is hard work.

Yes, there are things we can do to reduce our stress and improve our pain responses. No, I’m not doing any of those things at the moment.

Exercise – nope.

Healthy eating – nope.

Meditation – nope.

Talk therapy – yes.

Medication – yes.

Listen, I know what I need to do to get where I want to be, but mentally, I’m not ready. And that’s OK. I’ve got time. I just wish I wasn’t so damn paingry with myself, because trust me, there’s no one harder on me than myself.

Yeah. The cycle is vicious, but I’m a paingry bitch, so no worries.

I’ve got this.

How about you? Seeing any increases in your paingry outbursts lately? Have any coping strategies or funny stories to share?

The Strongest Girls Are The Girls With Anxiety

She’s strong, because she’s in a constant battle with her anxiety. It’s telling her that she’s weak. That she shouldn’t speak up. That she shouldn’t get out of bed.

Some days, she listens to everything that voice tells her. But other days, she somewhat finds the power & strength to ignore it. She finds the strength to leave her room. To socialize. To smile.

She’s strong, because she shows up, even when she’s shaking. She speaks, even when it’s with a cracked voice. She keeps breathing, even when those breaths are shaky.

It would be easy for her to cancel plans with her friends, turn down dates, skip class, call in sick from work — and sometimes, she does. Sometimes, the idea of being around people is too much for her to handle.

But most of the time, she does what she has to do. She switches off her alarm. She showers. She dresses. And then she gets shit done.

Of course, she gets distracted throughout the day. The tiniest thing can send her mind spinning. A text from someone she didn’t expect to hear from. An email she isn’t quite sure how to answer. A strange look from one of her coworkers or crushes.

She suffers from constant self-consciousness, but she pushes past it. She ignores the way she thinks everyone is looking at her, judging her, and she forces herself to be productive. She forces herself to focus on what’s important.

She refuses to let anxiety control her life. She won’t let her dark thoughts eclipse the positive ones. She’s motivated to be the best person she can be.

At times, her anxiety makes her feel weak. Lesser. Like she doesn’t deserve to be in the same room as people that can talk to strangers as if they’ve known each other for years.

But even though she feels inferior, that’s far from the truth. She’s a warrior. A badass. Why can’t she see that?

She tries so hard. She puts in so much effort. And she’s gotten so far.

Some people rarely venture outside of their comfort zone — but she’s outside of her comfort zone every damn day. She’s either worried about what to say or what to wear or where to park. She’s never relaxed. She’s always on edge.

That’s why she’s always learning. Always growing. Every second of every day.

Sure, there are times when she suffers from setbacks. When she doesn’t say a single word for hours. When she stays in her pajamas and puts off showering.

But there are other times when she finds the courage to speak her mind. When she surprises herself with how brave she can be.

She probably doesn’t realize it yet, but girls with anxiety are the strongest girls in the world, because they never have a minute of peace. Because they’re always struggling — and yet they’re always winning.