“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
I struggled for years with anxiety. There were alternating seasons of highs and lows… Over the years I’ve gained better understanding of the factors that affect my mental and emotional wellness as I developed tools to manage my emotional, mental, physical and spiritual well being.
I’ve come to understand that for my mind, spirit and soul to experience peace and wellness I must have three things…. Before I get into that… I should clarify that these three are not exclusive. When we are talking about depression and anxiety one must understand there are no “pad answers”… recovery can look messy and take years to fully stabilize.
These three things may or may not be something everyone needs... however what I’ve learned about myself is when these are missing I can sense a spiral into negative thinking – anxiety – fear – anger or sadness.
These three things are:
Here is what I mean by these words:
Momentum… what I mean by this is progress. I have to feel as if I’m making progress in achieving a set goal. That goal could be spiritual, or financial, or in terms of relationships… or it could be character… becoming a better man. Whatever the case… I know that without progress… without growth in some aspect I grow weary and want to quit.
Respect – by this I don’t mean the narcissistic version of this – where everyone has to cater to my world… what I mean by respect is “appreciation”. It is a sense of knowing I’m valued and appreciated by my circle. When I feel like my efforts are not appreciated I can quickly go into a tailspin. It’s one of the greatest fears I had in starting this blog. Rejection has paralyzed me in the past.
Lastly purpose. I have to have a mission. I cannot be mission-less. When I lack mission I find every little thing overwhelming, however when I have a mission… I am able to bear immense pressure. Mission drives me to get up every morning… without it I’m like a boat with no motor on a fast flowing river. I can handle immense pressure when I have mission.
What happens when any of these three dissipate is like a hit in the gut! In the days past I would medicate on entertainment or just crash on the couch... or a sometimes I’d be short tempered to those I loved most.
I can remember well the 4 times in my life when I felt like I lost all three. Those were difficult times... I felt lonely in a crowded room…. Disconnected… broken.
When all was stripped away… I was faced with only my own thoughts and fears.
So how does one avoid spiralling into negative thought patterns? I mean… sadness is as much a part of life as joy… even so how does one avoid getting stuck in the spiral that takes us further into negativity?
How can I relate the spiral I’m talking about?
Imagine an airplane that gets sideswiped by crazy crosswinds and it ends up in an uncontrolled spiral… the feeling for the pilot is one of impending doom as the whole world spins towards the ground… spiralling for me is getting so overwhelmed with my own thinking and fears i can’t get out. It FEELS like there is no way out.
I did some reading on pilot training. Pilots learn to manage their plane in many unpredictable conditions. The best pilots learn to respect their feelings but never let them control their reactions. They listen to the feeling of hopelessness… but they react not based on feelings but based in facts. They understand that their feelings are indicator lights… but that listening to them in terms of how to react to situations is sure to bring more darkness…
I find the methodology to pull out of an aircraft spin interesting… it’s not unlike how I’ve had to pull out of my own spirals looking back…
“How should you recover from a spiral dive? First, immediately reduce power to flight idle. Then bring the airplane to wings level with coordinated use of aileron and rudder. Finally, use elevator inputs to bring the airplane to straight and level flight, keeping in mind that at the high airspeed you risk structural failure, and you may eventually need to start applying forward elevator to keep the nose from rising too much” – Stephen Pope –www.flyingmag.com
We see from this that a few things are needed to create the conditions to regain control and pull out when we sense the spiral starting.
Calmness… we need to be okay with the loss of control so anxiety doesn’t paralyze us. We need to learn to use the frontal cortex to manage through. This is not denying how we feel – rather it’s recognizing how we feel but not allowing that feeling to control our actions.
Slowing down… we can’t fix the issue while we continue at breakneck speed. We need to pull back on the throttle and stop pushing our minds.
We need to know ourselves just as a pilot knows his aircraft. We need to know our bodies and our minds limits to avoid “structural damage”.
We need a heading… we need to know where we are going (mission… or rather “truth”). We need to know where the horizon is. Without a bearing and a visual horizon we will not be able to pull ourselves up out of the spiral as all we will see is the ground coming up.
This has been true in my life… I’ve gotten better at finding my bearing each time I’ve been knocked out by head winds… I’ve gotten better at recovery… that’s not something I’m bragging about… it’s been a journey and I feel like I learned it rather slow.
When spiritually dark forces, the principalities and powers of this world hit at our life – they want to take our purpose… they want to take our momentum… they want to make us feel alone and isolated…
Hebrews 12 says that Christ chose the Cross... “for the joy set before him… that’s the horizon… he despised the shame endured the cross and is now seated at the right hand of God!”
I look at Jesus last days on earth… he knew he was about to lose it all. His own life on the line. Rejection from those closest to him. He went to the garden and slowed his descent, he reset his heart to align with ancient purpose and mission. Today I benefit from Jesus’ plan and purpose.
Jesus… He is the author and finisher of my Faith. He is the beginning and the end… not only is he the one who leads by example in His life and death… but the resurrected Jesus is sitting with me and his calmness is evident.
Stay Strong and be the change!