Who are you?
Perhaps you can answer that question with ease. You might give your name, your profession, or the roles in which you function. Yet, those answers do not really capture the heart of your identity. Significant numbers of individuals experience profound internal struggles because they do not know who they truly are beyond those labels, functions, and achievements.
Having a true sense of self - an identity - is a critical part of living well. Certainly, we can all experience times when we feel like we don’t know who we are. This can be especially true during challenging seasons, such as losing a loved one, being unemployed, going through a divorce, or moving to a different country.
A real identity crisis, however, is different. It is not merely situational, but pervasive, and it causes profound struggles. Those with identity issues can experience anxiety, insecurity, depression, hopelessness, difficulty with emotional intimacy, a chronic sense of loneliness, and more.
How do you know if the struggles you are experiencing are tied to your sense of self? Ask yourself a few questions:
If you answered yes to any one of these questions, it is possible that your sense of self has been wounded or compromised in some way. If you answered yes to a few or several, it is very possible that you are struggling with an identity crisis. Thankfully, there is help and hope. The true joy of living with a healthy sense of self can be yours. Reach out for help and find freedom.
It can be extremely difficult to reconcile issues of the past. In fact, we sometimes don’t even realize that it’s the past that is stopping us from embracing and enjoying the present. But in reality, that anxiety, that sadness, that catastrophic thinking, that pessimism, they sometimes all have their roots in unresolved pain from the past.
To truly grow and thrive, we must make peace with our past. In fact, we rob ourselves of the nourishment to grow when we resist the necessary work of facing the painful aspects of our personal history. It is the sorrow of the grief process that waters and nourishes important aspects of healing, growth, and fruitful living.
So what can you do to make peace with your past? Below is an abbreviated version of some of the helpful steps toward reconciling painful experiences. Many of the steps can be difficult to do alone. Reach out to a capable friend, pastor, mentor, or professional who can help you navigate through the difficult parts of your life story. Also, see our Coaching Plus! experience, Making Peace with Your Past.
Seven Steps to Help You Make Peace with Your Past (Abbreviated)
1. Acknowledge Your Losses
What happened to you? What are your painful memories that you do not like to think about, so you push them away? Bring them to the forefront and allow yourself to name them.
2. Grieve Your Losses
What have your actions, the actions of others, or life’s circumstances cost you? Take the time to really answer this question. It’s a painful question to answer, but it is unavoidable if you want to heal. This is the process that will breathe new life into you. Grief work is hard, but profoundly healing. Grief work is also difficult to do alone. Get the right help where necessary.
3. Give Voice to the Should Haves and Shouldn’t Haves
What are you protesting about the loss? Protest is a normal part of loss and grief. It is our brain’s way of trying to make sense of something that we did not want to happen. Allow yourself the protests. Protests can come in the form of "if only." ("If only I had listened," "If only I had not gone," "If only he had been honest with me.") Protests also come in the form of disbelief. ("No, this couldn’t have really happened. I just want to wake up from this bad dream.") They come in other forms as well. Look out for the ways you are protesting, and give voice to those protests.
4. Answer the Protests
Acknowledge that it did happen. Voice the disappointment that the loss has created. Express the things in your life that might now never be. Express the difficult things that are now a part of your life because that thing did happen.
5. Capture the Good
Sorrow and loss have redemptive qualities to them. Identify the treasures (big or small) that have come as a result of your losses.
6. Forgive Those Involved.
This is a difficult step for many, and it can take time. An important aspect of forgiveness involves letting go of the expectation that those involved will ever acknowledge how they have hurt you. Forgiveness also involves a determination to do the work necessary to not be bitter or vengeful.
7. Live in Your New Normal
Loss means that something has changed. Things will not be the same as they were. But that does not mean things cannot be good, or even great! Embrace the life you have. Dream new dreams. Aspire to new goals. Practice gratitude on a daily basis.
Healing from your past can take time and targeted effort. But it is one of the most beautiful gifts you can give to yourself, and to those who love you and want the best for you. Begin. Get help. Stay the course. Reap the joyous rewards!
In my previous post I talked about the difference between panic attacks and anxiety attacks. Today I’m sharing some strategies that can help mitigate the symptoms of panic and anxiety attacks. Not every strategy works with the same effectiveness for each individual, but below are five you can choose from to see what works for you.
Before we look at those strategies, here are two quick, but important, points. (1) While mitigating the symptoms is helpful, it is important to seek the professional help that will get to the root of the issue. A visit to a physician and a qualified counselor would be encouraged in order to resolve what is causing the panic and anxiety attacks in the first place. (2) If you have symptoms that are even similar to that of a heart attack or other serious conditions, do not assume it is "just" a panic or anxiety attack. Seek medical help promptly.
Practical Strategies for Mitigating the Symptoms of Panic and Anxiety Attacks
Lifestyle Practices that Can Help
You can also be preemptive by employing lifestyle practices that can help curb the onset of the attacks. These practices include:
Finally, keep in mind that panic and anxiety attacks are responsive to treatment. If you suffer from either of these, give yourself the gift of the right help so you can live free.
Panic attacks and anxiety attacks are often viewed by many as the same thing, but they are two different conditions.
Panic attacks are sudden and involve intense and even overwhelming fear. They are triggered by a sense of immediate threat, even when no threat is present, and are accompanied by frightening physical symptoms and a feeling of dread.
Consider “Michelle” who came to see me a few years ago. She had been having symptoms that were alarming to her, but her doctor could find nothing physically wrong. She described experiencing pains in her chest, shortness of breath, tightness in her throat, and the feeling that she was dying. The symptoms would come upon her suddenly - in her car, in the gym, in her office. She said, “When it happens, I feel like I’m dying.”
What she was experiencing were panic attacks, marked by the sudden onset of overwhelming and frightening symptoms, including feeling terror. Because panic attacks are associated with the amygdala (the threat detecting center in the brain) Michelle’s ‘fight or flight’ responses were being engaged, and she was experiencing the corresponding hormonal and physiological effects.
Anxiety attacks, on the other hand, seem to operate not from the amygdala, but from the prefrontal cortex, where planning and anticipation occur. Anxiety attacks, therefore, tend to come on more gradually and in response to the anticipation of a stressful situation or event. Anxiety attacks are marked by excessive and persistent worry over that anticipated experience.
Consider “Jill” who was having a series of tests run by her physician because of abnormal results in some earlier tests. She found herself in a vicious cycle of worry. Her mother had died around the age that Jill was approaching. Now, Jill wondered if she had inherited her mother’s condition. She worried more than ever about her health, which led to her fearing that she was dying, which led to her worrying about her children’s future, which led to her worrying about who would care for her kids and how they would survive financially.
These ever growing stressful anxieties stayed alive in the background of Jill's mind as she went about her day, and they protruded to the front of her mind when she was quiet - driving in her car, in bed at night, in the shower. She was now having anxiety attacks, marked by restlessness, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.
Both panic attacks and anxiety attacks are perplexing, to say the least. And it is understandable that the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, as panic attacks and anxiety attacks have many symptoms in common. But key are the distinctions we have touched on above. Panic attacks tend to come on suddenly and be immediately overwhelming, even terrorizing, whereas anxiety attacks tend to refer to persistent and excessive worry about an anticipated event. Below is a table outlining some of the most common symptoms of panic attacks and anxiety attacks.
In my next post I'll share some strategies that have helped my clients to downgrade their symptoms while they also engage in treatment to resolve the anxiety and panic issues.
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Dr. Dawn-Marie shares a refreshing blend of professional insights and personal stories in this encouraging blog.