Saturday, February 15, 2020

Be Still and Know



Life has a way of knocking us in the head sometimes. We think that we know where we are going and what we are doing, and then something happens that leaves us stunned. We wonder who we really are and what our purpose is in this life.

We stop for a moment and think about what we are doing. We see the people, things, and activities with which we have filled our lives and ask some important questions. Am I truly happy? Is there meaning and purpose in the choices I have made? Am I doing those things that God would have me do?

In her book The Fear Cure, Lissa Rankin, MD, speaks of the space between thoughts, and how our ability to capture and capitalize upon this space allows us to experience peace and happiness in our daily lives, as well as overcome the negative emotions that threaten to consume us.

During a restless night prior to a musical performance, I remembered this principle. Slowing down my thoughts just enough to find this empty space, I suddenly found myself basking in the warmth of God’s unconditional love. It was as if the clouds had parted and warm sunshine was streaming into my consciousness. My anxious heart calmed and I was able to rest peacefully.

Now, in the wake of a family illness, I seek that same reassurance that I am loved, and that there is meaning and purpose in my life. I remember the scripture in Psalms 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” For a brief moment, I once again enter that blessed space that has become my salvation, that stillness of mind and heart that allows me to experience God’s unconditional love.

This is the love that is home. We knew it before we came here. We are God’s children and lived with him before this life. It is the love that carries us through the storms and tempests that threaten to destroy us. It is the love that when we leave here, will rise with us into the great beyond as we return home once again to his arms, fresh and new from the rebirth that we call death.

There, time will cease to carry its poignant reminders of our insignificance and nothingness. Our petty worries and the aches and pains of this life will be no more, and what we glimpse in those quiet moments of stillness will be ours, to have and hold, forever!

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Finding the Motivation



“I don’t care. I just don’t want to do it, that’s all.” There, I said it, the forbidden words that I have been thinking. Now what? Does that mean that I don’t have to do it? Am I off the hook? Is that all there is to it, just saying “I don’t want to?”

There are many things in life that are difficult. Jim Rohn, success philosopher, tells us that one of the most important aspects of being human is the ability to “make ourselves” do what needs to be done. How does this happen? He says that when we find enough reasons, then our wants and desires change.

Motivation is all about finding the reasons. Dallin H. Oaks indicates that there are basically six reasons for us to act. He lists the following: 1) hope of earthly reward, 2) desire for good companionship, 3) fear of punishment, 4) sense of duty, 5) hope of eternal reward, and 6) love.
Although Oaks lists these as reasons for service, they have a lot to do with our lives in general. 

Reasons motivate action. If we have enough reasons, we will find a way to make happen what we want. If one of our family members is faced with certain death, we find a way to prolong their life because we want them to remain with us as long as possible.

How does this apply to everyday? Our reasons come from our past experience. When we suffer the consequences of inaction, we are more highly motivated to action. In other words, “no pain, no gain!” We don’t decide to set an alarm and get up on time until the boss cuts our pay or fires us for being late to work!

Desiring change is usually the catalyst for increased motivation. If things are going well in life, we have little incentive to change. The Lord tells us in Alma 32:13-16* that being “compelled to be humble” is   good, but it is even better to change willingly “without stubbornness of heart.”

Motivation is increased when we find out that there is a better way, and we want it for ourselves. There it is, that “want” word again! Our motivation changes when we say, “I want to” rather than “I need to,“ “I have to,” or “I should.” Changing because we are compelled to do so rarely brings lasting benefits; rather a lifetime of change comes when it is what we want for ourselves and our loved ones.

The highest motivation of the human heart is to act out of love. When we love God and our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31, KJV), we find plenty of reasons. We look forward to each day with newness of life, and go forward, knowing that God will provide a way!

*Book of Mormon, published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Fight Fear With Faith




What if I do not pass this test that is before me now? What if I fall short or do not make the grade somehow? What if my strength is not near enough and I fall flat on my face?  What if my mistakes are so evident that I end up a sore disgrace?

What if my voice quivers and cracks and cannot sing with a pure tone? What if my mind goes blank and I look like I am in some other zone? What if my feet trip over a crack or bump that is in my way? What if I lose my notes and just don’t know what to say?

What if I see the light but cannot open my eyes? What if someone I should have known appears in a disguise? What if the sun and moon and stars simply fall down from the sky? What if spaghetti and meatballs just happen when I am passing by?

Okay, I see the simple point. My fears are nothing more than my mind playing tricks like shifting sands upon the rocky shore. It wants a sure foundation upon which to build but because I cannot see the end, these thoughts refuse to yield.

I want safety, security, comfort and ease that do not move or rescind, but fear is funny, it changes and shifts, like the fluttering wind. I want to know before I begin that I will not lose my way. I want to know I’ll still be standing at the close of day!

My dearest child, I’m here for you, you do not walk alone. Follow me, the way is sure, the path is paved with stone. I will guide and help, comfort and bless as you travel this unknown way. I will lead you on this uncharted road, and be with you till the end of day.

You are precious to me indeed; I will not leave you to chance. Take my hand, we’ll go together, I’ll teach you how to dance. Failure is nothing more, you see, than the process of learning how. It means you have things you need to depend on me for, yes, right now.

As you humbly look to me, I’ll give you the strength you need. Together, you see, we’ll work it out, yes, with me, you will succeed!

Saturday, January 4, 2020

The Ten Second Rule



“Our thoughts are not our own,” the speaker said, “They come from all around us.” She went on to say that in order for them to become our own, we have to act on them. “When we have an unwelcome thought, we have ten seconds to change it. It doesn’t have to stay with us.”

Ten seconds…that is a long time. If we count one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand, four-one thousand, five-one thousand, six-one thousand, seven-one thousand, eight-one thousand, nine-one thousand, ten-one thousand at a good clip, we get an idea of how long it is.

I have always believed that we have a split-second of time once a thought enters our minds to change its outcome. I call it the “Split-Second Opportunity.” Perhaps this is the time to which the speaker was referring. It is that single moment where we see in our mind’s eye what will happen if we act on the thought that has occurred to us.

During that moment, our past meets the present. Our automatic response is in front of us and we see what will happen if we choose to accept it. These consequences are then weighed against our beliefs, hopes, and dreams, and we go forward with what we think is best.

Or is that really what happens? Do we utilize the power that exists within us? Do we understand that we have the ability to change or are we simply living on automatic pilot, hoping that we will reach our destination safely? Are we allowing our past experiences and current circumstances to dictate our every action?

If not, we have the chance of a life-time! We can change our future! In this critical moment, we have the ability to break the chains that bind us down to misery and unhappiness. We have the opportunity to accept our own ineptness and turn it into strength!

Perhaps it isn’t that simple. Life is complicated. We try every day to do our best, but things get in the way. People don’t do what we think they should. We feel frustrated and upset when problems happen and it takes more effort and time than we had planned. We get down on ourselves, stressed to the point that we cannot seem to function.

Our automatic reactions are affected by our state of mind, physical health, and use of mood-altering substances. We may have major hurdles to cross before we can get to the point that we are able to even recognize that we have the power of choice.

And yet, what if it did work? Try the ten-second rule, for your emotional health!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Gift


On a cold, dark winter night, I stopped at the grocery store for a few last minute items before fixing dinner for my family. There she was in the check-out lane, bent and frail, looking as if a stiff wind would blow her away. Knowing that she didn’t drive, I asked if I could give her a ride home.

She said that she would get a taxi, but I insisted, “I am going home in a few minutes, I can take you.” She conceded.  She lived just behind us across the back ally. I purchased what I needed while she waited on the bench beside the front entrance.

We walked together to my van and I opened the front door to help her inside, depositing the few things she had purchased at her feet. I helped fasten her seat belt and she quipped that it would have been easier to climb into a taxi. I just smiled and replied that I was glad to be there to help.

While we drove the few blocks to our homes, she searched in her coat pockets for her house key, but to no avail. It was nowhere to be found. She told me she had a spare outside the house she could use. I drove into her driveway and shone the van lights toward the house.

The thought occurred to me to invite her into my home for dinner, but I quickly dismissed it, not knowing the condition of things, having left my children alone while I went to the store. I helped her out, and stood holding her groceries while she searched for the key.

After several minutes, I offered to assist in the search. Again, the thought occurred to me that I should invite her to my home for dinner. I dismissed it once again, thinking that surely, she would be tired after her excursion to the store.

The key was not found. Both of us shivering, I invited her into my home to get warm and have a bite to eat. I helped her back into the van, and we crossed the ally to my home. I offered to take her coat, and fix her something warm to drink. She smiled and thanked me.

As I held her coat, I felt inspired to check for her key. There were some small pockets on the outside of the sleeves near the shoulder. There was the key! I held it up to her. She smiled and said, “How did you know?”

“God told me!” I grinned as I gave her a hug. With tears in both of our eyes, we thanked the Lord that the key had been found, and our friendship deepened. She was finally able to relax and enjoy dinner with our family. 

Afterward, I walked her home and helped get her purchases safely inside the house.
It was not long after that the dear woman passed away. I will never forget that night. The most important gift given was our time together with the Lord. 

Remember, we are not alone, for your emotional health!

Friday, December 13, 2019

Choosing Life



Everyone should spend a week in a mental health unit. It is literally a life-changing experience; at least it was for me. The first time I went, the doctor who admitted me swore that I wasn’t like the others there. How little did he know! It had taken years to stuff my bag of emotions and develop the distorted thinking patterns I was using.

I was admitted for other reasons. The medications I was taking for health problems were out of balance, and I was an emotional wreck. The goal was to adjust things gradually until I was back to “normal.” My husband purchased a greeting card that had a picture on the front that looked just like our doctor. It read, “The doctor says that you will be back to normal in no time.” The verse on the inside quipped, “That will be a first!” We both laughed!

Life at our house was anything but normal. We had seven children ranging in age from six months to twelve years. The roller coaster ride I was on affected our entire family. My doctor finally realized that I was going through menopause and started treating me for it, along with my fluctuating thyroid, hypoglycemia, asthma, allergies, and developing arthritis.

The sign on the nurses station said, “What you see here, what we do here, let it stay here when you leave here.” I think that is a mistake. If more people had a glimpse of what those with mental illness suffer, perhaps they would get help sooner. I know it made a difference for me.

During my week there, I saw what happens to people who try to commit suicide and don’t succeed. I heard the horror stories of dysfunctional families, problems with the law, and poverty. I saw the scars, both mental and physical, that they carried like battle trophies. It was then that I decided that suicide was not for me, no matter what happened.

The hysterectomy I had five years later allowed my physical health to come back to me. For over ten years, I had fought an emotional hormonal battle. Now that it was over, I thought I could do all of those things I had been putting off. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I did not know how to live.

The day I picked up the handful of paring knives from the drainer and saw them in my mind’s eye going into my chest, I was scared. The sun glinting on the cold steel brought me back to my senses, and I called for help. Choose life, for your emotional health!

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Deep Breathing to Reduce Anxiety



The teenager had been in my office before, but this time was different. His mother dropped him off at the door, and then was gone. Usually she waited in the car outside. He did not come directly into the room but paced back and forth in the hallway.

I waited for him to slow down a bit and then invited him in. He slunk into the nearest seat, his shoulders hunched over as if warding off a blow. I sat down across the table from him and scattered some colorful magnets onto the surface. I did not say anything, just built a three-dimensional figure with the magnets. Eventually, he felt comfortable enough to join me.

We talked about the problems he was having with school, his part-time employment, and especially his family. The more he talked the more relaxed he became and we were able to address the anxiety he was experiencing. I told him that there was something he could do at home that would help.

I had him lie down on the floor, flat on his back, and bring his knees up to form a tent, or upside down “V” with his feet flat on the floor. I told him to relax his shoulders, and put his hands on his stomach, then breathe in slowly counting to the number five.

His stomach rose with the inhalation, and then when he exhaled, we counted to five again. With each deep breath, his anxiety diminished and his tense muscles relaxed. The more he breathed deeply, the more well-being he felt. After only a few moments, he was ready to go forward and face the day.

We talked about how to use this technique, even if he could not lie down, the key being to breathe slowly, moving the diaphragm down and allowing the stomach area to expand. The vacuum created would bring air into the lungs. Then, as the diaphragm relaxed, the air would be slowly pushed out through the mouth.  

This simple action decreases feelings of anxiety by providing the following physical benefits:
  1. Concentration on the breathing action clears distressing thoughts
  2. The heartbeat slows down, decreasing pressure on arteries and veins
  3. The blood moves more slowly, allowing greater nutrient absorption in the muscle tissue
  4. Nerve impulses decrease, dissipating feelings of stress
  5. As the body relaxes, the spirit calms.

Not only did this young man feel the benefits of decreased anxiety, he was able to have renewed feelings of self-reliance. He had a tool that he could use at any time to help increase his feelings of well-being.

Give your soul a break today. Breathe deeply, for your emotional health!