Do you ever suffer from a nearly constant sense of stress, recurrent anxiety, or even feelings of impending doom? If so, you’re not alone. Unfortunately this is a common symptom in so many of people in our fast-paced, expectation driven society, It’s one that takes a tremendous toll in terms of our collective health, sense of happiness and well-being, as well as our overall productivity. So right now, if your shoulders are tight, or your jaw slightly clenched, or your breathing is a bit shallow, take a deep breath and relax as you prepare to read on from here. You can learn what self-forgiveness has to do with worry, anxiety, stress and even dread.
Recently, it seems that I’ve been hearing about anxiety, worry and dread from various sources. It’s come up in conversations with others, news articles, mentions on TV, podcasts, and radio features. It seems that anxiety is getting a lot of attention. Or more likely, it seems that discussions of anxiety and stress have caught my attention. I find that when I coincidentally notice something showing up in various ways, it usually means that there’s some value in exploring it a little more deeply. There’s usually some life lesson or nugget of wisdom to be gleaned if I just start asking the right kinds of questions about it.
I like to think that I’m pretty good these days about not succumbing to my old patterns of worry, and dread. But it’s also been my experience that anxiety, worry and especially stress at times affect me in seemingly more subtle ways that can escape detection for a while if I’m not really paying attention. So I started asking myself the kinds of questions that tend to lead down the path to self-discovery. These are questions that you too can use if you’d like;
- Where or how am I feeling anxious or stressed?
- What am I worried about?
- How can I take better care of myself and my needs so that I don’t experience anxiety or worry?
- Is there some negative or worrisome thought or belief that’s crept into my subconscious and needs to be resolved and shifted?”
Sure enough, as I began to use those sorts of questions to examine my life more closely, I could see that in a different ways I’d been feeling the pressure of my changing circumstances build up, and I’d allowed some patterns of worry and anxiety to take hold in my mind once again. I realized that I’ve been focusing disproportionately on the work and business aspect of my life recently and in doing so, had let my overall well-being slide. I’m now taking action to consciously catch and remove those anxiety inducing, disempowering thoughts from my internal dialog. I’m also beginning to make some different choices about how I take care of myself and interact with my life. And the good news is that it’s working!
Since the purported theme of this website and blog is forgiveness, let me give some context for how this topic relates. While I’m going to divert from writing about forgiveness specifically, this conversation of anxiety, worry, stress and even dread does make sense if you look at them from this perspective:
- I find when I’m feeling worried, stressed and/or anxious there’s usually something going on internally or externally that’s somehow a violation of my integrity, my personal standards, my health and wellness or my financial well-being. Occasionally it has to do with something that someone else is doing, but even then there’s generally some way in which I’ve betrayed or violated myself. Regardless, it means there’s something that I need to clean up and forgive.
- Anxiety, stress, worry and dread are all just different ways that fear masquerades. When I feel fearful, I’m less open mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I’m more stubborn, less accepting and less likely to be compassionate with and understanding of others. When I’m feeling fearful, I’m more likely to get angry, to be self-absorbed, be abrupt with those around me, act out, or to mistreat myself or others. Again, this means that there are things that I need to clean up and forgive myself for, or more likely that I need to ask for forgiveness from someone else.
- Finally, it turns out that a powerful solution to anxiety and dread is to choose to entertain thoughts of faith instead of fear. It also requires that we have faith in order to forgive. To forgive, we must choose to turn our attention from the past-based thoughts of fear, worry and dread to put faith in the promise of something better. We must trust that through choosing to forgive, we’ll open the doors to a more free and fulfilling future – a future that’s not available when holding onto resentment, regret, blame, guilt or shame.
Just like forgiveness is a choice, you must also choose to have faith. When fear and it’s children anxiety and worry began to come into your internal dialog, you always have a choice as to whether or not you’re going to entertain them, let them stay and listen to them prattle on endlessly. An analogy I use with clients at times is that of a UPS delivery person. Fear, just like any other emotion comes with a message or some information to deliver to you. Your job is to receive the message and determine whether it makes sense to you or is something that you need to take action on or not. Just like the UPS person shows up at your door to deliver a letter or package, so too does fear show up to help make you aware of something.
When the UPS person shows up at your door with a delivery, you open the door, receive the parcel, say thank you and close the door again. You don’t invite the delivery person into your house, entertain them, have them hand you the package over and over again while you both make up stories about the possible contents of the package or the future ramifications of receiving it. You can handle fear in the same way, hear the knock, open the door, receive the information, say thanks for the message and then send fear on its way. There is no need for you to bring fear in to stay, then invite worry, anxiety, trepidation and all the relatives over to join you for hours or days as well. You always have a choice in what thoughts and internal dialogs you choose to host and entertain, and which you choose to send on their way. Once you receive the message, you can send fear away, then call up faith and invite it to come and tell you stories of hope, confidence and possibility. I believe that it really can be as simple as that.
I like to think that forgiveness and faith are traveling partners on the road to the fulfillment of your desires. So whether it’s to quell an anxiety attack, or to gather the courage to forgive, I invite you to choose to put the power of faith to work in your life. So don’t worry have faith, it’s all going to be fine…
This is a slightly modified version of an article that I’ve also posted on the Forgiveness Club sister site, Forgiving the Church. It seemed equally relevant to both, as the topic does have to do with forgiveness. I’ll stay on this same theme for the next post here, and share something that I stumbled on years ago. Since then I’ve refined it into a simple technique for letting go of anxiety, worry and fear. I’d love for you to try it out and see how it works for you and to hear what you experience.