Recenter Your Life to What's Important

Recenter Your Life to What's Important

The last few weeks have truly been such a whirlwind. As we packed those last few boxes and moved our life to Alabama I was left with so much gratitude and yet an immense sense of anxiety. Uncertainty and a lack of control can stir up a restless heart. I’ve felt that more in recent months than ever before. It’s hard, to one day feel like everything is together and you’re thriving and then the next to feel like you’re right back to your old self. Self destructive thinking, sabotaging the good in your life and unable to maintain a present attitude. I hate that feeling of spiraling. 

As some may know, the New Year did not ring in as expected. My husband was called to deploy on a moments notice alongside hundreds of others. In one phone call my world came spinning down. I felt out of control, helpless and lost. I call this the perfect storm. Every time I have these emotions present in my life I revert to those old tendencies. The unhealthy coping mechanisms, self destructive thinking and victim mindset.

Over the months I made it a priority to get myself together, take control and move forward with a present and positive mindset. I reminded myself daily that life is too short to spend it in the past or somewhere else other than the current moment and I mastered it for a while. But as my husband came back and we were getting settled, we received another call that he was being sent to Alabama for Warrant Officer Candidate School and Flight School in less than three weeks. Ecstatic, I spent the next few weeks packing and checking things off my list in preparation. Keeping myself busy I felt great!

We arrived a little over a week ago and that’s when it hit me. I started to spiral. Unable to get out of my head and way, I began to retract into my little world. The feelings of a lack of control and uncertainty created a space in my mind which hovered like a dark cloud. I found it difficult to be in the moment, almost as if I was on auto pilot. I couldn’t shake the weight and heaviness that I felt waking up every morning.

Now in retrospect, was this fair to my husband who just started his new and exciting journey? Absolutely not! And I knew that, I just couldn’t find a way out. It wasn’t until I thought about the way I was treating the situation and him during this transition that I made myself snap out of it. It was selfish of me, and I knew that wasn’t the wife I aspired to be.

Why do I tell you this? Because above all else only three things truly matter in this life. Family, faith and fellowship. I think this is an important thing to keep in mind when you find yourself stuck in a rut. How are your actions affecting those you love? How are they affecting your relationships?

Most of my anxiety is rooted in the fear of being a bad wife. Of being selfish, with a lack of care for my significant other. I think back to when I was younger and how I exhibited characteristics that resembled an individual I never want to become. That fear has led me to create such anxiety around my character, my intentions and my heart. Remember this, if you take anything away let it be this next statement.

You become what you think about.

When I began to think about my purpose in this season of life, I realized it wasn’t about my career, my success or my contentment. It had nothing to do with me. My purpose was truly to be there for my husband. To be his support, his rock and his partner throughout this next venture. 

If you’re in a current headspace right now that’s preventing you from enjoying things in life, ask yourself this. Am I becoming what I fear? Am I sabotaging myself? These are real questions that require real answers. I’m not proud of the fact that I fall into these low points. I grow increasingly frustrated with myself more and more every time it happens. It’s hard because what can snap you out of it at one point may not work for you in the future and I get that.

You have to actively search for ways to regain consciousness and clarity. Don’t be too harsh on yourself when you get into this rut. Just know that as long as you’re working to be better than yesterday, you’re doing all the right things. Stay positive, stay grounded and stay focused on what’s truly important in life!

Renew Your Thinking

Renew Your Thinking


Do you ever feel like you can’t escape from anxiety? Like you’re at war with your mind and are captive to your thoughts? 

Often when dealing with mental health we look for a simple solution. Maybe a small piece of advice, a quote, one changed habit, or a revelation we hope will get us out of “the funk.” However, true relief will only come when taking a multifaceted approach. 

Understand that coping looks different for everybody.

When I started my journey, I was just 13 years old. My family and I decided on the route of medications and therapy. Combining the two would set the framework for years to come. 

What I discovered from personal experience was that medications merely placed a bandage on the wounds. I was only prolonging the inevitable confrontation with my past, becoming increasingly numb to my childhood rather than facing it head-on. The therapy sessions proved to do more harm than good as well. I would fixate on my past until I defined myself by the very thing I was trying to heal from. 

If elements of trauma are replayed again and again, the accompanying stress hormones engrave those memories ever more deeply in the mind. Ordinary, day to day events become less and less compelling. Not being able to deeply take in what is going on around them makes it impossible to feel fully alive. Not being fully alive in the present keeps them more firmly imprisoned in the past.

“The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.

It’s taken years of trial and error to recognize the ineffectiveness of these two techniques in my life.

You will not experience an overnight fix.

The process is long and continuously changing, so be patient and gracious with yourself, but more importantly, listen to your body.

As of last year, I had still not found a regiment that proved to be effective. When considering different treatment options in coping with your anxiety you must understand that it is not going to be a one size fits all. What works for me may not work for you and vise versa.

What I have found to be most effective in coping with anxiety involves several methods working simultaneously. My daily routine typically starts with a cup of coffee, giving my mind and body time to wake up. Some mornings I may open with scripture, others I may read from a book. It just depends on how my mind is feeling. From there I try to get at least one bottle of water in and some breakfast. A light meal, maybe a piece of toast, fruit, or a few scrambled eggs. 

Once I’ve fed my body and soul with the good, I can then begin my day by expressing a few things that I am grateful for. I may start by completing a workout at the gym, getting my blood flowing and releasing endorphins. Or perhaps I begin my writing and creative content. I really listen to my body in making these decisions. Every day looks a little different depending on my current needs. 

There are a few things however that never change and that have offered the best relief;

  • Music – The best therapy I have ever found has been in the form of music.
  • A good night’s rest – Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. Some studies show a direct link between sleeping and mental health. So take this one seriously!
  • Pouring into others – I get no greater fulfillment in life than when I’m helping others. But, I have also realized that to pour into others I must first pour into myself. 

A more recent addition has been hot yoga. I always thought the concept of yoga was a bit laid back for me, however, that was exactly what I needed. Getting my mind in touch with my body, focusing on my movements, balance, strength, and breathing. I feel present in the moment and at peace with myself.

Now that you know what I do to battle my anxiety, here are some simple questions to ask yourself to better identify what your mind and body may be needing.

First, ask how you’re feeling. Not what you feel, but how you feel. 

Take inventory of your body’s basic housekeeping.

How’s your breathing as you read this? Shallow and quick or deep and even?

Is your mind feeling restless? 

Are you eating foods that make you feel good?

Are you drinking your daily intake of water? 

Getting enough sleep? 

You must first answer these questions. Then, once you’ve listed your answers, see about making simple changes to better your responses. Start small and then build up. We are so quick to find total solutions. I’ve been there, but we must not underestimate the power of minor changes and their effectiveness. 

Reflect and Adapt

Once you’ve had this internal conversation, ask what it is that’s causing most of your anxiety? What is the theme? Is it stemming from intrusive thoughts, uncertainty, past mistakes, etc? You must confront these things head-on. 

If it’s intrusive thoughts ask yourself, how much validity does it have? Maybe you think you’re a bad person, untrustworthy, etc. Ask why you feel this way. Is there anything to back up the claims? If not, choose to let the thoughts go. Imagine letting them continue without you. 

If your anxiety is rooted in uncertainty you must first accept that there are only two things you can control in life, your attitude and your effort. Everything else is up to the powers that be. I know how frustrating this is, but you must come to terms with that. Do not let the uncertainty of tomorrow prevent you from living your today. 

If past mistakes are at the center of your anxiety you must first confront them. I know it’s scary and I know it’s not what you want to hear but to fully heal from past mistakes you must first take ownership. Once you’ve done that, you can then begin the process of forgiving. Know that we all make mistakes and that you are human. It is okay to have errors in judgment, that’s where the growth takes place. Know that those mistakes can propel you forward if you allow them to. Only you can choose.

When we begin to realize how much power we have over our thoughts, we can better combat ourselves in controlling the dialog. Discipline your thoughts and experiment with an array of techniques in coping. Don’t limit yourself to just one.

To anyone trying to find their way right now, feeling like they can’t escape the mental marathon, know that it does get better with time. You will learn what works and what doesn’t. Again, be patient and surround yourself with people who will lift you. Whatever you do, don’t let your anxiety rob you of your greatest potential. You do have something to offer, your passions weren’t placed by accident, and there is hope on the other side. Just remain patient and trust in the process.

Mental Illness: Why Aren’t We Talking About It?

Mental Illness: Why Aren’t We Talking About It?

One in five adults have a mental health condition. Let that sink in. That’s over 40 million Americans, and the number is steadily rising. While the mainstream media loves to undermine America’s mental health crisis to further their anti-gun agenda, the facts are hard to dismiss.

3.JPGThe United States has a serious problem, with a serious workforce shortage that further exacerbates the issue.

In the paragraphs following I will shed light on my key findings through research of Psychology Today, The National Institute of Mental Health, Mental Health America and more. Having experienced and battled with mental illness myself, this study hits close to home. My hopes in publishing my work is to shed light on the ever-growing problem, discuss potential solutions, and walk away feeling enlightened and determined to be the means to an end needed to better combat the rise seen in mental illnesses in America.

7

Of the 43 million, nearly 56% do not receive treatment. Not including the 76% of youth who are left with little to no sufficient treatment and care options.

That’s more than the populations of New York and Florida combined. 

Before we dig too far into this pandemic, let us first define what I mean when I say “mental illness.”

Mental Illness, as defined by the American Psychiatric Association, is a health condition involving changes in thinking, emotion or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associate with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities. Further, the illness does not discriminate; it can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, social status, race, etc. While is can affect anyone at any time, most cases are identified by age 24.

Common symptoms include but are not limited to prolonged depression, feelings of extreme highs and lows, excessive fears, worries and anxieties, social withdrawal, strong feelings of anger, a growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities, suicidal thoughts, and more. With over 200 classifications, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. its toll affects each and every one of us in some capacity whether it be direct or inadvertent.

5.JPG

Despite its scope and severity rising in the millions, we have still yet to see commensurate visibility, policy reform, research, or funding on a local and federal level.

So what should we do? Can we even help? Well, the first thing to know is that there is hope for those battling mental illness. Between seeking psychological treatment methods and utilizing medications, even the most complex cases can see major changes in just a few short months.

On the flip side of this I want to write a disclaimer. Just speaking from personal experience. Seeking out a psychologist can prove to be immensely beneficial for not only you, but for your loved ones and families who provide your support network as well. However, it is common to get comfortable living in the anxiety and emotions of what you’re battling. Often times seeking a psychologist can provide short-lived relief, but can also make the healing process even more drawn out.

From my own experiences I know that there came a time where I was so comfortable in feeling miserable for myself that I let it take over me. It seeped into every aspect of my life. Every time I would speak with my counselor I would live in the past. I’d fixate on things and develop compulsive thoughts. There came a point where I had to just part ways with the process, accept how far I had come, and move on! Luckily my family was able to snap me out of the funk I was in. They said,

“Amanda, sometimes you act like you’re the only one going through anything. Everyone battles their own demons. But the longer you let it control your happiness, the less time you have to live your life.”

Which brings me to my next point… surround yourself by family and friends.

One of the biggest lies you can tell yourself is that you are alone in this. Let me just tell you, you are not! The more you surround yourself by those who will remind you of this, the better you’ll feel. Now all that to say, we must find a more comprehensive solution at every level.

On a Federal level, the government plays a major role in regulating systems and providers relating to mental health in America. They also set the tone in terms of the quality of care given.  In other words, the federal government ultimately provides the oversight across the states. They also controls the protection of rights given to individuals with mental health disorders, as well as the sustained funding and ongoing research. Here is where I feel we can expand the most in terms of monetary changes as well as raising awareness.

8.JPG

While the government does provide a major funding stream, including a match of Medicaid (single largest funder of mental health services in the country), we are still facing a startling shortage in qualified workforce professionals. Alongside a shortage of providers, we’ve seen a lack of accountability in diagnosing and treating children from an early age, often times missing the crucial onset of symptoms. Lastly, while we are constantly gaining insights into the mind and it’s complexities, there is still a lot to learn. Funding research must be put on the forefront of any political campaign, rather that be at the local or national level. Which means we, as a society, must hold our world leaders accountable!

If you feel called to raise awareness and make a difference, click here to maintain your voice in the federal decision-making processes on mental health! Or, let your money do the talking and donate to Mental Health America for research and treatment solutions.

If you or a loved one you know are struggling, please call or click the

“Get Immediate Help” link to find out more.

There is so much more to this life than what you’re feeling right now. I promise you things will get better and know I’m always here if you need someone to talk to.

https://www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help/immediate-help

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Vetrans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255 Press 1.

A Little Positive Reinforcement

Wow, what a crazy start to the year it has been. Made some life changing moves, both figuratively and literally. And I must say, change sucks… but boy is it great for growth! I am now a proud member of the “adult working class,” fiancé to the most amazing man, and I must admit it feels pretty darn great. Now let me be clear, I have my days. There’s been times in recent weeks that the lowest of lows have been really… well, low. But that’s when I grant myself some positive reinforcement and a bit of a reality check. Let me explain what I mean.

I’m at a point in life where others around me are doing some pretty amazing things. Traveling the world, making money doing what they truly love, etc. It’s easy to get down on myself when comparing to others. And I’ll be the first to admit that this is a terrible way to live life. I’ll quote from scripture in that, “Each of you must examine your own actions. Then you can be proud of your own accomplishments without comparing yourself to others.  Assume your own responsibility.” Galatians 6:4-5. Think about that, assume your own responsibility. Those words are pretty powerful. Assume your role in what you make of your life. Only YOU are in control of your own personal journey. Let the doubts and naysayers empower your own thirst for growth!

 

personal growth

Finding Purpose

Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 4.58.04 PM

As I spent this past week driving half way across the country, I took up listening to some motivational podcasts! One that really caught my attention was titled, “The Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast.” Within this series he goes into great detail over creating a culture of collaboration, embracing your strengths, and the ever so complex question, “What is MY purpose?”  The particular podcast that I wanted to hone in on was his episode titled, “The Complexity of Purpose.”

Within this Andy defines the meaning of purpose as, “a means to an end.” In other words purpose isn’t about getting hung up on ourselves, because to find purpose is to ultimately find a means to an end that is not “you.” What I loved about his rationale was that he sheds light on the fact that we often ask ourselves all the wrong questions. “What am I here for?” “What is MY purpose?” With hopes of trying to make our lives count and make a difference, there is a flaw in this approach. It isn’t so much that the questions we’re asking are bad, but that we’re merely looking through the wrong lens.

For us to truly begin the search for our purpose, we must start seeing everything that we’re currently doing through the lens of means. He suggests that, any time we make an end a means, you find purpose. By looking at situations as a means to an end, you quickly reveal the purpose behind it. While this doesn’t exactly make sense yet, let’s put this thought to action. So you’re currently in a job you hate? Your job is not an end, your job is a means to an end. It has a purpose.  Every job that results in a paycheck, job stability, a roof over your head, etc., holds a purpose. It’s not so much a matter of your situation, but a tweak in perspective that reveals the bigger picture.

I took this notion and applied it to my current situation. While I so desperately crave finding my purpose in this world, I can’t look past the season of change I’m in right now. Even though this change is by no means an end, it does serve the purpose of being a means to an end. I’ve experienced growth while dealing with so much uncertainty. Growth that can be seen spiritually, relationally, mentally. It’s not ideal, it’s not my desired destination, but it does serve a purpose. By using this rationale I can not only come to terms with this season of change, but also slowly begin to focus on the question, “Who am I here for?”

By reframing the question from “Why am I here?,” to “Who am I here for?,” I have changed it to find a means to an end that isn’t simply ME.

Andy sheds light on the fact that purpose is, as he defines it, the pathway to meaning. He exclaims that you can’t have meaning in life if you’re not willing to be a means to an end. Further, those who devote themselves to themselves will only have themselves when it’s all said and done. Looking through a biblical context, we were designed with more in mind! This declaration is something I strive to call over my life daily. By standing on the precipice of sacrificing myself for the sake of saying yes to others, we can start making sense of why we’re here and who we’re here for.

I’ve really struggled with this as of lately. Feeling like I have to find a job that holds meaning.. one where I wake up and know that I’m making a difference. Belonging to a cause that renders greater things than just myself. It’s good to pay attention to what stirs your heart, but it takes more than just a stirred heart to find and execute your purpose. Alongside that, Andy calls on two additional components that must be present. He states that “purpose is often found at the intersection of a broken or stirred heart, opportunity, and skill.”

Upon hearing this, I started really giving thought to what my skillets are, what opportunities I have at my disposal, and who or what stirs my heart. I came to the realization that I’m simply not living a time in my life where the opportunities are there for me to act on something that takes me beyond, well, myself. And that’s okay!

Now that isn’t to say that I can’t make my passions a hobby of mine! Perhaps it takes shape in the form of volunteering, joining a life group, giving up my weekends to coach little league, etc. The bottom line is I came to the harsh realization that, while living a life of purpose as a full time job is commendable, I’m not in the season of life to make the sacrifice just yet. The financial sacrifice, the career sacrifice, etc.

So, what now?

Well, now more than ever is the time to build myself up! Save money, focus on who I’m here for, sharpen my skills, give more, serve any way I can, etc. I’ll start by finding a local church and surrounding myself with on purpose people. Maybe get more involved in my volunteering effforts, who knows!

One final thought that I felt worth mentioning. There was a study done that shed light on the notion that we become like the people we associate with, not just behaviorally but neurologically as well. It’s safe to say then that if we wish to maximize happiness, lead a positive life, and move in a giving direction we must strategically surround ourselves by those who embody these traits. I was fortunate enough to have such a phenomenal support group back in Arkansas, but now I must rebuild.

It’s exciting and nerve-racking all at the same time, and all the while it serves a purpose.

Saying “I can”

Screen Shot 2018-02-01 at 10.02.39 PM.png

Food for Thought: Our words hold immense power! With each word you speak over your life you are planting a seed, and when you speak something aloud you bring that seed to life. Every word spoken further manifests itself into actions. I urge you all to water your seeds by making positive declarations over your ambitions, faith, relationships, finances, etc.

It’s time to stop saying “I can’t” and start saying “I can!”

While you’re at it, stop letting others define your purpose in this world! God is in complete control. If we simply look to Him in all seasons we will soon see His divine purpose for our lives!

Speak positively over your own life and watch what He has in store for you.

Hello all! My name is Amanda and I’ve decided to start on this writting endeavor at a pivotal point in my life. As it seems, I am in a season of major change. With only two more days remaining here in my college hometown, I’m left to ponder various mixed emotions. I will be making the venture to North Carolina, where my boyfriend of three years is stationed.

There’s the obvious worriment that what lies ahead simply isn’t going to compare to the friendships, memories and experiences built here. Not only will I be faced with the typical stressors of uprooting my entire life, one that takes me thousands of miles away from family and friends, but I will also be in a unique position to start a life where I define what success means to me.  I have never really thrived in adapting to new situations, but I know that God has placed this move on my heart for a reason. This is my chance to take a grand leap.

After all,  growth takes place in moments of absolute uncertainty. 

It was a mere six months ago that I graduated from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor’s in Communication.  I walked across the stage of my graduation with what I thought was the world in the palm of my hand. I had no doubts in my ability to land a job. With my charisma and passion for people, the last thing I thought would happen would be an inability on my end to do so. Never have I been so wrong in my life! While I received numerous job offers, none were commensurate enough, nor were they the right fit for what and where I wanted to be. God had placed a tall order in my heart and I just couldn’t shake it.

It has taken months of playing it safe to finally bridge the financial gap and further enable myself to take this grand leap of faith. Months of preparation and contemplation have all come down to this decision, and with no immediate job prospects on the horizon I’ve noticed something about myself. I care way too much about how my actions look to bystanders; parents, friends, social media followers, etc. Caring so much about matching the societal demands of what success looks like, I’ve gone so far as to comparing myself to others in their expectations of me. It’s been an internal struggle for a while now. Making a decision while subsequently awaiting responses from those around me.

Here’s the biggest issue that comes with this particular mindset; no matter what you do, there will always be critics. If you live a life for others, all that will be amounted to is a whole lot of self inflicted disappointment. That isn’t to say that others don’t have the right to their opinion, of course we will always have those critical voices in the background, but we must ignore them in order to fully set our hearts on Gods plans and purposes for our lives.

Don’t allow yourself to be defined by the limitations of others. 

I may have zero clue what this next chapter holds in store for me, but I do know that when its my due season God will bring things into focus. The Lord works in mysterious ways, but if theres one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s this; God gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers. And so as I leave this chapter and enter a new one, I will walk into it saying;

“I can do this!”