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How Anxiety Was My Greatest Weakness and Now My Greatest Strength

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According the famous mythologist Joseph Campbell, the hero’s greatest weakness, problem, or challenge is what will ultimately become that hero’s greatest strength. Campbell notes that stories across cultures and time (even many modern movies and novels adhere to this concept of the “hero’s journey”) follow this theme.

Likened to a roadmap for self-improvement, the hero’s journey includes distinct stages in which the protagonist battles with the awareness of what her problem is, gains increased realization along her path, at a certain point faces a reluctance toward change, overcomes this reluctance through her own self determination and with the help of mentors and allies, commits to change, experiences both improvements and setbacks from her attempts to change, and finally learns to master her problem — and in the end becomes a stronger person for it. 

And like any great story, the hero’s journey can be applied to our own battles. Personally, my lifelong struggle has been anxiety — it’s been my greatest weakness, yes, but it has also helped me find my greatest strength as well. 

On my first stage along this journey, I experienced a limited awareness that anxiety was, indeed, a mental condition to which there were answers. In fact, I wasn’t even aware how prevalent anxiety was. In my mind, I was alone and separate from others I deemed “normal.” I was also scared to admit to others that I was dealing with both chronic and acute anxiety, for fear that they’d label me as weak. 

Eventually, my awareness increased. I bought a self-help program and, through that, I realized that I had a very real condition I could eventually heal from — and beyond that — I also learned that I was not alone. Reading about other’s struggles with this oftentimes debilitating condition helped me to break out of my own emotional bubble and gave me a hope that I hadn’t experienced before.

Yet, like so many others on a path to self-discovery, I also hit a period of reluctance. No matter how many positive self-affirmations I kept repeating to myself, no matter how many times I read how I shouldn’t blame myself, the fears and self-recrimination still flared up, especially when I became triggered, overtired, or simply received some discouraging news. I figured that my special kind of irrational fears were so entrenched into my brain, I would never be able to fully shake them. 

Luckily, I persevered through this reluctance by diving into my creative process as I wrote my debut novel “The Grace of Crows.” Writing became a cathartic exercise in which I could turn off the “what-if” part of my brain. How wonderful it was to learn how to channel those negative fears into a productive act of work. Also, as I wrote about a protagonist overcoming anxiety, I, too, was slowly but surely believing that I could as well.

I further committed to change — and challenged myself like I never had before — by joining Toastmasters, a nonprofit group that helps people hone their public speaking skills. Even though my anxiety had decreased, I still harbored a deep fear of speaking in front of groups — or even the thought of being a guest for possible radio, TV, or podcast interviews. I realized that, if I wanted to promote my book about a woman overcoming anxiety, I’d better learn how walk the walk myself. And, indeed, with time I was able to happily say yes to interviews because of my ongoing commitment to Toastmasters.

Of course, I continued to experience both improvements and setbacks along the way — and, in truth, still do. Yes, life would have been (and still would be!) a lot easier without having to deal with anxiety. But… I am also grateful for what it has given me. If I hadn’t had to deal with this debilitating condition, I would never have written my first novel, would never have gone to Toastmasters, and would never have connected with so many wonderfully brave anxiety-warriors. I am not only stronger because of this journey — but my life is also far richer for it.

So, in looking at your own challenges, dear readers, please acknowledge your own hero’s journey: How have you learned to acknowledge, learn from, and master your biggest problems? And… how have you grown even stronger for it? 

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This year has just whizzed right by! Isn’t it crazy that we only have less than …

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This year has just whizzed right by! Isn’t it crazy that we only have less than two months until the “year of flying cars” approaches us? I have been sorting through my photos from this recent trip and just reflecting on everything I had the opportunity to experience. Which led me to think about the entire year. All the incredible people I met along the way, as well as all the people who are still in my life as good friends. My family, my pets, my home, and other trips I had experienced this year. I feel like as weird as it sounds, I can actually thank Instagram for the majority of those opportunities, experiences and friendships. Never did I think my account would be this big, or that so many people want to learn from me, or just admire my photos, or allow me to stay at their properties in countries I was going to visit anyway. Insane. Anyway, just feeling grateful for everything 🙏

Also how weird is it that I’m wearing a skirt, twirling in tropical weather, but there are Red holiday bobbles behind me 😂 Couldn’t wrap my head around it when I was in Singapore and everything was decorated for the holiday, but I was sweating so hard.

Wearing @warriorsofthedivine silk Mermaid Dreams skirt and twirling at @stayoasia Novena Hotel ❤️

#stayoasia #oasianovena #singapore #warriorsofthedivine #heygirl



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Do You Need Expert Advice on Being a Grandparent?

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The first grandparent to arrive, Rohna Paskow, had taken the train from suburban Philadelphia. She saved seats for her daughter-in-law’s parents, Charles and Michele Buchbauer, who were driving 50 miles from rural New Jersey to join her.

Their grandson’s birth was still two months away. But Ms. Paskow’s daughter-in-law had asked everyone to sign up for this workshop, called “Now That You’re a Grandparent … Navigating Your Relationship With Your Adult Children,” at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan.

So here they all were. “Anything for him,” Ms. Paskow said. “Already.”

Sally Tannen, the early childhood educator who directs the Y’s parenting programs, began offering these 90-minute sessions two years ago. Ten people — four solos, three couples — had registered for the one Ms. Paskow was attending, in October.

Ms. Tannen also leads support groups for young parents, mostly mothers, where for years she has heard them fretting about the way their expanding families can strain connections with their own parents and in-laws.

“They’re feeling so vulnerable as new parents that they hear everything through the lens of criticism, no matter what we say,” she told the group gathered around the table. “And they push us away. They want to be the bosses of their own lives and their own kids.”

Moreover, she cautioned, “grandparents can act wildly inappropriately in the beginning when they’re getting used to their new roles.”

How wildly? At the Y, they’re still talking about a grandfather at a previous workshop. Thrilled when his daughter in California became pregnant, he planned to hop on a plane — with his second wife — as soon as the baby arrived, paying the brand-new family a surprise visit.

Ms. Tannen, herself a grandmother of three, didn’t have to tell the man that this seemed a dubious idea; an oh-noooo chorus around the table did the trick.

“Ask your children what they need. ‘How can I help you?’ is probably the best gift you can give them,” Ms. Tannen counseled. “It will go very far toward allowing relationships to flourish if they feel supported in their role as parents.”

I can understand the grandpa’s impulse, though. In the excitement over a new grandbaby — which we all figure we’ll know how to handle because, after all, we’ve already done this at least once — it can take a while to recognize that nope, grandparenting is a whole different gig.

True, much of it feels familiar. We’re not likely to forget how to support a new baby’s fragile neck when we pick her up, or why you don’t burp her without a cloth on your shoulder.

When I became Bubbe to my now 3-year-old granddaughter, Bartola (a family nickname, a nod to the former Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon), I was startled by how much came flooding back: songs, diapering techniques, silly stuff that makes babies chortle.

And the new parts, like how to manage those insanely complicated car seats and how you never ever put a baby to sleep on its stomach any more, aren’t hard to learn.

In fact, grandparenting classes have popped up across the country to instruct us on safety and support during an infant’s first few months. You can sign up for them at hospitals in, among other places, Seattle, Palo Alto, Chicago and Plano, Texas, and at parenting centers in Houston and Santa Monica.

You’re negotiating not only with your kid but often with your kid-in-law, as well as with another set of grandparents, perhaps several. You may also be contending with distance. It’s easy to screw up.

None of these workshop participants — several veteran grandparents, most new to the role— wanted to be wildly inappropriate.

So the questions flew.

How do you handle who goes where on holidays? At Thanksgiving, “there’s this longing to be all together,” confessed Ellen Birnbaum, grandmother to four boys, who plans dinner with her daughter’s family but misses her son’s because they travel to his wife’s relatives in Florida. Ms. Birnbaum contents herself with more inclusive gatherings on the Jewish holidays.

Eric and Ilise Lange practice “time shifting,” assuring their children that celebrating Thanksgiving on Friday or Saturday will be just fine. Michele Buchbauer has a friend whose family get-together occurs in late October when airfares to California are low.

What about social media? The Langes and Joan and Marty Abramowitz, seated across the table, all lamented that their kids (who are married to one another) have forbidden them to post anything about their shared new grandson on Facebook.

It’s a pain to have to text dozens of friends instead, but “none of us have violated it,” Mr. Lange said of the restrictive policy. “We’d be killed.”

“Has anyone run into trouble with gifts and how much to spend?” Ms. Buchbauer (whose grandson, remember, has yet to arrive) asked the group. “I think there’s going to be a lot of limits.”



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NASTY NATE WORKOUTS (CHEST + TRI)

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60 min chest and tri workout that alone has time for! long sessions don’t always equal the most progress.

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