Posts tagged: Self-Improvement

Worry Free Living

Betty blue bordered (2)

This is our penultimate week of preparation for Easter. It’s also our next-to-last look at how to fight fear in our lives. I just listened to Chris Tomlin’s song, Whom Shall I Fear, with the line, “The God of angel armies is always by my side.” What more could we ask to uphold our courage?

The book we focus on this week is Worry Free Living, by Frank Minirth, M.D., Paul Meier, M.D., and Don Hawkins, Th.M.  Though it was published in 1989, it still holds great insight, and used copies are available on Amazon. Written by two psychiatrists and a minister, this book pulls together guidance for our minds and our hearts.

The authors believe we experience anxiety when we are afraid to look at a negative emotion inside us, such as, anger, guilt, lust, or resentment. The Holy Spirit uses anxiety to draw our attention to something that needs to be aired. Though we might not want to admit a hidden truth, we must uncover it, and forgive ourselves or someone else or ask for forgiveness, in order to rid ourselves of anxiety. Forgiveness involves becoming aware of our anger and then choosing not to hold the offense against the person, in order to unburden ourselves. We decide not to seek revenge or even dwell on the offense. We don’t lick our wounds.

As we’ve read from other authors, a little anxiety can be a good thing, if it helps us prepare or encourages us to work in order to dispel the worry. Too much anxiety can lead to defense mechanisms, phobias, mental disorders, addictions, physical complications, and spiritual hopelessness. Sometimes professional help is necessary, but the authors suggest steps of self-help can prevent or alleviate anxiety for most of us:

  • Meditate daily, including meditation on Scripture.
  • Condition yourself to relax, using a repetitive phrase (like our affirmations) or visualizing a beautiful place to calm yourself.
  • Listen to soothing music.
  • Talk through problems to vent the pressure with someone you trust, and listen to theirs, too
  • Limit your worry to a 15-minute time slot and push aside worries until that time (As a parent, when my girls became highly anxious we would walk around the block once or twice, limiting our expressing-worry time to that walk.
  • Live one day at a time, not thinking “what if” about the future, or “if only” about the past.
  • Design an Action Plan. Do something to lessen your anxiety, for instance take an assertiveness class if you have trouble expressing your wants and needs.
  • Cultivate awareness of God’s presence with you. (Our God of angel armies!)
  • Decide to obey God, both to avoid guilt, a source of anxiety, and because He commands us not to worry.
  • Replace worry with prayer.
  • Give up faulty beliefs, like perfectionism or the necessity of winning approval from all.
  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle in the areas of sleep, diet, recreation, and exercise.
  • Examine your self-talk and replace the negative with positive. Replace a low self-image with a sense of your worth as a child of God.
  • Grow in intimacy with others. Reach out, build healthy friendships. If you aren’t able to do this, then reach out to a counselor to help you learn how. A good friend offers love, peace, open communication, mutual improvement, and refreshment.
  • Grow in intimacy with God through prayer, Scripture, and meditation. Since God is for us, who can be against?

I suspect each reader has methods they use to counter fear and anxiety. As we mature, we adopt methods of self-soothing. I tell myself, “I’m safe right now.” One reader emailed that she prays, “Jesus, I trust in You.” Another reminds herself to “claim my power” or “take control of my life”.

How do you fight fear?



The Gift of Fear

Betty blue bordered (2)Last week we considered the idea of feeling fear and acting anyway by calling on courage. Though I want fear fighting to be the main focus of these Lenten emails, it would be imprudent not to bring balance to the idea.

In the book, The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker reminds us that sometimes fear is a blessing. He distinguishes fear from anxiety or worry or hesitation by stating that true fear is always response to an immediate danger or is connected to pain or death. It is an outpouring of our intuition—a word women are comfortable with but men might prefer to call a gut reactionthat excites us to action. De Becker pleads with us to not second guess or rationalize away such fear, but instead, trust our intuition and follow its guide because it results from our mind’s drive to survive. Even before we formulate thoughts about our senses’ stimuli, our brain has connected our past experiences to our current situation and determined if we are in danger. If so, it demands immediate action. Although on reflection a person might say, “I don’t know how I knew, I just knew I needed to…,” later that person will remember the danger signals that their reasoning ignored, but their survival instinct didn’t.

On the other hand, de Becker, like our other fear-fighting experts, wants us to reduce our worries and anxiety, claiming that we can overload our minds with worrying about what might happen and miss immediate, imminent danger.

“We all know there are plenty of reasons to fear people from time to time. The question is, what are those times? Far too many people are walking around in a constant state of vigilance, their intuition misinformed about what really poses danger. It needn’t be so. When you honor accurate intuition signals and evaluate them without denial (believing both the favorable or the unfavorable outcomes are possible), you need not be wary, for you will come to trust that you’ll be notified if there is something worthy of your attention. Fear will gain credibility because it won’t be applied wastefully. When you accept the survival signal as a welcome message and quickly evaluate the environment or situation, fear stops in an instant. Thus, trusting intuition is the opposite of living in fear.”

Precautions are healthy, but remaining in a constant state of fright is destructive and can lead to panic, which destroys our ability to react with reason. If we spend our lives looking for the expected danger, we will miss the unexpected threat.

Again, differentiating true fear from worry is important. Worry or anxiety keep us from acting. True fear propels us into action. It energizes and drives us away from danger.

“Worry, wariness, anxiety and concern all have a purpose, but they are not fear. So any time your dreaded outcome cannot be reasonably linked to pain or death and it isn’t a signal in the presence of danger, then it really shouldn’t be confused with fear. It may well be something worth trying to understand and manage, but worry will not bring solutions. It will more likely distract you from finding solutions….. Worry is the fear we manufacture—it is not authentic. It is a choice…. When you feel fear, listen. When you don’t feel fear, don’t manufacture it. If you find yourself creating worry, explore and discover why.”

We might want to follow our line of worry to answer all our “what if’s” until we discover that our worry leads us to an imagined end that we really will survive and handle. “What if I fail this test? Then I’ll have to retake it. What if I fail the next one and the class? Then I can retake the class and study harder. What if I’m not smart enough to succeed in this line of study? Then I’ll change course. But I won’t die from failing this test. I will handle whatever comes.

Sometimes our intuition doesn’t scream, “Get out now!” Sometimes it comes as a suspicion, or a discomfort, or a sense that something isn’t right. Trust that sense and any such “gut feeling.” Don’t deny that danger might be present just because a stranger seems nice. Remind yourself he is still a stranger, no matter how he tries to win you with charm. Women especially are reminded to avoid the trap of not wanting to be rude. Not being nice, not giving a person who makes you uncomfortable any benefit of the doubt, is a survival skill. A truly good person will usually understand when you react with suspicion because he recognizes how you must protect yourself and not allow vulnerability. Even if he is insulted, isn’t that better than the opposite error of trusting someone you shouldn’t?

Honor that nudge of unease. Examine it. But when true fear demands action, don’t take time to think it through. If fear says, “Get out now!” then get out! You can later think about it and examine it all you want. True fear, remember, is either about what is imminently to happen, or it is about pain and death.

Our most famous quote about fear came from Franklin Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” De Becker would change that to, “There is nothing to fear unless and until you feel fear.”

De Becker recommends we not allow media to heap on us its daily doses of fright. I admire Mr. Rogers’ take on televised disasters. He reminds children to look for the helpers. Whenever people are in trouble other people come to help them. I’m reminded of the Boston marathon that ended because of two bomb explosions. Within seconds of the detonations, we saw people scrambling to help the fallen.

De Becker would say in times of danger, follow your intuition. Mr. Rogers would add, there will be helpers. And Susan Jeffers would conclude, “You can handle whatever comes.”


Betty blue bordered (2)How was your week? Have you figured out which fears you would like to work on? Mine is a fear of disapproval, so I’m drawing on courage in order to send out my thoughts to so many people. (Meanwhile, a loved one is fighting fear that returned cancer will win, which puts my small worries into perspective.)


Not to back away from risk, but because I want to give you the advantage of an expert’s input, we will turn this week to the work of Susan Jeffers. In the book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway®, (great title, right?) she inspires us to take brave action. Jeffers attained a PhD in Psychology from Columbia University and wrote several self-help books. Parents might know her from other accomplishments. She wrote and/or illustrated children’s books on horses, classic stories, and a little dog named McDuff.


Jeffers categorizes our fears into:


  • Things that happen, like aging or accidents
  • Things that require action, like giving speeches, making decisions or leaving a bad situation
  • Damage to our ego and sense of well-being, like ridicule or fear of failure
  • Feeling unable to handle whatever comes our way


She tells us five truths to help us combat those fears:


  1. Fear will always be present as long as we continue to grow.
  2. The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it.
  3. The only way to feel better about myself is to go out… and do it.
  4. Not only am I going to experience fear whenever I’m on unfamiliar territory, but so is everyone else!
  5. Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.


Since everyone is dealing with fear, but some do it more successfully, it must mean it isn’t danger paralyzing us, but rather our attitude. In Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, we are encouraged to handle our fear from an attitude of power, rather than pain. We do this gradually, by intentionally moving away from pain, towards claiming our power. The author recommends we draw a line on a piece of paper with “Pain” at the left side and “Power” at the right. Each day we pin where we are on the line, with the intention of moving right toward Power.

Even our vocabulary can help us move into our strength:
Pain →——————————————–→ Power
I can’t ——————————————–→ I won’t
I should ——————————————→ I could
It’s not my fault ——————————-→ I’m totally responsible
I’s a problem ———————————–→ It’s an opportunity
I’m never satisfied —————————-→ I want to learn and grow
Life’s a struggle ——————————–→ Life’s an adventure
I hope ——————————————–→ I know
If only ——————————————–→ Next time
What will I do ———————————-→ I know I can handle it
It’s terrible ————————————–→ It’s a learning experience

To grow in confidence we need to do something daily that widens the space in our comfort zone. Each night we can plan the risk we are going to take the following day. For instance, call someone we are intimidated to call. Visualizing or practicing it makes it a bit less scary. As long as we are taking those risks that build our sense of self-worth, we are moving to the right on the Pain-to-Power chart.


Taking responsibility for our method of handling fear means:


  • Never blaming others for anything we are being, doing or feeling
  • Not blaming ourselves, but becoming aware of those circumstances in which we are not taking responsibility, so that we can eventually change
  • Handling the Chatterbox – Replace that negative inner voice with love.
  • Being aware of payoffs that keep us stuck. What do I gain from staying afraid? The comfort of not changing?
  • Figuring out what we want in life and acting on it.
  • Being aware of the multitude of choices we have in any given situation. Let’s pick the one that contributes the most to our aliveness and growth.


Psychology commonly accepts that our actions and thoughts are interdependent. We can increase our courage by either acting more confidently or by thinking more confidently. The former is the “fake it until you make it” strategy. The more bravely we behave, the more we see ourselves as brave, until we no longer are faking it, but actually become brave.


The latter, thinking more confidently, is where we take control of our negative, frightened inner voice. If our thoughts are negative and critical and fearful, our behavior will be less than our best. If our thoughts are positive, we will behave in a confident manner. This even works if we don’t, at first, believe our words. We can repeat positive thoughts, or affirmations, enough that we begin to believe them and, as a consequence, our actions evolve to prove them true.


Here is my favorite of Susan Jeffers’ affirmations:




Let’s repeat this (or your own affirmation) aloud at least 10 times a day for the next week. (I’m reminded of several rides in reckless foreign taxis when I closed my eyes and repeated, “I’m safe right now; I’m safe right now.” It really did help prevent panic.)


I highly recommend Susan Jeffers book, and also her website at where more self-help information and affirmations are available.


One of my favorite quotes from the book: “The less you need someone’s approval, the more you are able to love them.”


May you grow in courage this week!





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