I have been writing my blog for a few years and I have rarely spoken about myself and my own struggles. Having started my own journey of recover nearly 30 years ago, I have a great deal of experience and knowledge about all the skills I have shared with my readers. I have also learned from all the people I have counseled over the last 20 years. I hope that some of you have benefited from my blog.
One thing I have to keep in mind is the phrase: progress not perfection. No one, including me, has ever done this perfectly. I am a work in progress like everyone else who is in the process of change and growth. I suffered from chronic depression and addictive behaviors for most of my life as well as poor self-esteem. Although I have experienced a tremendous improvement in the quality of my life, I also have my struggles. I sometimes find it difficult to apply all the coping skills I know. There times I have to work hard to focus on the things I need to and stay in the present.
I have my own philosophy of life: Life is to be enjoyed. I work every day to make that a reality. One of the ways I stay focused is by writing this blog. It has great value to my life. I hope it has value to yours.
We tend to look at certain events in our lives as important days. Those days that we consider to be life-changing such as graduations or weddings or the birth of a child are important days to us. Some think the day they met a significant person as being one of the most important days of their life. It is for me. For most of us there are numerous days that are significant and/or life changing. All of those things have already happened or have yet to happen at some future time in our lives. Most of the events that await us in the future are totally unknown to us today. How our lives will manifest remains a mystery.
Stories are written one word at a time. The words combine to create sentences that become part of a paragraph. One paragraph follows another and this ultimately results in a story. The author may have ideas about the content of the story but fills in the details as it is written. Life is similar in many respects. Lives are lived in minutes, hours, days, months, and years. We may have things we wish to manifest into reality. But we don’t know what our lives will look like until the story is written or our life unfolds in front of us and we experience it. Rarely do people’s lives look just as they had pictured them in the past.
This brings me to the point of this post and why today is the most important day of your life. Your past in done and is no longer a reality. It is the past. Past days have created the life you are experiencing today. We have an idea what we would like our life to look like in the future. But the future hasn’t arrived yet. All we have is the moment we are living in. All we can control is what we do now in the moment we are experiencing.
The decisions and the actions you take today lay the foundation for what your life will look like in coming days, weeks, months, and years. It is important to focus your attention on what you have in front of you and not dwell on either the past or the future. Have a plan or a goal. Those are valuable. What is most important is to put your time and energy into the steps you need to take to attain those goals. This is why today is so important. Today really is all you have. Tomorrow will once again be the most important day of your life.
It seems that most people are in search of happiness. Clients come into my office saying, “all I want is to be happy. What do I need to do in order to me happy”? I read on message boards how people just want to be happy. Look at many of the daytime talk shows and you can find them talking about seeking happiness. You can find literally hundreds of book promising to help you find happiness in your life.
I do not think that happiness is a reasonable or attainable goal. Before you stop reading, let me explain and you might even agree with me. I believe that happiness cannot be a constant state of mind and happens from time to time under special circumstances. I think we can work toward being in the state of mind to allow happiness. I want to be in a place emotionally that will allow me to experience happiness when those situations present themselves during the course of my life.
There are feelings that I like to have and feelings that I would rather not experience. If I want to experience the feelings I want I have to allow myself to experience those feelings I don’t want. I don’t get to choose. It is important to learn not to judge our feelings as either bad or good. There are no bad or good feelings. There are only feelings. Having and expressing our feelings is all part of experiencing life and being a human being.
Ultimately, my goal is to feel comfortable enough in my own skin to experience and work through my feelings. I cannot judge myself for the feelings I have. This way I can allow myself to experience happiness and joy in my life.
Anxiety is one of the most common emotional issues dealt with by people in our society. It is common for many people to rely on medication to control feelings of anxiety. Millions of people carry Xanax and take them when they feel anxious. It is not uncommon to hear, “Do you want a Xanax?” when a friend or acquaintance becomes distressed. Medications like Xanax are highly addictive and one of the most abused drugs on the market. It is easy for most people to get a doctor to prescribe this medication. It may reduce the symptoms temporarily, but does nothing to deal with the underlying issue that is the source of the anxiety. Medication does not allow people to develop the skills necessary to manage or overcome anxiety.
Anxiety is the result of our thoughts and the meaning we give to these thoughts. This is the source of all of our emotions. Most of the time people who become anxious are concerned about something that may or may not happen at some future time. This sets off a variety of physical reactions to these thoughts and that is how we recognize our anxiety (distress, panic, worry). In order to overcome and manage these symptoms people can learn to relax, focus on the here and now, and change thoughts that may be caused by irrational beliefs. People are fully capable of learning how to manage anxiety without resorting to the use of addictive medications.
This is a major part of how I have been helping my clients improve the quality of their lives.
I have been asked if someone can be helped to resolve issues by just talking with a counselor. The answer really lies in what is being spoken about and the focus. I am not a big believer that insight focused talk therapy is really affective in relieving symptoms and improving a client’s quality of life. It has also been my own experience as the client that understanding why I have a certain issue or behavior does little to help me change it.
I believe that solution focused, problem solving, and thought changing counseling approaches work best to help improve quality of life. Knowing why you are depressed does not help you overcome the depression or manage the symptoms of depression in the future. Knowing what makes you anxious or what you tend to worry about just provides the reasons you have those feelings. Learning how to change your thinking and what things mean to you can significantly decrease anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias.
Yes, talking helps. But, what is being talked about is most important in helping to reduce symptoms and improve a person’s ability to get the most out of life. That has always been my goal.