Fwd: The Meaning Of Life, Week 38: Dealing With Your Stuff

Life is complicated.

As your Mental Wellness Team we want to remind you that almost all of us have a bunch of stuff that we have had a problem dealing with. Some of us had a very bad childhood, or have felt the sting of rejection, or struggle with self-esteem issues. Most of us deal with self-esteem issues. You may have done some things you are not proud of or made decisions which were, let’s be honest, less than perfect. Anyone who has been alive for a while has been beaten around by life and probably carries a backpack of hurt or pain or loss, grief or failure.

Why is it that we never learned how to deal with emotional issues growing up? I learned a buttload of Geometry and Geography and English but no one ever showed me how to deal with these feelings that are deep inside. Most of us grow up learning how to cope with life from people who don’t really know how to cope with life.

Let’s be honest, dealing with that stuff from your past isn’t easy. Like you, I have heard hundreds of experts groan on about how their system or mindset or new book on sale at Amazon will “transform your life in 8 weeks”. Real mental health clinicians usually take those claims with a grain of salt. Anyone in my field can give you a formula for success and it won’t take 8 weeks.

Knowing the right answers has very little to do with actual change. If you have a major issue with anxiety or depression or abuse or any number of mental challenges, it is going to take work and time. Oh ya,* real change takes time*, and usually lots of it. But with the right tools and a dedication to do whatever it takes, you can begin to experience significant change in just a few months.

One of the reasons change takes time is because of this principle in psychology: Real change begins with changing your mind, not your activities or emotions. Most people want to change their situation or their location or their income or any number of outside things. As I often tell clients, change your mind and your butt will follow. It’s rarely the other way around. There may be little you can do to change those people and problems in your life which constantly try to push you down, and *knowing that is very important*. We have all tried to fix others and eventually we come to realize that at the end of the day, we can only work on ourselves.

As a part of your Mental Health Team I would like to challenge you to *deal with your thoughts*, show you how to practice *taking back control of your impulses, and help you *learn to address your dysfunctional coping skills and thoughts. More on that later.

Hurting people can move forward. You may need to drag your emotions and garbage and racing thoughts, kicking and screaming, back into your control. You will have to fight your own dysfunctional thinking and learn to get control of your mind, battle your obsessions, say no to your desires, and question your own beliefs. This is a great deal of work and pain *but the reward is sanity*, hope, and a shot at a happy life. As the saying goes, *we’re not telling you it’s going to be easy, we’re telling you it will be worth it*.

Don’t be discouraged. These things take time but, before very long, you will begin to see positive results. You only have one precious life and wouldn’t it be amazing if you could learn contentment and wisdom?

There are no shortcuts, contrary to what many people are selling. You can begin today to make your life different. Some people are finished products and have decided to settle for a broken life. Don’t be like those people. To do so is to succumb to bitterness and misery, if not now then soon. So begin right now. Begin small.

Many people work on their mental health like they diet. Every now and then they shake themselves awake and decide to read a book or see someone. These are both very good things but, like most diets, this is a lifestyle change, not a passing fad. As we said months ago, the goal is to become a lifelong learner https://www.facebook.com/notes/excel-martial-arts/becoming-a-lifelong-learner-week-1/1757969434417364. It’s not about one book or one documentary or one more crazy article on the internet about bacon or the ozone or why you should drink 8 glasses of water a day. The journey to mental wellness requires humility and the understanding that there are things I still need to learn https://www.facebook.com/notes/excel-martial-arts/becoming-a-lifelong-learner-week-4-knowing-what-i-do-not-know/1761940290686945, this is not just about great intentions.

Talk to someone. Listen to an audiobook or sit in the sun and pretend to read something good for you. Go back to school. Take on online course. Watch a documentary. Learn enough about your own issues that you gradually change, one experience at a time.

One of the coolest parts about being a counselor is the opportunity to walk alongside people from that first frustrated, hopeless, impossible day; and watch them gradually begin to morph. It may be virtually impossible to see your own change, you live with that mess every day. I get to sit on the outside and watch the genesis take place.

Then one day you walk into my office or table at a coffee shop and it becomes apparent something is different. Neither of us can point to a time or a day when things got this way, it seems to have happened by accident. Most real change, in my experience, doesn’t come from an epiphany or conversion experience. For the rest of us, there is only slogging forward and hoping for the best. And on that day, you suddenly realize something a few of us have noticed for months – you are changed, somehow.

The Meaning Of Life, Week 38: Dealing With Your Stuff

Life is complicated.

As your Mental Wellness Team we want to remind you that almost all of us have a bunch of stuff that we have had a problem dealing with. Some of us had a very bad childhood, or have felt the sting of rejection, or struggle with self-esteem issues. Most of us deal with self-esteem issues. You may have done some things you are not proud of or made decisions which were, let’s be honest, less than perfect. Anyone who has been alive for a while has been beaten around by life and probably carries a backpack of hurt or pain or loss, grief or failure.

Why is it that we never learned how to deal with emotional issues growing up? I learned a buttload of Geometry and Geography and English but no one ever showed me how to deal with these feelings that are deep inside. Most of us grow up learning how to cope with life from people who don’t really know how to cope with life.

Let’s be honest, dealing with that stuff from your past isn’t easy. Like you, I have heard hundreds of experts groan on about how their system or mindset or new book on sale at Amazon will “transform your life in 8 weeks”. Real mental health clinicians usually take those claims with a grain of salt. Anyone in my field can give you a formula for success and it won’t take 8 weeks.

Knowing the right answers has very little to do with actual change. If you have a major issue with anxiety or depression or abuse or any number of mental challenges, it is going to take work and time. Oh ya,* real change takes time*, and usually lots of it. But with the right tools and a dedication to do whatever it takes, you can begin to experience significant change in just a few months.

One of the reasons change takes time is because of this principle in psychology: Real change begins with changing your mind, not your activities or emotions. Most people want to change their situation or their location or their income or any number of outside things. As I often tell clients, change your mind and your butt will follow. It’s rarely the other way around. There may be little you can do to change those people and problems in your life which constantly try to push you down, and *knowing that is very important*. We have all tried to fix others and eventually we come to realize that at the end of the day, we can only work on ourselves.

As a part of your Mental Health Team I would like to challenge you to *deal with your thoughts*, show you how to practice *taking back control of your impulses, and help you *learn to address your dysfunctional coping skills and thoughts. More on that later.

Hurting people can move forward. You may need to drag your emotions and garbage and racing thoughts, kicking and screaming, back into your control. You will have to fight your own dysfunctional thinking and learn to get control of your mind, battle your obsessions, say no to your desires, and question your own beliefs. This is a great deal of work and pain *but the reward is sanity*, hope, and a shot at a happy life. As the saying goes, *we’re not telling you it’s going to be easy, we’re telling you it will be worth it*.

Don’t be discouraged. These things take time but, before very long, you will begin to see positive results. You only have one precious life and wouldn’t it be amazing if you could learn contentment and wisdom?

There are no shortcuts, contrary to what many people are selling. You can begin today to make your life different. Some people are finished products and have decided to settle for a broken life. Don’t be like those people. To do so is to succumb to bitterness and misery, if not now then soon. So begin right now. Begin small.

Many people work on their mental health like they diet. Every now and then they shake themselves awake and decide to read a book or see someone. These are both very good things but, like most diets, this is a lifestyle change, not a passing fad. As we said months ago, the goal is to become a lifelong learner https://www.facebook.com/notes/excel-martial-arts/becoming-a-lifelong-learner-week-1/1757969434417364. It’s not about one book or one documentary or one more crazy article on the internet about bacon or the ozone or why you should drink 8 glasses of water a day. The journey to mental wellness requires humility and the understanding that there are things I still need to learn https://www.facebook.com/notes/excel-martial-arts/becoming-a-lifelong-learner-week-4-knowing-what-i-do-not-know/1761940290686945, this is not just about great intentions.

Talk to someone. Listen to an audiobook or sit in the sun and pretend to read something good for you. Go back to school. Take on online course. Watch a documentary. Learn enough about your own issues that you gradually change, one experience at a time.

One of the coolest parts about being a counselor is the opportunity to walk alongside people from that first frustrated, hopeless, impossible day; and watch them gradually begin to morph. It may be virtually impossible to see your own change, you live with that mess every day. I get to sit on the outside and watch the genesis take place.

Then one day you walk into my office or table at a coffee shop and it becomes apparent something is different. Neither of us can point to a time or a day when things got this way, it seems to have happened by accident. Most real change, in my experience, doesn’t come from an epiphany or conversion experience. For the rest of us, there is only slogging forward and hoping for the best. And on that day, you suddenly realize something a few of us have noticed for months – you are changed, somehow.

Be Careful Out There, Week 28: The 4 Tanks

Back in the 80’s, before some of us were born, there was an evening drama which was quite popular in its day called The Hill Street Blues. Like many shows, this one had its tagline. Most episodes began with a morning briefing at the police stations. At the end of the meeting the person up front would invariably finish his shtick by saying, “Hey, let’s be careful out there.” It was an acknowledgment that life on the streets was tough and it was important to remain on guard, take care of yourself, and not fall into situations where you could potentially get hurt or even killed.

Hey, let’s be careful out there.

Life in the 21st Century is different than at any other time in history. In the past, hundreds of years could go by without nary a shift in life or culture or even science. The Goths used axes and arrows against the Romans, as did Ragnar the Viking hundreds of years later. When the Normans (some of whom were actually Viking descendants of Ragnar’s brother, for you history geeks out there) conquered Henry and took over England, they used bows and axes and swords. Hundreds of years passed with little scientific change.

As we have talked about before, you are living in one of the most bizarre times in human history, perhaps the most bizarre. The advent of the internet and globalization and reality television politics has changed the world in incalculable ways. Your grandparents and parents have seen more change in one lifetime than anyone in history. No wonder people are having difficulty coping. The ways and means that people used for thousands of years to cope with stress and life seem to no longer apply. The world today can stress you out if you let it.

This month our Mental Health Team would like to acknowledge how difficult it can be to live a life that is successful and happy. At EMA we want to encourage you to go to the next level, but we also want to acknowledge that for many of us it’s difficult to be positive and thriving when our world is chaos.

So let’s begin with an object lesson.

When people come for counseling it is often helpful to teach them about their Four Tanks. We all have these tanks. You may wish to think of them as tanks that get emptied or filled. You have an intellectual tank, an emotional tank, a physical tank, and a spiritual tank. As with any engine, when these tanks get empty you become “tapped out”.

Allow me to explain.

I was first introduced to this concept many years ago by a pastor. We were talking and he happened to mention that his emotional tank was, well… tanked. I asked him to explain. Here is what he said.

*Every one of us has four tanks. Intellectual, Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual (he was, after all, a pastor). Many of us spend time making sure we are physically fit and this is our Physical Tank. I work out every day and I’m in decent shape and I know my Physical Tank is basically full. We also have an Intellectual Tank. This is your brainpower. Do you spend time learning and thinking and seeking to improve your life? That’s the Intellectual Tank.*

*He also said that we had a Spiritual Tank – taking time for contemplation, thinking about life, meditation or spiritual disciplines, self-care and comic books and Kitkat bars and wakeboarding. Many of us endeavor to feed our soul, however we choose to define it.*

It was at this point when he turned to me and said, *“I had a nervous breakdown and I didn’t know why. I was leading a big organization and having challenging conversations, and working out, and practicing my spiritual disciplines, but I was still burning out and I didn’t have a clue why. I had no idea that I also had an Emotional Tank. You see, my Intellectual Tank was full, my Physical Tank was looking marvelous, and I was rocking my spiritual side but I was still breaking down because I didn’t realize that I also had an empty Emotional Tank. I was around tragedy and addiction and pain and hurting people and my job was to feel empathy. I was tapped out and didn’t even know it. I started skimming, relationally. I didn’t care anymore. I started thinking about self-medicating. I was bored. I had no idea how draining it can be when the world around you is stressful and grinding and filled with problems and cranky people.*

So he had an emotional breakdown.

Mental health is no longer something you can afford to ignore. The 21st Century is designed to invade your life and psyche with useless and irritating information, without any filter. We live with stress, stress, stress! Humans were never designed to process so much information and pay attention to so many messages, simultaneously. 14th Century serfs didn’t need to check their Instagram and text messages and integrate mentally into a virtual matrix, all the while being bombarded by scary things about the American election or Isis or any number of problems we would never have known about even 50 years ago.

So we invite you to take time to think about how you are really doing. Sometimes coming for a workout isn’t enough to ensure a healthy and happy you. This month we are going to explore the world of mental health, and talk about things like toxic emotions and racing thoughts and invasive feelings and what to do when you want to do something that isn’t good for you. Next week we look at the psychology principle called HALT – hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. That is when things usually go wrong.

This month we will introduce you to the one concept that may just be able to transform your life and make you a Jedi – taking control of your racing thoughts. We may also look at something called the *Fear-Ignorance-Hate Continuum*, or why we are so prone to jump to conclusions when we are afraid but don’t have all the facts. This month is all about encouraging you to be careful out there and remind you to refill your tanks. If you are burning out or stressed out or sick and tired of the real world, you may want to spend ten minutes thinking about your Emotional Tank. Are you taking care of you? Are you burning out? We all need to do a little better at self-care, even if it does make us feel guilty or selfish.

Take care of yourself out there.

Looking At Life Differently, Week 23: Changing The Way I Think About Me

Malala Yousafzai

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

 

Like many of us, there was a time in my life when I thought I should start bodybuilding. To make a long and boring story short and boring, I worked out like a bomb for almost two years and looked virtually the same as when I started. It didn’t help that every wall was a floor-to-ceiling mirror. I tried everything – eating emasculated chicken, dieting, water pills, and supplements guaranteed to pump me up like a helium balloon. Apparently the patented molecules had never encountered anything like my bird-like metabolism before, for after two months of drinking that vial sludge after every meal, all I could show for my efforts was that I had apparently lost the ability to have a bowel movement. This made me gain weight, but not the kind of weight that I was going for.

 

There is no end to what some of us will go to in order to look good on the outside. We are not here to do a social commentary on makeup and Lululemons and those short shorts you have been rocking. Working out is good for you and we want to encourage you to get to the gym or Training Center and drop some sweat. That is not what this is about. We are not interested in  denigrating you for how you dress, or how much you spend on your personal appearance. There is nothing wrong with looking good and we encourage you to shower and occasionally dress up and look your best. I may never truly understand how that eyelash medieval torture device works, but I support your right to attempt to use it without pinching your eyeball.

 

 

But here’s the deal. There is no end to what some of us will go to in order to look good on the outside. This can become problematic when it defines how we feel about ourselves. Living your life to impress others can be a trap that can have a catastrophic impact on how you live your life and how happy you are with that life. So many of us feel as though we somehow do not measure up.

 

Defining yourself by the standards of other people is dangerous, and this need to live up to the expectations of others has been rammed into us by the stick-figured girls in the media who still manage to pull off a six-pack with their Botox and fake body parts. We emulate men photoshopped into perfect thousand dollar suits and new cars, with a supermodel on each arm. Culture tells us that this is success, that this is beauty. Those of us with stretch marks or bellies, with poor cheekbones and weak chins, will never measure up. If you don’t believe me take a look at the long list of aging Hollywood actors who have mutilated their hairlines and faces just to pretend to not be aging. They are paying thousands of dollars to fight a fight they cannot win. We are all getting old. Deal with it.

 

The point we are trying to make is that the system for belonging, for finding love, for feeling valued, is largely messed up. We lie when we date, seeking to put our best foot forward. We look for love in all the wrong places. We judge each other by what we look like, by how well we flirt, or dress, or measure up to some unrealistic standard. It’s all a game, a psychologically damaging contest that often dismisses the best of us, the brightest, the kindest, the most worthwhile… the unbeautiful.

 

Many of us have struggled our entire life to fit in, and feel good about how we look and who we are. We have never been satisfied by the look of our shell. Here’s the bad news. You probably never will be. Ever.

 

The opposite of bad self-esteem is not good self-esteem.

 The opposite of bad self-esteem is self-acceptance.

 

Esteem follows acceptance, not the other way around. You can diet, eat right, work out, take bowel-clenching supplements; but that won’t change how you feel about you on the deepest levels. We are a generation with low self-esteem and insecurity, bombarded by images of perfect teeth and wrinkle-free pretty people with impossible waistlines. You will never be able to compete with Photoshop. Even models don’t really look like models first thing in the morning before they’ve “put on their face”.

 

Maybe it’s time to stop that treadmill, take your toys, and leave the building.

 

Imagine if we tried our best then didn’t care about the rest.
Imagine if we could care a little bit less about our love handles and flaws.
Imagine accepting ourselves exactly how we are, in spite of what we look like.
Imagine the freedom.

 

At Excel Martial Arts we are dedicated to helping you find wholeness and meaning in life, both on the gym mat and in the real world. We seek to encourage you to do your very best, but also enjoy your life and find purpose with the skin you are in. Not all of us will stand on the podium and hear the cheer of the crowd but at the end of the day, that stuff really doesn’t matter as much as we’ve been lead to believe. Your life has meaning, even if you will never be a supermodel. Life can be so much more than these shallow pursuits, and we want to invite you to excel in your very own special way.