7 Ways to Shield Yourself against Anxiety!

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 4, 2020.


Every day we have a choice. We either give into the pressures of daily living or crumble under the weight of stress. The constant flux of life makes stress inevitable.

This year taught us all about the importance of mental health. Pandemics. Racial inequalities. Economic shutdowns. Adjusted graduation celebrations (or none in some cases).  Public Mass suspensions. 

Even the best fiction writers couldn’t write a more complicated and despairing storyline than 2020: Reality is Stranger than Fiction

I understand the need for precaution in slowing down COVID’s spread (in April I contracted the virus and it was a miserable experience). But mental health must be a priority in overall wellness. 

Even though stress will always surround you in some way, shape, or form don’t despair. I have learned to shield myself against the pressures of this world and the snares the Devil lays out to try to entrapment. Here are seven ways to arm you against anxiety:

***NOTE: These are only suggestions. Some of the strategies may not be applicable to your situation at this time in your life. Please use these shields against anxiety as it suits your needs/situation.***

Prayer

1 Peter 5:7 states, “Cast all your worries upon Him because he cares for you.” 

Prayer is communication with the Divine Creator of the Entire Universe. It involves a dialogue not a monologue. Much of my spiritual journey has had me focus on my end of communication—asking God for my wants. I did not always listen. Something I have done to open communication is to be more deliberate in my gratitude.

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Music

 Along with prayer, song safeguards me from anxiety. I used to listen to rock music; however, four years ago I made a shift in the type of music that played in my car. Because the words we hear impact our daily living, my shift to listening to positive and uplifting Christian music protects me from the chaos life throws my way.

Counseling

 Together with prayer and encouraging music, monthly counseling appointments protects me from the foray caused by the foibles of myself and my fellow neighbors. Counselor is a title given to the Holy Spirit as well. Between my professional counseling sessions, I can rely on the aid of the Holy Spirit to console me against daily anxiety.

Reading

 A fourth shield in my armory against anxiety is frequent reading of good books. According to Frederick Douglas, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” While this quote is not necessarily an absolute truth, I will attest that reading can be a doorway to freedom.

As I journey into the literary universes of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, I am afforded respite from the toils of work. Through the written word I am also able to travel—in a sense—back in time to meet holy men and women and learn about how they existed in a world that was not their home.

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Exercise

St. Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7 provided a timeless example of the spiritual life, “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” I joined cross country in high school and my passion for running continues today. During a stressful week, I defend myself from the snares of anxiety by taking my children out in the jogging stroller for a short run. During my neighborhood circuits, I am able to reflect on how my day went and how I may be able to improve on my shortcomings.

Medicine

Anxiety medicine does not work for everyone so feel free to disregard this point. However, pharmaceuticals for stress help me to limit the anxieties I impose on myself. Consistent usage of doctor prescribed anxiety medication is beneficial to my unique situation. It took me a long time to acknowledge that outside help was necessary to help relieve intense stress.

Sacraments

God loves humanity so much that he implemented a support system for his adopted children to use to shield against the prowess of the Devil. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church number 1436,

Eucharist and Penance. Daily conversion and penance find their source and nourishment in the Eucharist, for in it is made present the sacrifice of Christ which has reconciled us with God. Through the Eucharist those who live from the life of Christ are fed and strengthened. “It is a remedy to free us from our daily faults and to preserve us from mortal sins.35

The Holy Spirit absolves me of my sins when I have an authentic contrition. Along with forgiveness, I receive grace to stave off future temptations. Often the sacrament of Confession is the only thing that bring me back to the life of faith when I face despair and doubt in the Divine Providence!

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Whether you are in the shadows of desolation or experiencing consolation, these seven shields form an effective defense against the constant assault of anxiety. Continue to fight the good fight. Aim to be the best version (holiest) of yourself. Trust in the Lord and don’t give impatience, anger, or doubt the final victory. I pray that you take up this challenge daily.

Related Links

Exercise is a shield against stress

3 Incredibly Simple Tools to Incapacitate Anxiety

3 Reasons Why Life is Confusing like a Maze

 

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Daily Donnybrook— How I KO’d My Former Self

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Editor’s Note: Post originally published on August 12, 2017.


Depression and anxiety are invisible disorders that fail to show physical signs to the untrained eye. I may seem like a normal young adult in American. I may appear to have my life together: I am married, have three adorable children, own a house, and have a job with benefits. Outwardly, I seem to be fine and dandy all the time.

In reality, I have been fighting a battle my entire life. My foe knows me at the most intimate level—knows my deepest fear, greatest strengths, and what makes me tick. The greatest challenger I ever faced in life is me! This summer I embarked on a journey to acquire tools, strategies, and weapons to combat “my former self”. Earlier this week, I finally broke through the darkness of negativity, anxiety, and depression. I metaphorically knocked out my opponent in a cage match of cranial proportions! Let me share with you how I achieved that.

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Professional Help

Recently, I started seeing a professional counselor to help me manage my anxiety and to provide tips to overcome stressful situations. Frankly, my pride staved off appointments as long as possible. I have maintained consistency with scheduling and keeping monthly appointment for a few months now. I can definitely tell the tide is shifting toward favoring “my new self”.

This week I faced a stressful situation that normally would knock me out. I would tend to obsess over things outside of my control. I faced a situation where I finally consciously worked to deescalate and did it in an effective, calm, and timely fashion without having any feeling of guilt or anxiety! Professional help from both my counselor and medical doctor– who prescribed me an anxiety medicine that works for me—provided me strength to succeed against my past self.

I used to think that asking for help showed weakness—and that it was a bad thing. My new way of thinking is asking for help still shows weakness—but weakness and vulnerability is not necessarily negative. It is healthy to rely on others.

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Unexpected Friendships

Fellowship is strength. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.” I do not believe it is a coincidence that I was sent two blessings of possible friendships within the past week at work.

A team member at my site stopped my desk and started up a jovial conservation about Green Bay Packer football and the joys [and anguishes] of playing the classic Nintendo 64 game NFL Blitz 2001. No prompting on my end, this meeting was seemingly random, but it was good—we talked for over 20 minutes!

The second example of an unexpected friendship arrived from a different route. I received an unexpected compliment [ please see my post How an Unexpected Compliment Revitalized My Week for more information] from a co-worker at a different work site. This week we have interacted through email and worked on a couple escalated accounts. During the stress of the week, I have been able to look to this team member for positive feedback and support.

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The Magic of Music

Along with professional help and burgeoning work friendships, I have made it a point to increase the amount of Christian music I listen to on the radio during my drives to and from work. A particular inspiring song started playing as I arrived at the employee parking lot this morning. Instead of quickly turning off the car and rushing to work, I stayed to finish the ending of the song. The melody and words calmed my nervous nature down. I am able to reflect on some of the song lyrics throughout the day in my mind when I face a tough situation.

When I come home, I have been incorporating music in the early evening pre-bedtime routine. The benefits are two-fold: we limit television time for our children and music calms my youngest son down and mitigates the severity of his tantrums—they have been getting to concern lately both in frequency and length. Matt Maher, a Catholic singer and song writer, probably gives me the best songs to listen to overcome my anxiety. I strongly encourage you to play his music—I find it incredibly soothing and positive.

Goal: Be Better than Your “Yesterday Self”

I am champion this week’s battle against my “former self”. Here is the thing about depression and anxiety, this battle is ongoing and constant. Tomorrow presents a new opportunity for me to KO my “former self”. Professional help, fellowship of friends, and positive music created the perfect game-plan to defeat my former way of thinking. If you are struggling with depression and anxiety, try these tactics. Sometimes it may work. For some people these strategies may not work. The key is learning to find people and tools to help you on your our “Daily Donnybrook against your former self”.

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A Good Friday Reflection: Fixing Our Gaze on Golgotha

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 19, 2019.


A Prayer Before the Cross

Lord Jesus Christ, I petition you as your most unworthy servant and adopted child through the waters of Baptism to hear my petitions. Please soothe the anxiety in my heart, mind, and soul over the pressures, toils, and attacks of despair the Enemy sends my way. Self-doubt and self-loathing pervades me mind throughout today.

Saint  Catherine of Sienna wrote, “Every great burden becomes light beneath this most holy yoke of the sweet will of God.” May I receive the graces from the Holy Spirit to love myself and confidently seek your Will, not for my sake but as in loving myself I make a worthy offering to you Most Holy God.

My sins wound me. Damage my relationship with myself, my neighbors, and ultimately You Most Holy Trinity. I ask the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints in Heaven to help re-orient my gaze to the Cross of Jesus—crucified on Golgotha.

Focus on God

May Mary Intercede for Us

I recall the words from a homily by my parish priest who declared, “It is through the atmosphere of Mary that we truly are able to receive the light of the Son.” According to John 19:26-27, “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ 27 Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”

At the foot of the Cross, Jesus entrusted his beloved disciple [and all humanity] to his mother. More important, Jesus gifts us the blessing of the Blessed Virgin Mary as well.

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Failures, trials, and doubts will surround us throughout life. Uniting ourselves to Christ’s suffering in Calvary brings joys and peace in the struggle. Remembering that we are all in this pilgrim journey, towards holiness, together helps sustain me in my downtrodden times.

Related Links

Where is Golgotha? Where did Jesus die? Church of Holy Sepulchre vs. the Garden Tomb

Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D. Part 4- Jesus as the New Passover Lamb

Why Maundy Thursday is an Important Part of Holy Week

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3 Effective Tips to Acquire Mentality Agility and a Calm Mind


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on August 3rd, 2018.


The Benefits of a calm mind

Are you feeling sluggish? Groggy? Quick-tempered? Do you struggle to move on from a trying situation despite your best efforts?

If you answered yes to at least one of the questions, or even all of them, please know that you are not alone! I often struggle with keeping up in an ever-changing work-place and quickening of life in general. I struggle to handle difficult and frustrating situations with grace and patience.  What is the solution?

Experts, educators, doctors, psychologists, and scientist provide a panoply of tips and methods to improve people who suffer from anxiety and feelings of constant lack of energy. My goal today is not to replace or compete with any of those already tried and true methods. Instead, I want to share my personal experience living with and dealing with ADHD and anxiety.

Although ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, it sort of is a misnomer—people with this diagnosis do not always fail to pay attention. Rather, I go through periods where I hyper-focus. What this means is that I tend to fixate or zoom-in on a particular subject/hobby that I am passionate about. When this happens I tend to lost sight of things happening around me—my wife or children asking me a question or other perspectives at work.

Shifting my focus to and from various things in the day is tough for me, but I discovered a few strategies that help me form a habit to more agilely more from task to task throughout the day.  The advice below comes from things that worked for me personally to limit my anxiety and increase my ability to move from trying situations easier and more positively.

Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry

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Saint Padre Pio, a 20th century mystic and stigmatist, was a man whose powerful presence captivated a multitude of people. “Pray, hope, and don’t worry,” he exclaimed. When I first heard this statement in high school, I always thought it was a pious saying that overly religious people told you when things got tough. Certainly, I did not believe praying, hoping, and simply not worrying actually had a basis in reality.

After nearly a decade of being a parent, I learned about the power of prayer. Hoping even amid a seemingly hopeless situation is effective. The last part of DO NOT WORRY is a part that I struggle with mightily, but at least I am aware of my deficiency. Padre Pio continues to provide comfort to me. He reminded me the importance of the presence of God even when you cannot feel it,

Jesus is with you even when you don’t feel His presence. He is never so close to you as He is during your spiritual battles. Jesus is always there, close to you, encouraging you to fight your battle courageously. He is there to ward off the enemy’s blows so that you may not be hurt.

Remind Yourself to be Thankful

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Equally important as praying is reminding yourself to be thankful. In fact, among the most common prayer is that of gratitude for the blessings in one’s life.

Forming a habit of shifting my mindset to reflecting on the blessings in my life took time and work. Ultimately, this habit has paid off! I found a direct correlation with the frequency of thankful thoughts with my ability to more quickly navigate between stressful situation.

Former NFL quarterback and devout Christian Tim Tebow spoke of thanksgiving in this way, “I pray to start my day and finish it in prayer. I’m just thankful for everything, all the blessings in my life, trying to stay that way. I think that’s the best way to start your day and finish your day. It keeps everything in perspective.”

As someone with diagnosed ADHD, I struggle with honing in on the trees of the forest instead of stepping away to notice the beauty of the forest [or life] as a whole. Jotting down a few of my blessings everyday on a Post-It note is an easy way for me to daily remind myself to continue an attitude of gratitude.

Exercise with Exorcise Your Personal Demons

Exercise Your Demons

My favorite philosopher Aristotle [sorry Plato!] wrote about the importance of developing a regular routine, “Quality is not an act, it is a habit.” Along with filling myself spiritually and emotionally with prayer and a thankful mindset, frequent exercise combats my inner demons of impatience and anger that get pent up after a stress-filled day at work and home.

Running calms my mind and provides me energy. St. Paul uses the analogy of running frequently in his letters, but among my favorite quotes comes from 1 Corinthians 9:26 when he writes, “Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly.”

Jogging intermittently or aimlessly does me no good in the long run. Frequent jogs at least three times a week for 2-3 miles provide me the best defense against my personal vices of anger, bitterness, impatience, and judgmental thoughts.

After a fulfilling 5k, I almost immediately experience a sense of joy and relief. Any lingering anxiety from earlier in the day disappeared. Focusing on a landmark or sign throughout my jog helps motivate me to push past any exhaustion or temptation to take a break.

Forming a healthy habit of prayer, thanksgiving, and exercise [mental and physical] will not happen overnight. The key is to acknowledge your progress and pick yourself up when you fall—believe me falling and failing is guaranteed. Good habits take time. Practice makes progress. Soon you will be able to encounter a difficult situation and more easily able to overcome.

Related Links

3 Reasons the Worst Monday Ever Failed to Stop My Joy

3 Simple Ways to Find Joy

Catholic Joy?

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How Saint Teresa of Avila will help You Trust in God

Saint Teresa of Avila

There’s a lot of anxiety out there and I’m feeling it.

This has been one of the few pieces of writing that calms me down 100% of the time.

I didn’t choose Avila’s name because I liked the sound of it (although I think it’s a beautiful name). I picked it because of my close devotion to Saint Teresa of Avila.

Prayer of Saint Teresa of Avila

Today is the beginning of a new habit of me carrying her prayer card in my pocket at work to remind me of God’s Providence and Love.

Saint Teresa of Avila pray for us!

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A Letter to the Downtrodden and Suffering


Editor’s note: Article originally published on September 7, 2017.


Dear Fellow Souls and Pilgrims on this Earthly Journey,

Hopelessness seems to cover the world. Hurricane Harvey decimated large parts of Houston. South Asia continues to experience chronic flooding. People suffer across the globe in large and small ways. Today, I wish to share my recent episodes of depression, I am not writing to complain about my situation, rather I hope to unite my suffering [albeit quite small in comparison to others] to others in great need. I want to be in communion with my fellow man.

According to Helen Keller,

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.

I cannot grow as a decent human being without learning from the school of suffering.

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Depression Strikes Often

Depression hit me again the past few weeks. Similar to an ocean, anxiety and sadness move in waves with brief periods of respite before the next deluge of depression comes crashing onto my shore. I feel a sense of hopelessness.

What is going on with my life to trigger these feelings? To be frank, I am not sure. Life appears to be going well: I have an amazing wife, family, good shelter, and a job. I had a recent change in anxiety medicine and changes are occurring rather frequently at work. Still, these concerns should be minor compared to people suffering loss due to the recent natural disasters. Depression shrinks my perspective. I see through narrower glasses.

Perhaps, you are similar to me. If you suffer from depression, whether it is severe or mild I want to unite myself to your suffering. I wish to take up my cross if only it may help widen my scope. Prying open a narrow gaze is painful. However, authentic and natural development involves growing pains.

Share Your Suffering with Others

If you are downtrodden, as I am currently, share your experience. Talk with people you trust. Talk to God—it works. Prayer is effective because it is communication with Him who created the universe. Oftentimes, I need to fall unto my knees and become downtrodden before I am able to gaze upward in prayer. Saint Mother Teresa once said, “Joy is prayer; joy is strength: joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.”

Although, I know my depression may likely come back again, I am aware of a strength to get me through the valley of tears—prayer. Prayer ultimately leads me toward an even-keeled path in my pilgrim journey on earth.

With great love and hope to alleviate your downtrodden soul,

Matthew, The Simple Catholic

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Why St. Martha is the Perfect Saint for My Birthday!


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 31,  2017.


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July 29th was my 30th birthday! More importantly it is the Feast Day of St. Martha the friend of Jesus Christ and sister to St. Lazarus and St. Mary. I have always shared a special connection to this ancient Christian role model. My own personal journey to overcome anxiety, worry, OCD, and constant movement in both my daily and spiritual life. Here I want to share a couple ways by which Martha is a perfect person to share July 29th.

Action, Action, Action

Diagnosed with ADHD at a young age, I remember always being in motion as a kid. I know that sounds cliché to talk about children moving around, wiggling, and lacking focus. But for me that was and still is true. I struggled with sitting still. I seen this trait passed on to my own children as well.

My kids rarely are able to sit down for a complete meal. In fact they have a tough time sitting still for more than a couple minutes at a time. The action and constant movement of St. Martha appeals to me on a personal level. busyness.jpg

“Martha [Matt], Martha [Matt], you are anxious and worried about many things”

Another reason the patron saint of homemakers is a perfect person to share my birthday with is due to her anxiety. Martha complains directly to Jesus about her sister Mary in Luke 10:40, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” 

Martha’s tactless manner upon which she communicated her frustrations about her sister to Jesus negated her hospitality. Jesus calmly replied, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.42 There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

How often do I experience similar frustrations when I think I am doing more to prepare for guests than my wife or other members of my family. Preparation and hospitality are good in and of themselves. Where the trouble lies in Martha’s situation is she worried about something fleeting [the itinerary of the feast]  instead of cleaving to the eternal [sitting at the feet of Christ].

Initial doubt

Along with both the personal limitations Martha struggled with constantly and the focus on the minutiae of daily life, her initial doubt of Jesus’ ability to help Lazarus reminds me of my own frequent self-doubt. According to John 11, Jesus heard about Lazarus’, the brother of Mary and Martha, severe sickness.

I always found these two sentences in this story interesting and bewildering: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was” (John 11: 5-6). Wait. If Jesus really loved his friends, why in the world did he procrastinate the equivalent of a weekend’s worth of time?

To be honest, this passage was a difficulty for myself. It is reading the entirely of the chapter—and reading it in light of the Resurrected Christ—that I realized John is preparing us for a tremendous miracle—the raising of Lazarus.

Trust Follows Doubt

Martha’s reply to Jesus entering the city of Bethany is similar to something I would say, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!!”  (John 11: 21). I often lament to God saying, “If only you answered my prayers timely would I not be suffering at this moment!”

St. Paul reassures us that even in the face of suffering, doubt, and strife, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28). This was actually the first line in the second reading of the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 30th). I  planned to write this post on Saturday. I am grateful that my friend took me to see the newest Spiderman movie in theaters for my birthday. God allowed the simple occasion of a movie to help make the connection between Paul’s message and Martha’s anxiety. We know that all things work for good for those who love God. This timeless message also reminds me of this Lauren Daigle’s Trust in You

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

Martha is known as the patron saint of housekeepers, cooks, laundry workers, and servants. While I am not a great cook, I am a clean-freak. As a result of my OCD, I tend to do the majority of the household cleaning chores [I have control issues that I am currently working on].

I also helped my mom with her cleaning business as a kid and I worked in the fast food industry cooking and serving food for almost seven years during high school and college. Little did I know God was using my experiences with menial jobs to forge a relationship with one of the New Testament saints.

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Going into writing this post, I had some anxiety about how I would finish it properly. What I have learned is that God will transform the ordinary. In this case, God took my anxiety and work experiences and raised it to a newness of creation. Sharing my birthday with the feast day of St. Martha of Bethany is an honor and a privilege. While I can wait to get another year older I cannot wait to celebrate this wonderful saint’s feast day again next year!

The Office celebration gif29Related Links

Saint Martha-Catholic Online

Memorial of Saint Martha

4 Reasons to Never Worry—Trust God Will Provide

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