How to Be a Supportive Partner During Pregnancy (and Beyond)

HOW TO BE A SUPPORTIVE PARTNER DURING PREGNANCY (AND BEYOND)

David Howard

THE GIST

  • Numerous studies have shown the benefits of having a partner who is supportive or perceived to be supportive. Conversely, having a partner who is perceived to be unsupportive is a predictor of depression and anxiety both before and after a child’s birth.
  • Start early. Being a supportive partner begins in the months before delivery, when an expectant mother’s anxiety levels may be rising about giving birth and the changes a baby brings.
  • Make a plan for your supportive role both during and after the baby’s arrival, but be flexible. There’s no script for how things are going to go.
  • New research indicates that supporters may need support of their own: They can feel isolated or rejected but question the legitimacy of their experiences.

If you’ve watched any movies with birth scenes, you may have noticed that the partner’s role often fits into one of two categories: He — and it’s always a he — is a comically inept second fiddle, fainting just when he’s needed most, or else absent entirely, inhaling a cigar in a nearby pub. 

These dated archetypes exist for a reason. What actually comprises a supportive partner has only come into focus in recent years, as fathers and same-sex partners have become more central to the birth and all that comes after. But the research is resoundingly clear: A strong mate makes a difference. Having a supportive partner is good for everyone involved, including the baby.

The scientific literature is less clear on what specific strategies best support pregnant women — it’s tough in a clinical setting to isolate the benefits of, say, a well-timed hug or a promise to handle 3 a.m. feedings. But the three researchers I spoke to distilled their studies into some real-world advice.

WHAT TO DO

  • Connect with each other well before the due date.

This should be even more of a priority than buying the right stroller. “The focus is so much on practical needs,” said Dr. Pam Pilkington, Ph.D., a perinatal psychologist who practices at the Centre for Perinatal Psychology in Melbourne, Australia, and founder of Partners to Parents, a resource site developed by a team of researchers and psychologists at Australian Catholic University to provide guidance for partners. “During pregnancy, people perhaps don’t focus on the couple relationship, or supporting each other emotionally as much as they could.”

In practical terms, this means talking often and openly about how you’re both feeling — anxious, excited, uncertain, whatever it is, Dr. Pilkington said — then validating each other, making sure you both feel heard and accepted. An example: After a month at home, a new mother might say, “I feel trapped here all day while you’re at work.” The supportive answer here is not, “I need to work so we can pay the bills. Why don’t you get your mother to come help?” Rather, a validating answer would be: “I’m sorry that you’re feeling pinned in place. It sounds like you’re missing seeing your friends at the office.” 

Trying to build mirroring-and-validating skills during the relative calm before your child’s arrival will help cement your bond for the challenges to come, Dr. Pilkington said.

  • Make your good intentions known.

Making yourself of service to another is what’s known in scientific vernacular as “offering social support.” Researchers call it a mysterious force that has tangible benefits. “There’s a magic about social support,” said Dr. Christine Dunkel Schetter, Ph.D., a professor of psychology and psychiatry at UCLA who has studied its effect on stressful situations, including pregnancies. “And the magic is that when it’s really working in these kinds of situations, it’s about things that take place between two people. And it’s about what one person says to the other, or does, that makes them feel better.”

Part of the magic of social support?Even when an expectant mother merely perceives that she has a supportive partner, she’s more likely to come through pregnancy happy and healthy, research shows. Studies have variously found that partner support is associated with better birth outcomes and lower levels of distress and depression among both mothers and infants.

But follow-up is key, too, said Dr. Dunkel Schetter. If you don’t actually come through on a promise to assume half of the diaper-changing duties, the benefits of perceived support quickly trail off.

Sometimes, supportive partners will learn that the best kinds of support are nonverbal — offering a hug during a low emotional ebb. And the support should be offered unconditionally. “The person giving it can’t say, ‘Now you owe me, you’re obligated, I’ve done so much for you,’ ” said Dr. Dunkel Schetter.

CenteringPregnancy, a program developed by the Yale School of Nursing, provides social support instruction, among other services, in a group setting for women and their partners; it’s now available in health-care facilities around the United States. (You can find a nearby location on the website.)

  • Take a birthing class — but be open-minded when the day arrives.

Classes like the Bradley Method, which teaches that childbirth can be managed through deep breathing and the support of a partner or labor coach, can be helpful in making you feel more prepared, and offering a sense of what to expect. But Dr. Pilkington pointed out that birth is not the same as being a cast member in a play. The baby sometimes rewrites the script. Things take unexpected turns, or the mother’s preferences before going into labor might change 12 hours in. The partner should avoid rigid thinking about how it was supposed to go, and instead help the mother roll with whatever’s happening and support her choices along the way, Dr. Pilkington said.

  • Have a plan for the weeks after the baby arrives…

Specifically, the partner can draw up an action plan in which he or she commits to executing certain helpful tasks. Maybe it’s late-night feedings if the mother is going to pump breast milk or your baby is on formula. Maybe it’s a daily break that the mom can count on, like taking the baby out for a walk so she can nap or take a bath, said Dr. Pilkington.

  • … But be flexible.

Planning to do those 3 a.m. feedings is one thing. The searing exhaustion that kicks in after four weeks of doing that is another. During your child’s early life, it’s best to expect some meltdowns. (The baby will cry sometimes, too.) Revisit the plan anytime based on whatever challenges you might face at each stage of your baby’s life. It’s O.K. to ask for extra support from friends and family, Dr. Pilkington said. Both parents can use a break in the first couple of months of their baby’s life.  

  • Know your role with feeding.

One task the mother generally handles alone is breastfeeding. But a 2015 studyled by the University of Ontario Institute of Technology suggested that a partner’s active involvement —learning how breastfeeding works and providing encouragement — leads to “significant improvements” in breastfeeding duration. Then think of simple, commonsense ways to step up: Helping the mother stay hydrated by offering a glass of water, bringing healthy snacks and providing a comfortable environment, Dr. Pilkington said.

For parents who can’t breastfeed or choose not to, Dr. Pilkington says it’s important to remember they haven’t failed. “How parents feed their infant is a personal choice that should be based on their specific situation,” she said. If the mother is pumping, you can help maintain the equipment and offer to bottle-feed using the milk. Parents feeding their baby with a bottle — whether it’s formula or breast milk — can split overnight duties, one taking the 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift, the other holding down the 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. slot, for example. Partners using formula can make sure there are adequate supplies on hand at all times and know how to mix it. Some formulas can be premixed and stored in the fridge for up to 24 hours, which could save an exhausted mom from having to drowsily scoop powder in the small hours of the night.

  • Expect that your sex life will change — for a while, at least.

This is a biological imperative, so expect the temperature to be dialed down in the marital bed post-birth (for a duration that depends on the circumstances of the delivery; consult a professional). And even after you’re medically cleared, that doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same or have much energy for sex early on. Make a point to seek out alternate forms of intimacy, like hand-holding and cuddling, Dr. Pilkington said. The key, again, is to maintain an emotional connection and strong lines of communication.

  • Look for signs of your own stress, and act on them.

The psychological effect on partners after a baby’s arrival is mostly a black hole in the scientific realm. Dr. Pilkington noted that only 19 of the 120 recent studies around pregnancy touched on outcomes for fathers or partners, and researchers openly acknowledge the need for more research. But the few studies that have been done show that fathers can struggle to navigate this interlude. Dr. Zoe Darwin, Ph.D., a lecturer in maternal health at the University of Leeds in the U.K. who has conducted some early inquiries in this area, found that men often feel stressed and detached but want to keep the spotlight on the mother and child. “The research that we’ve done,” she said, “found that although some of the men we spoke with felt excluded by maternity services, and had experienced significant stress in this period, they often questioned the legitimacy of their experiences and their entitlement to support.” If you feel yourself struggling, let your partner know, and consult a caregiver.


WHEN TO WORRY

If you’re struggling with depression or anxiety, you may need more than a hug or the sage words of a parenting class. Seek professional help from a counselor.

SOURCES

Dr. Pam Pilkington, Ph.D., perinatal psychologist who practices at the Centre for Perinatal Psychology in Melbourne, Australia.

Dr. Christine Dunkel Schetter, Ph.D., professor of psychology and psychiatry at UCLA, expert on stress processes in pregnancy

Dr. Zoe Darwin, Ph.D., lecturer in maternal health at the University of Leeds in the U.K. who specializes in mental health and wellbeing during and after pregnancy.

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep Without Drugs

GETTING A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP WITHOUT DRUGS

Jane E. Brody

Alternatives to prescription drugs for insomnia offer better, safer and more long-lasting solutions, experts say.

Shakespeare wisely recognized that sleep “knits up the ravell’d sleave of care” and relieves life’s physical and emotional pains. Alas, this “chief nourisher in life’s feast,” as he called it, often eludes millions of people who suffer from insomnia. Desperate to fall asleep or fall back to sleep, many resort to Ambien or another of the so-called “Z drugs” to get elusive shut-eye.

But except for people with short-term sleep-disrupting issues, like post-surgical pain or bereavement, these sedative-hypnotics have a time-limited benefit and can sometimes cause more serious problems than they might prevent. They should not be used for more than four or five weeks.

In April, the Food and Drug Administration added a boxed warning to the prescription insomnia drugs zolpidem (Ambien, Edluar, Intermezzo and Zolpimist), zaleplon (Sonata) and eszopiclone (Lunesta) following reports of injury and death from sleepwalking, sleep-driving and engaging in other hazardous activities while not fully awake.

Last July, a Georgia woman was arrested when she drove the wrong way on a highway the day after using Ambien, as prescribed, to help her sleep. Although she had consumed no alcohol, she flunked a standard sobriety test and told police she was unaware of how she ended up going the wrong way.

Although extreme reactions to these sleep drugs are thought to be uncommon, they are unpredictable and can be disastrous when they occur. Some have resulted in vehicular fatalities.

As many as 20 percent to 30 percent of people in the general population sleep poorly. They may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, some awaken much too early, while others do not feel rested despite spending a full night seemingly asleep in bed. For one person in 10, insomnia is a chronic problem that repeats itself night after night. Little wonder that so many resort to sleeping pills to cope with it.

“Short sleep is not just an irritant. It has real consequences beyond just feeling crummy the next day,” Adam P. Spira, a sleep researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told me.

However, Dr. Spira and other experts report that there are better, safer and more long-lasting alternatives than prescription drugs to treat this common problem. The alternatives are especially valuable for older people who metabolize drugs more slowly, are more likely to have treatable underlying causes of their insomnia and are more susceptible to adverse side effects of medications.

“Insomnia is typically undertreated, and nonpharmacologic interventions are underused by health care practitioners,” Dr. Nabil S. Kamel, a geriatrician now at Cox Health in Springfield, Mo., and Dr. Julie K. Gammack, a geriatrician at the St. Louis University Health Sciences Center, wrote in The American Journal of Medicine.

In other words, when persistent insomnia is a problem, before your doctor writes a prescription for a sleeping pill, ask whether there are other remedies that may be safer, more effective and longer lasting.

For example, if pain or other symptoms of a medical disorder are keeping you awake, the first step should be treatment of the underlying ailment to minimize its sleep-disrupting effects. I once spent three sleepless nights tortured by intense itchiness until a dermatologist prescribed medication for what turned out to be an invasion of bird mites. More recently, my middle-of-the-night leg cramps have been nearly entirely eliminated by consuming eight ounces of quinine-containing tonic water (actually, diet tonic) every night before bed. If you can’t handle that amount of liquid close to bedtime, drink it earlier in the evening or perhaps try a herbal remedy that I use when traveling: Hyland’s Leg Cramps, which contains quinine as one of its active ingredients.

Sometimes, the medication given to treat a chronic ailment interferes with the ability to get a good night’s sleep. In that case, the doctor may be able to prescribe a lower dose, substitute a different drug or adjust the timing. But when the symptoms of a chronic ailment itself disrupts sleep, treatment by a specialist, including perhaps an expert in pain management, may be needed to improve your ability to sleep. If persistent emotional problems are what keep you awake, consider consulting a psychologist, psychiatric social worker or psychiatrist before reaching for a sleeping pill.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is now considered the best treatment for insomnia, especially for older adults. It teaches people to challenge disruptive negative thinking and replace it with positive thoughts that counter arousal and induce relaxation. Before going to bed, try using soothing imagery or meditation to reduce cognitive arousal.

The American College of Physicians recommends cognitive behavioral therapy as “the first-line treatment for adults with chronic insomnia.”

It is much safer than drugs and, unlike sleeping pills that work only when taken and shouldn’t be used long-term, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, or CBT-I, teaches effective strategies that continue to work long after the therapy ends.

The physicians’ college suggests that if needed, sleep medication should be used only short-term while learning the techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.

Also helpful is what sleep experts call stimulus-control therapy — limiting bedroom time to sleeping and sex. You learn to associate the bedroom with sleep by avoiding activities incompatible with it. If you spend too much time lying sleepless in bed, your brain starts to link the bedroom with not sleeping. Also avoid going to bed when you’re not sleepy.

If you don’t fall asleep after about 20 minutes in bed, Dr. Kamel and Dr. Gammack recommend getting up, perhaps taking a bath or reading, then returning to bed when you feel sleepy.

If all else fails, sleep-restriction therapy can be effective even after a week or two, especially at eliminating prolonged wakefulness in the middle of the night. It doesn’t restrict sleep itself but limits the time spent not sleeping by restricting time in bed to how long you currently sleep. Go to bed at about the same time every night, set an alarm to get up, and maintain that waking time every day for at least two weeks no matter how much you slept the night before. Finally, gradually extend your time in bed by 15 to 30 minutes, allowing a week between each extension, until you are able to get the amount of restful sleep you need with little or no wakefulness in the middle of the night.

Preparing My Family for Life Without Me

PREPARING MY FAMILY FOR LIFE WITHOUT ME

Mary Bergstrom

After eight heart attacks, a young wife and mother with an uncommon condition curates her legacy while decorating a new home.

Putting up pictures in our new house last fall, I opted for nails, not tape. My family had just relocated from California to Brooklyn, our fourth move in five years. With so much change, it had been hard to feel settled, but it was my job to try.

I wanted to create a sense of stability while my children, then 8 and 11, were still innocent enough to believe that life could be stable. I wanted to create a sense of hope while my husband, Jonathan, was still young enough to start over.

Although I was only 45, my precarious health had taught me to use time wisely. On the agenda that day was to get settled in our new home, a wide brownstone with big windows, just like I had always wanted. With light reflecting against high ivory walls, the house had a familiar feeling of peace. As Jonathan tended to the unpacking, I charged myself with decorating, a job that sounded frivolous, but I knew better.

With the children at school, I sat at the kitchen table, digging through boxes. Over the years I had taken thousands of photos, wanting to document every moment of our time together, make each one extend as far as possible. I was looking for pictures that had the power to turn bitter memories into sweet. Images that said, “I love you more than anything.” Images that whispered, “I can’t express how sorry I am to leave you.”

I headed upstairs with photos, nails and a hammer. My children had their own bedrooms, each with a window looking into the garden. I would start there and work my way through the house. By the time they got back from school, our new home would be filled with cozy memories. If I couldn’t make my family feel safe, I could at least create some level of comfort.

I flipped through options, looking for shots of us touching skin and smiling wide to convey happy intimacy, of us camping to hint at the natural cycle of life and of them with family and friends to show that love is always available.

Every day, I prepare. I take a slew of medications and supplements. I go to this doctor, that psychic. I pray. I keep nitroglycerin in my car, in my backpack, by my bed. My hospital basics are packed. After eight heart attacks, I have learned to be ready.

Jonathan ducked his head in. “How’s it going in here?”

“You scared me,” I said.

“Join the club.”

Jonathan is seven years older than me. He has a stressful job. He doesn’t take vitamins or exercise regularly. Even so, my health has been the primary focus for our entire marriage. Nothing can compete with spontaneous coronary artery dissection, an uncommon and incurable condition that has taken over my left, right and diagonal arteries. I could have a fatal heart attack tomorrow or I could not. It’s the not knowing that has made me live in the present.

“How does this look?” I said, holding a wooden frame against the wall. In the photo, my daughter is a baby asleep in my arms. I’m kissing her forehead, wrapping my sweater around her tiny body. I remember this moment and, because I have told her about it time and time again, so does she.

“It’s not just good,” he said, “it’s good enough.” Of course, he was right.

Since I had my first heart attack at 32, we have opened up to each other in ways that wouldn’t have seemed possible before. We no longer indulge in setting and not meeting expectations. We stay present and keep moving forward. We help each other get on with whatever comes next. With uncertainty, we have become confident partners.

The first time I had a heart attack, no one took me seriously. The emergency room doctors assumed I was having a panic attack. What could be wrong with the newlywed with a Pilates body?

No one paid any attention until the blood test for troponins came back positive. Troponins are proteins that are released when the heart has been damaged. Looking me up and down, they asked if I had taken cocaine.

One by one, the doctors walked away from my case, prescribing medication for high blood pressure and high cholesterol, problems I didn’t have.

We turned crisis into opportunity. The universe, we reasoned, was inviting us to live our dream life. Jonathan and I moved to China. We adopted two children. I started a business and wrote a book. Life was a glamorous adventure; I got everything I thought I wanted.

Then, eight years into that perfect life, I had another heart attack. My heart stopped for 10 seconds.

When you count them, 10 seconds isn’t long. My children can’t get their shoes on in 10 seconds. Sometimes it takes 10 seconds for me to remember where I parked the car. But 10 seconds is long enough to see what’s on the other side of life — to feel my grandpa again, to see the light, to find peace.

Those 10 seconds changed everything. After my near-death experience, we moved back to the United States. I gave up my business. I never went back to my old life. I never wanted to.

Because of my condition, I feel an urgency to help my family understand who I am and what I believe in. Shedding old ideas about work and success, I have been able to show them what matters most to me, and I have been present as they explore what matters most for themselves.

This way of life is work. It takes double doses of spirituality, optimism and pragmatism. Every day, we practice. We talk about what life would look like without me, we joke that I am the Health Queen, we pray. Their confidence is my greatest achievement. In our bubble, I’m just a mother and a partner, and for that, I’m both grateful and proud.

Over the years, we have shared more about life and what I have experienced in death. We have learned to accept what is and release what isn’t. We have had time to make plans for this life and also talk openly about wanting to be a family again in the next. After this incarnation, we hope to be hawks.

So far, our luck has stood up; I have recovered from every attack. My heart’s ability to pump blood actually increased after the last five heart attacks. Its ejection fraction went from 47 to 36 to 50. A normal range is 55 to 65. With so many unknowns, there is a lot of room for miracles.

Through the window, I saw the neighbor feeding an impressive congregation of squirrels and birds. Our dog raced to the fence. “Stop barking!” I called out. I rapped on the window to get her attention.

When I yell, my chest tightens. I sense heart attacks long before doctors can. I have learned to trust myself and so I do. I put down my tools, sat on the edge of my daughter’s bed. Heart attacks have shaken me while I was working out, house hunting, sleeping, getting ready for yoga and helping with homework. My heart makes no guarantees.

The tightening across my chest stretched like a rubber band. There was a pinching close to the defibrillator that was implanted near my heart. A new discomfort but not an attack. As soon as my heart relaxed, I returned to selecting pictures.

More than decorating, I was curating my legacy. These images would surround my family the next time I went to the hospital, and they would provide comfort if I didn’t come back. These pictures would become priceless.

“I love you from here to Paris to Ubud,” I say to my children when I put them to bed, calling out places we used to go before I anchored us closer to home. My interests don’t extend so far anymore. I stay with my children until they fall asleep, and, in the morning, they crawl into bed with us. We are so lucky. I wouldn’t give up this intimacy for anything.

To stay with my family, I have tethered myself to new ways of doing things. I have stopped eating and sleeping the way I want. I have exercised more, then less, then not at all. I have learned to rely on doctors more, then less, then not at all. I have hunted for possible cures more, then less, then not at all. What matters most is already in front of me.

This heart has provided complete clarity, become a trusted instrument for focus. Fear is a distraction; love and gratitude are my true purpose. That morning, all I could do was stay clear on what matters most. I picked up the hammer and nail. I could see it come together: a house filled with happy memories, a place we could settle.

The Surprising Benefits of Relentlessly Auditing Your Life

THE SURPRISING BENEFITS OF RELENTLESSLY AUDITING YOUR LIFE

Amy Westervelt

We tend to think that good marriages and happy families are born of love and care, not spreadsheets. But what if that’s wrong?

My husband had been trying to sell me on his method for years before I finally relented. An efficiency consultant who had once worked in the car industry in Japan, he wanted to “Toyota Way” our lives. I wanted him to keep his spreadsheets to himself.

But a house, a baby and some career changes later, as I was folding tiny T-shirts while doing an interview and rocking the baby’s chair with my foot, I gave in. I was overwhelmed. Maybe a spreadsheet could help after all.

The method, as my husband would be shouting right now, is of course more than just a spreadsheet. It’s based on the Japanese notion of “kaizen,”or continuous improvement, made famous in 2001 when Toyota singled it out as one of the pillars of the company’s success. You pick a goal, figure out the main components behind it, collect data on those components and work out what you can do to move closer to the goal.

In the case of Toyota, the goal was higher quality and increased profits. When we translated the idea to our home life, the goal was a little simpler but also a lot more complicated — happiness. We weren’t sure what drove it, so we decided to collect data on everything: how many hours we were sleeping a night, how long we spent on housework or child care, the amount of alone time, social time, commuting time, you name it. We assigned a score from one to 10 to each day, and then gave a primary reason for each score: not enough sleep, work sucked and, sometimes, “relationship bad feeling.”

Soon enough, we began to spot patterns: It turns out that the minimum number of hours I can sleep without wanting to run away from my family is five and a half. Less than an hour a week of personal time also sent me to a dark place. My husband found that his happiness rose and fell with hours spent hanging out with friends or sitting in traffic.

And so we started trying to improve our scores. We started small. I tried to shift around my workload to include more time to read and think. My husband began commuting by train so that he could bike from the station to work, incorporating exercise into his day and eliminating time spent in traffic altogether.

The project led to a major life change. Our spreadsheets hammered home that what contributed most to our happiness was time spent together or with friends — while, crucially, not working — and there was no way to get more of that if we continued to live in the Bay Area, one of the most expensive parts of the country. So I proposed an idea that would have seemed radical were there not so much data backing it: “I think you should quit your job, we should sell our house, and we should move somewhere cheaper,” I told my husband matter-of-factly one day. So we did.

Feeling uncomfortable right now? I get it. There’s a lot to feel anxious or eye-rolly about. I fully admit that in the first weeks of the project, I found it preposterous. I groaned about the time required to type in data, assign a score, all of it.

But a funny thing happened as I huffed through weeks of data collection. In addition to leading to a better understanding of what made us happy as a family, I also found the spreadsheet to be an incredibly useful tool for expressing things I might have otherwise avoided. It made the invisible visible. Instead of arguing about housework, for example, both feeling like we were doing more than our fair share, we could talk about it relatively objectively. On a day where I spent 14 hours taking care of the kids and doing house chores while my husband spent three, I was going to be unhappy, obviously. But we could just look at the numbers and then divvy up the chores evenly. Easy. No fight, no resentment. (Others have recently attempted more high-tech versions of a similar approach: One man, for instance, invented a chore-splitting app intended to keep track of who’s doing the bulk of the household work.)

It also enabled us to talk about what the transition to parenthood had meant for both of us — fewer work hours and loss of alone time for me; an intense commute and loss of social time for him — in a way that helped us stay away from competition or blame.

Before the spreadsheet, I had an idea I think many share: Marriage and family should more or less work. If you’re with the “right” person and you’ve made the “right” choices, your family life shouldn’t require a lot of discussion or effort. Your spouse should know that you need alone time and should give it to you. The appointments you keep in your head, the family social schedule you juggle — all of it should be noticed and appreciated. Good marriages and happy families are born of love and care, not spreadsheets and a daily happiness score.

But in the years since, I’ve reconsidered. Far from making our marriage seem cold and robotic, the spreadsheet sparked more honest conversations than we’d had in years. It also reminded us that we had more control over our lives than we had been exerting.

We stopped the project after a year or so, but started again last month. It’s five years since we first tried it, and we’re both feeling overwhelmed again. We’re in a much more precarious place financially now, after a few non-spreadsheet-related surprises, but we’re still determined to make whatever decisions we can to improve our lives.

In the course of researching a book on the history of motherhood in America, it occurred to me that this sort of exercise might be helpful for a lot of families, onerous as it may seem. Because the really intractable problems — like the social expectations placed on mothers, the gendered division of labor in homes, the invisibility of all sorts of care work — are not going to magically disappear. They’re not going to be erased simply by getting the right politicians elected or the right policies enacted (although those things will help).

People’s weird ideas about gender, about mothers and fathers and marriage and nuclear families, about who should do what and how much of it, about what really makes us happy, are deeply entrenched, often in ways we don’t even recognize. And so sometimes, when the baby is crying, when no one has thought about dinner, when bills need paying — when we’re caught, in other words, juggling some of the most fraught areas of our family lives, feeling emotional, ready to lash out — sometimes it really helps to have a set of calm, cool numbers on a spreadsheet.

Living and Loving Genuinely

LIVING AND LOVING GENUINELY

sheqoz

I’m sitting by the fireplace watching the flames make patterns as if dancing to some silent music which only they can hear. l cannot help but replay the day’s events. Today l had an extraordinary chance to show love. It was a moment filled with sadness and joy at the same time.

l went in a certain restaurant for lunch because l just felt the need to have a complete meal. Seated in front of me was an elderly couple, perhaps in their late 70’s or early 80’s. Their food was already served but what caught my attention is the gentleman.

He seemed very hungry but couldn’t get his food into his mouth for some reason. It appeared as if his hand and brain were not coordinating. He tried hard but each time his folk missed his mouth. Aware of my gaze, his wife said to me, “He’s so hungry.” Her eyes filled with compassion and helplessness.

I kindly asked if l could join them and they accepted. I offered to help feed the man but he was too embarrassed to accept. l then introduced myself a little more which helped break the ice. Finally l started feeding him, he had a good appetite and ate to the last spoon.

They told me his medications do that to him on regular basis. l couldn’t help but wonder how safe we all are with the pharmaceutical giants legally distributing medications with such side effects. Anyway to cut the story short. l offered to pray for them which they gladly accepted.

We also exchanged phone numbers as they insisted right before they left. I honestly believe that in order to live a meaningful life, one must help enrich the lives of others. For the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. Those who choose to be happy must help others find happiness.

For the welfare of each is bound up by the welfare of all. It is the power of collectivity, none of us truly wins until we all win. Learn this secret as you move forward with your life. When you do good, you achieve the best.

It is important to love one another, for that is how the soul of the universe is brought into our world. It is how the vast energy of all that is brought into the being of each one of us. It is how the soul’s infinity is focused here in our lives. To love is to experience the mystery of the soul with our being.

There is a greater image that would have us love one another thus. It is the image for which the soul reaches out, from which it had created us, and with which we are creating in our greater reality.

Perhaps when l am 80 years old someone will show me some kindness too. The love l felt and still feel for that precious couple is priceless. We all need to love and care for one another because we’re all sailing in the same ship. When all else fails, love will forever prevail.

l love you all, please pass some love and kindness whenever you can. 

How to Reduce Stress Fast

HOW TO REDUCE STRESS FAST

sheqoz

In today’s fast paced world, stress can easily take a toll on you. Situations like being held up in traffic easily raises stress levels. You cannot always avoid stress but there are simple effective exercises to calm you down and reduce stress in just 2 minutes.

Box Breathing:

There’s a well-known stress relief technique called box-breathing which is commonly used by Navy seals or people who work at very stressful environments like first responders. This technique has a direct effect on the functioning of the nervous system. It is a powerful yet simple relaxation technique aimed to return breathing to its normal rhythm.

This breathing is also known as resetting your breath. It helps clear your mind, relax your body and improve your focus. Most meditation classes use this technique to help their students re-centre themselves and improve concentration.

Follow the following simple steps to help you relax.

Breathing techniques to eliminate stress

Breathing Exercises:

  1. With your eyes shut, breathe in through your nose while slowly counting to four. Feel the air enter your lungs.
  2. Now hold your breath slowly and count to four. Avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds. (Do not clamp your nose or mouth.)
  3. Exhale slowly for four seconds.

Repeat steps 1 to 3 until you feel calm. Normally 4 minutes would work.

You can practice as many times as you want. Breathing deeply for few minutes can tremendously benefit your body and brain at stressful situations. It causes the vagus nerve which runs from the neck down to the diaphragm to send a message to the brain to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and shut down the sympathetic nervous system.

Sympathetic Nervous System:

This is the part of the nervous system responsible for rest, peace, relaxation and digestion. When facing any perceived threat, the body will instinctively either run or fight. Also known as the body’s fight or flight response. Box breathing prevents the adrenal dump and the fight or flight response.

Alpha Wave:

In return, the body makes smart choices based on relaxed concentration, a brain wave state, referred to as Alpha.

Alpha waves brought about by deep breathing patterns Creates a positive feedback loop that brings back harmony between the mind and body.

This brain wave state is Also an indication of the eureka moments of compelling new idea. This enables you to create something out of nothing especially when in a challenging situation.


No matter what obstacles you have to overcome, take care of Yourself first

While the box breathing technique helps calm you down, it’s more important to avoid very stressful situations if you can. Too much stress over extended periods of time can create more complicated health issues. In fact most health related complications are due to stress.

Practice good Habits:

Balance your life with exercise and healthy foods and, when caught up in unavoidable stressful traffic, you can play some calming music while you work on the breathing exercise. This will distract you from the surrounding noise and, before you know it, you will be free from all the hustle and bustle. Stay healthy and stress-free.

Can’t Shed Pounds? Here Are 8 Reasons Why!

CAN’T SHED POUNDS? HERE ARE 8 REASONS WHY!

Charley Reid

Losing weight doesn’t happen overnight, no matter how badly we wish it would. If you keep trying and failing, here are some reasons why.

It doesn’t matter if you want to lose weight before a vacation, before your wedding, because you gained a few pounds over the holidays or if you simply just want to live a healthier lifestyle, losing weight is a challenge, and it’s one that you really have to be up for.

Sure, there are different things out there like diet pills, wraps, and whatever else you might see on a commercial that promise quick results, but the fact is that losing weight does not happen overnight.

There is no “magic pill” that automatically makes you drop down 2 pants sizes, and the reality is it’s about making healthy decisions and being active. A body in motion stays in motion.

Why you can’t seem to shed those pounds

If you have been trying to lose weight, but aren’t seeing any results, here’s some insight into why. Some of these reasons are probably things you don’t want to hear, but they are definitely things you need to hear.

#1 You’re not educated about weight loss. If you think going to the gym, and doing a light walk on the treadmill for 20 minutes or less, and then going home and eating chips, cookies, and other fatty foods is going to help you successfully lose weight, you’re very wrong. Just because you are going to the gym and working out, doesn’t mean you should then go home and eat every fatty food in sight.

The key to losing weight is being educated about what food you should be putting into your body, and also knowing how many calories you should be burning, in order to meet your desired goal. If you aren’t sure, do some research on the internet, go to the library and check out some books, or start with a simple plan like making sure to have more green items on your plate than white.

#2 You’re not determined. Although you might think you are motivated and really pumped up to lose weight, you’re probably not, at least not enough. The only way you will truly ever see results, is when you actually want something bad enough that you work harder than you’ve ever worked before.

If you go to the gym 2-3 days a week, but then eat pasta for dinner every night, or wake up and make waffles for breakfast, then you’re basically throwing away every hard workout session you’ve done. If you find yourself making up excuses like “I’m too tired” or “my leg hurts” as reasons you can’t work out, you don’t want it bad enough.

The next time you find yourself making up excuses, do a quick Google search of Bethany Hamilton and Jason Lester. These 2 athletes certainly didn’t use excuses and let having a hurt leg or injury get in the way of them reaching their dreams and goals. So honestly, what’s your excuse?

#3 You want instant results. No matter how badly you want to see instant results, you need to accept the harsh reality that it just isn’t going to happen. No matter how many times those infomercials make you a believer, and you continue to order whatever product, pill, or wrap they are selling, you will not see results, at least not the real results you want.

Working out and losing weight takes time, dedication, effort and motivation. You have to want it bad enough, but the good news is that you can do it, once you accept the fact that it takes time. So instead of falling for products making false promises, start by making small goals that are within your reach, and you will slowly but surely start to actually see the results you have been dreaming about.

#4 You might have a thyroid problem. One reason you might not be losing weight is because you might have thyroid problems and not even know it. Women are 10 times more likely to have a thyroid problem than men. Let me also mention that having a thyroid problem is by no means something you should blame yourself for.

In fact, at least 30 million Americans have a thyroid disorder and half—15 million—are silent sufferers who are undiagnosed, according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. There are signs and symptoms you can be aware of to know if you should consult your doctor.

If you find yourself feeling anxious often, your appetite has changed, your brain feels foggy, your sex drive is down, your skin is dry and your bowel movements are all over the place, a thyroid problem might be to blame. In addition to this, you may also notice that your menstrual cycle has changed, you have high blood pressure, you feel cold all the time, your sleep is irregular, you’ve gained weight or you start to notice your hair is thinning or falling out, you should definitely get your thyroid tested.

Having a thyroid issue is not the end of the world, and it is something that can be fixed, but again, probably not overnight. Testing and treating thyroid disorders take time, but are worth it for your health and happiness. And, if you do have a thyroid disorder, then it will be nice to know why you haven’t been seeing the weight loss results you’ve been working so hard to achieve!

#5 You do the same thing over and over again. If you are doing the same workout routine over and over again, and not seeing results, the answer should be pretty obvious. It’s because you’re not progressing to the next level! Just like your skin can get used to a certain cream that no longer works on your face, your body can get used to the same workout and it no may no longer work.

The best way to lose weight is to change it up: run one day, do interval training the next, or take a workout class 2 days out of the week, instead of doing your everyday routine of walking and weightlifting.

You can even change it up simply by running on the treadmill a few days a week, and on other days, running outside around your neighborhood. Whatever you do, just make sure that you make this change to give your workout some variety. You’ll start seeing the results you’ve wanted to see for a while!

#6 You’ve fallen victim of relationship weight. When you first started dating your boyfriend or girlfriend, you were probably very active about working out, and you wanted to, because you wanted your partner to see the sexiest you possible—and they did! But now that you’ve been dating for a while, you find yourself cuddling on the couch and being much lazier when it comes to working out than you used to. It doesn’t help if your partner isn’t motivated either, never wanting to do active things with you.

So, if you can relate to being a victim of relationship weight, it’s time you stop being this victim. Stop being lazy! Start working out, and start taking care of yourself. You don’t want to look back a year from now and wonder what the heck happened. You’ll have no one to blame but yourself. Stop with your lazy ways right now, and start getting back to the most amazing version of yourself.

I have a funny feeling that once your lover starts seeing you getting in shape and living a healthy lifestyle, they’ll want to start coming with you on your gym dates.

#7 Can’t give up alcohol. If you are one of those people who always has to have a glass of wine after work, or loves going to happy hour and letting go of all the stress from your workday, that’s all good and everything. But it’s not good when you do these things all the time.

Having a glass of wine after work is relaxing, and it’s okay to go to happy hour from time to time. But you shouldn’t be doing these things every single day of your life, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. I know there are studies out there that show wine is good for you, but there are also studies out there that says having one glass of wine is equivalent to having a piece of cake.

The next time you want that glass of wine, ask yourself if you want wine or if you would rather have cake. Then, ask yourself if you would rather have cake, or if you would rather lose weight. I’m sure your answer will be the one about losing weight. And hopefully this will motivate you to get your butt in the gym!

#8 You obsess too much. It is very possible to get in the way of yourself, especially when it comes to weight loss. There is a reason that counting calories or obsessing over the number on the scale actually backfires on you when trying to lose weight. When you start becoming obsessed with every number and calorie, you mess yourself up from achieving your goals.

The saying “everything in moderation” is so very true, especially when it comes to losing weight, and it’s so important to remember this. A great way to keep track of your progress is to keep a journal. Write down your workouts, what food you eat, and whatever else you want to keep track of. Once you’ve logged your information for the day, let it go. Don’t sit there and obsess over the numbers and calories you burned or consumed. Remember, losing weight is a marathon, not a sprint.

It takes a lot of hard work and determination to lose weight. If you are trying to lose weight, about to start, or have been for a while, it’s exciting to know what the future will bring, and you should be excited! You are about to become the very best version of you possible.

It’s also important to be aware of these 8 reasons that seriously can keep you from achieving your goals. Remember that losing weight takes a lot of hard work. It wouldn’t be called a workout if it didn’t.

Remember above all else, you can do this! You are fully capable of achieving your weight loss goals. It starts from within. You have to want it for yourself, and be okay with doing it all by yourself.

5 Ways Volunteer Work Can Help Heal Depression

5 WAYS VOLUNTEER WORK CAN HELP HEAL DEPRESSION

Team Lovepanky

Getting through depression is one of the toughest things a person can live through. But there is hope! Find out how doing volunteer work can help!

Depression, like most mental health issues, is surrounded by a stigma that makes it nearly impossible for those who suffer from it to discuss the problem openly and get the help they need, when they need it.

In our culture, admitting you have a mood disorder is more or less like acknowledging you are too weak, frail and lazy to handle what life throws at you. Seeking help kind of makes it worse, because now it is as if you’ve added an “incapable of solving own problems” stamp on your forehead.

But that’s not the whole truth, is it?

If you or someone you care about is struggling with depression, you know there is so much more to it.

You’ve seen firsthand the holes this self-feeding fire can burn through a person’s life. You’ve witnessed the person that once was slip through the cracks of what used to be a complete human being and into a puddle of self-loathing and isolation.

How do people battle depression?

Sadly, therapy is not always an option. Medication can fail as well, as it often doesn’t perform as expected, or has side effects that are unbearable.

So how is one supposed to get better? In a society incapable of recognizing the signs of a person who needs help, how can someone find their way to recovery? And it’s also equally important to ask how one can handle it without being judged, being told to suck it up and get a grip, without being shamed into hiding?

How can volunteering be beneficial to those suffering from depression?

An avenue not thoroughly explored, yet one absolutely worthy of the attention is volunteering. Its nature is humble and unassuming, yet combines multiple factors that promise to bring improvement and stability to the mind.

#1 The thrill of the unknown trumps the feeling of worthlessness. Mastering new skills or dusting off old ones does not necessarily cause a revolution the first time around, but it does leave a mark. It marks a place and time of accomplishment- the moment your hands and mind gave birth to something good, something meaningful.

Once this happens, there is no going back. It would be like trying to undo the sunrise. Little by little, or hopefully with full jet power, the feeling of being useful and needed can help keep the depression at bay.

You will recognize your ability to make a difference and that as your efforts grow, so do the results. The value of such a realization is invaluable, as it is one of the first milestones on the road to a depression-free life.

#2 Passion, purpose and direction will stop looking like words from motivational posters. If we lose our way, whether on an actual trip or while going through life, we tend to resolve to these options – going back to a point where we knew where we were, taking chance turns in the hope they will bring us to where we want to be, or reaching out for help. The reality is that these don’t always work out and then we lose ourselves completely.

It’s this feeling of being stuck, this time we spend being stranded, that cripples us mentally and emotionally. We doom ourselves to repeat the same numbing routine until we finally give up and accept it is all there is for us, or worse – it’s all that we deserve.

Breaking the cycle seems pointless, because if you were good for anything else, you would have found out by now and started doing it, right? Wrong. Depression lies. Remember this. Depression lies.

Who knows, maybe you’ll turn out to be an amazing cook, great with animals, really handy and capable of fixing and building things, a researcher with a keen eye for details, an influential public speaker or an organizer able to set up a massive event in the blink of an eye. You really never know until you try, and once you do know – there will be no stopping you.

You will make life fall in line with what you want it to be and continue on a road paved with hard work and fulfillment.

#3 Finding your happiness in the joy of others. Does this sound too cheesy? Too much like a Sunday sermon? Even so, it doesn’t make it any less true.

Humans are hardwired to mimic other humans’ smiles. This, in turn makes our brain send out feel-good signals all over our body, especially the face, which results in, you guessed it, more smiles. Think of it as an eternal loop of positive emotion injections.

You’d be surprised how much smiling goes on while charity happens. And even if you choose a field that does not suggest a lot or any actual human contact, like animal shelters or online databases, this doesn’t mean there won’t be grins involved. Gratitude, appreciation and respect can clearly be detected, despite the method of communication being body language or electronic.

Alleviated stress and reduced anxiety are self-generated doorways to higher confidence and life satisfaction.

In other words, volunteering provides a natural, healthy boost to your mental health, and it has the potential to rekindle your zest for life and help you like who you see in the mirror. The benefits it produces when fighting depression could be compared to those of a long standing meditation habit.

#4 Volunteering builds a solid support group around you. We’ve all heard stories about the bonds formed by soldiers fighting side by side, police officers patrolling in the same car, even wild animals brought together by unusual circumstances.

These bonds are formed from the simple yet concrete-strong foundation of going through the same experience, with the same goal, as part of the same team. Show up and do what you are there to do – this is pretty much all it takes.

Volunteering brings together people from all walks of life, and although these combinations seem random, even chaotic, they work out. The idea that unites them usually tops whatever it is that divides them. This translates to those people being there for each other much more than you’d expect.

#5 It’s the right kind of selfish. It’s commonly accepted that charity work is an act of selflessness, an island of altruism in our otherwise hectic and competitive lives. But reality is never this one-sided.

Don’t get us wrong, all the positive statements people make about it are undeniably true. Dedicating time and efforts to a cause, without expecting any financial or material gain, is as noble as it sounds.

Yet you do gain something, don’t you? Or at least find something you thought you’d lost along the way.

For instance, it gives you a reason to get out there, something constructive to take your mind off whatever it is that is torturing you, self-respect, a feeling of identity, of acceptance and belonging, of being connected, a spark of creativity and thirst for life like you never knew them before.

Bottom line is that volunteering is about rewarding yourself just as much as it is about serving others. Probably even more, because once you start seeing yourself in this new, better light, you will have shrugged off some of the burden depression has you carrying. And this, right there, is what can help you heal.

Volunteering is a two-way street where both, those helping and those being helped, exchange mutually positive feelings. Though you extending your help will be much more obvious, the act of volunteering allows you to receive positive vibes and emotions from those who reward your charity with their gratitude.

12 things we all do that actually make our life much worse

make your life worse

12 SIMPLE THINGS YOU DO TO MAKE YOUR LIFE MUCH WORSE

Lakeisha Ethans

Has life been unfair to you? You may think the issue is external, but the problem is in you. These are 12 things you do to make your life worse.

A lot of people, at some point in time, feel that life is being unfair to them. I feel that, too, at times and to avoid feeling depressed, I constantly struggle and challenge myself to accomplish milestones. After a lot of thought, I realized that the problem was coming from me, and not the world around me. You should remember that your outcomes in life depend on how you think and act. This clearly means that a positive attitude toward life is exactly what makes life easier to deal with. But, of course, we don’t know that until life hits us with lemons!

Expectations and the role they play

Let’s imagine that you’re holding a big, ripe apple in your hand. You take a bite to taste it. You know how an apple is supposed to taste, so when the big, juicy apple is bland and mealy, you grimace. You feel disappointed, and may even toss the apple into the compost pile.

Now, let’s assume you eat a big, juicy apple… and it tastes exactly as expected. You eat the whole thing, and feel extremely satisfied. What’s the difference? Not the apple, but your expectations. When you set realistic expectations—or forego expectations altogether—you’ll find that life is far more satisfying and exciting. Expectations, oftentimes, offer nothing more than a too-high bar against which to measure your life and experiences.

12 simple things you’re doing to make your life worse

The apple is just an example, and can be substituted for anything in life. It can be substituted with any event, task, social interaction, person, meal, or any thought that enters your mind. Instead of clouding your every move with expectations, dive in head-first without expecting anything *good or bad* and you’ll see how truly beautiful life is! Now, let’s look at a few things we do to make our lives worse.

#1 You spend too much time on people or things that don’t matter. If you’re doing this, it has to stop. We only have 24 hours in a day which we can use to sleep, eat, and do the rest of our daily chores. But most people, for whatever reason, slack off and focus too much on people or things that don’t matter.

#2 You get offended by tacking your assumptions onto harmless actions. This happens to me, too, so I don’t blame you, but this has to stop. Your friend didn’t text you back, or a co-worker left to lunch without telling you. These are simple situations that can easily offend you, because you tag your assumptions to these otherwise innocuous actions. You start thinking that you’re either unworthy or unloved, creating a whole new world of hatred for yourself. The lesson here? Don’t take things personally.

#3 You take the road to the apocalypse. This is when you think of the worst possible outcome when something happens to you. The next step is to be delighted when you were wrong! Sore throat? Surely, you must have cancer. Lost your driver license? Your identity must have been stolen. Lost your wallet? Your savings is sure to be trained two minutes later. While this may seem sensible in the moment, this sort of negativity is both useless and illogical. This must stop. Think positive!

#4 You set unrealistic expectations. Your girlfriend was supposed to call you at 4 PM and she didn’t. She called at her convenience, instead. Your boyfriend forgot the 6 ½ month anniversary of your first lasagna together. Get the point? These are the kinds of expectations that I call parasites, because they will always leave you unhappy and sick to your stomach. Minimize your expectations so you can maximize the joys of life!

 

#5 You won’t do anything without getting a “sign.” Signs won’t come. Period. I have a friend who desperately wants to move to France, but she’s waiting for a “sign”—perhaps a trumpeted announcement from God, or an invitation from the president of France. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t believe in higher power or divinity, but I am saying that you need to shape your fate, not be governed by it.

#6 You’re not a risk-taker. If you want to live life to the fullest, you need to start living boldly, and that means you need to take risks. Every time someone offers you something exciting that involves some amount of risk, take it. You’ll be glad you did!

#7 You compare your life to others. Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and this is 100% true. I know I’m not supposed to say this, but this gets to me sometimes. “Oh she’s so happy with her husband,” “He gets all the lucky breaks,” “This guy has more money than I could ever make,” and so on and so forth. No one is perfect, so stop comparing your life to the lives of others—who knows? They might be doing the same to you!

#8 You can’t forgive and forget. I know this is easier said than done, because it’s hard to forgive the people who’ve hurt you—and even harder to forget them and their offenses. But instead of sulking, express gratitude for any lessons you’ve learned, and move on. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, forgive, if you can, and forget, so you can look forward to a happier life.

#9 You’re your own celebrity. I know this is tempting, but again, it’s only going to make your life worse. You shouldn’t force people to follow your plan. By making things less about you and more about others, you will become a happier, more positive person, and will be far less disgruntled when a plan is foiled or a schedule isn’t on-task.

#10 You allow “useless” people to get the best of you. When you know someone’s toxic to you and your life, remove them without feeling guilty about it. It doesn’t matter who they are or how close they are to you, don’t let anyone give you pain or make you feel unworthy. People who disregard your feelings, ignore your boundaries, or continue to treat you like trash have to go. They need to leave. Period.

#11 For you, it’s either success or failure. Nothing can ever be perfect. Even success isn’t perfect. Try and gain as much happiness and experience as you can in the grey area between success and failure. Remember: never let success get to your head and failure to go to your heart. Every day is a new day, and you can change your life one baby step at a time.

#12 You avoid things as much as you can. No matter how much you avoid it, the truth will not cease to exist. You cannot ignore what’s in front of you—and worse, you won’t find peace by avoiding unpleasant or scary experiences. Although taking risks or even just completing a project or work may feel daunting, you will feel much better *and more powerful* after putting your nose to the grindstone and working through it.

Bring all your fears, worries, and weaknesses in front of you, and shine a blazing light on them. See them through to the end, because that’s the only way to find happiness and fulfillment. I swear, the pain you face when you face the truth is worth it in the end.

Remember that when we stop doing the wrong things and start doing the right things, life automatically gets easier. If any or all of the behaviors above apply to you, it’s time to change so you can simplify things for yourself and people around you. Life is beautiful and so are you, so enjoy it, and let go of these 12 things that make your life worse!

Conquering Fear

CONQUERING FEAR

Richard Innes

Ann Landers, the former well-known newspaper counselor, received an average of 10,000 letters a month. Almost all of them are from people burdened with life’s problems. She was asked if there was one problem that people seemed to struggle with more than any other. Her reply? Fear!

Yes, fear is a common problem from which none of us is immune. According to a well-known doctor, 90 percent of the chronic patients who see today’s physicians have one common symptom—fear.

A recent issue of The Christian Businessman reported the results of a survey that revealed the following major concerns of small business owners; a fear of poverty, a fear of criticism, a fear of illness, a fear of rejection, a fear of growing old, a fear of being separated from loved ones, and a fear of death.

These fears are by no means confined to business people. They are common to us all to some degree, along with many other fears, such as a fear of failure, fear of losing one’s job, and a fear of feeling inadequate—one of the most common fears of all.

Then there are innumerable phobias such as a fear of the dark, fear of high places, fear of closed-in places, fear of insects, and so on.

Fear is very much a part of life. It is a God-given emotion. We rightly fear driving through a red light or riding with a reckless or intoxicated driver. In right amounts, fear is a strong motivator, a self-protective survival factor.

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Ninety percent of the things
we fear never happen.

Fear becomes a problem when it is irrational or when we have too many fears. Fears can be listed under one of several categories such as the following: fears that are normal and healthy; fears that are imagined, fears that are projected or displaced, fears that are learned, and fears that are caused by a threat to our security—either physical or emotional.

Fears that are imagined. As somebody else has said, 90 percent of the things we fear never happen. A further 9 percent we often make happen ourselves. For instance, a person who has a deep fear of failure (conscious or unconscious) may get himself so anxious about failing, he will make himself fail.

Imaginary fears need to be recognized for what they are—which may not be easy at first—and then, with practice, refused to be believed.

Fears that are projected or displaced. These fears have their roots in the past. One lady I know was badly burned in an accident some years ago. She now has an “unreasonable” fear of fire. Just the smell of smoke will trigger her unresolved memories and inner terror.

Or take a man who, when he was growing up, felt totally smothered by an over-controlling mother. Unless he faces and resolves his old fears, chances are he will now project them on to his wife and have an unreasonable fear of being controlled by her.

In fact, whenever we overreact, we can be almost certain that we are projecting or displacing an unresolved fear from the past onto a present situation.

Fears that are learned or conditioned. As a child I used to have an unreasonable fear of grasshoppers. No grasshopper ever harmed me so from whom did I learn this fear? You’re right. It was my mother. She had a terror of them, so I learned to be afraid of them too, along with a fear of the dark, the bogeyman, etc. Fortunately, learned or conditioned feelings of fear can be reconditioned. I still don’t care for big grasshoppers, but the way I overcame my irrational fear of them was to realize that they were harmless and to practice picking some up.

I wouldn’t suggest the same process for overcoming a fear of snakes, but very often to do the thing we fear is an effective way to overcome learned or conditioned fears.

Fears that are real. Fears, such as the fear of losing one’s job and income, of living alone when elderly or bereaved, or losing one’s health, etc., etc. can be very real to those going through these experiences.

The question is, how do we overcome our fears?

First. Learn to admit them. This is the first step for resolving any problem. As Jesus, the Master Teacher, once said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32, NIV)

Second. Verbalize your fears. This gets them out in the open where they can be dealt with.

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You can control your actions
regardless of your feelings.

Third. Don’t allow your fears to control you. It’s okay and normal to be scared out of your socks at times. However, it’s immature to allow your feelings to control your actions. You can control your actions regardless of your feelings. It’s not always easy but it is a choice we all have!

Fourth. If your fears are imaginary, acknowledge this and refuse to believe them. Get facts before jumping to conclusions. Remember, what the mind dwells on, it will eventually believe and act on. Refuse to dwell on fearful thoughts.

Fifth. If a fear is an ongoing anxiety that has no apparent cause, realize that it is most likely a symptom of some hidden fear. If so, it may be wise to see a trained counselor to help you find and resolve the cause.

Sixth. If the fear is real, accept your situation but take whatever steps you can to change the circumstances that cause your fear. If you fear a layoff, upgrade your training to suit the needs of the changing work environment. If you fear being alone, reach out to others and help meet some of their needs. In so doing, you will meet some of your own. Realize, too that most adverse situations don’t last forever.

Seventh. Above all, learn to trust in God. There is no greater way to overcome fear. And this is a choice we all can make. The Bible says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” (Proverbs 29:25, NIV)

Trusting God is not a copout or an excuse for avoiding personal responsibility for our well-being. Trusting God is knowing that no matter what happens, God will bring good out of it if we do what we need to do and trust the rest to him. The Bible also says, “For we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28, NIV)

When I’m afraid, I say to myself, “What would I do if I weren’t feeling scared?” I then act accordingly.

I also commit and trust my life and circumstances to God every day. And, whenever faced with a fearful or challenging situation, I always pray, “God I choose to trust myself and this particular situation to you.” I keep doing this and, in time, my feelings catch up with my choice. It may take a while but it always works out for the best when I trust it to God.

He will do the same for you if you do your part and daily trust your life and circumstances to him.

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