Asperger’s Syndrome

At the age of 62, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s. It wasn’t a huge surprise. I’d read about Asperger’s and it did seem to describe me. As a child, I was considered academically gifted and great things were expected of me. But I was also considered shy, nervous, physically clumsy and a bit of a know-it-all.  I had few friends and suffered dreadfully with anxiety and depression. Later, I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue. I felt like an outsider from another planet.

Indeed, people have the impression that people with Asperger’s (aspies) are like Mr Spock, the pointy-eared Vulcan from Star Trek – logical, unemotional and boringly dependable. We’re often portrayed as cold, unfriendly, tactless, opinionated, arrogant, and obsessive; preferring our own company and with a disdain for other people. All of this can be true – on the outside.

But what others don’t see is the internal struggle, for in many respects we’re just like everyone else. We want to love and be loved, we seek friendship and companionship. We need encouragement and like appreciation. We want our weaknesses supported and forgiven and to be accepted for whom we are. But it’s harder for us.

Today, equality and diversity are among the watchwords for a civilised society. It’s considered a good thing to respect people’s differences and treat everyone as equals regardless of gender, race, age, religion, mental or physical impairment, sexual orientation and so on.

Aspies deserve to be on this list. Asperger’s is not a choice; it’s a neurological condition, a developmental disorder. It is not a mental illness or learning disability. As such is a lifelong condition. You can’t cure it, only learn to live with it. And we don’t suffer from Asperger’s, we experience it.

What is Asperger’s?

Asperger’s is an autism spectrum disorder, one of a group of complex disorders characterized by social impairment, communication difficulties, and restrictive, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behaviour. It is named after the psychologist who first identified it in 1943, Dr Hans Asperger.

It is sometimes referred to as ‘high functioning autism’ because symptoms are less severe than full-blown autism. For instance, Asperger’s does not typically involve a speech delay. People with Asperger’s often have good language skills, but their speech patterns may be unusual, and they may not pick up on subtleties such as humour or sarcasm.

About 4 or 5 in every 1,000 have the condition whereas around 10 in 1,000 are autistic. It is 4 times more prevalent in men as women.

Asperger’s is NOT a mental illness or learning disability. Aspies are not damaged and don’t need fixing. They just process the world differently. They see things from a different perspective.

We have no idea what causes it. Somehow developmental changes occur in the womb that ‘rewire’ the neural connections in the brain, but we don’t know for sure. We do know, however, that it is not caused by a child’s upbringing (for instance there is no connection with cold, aloof parenting), nor is it due to psychological or emotional damage. Twin studies show that there is a strong genetic component.

Diagnosis

Many people report a sense of relief when diagnosed. They’re glad to have an explanation for their difficulties and, perhaps, justification for past behaviours. It can also be a trigger for better informed aspies to learn new ways.

Asperger’s Characteristics

We must understand that Asperger’s does not affect everyone the same. There is a huge variation in characteristics within the criteria, and aspie personalities can differ enormously. Even so, many aspie’s identify with the following features:

1. Difficulties understanding non-verbal communication

This lies at the core of aspies’ difficulties with social interactions.

Psychologists tell us that less than 10% of the messages we receive from others comes from the use of words. Nearly 40% comes from verbal cues such as tone of voice, inflexion etc. and the remainder – over 50% – from body language, gesture, facial expression and so on. Aspies do not naturally pick up on these in the same way as our neuro-typical (NT) friends.

Most people can tell another’s feelings from their tone of voice and body language or intuitively – we can’t. Consequently we have problems seeing things from another’s point of view. For example, we don’t always know if a person is smiling because they wish us well, or intend to deceive us. This means that we often misjudge people, especially when meeting them for the first time. We’re easily taken in, thinking others are our friends when they are not.

We’re good with words, though. We understand the literal meanings of words, but get confused when words are not used literally. For example:

‘I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.’ (Which bridge?)

‘You’re trying to make a monkey of me.’ (What have monkeys got to do with it?)

‘You want jam on it!’ (No I don’t, I don’t like jam.)

This can get us into a lot of trouble, and we don’t always understand why. We’re particularly bad at picking up on sarcasm, playful teasing and figures of speech. Interrupting is another common problem since we don’t always pick up the social signals that enable conversations to move from one person to another.

We also have problems with the messages we give out. Our non-verbal communication is poor. Our facial expressions and gestures may be lacking or judged inappropriate, our voice and expression monotone. We often have a quirky sense of humour that isn’t always appreciated by others. Our hearts are in the right place but it doesn’t always show on our faces!

One feature of this is eye contact, a vital part of one-to-one interactions. As a result verbal conversation may not flow and we may come across as disinterested or rude. As a young man, when I met someone I would stare at the ceiling or the floor. I had to force myself to make eye contact with people. There’s a logical reason for this – since nonverbal cues such as facial twitches don’t mean anything to us or if we find them distracting, why look?

We cannot NOT communicate. We are constantly giving out messages, but when you have Aspergers you only pick up 10-20% of the full meaning. 80-90% is lost; consequently it takes longer to process social information.

2. Difficulties in relating to others in social situations

I have always dreaded parties, discos, informal gatherings, networking events and so on. I just don’t feel as if I fit in, and I often mess up when I try. I can recall making countless stupid remarks in an attempt to be witty or make conversation. As a twenty-something, alcohol often came to the rescue. If I was noticeably drunk, I reasoned, then no-one would expect anything of me, and I liked it that way.

We hate rules made by others, including and perhaps especially social rules!

Ironically, many aspies have no problem giving talks or contributing to meetings providing they can prepare. Aspies like sharing information and being in control, but being in unstructured situations brings on anxiety.

Aspies can learn social skills to some extent, but the inner feelings don’t easily go away. We can learn to adjust our behaviour to suit different social situations. We can learn to understand social rules and when something may cause embarrassment. Even though we are more Interested in making significant contributions to a conversation, we can learn to engage in small talk (however much we dislike it). We can learn how to start and end conversations, and how to avoid being over-critical.

Above all, we can learn to listen and show that we’re listening. Sometimes it’s an effort, but isn’t that true for NTs too?

3. Friendships

Most Aspie’s have difficulty making friends. I only have one friend from school, one from my student days, and only a handful from the years since. We like to have friends, but usually have few or none. Why?

Firstly, obviously the problems of social interaction and communication make it hard to get to know people and let them know us. We get bored easily and shy away from socialising. We don’t feel the same need to belong.

Secondly, although we may believe we can be good friends, interesting and fun to be with, it has to be on our own terms. We are self-orientated. We can be stubborn. For example, we may not answer the phone unless convenient to us and resent uninvited visitors and interruptions, especially when we’re busy pursuing a cherished interest.

Thirdly, we don’t always hold back on the truth as we see it, and our narrow range of interests, bluntness, honesty and logic doesn’t necessarily make us popular. I used to try to make friends by being helpful, sharing my knowledge and interests and letting people know the right way to do things. Unsurprisingly they didn’t always appreciate my concern and I couldn’t understand why!

An ex-girlfriend called me a ‘people-pleaser’. At first I thought this was a compliment, but now I understand. Aspies hate rejection and are easily hurt. Sometimes we try to win approval by being over-friendly, over-helpful. We misunderstand the boundaries – and that’s a big part of having the condition.

4. Emotions

Aspies’ natural instincts are to logical problem-solving rather than an emotional response. Perhaps that’s why people generally think that we don’t have emotions – but we do. Oh yes we do, and our emotions can run very deep.

The problem is, we can’t always say or show what we’re feeling, and at other times we display extreme emotion. We aren’t always sure which emotion is appropriate, and we may express our feelings in unpredictable ways. We are prone to angry outbursts, but anger is probably not the underlying emotion which may be anxiety, frustration, sadness or irritation. When things get too much and we can’t figure out a response we may yell and scream and smash things. It brings us no pleasure; we don’t enjoy making a spectacle of ourselves.

Alternatively, we may sink into a depressive episode. Anxiety and depression are a daily reality for most Aspies. It may not show, though: we may be calm on the outside while screaming on the inside. Many aspies succumb to chronic fatigue from the sheer effort of trying to appear ‘normal’ on the outside.

Whether we explode or stop functioning when things get on top of us, we call it a ‘meltdown’. Some meltdowns are sudden, intense, intimidating; some are slow burning and can take weeks to get over. I’ve had a slow burner every few years requiring clinical support. Two steps forward, one step back – the story of my life.

5. Restricted and repetitive behaviour

Aspies are known for our set routines and resistance to change. We have strong preference for routine, order and have preferred ways of doing things. A trained eye can easily spot that I have Aspergers from the way I organise my CD collection, display my books, plan my meals and arrange my photo albums! We can be very irritable and distressed if the unexpected happens or if arrangements are changed. Once a pattern is established or a plan is made, it’s stuck to resolutely.

Typically, we have an unusual preoccupation with a narrow range of specific subjects and an intense ability to focus on them. Aspies often seek out other people to talk to about our interests. The discussion is usually one-sided. We can be more interest in getting our knowledge across than listening to feedback.

We can be fixated on specific topics, objects, people, activities and so on to the exclusion of all else, and a dogged determination to pursue them. Perfectionism can be a problem – a fear of attempting we’re not sure we can excel at it. We can be very upset with ourselves if we fall short of our high standards.

Although I said earlier that people with Asperger’s don’t like social rules, rules are very important to us. As much as we hate other people’s rules, we like our own and insist that they be obeyed. For example, we may become angry with drivers who break traffic rules, a game is not played fairly or someone is caught cheating. And we don’t like to be hurried.

6. Sensitivity

Ironically, aspies can be both hyper- (over) sensitive and hypo- (under) sensitive.

As a child, I was called ‘highly strung’. It was made clear that this was a bad thing and brought much criticism my way. I had a recurring dream which I still remember clearly to this day. I was curled up in a large wooden chest, listening to the sounds of the world outside and safe from them.

Over-stimulation can lead to odd movements to make us feel in control and which annoy others. ‘Stimming’ – self-stimulation – is common. This can take the form of tapping, playing with our fingers or hair, rocking, flapping, spinning or flicking objects.

People with Asperger’s are commonly intolerant of excessive sensory stimulation. For example:

  • Bright lights may be difficult to cope with or even physically painful. They can cause sickness and headaches and prevent sleep.
  • Similarly sounds. High pitched sounds can be painful. Small sounds made by others may annoy. Sleep is easily disturbed, for instance by a ticking clock, traffic noise or someone snoring. Sounds we control don’t bother us, though. We like our own music played loud but cannot abide other people’s.
  • Certain textures or clothing may be highly irritating, especially tight clothing like ties, rings and clothes that scratch or itch.
  • Being touched can cause irritation or discomfort, and tickling can be torture! We may be especially sensitive to kinaesthetic stimuli such as heat, cold, water, wind or rain.
  • Certain smells or colours may irritate and cause stress, e.g. flower scents, spices or animal smells.
  • Foods of certain tastes or textures may annoy or cause retching – e.g. custard, cheese, fat, slimy foods.

All these can lead us to seeking or avoiding thing that others find perfectly tolerable. For instance, crowds, hectic activity and busyness bother us. We find them threatening and confusing. Every sense is on alert, looking for danger, unsure if we should be afraid or not. This takes effort and is exhausting, another reasons why aspies are prone to chronic fatigue.

On the other hand, aspies can also be hypo-reactive to stimuli in the environment. We may not feel pain when hurt and leave an injury unnoticed. A full bladder or hunger pains may not register, and we may be unable to process certain sounds. Once again, our senses are letting us down.

7. Motor skills

People with Aspergers are often physically clumsy. Our motor skills are underdeveloped, our balance, fine motor skills and coordination poor. Naturally this causes problems with physical activities such as sports, intricate activities like modelling and handicrafts and dancing.

8. Strengths

Knowing the struggles that Asperger’s people face and how they come across to others, it may surprise you that many top companies – including Microsoft (founded by aspie Bill Gates) actively seek them out for employment because of the qualities they bring. Asperger’s individuals can be remarkably intelligent. After all, Einstein was one, as was Alan Turing!

Aspies are often very articulate, numerate, logical good with detail. We have excellent concentration and dogged persistence. We are honest, loyal and dependable. Give us a role that meets our skills and preoccupations and we are in our element.

It may be that these are the qualities upon which civilisation depends. ‘After all,’ wrote Asperger’s diagnosee Temple Grandin, ‘the really social people did not invent the first stone spear. It was probably invented by an Aspie who chipped away at rocks while the other people socialised around the campfire. Without autism we might still be living in caves!’

©David Lawrence Preston, 31.3.18

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Coping With Anxiety

Anxiety is a feeling of intense worry or distress in the absence of obvious danger. It is a state of inner turmoil accompanied by churning thoughts, nervousness, poor concentration, feelings of dread and loss of control. It is related to, but different from, fear, which is a response to a real or perceived immediate threat.

Anxiety comes in two main forms:

  1. A short-term state, a response to a challenging situation, which can be acute.
  2. A long-term, chronic condition, part of one’s psychological makeup. An anxiety disorder such as this can have a profound effect on our quality of life.

Types of anxiety

There are six major types of anxiety disorders:

  • If constant worries and fears distract you from your day-to-day activities you may be suffering from generalised anxiety disorder. Sufferers feel anxious nearly all of the time without necessarily knowing why. Generalized anxiety disorder often shows up as physical symptoms like insomnia, indigestion and fatigue.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorders are characterized by unwanted thoughts or behaviours that seem impossible to control, such as a recurring worry that you forgot to lock the house before going out or left the oven on. Sufferers may also have uncontrollable compulsions, such as repeatedly washing their hands.
  • Anxiety attacks, characterized by recurrent, unexpected panic feeligs which may also be accompanied by a fear of being in places where escape or help would be difficult such as open spaces like shopping centres or confined spaces such as lifts and underground trains.
  • Phobias are unrealistic or exaggerated fears of specific objects, activities or situations that in reality present little or no threat. Common phobias include fear of animals, birds and spiders, fear of flying and fear of heights. Sufferers go to extreme lengths to avoid the feared object or situation which unfortunately only strengthens the phobia.
  • Social anxiety disorder is a debilitating fear of being seen negatively by others. It includes extreme shyness and stage fright. In severe cases, social situations are avoided altogether which can exacerbate the problem.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder is an extreme anxiety disorder that can occur after a traumatic or life-threatening event. Symptoms include flashbacks or nightmares, withdrawing from others, startling easily, and avoiding situations that remind us of the event.

Anxiety disorders are partly genetic, but also due to mental disorders such as bipolar condition, depression and certain personality disorders. Drug use and withdrawal from certain drugs can also cause anxiety.

Physical symptoms of anxiety disorders

Anxiety is a result of the body’s natural response to danger, the fight-or-flight response to perceived threats. It can cause a wide range of physical symptoms, hence anxiety sufferers often mistake their disorder for a medical illness before their anxiety disorder is discovered. Common physical symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Breathing problems
  • Digestive problems
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Headaches
  • Racing heart
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle tension
  • Palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Tremors and tics

Mental symptoms of anxiety disorders

  • Constantly tense, fearful, worried or jittery.
  • Avoidance of situations and activities because they cause anxiety.
  • Recurring irrational fears that won’t go away.
  • Compulsive behaviours.
  • Feelings that danger and disaster are imminent.
  • A need to do things in a certain way or order.
  • Recurring thoughts that interfere with daily activities such as work or family life.
  • Mental vagueness/blank mind.

Emotional symptoms of anxiety disorders

  • Anticipating the worst.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Constant feelings of apprehension or dread.
  • Shyness and social awkwardness.
  • Self doubt.

Remedies for Excessive Anxiety

There is no universal cure for anxiety. Sometimes it can be relieved with medication, therapy or a combination of the two, but it is doubtful that either permanently removes the root cause.

Practical lifestyle changes

  1. Whenever you find yourself worrying about something, write it on a piece of paper and put it in a ‘worry box’. On the last day of each month, open the box. You will find that most of your worries never happened and many were not as bad as you imagined.
  2.  Keep active. When you’re busy, your mind has less opportunity to focus on your worries. Often whatever is worrying you resolves itself while your attention is on other things.
  3.  Deep relaxation has enormous benefits. Use relaxation time to ‘visualize’ yourself coping with anxiety-inducing situations. Mindfulness, thought stopping, relaxation and mental calmness can help break the anxiety cycle.
  4.  Take regular exercise. Exercise is a great antidote to anxiety especially if taken in a natural setting. Spend at least twenty minutes per session.
  5.  Slow, deep breathing – focus your attention on your breath and take at least ten slow, long, rhythmic breaths whenever you feel anxiety coming on.
  6.  Eat well. Choose a healthy diet and keep your blood sugar levels up. And never avoid breakfast.
  7.  Daily meditation (minimum morning and evening sessions of twenty minutes each) had enormous benefits for anxiety disorders.
  8.  Live one day at a time. Concentrate on what you can do If you’re clear about your long-term goals and do the best you can each day, the future will take care of itself.

Natural remedies

  1. Omega 3 oils (mainly found in nut and seed oils, fish oils and eggs) are extremely beneficial for anxiety.
  2.  So are ingested herbs such as chamomile, green tea, hops, valerian, lemon balm and passionflower, and the calming scent of lavender.
  3.  There are various over-the-counter products which usually contain a combination of the above and claim to relieve worry, stress and irritability and help to promote natural sleep. For further information visit your pharmacy or health food store.

Medication

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence in the UK has recently advised doctors to consider counselling before prescribing drugs for anxiety sufferers. Only one in three find relief from their symptoms through drugs.

There are a wide range of anti-anxiety prescription drugs, including benzodiazepines, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s), Selective Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRI’s) and Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MOI’s).

Beta blockers, used for the treatment of high blood pressure and a racing heart, can be effective for short term anxiety, for instance if you were anxious over a driving test or examination.

Although these normally take several weeks to ‘kick in’, doctors are reluctant to prescribe medication for more than a few weeks as users can become addicted. They also have side effects ranging from drowsiness, dry mouth, blurred vision and memory problems to sexual dysfunction, weight gain, gastric upset, disrupted sleep and nightmares. Also, abruptly stopping the medication can cause withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating and shaking. If in doubt, always consult a doctor.

Psychotherapy

Drug companies spend huge sums trying to convince us that depression and anxiety are biological illnesses and can only effectively be treated with drugs, but independent research often shows that psychotherapy can relieve symptoms more quickly and is more likely to prevent a relapse.

Among the approaches used are:

Behavioural therapy

This uses two main approaches:

  1. Desensitization – exposing the client to progressively more stressful events. In theory the anxiety subsides.
  2. The ‘extinction’ technique – based on the notion that if you put the client in anxiety provoking situations often enough, they eventually learn that there’s nothing to be worried about. Sadly it only works 25-30% of the time.

CBT

The most common form of psychotherapy is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT assumes that changing maladaptive thinking leads to changes in feelings and behaviour. CBT has been shown to be at least as effective as drugs for the treatment of anxiety.

Hypnosis

Hypnosis can be used to expose unconscious causes of anxiety and reprogram the subconscious to make you more relaxed and less anxious. It can also address specific fears and phobias. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) can also address anxiety disorders and phobias.

Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis can involve years of analysing childhood experiences and has a poor track record of relieving anxiety.

Self-help

We all know that worrying about a problem never solved it, but consciously trying to control anxiety or panic through rational thought alone can make matters worse. What we focus on tends to amplify, so trying to think our way out of anxiety can lead to more anxiety provoking thoughts, which only increase the symptoms.

Electronic Bioenergetic Devices

Various electronic devices have been developed in the past half century which use low frequency, short duration, low intensity magnetic pulses to stimulate body tissues. TENS devices (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation), for instance, use electric currents to stimulate the nerves for therapeutic purposes. The Scenar – ‘Self-Controlled Energy Neuro Adaptive Regulation,’ originally developed for the Russian space programme, is a hand held biofeedback device which aims to teach the body to heal itself by activating the immune system. While TENS and Scenar have proved effective for pain relief in clinical studies and avoid the problems associated with drugs, it is doubtful that either can help with anxiety.

The most advanced device on the market is the AcuPearl. AcuPearl has been developed by an international team of scientists whose expertise extends from traditional healing methods to the latest research in the body’s connective tissue matrix communication.

AcuPearl comes in various configurations, two of which, the AcuPearl G-Balance and C-Balance, are  is specifically designed to aid with stress, anxiety and sleep patterns.

AcuPearls delivers therapeutic effects in a safe way using (1) Low frequency pulsed output of the magnetic and light spectrums; the rate and duration of the pulses is an important factor in the AcuPearl technology; (2) Pulsed ElectroMagnetic Field therapy (pemf) which uses low frequency, short duration, low intensity magnetic pulses to stimulate body tissues; and (3) A propriety method called Adaptive Resonance, developed specifically for AcuPearl, which produces resonant interference patterns within the magnetic and light fields that are continually adapted as the device is in use.

G-balance (2)   geabdbff

The Calm/Relax setting works with acute and chronic stress and anxiety, offering a general calming and relaxing effect; the Revitalise program aims to help re-establish a sense of vitality when feeling depleted as a result of prolonged emotional stress and the Sleep setting help to re-establish good sleep patterns for people experiencing sleep disorders due to emotional stress and anxiety.

These AcuPearls can be worn as pendants or on the wrist, or simply kept in a pocket. Their effect can be enhanced by applying them to acupuncture points, making them the 21st Century equivalent of a 5,000 year old proven therapy.

Scientific advance is an ever unfolding process, and although there’s still an awful lot to discover, there are more and more options for anxiety sufferers.  Perhaps the best approach in chronic cases is a multi-faceted approach incorporating natural remedies, lifestyle changes, talking therapies and pemf.

See also www.feelinggoodallthetime.com/anxiety

© David Lawrence Preston, 17.6.2016

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Nothing in this article is intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult a doctor if you have any health concerns that may require diagnosis or treatment. Any statements made concerning products and services represent the opinion of the author alone and do not constitute an endorsement of any product or service.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our natural immunity

Our natural immunity: How the body gets rid of unwelcome intruders

Science is not entirely clear why some people are prone to serious illness while others carry the same bacteria but have no ill effect. But it must have something to do with each individual’s natural defences against unwanted organisms and toxins – that is, the uniqueness of each person’s immune system.

Take the common cold or flu virus. Within a few days of succumbing to infection, a fully functioning immune system begins producing specific antibodies. White blood cells destroy the virus and eliminate infected cells to prevent further replication. In healthy individuals, within seven days or so, the situation is resolved.

However, if for some reason the body can’t get rid of harmful toxins, they infiltrate the cells and inflammation occurs. We have boils, soreness, redness etc. This is a more extreme way of dealing with intruders. If this fails, permanent cellular change may result, including cysts, tumours, and in extreme cases, cellular degeneration and cancer.

Anything the body does not recognise as harmonious to optimum functioning creates a toxic burden and can weaken the immune system. These include parasites, heavy metal toxins (e.g. lead, mercury fillings), chronic yeast infections, mould and fungi, industrial chemicals (including garden pesticides and weed-killers), gas, diesel and petrol fumes, some electro-magnetic fields, and certain undiagnosed bacterial infections in the gut.

Virtually all symptoms of illness are manifestations of the body’s attempts to rid itself of harmful toxins. Mostly the body does this unaided, but more serious situations may require treatment. Some treatments, however, such as antibiotics, steroids, anti-depressants and other mood-changers, and indeed most drugs, may have positive short term effects but in the longer term go deeper into the tissues and eventually manifest as a more destructive disease. According to some experts this is how the widespread use of pharmaceuticals in recent years has led to increased incidence of degenerative disease and cancer today.

Homotoxins – toxins which weaken the immune system – flourish especially in conditions of poor hygiene, poor nutrition, inactivity, mental and emotional stress, and where excessive radiation, electromagnetic fields and geopathic stress are present. A person experiencing several of these would require a detox to regain full health, to restore the immune system to the degree where it is capable of withstanding toxic attack.

Anything which reduces stress and toxicity and improves sanitary conditions, fitness and nutrition strengthens the immune system and improves the prospect of good health. That’s the responsibility of all of us.

©David Lawrence Preston, 7.4.2016

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Worry

‘There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.’

Epictetus

Think of some problem or event from your past that was so big at the time that you literally worried yourself sick about it. Can you remember the outcome?

Worry is the opposite of faith. It’s a feeling of agitation brought about by mulling over what you don’t want. It is the misuse of your imagination. Research shows that 90% of what we worry about never happens, and the other 10% happens so rarely it’s not worth worrying about.

Worry causes more psychological problems than almost any other emotion. It’s like leaving your car in the garage all night with the engine running. You waste petrol, pollute the atmosphere and wear out the engine – but get nowhere.

Worrying about a problem never solved it. The best antidote is action. If you can do something about it – do it. If there’s nothing you can do, why worry – it won’t make any difference.

Try these:

  1. Start a worry box. Whenever you find yourself worrying about something, write it on a piece of paper and put it in the box. Then turn your attention elsewhere. (In reality, of course, you are allowing your intuitive unconscious mind to sort it out for you.) On the last day of each month, open the box. You will find that most of your worries never came to anything, or were not as bad as you imagined, or you were able to cope one way or another.
  1. Ask yourself what exactly you’re getting worked up about. Be honest, how likely is it to happen? Sometimes we worry about things that only have a tiny chance of occurring.
  1. Is it really that important? If the worst happened, could you handle it? Tell yourself you can. Once you know you can handle the worst, it eases your worries considerably.
  1. Activity distracts you from worry. Often whatever is worrying you resolves itself while your attention is on other things.
  1. Live one day at a time. Concentrate on what you can do now. Do the best you can each day and the future will take care of itself.
  1. Deep relaxation and meditation have enormous benefits. When your body is relaxed, the part of the mind which does the worrying is more relaxed too, so develop a calm disposition and ‘visualise’ yourself dealing with whatever life throws at you.

Back to my first question – did all that worrying make any difference? Probably not!

©David Lawrence Preston, 26.3.2016

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Life Coach book cover

How to Books, 2004

Give up approval seeking behaviour

Approval-seeking behaviour means being a people-pleaser. It implies being too concerned with what others think at the expense of your own feelings and beliefs. In extreme cases psychologists recognise this as a deep-seated neurosis because you are in effect allowing others to make your mind up for you and dictate your actions.

Of course, it’s good to be liked and appreciated, and it’s good to help others and show compassion, but there’s only one person whose approval you really need (as opposed to want) and that’s you.

Ask yourself – and be honest – which, if any, of these are typical of you?

  • Constantly craving recognition?
  • Comparing yourself unfavourably with others?
  • Being over-generous to get others to like you?
  • Seeking out others who are shy or have low self-esteem?
  • Feeling like a victim most of the time?
  • Frequently making excuses to avoid social contact?
  • Staying in the background, for instance, by avoiding fashionable clothes?
  • Staying quiet even when you have something to say?

If you have ticked any of these items, you have work to do! And I can help – that’s what most of my blogs are designed to do!

Self-approval is at the heart of solid self-esteem, and is essential for a happy, healthy and successful life.

Other people’s expectations are not your concern; you didn’t create them and you don’t own them. Let them follow their paths while you follow yours. If they don’t like it, that’s their problem, not yours. You always have the choice of how to respond to others’ expectations – use it wisely!

 

©David Lawrence Preston, 17.3.2016

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