I listened to an interesting podcast featuring Dr. John Delony, a bestselling author, mental health expert, and host of The Dr. John Delony Show. He has two PhDs and decades of experience in counseling, crisis response, and higher education.

This podcast was primarily about his personal experience but he outlines some steps on healing from chronic anxiety.  

Here are highlights:

  • Chronic anxiety is about being burned out, anxious and chronically stressed. It’s akin to a smoke alarm that goes off when it detects smoke in your kitchen. But rather than address the cause of the alarm going off, we often choose to pull the batteries out of the alarm. 
  • We’re living a life that our bodies are not designed for. Our minds are spinning up stories to backfill how our bodies feel. Add to that social media and 24-hour news, peppered with narratives that may or may not be true providing us with a steady library of stories to draw from when we are stressed.
  • As J.K. Rowling quoted, “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” And she sure did by becoming one of the world’s most recognized authors.
  • For most of us, it’s a quiet life of desperation. Then when we hit rock bottom, we say that we don’t like ourselves. So why would you take care of someone you don’t like?  Because you’re worth being loved so go figure it out! It can be one point or a series of small points to survive and make it through the day. You need to look at the ecosystem of your life and put out the fires to prevent more smoke from filling up your kitchen.
  • Anxiety is not just in your brain or mind – it’s in your body. One cannot out-think anxiety. You cannot learn enough stuff about the hypothalamus and how it modulates cortisol, etc. and try to figure it out.  
  • Don’t take on anxiety with thoughts; one of the issues with modern psychology is getting in touch with your feelings – it won’t work.
  • In modern society, we often live isolated, bifurcated lives and the loneliness is killing us. You cannot have a life of longevity with mental, physical and spiritual health on a platform of loneliness. You HAVE to have other people. For some, it’s a therapist. For most of us, we drown our spouses/partners and kids with our burden.
  • Difference between discomfort and anxiety is that with discomfort, you have control.  For example, when you’re around SWAT teams going into wild and intense situations with guns and armor, there is high stress, high tension, high performance – but no anxiety because they have full authority of the situation. 
  • Anxiety is controlled by being in the front seat NOT the back seat of your life. Another example he used was about a couple who paid off over $400K in student loans but they had no anxiety – they just planned. They had discomfort as they had to budget extremely carefully to manage their finances. There is a huge mental health drain of owing other people money. Because of economic insecurity, your brain will not let you be still and have peace.

Small Steps for Healing Chronic Anxiety

  • Start with your home. How secure is your home, your relationship with your spouse, kids and those in the family? Keep in mind that your kids absorb family tension from adults in life and it impacts their mental health.
  • If you don’t know where to start, call someone and say that you’re not okay.
  • Sarcasm and pessimism are our spirit but optimism and joy are looked upon as insanity. Dr. Martin Seligman, Director of the Penn Positive Psychology Center proved that optimism is a learned behavior and a CHOICE. You have to believe that you can change your default settings.
  • And turn off the news – they are designed to sell ads and scare you into more pessimism and sarcasm.
  • For example, someone asked what the best hedge against our food system imploding or the power grid going down was. ANSWER: Develop great relationships with your closest neighbors! No stockpiling of food, nonperishables, etc. required. Y’all will get through it together.
  • If you worship yourself, you worship how you feel. Then you pathologize life, sadness, heartbreak and loss. You’re supposed to be sad and heartbroken if you lose your job or a loved one! Don’t try to cut it out or pretend it’s not real.
  • Most people have 4 to 5 great loves over their lifetime and if they really work hard, they can stay with the same person. But it takes work and don’t try to solve your spouse/partner like a puzzle. Work on how you can love your spouse/partner that day and keep it simple. For example, ask your spouse, “How can I love you today”? Do the dishes? OK – done.
  • Nobody makes money by telling you that you’re not broken. They make money by telling us that we have problems that need to be fixed. You are not broken – you just need a roadmap.
  • You need practice and a coach – make time to practice and the right coach for guidance.
  • Make time for meditation and spiritual practice – whatever forms that work for you. 
  • Awareness and curiosity is what mindfulness is – it’s not about just meditation. For example, catch yourself as you’re getting ready to yell at your kids or spouse OR grabbing a handful of cookies. Stop and ask yourself if you really need to do that.
  • We should never accept the way we talk to ourselves!
  • In Buddhist tradition, there is a practice where you meditate on your death. Death meditation is about seeking to find the truth regarding life and death, learning to accept that everything must come to an end, and creating a peaceful environment for easing fears. When you contemplate death, your life experiences, hopes, and dreams will have clarity. And once you know your life’s purpose, your priorities will shift. Death meditation helps you better understand how to map out the rest of your life to fulfill your purpose.
  • Who wants to feel the regrets of living an anxiety-ridden life? Getting rid of the anxiety is not the end goal. It’s living a life that matters to us so we don’t end up in that regret.
  • And having beliefs is important. Human beings are meant to worship, even atheists. We are not above nature and we have to ask to be loved. And belief is letting go – not hanging onto something. If you worship money by hanging onto it, you won’t have enough. If you worship beauty by hanging onto it, you’ll never be beautiful enough.

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