A Walk in the Woods Will Clear Your Mind

There are a crazy number of things demanding our attention every waking moment of the day. The world is upside down. Many things we thought we could count on are gone. It is incredibly difficult to know what and who to believe. Very nice people are saying opposite things.

A simple walk in the woods always helps to clear my mind. I’m not one to go venturing in forests I’m not familiar with, but I can easily follow a path. I especially like paths that have maps on a post every quarter mile or so. That way I know exactly how to get back to my car.

We often see chipmunks and there are lots of birds. On our most recent walk we were excited to spot two deer watching us carefully. We saw each other about the same time but they stayed still until we were out of sight.

A walk in the woods does a couple of simple things. Exercise is obviously the first. We can all use it. Walking is an easy activity and who doesn’t enjoy getting out in nature?

Walking is also a great way to set your mind on something other than the chaos around us. If you pay attention to the things around you as you walk, and choose to really see everything instead of assuming you already know what you’re going to see, it sends your thoughts into a different direction than the normals paths it has been taking.

That’s the point. If we don’t choose to see, listen, watch, understand, and stay alert, our minds automatically follow the paths we’ve walked again and again.

I can choose to see and think differently. It’s up to me.

Overcoming My Dam Fear

When I was very young I scooted as far forward in the bathtub as I could then quickly pushed back. All the water rushed to the other end of the tub and got really deep. It scared me.

This is Discover Prompts Day 26. The key term is hidden. I have kept my secret hidden all these years. It is going to be a freeing experience to finally release my dam fear and let it all out.

I don’t know how many experiences I have missed because of my dam fear. I vividly recall a fishing trip with a friend and my dam fear just kept coming up. Even now as I think about it I’m beginning to feel shaky. The memory is clear.

I don’t know why I’ve kept my dam fear hidden for so long. I guess I was afraid if I let anyone know about my dam fear they would laugh at me. I had terrible anxiety about being laughed at because of my dam fear.

I’m old enough to understand experience makes a person stronger and wiser. How long have I known that, and still my dam fear stands in the way. Well, today is the day. No more dam fear.

I picture the source of my dam fear in my mind, looming large like a giant, hungry, roaring, snarling lion. It’s staring at me, but I’m staring right back. I’m the one who’s roaring now. “No more dam fear!!”

I’m going to test myself and see if my dam fear is really gone. Here it is. Wait for it. Don’t close your eyes. Go ahead and look. You can do it!

Yes!! Yes!! I did it! I’m free! I can stare at this photo and I don’t feel any dam fear! Oh, that’s so great! I don’t know what took me so long! I just had to face my dam fear and tell it to be gone. Wow! I wish I had told my dam fear to get lost a long time ago!

Well, I guess I should let that be a lesson to me. My dam fear wasn’t as bad as I thought. I just had to face it, take control, and decide to be free from my hidden dam fear.

In case you’re wondering, dams really do scare me. But don’t tell anyone. It’s a hidden secret.

I need coffee.

Awareness of Your Personal Value

How are you feeling today? What kind of day are you going to have?

Whatever you have decided about the day and how you’re feeling in it so far, it is possible to make it better. Not perfect. Better.

When you decide your personal value is the foundation of every judgment and decision you make throughout the day, you are immediately on your way to having the kind of day you want instead of reacting to the day that happens to you.

Economics is based on scarcity. If everyone has the same thing it has no value. The item might be extremely useful, appreciated, necessary, but as far as monetary value is concerned, there is no demand because everyone already has it. If only a few have it, the demand is high because everyone believes they have to have it, and the price is high because there is not enough. That is economics, advertising, commercialism, and the common understanding of value in a paragraph.

Your personal value has nothing to do with economics, but you are trained to believe it does. You are constantly bombarded with messages that remind you you do not have enough, there is not enough, you can’t get enough, and no matter how hard you work, it will not be enough. The most damaging message that comes from all of this is, YOU are not enough, and never will be. You are constantly reminded that unless you have this, unless you go there, unless you’re wearing this, unless you’re eating that, unless you’re driving this, unless you live in that, you have no value. Oh, not in specific words, but that IS the message.

None of it is true.

Your value is you. There has never been another you. There is no other you. There will never be another you. We are all snowflakes! There are no two people exactly alike. There has never, in the history of humanity, been an exact repeat of anyone. Nor will there ever be.

Your value cannot be measured because there is no comparison. Your value has nothing to do with how you look, act, feel, live, think, like, dislike, hope, dream, work, play, eat, smell, run, throw, sit, or stand. Your value has nothing to do with abilities, talents, grade point averages, status, careers, awards, stars, accolades, applause, or friends. Your value is you.

Here is the key. Your value has nothing to do with anyone else’s value. You do NOT have value because someone else does not. You do NOT have less value because someone else has more. Your value is not in relation to anyone but you.

If you do not accept your value, then you will spend your life and effort trying to find it. You will value yourself when others value you. You will value yourself when you finally are able to buy that car the ads tell you to drive. Value will finally be yours when you can afford that house, get that promotion, go on that trip, receive that award, get that attention, be seen with those people. And then you will be left alone with not an ounce more real value than was yours all along. Your value is you.

The most damaging message that comes from all of this is, YOU are not enough, and never will be.

Your value is not a feeling. But not realizing your value will affect and drive your feelings. Your value is not your personality. But not realizing your value will affect whether you react or respond, whether you stagnate or grow, whether you trust or fear. Your value is not behavior. But not realizing your value will affect and drive your behavior.

Your value is you. Say it. “My value is me.” Say it until you’re tired of saying it, and then say it a bunch more.

Dale Parsons MA LPC

Anxiety: The Short-Circuit

How would you define anxiety? Feeling nervous? A lack of self-confidence? An inner uneasiness?

However you define it, anxiety is real. Since it is experienced in so many different ways, and affects so many parts of life, it is difficult to nail down. Anxiety tends to lurk in the shadows but makes its presence known, often at the worst times.

Anxiety is not the same as a sense of nervousness about a new situation. For example, anyone would feel fearful about speaking in front of a group of people for the first time. That person, however, would find with each experience it gets easier. While speaking, the person with anxiety might be thinking about what listeners are thinking, whether they like what she is wearing, if her hair is sticking up in back, if he has something in his nose, if his zipper is down, what she would rather be doing, and why she agreed to do this in the first place. And no matter how many “that was wonderful” she receives, there is still an underlying uncomfortable something.

Anxiety can be a life short-circuit. It can divert energy and motivation to itself with no explanation. No matter how perfectly a circuit is designed, a short not managed becomes the focus.

What does anxiety mean to you? How do you function with it?

Your value is in you. Your life is not defined by anxiety.

Anxiety and Model Railroading

I love model railroading. It’s been my hobby since I was fifteen, and I loved trains long before that. I’ve been working on my newest layout, which, at the present time is still quite a way from rolling stock moving along the rails, for about sixteen months.

I’ve seen posts of modelers who appear to be living the dream, spending tremendous amounts of time working on their railroad as a result of this unbelievable struggle with Corona Virus. This is NOT a criticism! I applaud their dedication to the hobby, and the pictures I’ve seen are amazing. We can all learn from each other. I also know that most of these modelers are working on their layout because they are not allowed to go to work. So it’s a battle to survive. No, my problem is me. Because of anxiety I struggle with almost constantly, it is very difficult for me to stay in my train room long enough to get a lot done. Oh, I know that’s okay. It’s not a project that has to be completed on a schedule. It’s mine, for me, by my plan, schedule, design, likes, dislikes, frustrations, disappointments, delights. I don’t need approval for completed projects, but I do crave it.

I’m retired, so you would think my days might look like morning coffee, a glance at the morning news, drinking more coffee, then heading to the layout, then coming back upstairs to get more coffee. Nope. I have this constant nag that I should be productive, I should be doing something. And model railroading, for some reason in my mind, doesn’t fall into the category of productivity. Sure, it’s productive as far as my layout is concerned, but not productive in the overall scheme of needs. There is always something that should be done.

Actually, even writing this blog is part of that nagging. need to be productive. It’s something that is considered, started, re-started, edited, almost published, re-written, edited again, and then published. After which it is taken down and edited again. And yet, even with that, it’s not really productive because it’s not necessary to life. Neither is model railroading. But, on the other hand, model railroading is absolutely necessary because it can definitely contribute to a sense of accomplishment. I did it! That looks great! And it only has to look good to me.

So, the daily struggle continues. Some days are better than others, I just have to keep working at it. In the process, I will find time to work on the Maple Valley Short Line and feel good about it. Eventually, there will be trains moving. The scenery will begin to take shape. With this layout, I am determined to be incredibly detailed down to the smallest weed by the side of a shack. The win over anxiety is in the details. Little by little.

Do Something Different

Have you had the experience of driving a familiar route and all of a sudden realize you don’t know where you are? Every time you get in the car do you have to think about where to put the key? How to make the car move? How to stop it?

When you wake up in the morning, is your routine exactly the same day after day? Is there a time during each day when you begin to feel anxious or depressed?

Unless you’re sixteen years old and driving is new, you never think about where to put the key or where the brake is. You have learned it, and have practiced it long enough it is now habitual.

Your brain and your body work together to record new actions, and if they are repeated again and again, they become a part of muscle memory. You can do them without thinking. Everyone knows the old saying about riding a bike.

Feelings work the same way. Your brain and your mind can associate feelings with actions, or places, and the environment and actions can trigger the same feelings repeatedly.

Here’s a quiz. Think about school, not just the word, but the experience of attending school. How do you feel? Think about going to the dentist. How do you feel? If your feelings about school are negative, in thirteen, or maybe many more years of school, you had thousands of experiences, and not all of them were bad. Many were terrific! In the dozens of times (hopefully) you’ve been to the dentist, not all of them resulted in pain and yet your feelings about it might be fear and dread.

Feelings can become habitual or automatic. One way to disrupt automatic feelings is to purposefully change what you do each day. It is important that you on purpose, in other words, while thinking about it, change your actions. For example, if your morning is shut off the alarm, use the bathroom, brush your teeth, fix the coffee, let the dog out, make the bed (what?), then take a shower, and you do that day after day after day automatically, change it! Get up, make coffee, let the dog out, brush you teeth, etc., purposefully. Think about it!

Here’s the point. If you are with purpose thinking about what you’re doing, your brain and feelings are not left on their own to begin setting you up for the anxiety and depression you might normally feel every day by mid-morning that short circuits your entire day. Do something different! If that doesn’t do it, with every action, think about each element of the action. Think about who ground the coffee, how the coffee pot was made, how hot the water gets, what color of coffee is actually perfect. Think about how toothpaste is made. Think about the person who had to glue all those little bristles in the handle. (Just kidding). Get it? If you’re purposefully thinking about what you’re doing, you are changing the way your brain automatically runs. Don’t leave your brain and emotions to stir up feelings on their own. They will automatically turn to the routes of thinking and feeling that have been there longest and strongest. Change them!

Make your brain and your feelings work for you, not against you.

Hope you have a great day.

Dale Parsons, MA, LPC