The Key to Improving your Anxiety – Do What Makes you Anxious (and stop excessively washing your hands)

After a little break from technology I am back with some new blog post ideas and a calmer mindset, yay 🙂 I originally meant for this blog to be aimed at people with emetophobia, as the resources I found on other blogs when I was suffering with it were pretty unhelpful and actually made my phobia worse.
In short – The phobia revolves around vomit, and the tips I saw online to ‘help it’ were mostly just advice on how to avoid vomiting or seeing vomit in every situation. That is not only unrealistic and unhealthy, but is exactly the kind of advice someone who is desperate to never face their fear looks out for. Only, that it reinforces vomit to be something to be scared of and the phobia cycle continues (I have outlined this in a prior blog post).

Face what you fear (maybe not dangerous animals though, as they could actually kill you… How about starting with irrational anxieties?)
Image source: https://coreaspect.org/way-for-facing-your-fears-and-bounce-back/

Anywho, I have recovered from my phobia by slowly doing things that make me nervous or anxious. But I feel like this applies to all types of anxiety – You need to do what makes you anxious for you to realise it really is nothing to be anxious about, which is also empowering in itself. The thing is, it is really uncomfortable in the moment; You might cry, maybe you’ll have a panic attack, but I promise you, you will not die, and over time you will decrease your suffering!

Let’s take a personal example of mine: Washing one’s hands! Even though I have pretty much overcome my phobia, this was still a big topic in my life the past few months. When people around me did not wash their hands before cooking or after going to the bathroom, I would not only get uncomfortable but I might even start a fight. I would cry a few tears and possibly insult their hygiene as a way to protect myself and make my fear of germs seem valid. But making them wash their hands will only validate germs as a bad thing, and it could even harm them mentally and physically when excessively done! That made me realise, my thoughts and behaviour were catastrophic and obsessive – Yes, washing your hands is important, but it’s not as dramatic as my mind made it out to be.

Let’s be honest, today’s society has huge (ridiculous) hygiene standards of constantly using antibacterial gels and wipes. That is important for some settings, but for the typical person with a fear of germs, this can become excessive and unhealthy. Where do we draw the line?
Image source: https://www.cdc.gov/features/handwashing/index.html

This past month I faced my fear of not having ‘clean’ hands very dramatically by pretty much only washing them when they were visibly dirty (and most toilet breaks). Of course, washing your hands after going to the toilet is a hygienic standard, but I am glad I can calmly go take a pee-break at night without having to worry in bed that I did not wash my hands. Might sound gross, but hey I’m still alive and healthy and my excessive worry is gone too!

So – The only way I got over my excessive worry about my own and other people’s hand-washing behaviours was by drastically changing mine to be what I very much feared. Yes, I was uncomfortable and felt dirty, but living through the after effects of not having overly cleansed hands and seeing I was fine, reinforced that my worry was simply unhelpful and false. Doing what makes you anxious is the empowering challenge you might need, to show yourself how strong you are. It’s all about believing in yourself and being patient 🙂

The Deadly Sins & Heavenly Virtues – Their importance for Mental Health

I have never been very religious in my life, and have identified as an atheist these past few years. However, the more I look into religion, the more appealing I find the idea of having some rules to live by. I am currently reading a book about Buddhism, which is teaching me a lot about discipline and productivity. However, for this post little series, I will be focussing on Christianity, and in particular the seven deadly sins and the seven heavenly virtues and their link to the human mind.

Today’s society encourages the partaking of all deadly sins in a modern way.
Image Source: https://hackernoon.com/future-of-all-business-exploit-the-7-deadly-sins-80c2b7b7b6a0

In short, the seven deadly sins are habits one should avoid due to their classified immoral nature, and this includes:

  1. Lust – Excessive sexual appetite
  2. Gluttony – Over-indulgence
  3. Greed – Avarice
  4. Sloth – Laziness
  5. Wrath – Extreme anger
  6. Envy – Desire to have something that belongs to another person
  7. Pride – Hubris & Vanity

Now, I don’t personally condemn these habits as immoral due to my so-far limited religious beliefs, but when looking at the list I think each of these is bad for your mental state. These traits encourage indulgence, disinhibition, and egotism, which is not helpful for anyone’s mindset. So, it might be helpful to keep these in mind when assessing your thinking for certain negative patterns!

To counter-balance these ‘sins’, a set of values that would enhance the human soul, named the heavenly virtues were proposed. In my research, I came across different sets of virtues, so I stuck with those that were most clear to understand for me.

  1. Chastity – Purity
  2. Temperance – Self-restraint
  3. Charity – Giving
  4. Diligence – Conscientiousness
  5. Forgiveness – Composure
  6. Kindness – Admiration
  7. Humility – Humbleness

Aristotle even talked about having 12 virtues, which you can see here:

https://aesthetichealingmindset.wordpress.com/2011/06/12/4706/

Adopting the values of the heavenly virtues can teach you a helpful mindset that will improve your mental well-being
Image Source (and some good reading!): https://www.aconsciousrethink.com/6802/seven-heavenly-virtues/

I always find my mental health improves when I live by certain rules, which are based on creating a more disciplined routine. Within that, positivity and being able to let go, rather than dwell, always help me to move forward from a bad patch. When looking at the sins and the virtues, I think it is safe to say that living life according to those would create more discipline, and a life fuelled by less hate and more love. You would be encouraged to adopt values that help you give, forgive, and be kind, while you neglect habits that bring you down, or make you indulge in your own achievements and materialism.

There is a lot within each sin and virtue, so this is more of an introductory post to a 6-week (not 7, because I will be excluding Lust) blog post series, where each week I will challenge myself to focus on one particular sin and the counter-balancing virtue, and live more according to those. This is part of my own self-growth and increasing interest in religion, but some of these habits and values might be particularly interesting for my own (and your!) mental health!

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_deadly_sins

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_virtues

http://freedomoffaith.tripod.com/id11.html

https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-24/edition-2/deadly-sins

Embrace the Challenge

Putting yourself through challenges is crucial for self-growth, while also being the most rewarding feeling you can give yourself! Be proud of what you have accomplished.
Image Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/active/10605263/Ueli-Steck-the-man-who-runs-up-mountains.html

In life we naturally go through many challenging situations. We may choose the challenge ourselves, or find ourselves in an unexpected tough situation. Either way, embrace those situations. This links to my last post about being grateful, but I think this is a more specific part in life – When we describe something as “challenging”, we think of something we had to overcome with difficulty and effort. But often times, the focus is not on the good outcome it led to.

A challenge might be an experience where we have to fight, physically or mentally. With proper reflection, I believe any struggle can be turned into something positive that taught you how to keep going in life.

When overcoming my past phobia, any challenging situation I put or found myself in has helped me get one step ahead. Yes, in the moment it was unpleasant, I might have cried or left, but afterwards I reflected and realised it was not that bad. I fought my way through situations that I found challenging, and I won – I survived, was absolutely fine, and I realised my imagination was my enemy (which I was then able to change!)

Think of your mental capabilities like a muscle, an analogy I have always liked to motivate me put effort into changing my beliefs. When trying to gain muscle mass, you have to challenge your body by lifting weights that need your body to push itself just enough. If your body is challenged, you feel your muscles shaking, which is a sign that they are strengthening. It is the same with your mental experiences; You might experience shaky emotions during the challenge, but over time you get better at it and grow as a person.

Wim Hof (“The Iceman”) has put himself through unbelievable physical and mental challenges, which has led to what he calls an “optimal state of body and mind”
Image source: https://edlatimore.com/wim-hof-method-review/
To read more about the Wim-Hof Method, go here: https://www.wimhofmethod.com/

So – Face any challenges as they come, learn from them and reflect on what improvements you have made, or a capable of making, in order to experience mental growth. I would love to hear your thoughts about this topic :)!