Am I Out of Control?

Am I Out of Control?

I recently posted an article about how to deal with a toxic family over the holidays. But what if you are contributing to the problem? Let’s take a look at how you can reframe the situation so that things stay safe and calm for everyone.

Am I Out of Control?

Few people are truly out of control. Those that I have seen are usually incarcerated or in a psychiatric hospital.

Do you keep it together at work? What about at the gym, grocery store, or other places away from family? If so, you’re not out of control. You may be choosing to lose control at home because you don’t have the same repercussions. It’s safe.

This is not the same thing as “I can’t stop myself.” If you truly could not stop yourself, you’d lack control in all situations. So the good news is, you can learn to use the same control that you exhibit in some situations and generalize it to all situations.

Everyone deserves to have a safe place. Even you. When you lose control, you are negatively impacted too. So let’s look at how to regain that control.

What Do You Really Need?

Sometimes when we blow up at people, what we really need is to feel safe. Things are too tense, so we want some space. We create it by pushing people away with ugliness. If this is what is happening, you could use the direct route and just ask for what you need. Or you can excuse yourself so that you can get that space. It’s okay to ask for what you want.

Sometimes we go for alcohol or drugs when we really just want to relax or feel more social. The alcohol helps, but then we go overboard. We end up doing or saying things we regret. If you want to relax, there are hundreds of effective techniques you can learn that will help with that that don’t have the side effect of leading to hurtful or undesirable behavior. If you want to be more social, you can learn skills that make this easier and more comfortable.

Sometimes being difficult is about needing to release the tension of being overstimulated. It’s hard for some people to deal with the stress of too much noise, too many people, expectations, and traffic that the holidays can bring. So, we meltdown. Instead of melting down, you can cope ahead and make a plan of what to do so that you can pace yourself. Take breaks and go outside. Limit the amount of time you spend at parties or with others. Have a plan for what to do afterward to decompress.

Healing begins with self-awareness. Find out what you need. If it’s something that someone else can give, ask for what you need. If this is something you need to do for yourself, follow through. Perhaps you don’t know what you need or what to do. You can get help to figure it out. Change is possible if you want it.

Limit Vulnerabilities

Coping is easier when you limit vulnerabilities. “Vulnerabilities” are anything that makes the stress worse and the chance for behaving in an undesirable way more likely. Common vulnerabilities are:

  • fatigue and a sleep routine that is not regular or long enough
  • being hungry or eating unhealthy food
  • consuming unhealthy substances like sugar, alcohol, and drugs
  • lack of exercise
  • being inside all day, sitting
  • not having a regular spiritual practice
  • harboring anger
  • loneliness

As you can see, the holidays are a perfect time for vulnerabilities to skyrocket. There are sweets everywhere. Social demands increase so we may skip exercise, meals, and sleep to accommodate others. The days are shorter and cold, so we might not get outside. This leads to resentment that we don’t express. And we can feel more alone in a crowd. This is why it’s even more important during holiday season to stick to your self-care routine.

Creating a healthy lifestyle is the best way to make your life more pleasant for you and everyone around you.

Hold Yourself Accountable

Everyone has power. Even if the problem starts with someone else, you are in control of how you respond. You don’t have to contribute to the problem. You don’t have to respond. If you have the skills, you could even do something to halt it or improve things. When you hold yourself accountable for your part, you gain a sense of contr0l over the situation. Powerlessness is crippling, so this is a great way to regain your footing again.

What About Trauma?

Maybe all this sounds like common sense, but what if it seems supremely hard because of a trauma history? That’s legitimate. Having a trauma history does make it challenging to do simple things like say, “Excuse me” and “I’m sorry.” It does make it harder to know what’s happening inside of you before you blow up or meltdown.

Fortunately, there has been an explosion of training in mind/body techniques in recent years that makes treatment more accessible, shorter, and more effective. Seeing a therapist who specializes in trauma treatment could be the best thing you do for yourself. Starting now could make next year’s holidays very different.

So, whether things are out of control or you are out of control, there is a way to smooth the path forward. It starts with you. The changes that you make can make all the difference.



The Real Scoop on Anxiety and Depression


This past week I saw an article by Arjun Walia that I thought over simplified, and actually got wrong, the relationship between anxiety and depression. Coincidentally, also this past week I was asked about the same ideas that the article presented. When a “theme of the week” pops up, I notice that. So here is the real scoop on anxiety and depression from a holistic perspective.


Looking at things from a brain perspective anxiety and depression are opposites. They are not “on the same team” nor do they habitually occur together. In order to have one, your body has to be out of balance. In order two have both, your body has to be really out of balance. Let me explain.

The autonomic nervous system has two parts: the sympathetic and parasympathetic. These two parts work in opposition to each other, so when one is ramping up, the other shuts down. Why? The parasympathetic is responsible for the rest and digest function. It also will shut your body down and send it into freeze (depression) in the face of overwhelming stress. The sympathetic system is responsible for fight or flight (anxiety). So the parasympathetic system is for relaxing and the sympathetic system is for action. So these two generally do not operate together because they inhibit each other.

So, how does it happen that some people have anxiety and depression at the same time? Well, when you are faced with a threat, the body automatically kicks the autonomic nervous system into gear to deal with the threat. When that happens the body responds by:

  • braincreating muscular tension
  • slowing down digestion
  • slowing down intestinal movement
  • increasing sugar and fat levels
  • dilating pupils
  • increasing perspiration
  • inhibiting tears
  • increasing the heart rate, higher blood pressure
  • increasing mental activity
  • inhibiting erection or vaginal lubrication
  • the breath gets higher and more shallow
  • dilating blood vessels in the heart, legs and arms while constricting them elsewhere

All of this occurs to prepare the body to defend itself from danger. The problem is, the brain can’t discern the difference between the stress caused by a car coming at you really fast, your neighbor playing his music too loudly, and you being late for work. It just cranks up the autonomic nervous system and it’s go, go, go! So for most people living in the modern world, that means they are “on” all the time. And when there is no escape, the brain gets overloaded to the point where it can no longer respond effectively.

When things are working well, a healthy body will move into the rest and digest phase when the threat is over. In other words, the parasympathetic system will kick in so that the person can relax and heal. You can notice that this is happening because the body starts releasing: releasing tears, urine, feces, saliva, reproductive fluids, and digestion happens. Unfortunately, a high tech, high stress, city  lifestyle can mean that this doesn’t happen at all for many people. If you have a chronic problem in one of these areas, you can bet that your stress level is way too high.

When either of these two systems are not functioning properly, people often turn to outside sources to feel normal. They usually tend to be either stimulants (for energy to overcome a sluggish system) or depressants (to slow down an overactive system) like over exercising, caffeine, drugs, alcohol, food, drama, and sex.

When neither of these systems is working properly, the brain defaults to freeze in order to survive. This is where both systems are running in high gear and you may experience anxiety and depression at the same time.

Arjuna Walla makes a good point that living a joyless life can create changes in the brain that make us less than vibrant, but try telling someone who has no energy (because the sympathetic system is on overdrive) to just go out and follow her dreams! It’s impossible while living in this highly disregulated body. There are lots of natural things you can do that will help, but you live in your body. If you don’t take care of that first, your body won’t have the energy to do what you need it to do.

So the first order of business is to raise the baseline level of functioning by doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

qigongDo more

  • eat fresh alive food
  • spend time in the company of happy, warm, supportive people
  • get outside in the sunshine and grass
  • engage in practices that detox the kidney, liver, lungs, skin, colon, and lymphatic system
  • do gentle movement daily (walking, swimming in chlorine-free water, tai chi, qigong)
  • meditate daily
  • practice deep breathing
  • smile
  • laugh
  • sleep

Do less

  • eliminate drugs and alcohol
  • eliminate or at least reduce processed foods, sugar, artificial colors, artificial preservatives,
  • eliminate toxic bath and body products
  • eliminate pesticides
  • eliminate chemical household cleaners
  • sit less
  • watch less tv
  • turn of your cell phone when you are sleeping
  • reduce computer usages
  • move electronics away from your bed… or get them out of your bedroom completely

You might look at some of these suggestions and wonder what they have to do with reducing the stimulation of your parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. Stressors do not have to be things that you consciously react to. There are many stressors that are a part of every day modern life that go ignored like the noise level, dead air inside buildings, chemicals, radiation, and electromagnetic fields. By eliminating stressors, detoxing the body of chemicals, and providing the body with natural vitamins and minerals, the body can recover. It won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight, but trust your body. It knows how to heal itself. When you give it the right tools and treat it well, it will do well by you. …and THEN you can go out and indulge in your dreams. Your decisions will always been more effective when you are building from a strong baseline.

So, is that all there is to it? Will this “cure” your depression and anxiety? For some, it is enough. For others it will raise their baseline and make it easier for healing to happen. Everyone is different. Some are out of balance due to trauma. If that’s the case, the underlying trauma must be treated. Some are out of balance due to toxins and mineral imbalances and deficiencies. This won’t be fixed by diet and lifestyle alone. Other interventions are necessary. Some having thinking (“There is too much darkness in the world”) and/or programming issues (“I am not good enough”) that have to be changed. The mind and body work together, you know. Some didn’t learn the skills to deal with problems so molehills look like mountains and require a great deal of energy to handle them.

When you fix the lifestyle issues, it becomes easier to see what else is there. It gives you the energy to deal with the rest of the world. And since it’s all self-help type stuff, anyone can do it. You can even start today. So, why not start today?

The above suggestions are meant to be general in nature. If you’d like professional help that can supplement. and perhaps speed up, your own self-help efforts, please contact me.