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Decreasing toxic forms of perfectionism can lessen these conditions simultaneously (Lowndes et al., 2018). The truth is, anxiety is such a commonplace experience that we often feel like there is something wrong with us when we aren't feeling anxious. We wonder what new threat to our security or peace we are missing and concern ourselves with what "fresh hell" (as Dorothy Parker put it) is waiting just around the corner, or in the next email. But how do you know whether you are experiencing normal, garden-variety stress and anxiety or whether you are struggling with something more serious? When does anxiety become a disorder? To be honest, if you have been asking yourself this question, it's probably time to at least seek a professional evaluation. People often wait for years (some research suggests an average of six years) before getting appropriate, professional counseling help. By then, the problem has been allowed to grow into something that has had a serious impact on the person's life, career, and relationships. Anxiety disorders, even serious ones, are very responsive to treatment. The vast majority of people who seek counseling for anxiety experience significant relief. By getting appropriate, professional help early, even before you're sure you "really" need it, you increase the chances of a shorter course of treatment and a quicker and fuller recovery. That said, there are a few unmistakable signs that anxiety could be becoming a particularly serious issue for you. The quiz at the end of this chapter can help you decide if you are experiencing "normal" levels of anxiety or if you should seek an evaluation of your anxiety by a professional counselor. My finances have ranged from earning a high income to having no income. I have experienced large debt such as student loans, mortgage, and the high cost of medical expenses. I have also experienced paying off all of my debt, too. Too often, once you're debt-free, a sudden and unexpected emergency may show its ugly face, causing you to go into debt again. But today I strongly believe your goal is to always live a debt-free life. It is an amazing feeling to live a life that is free and clear of debt. Nearly fifteen years ago I had the opportunity to learn from the financial guru Dave Ramsey.

Boy, did my life change drastically once I understood his concepts on finances and started implementing his economic principles. It was the first time I had ever experienced a debt-free life. I've learned that when you stick to his concepts, it becomes easy to save money and even have money to invest. Getting out of debt happens quickly once you learn how to apply this concept to your life. Budgeting is made more manageable, and the money-related aspects of your marriage and other relationships can become smoother. Self-talk is also an important issue for people with panic attacks. People having an attack are usually saying "Oh my God, this is awful! I can't stand this! This is killing me!" and often, "I'm having a heart attack!" or "I'm losing my mind!" Until they understand panic attacks, most people do think they're dying or losing their mind. What causes a panic attack? Excessive epinephrine released from the adrenal glands into the blood stream. What do these catastrophic thoughts do? They cause the adrenal glands to release more epinephrine, thus strengthening and prolonging the attack. What can someone do about that? Actually a number of things, but here we're focusing on self-talk. A person can't stop those negative thoughts, but they can counter them and not let them take over: Dotty talked about how with her ADD symptoms she had felt that "I was the only one," until I had told her about my symptoms and about other patients and friends with ADD. We discussed ADD symptoms and how I and others coped with them. This not only gave her strategies to use, but also helped her see that she was not the only one. It reduced the underlying sense of shame from childhood. She said that now, when she makes a mistake or shows an ADD symptom, she says, "It's OK," like she would say to one of her little girls.

This replaces the old critical tapes - "What's wrong with you?! Why can't you be careful?! Stupid!" and so forth. Sound familiar at all? She says that now she knows herself. She knows that she has ADD and she knows that she will make some of those mistakes sometimes, and "It's OK." No wonder she's feeling better. "Oh, I know what this is; this is another one of those darned panic attacks. I don't like them. They're quite unpleasant. But no one ever died from one and I won't either. I've gotten through them before and I'll get through this one, too. They don't last forever. It'll soon be over." Thus the person coaches themselves through the attack, the epinephrine level drops, and the attack ends sooner. Self-talk is powerful. What Are Pain Flare-Ups? Pain is a changeable thing. You may have noticed that, even when things are going well, your pain goes up and down a bit over time. Most people have a "usual range" that their pain levels tend to stay within. However, many people also go through times when the pain gets much worse for a while. These "flare-ups" may come after an injury, after doing too much, or after a stressful time.

Sometimes they seem to come out of nowhere. Flare-ups can be very upsetting and can make you feel like you are not making progress. It can be hard to live an active and enjoyable life if you feel afraid that a flare-up could come at any time. Dr. Cohen uses various philosophical approaches to defuse toxic perfectionistic beliefs. One is a flip technique. For example, perfectionism is a conditional-worth idea. People who think this way are in a dichotomous thinking trap wherein they are either worthy or not, and perfection is the solution for being worthy. Here is the flip side. Both Cohen and Ellis show how to think pluralistically and to unconditionally accept yourself, to unconditionally accept others, and to unconditionally accept life. Do you have to be perfectly acceptant? Not really. Here, acceptance means taking things as they are and not as you believe they should be. That means that if you are not acceptant 100 percent of the time, that is as it is. The aphorism "Change what you can, accept what you can't, and know the difference" captures the essence of the meaning of acceptance and your potential for applying the concept healthfully and effectively. Regardless of the level of anxiety you are experiencing, the good news is that with proper help, you can find ways to stop worrying and significantly increase your peace. Better still, as a Christian, you can be comforted by realizing that whatever worry or anxiety you are feeling in this moment, it was never God's will that you be anxious. Neither are you destined to live in your anxiety. In his Theology of the Body, Pope Saint John Paul the Great reminded us that to really understand God's plan for our life and relationships, we need to go back to the beginning. Saint John Paul proposed that there are three phases of human existence in the Divine Plan.

Original Man is the first phase of human life before the Fall, when our first parents were still in total communion with God and each other and before God's plan was disrupted by sin. Historical Man is the post-Fall, sinful age we are living in now. Eschatological Man refers to our destiny at the end of time, when God creates the New Heaven and the New Earth and we are raised up in glory to become everything we were created to be and live in complete union with him for all of eternity. Save $1,000 to start an emergency fund. Pay off all debt using the debt snowball method. (I will explain this in a second.) Save three to six months of expenses for emergencies. Invest 15 percent of your household income into Roth IRAs and pretax retirement funds. Save for your children's college fund. Pay off your home early. Build wealth, and give. Dotty has started an exercise class, which is an excellent idea. She says that there are some of the exercises she just can't do, and she noticed herself starting to say, "You can't do it. Why are you even here? What ever made you think you could be in this class?" but she spotted this self-talk. She caught herself, and said, "It's OK. You can just do what you can do. Those other ladies doing that exercise have been doing this a long time. Maybe I'll get to where I can do some of those. Anyway, I'll do what I can and it will be OK." If you, dear reader, don't have ADD you might have a hard time understanding why anyone would have the attitude expressed in those negative thoughts. If you do have ADD, I bet you understand the shame and self-image that was built up from childhood and you understand exactly what Dotty was going through.