I do. Interestingly, Dotty notes that she has also become less critical of other people and she is getting along better with some of them, not just with her husband. Therapy can produce some wonderful results. Flare-ups are a normal part of life for those with persistent pain. Many flare-ups can be prevented, and all can be managed so that they cause less suffering. You don't have to like them--there is not much to like about them! But if you see them as a normal and time-limited event, it can be easier to cope. Striving for excellence in things that matter to you is not perfectionism; indeed, it can be a healthy and productive way to live. Maybe you aspire to be the best athlete, student, cook, spouse, or attorney you can be. You are highly motivated and shoot for the stars. So far, so good! What separates such healthy aspirations from perfectionism is that you do not demand that you reach the stars. Further, undemanding individuals who enthusiastically strive for excellence may see the journey itself to be the most gratifying and exciting aspect of the pursuit, not whether they actually achieve some idealistic or unlikely goal. So let's be clear: I encourage you to take up the banner of striving for excellence--as long as you don't demand perfection. The problem is, when we identify with the anxiety we feel, we begin to think of it as a necessary part of who we are. We may not like it, but there it is. We think we can't do anything about it. It's just part of us, so we have no choice but to accept it. As clients regularly tell me, "It's just how God wired me." But think of how ridiculous this is. Even the person with an illness they can't do anything about still thinks of his or her "true" self as healthy.

We say this all the time. "I woke up feeling under the weather. I can't wait to feel like myself again." How Do Pain Flare-Ups Work? Sometimes it is easy to see where a flare-up comes from--if you have a fall, for example, you may not be surprised that your pain is worse the next day. Other times, the pattern can be harder to spot; the pain flare-up may not happen until some time after the event that caused it. The best way to manage pain flare-ups is to prevent them. It may help to spot patterns if you keep a log of your activities. If you act early, you can keep flare-ups shorter and save yourself a lot of pain and worry. What puts you at risk of pain flare-ups? What are your early warning signs that a pain flare-up may be coming? Looking at the human condition from this perspective, we see that anxiety didn't enter the scene until sin entered the world. Prior to the Fall, God, man, woman, and creation lived in harmonious union. Genesis paints a picture of Adam and Eve confident in God's providence, safe in each other's arms, and happy to do the productive work of tending the garden. It was, literally, paradise. In his book, Spiritual Passages, the late psychologist and spiritual director Father Benedict Groeschel studied people he encountered along each of these three stages of the spiritual walk. He observed a steady decrease in anxiety and an increase in peace and trust in God's loving care, despite the trials a person encounters while moving through these stages and toward deeper communion with God. Whether you demand perfection of yourself, others, or the world, you are setting yourself up for a life of painful, unrelenting stress. Why? Because you live in a vicious cycle of unremitting anxiety about whether your unrealistic demands on yourself, others, or the world will come to pass. And when reality falls short of your demands, as it invariably will, you needlessly experience depression, guilt, anger, or other painful emotions.

This ongoing cycle of stress actually defeats your own purposes! Why? Because you, others, and the rest of the world this side of heaven are, by their nature, imperfect. The stress you create by demanding perfection makes it harder for you to achieve your goals, help others do better, or improve the world situation. When you spend your life insisting on what is impossible or almost impossible to obtain, ironically, you are likely to accomplish less, create more problems for you and others, and do less to make the world a better place. What is the debt snowball method? You start out by getting organized and disciplined with your finances by following the four steps shown here. This is your total take-home (after taxes) pay for both you and, if you're married, your spouse. Don't forget to include everything--full-time jobs, second jobs, freelance pay, Social Security checks, and any other ongoing source of income. Think about your regular bills (mortgage, electricity, etc.) and your irregular bills (quarterly payments like insurance or HOA) that are due for the upcoming month and prorate. After that, total your other costs, like groceries, gas, subscriptions, entertainment, and clothing. Every dollar you spend should be accounted for. This is zero-based or EveryDollar budgeting, meaning your income minus your expenses should equal zero. When you do that, you know that every dollar you make has a place in your budget. If you're over or under, check your math or simply return to the previous step and try again. Once you create your budget, track your spending. It's the only way you will know if your spending is aligned with your plan. EveryDollar makes tracking your expenses (and budgeting for them) extremely easy. Visit EveryDollar.com to learn more.11 Self-talk is always going on in our heads and often causes problems. It leads us into self-fulfilling prophecies, usually of failure.

The habit of negative self-talk is damaging. If we let ourselves become aware of the self-talk, we can then control its effects to some degree. We can spot it and name it, and we can counter it with positive self-talk. One of the principles of modern child rearing and of modern managerial technique in business, is "Catch them doing something good." That means to acknowledge a positive or desired behavior. Such positive reinforcement has been proven more effective in obtaining desired behavior than does criticism or punishment. If we were exposed as a child to the other style, the critical, shaming, punishment approach, it will have a deep and lasting effect on our personality. It feeds underlying shame, damages our self-image and sets us up for demoralization. A reward, whether it's a compliment, a material reward, or just attention and acknowledgement, is a powerful reinforcer of desired behavior, and we can use it on ourselves. We can practice catching ourselves `doing something good.' I notice that I get flare-ups when I do too much activity and when I don't sleep enough. My warning signs are feeling more pain and fatigue, having crying spells, and acting irritable with my family and friends. What Can I Do About Pain Flare-Ups? Sometimes, a pain flare-up can hit like a wave and feel very overwhelming. A pain flare-up can make it hard to think, move or do anything. Having a flare-up plan is like having a surfboard so you can navigate the wave of pain safely. It helps to make a plan ahead of time, when you are feeling better. The worksheet that follows offers a way to make a personal flare-up plan. Keep a copy of this plan somewhere easy to find, like on the fridge, in a pocket of a bag you usually carry, or on your smartphone or computer. Another option is to try creating a collage of images that will remind you to take care of yourself during a flare-up. If I have a pain flare-up, I worry that it means it's "back to square one" and I will lose all my progress. The more you engage your new philosophic wisdom in practice, the more likely you are to feel more comfortable, freer, and less encumbered by self-imposed demands.

This movement from intellectual to emotional appreciation will be gradual and will continually evolve. Maybe you're saying, "Yes, I see it is irrational to demand perfection of myself in a world that is inherently flawed, and to degrade myself when I fall short. But I still feel down when I make a mistake or don't do a perfect or near-perfect job. I can tell myself that I'm still a worthy person, but I just don't feel like one." Don't despair! In this state of cognitive dissonance, where the conflict between your reason and your emotion has risen to the level of conscious awareness, lies the possibility of constructive change. For change is possible only when you first recognize what needs to change (Cohen, 2007). The rest is about gradually increasing your willpower to overcome your old self-defeating, painful ways of thinking and acting by replacing them with more constructive ones. The prime goal is therefore to bring emotion in line with reason, which means feeling comfortable with the world as it is, not as it must be. Feelings of anxiety are making it difficult to fulfill my professional or personal obligations. My anxiety causes me to feel uncomfortable around people or actively avoid opportunities to get together with others. I have been forced to make changes in my life, work, or relationships to accommodate my anxiety. When I feel anxious, I can't calm down unless I seek out repeated assurances from others. My anxiety is making me irritable (whether you notice this or others tell you). Worry and anxiety cause me to lie awake for at least some period most nights. I constantly replay social interactions looking for mistakes I may have made or offenses I may have committed. Have you thought about cutting back your spending and paying off all your debt? Have you considered downsizing your home? Do you need to do some spring cleaning and get rid of the stuff that no longer serves any purpose? Can you imagine spending less time on the exhausting treadmill of life and, instead, living life the way it was meant to be? Then I suggest that you start out by connecting with your health and financial matters by taking action today.