This video is an excellent free resource that can greatly augment your parenting skills. John Gottman is one of my personal heroes, having contributed so many revolutionary resources to the field of psychotherapy.
Sitting in a coffee shop recently, I overheard a conversation in which one gentleman said to his friend, “She’s always wound so tight…she just needs to relax.” Ever heard that before? Whether you’re the anxious friend or the one who is criticizing her, the groundbreaking research of Dr. Sonia J. Bishop from the University of California, Berkeley may be of interest to you.
In her award-winning research, Dr. Bishop has linked variations in brain functioning to differences in how people experience and cope with anxiety-provoking stimuli. Essentially, her research suggests that the guy you know who would calmly continue eating his deli sandwich while watching an awful accident through the café window has a brain that works differently than his girlfriend who faints at the sight of the same accident.
The calm guy, for the sake of example, likely has a less responsive amygdala (the area of the brain that links memory and strong emotion), and a very active prefrontal cortex (PFC), the part of the brain responsible for planning and calm judgment. His girlfriend has an overactive amygdala and a less active PFC, so she reacts differently to the same situation.
Dr. Bishop’s research suggests that if you are anxious, it is not your fault. Your brain simply works in a different way than your ever-composed friend.
This, however, does not suggest that people with anxiety are doomed to live an anxious life. Similar to having straight vs. curly hair, or a diesel vs. gas engine in your car, having a more active amygdala and a less active PFC simply means that you need different tools to keep your mind healthy. Some proven methods for anxiety reduction include regular cardio exercise; daily diaphragmatic breathing & meditation/prayer; and learning through counseling to effectively confront thoughts that cause unneeded anxiety.
If you would like help with anxiety ask your doctor to recommend a therapist who can help you to conquer your anxiety, and teach you a lifestyle that will keep your overactive amygdala in check.
Having observed the field of Christian counseling over the past years I have noticed some issues that need to be addressed:
1. Christians are often reluctant to seek counseling due to fear of judgment/stigma inside of the church.
2. When Christians are being counseled in a faith-based setting they are often fearful of being honest about their struggles because of a reluctance to let a fellow Christian know the truth about how they do not measure up to the ideals that scripture establishes for daily living.
3. Christians sometimes think that all that is required for true life change is faith and prayer. To admit that these attempts have not worked feels like admitting a lack of faith or a poorly disciplined prayer life.
I believe that the caring presence of a truly non-judgmental person has profound power to begin the process of change and healing.
All dealings with a practicing therapist are legally required to be kept confidential. This includes the fact that an individual has sought help at all, as well as any and all content discussed within the context of therapy. So, unless your therapist feels that you are in danger of harming yourself or others, no one will know that you have asked for help; even in the extreme case mentioned, your referral to a local hospital will be kept confidential.
All good therapists have been a client in therapy as well as a clinician. And most therapists are drawn to the field because they have had significant struggles of their own to overcome. Therefore, we literally understand how it feels to sit in your seat as a first time client.
Though faith and prayer are essential elements of a Christian’s life, sometimes we need further help in seeking the change we desire. Remember, even Jesus asked for support from His disciples in his time of need.