Acting on Our Values
Anxiety is a complex condition and has many root causes. One cause that I have seen as a counselor is when we act in a way that is contrary to the values we hold. When this happens, people can feel like there are two versions on themselves, the person they show others and the person they want to be. They constantly feel torn between these two opposing figures, feeling stressed and worried.
Our values are a part of everything we do. From our careers, to our family, to how we treat friends and acquaintances, our values should be the driving force. When I have seen people act in opposition to their values, it isn't typically a conscious decision, but rather a lack of clarity into their core values. People typically live day to day without defining or thinking about their values. What brings this to light, however, is when they come in for counseling with feelings of emptiness, loss of direction, not feeling "like themselves", dissatisfaction in their careers or family lives, or a general feeling of stress and anxiety. If you find yourself in this place you should work towards (1) clearly defining your values and (2) building these into how you approach your daily life.
Clearly Define Your Core Values
In order to define your core values you should start by asking yourself some questions.
1) What is most important to you?
2) What sort of person do you want to be?
3) What do you want your life to be about?
4) What types of relationships do you want in your life?
5) What do you want to spend your time and energy on?
6) What could you not live without and what could you spend less time on?
Your principles should be the driving force in your life, the things that motivate you to be a better person and to strive to accomplish your goals in life. However, your values are not your goals. Goals are the desired outcome based on the values you hold. Therefore, if you don't accomplish a goal, it is ok as long as it was in pursuit of a value. If you have a goal that is contrary to your values, it doesn't matter if you accomplish it or not (at least it doesn't have the same personal impact if you accomplish it). However, if you pursue a goal that is aligned with your values, you will be living a life according to the things that matter most to you, and that is a life worth living whether or not the outcome is exactly what you wanted or in the timeline that you desired.
Build Your Values Into Your Daily Life
We have limited time and energy in life and we all have to choose what to spend that time and energy on. Once you have clearly defined what your values are, then take a look at your life and where your time is going. Assess what are some areas you can cut that don't align with your values, and where you would like to nurture your values. If a core value is spending time with family but you are always working long hours, then your time is not aligned with your values. This might be a case where your values need to change, but if they truly are what matter most to you then restructuring your work hours might be in order. Now, we can't all quit our jobs to spend every waking hour with family, and part of the value of family is likely providing for them, but we can re-evaluate the structure and balance in our schedules.
We must set boundaries around what is important to us in life. When we don't, anything and everything can take over. I hear people who are self-employed or have high stress jobs that say they can't set these boundaries; they believe everyone else is in control of their lives. However, when acting on what is most important to them they typically find that schedules can be changed, roles are flexible, and others respect them more when they live by their values rather than being walked over.
This is by no means a simple process. It takes being honest with ourselves and truly evaluating if we are living in alignment with what matters most to us. Not only that, but this process typically means we have to make some changes. Those changes aren't easy. They can mean changing hours, changing jobs, volunteering more, changing who we spend our time with (sometimes even cutting people from our lives that are bad for us), and leading healthier lifestyles. However, by knowing your core values and living those out every day we can be less stressed and more fulfilled.
James McMillian, LCPC
Resolve - Counseling & Wellness
If you’re like most people, we often get caught up in our emotions. We give them power and sometimes think because we feel something it must be true. Adults get caught doing this, especially after significant life events like a divorce, or breakup, a job loss, or financial stressors. However, in teenagers, there is a side of the brain that isn’t quite fully developed: logic.
Sometimes teenagers aren’t able to see past the emotion and often feel like what they are going through is never going to end. If I’m being honest, I’ve even felt these things before, and I could assume that you have too.
I was in a session recently where a teenager taught me one of the most important things that many others were doing that I was not: listening to Logic. When this person said this to me, I thought they were talking about the voice in their head that is more rational and the one that can see the more logical side of things; however, this was not the case. Little did I know, Logic is a music artist. So, I decided to step out of the box in which I was living and see who Logic was and what these kids are listening to.
Now I know why Buzzfeed wrote an article on why the National Suicide Prevention Line has been flooded with calls: because of Logic. There are many songs out there or jingles that get stuck in your head. I can think of a Pizza Shuttle’s 776-5577 number, and I can also think of the 867-5309 number that frequently get stuck in my head. Now, there is an even more important number that people will be singing: 1-800 273-8255. Thank you, Logic.
Teenagers tend to relate to music. They can communicate in ways that others can understand through a song or lyrics that relate to them. They feel like someone else gets it. I would even suggest that adults do the same. Have you ever heard a song that made you think “Dang, that was exactly how I felt”?
In his song “1-800-273-8255”, Logic talks about the process of suicidal thoughts. He presents these thoughts in an art form so that others can more freely and normally talk about it. When we talk about our emotions, specifically ones stemming from depression and shame, we give them less power. Logic gives them an outlet that is socially acceptable to express and relate to feelings and thoughts that many others have. Through his music, he offers understanding, connection, and the most important: hope. Logic offers hope in other ways that many other media outlets like 13 Reasons Why did not. In relation to hope, Logic writes in his lyrics:
“When your head’s been drowning underwater
Research has found that most people with suicidal ideation or who have completed suicide do or did not actually want to die; they want the pain to end. They want the emotional suffering to stop. When we talk about our emotions and perspectives, when we verbalize them, we begin to make room for hope and leave less room for pain to grow.
Find a trusted person to talk about these things with. Do not keep them bottled inside leaving the acid in those poisonous thoughts to erode away at your inner spirit, dreams, and hope.
Express it. Let it out. Through exercise, through music, through art, through playing with your dog or kids. Find a way to express these thoughts or feelings in safe ways.
Seek help. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing with anyone in your life, maybe this is your sign to seek professional help. This doesn’t mean you are weak or can’t handle things on your own; it simply means you shouldn’t have to handle it alone.
Robin Helget, LMSW, CPT
If you, your teen, or someone you know is struggling with depression or suicidal ideation, seek a licensed professional today. Robin wants you to know that finding a therapist is like trying on a pair of shoes and sometimes you have to find the right fit to get the most help. She encourages you that if she is not the right fit, she will help you find someone who is. Give her a call today for a free phone consultation at 785-408-7529.