Struggle

How to Cope with a Tragedy When You Have Anxiety

By now, I’m sure you’ve seen the news about the school shooting in Florida. I wish I knew what to say to take away the pain and heartbreak that so many are feeling today. My heart breaks for each and every one of them.

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Tragedies are difficult to cope with if you don’t have mental health issues. If you do have them, it makes tragedies that much harder to cope with. Stressors like these can even trigger relapses.

In light of what’s happened, I wanted to take the time to share tips for coping with tragedies when you have anxiety or other mental health issues.

  • Limit the amount of time you spend watching the news. With the 24/7 news coverage, it’s easy to become overloaded with information. It can make your stress and your symptoms even worse.
  • Maintain your daily/weekly routine, no matter how hard it is. When unexpected, scary events happen, it’s easy to feel like your world has turned upside down. By continuing your normal routine, it gives you a sense of normalcy, which helps you cope with stress.
  • If you’re struggling, reach out for help. Don’t suffer alone. It’s okay to feel what you’re feeling, but don’t suffer alone. Reach out to a family member, friend, therapist/counselor, religious leader, or anyone you trust.
  • If necessary, have a good cry. Sometimes we need to release our emotions before we can move on. There’s no shame in doing so.
  • It’s easy to feel powerless when bad things happen. If you feel powerless right now, do something positive. Write to your representatives and demand change. Reach out to someone who’s struggling. Pay for someone’s meal or coffee.
  • Take care of yourself. Indulge in your favorite relaxing activities. If you enjoy movies, have a movie night with your family/friends. If you like to read, stay up late reading your favorite book.

It’s easy to feel hopeless and scared in the face of evil. It can be exhausting trying to keep up your courage, especially when it seems easier to stay in a bubble. It will be okay, though. You’ve survived other tragedies, and you will survive this one too.

Courage

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Validating Your Own Suffering

Quick message before I get to today’s post: I want to make sure that my blog caters to your needs. If there’s a topic you want to see covered, leave a comment on this post or on Facebook, and you might see it here!

Raise your hand if you’ve told yourself one of these statements (or something along these lines):

  • I don’t deserve to feel the way I do about this person/situation.
  • Everyone else has it way worse than me.
  • My feelings don’t matter.
  • My feelings are irrational.
  • I shouldn’t be feeling this way.

What if I told you that your feelings matter too? What if I told you that this is your anxiety telling you lies?

Because it is. These, and more, are lies your anxiety tells you that make you feel “less than” everyone else.

Many people don’t realize that people who have Anxiety Disorders have difficulty validating their own suffering. Including me. Anxiety sufferers see someone who has it worse, and they think it’s somehow supposed to negate their own pain.

Today, I want to let everyone in on a little secret: suffering is not a competition. Your pain and suffering are your own, and no one has the right to tell you how to feel about your experiences. You’re the only one who truly understands the depth of your suffering.

Once I learned this, it was freeing! For years, despite the hardships I’ve gone through, I struggled to validate my suffering. It’s still hard for me to validate my suffering, but it’s getting easier.

If you struggle with validating your suffering, it will get easier. It’ll be hard, but it will get easier. Don’t compare your journey and experiences to anyone else’s. Remember that you are the only one who’s going on your journey.

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The Importance of Knowing Your Limits

As many of you know, I recently began a new semester. During the first week, the Catholic group that I’m a part of had three events that I wanted to go to. The thing was, they were all sensory intensive, and one of them was late at night.

  • On Wednesday, my school’s Catholic group had our semester kickoff. We played board games, had a meal together, and prayed a rosary. Most of my friends are a part of this group, so it was great to see all of them again.
  • On Thursday, a nearby university had their weekly Mass and Meal. We share our priest with this university, so many people from my school go to their Mass and Meal, and vice versa. This event took a lot out of me. I had to navigate a very large, unfamiliar campus, and it was a late night (by my standards- I didn’t leave the event until 9:45 PM). Not only that, there was standing room only in the Catholic center, where we ate our meal. Crowds tend to trigger my anxiety and leave me feeling drained afterwards.

By the time I woke up on Friday, I was exhausted, drained, and worn-out. The next day was the Pro-Life memorial Mass and March for the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. A group from my school was going, and I had signed up to go. I knew I was not going to have it in me to go, even though I wanted to. Instead of forcing myself to go, I respected my limits and told the people in charge that I had changed my mind.

Today, I want to talk to you about knowing your limits.

By “knowing your limits”, I mean don’t push yourself too far beyond what you’re comfortable with. It’s important to push yourself little by little outside your comfort zone, but pushing yourself too much too soon can cause setbacks to your recovery.

In order to know your limits, you need to gauge how you feel in various situations. It’s important to learn your cues. For example:

  • If a situation is in your comfort zone, you will likely feel relaxed for most of the time you spend in the situation.
  • If a situation is far outside your comfort zone, you will likely feel a variety of negative emotions, like severe anxiety and agitation. These negative emotions are likely to escalate, and it may result in a panic attack.
  • If a situation is just outside of your comfort zone, you will likely be able to tolerate the situation for some time, and you may even feel relaxed. After a while, the situation may feel more uncomfortable, and you may feel the urge to leave.

Bear in mind that it takes practice and a lot of trial-and-error to discover your cues, and not everyone’s cues are the same.

Knowing your limits when you have an anxiety disorder is crucial to your recovery. If you push yourself too much too soon, it can harm your anxiety disorder recovery. By making small, incremental steps outside of your comfort zone, you can progress towards healing and recovery.

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Count Your Accomplishments

The other day, I was overwhelmed with the sheer amount of stuff I still had to do: academic responsibilities, finding a summer job/internship, and finding a roommate for next year. Not only that, I also need to make sure I take care of myself so I don’t get sick, and I can keep my anxiety in check.

It’s a delicate balance sometimes.

I told my mom about this, and she reminded me that I’ve done things to move towards these goals. She helped me realize that I have a tendency to discount the work that I’ve put in.

To me, this seems like something that’s more or less true for people who have anxiety disorders. Our anxiety tells us many lies, one of the biggest being that our little accomplishments don’t matter.

Here’s the thing, though. Little accomplishments add up over time; Little accomplishments lead to accomplishing big goals. These big goals could be buying a house, getting a promotion at work, or graduating college.

Here’s another thing: sometimes people may say, either implicitly or explicitly, that your little accomplishments don’t matter, that it’s only the big ones that matter. These people are wrong. When you have an anxiety disorder, you have to celebrate every accomplishment, no matter how small. Just because your accomplishments seem small to other people doesn’t mean you have to discount them too. They’re your accomplishments, and they are worthy of being celebrated.

My mom suggested I make a list of my small accomplishments, so here they are:

Academic:

  • I’m registered for classes.
  • I’ve paid for tuition.
  • I’ve purchased all of my textbooks.

Summer Job/Internship:

  • I’m almost done revising my resume.
  • I’ve started to spread the word about how I’m looking for a summer job/internship.
  • I’ve sent off writing samples to one lead.
  • I sent an email to an organization that I’ve volunteered for to see what summer jobs/internships they have.

Roommate:

  • I asked one of the leaders of my school’s Catholic group to see if she knew anyone in need of one.
  • I joined my school’s Catholic group Facebook page, since many people post roommate requests there.

Today, I want you to celebrate your small accomplishments. Make a list. See how many steps you’ve made towards your larger goals. You may be surprised at how close you are to them. If you would like, when you’re done, post your list in the comments below, or comment on the Facebook post.

Remember that your small accomplishments matter just as much as your big accomplishments do. Don’t sell yourself short; those baby steps will get you to your goals.

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Getting a 4.0 GPA in College with an Anxiety Disorder

open-book-library-education-read-159621.jpegCollege is hard. Living with an anxiety disorder and being a full time student is even harder. In many ways, it’s like juggling two full-time jobs. Unfortunately, some people believe that college is out of the question for young adults living with an anxiety disorder.
I used to think so too. I’ve dealt with my anxiety disorder and panic attacks for years. In some ways, graduating high school felt like a miracle. I didn’t know how I would cope with college, given how bad my anxiety was. Fortunately, through trial-and-error, I figured out how to cope and thrive in college. In fact, I got a 4.0 during the previous two semesters.

Today, I want to share some of my strategies for getting a 4.0 GPA in college.

  • Talk to your school’s disability services department.

They will help you get disability accommodations for your classes. They can also connect you with useful resources. Asking for help may be difficult, but these accommodations will help level the playing field and give you a fighting chance. If asking for help is difficult, bring someone along for moral support. It’s also a good idea to think of what you want to say before your meeting; write down a summary of what you want to say, in case you forget.

  • Find a good therapist and/or a psychiatrist.

Depending on the nature of your anxiety, you may need therapy, medication, or both. Many schools offer free counseling for students. If yours doesn’t, or they don’t offer what you need, find a therapist as close to campus as possible. If you have frequent medicine changes, try to find a psychiatrist near campus. If your anxiety is stable, you can get away with having a psychiatrist further from campus, if need be. If finances are an issue, see if you can find a counselor who charges fees on a sliding scale.

  • Build your support network, and lean on them.

Building a support network is crucial. Your therapist and/or psychiatrist make good additions to your support network, but you need more people. Make friends on campus. Build relationships with your professors. Make friends with the people in your classes. If you run into hard times, your support network will help you cope. If you have good relationships with your professors, they will be more likely to work with you.

  • Pick a major that you’re passionate about.

A major you love will motivate you to get to class regularly and study.  That’s partly why I’m an English major. I love to read and write, so it’s easier to go to class and study. This helps when my anxiety drains my motivation.

  • Take the course load that you need, even if it’s not considered full time.

It might be a good idea to take fewer hours per semester, especially if you’re trying to stabilize your anxiety. For me, my anxiety gets triggered if I’m too busy. As a result, I typically take about 12 hours each semester. This is what works for me. If you need to stay busy in order to control your anxiety, consider taking more hours. If you need to go slower, take fewer hours. Don’t feel like you have to graduate at a certain time. Go at your own pace, and you’ll graduate eventually.

  • Make your schedule the way you need it to be.

One of the perks of college is that you can have your pick of class times. If your anxiety makes it difficult to sleep, choose afternoon or evening classes. If your anxiety makes it hard to concentrate, take early morning classes. These classes tend to be lighter, because few people want to take them, and quieter, because people are still trying to wake up.

  • Take care of yourself.

This is absolutely crucial for every college student, not just ones with anxiety. Find what fills you up, and incorporate these things into your schedule. Find a hobby that you enjoy, and incorporate it into your schedule. This will give you a much needed break. If finances are an issue, seek out free or low-cost hobbies, such as an exercise class/group on campus, reading library books, juggling, writing, and drawing.

Also, don’t be afraid to reward yourself. You have more work than a typical college student; you deserve to treat yourself. For me, one of my favorite TV shows is Full House. On Fridays, as my reward, I get to watch an episode. Rewards can motivate you to do what needs to be done.

 

If you have an anxiety disorder, you can do well in college. It may take more work, and you may have to do things differently from everyone else, but you can do it!

 

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Reconciliation and Anxiety Disorders

Reconciliation can feel like a daunting task to undertake. But for those living with anxiety disorders, it can feel almost impossible to go. The thing is, God desperately wants to forgive us for our sins, He gives us the gift of Reconciliation so that we can be with Him in heaven someday.

As someone who has an anxiety disorder, I know how difficult and scary it can be to go to reconciliation. If you struggle with anxiety, you may be wondering how, or even if, it’s possible to participate in this sacrament. As someone who’s been in this boat, I know that with the right strategies in place, it’s possible for you to go.

Over the years, through trial and error, I’ve figured out ways to help me cope. My prayer is that these strategies help you to experience God’s love and forgiveness.

Here are my tips:

  • Go as often as possible. 

This step will, admittedly, take some work. You may be thinking to yourself now, “seriously? I have to do the thing that scares me MORE?!”

Here’s the thing, though. If you only go once per year, you only get one chance per year to overcome your anxiety. If you go more frequently, you have more opportunities to overcome your anxiety. It’s like exercising: the first few times you do it, it’s difficult and exhausting. The more you exercise, the less difficult it will be.

  • Pick a priest that you’re comfortable with

For me, this one was the strategy that helped me the most. The priest at my home parish has been there for four years. He knows me and my personality, so he’s better equipped to advise me spiritually. Some of my best reconciliation experiences have been with him.

If you feel comfortable doing so, advise him of your disorder. This way, when you go to Reconciliation, he will have a better understanding of your situation.

  •  Go with someone you trust for moral support

If the idea of going alone worsens your anxiety, ask someone you trust to go with you. Going with someone can distract you from your own anxiety, and you can grow in holiness together.

  • Tell the priest that you’re nervous

It’s okay to tell the priest that you’re nervous; they understand. They’ve been on both sides of the confessional. If you tell him that you’re nervous, he might be able to do things to ease your nervousness. You won’t know for sure until you make your needs known

  • Remember that priests are bound by the seal of the confessional

This means that anything said in Reconciliation stays between you, the priest, and God no matter what. No one outside of the confession will know what was said. Remember also that there are very few, if any, sins that the priest hasn’t heard. You’re not likely to shock him with your sins. The priest is also not likely to remember what you said. Priests not only hear your confession, they hear other’s confessions, celebrate Masses, attend to church business, meet with people one-on-one, and attend to other duties. They also have to attend to their own needs. Priests are busy; they don’t have time to remember specific sins.

  • If all else fails, see if you can set up an appointment for reconciliation

If you have anticipatory anxiety, talk to your parish and see if you can set up an appointment for reconciliation. Explain the situation to them. They should be willing to work with you to come up with a solution. Remember that the Church wants you to grow closer to God. They should be willing to help you as long as you make your needs known.

As you can see, despite your disorder, you can not only go to reconciliation, but it can be a good experience too. As long as you make your needs known, there will be people to help you.

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to read today’s blog post. If you enjoyed today’s post, please share on social media. Thank you for your support. God bless you!

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Being Pro-life Matters. This is why.

There’s a lot that I love about being Catholic. Honestly, I could keep you here all day if I were to list out all of the reasons why I love being Catholic. I love the Mass, I love the sacraments, and I love the teachings.

One of my favorite teachings is about being pro-life. I love this teaching, and I love being pro-life.

For me, being pro-life is so much more than simply being against abortion. It means seeing each and every person I come across as being valuable. It means loving those that society marginalizes. It means seeing every child, born or unborn, as a blessing, and not a burden.

Those who know me well know that I love children, and I’ve always loved working with children. I believe that God has blessed me with having a knack with children. In fact, I firmly believe that God wants me to get married, adopt children, and homeschool them; to me, doing this would be a dream come true. I can think of no better way to dedicate myself to God and grow in holiness.

In our society, life is a disposable resource. Granted, society does treasure some lives, mainly the lives of those who are able to make “meaningful” contributions to society (i.e. getting jobs, paying taxes, etc.). It does not value those that it views as a “burden”, like the unborn, the elderly, children, the poor, and those with disabilities.

It’s such a shame. Just because these people are unable to contribute to society in certain ways, doesn’t mean that they can’t contribute to society in other ways. And even if they can’t contribute in meaningful ways, their lives still matter. Every single life matters.

In my life, I have had the pleasure of loving those that society marginalizes. In this post, I mentioned that I volunteer at a domestic violence shelter. I’ve worked with the children there for almost a year, and I love it! Looking after and loving these children has been one of the greatest privileges of my entire life. They have taught me so much. They have taught me to be happy, even when it feels like life is falling apart. They’ve taught me that what you say and do to others, whether it’s positive or negative, can have a profound impact. They’ve taught me that it’s okay to be silly and laugh. They’ve taught me that trust isn’t given, it’s earned. Most of all, volunteering with these kids has further cemented my belief that every life is precious.

Words fail to explain how profound of an impact volunteering with these kids has had on me.

I shudder to think what would have happened if I decided not to volunteer. I would have lost so many great lessons.

You can learn so much from interacting with and loving those that society marginalizes. These lessons have the power to change your life drastically for the better. These lessons will make you a better person and to help you be in union with God, which is desperately needed in our broken world.

This is why being pro-life matters.

– Originally published on February 26th, 2017 at Backyard Missionary

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God’s plans don’t always make sense. Choose to follow them anyway.

The other day, when I was volunteering, I was playing a game with a young girl that she had made up. She set out plastic cones that were all different colors, and I had to organize them in rainbow order while being blindfolded with a makeshift blindfold. The game didn’t really make sense; how on earth was I supposed to organize the cones in rainbow order if I couldn’t even see them?

It got me thinking about how God’s plans for us don’t always make sense. We see plenty of instances of this in the Bible. For example, it didn’t make sense that God would ask Noah, a man who was “slow of speech and tongue”, to lead God’s people out of Egypt. It didn’t make sense that God would ask Noah to create a huge ark. Most of all, though, it didn’t make sense that Jesus would suffer and die so that all of our sins would be forgiven.

However, just because these plans didn’t make sense doesn’t mean that these plans were stupid or foolish. Far from it, in fact. Through Moses, God was able to lead His people out of slavery to the promised land. Through Noah, God saved the righteous when He flooded the earth. Through Jesus, God forgave our sins, giving us the opportunity to be with Him in heaven when we die.

In my case, this young girl who invented the game had had a difficult evening. If I had told her to fix her game so that the rules made sense, it would’ve done much more harm than good. If I had told her to fix the game, it might have made her feel like her thoughts, her imagination, and her creativity was somehow “wrong”. It may have even gone so far as to stifle her imagination and creativity.

I knew I couldn’t allow that to happen.

Because I went along with her plan, I was able to encourage her imagination and creativity. I was able to raise her self-esteem and show her that her thoughts matter. Most of all, though, I was able to help her develop into the person that God created her to be.

That, to me, is worth infinitely more than any desire to be “right”. That, I believe, was God’s plan for me that evening.

Sometimes, God’s plans don’t make sense. We may even try to resist God’s plans and follow our plans, thinking that we know better.

In order to become the saints that God calls us to be, we have to follow His plans for us. To the secular world, following God’s plans can be scary and risky. On the surface, it seems like that’s the case. The thing is, if God is calling you down a certain path, He will give you what you need in order to do it. He will not abandon you. He is a loving father, and He would never abandon His children.

We all have the same choice; we can either spend eternity in Heaven in communion with God and the Saints, or we can spend eternity in Hell. Following God’s plans might mean taking some earthly risks, but the risks pale in comparison to the eternal reward of being with God. Our lives here on earth are a blip on the radar compared to spending eternity with God in Heaven.

Take a chance. Follow God’s plans for your life. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

– Originally Published on February 12th, 2017 at Backyard Missionary

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Gentle evangelization

What comes to mind when you hear the term “evangelization”? Do you think of a person who acts like pushy, insistent salesman who is so persistent that he inadvertently alienates his audience? Or how about someone who goes door to door, trying to talk to strangers about God? Evangelizing, when thought of in this way, can be difficult, awkward, and even scary.

What if I told you that there’s another way? What if I told you that there was a gentler way to evangelize that allows you to connect to others, keep your friendships intact, and honors the dignity of others?

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

God calls everyone to spread the word about the Gospel. However, if done incorrectly, it can push people farther away from God, and the Church. This is the exact opposite of evangelization.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Don’t try to convert strangers. I mean, you can try, but it’s not likely to be effective. Instead, concentrate on talking about the faith with your non-catholic friends. Think about it this way: if a friend and a stranger were to give you life advice, who’s advice would you follow? Very likely, you would follow the advice of your friend because you know that they have your best interest at heart.
  • Don’t be mean when you talk about the faith, but don’t be apologetic either. You don’t need to apologize for what the church teaches, but you don’t need to be “in their face” about it either. Talking about the faith in a matter of fact way is going to be your best bet.
  • Talk about what the church teaches and the reasoning behind it. One reason some people reject the church is that they perceive it to be a bunch of arbitrary rules. In such cases, using logic can help them to see why the teachings are the way they are.
  • Look at your own spiritual life first. If you feel that your spiritual life is suffering, it’s going to be much harder to try to evangelize to others. If your spiritual life is suffering, nurture it. Make sure that you’re going to Mass every week, say rosaries, read scripture, go to confession as often as possible, etc.
  • Evangelize in the way that’s most effective for you. For example, I have to organize my thoughts on paper before I try to share my beliefs with other people. Because of this, I find it easier to evangelize by writing than by talking. There are many ways to evangelize; find the way that works best for you.
  • Make sure your actions reflect what you say. Remember that people tend to believe actions more than words. Show that you’re Catholic, not only through your words, but through action as well.

Ultimately, you can’t force people to turn their lives over to God. Any conversion will come on God’s time, not ours. In the meantime, pray for the other person and continue to love them as a friend. After all, praying for and loving our neighbor is what God calls us to do.

– Originally Published on January 29th, 2017 at Backyard Missionary

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Saying Yes

The other day, I was reflecting on the power of the word “yes”.

Everyone likes to hear the word “yes”. Personally, I like to hear “yes” when I ask if my family and I can go out to dinner. If you’ve ever said “yes” to a child who wants dessert, then you know the power of “yes”; the look on their face is pure happiness!


God loves to hear “yes” as well. He loves when we say “yes” to loving Him and following the plan that He has for us. As Catholics, we believe the we have free will; we can choose whether to love God and follow Him or not. God won’t ever force us to love Him, so when we say “yes” to Him, it makes Him so happy!


In my own life, if I, or someone close to me, hadn’t said “yes”, my life would have been very different. For example, I had a very difficult sophomore year of high school. For months, I begged my parents to remove me from the school that I was at. At the end of my sophomore year, my parents said yes to transferring me to a much smaller charter school. Had they said no, my life would have ended up very different: my education would’ve suffered, I wouldn’t have made the friends that I have now, and I wouldn’t have the confidence and happiness that I do now.


Saying “yes” to God isn’t always easy, but in my case, I’ve never regretted it. It will change your world in ways you never imagined. Saying yes has made me a better, holier person. If I hadn’t said yes, I wouldn’t have volunteered to help domestic violence victims or started this blog. Saying yes put me in a position where God can use me as an instrument of peace and justice, which is something that is so desperately needed in our world. If you say yes, God can give you the opportunity to help those in need in ways you never imagined.


Many people think that by volunteering with domestic violence victims, I’m doing something amazing and phenomenal. I’m really not. All I did was say yes. It wasn’t my plan to volunteer in this capacity. In the beginning, I had my doubts about whether I could do a good job. I’ve had to work very hard. I thought I might be in over my head. God showed me that this was never my plan; it was His. As long as I said yes, He would provide. And He has provided, time and time again. All I did was say yes. That one simple word has made my life deeply rewarding and rich.


Saying yes to God means your life won’t be convenient or conventional, but you’ll be at peace and know a rich, happy, and fulfilling life on earth. Will saying yes be crazy and difficult sometimes? Yes. Will it be worth it? Absolutely!

– Originally Published on January 15th, 2017 at Backyard Missionary