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Seeking Balance in Overcoming Procrastination (Part 3)

This is the final part of Seeking Balance in Overcoming Procrastination.

Strengthen your self-concept.  Let go of your past mistakes and regrets along with your inner critic. Instead, feed the positive voice in your head that recognizes your potential. This includes acting with confidence that you can learn and develop your abilities to accomplish your goals. 

“I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:12-13

Explore your deeper motives.  Is there any passive-aggressive aspect to your procrastination, such as delaying action that someone else wants you to do?  Or do you feel overwhelmed by your responsibilities?  Are you afraid of success?  How deep is your fear of failure?  All of these things can be explored even more effectively with the help of a close friend, family member, or even a professional counselor.

“Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.  Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.” Romans 12:16-17

Evaluate your relationships.  Are you in need of learning healthy assertive communication skills?  Your relationships will suffer if procrastination is due to passive-aggressive  behavior or your fears prevent you from doing a project that is important to your spouse. Thinking about the benefits of making healthy choices that reduce procrastinating behaviors can have added relational benefits.  For example, “my wife will be excited when I finish this project.”

“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,  leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.  Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.” Matt. 5:23-25

In the end, you want to avoid being the subject of this anonymously authored poem.

“Mr. Meant-To has a comrade, And his name is Didn’t Do. Have you ever chanced to meet them? Did they ever call on you? These two fellows live together, In the house of Never-Win, And I’m told that it is haunted, By the ghost of Might-Have-Been.”

Ideas from Dr. Frank Bruno in “Psychological Symptoms” contributed to this article.

Originally written for the Hammonton Gazette, June 2016.

Seeking Balance in Overcoming Procrastination (Part 2)

This is a continuation of Seeking Balance in Overcoming Procrastination.

Set smaller goals.  These smaller tasks can be done one by one, eventually reaching the target of your highest goal.   Link rewards to these smaller goals for added power.  For example, a student may reward himself with ten minutes of a video game after each homework assignment rather than trying to do homework for five courses at one sitting.

“The mind of man plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.” Prov. 16:9

Avoid rationalization.   Procrastination often comes with excuses to defend our non-action.  Take responsibility and focus on the task at hand.

“The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside;
I will be killed in the streets!'”  Prov. 22:13

Resist labeling yourself.   Labels can make you feel helpless like a victim. “Procrastinator,” “lazy,” “do-nothing,” are labels worth removing from your vocabulary. 

“Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.  Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.  Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,  namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  II Cor. 5:16-21

Change unhealthy thought patterns.  Increase your awareness of how your thoughts in the present contribute to your problematic feelings and behavior in this area.  For example, if you repeatedly return to thinking pessimistically that “I cannot read such a long book” or “I will never finish this project,” it will undermine your potential achievements.  Instead, adapt an “I can if I choose to do so” attitude.

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Phil. 4:8

Next Week we will conclude Seeking Balance in Overcoming Procrastination.

Seeking Balance in Overcoming Procrastination (Part 1)

“Procrastination is the thief of time.”

Edward Young, 18th Century English Poet and Playwright

People delay completing tasks and assignments, put off reaching for a goal, and postpone facing the challenge of new opportunities.  When this is a serious problem, you can call it “the tomorrow syndrome.”  This can have serious consequences to our happiness and relationships with others.

Here are some principles that may help you overcome your own tendency to procrastinate without driving yourself crazy with striving for perfection.

Face the anxiety.  The desire to reduce anxiety is often at the root of procrastination.  Accept and challenge the anxiety, rather than taking the path of least resistance by avoiding it.

“so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?’” Hebrews 13:6

Act, don’t talk.  Action can help you overcome your anxieties.  Taking action often can be done before you overthink and over-prepare for a project which can delay you. Talking too much about a goal sometimes can hinder you from actually doing it.  You can get addicted to the “dream” but secretly fear the reality. 

“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror;  for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.  But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:22-25

Take a task-oriented approach.   Often people are time-focused, thinking about when they will do something.  Instead, make the goal the completion of a particular task.  For example, instead of planning to read that long desired book like “Atlas Shrugged” for one hour each day, plan to read until you complete simply one or two chapters at a time.

“for He says, ‘At the acceptable time I listened to you,
And on the day of salvation I helped you.’ Behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation'”  II Cor. 6:2

Next Week we will continue with Seeking Balance on Overcoming Procrastination.

Seeking Balance in Managing Depression (Part 3)

This is the final part of Seeking Balance in Managing Depression.

Build a healthy support system.  This may involve setting boundaries on others who are toxic and do more harm to you than good.  Since “no man is an island”, we do need other people in our lives.  Building healthy relationships is essential in overcoming depression.  Overcome any tendency to be passive-aggressive or hostile and remain friendly with those who are your true support system.

“and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

Avoid spiritualizing the problem.  Many people of faith beat up on themselves for not having enough faith, or praying enough, or doing some other spiritual discipline or exercise.  This only makes the depression worse.  Focus on the emphasis of grace in your faith-tradition and seek strength to deal with the areas of life where different choices can help you.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

Get medical tests.  In some cases, depression is due to medical conditions which precipitate depression and must be ruled out.  This is particularly true when there is no clear situational explanation for the depression.  Adrenal insufficiency, diabetes, thyroid problems, Lyme disease, anemia, sleep apnea, and lupus are just a few examples.  Ask your family MD. 

“Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding;” Proverbs 2:2

“As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they were going, they were cleansed.” Luke 17:12-14

Get professional help.    There is no shame in obtaining help from a professional who has studied depression and understands its dynamics.  They can help with various approaches to breaking free from its clutches.  Different areas of focus in counseling may be working through the grief of past losses, identifying and addressing unhealthy thought processes, and building healthy communication patterns with others. To augment the benefits of psychotherapy, medication can be of help to some people.    

“Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.” Proverbs 11:14

Seeking Balance in Managing Depression (Part 2)

This is a continuation of Seeking Balance in Managing Depression.

Activate yourself.  Resist the temptation to become more passive.  Find those “baby steps” that can keep you doing activities you used to find meaningful.  Believe that you have the power to do this, even when you do not feel like doing anything.  Ideally, increasing exercise in your life and eating in a healthy manner can be part of this “activation”. 

“I passed by the field of the sluggard And by the vineyard of the man lacking sense, And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles; Its surface was covered with nettles, And its stone wall was broken down. When I saw, I reflected upon it; I looked and received instruction. ‘A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest,’ Then your poverty will come as a robber And your want like an armed man.” Proverbs 24:30-34

Hold on to hope.  Develop a belief and confidence that your emotional state is temporary, not permanent.  This hopeful attitude can be nurtured.  This can be done through meditating on stories of hope, or perhaps movies that used to stimulate a good feeling in you.  Or consider other people who have wrestled with depression and come out victorious.  You can too.

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:1-5

Avoid depressing stimuli.  Put aside tragic movies or depressing stories.  Stop replaying your own depressing stories in your mind, unless it is for the purpose of finding a healthier way of looking at the situation.  Does alcohol (a depressant) or substance abuse pull you further into a depressive mindset?  Find help to break free from these chains that keep you down in the valley.

“For wisdom will enter your heart
And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
Discretion will guard you,
Understanding will watch over you,
To deliver you from the way of evil,
From the man who speaks perverse things;” Proverbs 2:10-12

“Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine,
Or with gluttonous eaters of meat;
For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty,
And drowsiness will clothe one with rags.” Proverbs 23:20-21

Next week we will finish with part 3 of Seeking Balance in Managing Depression.

Seeking Balance in Managing Depression (Part 1)

Depression is every-man’s illness.  People experience a loss of interest or enjoyment in life, lack of energy, social withdrawal, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, and even suicidal thoughts (Biblical examples include Job in Job 3:24-26, 6:2-3, 7:7, 9:25, 10:1, 16:16, 17:13-16; and David in Psalms 6:6-7, 38:6-8, 102:4-5).  The causes may be varied, including various losses in one’s life, trauma in a person’s past, unhealthy family relationships, or even genetic and generational predispositions.     

The following suggestions are meant to inspire you toward successful coping approaches that will help you climb out of those dark valleys which life may push you into.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

Treat yourself with compassion.  Self-hate is often your enemy.  Seek to show yourself the compassion you would show someone else going through a similar struggle. 

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” Colossians 3:12

Tone down your inner critic.  Related to the above suggestion, this involves tuning in to what your critical inner voice is saying, then turning down the volume.  Simultaneously, you can tune in to the “positive coach” in your head and turn that volume up. 

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8

Resist guilt and shame.  Actually, accept their existence in your life, but resist dwelling on these emotions.  Instead, let go of the root causes of these feelings and focus on what is more important and of value to you. Forgiveness of others and yourself can help you make healthy changes in your behavior that can keep you moving forward.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

Next week we will continue Seeking Balance in Managing Depression.

Seeking Balance in Our Codependency (Part 3)

This is the final week of Seeking Balance in Our Codependency. You can break the cycle of codependency by following these tips.

Establish rational boundaries as a consequence.  For example, “While I want to give you the money you are asking for, I have no way of knowing how this may enable you to ruin your life through your addiction.  Not giving you money is hard for me, but I believe it is best for you.”  “When you say those horrible things to me and threaten me in that way, I have to take it seriously.  You can no longer live here until you can control yourself more appropriately.”  Discontinue support of unhealthy behavior of others.  Read and learn about healthy boundaries. Those boundaries can be firm, yet still communicated in a loving, caring manner. 

Resist falling into other codependent roles.  A codependent may shift from one role to another, so it is helpful to see in yourself the role of Rescuer, Caretaker, or People Pleaser, and be watchful that you don’t slip into another role such as the Helpless Victim or even the Intimidator.  Seek to understand that you may be responsible to another person, but you are not responsible for her or her choices in life – or the consequences of her choices.  This can help you maintain your own emotional balance, even when the addict does not want you to leave the codependent role.

Hold onto truth.  Our hurt, disappointment, fears, and anger can all lead to compromising on truth.  It may be truth about our own codependency, including our imbalanced need for approval, attention, or control.  Or it could be truth about the failure of our codependency to make us happy or even feel safe.  Other truths include facing the hurt our codependency has caused others as well as ourselves.  Finally, we need to hold onto the reality that we are imbalanced and not living according to our own values and knowledge about what is right. Truth can help us clarify our vision so that we can live more balanced through growing in our application of truth, which can help us experience more freedom each and every day.

Written initially for the Hammonton Gazette, March 2018

Seeking Balance in Our Codependency (Part 2)

This is a continuation of Seeking Balance in Our Codependency. Follow these tips to conquer codependency.

Overcome your denial.   Deal with the llama in the room – it is next to the elephant you have been ignoring.  Overcome avoidance so that you deal directly with the problem, rather than pretend it doesn’t exist.  It is o.k. that this will involve facing anxiety and even anguish, but it is a necessary step to finding your freedom.  The truth will set you free.  You have a problem yourself that needs attention so that your interaction with the addict can be healthier.

Embrace a healthy self-concept and self-esteem.  Accept yourself.  It is O.K. that you do not feel o.k. and feel unworthy of love – even as the addict feels unworthy. Accept that you have an inner critic, but you do not have to listen to that particular voice in your head. Instead, embrace the truth that you are loved – even by God as you understand Him to be, who is bigger than all of your problems.  Build on the strengths and abilities you have, not on your mistakes. 

Hold onto your personal sense of power.  You have the power of choice.  You do not have to follow compulsive, codependent tendencies.  Become responsible in the use of this power, which includes how you interact with the addict in your life.  The respect and dignity you show her will be a model for her, respecting that she has the power of choice as well.

Hold the person accountable for his own actions.  You can speak the truth in a loving way, but assertively hold onto the truth.  One way is by letting him know the negative consequences of his behavior. For example, “When you lie about where you are going and disappear for hours, I feel extremely anxious, and my mind races about all the possible tragic things that could be happening to you.”  You do not have to bail him out of the natural consequences for his behavior, which has teaching value.  This even includes jail.   

Continue reading next week for three more tips on seeking balance in our codependency.

Written initially for the Hammonton Gazette, March 2018     

Seeking Balance in Our Codependency (Part 1)

Codependency often begins with a positive recognition of the value of love and the desire to help another human soul who is struggling in some way.  It can start as healthy self-sacrifice to care for that person, but soon turns into a compulsive pattern which results in helping that person destroy his life through addictions or a variety of unhealthy, selfish behaviors.  The codependent becomes unconsciously dependent on pleasing the addict.

Codependency is a deception, often fueled with manipulation by the addict playing the victim role.  Misunderstanding the “disease” concept of addiction can also increase our conflicts in addressing codependency.  We may feel sorry for the addict’s disease, feeding her victim role, while increasing the addict’s sense of powerlessness over her problem.  We try to come to the rescue, taking responsibility for the addict’s unhealthy ways, which enables the addiction to continue.

Codependency is not only with those who struggle with addictions to substances such as drugs or alcohol.  It also involves those caught in the traps of habitual gambling, sex addictions (including pornography), spend-a-holic tendencies, excessive video game use, anger and rage problems, etc.  Enabling each of these behaviors through our actions puts us squarely in the category of a codependent. Our own identity, self-worth, and feelings of safety become wrapped up in another person’s life and we lose a stable sense of our authentic self.  We find ourselves over-reacting to others, but out of touch with ourselves. 

Codependency occurs when we value our relationship with someone to the point where we can be manipulated to give that person the power to influence our decisions, which compromise healthy boundaries and enable him to continue some unhealthy behavior.  Our delusion in part involves thinking we are helping through our efforts, such as giving money, giving a ride, or even providing life’s necessities such as free room and board – to “help” the other person.  We trust a person who is not truthful with us about what he is doing with the money he is saving because of our contributions.  We have an overdependence on another person’s approval, whether a child, spouse, friend, or parent.

Continue reading next week to get tips on seeking balance in our codependency. Written initially for the Hammonton Gazette, March 2018     

Seeking Balance with Children in School

Things can go wrong when children go back to school.   Some children may be afraid of their new peers or may be tempted to violate the rules in order to fit in with more popular kids.  Others give in to fears and avoid activities that could be a blessing to them.  Balance the doses of essential “parenting vitamins” and avoid these problems.   

Parents have two primary roles.  The first is the Caring Function, or the “Vitamin C” role as the late Dr. Mel Silberman from Temple University called it.  Bonding between a parent and child develops through a parent’s nurturing behavior.  As a child grows older, listening and being sensitive to a child’s feelings are central to this Caring Function of a parent or caregiver.

The second, but equally important role, can be called the Executive Function, or the “Vitamin E” of parenting.  Establish the rules for home and school, as well as consequences for violating those rules.  Include boundaries and disciplinary procedures employed by authority figures, teachers, and others in the school system.  The more clear and specific you can be, the better.

Healthy parents communicate, negotiate, and agree with each other on the rules and regulations for home and school.  Brainstorm options for consequences and agree on disciplinary actions.  This alleviates many problems.  Too often, parents polarize and conflict develops:  one is too harsh and the other seems to be too soft.  Misbehavior and manipulation result.  This becomes a particularly delicate problem when the parents divorce and divide their parenting duties between two homes.  Children often develop great skill at “splitting” parents from each other.  (“Ask mom, ‘cause she’ll let us go.”  “Don’t tell dad, ‘cause he’ll make us do our homework first.”)

This same polarization can occur between parents and the school system.  Ideally, parents communicate with the authorities at the school and understand their policies and rules and the typical disciplinary procedures employed by the school. 

Children can also split parents from the school authorities.  (“My teacher is unfair and mean.  Can you talk to the teacher and get her to give me a better grade?”)  A parent’s investment in getting to know key people in the child’s school improves trust (most teachers and school personnel really do care) so when a child needs discipline, parents can be unified with the school.  This cooperation between home and school is in the child’s best interest.  Well-intentioned parents, at times, undermine the authority of the teacher, all to the detriment of a child who learns how to manipulate.

Use caution to balance all issues.  Listen attentively to your child. One aspect of “Vitamin C”, may lead to understanding that someone in the school may be breaking the rules and the protective action of a parent is needed.  Bullying by peers or an adult’s abuse of their power over your child, all require a more active response.

Both “Vitamin C” and “Vitamin E” are essential for a balanced approach to helping our youth grow up to be responsible adults.  Both are necessary while we strive to fulfill the ideal guideline to “love one another”, which includes loving our children.   Provide balanced doses of these parenting “vitamins,” and your children will have a successful school year.