Many of us are unaware of what's going on inside of us. With pandemic all around us, it's only normal that anxiety levels are on the rise even in people who never suffered from anxiety. It's like walking in a battlefield – as much as you normally retain your cool, it's difficult not to feel pressure when people are getting wounded and dying all around you. That's exactly what's going on in the renewed wave of COVID-19. How can we successfully cope? Let's hear:
Shavua Tov! Today's podcast is an emotional rescue squad for anyone who is feeling down, especially in trying to cope with today's challenges.
Before you can make others happy, you have to make yourself happy. That's not egotism, but a requisite to emotional health. Therefore, don't do anything unless you want to and it makes you happy. There is, though, one significant exception to that rule - if someone saved your life, you'd be an ingrate by saying, "I don't feel like doing a small favor for that person." Don't forget gratitude, especially during Chanukah, which is a most special time of gratitude:
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- Heart-related ailments: your cardiovascular system is not designed to be anxiety-and-worry proof. Anxiety and worry are frequently the culprits responsible for rapid heart rate, palpitations, high blood pressure and heart disease.
- Digestive system: also with a low anxiety/worry resistance rating. Loss of appetite, stomach aches, nausea and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are common hitchhikers on anxiety-ridden lives. Also, IBS people are super susceptible to vomiting, diarrhea, and/or constipation.
- Immune system: with the body in the constant fight-or-flight stage because of the anxiety, the huge amounts of adrenaline and cortisol released to the body deplete the immune system's energy and open the body wide open to infection and sicknesses of all types.
- Appearance and fitness: anxiety and worry expedite the aging process, make a person look older than his or her years and interfere with weight loss and physical fitness. Also, the headaches, insomnia and muscle tension associated with anxiety rob a person of his/her ability to exercise and to stay in shape.
- Respiratory system: anxiety causes shortness of breath and triggers asthma.
- Central Nervous system: Look out! Anxiety sets off panic attacks, spontaneous feelings of extreme negativity, terror, and/or impending doom, Heaven forbid. Anxiety also raises the risk of a stroke.
Is anxiety worth it? Heck no! That's all well and good, but what can you do about it?
First of all, come hear my lecture in Manchester, UK on Nov. 9, 2019 (see poster below) or in Brooklyn on Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. After I get hope, G-d willing, I'll post a synopsis of the lecture. Meanwhile, listen to calming music, play your guitar or flute, enjoy a cup of herb tea or dry red wine (preferably from Israel) and talk to the Almighty.
To prevent a panic attack, it's important to remember how and why it's happening. King David, the greatest psychotherapist who ever lived, understood the human soul better than anyone else. He said, "Happy is the person whose strength is in You" (Psalm 84:6). In other words, the moment a person realizes that he or she cannot handle a situation on their own, and they turn to the Almighty for strength, then they immediately neutralize panic and negativity. Understand that panic comes from the evil inclination, to disarm and disable a person so that he or she cannot serve Hashem. Our sages in the Gemara teach that no one has the power to overcome the evil inclination on their own. We all in varying degrees are susceptible to panic, but we overcome it as soon as we throw all our problems into Hashem's lap. In the same vein, Rabbi Chaim of Volozyn osb"m said that the spiritual ploy of overcoming any fear or anxiety is simple to remember and repeat ein od milvado, "There is nothing or no one but You, Hashem!"
Step One of preventing a panic attack is to remember Hashem,
Step Two is to repeat "ein od milvado, There is nothing or no one but You, Hashem," seven times.
Step Three is to ask the Almighty for help - call his Name out load, be vocal, even yell or scream if that helps you.
Step Four is to get the endorphins (feel-good hormones) flowing. How? Try one of these options:
a. Do as many pushups as you can;
b. Run around the block or jog in place for two minutes;
c. Do ten burpees.
Step Five is to take ten deep breaths, inhaling as deep as you can and exhaling as slow as you can.
Step Six is to sniff the aroma of lavender oil, which is known for being soothing and stress-relieving. It can help your body relax.
Step Seven is to call a time out, sit or walk in a quiet place, and speak to Hashem and once again, ask for His help and guidance; He'll be glad to give it to you.
Panic and the above 7 steps are mutually exclusive. But, as preparing for war, we must practice maneuvers. Don't wait for a panic attack to implement the above steps - you can do them anytime and they'll make you feel better. Yet, once we never forget Hashem and we always remember "ein od milvado, There is nothing or no one but You, Hashem," we safeguard ourselves against any and all sorts of panic, fear and anxiety. Try it - it works and has been tested under the most extreme of challenges. Every blessing, LB
The world is utterly confused between narcissism, a definitely undesirable trait, and loving yourself, which is a key to your happiness, success and emotional health in addition to being the vital element in your relationship with yourself, with others and with the Creator.
Narcissism is excessive to exclusive interest in oneself and one's physical appearance. The narcissist is far from happy, for he or she craves praise and admiration. He wants to be the center of the show and needs everyone to tell him how great he (or she) is and looks. In that way, the narcissist is an emotional cripple, entirely dependent on compliment-handouts from others.
The person who loves himself is the exact opposite and entirely independent: he who loves himself doesn't need any outside reinforcement. He's happy with himself, no matter how seemingly unsuccessful or limited he might be.
If we don't love ourselves, we won't be able to love anyone else. A person who doesn't love himself is never satisfied with himself or with anyone around him, he's not even satisfied with the Almighty!
If you want to be happy right now, and not wait until you become rich, get elected to the Senate or find the spouse of your dreams, then you must learn to love yourself. If you wait for the dream to materialize, you'll find that even then, you won't be truly happy, because loving yourself doesn't depend on that dream coming true either or on any other external condition.
Here's how to love yourself in a few easy steps: repeat these steps every day until they become second nature.
- Step #1: Look in the mirror, close-up. Don't focus on your clogged pores or on your broken nose (like mine; when I look east, my nose looks west). They mean nothing. Don't count your gray hairs, if you have them. Look into your eyes. See into the wonderful soul reflecting from those eyes. Do this for a whole minute, 60 seconds. If you have tears in your eyes, that's fine. If you start crying, that's even better. If you blurt out, "I love you," that's wonderful. This just might be the first time that you looked at your real self.
- Step #2: Repeat the first of the Rambam's 13 Principles of Faith. Encapsulated, tell yourself that you believe that everything comes from the Almighty and that He alone did, does and will do everything.
- Step #3: The Torah tells us that we are Hashem's children and that His love for us is unfathomable. For sixty seconds, tell yourself, "G-d loves me." Don't simply repeat it – contemplate it and feel gratitude in your heart for the zillions of life's blessings. Now, move on.
- Step #4: Think now that since the Creator is a loving Father-in-Heaven, and He loves me, He therefore created me with everything I need to be happy. Think how your apparent shortcomings are not shortcomings at all, because the Creator doesn't give you what you don't need to fulfill your purpose in life. Now, look for your good points. Think of your three most beautiful qualities.
- Step #5: Tell yourself how much you love yourself, just the way you are, right now – the whole package as is. Since you love yourself, you're now ready to love everyone else. Think now how much you love life and love G-d. Thank Him for these 5 steps and now have a great day!
Can you imagine what you've just accomplished?
A person who loves himself will never lie, because he or she doesn't need to invent stories to try and make themselves look great in other people's eyes.
A person who loves himself will never speak lashon hara, evil speech, about anyone.
A person who loves himself will never ridicule any other human being.
A person who loves himself will never flatter evil or evil people, and tell them out of fear (of being accepted or of losing a job) that they or their evil deeds are wonderful.
The four sins of lying, evil speech, ridicule and flattery sever a person from the Almighty. The soul, in order to be happy, must be connected to the Almighty. By loving yourself, not only do you maintain that connection, but you smile all day long. Nothing in the world is better. Every blessing, LB
Let's define "lustful eating": lustful eating means that we eat when we don't need to, either out of boredom, compulsion, as a means of trying to console ourselves or as source of recreation, when we strive to satiate our bodily appetites with no regard to our spiritual and physical health. Lustful eating is the opposite of healthy eating. The three main types of lustful eating are eating unhealthy foods, overeating and binge eating. Lustful eating is not only detrimental to the body, but to the soul as well, as we'll soon see.
According to the Rambam, lustful eating the #1 cause of all disease, even the nasty big C, the disease that won’t don’t even like to mention by name. Lustful eating also creates an iron curtain between a person and Hashem. So, a person can’t possibly get close to Hashem until he or she overcomes their lust for eating. These are not my words, but the words of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev.
Western society’s preoccupation with pleasure seeking and appetite fulfillment is fertile ground for lustful eating, but it's not the root of it. The root, as many psychotherapists will tell you, is a low self-image. A person who can't see his or her own self worth will suffer from being overweight and out of shape, but they won't go past a mere one-time paltry effort because they don't believe that they are capable of succeeding in getting into shape. I see this time and again in my clients; just as important as teaching them healthy eating habits and exercise, I work with them on their self image. Nine out of ten people with weight and fitness problems, in my experience, had or have an abusive parent who robbed them of their feeling of self worth from a tender age. Let's go deeper.
In Likutei Moharan, Part 1,Torah 47, Rebbe Nachman says: “One who is entrenched in the lust for eating is far from the truth, and severe judgments hover over him."
The lustful eater encounters Rebbe Nachman's above teaching and protests vehemently: "What, is Rebbe Nachman calling me a liar, just because I'm into the cookie jar more than I should be or just because I down a pizza with a couple cans of cola?" Cherished friend, if you eat like that, you can't possibly care too much about yourself. What's even worse is that you're unaware how much Hashem cares about you, loves you and wants to be healthy. What's worse yet is that you don't believe how much Hashem cares about you, loves you and wants to be healthy. Sorry, but in that respect, the lustful eater is far from the truth.
Hashem loves you - guaranteed - and He wants you to love yourself. All the negative comments that the abusive person in your life made when you were little were the biggest lies in the world. Tell yourself over and over how much Hashem loves you; say it to yourself a thousand times a day. Once you internalize it, the distance between you and looking and feeling your best is much much shorter. Hashem loves you - I promise. G-d bless for your good health!
For sure, it really hurts. Maybe you just now flunked your driving exam. Or maybe you just received a rejection letter from the school or job of your choice, or from the person you were hoping to settle down long-term with. Anyone hurts all over from a setback; that's natural and expected. Remember, we're flesh and blood. Emuna - pure and simple faith - does not mean that we fake it and deny the pain! That's lying to ourselves and lying to G-d.
So where does emuna pick us up? Emuna teaches us that despite our lack of understanding how and why, our loving Father in Heaven does everything for the best. Emuna's good news is that there's no law that one must stay down from a setback. Indeed, getting back on our feet requires far more faith and strength of character than staying on our feet without ever having been knocked down. For that reason, King Solomon, the wisest individual who ever walked the face of the earth, said, "A righteous man falls seven times, and gets up again" (Proverbs 24:16). In other words, he doesn't merit the title "righteous" until he has fallen at least seven times.
Don't let a setback get you down. You can't have a comeback until you've had the setback. Don't forget too that even the quarterback, halfback and the linebacker of the winning team are full of bruises and sore muscles.
Take five minutes and ponder the following five points – one point per minute. They'll put you back on your feet and give you the motivation and power to make your own fantastic comeback.
- Only doers fail. People who drive sometimes get traffic tickets. People who don't drive don't ever make wrong turns. Wouldn't it be ridiculous if an elderly person bragged that he never committed a traffic violation, if he never drove a car? The first consolation of a setback is the knowledge that you are a doer.
- Setbacks teach, and usually trigger a stronger second effort. Failure guards us against complacency and arrogance. When we fail, we realize that we need to improve. Oftentimes, a second effort is far superior to even a best first effort. Don't be angry with yourself; just try harder. Failure is like your soccer team losing a goal – the other team may have scored a point, but the game's not over! A setback helps us try harder and reach higher, thereby enabling us to fulfill a higher level of our potential. And, if you've failed that driving test, it simply means that with a few more lessons and additional practice, you'll be a much better driver on the road, for your own safety and for the safety of everyone else on the road.
- Setbacks strengthen faith. If we were constantly successful, we'd probably walk around with our noses in the air. Then, we'd be ugly, heaven forbid, because few things are uglier than arrogance. The Creator loves humility and wants us to realize that He is the source of both our setbacks and comebacks, failures and successes. He gives us a setback (yup, it's not your fault!) because He wants us to pray a lot harder and earnestly seek His assistance for our next effort. If our lives were a perfect string of successes, we'd almost certainly neglect our spiritual development.
- Experience is life's best teacher. The experience of a setback, especially a painful one, drives a lesson home immediately. Usually, we are slow in internalizing and implementing what we learn. After a setback, we have a golden opportunity to better ourselves immediately.
- Small-scale setbacks assures large-scale success. Where would an actor prefer to forget a line, in rehearsal or on stage? A failure in rehearsal often assures a better performance on stage, since the actor makes a special effort to polish the rough edges of his or her performance. Sometimes, small failures are none other than preparations for large successes. Rejections are Divine filters to keep you away from unwanted paths. Rejected? Don't be dejected. Something much better (job, soul-mate, etc.) is on the way.
Don't ever despair when you have a setback. Try harder, ask the Creator for help, and then be positive that you'll do much better the next time. Depression and despair stem from the dark, spiritually impure side, and prevent you from being happy. Despair perpetuates inner turmoil and creates a barrier between you and Divine light. With these five minutes of motivating ourselves, we now mobilize the strength within us to make a great comeback. It's the real deal.
If you ask people what frustrates them more than anything else, and really probe to the core reason, the’ll most likely answer that situations where they're not in control are probably the worst sources of frustration. A person doesn’t mind a normal headache so much if he or she can take a glass of water and two aspirins, which from experience, they know will relieve a good measure of his pain within the next thirty minutes. But they can’t stand the inexplicable migraine that doesn’t succumb to the pain killers. Why? They can’t control it…
Now ask a person what the worst type of dream is. Many will answer, the free-fall, when a person feels like he’s falling in space, usually waking up in a cold sweat right before he crashes to the ground. What an utter feeling of no control!
Skydiving is a very popular sport. Those who skydive live and breathe their skydiving. But let’s ask ourselves: are all the skydivers daft? The answer is certainly not. I’ve known skydivers who are level-headed former paratroopers and combat veterans, some of whom with advanced degrees from university. How can they allow themselves to jump out of airplanes? They perform a free-fall for so many seconds then either pull the cord that opens their parachute or else their parachute opens automatically. They can’t control the speed that they’re falling downward. So what’s the difference between the skydiver and the person free-falling in a nightmare?
One word: trust.
The skydiver trusts that the parachute will open. The free-faller in the dream has nothing to trust.
Someone stopped me in the street recently in my hometown of Ashdod, visibly worried. “What’s going to happen, Reb Lazer? What's with Hizbulla's thousands of missiles aimed at us and we don't even have a functioning government to do anything about it? Have you heard? Iran is about to is about to clash with the Americans in the Persian Gulf at Hormuz, and if so, we’ll probably get attacked with missiles. There's a big chance that we'll get dragged into a war soon. Hey, and I haven’t even mentioned the Atom bomb that the Iranians will have any day. They’re all planning to destroy is. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem is calling on all the Arabs to kill all the Jews. And if all that isn’t bad enough, Yair Lapid could very well be the next prime minister in Israel. We won’t be able to send our children to cheder any more…”
“Slow down, my friend,” I injected at the opportune time, when he stopped to take a breath. “You’ve been listening to a lot of news lately."
“But I must be informed! I can’t live like an ostrich with his head in the ground,” he said, slighted by my suggestion that he’s spending too much time on CNN, YNet and Foxnews.
“Be honest with yourself,” I said. “You’re uncomfortable being in a situation where you’re not in control.”
He stopped and thought. The man had a kipa on his head and was obviously an observant Jew. “I never thought of it that way, but now that you mention it, I think you’re right, Reb Lazer.”
“It’s up to us to do what we can and to make the most productive use of our time. We have the control and the free choice to open up the computer or to open up a Gemara. We can spend an inconsequential hour on Facebook or we can put on our walking shoes and use that hour to walk a few miles and talk to Hashem in personal prayer. Why fret about the things we can’t control when there’s so much more to do in the realm of things we can control? Besides, who is presumptuous enough to think that he can run the world better than Hashem can?”
“But I believe in Hashem,” the man said defensively. “I just have to do my hishtadlut, my own effort, to stay informed.”
“Our hishtadlut is to strengthen our emuna and our trust in Hashem. He runs the world and He is doing everything not only for the very best, but for our ultimate benefit both on a personal and a national level.” I continued to explain that when we’re worried or up tight, there’s no reason in the world to feel out of control. We can take a time out, push the “reset” button on our brain, and go speak to Hashem in solitary personal prayer for an hour. That’s real control...."
The man unfortunately preferred to perpetuate his worry and anxiety rather than living the sweet life of emuna and trust. Maybe the suggestion to swap Facebook for a walk and talk with the Creator sounded look fairy tales to him. Too bad that people prefer to live their lives as terrified free-fallers, never knowing when the crash moment of doom will arrive, rather than living the exhilarating live of a skydiver who knows that the parachute always opens at the right time.
It’s great being a skydiver when Hashem is your parachute...
I wrote this post to strengthen myself, for I have now returned to the USA urgently because of my mother's rapid health deterioration. Her Hebrew name is Chasia bas Kaila.
So many people are unhappy and frustrated because they do things that they don't want to do and are unhappy about doing them. Rabbi Lazer therefore teaches an amazing very very simple rule: in Hebrew it's called. "Rotzeh u'mesameach" = I want to do it and it makes me happy, the two conditions for doing something, a rule of thumb that has one important exception. Enjoy today's body-soul lesson and have a beautiful Shabbat!