I need tips from you seasoned pros. How do you all deal with life's serious challenges?

Relatively recent convert here ( 6 months ago) and I am still in the post- break-up somewhat- disoriented phase. My life has a few very trying situations, which in the past would have turned me toward asking for divine assistance.

I abandoned my belief in God because I just could not justify the problems of suffering with a loving, caring and omnipotent God.

My most current version of God was formed by 12 step group think ( 18 and a half years of it) ie, the everything happens for a reason, let go and let god variety...

I realized that that is basically bullshit in the face of certain life events that are clearly not for my benefit...and I refuse to believe that "character development" was the purpose for the loss.

In any case, please share with me how yo cope with prolonged stress, and other "threatening" feelings and events. I'm afraid I am floundering at times.

Thanks in advance!

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thanks for the link to the Galaxy Song!
Here's how I deal with stress. Break it down. Take all your problems and start dividing them up into two categories.

Things you can do something about right now.

Things you can't do anything about right now.

Now look at your list of problems you can address right now. Which problem, if you don't address it, will screw you up the most?? Can you really do anything to change an outcome right now? If you can then stop looking at your list and go deal with it. If you can't go on to the next worst-case problem. If you are anything like me you will end up with two things to do and a whole list of things to cry about. I can go either way on the crying part depending on my day but I generally don't cry over crap I can't do anything about.

Now at some point your problems should start to filter into the basics. You've got bills, lack of sleep, sick kids, no food etc. These are generally things you can address, if maybe not at the moment you are stressed about them. Then you have all of your emotions. Emotions are the worst stress because there isn't really anything to do about them. This is where meditation can really help. Meditation is a really good tool for sorting out your thoughts and feelings. To me meditation is a fancy word for paying attention to yourself.

Solve what you can, when you can, and let everything else go....

I once spent a month not making any decisions or solving problems at all. I went where my friends went if they invited me along or I sat on my porch and watched clouds go by or something. Life went on. I'm still here. Most importantly I learned that the world does not need me to get along. You don't have to participate in everything. Your stress is absolutely YOUR stress and it does need you to get along. Stress is a fire that dies when you stop feeding it.
thanks a lot...great advice!

I have recently become aware that I give myself little shots of adrenaline if I have been/ or am in a crisis...and that it takes several days fro me to realize its no longer 'fight or flight.'

The harder ones are the longer term, no-easy-fix and lots out of control things that have been going on for over a year...financial downturn...threat of foreclosure.... I've decided I can live with bankruptcy, but losing my home, well that just hurts...also because of my dogs...we own a kennel here at the house. I will have to give them up. I have gotten a job to help out, but tit has turned out to flaky, part-time and on call. I'm in Michigan, we are at over 15% unemployment. I'm a nurse (LPN), and believe it or not, folks are not hiring, and all positions seem to be part-time to avoid benefits. I work at a long term care facilty which, believe it or not, does not offer helath care benefits to its nurses and nurse assistants. ( despite the fact that the owner of the damn pace has made millions off of health care insurers, both public and private)

I haven't figured out what the thought is that precipitates this jolt of adrenaline...but I know there is a thought that precedes it. It comes in unguarded moments. I think it must be something like "Uh-oh, we're in trouble!"

I exercise daily, I have freinds, I dance every week, I try to do thinsg that bring me joy and energy. And sometimes I just want to cry, and wish I could give up.

I used ot have slogans I learned in Alcoholica Anonymous that coudl sometimes help. Now I am trying this 'secular' one..."Keep Calm and Carry On. Sort of the british stiff upper lip.

It works pretty well, if I have had enough sleep, enough food, and enough fun.

Thanks Jacob!

Kim
Kim,

You're welcome. I hope life stops kicking your ass soon. That's a lot of things to deal with all at once. Have you considered pulling up roots and moving to another state? Here in Houston, TX we can't get enough nurses and we have some of the best medical centers in the world. We can't be the only city starved for good nurses.

I tell people all the time. Your body does everything it does for its own good. Sneezing, coughing, yawning and yes, crying. If it didn't do any good we would have lost the ability to cry ages ago. Let it out when it gets to be too much, then blow your nose and get back to living.

"Keep Calm and Carry On" I like that. That's sage advice for anyone.
You know what, I have been thinking of the Houston area. We have friends who escaped to there this past summer, after their foreclosure.
Houston is not a bad place to live. Fourth largest city in the world but we're kind of spread out around here. I wouldn't think Houston was a place to escape to but it can't be any worse than where you are now. You had better like heat and humidity if you plan on staying because those are our most abundant resources.
I find putting problems and situations firmly in perspective helps a lot. In the big scheme of things, most everything, aside from a death or terminal illness, are pretty temporary.

The way I see it, I've got way too few years of this life to spend much time worrying needlessly about stuff that really doesn't matter in the long run. Life is an adventure and I'm lucky to have the opportunity to see how it unfolds.

I get migraines. Really bad ones lasting a dozen hours or more that leave me in the most intense unrelenting pain I've ever felt. Compared to broken limbs, crushing injuries, scrapes or cuts, really any pain I've ever felt, my migraines easily top them all by several orders of magnitude. The way I see it though, it gives me the opportunity to truly appreciate how good things are most of the time.

In other words, don't sweat the lows in your life. Use the lows to teach yourself to better appreciate the highs. You've got to experience both with open eyes to appreciate either. This is essentially what the church tries to teach, except they want you to believe you need their help to do it. You most certainly do not.
It certainly has helped me to get along without the bitterness toward God for not answering my prayers. There really is power in positive thinking. YOU be the controller of your own mind. With practice, this accomplishment will get easier as time passes.
understood! I recently had a theist friend/acquaintance tell me I seem to have reached some acceptance since I stopped "thinking and stewing" about my problems. She totally doesn't get it...she thinks I "let go and let god-ed" myself into this state of mind. Instead, I looked at the worst case scenario and felt all the feelings that brought on, treid to find out what recourse I had in the situation, and over time, dealt with the real giref of my situation and decided I wouldl still go on and live, despite my losses. So NOT the way she thought I did it.
I don't mean this to sound glib so please don't take it as such.

Remember that issues outside of your control, such as traffic, or work or family, etc, really ARE outside of your control. Just take a minute to contemplate this fact and the fact that you are going to die.
Then re-evaluate the stressor or event that caused or is causing the negative feelings in this context of remembering death. I guarantee that it will change your outlook and help you to evaluate these situations in a clearer and more detached way. Soon you'll realize how silly it is to get angry about lifes minor inconveniences.
Practice this enough, and you'll begin to feel truly free. The benefit of ridding yourself of your past beliefs and superstitions is the freedom that you gain. Being free means that there is no deity judging you and that no one is keeping score. It can almost make you feel lightheaded at times.
Youre still you, you still have the same values, nothing has changed except that the crushing weight of the deity is gone.
You'll be fine.
You're echoing the old 'serenity prayer' hijacked by the alcoholics anonymous cult:
"
accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
"
It is true, up to a point, that it is a waste of time to rage against things over which you have no control - though it can be an entertaining pastime occasionally if you like that sort of thing.

I think, though, that, if you put your mind to it, it is amazing how much you can change for the better if you adopt a more Epicurean approach.

You mention a few 'traffic', 'work', 'family' - there is much you can do to improve your control, or feeling of control, over these. Change to a job nearer home, or move closer to work, and traffic ceases to be such a common problem - work for yourself and you can often work from home, where it isn't a problem at all. Move to another country and overwhelming family intrusion becomes a distant memory, move back home, and loneliness and distance from your family becomes a thing of the past.

If you are trapped in a job, then study at night to learn something else and get another job. If you're trapped in a rut, learn a musical instrument, take up swimming, learn Swahili, write a book, draw spiders or take up mindfulness meditation. If all these are too much, there's always drink, or drugs that give you a momentary feeling of being in control.

Remember that, if things are really bad, you can kill yourself. The fact that you choose not to is a daily life-affirming proof that you are in control, at least of that. This works even if you're in a prison or trapped in a wheelchair.

I you feel the need for assistance, then find a friend, a confidant, or, if you have the money, pay for a shrink - they won't do you any good, but you can use them as a sounding board.

What you have done now is quite a good solution. Don't take any of the advice (including my this advice) too seriously, but asking a forum like this is a good way to see alternatives.

I'd also strongly recommend reading some good books to get more perspective. A short reading list [or viewing if you prefer DVDs, or listening - you can get audiobooks and listen to them in the car on your commute, if you have one] is this. I'd give a different one on a different day:

Albert Camus - The Outsider [aka The Stranger] originally L'Étranger

Ecclesiastes - yes, the book in the bible, it's not actually religious, its about life, written by a wise man. It's also short.
Job - a funny book, really, amusing, I mean, it is so over the top. Read it to see how much better your predicament is than Job's

Reading the above two can put god-bothering in perspective, much that is claimed to be 'in the bible' as if it is some sort of magic, is nonsense, but some is simply good, common sense.

Lawrence Durrell - The Alexandrian Quartet [Justine, Balthazar, Cloe, & Mountolive], wonderful humanist, absorbing stuff, liberating in many ways. Not everybody's cup of tea, though, if you don't love it at once, drop it.

Willem Reich - 'Listen Little Man' or 'The Mass Psychology of Fascism' - Yes, Reich did go mad in the end, but he was a wide-ranging and challenging thinker, and these books are good reads.

Shakespeare - Titus Andronicus - Brilliant film 'Titus' - this gives good insight into the evils of obedience, the foolishness of worshiping the gods and the sheer malice of people. Also a brilliant study into hatred, a matter explored too little.

Chomsky - 'Manufacturing Consent' brilliant man, brilliant book. A lot of it is polemic, certainly, but it is good polemic. If you've seen through religion, this helps you see through democracy, nationalism and understand state control and fascism.

Herman Hess - 'The Glass Bead Game', 'Steppenwolf' - everybody should have read these as adolescents, but, if you've missed them, they're great eye-openers to other possibilities than religion. They're a bit adolescent, mind you, so don't get too carried away by them!

Hofstadter - 'Godel, Escher, Bach, and eternal golden braid'. A bit heavy for some - it's actually an introduction [and a good one] to the calculus, but it's a good book for doing a bit of thinking.

Dawkins - 'The Selfish gene', 'Climbing Mount Improbable' - if you've lots of time 'The Ancestor's Tale' - Dawkins writes well, he's good as a populariser of biology. Like Reich, he's gone a bit over the top in his old age, but he's still entertaining and provocative.

The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám - a long poem, but brilliant. In it Omar outlines the problems and evils of religion, he spells out the important things for a good life. It is a beautiful poem, too, a celebration of beauty, friendship and the moment.

Stephen Pinker - 'The Blank Slate' another well-written book, this time on sociobiology (aka evolutionary psychology) - 'How the Mind works' and 'The Language Instinct' also very good.

E.O.Wilson - 'Sociobiology' the original text

Richard Adams - 'Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy', the 'Restaurant at the End of the Universe' and the rest. Adams is a very funny writer, has a good understanding of science and evolution and gently mocks religion and other foolishness. There are good film versions of some of these as well.

Aldous Huxley - lots, really, but 'The Doors of Perception' and 'Heaven and Hell' are good introductions to the biology of mysticism. 'Brave New World' is good as a guide to fascism [a form of religion too, of course] and mind-control.

Some of the Dogma films are good to watch to help you out of a conformist, dogmatic background. I'd recommend 'Dogville', 'Dancing in the Dark', 'Festen' as probably the best - but, if you've got a real problem in your part of the world, then 'Dear Wendy' and 'Starship Troopers' might be worth a watch!

Poets worth reading, are Shelley [Ozymandias a nice start], Byron, Arthur Hugh Clough [funny and a nicely modern view of atheism for a Victorian] and Wilfred Owen. And don't, of course, forget, Gray's Elergy - not a god-bothering poem at all, if you read it!
The credit should actually go to Epictetus, Lucretius (yes, Epicurean) and scientific naturalism (Naturalism.org).
My main point is still valid.
Remember death and remember that you are now free.
The reason I recommend this approach is that once you truly accept death and know that there is no deity and no afterlife, it really will help with the negative feelings that you're experiencing.
The deconverts I know still deal with the the fear of death and the guilt(?) of abandoning their god. Until you can accept and overcome these issues, you'll be watching alot of sitcoms.
I know it sounds simplistic and maybe even patronizing, but death and guilt seem to be the two major hurdles that stop people from enjoying their one and only life.

I really hope some of this helps.

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