Knowing what you value in life can help with anxiety.
What are your values? It’s a difficult question to answer isn’t it? It takes a bit of thought. I’ll ask this in a different way that can be helpful; what is important in your life? You might answer: Friends Family Relationships and sex Work
Your core values influence every aspect of your life. From the small decisions that you make such as where to eat out, to the huge decisions; who you choose as your life long partner. And further, your values influence the reason why you choose these things. Did you choose your partner because his values of non materialistic living sit close to your own? Did you choose your career in healthcare because you want to help people to have better health? Do you work with animals because you value the love and connection that they bring to you? Your values could be described as the very essence of self. They are you without the daily armouring up and self protection strategies that you adopt. Your core values allow you to be your true authentic self.
What happens if we don’t live to our values? If we don’t live by our values we might find that we feel overwhelmed or unhappy. That something is ‘off’ with us. We might become depressed or anxious. Why? Because if we are not living authentically there will be conflict between what we truly value and what is expected of us; other people’s values. We might experience a divided self where a part of us feel that we should be doing or being something else with our lives. For example, if your values are around saving the planet because you believe that the earth is a beautiful place then you probably wouldn’t be happy working for a huge corporation that doesn’t give a hoot about the planet and knowingly pollutes. If you value your creative time then you might choose to take a part time job with less money so that you can have the life that you want.
How to discover YOUR values. If you value exercise, healthy eating and family ask yourself why. What do these things mean to you? Let’s dig a little deeper and ask: what brings meaning to your life? I’m going to give you an example of how I would break this down for myself so that you can do the same. I run my own private practice as a therapist because I believe in helping people with mental health issues and empowering them to live their best lives. I also believe in staying true to my values of having control over my time and life to do the things that I enjoy: reading, writing, exercise, walking in nature. I value the peace that these activities bring to me. I’m grateful for my health therefore a goal of mine might be to go to the gym most days or run a half marathon and to do those things I would need to care for myself and eat properly. The goal is the gym but the value is nurturing myself. The important questions to consider are:
What is important to you?
What matters in your life?
What are your goals and why?
What would you need to change to stay true to your values?
Do you see how breaking it all down can help to understand yourself and what is important to you? Put pen to paper and section it into headings. You can make the headings anything that you like but some examples might be:
Health Work Family Friends Spare time Pets
Chew on the pen for a bit and think. Here are some questions to consider: What does being with your best friend offer to you? Love, laughter, sharing, time out from chores? How does having pets effect your life? What do they bring to you? What does sex and intimacy mean to you? How important is this to you? What would you like more of in your life? How would you feel if any of the important things in your life was taken away? This usually would give you a strong feeling that that particular thing/person in your life matters a lot.
Beneath these headings write down what you can do to honour those values. Maybe you want to spend more time with the kids? How can you go about doing this? Maybe you want more time for yourself because you have been working hard? What can you do to carve out that time? Think deeply about the WHY’s in all of this. Why are these things important to you? This activity takes a lot of thought but stick at it. Once you have figured out what matters to you then you can begin to change your life little by little to have the life that suits you. You can begin to come back to your authentic self.