5 Christmas Gifts That Won’t End Up in the Back of the Closet


You put a lot of effort into choosing the right Christmas or other type of holiday gift for each person on the list. Unfortunately, that gift you so carefully selected is in danger of ending up in a drawer, the back of the closet, or in the goodies set aside for the first yard sale of the spring.

When you have someone on the list who seems to have everything and really doesn’t need one more shirt, sweater, or small kitchen appliance, what can you do? One approach is to think virtual when you start shopping. Here are five ideas to help you get started.

MP3 Downloads


Vinyl may be making a comeback as a niche product and CDs are still easy to find, but what do you get a friend who no longer wants music in those mediums? Consider purchasing MP3 downloads and giving them as gifts. They’re easy to buy, quick to download, and something your loved one can save to a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Even when they’re somewhere with no signal, they still get to listen to their tunes.

Some services allow you to make the purchase and then send an link via email or text that your loved one can use to download the music directly. In other cases, you can download it yourself and place the tracks on a jump drive. With the latter, you have something physical to wrap and put under the tree.

eBook Downloads


The gift of an eBook works a lot like purchasing MP3 files as gifts. Many vendors will gladly send an email or text containing a link to download the purchase. You can also do the job yourself, place it on a jump drive, and wrap it up to go under the tree.

Remember if your loved one uses a particular type of reader, it’s still possible to purchase eBooks from other sources and they can upload them to their online libraries. They can also use apps on tablets or smartphones to store a virtual library on SD cards. No matter where they go, they have a book on hand to pass the time. Best of all, the books take up no space at home.

Virtual Gift Cards


You like the idea of virtual gifts, but music or books won’t cut it for someone on your list? No problem! There are all sorts of virtual gift cards to consider. Maybe your friend would love a year’s subscription to Netflix? There’s a virtual gift card for that. How about meals at a favorite restaurant? Get a virtual gift card that can be saved on a phone and scanned at the register.

Remember you can always spring for a virtual gift card that your loved one can use on major sites like Amazon or eBay. They add the balances to their online accounts and use them at will. That way, you know they will enjoy whatever is purchased with your gift.

Smartphone Service


More and more people are moving away from restrictive smartphone services that require two-year commitments and impose penalties for early termination. Instead, they are opting for pay-as-you-go plans. If someone on your list has gone this route, think about purchasing a block of minutes as a gift.

You can get cards that supply service for anywhere from a month to a year. Like the person a little? One month of free service in the reserve is fine. Love the person to death? Give the gift of a whole year of smartphone service. All you need to know is which provider the loved one uses and you can order a physical card. They can log into their accounts or use an app on their phones to upload the service package and be set.

Digital Magazine Subscriptions


Reading magazines on a tablet is the only way to go for some folks. They don’t like having print copies lying around once they are done with them. Digital magazine subscriptions allow you to ensure your loved one has their favorites delivered to them electronically every month for one, two, or even five years. They can store them on SD cards if they like to collect them, or delete each issue once they finish with it. In any case, the magazines are always handy and take up no space.

You have more options for gift giving today than at any time in the past. Best of all, you can offer gifts that are sure to please and won’t find their way to the back of a drawer or closet. Consider these ideas and try a few of them this Christmas. You may find they are a bigger hit than anything you’ve given in a long time.


Overthinking and Anxiety: Why Can You Do About It?


You already know that your anxiety disorder is causing your mind to race constantly. What you may not realize is that all that mind racing is also causing you to overthink. All that pondering and contemplating is likely hurting your relationships and could be making you physically ill.

What is Overthinking?

Overthinking is simply spending way too much time dissecting anything and everything in your world. You pick apart what people say, don’t say, do, or don’t do. Often, you find yourself creating slights when none was intended. In short, your thought processes are driving wedges between you and other people.

Signs You are Overthinking

Praise seems like an insult. Someone remarks at how nice the living room looks, but you know they are secretly judging you on the condition of the dining room.

People don’t respond fast enough. You call, email, or text somebody and they don’t get right back to you. All of a sudden, you decide they are writing you out of their lives.

You get upset when people treat you normally. Time and time again, you’ve asked friends to not make a big deal when you have a panic attack in public. When they don’t, you get insulted? Don’t they care?

Stepping Back from the Problem

When you catch yourself turning a molehill into a mountain, step back and ask yourself one question. Would whatever is happening bothered you in the days before your anxiety disorder made the scene? If the answer is no, then recognize that what others are or are not doing is not the cause of your angst. It’s the anxiety disorder.

Make a conscious effort to step back from these imaginary slights and assume the best rather than the worse. You’ll give your racing mind one less thing to dwell on and will certainly make your life a little happier.

Moving Past Agoraphobia: Overcome the Fear and Start Living Again


Agoraphobia is a debilitating condition that makes it difficult for people to enjoy the easy movement and social interaction that most of us take for granted. If you suffer with this condition, you are not alone. Along with seeking professional help, here are some ideas that may help.

Get a Check-Up

While agoraphobia may develop over time or be the result of an emotional trauma, it can also develop as a companion to an anxiety disorder. There are physical components that exacerbate anxiety. Treat those successfully and your ability to deal with agoraphobia may increase.

Evaluate Your Limits

Some agoraphobics are able to function with relative ease in a few “safe” places, such as the homes of friends. Others are unable to move outside the protection of their home. Knowing what you are able to manage now makes it possible to set the stage for expanding your range of safe places.

Push Those Limits

If you cannot go outside, open your front door and stand on your threshold. After a few days of successfully doing that, get a chair and sit on your front stoop. Once this territory is reclaimed, walk down the steps and sit in your front yard. Reclaim your ability to go outside a little at a time, and treasure each inch of territory you regain.

Acknowledge Every Victory No Matter How Small It Seems

When months have passed since you were able to bike around your neighborhood, rejoice when you are finally able to get on that bike and pedal around the block. Claiming that victory will help make it easier to try again tomorrow and maybe go a little further.

Don’t Let Temporary Setbacks Derail Your Confidence

It’s not unusual for someone suffering with agoraphobia to be able to travel a given distance one day, but be petrified at repeating the trip the following day. If you can’t manage to go the same distance today, tell yourself you will still go as far as you can and tomorrow will reclaim the lost ground.

Never Hide Your Condition From Loved Ones

Agoraphobics often make use of many different tricks and strategies to conceal the severity of their condition from other people. This is counterproductive. Being open about your condition opens the door for loved ones to be supportive and to also be on the lookout for therapies and techniques that may be just what you need to recover. At the very least, you’ll quickly learn just how much you mean to certain people in your social circle.

Forget Comparisons

Each person dealing with agoraphobia recovers at their own pace. While it’s great to draw inspiration from the success of someone who is fighting the same condition, no one is running a race. In the end, both of you will arrive at the goal, and both of you will be winners.

Tips & Warnings

Shame is often present in the agoraphobic, since the condition is often viewed as a character flaw. Talk with others so you can begin to see your situation as a bona fide medical condition that deserves treatment, not something to hide from everyone around you.

Beware of products or methods that promise an overnight cure for agoraphobia. There aren’t any. Save your money and use it to seek support from a qualified therapist, to join a support group, or to pay for any anti-anxiety medication your physician deems will help with your condition.


An Open Letter to My Anxiety


To the reader: I wrote this several years ago when my anxiety/panic disorder was peaking. My hope is that the letter will help someone else who is living with these conditions and feels as if his/her world is fading away.

Dear Anxiety,

Well, here we are again on a Sunday morning. And as in many times past, you decided to tag along as I made my way to church this morning. I guess perhaps you were still a little sleepy, since you didn’t seem to really awaken until the service started.

Now normally, I’m always happy to see somebody else at church. But I have to wonder –  just what are you getting from the experience? It’s obvious that you don’t care for the hymns, the scripture readings, or the pastor’s sermon. That leaves me with only one conclusion: you go to church for the sole purpose of needling me.

So let’s review your behavior in church today and what you accomplished with your childish actions.

First, you started in as we entered the sanctuary, blurring my vision a bit so it was harder to see the chancel area. You thought that might be enough to make the place cold and unwelcoming to me.

Guess what? You failed. The sun streaming through the windows reduced your effort to a minor irritant. In spite of your effort, I still felt safe and welcome.

Next, you decided to see if making me weak in the knees would get a reaction. You began to put thoughts into my head about not being able to stand through the opening hymn and invocation.

Guess what? You failed. I stood through both.

From there, you decided to mess with me during the reading of today’s Lectionary scriptures by making my mind race. I bet you thought I would get nothing from hearing those ancient words.

Guess what? You failed. I heard most of them and they did sink in.

After that, you thought that making my mind cloudy during the pastor’s sermon would prevent me from hearing his words regarding overcoming adversity, attempting to combine the fuzziness and racing thoughts in what no doubt you thought would be a winning combination.

Guess what? You failed. In spite of your best efforts, I took away a half-dozen key points from the sermon that I will meditate on in more detail later today.

As the time to offer the Peace approached, you resorted back to the weakness, whispering in my ear that if I stood up and walked around a bit to greet others and wish them the Peace, I would faint.

Guess what? You failed. I did stand up and greeted several people.

Your final effort to derail my time in worship was to double your efforts by making me feel that I had no strength left to approach the rail and receive Communion. To the weakness you added a rapidly thumping heart and a bit of dizziness, even pulling out the blurred vision again for good measure.

Guess what? You failed. I did enter the procession, kneeled at the altar, received the emblems and made it back to my seat without incident.

So what did you accomplish? Well, you’ve left me feeling a bit tired this morning, but that will pass.

But you and your shenanigans did not stop me from fulfilling my desire to be in church this morning or prevent me from receiving instruction and counsel, or taking Communion. And even though you will probably try some more tricks today, you are not going to stop me from enjoying the rest of this morning or cooking the lunch I’ve been looking forward to, or prevent me from enjoying my planned visit to a friend’s house this evening. Come along if you like, but sit in the corner and be quiet. I’ve had quite enough of you for one day.


M. Tatum

Common Sounds and Anxiety: What Triggers Your Panic Attacks?


One of the things that anxiety sufferers lose is the ability to enjoy sounds that once brought them a lot of pleasure. For a time, our worlds are a little smaller because of the loss. It’s only when we begin to recover that some of those sounds come back to us again.

Losing Music

For me, one of the most severe losses with my anxiety disorder was the ability to listen to music. Most of my life, there’s been some type of music in the background. As a kid, I listened to the radio while I did my homework. After obtaining a driver’s license, a tape went into the deck as soon as the car was cranked.

When a relationship ended, music was there to help me heal. If there was a special event to plan, selecting music was part of the preparations. No matter what I was doing, music was somewhere nearby.

Then it wasn’t.

Fortunately, this one part of my anxiety appears to be over. Most of the time, music is a friend once again. It may be in the form of listening to a music download or watching a concert online or on television. It may be listening to a friend play an instrument. What matters is that music once again calms my nerves and makes me feel more like myself.

Why Some Sounds and Not Others?

No one can answer why some sounds drive you up the wall and others don’t have any effect. To this day, I don’t understand why during the worst part of my journey with anxiety, I could go to a ball field and all the cheering, clapping, and other noise would only marginally affect me. Logic dictates that sort of setting should make my nerves twang like the strings on a couple of dueling banjos. But then, what does logic have to do with an anxiety disorder?

I’ve talked with people who could listen to a television at any volume and be fine. Those same people couldn’t bear the sound of two people talking over one another. If you have some sound that causes your anxiety to go into overdrive, don’t think that you are alone. There’s somebody else in the world who is having a similar reaction to the same thing.

It Does Get Better

It seems like you will never be able to enjoy sounds that you once loved, but it will happen. About three years ago, I noticed that I could listen to music for about an hour before the world started spinning out of control. Since then, it’s become easier to enjoy live or recorded music for longer periods. There are days now when I actually look forward to finishing with work so I can settle in and listen to music for a while.

Remember that giving up is not an option. It may not happen today, but there will come a time when the sounds you love will soothe instead of irritate once again. While I can’t vouch that you will ever find joy in the sounds of supermarket scanners (they still drive me up the wall, but I’m not sure it’s all because of the anxiety), the important stuff will be yours again.