Self-Care Sunday: April 29

I was once told by a therapist that the state of my room often reflected the state of my mind. So if my room was messy, it’s because my mind was messy. She told me that if I noticed my room was messy, to reflect inward and see how my mind was doing. Of course, it didn’t always match up, but A LOT of the time it did!

When I noticed my messy mind and room I would always go on a cleaning spree and try and clean my whole house (quite the daunting task when you have a messy mind), and sometimes I did, however most times I didn’t finish the whole house and I ended up feeling unaccomplished and that I had failed.

I later found that choosing just one part of my room and focusing on cleaning that one area was the best option. I’d get part of my mess cleaned and I still got to feel accomplished. This little bit of self-care would help get me onto a brighter path and closer to feeling better!

So the next time you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or just a little bit down, take a look at the space around you. Maybe 10 minutes of cleaning off your bed, or packing away some clothes will help with the clutter in your mind. Or maybe it won’t work this time, but your parents/roommates will be happy at the very least.

Enjoy the rest of your Self-Care Sunday!

Self-Care Sunday: April 22

Each Monday is the start of a new week, and that can sometimes seem intimidating. To try and eliminate this anxiety it’s a great idea to slow down, take a moment to ourselves, and prepare our mind for the week ahead.

This week for my self-care, I made my favourite cup of tea and I suggest you do too!

Here are the steps (if you need them…) that I took:

  1. Boil your water
  2. Pick out your favourite tea (Mine is Coco Chai Rooibos)
  3. Pick out your favourite mug
  4. Put the appropriate amount of tea into a tea strainer
  5. Pour boiling water into your mug
  6. Place the tea strainer into the boiling water
  7. Let your tea steep for a couple minutes
  8. Take your strainer out of your mug
  9. Find a cozy place to sit
  10. Sit back and enjoy your tea

Drinking tea is an excellent way to practice mindfulness, as it gives you a chance to focus on your senses. Hearing the kettle boil, seeing the water change colour as you add the tea leaves, smelling the calming aroma, feeling the warm mug in your hands, and tasting the perfect cup of tea.

Whether you have your own cup of tea tonight, or not, enjoy the last few moments of your Self-Care Sunday!

The Laws of Life

When you struggle with mental illness, (hell, even if you don’t) sometimes it can feel like Murphy’s Law is ruling our lives. That everything that could possibly go wrong is going wrong, and if for the off chance things seem to be good, then we must have overlooked something, right?

Let me explain a little deeper. Imagine yourself in the following scenario.

Your alarm doesn’t go off, and you sleep in too late to shower before work. You rush out of the house, locking your keys inside. You miss the bus, and when you go to call a cab you realize your phones been cut off, you forgot to pay your cellphone bill, again. You can feel the anger creeping up inside you as you walk to work in the rain. When you finally get to work you’re about to explode, you bark at the doorman, and stomp up the stairs to your office, slamming your door closed without saying hello to your assistant. While collapsing into your seat you spill coffee down your brand new shirt. You’re distracted and unproductive all day, getting nothing done at all.

How do you feel? What is the first thing you think after reading that? A few carefully selected curse words I’m sure, but what else? How about…

“Of course this would happen to me.”

“I have the worst luck.”

“I should have just stayed home.”

“Thats just life, kicking me while I’m down.”

If that isn’t Murphy’s Law, I don’t know what is, and maybe days like the one I just made up happen to you all the time. Maybe you’re in a tough spot, and the universe is challenging you. Well I’m here to help (or try to at least). You see, I don’t believe in Murphy’s Law, I believe in Einstein’s Law of Attraction.

“Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get into that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy, this is physics.” – Albert Einstein

The way I see it, the world is full of different energies. We pass energies back and forth, exchanging good energy for bad, and vice versa. However we are most attracted to those people who exchange similar energies to us. Lets look at me, for example, I try my very best to stay positive and to only put positive energies back out into the world, which is why I’m more attracted to positive people, than I am negative people. Make sense? Focusing in on your energy, and the energy you spread, can easily take a bad day and turn it around.

Disclaimer: Now, I’m not saying you need to smile and be happy every time you miss the bus and I’m definitely not saying you’re never going to have a bad day again. For I’m somebody who struggles with depression, and sometimes it seems like I have more bad days than good. So I completely understand how difficult it can be to find the positive in a negative situation. However, I do believe that we have the power to change our own lives.

You’ll notice that Einstein didn’t say, “Match the frequency of the reality you have”, but rather, “Match the frequency of the reality you want”. So you’re not really stuck in that rut, you’re just tuned into a lower frequency.

I realize I’m making this sound real easy, and you’re probably rolling your eyes at me, but I assure you, you can do it. When I notice I’m feeling low, and I’m ready to make a change, I turn my focus inward and reflect on my own energies. I then take a few deep, centring breaths, and I find something good, something I’m grateful for, and hold on to it. I focus on that one thing until I feel my mind clear and my energy increase. Turning one situation around isn’t going to change your whole life, but it’s a start.

Let’s look back at our situation from earlier in this post, and try to find a few positives.

After spilling coffee down your shirt, you take a breath and remember you have a spare hanging behind your door. You thank yourself for being prepared, and leaving it here months ago for cases like today. Now that your mind is clear you have a very productive day.

Lets back up.

Instead of yelling at the doorman and ruining their day, you stop and say hello. You focus in on the smalltalk and allow the simplicity of it make you feel a little better. This conversation adds a pep to your step, just enough energy to not collapse into your office chair.

Lets back up a little further.

You missed your bus, and your phone is out of commission. Take a breath, refocus, and use this rare cellphone-less walk to work to look up and appreciate nature. You feel surrounded by beauty, so much more positive you don’t bark at the doorman.

Even further?

You wake up, without your alarm going off. No, you don’t have time to shower, but you still have time for your commute. Take a second, and take your internal clock for waking you up when it did, and giving your body a little extra rest. You focus inward and realize you needed that rest, and more. You take the morning off and stay in bed a few more hours, going to work that afternoon much more productive and feeling refreshed.

Moral of the story? Remember to breath. Taking a second to stop and just breath gives you time to check your emotions, your mood, and your energy…..and there is no shame in needing to take a day to yourself.

So next time you feel like life it kicking you while you’re down, I want you to remember this, and try to see the situation from a different perspective.

Find the good, hold on tight, match to the higher frequency.

 

 

Control

I hate surprises, and like always knowing what to expect. Whether it’s with work, making plans with friends, or even just my own thoughts, I like to be in control. I feel like I need to be in control. Especially when it comes to my own thoughts.

If you’ve never had intrusive thoughts, or even just had your thoughts be out-of-control, you might not know what I’m talking about, so I’ll try and explain. Intrusive thoughts are unwanted, unwarranted thoughts that usually accompany anxiety, depression, or OCD. They can come in the form of flashbacks or spontaneous thoughts, and can range anywhere from innocent to suicidal.

The best way I can explain these out-of-control thoughts is by saying it’s like putting your mind on shuffle. The next song could be Elton John, one of your favourites, or it could be U2, an album you hate that Apple chose for you. You never know what to expect, you feel like you have no control over your own mind.

This lack of control can be scary. For me, it’s very scary. I think that is why I like being in control in any area of my life that I can be. When my life is going smoothly my mind tends to be more clear. The flip side, unfortunately, also seems to be true; When I’m stressed and anxious, I have an increase of intrusive thoughts. It’s during these times that I depend on my planner, even more than usual. I use a daily planner that I absolutely love. It’s colour coded, has errand lists, to-do lists, quotes, and space for reflection. It keeps me not only organized, but grounded.

Keeping organized is my way of preventing intrusive thoughts from creeping into my mind. Some ways I cope when they do manage to sneak in are immediate affirmations, mindfulness and calming meditations, and of course, writing.

Hopefully every reader can either relate, or learn, from this post.

I’m okay, and so are you. See you next Sunday!

48 hours.

I recently spiralled down, way down, this is how it went.

10:02 pm – Arrive at the pharmacy to pick up meds. Realize they closed at 10:00

11:00 pm – Going to sleep without one of my medications. About to spend the whole night twisting and turning.

4:30 am – Wake up soaked in sweat from a nightmare. Has to get up change clothes and bedding. Spends the next hour replaying the dream in my head.

7:15 am – Alarm goes off. I roll over and go back to sleep.

7:45 am – I wake up with a start, noticing I’ve slept in and jump out of bed to get ready for work.

8:06 am – Arrive back at the pharmacy to try and pick up my meds again. Realize they don’t open until 9:00…

8:10 am – Stop at a coffee shop to pick up breakfast. Coffee is burnt and they’re out of bagels.

8:20 am – Arrive at work.

4:30 pm – Arrive home from work. Immediately put on pyjamas and get in bed. Spend the next 5 hours napping on and off.

9:00 pm – Realize I didn’t go back to the pharmacy and now I am out of 2 different medications.

9:15 pm – Going to sleep for another stress filled night.

10:45 am – I wake up and race to meet my family for breakfast.

12:00pm – Arrive home and get back in bed. Spend the next 4 hours napping on and off.

4:30 pm – Arrive at the pharmacy to pick up both medications. Immediately takes one before driving home.

5:00 pm – Sitting in the driveway, feeling so heavy, wondering if I can make it into the house.

5:05 pm – Depression sinks in. Tears start to stream down my cheeks.

5:30 pm – I’m now sobbing and can’t figure out why. All of a sudden my mind is full of negativity.

5:45 pm – My mind starts heading back to it’s old ways, wondering where my old blade is. I start fighting with myself to stop. I start begging my mind to calm down.

6:00 pm – I fill the bathtub with hot water and climb in, hoping the water burning my skin will bring me back to the present.

6:30 pm – Still can’t calm down. As I refill the tub with hotter water my mind is flooded with negativity. I’m sobbing, my chest is heavy, it feels like my lungs are about to cave in.  When I feel like I can’t breathe anymore, I close my eyes, hold my breath and sink into the water. After what feels like an eternity my body’s natural instincts kick in and I sit up.

7:00 pm – Stumbling out of the tub, I gulp in fiery air, my lungs burning.

7:15 pm – I’m sitting in my bed focusing on my breathing, eventually it slows and I begin to write this post. Breaking down the past 48 hours into specific events, and accepting each individual event for what it was allows me to move past it and back into the now.

Cut to the next morning – I feel better. Lighter.

Sometimes it’s when you’ve been feeling the best that you hit the ground the hardest. Sometimes when you forget how horrible it feels, you forget how important your medications are to you.

Sometimes when all the happy has left your body you need to crack, so the light can find it’s way back in.

 

 

 

 

 

May 12

On April 25th, 2014 I decided to turn my life around. I decided I didn’t want to be sad anymore, and if I was going to live, I was going to live happily. Two weeks later, on May 12th, 2014 I stopped self-harming and started on the road to recovery.

The road to recovery can be very long, it can last anywhere from a week to your whole life. It isn’t a road that is easily travelled; it isn’t paved and it is all up hill. You’ll need to stop and take a rest sometimes and you might even slip backwards, however push forward because the feeling at the end is worth the struggle.

Everyone travelling on the road to recovery has a different path; Mine started with the purchase of a notebook. When I decided I was ready to stop cutting, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, I wanted to stop but I wasn’t exactly ready to let go of my blade. My therapist at the time told me to do something else to release, so I bought a notebook and sliced the pages instead of my skin. Seeing the cuts of paper fall out of the book was surprisingly satisfying. I’m not saying it “cured” me, or magically stopped my cravings, but it definitely helped because since that day I have not self-harmed once.

Along my journey I’ve found other things that have helped in my recovery. Reading, writing, yoga, strength training, and especially meditation. Meditation has been the one thing that I can always go to when I need a mental break, when I need a little push further up Recovery Road, when I needed to be reminded of the beauty in the world.

Through meditation I learned the story of the lotus. I learned that the lotus has to grow through thick mud and water before it is able to open to the sun and bloom. It was this story, as well as two quotes, that inspired me to get my latest tattoo. A lotus on my right leg, the leg I used to self-harm for the quote, “I am blooming from the wound where I once bled” by the poet, Rune Lazuli. The other being the quote featured above. It was Van Gogh who said “Normality is a paved road; It’s comfortable to walk but no flowers grow on it”. Recovery Road is not necessarily a “normal” route to take in life, but it is one that will change you. It will take you off the paved road and let you bloom.

Now I am two years clean of self-harm, with a lotus tattoo to remind me of all the mud that I have travelled through, and to remind me everyday to bloom.

Recovery

Quite often, I find myself wondering, what recovery feels like? How will I know when I start to recover from all the trauma that pins me down.

Mental illnesses are much the same as physical illnesses. If you break your leg, or get an infection, you take medications, rest, take care of your body. It’s the same for depression or anxiety, the medications (if you must), rest and take care of your mind. So it makes sense that recovery from a mental setback, would be the same as a physical setback.

When you’re recovering from the flu, you don’t necessarily notice, until you think about when the last time you coughed was and realize it’s been hours. I think its the same for depression, you don’t realize you’re feeling better until you think about how long it has been since the last time you felt down. Thinking back to when you felt down means a big step in recovery is reflection and knowing how to reflect without letting it affect you.

You must reflect on the negative experiences that made you who you are, to not let them have anything over you anymore. You must reflect on each time you’ve felt down, so you can recognize the space in-between when you felt fine. However, reflecting on the past can be a slippery slope. Its easy to get caught up in the past and let it hold you there, but if you look back with an analytical mindset you try and prevent that.

Having an analytical, or growth mindset when reflecting will allow you to look at your experiences from different views. One view being your heart, which remembers the emotions, and another being your brain, which acts as the outsider, able to understand multiple sides to every story. This turns your reflection into research, which to me, makes so much sense. If ever you didn’t understand something, you would research it. It’s the same for yourself, if at any point in time you don’t understand yourself or how you got to a certain place in your life, look back, research how, research why.

I’ve always been the type of person who only wants to focus on the present, and forget the past. However I’ve come to learn that you can only truly be in the present, the now, if your past isn’t holding you back. The past can be painful, very painful, which is why just trying to forget it doesn’t work, you must face it front on and come to terms with it. This starts with reflection.

Reflection turns into research. Research turns into recovery. Recovery turns into happiness.   

Grit

 

I don’t like to fail. I mean, nobody likes to fail, but as someone who struggles with depression and negative self-talk, failing at something really effects me. Some people find failure inspiring, encouraging, something that makes them want to work harder. When I fail at something I often feel the exact opposites, uninspired, discouraged and like I should just give up. This is related to grit.

In her book, Angela Duckworth defines grit as “Perseverance and passion for long-term goals”. I was challenged to read the book a few months back by my manager at work. I’m an avid reader who loves leadership and books of self-discovery, but honestly it took me a couple months to get through it. In one of the first chapters there is a Grit Scale for the reader to complete. Upon taking the scale, I had the anticipation that I was going to do really well and score a very high mark, when in reality I achieved a 3.9. Now don’t get me wrong, a 3.9 is still a really good mark, and is still “higher than 60% of Americans” however it was lower than I expected. This score caused me to believe I wasn’t gritty, and made it difficult for me to really connect with the contents of the book.

Once I finally finished the book, I put it down and didn’t open it for another few months. I completely stopped thinking about my gritty-ness, and moved on. It wasn’t until I was telling a co-worker about how horrible my first day of work was that I realized I might be grittier than I thought.

My first day of work I walked into my office and it was a total mess. I had to spend an hour cleaning before I could even sit down at my desk and start. By then I was already flustered and thrown off. It was my first administration job and I very quickly became confused. My manager didn’t know anything about how to complete my daily tasks and my Club Administration Specialist helped me the most she could over the phone from a different location. I locked my office door and started to cry. I was so overwhelmed, and felt like a total failure. I knew it was only my first day, but I felt like I was starting behind the starting line. No one checked on me for hours and I started to feel not only like a failure but also lonely, like my new co-workers didn’t care or even know I existed. I somehow stretched a 5 hour day into a 10 hour day, then missed the bus and walked home.

After telling my story, I felt an sense of resilience. I had overcome an awful first day on the job and did not quit. I stayed and made it better. I stayed and 1.5 years later I even found myself moving up through the company. It was my own personal grit that kept me there.

Now it’s months later since I originally read the book, “Grit”, and I finally feel the connection. I feel like I can finally relate to all the personal stories and experiences in the book, and this realization didn’t come from some scale, but the retelling of my own gritty story.

Since I’ve discovered my grittiness, I’ve realized it is what keeps me working harder and harder each day to do whatever I can to make my associates feel cared for, and to make our location the best it can be.

I can truly say, “Grit” by Angela Duckworth has inspired me. It wasn’t one line that hit me in the face with inspiration, but rather seeped into my brain waiting for a perfect moment to strike.

10/10 would recommend.

Guilt.

Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do. – Steve Jobs

I was recently asked if I knew the difference between ‘guilt’ and ‘shame’. I was immediately offended, and answered with “obviously”, then when I was asked to define both I was stumped. I had been using the words interchangeably, I didn’t realize there was a difference between them. I was encouraged to look into the definitions, to fully understand the difference. Here are my findings;

Dictionary.com defines guilt as a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, while defining shame as a painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonourable. The way I see it, is guilt is a reaction, whereas shame is an emotion. Which means that what I have been classifying as “Bad Guilt” this whole time was actually shame.

In the past, I’ve spoke about how I like guilt, how it saved my life. I used to call this guilt, “Good Guilt”, however now I realize it was just regular, normal guilt. I’ll explain.. When I was at my lowest of lows, I was fantasizing about death, and mapping out the perfect plan. I was counting down the days, but at the same time I was starting to feel extremely guilty about the pain I was about to put onto my family and friends. I knew that once I went through with it, they would be left with aftermath, and “what if’s”. This guilt kept me up at night, made me second guess my decision, and ultimately forced me to not do it.

What followed this guilt was a whole lot of shame. So much shame that I couldn’t speak about my decision of what not to do, for almost a year, and even then not openly. I had this secret that I kept thinking back to and was causing me “Bad Guilt”, or what I now know as shame. I was ashamed of what I had planned to do, and how it would have hurt the people around me.

Learning there is a difference between guilt and shame, and that I don’t exactly need to be calling them good guilt and bad guilt anymore doesn’t really change anything. I just thought it was interesting, and it brought up some old memories. However, what I did learn is guilt is not an emotion, but something caused by yourself. Which made me realize I can be mindful of it. So if I notice I’m feeling guilty, I can validate the thought then squash it. Knowing it’s a reaction to something, I can push the guilt aside and figure out what the main issue really is. I don’t need to ever feel guilty again.

Pencils vs. Crayons

I’ve always thought that true happiness was a mindset. That you couldn’t find happiness, or buy it, but if you truly believed you could be happy, then you would be. It wasn’t until I was in a business meeting last week that I realized I was wrong. Happiness isn’t a mindset, it’s the result of a mindset.

There are two different types of mindsets: Fixed and Growth. A fixed mindset is the belief that people have set skills, talents, and intelligence. I see this as the black-and-white mindset, you’re either good at something or you’re not. Then theres a growth mindset, which is the belief in ones ability to develop or change. I see this as the more colourful mindset, like a 64 pack of crayons, you aren’t limited, you can choose to be whatever colour you want.

In the meeting I was attending, we were talking about how each mindset can have a different impact at work. If you are stuck in a fixed mindset, you, or your associates, will feel just that, stuck. You’ll catch yourself saying things like, “We never hit our goals before, so we never will”, or “I’m just bad at that, I always will be”. You may be really good at something and very successful in your current role, but a fixed mindset creates a glass ceiling on your achievements. Focusing only on the end result, will discourage you from trying new things from the fear of failure. However if you have a growth mindset, you break that glass ceiling and you have room to thrive. You embrace the power of the words “yet” and “will”, and celebrate effort rather than achievement. Having this mindset encourages your associates to develop themselves and try new things.

Being the Mental Health advocate I am, I couldn’t help but think of how the two mindsets also affect your wellbeing. If you are someone who struggles with depression or anxiety, like me, you may find yourself in a fixed mindset from time to time. Dealing with these obstacles make it really easy to say things like “I won’t ever be happy”, or “I just can’t cheer up, I never will” and when you’re repeatedly saying these things, you start to believe them. I know for a fact, how difficult breaking out of the habit of negative self-talk can be, and it can definitely prove to be a very long task. Personally, I managed to chip away at the habit by meditating, however I think that if I had known about fixed vs. growth mindsets then, it would have been much easier. Knowing the signs of a fixed mindset would have helped me realize that the things I was thinking, or saying to myself, were do to my mindset, not the chemical imbalance in my brain.

I’m not saying you can’t be happy if you have a fixed mindset, but I strongly believe that the “glass ceiling” effect I spoke to earlier, also applies to your happiness. If you have a fixed mindset, you put a limit on your happiness. You may be really happy in one moment in time, but it may only be temporary. If you have a growth mindset, your happiness is never-ending.

I can now confidently say that I have a growth mindset, maybe I always have and I just got sidetracked along the way. I think that might be the case for everyone. That everyone has the ability to have a growth mindset, they just need to want it.

I still believe that you need to believe you can be happy before you can be, but now I realize believing in yourself is actually having a growth mindset, and happiness is the outcome.