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.

 

 

Gratitude

If you were to make a list of everything you love, how long would it take for you to write down yourself?

When I first read this quote it hit me hard. I don’t think I ever would have listed myself. I didn’t see myself as something, or someone, I loved. When in reality that should have been #1 on my list. I knew I had to make a change, but I wasn’t sure how. I wasn’t just going to wake up one day and love who I was, it was going to be a process.

For me, that process started by focusing much more on self-care, and doing things that made me feel good about myself. Some of these self-care/self-love moments were more extravagant, for example I’ve visited a local spa a few times for relaxation massages and facials. However others were much more low-key, like enjoying a cup of my favourite tea in my favourite mug.

Of course, some days its difficult to think of something that will make me feel good, or I’ll be too busy to find the time. On days like these I turn to my gratitude journal. If you don’t know what that is, it’s simple, it’s a list of things you’re grateful for. I started with mine on the notes app on my phone, then moved it over to an actual journal. Now my gratitude journal is full of an extensive, on-going, list of things I love as well as quotes and little doodles.

So here is a peek at my gratitude list.

  1. Coffee/Tea
  2. Heavy blankets
  3. Poetry
  4. Freckles
  5. A purring cat
  6. The ocean
  7. Baby socks
  8. A full body stretch
  9. Sunflowers
  10. Cinnamon rolls

Maybe this list will inspire you to start one of your own, or maybe you’ll return to this post one day when you’re feeling down and need to be reminded of things that make you smile.

2018

Welcome to the future, the present, and the past. This moment is all three wrapped up together. This moment is the now.

Often times we catch ourselves daydreaming about the future. Wondering what type of life we’ll be living, where we’ll be, or who we’ll be with. When we’re “living” in the future we tend to think long-term, 10, 20 years down the road, maybe more. We focus on where we want to end up and skip everything that is going to bring us there.

The past is much the same. We focus on something that has happened anywhere from yesterday, all the way back to childhood. We ruminate on past experiences that we have zero control over, memories that we will never be able to change. Scrutinizing the past has a very large impact our present emotions, and our present emotions float into our future.

I wish I could say I’m going to live completely “in the now”, that I’m not going to think about either the past or the future. However after years of failed attempts, I’ve finally realized that that might not be possible for me. What I plan on doing now is focusing on what makes the now, the now. The way I see it the present moment is actually a combination of all three; our past, present, and future.

We only exist in this present moment because we have survived our past. It’s our collection of experiences and memories that have made us who we are.

Today is yesterday’s future. We all dream of a happy-ever-after, so if we’re already living in the “future”, we need to focus on getting ourselves closer to that happy-ever-after today.

I think remembering this and trying to let it shift our mindset, allows us to better enjoy the present and appreciate it for what it is. Every second in our day is the present, past, and future. So stop looking back at yesterday, and stop waiting for tomorrow. Open your eyes to today, to the now, whatever your definition of it may be.

Once upon a time…

Our story starts in a beautiful theatre, the thick red velvet curtains are pulled open and we see a smiling woman.

She’s a seasoned actress, and has been on the same stage for 3 years. Her awards are hung meticulously on the wall, collecting dust, and there is an empty mug on very shelf. Her dressing room smells of coffee and lavender, and her door is always left open for visitors. Every day she comes in, putting on the same costume, performing the same part in the same play, just as she did the day before. She knows she’s stuck on repeat but she likes it this way, its predictable and safe.

Then one day everything changes. The director hits stop, hooks her off the stage and throws her out the side entrance. Her world is turned upside down. She spends a few days sitting among the dumpsters, breathing in the damp air, contemplating her life, trying decide which button to hit next.

Eject may sometimes feel like the only button left on the stereo. That the only option is to take out the cassette and flip it over. But regardless of how covered in dust the play button is, it will always work. Life will keep moving forward, the ribbon will keep circling through the tape.

Its a month later, she’s no longer wearing a costume and she’s no longer someone else’s puppet. For the first time in years she’s writing her own part for her own play, and her smile is not just part of a costume.

And she I will live happily ever after.

This is not the end.

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.   

Elevators

Living with depression is a lot like being trapped in an elevator;

You step into an elevator, needing to get to the top floor of a building, however the person who just got off was originally going to the basement. So now even though you want to go to the penthouse, you see the ‘B’ illuminated, and you can feel that you’re going down. It doesn’t matter how many times you press up wanting to go to a higher floor, the elevator is going to the basement and you can’t stop it. You know the elevator will eventually reach it’s destination, and you’ll be on your way back up, making it to the top floor, but for now you’re stuck going down.

Depression is much the same. You can feel your mood slipping, and your energy levels are plummeting, you know you’re on your way down. You do everything you can think of to try and stop it, to try and turn it around and “lighten up”, but you’re stuck on that elevator going to the bottom floor. Sometimes you just need to feel down, so you can better appreciate the good days. You don’t realize how sweet a simple breath of air is until you’ve almost drowned.

Although I know that I have to feel down something, and that it’s completely normal. I don’t like feeling depressed. I don’t want to be depressed. What I do like is being able to validate my emotions and accept where I am in each moment in time.

I’ve spent way too long wishing I was different, waiting to  feel different, wishing that I could always be happy and never feel depressed. Wishing and waiting, wishing and waiting. I’d accept the now, and be okay with feeling down or not so great, but then get frustrated waiting for my mood to improve. I would wish to expedite the waiting, wanting to jump right from the bottom floor to the top floor. Thats unrealistic. Now, I’m starting to understand theres a process, and I’m working on accepting it. Maybe soon I’ll even like it, but right now acceptance is the goal. Today I’m feeling good. Not exactly great, but I am feeling better than last week and even better than yesterday. Each day doesn’t need to be extraordinary, it just needs to be good enough to be a smidgen better than yesterday.

I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re not going to get off the elevator and get some exercise on the stairs, at least enjoy the ride and sign along to the music.

 

2017

It’s January 1st, today is the day people everywhere reflect on the previous 365 days and make plans for the next. The past few years I’ve always started the new year by making a pros and cons list of the prior year. Reflecting on the previous year is a great way to be thankful for your positive experiences and to learn from the negative ones. This year
I’m not doing that. I’m not wasting the happiness I have today by trying to decode 2016’s cons and learn something from them. I will however focus on making 2017 better than 2016, one day at a time, starting with today.

I talk a lot about living in the present and not dwelling on the past, however that isn’t something I’ve done a very good job of lately. The past couple months have been very difficult for me. My past kept forcing itself to the forefront of my mind and even the reminders I have tattooed on my body couldn’t bring me back to the present. My mood seemed to be stuck at a dangerously low level, my thoughts turned dark and I started to experience intrusive thoughts of suicide. These  dark thoughts and shadows aren’t anything new to me, however it’s been a long time since I haven’t been able to do something to help myself out of the darkness. It scared me. I made some very poor decisions in my vulnerable state, grasping at the smallest pieces of temporary happiness to try and brighten my mood. Of course this only resulted in pulling me further down, and scaring me more.

Today, I’m grateful that it’s the beginning of a new week, and a new year.

Today, I got out of bed feeling rested, meditated for 6 minutes, got dressed, left the house, sang along to music while driving, and was finally able to organize my thoughts enough to write.

Today, I feel less scared.

As I previously said, I’m not going to waste today’s happiness on yesterday, but I’m going to focus this positive energy into making today great and tomorrow even better.

Daily Challenges:

Meditate ; Write ; Eat a minimum of 2 meals ; Drink a minimum of 2 litres

Weekly Challenges:

1 Blogpost ; Exercise 4 times a week

Monthly Challenges:

Read 2 books ; Put 15% of each paycheque into savings

Yearly Challenges:

Travel to 3 countries ; Cross 5 things off my bucket list

I have more challenges and goals already set for myself and I’m sure the list will continue to grow, but these are the ones I’m choosing to share because these are all second-chance-goals. I’ve set these as goals before and have not completed them, that is why this year they’re challenges instead.

So thats thats. I’ve set my challenges and goals for 2017 without dwelling on the past year, I’m finishing one chapter and turning the page to the next. It might seem strange, but this year I’m embracing my inner Bob Ross..

“You need the dark in order to show the light”

“Look around. Look at what we have. Beauty is everywhere, you only have to look to see it.”

and of course,

“There are no mistakes, just happy little accidents”

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.