Anxiety Induced Procrastination: 5 Ways To Overcome It

A pang of guilt, mixed with dread, mixed with fear shoots through your stomach.  You have so many things you should be doing in this moment, but you sit frozen on your couch, staring at your phone instead. You just don’t know which thing to start with.  You push away the anxious thoughts that tug at your brain by scrolling through some old photos on facebook. The nagging continues though, so you wander to the kitchen, eat a cookie and stare blankly at your fridge magnets. You open the fridge and stare blankly some more. What were you looking for in here again? You feel so confused.  You let the fridge slam shut, take a deep breath that catches in your throat, and makes the weight that sits on your chest even heavier. You try to deep breathe again. Nope. Still no relief. You scurry around the house, find a notebook and pen, start scribbling down a to-do list.  For some reason this reminds you that you are out of cheese, and really need some for tonight’s dinner. You abandon your list and rush out the door. The to-do list can wait another day. It has waited this long, after all. You’ll get it done. Tomorrow.

It’s a vicious cycle: Avoiding something because it makes you uncomfortably anxious, getting more worried as time goes on because you haven’t done it yet, putting it off some more. Procrastination. Sometimes it just seems so hard to force yourself to get stuff done. Here are a few ideas to help you escape the Procrastination Chains of Immobilization:

5 Strategies For Overcoming Anxiety Induced Procrastination:

1.) Think of a reward/condition for each to-do list item:

When anxious thoughts of all the things you need to do start haunting you, write them down immediately. Don’t stop there though. Include a bribe for yourself, or even a threat for each item. Maybe as soon as you make that doctor appointment, you’ll reward yourself with a latte from Starbucks. Maybe you won’t allow yourself to watch your favourite T.V show until you pay that parking ticket. Whatever you decide, follow through with the rewards. Overcoming a fear ( it is NOT laziness, in my opinion) is worthy of celebration. Make sure your list is posted where it’s visible. If you see it often, you will be reminded to complete it often.

2.) Tell someone else you need to do it:

Force yourself to be more accountable by sharing your to-do list with someone you trust. Ask this person to give you gentle reminders, or to push you hard to do it, whichever you think will be most effective.  Anxiety/procrastination can be a tough battle, and like any battle, it’s better if you don’t have to fight it alone.

3.) Feel less overwhelmed. Spread the items out on the calendar:

It’s extremely overwhelming to look at a list of 20 important things that kind of scare you, but also really need to get done. Grab a calendar and try spreading things out over a week or so instead. Write no more than 2-3 items per day. Looking at the calendar will still be intimidating, I know. Investing in a flip calendar might be a good idea for this. The expression “take it one day at a time” is an important one to remember here. Pretend the only day that exists is today. Try hard to focus on nothing else. Get those 2-3 things done, and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.

4.) Make it a game: channel your anxious energy.

If you suffer anxiety, you’ve likely got a ton of nervous energy travelling through your body at any given moment. I would bet much of this energy ends up getting wasted, through fidgeting, pacing, inefficient completion of tasks. You just can’t sit still, but ironically you can’t seem to get anything done either. What you need is a bit of focus. Okay, maybe a lot of focus. Choose an item on your to-do list. Set a timer. Make it a goal to get it done before the time runs out. Channel your energy into completing the task. Tell yourself to focus and don’t stop telling yourself to focus until it’s done. After, if you still have anxious energy coursing through your veins, jump up and down in celebration.

5.) Try using fear to motivate you:

If the dose is right, fear can be an effective motivator. Choose the one thing you most urgently need to complete. Think of the worst case scenario if you don’t get it done. Don’t worry about any other item on your list. Give yourself permission to actually obsess about the most urgent thing until it pushes you into action. You could even try writing the worst case scenario down on a piece of paper and holding it in front of your face until you do it. It’s worth a try.

Procrastination affects everyone from time to time, but it’s especially frequent in those who have anxiety. I hope these ideas help you.

Now, I must get going. I’ve got an appointment to make, library books to return, a parking ticket to pay, phone calls to make ….. I need to take some of my own advice and stop putting things off.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

 

10 Depression Symptom Analogies For Those Who Have Trouble Understanding

If others don’t believe you when you are certain you speak the truth, if you get blamed for something you know is not your fault, if no matter how many times you try explaining something the person just doesn’t get it, how does it make you feel?

Pretty frustrated, I’m sure.

Sadly, this is the case for many who suffer mental illness, like depression. Imagine being accused of creating your own illness with your negative attitude, laziness, or self pity. It’s pretty awful. Those with depression long to be believed, long to be understood. Depression is NOT a feeling. It’s a very real disease, and I’m going to attempt to describe it to you with some analogies below.

10 Depression Symptom Analogies To Help You Understand:

1.) Irritability (The Sandpaper Bed)

You stand beside your bed. It looks cozy and inviting. You climb in and are startled by the feel of the sheets on your skin. They are rough, like sandpaper. Your pillow is hard as a rock. You roll over, nothing changes. The sandpaper sheets hurt your skin, the rock pillow makes your head hurt. This is what irritability is like. You know you should not be bothered, but everything annoys you, angers you, makes you very uncomfortable. You wish with all of your might you could relax and feel peaceful, but it just won’t happen. You want to explode at everyone around you, but you hold it in as best you can. You press on, try to appear normal. Like a night spent in the sandpaper bed would be, it’s totally exhausting.

2.) Empty/Numb (The Worst Comedy Show Ever)

Depression frequently makes you feel…absolutely nothing at all. Imagine you’re at a comedy show, but you’re the only one who finds nothing funny about it. Everyone else cracks up laughing at jokes that evoke no response in you at all. You wish you could enjoy yourself as they are, but your heart and mind are void of all feeling, You throw back a few drinks, to try to ignite a spark of life within you, to no avail. You just want to go home so you can stop pretending you actually feel something other than numbness. Depression often makes you feel as though someone has reached in and ripped your soul out of your body. It’s not fun.

3.) Extreme Fatigue (the 500 lb lead weight suit)

Picture yourself wearing full body armour made of lead. You try to go about your daily activities, but every movement requires tremendous effort. You want to move. You try your best to move. It’s just completely exhausting. No matter how hard you try, you seem unable to take off your lead body armour. It only removes itself when it feels like it.

4.) Self Loathing (tied with a rope to someone you really dislike)

What if that person you can’t stand being around, that person you have a hard time finding good qualities in, that person you just can’t seem to like was tied to you with a 3 foot long rope for an entire day? “No way in hell,” you are probably thinking. Well, if you suffer depression, that person is tied to you permanently. That person is yourself. It is a very sad, but very true reality of depression. The majority of the time during a depressive episode the sufferer thinks very negatively about themselves, and they might even have feelings of self hatred.

5.) Guilt (A body covered in long whiskers that bug everyone around you.)

Imagine you walk through the mall, or attend a family function, and all of a sudden your body grows huge, prickly whiskers that poke at everyone around you. You’d feel the need to apologize an awful lot. You’d probably feel pretty bad. Guilty. Guilty for being your prickly, whiskery self. Depression doesn’t make a person grow whiskers of course, but it certainly brings on constant, tremendous feelings of guilt. It makes you feel as though you are letting everyone down, that everyone is annoyed at, or disappointed by you.

6.) Physical Discomfort (The Constant Hangover)

Headache. Body Aches. Joint Pain. Nausea. Dizziness. If it gets bad enough, depression makes you feel like you have a constant hangover. If you haven’t experienced a hangover, think of how you feel when you are coming down with the flu. Many cases of depression/anxiety are diagnosed only after the patient has sought medical help for physical symptoms.( I myself was one of those cases.) Those “Depression Hurts” commercials do not lie.

7.) Confusion (partially soundproof, translucent glass box.)

If you spent an hour surrounded by glass that was hard to see through, hard to hear through and tried to go about life as usual, things would get pretty darn confusing. Depression often feels exactly like this. Focusing on anything becomes very hard. You find yourself holding your head in your hands all the time. Your vision literally blurs, and you have a hard time understanding what anyone is talking to you about. This confusion just increases other symptoms, like irritability and fatigue.

8.) Strong Desire to Hide (avoiding a telemarketer who is always callng)

You know that feeling you have when you see a telemarketer’s number on the call display? Someone with depression feels this way pretty much all of the time. They don’t want to answer the phone, or the door. They don’t want to go get groceries, they don’t want to go to your party. All they really want to do is hide under the covers and stop pretending everything is alright. They want to hide away so they can be depressed without fear of judgement, or feelings of guilt.

9.) Dread (a colonoscopy is looming, every minute of every day)

I think it’s safe to say nobody out there looks forward to the day they need a colonoscopy. When you suffer depression, you always feel like something unpleasant lies in the near future. Dread. Dread for reasons you can’t explain. In fact, knowing the dread was caused by an approaching colonoscopy would probably be an improvement over the nonspecific, sinking, scared feeling you often wake with, eat lunch with, go to bed with when you suffer from depression.

10.) Hopeless/Trapped (drowning)

Imagine you are trapped in a tank of deep water. You tread water for a long time. You start getting tired. You aren’t sure how much longer you’ll be able to keep your head above water. You try to stay afloat, try to conserve your energy and pray someone will come along and help you. Time ticks on. You are so tired. You sink below the surface, hold your breath for as long as you can. Nobody is coming to save you because nobody notices you need help. Desperately, you pull to the surface, gasp for air, sink back down again. You aren’t going to make it. You have lost all hope.

Depression is a very lonely, often desperate battle to feel alive.

But it doesn’t have to be lonely.

It doesn’t have to be hopeless.

There is plenty of help available for those suffering depression. They just need to feel comfortable enough to seek it out. All of the stigma, the fear, the lack of empathy and understanding toward mental illness in our society needs to end.

The best thing you can do for someone with depression is let them know you believe them, and you are not afraid to talk with them about it openly and honestly.

You can be that arm that pulls them out of that tank of deep water with a few powerful words.

“I am here for you.”

“I am listening.”

” I believe you.”

 

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Thanks so much for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk.

Do You Experience A.S.M.R? ( Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response)

Although my grade 7 French class was often the most chaotic part of the school day, with students speaking out of turn and generally taking advantage of our kind, soft spoken teacher, for me it was the most relaxing time of day.

As the other students flirted, doodled in their notebooks, did anything but pay attention, I zoned right in on the lesson. This wasn’t just because I was ultra respectful, I must admit.

It was because the gentle sound of our teacher’s voice, the soothing way her delicate hand wrote on the chalkboard, her incredible focus despite all the disruption going on all made me feel profoundly relaxed. My scalp would tingle, and my shoulders would feel like I was getting a massage. Had my grade7 French class been longer than 40 minutes, it very well may have put me to sleep each day. Not because it was boring, but because it was blissfully peaceful and relaxing.

I didn’t tell anyone this of course. It seemed too bizarre. I didn’t want anyone to think I was a weirdo, getting pleasure from observing a sweet old lady write on a chalk board and talk.

It wasn’t until years later that I got my first opportunity to discuss this strange phenomenon with someone, and realize I was far from alone in my experience.  I suffer anxiety, and before I started taking medication I often had a lot of trouble falling asleep.  One night as I sat up surfing the Internet at 3 a.m. I noticed my brother was awake and online too. I started up a chat to complain about my insomnia, and he offered me amazing advice.

“You’re probably going to think this is really wierd, but try watching this. It’s super relaxing.”

He sent me a link to an instructional massage video by a lady called “Lita”. As I started watching, I realized my brother was right. The sound of her voice,  and watching the calm, focused manner of her massage gave me the same tingly, relaxing feeling I used to get during gr. 7 French class. After my brother and I exchanged a few humorous messages making fun of ourselves for enjoying watching someone else get massaged, I read through some of the video comments, and realized many others were experiencing the same sort of thing.

ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) is defined as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory or cognitive stimuli. So feeling tingly when someone brushes your hair, or whispers in your ear counts as ASMR. Triggers for ASMR vary slightly between those who experience it, and not everyone does experience it.

There isn’t a lot of scientific data available on ASMR yet, although a quick internet search will show you there are many anecdotal reports of it out there.

What interests me the most is how it can be used to help relieve anxiety, depression and insomnia. First of all, if you are lucky enough to experience ASMR, you will realize that when those sensations are being triggered, you automatically become mindful.  You totally focus on what you are hearing, seeing, feeling, because it feels so darn nice. Unpleasant feelings of sadness or anxiety are pushed away.  Watching videos designed to bring on ASMR can give great relief to someone suffering mental illness.  I think it’s a worthwhile place to start trying out being mindful for someone new to the practice.

I also do not believe its a coincidence that many common ASMR triggers involve someone giving some sort of care to another.  To be cared for is a universal need among animals.  It is also something that lacks in the lives of many who suffer mental illness. Perhaps indulging in some ASMR could encourage sufferers to put more effort into their own self care, or even to seek out care from others.

My goal for this article is to bring awareness to the topic of ASMR. It’s a real thing.  Although it’s not widely recognized, if you experience it, you are not strange, you are fortunate! I encourage you to explore how it can help you feel less anxious, less lonely and how it can help you relax enough to fall asleep. Check out the links below to see if ASMR can benefit you. Unlike alcohol, drugs, or other potentially harmful methods you might use to cope, this is 100% safe. It is certainly worth a try!

http://www.last.fm/music/ASMR

http://www.tingle.fm/mobile web/channels/

http://www.asmrlab.com

http://www.m.youtube.com/watch?v=UedaJPNGzoo

Also search “Disney Collector”  videos on You Tube.

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Thank you for reading!

Be Brave, and Talk

How To Support Someone Suffering An Eating Disorder (from someone who has made it down the long, hard road to recovery.)

She runs frantically back and forth in the basement. She hopes she is being vigorous enough. The 3 big bowls of cereal she just ate must be burned away. A cramp pierces her side, she presses on angrily.  She despises the bloated feeling in her stomach. She hates herself for being so disgusting, bingeing like that on sugary cereal. She must have taken in at least 1000 calories. She feels the fat filling into her cheeks, visualizes the double chin that must be forming.  She speeds up, swings her arms harder, lifts her knees higher. She glances at the clock. 45 minutes to go. At least. No music plays as she does this desperate exercise. This is not for her enjoyment . This is for her punishment. Her motivation doesn’t come from a desire for health. It comes from fear. Fear of gaining weight. Fear of losing control. And anger. Anger that she lost control by eating all of that cereal.

She won’t be eating anything else for the next 2 days.

The cramps in her side get sharper. She cries out in pain, but doesn’t stop. She must finish this 2 hours of calorie burning. She hates her body for trying to stop her. The cramp twists up toward her rib cage. She speeds up in frustration. Tears stream down her face. She hurts. She is thirsty. She is soaked with sweat. She is exhausted. She is desperate. Desperate to maintain control. She was doing so well, for so long. But she got too hungry. She gave in. And now her disorder has control of her.

5 Ways To Support Someone Suffering / Recovering From An Eating Disorder:

1.) Be There: Help them break the habit of secrecy.

When someone has an eating disorder, they are extremely secretive with their behaviours. Counting calories, any eating they do, bingeing, purging behaviours all happen when they are alone.  They might hoard and hide food, dispose of it in sneaky ways. You can try to help break through the secrecy by offering to be there. Offer to eat meals with them, offer to go with them on calm after dinner walks. It’s really important to offer without forcing the issue. Putting pressure on will drive them further into their secretive behaviour. Ask how they are doing often.  Try opening up to them about something in life you are struggling with, and it might help encourage them to start talking. If you are lucky enough to get them talking, listen without judgement. Eating disorders come with feelings of self loathing and shame. Compliment them on their bravery in opening up, and just listen.

2.) Invite Them Out Often: Help reduce their isolation.

Eating disorders are very isolating. Sufferers often turn down social invites to spend time obsessing, compulsively exercising, recovering from binge eating episodes. Try to reduce this isolation by inviting them out often. Keep on inviting them no matter how many times they reject you. Dont give up on them. Try organizing team sport events with friends, or invite them for a yoga class. The exercise might appeal to them, and is much healthier than the compulsive exercise they do alone.

3.) Choose Topics Of Conversation Wisely: Avoid perpetuating their obsession.

Someone who suffers with an eating disorder is haunted by and obsessed with food, calories, and body image. When they are with you, you can help them be a little less preoccupied by avoiding ALL discussion of these topics. Ignore any comments they make about their body, redirect the conversation. Even telling them you think they are “too skinny” is a bad idea, because it can motivate them. It’s like positive reinforcement.  Refuse to feed into their obsession. This means no talk of dieting, “fattening” foods, body weight and size, even if you are talking about yourself.

4.) Help Them Feel A Sense Of Control

Someone suffering with an eating disorder longs for control over their lives. Eating disorder behaviour is an attempt to gain control over their body, but ironically the eating disorder ends up controlling them. Even though you are concerned and just want them to eat, never try to force food on them, or tempt them with food. This will only increase their desire for control, and make them very unlikely to admit they are suffering. It’s also very important to avoid investigating them, or accusing them of abnormal behaviour. These things will only drive them further into isolation and secrecy. Instead, encourage them to be honest by saying you are there for them whenever they might be ready to talk. Say you are concerned and ask them what you can do to help. This turns some control over to them, and might help them feel more ready to talk. Ultimately, the decision to seek help is entirely up to the sufferer. You will never be able to talk them into it. What you can do is offer to go with them, to be there for them when they decide on their own to open up and seek help.

5.) Have Realistic Expectations: Be aware of how serious the fight for recovery will be.

Realize that recovery from an eating disorder is not a matter of simply deciding one day to eat normally. Getting better is a long, hard, physically and emotionally painful fight. Eating disorders are very powerful addictions and it is almost impossible or overcome them without professional help. You can help your loved ones by making sure you have realistic expectations. Take it one day at a time. It will take them a long time to recover, and there could be many relapses on the way. Praise their brave efforts, let them know you believe in them. Be there, to listen , to hug, to show empathy. Never give up on them, and hopefully they will never give up on themselves.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

If All Illness Was Treated As Mental Illness Is

If all illness was treated as mental illness is; with prejudice, with lack of empathy, with frustration and fear, how very sad and lonely this world would be.

We’d have T.V shows that make freak show spectacles of sick people. Perhaps we’d have one for people with arthritis and call it “Shakers.” Or one for men with prostate cancer called “Urinators.” How about one for those with A.L.S called “My Strange Condition”?  Just like in the real shows, “Hoarders” and “My Strange Addiction”, the audience would sit back and laugh, judge, be entertained by the suffering of others.

Similarily to when some call those with mental illness “psycho” and “crazy”, they’d call people with cancer “mutants” and those who have suffered strokes “deformed”.

They would have the same level of insensitivity for those entering palliative care as they do for those entering psychiatric care, and say they were sent to the “death house” and the “nut house”, respectively.

If someone were to splurge and eat too much sugar, they’d say “go inject yourself with insulin ” the same way they tell people who are upset to “take a pill”.

If all illness was treated as mental illness is, we’d have a hard time believing that anyone actually gets sick. We’d accuse them of seeking attention, of being weak, of making excuses.

We’d yell with frustration at someone with multiple sclerosis, “Just stop sitting in your wheelchair and walk!”

We’d roll our eyes if someone called in sick for the flu. We’d whisper to each other that they need to toughen up. Suck it up. And if this person with the “flu” was a man, our reaction would be even stronger. We would think he was downright pathetic.

If all illness was treated like mental illness is, we’d be baffled every day by deaths we just didn’t see coming. After living months, or years hiding symptoms, pretending they didn’t feel pain, loved ones would succumb to suffering we likely would not have been able to handle or understand anyway.

Not long after their passing, we’d start making comments about how selfish they had been. How could they do this to us? How could they just up and die like that?

If all illness was treated as mental illness is, how (even more) sad, lonely, cruel this world would be.

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Thank you so much for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

Holidays Aren’t Happy For Everyone…And That Should Be Okay

Waking before dawn, sneaking into your siblings’ room to whisper excitedly about what special treasures you might soon find hidden downstairs.

Snuggling on the couch with a full belly, surrounded by the comforting sound of loved ones’ laughter.

Photographs flashing.

Wine glasses clinking.

Wishing time would pass just a little more slowly, so you could take it all in, relish it, savour it.

Holidays come and go quickly, as all special occasions seem to. But for some, this coming and going can’t happen fast enough.

Waking before dawn, your stomach sinking with dread as you remember the day ahead will be filled with forced smiles, the hiding of shaking hands, and drinks taken in secret.

Clutching your blankets, breathing deep to hold back the nausea, as you long for the comfort of your lost loved one’s laughter.

Photograph avoiding.

Wine glass refilling.

Wishing time could just skip over this day, so you wouldn’t have to put on an act, so you could avoid the guilt, escape the pain.

Holidays come and go quickly, as all special occasions seem to. But there are people out there who would rather the holidays didn’t come at all.

Perhaps it’s because they grieve a great loss which only gets highlighted when the holidays arrive. But they endure it with a smile so they don’t make anyone else uncomfortable.

Perhaps they suffer anxiety in silence and feel overwhelmed and exhausted by pretending they’re okay throughout the flurry of family activity.

Perhaps they suffer depression, and attend holiday events out of obligation. Expectations to enjoy and be happy force their face into a smile, but inside their feelings of guilt and self loathing only grow.

Whatever the reason, wouldn’t it be nice if those who are unhappy come holiday time didn’t have to pretend?

Of course we have the best of intentions when we expect and encourage full, enthusiastic participation in holiday events, when we wish everyone a “Merry Christmas”,  we certainly don’t mean to make anyone feel bad.

We just need a little more awareness.

We just need a little more acceptance.

We just need a little more openness and honesty.

Although we’ve made progress, our society still feels rather uncomfortable being open about things that aren’t sunshine and roses, and this is especially true at holiday time.  And what do we do when we’re uncomfortable? We judge, we avoid, we ignore. This makes things much harder than they have to be for people who are grieving or suffering mental illness.

Pretending is exhausting. Pretending is lonely. Pretending makes you feel ashamed of your reality.

Let’s take the pressure off holiday happiness.

Let’s ask honest questions about how loved ones are feeling.

Let’s extend invitations that are truly optional, and come with alternative plans for later.

Let’s acknowledge our loved ones’ struggles with respect and empathy.

Although we can’t make things all better, we sure can make the holidays easier by being real. Not everyone loves holidays. And that is okay.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

What Social Anxiety Feels Like: “The Grocery Store”

I lie face down on a sunny patch on John’s man room carpet.  I massage my forehead, to try to relieve the dull ache.  Dora The Explorer plays upstairs, as Megan enjoys her quiet time. Over the baby monitor, I hear Tara roll over and sigh dreamily.

My whole body hurts, as if I’m coming down with the flu. I’m so tired of feeling like this, I really need to call the doctor about adjusting my medication.  I’ve been telling myself this for weeks now. Maybe on Monday I will be brave and actually call.

“So are you ready to go?” John crouches down and rubs my back. I blink back tears. He doesn’t notice.

“Yep.” As I struggle to my feet, my thoughts flash from a facebook “some cards” joke (Motherhood: when a trip to the grocery store alone is like going on vacation.) to a vision of stabbing myself in the stomach. I am so incredibly weak, and so pathetically selfish. (What is wrong with you? You have two beautiful daughters, a loving husband. You better start enjoying them, start enjoying life, or something is going to happen to take it all away. Grave illness. Car accident. Divorce. And you will deserve it.)

I slip into my coat, put my hands in my pockets, grip my hand sanitizers. One for each hand. They give me a brief moment of comfort.

“Have fun,” John chuckles and kisses my cheek.

“Thanks,” I manage a smile, and head out into blinding white.

In the car I turn the music on full blast, because after all, I can. I sing along. I take deep breaths. I mutter a few prayers that the girls will be safe while I’m gone.

As I drive into the parking lot, my stomach sinks and my heart starts beating faster.  I feel angry, and at the same time I feel guilty for feeling angry. Saturday. Far too many people here. I contemplate going right back home, but I cant. We need food, damn it.

I speed walk into the store. I try to breathe slowly, to relieve my increasing dizziness. As I frantically manoeuvre my cart through the produce section, flashing polite/ apologetic smiles at the other shoppers, I realize I am much better off when I bring the girls with me.  They help me stay focused. They help me see through the fog that now clouds my brain.  They give me someone to talk to. They make me brave. Right now, I am scared. Scared I will run into someone with my cart. Scared the women with highlighted hair and stylish boots look down upon my Joe Fresh jogging pants. Scared I will catch a disease from opening fridge doors.  Scared everyone can tell I feel like I’m going to pass out.

As  I race for the aisle with the laundry detergent, I long for my precious daughters to be here with me.  Saying hi to the old ladies and making them smile. Dropping stuff on the floor. I wish I could breathe in the scent of baby shampoo from their hair, kiss their foreheads. Ironically, this would be for my own reassurance.

Mercifully, I make it to the checkout line without losing consciousness. I take some deep breaths, silently say a few prayers for protection against the grocery store germs as I wait.

A pretty blond woman and her two teenage sons are waiting in line behind me. They see someone they know the next line over and start chatting. Everyone else around us who waits seems impatient, or perhaps it is just me.

My turn comes. I catch my breath as the service clerk who helps bag the groceries goes on break before helping me.  There are a lot of people waiting behind me. I must get my groceries bagged. Fast. My hands tremble. My armpits sweat. The cashier starts helping me bag the groceries, and for some reason this embarrasses me. The pretty blond lady and her sons, preoccupied by their conversation, have advanced too far in line, and block the interac machine. One of the teenage sons hovers over me as I clumsily stuff groceries into bags. I am on the verge of panicking.

I awkwardly ask ask the mother with twins to back up so I can pay. I’m so dizzy, it’s as if I am drunk.

“Hey, no problem at all. It’s all good.” The teenage boy who had been hovering gives me a sincere smile. He’s a lovely young man, and he’s my undoing. I stare through my tears at the pin pad.  It takes an eternity for the payment to go through.  I want to smile at the pretty blond woman and her sons as I leave, but I fear my tears will overflow. I look down, and briskly push my cart away.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

Protection Or Freedom?

Your mind only remembers every once in a while.  But your heart never forgets.  It happened. It affected you. It affects you still.  It was the kind of thing that when it’s taking place, you have a hard time believing it’s true.  The kind of thing that belongs in movies, or a novel, or broadcast on the news.

Your mind only remembers every once in a while, in silence, you keep it locked within. It’s the kind of thing that if they knew, you would hang your head in shame.  The kind of thing that would make them squirm, or leave, or think you’re the one to blame.

So you bear it alone. You do the appropriate thing. You carry on, you are strong, it’s behind you. Look how far you’ve come, look how much you’ve grown.  The past is the past. It’s locked deep within.

It’s for your protection

from judgement, from fear of rejection, vulnerability and shame.

It’s the appropriate thing.

There’s nothing more to be said.

But why does your heart feel such dread?

Outside you shine on. Face the day now, come on! Be your best you. Do the appropriate thing. It’s for your protection.

But more importantly,  it’s for their protection.

Their protection.

You follow the rules. You avoid. You pretend.

No drama. No truth. At least not the awkward, painful kind.

Your mind only remembers every once in a while. But your heart never forgets. It happened. It affected you. It affects you still.  It’s the kind of thing you shouldn’t have to carry alone, shouldn’t have to deny it is true. The kind of thing that can heal if it’s set free, and if others help carry it with you.

It’s for your freedom. You need it to find peace.

Truth. The only appropriate thing.

It’s for your freedom. And theirs.

Be brave. Truth can set your heart free.

 

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

How to Stop Worrying About What Others Think of You: 5 Ideas

You watch your coworker as he speaks to the group. You don’t hear a word he says. Your turn is coming, and you are terrified.  Everyone’s ideas are going to be better than yours.  Your voice is going to shake, so will your hands.  You will probably turn beet red, or worse, you will get that blotchy red rash going on. Oh, so attractive.  The inside of your mouth is a desert. You try to breathe slowly to keep your heart from pounding right out of your chest.   Why, oh why must you be so afraid of what others think of you all the time?

Anxiety, in all its forms can be a very hard thing to deal with.  It can be downright debilitating. There is hope though. You can work hard at changing your thought patterns to lessen the symptoms of anxiety, and to free yourself from the nagging worry that often occurs after anxiety provoking events.

Here are 5 ides to help you cope:

1.) Realize that humans by nature are self absorbed:

They are far more concerned with the details of their own lives, and what your opinion is of them,  than what they think about you. Consider yourself, and you’ll know this is true.  Unless you burn with hatred for someone, or are madly in love, you really don’t spend very much time thinking about any one person.  As you fret, going over conversations in your head, wondering if someone hates you, there is a very high chance that they aren’t thinking about you at all. Try your best to remember this.

2.) Throw those thoughts in the river:

Every time you catch yourself stewing over someone’s opinion of you, take a deep breath, close your eyes and visualize a river, or a train. Picture the movement of the river or train, and picture yourself holding the nagging thought in your hands. Then, inside your mind, throw the thought into the river, or train, and watch it travel away. This might sound silly to you, but give it a try. I learned this technique from my therapist, and with practice, I found it to be quite helpful.

3.) Challenge your thoughts in a journal (and when you get good at it, in your mind.):

Write whatever troubling thought you have down on paper. Then, write all of the evidence you have for this being true (Do you even have any?) and all of the evidence you have  against this being true. In the against section, make a good long list of positive things others have said to you, and positive things you know to be true about yourself.  Cancel all of the negative thoughts out with lots of positives.  Try to think about the situation as someone on the outside would. Hopefully, this will help you realize most of the negative thoughts come from your imagination.

4.) Accept that you do not have the power to read minds:

No matter how much you analyze, no matter how hard you try, you will never be able to know for sure what someone else is thinking. It is a terrible waste of energy. I know it’s a habit that’s hard to stop, but it is definitely worth a try. When a thought crosses your mind, ask yourself, “Am I trying to mind read?” And realize you might as well be trying to soar through the air like Superman.

5.) Consider the worst case scenario, and then search your heart to decide if it truly matters:

So maybe that lady you bumped into at the mall does think you’re an idiot. Maybe that coworker was laughing at your blotchy face as you did your presentation. But really, what do these people actually mean to your life? Are they going to be on your mind when your time here on earth draws to a close?  Do these people, and their opinions matter in the big picture of your existence?

“Be yourself, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

Dr. Seuss was a very wise man.

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Thank you so much for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

You Did Enough Today

You look over at your children and your heart sinks.  Today was a beautiful day. You should have taken them outside to breathe in the fresh air, to run, to play. You didn’t though. You told yourself  that your oldest was still recovering from the flu, and she needed to rest. That wasn’t it though. The truth is that you just didn’t have the energy, the focus, the resolve. The day slipped away, and you wandered through it feeling lost, confused, empty.  You left the laundry undone. You left the floor unswept. You left the rug unvaccuumed.  You left those emails unsent.  The day slipped away, and you wasted it, doing nothing.

At least that’s what you think.  I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. You did more than enough today.

You prepared your children 3 healthy meals.

You wiped hands and faces.

You celebrated with your 2 year old at her success with using the potty.

You celebrated with your 4 year old at her success with reading her sight words.

You kissed boo boos better.

You taught the importance of being gentle.

You taught the importance of good sharing, again, and again, and again.

You put on silly sunglasses and danced with your daughters.

You blew bubbles inside the house,  just to see them smile.

You gave gentle kisses and tight hugs.

You made your children feel loved.

You made your children feel loved.

Although your head was dizzy, and your vision was blurred, you never lost sight of what really mattered. You never lost your grip on what you truly love.

That is something to feel awfully proud of.

Tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that, the sun will shine again.  You will have the energy, the focus, the resolve, and you will take your children outside to play. The laundry will get done, the floors will get swept, those emails will get sent.

It  didn’t happen today, but that is okay.

You tried your very best.

You fought with all your might.

You made sure your children felt loved.

And that’s all that truly matters.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk.