Self Awareness

Hey everyone! I’m back online after several days of hassling with moving in and unpacking and organizing. Sadly not for myself, but rather a friend who needed some extra help. Anyway, here’s the latest update for me.

As it turns out, the fatigue and depression symptoms I was feeling were adverse side effects of a new medication I had started taking only 5 weeks ago. I only developed this thought on Thursday night around 9:30 pm when I was suddenly alert and feeling more like normal (though half battling a migraine while waiting for the meds to kick in). Given that my entire June had been jam packed with social activities, it was easy for the medicine’s side effects to be masked by general fatigue, since socializing takes its toll on me all the time. However, with how little I actually did this past week, the constant fatigue that was all-encompassing and the eventual depression symptoms seemed out of place with how I normally am.

So the next morning, I called my doctor and told her all about these new symptoms, asking to be taken off the medication or maybe put on a lower dose, since it was technically prescribed for migraine prevention (and it had worked for those four weeks). Thankfully I also had a therapy appointment that morning so when I described my week to my therapist, she also agreed that it was likely a side effect of the medication because I didn’t take it that Friday morning and I felt like normal. Which I really needed because I had to pick up my friend Jerad from the airport and I needed to be alert for that since it was an hour long drive both ways.

My therapist was not only excited that I had done my “homework” (that being a cognitive behavioral exercise in journaling) for when I had these depression-based thoughts, but that I was even able to identify that these weren’t my thoughts. It might have taken several days to do it, but she was impressed by my self awareness and being able to recognize foreign thoughts. That being said, however, achieving even that level of self awareness was a long journey. I’m still working on sorting out my feelings versus others’ feelings that I’m absorbing.

If you’re still working on your own self awareness, that’s perfectly ok! It takes a lot of work, just like any other thing related to the self, such as self esteem and confidence. Trust me, I’m still on that road myself. So this might sound like a broken record, but here’s some tips from someone who’s been there.

1. Don’t underestimate the power of writing. Even if you’re not a fan of writing, just the act of writing down your negative or repetitive thoughts can help calm you down and put you back in focus. If you’re mad about something, write it down and then rip the paper up, or burn it if you’re feeling adventurous and have a way to extinguish the fire if need be. I once wrote an angry letter to a former friend (WITHOUT sending it, of course!), just to air out all my grievances with her and vent my frustration over continuing to let thoughts of her ruin my days, and once I was done writing the letter, I shredded it. I felt so much better afterwards.

2. Find a quiet place. If you work in an office type setting, this might include somewhere like a stairwell no one uses or even the bathroom. Find somewhere quiet to sit down and take several deep breaths. You can close your eyes if you want; I usually find that that helps because it brings your focus solely to your breathing. Take three to four deep breaths, until you’ve calmed down and the thoughts have been reined in. You don’t have to dismiss them entirely, but calming the body down helps you make more rational decisions, especially if the situation made you emotional in the first place. Say, for example, you got passed over for a promotion again and you’re furious about it because you’ve been doing great work since you started, you’re a fast learner, etc. If you really like your job, marching into the boss’s office and yelling at them about it isn’t going to help the situation much. But if you take some time to breathe and calm down, then you have the ability to go into their office and ask them calmly why that other person was chosen instead.

3. Watch an episode or two of your favorite show. If your show’s not on cable or on demand, pop a DVD in and watch a movie instead. Something you’ve seen a hundred times but still enjoy watching. Studies have shown that watching something over and over again brings about a sense of control because you already know what’s going to happen. Once you get that feeling of control and calm back, you can recognize and rationalize the feelings that were upsetting you and figure out why you were feeling them.

That’s it for now! Take care! ❤

Advertisements

One of the Bad Days…

This post may not be like what I usually write so please bear with me. Normally, I try to write uplifting posts, like how I dumped a toxic friend and am finally happy, etc. But today I’m having one of my “bad” days and I’m trying not to disqualify the positive things I’ve accomplished already, but it’s hard. Not even my usual coping methods are helping.

I keep circling back to thoughts of how I don’t feel like I’m making any progress, especially with the week I’ve had, with fighting constant fatigue and always wanting to be left alone. And once I start down that road, it’s like a whirlpool; it’s hard to fight my way back up. I start thinking about how long it takes me to get to mundane, everyday tasks like making the bed or getting dressed, if I even get dressed at all. How my day doesn’t “officially” start until late morning now, when I used to be able to be up and ready to go by 9 am. I guess technically my day doesn’t start until after I’ve done my workout and showered, which has been happening later and later because I put off doing the workout until almost 10 am.

Sometimes I’ll be so tired, for whatever reason, and spend all afternoon laying down. I don’t always sleep, but just laying down can sometimes take the edge off. But it’ll be dinner time and I won’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything besides just getting out of bed. Which is usually not the case. Like today for example; it’s 2 pm and I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything, but in actuality, I’ve completed all four tasks on my to-do list. They were small things that required only minimal effort, but I did get them done.

I’m just scared that this is my new reality. For every social interaction, every small task, every move I make or step I take to leave me so exhausted I need a nap disproportionate to the task that was undertaken. This is also why I’m scared to apply for disability, to be told that my condition isn’t “disabling” enough to qualify for benefits. But I’m applying anyway because if this is truly my new reality, despite all my efforts to try and get better, I’m not sure I can hold another job when just leaving the house for a doctor’s appointment wears me out. And I hate that feeling.

Four Steps for Self Care

Now that I’ve gotten the business writing/sales pitch out of me, I can provide an update on my mental sanity.

Since I started seeing a therapist at the beginning of the year, I’ve learned to use several new coping techniques, most of which have helped me in the moment and slowed or stopped an anxiety attack. But they do nothing for the aftermath of the attack’s buildup or the perceived anxiety that is consistently flowing. As such, after prolonged periods of socializing, I’m beyond exhausted. I’m tired mentally, physically, and emotionally. Coping only does so much.

However, there are some small advantages to my ever-present anxiety. Sometimes I can harness it into productive anxiety and focus my energy into my crafting business. Or like today, for instance, I can use it to take care of mundane household tasks like changing sheets, catching up on shows, and making new posts. And while all of that still drains my energy, at least I have a sense of accomplishment afterwards.

With starting my own business, some of my other hobbies have taken a backseat. My  story writing was one of them, as was my reading list. I’ve been gaming here and there, mostly Zelda games that don’t require much of my time because I know them so well I don’t struggle with them anymore. Mostly when I need some self care, I find a quiet isolated corner and hide there for as long as I can until I’m ready to be around people again. That being said, here are a few things that I do to calm down and take care of myself.

1. Journaling. One of the best ways for me to calm down and manage my chaotic thoughts is simply to write them down, and my therapist would agree with me. In fact, she’s told me she wishes all her clients would take to journaling. In all fairness to her, though, not everyone enjoys writing the way I do so I understand if this isn’t right for everyone. What I find most helpful about journaling, though, is that it helps make whatever’s bothering me more tangible and thus, more manageable. Plus journaling doesn’t require any special items. Just some paper and something to write with. Even if you just jot down a repetitive thought on a Post-It note and throw it away, that can help bring your anxiety down.

2. Yoga and Meditation. As cliche as it might sound, yoga and meditation can slow the mind down. However, I believe that meditation can be done in multiple ways, not just sitting quietly and listening to your breathing. Meditation can be done during any activity you find pleasurable. It could be during a morning run, where all you focus on is putting one foot in front of the other, or what most consider traditional meditation, sitting quietly and breathing to quiet your thoughts. The reason I put yoga together with meditation is because that combination is what works for me. Whatever activity you choose to do, use that to focus only on the activity itself.

3. Take a Nap. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is rest. Find a dark quiet place, grab a cozy blanket and pillow, and lay down for 10 minutes. If you can only spare 5 minutes, then lay down for 5 minutes. You’ll feel refreshed and maybe even ready to take on one of your tasks.

4. Watch YouTube. Find some cute animal videos and watch them. Everyone loves watching puppies and kitties at play and they can calm you down. It’s a small thing, but it can make all the difference.

That’s it for now, but you can always check online for additional tips on self care. If you have your own care routine, kudos to you! I’m off to work on my own self care routine.

How Yoga Changed My Life

Growing up I always saw yoga as only being for stuck up snobs who thought they were better than everyone else or just for skinny people. But once I graduated college, I decided to give it a try because after all the Zumba I was doing, I desperately needed some stretching to even out. And to my surprise, I found that I quite enjoyed yoga.

It all started with this YouTube playlist called the 30 Day Yoga Challenge (which you can find here) and I was looking for anything to get me into a habit so I clicked on day one. Turns out the instructor, Erin Motz, aka Bad Yogi, was the total opposite of what I expected from a yoga teacher! She was funny, she was down to earth, and she made yoga accessible to someone like me, who is quite full figured and not stick thin.

After I finished day one, I felt fantastic and looked forward to coming back for day two. As each day passed and I completed each class, I found that I enjoyed Erin’s teaching style. She made me want to come back for more. And on top of that, all the stretching I was doing made me feel better.

Yoga taught me how to have better posture. Instead of just saying to stand up straighter, it taught me how to straighten and stretch out my spine so that I actually felt what good posture should feel like. Yoga taught me how to be mindful of my body and Erin very kindly told us in her videos not to push past our limits because some of the harder poses could seriously hurt us. Now I know which pain to push through and how to relax my muscles in a stretch when I’m a bit stiffer. And the flexibility that has come with doing yoga for 5 years was definitely worth it! When I first started my Pigeon pose, I couldn’t come down into my elbows and my hips were fairly high off the floor. Now, not only can I come down onto my elbows and my hips are nearly touching the floor, but on a good day when I’m really warm and stretched out, I can rest my forehead on my mat and stretch my arms out around my head. And on top of that, when I am sitting up, I can reach back and actually grab my foot to pull for a quad stretch, whereas I couldn’t even reach my foot before.

In addition to Pigeon, I can now manage to get into a headstand, as long as I’m next to a wall, when before I couldn’t even manage to get up into a headstand. I used to not be able to hold plank pose for more than a couple seconds and now I can hold it for 30 or more seconds on my hands, and 60+ seconds on my forearms. And one of Erin’s more unique videos, I think, would be the one focused on hands and wrists. I had to agree with her statement that not everyone would even think they had tight hands, though as a writer it was not that big a shock to me. But I’ve watched her hands and wrists video so much that I have it memorized and I incorporate it into my daily routine because it’s so much more than just a yoga video for me. It’s a necessity because I am constantly doing stuff with my hands, whether that’s excessive typing or crocheting or writing or whatever. And her stretches make it easier for me to relieve some of the tension in my hands and wrists and it’s made all the difference.

Lastly, and most importantly, yoga taught me the joy of just sitting still and being quiet with myself. In its own way, it’s not only become my regular stretching practice but it’s also become a form of meditation for me. I can focus on the moves and my breathing, quietly keep time in my head for each move when I’m doing my own flow, and just drown everything else out. Which, for someone with anxiety that’s worsened in the past few years, some mental peace and quiet is much needed. And I don’t have to be moving through a flow to meditate. I can sit quietly on my mat and close my eyes, because once I hit that mat, no matter what time of day or whatever’s going on in my life, everything pauses around me. Being on my mat clears my head, gives me focus, and most importantly, calms my body down, all of which are important for slowing or stopping an anxiety attack from happening.

If you’re interested in learning more about Erin’s practices, you can find her YouTube channel here and her blog here. She’s a fantastic teacher and she has her own program now called the Perfect Body Yoga Program, which I hear is amazing (but sadly cannot afford myself). Go check her out and see for yourself. 🙂

Anxiety as a Disability

When people tell me, “What do you have to be anxious about?”, I just want to smack them. Mental health is a HUGE deal lately and as someone with worsening anxiety, I take personal offense to anyone who brushes it off as nothing or says it’s “all in my head.”

Take today for example. My morning was ruined before 9am because of a phone call. It wasn’t anything particularly terrible, like a family death, but in my head, the accusatory tone of the person I was speaking to made me feel like a horrible person for doing what I was instructed (with regards to making the call) and for not knowing all the details of my claim process.

This led to a micro anxiety attack with tears and jaw clenching, and faded into a six-hour fatigue period. This fatigue is from my anxiety and is absolutely no fun at all. I spent most of my morning in a quiet, darkened room, and laying down trying to get comfy and relieve a minor headache. I had a funny show on the TV at a low volume to help distract my mind and I ended up taking a nap around 12:30. I didn’t have the energy to do anything. I didn’t even have the will to do anything except lay down and rest. How do people not think this is disabling?

And this was just after a minor attack. The one time I had a severe attack, I was so exhausted, achy, and fuzzy-brained that I had to call in sick for one entire day, and since it was a Friday, I had the rest of the weekend to recover. But it still took until Monday night for me to even start to feel better. A full four days to recover from a severe attack.

I’ve been tracking and monitoring my anxiety levels for the past two years and it’s progressively been getting worse, to the point where the attacks can be weekly, and the migraines and tension headaches I’ve been having, either as a result of an attack or as a precursor to one from the amount of stress I’ve been under, are up from once or twice a month to three or four times a week. Don’t worry, I’m off to see my doctor next week and I’ve made a list of anxiety symptoms that I believe are interfering with my daily life, as well as questions to ask. I’m also planning to ask if I should be seeing a psychologist more regularly to get a handle on this, because clearly I’m not doing well on my own.

I’m just tired of feeling tired and stressed all the time, and I’m worried that my anxiety will keep me from doing regular work again. Which is a sign that it can be considered a disability. Whether or not the disability agency thinks so is another hurdle I may be having to overcome in the near future.

Finding My Own Way

Happy Wednesday!

Today has been a bit of a whirlwind sort of day. It started out pretty miserable when someone I was speaking to on the phone addressed me with an accusatory tone (I was calling about an unemployment claim) about something from my weekly certification, which I had no memory of, and she spoke to me as if I should have remembered and known better. That set off a micro anxiety attack that left me on edge the rest of the day.

It did not get better until after my mother came home and asked me to go downstairs to work on crafting stuff with her. I was supposed to receive a call from a potential new employer, a call that was postponed from yesterday, and while my phone never actually rang, I did get a voicemail 45 minutes after the agreed-upon time explaining the tardiness and also indicating that an email would be sent for a future time. So far, no email has been received and my instincts are screaming for me to bolt and run from this place. I have no interest in playing games like this.

Which leads to the main point of this post: finding my own way. After I followed mom downstairs to do crafting stuff, my mind got some much needed clarify and I was able to focus on finishing up my light box for my crocheted crafts. On top of that, I got all the photos taken, and some cropped while others need to be edited yet. I’m tired now, which might seem odd for what was a small amount of work, but at least I accomplished something that made me happy and allowed me to focus for a short period of time.

And to be honest, I think that’s what I need right now.

Not to work for someone else, to fill someone else’s pocket, or follow someone else’s rules. What I need to do right now is find my own way, even if I’m struggling for a little while. Do I expect to be an overnight sensation? No. Building a company or even a small community takes time. But I know my projects are well-crafted (I know a 10-month-old who’s really putting their toy to the test) and people love handmade things.

What’s most important to me right now is my health and my happiness, and this job hunting stress is not helping either, especially when a potential employer appears to be yanking my chain. Nobody needs that kind of nonsense.

Looking to a Brighter Tomorrow

I apologize that it’s been so long since my last post. Chaos doesn’t even begin to describe the last couple months for me.

Tuesday was my last day at my job. I finally caved and quit. The past few days have been marvelously stress free and I have no regrets yet. I’ve been making more crocheted fairies and getting things done for the possibility of starting up my own crafting business called Nerdvana Crafts. So yes, I’ve been keeping busy, but there’s still a lot of work to be done in the next few weeks.

Job hunting is not exactly a fun task, but one that needs to be done. Having worked from home for the last five years, I’m eager to do something else from home. So far I’ve found a couple jobs that include freelance editing, writing, and data entry. I’ve also gotten a couple requests for crocheted projects, but as a starting entrepreneur, that probably won’t sustain me for very long, at least not until business starts picking up.

There is a publishing company looking for a freelance writer and editor to help authors with their works and I’m highly interested in this position because one, I’m also a writer and editor, and two, this could be my break into the publishing world and I’m eager to see where this could take me, if I get it. The only hitch is they want writing samples and links to live content and right now, this is my only blog and I would prefer to keep it private for my own sake. However, I do have another one that I abandoned a while ago that could possibly work for this. I’ll have to come up with some new posts for it and hope they’re good enough. The trouble would then arise from picking something to write about.

My family has been extremely supportive of my decision to quit my job, though my dad has expressed concern about me being without income despite my reassurances that I will manage. Having been unemployed before, I know how to manage my finances to the most essential items only until I have a new job. However, the difference between this unemployment and my previous bout was this time, I left on my terms.

So here’s to the future. May it be brighter and more fulfilling, and may this job search not take as long as my last one. Cheers!